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Your own personal cookbook.

There are a lot of websites out there these days that allow you to publish your own book privately. I finally decided to compile all of my favorite recipes into my own personal cookbook. No more searching through multiple books for inpiration or "that one recipe" or finding a dusty tome and wondering why I bought it in the first place. No more crumpled, stained computer print outs that get thrown away either. Just all of my favs, all in one place. So, here is the question. If you could publish your own collection of recipes, for your own personal use only, which recipes would you include? What are the essentials to have?

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  1. Good Lord, there would literally be hundreds. And they're all essential.

    1. Not to avoid your question (notice whenever anybody says that they're about to avoid your question?) but I wouldn't do it. Certainly not for my own use during my lifetime.

      My collection of recipes is ever-expanding. Sure, I could put everything I have as of today in a book and get it printed, but then what about the recipes I find or create tomorrow or next week or next year?

      So instead of committing this ever-expanding group of recipes to paper, I keep them on my hard drive. When I find a recipe I like on the internet, I just cut and paste it into a text file. If it's from a book, I retype it if it's short or OCR it if it's longer. (Needless to say, this could cause all kinds of copyright problems if I were to publish a book.)

      When it's time to cook, I either print out what I need or put the laptop on the kitchen table. My dream kitchen is going to have a flip-down touchscreen under the cabinet (not just for recipes, but for pulling music off the server or the internet and maybe even controlling things like the lights). But even with the fairly low-tech setup we've got now, every recipe I'm interested in is available, and the list of possible goodies is never out of date.

      11 Replies
      1. re: alanbarnes

        Alright, I'm willing to show my ignorance. What's OCR?

        I have my little notebook computer on the adjacent peninsula so as not to trash it. Love that.

        1. re: c oliver

          Optical Character Recognition. You scan the page and the computer turns the image into text.

          1. re: alanbarnes

            Ah, I've done that years ago and it sucked. I'm sure it's good now.

            1. re: alanbarnes

              I used to have a speccial OCR scanner when I was a working writer. Didn't like it much. There were to primary problems. First was the amount of typos because it didn't "see" clearly and "read" an "r" as an "n" and things like that. Second, it could saved in a graphics format which meant could only add notes in a graphics program. So I think it's in my electronic junk box somewhere. It's a good idea though. i wonder if they work better now? But life is ood without one.

            2. re: c oliver

              I had to bite too but not before asking my computer savvy son who didn't know either. YEAH, not the only dumb person in the family, < KOC

                1. re: Rmis32


            3. re: alanbarnes

              This is definitely a good way but I like having a tangible book in my hands. Something i can write in the columns of and touch and feel.

              1. re: AmandaCA

                I know what you mean. I would rather flip pages than scan a screen.

              2. re: alanbarnes

                I do the same thing, except I scan from books into a .pdf file. My laptop's in my kitchen so it's always handy plus I keep a copy on this handy little portable drive my husband got me so my "recipe book" is backed up and can travel with me. I use to print everything out and keep it in giant notebooks but it got too unwieldy. I can always make notations and changes to the individual files.

              3. Boy I know what you mean. Being a collector cookbooks and a myriad of clipped recipes, I often wonder also why did I buy this or clip that? Do our taste buds change?

                8 Replies
                1. re: iL Divo

                  I don't know. I am always on the hunt for the best version of anything. I probably have over 20 different chocolate cake recipes but unless I baked them all at the same time, I wouldn't remember which one was THE BEST you know? I think also something can look good but in comparison to others, it doesn't?

                  1. re: AmandaCA

                    chocolate cake: my moms husband remembered his favorite from his youth, as made by his grandmother. it was a mashed potato chocolate cake. I've sought out recipes for it and never found one. I imagine it lent moisture and maybe a bit of tart/sour/tang to the cake, but he'd never been helpful in telling me what was so good about it so I never did know. I should make a batch of mashed potatoes sans the pepper and try one from scratch I guess.

