I might have got a little obsessed. But I love this cutting board!
Hard to believe that we are nearly into the Labor Day holiday! The calendar pages for 2009 are flipping so fast that it seems like we are all in cartoon. If you plan to have a few friends and family members over for a Labor Day BBQ, why not make it a labor-less Labor Day BBQ? After years of hosting labor-intensive parties, I got smarter, so here are my 10 tips for a labor-less Labor Day BBQ:
1. Plan Your Menu
Scribble down all of the options you might like to include on a labor-less Labor Day BBQ menu. You know, five kinds of meats, 10 salads, 4 desserts. (Get over the panic feeling of ”will there be enough?”) Then whittle the list to two items in each category. Think smaller portions instead of gobs per person. It is much easier to make more of one dish than several different dishes.
2. Create a Countdown Timeline
Plan the ”days before” and ”day of” actions a week in advance of your labor-less Labor Day BBQ so you will take care of the dust bunnies before the doorbell rings. It also forces you to think about what dishes, bowls or trays you might want to dig out of the top cupboard and wash.
3. Shop Early in the Week
Study your labor-less Labor Day BBQ menu and break it down into individual recipe ingredients. That way you’ll buy only what you’ll need to make each recipe. Try doing your grocery shopping after dinner; the crowds are gone and you can walk off a few extra calories.
4. Use Shortcuts
There is no rule that everything must be made by you and you alone. There is nothing wrong with using convenience foods for your labor-less Labor Day BBQ. If you do choose to use bottled BBQ sauce, store delicatessen side dishes, or canned beans, just be sure you are familiar with the products to make sure they meet your personal standards.
5. Be Flexible
Don’t be afraid to change your labor-less Labor Day BBQ menu or substitute other ingredients. Who will know you really wanted to serve Auntie Clementine’s three bean salad (from the family cookbook, of course), but instead served bagged green salad with bottled dressing because you couldn’t find yellow wax beans? Furthermore, be sure to check the local supermarket ads for seasonal items; these may be on sale and less expensive than the dishes planned on your original menu.
6. Use the Slow Cooker
Cooking for a crowd can be so easy with a slow cooker. Simply dump all the ingredients into the crock and turn it on. Next thing you know, there’s a tasty dish inside that you barely worked at creating. True magic for your labor-less Labor Day BBQ.
7. Cook Outside on the Grill
We are talking about a labor-less Labor Day BBQ, so we do expect part of the menu will feature a dish prepared by charcoal or gas grill (instead of using the oven broiler). Cooking outside on the grill keeps the kitchen’s interior heat to a minimum, and keeps the kitchen cleaner, too.
8. Say Yes to Guest Participation
Whenever possible, encourage guests to bring a dish they would like to share. That way you don’t have to deal with preparing the whole labor-less Labor Day BBQ meal (and it is gentler on your pocketbook). Have a list handy (or in your head) of items that guests can bring to fill out the table when those RSVPs come in.
9. Go With the Flow
Don’t fret the small stuff. Sit down, relax, and talk with your guests so you can enjoy your labor-less Labor Day BBQ, too. You don’t have to serve everyone all the time, and I have found over the years that guests are most capable of taking care of their own needs. In fact, my party motto is: ”I’ll serve you the first drink, show you where everything is, and then you are on your own.”
10. Encourage Clean-up
When the labor-less Labor Day BBQ party is winding down, most considerate guests will help put away food, wash dishes, or fold up tables and chairs, if necessary. Some will even take out the trash! By all means, let these helpers contribute. Welcome their good intentions, even if they put the washed and dried coffee cups on the drinking glass shelf. They are just trying to make it a labor-less Labor Day BBQ for you!
With these 10 tips, a labor-less Labor Day BBQ just might become a family tradition that will sneak into the pages of your family cookbook’s new edition.
Looking for refreshing ways to cool down on these hot August nights? Try my list of super-coolers!
Why not gather your family together for a healthy Labor Day picnic with this fabulous meat-free salad?
I am so grateful for all the nice comments we receive here at The Cookbook People.com in reference to my easy-to-use Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software. I recently received a wonderful email from Randi Levin of The Muffin Lady Inc. in Colorado who has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the special art of high altitude cooking.
