Budget Stretchers for The Frugal Kitchen

“Oh, look at that,” Ruth remarked as she hefted a gigantic container of powdered coffee creamer to read the ingredients on the label. “Wow, the first thing on the list is corn syrup solids, and then partially hydrogenated coconut oil.”

As she droned on and on about the odd-sounding ingredients that seemed more chemical than food, my mind wandered (it often does when Ruth begins one of her investigative reports). I began thinking about how to stretch the dollar in lean times.  Here we were in one of those bulk food warehouse stores being dazzled by 60-ounce containers of coffee creamer for less than $6.00, and all I could think of was how expensive everything seemed to be.

Bulk food warehouses are not a good place to shop if you want to keep a frugal kitchen, I thought.

A frugal kitchen operates without a lot of fluff and extra stuff and a lot closer to the (soup) bone, so to speak. When one runs a frugal kitchen, one is more apt to use these budget stretchers:

– Cook dried beans instead of opening a can
– Bake treats instead of buying packaged ones
– Use fresh produce instead of frozen or canned
– Use spice blends instead of spending money on individual spices
– Keep fewer items in the pantry (e.g. one box of cold cereal instead of four)
– Not overcook or overeat
– Be creative with meal stretchers like rice and pasta
– Eat at home most often

Stocking just a few choice items (instead of everything one desires) is the mark of a frugal kitchen. Only very seldom would stocking up at a bulk food warehouse be prudent; there are so many more important things to buy than keeping my grocery money tied up on kitchen shelves.

I have to agree with Ruth when she says: “I can’t imagine buying this container of creamer; it would last me a year. I’d rather have that money in my pocketbook to use on things that matter”.

Whew! That was a close call. She had the creamer in her shopping cart. I was cringing at the thought of stirring creamer into my tea at her house. Bad economy or not, some things just aren’t tolerable! Thank goodness she came to her frugal kitchen senses.

Happy Cookbooking,


Save those stained recipe cards

Just because you’ve efficiently typed all your recipes into your computer doesn’t mean you have to toss out the grease- or vanilla-stained recipe cards they are written on. If they are scribbled in your own writing, well, go ahead and re-write them neatly if you like. However, if they are written in your Mother’s hand, or that of your Grandmother’s, keep them.

Get some of our recipe card protectors and put them in the back cover of your cookbook and place these precious bits of personal history in them to preserve from further deterioration. Nothing brings back the memory of a treasured recipe, or the person who used to make it, than seeing it scribbled down on a piece of brown bag or paper towel in the original author’s handwriting. Trust me, one day you’ll be glad you saved those recipe cards, no matter what shape they may be in. Any comments?


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A Recipe Binder Can Prepare Your Teen For What Lies Ahead

They’re about to head out on their own – but a recipe binder you’ve put together for them to use will help them stay healthy and organized.

As teens move through the high school years, we want to prepare them for what’s ahead.  We want them to be able to fend for themselves when they are out on their own, especially if they’ll soon be heading off to college.  Here’s one way you can help them get started – put together a recipe binder.

Some great recipe binder designs your teen will love!

Some great recipe binder designs your teen will love!

recipe binder can contain all the dishes you fixed for them over the years – perhaps starting out with the simpler ones.  Since organization is key to getting anything done, that’s where to start.  Simply label dividers for your recipe binder, preferably with pockets, to have a place for the different types of recipes that you want to put in.

You might want to include how to read food labels and price information.  How to select the right equipment.  How to measure dry versus wet ingredients.  A glossary of cooking terms is helpful too.

You might also want to include an extra section for general household tips.  These might cover how to do anything, from sorting laundry to putting together a grocery list to polishing shoes – or even tying a tie!

To make the binder extra special, add photos of your teen making the dishes and cleaning up. The illustrations are important, especially in a how-to manual.

Making a recipe binder is a fun and practical way to prepare your child for the things to come, and it’s a nice way to spend time together and build memories,too.  And, wherever your son or daughter are heading, enabling them to enjoy those great meals you provided for them as they grew up will mean they’ll always feel close to you.  What better way to stay connected?

