Behind the Book: Choosing the Recipes!
This has possibly been the biggest requested behind the book post EVER. And is a question I get often. HOW THE HECK DO I COME UP WITH THE RECIPES.
And how do I decide what to put in the book!?
Actually, coming up with the recipes is easy for me. I don’t know why. It just is. It’s probably like how math comes really easily to my husband or something like that. I have a big old recipe brain that is constantly churning out ideas. I’m constantly motivated and inspired and since I work everyday on these things, the motivation and inspiration just keeps coming!
That doesn’t mean I always love to cook. I mean, yeah, in the grand scheme of things, I LOVE it. But of course I have days where I just want to desperately get take out from anywhere.
The process of conceptualizing a recipe from start to finish though? I adore it.
Now here’s the thing!
Choosing the recipes for my book has ways been something that has really stressed me out! LIKE REALLY. I think it’s because as a lover of books, I want to make sure that I adore every single thing that goes into my own book that will live on a shelf. And since I love coming up with recipe ideas, it’s a matter of deciding what is worthy enough to live in my book baby for life.
There are two ways that I determine the recipe list I’m going to develop:
In real life, we cook and eat 99% seasonally. In blog life, I try to share only seasonal recipes, but occasionally have to prep them a few weeks ahead of the season just for content. When it came time to decide recipes for the book, I listed out a few of my favorite seasonal ingredients for each season. For instance, all varieties of squash in the fall, citrus in the winter, sweet corn in the summer – and so on. I tried to make sure that I didn’t have an overwhelming majority of one season. And I wanted to make sure that I was using things that were accessible. For instance, it’s really fun to use kiwi berries and fresh pink dragonfruit, but even when that is in season? Not everyone can find it.
I had to majorly(!) cut down my list for squash recipes. It was INSANE. Depending on the season we’re in when I’ve started preparing for a book, it goes both ways. I find myself overwhelmed with recipes for the current season. But also very inspired with recipes from the next few seasons, since I’m looking forward to those!
And by that I just mean breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc.
This seems like a no brainer, but when I’m doing a huge brain dump of recipes, it’s easy to end up with too many breakfast recipes and only one side dish, or 10 chicken dishes and only two vegetarian, and so one. I like to try to break it up by how people eat – breakfast, lunch and dinner, then add in a few snacks or appetizers, dessert of course, drinks in my case, and maybe something extra in there if I think of it. And then try to have a balance of everything! Doing this made it fun and easy to include full entertaining menus in the book.
The main thing I have to do is perhaps the hardest: sit with the recipes and be patient. This is why I like to work ahead for the blog too and the reason I work off a HUGE running master list of things I love and am inspired to make. Even after I get my full cookbook recipe list finished, I try to sit with it for a month or two before fully deciding on exactly what it is that is book worthy. And that obviously would differ for everyone!
I know what I love when it comes to cooking and food, so that part is easy. But I also have these amazing readers on the blog (um, thank you forever!) that tell me what they like. I try to have a balance of things we both love. I want the book to be practical. To be used in the kitchen. To have some longevity in your life and be something that you grab week after week!
In this book, specifically, the recipes are all under 60 minutes. Now, there are a FEW that break that rules because I use the slow cooker. However, that usually means waaaay less than 60 minutes of prep – just more downtime while the meal cooks. In fact, if you are skilled or even just familiar with being in the kitchen, many of the recipes will take 30 minutes max.
The final part of determining the recipes for a book? They have to be my favorite things. My ABSOLUTE favorite. If I have any doubt about one of the recipes, it’s gone. If I work on it later and decide I love it? I’ll share it on the blog or save it in my master list. But I don’t like to have any lignering feelings of doubt about the recipes in my book. Duh, right?
For more insight on the crazy process of starting the book, testing the recipes and photographing them, you can see my first behind the book post HERE!
If you’re interested in writing a cookbook but don’t know where to start with the recipe list – or, if you’re a food blogger who just feels like you’re running out of ideas? These are my top five tips.
- Start your master list! Get that baby going and NEVER throw it away. I hand-write everything. I can’t tell you how often I’ve shared a recipe I wrote down an idea for the first time four years ago. It happens a lot! I sit down for a few hours and write down everything I want to make. Do whatever you need to do to find inspiration! I like to fill two or three full notebook pages in the first sit down. You can fill in as many spots as you’d like. If it’s intimidating, maybe start with 20 recipes.
- Sit with your list. Revisit it once or twice a week for a month. Cross off what sounds crazy and add notes to what sounds great. In the meantime, I test the recipes that I know FOR SURE will be in my book. There are always some that I’m 100% on from the get go. For instance, I’ve known that I wanted to put a lavender latte in my next book since 2015.
- Make your specific list and categorize it by course. This is mainly for cookbooks, but maybe you’re thinking of doing this for one month+ as a blogger. Write down your specific list for a cookbook (this means “x” number of recipes, with enough diversity in season and course) or for one month of sharing (in which case, you can share whatever it is you like, hopefully within the season!).
- Sit with your list AGAIN. OMG, who has time for this in 2018? Not I. But it’s worth it.
- Finalize your specific list. It has to be exactly what you love!
I mean, I know. It sounds embarrassingly basic. But the first four steps are necessary for me to love what I’m putting in a cookbook. There is SO much turnover on the internet. You can post something today and then something new tomorrow and forget about what you shared three weeks ago, etc. With this process, I can say that I love EVERY recipe so much in The Pretty Dish. I wish I had done this for my first cookbook, because truly, a DAY before the book went to press, I was begging my editor to include and remove certain recipes. I had just as much time to work on that book, but instead of sitting with some of my recipe ideas (which is totally a part of the creative process!), I kept going full speed ahead and testing hundreds (yes, hundreds) of recipes. It was nuts! So glad I’ve learned a lot in this whole process.
And that’s that! Another peek at how The Pretty Dish came together. I can’t wait for you guys to see it!