Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Cookbook Legacy

What are your reasons for wanting to publish a cookbook?

I wanted to do it for a variety of reasons.
1. Preserve the wonderful dishes that were handed down to my brothers and me by my mother and grandmother.
2. To bequeath these recipes that represented my culture and heritage to my children.
3. To record memories and moments that molded me into the person I am today.
4. To earn some money sharing “my story” like countless others have done before me.

I’m second generation Hispanic born and raised in El Paso, Texas. So, my cookbook idea was to encompass all the rich and flavorful Mexican-American dishes that were prepared in my mother and grandmother’s kitchens. Not just Mexican and not just American, but a fusion of both cultural influences on the foods that were prepared and enjoyed.

Choosing your reason(s) for wanting to put a cookbook together is an important first step. It helps you decide what process you want to use to accomplish your goal.

If you want to send your kids off to college or give them a special gift when they get married or move away from home, putting together a collection of family favorites is the simplest and most enjoyable labor of love you can do.

Take 15 or 20 minutes and think of all the dishes your kids have enjoyed over the years. Title them. If there is a memory attached to a particular dish, write a quick note of the event. List them. Make the list as long or as short as your like. I know about picky eaters!
Next, schedule time on the computer. Using your word processor, write your first recipe.

Title of Recipe
Amount of servings
Ingredients and amounts of ingredients
Temperature to preheat oven if using oven
Instructions for preparing your dish

A nice touch would be to include that memory you wrote down right after the recipe title. Nostalgia works every time…especially when the kids start getting older and realize you’re getting smarter.

Keep the same format for each recipe. Keep an alphabetical list of all titles and place it in the front or back of your collection.

You might want to number your pages. It just makes it easier and a lot more fun for your loved ones to follow once they’re away from home.

Save all these wonderful recipes and anecdotes in a special folder in your “my documents.” It will be easy to find should you have to reprint your cookbook if theirs gets lost.

You might want to think about adding some pictures, special instructions, and hints on where to find certain food products at the grocery store. You know your kids, so if you can’t be there, give them the tools and instructions they need to become self-reliant.

When all this is done and you’ve gone over each page with a magnifying glass for spell check and amounts (very important!) make the decision whether you want to print it out or make a CD for them.

I prefer the written version. My husband and I are sticklers for reading; we always have been with our kids. We believed involving our children in the cooking process encouraged reading, math, and problem solving. Having a food fight once in a while wasn’t bad either.

But this generation has its nose on the computer screen 24/7. So creating a CD for them might be the way to go. You eliminate having to print, purchase binders, or going to the printers to have your cook booklets spiral bound.

Whatever you decide will be perfect for your children. And don’t dismiss making copies for gift giving to family at holiday time. It will be a gift from the heart that is certainly easy on the wallet.

Next time we’ll talk about going a step further in your quest of publishing your cookbook. I’ll share with you some of the things I did and maybe offer a little help along the way. Until then, here’s another recipe for you.

Mexican Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
(Makes 1 ½ - 2 dozen)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
1-teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
¼ cup cocoa
1-teaspoon salt
1 round disk Mexican Chocolate (Abuelitas or Ibarra’s), finely ground

Drizzle Mix:
1 cup chocolate chips
¼ cup Mexican Chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon shortening

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

-Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Stir to combine.
-In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, Mexican Chocolate and salt.
-Slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture. Knead well to combine.
-Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
-Roll out small portions of dough between two pieces of waxed paper or parchment paper. Dip cookie cutter in flour or (better yet) cocoa powder and cut out desired shapes.
-Place cutouts on ungreased cookie sheet.
-Refrigerate for 30 minutes to help cookies hold their shape while baking.
-Bake 10 to 12 minutes.
-Cool on pan for 5 to 10 minutes and remove to rack and cool completely before drizzling.

-Combine chocolate chips, Mexican chocolate, and shortening in a small microwavable bowl.
-Microwave for 30 seconds on high. Remove and stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
-Cool for 1 to 2 minutes.
-Pour drizzle mix into a small zip lock bag and zip closed.
-Cut a tiny corner at the bottom of the bag and drizzle over cookies.

* If for some reason you cannot find Mexican chocolate at your grocery store, check online. Or if all else fails, substitute Mexican Chocolate with dark chocolate, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon of almond flavoring. Enjoy.

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