For more information about creating a recipe binder, contact us.

5 Rules You Need to Know About Beans

Although I’ve eaten beans all my life from many family recipes, I don’t really know a hill about them. Recently, I experimented with cooking small portions of different kinds of dried beans just to see which ones I like the best (and to prepare myself for eating more beans and rice during this extended recession).

Beans have been a food staple since ancient times (just check your family cookbook for some bean recipes). The economically-challenged have always liked beans because they are filling as well as nutritious. The health conscious seek beans because of their nutritional value and fiber content. (I haven’t verified this, but somewhere I heard that eating beans and rice together creates the perfect protein of essential amino acids, the building block of cell rejuvenation.)  So, they really are beneficial for you as well as taste good.

Interesting how we associate certain bean dishes with cultures or other influences: red beans and rice (New Orleans), black beans and rice (Cuba/Caribbean), Fava beans with a nice Chianti (Hannibal Lechter), hoppin’ john/black-eyed peas and rice (the South), pinto beans and rice (Mexico), baked beans (Boston).  I bet your family cookbook has several other bean recipes that are family favorites.

Canned beans are great for short order recipes. I particularly like to cook spiral pasta, add pureed marinated artichoke hearts, and a can of small white beans (a wonderful dinner dish with salad and crunchy bread.)

5 Rules About Beans
These are wisdoms that might be useful next to a bean recipe in your family cookbook.

1. Don’t salt the beans before you soak them or cook them. It makes them tough.

2. Soak the beans overnight if you can. It helps ease the traf* factor and makes them cook quicker.

3. Beans are great when cooked with some form of flavorful meat or vegetable. (Another of my favorite easy meals is adding the ubiquitous 15-bean soup packet to a crockpot with some beef or chicken bones, or a smoked ham bone.)

4. Beans make great leftovers because they can be reheated and used in various ways, such as whole, mashed, pureed (add pureed beans to soup as a thickener.)

5. Beans need lots of water to cook. You can always strain it out (preferably to use in soup later) if there is too much water when they are done.

In my house, every time I cook beans in a certain pot, I burn them because I forget to add enough water. This pot has acquired the name “the bean pot,” and it certainly has had its share of Brillo pads scrubbing its stainless steel surface.  One time I didn’t think the pot would recover, but fortunately, it did.

Now that I think of it, I’d better stop writing about beans and go and check my bean pot before I char it once again!

Happy cookbooking,


* Spell it backward; you’ll get my drift.

assorted cooking utensils on a floury table overlaid with text: Organize your kitchen with a recipe binder

Planning to Get Organized This Year? Start in the Kitchen with a New Recipe Binder

A recipe binder might not help you keep all your New Year’s resolutions – but it’s a great start!

So many of us start the year with good intentions, only to get overwhelmed before the first month is out. When it comes to organization in the home, it can be hard to know where to begin. If you’re anything like me, that feeling starts when you look around your kitchen.

Recipe Binders

Cooking for family and friends can be a joy, but it can result in your kitchen looking like a hurricane blasted through it.

If your recipes are scattered across your kitchen counter, getting lost in the mess, cooking your favorite recipes gets extremely difficult. One thing that can save you from having to look through heaps of disorganized notes is a specialized recipe binder.

There are various types of recipe binders that can work in your favor – whether you’re a big time chef or someone who is new at cooking up meals. Full page recipe binders can hold 8.5″ x 11” paper as well as 4″ x 6″ and 5″ x 7″ recipe card holders. You can easily organize these binders with divider tabs to group recipes by type.

If you or someone you know is getting the hang of cooking and needs a little extra help, why not try a mini recipe binder? These binders are small enough to stack on a tiny shelf for safekeeping. Each binder comes with protective sleeves that will guard your precious recipes from the grease splatters and sauce spills.

A handy-dandy recipe binder in any size will carry on the family tradition of home cooked meals for generations.

