When Jo Dunbar Snow buys a cookbook, she considers herself lucky if it has one or two winning recipes.
So when she set out to write her own cookbook, she was determined to make every recipe a keeper.
That's the thinking behind "Keepers: Culinary Treasures from the Heart," a collection of recipes the Modesto woman recently published.
The book has hundreds of recipes that Snow, an avid entertainer and former food writer, has made again and again over the years.
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There are homey dishes like Swedish meatballs, and macaroni and cheese with zucchini and sausage. There is showy party fare like butter lettuce and avocado salad, seafood-stuffed chicken breasts and steakau poive.
There are beloved recipes like Bammie's chicken, simple breaded chicken breasts often requested by the twice-widowed Snow's 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
"Every recipe is a favorite," said Snow, also known as Bammie to her grandkids.
Snow, 80, grew up in San Francisco and later moved to Marin County with her husband, Dr. Robert Dunbar. The two entertained "big time," and in 1959, she was approached by the editor of the Fairfax News to write a food column.
"I had a reputation for good food," she said. "Nobody was really cooking for enjoyment in those days. It wasn't in style the way it is now."
But the young mother liked to cook, and soon her recipes were being run in six Northern California weeklies, including the St. Helena Star and the Sebastopol Times. She also wrote a column for a grocery store chain, and her work was featured in the company's newspaper ads.
Food writing was fun, Snow said, but she gave it up when she had her third child. Later, the family would move to Modesto, where her husband took a post at Memorial Medical Center.
The couple continued to entertain often. Sometimes, friends and family would request a certain dish.
"They'd say, 'Can you make that dish again?' and I found that I couldn't," said Snow, who often improvises in the kitchen.
That's when she started keeping food journals. Each time she hosts an event, or makes a memorable dish, she records the date and writes out the recipe. It is the journals — she has stacks of them — that gave her the idea for her book.
She started compiling her recipes electronically five years ago, sometimes spending 12 hours a day on the computer. Some came from the food journals, some from her adult children — Libbie Lanigan, Amy Cubre and Bill Dunbar.
When she had 250 recipes typed out and indexed, she went shopping for a publisher.
It wasn't easy. Large publishing houses told her they'd get back to her. She didn't want to wait, so eventually paid a company to publish the book for her.
Snow is reluctant to say how much she spent, but says she is certain she will make it back in sales. In the month since the book has been released, she's made about $450 and expects to net more soon.
The book costs $22.95 and is available at several Modesto locations as well as on www.amazon.com.