I’ve been looking for a good way to keep track of my recipes, as well as a useful meal-planning tool – not necessarily the same solution for both. I had heard of the Paprika app, but I hesitated to try it because of the price tag. It is $20 on the Mac App Store, and $5 each for the iPad and iPhone versions. When I received an iTunes gift card for Christmas this year, I decided to give it a shot, nervous that I was throwing away $25 of my gift card on something I’d never used (I didn’t download the iPhone version).
One of the reasons I wanted to try Paprika is that we now have an extra iPad after I bought Stephen an iPad Mini, so we thought the old iPad could be used in the kitchen (and I could start to get rid of my cookbooks). The app is available for Android, but not for PC.
When I first opened up Paprika on my iMac, it didn’t take long for me to fall in love. It has a browser built in, so I can browse to recipes and add them to my collection in one of two ways. First, if a website is supported by Paprika, I can just click Save Recipe and a little recipe card drops down and I can do any tweaking that I like.
Hindsight Labs LLC, which created Paprika, says more than 190 sites are supported. A list can be found here. If a site isn’t supported, then you can click a button to open an email to Hindsight, asking them to add it. However, according to Paprika’s website, it looks like what is really required is that sites adhere to the hrecipe or microdata specifications, so if you wanted a site to be supported by Paprika, they would need to implement one of those specifications in their html, which could be a pain.
Not surprisingly, a lot of blogs and more obscure cooking sites are not supported. But it is still pretty easy to add recipes from those websites using the clipboard tool. At the bottom of Paprika’s browser window, there is a line of buttons, one for each element of a recipe – photo, title, ingredients, directions, servings, nutrition, etc. The photo, if the site has one, can just be dragged and dropped into the photo box. For the other elements, just highlight that section of the recipe on the website and click the appropriate button below. Once I’ve got all the information, I click Create Recipe. It’s not a one-click solution, but is still very quick and easy.
I had accumulated a pile of printed recipes I found on various websites, so it was very easy for me to browse back to those recipes and add them to Paprika. I’ve barely started adding recipes from cookbooks, but a surprising number of them are available online. And of course, I can add any recipe manually.
I also like that you can change the photo for each recipe or add one if the source didn’t have a picture. For my own recipes (Kara’s Bean Dip, anyone?), I’ve taken pictures on my kitchen counter and added them. If I’m using the clipboard feature and there’s either no picture or a bad picture, I’ve found that once I’ve clipped all the necessary information for a recipe, I can then browse to Google Images and find a good picture to drag and drop into the photo box. I like that you can browse to different pages and not lose the recipe that you are creating with the clipboard feature. This is great if you want to combine a couple different recipes.
You have to manually set up your categories (main dish, vegetable, appetizer, etc.), so I recommend doing that BEFORE you start adding recipes. Or else you will be like me and have to go back in and edit every recipe to add a category or categories. In addition to using categories like main dish, I also added categories for main ingredients like beans and turkey, as well as ethnic food categories in case I’m in the mood for Korean or Ethiopian food. It wasn’t immediately obvious to me how to add categories, but I quickly found that when I am on the main recipe page with the categories on the left and the recipes on the right, I just needed to click the plus sign above the categories.
I find it easier to browse and add recipes on my iMac, then use the cloud sync feature to get them onto my iPad. I found it wasn’t syncing if I clicked sync on my iPad. I have to select sync from the drop-down menu when I’m using Paprika on my iMac. Apparently they actually used to charge for syncing (a deal-breaker for me!), but I am guessing the introduction of iCloud made it easier for Paprika’s various versions to sync.
Once you’ve entered a recipe, there is a “scale” button on each recipe, so that you can change the number of servings. Since I am usually cooking only for Stephen and myself, and most recipes seem to be for four servings or more, this is a huge help. If you are going to halve a recipe, make sure you change the box on the left to 0 (the default, obviously, is 1) before selecting 1/2 from the drop down menu on the right. If you wanted to double a recipe, you would change the amount in the box on the left to 2.
