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Have You Ever Written a Cookbook for Your Family and, Maybe, for Friends?

This is a project that I started a few years ago at the request of my two grown daughters (both have families now) - write a cookbook of family favourites and any other recipes that will be useful to them. A few friends heard about the project, word kind of spread around and now there is an expectation of a fabulous cookbook that many of those who've eaten at my house want. And I am stuck...

I started by developing a format, then creating categories and writing out recipes. All was going well at first but then I do not know where to stop. I constantly "discover" great recipes that I make 2-3 times and then move onto something else. The second problem is how to make a book out of the little pages that I've created? I want it to have a hard cover so that it lasts, spiral bounding so that it opens flat, pages that could be whiped off if things spill and thing will spill if the book is used.

I've heard of two sotwares that could be helpful - Master Cook and Living Cookbook; have you used these or any other ones?

Please share your experience and tips on how to go about completing this project. Maybe the cookbook of this kind could be "evergreen" but I do not want an e-book, I want the real thing!

I am happy to post any elements of my cookbook - just ask for what you are interested in.

Looking forward to hear from many:))))

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  1. I wrote a very short cookbook (more of a cook pamphlet) as a sort-of mock souvenir of a tasting menu I once did to showcase that wines do come from countries other than France. Unlike your project (which sounds fascinating), my pamphlet was fairly easy because I only had to work on the recipes which made up the menu.

    I didn't use cookbook-specific software as the exercise at the time helped familiarize me with Adobe InDesign for layout. I used Photoshop and Illustrator for photos and graphics, and wrote the text in Word before pouring all the elements into InDesign. My pamphlet was output to PDF for distribution, though I do know people have printed it off.

    There are companies which will help you print one-off or short-run paper publications (acid-free paper is always nice as the pages won't yellow). Printing spiral-bound is pretty easy as many copy shops can do this, but laminated stock for easy wiping bumps the price up really quickly. Too bad about the no e-book thing because if your fan base is a bit more technological, you could investigate publishing to the iPad since that allows you to quickly update the cookbook. I think that would be great since you mention that you constantly discover new recipes.

    You could also set up a private blog.

    As for the organizational part of your project, there's plenty of cookbooks which should lend a hand in thinking how you want to present things, including:

    - classic division by food types (vegetables, meat, fish, dairy)
    - classical division by plate types (appetizers, soups, salad, mains)
    - division by complete meals (categorize by season, categorize by holiday)
    - division by technique

    1. KatieNell wrote a family cookbook and reported on it here.

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/661024

      1. My mother and I put together cookbooks for my brothers when they were in college that included family recipes, some original, some tried and true magazine clippings ie Cooking Light and my mothers techniques for basics such as rice, Thanksgiving turkey etc. My brothers still turn to these when cooking for their families. We printed recipes on the computer, and used self laminate to create "recipe cards." We put the recipe cards in store bought Hallmark blank recipe books. This of course was in the early nineties, and now the technical options available are endless. And while a online published book would look lovely, it is nice to have a recipe book that changes can be made to by adding or subtracting recipes to the cookbook based on the recipients likes.
        In fact I own a number of these 'recipe books', one that I collect all my traditional recipes, and one for all my healthy recipes. I am now working on a third, my gourmet recipes, more adventurous recipes.

        2 Replies
        1. re: lulou23

          lulou, how did you "self laminate"? Did you buy the equipment to do it? Staples or kinko? I really want a bound book but it is half the size of a typical sheet of paper - smal-ish.

          1. re: herby

            I used laminating sheets from an office store where you place recipes between two sheets of sticky plastic and press together and trimmed down to size. This was to make recipe cards stain resistant. It was the cheapest way to go without a machine.

        2. I did one a few years ago. Type the pages on letter size paper,print the number of each you want, put in plastic sleeves, and put in three ring binders. I printed on both sides, but it would be okay to print on one side and put two sheets back to back in each sleeve. This is easy to keep clean and lies flat. Be sure to keep one for yourself.

          1. My goodness, you have described my project. I have been writing a cookbook for primarily my children, but like you, friends are enthusiastic and looking forward to the finished product. I have been using Master Cook for years to develop and edit my recipes. I was going to switch to another software but found that Master Cook was more than adequate. I invested in a book 'The Recipe Writer's Handbook' and have been revising my recipes so they follow the same format. It is a long process. I have not got to the stage of how I am going to self publish it. That's where I will need some advice.

            This is a labour of love....but one that is much appreciated by my daughter and son. Hopefully, they will (or their children will) carry on the tradition of "fall pickling" or making our family Christmas Cake. The recipe was developed by a great aunt and is over 75 years old.

            Good luck!

            2 Replies
            1. re: Deborah

              Deborah, we should talk more about the details. I designed a layout that I am very happy with. One recipe per page divided into a short para under the title to say a few words about the recipe - ingredients - instructions. Made me very mindful of a need to have short precise instructions. How did you divide your recipes? I have a lot of sections - appertizers, breads, breakfast, chicken, soups, condiments, etc. - too many really, need to simplify. How many recipes do you have? How many pages? I probably have close to a hundred.

              1. re: herby

                Hi Herby: I am thinking of dividing my recipes up according to seasons.....Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. I have well over 300 recipes so I am going to format them all and then decide which ones are the most important to include in the book. I know it is going to be difficult as I too have so many different categories.