Rudey's Room

How to Make a Recipe Binder

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.”

– A. A. Milne


In 2001, I took a cooking class MK restaurant in Chicago. At the time, I worked in the recruiting department at a downtown law firm. That summer, we planned events around the city to wine and dine our law-school interns.

The stand out was this cooking class.

I learned how to make an incredible peppercorn-crusted halibut with fingerling potatoes and chanterelle mushrooms. Along with a champagne buzz, I got a recipe handout. Eager to try out this dish on my boyfriend (now husband), I stuffed the recipe in an empty DePaul University binder.

That is still where it resides.

I didn’t know it then, but this recipe marked the beginning of my recipe binder.

Over the years, I’ve added … and added recipes to this binder. It’s my central database.

When I’m gearing up for the grocery store, I pull out my recipe binder (or his). It’s a one stop for guaranteed pleasers.

Here’s how to get started on a recipe binder:

  • Scrounge for a binder. We have three – his, hers, holidays. Ours are repurposed, but you could certainly doctor yours up. And if you do, please share.
  • Decide on your categories. Make cover sheets or dividers with tabs to separate your categories. My hers is remedial – I have dividers with words scribbled on the front – but it works. Mine is divided into appetizers, salads/soups/vegetables, main dishes, kid friendly, and desserts.
  • Rummage for recipes. Photocopy favorite recipes from your cookbooks or print them off of Epicurious. Tear them out of Food & Wine and Family Fun. Ask family and friends for their go-to recipes. At one point (pre kids, no doubt), I typed up dozens of recipes and organized them in my book. Now my recipe binder is littered with magazine scraps and scribbled notes from friends. Frankly, it is not pretty … but it still works.
  • Plastic sleeves are key. Run out to Target for a large box of plastic sleeves. These are fantastic because you can wipe them clean. Slip your recipes into the sleeves and start arranging the pages to form a book.
  • What makes it in? How will you decide what recipes belong in your binder? My binder is my tried and true. I tag recipes in cookbook that I want to try. I tear out magazines from Bon Appétit and place them in the front pocket of my binder. But I usually try a recipe a couple times before it makes its way in.
  • It’s your tailor-made cookbook: When you are creating your binder, it’s really your personal cookbook. You can get to make it what you want – maybe you only like recipes with photos, maybe you want your recipes alphabetized, maybe you want to write all over your recipes and re-type them from time to time. It’s your book and your call.
  • It’s like a crockpot. Every now and again, spend a half hour rummaging through the binder to toss (put aside?) recipes that no longer appeal to you. As mine evolved, I asked my mom, my mother-in-law, my friends for family favorites. The recipe binder takes time and grows with your tastes.

A recipe binder would be a cute idea for a wedding shower in lieu of a recipe box. I really loved when friends and family gave me their favorite recipes, but honestly, the recipe box didn’t work for me. I ended up typing my favorites to add to my recipe binder.

Below is a recipe to get you started. It’s sweet and savory, and a family fav at my house.
Wok-Stirred Ginger Chicken with Brown Sugar Rice
Serves 4
What you need:
  • 3 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless cut into thin, long julienne pieces
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 serrano chile, minced with seeds (optional. We leave this out of the kids and sauté it separately for us)
  • 2 cups blanched sugar snap peas, de-ended, cut on the bias into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 cups house rice cooked and chilled
  • ¼ cup naturally brewed rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Wanjashan, naturally brewed soy sauce
  • canola oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
 What you’ll do:
  • In a wok (pan) coated lightly with oil, stir the chicken, season and cook through, about 3-4 minutes.  Set aside.
  • In the same wok coat lightly with oil and add the ginger, garlic, chile and stir for 1 minute. Add chicken, rice and sugar snap peas to the wok.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the naturally brewed rice vinegar and  brown sugar to dissolve, and add to the wok. Add naturally brewed soy sauce and heat thru, check for seasoning and serve.

Ciao for now.

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