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Finding a recipe among your cookbooks

I have a large collection of cookbooks (by my standard, about 30), but often find myself going to the internet to find a recipe when I need one. The reason for is that with so many cookbooks, it takes too long to find what I am looking for, for instance an interesting pork tenderloin recipe. I could go through all the cookbooks, or I could just look on line. I have been thinking of ways to avoid this, and this is all that I have come up with:

recording in a database the following from each cookbook - Name of cookbook, name of each recipe, type of recipe (app, entre, lunch, cocktail, etc...), primary ingredient, and page. That way I could just go to my computer, sort by pork, and then go to whichever cookbook has the most interesting recipe.

Obviosly this would be time consuming. Anybody else have a better (more efficient) system?

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  1. That would be very efficient! And time-consuming, as you mentioned. My system, if it can be called that, is to pull out several cookbooks that either look like they might be useful or I (vaguely) remember having what I'm looking for, and then sitting on the floor in front of the wall o' cookbooks, and digging through them. I do tend to remember recipes that I'd like to try, though usually I end up combining various parts of several recipes, which can be fun too. That makes giving recipes to others kind of difficult, though, lol. The other day I told someone to "take the recipe for the orange cake, but make it with lemons and add more zest, and then use this buttercream but mix half of it with ground almonds and then instead of the raspberries, use raspberry jam" ... etc etc etc. :)

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chocolatechipkt

      "My system, if it can be called that, is to pull out several cookbooks that either look like they might be useful or I (vaguely) remember having what I'm looking for, and then sitting on the floor in front of the wall o' cookbooks".

      Finally - I have proof that I'm not the only one! My husband walks by, looks at me sitting on the floor with books spread about, and just shakes his head.

      Bayou has started a good thread - lots of helpful suggestions on organizing.

      1. re: Rubee

        You see, that is what SO and I call fun. We spent saturday morning looking through recipes before we hit the farmer's market... :)

        --Dommy!

    2. How about just recording recipe stats in your data base as you use the recipe? Every book has a lot of recipes that you'll never use. Don't waste time logging them.

      1 Reply
      1. re: yayadave

        Yayadave,

        I do tend to record, or at least flag, recipies that I have used. I have a good memory for recipies that I have used in the past. It is the ones that I have not used that I want to be aware of, so that one day I will use them.

      2. I keep a notebook with a list of recipes I've tried, the source, any modifications and how it turned out. It lives on the bookcase with the most actively used cookbooks. A critical part of this is having a pencil firmly attached to the notebook!

        2 Replies
        1. re: sheiladeedee

          This is how I do it too, or I will go through the cookbook and make notes on paper that is then kept on the inside cover of the book so I can glance at it quickly. Sometimes I will flag pages too that look interesting. But then again, I read cookbooks like some people read romance novels......all starry eyed and glassed over!!!

          1. re: cooknKate

            I read them for pleasure too - and after this many years with them I know where to find most of the recipes I use regularly without consulting my list. And I have a fair idea where to find something suitable if I haven't made it before or if I want a variation. The books have such distinctive personalities - The New Best Recipe and the other CI books are meticulous but not really adventurous - so are Joy and Fannie, Julia is classic and precise but the dishes are a little more unusual for my style of cooking, Bittman is more interesting and has a good range of international - Mario is, well, Mario.... and so on. So if I am looking for something adventurous and unusual for a dinner party for Columbus Day weekend I'll check out Mario or one of the other Italians, or Giada's recipes on the Food Network. If my mother decides she wants a nice chicken stew, out comes New Best Recipe.

            I take no chances, however, with cookie and candy recipes. I do a lot of holiday baking for presents and all the recipes I regularly use are in the computer and printed out on blue paper (with the source listed) and inserted into one of those notebooks with plastic page protectors so nothing splatters them. The title of that notebook is "Sheila's Blue Book of Happiness" and I don't lend it out!

        2. I have a system that really works well for me. First, I went thru every cookbook I had and made an index (in Word format) of every recipe I like. I listed the cookbook name, then the recipe name and page number. I sorted them (in different documents) by type: poultry, meat, seafood, starch, appetizers, salads, etc. Then I printed out each list and keep them in separate binders, along with recipes that I've clipped and want to try, or have tried. Whenever I need to find a recipe I go to the respective binder, look at either the list or the clipped recipes and find what I want.

          Recipes that make it onto my "frequently used and liked" list get their own Word document, again sorted by type, which I keep next to the stove for easy reference. These recipes are fully typed out for immediate use, not reference.

          It sounds time consuming but once you get it done it's easy to maintain.

          2 Replies
          1. re: rednails

            I should clarify one thing above--the list of frequently used/liked recipes is just one Word document, not different ones. So, all the chicken recipes are listed in a row, then the meat, etc etc. I abreviate a lot once I've made them a few times. This is basically a mini cookbook, about 18 pages long right now, but still easily managable.

            I used to keep all my old magazines, using tabs to find recipes I liked, and also a master index as well. THAT was a lot of work, not to mention a huge space waster. I finally clipped/photocopied the recipes I liked and put them in my binder.

            I also forgot to mention the other organizer thing I do--when Id don't have time to put the clipped recipes into my binder, I put them into file folders marked w/the same catergories.

            1. re: rednails

              This is what I do with my magazines as well... I do this both for recipes and design, and it works really well for me.

          2. Sounds like "Cookbook Mise en Place." You did a serious amount of work.

            2 Replies
            1. re: yayadave

              It wasn't as bad as you think, and it really works. And it's truly easy to update. It's actually harder to keep on top of the clipped recipes.

              OK, I admit, I'm addicted to clipping recipes. There, I said it. There must be a 12-step program for me out there.....

              1. re: rednails

                Yeah, it's called Chowhound. A 24/7 chance to meet with other addicts.