21 Rotten Foods Found in Your Family Cookbook

How many recipes for rotten food are in your family cookbook?  Or, how many recipes in your family cookbook include ingredients classified as rotten food? I bet you have quite a few!

Consider that some of the most beloved rotten food tastes from the Americas and Europe (especially France) are based on some form of decomposition, decay, or the result of deliberately drying, fermenting, spicing, or injecting foods with “good” bacteria.

It is always amusing to try and fathom why someone would taste, let alone eat, some of the most disgusting rotten food products out there (and pay extra for them). Culture certainly has a lot to do with rotten food being coveted.  Smelly, salty things don’t seem like such attractions, however, go most anywhere in the world and you’re bound to find at least one food that is prized for its putrid qualities.

Still think you don’t have any rotten food recipes in your family cookbook? Try these on for size:

21 Rotten Foods Found in Your Family Cookbook

Aged meat
Creme fraiche
Cured meat & hams (Parma, Rosette, Smithfield)
Fish paste
Fish sauce
Salt cod
Sour bean curd
Sour cream
Soy sauce
Sun-dried tomatoes
Surstromming herring
Wild game birds

Most of the rotten foods in the list above are an acquired taste. And, coincidentally, most rotten foods are the result of someone trying to extend the usefulness of a food by extending its due date (aka preservation to prevent spoilage), thus staving off hunger.

Can’t really blame/credit any one person for the “discovery” of cheese, or the process of fermenting soy sauce or beer. It is just interesting to imagine why anyone would try rotten food in the first place.

Well, I wouldn”t recommend adding a section in your family cookbook called “Rotten Foods,” but it is fun to think about and perhaps use for idle conversation during lulls in the Super Bowl competition (when you are working on your family cookbook, recipe cards, family reunion, or fundraiser).

Happy Cookbooking,


What to Serve for a Groundhog Day Party?

If you are one to join in the observance of Groundhog Day (as a national holiday of sorts) on February 2, then you may also want to join the fun with a Groundhog Day Party.  We always look forward to the prognostication of Punxsutawney Phil, the famous resident weather predictor groundhog of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

Punxsutawney Phil’s job is to let us know if winter will continue, or if it will end soon. This prediction is based on whether or not he sees his shadow (I’m told if he sees his shadow, we’ll have winter weather another six weeks).Continue reading

Top 5 Reasons Cookbooks Are Not Obsolete

My dear friend, Ruth, and I were perusing our local bookstore a few days ago (truthfully, we were there for a bit of diversion from the frightful weather) and wandered into our favorite aisle — the one that showcases cookbooks.

Ruth said she’d heard that cookbooks were becoming obsolete. That cookbooks are no longer desired or needed any more, what with the ease and convenience of plucking a recipe for just about any dish off the World Wide Web in a matter of minutes.Continue reading

Top 10 Ways to Cook & Eat Parsnips

“Don’t get so parsnipity with me,” Ruth snickered as we sipped our traditional nip of sherry to celebrate the new year. “That’s what my grandmother used to say when I got rambunctious in the kitchen,” she continued. “It always used to make be laugh and brought me back to reality.”

The parsnip root vegetable hardly is amusing, I thought. Heck, they look like anemic carrots. However, for the new year, Ruth and I have a pact to explore some of the more obscure vegetables that lurk in old family recipes we’ve included in our family cookbooks. One of those is parsnips, a relative of the carrot with a sweet, nutty flavor that is usually available in winter. Continue reading

Noodles & Dumplings: Which is Which?

Ruth and I had a discussion during the New Year’s holiday about the differences between noodles and dumplings. She says noodles don’t have any leavening agents and are always boiled, while dumplings are usually balls of dough that can be cooked any number of ways.

Okay, that made some sense. I see prepared Italian noodles in the refrigerated section of the grocery store and understand they are “fresh” not dried noodles. I also get that noodles are dried and come in a variety of shapes (and names).

I’m told that noodles can be made with eggs and flour. The chief dry flour ingredient can be wheat (such as ramen or pasta), rice (rice vermicelli), mung beans (cellophane noodles), potato (gnocchi or halusky), buckwheat (soba), or other ground flours, too.