If you’re not sure which kind of binder will best keep your recipes well- organized, contact us! We’ll help you find the perfect binder for all your cooking needs!

400 Free Recipe Cards: How to Type and Print Free Recipe Cards

Here’s a short video overview of how our 400 free recipe cards page works:

However, if you want to just go straight to the page and start downloading and printing any of our 400 free recipe cards, please be our guest!

A Jumble-lotta Creole and Cajun Cooking Brings the Taste of New Orleans & Mardi Gras to a Regional American Cookbook

With Mardi Gras festivities officially underway in New Orleans on Feb. 24, it seems only fitting that we let the good times roll with a better understanding of Creole and Cajun food. The spicy delights of both cuisines are finding their way into my current cookbook project, which is creating a family cookbook collection of regional American foods.

The last time I was in New Orleans (or Nawlins, Nola, N’orluns, if you prefer), I attended a wedding. It was some time ago, and I managed to sneak away from the pre-nuptial activities one morning to have breakfast at Brennan’s. It is still the most expensive single off-the-menu breakfast I have ever eaten, and it was glorious.

While dining in New Orleans, it never really bothered me that various dishes I ate while there mostly came from two very different French-speaking cultures: Creole and Cajun. While I’m not going to discuss the history of the region, suffice to say that Creoles are considered descendants of immigrant colonials from Spain and France, while Cajuns are descended from French Canadian exiles.

Their two very different origins make for some very interesting dishes, some that I’m including in my family cookbook collection. Here are some ways to tell the difference between Creole and Cajun food:

Characteristics of Creole Food
– Spanish/French colonial influence with African and Italian undertones
– From cosmopolitan city dwellers (The French Quarter)
– Rich glorious sauces made with herbs and mild spices
– Lots of butter, cream and high-end ingredients
– Jambalaya will be reddish and made with tomatoes
– Not usually hot in spice intensity
– Can be quite showy, colorful

Characteristics of Cajun Food
– French Canadian influence with French and Southern undertones
– From country swampland dwellers who fish, trap and hunt (The Bayou)
– Features local victuals, such as alligator, possum, turtle
– Ingenious rustic gravies made with inexpensive ingredients (port fat, spices, fresh garden patch pickings)
– Jambalaya will be brown, without tomatoes
– Usually hot in spice intensity, and may be blackened
– Generally modest one-pot food, plain and simple

As I’ve said, which cuisine I eat is of little matter to me as long as it tastes good. And I haven’t had a single thing in New Orleans that I didn’t like. I can’t wait to add several more Creole and Cajun recipes to my new family cookbook collection of regional American foods. I bet you might enjoy doing the same thing!

Happy cookbooking,


Family Photo Tips: How to Capture Hard-to-Photograph Family Members

If you are including family photos in your family cookbook, you probably have a few family members who are delaying your project because they don’t have a photo of themselves. You know the ones; they always look like a scared rabbit with the whites of their eyes showing (or with their eyes half-closed).

You volunteer to take the family cookbook photo you need, and each of them reluctantly agrees. Here are some tips to help make your family photo subjects feel more at ease, and you won’t need any fancy hot-shot photo equipment. For the sake of getting away from that dreaded his/her grammar awkwardness, let’s call your family cookbook photo subject Aunt Clara:

1. Ask Aunt Clara to wear her favorite outfit (not what she thinks she should wear).

2. Have her bring an object that she would feel comfortable holding (such as a book, flower, hat, toy, sweater). Holding something while having a photo taken gives her something else to think about.

3. Take the picture in a familiar part of the house, perhaps in the kitchen or in a favorite easy chair. Maybe outside by the roses, or in the glider on the porch.

4. Have Aunt Clara sit away from a wall, if possible, perhaps on a chair edge, stool or step ladder. (This is more important if she is taller than you).

