open grilled cheese sandwich on red checkered cloth and wooden table with text: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Remain Triumphant

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Remain Triumphant

Have you noticed that grilled cheese sandwiches just never go out of fashion?

Whether it’s a basic version sold at a fast food restaurant or a bistro menu item marketed as a trendy retro dish, or a kiddy comfort food, this food is still as popular as ever.

Grilled cheese sandwiches are so popular in America that April has been designated Grilled Cheese Month. Continue reading

Bamboo rainforest overlaid with text, "Why Not Gift a Bamboo Recipe Box from Sustainable Resources?"

Why Not Gift a Bamboo Recipe Box from Sustainable Resources?

Do you have people on your gift list that love items made from sustainable resources?

We at Cookbook People like to help Mother Earth whenever possible. That’s why we carry a range of environment-conscious “green” gifts made from sustainably-sourced bamboo. Continue reading

Organize Your iPhone Charger, Cables & Headphones in this Box

Find out how you can easily stash unsightly usb cables, your phone charger, and headphones in a tidy Multikeep Box. Click here to see our selection of iPhone organizer boxes. 

Jams, Jellies, & Preserves: An Outdated Section in Your Cookbook

If you have as many cookbooks as I do, you know there usually is a section in the old-style family cookbooks called “Jams, Jellies, and Preserves.”  Nothing compares with the happy homemade goodness of fresh fruit jams, jellies and preserves made during the summer and spread on biscuits or bread right out of the oven.

It used to be that everyone canned the bounty from their gardens and fruit trees, making jams, jellies, and preserves in huge quantities. That was just what you did (and you liked doing it). Now you can hardly meet anyone who knows the difference between a boiling water bath and a sitz bath. Once in awhile I will make some refrigerator jam (the kind that doesn’t require boiled jars), but like most folks these days, I usually comparison shop for the best buy at the supermarket, and hope my choices are good.

For variety, I often try different brands of jams, jellies, and preserves to see if any are distinctive. According to How Stuff Works.com, jams, jellies and preserves are all made from fruit mixed with sugar and pectin. The form of the fruit is what makes the difference:

Jam – The fruit is from fruit pulp or crushed fruit.

Jelly – The fruit is in the form of fruit juice.

Preserves – The fruit is from chunks of fruit with sweet syrup.

The great thing about making your own family cookbook is that you don’t have to follow any pattern set by anyone else, even the tried-and-true cookbook rules.  It is all your own creation, and you can include whatever recipes you prefer.

If you are a jam maker, then by all means, add those family recipes to your cookbook in your “Jams, Jellies & Preserves” section. It is easy with the recipe template in our do-it-yourself cookbook software. Just click “choose this recipe’s type” and you can create a new section or category, and type in or cut-and-paste any family recipes.

P.S.  I have a Concord grape vine that is trying to make raisins because I keep forgetting to pick the fruit. If I don’t go out there soon, I won’t get a single whole grape or raisin,  and certainly won’t make any jams, jellies or preserves. Oh well, I really only grow them for the birds.

Happy cookbooking,

Erin

A Bowl of Popcorn

One of my favorite foods is a bowl of popcorn. I’ll admit it publicly. Popcorn with salt and a buttery flavor is divine in my book.  I’ve been known to eat a bowl of popcorn for dinner without any additional nutrients.

One time, my dear friend Ruth and I were sharing a bowl of popcorn.  I like to eat the small crunchy bits that have barely popped–you know, the ones that have the roasted popcorn flavor and can ruin dental work.

While Ruth and I chatted and munched, I kept getting cold wet pieces of popped kernel. I didn’t think too much about it, figuring the kernels were just pockets of cold oil surrounding the barely popped popcorn kernel.

So I continued munching. All of a sudden, I spied Ruth dropping something into the bowl of popcorn. She was putting back the pieces she couldn’t chew and I was eating them!  LOL. After a bit of lively discussion about disgusting habits, we divvied up the remaining popcorn.  Ever since then, Ruth gets her own bowl of popcorn!

