Saturday, February 11, 2012

Cook'n Recipe Organizer Software - Review & Giveaway

I love to cook and bake. As a result, I like to clip recipes from just about anywhere I can find them. I have a manilla folder in my desk caddy that is full of assorted recipes that I have gathered over the years that I plan to try. After I try a recipe, if it is worth keeping, I usually have good intentions of writing it down and sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. In the instances where I fail to write it down, I have been known to have trouble finding it or encountering it again and wondering if I have tried it.

Recently, I had the chance to try a new software called Cook'n Recipe Organizer. Cook'n is called a recipe organizer, but as I have started to explore it, I have found it to be so much more than just a recipe organizer.
Cook'n comes preloaded with a cookbook called the DVO.com cookbook. This complimentary cookbook features 'a few of the best recipes from each of the Cook'n titles offered at DVO.com' including several recipes in each of the following categories:
Appetizers
Beverages
Breads
Soups and Stews
Salads
Main Dishes
Side Dishes
Sweets and Desserts
Breakfast

It even contains a glossary of cooking terms.

As you explore each recipe, there is a link to the cookbook from which the recipe comes and through this link, you can purchase the electronic cookbook to be added to your Cook'n Recipe Organizer software. In addition, if you try a recipe and find that it's not quite 'right' for you and you want to tweak the ingredients, the software allows you to change up ingredients and save your version of the recipe. I love this feature. I have notes in cookbooks about changes I have made to recipes - whether there is an ingredient I don't like or I am making an ingredient swap, I can make the change and always have 'my version' of the recipe available to use. In addition, you can view the nutritional facts for the recipe.
But to me, the real value is not in their cookbook, it is in having a way to store my recipes. I have a couple of cookbooks that are the write it yourself style and they work great for me, but having it online is even better. Entering a recipe is very easy. First you choose the cookbook and chapter that you want the recipe to be part of. Then, you enter the name of the recipe, a description (I'm thinking this is where I will note - from Grandma, etc), Servings/Yield, Prep time and cook time information. The next section is for entering all of your ingredients. There are separate columns for quantity, units, info and ingredient. In addition, there is a column for the brand (but more about that later). Because there are a number of common ingredients, measures, etc. the software features an auto-complete feature, allowing you to start a word and then choose it from the list that is created. It makes keying a recipe in go a lot quicker than if you had to type out everything. If you are adding ingredients that are not on the ingredient list, you can do a quick add and then go back and build the details for the ingredient later or you can set it up right away. Then, there is a text box for entering the directions for making the recipes. Once you have entered and saved your recipe, you can add a picture. I am still playing with this one, the pictures from my camera are too large to post, so I need to figure out how to scale them down to a size that works.

In addition to entering your own recipes, you can use the software to help you find a recipe on the web and when you do, you can use it to capture the recipe in the software (includes a link back to the source). It does a pretty good job of capturing the description, ingredients and directions, although I will admit that I feel the need to clean them up when I have done this. Once captured, you can save it to the cookbook of your choice. I can totally see myself searching for recipes and building a 'to try' cookbook. Then, when we have tried them, if we like them, they will get added to my main cookbook or deleted, depending on feedback from the family.

There are limitations to the search and capture feature. It only searches a set of sites. I was hoping that it would be such that I could find the recipes that I have already added on my blog and capture them. They are working towards this type of capability, but it is not there. That being said, there is a still a good amount of sites that it does search. So, for my blog, I tend to do a copy and paste of the directions and descriptions portion and then have to 'manually' enter ingredients. At least the auto complete features assist in this process.

You can also very easily scale your recipes. Cooking a recipe for 12 instead of 8, simply go into Settings, check the automatically adjust recipe and then change the number of servings. All of your ingredients will be scaled to the new number of servings.

Setting up ingredients. There is a lot of power in the ingredients. When you set up an ingredient, you give it a name and enter the plural spelling as well. I have found that the, I need to go to View|Brands and open up the Brand tab to create the brand information for my ingredient. You can simply give it a "no name" type brand as you set it up. When you enter the brand, this is where you get to enter the nutritional information for the ingredient. This is important to do, if you want to use the Nutrition Calculator. In addition, you can enter the location/category for the item and the average cost. After the brand is set up, you can go back to your ingredient and enter the brand and if you wish, mark it preferred.

Nutrition Calculator. Once a recipe is saved and brands assigned, you can click on the Nutrition button at the top of the screen and it will open up the nutrition screen for that recipe. It will take the individual ingredient nutrition information (from the database and/or those that you have entered). It will give you a total nutrition for the recipe. You can also select settings and have it divide by the number of servings to see a per serving nutrition data for the recipe. I love this feature! I have been going in and adjusting the ingredient list to make sure it includes the ingredients (brands) that I normally am using, so that I can get the most accurate information. This makes it so much easier for me as I diet.

