The Cookalong Podcast

Your Cooking Companion

Posted in Fixes & Tips
May 7, 2019

Your Personal Carry-Along Cookbook

A few years ago, I decided I wanted to be able to cook my favorite (but not memorized) recipes from something smaller than my cookbooks. I had several large cookbooks (why are so many of them the size of coffee table books??), plus a 4” 3-ring binder full of glued-down recipes inside sheet protectors —sometimes 4 or 5 to a page and double-sided– which had been collected from newspapers, magazines, friends and family for a decade or two.

I went out and bought a 7” Tablet. Then I went through all my books and several cooking magazines, putting sticky note bookmarks on the pages of things I either made regularly or wanted to make someday. Then I put the books in a stack, scanned every recipe I thought I’d ever want from that collection of stuff, and saved them into computer file folders by category (Desserts, Main Dishes, Seasonings & Sauces, etc.). Then I copied the whole personalized collection into Dropbox, on the Cloud.

Did this take a long time? Yes, but not as much as I thought it would. And it was interesting to see how much kitchen and office shelf space had been given over to recipes I’d never made and never wanted to make. The only book I scanned almost all of was my 3-ring binder collection, because I’d already curated those recipes for my taste. Once I had finished the scan project, I stored a few of the all-purpose books in my basement (Betty Crocker, for instance) and gave away the rest.

The benefits of this project are HUGE:

  1. Everything is in one place. I don’t have to remember what book something was in because all the recipes are in one place.
  2. Everything is searchable. If I can’t remember the recipe’s name, I can still find it by typing a key word from the title into the search box.
  3. I now use my shelves for cookware and tableware, rather than bulky books.
  4. Using my tablet for reading a recipe takes up a lot less of my precious counter space than a cookbook.
  5. Picture this: I’m in the grocery store, and I discover salmon is on sale. Hmm, what could I do with that tonight? I open my phone, open my Dropbox app, scroll to the “Cindy’s Recipes” folder, and type “salmon” into the search box. Up come all the recipes I have that use salmon, and I can choose one, and see the list of other ingredients I should pick up before I leave the store.
  6. I can easily share a recipe, a category folder, or the whole damn file with members of my family who have moved out of the house but want to know how to make mom’s pie crust, or fried chicken, or meatloaf, etc. And they can create their own folders within the Dropbox file where they store and share their favorite recipes with me.

Every time I see a recipe I want to try, I photograph it in the magazine, or download it from online and add the new things directly to my portable recipe file. Printed recipes are kept in a paper file folder and once a month or so, I scan everything that’s been put in there. I do have to remember to put the new scans in both my hard-drive file and my Cloud (Dropbox) file. (I keep the local computer one as backup and in case I need to get to a recipe when the internet is down or whatever.)

I know this may sound like a daunting project, but I can’t recommend it highly enough. I love being able to look up my own personal recipe collection on my phone when talking with other cooks out in the world, contemplating what to serve to guests, lying on my couch thinking about what to cook for dinner, or standing in the grocery store. It’s really the coolest thing I’ve done for my kitchen, maybe ever.

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