Randi was kind enough to send us some suggestions for improving our high altitude cooking tips. By popular demand, she has written a cookbook about high altitude cooking so that others may find palatable success high above the ocean.
Meanwhile, here are some excerpts from her email:
Dear Erin and All at Cookbook People:
Please allow me to communicate a few differences between your high altitude cooking tips and mine. I mean absolutely no disrespect at all. MY goal is to help others find palatable success at high altitudes. Most of your tips are worthy and based on scientific information, but MINE are based on decades of experience high above the ocean.
I have been baking and adjusting recipes in the mountains of Colorado for 32 years to date in elevations between 5,000 and 8,000 feet. Many of my cookbook recipes originated from family members at sea level, and were adjusted for higher elevations accordingly. Several are actually more than 100 years old, and “to DIE FOR.” (Bless Great Grandmothers!).
I hope these adjustments help your readers.
Randi L. Levin
The Muffin Lady
Author, Publisher & High Altitude Food Specialist
Dear Randi: I am delighted that you gave us permission to include your additional thoughts and comments here on our website! The table below shows our high altitude tips placed side-by-side with Randi’s suggested comments, which we will be including in our upcoming software update.
From Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software:
Randi’s High Altitude Tips/Comments:
Water boils at a lower temperature (each 500-ft increase in altitude causes a drop of about 1Â° in the boiling point). For example, at 7,500 feet the boiling point will be 198Â°. Since it will not be as hot as it is at lower altitudes, you will have to boil it longer to achieve the same effect.
Baked goods that include yeast or baking powder will rise faster which may sound good, but it’s not. They will dry out.
Boil things longer if you are at an elevation of 5,000 feet or more.
Boil things longer if you are at an elevation of 3,500 feet or more.
Oven temperatures are affected by altitude, so it is sometimes necessary to adjust the suggested oven temperature. For batters and dough, you should increase the temperature by 25° Fahrenheit if you are at an elevation of 3,500 feet or more.
I have lived at 5,000 feet, 6,900 feet and currently at 8,000 feet above the ocean and have never raised the temperature. Actually, for some items, (roasts, biscuits, etc.), I suggest lowering the temperature by 5-25°F. For example, if biscuits call for baking at 425°F to 450°F, I lower the temperature 25 degrees: 400°F to 425°F.
Why: When raising the temperature in dry environments such as the Rockies, Sierras or Alps, all you are doing is increasing the dry heat. Sure the product will work, but it will also dry out much more rapidly. Additionally, the only reason to increase the liquid by 1/4 cup (4T) is so that the excess dry heat may absorb and then evaporate it. The product will still dry out faster when the temperature is raised!
Adjust ingredients that cause your baked goods to rise. Smaller pans work better at high altitudes.
Use more liquids (including that used in rice, soups and vegetables) slightly to allow for longer cooking times.
KUDOS, as this is an absolute.
Reduce baking powder
For each teaspoon, decrease by:
3,000 feet 1/8 teaspoon
5,000 feet 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon
7,000 feet 1/4 teaspoon
Reduce baking powder (and baking soda) a smidgen. It is easier and more effective to simply decrease these leavening agents by slightly indenting your finger into the powder when leveling the measuring spoon. You will want to decrease each by 1/4 teaspoon at 9,500-10,000 feet and above!
For each cup, decrease:
3,000 feet 0 – 1 tablespoon
5,000 feet 0 – 2 tablespoon
7,000 feet 1 – 3 tablespoon
3,000 feet has minimal adjustments, if any, according to folks I have spoken to. Elevations of 3,500 feet seem to be where the adjustments actually begin. I am at 8,000+ feet, so why would I want to decrease one of my moisturizing agents so drastically? Whenever I measure sugar, I simply measure it to just below the cup line, not by 3 or more Tablespoons. or else I would have a drier product than desired.
For each cup, add:
3,000 feet 1 – 2 tablespoon
5,000 feet 2 – 4 tablespoon
7,000 feet 3 – 4 tablespoon
Adding 1-2 Tablespoons more liquid per elevation is sufficient. You will not want to add any more until above 10,000 feet.
