No Fat/Oil Free Cookies Made with Applesauce

Every so often I like to use applesauce instead of butter or margarine (or oil) when making baked goods such as cookies or muffins. In addition to cutting down on my fat intake, the texture of the cookies or muffins made with applesauce tend to be no different than those made with butter or margarine.

Also, I found there really is no appreciable taste difference between cookies or muffins made with applesauce vs. cookies or muffins made with butter or margarine (or oil). To my mind, opening a can or jar of applesauce is easier than melting butter or margarine (no oily mess in the measuring cup to clean up).

I’ve experimented with substituting applesauce for butter or margarine (or oil) in other recipes, too. They all seem to come out palatable and presentable.

So if you have other no fat/oil free recipes for cookies or muffins in your family cookbook, you might want to add this recipe for no fat/oil free cookies alongside.

Here’s the basic recipe I used to bake these no fat/oil free cookies made with applesauce:

No Fat/Oil Free Cookies Made with Applesauce

Moisture
3 egg whites
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce

Binders
1-2/3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup oatmeal

Leavening Agents
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

Sweeteners (or sugar substitutes to taste are okay)
1 cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar

Flavorings
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup chopped walnuts
2 tsp cinnamon
½ cup raisins

Mix all ingredients well until dry ingredients are moist. Add more applesauce if mixture appears to be too dry. Drop by tablespoonfuls on oil-sprayed cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degree for approximately 15 minutes until slightly brown around the edges. Makes about 20 substantial cookies.

Try these soft, not-too-sweet, semi-healthy cocoa-flavored oatmeal cookies for breakfast with a cup of coffee or tea. They can really satisfy you for most of the day (which can really help if you are trying to take off a few pounds to wiggle into that summer swimsuit).

Happy cookbooking,

Erin

How many recipe cards will fit in a recipe box?

We answer this age-old question in our Recipe Box Overview, where we try to put everything you need to know about recipe boxes in one place. However, the main infographic I’ve posted here from there tells you most of what you need to know!

Hope this helps!

Erin

Photo of wheat field overlaid with text: Build a binder of safe foods for allergy sufferers

Recipe Binder of Safe Foods for Allergy Sufferers

A special recipe binder devoted to allergy-safe recipes can make cooking for others a lot simpler – and safer!

If you have children or work with children, or if you enjoy entertaining with meals that you lovingly prepare, it’s a good idea to create a recipe binder that contains helpful hints and recipes for allergy sufferers.

With more than one in 12 children in the United States suffering from food allergies, it’s a safe bet that many of the favorite treats that you meant to share with your child’s class will be banned from the classroom.  After all, no one wants to risk an allergic reaction in any child – or any adult, either.

On the other hand, no one wants to deprive them of the treats and socializing that come with parties both inside and outside of classroom either.

One way to avoid this dilemma is to build a recipe binder that contains helpful medical information and tried and true recipes for the goodies that you want to be able to enjoy and share with friends.

The following 8 foods are responsible for more than 90 percent of allergic reactions:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Tree Nuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Soy
  • Wheat

In your recipe binder, keep a list of these allergens and include with them the symptoms and treatments for each, along with emergency medical procedures and contacts.

Also, include safe food substitutes that will work in favorite recipes.

You can find safe recipes at the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network at http://www.foodallergy.org/recipes.

Pick out a few favorites that you can make to ensure that everyone who visits your home – or any event where you have a hand in the food – can feel welcome and safe.

For more information, contact us.

A family cookbook is a spiritual document.

A family cookbook is more than just a compilation of recipes. It’s a spiritual document.

Go ahead. Laugh and roll your eyes. (My husband Ted did. He laughed and laughed right up until I sold the 50th copy of my software, Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software. Then he started paying attention. Now that it’s the best selling Cooking & Health software on Amazon, a lot of people are paying attention.)

What makes a family cookbook spiritual? Look into the eyese of your granddaughter. Those eyes have atoms swirling in them that were once in your Aunt Maureen’s Top Secret Cheesecake. Same goes for the strong back of your husband and a lemon-yellow lock of your grandson’s hair. The hippies were right–all things really are connected. And some things, like the food we all ate as children and the lives we live as adults, are even more connected. Not just in sight and sound and taste and smell, but in our very beings.

