Nest: Day 83
The misplaced recipe.
After all the tough manual labor I’ve been putting you through in the kitchen (and dahlings, we’re not yet done), you need a break. But sorry. The best I can do is to give you a project that doesn’t require as much elbow grease, but does require your brain power.
Everyone who cooks has trouble keeping recipes organized. I have shelves of cookbooks plus reams of recipes from family, friends, and the friendly internet. And I still pull recipes from pages of magazines. Here’s what I’ve tried through the years to keep track of all of them, plus my current solution. I’ve also included ideas picked up around the web.
The recipe box
I started with a 3×5 recipe card system that I had indexed in the usual way: Appetizers, Main Dishes, Desserts, etc. I soon moved to 4×6 cards, and I used a nice acrylic box that kept spills and splatters off the recipe card while I cooked. Still, this system wasn’t adequate when it came to recipes from magazines. I either stuffed folded pages in the box or tucked them into book pages.
The computer program
Way way back when computer hard drives were nonexistent or tiny, I started using recipe software. Excellent, I thought, since now I finally had a way to sort, search, rate, print onto recipe cards in a consistent way, and easily share with others. Of course, programs changed, computer systems came and went, and every time I updated my digital life, I laboriously exported/imported or retyped in my recipes. For a while I also used a Palm PDA program so I had my recipes not only on computer but also with me when I shopped. I think the last program I used was MasterCook, which I had linked to Wakefield Soft’s recipe manager program for my PDA. This system survived for quite a few years before I abandoned it.
Looseleaf 3-ring binders
Then I decided to simplify. I printed my recipes onto printer paper, 3-hole punched them and put them into a binder divided into categories: Breads, Veggie Main Dishes, etc. For cookbook recipes that I repeatedly made, I would print a page that referenced the cookbook the recipe was from and the page number to go to. I bought plastic sleeves so I could slip in recipes I’d cut from magazines. But I only included recipes I actually made in this binder.
I created a second binder for recipes I had yet to try. Some were given to me by friends; many were magazine recipes I put into sleeves. Once I try a recipe and like it, I transfer it to the first binder.
The final part of my system was initially difficult for me to do (and might be for you, too). When I make a dish from a cookbook, I note—yes, right on the cookbook page—the date and what I thought of the recipe. Sometimes I even write who was at the table or what the occasion was. When I remake the recipe later, I’ll write something like:” 4/03—still as good as I remembered”. Or “8/08—now I think this is too rich.”
Writing inside my cookbooks was initially difficult since I worship books, since my cookbooks are primarily expensive hardcovers, and since I was brought up not to deface books. However, my notes have made my cookbooks so much more than collections of recipes. I look back and remember how my mom and I made hazelnut soup when she visited at Thanksgiving in 2003. Or I remember that I made one of our favorite pasta dishes for the first time on my husband’s birthday in 1996.
If I end up giving cookbooks away to family and friends, they’ll enjoy my remarks. If strangers eventually get my books, they’ll have an experienced cook looking over their shoulders saying: “use less butter in this recipe” or “add basil for a fresh flavor” or “bake this for a half hour longer than the recipe states.”
Interesting tips adapted from around the internet.
- Use 3 ring binder photo albums with pages designed to hold 4×6 photos. Put cut-out recipes or written cards in the slots.
- Use a 1 to 10 rating system for new dishes you make. Have everyone in the family rate the dish and then average ratings to come up with a score you can refer to in the future.
- Download recipes from websites, print them out, and put them in binders.
- Once a year go through recipes and throw out those you no longer cook.
- Keep a binder for each category of recipe you routinely make. For instance, one binder for meat, one for appetizers. Then you can go crazy printing out internet recipes. If you purchase binders with pockets on the front, you can slide in a paper that lists which recipes are your favorites.
- Use scrapbooks for recipes. If a recipe passes your family’s taste test, paste it in.
- Use “magnetic page” photo albums for recipes. You can put 3×5 cards, magazine articles, and any other size recipe in them easily.
- Buy a 6 quart plastic storage bin. Make category dividers, then simply slip any recipes in the proper category.
- Buy an expandable accordion file, one with 15-20 dividers. Label the sections and toss recipes in each.
- Use 3×5 index cards simply to reference your favorite cookbook recipes. For instance, under the appetizers section you might have a card with “Stuffed Mushrooms: page 38 from Recipes for Great Cooks by Martha Washington.” With a system like this, you must keep your cooking magazines and cookbooks organized in some easy-to-use system, either alphabetical by author or by category.
- If you have a filing cabinet close to the kitchen, use file folders or hanging files labeled with recipe categories such as salads, soups, desserts. Then just drop in your recipes. If you don’t have a filing cabinet, purchase milk-crate style bins designed for hanging folders.
- No matter what system you use, include a category for “Recipes to Try”.
- Use more flexible categories such as “quick recipes, pantry recipes, kid favorites, romantic dinner menus” etc.
- Use 10×12 manila envelopes with categories noted on the outside. Drop in recipes.
- Don’t keep hard copies of your recipes. Keep them all on your computer. Organize your MS Word files (or whatever word processing program you use) in folders that correspond to usual cooking categories such as “fish,” “soups,” etc. Put all these folders into a top-level folder called Recipes.
- Since the internet has almost every recipe you’ll ever need, don’t even keep digital copies. Keep a recipe category in your favorites menu with subfolders for food categories like “fish main courses” or “pork”. Then add pages to your favorites as you come across them. This works best if your computer’s in the kitchen, but you can print disposable copies of recipes, cook with them, toss them when you’re done and they’re smeared with tomato sauce.
- Whatever system you choose, make it look cool: crafty solutions.
Nest Month 3
What to do so far:
In case you missed a day, the reminders below are clickable.
Make your house your sanctuary.
Don’t let The Angel bedevil you.
Evaluate your entry.
Use the entry clearing checklist.
Try feng shui entry cures.
Once clean, don’t reclutter.
Decorate your front porch and entryway.
Try the 7 ways to make your home a sanctuary.
Purge your kitchen cabinets.
Remove everything but essentials from counters.
Pimp your pantry!
Clean the under-sink cabinet.
On the Ides, I’d rather…
Clean your refrig.
Clean your freezer.
Keep a freezer/pantry food inventory.
Clean your appliances.
Try non-toxic cleaning.
Clean your kitchen ceiling, doors, light switches.
Wipe down your kitchen cabinets.
Organize your recipes.