New Recipe: Spring cleaning means organizing recipe clippings

I’m seduced by recipes. From magazines, cookbooks and websites, they reach out and grab me, imploring me to get cooking.

Pick up any of the food magazines scattered around the house and you’ll find dog-eared pages with dinners, desserts or drinks marked for future action. Cookbooks on the shelves have sticky notes and scrap-paper bookmarks reminding me of delicious possibilities if only I would step up to the plate. 

Websites like allrecipes.com, delish.com and sallysbakingaddiction.com are places to while away valuable time with food fantasies. Worst of all is the New York Times. I’m pretty sure it’s become a cooking powerhouse, with a newsroom and some foreign correspondents on the side. The Times sends me an email almost daily. “What to Cook This Week,” “4 Dinners in 35 Minutes,” and “A Pie for all Seasons” are some of the recent temptations from top-notch writers like Sam Sifton, Melissa Clark and Dorie Greenspan.  Where to start?

Cookbooks on the shelves have sticky notes and scrap-paper bookmarks reminding me of delicious possibilities if only I would take action. 

Cookbooks on the shelves have sticky notes and scrap-paper bookmarks reminding me of delicious possibilities if only I would take action. 

Frank Whitman / For Hearst Connecticut Media Group

I can’t give up my absorption with these cooking possibilities, so I’ve decided to get them organized. 

For years, Marsha and I have kept three-ring binders, divided into “Sweet” and “Savory,” filled with recipes culled over time with torn magazine pages, shared recipes, handwritten family heirlooms and website printouts all roughly filed by category. We’ve never gotten around to alphabetizing within the categories. Instead, recipes are filed by most recently used. Pages are returned to the front of their section – a reverse chronology of recent menus.    

It’s easy to see which ones are the most popular. At the back of the sections are a few never-cooked titles. Some are so appealing that we keep them just to admire. Others, frankly, are never going to make it to the stove or oven and should be culled. That might be the first step in the organizing process. 

Three ring binders divided into “Sweet” and “Savory” filled with recipes culled over time. 

Three ring binders divided into “Sweet” and “Savory” filled with recipes culled over time. 

Frank Whitman / For Hearst Connecticut Media Group

What I really want to do is create a list of recipes for future cooking. There have been too many times when I recall a tempting idea, but can’t remember where I saw it  and don’t know where to find it.  I hope a master list will put that right. I already know that it will lead to a mash-up of old and new technologies.

Pages torn out of magazines and copies made from borrowed books will be filed (I hope) by category: entree, dessert, baking and the like. Cakes may get a folder of their own. Just this month, I’ve got my eye on the Kentucky Jam Cake flavored with blackberries in Fine Cooking; a Chambray Cassis cocktail from Bon Appetit, and Pork Chops with Sherry Pan Sauce from Food & Wine. 

Pages like this one from Fine Cooking for Kentucky Jam Cake have dog-eared corners.

Pages like this one from Fine Cooking for Kentucky Jam Cake have dog-eared corners.

Frank Whitman / For Hearst Connecticut Media Group

I don’t want to lose track of recipes for another season like Roasted Corn Chowder with Shrimp and Tarragon or Braised Chicken with Butternut Squash, Walnuts and Sage from Chef Michael Lomonaco’s engaging book, Nightly Specials. I think I’ll copy the pages and put them in another folder for handy reference.


There will be a file of digital recipes in the cloud. Sourced from websites, it’s easy to copy and paste or download them – sometimes too easy. I can see some electronic clutter here. Recently, I’ve been looking up poached salmon; it’s easy to compare the online recipes and pick the best or synthesize the ideas into one that appeals and then save it. 

Prolific sources like the Times, have their own “recipe box” feature where I can store the recipes that attract me. It’s a wish list of good eating. A quick scan of my NYT recipe box includes Coq au Vin, Blueberry Muffins and Butterscotch Pudding.  

This project falls under the heading of spring cleaning – the kind of thing that longer days and warmer weather inspire.  If it goes well, we’ll have some exciting new cooking experiences.

Frank Whitman writes a weekly food column called “Not Bread Alone.” He can be reached at NotBreadAloneFW@gmail.com.



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