5. Tell a joke or two (or reveal a funny family secret!) Laughing relaxes the muscles and reduces tension.

6. Before you snap the photo, tell Aunt Clara what you are going to do so she knows what to expect and when. In this step, she should feel you are the “director” in the scene and she is the star, and everything is under control. This builds trust (that you are trying to make her look as good as possible).

7. Take the camera in hand and focus. Now, tell Aunt Clara to move her head down and look at your shoes. That’s right! Your shoes! The absurdity of this crazy situation usually puts anyone off guard and relaxes them enough to cooperate instead of freezing up.

8. Quickly tell her to continue looking at your shoes, and on the count of 3 to move her head up and smile her biggest, brightest smile right at the camera. (Chances are Aunt Clara will let her guard down just long enough for you to capture her real essence).

8. Take a few more photos using this method. One of them is bound to be a winner of Aunt Clara, and good enough to include in your family cookbook’s biography section.

9. This technique can work for a group family photo, too.

One of my cousins so dreaded having her photo taken that she ate multiple antacid tablets the day before. After I took her photo this way, she was no longer camera shy–she turned into a ham!

Happy cookbooking!


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6 Tips to Great Family Reunion Planning

Did you see your family members as much as you think you should have last year? Maybe it’s time to plan a family reunion and tie it all together with a family cookbook!

Not sure how to do it? Here are some tips to make the planning easier:

Estimate how many family members may attend the family reunion. Make phone calls to one person in each family group who could estimate attendance. Have them pass the word.

Based on the potential number of attendees, decide if the event can be at a family member’s house, a local park, a convenient restaurant, or a social hall.  The location will depend on the budget, which will be determined by the number attending.

Longer family reunions may entail the rental of a condo, house, lodge or other venue. For example, I was on a cruise ship a few years ago and everywhere onboard were people wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with “I’m with Marge.”  We finally saw a little old lady with a t-shirt that said “I’m Marge.” She had come into some money and invited 146 family members on board for a last family reunion fling in her old age. Wow!

If you are the chief planner (guess what? – if you plan the family reunion once, it’s your job forever), then go ahead and set a date and time that is most convenient for you.  It may be a special date to the family (such as a birthday, anniversary, or other special occasion), or an arbitrary date that becomes the annual family reunion date (e.g. the first Tuesday after the first Monday in the month of November in the even numbered years.) Not everyone will be able to make it on the day (or week) you decide. That’s all right; they’ll make it the next time after they hear how terrific the family union was.

If the family reunion is to be a joint effort instead of a hosted event (by you or another family member), then the food and set-up chores can be divvied up among different family groups. Yeah, some family members will flake and not come on time, but they are relatives! Family reunions will bring you closer together and maybe they will arrive on time with the appetizer next time.

The overall idea for having a family reunion is to have fun and catch up with relatives. Depending on the number of hours (or days) the family reunion extends, some fun activities may include games, singing, creating a family play, or doing crafts. Taking photos during a family reunion is a given, but make sure lots of planned photos are taken along with the candid shots. It is popular these days to have a theme for family reunions (e.g. camping, Texas BBQ, golf, community service) that taps into any common areas of interest.  Whatever the “theme,” good eating is also part of any family reunion. A rib or chili cook-off can also be a fun way to get the family involved.

Some type of memento is always a great take-away for those attending the family reunion. We recommend putting together a family cookbook using Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software. If you have a cooking contest, get all the recipes, enter them into the recipe template, print, and send them to every relative. You’ll have the foundation for a great family cookbook. P.S. Use photographs taken at the family reunion to complete the family cookbook pages and biography section of the cookbook.

I have come to realize that the memories and fun family times gained from a family reunion are well worth the effort. Family reunions help build stronger family relationships and common interests, and also can help turn family strangers into real caring relatives.  What a concept!

Happy Family Reunion Cookbooking,


Some Old Favorites

Every once in awhile I take a break, sit down with a cup of tea, and re-read some of my favorite old cookbooks. The most fascinating thing about reading old cookbooks is the history they tell us about the people who lived in a certain neighborhood during a specific time period.