Additionally there is NO mention about increasing FLOUR by 1-2 Tablespoons per cup. This is one of the most important adjustments, especially when trying to avoid sunken cakes and flat cookies.
One of our customers sent us this lovely video of a teabox we made for their family in Brazil.
This may not be a revelation to some readers, but soybeans taste good. And, if I say so myself, my new soy-soy vegetarian chili recipe is divine! It certainly went down well with my bunch of coach potatoes.Continue reading
Unlike the plain old white index cards like we used in the old days, custom recipe cards feature special designs or colors and make great gifts for all sorts of occasions – from hostess to business settings.Continue reading
“When in doubt, add parsley,” I said wryly observing my sandwich which had just been served served with the teeniest bit of parsley ever to adorn a plate.
I’m talking a bit of a leaf. It was so small it wouldn’t have been noticed except for the bright green color that broke up the stark white plate.
Summer’s bounty of fresh vegetables is always inspiring. Some of my favorite light dinners on hot summer nights are cold vegetable soups made early in the day so the flavors mingle and meld together. I love spending time outside in the patio sipping a cup of cool soup and munching some crusty French bread (slathered with brie cheese, if I get the chance). Hey, I never said these cool summer soups were non-fat dishes!
I have several recipes for cool summer soups, but here are my Top 3 favorites: Gazpacho, Vichyssoise, and Creamy Zucchini. These cool soup recipes have several things in common: They are easy to make; They are delicious; They share some common ingredients so you can shop for all three recipes at the same time.
Try these Top 3 cool soups for summer and see if you want to include one in your own family recipe cookbook:
# 1. COOL SOUP FOR SUMMER
Even people who think they don’t like this Spanish-style cool soup like this one!
1 14.5 oz. can chicken broth (your favorite brand)
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 medium cucumber, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
3 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped (or fresh parsley)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce to taste
Garnishes: Sour cream, chopped red onions, tortilla chips
Puree in blender the chicken broth with half the can of diced tomatoes and half of everything else except garnishes. When blended, fold in the other half of the ingredients so there is some texture and crunch. Chill well and serve topped with sour cream and chopped red onion. Serve with tortilla chips. Serves 4 (or 2 little piggies).
# 2. COOL SOUP FOR SUMMER
A classic smooth and perfect-for-sipping flavorful cool soup!
1 14.5 oz. can chicken broth (your favorite brand)
1 2.5 oz. packet leek soup mix (onion soup mix will do in a pinch)
2 cups water
6 medium Russet potatoes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 stalk leek, finely chopped
1 cup whole milk
Salt & pepper to taste
Garnish: Chopped green onions and sour cream
Combine chicken broth, leek soup mix, water, onion and leek in a stockpot. Wash and peel potatoes, then slice down into cubes and boil in chicken/onion broth mixture until potatoes fall apart. Mash any remaining lumps with a potato masher. Cool 15 minutes, then slowly blend soup in batches with a little milk until smooth. Add more milk if needed, along with salt & pepper to taste. Chill for several hours. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and green onions. Serves 4.
# 3. COOL SOUP FOR SUMMER
Creamy Dreamy Zucchini Zoop
A tasty way to get your veggies in a cool summer soup!
2 14.5 oz. cans chicken broth (your favorite brand)
8 medium zucchini, cubed (can also add cauliflower, carrots, spinach, if desired)
1 8 oz. container chive & onion cream cheese spread
1 cup milk
Chopped green onions
Cook zucchini in chicken broth until tender. Remove cooked zucchini from broth, and 2 cups broth, and set both aside to cool 15 minutes. While the zucchini is cooling, dice up the flavored cream cheese and add it to the remaining still hot broth, stirring occasionally. While it melts, puree the cooked zucchini with some cooled broth in small batches until smooth. As you work, pour the pureed zucchini back into the broth with melted cheese. Add milk. Stir thoroughly with a whisk. Let cool, then refrigerate until chilled. Garnish with a sprinkling of chopped green onions. Serves 4.
Have you looked at your calendar lately? Where on Earth has this year gone already?
