Rick Rolling Dessert

Thought I’d jump (way belatedly) on the Rick Roll bandwagon:

In case you aren’t sure what this all means, click here.

I didn’t come up with this one–just got it in an email.

Translating Fancy Food Menu Speak into Common English

Last Saturday evening I had the pleasure of spending several hours with dear friends at a very (very) nice fancy food restaurant that specializes in wild game.  It had been awhile since I’d visited the fancy food “lodge,” with its stone fireplace ablaze, rustic beamed ceiling and bits of outdoorsy memorabilia (such as old firearms and fishing gear) adorning various dining areas. Let’s not forget the beady eyes of several animals staring down accusingly from their bodiless perches on the rough-timbered walls.

Everyone was well dressed (enforced with a polite sign at the door), and on their best behavior.  Pleasantries completed, we proceeded to peruse the fancy food menu, trying to decide our gastronomic fate for the evening from a choice of 9 fancy food appetizers, 11 fancy food entrees, and 8 fancy food desserts. (I always like to see the dessert menu first to decide if I need to accommodate some extra special sweet, or not.)

Upon reading the menu, it occurred to me that I really did not know what to expect of the fancy food at all. Clearly I’ve been out of touch with sophisticated cuisine and should have taken a dictionary with me (or at least my pink IPod nano loaded with the movie Ratatouille).  For example, “Wild Fijian albacore sashimi with pea tendril salad, toasted hazelnuts, garlic chips, scallions and melon cilantro vinaigrette” roughly translated into “raw fish rolls with pea pod shavings in a flavorful dressing.” About the only fancy food starter I easily recognized was “Caesar Salad with shaved Parmesano Reggiano and garlic croutons.” I’m sure it was delicious.

My sampling entree consisted of “Seared New Zealand Elk Tenderloin with Parsnip Mousselin”(Elk steak with whipped parsnips) and “Grilled Texas Nilgai Antelope with Caramelized Apricots, Apricot Agri-doux, Glazed Couscous, Ginger Infused Apricot Puree, Asparagus Tips and Red Wine Jus” (Antelope steak with apricot couscous, apricot sauce, and asparagus tips).

I realize that such fancy food menu descriptions are written to elevate the dining experience (or perhaps to justify the elevated price tag). Granted, these were works of culinary art and exceptionally delicious, but the fancy food descriptions were confusing and some of their magic was lost to me in translation.

So now you really want to know what I ordered for my dessert? (I had plenty of room left.)

It was “Coffee & Beignets: Praline Chicory Coffee Souffle, Coffee Anglaise, and Warm Beignets” (Coffee-flavored souffle with coffee flavored sauce and tiny puffy fried doughnut squares with powdered sugar).

(All of this gave me an idea for my next family cookbook. It’s so easy to just go in and play with the titles using my recipe software–I think I’ll blow everybody’s mind by including Russet Potato Mousselin Infused with Organic Rhode Island Red Egg, Shaved Celery and Ground Mustard. Sounds so much nicer than Matilda’s Potato Salad.)

By the way, the hot coffee was extra. Fancy that.

Happy cookbooking,


Free Grocery Shopping List – Printable template

Ever wanted a free shopping list that was organized by grocery store sections? I put together a free, printable grocery shopping list that you can fill out online using Acrobat, or just print out and fill in by hand.

Definitely put a copy of this in your family cookbook as you build one with our cookbook software. That way all your family members can save time while making a grocery list too!

Here’s the version you can use to check boxes right from your computer (using Acrobat).

If you want to just print it out and fill it in by hand, click here.

I hope you enjoy it! If you like it, you might also enjoy some of our great kitchen gifts!


Death of a Chocolate Banana Split Cake

Two of my favorite flavors are chocolate and banana. I don’t usually eat them together, but one day last week I had a desire for a nice slice of chocolate cake. There were two bananas on the counter (sorry, banana trees are for monkeys), so I thought why not make that Chocolate Banana Split Cake my cousin, Jean Brown Craft Batts, raved about a few years ago.

It just so happened that the local ladies club was having a dessert social that day and had invited members to bring a favorite sweet to share. Thank goodness! I really didn’t want to have to eat the whole Chocolate Banana Split Cake by myself.Continue reading

Olive Oil vs. Canola Oil: Cooking Oil Choices Made Easy

The big question I always face when trying to decide which cooking oil to buy is “How does it taste?” I don’t know about you, but I hesitate to experiment with something that can be pretty pricey per ounce (especially if I end up not liking it and then am stuck with a bottle of unused cooking oil for years).