I found more information about one of my favorite foods, and here it is:

Popcorn Trivia
– The shape of popped popcorn kernels can be classified as either “butterfly” or “mushroom,” with the latter more perfectly round popped kernels being favored for flavored popcorn treats, such as Cracker Jack caramel corn. The photo above shows the two types.
– The world’s largest popcorn ball measured eight feet in diameter and weighed 3,415 pounds.
– Popcorn is the official state snack food of Illinois.

Ways to Pop Popcorn
– Fireplace (a long-handled cast iron skillet with lid was often used or a wire basket over an open flame).
– Steam-driven stovetop kettle, invented in 1885.
– Stovetop (circa 1950s, remember the Jiffy Pop aluminum pan that always burned the popcorn?)
– Hot air poppers (circa 1970s when healthier eating was on the rise) that circulated heated air to avoid burning popped kernels and push the popped kernels out the chute into a bowl.
– Microwave.

On another note, I don’t use popcorn for decorative Christmas ornamentation. To me it’s far too good to string on a tree. And, the thought of using it for packing purposes is beyond me. And, popcorn balls for Halloween treats–nope.

Give me a plain old bowl of popcorn any time.

Happy Cookbooking,

Erin

7 Fall Favorite One Dish Dinners from Around the World

It seems we migrated into Fall without hardly noticing.

Maybe we’ve been a bit distracted from watching our own personal worth drop with every foot of the ticker tape¦or watching our nation’s delicate financial markets holding the world’s economy at bay¦or watching Presidential debates and waiting for the candidates to give us a real, detailed “change management” agenda.

Nevertheless, Fall is here and some glorious autumn colors are bound to show their reds and golds very soon, perhaps in your part of the world.  Aside from everyone’s woes and jitters, people still gotta eat, and easy is the name of the game for some of our favorite fall one dish dinners with an international flavor.

Following are Easy, Cheap, and Good (ECG) one dish dinners that you can find recipes for on many different websites. The links below to these one dish dinners are generally close to recipes I have made, although some of these websites offer several recipe choices:

USA
Macaroni & Cheese
In this selection of one dish dinner recipes from Delish.com, you are bound to find at least one that suits your fancy for bubbling cheese and macaroni casserole baked fresh in the oven. One of my favorite dishes is mac & cheese with a side of steamed broccoli.

ITALY
Chicken Cacciatore

Wonderful and authentic rustic recipes for this typical stew-like one dish dinner comes to us from Martha Stewart.com. This Chicken Cacciatore is a true cool-weather comfort dish from the Italian countryside, and is great served with pasta.

HUNGARY
Potato & Sausage Soup
A friend from the old country of Hungary used to make a similar hearty soup from scratch, but this very easy one dish dinner soup recipe from Taste of Home.com gives some shortcuts. Some crusty French bread would round out the meal.

INDIA
Chicken Curry
To me, a curry one dish dinner is great any time of year, but it is especially good in the Fall, as this Chicken Curry recipe from Cooks.com shows. Serve over rice or with cooked lentils, and perhaps with some heat-absorbing sides like cucumbers, plain yogurt, or mild chutneys.

MEXICO
Enchiladas
The homemade goodness of these enchiladas are almost legendary, and come from the folks at AllRecipes.com.  It originated as a family one dish dinner recipe, but you can scroll down the page to check out the other enchilada options, and be sure to have sour cream, cilantro and salsa available

CHINA
Seafood Hot Pot

After the Summer Olympics in China this year, I remembered making a similar Chinese Hot Pot one dish dinner years ago when communal dining was all the rage. This one is from Emeril Lagasse of  FoodNetwork.com fame, and it uses wonderfully fresh ingredients and a savory broth.

There you have it. A week’s worth of fall favorite one dish dinner ideas and some recipes to inspire. Some are even worthy of adding to your recipe software generated family cookbook.

Happy Cookbooking!

Erin

Tea party table with text: "3 Salad Recipes for the Tea Party Hostess with the Mostest"

3 Salad Recipes for the Tea Party Hostess with the Mostest

I was in a tizzy over what to make for the ladies. It was my turn to host the monthly tea gathering and I wanted to make something different to see if I could be the tea party hostess with the mostest.Continue reading

7 Steps to Backing up your Life Without Using the Cloud

What if you woke up tomorrow and your computer was destroyed? Would you mourn the loss of a $600 appliance, as though it were a broken refrigerator? Good for you. You’ve probably got everything saved somewhere else. You’ve got a backup.

