Category Archives: Cooking Apps

What’s For Dinner? An App Can Help


I figure if I stare at my open fridge long enough, something will jump out at me.

What's For DinnerWhat's For Dinner

I assume that’s the way many of you go about concocting some kind of meal plan too. I know it’s not the most efficient way of going about things, but, it seems to work. Most times.

Once you get over the shock from the not so subtle mood lightning inside that appliance, some decisions need to be made. Are there leftovers? If there are, are they even close to still being consumable without a potential ER visit? You probably have some staples. The milk might have a chance of escaping on it’s own once the door is open, but, the other stuff like butter, jellies, bottled sauces, in all likelihood are less problematic. So the hunt begins…

At this point you could continue combing through the wreckage that is most peoples fridge or maybe switch on your phone for some much needed assistance. That’s right, phone.

I discovered this app a few days ago. What’s For Dinner aims to help make that agonizing decision a touch easier. It’s a great little app, with some handy features. First, how about an online recipe search feature? Just type in any possible ingredient and it will be searched for.  I mean any. I tried a whole host of different possibilities and I was unable to stump the thing.

Imagine this, you’re at work wondering what you could possibly prepare for your starving family after you’ve put in a hard day at the plant. Sounds great already, right? You somehow remember that you have a package of chicken thighs in the fridge. Type it into the app and you’re well on your way to planning your families next culinary expedition.

After you pull down your recipe choice you can make a shopping list out of it. That’s especially nice if you’re going to the store to shop just dinner and not trying to cram in your weekly shopping on top of it. Here’s what I decided on.

Garlic Cumin Chicken

Garlic Cumin Chicken

Here how to do it:

2lb. Chicken Thighs, boneless/skinless
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
2 Tbsp. butter
16 cloves garlic, peeled & smashed
1 Tbsp. cumin, ground
1/3 cup parsley, chopped for garnish
4 lemon wedges

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a heavy bottomed skillet that is large enough to hold the chicken. Add chicken and brown on one side (about 5 minutes). Turn chicken and add garlic cloves. Cover and cook over medium low heat. Turn a couple of times until chicken is nicely browned and cooked through. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with cumin. Turn heat to medium high. Cook uncovered 3 to 5 minutes. Turn once.

Remove chicken from skillet to serving plate. Spoon garlic and crispy brown bits from pan over top chicken. Garnish with chopped parsley and lemon wedge.

Garlic Cumin Chicken

Oh, I served mine with some rice pilaf topped with feta and a little of the leftover parsley.

What's For Dinner

Make no mistake about it. This little smartphone app isn’t going to cook your dinner for you (If they added that feature it would be killer). But, it sure can take the pain out of guessing what to make. And, as a bonus, it’s fun to use.

They have two versions. There’s a free version that lets you store a minimum amount of recipes and search several sights. For $2.99 you can have the premium version which allows you to add recipe labels, add your own ingredients to the shopping list function and even add photos.

The Bottom Line:

Cooking dinner for your family should be fun. Treasure hunts are great, but, maybe we should reserve those for a kids party rather than your daily encounter with the refrigerator. What’s For Dinner makes deciding what’s for dinner less of a challenge.


Boiled Water: There’s An App For That


I’m not sure which is the most basic of recipes, boiled water or making ice cubes. It might very well be a tie.


There used to be a time in the not so distant past when the mechanics of making a meal was VERY different.  You either opened up an oil stained cookbook or just cooked from memory and taste. All of that is changing at a pretty rapid pace.

This past weekend I not only cooked with my Mac laptop sitting on the counter, BUT, I cooked using my iPhone! AND, I enjoyed it!

New York Times columnist, author and food journalist, Mark Bittman is at the forefront of making that change happen. His How To Cook Everything app for the iPhone is just another example of how our everyday kitchen “tools” are evolving.

I decided to check out how cooking off your phone would be. I know it’s really a miniature computer, but, it’s still a phone. But, what to try first? The Bittman app is loaded with thousands of recipes, tips and helpful kitchen hints. I figured I would let the wisdom of the crowds guide my decision. It turned out to be a good choice.

One of the features of the application lets users give a “thumbs up” to recipes they have tried and liked. I start my journey with the most popular one. Boiled Water.

How could a recipe for boiled water be the favorite of so many people (1928 votes as of this writing)? I think I should get to the bottom of this.

The recipe is described as “a Mediterranean classic” that is almost as simple as boiling water. As it turns out that isn’t too far from the truth. Here’s what you’ll need to make this quick and easy recipe.

6-10 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
1 Bay Leaf
4 cups water
1/4 cup, Olive Oil
4 Slices French Bread
1/2 cup, freshly grated Parmesan, Pecorino or Romano cheese
Chopped parsley for garnish

In a large saucepan or small stockpot add water, bay leaf, garlic and some salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover partially and reduce heat to very low. Low enough for the cooking liquid to boil gently. Boil for 15 minutes.


In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. When heated add the bread slices. Brown on both sides, turning once for a total of about 5 minutes.


When bread has browned, place in bowls and top with grated cheese. Strain solids from the soup and pour into the bowls. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley. Serve.

Serves 4


This really could not have been much easier to make. I poured my broth over the cheese topped bread. I figured this would melt the cheese a little.

There were a couple of issues that came up. First when you add the bread to the skillet, side one soaks up 90 percent of the oil in the pan. This leaves no oil for toasting the second side. The recipe suggests using slightly stale bread. That may help a little with that problem.

The second is more of an observation than a problem with the recipe. When you add the broth to the bowl, the bread turns soft and broth soaked rather quickly. I liked the texture of the mushy bread. It gave the soup a little more body. If you don’t expect a crunchy crouton kind of experience, then you won’t be disappointed.

I was surprised at how much flavor this recipe actually had given the few ingredients that it contains. It really has a lot of depth to it. A pleasant surprise.

When we finished slurping, all of my tasters agreed that this would make an excellent first course for a roast chicken dinner. Nice and light, but, more than enough taste to carry the dish.

We know that the recipe turns out fine. Now, what about the app itself. Here’s how it all breaks down.

groceryscreenJPGThe app runs great. The search feature usually turns up a good amount of recipe options. Each of the recipes is broken down nicely into sections. An overview, ingredients list and the steps themselves. If there is a timing element (which of course there is in most recipes), then a handy link lets you use the timer in the app without setting another external one. That’s nice.

You can save your favorite recipes. I love the grocery list function. You can add in all of the ingredients for your recipe with the touch of a button. You can then sort that list by store aisle or alphabetically. I have to say that it’s surprisingly useful. I’m pretty much of a pencil and paper guy when it comes to my shopping list, but, who knows, this might change me.

The Bottom Line

How To Cook Everything, the iPhone/iPad version isn’t a substitute for Mark’s fantastic in print book. But, if you just want to whip out your phone, do a quick search and make a great meal, then this app will do that and even a little more. The app runs $4.99 which is on the high side for iPhone apps. Now, I’m not saying it’s not worth five bucks, but, a lot of folks are used to 99 cents or free. My advice to you, pony up the fin and get cooking.