That is perhaps one of the beauties of making your own family cookbook – you have control over favorite heirloom recipes, as well as a time capsule of all the people in your family.

If you haven’t started your family cookbook yet, no worries, there is still time to complete one for a sure-to-be-favorite Christmas gift. Meanwhile, below is interesting information about some old favorites:

Favorite Ancient Egyptian Breakfast
Ham and eggs (in 1500 B.C.)

America’s Favorite Fruits
1951 = Bananas, apples, seedless grapes, and oranges.
2008 = Strawberries, bananas, grapes, apples, and oranges.

Favorite Yuletide Treats

In Norway, the favorite sweet treat is Julekake (Christmas Bread), a sweet bread flavored with cardamom, citron and raisins.

Mark Twain’s Favorite Meal
Pan fried porterhouse steak with mushrooms and peas.

Favorite Tangy Fruit in Old China
Lemons are big in China, dating back to the Chinese Emperors, who liked lemonade. Lemons were brought to the Americas by Catholic Missionaries, and lemon trees were subsequently planted in California and Arizona.

French Monk’s Favorite Meal
In France, monks favored rabbit as a meal because it was considered fish and could be eaten as a meat substitute on “abstinence” days.

Cleopatra’s Favorite Fruit
As long as 6,000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians enjoyed eating figs, both fresh and dried. They were a favorite of Cleopatra, and figs were said to be grown in the lush Hanging Gardens of Babylon (in present day Iraq).

Favorite Dessert in 1951
A survey of the U.S. armed forces in 1951 showed that banana cream pie was tops on the list for servicemen. However, their least favorite dessert was rice pudding.

Happy Cookbooking,

The Better Mouse Trap Inside the Better Rat Alongside Red Dead Redemption

Despite owning a software company, I’m pretty dumb. I’m too dumb to figure out how to program my DVD player. How anyone can stare at those 80 buttons and not give up immediately is beyond me. I’m too dumb to buy any watch with a digital interface. Frankly, I’m too dumb to enjoy reading any sentence with the word “digital interface” in it. Or just “interface,” for that matter.

I’m ok with my stupidity, though, because there seem to be a lot of us idiots out there, and a few companies have finally noticed. Modern console games are proof that us morons, both young and old, actually like something that’s easy to use. We prefer thinking about our Instant Pot or beating the next mission in Red Dead Redemption. Certainly beats contemplating audio format compression rates or whether to mash the X and Triangle buttons in a particular order six or seven times in rapid succession.

(I don’t know if our own software is built for everyone as dumb as me. I hope so, and our ranking among the very best sellers on Amazon cookbook software seems to point to it. I’d love to hear your feedback, though.)

Anyway, as one of the legion of stupid, I’d like to personally apologize to all the manufacturers out there who build the better mouse trap inside the better rat maze. I’m sure you are very clever and very sophisticated to have devised an 80 button remote control for my smart TV. I know I couldn’t do it.

You may not get my money ever again, but I certainly appreciate that you are much, much smarter than me.


Now I’m going to go get some Red Dead Redemption 2 in before my son wakes up. That no good varmint always tells me where the loot is! I like to do it myself!


What are you favorite mouse traps? How about rat mazes?

Recipe Ingredient Substitutions Can Make Family Cookbook Recipes Better

How many times on a cold winter night has the urge to make something gooey, sweet and comforting drifted across your mind? Time to pull out your family recipe cookbook and find the perfect easy-to-make snack recipe.

But what if you don’t have exactly the right ingredients that Grandma used in her special chocolate ginger snap cupcakes?  Easy.  Just substitute a similar recipe ingredient, and chances are you won’t notice the difference enough to complain while satisfying your snack attack.

Here are a few classic recipe ingredient substitutes you can use if your pantry is low on some items needed for an impromptu snack:

Dry bread crumbs
Tear up whole fresh bread slices into small pieces and toast them on high in a toaster oven (use the tray, dears). Watch carefully so the bread pieces don’t burn, then crumble as needed. I’ve also heard you can sautee the bread in butter until browned, but that may be too rich for some recipes, or family recipes that require a bread crumb coating.