                    I did finally find the perfect [to me] chocolate chip recipe finally. Liked the looks of it, love the originator of it, and after tweaking it just a bit with what I thought would improve it, I'd add it to my cookbook in a heartbeat.

                    1. re: iL Divo

                      There may be a recipe for this in a Farm Journal book or possibly on Taste of Home, it sounds like their kind of thing. I'll look at the FJ books I have at home.

                      1. re: buttertart

                        thank you I'll stand by with fingers crossed.
                        because honestly, if I did attempt one, would I boil then mash the potatoes or would I rice them and leave them sans anything else, or would I make them and add the cream and butter plus salt, I have no idea and he couldn't help, too young when last eaten to have known much about cooking.

                        1. re: iL Divo

                          iL Divo, I was curious about the idea of a mashed potato chocolate cake, so I googled it -- "mashed potato chocolate cake" (in quotes) -- and more than 6300 links came up. Sounds like you just might be able to find a recipe, no? Or did I miss something?

                          ETA Just saw that you got some help on this below. Posted too fast!

                      2. re: iL Divo

                        il Divo

                        I found this in The White Trash Cookbook...pg 88...of course paraphrased

                        oven 350 degrees

                        Make 1 cup mashed potatoes (unseasoned). These need to be hot for the recipe. Cream 2 cups of sugar with 2/3 cup Crisco until light. Add eggs 1 at a time to sugar Crisco mixture, beating after each addition. Mix potatoes and 1 T vanilla into the mixture. Sift together 2 cups flour, 3 T baking powder,1 T cinnamon, 1 T nutmeg, 1/2 T salt, 3/4 cup cocoa powder. Add the dry ingredients to the Crisco mixture alternately with 1/2 c milk. Mix in 1 c nuts. Bake for 40-50 minutes.

                        1. re: jill kibler

                          Jill, are you the bomb or what? Never heard of White Trash cookbook. Where'd ya get that? I'm looking it up online right now. How many eggs Jill?

                          1. re: iL Divo

                            There's this too, there are quite a few recipes that come up if you Google recipe mashed potato chocolate cake: http://www.starchefs.com/chocolate_lo...
                            I myself wouldn't want to eat anything with a T of nutmeg in it, if by T tablespoon is meant - that amount borders on the psychedelic ;-)

                  2. i tend to print recipes from the internet and store them in a plasctic sleave in a ring binder.

                    works well for me and ive got quite a nice thick binder with many many recipes.

                    the only drawback is trying to keep a logical order to them however so far i havent had any major dramas.. and sometimes searching through the folder reminds you of a great recipe youve forgotten!

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: bdosa

                      Indeed. :)

                      My solution to the organization problem was to go chronological. It became kind of biographical after a few years.

                      1. re: bdosa

                        I do the same thing and write notes on the sides. It's constantly changing as I update what I've done and how it's been. I figure it's there if my kids ever want to replicate what I've done, at some point. It's constantly increasing in size. I print them out and keep them in a napkin holder, first, until I've made them several times and decide it's a keeper. I go through the napkin holder periodically and weed through it.

                        I've also noticed that it's almost all sweets. I think it's more that you can wing dinner but am more precise when it comes to cakes, etc., you want more precision--not that I'm mostly a sweets person. But, I have an entire section devoted to chocolate chip cookies, one to brownies.

                        1. re: bdosa

                          my dilemma is that people that know me or have heard along the line somewhere that I cook [A LOT] come out of the woodwork and ask me for recipes. I can sit down and compose one for them but then I always wondered if I forgot something in the ingredient column and the timing of the recipe to be complete. ie. did I mention to soften the corn starch in the liquid or just assume they knew that? stuff like that. plus then I would like to exactly make it as I wrote it so I could see how it turned out. but without asking them for the copy I wrote out for them, I'm without it and much of a mind also :))

                          1. re: bdosa

                            I also use a ring binder. They used to be organized chronologically -- i.e., most recently clipped recipe at the back but that became unwieldy as the collection grew. If I was looking for inspiration on what to do with some particular ingredient (chicken, salmon) or some particular component of the menu (app, dessert), I had to page through the whole binder.