Maybe that’s why thousands have used their family cookbooks to commemorate a mom or grandma who passed on. A family cookbook can connect us across countries, decades…even death.

I can go online and find a thousand different recipes for meatloaf. But there’s only one meatloaf that smells like the one my own grandmother used to make. She’s dead now and the recipe died with her, and that’s a real shame.

Look at your own family recipes and think about those you love. You may have a will to cover who gets exactly how much money, but money and things are forgotten. Have you given them a way to remember how connected they are to you?

Obviously, I’d prefer it if you went out and bought my software. But there are lots of other options, whether you just write a cookbook by hand, in Word or online. The important thing is to get those family recipes written down and passed on. The recipe book you create will indeed become a spiritual document.

Much of that spirit will be yours.

Erin

Family Cookbooks Record History As It Happens

A fascinating item in The Recipe Writer’s Handbook inspired this writing about the evolution of cookbooks and cookbook authors. As can be guessed, most of the few early cookbooks were written by men (from the late 4th to 14th centuries).

Around 1390, for example, a chef of King Richard II is credited with writing the first English cookbook (cookery book) called Forme of Cury. This book was actually a vellum scroll of recipes that included how to use exotic spices in everyday cooking. (The word cury is the Middle English word for cookery, and not a spice blend, I’m told.)

As literacy grew in the upper classes, women starting writing cookbooks and other running-the-household instructional books. These served to record the rich variety of food, tastes, cooking methods, eating habits, and even the local dialects. Some of the notable women cookbook authors through modern times have included:

Hannah Wolley (c. 1622-1674)
In 1661, she became the first female author to try and make money from writing and publishing a cookbook with her The Queen-Like Closet, or Rich Cabinet, which included easy-to-follow recipes.

Hannah Glasse (1708-1770)
Her The Art of Cookery was published in 1747 to assist the lower classes in cooking for their employers. Hannah wrote the book to help support her family, but ended up in debtor’s prison for a time. In 2006, she was the subject of a BBC documentary that called her the “mother of the modern dinner party.”

Elizabeth Raffald (1733-1781)
In her 1769 book, The Experienced English Housekeeper, Elizabeth’s 800 recipes have such clear directions and quantities, that you can still cook from them today.

Amelia Simmons (an American orphan)
American Cookery was published in 1796, and was the first cookbook to feature all-American ingredients (e.g. turkey, cranberries, cornmeal), and included recipes for hoecakes, cookies, and pumpkin pie. Her original work was often plagiarized relentlessly by less ethical cookbook writers.

Maria Rundell (1745-1829)
Publishing A New System of Domestic Cookery in 1806 was in response to a need for a domestic family cookbook (instead of one for large households or taverns).

Eliza Acton (1799-1859)
Her Modern Cookery for Private Families was aimed at the domestic reader instead of cooking professionals. She introduced the now common practice of listing ingredients and cooking times with each recipe.

Isabella Beeton (1836-1865)
The bestselling Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management in 1861 (aka Mrs Beeton’s Cookbook,) was a compilation about running a Victorian household and included recipes in a format still used today.

Fannie Farmer (1857-1915)
Her Boston Cooking School Cook Book of 1896 was the first cookbook to emphasize accuracy in measurements to obtain uniform results, which helped standardize the system of measurements used in cooking in America.

Irma Rombauer (1877-1962)
The Joy of Cooking, published in 1931, has become an American institution and one of the most influential cookbooks of the 20th century. It is an outstanding reference for preparing traditional American food.

Julia Child (1912-2004)

In 1961, her Mastering the Art of French Cooking became a best seller and one of the most revered cookbooks ever written by an American author. She became a television icon beginning in 1963 and paved the way for today’s popular food-oriented programing.

What I learned from this brief glimpse into cooking and cookbook history, is that cookbooks written by women have played an extremely important role in capturing the essence of a society at a particular era in time.

For an excellent commentary about this subject, read “Understanding Women’s Lives through Their Cookbooks” by Jean Robbins, from Virginia Culinary Thymes, Winter 2005.