But what I don’t get is the term dumplings. They seem to be the same thing as noodles, only lumpy, and sometimes with stuffings. I think of dumplings as small lumps of dough that are boiled in a broth, like some dim sum dishes I like to eat.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about dumplings:

“Dumplings are cooked balls of dough. They are based on flour, potatoes, bread or matzoh meal, and may include meat, fish, or sweets. They may be cooked by boiling, steaming, simmering, frying, or baking. Ingredients may be as a part of a filling, or mixed throughout the dumpling. Dumplings may be sweet, spicy or savory. They may be eaten alone, in soup, with gravy, or in many other presentations.”

Here is a partial list of some dumpling dishes Ruth named from other parts of the world, whether they have fillings, and how they are typically cooked:

Armenian “manti” – filled, boiled
British/Irish “dumplings”- not filled, boiled
Caribbean “dumplin”- not filled, fried, boiled
Central Europe “galuska” or “spaetzle” – not filled, boiled
Chinese “wonton” – filled, boiled
Eastern European “pierogi” or “pelmeni” – filled, boiled, fried
Indian “kadabu” – filled, steamed
Italian “tortellini” or “ravioli” – filled, boiled
Japanese “gyoza” – filled, boiled, steamed
Jewish “matzo ball” – not filled, boiled
Korean “mandu”- filled, steamed, fried, boiled
Mongolian “buuz” – filled, steamed
Scandinavian “pitepalt” – filled, boiled
Venezuelan “papas rellenos”- filled, fried

All I know is that my grandmother made “pastry” with self-rising flour, lard, salt and pepper, and water. The resulting dough was rolled, cut into 2″ x 2” pieces, dried, and then cooked with chicken to make “Chicken and Pastry.” It was a labor of love, and still conjures up pleasant memories, although I haven’t made her Chicken and Pastry recipe (that I have in my family cookbook) for many years.

Perhaps making Chicken & Pastry/Dumplings/Noodles again will be my New Year’s resolution.

Happy Cookbooking,


A Taste of History Reveals Many Old Cooking Secrets

Yes, I admit I’m a little behind the times.

I just found out about a marvelous and fascinating cooking show on PBS that’s called “A Taste of History.” Chef Walter Staib takes viewers on a journey through American cooking with recipes from Colonial times.

Chef Staib actually cooks the 18th century dishes for “A Taste of History” in an open hearth fireplace, using typical utensils available to cooks of the era. For example, he uses a spider, a large iron frying pan with three 10-12″ long spindly legs, to cook everything that doesn’t work well in a Dutch oven. The spider is quite clever; the legs keep the fire underneath the pan (or on one side), and temperature control is basically achieved by moving the pan to and from the fire.Continue reading

Blue Moon Honey Glazed Walnut Shrimp

Once in a blue moon, I like to prepare a very easy, delicious recipe that I call Blue Moon Honey Glazed Walnut Shrimp. It is a take off on a classic recipe that can be found on the menus of some Chinese restaurants in the United States and Hong Kong. I’m told this dish often surpasses the old American standby “Almond Chicken” for Chinese takeout orders in some cities.

Blue Moon Honey Glazed Walnut Shrimp is very easy to prepare, and is great for a relaxing meal during vacations or holidays, or a fabulous game-day snack. The dish is simply lightly battered shrimp in a mayonnaise sauce served with crunchy candied walnuts and sesame seeds. Tantalizing!

Here is the two-step recipe for your enjoyment. I have this recipe for Blue Moon Honey Glazed Walnut Shrimp in the Chinese food recipe section of my family cookbook. Feel free to add it to yours, if you like:Continue reading

Sugar Free Eggnog: Great Way for Diabetics to Enjoy Holiday Cheer

Went to a Christmas dessert party on Saturday and was quite impressed by the variety of holiday desserts that were brought to the festivities. Among the most popular holiday dessert drink was a clever eggless, diabetic version of eggnog, which is usually very thick and very sweet. This sugar free eggnog was great way for diabetics (and others) to enjoy holiday cheer without the guilt or worry about blood sugar levels going off the chart.

