Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Now Available!

The final version of the Pantry Cookbook is now available!   It is free, for your viewing or printing pleasure.  The files can be found at Google Docs here.  For quick and easy printing, grab the Cover and Inter .PDF files and use them to make a 7 x 10 book, with black and white interior on white paper, at CreateSpace.  Printing at CreateSpace is easy - just make an account and follow the directions for publishing a book.

If you prefer to do something a little more complex, such as adding text to the book interior or cover, or using your own cover art, you can do that as well with the other files.  I will explain those later. . .

Update. . .

I am now making the final, minor tweaks to the Pantry Cookbook.  I will be proceeding from here directly to publication.  Once the book is out of my hands again, I'll be putting more attention into this blog and the Facebook page.  In the mean time, sorry about the mess.  Stay tuned!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Cookbook publishing, round two!

The Pantry Cookbook has been uploaded to CreateSpace for the second, and hopefully final, round of reviewing.

I am so ready to order up a box of cookbooks and call it a wrap!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"Never index your own book."

That's a quote from Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut.  I have no idea how I can retain that absurd bit of trivia from a book I read once, fifteen years ago, but it stuck with me.  And now that I have first-hand experience with indexing my own book, I understand what a profound and beautiful statement it is.

Argh argh argh I'm in index hell!

Okay, so it''s not all that bad.  I just hoped and expected to have the last imperfections ironed out a few days ago, and another proof copy ordered up by now.  But the index is the primary way by which many cookbook users find things in a cookbook, so I'm going over mine as thoroughly as I can manage, when I am awake enough not to mangle the job.

On the bright side, the proof copy is darned pretty.  I'll get a photo of it posted soon, so that folks can see what they're getting.

Among other things that this last (cross my fingers) revision has fixed were mis-spellings, an improperly numbered chapter heading, the addition of a substitute for page numbers, and one recipe that got lost between drafts one and two.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Pantry Cookbook is Now Available for Download!

The Pantry Cookbook is now available for download!  You can read it online, or download it for reading, here at Google Docs.  It's free!  If you want to, you can even print out copies.  These files are formatted specifically to be printed by CreateSpace, at 7 by 10 inches, in black and white, on white paper.  You will have to pay the printer if you have copies printed, but you won't have to pay me anything.

I will caution you, however, that you might want to wait on printing until I have a chance to review my proof copy from the printer.  It should get here on Wednesday.  I'll post with the go-ahead to print as soon as I have reviewed the book.  [Update: the copy has arrived, and looks great!  However, I do want to revise a few small things.  I estimate that the book will be ready for printing in December.]

Some more about printing, and copyright stuff: instead of US copyright, I am using a "Creative Commons Attribution", so that this book can be easily used as a fundraising tool.  The text of the attribution is as follows:

This book is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported. This means you are free to share (copy, distribute, transmit) the book, and you are also free to adapt the work, so long as you attribute the work to Michelle Clay. You may not use this work for commercial  purposes, with one exception: you may sell copies of this book so long as all profits go to support food banks, school or community gardens, or similar non-profit programs that address hunger or nutrition issues.

 So, if you are raising funds for a cause that has something to do with hunger or nutrition, you have my blessing to sell printed copies or sell digital copies or sell it online (all of which can be done easily through CreateSpace), so long as the profits go to the cause.  May this be the easiest fund-raiser you've ever done!

Incidentally, part of my reason for doing this is my disgust at all of the fundraisers I was forced to participate in as a student.  There is nothing as demoralizing as selling cheesecakes or candy or wrapping paper or Girl Scout cookies only to have 75% or, yikes, 90% of your hard-won cash go to the company that makes the shoddy product that nobody wants to eat.  (Well, at least Girl Scout cookies are tasty, if you like highly refined food-like products.)

With this fundraiser, you can set the price of the book yourself.

Uploading a book to CreateSpace is free.  From there, you can print copies of the Pantry Cookbook using the Author's Discount for something like $5 per copy, plus shipping.  If you pay the $39 to be upgraded to the Pro Plan, it's closer to $2.50 per copy.  (Sorry, I'm sleepy from a rough night with the baby, and can't seem to find the specific price on CreateSpace right now.  But those numbers are pretty close.)

