Sunday, July 11, 2010

Finding a method to the madness of recipe organization

Someday I’ll own enough cookbooks to fill a library.

My collection is slowly growing, but truth is, right now I rely a lot more on the Internet and magazines for inspiration.

I’ve developed a sort of system to keep the house from becoming overrun with loose notes, blog printouts and pages torn from magazines. Here are a couple things I do to keep my recipes under control.

Magazine tabs

I typically read a food magazine twice. The first time around, after Bon Appetit comes in the mail or I pick up a Food & Wine at the supermarket, I pretty much devour the thing, blazing through each page and drooling over the content, mostly the photos.

Second read is more for collection purposes. I go through each page, using sticky tabs (I have a huge stack of sticker sheets pilfered from back issues of Lucky) to mark each recipe that I’d like to try. Post-its work great as well. Using strips of paper can work in a pinch, but sometimes those little strips slip out, and the sticky tabs allow me to identify specific recipes on the page so nothing gets overlooked.

When it’s time to minimize the tower of magazines stashed under the coffee table, it’s easy to go through each issue and cut out tabbed recipes.

Web recipes
If something catches the attention of my taste buds while I’m online, I’ll either copy the recipe, the link, or both into a Google Docs file I like to call “I heart food.” This works out well when it comes time to test the recipe, because I can highlight and copy the ingredients and add them to the shopping list I also update through Google Docs.

The Binder

My mom keeps a recipe box. I keep a binder.

I’ve got a three-inch, three-ring binder stuffed with two-pocket plastic dividers. I use 16 tabs to keep track of everything from appetizers to poultry, breakfast to cocktails. The recipes I’ve yet to try go into divider pockets — Asparagus with Curry Butter can be found in the “Vegetables” tab, for example. It’s only after I’ve tried and enjoyed something that I’ll file the recipe in a sheet protector, to make it easier to find the next time I want to prepare that particular dish. The sheet protectors are also great because you can remove them from the binder — no clunky cookbook on the counter — and they’re easy to wipe off should splatters or spills occur (I’m a bit of a messy cook).

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