                            I've now organized the binder alphabetically, using an almagam of key words -- sometimes an ingredient, sometimes a meal course -- similar to how hard-copy books are organized. So, all the "beef," "chicken," "pork" recipes are collected together, as are all of the "desserts," "dips," "salads," or "vegetable" courses. Of course there are sometimes judgments as to where to file -- e.g., does a seafood salad go in the "salad" or "seafood" portion -- but the books not that hard to navigate. Makes it much simpler to find things.

                            I prefer to have hard copy pages that I can pull out of a binder when cooking, rather than work from my laptop. It's just easier to find room for the recipe near my workspace, and I don't have to worry about a spill.

                            1. re: bdosa

                              I do that too but only for my tried and true recipes I'll make over and over. A recipe has to be really good to make it into the book.

                              It can come into the kitchen with me while my desktop can't.

                              1. re: karykat

                                I print the recipe off the computer because, especially the first time, I need it close by. If it's a clunker, I just discard the copy. Otherwise it makes it into the book.

                            2. I tend to think that this is what the blog is for: accessible from anywhere, shareable, includes photos of the in-between development. Helps with the narcissism. ;-)

                              Which recipes to include? The successful ones, the ones that generate the most discussion, radish jello, stuff with butter in it.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: wattacetti

                                I wish someone would explain a blog to me. I mean, I do have one set up by a main blogging stream, but have no idea how to use it. I go in there to get a recipe for someone that I've written and can't find it although it says it's there. frustrating or again, dumb on my part.

                                1. re: iL Divo

                                  That's outside of the Chowhound scope of things, but I can discuss offline if you like.

                              2. I've made my own personal cookbook using the Windows program Living Cookbook. It's better than a printed cookbook because you can scale your recipes to the number of people at table, and also print a cookbook or a few specific recipes for use in the kitchen if you like. Entering recipes involves some typing unless you already have the recipe as a text or word processing document, or can find it online; copy and paste into the Capture tab, tag each element of the recipe (ingredients, procedure, etc.), and it's done.

                                Essentials? Depends on you. I like cajun and creole cooking so I've entered quite a lot of Louisiana recipes that I've either made or intend to make - but I don't make desserts, so my Living Cookbook contains none.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: armagnac

                                  I have to give a huge second to the Living Cookbook program. It is a great recipe program.

                                  and with the addition of a Firefox add-on called Recipe Fox, you can grab straight from the web and export directly into the database.


                                2. Doesn't sound worthwhile for me. I do have a very large "FOOD" file on my puter, and one of the sub-files in it is "RECIPES," which has at least thirty or more sub-folders for recipes that range from Beef, Chicken, Pork, Seafood, Chinese, Christmas, and all sorts of categories. And then I have another sub-file in my FOOD file that has short-cuts to on-line cookbooks. For some I have even downloaded the whole thing to my hard drive. For example an electronic copy of Mrs. Beeton's 18th century classic so I no longer have to take my treasured but very fragile first edition down from the shelf.

                                  The problem with "publishing" (and I'm assuming that in this case you either recieve a hard copy OR you're charged for a new publication if you expand it, is that I find it so much easier to do it myself on my hard drive because I'm adding new "Essentials" to it all of the time. It's like Jack's beanstalk. It seems to climb right up through they sky! For free...!!! '-)

                                  1. A friend of mine bought me a cookbook binder as a birthday gift. It's basically a fancy three ring binder with page protectors to hold different sizes pages and index cards. I handwrite some recipes and print out others.

                                    I love it because I can always add more to it and rearrange the order. The cards slip out of the pages so that I can tape them to my backsplash while I cook.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: cheesecake17

                                      sounds like my old coupon box organizer, I knew exactly where every thing was in there. all arranged by color and category, sad though, no need to coupon anymore but boy was it ever fun and fulfilling.

