Nectarines Cooked in a Crock Pot: A New Favorite

I did something this week that I never thought of before. Twice, as a matter of fact. I liked the first result so much that I had to try it again, and I am considering adding the easy recipe to my family cookbook.

You see, my local market discounts less-than-perfect produce in addition to day-old bakery items. I’m not proud when it comes to saving money. Especially these days! So, when I saw a several-pound bag of very ripe nectarines (marked down to the price of two nectarines I might add), I immediately snatched them up. Roasted nectarines with crumbled graham crackers, walnuts, and vanilla yogurt seemed like a wonderful dessert idea.Continue reading

Bacon & Brown Sugar: AKA Pig Candy

pig candy recipe

Here is something that will haunt you until you make it. A week ago I saw a restaurant review in a local magazine, and the food writer was all agog at the neighborhood bistro’s version of pig candy. Now, pig candy has been around awhile, but I was intrigued that such a foo-foo place had it on the menu, let alone was becoming the talk of the town.

Pig candy, for the uninitiated, is simply cooked bacon topped with caramelized dark brown sugar, and a little chili powder or paprika, if desired. Continue reading

The Ultimate Kitchen Conversion Chart

We’ve built a pretty unique all-purpose printable kitchen conversion chart. A lot of nifty features arranged nicely on just two pages. (I’ve already printed out a copy and put it on my own refrigerator.)

Converts cups, teaspoons, gallons, Celsius, and more.

Charts how many cups will fit into different baking pans.

Charts how long food can stay frozen

Gives roasting guidelines for chicken, pork and beef

Advises on how to cook a steak medium rare

Extensive ingredient conversion list

Two rulers (inch and centimeter)

If you are using our software to make a family cookbook, I strongly recommend you download this and put it into your book!

If you are just stumbling through, download and print it anyway! It’s the perfect kitchen reference tool.

We took a lot of the information from this chart and built a handy magnetic conversion chart that looks great on your refrigerator. It’s only a little over $12, and it’d look nice in any kitchen.

 

Get a free, printer-friendly chart by clicking here.

Make the Copy Shop Bow to Your Cookbook with 6 Easy Steps

You’ve waited 15 minutes in a line at Kinkos. You don’t mind, though. This family cookbook is a labor of love you’ve been working on for four months, and you are so excited to finally be at the point where you are ready to print out 25 cookbooks for your family, your friends, and most importantly your mom. You finally get your turn to place your order, and the magic crashes down around you like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

“Look, lady,” some pimply grandkid behind the counter sneers at you, “What paper stock do you want? How do you want it output? What weight you want? Doublesided or single?” He rolls his eyes. “Never mind. I’m on break.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. So I thought I’d offer some advice on how to take back control of printing your cookbook at a local copy shop. You might still run into that pimply jerk, but at least you’ll be armed for battle:

1. Output the files to PDF. Your local copy shop probably doesn’t know what Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software is, and if you used Word (shame on you) they won’t like handling it anyway. Creating PDF (or Acrobat) files “freeze” the cookbook so text can’t re-flow to different pages and fonts can’t get lost. Nothing is more frustrating to printers and copy shops than missing fonts and files created in software they’ve never heard of. Download a free PDF creator following the link at the bottom of this page.

2. Take it to a good local print shop. I don’t generally recommend Kinkos as I personally find them to be overpriced and of mediocre service. Ask around and find a good copyshop. I always like copy shops where the owner works in the store.

3. Ask for a heavier cover stock for the front and back cover, and 20lb text paper for the interior. There’s a huge variety of paper stocks out there, so why not be a little adventurous and go with a linen or a nice recycled paper. Make sure to have them use clear plastic sheets over the top of the front and back cover, as that will protect from spills. Fancier paper and the plastic sheets shouldn’t really add more than 25% to the cost to the job. If it does, seek a different printer.

4. If you have a limited budget, print a couple of cookbooks out in completely full color. Give those copies to the few people who will really care the most about the book. Your mother should definitely get the full color. For everybody else, just do black and white interior and color front and back cover. The number of color pages in your entire project will have a HUGE impact on the cost of the job. Plan on spending 3-5 times as much on a full-color cookbook as on a black and white cookbook.