A passage from Robbins’ narrative: “The cookbook heir and subsequent reader not only inherits a domain of cultural knowledge about cooking and household recipes, but receives a token of her female kin. A bond is created by possessing a kin’s physical artifact and is the means by which members of different generations become entwined with one another.”

When making your own cookbook, keep this concept in mind. You are preserving heritage not just for your own family, but for generations of others (perhaps non-relatives) who may one day see your cookbook as a window to life in the early 21st century.

Creating a cookbook is really recording history in the living of it!

Happy cookbooking!

Erin

Oscar-Watching Party Tradition Continues Sunday For 82nd Academy Awards

My dear friend, Ruth, and I are positively girlie giddish about watching the Academy Awards show on Sunday (and every year). We watch all the movies we can during the 12 months prior (thank you, Netflix), so we are usually very familiar with all of the Best Picture and Best Actor/Actress nominees.

We plan our own festive Academy Awards affair with friends and neighbors (mostly the ladies) so we can relax and ogle all the beautiful outfits, jewelry, hairstyles and make-up of the silver screen’s glitterati.

Because my husband thinks the Academy Awards are irrelevant, he has never joined us to watch one of the red carpet pre-pre shows, pre-show, show, and post show festivities. But he always hangs around to eat with us. And for good reason. This year I’m going to pick from:

Academy Awards Dinner Appetizers
Buffet-style Kobe beef mini-cheeseburgers
Baby Sirloin Burgers with Cheddar Cheese & Remoulade
Vegetable Spring Rolls with Chinese Hot Mustard
Pizza with Smoked Salmon & Caviar

Academy Awards Dinner First Course
Crispy potato galette, smoked salmon, dill cream and baby greens.

Academy Awards Dinner Main Course
Organic chicken pot pie with black truffles and root vegetables.

Academy Awards Dinner Dessert
24-carat gold wrapped chocolate Oscar statuettes. (Or maybe just some ice cream? I’m stuck on this one.)

Academy Awards Dinner Glamour Cocktail
¼ ounce vanilla liqueur
1-1/2 ounce passion fruit juice
4 oz Chandon Imperial champagne
Mint sprig, for garnish

Not bad. Ruth and I and our friends will have a wonderful time at our Academy Awards party (sans the dress-up glamour; we’re strictly casual with no high heels allowed). I hope you will take a moment to enjoy the frivolity of the moment. For no matter what my husband thinks, we still do need escapism.

Happy Cookbooking,

Erin

Grandmas, Chippendales and Bad Salsa

“Honey, you don’t want to get feathers in the salsa,” I shouted to Ruth over the song “It’s Raining Men.”

It was a Red Hat party, and Ruth was drinking a daiquiri. It was virgin, but the grandmother of seven still seemed a little dizzy. Maybe it was the Chippendale dancer beefcake strutting on the stage in front of her. She pulled her red feather boa away from the dip. “It could only improve it,” she giggled. “Honestly, Sharon makes a much better salsa. Her trick is to use fresh pineapple.”

This wasn’t exactly a Red Hat party, to be honest. There were only ten of us. The real Red Hat party was in three weeks. We were supposed to be the Red Hat Party Planning Committee, but as is often the case we were easily distracted.

Sharon set a folded dollar bill on the stage and smiled smugly. I think it was about the salsa compliment, but it might have had something to do with the blond hunk with the rock hard abs who’d just wiggled in front of her. She was the one who convinced us “The Official Red Hat Party” Organizing Party of the Red Hat Party Planning Committee had to happen in front of male strippers.

“You know,” she said, “we ought to use Matilda’s software to make a cookbook for the upcoming party.”

I was stunned. I hadn’t thought we’d actually get around to talking about the “real” party. But I was also ready. “Well,” I said, “I’ve got a template designed with lots of red hats in it. Nice and red and purple. It’s not officially endorsed by The Red Hat Society or anything–”

“Neither is Butch over there!” Ruth blurted, her eyes fixed on a very uncomfortable-looking thong.

“–but,” I continued, “I think it’d be perfect. We’ll ask everybody to email each other their favorite recipes, and we can vote on which ones we’ll put in our Unofficial Completely Unauthorized Underground Illegal Red Hat Party Cookbook at the party. I’ll take the recipes we decide on there and get a cookbook done in a week or two.”

