Grandma’s Recipe Box, Grandma’s Recipe Book or Grandma’s Recipe Cards: Which Would You Choose?

Grandma’s magic kitchen had the power to transport us. With Grandma’s cookies as sustenance, we could be transported from our backyard tent (made with blankets draped over the clothesline) to wonderfully exotic places we only read about in storybooks. If you had the chance to select one keepsake from your Grandma’s kitchen, either Grandma’s Recipe Box, Grandma’s Recipe Book, or Grandma’s Recipe Cards, which one would you choose?Continue reading

My Little Recipe Box: 20 Uses

Recipe box, recipe boxes
My little recipe box has been serving me well for many years (incuding keeping recipes for my family cookbook). Every time I have misplaced something in the house (which is frequently of late), I always go look in my little recipe box, because I never know what I will find in there.

You might think it odd, but my little recipe box has had a whole other life besides its original use. Here are some of the items that have found their way into my little recipe box over time:Continue reading

Top 5 Uses for Baking Soda Besides Baking

Your family cookbook must be riddled with family recipes calling for some form of leavening agent, which makes baked goods expand and rise.  My family cookbook has lots of recipes for baking powder and baking soda.  I’ve always been fascinated by the difference in results when one ingredient is substituted for another.

I’ve had many cookie recipes made with baking powder come out wonderfully puffed up, and the same recipes puff up then flatten out when made with baking soda. There are rules to using both, as interchangeable as they seem. They are not, and here’s why:Continue reading

Traditional Luau Kalua Pork & Summer Crock Pot Cooking

This weekend I’m going to a birthday party. The invitation indicates a luau theme, so I plan to take my really easy, but delicious, Kalua Pork that I make in a crock pot.

Summer crock pot cooking is absolutely great since you don’t need to turn on the oven. Honestly, there is nothing wrong with baking or roasting during the summer (if your oven is well insulated). But baking or roasting during the summer just seems wrong when you can do many of the same recipes and get good results with summer crock pot cooking.Continue reading

Menu Planning Notepad Evolves From a Big Idea

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Call me old fashioned, but I like to write my menu planning ideas on a sheet of paper using my favorite pencil or pen of the day. Sometimes I feel guilty using a whole sheet of paper to jot down menu planning ideas. (Guess my green conservative ways leak out now and again.)

To curb my penchant for “give an inch take a mile scribbling,” I used to fold a whole sheet of paper in half, and then write my menu planning ideas on the vertical half sheet of paper. (By writing my menu planning ideas with the half-sheet positioned vertically, I felt I had more room to be creative.)Continue reading

Tales of Time, Food History & Family Cookbooks

The year 5,000 BC was a pretty significant one when it comes to food, according to the
Food Timeline, a fun website that traces the history of food since the beginning.

The Food Timeline tells us the year 5,000 BC brought the world:

– Olives & olive oil
– Cucumbers & squash
– Chili peppers, avocados & taro
– Potatoes
– Milk & yogurtContinue reading

Cookbook Binders Tame the 3 Ring Circus of Family Recipes

cookbook-recipe-binders-1

After years of keeping recipes on recipe cards and on scraps of paper, I have found that one of the best ways to keep recipes is in a cookbook binder.

Cookbook binders are great because they are so versatile. Unlike a hardbound book, cookbook binders can be altered or updated at any time. You can write on the pages, edit them later on your computer, print a new page and exchange it for the old one, and voila, you have fresh new recipe content pages in your cookbook binder.  (That’s how we envision updates to be done at The Cookbook People, anyway.)

Best of all, with a cookbook binder you have the flexibility to change the order of the pages, add or delete whole tab sections, or customize anything else you like. Continue reading

Create a Heritage Cookbook to Preserve Family Genealogy and Heirloom Recipes

Grandpa Joe’s banana splits by the river in summer.
Auntie Marie’s enormous Cranberry Fluff served once a year at Thanksgiving.

Cousin Linda’s hot French fries with tartar sauce on a cold beach day.

Such memories of food and family may not be yours personally, but you can relate to them because you may have many similar memories of your own. They are a precious link to another era, when life was seemingly less complicated. A time softened by reflection, and where relatives become oddly appealing with the passage of time.

Preserving the essence of such memories in a family cookbook is becoming very popular these days as we seek comfort in familiar, less-tech touches to our daily lives. Many of us are choosing to preserve both heirloom recipes and family genealogy all in one place — in a family heritage cookbook. Continue reading

RSVP: Ideas to Get Your Head Count Faster

Suppose you gave a party and nobody came.

You would be hurt, insulted, and ticked-off all at the same time. Your time and money would have been wasted when you were just trying to be friendly, sociable, and sharing.

You did include an “RSVP” on your invitation, but nobody replied.  And you didn’t have time to chase everyone you invited to confirm their attendance. So you forged ahead creating the party, only to be stood up by everyone but the family. What happened?

