Writing Your First Cookbook

“ACK!” you say. “I don’t want to write a cookbook!”

I agree. That’s never been an item on my bucket list. I have Pepperplate and Pinterest to keep track of my recipes, and they both do an excellent job of that task.

But consider: if you’re like me, you’re on a limited income, so you can’t afford to buy expensive gifts for birthdays, weddings, Christmas, or any of the many other occasions we celebrate by giving gifts.

Enter The Custom Cookbook

But wait! There is something you can give that hardly costs anything more than your time. Not only that, but it is a personal gift of your own creation.

I’m talking about gathering together all your favorite recipes and kitchen tips and creating your very own electronic cookbook! Once you’ve created it, it’s a simple task to burn it to CD or DVD and give it to your friends or loved ones on an appropriate occasion.

And again, if you’re like me, you’ve already got an extensive recipe collection in electronic form in Pepperplate. It’s just a matter of copying those recipes and combining them into a single file. That’s something I did years ago (long before Pepperplate) in Microsoft Word, but now there’s a better way.

Scrivener “is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.” That’s what the web site says, but let me try to put it into practical terms.

Scrivener is a complete writing environment. From initial research through to final publication, every single task involved in creating (in this case) a cookbook can be done within Scrivener. In fact, that’s how I write this blog. Any research I do, I file under the Research heading. Each year has a folder, inside which there is a separate folder for each month of the year. And inside each monthly folder is where I write the actual entry for a given day.

When I’m satisfied with an entry, I copy and paste it into Open Live Writer (OLW) and post it to the blog. I’ve found OLW to be the best tool available to preview the entry and then post it.

Formatting A Cookbook

In the case of a cookbook, instead of a folder for each year, you could have a folder for each recipe type. For example:

  • Meats
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Breads
  • Dairy
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Each of those folders could, depending on how far down you wanted to break each category (”Meats,” for example, could contain “Beef,” Lamb,” “Pork,” etc.) contain sub-folders. Regardless, once you’ve got things structured as you want, you can start adding recipes, either by creating a new document and then copying & pasting from your existing recipe, or by using Scrivener’s Import function.

For details on everything Scrivener, I would address your attention to Scrivener’s support pages. They do a far better job of explaining things than I can!

Scrivener Versions

For the longest time Scrivener only came in two versions: Windows or Mac OS. But this week they announced the long-awaited (and much desired) iOS version for the iPhone and iPad. Naturally, I bought my copy!

I’ve configured both my iPad and laptop versions to save their files to Dropbox, so I can access them anywhere I have an Internet connection. This will be especially handy next month, which will find me on the road (well, to be honest, the rail) to Seattle, WA. Stacey and I have finally decided the time is right to head home to the Upper Left Coast. I’ll be traveling by Amtrak, and I’m bringing my iPad, laptop, and camera to document my journey. Stacey and Fyona will follow later by car.

So I would strongly urge you to investigate Scrivener, even if you have no desire to write a cookbook. It is the perfect writing tool for all your creative endeavors. You can download an evaluation copy, which is free to use for 30 days of writing. And that’s 30 actual days. For example, if you write every day, it’s 30 days. If you only use it two days a week, that’s 15 weeks of use.

As your mother used to tell you, “You’ll thank me later.”

Robyn Jane

It’s 90° Outside. Who The Hell Wants To Cook?

Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play?
Dear Prudence, greet the brand new day
The sun is up, the sky is blue
It’s beautiful and so are you
Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play?
John Lennon

The problem with summer is the heat. Specifically, I live in a flat with a view to the east. That means that the sun has thee entire morning to heat up this side of the building. The building is also well-insulated, and that means it’s usually cooler inside than out. So I don’t open my windows until the late evening when the temperature has dropped.

So it’s not easy to get inspired to cook or bake. And that translates to being less than inspired to write on either of those topics. I’m trying to get inspired, and if I do, I’ll post something worthwhile.

Smoothies, Redux

I mentioned in my previous post what a drag it is to cook in summer temperatures. Now more than ever I’m starting my days with a nice, cold smoothie. And although my recipe varies slightly each day, here’s my basic smoothie:

  • Orange juice
  • Baby carrots
  • Baby spinach leaves
  • Wheat germ
  • Sweetener
  • Peanut butter
  • Yogurt (optional)
  • Frozen fruits: blueberries, strawberries, mangoes, etc.

