Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Project Recipe Binder

Mitt Romney may have binders full of women, but I have binders full of recipes. Or rather, one binder in particular:

 This binder is probably about 15 years old. I have spent the last decade and a half filling it with recipes snipped from newspapers or magazines, printed from the internet and handwritten gems from friends and family. As you can see, I haven’t exactly been neat about my recipe collecting and truth be told, I haven’t cracked open this binder in well over a year.

Looking through it was a pleasant walk down memory lane. Recipes from my mom and stepmom reminded me of favorite meals from years and holidays past (in particular Spinach Stuffing Balls, Orange Rice and Tandoori Chicken). My friend Kerry’s Eggplant “meatballs”  and Katie’s Cumin Chicken brought me back to delicious meals in their homes. I found recipe clippings from Scotland’s Sunday Express newspaper from when the The Scotsman and I actually lived in Scotland.  Recipes from The Boston Globe reminded me of a time before we had kids and I actually sat down to read the paper most days (it was also so long ago that people actually read the paper rather than surfing the web for their news). And there were also some recipes I couldn’t explain – like  print out from Food Network for “Basic Stuffing.” Why I saved a recipe for something I can find in half a dozen cookbooks that I already own or in a three second google search I will never know.

What also occurred to me is that I have never made at least half of the recipes in this binder. For all I know, they’re duds.

So, I’ve set myself a challenge: I’m going to make at least one of these recipes every week until I’ve made every single one of them. I’ll ditch the duds and put the good ones into our dinner rotation. I’ll keep you updated on my progress and share the good ones with you (no point in sharing the ones I send to the recycling bin – I like you all too much to share mediocre recipes with you.)

When I finish my self-imposed challenge, I think I need to find a better way to store the keepers. The current binder is ugly and has seen better days. And I have soft spot for cute stationary items and need an excuse to buy one of the flowery binders I’ve been coveting in Target. I know someone who transfers all of her recipe clippings and recipe cards/scribbled notes into a Word document that she then then prints out and puts in a plain black three-ring binder.  For me, that takes all the fun out of recipe collecting. Part of what makes my recipes so special to me is the memories the actual paper recipes bring to me; the red wine stain on the Apple Cake recipes reminds me of lunch at a local vineyard with a good friend whom I haven’t seen in a while. Seeing my great-grandmothers handwriting on her Chocolate Peanut Butter Pop recipe brings me straight back to my childhood. Typing recipes and discarding the original may make them easier to read, but it also takes away their character.

I’ll do my meal plan for next week in the next day or two. I’ll work in a couple of recipes in the binder. Until then, I leave you with two of my favorites; my stepmothers Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage and my beloved Gruyere and Mushroom “Breakfast Pie”.

What recipes remind you of happy times long ago?

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage – Serves 6-8 as a side dish
This recipe is from my Stepmother, Susan. I’m not a fan of cabbage so I was quite dubious when this first showed up at Christmas Dinner years ago. I still don’t like cabbage but I LOVE this recipe. I’ll be serving it as part of Easter dinner this weekend.

3-4 lbs red cabbage, shredded (4 bags of the pre-shredded)
1 tart apple, chopped (such as granny smith)
4 TBS butter
1 heaping TBS brown sugar
1 cup onion, minced
6 TBS red wine vinegar
1 cup chicken broth
1 tsp salt
½ cup red currant jelly

Melt the butter and stir in the brown sugar. Add the apple and onion. Cover and cook on low heat for 4-5 minutes. Stir in the cabbage, add the vinegar and braise for 10 minutes. Add the chicken broth and salt. Cover and cook over low heat for 2 hours. Stir in the jelly just before serving. Tastes even better the next day! I have been known to eat this cold, straight from the fridge.

Gruyere and Mushroom Breakfast Pie – Serves 4-6 depending on how hungry everyone is
This is adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe. Martha’s original recipe is called Bacon and Egg Casserole. I’ve stayed pretty true to the original but I’ve made a couple of changes. I would eat this everyday if I could, but usually bring it out when we have company for brunch.

1 sheet store-bought puff pastry or Pillsbury Crescent Roll Dough, depending on your mood
8-oz bacon (about 12 slices) cut into small pieces
1 medium onion, sliced
8-oz mushrooms, sliced
2 large eggs
½ cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cups Gruyere cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 400. Press the puff pastry or Crescent Roll dough into the bottom of an 8x8 inch pan or a pie plate.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook the bacon until it begins to brown; about 5 minute. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until the bacon is crisp and the onions are just starting to brown. Transfer the mixture to a plate and let it cool slightly.

Spread the onion mixture over the pastry/dough. In a small bowl, stir together the eggs, heavy cream, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the Gruyere over the top. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the filing is set and the top is beginning to turn golden brown.

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