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Make a family cookbook

Your child can practice valuable skills and you can make a memorable gift when you create a family cookbook together.

By GreatSchools Staff

Families make history every day in the kitchen and around the dinner table. Your aunt's blueberry pie and your special turkey stuffing are the ingredients of memory. Collect these special recipes into a holiday gift book and you've also helped your child explore family history and develop reading, writing and organizing skills.

Here's how to get started:

1. Decide on a theme. It can be holiday recipes or ethnic specialties. Or maybe you want a general cookbook with a few recipes in basic categories, such as main dishes, vegetables, salads, soups and desserts. Special bonus: This will help your child learn about the food groups that make up a balanced diet.

2. Collect the recipes. If your family is gathering this holiday season, ask each person to bring along a copy of a favorite recipe. Or ask relatives to send them by mail or email.

You might want to set up a form to make sure a crucial instruction - the oven temperature, for example - isn't forgotten. It could include this information:

  • Name of recipe
  • Name of person contributing it
  • A brief description of where it came from, why it's special
  • List of ingredients, including quantities
  • Special equipment that might not be in everyone's kitchen - a bundt pan or a food processor, for example
  • Cooking directions, with temperature
  • Number of people it serves
  • Any special advice: What's the secret to keeping the soufflé from falling or the bottoms of the cookies from getting burned? Is there a good variation of the recipe, substituting butterscotch chips for chocolate ones, for example?

3. Choose illustrations. Your child can illustrate the cookbook with his own drawings. If you have access to a scanner, you can also use family photos as illustrations. Ask relatives to send you photos or look through your own collection for pictures of memorable family moments. You can also scan mementos: An invitation you've saved from your child's birthday party could be used to illustrate a cake recipe or the handwritten recipe from a great-aunt can be used on the page that tells how to make her special coffee cake.

4. Prepare the recipes. Have your child help you read them over to make sure all the necessary information is included. You can simply photocopy them if you've set up a form for your contributors to follow. Or you can type them into your computer and print them. Put the recipes in categories and alphabetize them; both are good skills for your child to practice. Make a table of contents.

5. Write a short introduction. Ask your child to help or let her dictate it to you. Be sure to include the date.

6. Ask someone else to proofread.

7. Assemble. If you have a big family or lots of recipes, you may want to leave the printing to a copy shop. A three-ring binder works well as a cookbook because you can add recipes in years to come. Use notebook dividers with pockets in them so the recipient can stash extra recipes in each section. Use plastic sleeves on the pages to splatter-proof them.

Your cookbook doesn't have to be in book form: You can make a CD-ROM of the contents and send it to far-away family members. Or have a tech-savvy relative design a family Web site to display your efforts.

Additional Resources

If you're feeling ambitious but don't know how to create a Web site, Creating Family Web Sites For Dummies by Janine Warner is designed to help beginners. It's available in paperback or can be downloaded as an e-book.

Comments from readers

"Your family will love doing this. We started 8 years ago and our book has over 1,000 pages of recipes, photos and stories. We named ours 'Photo album Cook-book' Our oldest photo's and recipes go back to 1909."
"I did all of these things many years ago when my oldest child went off to college. I made everyone in the family a copy to keep. In it I put favorite scriptures, verses to songs, quotes to live by and childhood prayers. I had heirloom recipes from my grandparent who have been gone for many years. I even took photos of many of the recipes as I made them while I was working on the book. I was blessed to go to Sweden a few years ago to meet family members we had not met. They took us to a village type museum where my grandfather's grandmother's bakery (outside cooking house so the main house would not get heated up in the summer months) is now located. There was a women baking Swedish hard bread in her oven and I used a photo of the old time oven with burning coals on the cover of my cookbook. I used some fillable fonts and put pasta photos inserted in the fonts for pasta recipes, for example. Not all of them were like that but it made for a fun and interesting book to view. I ! also put recipes for play dough and goop and gingerbread Christmas ornaments as well as pattern for boo boo bunnies and Swedish hearts. It truly passes on our family heritage."
"I highly recommend Heritage Makers, to anyone who wants to preserve family memories and more. The books and projects are beautiful and top quality. And so easy to make a child can do it!"
"Thanks for the reminder. I am going to do this for my family in a scrapbook form and also one of our family tree with old pics."
"I love this..I remember , as a young girl, my Granny had a flowered indexcard box, that later expanded to a green box w/ file cards...she had all kinds of recipes in that memory ...great idea for my grands..I now have 3 & 1 on the way."
"I beleive this is a wonderful idea that can be catered to Black Histiry Month (or any month). Students will have a chance to share, contrast and compare ethnic recipes."
"This is a great Idea. I've been meaning to do this for my family for years and this just makes me want to start it right away. Thanks for the great outline."
"I've always wanted to do this for my 3 children. This is a great guideline to get me started. "
"Great Idea. Have a large family with lots of ethnic recipes. Getting together around holidays. Sounds like a fun project, but lots of work. If you love your family, it should take too much of an effort, and it will be passed on for ages."
"THIS IS AN AWESOME IDEA. When I got married in 1986, I wrote down recipe's of my mom and mammaw's that i really liked and put them in a school folder. I still have them and use them today. I don't think I have time to do it before the holidays this year(I can start collecting them now), but I am going to do it for Christmas next year. Wouldn't it make a terrific gift for family members?"
"Great idea. I'm going to do this with my children and include American and Estonian recipes from all our relatives."
"THIS IS A GREAT IDEA. I'm going to suggest it to my great granddaughter's fifth grade teacher. A project for the whole class and a gift to the parents/family at the end of the term. OR, better still. Make it a fund raising event. Gloria Morgan Shell Beach Elementary, CA"
"I think this is a great idea! I am going to create one with my family this holiday season."