Take Two for July 24, 2013

App Chat: The latest and greatest summer eating apps

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Today we examine a few apps to help you in your culinary adventures

Today we're launching a new segment about useful smartphones apps for everyday life, and we're using summertime as inspiration to kick it off. 

If you're like us, your favorite thing to do on a hot day isn't sitting by the pool or playing in the park, it's eating. Everything from salads of fresh fruits and vegetables, to grilled meats and delicious drinks.

It's all so lovely, except for the whole shopping, cooking and organization part. Jacqui Cheng is Editor at Large with Ars Technica, she joined us with recommendations with her favorite summer cooking apps.

Basil:
This is a great all-around cooking app that's useful if you tend to collect recipes from all over the web. If people are like me, I have a million bookmarks to different recipes I've found online and they're not really collected in a central, easy-to-use place.

This app lets you search among the major recipe sites, but also has a browser bookmarklet so you can send recipes to Basil when you come across them while surfing the Web. Then you can load up Basil on your iPhone/iPad and the recipes will be there, and you can edit them to fit your own preferences. If you like to substitute things (I do) or leave certain ingredients out, you can basically customize all these recipes within Basil and still keep them organized in one app. -- Jacqui Cheng

Grill-it!:
This app is cool for a few reasons. First, it lets you search by different kinds of meats & vegetables (beef, pork, vegetables, seafood) and learn how to best season & grill each different cut so it turns out perfectly. Everyone loves grilling in the summer (and it's not something most of us can do during any other part of the year), but not everyone knows how to treat meat on the grill differently than they would indoors. You can also share recipes via e-mail or Facebook, or save them to your favorites so you can come back to them later. Always nice features.

Secondly, if you have questions about any techniques or recipes, there's a button built-in that allows you to ask a question via e-mail or Twitter, and the app's creators will give you some grilling advice directly. This is amazing, to be honest. Most app developers would never do this because it would mean too many e-mails/tweets to respond to, but these guys do it for some reason and it has helped out a lot of people. -- Jacqui Cheng

Food Intolerances:
This app is one that a friend recommended to me. It basically allows you to look up each type of food and see exactly what's in it (including fruits and vegetables), and the purpose is obviously so you can be extra-careful if you're cooking or preparing food for someone with intolerances.

I think the reason this is useful for summer is because there are always a ton of cookouts and family gatherings in the summer, so we're always cooking or going to a pot luck with a bunch of other people who might have intolerances. Also, my friend pointed out that this app is cool because it's not US-centric, so there are some diverse foods included like pickled eggs and whatnot. -- Jacqui Cheng

Big Oven:
This is a cool app I just started using. At its base, it's another app like Basil that lets you enter your own recipes or import recipes from the Web. One of the features I like a lot is the menu planning feature. I like to plan out an entire week's worth of meals before I go shopping (or even just so I can plan my day), and this app lays it out for you so you can make notes for each day on the calendar and reference back to it when you're shopping or looking for ideas.

My second favorite feature is the "use up leftovers" button, which lets you select ingredients that you have leftover or sitting in your fridge, and then it suggests recipes to you that use those ingredients. This is really useful if you're trying to use anything (not just leftovers), cuz we've all been there with a ton of beets or something, trying to figure out what to make with it. Again, this could be useful for after cookouts or parties, when you have a ton of stuff leftover and want ideas for how to put it together later. -- Jacqui Cheng


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