If you want to just order one single copy and don't want to bother with the rigamarole of uploading and setting up an account, then you are welcome to order a copy from my account.  As soon as it's approved and posted to Amazon, it should be available at list price of $9.85, which will earn me a few bucks with each copy sold.  And maybe if I'm lucky, I'll make back what I spent on the cover art!  :)

Happy fundraising!

Post Script: I have set up a page for the Pantry Cookbook on Facebook.  I can't seem to figure out how to add a "like" button on my page here, but if you would like to receive Facebook updates on the cookbook project, please visit the page and "like" it.  Thanks!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Proof positive!

The proof copy of the cookbook has been ordered and should be here by Wednesday!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mmm, cake!

I am eating the Cake of Success.  See there, I just dropped a key in the keyboard.  Do you know why I am eating the Cake of Success?  Because the Pantry Cookbook has been sent off to CreateSpace for its review!

The cake is not a lie!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I am a dirty, dirty liar.

This was a recipe that I had attempted to write several months back.  And failed.   I think it was the pumpkin bread recipes that threw me for a loop.  Most other quickbreads follow the same general recipe, but canned pumpkin throws things off a little.  Anyway, I don't believe I've ever seen a universal quickbread recipe, which is silly, because there ought to be one.  Somewhere.

This really should be tested a dozen times before going in the cookbook, but that's just not going to happen.

This evening's apple bread came out a bit (burp) gooey.  But oh so good.

Banana Bread, Apple Bread, Zucchini Bread, etc.

“Quick bread” is a fluffy sort of bread or cake that uses baking powder or baking soda to quickly make the batter “rise” or puff up as it cooks, as opposed to the yeast in regular bread, which takes a much longer time to generate the gas that makes the bread rise. Banana bread, apple cake, and zucchini bread are just a few of the quick breads that all follow the same basic recipe. These breads can be eaten as a dessert, or for breakfast.

This makes enough to fill one 8 x 4 inch loaf pan. These are the “dry” ingredients:

1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon, or any other Pumpkin Pie spice (1.05)

These are the “wet” ingredients:

1 egg
1 cup brown or white sugar
1/3 cup oil or melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cup chopped, grated, or mashed fruit

Optional ingredients:
½ cup of chopped nuts or chopped dried fruit

If making banana bread, squishy over-ripe bananas are ideal – bananas that are so brown nobody would eat them. You can save such bananas in the freezer until you have time to cook banana bread. Apples can be peeled and diced into small pieces, or, more conveniently, can be grated, skin and all, just like zucchini. You can also use this recipe to make pumpkin bread, using fresh, grated pumpkin. Or, use ½ of a 15-ounce can of pumpkin. Other unusual fruits or vegetables may work as well. Try an interesting combination, such as pineapple and beet!

Start by preheating the oven to 325 degrees. Rub butter or oil inside of the loaf pan, and then sprinkle the greased surface with flour.

In a mixing bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly. In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Then pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, and stir just until the batter is almost free of dry lumps. Then stop mixing! The finished product will not be as good if you stir too much.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake it at once. The bread will need to cook for about 70 minutes. Stick a sharp knife (or toothpick) into the bread to see if it is done: the knife will come out clean when the inside of the bread is fully cooked.

Home-Made Larabar

This is the last recipe, I SWEAR!

This is also one of the few recipes that I made up entirely myself.  Er, that is, after I read the ingredients on a few Larabars. . .  But I was more recently inspired to try this idea because yesterday Whole Foods had a version of this to taste at their Thanksgiving booth.  Their date balls were so loaded with cocoa powder that they tasted like chocolate truffles.

I just made my very first batch of this stuff, and holy cow, this is going to be a staple in our house.

Date Nut Treats, i.e. Date Nut Energy Bars

Dates are so full of sugar that they are practically candy all by themselves. But even better, when chopped up, they turn into a wonderful sticky mess that can be used to bind together all sorts of delicious things. The best part is that the results can either be served up as fancy cookies, or eaten as a snack in place of a pre-packaged energy bar – because, after all, it's fruit and nuts! Pricy commercial versions of this, such as Larabars, are sold at high-end grocery stores.

