Organizing recipes can be a unique skill
Fed up with the chaotic jumble of recipes she had collected, Judy Gunn decided to get organized. She sorted the recipes in piles on her living room floor and, over a span of about five days, placed them by category into photo albums.
“The system works for me,” said the Springfield, Ill., woman and community volunteer.
Like many of us, Gunn was looking for a way to make her recipes easy to retrieve. What with the plethora of recipes available in newspapers, magazines, fliers, product packages, the Internet and from friends, it can be difficult to organize them in a usable manner.
Gunn started her project years ago with two 8-by-10-inch photo albums, the kind with self-adhesive pages and plastic page covers. She’s now up to six: meats and seafood, vegetables and side dishes, international foods, desserts, drinks and one for appetizers, salads, breads, breakfasts, sauces and salsas. The photo albums — holding at least 1,000 recipes in total — are labeled and stored in her kitchen.
“I cook every night and we have guests a lot,” she said. “A lot of the recipes I’ve made so often I don’t need to look at them anymore, just maybe to check for an ingredient amount. But now I know how to find them.”
Regina Leeds is a Toluca Lake, Calif.-based professional organizer whose latest book is “One Year to an Organized Life” (Da Capo Press, 2008). Her three-step formula for organizing anything:
- Eliminate what you don’t need, don’t want or don’t intend to use.
- Categorize in a way that makes sense to you.
- Organize in a way that works for you.
“If you cut recipes out of newspapers and magazines, it’s important to cut them down,” she said. “You don’t want to be storing excess paper. You would be surprised how much space this eats up,” Leeds said.
- Photocopying newspaper and magazine recipes. They are less likely to yellow over time than the originals.
- Keeping recipes in file folders, divided by categories such as “main dish,” “soups” and “desserts.”
- Highlighting with a yellow marker your favorite cookbook recipes listed in the index. Use another color of highlighter to indicate the recipes you’ve tried and won’t make again.
- Flag often-used recipes in cookbooks with long, skinny Post-it notes.
People who can’t manage their belongings usually haven’t been taught those skills by their parents, Leeds said.
“How would you learn it if you haven’t been taught?” she asked. “We’re constantly making decisions about stuff coming into our lives. If we are afraid we’ll make the wrong decision or we don’t have time or organize, that’s where the clutter comes from.”
Recipe clutter no longer is a problem for Gail Leonard of Rochester, Ill.
She places recipes clipped from magazines and newspapers into a “holding” envelope until she can make them. If the recipe is a keeper, it is taped to a standard recipe card and filed in one of her recipe boxes. If the recipe doesn’t make the cut, it is discarded.
“I used to sit at my kids’ ball games a lot and flip through magazines while I was watching the games. So then I started taking scissors and cutting out recipes,” said the retired school district case manager.
To be able to located specific recipes in her cookbooks, Leonard marks a plus or minus sign next to the recipe title in the book index, indicated how well she liked the recipe.
“It’s a lot faster when you know where they are,” she said.
Gloria Josserand of Springfield, Ill., thinks critically about the recipes she chooses to keep.
“I read the recipe, place a marker (on it), then reread it a week or so later. If it still looks good, I scan it, save it and put it in a ‘try me’ folder.” Keepers go into a filing drawer.
When Josserand has a dinner party, she writes the date, names of guests and dishes prepared in a journal.
“If a guest disliked an item, perhaps mushrooms or olives, I make a note for the future. Also, I note if something is a favorite,” she said.
Any recipe that she types or scans is stored on her iMac, making it easy to pass along to anyone who requests it. (See accompanying story about digital recipe storage.)
Sally Sevener is a Springfield-based professional organizer and president of Sally’s Organizing Service. When it comes to creating order, her mantra is SPACE (sorting, purging, assigning a home, containerizing and equalizing.)
“Don’t go buying baskets and books until you sort and purge. Then you’ll know if you need to organize,” she said. “If you go through recipes and only keep a few, put them in a recipe box.”
Sevener keeps a ceramic recipe box in her kitchen filled with tried-and-true recipes. New ones she wants to try are tucked into a blue notebook kept in a kitchen drawer.
“If you haven’t used them in a year, toss,” she said. Even good ones should be discarded if they no longer fit your lifestyle. And remember to continually cull the collection to tame the clutter.
Sevener, a former secretary, recommends these systems for storing recipes:
- Accordion file folders with tabbed dividers.
- Three-ring binders with tabbed dividers.
- A filing cabinet with labeled folders.
- Purse-size, portable photo albums. These are handy for taking recipes to the supermarket when shopping for ingredients.
- Magazine holders for recipe and cooking periodicals.
- Online software programs.
“Most people are just thrilled (to get organized)” Sevener said. “They feel like a weight has been lifted.”
Favorite recipes from local recipe collectors:
Finally “Got It” Pot Roast
From Judy Gunn
2-pound boneless beef chuck roast
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3/4 of a 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 (10.5-ounce) can condensed beef broth
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 cup flour
Fresh chunked potatoes, carrots, onions and mushrooms, as many as you want
Brown the roast. Make slits on both sides and insert slices of garlic. Mix tomatoes, broth, wine, spices and flour in bowl.
Line large roasting pan with aluminum foil. Place roast on foil and pour sauce over roast. Pull up foil so roast is enveloped; seal foil tight to seal in juices. Place cover on roasting pan.
Bake at 300 degrees for at least 3 hours.
Unseal foil and add vegetables. Lightly reseal foil and place cover on pan. Bake another hour. Total cooking time should be at least 4 hours.
Makes about 6 servings.
Green Beans with Basil
From Gail Leonard
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 pound green beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
In a saucepan melt the butter. Add onion, celery, garlic, rosemary and basil; cook until onions and celery are clear. Set aside.
Stir-fry the beans in the olive oil approximately 10 minutes or until the desired crunchy texture is obtained. Add a small amount of water if needed and salt if desired. Toss with onion mixture and serve.
Makes 4 servings.
Grandmother Brayshaw’s Date Pudding
From Gail Leonard
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons flour, slightly heaped
1 cup sugar
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup chopped dates
Beat eggs well with a spoon. Add baking powder and flour. Add sugar, nuts and dates. In a greased glass 11-by-7-inch pan, bake at 350 degrees 25 minutes. Cool and cut.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Kathryn Rem can be reached at 788-1520.