Monday, March 23, 2009

Food Week Q & A (Part II)

Jen Slavin said... I am in the process of organizing my recipes that aren't in cookbooks. I have clippings from magazines, written out on post-its, print outs from the Internet etc...I remember your amazing binders of recipes/meals and I'm wondering if you'd mind sharing how you organized them. Thanks! xo j
For those of you who don't know, Jen is my college roommate and one of my best friends in the whole wide world and one of those people who I hope hope hope to live near again someday. We both lived in Boston for a few years post-college, so we kinda got spoiled by living near each other IRL (not that college isn't real life, but in real life is just different... and it was awesome to be near her). Now we're on opposite sides of the country, although we oftentimes seem to be living parallel lives nonetheless. And we still have a blast whenever we get together. Gosh, I love love love her. Anyway...
Jen~~ my idea for the binders came from being inspired by something that my friend Stacey showed me. It was all of her grandmother's recipes, all neat and tidy in a 3-ring-binder. I loved it and got to thinking about doing something similar to organize all of my own recipes. Like you, I had clippings from magazines, print-outs from the internet, post-its, scraps of paper, etc., etc., etc. It was a total, total mess. What I came up with is what I have and what you've seen. It was one of my "Waiting Projects" (adoptive parents reading will know what I mean.... LOL!!!)... it was one of the many things I did to occupy myself during the months of waiting for Kyle and Owen to come home. That was about 5 years ago now, and I really wouldn't change anything about my 'system' because it is actually working really very well. Still, though, Jen, let me know what you come up with because I'm always trying to find ways to improve upon all of this. And anybody else who is reading~~ please let Jen and I know what you do to organize your recipes/menus/cookbooks (leave a comment here on this post).

So, I have two binders. One is for recipes. The other is for menu ideas. The recipe binder is organized by categories. I bought all the paper supplies at Staples. (click on any photo to enlarge)
Everything is in plastic sleeves (which is great for spills, drips, kitchen messes, etc.). I put all of the scraps of paper I had, and every recipe card, etc. into pages. Jen, note that the binder is open to your Dill Chicken recipe (on a "Colby" notepad piece of paper no less!)! We love that Dill Chicken -- I still remember the first time I ate that in your apartment in Brookline, sitting on the floor of your family room, watching Party of Five (and I've learned that you can use half the stick of butter and still have it taste d-lish!!!!!!!)! I think that is a very kid-friendly recipe. Everytime we have it for dinner, K & O call it "chicken and grass" (instead of chicken and dill)! LOL!
The Menus binder is much thinner, but is also organized by category. In there I have also included photos of great dinners I've made or dinner parties I've thrown that I want to remember. I add those in from time to time because it is the perfect (and really only!!!) place to put those sorts of photos! I also sometimes put in magazine clippings that aren't for recipes per se, but rather are for ideas (party ideas, serving ideas, etc.)
Within each category I have multiple sections. So, for example, in the "Soups & Salads" category I have soups, stews, crockpot dinners, salads, etc. Each has its own page. Again, everything is in plastic sleeves. Jen, note that the binder is open to the salad page (I know you love my salad dinners), and also note that the first salad on the list is your Fajita Salad recipe. I vividly remember the first time I had that salad too--- again, in your apartment in Brookline-- sitting at your kitchen table in your kitchen. It was so good! And I still love it so much! Anyway, so in the menus binder there are just lists of ideas. I don't include recipes there. It is just a go-to place for ideas when I'm drawing a blank on what to make for meals that week, or when I need to come up with something to make for a pot-luck, or when we're having company for dinner and I need to figure out what to serve. We also use it, sometimes, when we have visitors. I can give them the binder and ask them to pick something for dinner. Then we can go food shopping together, come back to the house, and make dinner together. This works really nicely and was, originally, actually the intent of this binder.

My big problem now is that I still have all these cookbooks in my kitchen. Somehow I need to get them organized so that I remember what is in there and so that I can easily find new recipes in there too. Any ideas????


Patricia said...

Any chance your mom is will to share her sweet dressing recipe? I saw it listed with the spinach salad in the one picture and now I'm craving it.

As far as your cookbooks go...there's always grouping by subject, etc. But since you have so many, maybe you could just pick one from the end and make something out of it. If you like it you could add it to your binder and then put the book on the bottom shelf at the end. That way you'll rotate through everything, have some variety and new dishes, and over time file the things you like in a way that's more accessible. It's only one suggestion, but I felt like I should make one since I'm asking for something!!! :)


Leslie said...

Thanks for the ideas!

It looks like you've got some fabulous cookbooks. Maybe going through them one at a time and adding a page to your menu ideas in each section with the recipe, page number and book will help?

I just took some time to do some menu planning for our family and did something similar. I went through all my books and made a list for each book with the name of the recipe and page #. I then printed off a basic calendar from Publisher, and started filling in dinners for each day with just the name of the recipe and the page number. On the top of the calendar is a legend with the names of the books and a highlighter color designated for each. As the recipes are written in the boxes on the calendar I highlight them to correspond with the legend. Now I just need to look at what I have written down for the day, grab the book and grab what I need. Dinner has become SO much faster. Also, when it comes to making my shopping list I just pull the recipes for that week, make my list from that and am only buying what we really will use now. I love it! I can just continue the rotation as is, or change out things that weren't really a hit.

It was fun for me to go through my books and remember why I bought them. I realized that I had been wanting to try a bunch of things but when I was thinking about dinner none of that came to mind, so now it's all right there and we're eating some really great dinners.

Ani said...

that chicken with dill recipe sounds really good!

i do the same binder idea with magazine articles. i subscribe to several parenting/family magazines and every once in a while i find something i really want to keep. so i tear the page and put it in a sleeve in my binder under the appropriate category (crafts, food, health, etc). may need to expand my binder collection to include recipes!

Jen Slavin said...

Thank you for this post!! Those binders are gems! It brought back a lot of good memories and it's inspiring me to get cracking on my recipes. Plus, I haven't made the chicken and grass (I love that the boys call it that!) in a long time mainly b/c of the butter. Now I'm excited to bring it back with half the butter.

I like Patricia's idea of how to rotate through your cookbooks (Hi Patricia!). I recently photocopied the recipes from my cookbooks that I use a lot thinking I would add them to some sort of binder-type-organization system, but I like the idea of trying something new from each cookbook to add to my repertoire.

xo jen

The Uhrig Family said...

Thanks for the "credit" ;-). I actually was thinking I need to 'upgrade' the 3-ring binder. It's full! i either need to start #2 or upgrade to a major 6 inch binder...nonetheless - i'm glad I was an inspiration ;-)

insanemommy said...

Heather! I too have all my recipes in a binder. I also have saved the recipes I have modified in a word document that way if someone wants the recipe I just forward it to them via email. :)