Stefani's most-fantastical-reads book montage

Crooked Kingdom
Six of Crows
Yellow Brick War
The Wicked Will Rise
Charm & Strange
Their Fractured Light
These Broken Stars
Big Little Lies
I'll Be There
Red Queen

Stefani's favorite books »

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Book

No, not the Bible. And not Twilight either... I'm talking about THE BOOK. My collection of almost ten years of recipes - finally organized.

Let's go back ten years... Derek and I were at WSU and living in our little apartment. I had spent my life avoiding time in the kitchen with my mom - what was I going to learn? How to cook? HA! Forget that. [Oh, the naivety of a teenager]. It only took living on our own for a little while for me to realize that college student or not, I could not survive on Hamburger Helper and Hot Pockets [although I'm pretty sure Derek could]. And so began my journey into the wonderful world of cooking.

It was [really] rough at first. I was new at everything and I didn't know what flavors we generally liked together, what textures grossed us out [ricotta inside chicken? Ew.], and what herbs or spices I should use. Every time we went to the grocery store I was allowed to buy two new spices to add to my little spice rack [sadly, I think I still have some originals that we discovered we didn't care for]. I bought cooking magazines and started dog-earing pages and attempting to re-create the beautiful food on the pages in my kitchen.

I'm not going to lie it was PAINFUL at times. Frustrating. Disappointing. Expensive... but then things started looking up - I started getting the hang of it and was able to trust my gut and make changes to the recipes we loved to make them even better. I'll never forget the Thanksgiving we spent snowed in at college - I made the ENTIRE turkey dinner and it was amazing. Unfortunately, it was just the two of us and we had enough food to feed half the frats in Pullman... but it was wonderful and it boosted my little chef's ego.

The one [that's a lie, there were many... but I don't want to get off track] issue that I ran into was keeping track of all the different recipes I wanted to try. At first, there was a little file folder... but it started to become a pain to sort through. So I was faced with two options... follow in my mother's footsteps =] or get organized.

[I have to tell this little story here - my mom will yell at me but it really is the driving inspiration that eventually led to this massive book... For as long as I can remember - both at home and at our beach house - my mom has had a STACK of recipes. She's an amazing cook and I'm sure that my recipe hoarding comes from her. The problem was that her recipes were in a pile {and please understand that this was a pile that a toddler could hide behind} and every time she wanted to make something she had to sit and rummage through this INSANE pile of paperwork. So... when my little file folder turned into a bulging heap of papers, I realized I needed an intervention.]

Two things came out of that moment of clarity - although they didn't materialize right away. The first was the concept of this book. I had no way of knowing what this would turn into so when I upgraded out of the folder. I simply bought a plain accordion file folder with 12 slots. I numbered each slot and came up with a filing system that worked for me. 1's were drinks, 2's appetizers, 3's sandwiches and salads, etc. Then, every time I dove into a new magazine, I was not only dog-earing pages and tearing them out, but writing the corresponding number on them so I'd know where to file them. This was a system that I maintained for YEARS and it worked pretty well. The problems I ran into were having to sort through fifty poultry recipes to find the one I want and accidentally filing recipes in the wrong spot. The second brilliant idea that came out of avoiding the dreaded pile-o-papers was my foodie blog. Originally the idea was simply to type up the recipes that we loved and put them in a binder, to create our own family cookbook and for several years that is exactly what I did. The problem I ran into was that people would inevitably ask for a copy of a recipe and then it became a game of printing things out, emailing them, or whatever. Then one day I stumbled upon a foodie blog and had a grand "Aha!" moment. I could put all of our recipes online and anyone could get a hold of them... and that is how my foodie blog was born.

But now we're back to the now falling apart accordion folder that had served me well for so many years... The folders were tearing, the little number stickers had LONG since fallen off [except for number 3] and the 'meat' and 'dessert' sections were so full I could hardly fit them in. All it took was Pinterest to inspire me to do something fantastical with all the recipes. There are always posts and pictures on there about people doing magical things to organize their lives - home binders and recipe binders included. [Light bulb moment for Stefani]. A BINDER?? Duh! I had my mind made up - it was like transitioning from the file folder to the accordion file... it would be messy [and it was] and it would take time [and it did] but it would be worth it [and it was]. 

So... I set out to create my recipe binder. Now, please keep in mind - the recipes in this binder are ones that I want to try, not ones that I have made. Once they have been made the go in one of two places - the blog if we loved it or the garbage can if we didn't. So, I pretty much have enough food inspiration to keep me busy for the next 25 years or so...

What I used:

6-inch binder [that sucker cost $30... and my stuff BARELY fit in it]
14 plastic dividers with pockets [for stashing itty-bitty recipes that don't need their own page proctor.]
Stick on dividers [I'll explain in a minute]
200+ page protectors
A battered and worn accordion file worth of recipes.

The set up:

It's pretty basic and it fits our needs just right. You'll notice there's not a 'seafood' section because that GROSS... and some of my main labels are broken up into sub-categories [hence the stick-on dividers] to make finding things a little easier. It goes something like this...

Sandwiches [Sandwiches, Burgers, Wraps]
Veggies/Sides [Potatoes, Veggies]
Meat [Poultry, Pork, Beef]
Breads [Sweet, Savory]
Sauces [Sauces, Marinades, Dips, Jams]
Combo Pages [Means that there are two different categories on one page - for example, a main dish and a side]
Home [For crafty, Pinterest-like ideas that I find in print]

That's it. I sat down and one divider at a time I put this beast together. I have no idea how many recipes it contains but I do know that it weighs 10 1/2 pounds... almost twice as much as my daughter when we brought her home from the hospital... It's massive. It's beautiful. And, best of all, it's filled with all sorts of culinary adventures that I have yet to embark on.


  1. I'm upset I never knew about your foodie blog before...I always like to try out new recipes.


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