If that idea brought on a rush of panic, you HAVE to back up your data immediately. Every computer on this planet will fail. Yours, mine, the ones at NASA. All of them. It’s just a matter of time. When yours fails, you need to be ready. You need to back up your data. If you don’t, you will lose everything.

You can back it up into the cloud with a paid service, but if you are like me you kind of like knowing not everybody in the world can access your data.

Here’s how you can have cloud-free backup that survives even home disasters.

Step 1. Find a Backup Buddy. This is someone you will trust to keep your backup data with. The important thing is that they are offsite. If your house burns down or a hurricane swept through, it would be devastating on many levels. It will be even more devastating if you lose all your digital pictures and old emails too.

Step 2. Buy two portable hard drives. An 80 gigabyte hard drive is the smallest common size and should do fine, unless you have a lot of video.

Step 3. Use backup software to copy your computer’s data to one of the hard drives. Windows XP comes with a free backup utility under Program Files\Accessories. Windows Vista comes with Backup and Restore Center found in Control Panel. There are also a number of other backup softwares out there too.

Step 4. Get your Backup Buddy to backup their computer on the other hard drive.

Step 5. Exchange hard drives. You keep their hard drive and they keep yours.

Step 6. Back up your computer again on the other hard drive. Make a backup once a day or once a week. Only you really know how often you should back up. The test is to ask yourself, “If I lost everything on my computer from now until the last time I backed up, would it be horrible?”

Step 7. Once a month, exchange hard drives with your Backup Buddy.

If you are worried about privacy, use a fire-proof safe or a safety deposit box as a Backup Buddy. The important thing is to get the information on your computer out of your house and somewhere completely safe from fires, burglars, hurricanes or whatever else life throws at you. Having two separate back hard drives gives you the convenience of backing up your information right at hand, and the added security of knowing it’s backed up in two different places.

Some people may think, “Well, if my house burned to the ground, losing my digital pictures would be the least of my worries.” Those people couldn’t be more wrong. If you lose your house, those precious photos, emails and *ahem* family recipes could be the one thing that helps you get through it all.

Erin

Woman's hand putting paper in recyling container with text: Spring Cleaning Your Family Recipe Card Box

Spring Cleaning Your Family Recipe Card Box

Springtime is an inspirational time to clean, dust, and renew all the nooks and crannies and other crevices that have been neglected during the winter months. It’s also a good time to weed out those extraneous recipes and notes in your family recipe card box or recipe file box.

Spring cleaning your family recipe card box or recipe file box doesn’t have to be a big chore. It can be done while watching your favorite TV reality show (all you multi-taskers take note), waiting for your hair-color to reach maximum tint, or riding in a car during a lengthy trip. All you really need is a bag for discards, and a small surface for sorting.Continue reading

gourmet chocolates on white paper overlaid with text, "Try before you buy, visiting a gourmet chocolate show."

Try Before You Buy: Visiting a Fancy Gourmet Chocolate Show

I’m always fascinated by fancy gourmet chocolate shows.

The creativity is cutting edge. And it’s so much fun to speak with the proprietors who striving to please the public with their signature chocolate creations.

Best of all, at these chocolate shows, I have the luxury of taste-testing some very expensive chocolates that I’d never get to try otherwise.

Continue reading

Are you the Family Food Historian?

Perhaps you are the family member other family members contact when they have a question about Aunt Betty’s apple crisp or Uncle Johnny’s barbecue sauce.  You are the one with custom recipe cards and have vowed to make your own family cookbook with the beloved family recipes.

Does that make you the family food historian? Well, perhaps.

