How to organize your cookbook recipes

I know it sounds strange, but I have a very specific process for welcoming a new cookbook into my home. We get a ton of them crossing our desks at Stonesong—either given to us at editor lunches or sent by the publishers—but I only let a few of them come home with me.

(I’ve seen first-hand what a life of book-hoarding looks like, and I don’t want to be surrounded in my old age by a lot of books I only sort of like. And then have to dust them!)

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So on the rare occasion when a cookbook makes the first cut and gets an invite home, we have to have a little period of getting to know each other. We sit on the couch together, and I read every single last word the author has to say to me, starting with the front matter and all the way through the acknowledgments.

As I go through, I dog-ear each and every recipe I want to try, running through a whole list of questions before I’ll give a recipe a fold:

Can I cook this on a weeknight?
Is there something new and exciting about this recipe to me?
Are these ingredients I usually have or can easily get?
Is this a good weekend project to push me out of my comfort zone?

But see, the problem is that a dog-eared page doesn’t really tell me why I wanted to make that recipe. And it doesn’t call out to me that “This is the one!” when I’m in a rush and trying to plan a week’s worth of meals.

When I heard from so many people about how they hate to fold the pages of their favorite books, or how they love to use sticky notes to mark recipes they want to try, I realized this wasn’t just a problem I had. I think it’s generally kind of hard to mark-off cookbook recipes in the categories that actually matter to you!

So I decided to have some fun and work up a solution for myself that would make it much, much easier for me to find that just-right recipe from each of my cookbooks.

Here are the cookbook index tabs I came up with, free for your downloading and printing and cooking pleasure!

Free printable cookbook tabs, perfect for categorizing your recipes

cookbook index tabs

cookbook index tabs

cookbook index tabs

Cookbook index tabs

Aren’t these fun?! Jarrett has already requested that I make him a set for his cocktail books.

You can download the file for these cookbook index tabs for free here, print them on these sturdy Avery tabs, and then have fun indexing your cookbooks for the way you really use them!

Click here to download these printable cookbook index tabs!

 

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What I’m Reading This Week

Which Cookbook Cover Should We Use? Your Vote Counts (Thriving Home): Polly and Rachel continue the fun by letting their readers choose the cover for their upcoming cookbook. I personally love both options–what do you think?

Losing by Winning (Seth Godin): “Culture, it turns out, is built on people losing in the short run on behalf of the long-term win. Connection and trust and reputation are worth more than any single inning. Not to mention that a tantrum not only ruins the relationship, it can ruin your day as well.”

May Sarton on the Artist’s Duty to Contact the Timeless in Tumultuous Times (Maria Popova of Brain Pickings): This is not only timeless, but timely: “Now it has become impossible to guard one’s soul… we are forced to read the papers, and yet… our job is somehow or other to be above the mêlée, or so deeply in it that one comes through to something else, something universal and timeless.”

How to Become More Consistent in Your Daily Journaling (Michael Hyatt): Do you journal? I’ve always wanted to be the journaling type, but no matter how many pretty notebooks I bought, I couldn’t seem to stick to the habit. But I love Michael Hyatt’s idea here of using a template for journal entries, so you’re not reinventing the wheel each morning. And I’m determined to try the Day One app he recommends!


What We’re Eating This Week

On to more urgent matters: what are we going to eat this week?

Monday: We made this ridiculous bro recipe for Super Bowl Sunday (guess who’s idea this was…), and now we have very full bellies and too many leftover cold-cuts in the fridge. The only solution? Muffuletta salad! The definition of healthy-ish.

Tuesday: I’ll be in NYC for a dim sum party to celebrate the launch of Crown’s new online mag, Taste! Jarrett will be eating whatever’s in the back of the fridge.

Wednesday: If I play my cards right, I’ll talk Jarrett into picking up what we affectionately call “The Chicken” from El Pollo Rico before he picks me up at the train station.

Thursday: I’m still on my white chicken chili kick–it’s just the only thing I want to eat lately. Chili in the mornin’, chili in the evenin’, chili at suppertime

Friday: Taco night, and I’m hoping that between now and Friday I dig up a really great shrimp taco recipe from one of my cookbooks. But suggestions are always welcome!