Menu plan. Once you have a collection of recipes, this software can also become a menu planning and shopping planning tool. Click on Menu at the top of the screen and you get a form for setting up your menu. You can set it up to plan each meal in a day, you can set it up to plan each day of the week, and can even plan out weeks in a month. You can even plan a meal with appetizer, main dish, side dish and dessert - sure to be a help when you are planning a holiday meal and don't want to forget anything. It is very flexible. You add the labels to your menu by dragging or create your own. Once you have the labels in place, you can add the meals. I love to planning a menu with the recipes there. I don't usually pull out the cookbooks and so there are dishes that we go months without eating.

Shopping List. Once you have built your menu plan for the desired period, you can create your shopping list by clicking on List. This will generate a full shopping list for every ingredient in the recipes that are part of your menu plan, organized by category. Based on the pricing information that you entered (or was pre-populated in the software) for the brands, it will even tell you what the cost for your trip will be. Then, you can customize. Already have an ingredient in the pantry/freezer. Mark it as have it and add extra items to your list. When you mark it as have it, the total cost for the list will be updated. This can be a great tool for budgeting and adjusting menu plans if you need to to better meet your budget. I'm thinking this could be especially true if you are entertaining and going outside a normal weekly budget.

You can print your list, your nutrition, your recipe...whatever is up in your active window. Within print, you have options on how to print the page. You can choose different sizes (4x6 for recipe card, as example), different formats (to printer, as pdf, etc), and adjust preferences like printing nutritional data. I would love to have the ability to be able to 'submit' my cookbook to a site that prints photobooks to print my own cookbook (thinking shower gifts, etc.) I think that I could likely work with the pdf print feature and get it onto a nice color print at a office store and have them do a spiral bound. Again, this is a nice to have feature that hopefully will come along some day, but in the meantime, I am sure that I can find other ways to print it.

Know someone else that has the software, there are even tools to allow you to export/import files - so you can share recipes with your friends. I like the idea behind this feature. What a great way to share your favorite recipes with others.

It will take some time to fully customize and to fully populate recipes, but it really seems to be a great tool for managing recipes, the weekly menu plan and dieting.

You can purchase a copy of Cook'n Recipe Organizer from DVO.com for $79.95. You can download it or request a CD copy. You can interact with them on their Facebook page or check out a video here:


Personally, I am excited to see that they are working on an iPhone App that would sync with the software. What a great way to do my shopping and plan my menu on the go.

Giveaway!

One lucky A Busy Mom of Two Reader will win a free copy of Cook'n Recipe Organizer.
(note: you can sign into Rafflecopter with an e-mail, you do not need to use Facebook)


a Rafflecopter giveaway


No compensation was received for this post. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy of the Cook'n Recipe Organizer was provided by the manufacturer through a Mom Blog Society opportunity.

15 comments:

Krista said...

I'm in the process of moving everything over electronically as soon as I get an iPad and I love how they are organized and stored on the computer.
Thanks!

krista@youwannaknowwhatithink.com

Nan said...

My dream is to eventually be able to put together my own cookbook...even if just for family and friends. Having a way online to organize recipes would be a great start.

Nan said...

I receive emails at nono916@gmail.com I think I hit enter too soon on raflecopter.

Kathy said...

The shopping list feature would be great

Carrie Phelps said...

After watching the video I found I love you can enter keywords when recipe searching.

Jen @ TheUnProcessedKitchen said...

The nutrition information is really helpful! However, there is a lot to love here :)

Scott Schluter said...

The ability to get all our recipes in one location that is searchable!

Christine said...

I love being able to search my recipes, and change them as I come up with "tweaks" to the recipe.

isabelli3619 {at} aol {dot} com

Holly S. said...

I'd love to be able to create a shopping list from my menus. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Let's you print a family cookbook.

tannerboyle12 @ hotmail.com

corey said...

I like that you can print out a family cookbook - fun thing to do with the kids.
coreybrennan26@hotmail.com

Declan Cash's Mom said...

My favorite feature is the grocery list creator

Declan Cash's Mom said...

I subscribed by email candyland121 at hotmail dot com

bettycd said...

love the idea of capturing and saving recipes around the internet. There are so many great locations that we find recipes, the trick is being able to save from various magazine, various cooking oriented, and various brand name sites so that we have a single collection of recipes.

bettycd said...

longtime email subscriber