Between email and browsing and calendars and spreadsheets and word processing and photos and music, we tend to forget the other things our Macs can do. Like help us foodies and chef wannabes to cook fabulous meals to die for.
Or, digitally speaking, use a Mac to channel the spirit of Julia Child and venture into French cuisine. Or, create and flourish in the mother of all recipe management systems. Me? I go for inspiration. Gone are the loaf of bread and a jug of wine, for thou. My Mac and my kitchen and my dining room are all I need.
Julia Child and I have a lot in common (except that one of us is still living). We both go beyond six feet in height, sans heels, both of us love cooking and eating and talking, though not always in that order (a little butter never hurt anyone; Julia lived into her 90s).
Admittedly, I was inspired by the movie Julie & Julia, a marriage of old fashioned persistence in cooking with the digital (blogging) age and one of Apple’s utensils.
Being a digital kind of woman I’ve collected my share of Mac applications to keep track of what’s in my pantry, what’s in my kitchen, and all those recipes that are roaming around in my head. Here’s my list of the five best ways to track and manage what you cook by using your Mac.
A Cook’s Books
There’s more to managing recipes than just sticking them into a database and sorting through them until you find something you like. A Cook’s Books is a recipe manager and a nutritional reference tool.
Recipes can be imported from other Mac recipe managers, entered by hand, and scale the portions based upon the number of servings you need. Recipes can be found based on region, cooking method, author, and more. The planner lets you plan a whole day, a single meal, or a month. It even creates a shopping list after you list the contents of your pantry.
A Cook’s Books is a work in progress and may not have all the slick and sassy features of other digital cook books. It’s very thin on included recipes, and you’re in charge of all the work to make it useful.
Perfect Diet Tracker
Nutrition is all the rage these days, Julia Child’s fetish for butter notwithstanding, so Perfect Diet Tracker is the wise choice for those worried about what’s inside what they’re eating. PDT is nutrition oriented and contains a database of almost 50,000 food products.
Monitor your caloric intact, track your diet in the built-in diary, and create a personal diet plan that targets your specific dietary needs. Compare your diet and cooking habits with the Perfect Diet to improve your health. Counting calories and tracking nutritional information is automatic, as you go.
Perfect? Not quite. Lots of emphasis on diet, not so much on what’s good to eat and why.
I’m more in to soup these days than when I was younger (and slimmer). Yummy Soup is poorly named because it’s more than just soup. It comes with some features you’ll love, including the ability to add to your recipe collection by pulling recipes from web sites.
Yummy Soup also tracks what you drink with the Wine & Spirits manager (it’s always best to consult that feature after you’re done cooking, not before). Yummy Spirits? It’s easy to email recipe cards to friends, share with others through the Online Library, and sync up with your other Macs via Mobile Me.
Recipes can be displayed in full screen mode on your MacBook, and use your Apple Remote to have your Mac read the recipe to you via OS X’s built-in text to speech technology. Categorize recipes however you want in Smart Groups, and start cooking by comparing recipes with the ingredients you have on hand.
So, if you’re into cooking, into nutrition, and into using your Mac to help out in the kitchen, A Cook’s Books, Perfect Diet Tracker, and Yummy Soup are all good choices. But they’re not the top two on my list of what gets me in the Julia Child mode.
Continue to Page 2 for the top two cooking applications for Mac users.
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The real problem I had with adopting digital technology to the kitchen was the difference between how I treated a cookbook full of recipes and how I treat my Mac. Cookbooks are designed to be used. They’re heavy, sturdy, and can withstand the rigors and mess in the kitchen.
My Mac is pristine, elegant, a professional workhorse, yes, but a finely tuned machine of breeding and sophistication. My kitchen? Not so much. Messy is the rule. Pristine is the exception.
So, is it OK to bring your Mac into the kitchen? A wholehearted yes, is the right answer. With caveats. Exercise a little caution and care. Our Macs are durable, but the genius at the Apple Store Genius Bar is likely to raise an eyebrow or two he or she finds gravy and shredded cheese under the keyboard.
That said, here are the top two Mac kitchen aids on my Mac. One is good, the other is a whole system.
If you have to start somewhere, this is the place. SousChef is made for Mac users and food lovers. Almost everything you want and need is here.
SousChef is part of the digital age, and the information superhighway, and uses a cloud database (new talk for internet) that stores user recipes which are shared with other users.
Enter what’s in your panty and fridge and SousChef can find recipes that match the ingredients you already have. That saves time and saves trips to the store.
Instead of killing trees to print out a favorite recipe (though I’m guilty of that because I was once afraid to move my Mac to the kitchen), SousChef has a 10 foot mode which increases the text on the screen so you can see it across the room. Or, listen to your recipe via speech and your Apple Remote.
There’s a substitution feature that lets you use other ingredients that match the recipe. All the sharing capability is built-in, too, including an ability to blog about what you cooked, email what you created, and import someone else’s recipe creations.
If you’re a little less concerned about nutrition but want your Mac to do more in the kitchen, SousChef is the place to start.
As good as all these utilities are, they’re a few miles behind the complete Mac system for the chef, the kitchen, and the digital age.
This system of digital tools for the Julia Child in all of us (yeah, she liked butter, but she lived past 90) is MacGourmet and MacGourmet Deluxe. Think of this as iTunes and iPhoto for people who love to cook and are not afraid of the digital connection.
MacGourmet Deluxe does pretty much everything you’d expect a modern Mac application to do, except stir the pot, or clean the dishes. Meals can be planned by the day, week or month. Recipe collection is like playlists and albums in iTunes and iPhoto. Easy.
Create a menu or meal based upon the ingredients you have on hand at the time (there’s that pesky need to list what’s in your pantry and fridge… hello! Bar scanner…). Even sync up your menus with iCal so everyone knows what’s coming.
MGD includes the USDA database of nutrition for the diet conscious, and gathers nutritional values for your meals so you can see how far off track you’ve gone, and what you need to do to get back in shape (like that doesn’t happen).
Very handy is the note taking capability of MGD Wine Notes, so you can get all digitally jiggy with your wine collection by winery, region, vintage, and style. Did I mention photos? Add photos of your creations ala Julie & Julia style.
The import assistant brings in recipes from web sites or text clippings so you don’t have to type it all in.
MacGourmet Deluxe is a full system for the Mac user with digital cooking tendencies. There’s the original MacGourmet, lower cost, fewer features but with plugins for more cooking power.
There’s also separate modules to enhance the overall cooking experience. MacGourmet Cookbook lets you create and print your own cookbooks. The nutrition plugin has nutritional analysis for ingredients. And Mealplan is a meal planner plugin for MacGourmet.
So you like to cook? You’re a Mac user? Marry the two in a kitchen ceremony. All five of these great applications are worthy of Mac users, though either SousChef or MacGourmet Deluxe will make your day. I don’t promise you’ll cook as good as Julia Child or be as famous, but you can feel the bond even on your Mac.