At the grocery store I will stare at dozens of cooking oils with fancy labels from a multitude of international countries (Italy, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Spain), or from some domestic sources (California, Oregon, Texas, Arizona).  They all look good, but weeding them out is sometimes too challenging.  Which one to dip bread ¦ which one to use for salad dressing ¦ which one to smear on my cast iron skillet?Continue reading

Think Like the Colonel to Make Great Fried Chicken

Did you hear that Colonel Harlan Sanders’ handwritten secret recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken got temporarily moved out of corporate headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky with much fanfare? Makes me wonder if that publicity stunt not only triggered KFC sales, but also increased curiosity about the original formula he developed in 1939-40.

It was enough to get me thinking about his secret recipe, so I expect others have the same interest, too. And, I wonder what ingredients were actually available during that time period.Continue reading

5 Question Quiz: What Type of Cook Are You?

What type of cook are you? Are you a great cook? Average? A studied gourmet?

I’ve always been fascinated by my fellow cooks, and their different cooking personalities and cooking likes and dislikes. Why does one prefer using packaged convenience foods, and another is compelled to use unprocessed foods in their most natural condition?

The answer lies in a study done some years back by the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University.  The lab was profiling “nutritional gatekeepers” in American homes–those people who have a powerful influence on the tastes and eating habits of their families. (You know, the ones who buy fruit instead of cookies, or suggest eating salad instead of fries.) These nutritional gatekeepers could be Dads, Grandmothers, older children, or caregivers, but mostly they are Mothers, who continue to do the food shopping and preparation in 80% of the surveyed homes, according to Lab research.

Headed by Dr. Brian Wansink, a pioneer in food psychology, the study also revealed that most great domestic cooks can be grouped in one of five cooking personality types.Continue reading

Candy Cupcakes: Reeses Peanut Butter Cup-Cake Surprise

Whenever I pass the candy counter in the supermarket and see Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, I always remember our dear friends in Australia. They love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but can’t get them there.

Last year, I sent them a whole box full of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, hoping they would arrive without mishap, melting or other misfortune. They did! (My customs tag was a bit odd, but the bags of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in all sizes survived.)Continue reading

Copyrights, Recipes and Creating Cookbooks

We received an inquiry this week from Mara Ruffino, who asks about copyrights and creating cookbooks. My answer is worth sharing with all of you since last month there was quite an online controversy between a blog and a food website that alleged one of its copyrighted recipes was being compromised. Here is Mara’s question:

Hi Erin,
I am thinking about writing a cookbook and eventually publish it (not just in the family). I have been collecting recipes for a long time; some of them are my own and some of them “have no author,” meaning that I don’t know where I got them from. Therefore, I’m left wondering: how do copyrights work with cookbook recipes?

Great question, Mara! While all of us here at The Cookbook People don’t profess to be legal experts, generally speaking, individual recipes are not typically considered creative works and are not usually protected under copyright law.

However, if you put recipes into a cookbook collection with narrative and photos that are unique to your own life, that distinctive cookbook collection would be considered a creative work and could be copyrighted as a whole.

Here is a link to the U.S. Copyright Office that explains the concept of recipe copyright more fully: recipe copyright.

If some of your collected recipes are not identifiable or come from other cookbooks, and you still want to include them in your own family cookbook, here are a few suggestions to keep you honest and avoid that dreaded P word: plagiarism.

Reproducing recipes from a known cookbook or website:
If you use an exact recipe verbatim, you should give full credit to the cookbook, website or newspaper from which it originated, with specific dates of publication, if possible. If you plan to sell the cookbook for profit or even as a fundraiser, make every effort to get permission to reprint the recipe directly from the publisher/owner. This is called “CYA.”

What if you alter the recipe? Changing a few ingredients here and there to your own tastes essentially changes any printed recipe and creates a new one. But you should always give credit to the source of the new recipe by adding a footnote such as “Inspired by a recipe in Southern Living magazine, 1978,” for example. Part of the joy of developing new recipe ideas is the ability to share them so others can try and enjoy them.

Reproducing recipes from an unidentifiable old clipping:
When you do not know where the recipe came from, adding a simple “Original Source Unknown” as a footnote to the recipe indicates that it came from elsewhere, and that you truthfully do not claim ownership of it (but you do use and enjoy it).

You might check the local newspaper to see if there are similar recipes in their food section database. Often collectors clip recipes from the local newspaper, not paying attention to keep the date or publication name intact with the clipping.

