Octodog: A simple, yet questionable, addition to your recipe box

I’ve lived in America for many years, I’m a US citizen now with American children, and I’ve sold many recipe binders and recipe boxes with my little company to many lovely fellow Americans. But sometimes there’s this little doubt that creeps into my British mind that perhaps some things I’ll just never understand about this country.
This…is one of those times.

The 7 Commandments for Avoiding Muffin Armageddon: Recipe Box Tip

1. Thou shalt not filleth muffin cups more than 3/4 full. Beyond that gets you the dreaded flat frisbee top.
2. Preserveth thy pan. Put 3 tablespoons or so of water in any unused muffin cup. This keeps the pan from warping.
3. Round mound must abound. To get a rounded top on your muffin, only grease the bottom of the cup and halfway up the sides. It’s the bottom that always sticks anyway, and that upper grease-free part gives the ingredients something to “climb” on.
4. Feareth not the sticky muffin. If your muffins stick to the pan, put the hot pan on a wet towl for two minutes or so.
5. Cast false geological artifacts aside from your muffins. Your muffins have tunnels or peaks? Probably either too much mixing or liquid.
6. Go not into the muffin genesis without donning protection. Paper liner in cups make it much easier to clean up.
7. Seek ye the perfect muffin. The ideal American muffin has a rounded top, a thin brown crust with a slight cruch (add a little sugar glaze for this effect) and a nicely moist center.

Recipes That Should Be In Every Recipe Box

tomato sauce recipe for your recipe box

There are some basic ones that are so frequently used you almost wonder why you ever wrote it down. But why not take a few minutes and write it down for the rest of us?

I’ll start:

Basic Tomato Sauce

• 3/4 cup chopped onion

• 4-6 cloves minced garlic (minced)

• 1/4 cup olive oil

• 2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (yes, I know fresh is better. But sometimes…)

• 2 teaspoons salt

• 1 teaspoon sugar

• 1 bay leaf

• 1(6 ounce) can tomato paste

• 3/4 teaspoon dried basil

• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


1. In a pot over medium heat, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is soft.
2. Stir in tomatoes, salt, sugar and bay leaf. Cover, reduce to low, and simmer 70-100 minutes.
3. Stir in tomato paste, basil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and simmer 30 minutes more.
It may take a while to cook, but the whole house will smell like nice Italian steamy goodness!
Add your own suggestions on Facebook here or our blog here.

Shake, Shake Shake…Shake, Shake, Shake…Lemon Shake-Ups, Lemon Shake-Ups!

Sweet…tart…sugary…lemony…can you think of a better thirst quencher than a Lemon Shake-Up? The kind you get at carnivals and festivals? I sure can’t! And from what I can see in my recipe box, there are two totally separate opinions on the best way to make these satisfying drinks. Should you use a sugar syrup or just sugar? I pulled two recipes from my trusty recipe binder (which, by the way, features luscious lemons!) – one of each type. Try them both. Then let us know which is your favorite!

First, the EASIEST way:

1. Pour 1/2 cup sugar into a 16 oz. cup.
2. Cut 2 lemons in half.
3. Hand squeeze lemons; drop juice and lemons into cup.
4. Add ice as desired and fill cup with water.
5. Cover the cup and shake it vigorously until the sugar is dissolved.

Next, the “sugar syrup” way:

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (reserve rinds)
1. Combine sugar and water.
2. Boil for 5 minutes; cool to room temperature.
3. Add lemon juice.
4. Strain and keep refrigerated.

To make Lemon Shake-Up:
1. Add approximately 2 tablespoons of syrup to each glass of ice water.
2. Add the rind of one/half lemon that you squeezed to get the juice.
3. Cover glass and shake to blend.

So….what do you think? Easy or sugary – or both? Let us know! Or if you have a BETTER way to make lemon shake-ups in YOUR recipe box, please share!

How to Eat a Cupcake

Thought I knew how to eat a cupcake. I bet you thought you knew how to eat a cupcake, too.  Recently I saw a TV food show about the favorite foods of some of the top chefs in the country. One of them gushed about a local cupcake and catering company in her nearby town. 