Review our 10 point family food historian character profile and see if you fall into the family food historian category:

Family Food Historian Character Profile

1. Wants to know who in the family made a family recipe first.

2. Documents family recipes like the precious heritage they are.

3. Considers an old family recipe found in a dusty family bookshelf a treasure.

4. Has too many cookbooks and family recipes, but continues to collect them anyway.

5. Has created several family cookbooks with Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software.

6. Likes to share family cooking knowledge and kitchen techniques with others.

7. Cherishes the family recipes written in a family member’s own handwriting.

8. Enjoys making and eating old family recipes, and trying new ones.

9. Loves to entertain friends with tales (and samples) of family cooking exploits.

10. Knows that a family recipe — along with many beloved memories — will endure as long as it is properly appreciated and preserved.

If you recognize yourself in five or more of these 10 characteristics:  Congratulations, you are definitely the family food historian.  It is an important role; a job you do selflessly for the family out of love (and a bit of fame among the motley family group who cannot boil water).

Yes, being the authority on family recipes, family cookbooks, family cooking history, et al, certainly is a big job. Somebody’s gotta do it. Might as well be you¦the one who cares. We at The Cookbook People are glad to help.

Happy family cookbook making!

Erin

Top 10 Reasons to Make a Cookbook

There are as many reasons to make a cookbook as there are people. The 10 reasons to make a cookbook listed below are some of the top ones our readers and cookbook software users have told us:

1. Everybody loves my food.
Friends tell me I’m a great cook and that they would like to have my recipes. If I type it up once, I can print it a hundred times!

2. I need to get organized.
I’m tired of looking through 10 cookbooks, 5 drawers, a recipe card box, and under the refrigerator for all my recipes.

3. I want my mom’s ginger snaps to be enjoyed by my grandkid’s grandkids one day.
My uncle’s/grandmother’s/grandkid’s recipes need to be saved and enjoyed for future generations.

4. Feed my ego!
I have always wanted to have a cookbook published.

5. I need one more book!
My cookbook collection is too big, but I could pick out the recipes I like from all of them and then give the extra cookbooks away.

6. The handwriting is on the wall (and I can’t read it!)
I would like to take all those handwritten scraps I have in my recipe box and make them easy to find.

7. Reunion coming!
My family is having a reunion /wedding soon, and a cookbook of family recipes would be a fabulous keepsake.

8. Fundraising!
My church / company / club / non-profit does such great potlucks, we should make a cookbook and sell it to make money for projects / supplies / charity / promotions.

9. Who wants to scroll with (literal) butterfingers?
The recipes on my computer are sometimes inconvenient to use, so I want a hard copy to refer to when cooking.

10. I need to save money.
I need inexpensive gifts to give for the holidays, and I can print out 10 cookbook gifts for under $10 each.

If you are reading this page, most likely you are thinking about your own reasons to make a cookbook: fundraising, preservation of family traditions, ego, downsizing, personal-touch presents for others.

No matter what your reason is to make a cookbook, any time is the perfect time to start your cookbook making project. Be sure your choice of cookbook making software offers a variety of options.  We are partial to our own Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software, but there are many options available for cookbook makers. Be sure to choose the one you are comfortable using, suits your purpose, and is easy to operate.

Happy cookbooking

Erin

tea, spices, blanket overlaid with text "Warm and soothing Instant Chai Tea Mix Recipe"

Instant Chai Tea Mix Recipe

On a crisp autumn day there’s nothing more warming and comforting than a fragrant hot beverage. One of my favorite indulgences is my instant Chai tea mix.

The delightful aroma and the warm, soothing effect of the spices is a wonderful way to end a long cold day. I especially enjoy a cup of instant Chai tea while curled up with a blanket in front of the fire.

You can easily make it up in big batches and use it throughout the cold autumn and winter months.

Continue reading

5 Tips for Planning Bake Sale Success

Is there a section in your family cookbook devoted to the age-old fundraiser known as a bake sale? If not, you might want to add these 5 tips for bake sale success into a new section devoted to such events, along with recipes for your favorite easy-to-make bake sale goodies.