Ruth looked at me for the first time in an hour. She mumbled something I couldn’t quite hear about pineapple and feathers. I mouthed “What?”, and the music cut suddenly as she shouted, “I want that man dipped in salsa!”

Needless to say, the business portion of “The Official Red Hat Party” Organizing Party of the Red Hat Party Planning Committee adjourned in shrieks of grandmotherly cackles.

Grandma

If your Red Hat group is interested in making it’s own Unofficial Completely Unauthorized Underground Illegal Red Hat Party Cookbook, click here for the template.

Basic Rice Recipe, Ruth, Brides, The Rice Game, and All That

“1-2-3 is the basic recipe,” I said to Ruth, who was having a slight senior moment regarding how to cook rice.  “One cup rice and two cups of water makes three cups of food.”

“Oh yes,” Ruth said. “I was thinking 3 cups of water to one cup rice was how my mother used to make rice. It was always so moist and tender. I forgot the 1-2-3 rule.”

“Well, all I know is that one cup of rice can feed three people. I play The Rice Game quite a bit, and it is amazing how one cup of rice can swell up and make a difference for people in so many countries. It is one staple that truly has global reach.”

That little conversation got me thinking about all the rice in the world, and how odd it is that June brides of the past could waste such a precious food by having guests throw rice at weddings. (While I understand the custom, I much prefer the more recent rose petal tossing or bubble blowing activities at weddings instead of getting whacked in the eyes by errant grains of rice.)

To each her own, however, so here are some of the rice choices we have these days to eat or toss, as desired:

ARBORIO – An Italian rice with short, thick grains that are firm, creamy and chewy due to their high starch content. Arborio is mostly used in making risottos (an Italian rice specialty made by stirring hot stock into sauteed rice).

BASMATI – A fragrant, long-grained rice primarily from the fertile Punjab region (India/Pakistan) with a nutty flavor and aroma. It should be rinsed in cold water and soaked before cooking. Basmati is fabulous in any recipe, from starters to entrees and pilafs to puddings.

BROWN – Unpolished short or long-grain rice with only the husk removed so the high-fiber bran coating is still intact. It has a chewy texture that requires a longer cooking time than white rice. Brown rice is prized for its higher nutritional value and mild nutty flavor. It can be used in most recipes with great results.

CONVERTED (A.K.A. par-boiled) – White rice that has been steam treated before it is husked so it takes less time to cook and has more nutrients than white rice. It has a slightly beige color. The most famous brand is Uncle Ben’s. Converted rice is versatile enough for most recipes.

GLUTINOUS  – An Asian short-grained rice that becomes very clumpy and sticky when cooked. It is mostly used for sushi, molded salads, and various desserts, such as the Thai dessert dish “sweet sticky rice with mango.” Yum.

INSTANT (or quick cooking) – White rice that has been fully or partially cooked before being dehydrated and packaged so it cooks quickly (in about 5 minutes) when rehydrated. It is mainly a last-minute convenience food useful when waiting for traditional rice to cook won’t do.  That expediency makes it relatively expensive, and some say flavor and texture are sacrificed. Minute Rice is a well-known brand.

WHITE – A common polished long-grain or short grain rice with the husk, bran, and germ removed to make the rice tender and fast-cooking, and to prevent spoilage. (Enriched white rice on the label means some of the nutrients have been restored.) White rice is great for a side dish or as a bed for sauces.

WILD – Not really a rice but a long-grain marsh grass with a nutty flavor and a chewy texture. It takes longer to cook and can be used in a wide variety of foods such as stuffing, casseroles, soups, salads, and desserts. Wild rice has also been used in breakfast cereals, and mixes for pancakes, muffins, and cookies.

To satisfy my curiosity (and to verify my memory), I did look up a basic white rice recipe for Ruth and forwarded it to her by email. Many other rice recipes call for more or less water, depending upon the variety of rice used. But for now, you can’t go wrong with this basic white rice recipe:

Basic White Rice Recipe

While this recipe isn’t unusual, it certainly can help Ruth in the future if she adds it to her family cookbook. After all, she might not remember 1-2-3 again, and, frankly, I might not either!

