Thursday, January 3, 2013

Fresh Starts in 2013!

Happy New Year, Readers!  Thanks for checking in!  

If you're asking yourself, dear god, what is going on in that picture, you're not alone.  That was my floor a few days ago, and every time I walked into my room I had a similar reaction.  To answer your question, what is going on was the great recipe binder reorganization project of 2012/13.

Right after I graduated from college and was new to the world of fending for oneself without the aid of a dining hall and a comprehensive meal plan (a world from which I have since regressed in my current job) I barely owned any cookbooks, nor did I subscribe to any cooking magazines.  (True story: The first recipe book I was given was Cooking for Kids when I was about 8.  The second one was Cooking for Dummies when I was 17.  Ahhh, the irony.  I only keep that one because there's a recipe for Cranberry Orange Quick Bread that I like...but I digress.)  So back when I was 22 and started cooking for real, recipes seemed like a somewhat rare and novel thing, and I collected them indiscriminately from a variety of sources.  As I started collecting more and more, and I went from keeping them in stacks to manila folders, and finally to an accordion folder that I separated into sections by meal and by main ingredient.  I was probably 23 or so when I made this folder, and the sections represent the way I ate back then--three sections for breakfast foods, sections for every type of protein, including ones I don't even eat, and three different sections for desserts.  When I started eating primarily vegetarian cuisine circa 2009 or so I actually had to change the "Eggs" section to "Eggs, Veggies, and Vegetarian Entrees."  That section, along with "Salads," are by far the fastest growing sections--it seems nearly impossible to believe that I didn't give Veggies their own section the first time around!  Now the folder is so bulging that it is football-shaped in profile, and it's so overwhelming to sort through that recipes are ending up in stacks again because I can't be bothered to file them.  So I knew it was time to reassess the recipe folder situation.  

When I started reorganizing I had three main objectives.  The first was to separate out the recipes that I had already tried and liked, and store them in a new folder.  That way they'd be easier to find, and there would be fewer recipes in Exploding Folder #1.  The second objective was to discard any recipes that I didn't think I'd ever try.  A testament to how my eating habits have evolved is the fact that I threw out several recipes, including one for a chicken casserole that called for several different cans of creamed vegetables.  So far as I know I have never bought nor cooked with a creamed vegetable product.  I suspect I clipped that recipe when I was 22 and had had so few opinions on food that anything seemed like fair game.  I also discarded recipes for "roasted veggies," because honestly, I no longer need a recipe to roast veggies anymore.  The third goal, only cosmetic, was to trim the edges of any raggedy or unevenly cut recipes, because I'm compulsive like that.  I had so many skinny strips of paper floating around my room, it looked like a ticker tape parade had come barging through.  

As I was undertaking this project I noticed a few trends:  First, I barely ever cook from this folder; relatively few recipes made the jump into the new "Tried and True" folder.  The online food world has exploded since I started collecting recipes, so I'm never more than a quick Google search away from the specific recipe I want, and the tremendous growth of my online recipe folders illustrates my reliance on the internet for recipe searches.  Plus the advantage of these resources is there is often helpful reader feedback, whereas it's not always easy to tell from a list of ingredients if this chocolate cookie is better than that chocolate cookie or arugula salad or whatever it is.  Although sometimes it is, such as when you discover that in your youthful naivete you tore out a recipe for Chicken Satay and Peanut Sauce, and there are only four ingredients.  At that point it's pretty easy to know it's not a keeper, or even a try-er...into the recycle bin that one goes.  But, I also noticed that there were a ton of recipes that still look appealing and I do want to try (including no fewer than 20 variations on Quinoa Salad).  To that end, I am going to make a point of cooking from it more often, and when the recipes are successful, I will blog about them.  Having promised a friend some baked treats, I started out by trying two new cookie recipes, instead of my go-tos, World Peace and Mexican Wedding Cookies.  I think I was having an off-day, because in addition to those cookies I made my high school's signature Lemon Poppy Seed Cake (the recipe for which is bestowed upon students on graduation day).  I have made it many times in the past 10 years, always to rave reviews, and this time it turned out gummy and stuck to the pan, which never happens!  In any case, the cookies were fine, but not as good as others in my arsenal.  Two more recipes into the recycle bin!  Live and learn.  (PS, they were still well received by my gracious friends, but I know I can do better.)

Do you, dear readers, have similar recipe-collecting conundrums?  If so, I hope this has inspired you to reevaluate or reorganize in the new year (I'm all about fresh starts), or, if you have any tips that you think can help me, please share!

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