I noticed recently that my recipe collection was getting out of control. Between the cooking magazines I hold onto just in case, the recipes I’ve printed off the Internet, and all the cookbooks I’ve picked up along the way as gifts or from the clearance racks, it easily fills two shelves on the living room bookcase. This fall, I finally decided to come up with a comprehensive organizational system to clear out the clutter.
It took me a long time to find an organizational system that would work. I wanted something electronic and easily searchable, which meant retiring the haphazard index card system I sporadically tried to use in the past. My initial research on software programs was pretty disappointing. Most of them seemed to come pre-loaded with literally hundreds of recipes. That’s the opposite of what I wanted! I didn’t need more variety; I need a way to catalog and take control of what I do have. I wanted something easy to use so I wouldn’t get frustrated and stop halfway through the process. I wanted a way to categorize recipes, preferably with customizable tags that would be useful to me. And I wanted an easy way to generate a shopping list of ingredients for the recipes I planned to make in a week.
None of the popular software out there seemed to have what I was looking for. I was thisclose to begging my programmer husband to design me something. But then! Then a stranger stumbled across a whiny blog post I made about it and recommended YummySoup!. I downloaded a free trial from the website, and I haven’t looked back. It’s everything I was looking for in a recipe management program! I couldn’t have had the Mister program something better if I’d designed it myself.
YummySoup! comes with only about a dozen pre-loaded recipes. That’s enough to give you something to fiddle with when you’re figuring out how things work, but not so much that you feel like you’re slogging through piles and piles of recipes that you’ll never make. (And how delicious do those strawberry cream cheese cupcakes look?) The program comes organized with a number of different “Groups” – general categories and sub-categories for recipes like Breakfast, Desserts, Pastas, etc. Each of these groups serves as a pre-existing keyword tag that you can give any new recipes that you add, but you can also create your own groups or tags. Anything you create as a group will appear in the left sidebar, but you can tag things with identifiers for search purposes without needing to clog up the group list. For example, I made a sub-group of “Pies” under the Dessert menu because, well”¦ it’s pie, and the software didn’t come with one. But I also like to tag recipes with one or more of their prominent ingredients so that I can search for them more easily when I’m in the mood for a particular taste. So far, I haven’t come up on a limit to the number of tags a single recipe can have.
In addition to the regular groups, you can also design “Smart Groups” that function almost exactly like smart playlists in iTunes. The recipe input interface allows you put in all manner of information. There’s a button to click if you’ve made the recipe previously, or you can leave it unchecked if it’s a new one you haven’t tried yet. You can rate recipes on a five-star system and difficulty out of three bars. There are sections to note prep time and cook time or attribution. With the smart groups function, you can create recipe categories that incorporate any of these attributes or any of the tags you give it. For example, you could make a “Quick and Easy” group that would automatically add any recipe that you give one difficulty bar that takes X amount of time or less to make. I have a smart group called “Recipes to Try” that automatically adds any recipe that I don’t click the button noting that I’ve made it previously. These smart groups are really handy for coming up with recipe categories without having to remember to tag each individual one.
YummySoup! can hold up to 12 corresponding photos for each recipe. To add photos to a recipe, you simply drag either the file from its source on your computer or the image itself if you’re online and drop it into the numbered boxes in the top right of the screen for entering new items. The photo in the first slot will be the primary photo for the recipe, but you can also include process shots. Once there are photos in the numbered boxes, you can simply drag a corresponding process shot to the appropriate place in the directions area, and voila! A bolded number will appear in the directions entry area, which is where the photo will be placed when you look at the completed recipe. (You can see this in that screen capture with the strawberries.)
I’m a huge fan of the notes section on YummySoup! There are two different sections for notes. One is a traditional notes area, where you can write suggestions for variations, things you learned when you made it, etc. The notes will be appended to the bottom of the directions for sharing. But there’s also a private notes section where you can write things that might be of interest to you but are not necessarily useful in a traditional recipe you might want to share with others. In this example, I’ve made a cheap dick joke at my ex-boyfriend’s expense. But in other recipes, I’ve made notes like, “This fits perfectly in that blue bowl with the handle,” and “The Mister prefers it when I make this with three garlic cloves instead of six.” That information isn’t really helpful if I were to print out a copy and share it with a friend, but it’s nice to have on file for myself for the next time I make it.
Speaking of sharing, YummySoup! makes it easy to share or export your recipes once you’ve entered them. The software is compatible with MobileMe accounts. With the MobileMe functionality, you can access your recipes wherever you are, share them either publicly or just with friends, and subscribe to other feeds. If you don’t have a MobileMe account, there’s also a handy “Share” feature that lets you attach PDFs to e-mails or print out recipes in a selection of different layouts on 4″x6″ cards or 8.5″x11″ paper.
That just scratches the surface of what YummySoup! can do. There’s an automated scaling button, in case you want to double, halve, or whatever else your base recipe. You can import recipes automatically from popular recipe sites like Epicurious.com, FoodNetwork.com, and MarthaStewart.com without having to enter them manually. (The software currently imports from eleven sites with more planned for the future.) You can plan not just an immediate shopping list, but you can also lay out a calendar for weeks in advance so you don’t miss big events that you might be cooking for (family picnics, anniversaries, birthdays, etc). It’s quick and easy to edit recipes and add notes once they’re already in the system in the event you need to make changes. (For example, after taking screencaps for this post, “Jerkface” was promptly changed to something a little less G-rated.)
Unfortunately for you Windows users, YummySoup! is Mac-only software compatible with OS 10.6.6 and up. I can’t recommend it strongly enough for the rest of you, though. I have had so much fun getting myself organized. The exclamation point does not lie! And at only $20, it’s an absolute steal. So pop over to the website, download a trial, and check it out.
DISCLAIMER: Hungry Sea Cow Software and the creator of YummySoup! have not given me any form of compensation for writing this review. I’m just a big fan.