Happy cookbooking,

Erin

Photo of Lemon Drink on yellow background overlaid with text: "2 Ways to Make a Thirst-Quenching Lemon Shake-Up"

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?

Don’t they bring back happy memories of carnivals and festivals?

But from what I can see in my recipe box, there are two totally separate opinions on the best way to make these satisfying, thirst-quenching lemon drink 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!

EASY Lemon Shake-Up

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.

Sugar Syrup Lemon Shake-Up

Ingredients

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (reserve rinds)

Preparation

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 Sugar Syrup 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!

Cats Love Breadboxes (and so do we)

I think he’d look a lot happier in one of our bread boxes.…

Happy Valentine’s Day! Here’s Another Cute Recipe Box from a Customer

Love, Laughter and Happily Ever After

I love it! Hope you have a lovely Valentines Day. Check out the recipe box here. 

Erin

3 Easy Sour Cream and Cream Cheese Baked Potato Toppers

How do you decide whether to use sour cream or cream cheese to top a baked potato? Well, I don’t decide. I use both to make my baked potato toppers. I make a basic baked potato topper recipe by beating together an 8 ounce package of regular cream cheese (that’s been softened), and an 8 ounce carton of dairy sour cream. All the lumps should be gone and the remaining mixture should be on the fluffy side.

Then, depending upon my mood or taste craving for the moment, I use the basic mixture to create several flavorful baked potato toppers.  Baked potatoes are always great to eat, whether baked in traditional oven or microwave (a good summer alternative).

If I’m in the mood for something garden fresh on my baked potato, I will add chopped cucumber, diced up tomatoes, salt and chopped fresh cilantro to the basic mixture. A little jack cheese shredded over the top is nice, too.

For a quick curry-flavored baked potato topper, I often stir in chopped up smoked almonds, chopped dried fruit pieces, curry powder, and garlic salt. An entree baked potato like this could also handle bits of chopped chicken or beef in the baked potato topper.

If you have a few boiled eggs, a deviled egg baked potato topper can be made by blending diced hard-cooked egg, chopped fresh parsley, salt, Tabasco sauce, and lemon pepper.

Sometimes I just grab a random spice off my spice rack (yes, I’m plugging my spice rack!) and see what happens! Not a fan of the cardamom one, but the paprika was MADNESS!

With summer officially coming soon, having some quick and tasty recipes as a staple in your summer menu-planning arsenal is a great way to enjoy all those outdoor activities on the agenda much faster.

Baked potato toppers, using the ideas above and many of your own creation, are so simple and inexpensive, yet the results can be quite satisfying.  Best of all, they are easy additions to your family cookbook.

Happy cookbooking,

Erin

tomato sauce ingredients on wooden planks with text "Tomato Sauce Base That Should Be in Every Recipe Box"

Tomato Sauce Base That Should Be in Every Recipe Box

Tomato sauce. It’s ubiquitous in Italian-style dishes. You use it so frequently that you probably never write it down. But why not take a few minutes and write it down for the rest of us? Once you’ve got your tomato sauce base in your recipe box, it’s going to be much easier to share with other family members and friends.

Here’s my tried and true recipe for a fabulous tomato sauce.

Basic Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

• 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

Directions

  1. In a pot over medium heat, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is soft.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, salt, sugar and bay leaf.
  3. Cover, reduce to low, and simmer 70-100 minutes.
  4. Stir in tomato paste, basil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and simmer 30 minutes more.
This tomato sauce recipe takes a while to cook, but the whole house smells like Italian steamy goodness!
Want to share your tomato sauce recipe? Add your suggestions on our Facebook here or leave a comment below.

More Kitchen Gadgets, Decluttering & the Modern Cook

We got a few comments offline about the blog entry I did last week about kitchen gadgets. I’d like to revisit that topic just a bit, because I apparently gave off the impression that I am a packrat for kitchen gadgets.

Not True!  I am a minimalist regarding kitchen gadgets. The fewer the better in my opinion. Ever since I saw the Electric Paper Towel roller back in the ’80s, I have resolved to have as few of those alleged work saver kitchen gadgets as possible.