                                    2. I have never created a cookbook for myself, but back in the day, I did create some cookbooks for others. In particular was Susan's Bachelor Cookbook for my good friend Peter. The perennial single guy, he lived with us for 6 months of the year for a number of years. He loved my cooking and so one year I wrote up his favorites into a book. I re-organized the recipes so he would never need to use more than two pans.

                                      My understanding is that he cooked from this little pamphlet the first time he cooked for the 'blond bombshell' who later became his wife.

                                      I have also created a cookbook of the Thanksgiving recipes I have used. My daughter knows that if there is a year she can't come home for the holiday, I can send her a full packet from which she can pick and choose. Of course, each year this 'book' gets bigger as I search for new and interesting approaches to the traditional food.

                                      1. I recently started copying my favorite recipes in those marble colored composition books. I keep tried and true recipes and the not yet tried recipes in it. I write in pencil so I can edit as I go along. I put smiley faces beside the keepers and frownie faces by the ones that didn't make the cut. Some of the recipes are just a list of the ingredients since I know how to prepare them.

                                        As for what recipes, I have my Thanksgiving recipes - things I typically only cook for Thanksgiving so I haven't memorized them. Then there's the favorite meatloaf recipe, ground beef, chicken, sandwich, salads, appetizers, etc.

                                        1. I, too, print recipes off of the Internet, as well as create my own based upon ideas I find in that same place. These printed recipes (which I house in a three-ring binder), along with hundreds of recipes culled from roughly 50 cookbooks, are each recorded on a small notecard (recipe title and its location [binder or cookbook w/page numer]). These notecards are divided into weekend recipes (long preparation time) and weekday recipes (quickies). The recipes are then sorted in a manner which ensures very little repetition of similar recipes. We then simply cycle through these indices as the recipes come up. No monotony, no having to decide what to cook, and there's always the little surprise of what pops up next in the index.

                                          PS--I wouldn't rule out rolling those "binder" recipes into an actual cookbook. But of course I would probably have to print a second cookbook in several years time.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                            I guess my biggest concern would be if it was cost-effective to update it every few years. I'm constantly picking up new "favorite" recipes so I would eventually end up with the cookbook I created and a few dozen printouts sticking out of it.

                                            1. re: AlyshaB2005

                                              Don't know for sure, but I suspect that getting a single copy of your own personal cookbook made is not terribly expensive. Certainly less than 100 bucks, and quite possibly less than 50, although I could certainly be wrong.

                                          2. love to buy cookbooks because they are then [mine] to do with what I want. I often write in the columns or scratch out one word [ingredient] and replace with another. ie. we don't much care for certain ingredients like fennel or tarragon or eggplant. I know, what's wrong with her you're all thinking. I omit ones we don't care for but if I like the recipe otherwise, it gets the new additions and omits the ones offensive to us.

                                            also, we did a family cookbook years ago that was about 30% my recipes. with all the family members we have, I love cooking/baking most. problem I found was, as foolish as this may seem, when I write recipes, I use my own way of speaking. I wanted our children and their children to read this cookbook years later and know the personality of me by reading my recipes. It was all corrected and proper English devoid of slang or foolishness/silliness, all wiped out. I was A N G R Y

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: iL Divo

                                              I would have been too, one of the best things about my mother's recipe collection I have been going through is the voices that are gone but survive in the handwritten recipes.

                                            2. Those of you with computer and/or scanning skills should look at software called OneNote from microsoft. You can scan or download just about anything into it, it's fully searchable, you can add your own notes to it, and do a whole lot of other things. there is a myriad of other uses- business and pleasure,and it's really great for storing and organizing all kinds of information.
                                              But it's perfect for recipes. Just print it out whenever you need one,

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Fahzz

                                                Will check that out. Thanks Fahzz.