With schools and churches having bake sales for fundraising, now is also a good time to review what makes a successful bake sale. Following are my 5 tips for bake sale success:

TIP 1. LOCATION & SET UP
Just as in the real estate world, bake sale success is all about location, location, location. There is no substitute for a highly visible location for your bake sale table. Being seen is the one major secret to bake sale success.  A busy pharmacy next to a supermarket may be a great place because you won’t compete with the store’s bakery.  Use tables to display the baked goods attractively (with a festive tablecover), and have chairs for helpers to sit down. Be sure to arrive early on the day of your bake sale to set up and get organized.

TIP 2. SIGNAGE & PROMOTION
Promote your bake sale in advance by putting up flyers around your community and in local businesses that agree to help your promotion. Make signs of yellow or white poster board. Print large letters on your computer or use a fat black marker to write BAKE SALE in big capital letters. Hang signs on three sides of the table. If allowed, attach some balloons. Also make your sales sail by using festive paper, ribbons, or stickers to add some creative packaging and pizzazz. Bake sale success is as much about marketing as great baked goods!

TIP 3. PRODUCT VARIETY
Ensure bake sale success by asking friends, family, and neighbors to contribute freshly baked items. Also ask for donations of bakery goods from the local supermarket to fill in the gaps not covered by the homemade goodies. A good product mix is to have brownies, small cakes, cupcakes, cookies, sweet and savory bread loaves, and whole cakes. You can sell some easy-to-eat individual items at premium prices, or pre-package baked items into an economical dozen assortment. Be careful about selling baked goods that will run up expenses. For example, a slice of pie requires a plate, napkin and fork. A whole pie requires nothing more than the plastic wrap over the top. Another good product option is to have sugarless, low-fat, or organic baked items for the more health conscious.

TIP 4. PRICING
Pricing items effectively is the other major secret to bake sale success.  Some people like to make price tags for each item.  Personally, it is much less work to group baked items for sale on the table according to a set price, and tape just one small sign on the tablecover, such as ”Whole Cakes $4.95.”  (Smart bake sale sellers won”t have that nickel change available to encourage folks to donate the extra nickel. This technique works great at yard sales, too.)

TIP 5. TIME MANAGEMENT
Ask members of your group to sign up for 2 hour shifts. Most everyone can spare 2 hours, even during a busy weekend. I”ve found that those who do come have such a good time chatting with customers that they often stay longer.  Make sure volunteers have water to drink, paper towels, and moist wipes or hand sanitizer.  Also be sure to have such supplies as Saran Wrap, plastic bags, and paper bags. And, always after the limelight of your bake sale success, be sure to send thank you letters to everyone who helped, from store manager right on down to the kid in the stroller who bobbed the balloon to get attention!

Weve had many bake sale fundraising triumphs in our town using these 5 tips for bake sale success.  Feel free adapt them to your next bake sale.

Good cookbooking,

Erin

Why Brand Names Should be in Your Family Cookbook

I like to use the brand names for ingredients in my cookbook recipes. Not because they are necessarily any better than the generic brands, but because they often produce a better recipe result, and therefore, make family recipes more consistent.  Twenty years from now, if someone makes one of the recipes from your family cookbook, will they really get the same taste from a “cherry flavored gelatin” as they do from cherry Jell-O?

For example, if I want to make Tres Leches Cake, I will always use a certain brand name product (Eagle Brand) because I like the taste better. Believe me, I have experimented with assorted sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and whipped cream for the Tres Leches Cake ingredients, and there is a certain combination that is unbeatable together (and guess what, they all are the brand name products).

So, when I add the brand names to the recipes in my family cookbook, like A.1 Steak Sauce, or Bisquick, or Corn Flakes, I respect the product and always pay attention to making sure I’ve properly identified it with capital letters and ® where appropriate.  (The Symbol Builder in my cookbook software makes this really easy.)

Also, the brand name is a kind of shorthand that says it all.  It conveys an expected result. Like going to a certain fast food hamburger place (McDonalds) when you are out of the country for two weeks and need a fry fix.  Or using Shredded Wheat instead of “large or mini shredded whole wheat cereal biscuits.”  (How insane is that?)  But I have indeed seen this generic format use in many family cookbooks.  Most often it is used in media, like newspaper food sections and TV food shows (because they are supposed to be neutral, you think? Hogwash! It’s because they don’t want to endorse a specific product without getting paid for advertising it).

