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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Writing Cookbook Headings…or Expositing on Fantastic Categorizations of Recipe Collection Subcategories

Writing a cookbook the long way

Marty in our support bulletin board asked me why he couldn’t get the title “Holiday Cooking” to fit as a recipe heading in his cookbook. It’s normally not a problem, but I explained that this can be an issue in our half page formats if you’re writing a cookbook with a really large font size. There’s just not much space to work with!

But it got me thinking about a bigger issue that applies to everyone writing a family cookbook. When it comes to recipe headings, sometimes less is more.

Obviously, I myself can be a little wordy sometimes. (You never hear about Bill Gates’ Fantastic Word Processing Software. He just calls it “Word.”) But even I can see that when it comes to organizing recipes, short headings make it much easier for cooks to find the right page in your cookbook.

I advised Marty to just call the heading for Holiday Cooking “Holidays.” It’s in a cookbook, so it’s already implied that it’s holiday cooking.

It’s just much easier to skim through a cookbook with headings like “Entree” and “Dessert” than “Continental Dinner Fare” and “Cakes, Pies and Other Sweets”.

Do I follow my own rule? To be honest, no. But I tend to be a bit quirky about it. Instead of “Salads” I like writing “Green Things.” “Fish” are “Scaly Swimmers.” “Cookies” are “Grandkid Appeasers.”

Is my own cookbook a pain to use for the uninitiated? Undoubtedly. But it’s my cookbook and mostly my recipes. And if you want to use it you’re just going to have to humor my writing.


Our little blog about cooking, family, and sharing recipes

Top 6 Questions to Ask Yourself About Online Recipes

I’m not a big fan of hosting my personal family recipes on a website. There are a number of pitfalls in putting hundreds of hours into maintaining an online recipe book:

1. Will they be around?
What happens if the website service goes bankrupt? Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but maybe next year.

2. What do you do if the recipes vanish?
Is there a backup? I’ve heard several stories of people entering all their recipes online and they just vanish. *poof*

3. What if they become obnoxious?

It may be free now, but what about three years from now? Five? Ten? What if they suddenly start flooding you with advertisements? If you build up a huge collection of recipes online, it’ll be really hard to just walk away.

4. How likely is it that you’ll share your family recipes with your grand daughter if it’s a bookmark on some web page?
Sitting in front of a computer, even online, is an inherently isolating event. Handing somebody a printed cookbook is inherently social.
Imagine you just died. (I know it’s horrible, but play along.) Are your descendants likely to stumble into your family recipes at website XYZ under the user name GrannyCookMachine537?

5. Are you comfortable with not having control over how your family recipes will be used?
If you carefully read the license agreements to these online recipe websites, you’ll notice that even though you own the recipes, they have publishing rights. They can make their own recipe book using your recipes and not pay you a dime. Melissa A. Trainer writes about this issue here.

6. Who wants to look up a recipe on a computer when your hands are covered in butter and eggs?
I’ll start making the pot roast as soon as my computer boots up. And my internet access starts. And I log on to the website. And I do a search for the recipe I want. And I do the search again because I typed it wrong. And–oh heck, let’s just order a pizza.

As Napoleon Dynamite’s brother said, “Yes, I love technology.” But not so much that I don’t see the value of a good ol’ fashioned printed cookbook. Obviously, as the owner of a cookbook printing software company, I’m pretty biased. But I could’ve just as easily started an online recipe storage website like all the others. I didn’t.

That’s because I believe the best way to manage your family recipes is from your own computer. Off line and in control.

For more about my cookbook printing software, click here.

Microsoft Word, Cookbooks and a Rolled Up Newspaper

“What do you need special software for to just make a recipe book? What’s wrong with Microsoft Word?” My nephew eyed me suspiciously. It was two years ago and I needed his software skills if I were going to make a quality recipe book.

Because I needed his help, I used the newspaper instead of the phone book to whack him in the noggin.

“Because,” I started, trying to seem patient, “Microsoft Word is designed for making letters. Microsoft Word does reports. Microsoft Word does resumes. Microsoft Word does Christmas letters. Microsoft Word does NOT organize recipes very well.”

“Huh?” he replied. (For an MBA he’s pretty thick.)

“I want a recipe book that’s alphabetized. I want a recipe book with a table of contents. I want a recipe book broken up by ‘cookies’ and ‘salads’ and ‘fish’. And I want to spend my time thinking about each recipe, not about how to make the indent in Microsoft Word go away.”

A glimmer of sentience seemed to appear behind his dull eyes. “Huh. Are there a lot of older women like you?”

“Yes. And don’t call me older.” Whack!

“And would they also like to be able to add photographs easily?”

“Yes. It’s a pain in Microsoft Word. The text goes everywhere when you put a picture in.”

“How about other features?”

“Well,” I offered, “it’d be nice to have an address book built in. And a birthday calendar. And a family tree—”

“And Microsoft Word can’t do that?”

“Well,” I admitted, “I guess it could. If you spent time organizing it all beforehand and you were willing to fight with it to make it look right.”

“What do you think about starting a software business?” he asked. “We could help thousands of people make their own recipe books.”

“And I’d get my own recipe book? Without having to use Microsoft Word?” I considered it. “Maybe…”

It’s two years later and our little cookbook software business is breaking sales records every month. We’ve helped a lot more people than I ever dreamed. And I got my own recipe book without using Microsoft Word.

But the best news is that my nephew has finally got his act together. I almost never have to use the newspaper anymore.

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!

Blank Recipe Cards vs The Cranky Granny

Blank Recipe Card Madness

Ruth and I collided as I pulled ginger snaps out of the oven. “Oh my goodness, Erin, I’m sorry,” she said. We both creak over to pick up the mess of recipe cards scattered across her kitchen floor.

“Ruth,” I say patiently, because Ruth sometimes needs a little patience. “Recipe cards? Why not punch cards? Or better yet scrawl some symbols on slabs of stone or papyrus?”

“I like to be able to pick up any card for any time to get cooking at a moment’s notice.” She looks at me a little shy. Like she isn’t 64, hasn’t cooked for 7 grandchildren, and hasn’t ever seen anything as confrontational as a cranky granny who owns a cookbook software company.

“Ruth,” I say, maybe a little less patiently. “I can’t even make out some of these, scrawled out in pencil and nearly rubbed out with butter and grease. And how long does it take you to find a card? It takes a moment’s notice to stuff a card in that old box, but how long does it take to find it again?”

“But I just like blank recipe cards. You take a blank recipe card and you can write anything you want on it. A blank recipe card is like a new day. Anything can happen.”

Ruth is a romantic. Romantic grandmas can be very stubborn people. But she’s only 64, still young and impressionable. So I put up my best argument.

“If you use my software to print your own recipe book, all your recipes will always be in alphabetical order every time by recipe type. All your cookies will always be with all your other cookies. All your soups will be with all your other soups. And when it gets so warn out that you are embarrassed to show it to your best friend–ahem–you can just print another copy. And print out a copy for her too.”

She flinches a little. “But the blank recipe cards, Erin! I love the blank recipe cards!”

I knew I had her. “So you can still use the blank recipe cards. Write on them all you want. But then staple them to the blank pages inside your recipe book. That way they stay organized. A cookie recipe card gets stapled to a cookie page in your cookbook. Once a year, type all the cards into my software, hit print, and just like that you’ve got an updated cookbook.”

She stayed silent, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I had another customer. She may have only been 64, and a romantic 64 at that. But she was old enough to see a little reason.

Buy blank recipe cards from us (Cookbook People) by clicking here.