Custom Cookbooks – A Blend of High and Low Tech

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Overwhelmed by Cookbooks

Imagine thirty feet of tables covered with three rows of cookbooks placed spine up for easy reading.  The floor underneath is covered with boxes holding more cookbooks.  This is temptation central, otherwise known as the Friends of the Library Book Sale.  Other topics fill other tables, but right now I’m focused on the cookbook section which promises spicy Mexican meals, Indian cooking made easy, Mediterranean menus which promote good health, bean dishes, vegetarian dishes, French cooking for the gourmet, White House favorites, thirty minute meals, casseroles for every day of the year, desserts to highlight any meal, and Northwest specialties.

The list could go on, but it’s making me hungry.

Some books are easier than others to pass over because I rarely make desserts, even more rarely eat red meat, and favor spicy one dish meals.   Maybe just one recipe in a book looks tempting, so I ask myself, “Do I really want to pay a dollar if I’m going to use just one recipe from a book?”  Why do I even ask?  After half a century of eating my own cooking, a new recipe that both my husband and I like is a treasure.

Now imagine my bookcases.  I’m an avid reader who is a committed Anglophile, especially the years of Elizabeth I, plus I like science, history, and anthropology.  And so many books have to be kept and reread.  When the floor under the bookcase begins to sag, it’s a hint that I need to thin out. Last time the row of cookbooks was my target.

Technology Offers a Solution

We recently got a new computer printer with a built in scanner that makes it easy to quickly copy recipes.  I spent an evening going though the cookbooks and putting post-it notes on pages to copy.  Some books had just one or two post-its while other had so many the tops drooped like the tails of over fed birds.

I dedicated a day to the scanner, but copying all the recipes took less than two hours.   Technology! A three hole punch made all the pages ready for an old fashioned three ring binder. I categorized the new recipes into vegetables, poultry, lentils and beans, meat and fish, international, salads, desserts, pasta, cheese, breakfast, and canning.

A Personalized Cookbook!

I love my new one-of-a-kind-just-what-I-like cookbook!  Now instead of trying to think of what to fix next week and then going to check the recipe while I make out a shopping list, I thumb through my own personal cookbook and see what looks good at the time.

It’s easy and efficient.  I’ve even been motivated to fix some recipes I copied because “someday” I wanted to try them.  Now I have a personally customized cookbook that makes  life both easier and tastier.  Why didn’t I do this years ago?

Of the recipes I’ve tried so far, here’s an unusual and very tasty vegetable side dish from page 78 of the Totally Garlic Cookbook by Helene Siegel and Karen Gillingham. It’s a palm size paperback shaped like a head of garlic. Try doing *that*, O Kindle!! I’ve made a few modifications, feel free to try your own.

Green Beans with Walnuts and Garlic

Serves 4-6

  • 1 pound green beans, string and tough ends removed. Or not. If they’re fresh enough, green beans need next to no preparation.
  • Coarse salt (Kosher or sea salt) to taste
  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 1 cup walnut halves
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube (Ed: We recommend a teaspoon or so of “Better than Bouillon”)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Drop beans into boiling, salted water.  As soon as water returns to boil, remove beans and immediately plunge into iced water.  Drain well.  Place blanched beans in a large bowl and set aside.


Remove leaves from parsley and place in food processor fitted with metal blade.  Set aside 1/4 cup walnut halves for garnish.  Place remaining walnuts in food processor with parsley.  Add garlic, bouillon cube (Ed. Or 1 tsp. “Better than Bouillon”, and pepper.  Process until mixture is like paste.

With the machine running, slowly drizzle in olive oil.  Mixture should be the consistency of thick syrup.  This is much like a kind of pesto. Tip: You might want to add the juice of half a juicy lemon – your call!

Pour over beans in bowl and toss to coat beans thoroughly.  Serve at room temperature garnished with walnut halves.

Jane Roll is an educator and world traveler who lives in Seattle when she’s not in some far away place, learning about new cultures and cuisines