Orange juice, because it’s a good source of Vitamins A and C. But unless you’re peeling your own oranges, the juice doesn’t provide any fiber. When it comes to store-bought juices, the choice is usually between frozen concentrate, juice from concentrate, and pasteurized not-from-concentrate. But when it comes to freshness, Alissa Hamilton, author of “Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice,” says that doesn’t mean they’re fresher than concentrate, Hamilton notes. In fact, the pasteurized not-from-concentrate juice can be stored for as long as a year and then spiked with “flavor packs” of orange essence and oil to freshen its taste and smell. Both concentrate and not-from-concentrate juices, Hamilton says, are heavily processed.

I’ve looked at the nutritional benefits of all three kinds of juices, and for me, frozen concentrate makes the most sense. Since I’m adding fresh fruits and veggies to my smoothies, the minor differences in vitamin levels are made up by the other ingredients.

Today’s recipe (since I was out of orange juice) was water, maple syrup, carrots, spinach, mango chunks, and a tablespoon each of peanut butter and wheat germ. And when I say “tablespoon,” I mean an actual tablespoon that you’d drink soup with, not a measuring tablespoon.

Dinner will probably be a trip to John’s Tex-Mex, where I’ll continue using my gift certificate on their amazing food. And the fact that Stacey took me out to Moe’s last night is only coincidental: I have no problem eating Mexican 2 nights in a row. Or Indian. Or Italian. Or Thai, Chinese, Cajun/Creole. They’re all my favorites, and I’ll never say “no” to any of them!

Blenders For Smoothies…and Milkshakes, Juices, Etc.

When it comes to mixing drinks or creating smoothies, two kinds of blenders come to mind: countertop and hand-held (also called immersion) blenders. Countertop blenders can be heavy-duty or conventional. Heavy-duty blenders are designed to hold up under constant use, and are usually the kind found in commercial establishments. Conventional blenders are best for low-intensity tasks, such as making smoothies or milkshakes.

A newer type of personal blender has made an appearance on the scene. These are basically conventional blenders designed for lighter use, mainly for creating smoothies. Their mixing chamber doubles as a to-go container, allowing you to make your smoothie at home and take it with you.

Immersion Blenders

Also called hand-held or stick blenders, these are designed to be placed right into the mixing container along with the ingredients:

 

blender

I use an immersion blender, only because my wife has a conventional blender, and we don’t wish to duplicate appliances when we rejoin households. In addition to the cutting/puree blade shown here, it also has a whisk attachment.

And while I don’t endorse any particular brand over another, I would like to direct your attention to this article at Bon Appétit which will show you the advantages of using an immersion blender.

I sill say that my immersion blender was a low-end device; I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on something that I was only going to use once or twice. But I’ve had it for a week, and I’ve used it several times each day. It makes excellent smoothies, and I’ve used it on frozen fruit, baby carrots, bananas, and baby spinach leaves with no problem.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to use my immersion blender and make myself a Peanut Butter Cup Oreo Milkshake.

Let’s Talk Smoothies

But first, what are we talking about? I’m going with the MacMillan dictionary’s definition: a drink made from fruit, milk or cream, and ice cream. But I always say if there’s ice cream, it’s a milk shake.

Smoothies are all the rage these days, as if they’re a brand-new discovery. Don’t make me laugh. I had my first smoothie in 1972, and Mediterranean and Eastern cultures have been pureeing fruits and vegetables for centuries.

What makes smoothies so popular today is, I think, a combination of factors;

  1. Decent home refrigeration
  2. An increase in the interest in healthy eating
  3. Inexpensive home blenders
  4. The fact that while we have gotten older, we ‘60s hippies refuse to die

So What Makes a Smoothie a Smoothie?

As Hamlet said, “Aye, there’s the rub!” What is a smoothie, anyway?

I’d say that there are as many “official definitions” of the smoothie as there are varieties and recipes. And there are tens of thousands of recipes on the Internet alone, which doesn’t include recipes in people’s card file boxes.

A smoothie can be made with anything, but for the purpose of this post, I’m going to insist on some basics: fruit, liquid, veggies. I’ll also allow some options: sweetener, flavor, and some energy. Finally, if you like it creamy, go for it!

smoothies

In addition to an energy boost, many of these ingredients also add a nice hit of protein.

And there you have it. In my next post, we’ll look at blenders, and which kind I prefer.

Until then,

Robyn Jane