I admit that mentally I am still somewhere in late May. My phone, however, reminds me daily that we are smack on the verge of August. And that means we are turning the corner on, you guessed it, Christmas! It will be here before you know it.
If you are planning to create a family recipe cookbook as a Christmas gift, then I suggest you consider getting ahead of the game and start working now on putting your family recipe cookbook together using my Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software. You can also just assemble it using one of our recipe binders.
Here is a basic timeline to help you organize your thoughts and activities in time for Christmas:
Select your family recipes and type them into the software’s Recipe tab. You may also cut and paste them from other documents or websites.
Write any stories about the family recipes (especially funny ones), or write brief stories about the people who made (or still make) the signature recipes you have selected.
Collect photos of your family members and add to them to your family recipe cookbook in the People tab.
Use family gatherings to take any missing photos that you want to include.
Print copies of your family recipe cookbook on your home printer (be sure to have on hand enough ink cartridges and paper, etc.). Or, arrange to print your family recipe cookbook through your local fast printer.
One thing is for sure, creating a family memory cookbook is a wonderful way to personalize your Christmas gifts for all family members without driving all over town or stressing about what to give. Whether you include family recipes or your own personal favorites, using Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software will make it easy.
P.S. Have you worked on your cookbook today?
Want to keep your kids or grandkids engaged with a fun and memorable project this summer? How about making a recipe book for kids using your Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software?
A recipe book for kids is a great keepsake of their summer vacation. And a great show-and-tell when classmates or teachers ask “What did you do on summer vacation?” Not many children will be able to show their own personalized recipe book for kids! Continue reading
A few years back I was remodeling my kitchen and I wanted to install a pizza oven. I thought it would be fun to make homemade pizzas for family and for parties.
At the time, there were very few options that didn’t cost a ton of money. All the so-called “designer” pizza ovens were not only thousands of dollars, but the cost to install them was also a bit outrageous. We are talking about pizza, not truffles and caviar (although those might be interesting toppings).
So, I resigned myself to the fact that I would not enjoy crafting my own pizza recipes after all. Sigh.¦
Suddenly, I realized I already had a pizza oven. It was called a barbecue grill! Mine happens to be gas-powered with a thermometer on the outside of the heavy lid. (It is very important that the barbecue grill unit be heavy duty because these pizzas bake at around 650ºF-700ºF, much hotter than your regular kitchen range oven.)
After a few triesContinue reading
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every time you opened your family cookbook, you could time travel at will? What if you could turn a page in your family recipe book and travel back in time to see how life was in ages past? How about traveling forward in time?
Well in a sense, you can.Continue reading
“Why don’t you tell people what nice gifts these recipe boxes would make for wedding showers?” Ruth asked.
“When my daughter got married, we struggled to find unique hostess gifts. These recipe boxes would have been just perfect. You could choose each recipe box design thoughtfully for each person and then add the matching recipe cards. It would make an impressive, well-liked gift.”
“You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” Kenny Rogers used to sing this line in a great song about playing cards. That’s also true about calling your family cookbook done. You have to recognize when it’s time to stop adding recipes and go ahead and print.
But how can be sure your family recipe book is complete?Continue reading
In the scheme of things, you might think collecting and saving family recipes doesn’t matter much. But collecting your family’s special dishes in a personalised cookbook connects different generations and lets you get to know members of your tribe you’ll never meet.Continue reading
Once upon a time there was a good recipe software, and there was a bad recipe software.
The good recipe software was easy to use, had plenty of options, and left anyone entering data happy and fulfilled.
The good recipe software meant the users could quickly make a wonderful family cookbook filled with beloved recipes, family stories and photographs.
This recipe book became a family keepsake worthy of future generations.
We got a lovely note from Colette Surovy of Canada. Colette made a family cookbook for her family reunion using Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software.
She collected recipes from family members approximately four months in advance of the reunion. The final product was a family cookbook containing more than 100 pages!
Gifts for co-workers – whether they’re leaving or celebrating something important – can often be a challenge. So why not delight your favorite co-workers with a do-it-yourself cookbook made on your home computer?Continue reading