Reproducing hand-written recipes from family members:
Again, assuming you have permission to reprint the family recipes (because everyone knows you are creating a family cookbook and have agreed to help), the best thing to do is to give credit to the family member and add a date on the bottom of the recipe, such as circa 1940. If at all possible, at the end of every original family recipe, insert a copyright symbol and date (© 1940) if you want to claim ownership of the family recipe.

To publish for profit, formally copyright your cookbook:
When you create a cookbook of your own for personal use, it is automatically copyrighted and you do not have to apply for a copyright from the U.S. Copyright Office. But if you want to protect your cookbook as your intellectual property so that others cannot profit from it, you must have your cookbook copyrighted. It is proof in a court of law that you are the creator of the cookbook.

Explore more websites regarding copyrights, recipes and creating cookbooks by clicking on the links below:
Copyright recipes
Copyrighting Recipes

As always, Mara, when in doubt, find a legal expert to help and advise you.

Happy cookbook making.


Make My Day: Iced Coffee Drinks Can Give A Different Kind of Morning Wake Up

We all have our moments, and today I had one that’s too good not to share. This morning I was thirstier than usual, and really wasn’t in the mood for a cup of decaf or green tea after my workout. So I thought, instead of just water, how about one of those cold, fancy frappe-type iced coffee drinks instead?

I’ve had these iced coffee drinks at the coffee bars. I’m a cookbook software entrepreneur, and I’ve been around long enough to be able to figure out how to do this simple iced coffee beverage and not have to run out to get one for around $40 dollars a gallon (and we think gas prices are high).Continue reading

How to Tell if Fruit is Fresh

Here’s a handy guide somebody emailed to me years ago about how to tell if your fruit is fresh. Feel free to add it to your cookbook. (I should probably add it to our cookbook software!)Continue reading

5 Easy Action Steps to Create Cookbooks (and De-clutter Too!)

Create cookbooks and get organized! That’s right. You can create cookbooks and de-clutter at the same time!

Somewhere in the back of your mind you know there is a better way to organize all those recipes printed from the internet or clipped from newspaper food sections that you’ve been stashing away. Maybe you have a box full of them in a garage cupboard waiting to be tested, tried and perhaps tossed one day (I admit I still have one out in the garage). Continue reading

Top 5 Ways Cookbook Templates Make Recipes Easy and Fun to Format

Cookbook templates are such an easy and fun way to create cookbooks for you, your family and friends, and even for those fundraising projects that inevitably come up.

Using a cookbook template is a tried and true results-getting process steeped in many crafting traditions. For example, sewing hobbyists use patterns. Interior decorators use stencils. Painters and muralists use outlines. So using a cookbook template to automatically format a professional-looking family recipe cookbook makes sense.

Here are 5 ways cookbook templates can help you have more fun making your cookbook:Continue reading

Make Your Own Cookbook & Empower Yourself

When you make your own cookbook, you are all-powerful. You have no one to answer to but yourself. Of course, if you plan to make your own cookbook and give it away, others may offer a few words of “helpful advice.” My answer to them is what my favorite author once said to his critics: “Where were you when the page was blank?”

When you make your own cookbook, you can have high standards. Yours. You have the power to include whatever you wish. Or, not. If you think Aunt Bessie’s lemon pie doesn’t merit a page in your cookbook (because it’s too sweet and the meringue sweats and falls, every time), you don’t have to include it. (If Aunt Bessie wants to make her own cookbook, send her Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software.)Continue reading

Family Cookbook Scrapbooking

As a child, I would love to read the scrapbook of poems that Aunt Sissy (my father’s sister) created from her poetry column in the local newspaper. Eventually, I came to have the scrapbook, and it brings back fond memories whenever I take a moment to reminisce. It is still one of my prized possessions, and one that I would never give away except to a family member.

Making a family recipe cookbook with my Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software is like digital scrapbooking in many ways. You add stories and photos to your recipes and family biographies. With our new feature of being able to print only one recipe per page, you can get even more creative and customize every page by adding your own special touches. Continue reading

Style, Sheets & Standards in Your Family Cookbook Recipes

Queen Elizabeth’s hats or Paris Hilton’s pooch may be considered “style” by some of the fashionista set. (I won’t venture to comment further, lest the wrath of the Internet come my way.) And, “style” is a word often used in music, film, television, art and literature.

For us family recipe cookbook makers, however, “style” is the consistency of how your family recipe cookbook will appear, particularly how the recipes will appear. Recipe consistency makes your cookbook easier to read and understand.Continue reading

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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