Oddly enough, the person who brought the sugar free eggnog was not a diabetic, just someone who prefers a lighter, less sweet version of a favorite holiday dessert drink.

The main ingredient of sugar free eggnog is a sugar-free vanilla pudding mixed with skim milk. In the right proportion, the result is quite good and an excellent substitute for the “real” thing. Continue reading

Snowman Soup: A Clever & Cute Giftie Item

“Oh, Erin, look at this clever and cute little giftie item,” my dear friend Ruth squealed as we shopped merrily for small fun things at a local Christmas boutique. She picked up a sample to show me.

“Snowman Soup,” she said. “It’s got a packet of cocoa, some miniature marshmallows, a peppermint candy cane, and some Hershey’s kisses. How clever and cute is that?”

Snowman Soup was indeed a very clever and cute little giftie item for workmates, grandchildren, teens, favorite seniors, (or for selling at Christmas boutiques).  Snowman Soup might also be a very clever and cute departing favor for guests at Christmas parties, or as a memento at dinner table place settings. Another great gift idea is to place a single Snowman Soup packet into a holiday mug, or to add multiple packets to a larger gift basket.Continue reading

Avoid Toxic Mashed Potatoes on the Thanksgiving Table

“I just need one more potato now that Cousin Johnny has come to share our Thanksgiving table,” said Ruth as she bustled about her kitchen, trying to fill in for the extra mouth to feed.

She had assembled an assortment of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables on the countertop, ready to drench with water and remove any unwanted residues and turn them into something delicious. She had potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, apples, apricots, cherries, and rhubarb.

What a pretty sight it was.
But all I saw was an assortment of potentially poisonous plants that could ruin the Thanksgiving table festivities.

“Don’t eat that green potato,” I warned Ruth as she nabbed a large one from the back of her old-fashioned larder to prepare a big fat bowl of mashed potatoes.Continue reading

‘Erin’ Helps Cookbook Author Publish, Sell on Amazon.com

Kathryn carriere from her small3 kathryn m carriere
Cookbook author Kathryn Carriere with her second recipe book as shown on Amazon.com

We are so excited to report that our Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software has inspired one of our customers to publish her second recipe book and sell it on Amazon.com.

That’s right! High school English teacher Kathryn M. Carriere of Houston, Texas, published her second recipe book in July called Spirits for the Mind and Body: 2101 Cocktail and Alcoholic Beverages. It is a whopping 548 pages and features the classic Celtic design template from our Erin software.Continue reading

Selecting the Right Paper for Your Cookbook

We often get inquiries from customers about what type of paper to purchase for printing a cookbook on a home printer. Sounds like a straightforward question, but it can be a bit complicated because there are many types of paper out there to confuse you.

First, you want to choose a paper (aka “stock”) that fits the kind of printer you have. Some papers will say on the label that they are suitable for either inkjet or laser printers, or both. These papers have a better surface texture (aka “finish”) than plain copy paper, and they will produce nicer cookbook photos in either color or black-and-white.

I generally stay away from laid or linen paper finishes for my cookbooks because they have a texture and may not print as evenly as a wove/smooth surface. (They are great for letterhead and business stationery, though.)  Sometimes I get a coated paper stock because cookbook pages can be prone to spills. (I like the matte finish because there is less glare when reading a recipe.)

Second, think about the impression you want your cookbook to make. A cookbook made with heavier paper for the cover will last longer than a cookbook with its cover and inside pages made of identical paper.  (However, a “self-cover” booklet may also lend itself to several quickie cookbook themes: bridesmaid’s memento, hostess gift, children’s party favor.) The paper’s thickness (aka “weight”) is measured in pounds (#). The higher the number, the thicker and heavier the paper.

For example, “offset/book/text” paper is commonly 50#, 60#, 70#, 80#, 100#.  It is often used for publication interior pages, brochures, and letterhead. It can be coated or uncoated. On the other hand, bond paper comes in 20# (standard for plain paper copiers),
24# (preferred for stationery), and 28# (usually used for outer envelopes).