I don’t usually keep buttermilk, so when I need buttermilk for a recipe, I have been known to add a tablespoon of lemon juice or a little vinegar to a cup of milk (which will usually sour curdle the milk within 5 minutes).  The flavor always seems odd to me.  Now I prefer to use plain yogurt or thinned sour cream, which gives a richer texture.  I’ve even substituted creme frache instead (but it’s rare that I would have that in my fridge either).

Anytime I am baking sweets and I need an egg, I confidently substitute 1/4 cup applesauce, pumpkin or squash puree, or any thick pureed fruit. These will bind the dry ingredients, but just won’t add the extra fluff that an egg would. To me, this substitution is best used for baked goods recipes like bran muffins or blueberry muffins. Not recommended for omelets!

I have used confectioners’ (powdered) sugar as a substitute for granulated sugar, but I will usually use 25% less (that is ¾ cup instead of 1 cup). Depending on the recipe, honey is also a good substitute. Which one to use really depends on the type of bulk needed in the recipe, and whether the finished dish is more dry or moist.

Cake Flour
If you are making a cake for your late night snack, and don’t have cake flour (which is forever on your shelf like that unused box of Bisquick, right?), don’t fret. I’m told you can sift 7/8 cup all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons cornstarch (for every cup of cake flour you need) and come up with a reasonable substitute. Honestly, if it is a one-time emergency snack recipe, just use all purpose flour. No one will hold you responsible for the recipe results. However, if the texture is so critically important to you at 9 p.m. and you need a chocolate cake fix, go get cake flour!

By the way, if you have used substitutes in family recipes successfully, be sure to indicate those options in your family recipe cookbook. Some family member may actually prefer the altered recipe instead of the original, due to diet considerations, allergies or other taste preferences.

Happy Cookbooking!

Secrets to Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

Let me in on some of my favorite tips for perfect chocolate chip cookies that will definitely be going in my own family cookbook:

  1. Resist temptation and let the dough sit for 36 hours in the fridge. This allows the liquids in the dough to penetrate the flour. Deeper penetration gives the chocolate chip cookies a richer flavor and a more consistent color and texture. Apparently all the great cookie bakeries in New York follow this advice.
  2. Six inches is the ideal size for chocolate chip cookies. It gives you three zones–the crunchier rim, the soft center, and that great in-between zone that has the most flavor. Any smaller and they lose those interior zones. Any bigger and I find them impossible to flip!
  3. Sprinkle some sea salt on top to give it added dimension right before baking.

Here are the ingredients listed in my personal recipe:

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour

1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract

1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or feves, at least 60 percent cacao content

Sea salt. Bake at 350° F for 18-20 minutes.

My advice is to forgo the chocolate disks if you can’t get them and just use good ol’ fashioned Nestle semi sweet chocolate chips.


woman getting fruit from fridge overlaid with text: "Inspiration for a healthier pantry and fridge"

Eat This, Not That – Inspiration for a Healthier Pantry & Fridge

I’ve been reading the book series “Eat This, Not That” by David Zinczenko of Men’s Health magazine. There are several books in the series, and all have eye-opening information about the foods we innocently eat.

What I’ve discovered from reading these books is that we should all be saying “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.”*

There are so many unnecessary calories, additives, and preservatives in our food that it is no wonder that America is sick with diabetes, heart ailments and such.

Did you know there are 79 ingredients and 1,330 calories in a Baskin-Robbins Oreo-layered sundae?

