Are you sitting on a collection of old handwritten recipes handed down to you from another generation? If so, consider yourself lucky—to be able to create a meal or favorite dessert from years long past creates a special connection to family members you may never have met.
The world is so different from the one our grandmothers and great-grandmothers (and possibly grandfathers and great-grandfathers?) cooked in! Being able to replicate an experience ingredient by ingredient is an uncommon gift. Scanning recipes that may have weathered heavy use and time is an important first step to preserving them, but what do you do next? Compiling a recipe book is the most common project for family recipes, but there are other ways to enjoy that connection to kitchens past, too. Here are three easy projects that get old recipes off the computer and into our lives!
Lightweight Fabric & Hoop Wall Hanging
My mom gifted me a collection of my great-grandmother Ida’s handwritten and clipped recipes a while back and it is an absolute treasure to see the recipes unfold in her own hand. I also discovered my love of banana bread may actually be hereditary, as I noted no less than four banana bread recipes in the stack! I don’t have a lot of kitchen wall real estate in our current home, but wanted a way to display one of the recipes that caught my eye—Brown Sugar Cookies, written by Ida but originally from the kitchen of her sister, Inez. I decided to print it on fabric and frame with an embroidery hoop to make a clever showpiece for a small under-the-cabinet spot in my kitchen. It’s easier than it sounds, and is quick and inexpensive to create multiples for Christmas gifts.
- A recipe to scan
- Embroidery hoop (I used an 8” one, but there are many sizes to choose from)
- Lightweight fabric, cut to 8.5 x 11 (or larger if you have a large format printer)
- Freezer paper, cut to match fabric
- 8.5 x 11 sheet of cardstock (or larger if you have a large format printer)
- Tape runner
- Bone folder (optional but useful)
- Ribbon for hanging
- Scan your recipe at 300 dpi to ensure good resolution. Optional: in a photo editing/design program like Photoshop Elements, Photoshop, or Pixelmator (available as a high-powered Mac alternative to Photoshop for only $29.99 in the app store), create a canvas slightly bigger than the scanned document and create a matching color foundation if you want the recipe to blend into the fabric all the way to the hoop edges. I chose to do this because the recipe itself was so yellowed that I didn’t want it to float so noticeably in the middle of the muslin fabric.
- Cut a piece of fabric (I used natural muslin by Kona) to 8.5 x 11. Iron it to eliminate the folding creases. Cut a piece of freezer paper (available at grocery stores) to 8.5 x 11.
- Iron the freezer paper to the fabric shiny side down. This helps stabilize the fabric. Use a bone folder or your fingers to make sure it’s smooth.
- Use tape runner to adhere the matte side of the freezer paper to the cardstock. This completes the stabilization, making it possible to run the fabric through a regular inkjet printer.
- After putting the fabric/freezer paper/cardstock combo into your printer (rear tray is preferable) print your recipe. Be careful not to touch the ink when it comes out.
- With a hot, dry iron, press the fabric to heat set the ink. When it’s cool to the touch, peel away the freezer paper—it will come right off.
- Frame the fabric in the embroidery hoop, tighten it as much as possible, then trim the excess from the back. You’ll be able to see a tiny bit of fabric after trimming but it won’t show from the front side.
- Tie the ribbon to the top of the embroidery hoop and hang!
Meal Planning Notebook
It’s important to protect and preserve delicate documents, but I love the idea of devising ways to incorporate them safely into daily life, too. These meal planning notebooks do just that! They make great gifts, too.
- a recipe or two to scan
- access to a computer with an internet connection
- Scan recipes at 300 dpi to ensure best resolution. You may need to play around with the scan size or combine more than one recipe in the “full bleed” dimensions to fill the space of the notebook properly. Those dimensions are 5.59″ x 8.64″ or 1677 x 2592 pixels. The uploader will help you visualize the crop area.
- Create a free account on vistaprint.com.
- Navigate to All Products > Stationery > Notebooks. You’ll be creating a photo notebook!
- Click “get started” to upload your completed design (recipes).
- The uploader will walk you through each step: front cover, front inside cover (great for a dedication!), back inside cover, and back cover. You can leave the inside covers blank if you prefer to handwrite a message.
I chose to buy three at once to lower the price from $13 to $10/notebook; that way I will have a couple of extras to combine with a recipe embroidery hoop gift for my sisters this Christmas! It took about a week for my order to arrive. Notebooks not your thing? Vistaprint offers many other products for personalization.
Trace Your (Food) Roots Display
What better way to display a beloved family recipe than to bring it to life by preparing it? Holidays are great occasions for incorporating heirloom recipes into our meals, as well as the perfect opportunity to display a photo of the person who is credited with the dish originally.
- photo frame
- photo of relative the recipe can be traced to
- cardstock, design program to create caption (I used Pages for Mac, but anything that allows you to customize text style and size works)
- an occasion to make the recipe!
This couldn’t be easier! Just print your photo, add a pretty caption, and put it in a frame next to the item on the serving table. I chose a decorative frame with a bulldog clip from Hobby Lobby (under $5 with my 40% coupon) but any frame style would work. I was lucky to have a photo of my Grandma Watson in her kitchen on Thanksgiving at some point in the late 1960s or early 1970s to pair with this favorite Thanksgiving recipe, but any photo would work. When different generations can actually put a face and name to a dish they grow up eating, a concrete connection is made.
It doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive to find ways to display and share precious family recipes. Happy cooking!
This blog post was submitted by Elizabeth Dillow. Elizabeth is a photographer and writer who is constantly dreaming up ways to preserve family stories. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her husband, three daughters, and rescue dog. She blogs at A Swoop and a Dart.