One question for you: do you know of a website or app that would allow me to store and organize my recipes electronically (versus cutting them out and putting them in a notebook)?
— Matt Dow
I've been tearing recipes out of the paper, scribbling things on envelopes and downloading stuff for years. When I need a recipe, it is like a blizzard looking for the Acorn Squash with Cream and Swiss Cheese or Auntie Yasmine's Apple Cake, which I've had for 40 years. (Tore the house apart looking for that one.) It would be wonderful to put them in some kind of alphabetized or categorized by ingredient file in my computer. Surely there is some way to reduce the splatter-stained pages taking up a kitchen counter! Would you look into this?
— Linda Foss
I received two Ask Addie requests for storing and categorizing recipes online, and to be honest, I go back and forth on the best system for my own recipe stash. Recipe curation and collection has come a long way since the good old recipe card-in-a-box system, especially since so many recipe websites have popped up. I've tried emailing recipes to myself, cutting and pasting them into a Microsoft Word or Google Doc or even just printing them out to add to the ever-growing three-ring binder.
But now we have access to all kinds of software and Web-based programs to keep track of recipes. MasterCook, Now You're Cooking and Cook'n offer downloadable software, but I have a feeling that the free web-based applications like Evernote or even Pinterest will be useful for the vast majority of us.
Evernote (Evernote.com) lets you clip content from any website or email and then keep track of it with tags and "notebooks." Pinterest (Pinterest.com) does the same thing, but with an emphasis on images, fewer overall bells and whistles, and a lot more social engagement.
Eat Your Books (eat yourbooks.com) is a cool tool for cooks who want a way to digitally search all their cookbooks rather than flipping through each one of them to find that one recipe for green chile enchiladas. For a $25 a year subscription fee, you can create a virtual version of your physical cookbook collection and then search for a recipe or ingredient, and Eat Your Books will tell you which books feature recipes that fit the criteria. (There is a free version, but you can add only five cookbooks to your virtual bookshelf.)
Kristi Willis, a local food blogger and ambassador for Evernote, faced the same problem as readers Matt Dow and Linda Foss. She had five three-ring binders full of recipes, which she eventually went through and scanned over the course of a football season. "I would turn on a game and sit there and scan or clip recipes while I watched the game," she says. She's used a number of scanners, including one called Scan Snap, which allows you to scan directly into Evernote. Instead of scanning as a JPEG, Willis recommends scanning as a PDF, which will allow the program to search the words on the image instead of just the title or the tags that you manually add to the file.
"You're going to create whatever system that works best for you," Willis says. She uses tags to indicate the category of the recipe, such as "dessert" or "Asian," but she doesn't tag by ingredient because the program will search each recipe's text. Evernote recently launched an Evernote Food app, which allows you to take photos of your meals, add notes to what's in them or how to recreate them at home, and then store them in your Evernote collection. For most users, the free version will serve their needs, but Evernote does offer a subscription service ($45 a year) with more functions.
The biggest advantage to having all her recipes stored online is that she doesn't have to take any recipes with her when she travels, and that she can search those recipes when she's at the farmers market or grocery store. "I always have my recipes with me," she says. "If I see pumpkins at the market and I know I have a pumpkin recipe that I love, I can pull up Evernote, find the other ingredients I need and get them while I'm there."
There are a number of other websites such as One Tsp (onetsp.com), Big Oven (bigoven.com) and My Cookbook (my cookbook.com) that offer similar functionality, but none are as integrated with other organizing tools, apps and functions as Evernote.
If you are a visual person who spends a lot of time surfing the Web, Pinterest might be a good fit for recipe collecting. The site allows you to "pin" an image from a website onto "boards," which you can customize for, say, appetizers or holiday foods. As you search Pinterest, you can re-pin recipes and cooking ideas from other users' boards onto your own. The content is stored externally off the site, but it's a way to keep track of pages with recipes you are interested in making or that you have already cooked. However, unless you have a blog or website on which you are publishing your recipes, you can't add or upload your own text-only files.
Instead of physically clipping each recipe, you can search for the recipe online and then pin it on Pinterest, clip it to Evernote or, in a very basic approach, cut and paste it into a Word or Google document. For your big pile of clipped magazine and newspaper recipes, if you don't want to take the time to scan the recipes themselves, you could type in the titles of the recipes and where they are physically located. You won't be able to search by ingredient, but it's one step toward having all of the recipes in one place.
Do you have a food question for Ask Addie? Email Addie at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 912-2504. Twitter: @broylesa