The Cook’s Book: My Recipe Binder

Not too long ago, I realized I had a shelf full of cookbooks, but I almost never cracked one open.

What do I do with all those unused cookbooks?

I decided that a nifty recipe binder would be much more useful; it would feed my need for organization, and would be one necessary step towards my goal of doing a much better job of planning meals.

So, I went through all of my cookbooks, copied down the very few recipes I would actually use, and gave the books away.

When I cleaned off my cookbook shelf, I did not give away all of my cookbooks! Some simply have too many good recipes to just copy, so it made sense to keep them. The Cake Bible is a fantastic cake-baking book, so it stayed, as did Paula Dean’s My First Cookbook; I also kept a lovely cookbook illustrated by Tasha Tudor, a few other cookbooks that are just plain pretty — and my antique cookbooks, which are simply TOO delightful to part with! They are retro, cheesy, and have wonderful illustrations.


My favorite is The Cook’s Book, which was published by the KC Baking Powder Company in 1911. It’s so old that there are no oven temperatures listed. Instead, it says things like, “Bake in a bread pan one hour in a rather slow oven,” or “Bake in moderate oven.” The first of the “Cooking Hints” in the book says, “Use KC Baking Powder to insure success.” I think they might be a wee bit biased!

Organize recipes in a pretty binder!

Anyway, first I organized my recipe binder with the following categories:

  1. Appetizers & Beverages
  2. Breads, Muffins, & More
  3. Salads, Soups, & Stews
  4. Breakfast & Brunch Dishes
  5. Vegetables & Side Dishes
  6. Main Dishes
  7. Cakes, Pies, Cookies, & More
  8. Slow Cooker Recipes

But I had to make it pretty! So I used a basic 3-ring binder, and trimmed some scrapbook paper to slide into the cover on the front, back, and spine. Then I copied my favorite page from The Cook’s Booka black and white drawing of a mother and daughter cooking, plus a recipe for scones and a recipe for blueberry tea cake — then enlarged the page and glued it to the paper in the front cover of the book. Perfect!

Aren’t the color illustrations in the book gorgeous?!

cookbook recipe binder

For my Table of Contents, I free-handed part of the cover design of the original cookbook, then typed and printed my list of categories, along with a cheesy quote I enjoyed:

“The recipes have been carefully selected with a view to pleasing the most exacting tastes. We are sure that all of them will be found exceptionally good, as we have aimed to give only choice recipes which will prove a welcome addition to any ordinary cookbook.” The Cook’s Book, 1911

Again, I used scrapbook papers to make it prettier. I’ll laminate it to protect it better.
I used tabbed separators to label each section, then typed and printed a title with another quote from the cookbook. Again, I used scrapbook papers embellish these pages, then glued the papers to the tabbed separator.

Most of my recipes are typed for uniformity — because I’m rather nutty that way. However, some are simply trimmed out of a magazine and glued to a piece of paper, then hole-punched to add to the appropriate section. Easy-peasy!

My binder has pockets in front and back, which is perfect for holding the recipes I plan to try but haven’t yet. They won’t make it into the book officially until we give it the okay for easy and yummy-ness. I love the freedom I feel with a recipe binder like this, because I can so easily or remove recipes.


My cast-iron cookbook holder does a fabulous job of letting us read the recipe as we go, while keeping the book out of our way. Yay!

UPDATE: I loved that binder but more recently, I’ve consolidated again into this cute little vintage style DIY recipe box. Check it out, and see which system will work best for you!