Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Weight Watchers Kitchen Companion

A few weeks ago, Weight Watchers launched a new free iPad App called Weight Watchers Kitchen Companion. I have been exploring and using the new app for a couple of weeks now on the iPad that Weight Watchers provided to me as a tool in my role as a Weight Watchers Insider (Thank You so much!).

It took me a little while to find some of the features, but I think most of that is because it is my first experience with iPad (or any other i-products).

App Features:

    Everyone who downloads the app will be able to:
    Get the latest 10 featured recipes
    Save up to 10 favorite recipes
    Create custom shopping lists
    Set cooking timers in recipes
    Watch cooking technique videos
    Share recipes with email or Facebook
    Browse through recipes in book view
    Get step-by-step instructions in cooking view

    Subscribers to Weight Watchers Online & eTools have access to all features and can also:
    Find thousands of Weight Watchers recipes
    Access complete shopping, ingredient and equipment guides
    Get cooking primers and technique videos
    View exclusive recipe collections hand-picked by our editors
    Use the Recipe Builder to create and edit recipes
    Send recipes to your Plan Manager for tracking

I signed in with my eTools user information and all of my comments apply to Subscibers access. Portions would be the same for non-subscribers.

I started by exploring the recipes that appear on the page when you first access it. They feature nice product shots and the PointsPlus value per serving for the recipe. The first thing that I noticed is that recipes are everything from appetizers, to salads, to main dishes, to desserts, to beverages. I liked seeing that the PointsPlus value varied - the screen I am looking at has items with a PointsPlus value of 1 through 9. I think this is great, a long time ago, I had a Weight Watcher leader say that you have to watch - you don't want to 2 Point yourself to death. She was commenting of course on the fact that you can quickly get in a rut, filling your day with a lot of the same food and although you might meet your target, you will get bored, which can be a motivation killer.

As I click into the first recipe, I chose some delicious looking cupcakes with a chocolate drizzle. They are called Vanilla Cupcakes Drizzled with Chocolate and have a PointsPlus value of 4 and make 12 servings. I liked that the recipe uses real ingredients - things that I would reasonably have at home or could easily pick up at the grocery store. In fact, if I decide that I want to make this recipe and need to pick up some ingredients, I can simply click on the icon in the lower right corner and select 'Add to Shopping List'. It puts all of the ingredients on the list and you can edit it as needed. Then, when you take it to the store, you can cross items off as you pick them up. The shopping list is fully editable and you can add other grocery items as well, allowing you to fully plan your shopping trip.

Another recipe that I checked out was Grilled Pizza with Sausage, Onions and Peppers. It has a PointsPlus value of 6, for each of the four servings. The recipe sounds really good to me, but let's say that I want to use a little less sausage or I want to swap the sausage for chicken. Click the icon in the lower right corner and select 'Add to My Recipe Box'. This takes you to a screen where you can click on any of the ingredients and change the amount of the ingredient used and update the recipe. If I adjust the sausage from 6 oz to 4 oz, I see that the PointsPlus value changes to 5. If I want to remove an ingredient, I can select edit (doesn't appear until you have made a change to the recipe?) and then select an ingredient and delete it. Select 'Done' and then select 'Add Ingredient' to include a substitute or additional ingredient to the recipe. After you make all of your modifications, select Save and it will be added to the 'My Recipes' section.

So, after I explored a few of their recipes, I thought it was time to play with one of my own. From the front page, I select 'Menu' and then choose 'My Recipes'. It has a list of all the recipes that I have built over the past few months in Recipe Builder on the eTools. I can open those recipes and edit them or I can build new recipes. As I enter ingredients in a new recipe, I have the option to select 'Lighten Up'. It pulls up a list of ingredients that you might want to lighten up in a recipe and when you click on them, let say eggs in this provides a recommendation of using egg whites or egg substitute for whole eggs. It recommends the replacement quantity and even provides tips. For eggs, it recommends adding a little tumeric to give it a more natural egg color in frittatas and casseroles. For Mayonnaise, it lets you know when you can and shouldn't use certain replacements.

When you select 'Make this Recipe', it takes you to screen that allows you to mark off ingredients as you use them (might help with the "have I added it yet" question) and allows you to step through the instructions. There are highlighted words that will take you to information about cooking processes, cooking tools, and more. You can also click on the times in the recipe to set a timer on the iPad.

Want more of the information on cooking, cooking tools and more? Access them from the 'Menu' button on the main page, select the 'Guides' tab to see Articles, Videos, Cooking Basics, Equipment, a Well-Stocked Pantry and the Skinny On.

You can share the recipes on the app out to Facebook or send an e-mail, but I couldn't locate this functionality for my recipes. The post to Facebook includes a link to the recipe on the web, allowing your friends to check out that recipe (probably why I can't share my recipes - there wouldn't be a link available).

Overall the app is really impressive to me. I like the recipes, the access to my recipes, the tips and tools that are all accessible in this app. I will caution that you can't use it exclusively; while it let's you track the recipes that you are preparing, it doesn't currently allow you to track that glass of wine or the roll that you are enjoying with your meal (would be a nice upgrade!). You'll still need your eTools or mobile app to track all of the non-Recipe components of your daily intake. I will tell you from my experience that you can't use the standard eTools on the iPad (Flash is not supported), but you can use the mobile site. Of course, if you have used the mobile site, you know that it is not fully functioning like the standard eTools, but can work 90% of the time.

No compensation was received for this post. I am a Weight Watchers Insider for the new Weight Watchers PointsPlus program and have received complimentary online access to Weight Watchers, an IPad with the Weight Watchers Kitchen Companion App downloaded, a Flip Camera and other tools to help me on my weight loss journey, using Weight Watchers. 'People following the Weight Watchers plan can expect to lose 1 - 2 pounds per week.'