INVITED GUESTS

Your invited guests probably didn’t realize “RSVP” meant they needed to let you know they would not be coming (due to the playoff games, obvious conflict, or some other obligation or event they would rather attend). Sometimes they don’t respond because they don’t want to commit to a schedule in case something better comes up, such as sailing on the lake, or a fast trip to Cancun.  Maybe their poor behavior is just a lack of etiquette training. Continue reading

I Coulda Used a Birthday Record Keeper Template

“You forgot my birthday again,” said Aunt Agathene mercilessly as I hung my head in guilt and shame, a day late for the celebration, as usual.

“I wrote it down, but forgot where I put my note,” I defended. “Next thing I knew, your birthday was here, then gone.”

“Well, if I was as important to you as that new-fangled Jitterbug dance you keep busy with, I guess you would remember your old Auntie.”

At that moment I vowed to keep a list of all the birthdays, anniversaries (and other important dates in our family) all in one place. That was also when I established the groundwork for what would later become the birthday record keeper template, a popular feature of my Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software.Continue reading

Cookbook Recipes & the Grocery Shopping Checklist Notepad

My name is Erin and I am a habitual list maker.

There, I said it. My family has made fun of me for years for making lists. They say I am too “organized” (however, they use a different hyphenated word that I prefer not to repeat in polite company.)

Anyway, I like to make lists to keep my mind free for more important thoughts. I get things done by making lists. Like grocery shopping.  I used to make a grocery shopping list every time I needed something from the grocery store, but I got tired of writing down the same grocery items (milk, bread, eggs were always at the top).

So I created a grocery shopping list that was versatile enough to use every grocery shopping trip and contained most of my usual items with room to write new ingredients, say, for a family recipe or a new food product I wanted to try. Continue reading

Spring Cleaning and the Family Cookbook

Okay, there it is. The calendar has told us loud and clear that it is spring. Never mind that some parts of the country are still embedded in snowfall.

Sure as the bunny hops at Easter and the flowers begin to bloom, many of us just itch to remove the year’s accumulated dust from behind books (especially cookbooks), and other nooks and crannies that rarely see the light of day (let alone lamplight). Continue reading

Old Fashioned Recipe Cards are Great

Some people like to keep their recipes on recipe cards instead of creating a family cookbook. Old fashioned recipe cards are still a great way to collect and keep family recipes.

For those of you who prefer this method of preserving family recipes, we have several templates in our cookbook software that allows you to create old fashioned recipe cards in two different sizes (3 x 5 and 4 x 6).

The recipe card design choices below are found in the “Printing” tab by clicking “Recipes.” (Previews are available by clicking the magnifying glass to see your design before you print.) We are considering adding other design choices when we update our software next time, so your suggestions are welcome. For now, here are the choices:Continue reading

Rediscovered Tiramisu Twinkies Recipe Still Substitutes Well for the Real Thing

The other day after making my Matilda’s Pretty Good Lasagna, my taste buds drifted over from savory to wanting something sweet and creamy.  So, I thumbed through the printed copy of my family cookbook and came across a Tiramisu Twinkie dessert recipe that I had quite forgotten about (but would have gone perfectly with the lasagna).

The Tiramisu Twinkie recipe reminded me of the days when tiramisu was the dessert rage of the decade after the 1993 movie “Sleepless in Seattle” introduced the word tiramisu to Americans (tiramisu had been enjoyed in Italy and some other countries, I’m told.  I do remember thinking that “tiramisu” sounded much more Japanese than Italian for “pick-me-up”).Continue reading

How to Burn a Boiled Egg

1. Put 2 dozen eggs on the stove to boil.
2. Make sure the pot is full of water.
3. Turn on medium heat.
4. Forget to put on timer.
5. Talk to best friend on the phone for over an hour.
6. Go investigate strange popping noises from the kitchen.
7. Remember the eggs!
8. Turn off burner.
9. Turn on exhaust fan to remove smell similar to burnt popcorn.
10. Remove eggs from burning pan with tongs. Let cool.
11. When eggs are cool enough to handle, see what damage has been done.
12. When pan is cool enough to handle, add soapy water and scrub.
13. Make smoked egg salad (or throw away).
14. LOL

(P.S. This is not a recipe I would recommend for the family cookbook!)

Happy cookbooking anyway,

Erin

Kill Salmonella & E. Coli in Your Family Kitchen the Old-Fashioned Way

The recent scare about salmonella in our food products reinforces my simple idea that controlling my own food using my own recipes is one of the safest practices around.

I don’t know about you, but I have never gotten sick from preparing food from family recipes in my own kitchen. (I have been very sick from restaurant food and such, but never once have I had a bout with salmonella or E. coli from fixing food and family recipes at home.)

Having an ultra clean kitchen (not!), or having hand-sanitizers everywhere in the house is not the main reason I have avoided salmonella or E. coli contamination. I think it is my clean-as-you-go-with-hot water procedure that has most likely saved me from unpleasant illnesses, especially on my cutting boards. (I always have a hot kettle, even though my instant hot is used obsessively, too.)