Why? Because most of the tasks these kitchen gadgets are designed for are single focus, not multi-purpose, which clutters my drawers and cabinets. And, because most of the “work” they save does not create the yin-yang harmony one is led to believe in those “wait, there’s more” style infomercials. For every onion you chop in a food chopper, there is a blade, container, top AND scraper to wash.  With a knife, all you do is wash the knife and wipe the cutting board. (That’s half the work if done the old-fashioned way.)

I have my own “modern” ideas about decluttering. A few of my alternatives that don’t require extra storage space and are multi-purpose are noted in the table below:

Miracle Kitchen

Gadget VS.

Matilda’s Declutter Alternative

Hamburger patty mold

Hands

Tomato slicer

Knife

Pineapple cutter

Knife

Apple corer

Knife

Tea bag parker

Saucer

Lettuce knife

Hands (tear lettuce)

Whisk

Fork

Cheese slicer

Knife

Granted, there are a few kitchen gadgets that I do find fairly useful, mainly because they can be applied to more than one type of food. Some of you may think these are kitchen utensils, but I just lump them all into the kitchen gadget category:

Bottle opener
Funnel
Grapefruit spoon (well, okay, this is specialized, but they stack neatly)
Grater
Ladle
Measuring spoons, cups (but not scoops)
Potato peeler
Strainer
Tongs
Egg Turner

You have my permission to include a similar list in your family recipe cookbook if you are using the recipe templates in my cookbook software. I’m sure you can add to this list based on your personal preferences, too.

I used to have kitchen gadgets that I didn’t even know what they did, and had no clue how to use them anymore. Off to the thrift store donation bin they went. It was quite freeing, I might add.

After all, we are trying to reduce our energy costs and be more efficient in the kitchen, and what better way than to declutter the gadget drawer, cut down on extra work, and simplify.

Happy cookbooking!

Erin

5 Tips for Making Family Recipes Jump Out of Your Cookbook (And Into Your Reader’s Kitchen)

Many of my family recipes were tucked away in cardboard shoeboxes on well-worn recipe cards until I developed my cookbook software. The margins of the recipe cards were often decorated with cryptic comments and sage advice regarding the taste, texture, and preparation techniques that gave the recipe its unique place in the repertoire of our family’s cooks.

Such comments are wonderful insights from the past for anyone trying to recreate the family recipe, so make sure you include these observations and advice when creating your own cookbook. (In my Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software, scanned recipe cards can be included as a photo within the recipe page, thus retaining the “flavor” of the original.)

When you choose recipes for your family cookbook or other cookbook-making project, consider the following 5 tips for making your family recipes even better:

1. Introductory “Sell Copy”
Include a brief introduction to the family recipe that sets the tone for why it was a favorite of Aunt Josie’s, or how old it is, and maybe how you think it got changed over the years. Tell stories about how it came from the Old World, or it was the first solid thing your daughter ate. Make each recipe a way to tell a little of the story of your family.

2. Quantity
Always try to provide an expected number of servings for every family recipe. You’ll want to include the serving size (ounces or ½ cups portions) as well as the number of servings that the recipe will yield. For some foods volume of yield is more useful, such as “makes one quart,” or “makes two large bowls.”

3. Specific Descriptions
Describe how a mixture should look or feel at a certain stage if there could be variances in how someone interprets the family recipe. It is better to add “The crepe batter will be quite thin” if there is a chance someone could misinterpret the family recipe.

4. Visual Prompts for Doneness
Let’s say your family recipe called for sauteed onions. Instead of just saying “cook and stir about 10 minutes,” you could include “or until onions are soft and translucent.”

5. Give Reasons
Include a reason for doing something if it is a unique or a less common cooking technique. For example, most cooks know that you stir sour cream into a hot dish just before serving to prevent curdling. But some may not realize the importance of “Rinse bean sprouts” unless you include “to remove salty, canned taste.”

Hope these 5 tips help in making your family recipes better when creating your cookbook!

Happy cookbooking!

Erin

4×6 Recipe Card is 60% larger than a 3×5 Recipe Card

We’ve put together the most complete information possible about recipe cards (including 400 free printable recipe cards) on a special section of our recipe card site. We added an info graphic about recipe card sizes too. I’m posting it here in case you haven’t seen it yet.

