A cookbook gift seasoned with love

Novice cooks will appreciate a creatively made binder with favorite family recipes.

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    Personal touches: Janice L. Smith used computer clip art to design a cookbook she made especially for her college-age daughter.
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    Personal touches: Janice L. Smith used computer clip art to design a cookbook she made especially for her college-age daughter.
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When my daughter, Sarah, was very young, she loved to help me in the kitchen. She would stand on a chair and help me prepare meals or bake cookies. Above the sink, there was a pass-through window, and we pretended that we were doing a TV cooking show.

Sarah is in college now. When she moved from the dorms, where meals are provided, to an off-campus apartment, Sarah was in need of kitchen supplies, including a cookbook. College students do not live by ramen noodles alone!

Sarah asked me to make copies of her favorite recipes from home. I put together a cookbook for her, filled not only with recipes and good advice, but love and happy memories.

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I typed the recipes on the computer and printed them in color. I bound the cookbook in a ringed binder so that she can add recipes to her collection. Then I inserted cover art into the plastic pocket on the front.

I included some fun photos and colorful clip art on the recipe pages and the section dividers. The cookbook, "Let's Go Out to the Kitchen," is divided into six sections: "Main Dishes," "Sweets and Desserts," "Side Dishes," "Appetizers and Snacks," "Soups and Sauces," and "Beverages and Breakfast."

The original contained 53 recipes. Sarah has already added to it. Recipe titles include "Mom's Cream of Anything Soup Mix," "Bodacious Biscuits," and "Perfect Pancakes." Specific advice for recipe success is listed on the individual recipe pages. General tips for better baking and cooking results are printed on an appendix page. Other appendices include an ingredient substitution chart and glossary of kitchen, cooking, and baking terms. Economical shopping suggestions and creative use of leftovers are featured as both an addendum and on some recipe pages.

When the book was complete, I copied it onto a CD. I am now in the process of adapting "Let's Go Out to the Kitchen" for my son's girlfriend and for a newlywed niece. I will remove the inside jokes and make other special changes for each young woman.

You can make a cookbook of your own featuring family favorites. Simple recipes with fewer ingredients are better choices for novice cooks. This kind of cookbook makes a great gift for a wedding shower, housewarming party, college-bound student, or any occasion.

Among the ones I included were an all-purpose creamed soup starter that any student cook can make. This soup can be improvised endlessly by the addition of potatoes, broccoli, cheese, celery, chicken, etc., (below).

No matter what your family's favorite meals may be, having them in a cookbook can make living away from home a little bit less lonely. Mastering simple techniques and recipes will give a brand new cook encouragement to tackle more challenging and creative dishes.

Be sure to make a customized cover and title page for each cookbook. A personalized book tells the recipient that you truly care about her or him. "Made with love, just for YOU!"

Mom's Cream of Anything Soup Mix

2 cups nonfat dry milk

3/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup bouillon particles (buy in a jar)

2 tablespoons dry onion soup mix

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1-1/4 cup cold water, per serving

1 tablespoon margarine, per serving

Blend together first five ingredients to make the soup mix. Store in a covered bowl or zipper-top bag until ready to use.

To make soup: Mix 1-1/4 cups cold water with 1/3 cup soup mix in a small saucepan. Add margarine and heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until thickened.

This basic soup can be improvised endlessly by the addition of potatoes, vegetables, cheese, meat, etc. For a hearty meal, try pouring your cream-of creation over rice or noodles.

Note: It's best to print this recipe on a card and keep it in the bowl with the mix. When it runs low, make more.

Cake Mix Cookies

1 package any flavor cake mix

2 eggs

1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil

Sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix cake mix, eggs, and oil. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Dip bottom of a small glass into sugar and flatten cookies.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Check the bottoms at 5 minutes to make sure they're not getting too dark.

Notes: For Christmas, sprinkle with colored sugar or frost and decorate. The Smith family's favorite flavor: yellow cake mix plus 1 teaspoon almond extract.

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