Cheers!

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Read More

How many followers do you need to get a book deal?

When you work in an industry like publishing, you tend to get the same questions over and over.

Where do I start with publishing my book?
How long will it take for my book to come out?
How much creative control will I have in the process?
How many followers do I need to get a book deal?

I hate to see authors feeling in the dark about these things, which is why I aim to build an archive right here to help shine a light into the sometimes mysterious workings of the publishing world.

So today, I’m answering that last question–how many followers do I need to get a book deal–over on Dianne Jacob’s blog!

how many followers to get a book deal

Here’s a little snippet, but head on over to her site to read the full piece. And while you’re there, take a poke around her archives. Dianne has an incredible wealth of information on cookbook writing and publishing!

So, how many followers do you need to get a book deal?

When I was an editor, my publishing house did one of the first blog-to-book cookbooks. We were only allowed to do one, because obviously, we had to wait and see if this “blog” thing was going to blow over.

Now, every one of my authors is a blogger or vlogger (except the chefs). It still amazes me how blogging can build deep and lasting relationships. Yet, too often, I get that inescapable question: How many blog followers is enough? How much traffic do you need to get a book deal?

Click here to read the rest of this piece on Dianne’s blog!


What I’m Reading This Week

How to Stay Positive on Your Path to Getting a Book Published (Adrienne Proctor on The Write Life): This is a great, great post, because it’s a reminder that nothing worthwhile happens overnight. I think cultivating the skills of patience and persistence is just as important to success as a writer or blogger as plotting or character development skills. I believe in this so much I created a cute art print to remind me and others of it! Click here to download this free art print:

you can't rush something you want to last forever quote printable

This is Why You Should Still Buy Cookbooks in 2017 (Julie R. Thompson for The Huffington Post): This is a must-read for any author writing (or thinking about writing) a cookbook. As I always tell my authors: you need to give the reader something they simply can’t find on Google.

Book Promotion: Do This, Not That – February 2017 (Amy Collins on The Book Designer): If you’re not already following these “Do This, Not That” posts, you should! Why make your own mistakes if you can learn from the mistakes of others?

Authors: Think Twice Before Paying to Exhibit at Book Expo (BEA) (Jane Friedman): In summary: “BEA is a quality industry event, and it is a legitimate marketing and promotion opportunity. But for the majority of indie authors, it does not make sense to invest what are likely your limited resources in BEA.”

3 Keys to Finishing Your Book Once and For All (Chad Allen on Goins, Writer): Chad always has great posts with practical, compassionate advice for authors–here’s another great one on setting up a 3-step process that will help you finally get your book done.


What We’re Eating This Week

Home, sweet home. Let’s cook!

Monday: Very unfussy, no-recipe stuffed peppers, which I did not even cover in cheese. That was my Willpower Accomplishment of the week. And it gave me full permission to spend the entire meal telling Jarrett how much better the stuffed peppers would have been with cheese.

Tuesday: Pork ramen with stock made from our giant Virginia country ham. As Dorothy Parker said, “Eternity is a ham and two people.” Welcome to eternity.

Wednesday: Italian chopped salad, with extra salami. Life motto: It’s not a salad without salami.

Thursday: Root vegetable and sausage pie from Victuals. Mmm.

Friday: This cacio e pepe recipe, because my deep adoration of cacio e pepe was rekindled when we ate at The Shack in Staunton, VA. (Jarrett and I split a plate of the cacio e pepe during our main course, then I ordered another plate for myself as dessert. YOLO?)

Cheers!

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6 bookish instagram accounts to inspire you

Best book Instagram for writers

Now that we’re back from our epic Appalachian road trip, I am kicking myself that I didn’t take more pictures! I’ve always been one of those stay-in-the-moment rather than capture-the-moment types, which is all well and good until you’re home from a fantastic trip and don’t have a single thing to look back on.

Luckily, Jarrett is great at taking pictures along the way–he captured the gorgeous mountain views, the fog rolling through the hills, the happy reunion we had with our grandpuppies, and even the working moments. We also had so many uncaptured, incredibly fun moments of eating, drinking, and meeting with local chefs and producers across western Virginia, eastern Tennessee, and western North Carolina.