                                              2. I thought I would expand a little on the type of cookbook I am looking at. I am using lulu.com as they offer the most flexibility in my mind. You can scan and upload Grandma's recipes as a photo and then write the recipe on the adjacent page. They do have a cookbook template but I am just using word and then uploading the file. They offer a coil bound book too, so if you had recipes you wanted to add later, I'm sure you would be able to. A b&w 100 page book costs around $15

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: AmandaCA

                                                  I have been interested in cookbook software to organize my recipes. I just want be able to look up recipes via a table of contents and print out a recipe when cooking a recipe that has a lot of ingredients.

                                                  I heard about the living cookbook software from above poster and they have a free download trial offer which I used. So far I found it fairly rigorous to enter a recipe. It took me about an hour to enter my hummus recipe and create my cookbook. To be fair it was my first time using it and I read through a tutorial as well as browsing the features. I was on drink number two as well. It appears to have all the features I want and it's only $35.00.

                                                  What cookbook software does everyone else recommend and why?

                                                  1. re: cajundave

                                                    Entering a recipe directly into LC can be a chore, but if you type it up in any word processing program then use the "capture" feature, it goes pretty fast.
                                                    Just cut and paste your recipe text into the capture tab of the new or edit recipe dialog box, then highlight the sections (ie ingredients), click the appropriate box on the right side, and everything will auto format in the correct places.

                                                    1. re: hannaone

                                                      Thanks for the tips. I bought Mastercook many years ago and never really got into it. I want to settle on a program and start using it.

                                                      BTW you have a great website. I like Korean food and have some fantastic Korean grocery stores close to my neighborhood. Maybe you can help me identify a dish I had in a Korean restaurant. It had a Jello type consistency and beige in color. It was served along with 7 or 8 other side dishes as part of a Korean BBQ at the table. It was not spicy, about 3" by 3" by maybe 3/4" high. It was savory and delicious. I have not found it in my Korean cookbooks, although I may have overlooked it. Can you give me some suggestions?


                                                      1. re: cajundave

                                                        Thanks for the comments.

                                                        From the description it sounds like dotorimuk (acorn jelly). Sometimes it is served plain and sometimes dressed with chopped green onions, toasted sesame seeds, and soy sauce.



                                                        1. re: hannaone

                                                          Thanks for the reply and the links. I think that is it.

                                                          Never in a million years would I have guessed it was made from acorns. Looks like it would be easy to make, provided I can get the powder from my Korean grocery store.

                                                2. If you don't want to do anything as elaborate as go to a publisher but just want to put recipes together for your kids, the easiest way is to type the recipes using your word processor program, one recipe per page, make up a table of contents, and have all the pages bound on a spiral (with a cover) at Kinko's for about $5. I did this and included sections on 50 Quick Things To Have For Dinner, 50 Things To Have For Salad, Advice For Having a Party, etc..

                                                  1. I don't use a program as I may have stated. I am so into recipes that I often go to a thrift store and sit for hours reading through any and all cookbooks that I find interesting. Depending on where I am, they're often local cookbooks like City of Commerce or Lady's clubs, that sort of thing. I always took pen and paper with me so I could easily jot down a must have if I didn't find the cookbook interesting enough to buy. They get heavy in my travels. I found recently that taking a photo of a chocolate macaroon brownie recipe was in order. I've not made it yet, won't until I have a need or occasion but it's on my camera for when the time is right. No paper, no folder, no nothing but a photo. Wonder if there's a photo shop for recipes

                                                    1. I have often thought about making a family cookbook for members of my family. I'd give credit to whoever brought the recipe to the family. They wouldn't have to have invented it.

                                                      I would include both good and bad recipes like Shirley's Campbell's soup poured over white rice.

                                                      I could even speculate on some recipes that nobody ever got from my mom.

                                                      I think I would like to include anecdotes about the person responsible for the recipe or perhaps a section of anecdotes about members of the family.

                                                      I think it might be nice to pass down to further generations.