And then she showed us all how to each a cupcake.

Most people think they know how to eat a cupcake. You take the pleated cupcake liner paper off and toss it away (or chew on it awhile). Then you dig your chops into the middle, biting off an equal amount of cake and frosting, often smudging a bit on your upper lip.Continue reading

Cream of Broccoli Soup

All the primary election news reminds me of the time President George Bush the Elder made a snide comment about a certain green vegetable that he did not — would not — eat. The resulting fluff in the media was nothing short of a scandal as I recall. The broccoli lobby and every broccoli farmer in America claimed insult.Continue reading

3 Top Ways for Dehydrating Fruit & Other Foods

During the waning weeks of summer, it seems a perfect time to preserve favorite fruits of the season by dehydrating them to enjoy later in the year.  My dear friend, Ruth, an expert in dehydrating fruit and other foods, says the process is all about removing the moisture that causes decay. No water means no bacteria and no spoilage, she affirms.

Ruth explains that dehydration occurs best when the drying temperature is between 95°-140°F, with low humidity, and a constant movement of air (that helps evaporate the moisture).  Fruits are especially interesting to dry because many change character entirely after dehydration. For example, dried plums are turned into prunes, and dried grapes become raisins after the drying process.

Although there are several methods for drying food, we’ve picked three of the most popular ways for dehydrating fruit and other foods:

1. Sun Drying
Sun drying is the most ancient way of dehydrating fruit and other foods. Patience and a solid protective cover for the food is important in this process. Slow drying fruit in the sun can take up to 5 days or more, depending on weather conditions. If you aren’t in a hurry and want the true old-fashioned experience of dehydrating fruit and other foods, sun drying is a satisfying (and green) choice.

2. Convection Oven Drying
With convection ovens able to stir the air and keep a controlled temperature, oven drying is another viable option for dehydrating fruit and other foods. Many do-it-yourselfers like using their existing convection ovens for dehydrating fruit and other foods because it is one less appliance to purchase, store, and maintain. Convection oven drying can provide an adequate finished product for home consumption.

3. Drying by Food Dehydrator
A food dehydrator appliance acts much like a convection oven (except your large oven can still be free to use while the dehydrator does its work). The basic parts of a food dehydrator include a fan, air vents to allow air circulation, a heating element, and food trays (screens). Food dehydrator appliances are perhaps the most popular way for dehydrating fruit and other foods. You pretty much set it and forget it, and come back hours later with perfectly dried fruits and other foods.

Helpful Hints
Slice sweet apples (like Fuji or Delicious) or sweet ripe peaches into thin slices. Dip in cold water with ascorbic acid or lemon juice and place in single layer on dehyrator rack. Check your progress every few hours for dehydrating fruit and other foods.  You can also make fruit leathers by pureeing fruit in a blender and spreading them on a flat dehyrator pan

Dehydrating is really easy. I always think of the old backpacker’s original trail mix called GORP (get out the raisins and peanuts) when I think of dehydrated foods.  I like to dehydrate fresh herbs, too. Right now I have a Concord grape vine loaded with grapes.

So, I guess its either harvest and dehydrate, or harvest and make jam. I’ll have to check my family cookbook and recipe box for my grape pie recipe. Granny used to have a really good Concord Grape pie recipe, but that’s another story.

Happy Cookbooking,


3 Ways to Make Croutons Without Stale Bread

Do you ever desire lovely toasted and seasoned croutons, but don’t have time to run to the store to buy boxed or bagged croutons? If you have a fresh loaf of bread, or even one that is not fresh but not quite ready to throw away or feed to the birds, you can turn several slices (or the whole loaf) into croutons without stale bread (the traditional way to make croutons).Continue reading

The Recipe Box Warehouse

We’ve posted a new video on our website that demonstrates the features of several popular styles of our high-quality recipe boxes.  Our narrator is none other than Erin Miller, our illustrious leader and owner of The Cookbook People of Boise, Idaho, who shows some of the best-selling recipe card boxes from our Recipe Box Warehouse, and explains her favorite features of each recipe box.Continue reading