Lettuce Enjoy Peruvian Dipping Sauce

A dear friend who lived in Peru for many years recently shared this condiment recipe for her Peruvian dipping sauce that is very delicious on just about anything. For that summer get together or family reunion that needs something a little different, try this Peruvian dipping sauce recipe:Continue reading

11 Ways with BBQ Chicken

“Put another BBQ chicken on the barbie,” said our Australian friend John as he downed another bottle of Bud Light with Lime. “You can never have too much barbecued chicken in the house, me Mum always said.”

John’s mother was probably right. The lovely flavor of slightly seared BBQ chicken, with all the fat up in flames, is one of my favorite tastes in barbecue fare.  John’s demand for cooking another BBQ chicken probably stemmed from his devouring a half BBQ chicken in a few minutes and a desperation that we would run out of BBQ chicken before his appetite was satiated.Continue reading

Top 3 Ways to Save Family Recipes

When it comes to saving family recipes, most families have no argument about saving the best of the best. But what if Auntie Bess was a terrible cook? Are families morally bound to save even awful recipes that no one really wants?  That being said, what about the recipes of a not-so-favorite family member who made everyone uncomfortable with her constant complaints about inadequacies in a not so perfect world? Do you think the curmudgeon’s recipes deserve a place in the family cookbook anyway?

What goes into the family cookbook — whether recipes, biographical sketches of recipe-contributing relatives, or photos of the prepared recipes — is of concern only to the family, which has to follow the heart in these matters. There really is no right or wrong.

There really is no right or wrong about how to save and utilize those family recipes, either. Many options exist, of course, and by popular demand here are my top 3 ways to save family recipes:

Binders are one of the top ways to save family recipes. Some recipe collectors like to glue their family recipes and recipe clippings to lined notebook paper pages. Other recipe collectors like to use a cookbook-making software (such as my Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software) to print the recipe pages, formatted in either half or full page sizes. They then hole-punch the pages, and insert them into a binder, complete with a matching cover and customized divider pages. Binders are easy to update (especially if spills make it necessary).  Also, the recipes will stay flat when a cookbook stand is used to prop the recipe binder at an angle while cooking.

Cookbooks are another top way to save family recipes. When I mean cookbooks, I’m thinking of a spiral-bound family cookbook that can be produced at the local print shop or print-on-demand vendor directly from cookbook-making software. Depending upon the number of pages, the family cookbook might be bound with a coil, comb, or perfectly smooth (see my earlier post on binding cookbooks).  Family cookbooks are most memorable it they include photos and stories about the cooks and recipes featured in the cookbook selections. In my opinion, family cookbooks are true treasures that should be created, preserved, and handed down to future generations of a family.

Recipe boxes are a third top way to save family recipes. Recipe boxes hold a mystique and intrigue for most children, and even many adults. Recipe boxes come in two convenient sizes ready for 3”x 5” or 4”x 6” recipe cards. Some recipe collectors tape or glue their family recipes to recipe cards. Other family recipe collectors prefer to copy recipes by hand onto the card of choice. Still others will use cookbook-making software to format and print family recipes on fancily-designed recipe cards to match the theme of the recipe card box. Whichever recipe card method is preferred, as long as the family recipe card collection is used it will keep the food memories fresh for a very long time.

I have no űber favorite way to save family recipes (except for the cookbook-making software part of the equation). The great thing about Matilda is that you can achieve all of the top 3 ways to save family recipes by inputting the information just once. You can print recipes to fit in our great binders, then the next day print them out on index cards to make recipe cards for a recipe box. After that, you can choose to print the family recipes in a formatted cookbook. Versatility is my middle name!  P.S. You can even choose to delete the curmudgeon’s recipes in the second edition.

Happy Cookbooking,


Carving a Place in Your Summer Luau Party

Got a summer luau party coming up? I always think about carving watermelons and other fruits to make a nice edible centerpiece for a summer luau party. There is nothing so pretty as a watermelon cornucopia of sliced fruits to make a nice statement on the summer luau party table. The colors are so lovely, and the bountiful fruit is large enough for a crowd.Continue reading

5 Ways to Ensure a Successful Potluck So You’ll Never Hear ‘Nobody Ate My Dish’

With potlucks for parties, family gatherings, picnics and all other forms of well-attended entertainment widespread during these hot summer days, is it possible that one can bring a dish to a potluck and no one touch it?