Some of the things I learned from reading “Eat This, Not That” books:

  • Read nutritional labels carefully.
  • “Reduced fat” is a bunch of hype and means nothing.
  • Pay attention to trans fats; they are killers (eat no more than 2.5 grams of trans fat a day)
  • Avoid ingesting high-fructose corn syrup (it’s in just about everything)
  • Grind your own sirloin to make hamburgers; don’t eat fast food hamburgers (most are processed with ammonia gas as a “processing agent”)
  • Be wary of restaurants and fast food spots; it’s a mystery how they can pack thousands of calories into a salad.
  • Use smaller dishes to keep portions under control.
  • Throw away your deep-fat fryer.
  • Go for whole grains (not multi-grains, which are nutritionally inferior).
  • Shop the outside rim of the supermarket where fresh produce, meats and dairy are located (instead of the center aisles of canned, packaged, processed foods)
  • Eat at home so you know what you are eating.
  • Prepare foods that are close to their natural form.
  • Spend a little more sometimes to buy a better quality food that is better for you.

I could go on about “Eat This, Not That,” but instead I’m inspired to eliminate all of the “bad” stuff from my pantry and refrigerator that I didn’t realize was causing for the pudge around my middle!

Let’s be realistic here. I’m responsible for buying and eating the stuff, but food manufacturers are responsible for the crap they put in it. I should know better, but I succumb to the marketing ploys just like everyone else. But the truth is, we are all able to boycott foods that are not healthy simply by not buying them.

Now to clean out that refrigerator and pantry and stock up on healthier foods.  Think I’ll also write the FDA and tell them “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to EAT it any more.”

Happy Cookbooking,

* From the 1976 movie “Network”

Acorn Treats For Squirrely Kids

I made these last year for Thanksgiving and they were such a hit.  I was asked to please, please make them for this year!  So here you go.  So simple!  You only need three ingredients to make these super simple Acorn Treats, and it made my kids, ahem, squirrely for more! 

TOTAL TIME: Prep: 35 min. + chilling

MAKES: 48 servings
Ingredients1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
48 milk chocolate kisses
48 Nutter Butter BitesNutritional Facts1 cookie equals 47 calories, 3 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 1 mg cholesterol, 16 mg sodium, 6 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, 1 g protein.
Ingredients1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
48 milk chocolate kisses
48 Nutter Butter BitesAdd to Shopping List
Nutritional Facts1 cookie equals 47 calories, 3 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 1 mg cholesterol, 16 mg sodium, 6 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, 1 g protein.
Directions In a microwave, melt chocolate chips; stir until smooth. Spread the flat side of each kiss with a small amount of melted chocolate; immediately attach each to a cookie.
Cut a small hole in the corner of a pastry or plastic bag; insert a small round tip. Fill with remaining melted chocolate. Pipe a stem onto each acorn. (I found it much easier to stick a chocolate chip or peanut butter chip to the top.) Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets; refrigerate until set. Store in an airtight container. Yield: 4 dozen.

2 Quick, Simple, Tasty Artichoke Recipes Anyone Will Like

Sometimes I wonder who first tried to eat an artichoke (and why). Was it some hungry creature searching for moisture in the artichoke being watched by an equally hungry caveman (no offense intended to the Geico Neanderthals)?  Either one must have been pretty desperate to rip off all those prickly artichoke leaves.

Nowadays, most people use a very sharp knife to cut through the fibrous artichoke leaves to remove the thorny leaf tips. Personally, I like to peel off any scruffy outer leaves from the artichoke, and then snip off the remaining artichoke leaf tips with my kitchen shears. (I find that I have better control and won’t slice my fingers in case I have a senior moment.)

Here are two quick, simple, tasty artichoke recipes (most) anyone will like:

My favorite way to eat an artichoke is steamed. Honestly, they aren’t much of a stomach filler. Just a “green” taste, really, and fun for party conversation. Although lots of people eat the steamed artichoke leaves dipped in melted butter, my version of a leaf dip is richer and a good excuse to eat something more satisfying.

Here’s How:
Steam trimmed artichokes until the heart is soft (when you can easily stick a fork into the bottom and feel no resistance). The cooking time will vary, depending on the size of the artichoke. Drain and set aside to cool. Serve artichokes on a salad plate (or small bowl) with Leaf Dip, as follows, on the side.

