Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tips on Making a Family Cookbook

Those of you who know me, know this: I’m a recovering workaholic. For 10 years upon graduating college I thought it would be a good idea to work two jobs, six days a week.

For 10 years.

Thankfully, my dear husband noticed his wife was on the brink of insanity and suggested that it was probably wise to cut the jobs down to one.

After a good year of weighing the pros and cons of quitting my newspaper gig, my decision was made.

Adios deadlines and headlines and editorials and being the boss of people.

Hello to free time.

So, now I run a piano studio full time, which is so fantastically fabulous there are no words. Not to sound braggy, but it kind of feels like this Jersey Girl doesn’t really work.

But honestly, the workaholic still lives and breathes inside me. It wants to get out at all times.

So, I decided another venture was necessary.

My Family Cookbook.

This project was awesome. Granted, it took my about two years to complete it. (Look, I started it when I was working as an executive newspaper editor and teaching 25 piano students and cleaning my house and cooking and volunteering as corresponding secretary in the Woman’s Civic Club and…just, get off my back.)

The point is, the cookbook is completed. And it rocks my world. As well as the world of my beloved, awesome amazing family – immediate, in-law and extended.

How did we do it?

First of all, I held a party. I mean when it doubt, hold a party. That’s what Nigella or Martha would do.

I invited the fam, and they were instructed to bring a prepared dish as well as three recipes for our cookbook.

Pictures were taken. Food was tasted. Wine was consumed. And my sister Monica announced she was prego.

Good times.

Then, the real work began.

First of all, I’m not naming names, but some of my beloved family members did not follow my instructions. If you’re planning on making a cookbook for your family or friends, expect this to happen.


Well, many people cook from their head and heart. They don’t measure or time things. They just feel their cooking. Or, smell their cooking. Or, see their cooking. It’s so subjective. And many people aren’t comfortable with writing.

So, the investigative reporter in me had a big job to do. How do I take these amazing dishes that are a part of our lives and history, and share them with others so that they are understandable and doable?

I basically tracked down family members and interviewed them. They walked me through the recipes. Then, I had to write the recipes so that everybody else would understand.

Meanwhile, I typed, edited and organized all the other submitted recipes.

I also used a bazillion photos from various family events.

Designing the cookbook was very exciting for me, but I have 10 years of laying out newspaper pages. I can layout something blindfolded. If you have trouble with layout, sketch out a design. Or, look at other cookbooks for layout ideas. You want the format to be easy to read. And big, colorful pictures always catch the eye.

Fortunately, my dad was able to print up my cookbooks through his work so they look amazingly professional.

But, there are many companies online who publish family cookbooks.

Here are a few:

I wanted to share with you a recipe from our family cookbook.

I’m in a retro mood from watching “Mad Men” this week, so I thought my mom’s blue cheese ball would be perfect. This is such a throwback. If you love blue cheese, you have to make this dish. It appears at every holiday party in my family.

Blue Cheese Ball
Judy Watson

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
8 oz. blue cheese
¼ cup butter or margarine, softened
1 tsp. minced chives
1/3 cup chopped black olives, drained
¼ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Crumble blue cheese into a bowl. Mix with cream cheese, butter and chives. Add chopped black olives and mix together. Form mixture into a ball. Roll in chopped walnuts if desired. Serve with crackers.


  1. Je peux dir que sont tres jolie
    Very fine blog and photos
    Agapitos from Greece

  2. good luck on this new venture...and do tell, where do you get all the energy?