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So Many Recipes, So Little Time

It’s that time of year again — when we all vow to be better in every way, right? Over the last few December 31sts, I have resolved to, among many other things: become more organized, stop raising my voice at my kids, be more engaged with my kids, be a more loving spouse, streamline my wardrobe and clean out my closet(s), run a marathon, start volunteering, meditate, waste less time online, keep a journal, write more query letters, get all my photo albums up to date, prepare home-cooked meals for my family 5 out of 7 nights a week, organize my son’s Legos by color and type, become a yoga instructor, read or re-read the classics, cook a wider variety of meals, find any buy local, pastured dairy products, and (of course) lose weight and get more sleep. No pressure, right?

So, this year, I am keeping it simple. I figure there’s probably a reason why a lot of the items on the above list keep coming back year after year (hello, photo albums), and it probably has something to do with the fact that I really don’t want to do that. Someday I will have the resources to pay money to have someone do it for me, so for now I’m just going to have to let it go. Same thing with the yoga instructor bit (and meditating); I’m pretty sure I don’t have the patience for that, and that’s okay. I’m glad other people do though. And many of the other items will work themselves out once the stockings are emptied of chocolates and the kids are back in school.

Other than running a marathon, which the masochist in me is seriously considering, and wasting less time online (by which I don’t mean blogging; I mean doing things like reading Wikipedia articles about the soundtrack to the latest Narnia movie and searching for the ultimate tan suede boots), my New Year’s Resolution this year is to purge my recipe file, only keeping things I actually plan on making, and then actually making them. Oh, and today is my last day of eating leftover bread pudding for breakfast.

This might seem like the world’s lamest resolution, but this file is really weighing on me (and I’m a big fan of attainable goals). I’m one of those people who is constantly tearing recipes out of magazines, maybe to justify the subscriptions? And I keep them all in a marginally organized expanding file that is bulging and overflowing with sheets of paper that have not seen the light of day since I tore them out of Food & Wine in 1997. Over the years, my tastes have changed, I’ve had a family, and I’ve become passionate about clean food and unprocessed ingredients. I think it’s time to get rid of the stuff that no longer fits so that I can actually find and use the recipes that do.

If you're going to have clutter in your kitchen, it should be olive oil and salt cellars, not stacks of untried recipes.

When you clean out your closet, organizing gurus tell you to apply a set of criteria for each item of clothing. The item should fit you properly, it should represent your current style and image, and it should fit in with your lifestyle. In other words, if those acid wash jeans are still too tight, say buh-bye. Today I am going through my exploding recipe holder (I’m guessing there are over 1,000 recipes in there.) using similar criteria of my own: Is this recipe for something my family or friends would enjoy? Do I have another recipe for a similar item that I already know is good? Does the ingredients list represent my food values and likes (i.e. the recipe does NOT call for things like Cool Whip and Cream of Mushroom soup)? Do I actually foresee an occasion within the next six month when I might make this recipe? If I can honestly say yes to ALL OF THE criteria, I’ll keep it and make a plan to make it. If not, say hello to the recycling bin.

Okay, here goes.

  • Amber Ale Cheddar Cheese Spread? Not sure why I tore that out of the Oprah mag. Toss.
  • Lemon Tartlets with Coconut Crusts? Sounds delicious but also looks fussy and requires equipment (mini tart pans) that I do not possess. Toss.
  • Oh, but wait, here’s Coconut-Crusted Key Lime Pie. That I will make for David’s birthday. Keep.
  • Low-Maintenance Risotto? A keeper, although I will add veggies like asparagus or maybe broccoli.
  • Peppers Stuffed with Feta? They looked so beautiful on the cover of Saveur, but my family doesn’t love Feta and it’s hard for me to imagine a time when I would make them. Toss.
  • Sweet Potato and Bacon Pasta? I might have tossed this but just noticed that my organic box this week will have yams in it. I assume I can sub yams so might make this. Keep. (Or I might try Ravioli with Sweet Potatoes and Thyme, which I just came across, too.)
  • Chicken Milanese Rughetta? I randomly tore this out of House Beautiful, and it still sounds like the kind of recipe I would enjoy making and eating. I seem to gravitate toward recipes utilizing things like Parmesan cheese, olive oil, arugula, and chicken, don’t I? Oh well, so much for “cooking a wider variety of foods.” Keep.
  • Rotini with Chicken, Asparagus, and Tomatoes? Do I really need a recipe for that? I make things like that all the time with no instructions. Toss.
  • Surprise Brownies? These call for boxed brownie mix and Nilla wafers, which seems to defeat the purpose of making something homemade. Toss.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, here’s a recipe for Beet-Walnut Brownies, which could be good but stand a fairly large chance of being gross. I don’t take too many risks when I bake. Toss.
  • Big Easy Barbecue Shrimp. A good friend of mine, who’s from Louisiana, recommended this. It’s not my normal thing, but I am going to make it. Heck, I think I’ll make it this week!
  • Basic Sauteed Kale? I’ve been looking for this! It’s hugely helpful when Kale comes in the box. Keep (and post on blog).

Usually but not always, it’s very apparent why I tore a certain recipe out of a magazine. Sometimes (as in the case of Asparagus and Soft Eggs on Toast), I have to admit it’s because of the mouth-watering photo that accompanies it. For others, I think I must have been either pregnant or hungover (Stove-Top Turkey Casserole with Cream of Chicken soup.). But most actually seem like things I would want to make — if I had nothing but time and a few sous chefs.

This exercise is inspiring and a little overwhelming — there are so many amazing-sounding recipes out there. My only hope is to pull out a few of the keepers and get busy cooking. Thankfully, we’re heading into January, when we’re home most nights. Now, if only I had a system for organizing the (far fewer than 1,000 but still plentiful) recipes I did keep. Any organization gurus out there with some brilliantly simple solution for me?

Dare I ask, do you have a food-related resolution? Happy new year by the way!

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This post has one comment

  • Kent Watson says:

    Hi Bevin: I have certainly enjoyed your blog this year. I learned many new recipes, tips and techniques from your writing. I am looking forward to more of your posts in 2011. I hope you and your family have a wonderful New Year’s.

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