But your family cookbook can (and should) be specific with brand names so you can preserve the taste of family recipes and pass them on to be made the way they were intended.

Okay, soapbox is over.  Going to eat my nutlike cereal nuggets (Grape Nuts), and have a cup of coffee (Nescafe©) with a little powdered non-dairy coffee creamer (Coffee-Mate) and non-nutritive sweetener (NutraSweet).

Happy cookbooking,

Erin

5 Ways To Make Some Tasty Waves with Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food.  They can be lumpy, smooth, thick, or thin, and they will still be delicious.  Mashed potatoes have a certain quality that makes fans know “everything will be okay.”

Mashed potatoes are versatile, and can be cooked in a variety of ways. Whether steamed, boiled, or broiled, mashed potatoes can be among the easiest of foods to prepare. Although not based on scientific evidence, it seems the texture of mashed potatoes also has something to do with its popularity as a comfort food.

5 Ways to Make a Splash with Mashed Potatoes

1. Sauté 1 cup chopped onions and 1 cup sauerkraut together and stir into your favorite basic mashed potatoes. Top with crumbled bacon or bacon bits and you have a great Oktoberfest-style dish to serve alongside bratwurst.

2. Add 1 cup finely diced ham and 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese to leftover mashed potatoes for a hearty all-in-one approach to dinner.

3. Snip 1 teaspoon of fresh young rosemary and add to cold or room temperature mashed potatoes. Heat in microwave for a few minutes until warm, then add ½ stick butter and 1 teaspoon powdered oregano. Stir well, and then continue heating in microwave until bubbly.

4. Mix 2 ounces of cream cheese and 2 ounces of sour cream into hot mashed potatoes. Plop in some strong horseradish (to taste) and salt, and serve alongside hot sliced beef.

5. Stir ¼ cup of fresh Parmesan cheese, 2 cloves crushed garlic, and 1 teaspoon dried Italian parsley into mashed potatoes.

Mashed potatoes as a comfort food has long been recognized in the culinary world and academia. With winter coming upon us in mere weeks, it makes sense to get our mashed potato recipe repertoire all figured out, (and go buy the items needed to have a full-blown mashed potato experience!)

Happy Cookbooking,

Erin

Two horseshoes on wooden background with title: Lucky Home-Made Corned Beef and Cabbage Recipe

Lucky Home-Made Corned Beef and Cabbage Recipe

In most every family cookbook there is a special recipe for corned beef and cabbage. It’s a true American invention to celebrate the Irish roots of many immigrants who fled to the United States after hard times.

Corned beef and cabbage: perfect for St Patrick’s Day

Few Irish actually could afford to eat corned beef, and if they did, it was a rare occasion.

Whether a real or make-believe tradition, having a nice slice of corned beef with a little cabbage and some boiled potatoes surely is not a bad thing. After all, the corned beef and cabbage meal ranks right up there with the turkey and stuffing tradition at Thanksgiving.

I like to make my corned beef and cabbage in a slow cooker. It is juicy and tender, and has a wonderful flavor. Plus, it is very easy!

I call my dish Lucky Corned Beef and Cabbage.

Lucky Corned Beef and Cabbage Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds corned beef brisket with spice packet
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 large onion, cut into wedges
  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 pound carrots, cut into chunks
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 head cabbage, cut into wedges

Directions

In a large hot skillet, sear the corned beef brisket a few minutes until brown on both sides. This helps seal in the juices and adds flavor to the meat.

De-glaze the pan with the water and add it to the slow cooker’s crock.  Place browned corned beef brisket into the water and top with contents of the spice packet (press the spices into the meat if you can).

Add the onion, potato, and carrot chunks. Add garlic, bay leaf, sugar, vinegar, pepper (use more or less as you prefer). Arrange cabbage wedges on top of everything.

Cover and slow cook for 8 hours, or until the meat and vegetables are tender.

Remove bay leaf before serving with whole grain mustard or creamed horseradish.