If you do want a heavier cover, try “cover” stock in 65#, 80#, 100#, 120#, or 12 pt. These thicker papers can have coated or uncoated finishes.

You’ll also want to think about the paper”s absorbency (aka “opacity”), which dictates if printing will show through on the reverse side of the sheet. Complete opacity is 100%. If you are printing cookbook pages on both sides, opacity is a concern for you.

Then there is a paper’s readability to consider (aka “brightness”), which is the light reflective qualities of a paper. The brightest paper is rated 100, but most papers reflect 60-90% of light.

So there you have – a tiny lesson in selecting the right paper for your cookbook. In short, some of our customers use 24# bond for the cookbook’s inside pages and a 70# offset for the cover (they say the harder surface makes photos look better). It is really up to you.

Note: Most of the big office warehouses carry many of the papers mentioned above, and they will be happy to help you choose a paper when you’re ready to print your cookbook from your own printer using our cookbook software or your own solution.

Thanks to the inexpensive nature of printing cookbooks, you can make your own for under $8. 

Happy Cookbooking,


Funeral Food Has a Higher Calling: Comfort & Joy

I was looking for some inspired funeral food the other day to take to a grieving family, and was struck by the lack of local information on the subject.  I realized that churches could provide a great service for their congregations and the community if they could include a section in their church fundraising cookbook that explains the local traditions of funeral food and funeral etiquette.

Of course, you’re thinking I’m thinking the church would use my Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software to create such a cookbook with a funeral food chapter. Yes. However, my reasons are much more personal. At a time of loss, many people don’t know what funeral food to cook, when to cook it, and where to deliver whatever they’ve cooked.

In a small community, everyone seems to pitch in and provide meals for the mourning family and the gathering after a funeral or memorial service. In an urban environment, where often the neighbors may be unknown, it is usually the close family and friends that provide the funeral food.

In general, local traditions rule. Funeral food should be easy to heat and eat, be somewhat portable, freezable, and disposable, and above all, provide comfort.  Following are some suggestions for funeral food that may be helpful the next time you need a funeral food idea:


Mains – Baked ziti, barbecued meats in sauce, cheeses, chicken & rice, chicken pot pies, chicken skewers, chili, chowder, deli platter, finger sandwiches, lasagna, macaroni & cheese, meatballs and gravy, pot roast, quiche, roast chicken, sandwiches of tuna salad, ham salad & salmon salad, sliced meats (brisket, corned beef, ham, lamb, pastrami, roast beef, turkey), soups & stews, spaghetti, pizza, stuffed peppers, tuna casserole, tubs of KFC.

Snacks – Crackers, cheese & olives, granola bars, mixed nuts (shelled pecans, almonds, cashews), pickles, potato chips.

Sides – Bagged green salad with bottled dressings, cold salads (with 3 or more ingredients), coleslaw, cut-up fresh fruit (such as pineapple, melons) or whole fruit baskets (apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, nuts), funeral potatoes (hash browns, cheese, mushroom soup), green bean casserole, pasta salad, potato salad, raw veggie tray of red pepper strips, broccoli spears & carrots, steamed broccoli, stuffed mushrooms.

Breads – Baguette, brioche, cinnamon rolls, croissants, homemade bread with flavored butter, muffins, sandwich bread, rolls.

Desserts – Apple crisp, brownies, cakes & pies (already cut), cookies, chocolate candies, cupcakes, Jell-O, lemon squares, ice cream sandwiches, rice pudding, tarts, tubs of ice cream.

Beverages – Beer, bottled water, freshly ground coffee, Irish whiskey, juices, sparkling non-alcoholic drinks such as apple cider or Italian orange water, seltzers, soft drinks or 2-liter sodas, wine.