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So, in the hopes that you all learn from my mistakes and take photos of favorite moments, I thought I’d share the photographers who most inspire me on Instagram.

I know many writers initially think Instagram isn’t for them–they chalk it off as frivolous or just another distraction. But Instagram can be a key pillar of your author platform if you learn how to make it fun. It’ll give you right back as much as you put into it–if you following aspiring authors, book bloggers, publishing folks, or other influencers in your area, your feed will be full of all the things you find interesting. If you don’t follow too many people, or you don’t share photos and use hashtags strategically, you’ll find Instagram to be a boring, closed-universe space.

There are only two things you need to do to both enjoy Instagram and use it to effectively grow your audience:

  1. Research and follow the people and businesses you find fascinating.

  2. Share your own life, and use the right hashtags so others can find you.

Here’s a head-start on both of those items–these are the feeds I’m going heart-eyes for these days, plus the best hashtags for jumping into the bookish conversation on Instagram:

Obvious State

Best book instagram
This is one of the most gorgeous feeds, full of elegant images and inspiring quotes from classic books. You can also bring the book beauty home with the company’s art prints, tote bags, and other merchandise, which are designed by Nichole and Evan Robertson.

Book Baristas

best instagram for books

Natasha from Book Baristas works at Penguin Books by day but also runs this fantastic account full of hot drinks and hotter reads.

Girls at Library

best instagram for books

I love the interviews and different perspectives on how books + storytelling has shaped the lives of other women (with lots of beautiful still-life shots of women reading!).

Write Now Podcast

best instagram for books

The Write Now Instagram feed is my favorite for inspiring quotes, beautiful images, and motivation for the writing life. It’ll keep you clued in on what’s happening on the Write Now Podcast, too.

Book of the Month Club

best instagram for books

Even if you don’t get their book-in-a-box subscription service, the Book of the Month Instagram feed still has plenty to fill up your day with reading inspiration.

Books and Beans

best instagram for books

Books. Coffee. Sometimes even donuts. What more could you want?

The Hashtags You Should Know

To get the most enjoyment and conversation out of Instagram, make sure you’re also including relevant hashtags with your posts. This is how new people can find you, and it’s a great way to make Insta-friends with people who love the same things you do.

Here are some of the most popular book hashtags:

#bibliophile #booklover #bookphotography #bookworm #booknerd #reading #readwithus #bookblog #bookblogger #bookish #bookaddict #igreads #bookstagram #vscobook #bookporn #instagood #booknerdigans #instareads #📖 #📚 #writing #books #vscobooks #bookgram #booklover #publishing #wip #amwriting #pubtip #authors #writers #bookpublishing #instagood

And here are a few daily hashtags to play with:

#MondayMotivation
#WriterWednesday
#ThrowbackThursday
#FridayReads

And because you know you’ll also be tempted to post photos of your food, here are some of the top food and recipe hashtags:

#buzzfeast #eeeeeats #f52grams #foodgasm #instagood #feedfeed #foodandwine #huffposttaste #buzzfeedfood #yahoofood #instafood #fwx #thekitchn #thatsdarling #foodblogeats #foodblogfeed #foodandwine #beautifulcuisines #favecraves #theeverygirl #marthafood #RSlove

Are there any other Instagrammers I should be following? Or any great hashtags I’m missing out on?


What I’m Reading This Week:

How I Wrote a Book (Erin Loechner of Design for Mankind): Here are 15 tidbits that answer how Erin Loechner wrote her just-released book, Chasing Slow. I adore this cover, and this concept, and though I’m new to Erin’s work, I love every bit of her aesthetic.

Publishing a Cookbook: Food Photography, Part Two (Rachel and Polly of Thriving Home): My authors, Rachel and Polly, have been doing a fantastic behind-the-scenes series on the making of their cookbook, and this post will give you a great look into how publisher-run recipe shoots work. (Yes, they actually cook every dish! And eat it all, too.)

3 Strategies to Guarantee Your Writing Will Attract an Audience (Chad Allen on Medium): “Here’s a question worth asking: If you knew for sure the next piece you published would attract readers, would you still feel aimless? Would you write with more energy and excitement? Would you be less likely to procrastinate?”

