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A Lifetime of Recipes: Creating My Own Cookbook

When I was a kid, like many of us Gen X'ers and older generations, had parents with not only a collection of cookbooks like Good Housekeeping, Joy of Cooking and Southern Living, but also a box filled with recipe notecards. Ultimately she upgraded to a mini binder with recipes, and so when I moved out on my own, that inspired me as well.

The storebought versions, however, never worked for me. There was never enough room for directions, much less corrections, the categories didn't always apply to me, and once you ran out of room? You were SOL.

So about 15-20 years ago, I built my own binder, complete with categories that were meaningful to ME. Breakfast is it's own category, as is Vegetarian...but Salad is not (it goes into Sides). Then I did what any former executive assistant would naturally do - I decked it out, keeping my recipes safe in sheet protectors, adding colorful category tabs, creating cover pages with my own photographs and favorite quotes related to the category, and then...the doozy, typing up a lot of my messy notes from over the years.

While the latter part may seem redundant or exhausting, for me that's the key to keeping your own recipe binder - making sure the instructions work for YOU. A lot of recipes are overly verbose. Some cooks' instructions need tweaking for what equipment you have in your kitchen, what products you've learned are good substitutes, how hot your oven or stovetop cooks (VIP) and/or you just need it to Make More Sense When You're Cooking so you don't get lost when following along. Along with that, my big binder has a pocket on the inside cover where I keep recipes torn out of magazines that I've yet to try.

One of the biggest advantages to keeping something like this in your kitchen is when you realize some of your cookbooks only honestly have a few recipes you actually like and/or use. Photocopy or type up those recipes, slap 'em in your binder, then donate the seldom-used cookbook, and make space for a new cookbook!

PS - Like me, your binder might start bursting at the seams. This is why I have a separate skinny binder just for my canning & preserving projects. From strawberry jam to apple butter to condiments like homemade mustard and hoisin, it's now got its own book.


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