Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Spring cleaning

Spring is definitely here and while I do have the urge to do a little sprucing up around the old homestead, the touch-up caulking and painting at the top of a high ladder will have to wait until this damn cold goes away (visions of coughing myself backwards off the ladder come to mind).

Allow me to propose a fun-ish activity which can be done while lolling on the couch (don't you love chores like that?), has tangible results and is one of the few organizing concepts that I have thought up that actually works really well. Organize your recipes.

If, like me, you are addicted to food magazines (Hi, my name is Kate and I have a subscription problem....) you probably have a teetering pile of magazines each of which has maybe two or three recipes that you might actually attempt to make.

Rather than leave the magazines and the recipes hidden like this:
Photogenic basket, but not terribly practical when it actually comes to making dinner...

I'm going to suggest that you invest in a few affordable office supplies and create one binder and two folders.

Into the binder go recipes that you regularly make and that are tried and true:
You can assign one of your daughter's robots to protect your favorite recipes.

and into the two folders go the clipped-out recipes that you think you might want to cook someday.
I organized mine by Savory or Sweet, but go ahead and develop whatever categories work well for you.

Now before you begin this project here is a list of the supplies you need:
  • 1 binder
  • 1 large pack of page protectors (so you can slide clippings in--no need to retype anything)
  • 1 set of binder dividers
  • 2 (or more) pocket folders to put your clippings in

Alternatively, if you are really into organizing, you could have two binders, one with the tried and true recipes and one with the yet-to-be-tried recipes. I'm too lazy to organize this thoroughly.

Now grab a sharp pair of scissors and gather together your teetering pile of magazines. Cut out anything that you might be tempted to make and that falls within the realm of a reasonable recipe (the ethnic stew with 23,000 ingredients and specialized equipment you can pass over) and stick it in its appropriate folder:
Once your folder is as packed to the gills as this one is, you know that you need to spend a little time in the kitchen cooking some of what you clipped and deciding whether the recipe is a keeper or not.

If it is a goodie, then find that little darling a page protector of its very own and sort it into your binder. The page protector keeps cooking crud off of the recipe and it means you can just unclip the specific recipe and don't have to have the whole binder out taking up counter space. For sorting, I divided my binder into the following categories: Soups/Salads/Sides, Main Dishes, Baked goods (non dessert--you know, breads, scones, muffins), Desserts. I've been debating whether I should add another section for cookies, because the urge to make cookies is often separate from my urge to make a proper dessert. But for now the cookie recipes are hanging out with the Hot Fudge Pudding Cake recipes (yes, there is more than one tried and true Hot Fudge Pudding Cake recipe in my binder. Wanna make something of it?)
When you are pressed for time, feeling like you can't think of what to cook or maybe just needing a little self-esteem boost that a successfully prepared recipe can provide, you can turn to this binder and find reliable recipes. And if later a recipe that you thought was a keeper lets you down (some recipes have the first-time-good-luck thing going for them and are disasters every time thereafter) you can easily yank it out and put it through your paper shredder.

And when you feel the itch to cook something new, you can turn to your folders and look at what you clipped out. I just opened up my Savory folder and saw perched on the top of the pile a recipe for Tagliatelle with Creme Fraiche and Arugula (from god knows where. Those of you with sourcing issues might have a problem with my organizing system). As I just planted my arugula seeds in my garden yesterday, I'm going to try this recipe when it is time to thin the rows.

I do this exercise about once every four months to liberate the horizontal surfaces in our house from their magazine detritus. Any magazine that hasn't been cut to pieces (maybe just one or two recipes clipped) I take to either the magazine exchange rack at the downtown library or to the magazine rack at the Y. Personally, I love to read a good food magazine while sweating away on an exercise bike. Call it justification for putting all that effort and sweat into going absolutely nowhere.


Denise said...

But whatever will I do with that shelf space where my current stack of Cooking Light magazines (circa 2003-2004) are sitting?

Books, perhaps?! :D

Anonymous said...

That is a good system. I try to do something like this every now and again, but your idea is much more organized than mine.