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Cookbooks and Recipes

Martha Stewart Living Television

The cookbooks I've been keeping on top of my cabinets have accumulated a sticky dust residue. What's the best way to clean them?
--Wendy Finn, Sedona, Arizona

First, dust the books with a cloth, a handheld vacuum, or a dry paintbrush. Then, use a slightly dampened cloth or sponge to remove the residue. Rub sticky paperbacks gently with a soft eraser. To keep a cookbook free of splashes while cooking, open the book to the appropriate recipe, and place it inside a plastic bag. Or, you can buy a cookbook holder, which will protect the book from food while propping it up so it is easy to read.

I have inherited all my late mother's and mother-in-law's cookbooks and recipes, including those clipped from newspapers and magazines as well as recipes from the Homemaker's Cooking School, church cookbooks, and various published cookbooks. These are all piled into several boxes, and I have no idea how to organize them into a useful recipe library. I also have my own collection of recipes, including many that I have downloaded from your website, which I have inserted in plastic covers and enclosed in notebooks. Can you give me any organizational hints?
--Joyce Gearhart, St. Louis, MO

Today, many cooks keep their recipes in a computer database, although this can be a time-consuming project. The quickest way to organize loose recipes is to file them into an accordion folder or recipe box divided by subject. Laminating paper cards and newspaper clippings is the best way to protect them against splatters and will extend the life of your recipes. Self-laminating paper can be found at any office-supply store. Trim it 1 inch wider than the recipe card.

You can also paste recipes into a scrapbook or a photograph album with peel-back plastic pages. Designate a different subject for each book. These books will help you to store odd-size newspaper clippings, and they will also give you the flexibility to write notes next to the recipe. Cover the books with wallpaper scraps or gift wrap so that you can wipe them free of stains. To organize recipes found in magazines that you'd prefer to keep whole, label the covers with the names and page numbers of recipes you like.