A food processor would be useful if you wish to make large quantities of date nut treats. However, it's quick and easy to make in small batches with nothing more than a cutting board and a chef's knife. And since no actual cooking is required, it's a fun recipe to make with small children.

(optional) chocolate chips, raisins or other dried fruit
(optional) peanut butter, almond butter, or other nut butter
(optional) additional nuts
(optional) Pumpkin Pie spices (1.05), or other spices or flavors that go well with sweet things, such as cardamom, mint, or vanilla
(optional) baking cocoa, powdered sugar, white or brown sugar, or powdered hot chocolate mix

Chop up equal quantities of dates and nuts. When the dates are minced enough that they stick to every surface, use your (very clean!) hands to squish the nuts and the dates together. Continue to chop the mixture if you prefer a more smooth texture.

Add any optional dried fruit, chocolate chips, and/or additional nuts that you like, and work them into the gooey mass. You may want to chop these things a bit if they are large – but you can chop the mass of gooey stuff if you decide the lumps are too large after adding them. For more nutty goodness, add spoonfuls of nut butter. If you want chocolatey balls, you can knead baking cocoa into the mix. Dates plus baking cocoa make a lovely dark chocolate flavor without the need for any additional added sugar.

Finally, pinch off marble-sized quantities of the mixture, roll into balls, and roll these balls in baking cocoa, powdered sugar, white or brown sugar, or powdered hot chocolate mix. This will prevent the balls from sticking together. Baking cocoa is the most healthful option if you are trying to minimize the sugar in your treats.

Alternatively, squash the mixture flat onto a cutting board, and cut it into bars. You can then dust them with the optional powder, or not, as you like. Then if you want portable treats for lunchboxes, you can wrap the bars individually in parchment paper.

Store these treats in the refrigerator for up to a week, or for longer in the freezer.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Feature Creep

"Feature Creep" is what we call it in the games industry when additional stuff stealthily makes its way into the schedule, in a naughty way.  I have been puting my foot down on feature creep in the cookbook in order to reach my October milestone; but since I gave up on NaNoWriMo, I have a little time to put back features that I was forced to exclude.  So, the grand finale for the meat section:

Corned Beef

This recipe is in two parts. Part 1, Brining the Meat, is instructions on how to turn a beef brisket into brined, raw corned beef. Part 2, Cooking Corned Beef, is how to cook the raw corned beef, whether you brined it yourself or bought it already soaking in brine.

Corned Beef Part 1: Brining a Beef Brisket

Corned beef is an inexpensive cut of meat, beef brisket, which is then soaked in salty water, called brine. Historically, beef was “corned” in order to preserve it and ship it without refrigeration. The word “corn” is an old word for grains of salt.

Corned beef brine also historically used saltpeter as an ingredient. Saltpeter is a chemical used in the making of gunpowder, and it is not particularly good for you. Because we have no need to preserve meat for months in a barrel without refrigeration, this recipe does not include saltpeter. Saltpeter adds no flavor to the meat. Aside from preserving the meat, the only other thing it does is cause the meat to have an odd pink color. Without the saltpeter, your corned beef will be gray. This is just fine.

You will need the following:

1 beef brisket
2 quarts water
1 cup salt

To this, you can add any number of different spices. The following is just one possibility. If you don't have everything on this list, don't worry about it! And if you happen to have ground spices instead of whole, you can use that instead.

1 tsp whole peppercorns
½ tsp whole cloves
8 bay leaves, crumbled
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
½ tsp allspice berries
1 tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp ground ginger

And have on hand:

2 trays of ice
1 2-gallon ziploc bag, or a 2-gallon plastic container (preferably with a lid), or a glass or enamel container large enough to hold the meat and the brine.

In a pot on the stove, heat the water, salt, and spices, stirring until the salt dissolves. Add the ice to the water to cool it. This is your brine. If necessary, refrigerate the brine in order to chill it. Then put the meat into the brining container, and pour in as much of the brine as will fit. Try to completely submerge the meat in the brine; but if it doesn't fit entirely, you can turn it over occasionally over the next ten days.

Now put the container in the refrigerator. The meat needs to soak in the brine for about ten days to get that proper corned-beef flavor, but you can pull it out a few days sooner or a few days later. If the beef isn't entirely submerged in the brine, turn it over every few days. This is a handy recipe for feeding visiting relatives, because you can get it ready a week in advance, and then there it is, on hand, and ready to cook at your convenience.

Corned Beef Part 2: Boiled Dinner

“Boiled Dinner” is a New England meal consisting of boiled corned beef, and potato, carrots, and cabbage, all cooked in the corned beef cooking water. You can use this with a corned beef that you have brined yourself, or you can use a raw corned beef from the grocery store.

As an aside, you can boil a corned beef without the vegetables – but why waste that delicious cooking water? At the very least, you should save the cooking water in the refrigerator to cook some vegetables in later. The cooking water from corned beef imparts an amazingly delicious flavor on cabbage.

1 raw corned beef
1 cabbage (or less, if it's a really big one)
a few potatoes
a few carrots (or rutabaga, parsnip, or turnip)
an onion or two

Rinse the corned beef thoroughly and discard the brine. Then put the beef in a large pot, and cover it with water by about an inch. Bring this to a boil over high heat; then reduce the heat to low, put the lid on, and let the pot simmer for 2 ½ to 3 hours, or until the meat is “fork tender”. Remove the corned beef from the pot and slice it thinly against the grain.

Now, have those vegetables ready to go into the pot. The root vegetables should be scrubbed and cut into bite-sized pieces. Peel the onion and cut it into quarters. Cut the cabbage into wedges. (You can stick toothpicks through the cabbage wedges to keep them together.) These all go into the corned beef water, and get boiled until they are tender.

Then return the sliced corned beef to the pot, and serve it up like a soup or a stew. And be sure to save that leftover corned beef for sandwiches!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Cover!

Here is me, attempting to use my illustration background to do graphic design!  I'm finally starting to know my way around the Gimp.  (It's free, I keep telling myself. . .)  Tomorrow, when he is no longer gaming, I will need to sit down at Chris' computer to do some clean-up in the white areas.  My monitor has such lousy colors that everything looks washed out, which is useless for color editing.

Monday, November 7, 2011

What is the Pantry Cookbook?

The Pantry Cookbook: how to cook nutritious meals from scratch, on a budget, when time is short.

This 160-page cookbook will be available in printed form this December at, and is now available for free in .PDF format here.  Would you like to use the Pantry Cookbook as a fundraiser?  Click here.

The American diet is all too often a mishmash of pre-made, mass-produced foods which are expensive, high in calories, and low in nutrients. The popular alternative, gourmet cooking, makes all home cooking appear to take long, and involve expensive, intimidating ingredients.

But home cooking doesn't have to be this way. In the Pantry Cookbook, you will learn fundamental recipes and cooking techniques that allow you to whip up nutritious, cheap meals, from scratch, in a minimum of time. This is a user-friendly textbook for beginning cooks, a reference for those who wish to rely less on canned soup and instant side-dishes, and a resource for those who already know how to cook a few things but wish to have a more solid foundation of cooking skills.

The Pantry Cookbook has over 130 recipes, including basics like hard-boiled eggs, baked chicken, boiled beans, boiled grain, and sautéed vegetables; classics like beef stew, borscht, and pulled pork; and “Quick Recipes” that can be put together in thirty minutes on a weeknight using ingredients prepared on a weekend. Additional features include shopping lists and menus for a week's worth of meals, an extensive list of substitutions, boxed lunch suggestions, kitchen safety information, money-saving tips, spice mix recipes, ideas for feeding toddlers and other picky eaters, and a complete Thanksgiving menu.

The Pantry Cookbook is also a fund raising tool! Instead of a standard copyright, the Pantry Cookbook is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribute which allows non-profit organizations to publish, sell, and collect royalties on the book, so long as the profits are used to support programs that address hunger or nutrition issues.  For more information, contact Michelle Clay at .

What a Relief

During a chat with someone today about projects that never see the light of day, I said that I would rather see a project be shut down early rather than proceed with a lack of resources.  And I had a lightbulb moment.  NaNoWriMo just isn't right for me this year.  I learned a ton from my week of writing, and I have a strong start on a novel that I fully intend to finish - at a less breakneck pace.  

