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I’m finally done with my family cookbook! (lessons learned + a recipe)

I’m finally done with my family cookbook, almost 3 years, 4 printing companies, and 89 pages later! Lord help me if I find a typo!! ;-) I thought I’d jot down some of things I’ve learned and choices I’ve made along the way, in case it should help anyone hoping to do the same.

I had several threads going over the last few years about it that I’ve listed below. Cinnamon’s title was the one I chose in the second thread, with a few minor tweaks: “Mildred to Modern, A compilation of recipes through four generations to pass on to the next generation”. When I first looked at that thread, nothing really stood out to me, but then when I revisited it, that one really spoke to me. As for the jell-o salads (the third thread), I ended up doing a subheading under salads, which I think made the most sense but still paid homage to the history of jell-o salads. (Most of them still sound gross to me! :-)

Making your own cookbook:

Help me name my family cookbook:

Jell-o salads:

One thing that I did a little differently was instead of crediting each person with more or less creating a recipe, I put “From the Recipe Box of:”, so that if multiple people submitted a recipe, they would still be credited in some way. Also, my thought was if “Aunt Susie” submitted a recipe that was originally “Aunt Patty’s”, it wouldn’t be so much that she was “taking credit” for that recipe, but more of a compliment that “Aunt Susie” thought so much of “Aunt Patty’s” recipe that she had it in her recipe box. Not that that would have been an issue in my family, but I think it still meant a lot to my dad to see that my great grandma had his bran roll recipe in her collection. It’s also nice to have it arranged by person, so that if my second cousin wants to look up all of his grandma’s recipes, it’s very easy to do. I also have a regular index too.

It ended up being a lot more pricy that I thought it was going to be, even though I don’t regret it, I probably should have asked people to help me pay for it. Especially when everyone wants more copies! I could not get a lot of printing companies to take me seriously even though it was a considerable amount of money to me. When I finally was at my wit’s end with them not calling me back about my project, I walked in to Kinko’s and said, “This is my family cookbook, I’ve been working on it for two years, it’s very important to me, and I’m very nervous about printing it!” Then, someone took me seriously! And he did a very nice job and was the perfectionist that I needed him to be. I originally wanted to go with a local printing company, but Kinko’s helped me in a way that none of the other places were willing to. I would not hesitate to recommend them, if you are doing a similar project.

As far as aesthetics, I went with a coil black binding and laminated the front and back cover… I wasn’t a huge fan of the glossy look, but I think it was necessary to keep it looking nice. I made each of the divider pages a heavier stock, so they still stood out, but I didn’t have to put tabs on them that way. I made it look a little like a photo album, but tried to keep the pictures to a minimum so that it didn’t end up being even more expensive.

All in all, it turned out exactly like I wanted it to, and everyone was thrilled with it- especially my grandma and great aunts. My mom and I fixed lunch for everyone and unveiled it at lunch. All of the dishes we served were from my great grandma, which made it all the more special. We served Brisket, Raspberry Jell-o Salad, Butterhorn Rolls, Cole Slaw, Cheese Grits, and Apple Pie. A few tears were shed, so I know everyone was touched. :-


I’ve included some shots of the book, if you’re interested. And here’s the most submitted recipe, from my Great Grandma’s recipe box, Banana Cupcakes:

Banana Cupcakes

½ cup shortening
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup mashed bananas
¼ cup sour milk
½ t. salt
2 cups sifted unbleached flour
½ t. baking powder
¾ t. soda
1 t. vanilla

Cream shortening and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time and continue creaming. Add mashed bananas. Sift dry ingredients together. Add milk and dry ingredients alternately to creamed mixture. Add vanilla. Pour mixture into approximately 24 paper-lined muffin tins. Bake 20 minutes at 375°F. When cool, frost, if desired, with favorite powdered sugar-butter-milk frosting.

Thanks for everyone’s help and advice over the last few years! I’m done, I’m finally done!! :-)

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  1. Congratulations, how perfectly wonderful! I'm sure they were touched, what a fabulous thing to have done (you) and for them to have!

    1. Here's a couple more images of the book.

      1. Katie Nell, I had no idea you were working on something like this. Ithink the idea is absolutely wonderful, and I'm sure it took a lot of work. The finished product looks just great. I'm very impressed (and I'm sure everyone in the family is too).