Adult Nonfiction Stayed Hot in 2016 (Jim Milliot for Publisher’s Weekly): Understanding the macro of the book market is just as important as understanding the trends and changes in your specific category. If nothing else, it’ll give you clear insight into which categories editors and agents will be expanding their lists into and which categories they’ll be slowing down on.


What We’re Eating This Week

Monday: We were in Asheville on Monday, and we had dinner at The Admiral, which completely lived up to its rep. Get the pimento mac & cheese.

Tuesday: We were spent from touring The Biltmore House, lunching at King Daddy’s Chicken and Waffles, and beer-ing at Wicked Weed, so we had a quiet and simple meal in the Library Lounge at the Biltmore Inn.

Wednesday: Dinner at The Shack in Staunton, Virginia! The best meal of our trip. I am hugely happy to see restaurants of this caliber expanding into the wide world that exists outside of the major cities.

Thursday: Back at home. Penitence salad for dinner.

Friday: Penitence soup.

Saturday: Back to the revelry–we’re having a crew of friends over for an Appalachian themed potluck. I’ll leave you with this image of what we’re serving them:

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Cheers!

We’re going on an Appalachian road trip!

Jarrett and I have decided to be wildly irresponsible (well, by our standards) and take a few days off to go on an epic Appalachian road trip. We’ve been wanting to trek down the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains, from Virginia into North Carolina, for a long time, but when Jarrett gifted me Victuals by Ronni Lundy, we stopped dreaming and started planning.

 ronni lundy book cover victuals

Victuals is such a gorgeous book. It inspires that feeling of awe in me that only a beautiful book, full of heart and story and soul, can instill.

I’d asked Jarrett for a book on traditional Virginia cooking for Christmas, since I figured it was about time to build that section of my library now that we’ve lived here for several years. I was expecting The Virginia Housewife by Mrs. Mary Randolph, published in 1824 and considered to be the first truly American cookbook. But now I’ve fallen straight in love with the modern warmth of Victuals and the incredible profiles of chefs, farmers, and everyday folks who are revitalizing the food systems of Appalachia.

If you love the South, or you love good Southern food, or you read Hillbilly Elegy and wanted to learn more, or you just want to bring something new into your kitchen, Victuals is just what you need. (And no, I didn’t represent this book—I just love it!)

You know a book is fantastic when it inspires you to get up off the couch and drive out to all of the places it’s talking about. As soon as we realized Jarrett would be able to take two weeks off before starting his new think tank job, we started scheming for an adventure. So we’re packing up our little (and currently stinky) hatchback, heading straight west from Alexandria, and then winding down Skyline Drive through the mountains, pointing straight to Asheville.

Along the way, we’re hoping to stop at:

Three Notch’d Brewery and Brothers Craft Brewing (Harrisonburg, VA)

The Shack (Staunton, VA)

Dip Dog Stand (Marion, VA, where we’ll also be visiting our future newest addition to the family, Pepper, who just had 8 pups but will be joining our little family in February! Also, how perfect is it that there’s a legendary slaw dog joint where our future doggie lives? You know that made me too happy.)

The Red Hen (Lexington, VA)

Ralph Stanley Museum (Clintwood, VA)

Everything in Blacksburg, VA

The Palisades (Eggleston Springs, VA—another Victual recommendation)

Seeing what there is to see in Johnson City, TN

Picking up Farm & Sparrow bread (Asheville, NC)

Rhubarb (Asheville, NC [because I couldn’t talk Jarrett into detouring out to Blackberry Farm])

NOT 12 Bones Smokehouse because they are closed and all our hearts are broken.

 

We have a few nights booked at The Omni Homestead in Hot Springs, VA and at The Biltmore in Asheville, but other than that we’re going to Hotel Tonight it. (Has anyone used this app before? It will be our first time!)

And for once, we’re throwing caution to the wind and not planning every day of the trip. This makes me both nervous and excited. I usually like to have every hotel night booked, every sight slotted into the calendar, every meal reservation booked. But if there’s ever a time in our lives we can wander and a place we can do so without getting hopelessly lost, it’s this trip now.

So follow along with us on Instagram as we get lost in Appalachia!

