Tips and Ideas

So many recipes, so little time

Sometimes it's hard finding time to cook, much less organize. But your culinary treasure chest is worth preserving. Here are three ideas in three price ranges to inspire organization.

• You gotta love, a Web site that Dave Weaver created for his wife. It lets you input and print recipes in an elegant, easy-to-use format -- and even add a photo. It also lets you create your own categories, search and edit. What's more (and this is what Michelle Weaver really wanted), it lets you share recipes with friends who also register for the program. You can create shopping lists too. Maybe best of all: Sign-up is free.

• Russell + Hazel's recipe binder kit starts with premium paper stock; the pages have lots of tabs to accommodate various-size recipes -- your own or the ones you cut out. Two attractive binders have 15 section tabs, 40 pages, 50 recipe cards and 60 menu planning sheets; the set is ultrapremium, and, yes, comes at an ultrapremium price, $110. It's sold online at

• The "Let's Cook" line from Hallmark includes a recipe box that comes with 36 4-by-6-inch recipe cards and nine divider cards ($12). The 8-by-9-inch refillable Recipe organizer includes 20 pocket pages holding 40 recipe cards and nine tabbed sections ($15). Recipe cards are sold in packs of 36 ($4). You'll find the line, and others, at many Gold Crown stores.

-- Renee Enna, Chicago Tribune

Playing favorites

This dinner, Honey-Glazed Ginger Salmon with Pineapple, is the result of an experiment I recently conducted, making a last-minute menu for drop-in friends using some of my favorite flavors.

Wild king salmon wasn't available at the market, so I picked up frozen sockeye salmon instead. In place of the usual sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground pepper, I concocted a light Asian blend of ginger, citrus and soy to add a bit more flavor to the previously frozen fillets.

I carried the pineapple theme from the entree (delicious with its bites of fish and beans and rice) to dessert because I love pineapple and other tropical fruits enough to never get tired of them.

Although the menu may have been a little bit selfish on my part, my guests said they loved the flavor combinations.

-- Donna Pierce, Chicago Tribune

Fresh finds: Litchi

Did you know? Litchis finally popped onto the American radar with the invention of the litchi martini, according to Florida grower Peter Schnebly, even though the fruit has been eaten and enjoyed by the Chinese for 2,000 years.

Litchis were such rare fruits that until the Tang dynasty (618-907) they were reserved for the imperial household, according to Deh-Ta Hsiung's book, "The Chinese Kitchen."

Encased in a tough, bumpy red shell, this small, round white fruit has a brightly sweet, almost strawberry-like flavor, and a smooth texture.

Buying and storage tips: Fresh fruit are available during June and July at specialty food stores and ethnic markets, but canned or dried litchis are sold year-round. Choose fruit with deeply colored red shells, according to Cathy Thomas in "Melissa's Great Book of Produce." Schnebly said the key to keeping a litchi fresh is to prevent the fruit from drying out. Leave the litchis in their covered plastic selling container or, if sold loose, put the fruit in a plastic bag, he said. Refrigerate up to two weeks. Frozen litchis can be kept for up to three months.

Preparation tips: Split the bright red shell with your thumbnail or use a sharp knife. Peel off the shell. Remove the white fruit and squeeze out the inedible brown seed.

Cooking tips: Fresh litchis can be eaten out-of-hand or tossed in a fruit salad. There are recipes for sorbets, salsas, tarts and, of course, martinis. Deh-Ta Hsiung said dried litchi is mostly used in Chinese cooking. Dried litchis have a datelike texture. Schnebly likes to freeze fresh litchis in the shell. "You peel it and eat it frozen like it's a Popsicle," he said.

-- Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune