Making a Cookbook

comments: 53

MimiSpring Break











22 Pastitsio 4












Thank you so much for the spring orders! I truly appreciate every order and every comment on my new designs. Thank you! I hope you are enjoying making them! I just mixed up some no-knead bread (pictured above) and covered it with a towel to rise for the next 90 minutes. Why did I do this? Why did I cook all of this food over the past week, and take pictures of it? Because I've decided to self-publish a cookbook and I want to include the recipes! As you do!

Are you familiar with self-publishing? Like Kindle Direct Publishing? I had never really heard of this (I'm really not sure how I'd never heard of this, to be honest) but I was immediately intrigued when I first heard about it a few weeks ago. Ever since my days working as a production editor when I first moved to Portland (and through working on my own books with Potter Craft), I've always been interested in book design itself. I've never actually done it but I've always wanted to learn it. So I opened InDesign and started playing around with it. I design all of my patterns through Microsoft Word — I'm not sure exactly why I started doing it that way many years ago, but that's just what I've always done, and that seems to work just fine. But InDesign is a really cool program and I've always wanted to get better at it, and it's what pros use to create documents like books. (You can use a bunch of other kinds of book-design-specific software, too, but InDesign is more sophisticated and gives you a lot more options.)

So I started practice-designing a novel. I watched YouTube videos about how to do this and also watched a few SkillShare classes. In the classes they were showing how to design novels using books that are in the public domain, like Alice in Wonderland and Jane Eyre. I decided to work on one of my and Andy's favorite old novels called Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith (you can see over seventy thousand fee e-books that are in the public domain at Project Gutenberg — what an amazing web site). But I realized that I really wanted to walk through the entire process — not just designing a book but actually publishing it, too. So I did some research and found out that you can publish novels that are in the public domain but if it's free content that is already available in the Kindle store, they will only let you publish a differentiated version. You can do that in a few different ways, and one of the way is by adding relevant illustrations. So I decided to do that, with my watercolors.

But then I got the idea to make a cookbook out of many of our family recipes and recipes that I have made here on the blog through the years. (I may still finish Diary when I'm done with this.) And that's when I got really excited. I started spending ballet-waiting time at the library just down the street from the ballet school, and I have been sitting there with big stacks of cookbooks in the afternoons while I wait. Cookbooks are really amazing. There are a lot of different kinds of cookbooks, LOL. I started thinking about my favorite cookbooks, and dreaming about what kind of cookbook I would make. We also (not coincidentally) looked at our budget and saw how much we have been spending on eating out, and knew something had to change — we absolutely need to start focusing much more on cooking at home again!

So all weekend Andy and I talked about our book, and I've been making lists of our favorite recipes that he and I have been making for over twenty years. I know I'm not a foodie, nor a trained cook (but my sister is, so I'm going to talk her into helping me, and my mom will be looking at all of our family recipes, too), and this is not a legit "food blog." But I looked back through the "Baking and Cooking" category on my blog and found over a hundred different things that I had cooked or baked or photographed! I had no idea how many recipes I had talked about over the years — it was so interesting to see that number. We pulled out our recipe binders and my mom's recipe box, and the tattered, stained pieces of copy paper with recipes we'd printed out that were stuffed all over the place in the kitchen drawers, and the "cookbook" Andy made for our family and friends a long time ago, and the tiny little notebook that says "Recipes" on the front that I started way back when we first got married. And I don't know, but I just got very excited.

So, yeah! I'm going to design a cookbook of our recipes and my photos and even a bunch of blog photos throughout the years! This won't be the world's most comprehensive cookbook or the most well-rounded, but I do want it to include all of our favorite family and friend-made recipes, the ones we've been making for twenty years, the ones I want to pass down to Amelia — the ones she's grown up eating and the ones I want to teach her how to cook. I want to make an e-book as well as a paperback version and a hardback version. I will ultimately list them on Amazon and IngramSpark and all of the other e-book/self-publishing outlets. I want to learn about the entire book design and self-publishing process in doing this, both so that I can gain experience and learn something new and also because I am really excited to be making a book as an author/photographer again (and this time, designer, too). I published my craft books fifteen years ago now. I mean, I actually had to look that up, and it's been fifteen years. A lot has changed. And I'm really excited to catch up with the whole industry.


I hope you will join me on this journey and in this conversation! If you've ever wanted to make a cookbook, maybe you will be interested in going through this process along with me (cookbook-a-long, anyone?). Have any of you ever written a cookbook? Even a family cookbook or a community cookbook? Do you have any advice? What are your favorite cookbooks? As a home cook, what do you think makes a good cookbook? Please advise! I'm new!


Barbara Bononno says: April 26, 2023 at 03:16 PM

O my! I'd love a cookbook of yours! I've often both looked up and made recipes you've shared. I am an enthusiastic home cook; love cookbooks (not ALL of them mind you) - at least enjoy checking them out. I've never had any desire to write one - but will absolutely check out yours!! Cool idea~!

I am sooooo excited for your cookbook! I love the food you share on your blog. I make your chocolate cake with cloud frosting for birthdays every year. Seriously cannot wait for this. Lately I have been obsessing over Tessa Kiros’s cookbooks. I love how eclectic they are and all the memories and stories she shares. Same with all of Heidi Swanson’s books. ❤️❤️❤️

I always love your ideas, but this one takes the cake (middle age mom joke). Please post updates as you go because it’s going to be fun to watch you at work.

Virginia Held says: April 26, 2023 at 04:21 PM

Wow, you're making me excited to write a cookbook too ;). I can't wait to watch your journey in self-publishing. All of your creative endeavors are beautiful. You are so inspirational!!

melissa glynn says: April 26, 2023 at 04:58 PM

I'm not sure if you know this about me Alicia - but I am OBSESSED with cookbooks and have an entire bookcase of just cookbooks. I read them like novels. I read them over and over. Do I cook out of them? Rarely ha ha. But I LOVE them and I derive just as much enjoyment from the constant re-reading as I would if I actually cooked from them a ton lol. Nigel Slater, Sophie Dahl (I have the ones pictured above!), Nigella, Diana Henry, Kate Young...I love a ton of the British food writers who write as much as they cook.

melissa glynn says: April 26, 2023 at 04:59 PM

P.S. I always had a dream to photograph a cookbook. Maybe I should figure out how to do something with that.

So I saw the headline, and I was like 'Yes, sign me up. Pre order!' And then I read the post, and I see I'm going to have to waaaait. So, I guess this is just me saying, good idea! Hurry please!

Maryellen says: April 26, 2023 at 07:09 PM

I am so excited for you and this project that seems like a natural extension of you and this blog. You may remember that Y E A R S and years ago, I recommended the first Contessa Cookbook to you when you were in a bind with company coming. I still love her cookbooks for several reasons: 1. The recipes always work, 2. They don’t have a long list of ingredients, 3. They make me look and feel like a really good cook, and 4. Each recipe has a brief intro with some sort of connection to her life. Not a novella or mult-paragraph mini bio! Good luck! We are all cheering you on!

Where do I begin?! I am thrilled you are creating a cookbook. Yes, I have made some of your recipes in years past - all delicious. And now, I might as well explain more - my first 'encounter' with you (and cooking) was many years ago in an issue of Hallmark magazine. You and your mother's Thumbprint Cookies were featured in a article. I still have it and make the cookies at Christmas. They really are super delicious. Roll forward a couple of years.... I was Googling 'small cottages' because I love them and how they are decorated. That's when I came across your lovely home and you (and Andy, etc.) At some point it finally clicked - the magazine article and Posie Gets Cozy are they same person. I have followed your blog ever since.
So, yes, I truly look forward to your cookbook. Yaaay!
Below is my favorite cookbook - I, like one of your readers above, love and collect cookbooks and I too read them from cover to cover. I really enjoy a cookbook that is filled with personal stories. And, you know - your readers Love your stories. So I hope you will read this one (and definitely make The Runway Tavern's Friday Night Stew.)
Hollyhocks & Radishes: Mrs. Chard's Almanac Cookbook by Bonnie Stewart Mickelson.
The absolute best cookbook! It's filled with wonderful stories (through correspondence) and fabulous recipes. Good Luck Alicia - we are all excited for your new adventure.

This is really exciting! I love cookbooks, especially those with family recipies

Anna King says: April 27, 2023 at 12:02 AM

I am just putting a cookbook together for my son who will be going off to university in September (sob). I had crocheted a blanket for my daughter to take but my son asked for a cookbook instead. Often when we have dinner he says “ can you out this one in the book?”. What he doesn’t know is that I have also collected recipes from family members and significant people in his life, so it will be quite a tome! I’m including messages from everyone and photos of them. There will be space for him to add recipes over time and I’m hoping he will keep it forever.

What an exciting project! I have no experience in writing cookbooks but plenty of experience of buying cookbooks :-) and I already know that I would definitely be buying yours! I have often admired your food - it looks so good, and I can tell it has lots of flavours, layers and textures to enjoy, and I've made a few of the recipes you've recommended - I bought a very old copy of Apples for Jam because of a recipe you'd recommended in it, and it was just as good as expected. Good luck with the project, I don't know how you do it all - creativity and technology too. Looking forward to your book when it is eventually ready for sale!

What an exciting project! Isn't it fun when an idea sweeps you away like that?

I've worked as an editor since 1997 in one form or another, for newspapers, magazines, websites and books, and I've edited hundreds of recipes in my time. My tip is to create an editorial style sheet at the beginning of the project, rather than doing it once you have all your recipes assembled. It's much easier to decide on how you're going to format your recipes NOW, so you can do the bulk of the editing/formatting as you go, rather than having to go back and tackle 200 recipes to get them into shape.

I'm not talking about InDesign style sheets, although they are also important and will make your work so much easier! Rather, I mean deciding what order you'll list ingredients, how you will format measurements – will you say 1 cup? 1 c.? 250 mL? 1 tablespoon? 1 tbsp? 15 mL? – and things like oven temperature, pan sizes, and the order of your instructions (will you specify oven temp at the beginning to allow for preheating, or will you only mention it at the "put the pan in a 350F oven" stage?) and so on.

As you're looking at cookbooks and recipes that you've saved, you'll probably notice ones that you like, that are intuitive, and others that always have some sort of "hitch" or a point where you have to go back and look for more information. Take note – both the easy recipes and the ones that cause confusion can inform your own style decisions. Once you've got a good list going, you can try formatting two or three recipes using that style – think of it as swatching, but for recipes. Print them out and live with them for a few days, cooking from them, reading them, sharing them around. See what works and what doesn't and adjust from there.

Hopefully, that will help you build a recipe format and style sheet that will not only make the writing and editing easy, but will also help ensure your book reflects your tastes (pun intended!) and your sensibilities in multiple ways.

I didn't intend to write a whole essay on this, but I do love a good style sheet! I can't wait to follow along as your cookbook comes to life. Have fun!

Christine says: April 27, 2023 at 06:21 AM

This is so exciting. Sometimes it just takes one photo of your pretty food to make me want to cook/bake. I have zero experience with this. Though when my friend turned 80 in May 2020, I needed to give her a no contact present. I made a "cookbook" of favorite recipes, many of which she had tried and liked when we worked together and had done potlucks. I was thinking lately that I should do more of those kind of presents.

Ellen Patton says: April 27, 2023 at 07:07 AM

I'm looking forward to buying your cookbook!!

You will be fabulous at this! I have an old-fashioned recipe box with 4x6 cards. At the top of MANY of the cards are titles such as "Alicia's Jam Thumbprints," or "Alicia's Mushroom Sauce." Don't forget those two!

Kandy Smith says: April 27, 2023 at 10:56 AM

I always love when you post food with the recipes attached and of course i love everything you post!!! I am so excited about you publishing a cookbook and cannot wait until it is available!!!

I wish you the best of luck and i will be doing a happy dance while waiting for you cookbook to be available!!!


Marisa Weber says: April 27, 2023 at 12:27 PM

Alicia, I'm thrilled you'll be embarking on this project! I am an avid collector of cookbooks and cannot wait to include yours in my library!!! Another opportunity to enjoy your good taste and wisdom that you so generously share with the rest of us! Best wishes on this endeavor!

Linda McCorkle says: April 27, 2023 at 12:40 PM

I love pictures of the food and your photos are always so lovely. I can envision the smell of the foods by your pictures. Be sure to include the chili recipe (I think was your father's recipe) with the smoky flavor.

Oh my goodness, yes, that will be wonderful. A family cookbook is such a lovely thing. I always like to know what recipes people return to time and time again. I just love finding little cookbooks at churches where everyone has contributed a favourite recipe and it's been printed out on A4 paper and folded and stapled. Treasures! I have a box of recipes and the ones I love most are the old handwritten ones from relatives. I shall look forward to seeing your cookbook taking shape. CJ xx

I love this so much! I have found and made many things you have posted about here. Your pictures and descriptions are so great they always make me want to make whatever it is immediately!

Ok...well I will be first in line to buy said cookbook! The entire time I was reading it I thought it was just for you and your family and I REALLY wanted it! The most important things for me with a cookbook are beautiful photographs and a photo for each recipe and I love some story in my cookbooks. I mean I like to read them like books. And I love any tips or menu/serving ideas! And delightful if there is some empty space on the page because I like to desecrate cookbooks by leaving notes on a recipe of when I first made it, what I served with it and who I served it to and what I thought of it and I hope one day in about 40 years my girls will enjoy flipping through all of my cookbooks and seeing these notes!

Well I hope you hurry because I really need to make those blueberry muffins! I've tried about 6 different recipes and none look (or taste) as good as yours (in my imagination yours taste as good as they look).

Great Idea !!
I think a lot of families should do this. I will be flattered if my kids someday ask for recipes that are in our regular rotation.
Two of yours from past posts that I make quite frequently are the Microwave Applesauce and Swedish Pancakes. Both delish! Those thin pancakes we treat like crepes and put all sorts of toppings on them. The applesauce is full of wonderful cinnamony flavor that comes across whether served warm or cold.
So thank you - and I look forward to more !

Oh wow! My little sister is really getting into cooking, and we've been doing zoom cooking lessons where I show her how to roast a chicken or make lasagna etc etc. She asks for recipies all the time, and while most of my recipes come from other blogs (ie., not *my* content for real publishing) having a like...keepsake professional cookbook of all the go-tos really, REALLY appeals. Even just taking really, really nice photos of some of the food / recipe cards (many of mine I've illustrated) appeals big time. Hmm....

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at