Turn your pandemic recipes into a cookbook to share with friends and family

During the earlier stages of the COVID-19 pandemic many sought refuge in their kitchen testing out new recipes or teaching themselves how to cook. With these new skills some might be looking to put these new skills to use by creating a personal cookbook.

When Julie Miller’s children went away to college, she said she was regularly fielding calls about how to make different dishes her son and daughter grew up eating. These recipe requests sparked Miller’s realization that “we need a family cookbook.”

Her children’s desires to know how to make Miller’s recipes as well as the classic dishes prepared by their grandparents inspired her to create her ever growing family cookbook, that her family refers to as the “Family Jules,” playing off Miller’s nickname.

Miller, a production assistant at Hearst Connecticut Media, shared her insight on not only how to make a family cookbook, but how to make it an ongoing family project that all her loved ones can enjoy. She said that she started making the cookbook in 2010 when she shared 60 recipes in a binder as a gift. In the decade since the cookbook has evolved from a physical binder to a growing digitized file that now features more than 200 recipes that her family loves.

TinaMarie Craven: How did you collect these recipes?

Julie Miller: It first started out with recipes from relatives and since it is a “never-ending” cookbook, as I found more family recipes or new ones that we had tried and loved, I continually added them to the book. And if the kids or I find a new recipe, we all get a vote on it, but we have yet to say no to something!

TC: How did you go about putting the cookbook together?

JM: Like many of us, I have recipes on 3x5 index cards, scrap pieces of paper, as well as recipes from my mother and former mother-in-law. I made a template and started typing them up. The fun part was finding photos of us all enjoying those dishes now, or from when my children were younger to include. I wanted to make it simple and quick to look for a recipe so I typed each recipe on 1/2 of an 10” x 8 1/2” piece of paper (horizontal so two recipes were side by side on one sheet), took photos of what I had made or used a stock photo until I took my own so each recipe has a color photo beside it.

TC: Why is making this cookbook important to you?

JM: It just means so much to me reflecting on family favorites. My mother was a phenomenal cook and baker and everyone always remembered her in the kitchen making something; since I have five siblings, someone was always hungry. Although she has been gone for many years, I love the fact that we have many of her favorites that can be shared with my kids. There is even one recipe for chocolate cake and icing that came from their grandfather and great-grandfather, respectively. My kids grew up on these recipes. This became a way to preserve their legacy.

TC: What has your family’s response been to your project?

JM: I am quite surprised that they loved the idea and refer to it quite a bit. They loved that I also incorporated some family history which includes pictures of them helping me when they were little, all the rescue dogs we have had since they were born and some history about them as well. It’s sort of a scrapbook mixed in and most importantly [it includes] a dedication page to them.

TC: How has your family gotten involved in your cookbook?

JM: Over the years, my son and daughter have made many of the recipes in our cookbook for friends and extended family. Even though they have been asked to share a copy of the book, the furthest they will go is to screenshot a recipe for someone. They feel it’s ours, made specifically for them and want to keep the book sacred. Also, when they try a new recipe and love it, they share it with me for inclusion in the book.

TC: If others wanted to create their own family cookbook what steps should they take?

JM: First off, sort out and don’t overwhelm yourself trying to get all of your recipes included. Remember, it’s never-ending. Make it personal, and not all recipes need to be typed and formatted with a picture as I did. I also love the recipes that were handwritten by their grandparents. Those can easily get inserted into the sheet protectors serving two purposes: The recipe was in their own handwriting and it was one in their own collection of recipes. And then, also always remember that this is supposed to be something that’s used! It’s okay if it gets a bit tattered and worn.