Don’t Plan a Cookbook For Your Wedding. Plan a Wedding Cookbook.

Sarah Whinnaker had the stressed out look of an engaged bride-to-be who suddenly feels like six months wasn’t nearly enough time to plan.

“I’m giving up on the wedding cookbook, Erin. It just isn’t going to happen. There’s no way I’m getting it together with everything else going on.”

“Your mistake,” I replied, “is in trying to get your wedding cookbook done in time for your wedding.”

She stared at me like too many young people stare at too many old people. “You just don’t understand. There’s so much to do.”

“So why not let your guests do some of the work?”

“What?”

“Have you sent out invitations yet?”

She sighed. “Not until next week.”

“Print up a card to go with your invitations. Just a business card size will do. On it, write (in the same style as your invite, if you like): ‘The Bride And Groom wish to make a Jefferson Family Wedding Cookbook after the wedding. Please write on the attached recipe card your own favorite recipe that you think they would enjoy. Also, please mention if you’d like a copy of the finished Jefferson Family Wedding Cookbook mailed to you as a memento.”

She stared at me for a moment. “Wow. What a great way to get everyone involved! I could put your cards out on the plates at the reception, and people could fill them out then too. It’d be a great way to get people talking to each other. My aunt will be sitting next to Jeff’s sister, and they could share casserole recipes.”

“And,” I continued, “a few months after the wedding, people would be getting a keepsake in the mail that they never got at a wedding before.”

She looked positively gleeful. “I’ll take photos from the disposable cameras at the wedding and use them to decorate pages! Maybe use a formal wedding pose for the front cover!”

Her eyes fell. “Oh god! The disposable cameras! I need to get them too!”

And just like that she marched away, mumbling about Kodak and Polaroid. I guess there’s only so time you can give a bride with just six months left to get ready.

Here’s a nice story from a customer about their own wedding cookbook. Just scroll down a bit.

If you are thinking about making a wedding cookbook, please look at my cookbook software. Also, here’s the engraved wedding recipe binder shown above. 

Perplexed cook surrounding by vegetables with text: Vegan? Vegetarian? Gluten-free? Surprisingly easy menus!

Surprisingly Easy Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten-free Menus

Since Chelsea Clinton’s wedding reception featured vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes, this kind of food is now well on the way to becoming a staple of mainstream American cooking.

But if you thumb through your family cookbook, you’ll probably find more vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes than you might have imagined.Continue reading

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

5 Simple Steps to a Meaningful Wedding Cookbook (and the most memorable wedding favors ever!)

A personalized cookbook not only makes a great wedding gift, but you can get your guests to contribute their own favorite recipes to the book. As if that wasn’t enough you can also print the recipe collections to use as wedding favors.

Wedding Recipe Binder gift

Here’s how to do it:

1. Include a single recipe card with each of your invitations, and a note asking that they include a favorite recipe on it with their RSVP.

2. Enter all the recipes you receive into Matilda’s Cookbook Software.

3. Print the cookbooks at Staples for around $2-$4 each, one for each guest.

4. Make one cookbook for the bride and groom that’s bound into a beautiful recipe binder.

5. Each guest will leave the wedding with a unique gift they helped create and the bride and groom will receive a memorable gift containing recipes from all their families and friends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basic White Rice Recipe

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

Happy cookbooking,

Erin

Can Cake Balls Conquer the Cupcake Craze?

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

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

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

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

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

There are some advantages to cake balls:

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

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

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

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

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

Cake Balls

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Cookbooking,

Erin

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,

Erin

Made in America Cherry Recipe Boxes!

We’ve added new recipe boxes!

Check out these gorgeous Made In the USA recipe boxes.  They can be personalized with your own name or wedding date on them. See the cherry recipe box selection here. 

Wedding Custom Recipe Binder Gift

Wedding Recipe Binder gift

First off, yes, that is my own wedding photo. 🙂 Happy, happy day.
Now then, if you’re reading this, you like recipes and you like to organize them. And maybe, just maybe, you are lucky enough to be attending a June wedding this year. Why not give the gift of a nice customizable recipe binder or personalized recipe box that lets the happy couple add a photo to the front? The merging of two families represented by the joyous co-mingling of two recipe collections! Glorious! (The groom’s collection may only consist of  Del Monte Sloppy Joe mix and the phone number to Domino’s, but never mind. I’m trying to be romantic here!)

*Bonus* Well, nobody asked for it, but here’s my wedding party. I love this photo.

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

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

RSVP: Ideas to Get Your Head Count Faster

Suppose you gave a party and nobody came.

You would be hurt, insulted, and ticked-off all at the same time. Your time and money would have been wasted when you were just trying to be friendly, sociable, and sharing.

You did include an “RSVP” on your invitation, but nobody replied.  And you didn’t have time to chase everyone you invited to confirm their attendance. So you forged ahead creating the party, only to be stood up by everyone but the family. What happened?

INVITED GUESTS

Your invited guests probably didn’t realize “RSVP” meant they needed to let you know they would not be coming (due to the playoff games, obvious conflict, or some other obligation or event they would rather attend). Sometimes they don’t respond because they don’t want to commit to a schedule in case something better comes up, such as sailing on the lake, or a fast trip to Cancun.  Maybe their poor behavior is just a lack of etiquette training. Continue reading

I Coulda Used a Birthday Record Keeper Template

“You forgot my birthday again,” said Aunt Agathene mercilessly as I hung my head in guilt and shame, a day late for the celebration, as usual.

“I wrote it down, but forgot where I put my note,” I defended. “Next thing I knew, your birthday was here, then gone.”

“Well, if I was as important to you as that new-fangled Jitterbug dance you keep busy with, I guess you would remember your old Auntie.”

At that moment I vowed to keep a list of all the birthdays, anniversaries (and other important dates in our family) all in one place. That was also when I established the groundwork for what would later become the birthday record keeper template, a popular feature of my Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software.Continue reading

Top 5 Ways Cookbook Templates Make Recipes Easy and Fun to Format

Cookbook templates are such an easy and fun way to create cookbooks for you, your family and friends, and even for those fundraising projects that inevitably come up.

Using a cookbook template is a tried and true results-getting process steeped in many crafting traditions. For example, sewing hobbyists use patterns. Interior decorators use stencils. Painters and muralists use outlines. So using a cookbook template to automatically format a professional-looking family recipe cookbook makes sense.

Here are 5 ways cookbook templates can help you have more fun making your cookbook:Continue reading