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Phone food apps help us shop, cook and eat

Addie Broyles
abroyles@statesman.com

Mobile devices like the iPhone won't chop vegetables, shop for groceries or cook dinner, but the applications on Web-enabled phones are making us better cooks and smarter foodies.

Applications, or apps — which you can download for free or a small fee — give us access to more recipes than would ever fit on a cookbook shelf and help us find kosher or vegan restaurants while on vacation. They make it easier to count calories and write grocery lists. With applications like Seafood Watch (free), you can make an eco-conscious decision between farmed Atlantic salmon and wild Pacific salmon while standing at the seafood counter at the grocery store. Not sure what a Chinese hot pot is? Look it up on Wikipedia while browsing a 400-item menu at a restaurant with roasted ducks hanging in the window.

No matter if you're searching for gluten-free cereal or a white wine to go with the steamed mussel recipe you already looked up, a phone can be a gourmand's best friend.

I got an iPhone for Christmas last year, and to justify the extra $30 I'd be spending a month on the data package, I knew I had to put it to work in my kitchen. I started downloading recipe applications through Apple's iTunes app store on my phone. (Other phone operating systems, including the Blackberry and Android, have food applications that are downloaded through the phone.) Recipe databases such as Epicurious (free) and Allrecipes (free) quickly became the most used applications on my iPhone but not just while cooking. Being able to search thousands of recipes while grocery shopping has changed how I plan what we're having for dinner. If pork chops are on sale, I can search several databases and find a new dish to try before the meat hits the bottom of the cart.

Epicurious, just like the Web site, allows you to search the recipes databases of big-name magazines such as Bon Appetit and now-defunct Gourmet. Although there are more recipes in the crowd-sourced databases of Allrecipes and Big Oven (free), I find myself searching Epicurious most frequently. (Allrecipes, on the other hand, does have a fun Dinner Spinner feature, which shows you random recipes based on a few criteria like dish type and cooking time.) I can't wait for more of my favorite publications such as Fine Cooking magazine to release dedicated applications — Eating Well ($2.99) and Martha's Everyday Food: Fresh & Easy Recipes (99 cents) have already done so — so I can search their recipe databases. Whole Foods Market Recipes (free) allows you to find stores nearby and search for recipes by category (gluten-free, vegan, low-fat, etc) or ingredients. If you're a fan of recipes that incorporate well-known food brands, you'll enjoy searching the free Betty Crocker Mobile Cookbook or Kraft iFood Assistant Lite applications.

Ratio ($4.99) is another fun app for the kitchen. Based on Michael Ruhlman's 2009 book of the same name, Ratio gives cooks baking ratios instead of recipes. There are several other apps, including Kitchen Calculator (99 cents for the standard version, $3.99 for pro), that allow you to quickly convert measurements.

To help you keep track of your grocery list, applications such as Grocery Gadget ($4.99) and Grocery iQ (99 cents) allow you to create, store and share grocery lists. Several grocery store applications now integrate coupons, which can be annoying if coupons for products you never buy repeatedly pop up.

I prefer to use a more basic notes program to write grocery lists just like I would on paper. Sometimes fewer bells and whistles makes for a quieter shopping experience. Locavore ($2.99) uses your location to tell you what's in season in your area and give you a list of local farmers markets.

For people monitoring their nutritional intake, Livestrong.com's Calorie Tracker ($2.99) will calculate the nutritional information of what you just had for dinner — including calories, fat grams and protein — and sync with your The Daily Plate diet tracker profile. For a restaurant-by-restaurant calorie guide, check out Restaurant Nutrition (free), which gives you to access nutritional information for menu items at dozens of chain restaurants, as well as helps you locate one nearby.

If you're calculating your environmental footprint instead of calories, Dirty Produce (free) and Good Guide (free) will help you determine which fruits and vegetables absorb the most pesticides and chemicals and find "green" products. ShopNoGMO (free) helps you determine which products are free of genetically modified crops.

The Capital Area Food Bank released the IPheedANeed app (free) earlier this year, which allows you to find information about hunger and poverty in Central Texas as well as what kind of food to donate. The app also allows you to sign up to volunteer or donate money, and there's even a drop-the-can-in-the-basket game.

