Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Annual Holiday Cookbook, a DIY explanation!

Every year I make up a little homemade cookbook for my family and friends. It's got little drawings, and a few of my favorite recipes that I came across during the year. It does take a lot of work, but it's also really fun. I always love to give homemade gifts, and this is a way to share one of my passions with my friends - and it's also a great way to sneakily infiltrate people's lives with delicious vegan recipes. Yeah! :) I give it out to all my friends, my family, and my yoga students.

This year is the 8th annual edition! Wow. I thought I would put together a nice DIY post so that you could do this yourself for your own friends and family. Over the years I have really refined my system and it has really helped to streamline the process. So I'll share with you!

First, the supplies you'll need:
regular white printer paper (8.5 x 11)
a good mechanical pencil
a lined piece of paper (I made my own, and it's great with the black lines)
an eraser
a good black pen (I use Micron Pigma .005 width - superfine!)
clean work surface
scissors or paper cutter
glue stick
a friendly xerox store
a long-arm stapler (likely available at the friendly xerox store, or from work!)

The first thing you need to do is figure out which recipes you want to include. I usually start with a big list of possible contenders... and start refining from there. Some recipes I have only made once, but I remember loving them - so in that case I'll make it again to be sure I want to recommend it. It's good to consider your audience. If they are already vegan, then you can do anything I suppose. But if they aren't vegan, it's nice to omit recipes that call for super weird, freaky ingredients. I'm sure you know what I mean. Start 'em off gently, folks!

How many recipes?
You'll need a cover sheet, and it's always nice to include an index...
Cover + index on page 1 + 7 recipes = 3 pieces of paper folded into a booklet
Cover + index on page 1 + 11 recipes = 4 pieces of paper folded into a booklet
Cover + index on page 1 + 15 recipes = 5 pieces of paper folded into a booklet

So I suggest either 7, 11, or 15 recipes. (of course, you can do more too!)
I usually try to balance some sweeties and some healthies. That takes self-control!

So, this picture (and the ones before it) show the next step... writing out the recipes.
Take a sheet of white paper and fold it in half, carefully and precisely. This gives you an exact sense of your page size. Unfold the paper and flatten it out on your work surface.

Now get your lined paper and put it behind your white paper. You need to be able to see the lines through the white paper, so that you can keep your writing straight. Get it?

Now, with your pencil, start writing out your recipe. Frequently double check and make sure you've listed all the ingredients. When you are done, re-read the recipe to make sure that the grammer is accurate, and also that all the ingredients in the ingredient list have been mentioned in the instructions. If you would like to include little drawings, do them first in pencil, so you can get them just right!

Because I don't make up my own recipes very often, I am always sure to include the cookbook the recipe is from (then people can buy the book if they like the recipe!), and also how many people the recipe will serve.

**Very important! Leave at least 1/4 of an inch from the border all around. I learned this the hard way! The xerox machine can't capture all the way to the edges of the original document.

Next, go over the whole thing again with pen. I know this sounds laborious, but it really helps prevent messy pen mistakes from the get-go. If I do make a little mistake with the pen, I put a tiny dot in the left margin. You can see some examples in this page. Then, when I'm done inking all the pages, I go back with white out and correct the mistake and white out the reminder dot.

You'll need to figure out your index... the order of your recipes. As we all know, it's nice to group similar recipes together. Something I find very helpful is to make up a little tiny mini booklet to help me envision where things are going... I just rip out a little sample, fold it, and number the pages.

This is really helpful when you start to assemble the booklet because you can see that pages 4 & 9 need to be next to each other for xeroxing. Get it? That part can be very difficult to visualize without the mini booklet.

So, in addition to your recipes, you'll need to pencil-then-pen an index page and a cover.
One year I also did an insert sheet that mentioned my favorite vegan ingredient brands by name, and drew out their logos so people would know what to shop for.

Next, the Erasing! Use a really good eraser. I love my Staedtler white eraser as though it were my first born! You can erase anything with it and it's always gentle on the paper, which is very important with so much erasing to do. It looks so much nicer if you get the original pencil out of the way and just have the nice clean pen lines. You'll probably need to sweep up all those little eraser bits afterwards. :)

Some of you would undoubtedly be much more organized than I am, and figure out the exact list of recipes first, then draw pages 4 & 9 on the same sheet of paper from the start. I don't usually know all the recipes I'll include until I'm nearly done... so I just do each page individually and assemble the xerox sheets afterwards.

