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Translating Grandma's Recipes for the Holidays

Tips for successfully replicating your grandmother's—or any family member's— beloved dish.

Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Shutterstock

Honoring family tradition during the holidays usually starts with recreating the recipes everyone loves. For most of us that means navigating the shorthand of generations ago, inked on greasy scraps of paper or retold over the stovetop in a language that seems to defy translation: a pinch of this, a tad of that.

In the end, we reminisce over empty plates about Great Grandma's pecan pie, a polite acknowledgement by the family that, nope, you didn't quite nail it. And how could you with such mysterious and incomplete recipe directions?

This year, put an end to the guessing game. Use holiday get-togethers as an excuse to collect your family's treasured recipes and create a self-published cookbook that will live on for generations.

How slick your end product looks is up to you. Websites like HeritageCookbook.com offer software for collecting and managing recipes, as well as printing services at different price points. You also can simply collect the recipes via email or on index cards, photocopy them, and distribute them in folders if that's more your speed. Then, gift the cookbooks during the holidays.

Here are some ways to get started:

  • Prepare your family so they can think about recipes ahead of time and dig through their own files.
  • Have index cards ready to pass out for people to write recipes on.
  • Consider filming your grandma make her favorite dish if she's not used to quantifying the ingredients.
  • Ask family members to make the dishes and photograph them to accompany the recipes.

Once you have the recipes, use this list of conversions for old-fashioned measurements, or simply add it to your cookbook:

When a recipe calls for "a pinch," it really means ...

pinch: 1/16 of a teaspoon
dash: 1/8 of a teaspoon
drop: 1/64 of a teaspoon
dust: a light coating of dry ingredients
hint: 1/2 of a drop
juice of a lemon: 3 tablespoons
pony: 1 ounce
shot: 1 1/2 ounces
smidgen: 1/32 of a teaspoon
splash: 1/8 of an ounce
tad: 1/4 of a teaspoon

There might not be a better way to say thanks than by honoring family tradition. And your recipes will go from "pretty close" to "just like grandma's."


TELL US: What are some family recipes you'd like to pass down? What unique family dish do you look forward to sharing this holiday season?

This article is part of Mix It Up, an editorial series created in collaboration with AOL's Kitchen Daily and Huffington Post. It is dedicated to making the lives of mothers easier through articles, videos and slideshows focused on simple and creative solutions to everyday challenges. From healthy recipes to exciting ideas for a more balanced lifestyle, this section aims to become a resource for moms everywhere. 

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