Pasta, from Tom Douglas' recipe.

After last year's dismal failure in my Pirate's Code project, I made some headway this year.

The Pirate’s Code is a project I started several years ago to cook my way through several shelves of cookbooks. I am a hopeless cookbook collector and, even though I’ve weeded out a few this year, I received two more for Christmas.

The project's name comes from “Pirates of the Caribbean,” when Capt. Jack Sparrow refers to the pirate’s code as a set of guidelines rather than actual law.

My Pirate’s Code, in place of New Year’s resolutions, is a set of guidelines for the new year, cooking-wise. I’m trying to make at least one recipe from each book, following the directions and ingredient lists as closely as possible.

For the project, I started at the upper left of the first of several shelves of cookbooks, and am working my way through the books.

Let’s dig in.

This year’s cooking spree started in March with “Cheese Pastries,” from “Company’s Coming for Christmas,” by Jean Pare. The pastries were a cross between cheese straws and cheese crackers.

I would make them again, with a few modifications, including rolling them a little thinner and baking them a little longer.

“Grilled Salmon with Teriyaki Sauce” came next, from “Quick & Easy Diabetic Recipes,” by Anne C. Cain. The recipe turned out well, even though I fried the salmon instead of grilling it.

My comment to myself: “A) Who grills salmon? B) Who grills salmon in March?”

I don’t think I'll make the recipe again, though. I’m close to tossing the book in the giveaway/yard sale box, but there’s a Greek salad recipe I want to copy first.

June brought :Pasta Dough” from “Tom Douglas’ Seattle Kitchen: A Food Lover’s Cookbook and Guide,” by well-known Seattle chef Tom Douglas with Denis Kelly, Shelley Lance and Duskie Estes.

The recipe ticked off two items on my to-do list. First, it got me a Pirate’s Code recipe and second, it gave me an excuse to try out a pasta machine I’d received a year earlier for my birthday but never used.

I made fettucini, which was served with a light alfredo-style sauce laced with salmon, zucchini, asparagus, red onion, mushrooms, garlic and dill.


I will to make the pasta again. I promise.

The rest of Douglas’ book is an interesting read, but many of the recipes either have expensive, hard-to-find ingredients or are a little too fru-fru for our tastes.

In August, I tried “Java Crunch Cookies,” from the 1967 “Pillsbury’s Bake Off Cookie Book.”

These were odd cookies, with coconut and instant coffee powder in them. When baking, they smelled like they were burning, even though they weren’t. But the finished cookies were pretty good, although I’m not sure they’re good enough to make again.

In September, I made “Pesto Vegetables,” from “Betty Crocker’s Fix-it-Fast Family Favorites,” by General Mills Inc.

The recipe is simple - frozen broccoli, cauliflower and carrots - cooked and then dressed with pesto and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. The result was tasty.

Interesting note, though: My husband, who does the grocery shopping, couldn’t find a bag of frozen mixed veggies of that combination – and he checked several stores. He ended up buying a bag of broccoli, a bag of cauliflower and some fresh carrots.

Continuing with the vegetable theme, “Green Beans with Shallots” came in October from the “Williams-Sonoma Simple Classics Cookbook,” by Chuck Williams. The recipe called for fresh mint, but I couldn’t taste it in the finished product.

The dish was pretty good, but I still like our family’s favorite, tried-and-true onions and bacon with green beans better.

In looking through the beautiful Williams-Sonoma book, which features loads of enticing color photos, there are many more recipes I want to try.

“My First Party Book,” by Angela Wilkes, was a meander down memory lane.

It's not really a cookbook, although there are a few basic recipes in it.

I bought the book when our son was small. It’s got a lot of cute ideas for parties - invitations, decorations, hats, etc. - that kids can make. The recipes are simple - dips, sandwiches, cookies, a cake and so on. I didn’t make anything from it, but will hang onto it.

At this point, I reached the end of the first shelf, a milestone.

October brought “Pork Sausage Burgers with Mustard Cream,” from “The Complete Barbecue Cookbook,” by Murdoch Books.

It was a failure: Ground pork (also hard to find; a special grind of a roast was necessary) with a few spices and shaped into “sausages” went on hoagie buns with a sauce of sour cream and grainy mustard.

The dish was bland and uninspired.

Thus ends another year of The Pirate’s Code. I hope to make some real headway on the second shelf during 2020.

Dee Camp is a reporter with The Chronicle. Contact her at

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