It hardly seems likely, yet I’ve seen it happen. So, the short answer is, yes.

Over umpteen years of attending potlucks and also organizing them, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are certain formulas that make or break a successful potluck.

By my observation, there are five killers on the potluck table that will quickly bring a potluck-sharer to the realization that “nobody ate my dish.”

In no particular order, the five appetite killers are:

  1. Dirty or unkempt serving dishes
  2. Careless or unappetizing displays
  3. Unidentifiable food combinations
  4. No way to scoop or serve the food (Check out our glorious wood spoons and wood spatulas!)
  5. Too many similar dishes on the table

Just as there are five ways to kill appetites at the potluck table, there are five easy solutions for how to have a successful potluck.  In no particular order, the five easy solutions are:

  1. Pretty platter or casserole dish (clean and unchipped goes without saying)
  2. Appetizing garnishes
  3. Small sign on a toothpick or taped to the dish with the recipe name, ingredients, and who made it
  4. A serving utensil (sounds basic, but you’d be surprised how many potluck-sharers forget to bring appropriate serving tools)
  5. Some imagination and originality (oh no, another cold pasta salad, pleeeezzz….)

All these obvious words of wisdom seem a bit silly to write a blog column around, yet just the other day, I was attending a lovely little potluck and three people brought green salad with dressing.

Granted, green salad with dressing is always a welcome dish when only one rendition appears, but having too much of a good thing can lead to “nobody ate my dish” blues. (When I see multiple copies of the same dish, I can’t help but wonder what was on sale at the supermarket that day.)

Anyway, guests should do more than open a bag of salad greens and dump them into a salad bowl with bottled dressing on the side. (That is an easy dish the host or hostess should be allowed to serve, given all the extra preparation he or she had to complete before guests arrive.)

One other simple solution to overbooking the potluck table with the same dish is for the hostess or host to assign or suggest dishes. A simple way is to have those whose last names fall within an alphabetical range to bring a choice of items in their category:

A to I – Bring salads, appetizers and bread
J to S = Bring entrees, sides, or and vegetables
T to Z – Bring desserts and beverages

The main point of a potluck is to make a struggle-free, safe, and enjoyable time for everyone. With some simple preparation, “nobody ate my dish” lament will never come up at a potluck again.

Happy Cookbooking,


Top 3 Ways to Bind Recipe Books

You’ve finally completed your family recipe book files using cookbook-making software, and now you want to make it a nice finished product at the local quick print store. There are many options available to bind recipe books together in either full-page or half-page formats.

I personally prefer a smooth finish to bind recipe books, but other bindery styles are more popular. Here are what many experts say are the top 3 ways to bind recipe books:

Perfect Binding – This method to bind recipes books is used primarily when a heavier weight paper is used for the wraparound soft cover and the recipe book has lot of pages (up to maybe 2 inches thick). A flexible adhesive is used to stick the cover onto the edges of the content pages.  When done properly, this type of binding is, well, perfect. Many thick magazines and paperback books use perfect binding.  See above for sample photo of perfect binding.

Continue reading

Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe Lost Forever

The lemon meringue pie recipe that made Aunt Gertrude famous has been lost, her youngest niece lamented to me recently.  Her Aunt Gertrude passed away at age 92, still sharp as a tack, yet no one in the family ever thought to get that lemon meringue pie recipe from her.

How sad. A heritage of family enjoyment and tradition lost forever.Continue reading

Slice of Pear Lime Pie Nets Ruth’s Rave Review

On a recent trip to another state, my dear friend Ruth ate a slice of pie. That slice of pie was what she has come to call “the best slice of pie I’ve ever eaten.” Her discovery was in a small Texas town, and the slice of pie she enjoyed was an unexpectedly good union of pears and lime.

“The pear and lime combination was such an interesting grouping of flavors in a slice of pie,” Ruth recalls. “And, it was not too sweet; the slice of pie actually had a compelling bitter flavor almost like marmalade that was softened by really good vanilla ice cream.”Continue reading

A Trifle Easy Dessert for Fourth of July

Considering the origins of this country, an interesting dish for a large Fourth of July party would be an American version of English trifle.  Some years ago I made a layered red, white and blue Jell-O dessert for a large Fourth of July party and it was so pretty I remembered to take a picture!

