Food and Garden Dailies started as a way to record my family's favorite recipes. It has come in handy many times when I'm asked for a recipe. I simply email a link to the blog! But I couldn't just stick to recipes. The kitchen is tied to the garden in so many ways...and so I let you into my ever changing garden as well.

If you're interested in my all-time favorite recipes, check out this post first: My Favorite Recipes

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I Love Cook's Illustrated!

Pin It I come from a family that cooks. We usually had home cooked meals made from scratch; not a lot of boxed, pre-made foods. In my own family, it's still that way. We like to share recipes and give cookbooks as gifts. Somehow, I went for most of my adult life (so far) without knowing about Cook's Illustrated. How could that be?? They're not new...the magazine has been around for 16 years, and America's Test Kitchen (by the same folks as CI) has had a cooking show on PBS since 2001.

It wasn't until a few years ago when I saw my first issue of Cook's Illustrated at my friend's home. That began my love for this magazine and its recipes. I bought a one year subscription, but yearned for more. I found a bunch of back issues on ebay. Don't count on getting an incredible bargain....these magazines seem to be in demand and therefore the bidding can be competitive! I was quite happy to purchase about half of their back issues through ebay. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through them all, and was on a quest to buy them all.

During that quest I found out about the on-line subscription to Cook's Illustrated. For an annual fee of $34.95 you have access to the past 16 years of recipes, along with all the great illustrtations and product/food reviews. It's a bargain, especially if all (or most) of this is new to you. They even give you a 14 day free preview to see if it's worth it (of course, you must remember to cancel within that time or you will be charged for the full year).

How to make the most of a one year subscription? I started going through each issue, looking for recipes that might appeal to our family. As I looked at the on-line version, I had a word processing document open at the same time. I simply copied and then pasted each recipe into my document. You're probably thinking this was very time consuming. I'm not going to was! When I was done with a copy/paste session, I made sure to mark which issue I was up to. That way when I resumed the process I knew where to start. Eventually I made it all the way through the current issue.

My next step was to print and organize them. Some of you might be fine without the printing. It was a laborious chore. But, when I cook I want the recipe right in front of me. When I'm searching for a recipe, I prefer to thumb through recipes, rather than read off of the computer.

I set up my paper in landscape view with two columns. This allowed me to cut them into 5 1/2" x 8 1/2 " pages, and eventually put them in small binders. But we're jumping ahead here...

As I printed them, I kept them in big orderly stacks. Next came the cutting. I used a scrapbooking trimmer to do a precise cut. Once each small group of 6-8 papers was cut (or whatever your trimmer will do) I did not stack those. They had to remain in two organized stacks because the left side of the paper was p. 1, the right side was page 2, then back to the next left side (page 3) and so on.

Organizing the binders was the next step. After careful consideration I ended up with five binders, or books. Below is how they are divided and subdivided:

Book #1
  • About Food
  • Drinks
  • Snacks
  • Fruit
  • Italian
  • Pasta (Stuffed/Filled)
  • Pasta
  • Pizza
  • Greek
  • Indian
  • Soup
  • Sandwiches
Book #2
  • Asian
  • Stir Fry
  • Sauces, Dips, Marinades
  • Seafood
  • Side Dish
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Vegetables
Book #3
  • Chicken (Sauteed)
  • Chicken (Oven)
  • Chicken (Grilled)
  • Beef (Steak)
  • Beef (Ribs)
  • Beef (Burgers)
  • Beef (Roasts)
  • Beef (Misc.)
  • Pork
Book #4
  • Breakfast
  • Breads (Savory)
  • Breads (Sweet)
  • Muffins
  • Pastries (Savory)
  • Pastries (Sweet)
  • Appetizers
Book #5
  • Dessert
  • Cake
  • Cheesecake
  • Pudding/Mousse
  • Cobblers/Crumbles
  • Pie
  • Cookies
  • Bars
  • Fudge/Toffee/Candy
  • Frozen Dessert
Some of the recipes could have easily gone into more than one category. I simply had to make the best choice for each one. Someday I may add a page at the front of the section that says, "See also...." and then list similar recipes.

I took my two large stacks and started putting the recipes into page protectors. I've found this size made by C-line, Century, and Avery. While the binders (Avery) haven't been hard to find (most office stores carry them), the pages were kind of hit and miss. I initially bought them at our local Staples store. When I returned to buy more, they were out of stock for a long time. I don't even think they were offered in their catalog! Eventually they turned up again. Now, I live in a small-ish town, so if you're in a metropolitan area, they might be easier to find! Or, you may decide to go the route of an 8 1/2 x 11 binder, which will be easy-peasy to find!

As I put the pages into the protectors, I started filing them into their appropriate sections. Eventually I had five easy-to-use custom cookbooks full of recipes I would love to someday make.

As for my collection of CI magazines...I still have them. They're tucked away on a shelf in plastic magazine racks. I do love the magazine. They're charming, delightful, and full of great information. But as a whole I find them hard to search through. They do create an annual index, which is helpful, but it also means I must look through 16 of them to find what I'm looking for. For me, being able to organize them to my liking, with personally selected recipes works best.

Here are some recipes I've featured on my blog that came from Cook's Illustrated:

Lemon Chiffon Cake
The Best Pumpkin Pie
Cheesy Basil-Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Sesame Chicken Bites
Hot Fudge Pudding Cake
The Best Pie Crust
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Berry Cobbler
Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits
Pecan Crusted Chicken  (well, officially from Cook's Country, their sister publication)
Smoky Scalloped Potatoes
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Peach Crumble
Grilled Chicken with Sesame Noodles
Perfect Pecan Pie

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