Your personal cookbook

How to make finding your favourite recipe as easy as, well, pie!

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Remember that divine raspberry cheesecake your best pal made for your birthday? The dessert is long gone, but you know the recipe is here…somewhere.

If your idea of filing recipes is stuffing them in a packed kitchen drawer, it’s time for a more appetizing alternative. We’ve designed two easy methods: one super-fast, the other super-fun. Both give you lots of options so you can pick according to your cooking style. Just remember these three rules:

Make it pretty
For recipes torn from magazines, trim edges neatly and include the pictures. Your collection will look more tempting and you can steal serving ideas from the photos.

Make it personal
Did you modify a recipe? Did you serve it with the perfect side dish? Include notes so you’ll know what worked.

Make it practical
Only keep recipes you consider tried and true. Why waste time fussing over duds?

Find your recipes in a snap

Keep things simple by trying one of these six ideas, or personalize your system by combining them. Don’t be afraid to file a dish in multiple sections: if you can’t decide whether the vegetable curry belongs in Side Dishes or Vegetarian Entrees, there’s no law against stashing it in both. Here are some options:

By course
This method works best with specific labels: instead of main courses, sort by poultry, beef, pork, seafood and vegetarian. If you bake a lot, you may want a separate binder just for treats.

By occasion
Sort by when you’d serve dishes: weeknight quickies, potlucks, backyard barbecues, Passover.

By ingredient
Set up sections for dishes that feature your preferred fruits, veggies or herbs—great for when you’ve got leftover fresh basil but can’t decide how to use it up.

By month or season
Perfect if you love local produce but need a reminder to cook with it. In late summer, open your August section and take your pick of peach dishes.

By international flavours
Sort by ethnicity—Indian, Thai, Italian—to make menu planning easier.

By time
Sort by prep or cooking time: under 15 minutes, 15 to 30 minutes, an hour.

The fast file

This three-step method using an accordion file is best for small collections, since finding the recipe you want means leafing through every sheet in a section. Here are some ideas:

1. Get an accordion file
Buy a roomy folder with at least 10 slots. Choose one with a splatter-proof plastic cover.

2. Add specific categories
The more categories you create (desserts, starters, salads, barbecue), the fewer recipes you’ll have to sift through to grab the one you want.

3. Separate new recipes
Paper-clip new finds together and file them at the front of the appropriate category. When you’re feeling frisky in the kitchen, they will slide out on top. Keep small recipes from getting lost by enlarging with a photocopier or attaching to a larger sheet of paper. Keep recipes clean by storing them in acid-free plastic page protectors. Or tuck one or two empty protectors into your file and slip recipes in as you use them.

Tip: Pick a file with flat edges so you can prop it up on one end to display recipes (secured with an elastic) while you’re busy cooking.

The fun binder

Put together this pretty binder if you want your jumble of recipes to look as scrumptious as a personalized cookbook. Neat and flexible, it’s perfect for organization junkies or cooks with ever-expanding collections. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

A. Choose a binder with a waterproof or wipe-friendly surface that’s at least 1 1/2 inches thick.

B. Tape recipes to a blank sheet of paper. If one day they no longer suit your lifestyle, they’ll be easier to remove than if you glue them.

C. Use acid-free plastic page protectors to keep recipes splatter-free.

D. Incorporate cookbook recipes by photocopying and filing your faves. Or if there’s no copier nearby, make a list of your best chicken dishes from various cookbooks (with titles and page numbers) on a sheet of paper and slot into the appropriate category.

E. Highlight recipe names with different-coloured markers or stickers: flag make-ahead recipes in green, low-cal in yellow and freezer-friendly in blue, for example, so you can quickly spot recipes with features that are important to you or fit a particular diet.

F. Label each category using page protectors with tabs.

G. Stash new recipes in these tabbed protectors until they pass the taste-bud test. When you’re looking for a dish, you’ll see these first.

H. Create a menu section for each dinner party, noting guests (and their food allergies) and what you served. You’ll know not to repeat the same meal for a particular crowd and you’ll also whip up a handy list of menus. Include shopping lists (on index cards) for favourite menus or dishes so you can slip them in your wallet on your way out shopping.

Tip: Search our Recipe file for more than 1000 delicious, triple-tested recipes to add to your newly-organized collection.