Some people prefer to not cook funeral food but want to help. Here are some ideas that can help a mourning family when given immediately:

– Bring disposable plates, napkins, forks, glasses and cups
– Clean the kitchen
– Buy groceries to restock the fridge and laundry room
– Bring freezer bags, plastic wrap, or single serving freezer containers for leftovers
– Hire a cleaning service for the family
– Bring paper towels, Kleenex, toilet paper
– Buy jars of mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard and hot sauce
– Bring plastic garbage bags and trash bags
– Run errands, make calls, answer the phone
– Buy a gift certificate to a local restaurant and a delivery menu

For most people, the tradition of funeral food is mostly about spending time with family and friends in a family reunion time of sadness. The making, giving, and eating of funeral food seems to be common in most cultures, although differences do exist. That is why a local cookbook explaining local funeral food traditions would be helpful, especially to newcomers in an area.

Happy Cookbooking,


WARNING! Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies May Be Addicting

As the weather becomes cooler and leaves begin to turn amber and red, it is time to pull out a favorite family recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies that my family has been making for many decades.

These pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are plump, cake like cookies that have a moist and delicious pumpkin flavor accented by chocolate pieces throughout.  I don’t know why, but they have a haunting flavor that draws me to them around Halloween time.  The ghosts of ancestors past perhaps, who baked these cookies in the embers of burned witches (just kidding!).Continue reading

Food Pairing Helps You Invent New Dishes

I stumbled across a fascinating food pairing website the other day that I just have to share. It is a great resource for anyone who likes to cook, from professional chefs to food contest competitors and home cooks, on down to youngsters who are just beginning to explore the pleasures of culinary combinations.Continue reading

Top 10 Things I Hate to Wait For

We are all guilty at one time or another of being impatient. Of not wanting to wait. Of being in such a hurry that our attention span quickly dissolves and our brain moves on to other, more important, things.

Like creating a list of the top 10 things I hate to wait for.

I admit that I was late to an appointment last week, and I was very put out about it because my lateness was entirely out of my personal control (which undoubtedly is the most frustrating of all feelings when you are already impatient).  My good sense prevailed, however, when I gave myself a choice: throttle the busybody who was chatting loudly with the only clerk helping an interminable line of customers, or simply think about something else.Continue reading

Grandma’s Recipe Box, Grandma’s Recipe Book or Grandma’s Recipe Cards: Which Would You Choose?

Grandma’s magic kitchen had the power to transport us. With Grandma’s cookies as sustenance, we could be transported from our backyard tent (made with blankets draped over the clothesline) to wonderfully exotic places we only read about in storybooks. If you had the chance to select one keepsake from your Grandma’s kitchen, either Grandma’s Recipe Box, Grandma’s Recipe Book, or Grandma’s Recipe Cards, which one would you choose?Continue reading

My Little Recipe Box: 20 Uses

Recipe box, recipe boxes
My little recipe box has been serving me well for many years (incuding keeping recipes for my family cookbook). Every time I have misplaced something in the house (which is frequently of late), I always go look in my little recipe box, because I never know what I will find in there.

You might think it odd, but my little recipe box has had a whole other life besides its original use. Here are some of the items that have found their way into my little recipe box over time:Continue reading

Top 5 Uses for Baking Soda Besides Baking

Your family cookbook must be riddled with family recipes calling for some form of leavening agent, which makes baked goods expand and rise.  My family cookbook has lots of recipes for baking powder and baking soda.  I’ve always been fascinated by the difference in results when one ingredient is substituted for another.

I’ve had many cookie recipes made with baking powder come out wonderfully puffed up, and the same recipes puff up then flatten out when made with baking soda. There are rules to using both, as interchangeable as they seem. They are not, and here’s why:Continue reading

Traditional Luau Kalua Pork & Summer Crock Pot Cooking

This weekend I’m going to a birthday party. The invitation indicates a luau theme, so I plan to take my really easy, but delicious, Kalua Pork that I make in a crock pot.

Summer crock pot cooking is absolutely great since you don’t need to turn on the oven. Honestly, there is nothing wrong with baking or roasting during the summer (if your oven is well insulated). But baking or roasting during the summer just seems wrong when you can do many of the same recipes and get good results with summer crock pot cooking.Continue reading