5. Have them spiral bind it together. They may default to just using black, but if you ask a lot of print shops have a variety of spiral bind colors. Make sure you get it SPIRAL bound and not comb bound. Comb binding is like this:

Spiral binding is like this:

I hate using cookbooks that are comb bound because it looks cheaper (although it’s not) and it doesn’t lay flat on the counter when you wrap the page back. Spiral and comb binding cost about the same.

6. You can also save money by writing a printing specification and shopping it around to multiple printers to find the best price. A printing specification for your job might look like this:

“I need 20 8.5×11 cookbooks output from my PDF files in black and white double sided interior with full color doublesided covers. I’d also like an additional 5 cookbooks printed in full color throughout, also doublesided.
“For both versions, there are 45 interior sheets for a total of 90 pages of copying in the interior, plus the cover sheets. The interior sheets will be on 20lb laser text/gloss, and the cover will be 60 pound cover gloss. This is an 8.5×11” book when finished.
“Please use a clear plastic cover sheets over the front and back for protection, and spiral bind each book with white spines (if available).
“Please provide for me a quote and an estimated amount of time it will take to complete the job.”

By writing up a printing specification like this, you can just print it out and hand it to three different printers, and they can each put a bid together on what it will cost. Most printers have email, so you can send them the specification and your PDF files without even having to go in the shop. Also, a printing specification takes some of the guesswork out of it for both the printer and you. The printer may be more inclined to give you a better price because he can tell you have your act together.

I guarantee that if you try three printers, one will be at least 25% less than the other two. However, don’t necessarily go with the cheapest. Also think about which one was the most helpful and which one has the best reputation. You might also consider having the copy shop you like the most print up a single book for you to see if it’s up to snuff.

I don’t have a lot of faith in samples that a printer has sitting around in his drawer. You don’t know if the copier used to make those samples is still around, or if that sample is just the very very best they can do. I’m not bashful–I’ll often ask to see a sample of a project they are working on right now.

Regardless, always always ALWAYS print out a single book before you print up 25 books. Look over it closely. Use it for a week. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll find something (if not many things) you’ll want to change before you do the 25 book print run.

I’ve been working with printers and copy shops for 15 years, and I know how intimidating they can be to the uninitiated. They tend to seem more rude and patronizing the less you know about what you want. But then a lot of us can come off more standoffish than we mean to in the heat of the moment. 😉

No matter what, never let a copy shop or anyone else take away the magic of what you are doing. Making a family cookbook is a truly special and noble act. It can be a little easier if you go into the copying part of the job prepared for the experience.

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Cut Down on Hassles for the Kid’s Next Birthday Cake

Mint Chocolate Chipe Ice Cream Cake Recipe

I love throwing birthday parties for the grandkids, but we all know what a zoo it can be. You are the only thing standing between a dozen grabby little hands and sugar. So why not take a little of the stress out of doling out the cake and ice cream by doing it all in one fell swoop?

The problem with traditional ice cream cakes is that the ice cream is too thick and it gets hard to cut. That’s where Matilda’s 4 Layer Chocolate Chip Mint Ice Cream Cake comes in.

First, make a traditional chocolate sponge cake in two round pans. Out of the box works fine–the kids want sugar after all, not an epicurean gastronomical experience.

Let them cool, and then slice them in half lengthwise with a sharp knife. You’ll have 4 thinner round cake layers. For best results, freeze these 4 cakes for about an hour or two. If you don’t, some of the melted ice cream will soak into the cake. This is not a bad thing, necessarily, if you don’t mind that. (I like it either way.)

Microwave the mint ice cream for a few seconds to soften it a little, or just put it in the mixer to get it that easy-creamy consistency. Then put a thin layer of ice cream on top of one of the cakes. Add a cake layer on top of that. Put in a layer of chocolate frosting. Another ice cream layer. Another cake layer. Repeat until you are left with a cake layer on top. Put frosting on the exterior. Use as many ice cream layers as you want–I think two layers is about right. I’ll use a whole gallon of ice cream, but you are free to dial it down.

Make sure to use chocolate fudge icing, as the normal fluffy stuff won’t always do a great job of containing melting ice cream. Also, you’ll need about twice as much icing because the ice cream will make the cake a lot taller.

Cover it and stick it in the freezer until an hour before your party. Letting it thaw a little makes it easier to cut.

This trick may save you ten minutes of ice cream scooping, and those ten minutes can seem like ten hours when you have kids screaming and ice cream melting! My youngest son, now 40, still requests this cake every birthday from his lovely wife!