Here’s a snippet from the page, but you can read the full text here:

Recipe Card Sizes: There are generally 3 sizes of recipe cards to consider. The 3×5” card is the standard card for most of the last 100 years. (Our own 3×5 recipe cards can be found here.) The old recipe card boxes they fit into were designed for America’s small kitchens. As kitchens expanded, so did the capacity of recipe boxes and binders to allow for the now standard 4×6” recipe card. (Our 4×6 recipe cards are here.) The vast majority of all current recipe cards are this size. In the past decade a few brands have expanded to 5×7” recipe cards. (Ours are here.) You may want to avoid these, however, because while they may fit your own binder they may not fit a friend’s binder you wish to share with.

The reason 4×6 cards are about 77% of the cards we offer is because they are so much larger than 3×5 cards (a full 60% bigger) while being much more reasonable to handle than the enormous 5×7 recipe cards.

Ted and I have put in a lot of work on this new section of our site. I hope you enjoy it!

Erin

Dishes on table overlaid with text: 10 Tips for Taking Better Food Photos for Your Family Cookbook

10 Tips for Taking Better Food Photos for Your Family Cookbook

I know. I’ve tried it. Food photography is one of the hardest types of picture taking. It can make taking photos for your family cookbook more of a trial than a pleasure.

Many of our cookbook software customers have written to ask how they can improve their photo skills when taking pictures of their recipes to include in their family cookbook.

Below I give you the best tips I’ve learned over the years for taking food photos for your family cookbook.Continue reading

Homemade family cookbook

Here’s a nice link to a homemade family cookbook. “Thimbleanna”once made with her sisters.

I really like the design. We might have to cook up a template with a similar theme for our software.

Erin

 

Homemade Class Cookbook: A New Twist on Apple for the Teacher

Last February I got a nice handwritten letter from a friend’s grandson who was studying the history and geography of major cities in the United States. He asked most politely if I would send him a postcard from my town so he could pin it up on the classroom bulletin board with postcards other students were getting from around the country.

This was such a brilliant class project that I couldn’t help but admire the teacher for coaching the students so well, and also for providing a wonderful activity and lesson that will be remembered long after the school year ends.

Teachers truly are some of the most important people in our children’s lives, and they deserve extra special surprises now and then that will delight them and show how appreciated they really are.

Sometimes classes will take up collections of cash to buy the teacher a special gift for Christmas or as a farewell thank you before summer break.  Wouldn’t it be nice to give a class cookbook to the teacher, created by each child in the class submitting at least one recipe?  What a wonderful memento for the teacher of that moment in time!  It is possible (and it’s not such a formidable project) when using my Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software.

Here are some other thoughts to help you personalize the class cookbook for the teacher:

Notify Parents
If there is a class den mother (as we used to call them), that person could coordinate the collection of class recipes. If possible, send a note home with each child indicating the surprise nature of the class cookbook and a submission deadline.  Better yet, obtain parents’ emails and communicate that way so the teacher doesn’t know. After the recipes are submitted, perhaps another volunteer could type them into my recipe template (or cut-and-paste them from parents’ emails into the recipe template).

Choose a Theme
If you know the teacher well, you could customize the class cookbook by asking for recipes using a certain ingredient the teacher likes. Perhaps the class is very international, so a class cookbook of international recipes would be perfect. Recipes featuring apples and cherries make nice theme additions, too. In this instance, you could name the cookbook “Mr. Sheridan: You are the Apple of Our Eyes – Fifth Grade Class Cookbook, June 2019,” or something similar.

Keep Recipes Simple
Remember that busy teachers or their families often don’t have a lot of time to cook fancy or expensive dishes, so some easy family favorites would be welcome for sure. Recipes with only a few ingredients would be preferable, although don’t be afraid to include more complicated dishes if they are favorites the child wants to share.

Add Photos & Stories
Using my Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software, a photo of each child could be included with the recipe. And be sure to include a little story about how the teacher has influenced each child in the class, or why this particular recipe is the child’s favorite, or just a thank you note written in the child’s own handwriting, scanned and added as a photo in the “People” template.