Leaf Dip:
Use about ½ cup of mayonnaise for every artichoke serving. For each serving, add garlic powder, ground oregano (or ground marjoram), lemon juice, and salt to taste.  Add enough of the garlic and oregano until you are scared you’ve added too much. Mix well. The dip should have a green tint to it. Let it sit and mellow while the artichokes cook. Serve in small dipping dishes with the artichoke. (Great for other vegetables, too.)

This artichoke recipe is so easy, I shouldn’t even include it here. But we all need some quick, simple and tasty recipes once in awhile. I like this dish because pasta salad is usually so bland, and this “recipe” has a bright piquant flavor thanks to marinated artichoke hearts.

Make your favorite pasta salad recipe, using bow tie pasta, some capers, black olives and chopped roasted red pepper for color. Take a whole jar of marinated artichoke hearts (any size) and puree them in the blender. Pour over the pasta salad and toss. Instantly better, no matter how much dressing you had in it previously. (This is a great quick, simple, tasty sauce substitute for pesto or red tomato sauces, too.)

Try my artichoke recipe ideas next time you want to do an artichoke dish. If you like them, I wouldn’t mind if you want to add them to your family cookbook using the recipe template provided in our cookbook software.  Check out more artichoke recipes via your favorite search engine on the Internet.

Happy cookbooking,




14 Baking Tips & Techniques from a 1977 Collective Cookbook

In my ever-present quest to clear out “stuff,” as the late George Carlin used to say, I found one of my old collective fundraiser cookbooks that had some serious baking tips and techniques nestled in the “Cake” section of the cookbook.

Although the collective cookbook was published a mere 31 years ago, some of the ideas must have come from still farther back in time. Yet, the basic helpful wisdom of the cookbook’s contributors, long gone by now, still reaches out across the decades to anyone who cares to be the best baker possible.

You might find these baking tips and techniques as fascinating and amusing as I did.

Baking Tips & Techniques

1. Creaming butter and sugar: A little hot milk added will aid in the creaming process.

2. After using the oven, leave the door open until the oven is cool so that moisture will not condense and rust the metal.

3. To decorate a cake without a decorator, cut an envelope from one of the top corners to the middle of the bottom of the envelope. Cut a little piece off the corner.

4. An apple cut in half and placed in the cake box will keep the cake fresh several days longer.

5. When making a cake, always add 2 tablespoons of boiling water to the butter and sugar mixture. This makes a fine textured cake.

6. Do not grease the sides of cake pans. How would you like to climb a greased pole?

7. To cut a fresh cake, use a wet knife.

8. Do not discard rinds of grapefruit, oranges, or lemons. Grate the rinds first, put in a tightly-covered glass jar, and store in the refrigerator. Makes an excellent flavoring for cakes, frostings, and such.

9. When you do not want to heat your oven for a shortcake, make a short biscuit dough with a little sugar added to a thin batter and bake in a waffle iron.

10. A good, quick frosting is made by boiling a small potato, mashing it, and adding powdered sugar and vanilla.

11. To keep crisp cookies crisp, and soft cookies soft, place only one kind in a cookie jar.

12. Any cake will be greatly improved if a teaspoon of lemon juice is added to the butter and sugar. This makes a cake very light and shorter. Fresh milk makes cakes close-grained and more solid.

13. For a nice decoration on white frosting, shave colored gum-drops very thin and stick on. They will curl like little roses.

14. Baking pans:  For best results use correct size pan. The time and oven temperature should be adjusted to the type of pan being used. For shortening-type cakes, bake cup cakes at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes; layer cakes at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes; and loaf cakes at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

2019 Family Cookbook Making Hint: Ask family members for similar old baking tips and techniques and incorporate them into your own family cookbook. Use the “Recipe” tab in my cookbook software, select the field called “Choose this recipe’s type,” then select “Tips” from the drop down menu. You could create a whole section of tips about all kinds of cooking techniques that would add more family flavor to your cookbook.

Happy Cookbooking!