For Eric Rittenhouse, an idea for a Christmas gift became a gift that keeps on giving.
Rittenhouse, of Lancaster, is the proud author of a new cookbook, "Eric Dishes & Dustin Mixes," a project that started out as a creative holiday gift.
"It started out as something fun and silly," said Rittenhouse, 29. He and his partner, Dustin Imhoff, 31, had planned to put together a booklet of index card-sized recipes for their family and friends, as they prefer to give handmade presents, when one friend suggested that their gift could be something more.
Rittenhouse began to explore the world of self-publishing, where he chose to useCreateSpace on Amazon.com to create and distribute the book.
"I wanted something that wasn't boring or stuffy," he said.
A 2004 graduate of the York Art Institute where he studied graphic arts, Rittenhouse was not formally trained in any culinary fields. His kitchen skills are self-taught, he said.
"I joke that I graduated from the Food Network University," he said.
He began cooking at home when he was younger, experimenting with different foods and flavors.
"Once I got playing around on my own, going to market and things like that, I really got excited about it," Rittenhouse explains.
Rittenhouse not only wrote the recipes for the book, but also did all the photography as well as the cover design. The illustration on the cover was done by Jessica Andrascik, a freelance artist. The 74-page cookbook took about two years to put together and features more than 25 recipes.
"Sometimes I would make something more than once, sometimes more than twice, sometimes more than three times to get the right photo," Rittenhouse said.
The book was released at the beginning of December. Rittenhouse sold about 20 presale copies of the cookbook, and ordered 40 copies in total, hoping to sell the
Not only did he sell the extra 20 books, he also sold the 20 copies he had originally ordered for his family and friends. When those copies sold out, he sold people vouchers until he could get in a new shipment. He has sold about 120 copies thus far.
Rittenhouse describes his food as bold and flavorful, but he wanted the recipes to be easy to follow. The drinks and desserts featured in the cookbook were the product of Rittenhouse's partner, Imhoff, an event planner and former bartender. Imhoff doesn't really cook, Rittenhouse said, but cocktails and sweets are right up his alley.
"I am much more into all things savory," Rittenhouse said.
Rittenhouse works fulltime at Cooper-Booth Whole Sale in Mountville doing graphic design and marketing. He says he is lucky enough to be in a job that he enjoys but also has to balance the work of creating the cookbook and all that comes with it.
"It's kind of a whole other job," he explains, between maintaining his blog, Eric Dishes, as well as doing the advertising and marketing for the book. Since he is self-published, he doesn't have a book agent to help tackle those tasks. "They are all full-time jobs within themselves."
What's next: Rittenhouse is planning to do a cooking demonstration at York Central Market's YorKitchen in the near future, where he hopes he can sell some more copies of the book. He is also working on getting the book into other retail outlets. Right now it is only available through Amazon for $19.99.
But despite all the work, Rittenhouse is happy with the way things are going and is looking forward to what's next.
"This turned into something so much bigger than we planned," he said.
Below is a recipe from Eric Rittenhouse's cookbook, "Eric Dishes & Dustin Mixes."
Summer Blueberry Salsa
1/2 cup blueberries
1 poblano pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 small red onion
Red wine vinegar
Prepare all peppers and onion for salsa by dicing and place in a bowl. Eric's Quick Tip: The secret to great salsa is actually your technique. Be sure that all of your ingredients are diced to the same size.
If your blueberries are larger, cut them in half and add to the bowl with the peppers and onion.
It's important at this time to taste your salsa. Depending on the sweetness (or tartness) of your berries, you may need to adjust the following ingredients.
Add salt and pepper to taste and splash with some red wine vinegar. You could also add a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flake if you dare!
This versatile salsa can be served over grilled chicken or beef, used to top a fish taco or put the "dynamic" in the "dynamic duo" that is chips and salsa.