I am sure that any teacher receiving a class cookbook as a gift would be overwhelmed by the emotion of receiving it, as well as the entertaining aspect of reading all the recipes and stories. It is destined to be a treasured gift for many years to come.

By the way, my friend’s grandson got the top award in his class for having received the most postcards from around the country. Wonder how that happened, tee hee!

Happy cookbooking

Erin

Can Cake Balls Conquer the Cupcake Craze?

They look like donut holes dressed up to look like what we used to call petit fours. Now they are “cake balls” (an unappetizing name to be sure), cake bites, cake bon bons, cake drops, cake-sicles or cake truffles.

All I know is that the bite-sized cake ball trend started a few years ago as bakers thought of ways to use the cake trimmings they carved when making specialty-shaped cakes (ala Ace of Cakes). I’ve actually overlooked them for years….thinking they were truffles…not realizing they are something else.

Now Starbuck’s is on the band-wagon and has started selling cake balls on sticks as “cake pops,” another term used for the sweet little darlings. They are the rage at bridal showers, baby showers, weddings, birthdays, and business functions seemingly coast to coast.

To be sure, the golf-ball sized treats are easier to eat than cupcakes (see my previous blog on cupcake eating).

Basically, to make cake balls you bake a cake of your favorite flavor, crumble it up, and then mush it together with the frosting of choice.  Roll the mixture into a ball, then coat it with a hard coat icing.  I suppose you could cover them with fondant or marzipan, too.

There are some advantages to cake balls:

– Cake balls are cuter than cupcakes.
– Cake balls are smaller than cupcakes.
– Cake balls are easier to eat than cupcakes.
– Cake balls are less expensive to make or buy than cupcakes.

However, cake balls are probably more time consuming, and therefore, harder to achieve a pleasing outcome, than making cupcakes For example, with cake balls you have to make the cake, crumble the cake, combine it with frosting, form it into balls, cover the balls with icing, and decorate (optional). Six steps, including the decorating.

On the other hand, with cupcakes you make the batter, bake it, then frost and decorate (optional). That’s only four steps — two fewer steps, including the decorating, than cake balls.

Either treat is great to enlist the help of kids (their small hands are the perfect size for rolling up the cake balls, hopefully with their hands safely in plastic baggies.)

Here is a simple how-to-make cake balls recipe for the uninitiated:

Cake Balls

Ingredients
1 (18.25-ounce) boxed cake mix plus ingredients called for on box
1 (16-ounce) can prepared frosting
3 ounces Almond Bark Coating or flavored Confectionery Wafer Coating

Directions
Prepare the cake according to package directions. When cool enough to handle and while still warm, crumble the cake into a bowl, then use a hand mixer to break up the cake into fine crumbs. Mix in frosting thoroughly to make a paste. Chill the mixture for 2 hours. Form the mixture into golf-sized balls. Place on wax paper and freeze for at least 6 hours. Remove the balls from the freezer a few at a time and dip them into the warm melted coating using toothpicks or forks.  Place on wax paper to harden. Decorate as desired. Makes about 36 cake balls.

Some recommended cake ball combinations:
Dark Chocolate over Carrot Cake & Cream Cheese Frosting
Milk Chocolate over Strawberry Cake & Strawberry Frosting
Dark Chocolate over Devil’s Food Cake & Fudge Frosting
Orange/Vanilla Coating over Yellow Cake & Buttercream Frosting
Milk Chocolate over White Cake with White Frosting
Milk Chocolate over German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Frosting
White Chocolate over Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
White Chocolate over Lemon Cake with Lemon Frosting
Mint Chocolate over Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Frosting

Hints:
– An ice cream scoop or 1-1/2 ounce cookie dough scoop are helpful to keep portions even
– Roll freshly-coated cake balls in sprinkles, crushed nuts, or flaked coconut.
– Use chopsticks, fondue forks, or skewers to manipulate the cake balls while coating with chocolate or icing.
– Dipped balls will keep well at a cool room temperature for days; if you refrigerate them, the coating may sweat and become icky.

Can you imagine how someone will look back at our family cookbooks and recipe card boxes and wonder what cake balls were … and why they were listed in the index or table of contents or card list?  I hope by then cake balls will have a better name.

Happy Cookbooking,

Erin