        1 Reply
        1. re: LulusMom

          Katie Nell, you've done it! Thank you for sharing this wonderful work of the heart!

          I truely wish someone had written down my mother's family's recipes (professional English baking family) . And my Dad's mom too, who had passed away by the time I was born. Heard she was a wonderful English country cook. I do have Mom's Uncle Steve's bread recipe, but that's it....

          Congrats on seeing it through, and preserving the cooking heritage of your family. An inspiration to us all!

        2. Congratulations on your accomplishment! I did one for my Mom several years ago, and this year I'm doing an update. . .or I guess you'd call it a second edition. I printed my original one similarly to yours at Kinkos, so I'm glad to hear that it is still a good option. (I looked as some online book services but they seemed very limiting in the number of recipes per book and that you needed a picture on each page to follow their template.)

          Now I just need to get moving on this project for the holidays! Thanks for the inspiration.

          1. Congratulations Katie!! What an outstanding job and a true labor of love.

            1. Thanks, everyone! I definitely highly recommend doing it, if you can... I've already used it multiple times, and I've only had my copy for a couple of weeks! That's me in the second image on my second post, in case you wondered what I look like... of course, that was several years ago! ;-) My t-shirt says "Breast fed and proud of it"!

              1. Nice! I'm working on a family cookbook this year and appricate the notes! I like the 'From the recipe box of:' annotation a lot, mind if I steal it? :D

                I've got a pretty cool system worked out to solicit family recipes right now, I can post it if people are interested. It's using Google docs, which allows you to set up a web-page in the format of a recipe (instructions/ingredients/type of dish/number of servings..etc) Then I e-mailed the link to the page to everyone. They type in a recipe, hit submit, and it goes into a spreadsheet I have access to. I'm sharing read-only access to the spreadsheet with everyone, so if people make new contributions, I (or anyone with access) can print it out again every year. I'm pretty hyped about it!

                2 Replies
                1. re: Botch

                  Nope, that's why I shared! :-)

                  A couple of my great aunts don't even have computers, so that system wouldn't have worked for them. My grandma is pretty savvy, but she's about the only one of the older generation!

                  1. re: Botch

                    Botch -- I'd be interested in your system using Google Docs. Sounds intriguing.

                  2. Very cool! I love your title and subtitle and that cover picture.

                    1. Wonderful idea and beautiful job. Congratulations!

                      1. Katie, I spent my entire career in book publishing and I know only too well how difficult it can be to put together a project like this. I can't begin to tell you how impressed I am with what you've shared with us. Kudos to you for your dedication to this labor of love and for having produced what I'm sure will be treasured by your family for generations to come. I'm not surprised a few tears were shed. I almost did the same.

                        1. Congratulations on your family cookbook! It's such a wonderful way to share the family memories and honor the cooks in your family.

                          I think the printing does end up throwing the project off for a lot of people - it can cost more than people realize.

                          I really like your idea about "from the recipe box of". It's a terrific suggestion and I bet other people might find it useful for their family cookbooks.

                          Here's a site I like that helps people create a family cookbook online called Family Recipe Central at http://familyrecipecentral.com . You can create a family group, invite your family members to join your group, and collaborate together with your family to enter, edit and document your recipes online, and layout and put together a family cookbook from your collection of recipes. And the price is right, it's FREE.

                          Thanks for sharing your family cookbook experience, and so glad it turned out well.

                          1. Wow Katie Nell, I was already impressed by your generous (food) spirit! I can only imagine the time and effort.

                            I completely agree with you about Kinkos.

                            I wonder if you left a few blank pages for the next generation to add their own recipes into this family treasure..

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: HillJ

                              I went back and forth about this, but I ended up not doing it. It would have messed up my page numbering, which I probably could have fixed, but the numbering was already kind of a nightmare anyway. And I just wasn't sure how I felt about the look of blank pages. I hope I don't regret that decision!

                              1. re: Katie Nell

                                I asked because in my case my sister & I...and our kids...are the next generation of recipe lovers and we wound up starting our own family cookbook to pass on to the next generation BUT we would have enjoyed (more) adding our own recipes into the current family "edition"....nothing wrong with Volume II...but I did wonder what your thoughts were.