Is Your Family Cookbook a Hellacious Dump?

Well, I’m here to rescue your poor imploding binder. Because of the nature of this post, I don’t have that many pictures that are perfectly related to organisation (unless you want me to upload 10 pictures of my lovely tabs), so I’ll provide you a sneak-peak to future recipes that are hidden in the binder as I go about explaining familial organisational tools. So, here we go: How to Make an Organised Family Cookbook out of your Mess.

Recipe

Step 1: Remove Everything. This is one of my family recipes (a custard) that has been removed, so delicately, from an old binder stuffed with napkin edges full of recipes. Some of them had huge stains, some were ripped in two, some had four duplicates. So when you’re taking apart what is probably, at this point, a binder falling apart or a notebook with 3 recipes on each page, be mindful that you might be handling the only recorded version of that cake or casserole. Put them in a pile, or several piles if they are already organised in some fashion, and clean out the entire old cookbook.
Banana Bread

Step 2: Purchase Replacements. Get yourself 2 2′ binders that feel sturdy and strong. Nothing that will fall apart in a month — a year — even four years. You don’t want to have to do this every blue moon. You want this to be the version you hand your grandchildren. Whether that means you have to reinforce it with steel. You want 2 because, you will probably need 2, despite what you think. If you don’t use it, you can use the other binder to store recipes you want to try, contacts, important documents, etc.

Also purchase a 100 pack of clear paper protectors. Invest in stronger ones that won’t tear at the creases and sides. Then, purchase either a stack of computer paper or coloured mounting paper (scrapbooking will do), because it will give your cookbook a much more elegant and personal feeling. Finally, get some double sided acid-free mounting tape from an office or crafts store. You can find it in the scrapbooking section.

Step 3: Rethink Your Categories. If you didn’t have categories before, or if you’re using old categories from a premade cookbook, it’s time to take charge and divvy up your recipes. Personalise. For example, I broke up breads into “breakfast” and “savoury” because my family actually¬† has several dozen in each section. I’ll provide you with the categories I settled with:

  • Sauces and Appetizers
  • Savoury Breads
  • Soups, Salads, Pizzas, Sandwiches, etc.
  • Beverages
  • Breads and Breakfast Items
  • Casseroles
  • Meats and Poultry
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Vegetables
  • Holiday
  • Desserts
  • Miscellaneous

Pan Seared Salmon
Step 4: Mount and Sort. I hope you bought enough double sided tape, because now it’s time to sit down with an army of family members and just go through those recipes. Put them into the categories you came up with, toss out the ones you haven’t done in 20 years (and don’t plan on doing) that have little memory value, and, if you have the man power, assign a person or two to start mounting. Double side the papers, putting recipes on both sides. Make sure that the recipes on both sides belong in the same category, and do this for as many hours as you can stand. It will go faster and faster. Mount a recipe or two on each side, slide it into a page protector, and stack them up again.

Sauteed ApplesStep 5: Snap Them In and Enjoy! It’s time to take pictures of those lovely new recipe binders sitting on your pretty shelf. This means no more sifting through for lost recipes, no more using the same ones in the front, finding those great family recipes that make you laugh (Sock-It-To-Em Cake, anyone?) and finally getting them all sorted, set, and protected. The paper protectors will make sure that no more spatters ruin your grandmother’s handwriting, and the binder will let you snap them out and carry them around the kitchen as you stir and whisk up family tradition.

But wait! There’s more! Another bonus is that it is now easy for your children or pesky relatives to come and make copies. Send them to the nearest copy machine and they can unsnap and press page-by-page the recipes that they want. Now you don’t have to worry about sitting down and typing them up another copy of the illegible scrawl your German great-aunt-in-law wrote on the back of your tax returns when she visited you twelve years ago. Instead, now it’s easy and breezy.

Hopefully you’ll get inspired to clear your cluttery kitchen and start with your cookbook too!

-A.
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3 Ways to Die by Chocolate

Ok, let me make this clear: unless you put arsenic into any of these recipes, you shouldn’t actually die. No promises though, because these are 3 recipes from the lovely Martha Stewart Food magazine that will leave you wondering if you’re having an out of body experience. I might be blowing my own horn a bit much, but really. These recipes, try them.

Double Chocolate Pudding
Double Chocolate Pudding

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa (spooned and leveled)
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped, plus shavings

Directions

  1. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl; set aside. In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt. Gradually whisk in milk, taking care to dissolve cornstarch. Whisk in egg yolks.
  2. Whisking constantly, heat over medium until the first large bubble sputters, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat to low; cook, whisking, 1 minute. Remove from heat; immediately pour through sieve into bowl. Add butter, vanilla, and chocolate; stir until smooth.
  3. Place plastic wrap on surface of pudding (to prevent a skin from forming); chill at least 3 hours (or up to 3 days). To serve, whisk until smooth; divide among serving cups, and garnish with shavings.
Dark Chocolate Espresso Cookies
Dark Chocolate Espresso Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa (spooned and leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, 4 ounces melted and 4 ounces coarsely chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition; mix in vanilla. Combine espresso powder and melted chocolate; beat into butter mixture. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; mix just until combined. Fold in chopped chocolate.
  3. Drop dough by two heaping tablespoons, 3 inches apart, onto two baking sheets. Bake until edges are dry, 14 to 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Chocolate Dipped Strawberries with Pistachios

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 pound large strawberries (about 20), washed and dried well
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped pistachios (optional)

Directions

  1. Place chocolate in a bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water. Stir occasionally, until melted, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. One at a time, dip each strawberry in chocolate, twirling to coat; then sprinkle chocolate-covered portion with pistachios, if using, and place on waxed paper.
  3. Chill chocolate-dipped strawberries at least 15 minutes to set chocolate. (Strawberries should not be stored in refrigerator longer than 1 hour as condensation drops may collect on the chocolate.)
Chocolate Strawberries
And yes, that will be all.
-A
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