In the meantime, because you know I wouldn’t take off and leave you empty-bellied, here’s a fantastic recipe that I adapted from Victuals, as well as an interlude from Jarrett on how to properly and non-psychopathically care for a vintage cast iron skillet.

Potato and Kale Cakes


kale potato cakes recipe victuals ronni lundy

Recipe adapted from Victuals by Ronni Lundy

Serves 6

3 pounds russet or other starchy potatoes
Kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds kale, washed and chopped
Olive oil
5 green onions
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano, or another hard, nutty cheese
4 eggs, beaten

Put a large pot of salted water over high heat. While it comes to a boil, peel and cube the potatoes. Drop the potatoes in the boiling water and cook until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

As the potatoes boil, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a heavy cast iron skillet. Add as much kale as will fit in your skillet, cook until it just begins to wilt (don’t overcook it!), remove to a bowl, and repeat until all the kale is cooked.

Drain the potatoes and mash them roughly in a large bowl, then add the cooked kale. Finely chop and add the green onions and grate about 1/2 cup of pecorino romano or another hard cheese directly into the bowl. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Add the beaten eggs and mix well, then form into patties about 3 inches across and 1 inch thick.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in your cast iron skillet and fry the patties, working in batches and being careful not to crowd the pan.

Serve with some Duke’s Mayo whipped in with ketchup and whole grain mustard, or with a few fried eggs on top.

kale potato cakes recipe victuals ronni lundy

See how grubby and greasy that cast iron skillet is? That’s why we have Jarrett here to tell us how to clean it the simple way!

The Sane Person’s Guide to Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet

Maria and I were lucky to receive a beautiful, vintage Griswold cast iron skillet for Christmas. A close friend–an auctioneer, of course!–found one of these beauties for us after we had told him we were on the lookout. And yes, having a well-made cast iron skillet makes all the difference.

Old-fashioned, vintage skillets (brands like Wagner and Griswold) are superior to the modern-day Lodges of the world. The iron for these older skillets was cast through a process that made for smoother and more consistent iron surfaces, which means a more durable skillet and a better cooking experience, with more even heat.

Although Wagners and Griswolds are sadly no longer manufactured, you can find them at auctions or on sites like Ebay. Happily, there are also some new companies, like Virginia-made Butter Pat Inc., that are making skillets via the old-fashioned method. You can expect to pay more, but at least you’ll be getting your money’s worth, too.

Now that we have this glorious hunk of iron, we had to figure out how to clean a cast iron skillet properly. But as anyone who has Googled how to clean a cast iron skillet knows, you can read about this stuff until you’re blue in the face. The think-pieces about how to clean a cast iron skillet are legion–for example, J. Kenji López-Alt has written not just one, but two 2,000-word essays on the topic. He even claims that the cardinal rule of cast iron maintenance–never use soap–is actually wrong. (If you want to go deep on the subject of how to maintain cast iron, both pieces are great reads.)

But all of this pontificating on skillets makes using one seem like a hassle, which is a shame since you can cook so many awesome things in skillets (including Maria’s recipe above, or this Founding Farmer’s Cornbread!). So, today, Maria and I have for you:

The Simple Way to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet

Here we lay out a few, simple rules, which we’ve distilled from the advice of Brian, our auctioneer friend who has sold and taken care of dozens of vintage, highly valuable cast iron skillets over the years. If these rules are good enough for the precious Griswold and Wagner cast iron skillets he deals in, then they’re good enough for me!

Here’s all you really need to do:

  • After using your cast iron skillet, just wipe it clean with a dry cloth or paper towel.
  • If the skillet is extra grubby, you can scour it with a damp paper towel or with coarse salt.
  • If the cast iron skillet still isn’t getting clean, boil a small amount of water in the skillet until it evaporates and then wipe or scour again.
  • Once finished cleaning, rub lightly with any neutral oil, such as vegetable oil.

And that’s it! All you really need to know to clean your cast iron skillet easily is this simple 2 step process: wipe/scour + oil.

By the way, we stay away from soap–it’s unnecessary if you follow the above steps. Added bonus: you won’t have to choose sides in the heated soap vs. no-soap debate.

Happy cooking & cleaning!