On a specialized diet? Is That Gluten-Free ($5.99) is a guide to more than 20,000 gluten-free products. Kosher ($4.99) helps you find kosher restaurants nearby, and Kosher Cookbook ($4.99) gives recipes for more than 300 kosher dishes.

Mobile devices haven't just changed how we cook, they've changed how we find good food to eat. Food Trucker (99 cents) tracks the Twitter accounts of food trucks in six U.S. cities, including Austin, to let you know who is parked where and what they are serving.

Urbanspoon (free), Yelp (free) and Local Eats (99 cents) are a hungry traveler's best friend. Even the most intrepid adventurers among us have wasted money and room in their stomachs at mediocre restaurants, but these apps allow you to use your current location to show user-generated ratings and aggregated reviews of nearby restaurants. Not even the world's thickest travel guide could give you such up-to-date information about what's worth eating in a new town.

Want to make a restaurant reservation on the go? Online reservation site Open Table offers a free application that lets you search restaurant reviews and reserve a table. Even the Austin taco blog TacoJournalism.com has an app: iTacos (free), which helps you find tacos in Austin based on your location or by rating. Only taquerias that the Taco Journalism bloggers have tried make the cut; blogger Mando Rayo says the group hopes to expand availability soon.

Tech-mined oenophiles will get a lot of use out of Wine Ph.D. ($4.99), Cor.kz ($3.99), Velvet Vine Wine Pro ($3.99) and NatDecants (free). Wine Ph.D. and Cor.kz allow you to search thousands of wines by price, varietal or country of origin and keep track of which wines you've had. (Fromage ($2.99) is a similar app for cheeses.) NatDecants, from author and wine guru Natalie MacClean, is one of the most comprehensive pairing guides around, telling users what goes with everything from eggs to pizza. Velvet Vine Wine Pro is one of many cellar-tracking applications, so you'll never lose track of what bottles you have stored in your basement.

Upgrading to the iPad? IPhone apps can be easily transferred to Apple's new mobile tablet, and some of the more popular applications, such as Epicurious, are already available in iPad versions with more features to make your next meal even better than the last.

abroyles@statesman.com; 912-2504

Collard Olive Pesto

1 3/4 lb. leafy greens (collard, chard or even leaves from broccoli or cauliflower plants)

12 large brine-cured olives, pitted and chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/3 cup nuts (pine nuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds, etc.)

1/3 cup water

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cut stems and center ribs from greens and discard. Stir collard greens into water and simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes and then add chard or other greens. Boil for another few minutes.

Transfer greens with tongs to a colander to drain, gently pressing on greens to extract excess water. (If making pasta, reserve water in pot for cooking pasta.) Coarsely chop greens.

In a blender or food processor, combine olives, garlic and nuts. Add greens, water, vinegar, salt and pepper and pulse until finely chopped. With motor running, add oil in a slow stream. Then add cheese, pulsing motor to combine.

— Adapted from Danny Toma recipe on Epicurious iPhone application

Lighter Chicken Enchiladas

Coarse salt and ground pepper

3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6-8 oz. each)

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, such as safflower

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 to 2 Tbsp. minced canned chipotles in adobo

1 can (14 1/2 oz.) reduced-sodium chicken broth

salt and pepper

8 corn tortillas (6-inch)

1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese (2 oz.)

In a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid, bring 1 inch salted water to a boil. Add chicken. Cover; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 5 minutes; remove skillet from heat. Let chicken steam, covered, until opaque throughout, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer chicken to a medium bowl; shred with two forks. Set aside.

While chicken is cooking, make sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add garlic; cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add flour, cumin and chipotles in adobo; cook, whisking, 1 minute. Whisk in broth and 1/2 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook, whisking occasionally, until sauce has thickened slightly, 5 to 8 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Transfer 1 cup sauce to bowl with chicken; toss to combine.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour 1/4 cup sauce into bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish; set aside. Stack tortillas and wrap in a double layer of damp paper towels; microwave until hot, about 1 minute. Fill each tortilla with chicken mixture; roll up tightly, and arrange, seam side down, in baking dish.

Cover with remaining sauce, and top with cheese. Bake until hot and bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

— From Martha's Everyday Food: Fresh & Easy Recipes iPhone application