Given my system, the next step is to cut your recipes apart, so that each recipe is a free agent and can be assembled in the right order. Using scissors or a paper cutter, cut off about 1/16th - 1/8th of an inch, including the folded edge. Now you'll have a nice little stack of recipes. Use your index to make sure that every recipe has its proper page number in one corner.

Get out some more sheets of white paper and make your final xerox sheets. Use your determined index to get the order right, and use your mini booklet to make sure that you have the proper recipes in the proper place. I use my cutting board with ruler marks just to help me get the spacing of the recipes right (with at least a 1/2-inch empty gap running down the center where the page will be folded in half). I use a glue stick to glue up my final xerox sheets.

It's a big confusing to visualize at first. In an 11 recipe booklet, your pages will go like this:
Left side - Right side:
blank - front cover
12 - 1 (index)
2 - 11
4 - 9
8 - 5

The cover will be one-sided xerox. I recommend using cardstock for more support/structure.
The first sheet of paper will have 12-1 on one side and 2-11 on the other.
Second sheet will have 10-3 and 4-9
Third sheet with have 8-5 and 6-7

Once collated and folded, you'll have a nice little booklet.
We're off to the friendly xerox store.

You have two choices from this point: 
1. You can have the Copy Store xerox, collate, fold and staple all your cookbooklettes for you, and then you will be done!
~ or ~
2. You can have them just xerox the pages, and you can bring it all home, and collate, staple and fold yourself.

These days, I am all about paying the extra $15 to have the copy store do all the work for me, but if you want to do it the Old School way, read on:

Xeroxing is easy to do yourself with a little willingness to fuss. If you have a copy machine accessible to you... definitely save some money and do it yourself. Unless you are already a whiz on the copy machine, it takes a bit of trial and error to figure out the double-sided issue - getting the sheets right side up on both sides and such. Just proceed gradually... do one sample at a time until you know you've got it right, and then proceed with a big batch.

You'll need to xerox your cover on cardstock and make your double-sided page copies
Next, the joy of collating. Put each pile (each page) lined up in a row so that you can just grab the top of each pile and end up with a perfectly collated booklet. Do the whole bunch.

Next the stapling. You need a special stapler that has a longer reach. Long-arm staplers have a mechanism so that you can set the distance the stapler will go into the paper. Set it to 5.5 inches (half of 11 inches, of course). Carefully line up your collated booklet and give it two staples. I prefer to staple with the cover facing up, so that the smooth shiny bit of the staple faces out.

Once they are all stapled, neatly fold them in half. I use the edge of a spoon to help me smooth out the folding crease.

I feel compelled to mention that most copy stores could do this whole thing for you - the xeroxing, collating, stapling and folding. Each step comes with an extra price. I pay the extra and have the xeroxing and collating done for me, while I amuse myself with holiday shopping for an hour. So worth it! But I'm not willing to pay 25 cents extra per book to have them folded and stapled. I just spend an evening with some good TV and a stapler and get them all done.
(update: see, the times have changed! now I fork out the cash!)

Also, Kinko's is really expensive and quite a drag. If you have a local xerox place, they will probably be way friendlier and cheaper and faster.

In this picture you see all 150 cookbooks I made this year! Whoa! You are thinking "She must have a lot of friends!" I give them to my family, my friends, my yoga buddies, my yoga students, just about everyone.

I even have some to give out to my special bloggie buddies! If you want one... send me your name & address to ameyfm AT yahoo DOT com

If you actually made it this far through this giant non-food related post, you surely deserve one!! :)

In addition to all this holiday prep, I also leave for 5 weeks in India on the day after Christmas... so I'm a busy chicken! What does all this add up to? ...

Dinner from a can! The night of all my cookbook prep, we heated up this delicious can of tomatoey bell peppers and eggplant. Duvec (pronounced Jew-vetch) is a yugoslavian treat - all vegan and all yummy. I ate mine with fresh wheat bread, and musty had his with rice. Don't worry, we had broccoli too. Yum.



  1. This is absolutely brilliant, and reminds me of my zine days long ago. It is so much fun to do projects like this, it makes them so personal and full of love. All of your recipients are very lucky!

  2. wow, your homemade cookbook idea sounds terrific!! how exciting that this is already your 8th annual edition!! such a fun tradition you have there. and thank you for the thorough, DIY instructions on how to make a homemade cookbook!! :0)

    ooh, your dinner from a can looks quite scrumptious!!

  3. Anonymous11:12 AM

    I love and frequently use your two previous cookbooks. The drawings are so much fun. I never could have imagined how much work actually goes into them.

    Are you going to India for vacation?

  4. What a great gift idea. No wonder you were too tired to cook dinner!

  5. Anonymous7:35 PM

    Holy smokes Amey, what an awesome post! We actually took your idea after seeing it in action last year and made our own little holiday cookbook this year. I just typed everything on the computer though - yours has a much more homemade feel.

    And I can't believe you make so many copies! I guess multiple copies is not so much an issue with all the up-front layout work. I did everything in Word, but then to print it out double sided I have to print half the document then take those same pages, flip them over and print the other half. So if I did 150 copies I'd be here forever. Now I need to find one of those special staplers because today I tried to jerry-rig something with a regular stapler and it just wasn't working.

    Anyway, we'd love to have a copy. Do you still have our address from last year? Now we can trade - I can send one of ours out your way.

  6. yes!!! my husband and I are currently working one one of these too!!!

  7. Anonymous4:36 AM

    this is a great post, i have your last year cookbook and i love it!

  8. Wow! You're so organized and thorough in your cookbook creations!

    We made a small cookbook from, with our own digital photos, and are giving it to our mom. Yours seems so creative and authentic, though!

    We'd love to get a peek of your favorite recipes.

  9. SO brilliant! I would love to make one of these someday. If you have extras, I'd love a copy when we meet up next. :)

    Also, dinner from a can sounds good, hehe!

  10. Wow! What an awesome idea! I would be way too impatient to sit myself down and do any part of this. You've got a lot of talent. :)

    How sweet is that that you're offering them as gifts? I'm totally going to email you for one.

  11. Anonymous1:54 PM

    Thanks so much for this post! I considered making my own this year, since I loved yours from last year so much, but it just didn't happen. Maybe next year!

  12. I remember being totally inspired by your zine last year, and promising myself to make one for x-mas this year... but I understand how much work goes into a wonderful project like this, so I'll have to put it off for a while. Besides, I should leave this to the experts- like you! Thanks for the tutorial- it is inspiring.

    I love your dinner out of a can. I do something similar with turkish stuffed eggplant out of a can for quick dinners.

    Have a great time in India! I know how stressful the preparation for travel can be, but in a week you will be there- yay!

  13. That's brilliant! I was thinking of making something like it for xmas this year but I ended up making a mini one sheet zine for the veggie fair instead. Next year I am totally making one of these to give out to friends and family.

  14. Wow, Amey, what ana amzing gift idea!! I'm sure everyone who receives one understands all the labor and love that went into making them. This year I made a cookbook with my favorite recipes for my mom for xmas, but this is so much better to get out yummy vegan recipes to the masses! What a great tutorial.

    Oh that is so cool that you are going to India!!! It is a place I would so love to visit someday soon so I will wait in great anticipation these next five weeks (!) for your pictures and stories.

    Hope you have a peaceful holiday season as well. Good luck packing!

  15. You are awesome! I have last years cookbook and enjoy it. I think homemade gifts are the best! Merry Christmas!

  16. what a fabulous gift!

  17. I got my cookbook today, Amey - and now that I know how much trouble you've gone to, thank you so much! It's just as great as last year's version.

    India, wow! You've been before, right? Have a great time!

  18. I wanted to make one of these for my brother but I wasn't sure if I would... but this is really inspiring to see, I can't believe you've done this for 8 years, it looks great. :)

  19. Anonymous1:36 PM

    Pro Tip: Use a non-photo blue pencil, then you don't have to partake of mass erasing.

    You can even get leads for any standard mechanical pencil:

  20. thanks for this more than precise tutorial.
    i just had the same idea a few days before, cause i'd love to just give it to everyone who's wondering how you can bake without eggs, butter and milk. next time it's my turn passing them my favorite 10 recipes, yeah!

  21. This is AMAZING, Amey! I wanted to do cookbooks again this year, but I had no idea how to keep it cheaper than the laborious monstrosity of a book I made in '09! Thank you so much for the tutorial!

    And obviously I would love to swap booklets with you!!!

  22. You are so talented Amey!! I love, love the picture you did of Kittee too!

    I would love to get on your recipient list, if you have any left. It would have a special place in my kitchen, right next to Kittee's zines: )

    xo Julie


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