Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Organizing Your Recipes

This isn't a bento or cupcake post, but I wanted to share this idea with you because I think it's a safe bet that most of the people who read my blog use the internet as a resource for creative food ideas and recipes.

Previously, I would get an idea in my head of what I want to make, search the internet for a recipe, print it out, take it to the kitchen and start cooking. If it was a dud, I'd throw out the paper when I was done. If it was really good, the paper would usually just sit on my counter for a bit or maybe on top of the fridge or microwave, getting shuffled around (and occasionally thrown out) whenever I cleaned up. So at any given time I would know I have an awesome recipe for cornbread somewhere, but I couldn't always find it in a pinch.

So it was definitely time to get organized.

This system was recommended to me by someone on one of the forums I frequent, and I'm really impressed with how simple it was and how nice the end result is. I tried to give really detailed instructions on how to set it up the way I did. Hopefully that won't make people think it's complicated because it's not, it's really easy.

To get started, you will need:

  • A nice binder
  • A package of sheet protectors
  • A package of dividers
  • Paper
  • Access to a colour printer
  • Document editing software (I use MS Office 2007)

Keep in mind that this binder will probably be spending a lot of time in your kitchen so choose items that will be okay if they get splashed with water or spatter from your mixer (that's why we're using sheet protectors). Avoid fabric binders and use dividers made from plastic rather than paper if you can.

The system is simple. Start a Word document and set it up to format your recipes the way you like. I used a preset theme in Word (called Verve) that set up font formatting for everything from the title of each recipe to the ingredient lists.

To set up your theme in Word 2007, click the Page Layout tab, and you will see the themes in the top left. Select the one you like, click on it and then click the Home tab. If you look at the bottom of the "Styles" box (over towards the right), you'll see a little arrow. Click on that and a new window opens next to your document listing the different types of texts (like Title, Subtitle, Heading, Normal Text, etc). Now you just need to highlight words and click on something in that list to format your document.

When I find a new recipe that I want to hang on to, I start a new page, click "Title", type in the title of the recipe and paste in a picture (Either one I've taken myself, or I do a Google image search to find something suitable). The pictures are really handy because they let you find recipes quickly and if, for example, BF wanted me to make something but didn't know what it was called, he can just find the picture of it.

Below the picture, I just copy/paste the recipe. The formatting is simple. I highlight the words "Ingredients" and "Directions" and click on "Heading 1" to tell Word what type of text it is so that it can format it correctly (bold pink text). I highlight the ingredients and click on "List Paragraph" to put it in bullet point form. Next I highlight the directions and click "Normal" to change the font and spacing to match the rest of my recipe book. Lastly, I go under page layout and select Page -> Page Break so that the next time I go to enter a recipe, I start on a new page.

After that, I might set up the text into columns or shift things around a little so that a long recipe fits on one page, but overall, the whole process takes less than a minute per recipe and all of the recipes are uniform in appearance and clear and easy to read.

Print out the pages of the recipes you've just added and figure out how you want to organize your binder.

I'm using six dividers labeled "Proteins", "Complex Carbs", "Dumplings", "Vegetables", "Fruits", "Desserts" and "Soups" because that's how I think about food and plan my meals. You can use any categories you like though.

Next, put the pages in the sheet protectors in the order you like. I include two sheets in each protector, one facing in each direction. I put the recipes in each section in alphabetical order and if I have a recipe that takes two pages, it has its own divider. By having each recipe on its own page, I'm able to move things around easily when I add new recipes so that I can keep everything in order.

Now whenever I find a new recipe, I can just add it to the document and print out any new recipes whenever I get a chance, to keep my binder up to date.

I've included pictures of a few sample pages for you to check out. Just click on them to get a closer look. I also threw together a quick title page and a label for the spine of the binder.


Jomamma (judith) said...

Hey girl, check out this site...
It's not going to make you all warm and fuzzy... your joints will probably hurt, sort of like when I watch The Office. Don't worry, you'll never qualify for this blog....

I'm going to post pictures of my latest knitting sometime this week.

Jomamma (judith) said...

BTW... I sent your recipe for the cake balls to our "Grandma Treats" lady and a few weeks later she said the recipe had made the Dallas Morning News! Grandma is supposed to bring treats tomorrow for our staff meeting, hope she brings Cake Balls.

Jacki said...

Omg I love this site! I found it a couple of weeks ago through tastespotting. BF and I were crying we were laughing so hard by the time we read through the whole thing.

Jacki said...

Hey that's really cool! Do you know what day's paper it was in? I'd like to see it!

Jomamma (judith) said...

I'll have to ask her tomorrow. May have been last week. Probably in the Dallas Morning News food section. I wonder if you can go into the website for the paper and search Cake Balls...

Jomamma (judith) said...

I should send them a picture of my wedding cake... I couldn't believe my mom paid for it.