Spotlight On: Eat Your Books

I've been wanting to talk about recipe organization here on Dixie Caviar for a long time. With hundreds of recipe sources available to home cooks these days across various media outlets—think newspapers, cookbooks, food magazines, websites, and cooking blogs— managing all the madness can be quite daunting. There's nothing worse than remembering a recipe you want to make, only to have no idea where in the world you "stored" it. Is it in a pile of tear sheets on your desk, dog-eared in a magazine bound for the recycling bin, bookmarked online in an obscurely-titled folder, or saved in one of your many virtual recipe boxes? Oh, the drama.

As a food writer and recipe developer, I am constantly looking for my next stroke of genius and always on the hunt for delicious inspiration. Effectively managing my culinary research is of utmost importance. I know that every person is different, but in the next few "Spotlight On" posts I want to share the systems that work for me. My methods stretch across a number of mediums, and all combined might seem a little "cray-cray", but hopefully each will give a little organizational insight to other type-A freaks like me.

For the first post in my recipe organization series, I'd like to put a spotlight on the fabulous website, EAT YOUR BOOKS.

I currently have 150+ cookbooks in my collection and—thanks to an obsessive-compulsive Amazon addition—it continues to grow by the day. I love nothing more than pouring through each and every page of my newly-acquired treasures. Unfortunately after one or two passes, most get crammed into an already over-capacitated shelf, never to be looked at again.

But then I discovered Eat Your Books, a website that works as a virtual index to all of your printed recipes. Eat Your Books has thousands of popular cookbooks in its system already, and that number is growing every day. To get started, it's as easy as creating an account and filling your online "bookshelf" with the cookbook titles from your collection. Immediately all of those recipes hiding in your attic are now living at your fingertips, just begging to be used. It is worth mentioning that Eat Your Books is NOT a recipe sight, meaning you have to use the, gasp, physical cookbook in order to view the recipes. But hey, isn't thumbing through those beautiful pages half the fun? (Side note: I know this paragraph just started sounding like a bad late-night infomercial, but it's just how I feel, I swear.)

Now any time I want to look up a recipe for say, Penne alla Vodka, I can enter the title into my database and a list of all my cookbooks containing a recipe match will pop up. (My newest habit is to sit Indian style, with the cookbooks spread on the floor around me, as I compare and contrast each recipe in search of the very best one.) I used to start all of my recipe research online, using my cookbooks only as an occasional reference. Now I start recipe development with Eat Your Books. My bank account can rest easy now that I'm getting an actual return from all those Amazon investments.

Just yesterday I was having trouble choosing a healthy side dish to bring to a Mother's Day potluck. Needing a little encouragement, I used the nifty 'Filter By' feature to narrow down my index to only reflect spring and summer side dishes. I scrolled through the hundreds of recipes that popped up and ended up choosing a delicious-sounding Asian coleslaw from the Williams-Sonoma cookbook Cooking at Home. The recipe was a huge success and a perfect complement to the host's grilled burgers.

Eat Your Books does charge a small fee ($2.50 per month or $25 per year), but it is worth every penny. They add new features all the time, including the ability to index magazines, websites, and food blogs. While I have other methods I use for managing those types of recipes (which I'll be sharing soon), I am sure these additional services are invaluable to most subscribers. So if you have a lot of cookbooks that you aren't getting enough mileage out of, check out Eat Your Books. Even if you don't have tons, I'd say the website is still probably worth it for its ever-expanding online bookmarking capabilities.

So what about you? Do you use cookbooks on a regular basis or the internet as your predominant recipe resource?

Please advise—This 'Spotlight On' featuring Eat Your Books is based entirely on my personal opinion. I did not receive any compensation for this post and am fairly certain they have no idea who I am.