Building your personal cooking file

Recently I wrote about my dislike of following recipes. That doesn’t mean I am always running on my memory. That is one of my more unreliable talents, so I have learned to document what I am unlikely to remember.

Real food recipe folder image
A simple folder holds recipes from friends and outside sources, as well as successful recipes gathered from the Web.

First, when I do use a successful recipe, I save it. Recipes arrive in my kitchen scrawled on a scrap of paper, if from a friend or other source of inspiration, or printed on a page from the Web. I keep a folder in my cupboard to harbor these treasures (only if they work for me, of course). I have tried almost every recipe system available, and nothing has kept my important information in place better than a simple folder. I spend a little extra time finding what I need, because there is no order to my file, but the important thing is that it is easy to put the paper away, no matter what form it takes. When I am cleaning my kitchen, I am moving fast and on autopilot — no time for creative thinking. Any form of information storage that required intricate folding or cutting to fit, would never work.

Real food kitchen notebook
A notebook safely stores all the tips and observations from my own kitchen.

The second tool I could not do without is my notebook. I store all of my canning information in this book, because I generally only use the technique or recipe once a year. No chance I will remember what recipe I used, let alone any notes about how many jars I need for the recipe, or things I learned while making the current batch. I also use the notebook for cooking times of common ingredients, i.e., my farmer-purchased chickens that I cut in half to use. I strongly recommend a notebook for this type of information. Slips of paper tend to get lost, and this book is a collection of the best tips you have learned in your own kitchen, with your own ingredients. As you can see from my sample, neat, or even complete is not critical. As long as you can understand what is written, less is more.

This page contains a salsa I have developed myself to replicate a Mexican restaurant favorite. Note: The restaurant no longer exists, and was in Indiana, anyway. Thanks to my real-food habits, I can still enjoy this treat. That’s one of the benefits of cooking from ingredients — nobody can take a favorite away from you. However, I often just refer to the recipe, and make notes on my experiences in this notebook. I don’t write things down about everything I cook. The notes in this book are about critical things I may forget, especially if it is something I don’t make often.

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One thought on “Building your personal cooking file

  1. I use a simple black binder purchased from Staples. I copy my recipes either from a cookbook or write them out by hand. Only my favs make it to the “black” book. I have dividers that separate the recipes by Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Desserts, and Salads. Has worked good for me thus far.

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