But for now, I'm putting all of my efforts back into the cookbook.  What a relief!  First order of business: the visuals.  The interior layout was surprisingly painless.  The book interior .PDF is done and ready for upload.  (It was delayed at the last minute by an unplanned test of the pumpkin pie recipe, and the discovery of a mistake in said recipe.  The pie was ultimately tasty, however, and the recipe has been fixed.)

Today I waded into the upload process for CreateSpace, and I got a draft of the entire cover laid out.  Though to my disgust, I laid it out at the wrong size.  Ugh.  Redoing that tomorrow.

I also wrote up the back-of-the-book blurb, which I shall be posting next.  It gets its own post so I can use it to update the side-bar click-on-me-for-more-info widget.

I am VERY much looking forward to mailing copies of this book to large food banks across the counry!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Index done.

The cookbook is ready to go off to its first round at the printer.  The stats: 138 recipes, 164 pages, 46,566 words.

I'm limping along pathetically but consistently at NaNoWriMo, and it is unlikely that I will hit the 50,000 word "win" limit.  But it occurs to me that many Young Adult novels similar to mine chalk in at 30,000 words, so I may well finish the first draft of my novel within the month anyway.

Ironic to think that I may write a novel that is several thousand words shorter than my cookbook!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NaNoWriMo adventure begun. . .

Yesterday I successfully completed day 1 of National Novel Writing Month.  Here is what I posted at the NaNo forums:


If I tried to write this as fiction, it would sound contrived. First, I've been cramming to wrap up a previous cookbook project by Halloween. I had to eat into time I had left aside as overflow time, but that's what the overflow time was for, and it looked like I was just barely going to make it.

I'm a stay-at-home mother of two. My writing time is at night, after the kids go to bed. Sustainably I can manage an hour; on a good night, two.

A couple of weeks to go and my husband brings home news of having to work late one month out of three for the foreseeable future, starting the last week of October. Great.

Three days before Halloween, my three-year-old has an epic round of diarrhea, necessitating that we put him back in diapers. Great.

Two days to Halloween, it snows. It's the worst October storm on record here in Massachusetts. The leaves are still on the trees, and the snow is sticky, so down go the trees. A third of my town loses power, including us. Okay. My husband chops wood. So we have a little camp-out in the basement by a roaring fire. I do some of my final cookbook work on battery power by firelight. It's cold and the floor is hard, but it's managable.

Then my son wakes up with another poop attack. My husband takes him upstairs into the cold house to clean him up; ten minutes later I go to see what all the screaming is about and find a scene that looks like the Blair Witch Project. Thank the FSM we still have hot water.

The next morning we find a coffee shop that still has power. After minor ordering mishaps, we all eat, and feel better, until my son has to make repeated restroom trips and has a meltdown over something inconsequential. No big deal. At least he was able to make it to the toilet. But when we get home, he starts to vomit. Thank goodness he waited until we got home!

Now it's Halloween. With the house warmed by the sun, and enough time to clean up and prepare for another night of cold, we were surprised and delighted when power was restored. Trick-or-treating wasn't even an option, because the town cancelled it. What a relief. We spent a delightful, warm night in our own soft beds. I got my cookbook wrapped up, and got a few hours of sleep before having to clean up the next vomit storm. Thank the FSM for electricity!

Anyway, NaNoWriMo Day arrived, my husband was hit with the tummy bug, and my son continued to erupt periodically. I hit my first night's quota of words. Took care of the sick kid in the middle of the night again. Almost failed my saving throw against actual caffeinated coffee this morning, which I reserve for emergencies. Going to call the doctor as soon as their office opens. . .

This is all just a speed-bump, right? I'm ready to get back to normal.


Someone liked my post style, so I thought I would save it here for later amusement.  Anyway, Gabe and Chris are on the mend.  The cookbook only needs a teeny bit more index work before I get it to the publisher.  And I am waiting for Kaylee to get tired so that I can have my NaNo writing time.  Pleas, baby, get sleepy now.  This is getting silly.