For this year’s large Fourth of July party I plan to add fresh fruit to the trifle mixture and a touch of fruit liqueur (instead of the traditional sherry) to sparkle it up.Continue reading

Stinky Tale of Hazmat in the House

The sequence of events and facts in the following story are absolutely true. The names have been changed to protect the, well, you’ll figure it out.


While I was visiting my dear friend, Ruth, and enjoying tea at her kitchen table, I noticed a rather large gap along the baseboard of her kitchen cupboard.  “My, that’s big enough for something to live in,” I remarked.  Ruth replied, “Oh, yes, I know. I need to fix it one of these days.”Continue reading

What a Hoot: Trailer Trash Theme Dinner Party

Last weekend I attended a most unique dinner party that featured a trailer trash theme. It was the first time I’d even heard of such a thing, and I admit it was a lot of fun.

The hostess had a large back yard, and used it to full advantage. (No, she didn’t haul in an old Airstream for the trailer trash theme party, but it would have been a nice touch. LOL) Continue reading

Outlining & Organizing Your Family Recipe Cookbook

Writing a family recipe cookbook is really no different than writing the great American novel. The essential ingredient of both types of books is planning.

A family recipe cookbook requires some thought as to what recipes will make the cut into the book, just as an author of the great American novel must also decide what characters will appear.

A family recipe cookbook requires research into the family background to find interesting tidbits and photos to include, just as an author of the great American novel must authenticate his or her written work with factual information that can bring depth to the story.

A family recipe cookbook requires an outline to organize the chapters, just as an author of the great American novel must develop the chapters to evolve the story. Some typical chapters for a family recipe cookbook might be:

Side Dishes

More customized chapters in a family recipe cookbook might include international foods, such as:

South American

Still other chapters in a family recipe cookbook might include very personalized topics that are of special interest, such as:

Cake Decorating

Writing a family recipe cookbook may not be as difficult as writing the great American novel according to some folks, but I guarantee you’ll be just as proud of your family recipe cookbook effort as that great American novelist on the New York Times bestseller list. All it takes is some planning and organizing, and a great at-home-cookbook-making software.

Happy Cookbooking,


Corn on the Cob with Mayonnaise & Parmesan Cheese

I am usually a purist when it comes to most foods. I like baked potatoes with butter, not sour cream and chives. I like plain potato chips, not the flavored ones. I like popcorn with butter and salt, but not other flavorings. And, I thought I liked corn on the cob with just butter and salt, too, until I tried a twist someone else suggested. The twist was eating corn on the cob slathered with mayonnaise and sprinked with parmesan cheese.

Corn on the cob with mayonnaise and parmesan cheese is really good. It doesn’t sound too healthy, but once you taste it, corn on the cob with mayonnaise and parmesan cheese just might become a new staple.

Another variation is dipping the hot corn on the cob in butter, then rolling the buttered cob in parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lime. I’m not sure if there is a Latino origin to any of these twists to eating corn on the cob, although I’ve seen similar treatments by street vendors in various cities while visiting Mexico years ago (before the drug lord wars, that is).

However, I never tried corn on the cob with mayonnaise and parmesan cheese before. I jotted down the ingredients my friend told me: quality mayonnaise; good commercially-grated parmesan cheese (such as Kraft 100% parmesan); boiled or micro-cooked corn on the cob; a little salt, if desired. Use mayonnaise instead of butter, and parmesan instead of salt. Voila!

Chalk up another recipe for the family recipe book!

Happy Cookbooking,


5 Shortcuts You Can Take to Make a Family Recipe Book (Absurd)

If you want to make a family recipe book but your family is not cooperating (or you are running out of time because your family reunion or wedding is approaching quickly), then consider one of the 5 (absurd) shortcuts below that will help you make a family recipe book:Continue reading

Red Rhubarb-Blood Orange Marmalade

Springtime brings more fresh produce to market as seasonal items become more readily available. One of the signals of spring, at least for me, is the appearance of a new harvest of vibrantly red fresh rhubarb. That means I can make my family-famous Red Rhubarb-Blood Orange Marmalade.