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Add a nip of Irish Whiskey and whipped cream to some coffee for your dessert, and you’ve really got something almost Irish. After all, everyone in America is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy Cookbooking,

Erin

Family gathered around cookbook in kitchen overlaid with text: Make a Family Cookbook for Family History Month

Make a Family Cookbook for Family History Month

Do you love researching your family genealogy?

You’ll be delighted to know that some states have designated October as “Family History Month.”

The month-long observance brings families together to remember loved ones, tell their stories, and celebrate family traditions.Continue reading

The Three Essential Kitchen Knives

A loud pounding sound radiating from the kitchen captured my attention and curiosity. Upon arrival, I caught my husband using my best French chef’s knife to jab frozen mango Tang out of my favorite clear plastic Kool Aid-style pitcher. I wasn’t too happy about the potentials of his act: breaking the knife; breaking the pitcher, cutting himself.

My husband is known for using kitchen objects to do the jobs of other tools. I’ve found steel whisks coated with cement, boning knives used as letter openers, egg turners as wallpaper scrapers, and butter knives bent from their stint as screwdrivers. (I try to credit these transgressions to his inventive, creative mind rather than his laziness to go to his workbench.)

My chef’s knife was fine, much to the credit of the manufacturer. I attribute its survival to the fact that it was made of high carbon stainless steel, the tang (blade steel) ran all the way through the whole handle, and it was the best chef’s knife I could afford (the three basic rules of buying kitchen knives).

My thoughts turned toward ways to protect my knives from future misuse. I could always downsize. I read somewhere that a cook really only needs to buy three kitchen knives:

Paring Knife
Blade between 2”-4” long.  Used for cutting fruits or vegetables and for making small or decorative cuts.

Serrated Utility Knife
Blade between 6”- 9” long.  Used for cutting larger vegetables, slicing larger foods, trimming/cutting meat. Note: A longer 9”-12” serrated blade bread knife will easily cut a crusty baguette or tomatoes.

Chef’s Knife
Blade between 6”-12” long that curves to a pointed tip. Used for chopping, dicing and mincing meat, vegetables, and anything else.

Of course, buying kitchen knives is okay for specialty purposes, too, such as boning, filleting, and carving. And then there is the meat cleaver.  I can’t imagine needing a meat cleaver any more, though, since butchers do the work for us quite nicely. Meat cleavers can be heavy and quite awkward. (The most important rule of thumb for buying kitchen knives is to buy what is comfortable in your hand.)

Maybe I should put my knives out of my husband’s sight!  I currently keep my knives on a wall-mounted magnetic strip. They don’t get banged around (unless you-know-who is looking for another tool), and I don’t waste valuable counter space using an ugly wooden knife block.

So that’s my new plan. Instead of buying kitchen knives to replace the broken ones, I will downsize my collection of kitchen knives to the three basics and hide them away. (Out of sight, out of mind, they say.)  But first I have to go to my husband’s workbench and take inventory of what kitchen knives I don’t need or use any more.

By the way, in the process of cracking up the frozen mango Tang, my husband broke the pitcher’s handle completely off and poked a hole in the bottom of the pitcher.  He repaired both with some miraculous glue stuff, and (you guessed it) a paring knife!

Happy cookbooking,

Erin

Should a Dead Dog Be in your Cookbook?

Ruth looked distressed. “Do you think Arnie should be in my cookbook?”

Arnie was her poodle. He passed on to the Great Fire Hydrant In The Sky last year.

“I should hope not,” I said. “He’d be much too stringy even to slow cook with by now.”

She scowled. “No. I mean in my Family Tree section. Should Arnie be in the Family Tree section of my family cookbook? Is that weird?”

“Let’s put it in perspective,” I replied. “Your cousin Graham. He borrowed $800 from you six years ago. Never repaid it. He hogged down half your peach cobbler last Christmas. He hasn’t said five civil words to you in half a decade. Is he going to be in your cookbook?”

“Yes.”

“Is he more family to you than Arnie?”

She smiled.

“Family,” I said, “has little to do with time or life or death or even species. Family is love, and family is forever.”

“Hmmmm. Maybe,” she said. “Now I wonder if there’s some form of slow cooking I could do to Graham that would get my $800 back….”