Back in the early ’90s I was fascinated by a report that claimed wooden cutting boards in the kitchen were health hazards. So everyone tossed their wooden cutting boards. A few years after that, plastic cutting boards were the darling of kitchen cooks everywhere

Then, in the mid-’90s, scientific studies redeemed wooden cutting boards somewhat. A report said that wooden cutting boards were bacteria-free in just three minutes after use and cleaning, whereas plastic cutting boards were bacteria harbors. (Instead of absorbing bacteria-nurturing moisture, like wood does, plastic cutting boards reportedly enabled salmonella bacteria to move around, incubate and multiply on kitchen surfaces.)

So, it was back to the wooden cutting boards for those who secretly hid theirs (when being PC, politically correct, wasn’t even in our vocabulary.)

More recent microbial reports on wooden and plastic cutting boards have compromised and suggested the cutting board type is not as important as how well a cutting surface is cleaned after use. Duh! Here are some of the more recent scientific reports:

University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Hospitality Institute of Technology & Management

That being determined, it remains a bit scary to know that commercial kitchen sanitation (which should be superior) is most likely not set up to constantly clean and disinfect wooden, plastic, stainless steel and other non-porous surfaces with the most basic cleaning technique of soap and hot water.

No wonder our food handling and food production plants have salmonella or E. coli problems. Their gleaming stainless steel counters and plastic surfaces are probably over-sanitized but under-cleaned. And what about plastic gloves, isn’t it logical that unchanged plastic gloves can also transfer bacteria instead of preventing it from spreading?

As for me, I use wooden cutting boards when preparing food from family recipes. Always have, always will. I wash them with soap and hot water when I use them, and every so often I squeeze on lemon juice and add salt, and let them sit awhile before scrubbing with a brush — an old-fashioned “exfoliating” treatment I found in an old family cookbook that seems to work.

Like I said, I’ve never battled salmonella from my own kitchen.
Knock on wood.

Erin

Read more about the battle between wood vs. plastic cutting boards at these websites:

Opinion sites:
Reluctant Gourmet
What’s Cooking America
Essortment

About.com – Culinary Arts
Vermont Cutting Boards

Research sites:
U.C. Davis Food Research Laboratory
University of Missouri Extension

Interpreting Old Heirloom Recipes for Today’s Modern Family Cookbook

Occasionally, while browsing through old heirloom recipe books (mainly in those cookbook collector bookstores), I see some puzzling ingredient measurements that somehow have been lost over time to the modern family cook and modern family cookbooks.

Ingredient Measurements for Liquids
For most of us, the terms “gill” and “tumbler” for measuring liquid ingredients are most obscure, having been trained to use cups and ounces as our mainstay for measuring liquids. The other term I find odd is “scant,” not because it means “barely sufficient in amount or quantity,” but because the word was created to provide an explanation for why something measures less than an ordinary measurement! Here are some liquid measurements you’ll find in old heirloom recipe books:Continue reading

Do Your Measuring Spoons Measure Up?

I did an experiment today.
I measured my sets of measuring spoons and measuring cups.
That’s right. In a fit of curiosity, I actually took the time to see the difference between the various measuring spoons, dry measuring cups, and liquid measuring cups that I own.

Some of them were wrong!
Teaspoon for teaspoon, I found that most of the measuring spoon sets were off a smidgen, except for the calibration-certified set that I used as the baseline for my experiment.Continue reading

Top Fast Food Choices for those New Year’s Resolutions

Fast food isn’t something you have to give up to meet the objectives of your new year’s resolutions. In fact, fast food is better for you.  The natural kind of fast food, that is.

I’m talking about the kind of fast foods that are simple to eat and still satisfy your sweet tooth or savory-craving taste buds. These fast foods are always in a more natural state, and you don’t really prepare them.  In many cases, these fast foods are naturally low in fat, carbohydrates and calories (as compared to the processed fast food joint alternatives), which fit perfectly into your new year’s resolutions (you know, the ones where you promise to eat better or maybe lose weight).Continue reading

Old Fashioned German, er, Italian, er, Caribbean Thanksgiving Dinners

When my sister lost her husband suddenly in early 2001, the prospect of celebrating the food-laden holidays were very sad. Thanksgiving seemed to be particularly hard due to her husband’s love of a good meal and sports on the telly. To help ease this family loss, we decided to modify our holiday food traditions and be a bit more exotic in our choices for Thanksgiving dinner.

Instead of traditional foods such as roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, yams, green bean casserole, rolls and pumpkin pie, we chose international themes to brighten up our Thanksgiving table. The rule was to incorporate the same ingredients used in the traditional Thanksgiving meal in the menu for our exotic Thanksgiving feast, with variations as needed.

Here is how we converted traditional ingredients into wonderful Thanksgiving twists with an international flavor:Continue reading