Almost any family cookbook will have a recipe for old-fashioned rhubarb something or other: rhubarb pie, rhubarb crumble, rhubarb crisp or rhubarb jam. Red Rhubarb-Blood Orange Marmalade is a bit more unusual and contemporary. Continue reading

Easter Baskets & Erin

With Easter baskets soon hopping their way along with the Easter bunny to homes across America, it seems like an appropriate time to remind our readers about Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook software plus many other items we carry that are perfect for Easter baskets or gifts year around.Continue reading

Top 5 Things to Do with Burnt Toast

“What is that thing-a-ma-jiggy?” Ruth queried as we proceeded down the isle of the antique store, spending some quality time together on a Sunday afternoon. We try to get out and about together at least once a week. The object in question was a bit odd; it was metal, square, and had four grids standing upright leaning into the center.

“Hmm, it looks like one of those old-fashioned bread toasters,” I surmised. “You’d put this device on a kitchen stove burner and let it get hot, and then stand bread slices around each grid. When the sides were browned to your liking, you’d flip them over and brown the other side. I guess it was the modern way to make toast.”

Burnt toast, that is. Regulating the temperature on such a device to avoid the dreaded burnt toast was probably a daily challenge for the cook who was also juggling eggs and bacon preparation. Must have been quite a job to watch the bread so light delicate toast slices were produced instead of burnt toast. I’m sure more than one child assigned to watch the toast got distracted, and the family had to eat charred toast with their butter and marmalade. (And a few tears were probably shed in the process.)

Surely no recipe existed for burnt toast in the family cookbook. As technologically savvy as we think we are, more than one household still experiences burnt toast, even with our sophisticated sensor appliances. All it takes is a mistaken turn one notch to the right to create a masterpiece of burnt toast in today’s kitchen.

What to do with today’s burnt toast?

Here are my top 5 things to do with burnt toast:

1. Scrape off the burned part and eat it. Most likely this is what our no waste ancestors did. They probably liked the taste of burnt toast after awhile.

2. Make croutons. Depending on the degree of burnt-ness, cube the burnt toast with a sharp knife and use for salads.

3. Make breadcrumbs. These burnt toast breadcrumbs can be tasty additions to meatloaf. You can also make breadcrumbs and feed to the birds.

4. Use as fertilizer. Burn the burnt toast again, crush it, and scatter around in flower or vegetable beds.

5. Play with your dog. Use burnt toast as flying play toys for your dog to chase and catch. Eventually the dog will eat it.

The above suggestions for my top 5 things to do with burnt toast are merely ways to avoid throwing the burnt toast away.  Our frugal ancestors used whatever they had to its fullest potential.
Which isn’t a bad idea.
Even for a little burnt toast.

Happy Cookbooking,


St. Paddy’s Day Green Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

You don’t have to be Irish to enjoy the fun of St. Paddy’s Day Green Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies. These green-tinted chocolate chip cookies are a favorite old family recipe from my old family cookbook.

I’ve updated the recipe here to include Andes mints, which were first introduced in the 1950s. (Now you can use Crème de Menthe baking chips, which are a bit easier since no chopping is required.) Before that, this old family recipe for St. Paddy’s Day Green Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies called for chopped milk chocolate and peppermint extract, and were written on a recipe card tucked inside a recipe box.Continue reading

Secret Big Easy Barbecue Shrimp Recipe Revealed for the First Time

In honor of the New Orleans Saints well-deserved win at the Superbowl yesterday, I am going to reveal for the first time my secret Big Easy Barbecue Shrimp recipe (just in time for Mardi Gras celebrations, too).

Barbecue Shrimp has nothing to do with a barbecue pit or grill: there are no flames or skewers, and there is no traditional barbecue sauce. Well, not the kind most people think of anyway.

If you “Google” Barbecue Shrimp on the Internet, you’ll get all kinds of recipe variations. Most are centered around cooking the dish on a stove top in a frying pan (because frankly, most restaurants want to make it quick and dirty). Barbecue Shrimp was devised in a famous New Orleans restaurant (Pasqual Manale’s restaurant to be exact), and has been copied umpteen times.Continue reading

NEW: Under Cabinet Cookbook Holder

If you are anything like me, you prefer to keep your kitchen counters free of extra “stuff” while cooking. I’m constantly clearing, tossing, and wiping counters when creating a dish. That is why I really enjoy using our new Under Cabinet Cookbook Holder, a new product now in our stockroom that helps keep the counter open while allowing me to read the recipe quickly and easily.

Great thing is, I can just push up the Under Cabinet Cookbook Holder and my favorite cookbook is hidden away ready for creating my next gastronomic extravaganza.Continue reading