Another feature that I think sounds really great is sharing, but I don’t know anyone else who uses Paprika yet. I did try sending a recipe to a friend who I’ve been bugging to download the app, but she’s out of town at the moment, so if she has downloaded it, we’ll see how well it works when she gets back. I hope she’s got the app now, because she is a gourmet cook and always has wonderful recipes to share.
To share a recipe, click the More Actions icon at the top of the window (the box with the arrow coming out of it), and select Email. It will open an email and there is a shaded box from which you must drag the recipe attachment and drop it in the email. Presumably another person with Paprika will be able to click the attachment and save the recipe to the app. However, it also puts the recipe in the body of the email as plain text in case the recipient doesn’t have the program. You can also share recipes to Twitter or Facebook.
In theory, I love the menu planning and grocery list features, but I haven’t really started using them. I need to get more of my recipes saved in Paprika before I can really utilize it for menu planning. But I did goof around with them a little bit and I found them both very easy to use. Just open up a recipe you want to add to your meal plan, then click the calendar icon at the top of the window. That will bring up a calendar with a drop down menu from which you can select breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack. Then you click on the date you want and it’s in your calendar. You can print out a whole week, or just one day.
Similarly, you can click on the grocery cart icon at the top and it will open a drop down window with all the ingredients for that recipe checked, and you can uncheck anything you don’t need. I’d like to see that reversed, with unchecked being the default and having to check only the items that I need. If the ingredient names are exactly the same, then they will be combined on the grocery list. I tried adding one recipe with 2 tbsp sugar and one with 3 tbsp sugar, and my grocery list showed 5 tbsp sugar (but you can isolate a particular recipe on your shopping list if you want). It’s easy to delete an item from your list, but if you instead check it off as bought, you can just sort your grocery list to show only the items you need to buy. Of course, it’s easy to print your grocery list to take with you.
If the ingredient names are different (yet basically the same thing), I think the easiest thing is to add the amount from the first recipe, then double click that item in your grocery list so you can edit the quantity to include the amount from another recipe.
I honestly haven’t found too many drawbacks when using Paprika. I don’t seem to be able to drag and drop a picture when I am using Paprika on my iPad. But since I prefer to add recipes on my iMac, this isn’t much of an inconvenience.
The one thing Paprika can’t do is take my years long accumulation of recipes and instantly make them appear in the app. I still have to do that myself. They do say that if you have YummySoup!, MacGourmet, or MasterCook, you can import recipes directly from those apps. But if you’re like me, most of your recipes are in cookbooks and magazine clippings. But now that I feel like I have finally found a first-rate app for recipes, it will be worth my time to keep uploading them little by little.
Update: March 2, 2013: I’ve gotten some more recipes entered, so this morning I worked on making a meal plan for the week. As I added recipes, I also threw ingredients I didn’t have onto the grocery list. I had to put a couple more recipes in to round out my meals, but that was quick and easy because I knew what I wanted.
There were a couple things about the grocery list that I didn’t like. One was that I manually added one gallon of whole milk and one gallon of fat-free milk, and it changed it to two gallons milk. I just added, “1 whole and 1 fat-free” at the end, but I don’t like that it changed my manual entries. The other thing was that there didn’t seem to be a way to sort my grocery list by store, as some things on the list I like to buy at Costco and some I like to buy at Trader Joe’s. I could probably do it by adding Costco and TJ’s as aisles, but then my lists wouldn’t also be sorted by dairy, produce, etc. I’ll play with it a little more and see if there is a good way to do it. I don’t want to print two separate lists, as that’s a waste of paper. I just want to break my list into two parts based on the grocery store name, and still have it sort by aisle within each part.
Minor complaints aside, I really liked the meal planning and grocery list elements of Paprika. I’ve got dinners (and tomorrow’s breakfast) planned through Friday, and I have everything I need to make all the meals. It’s also easy to add a custom item (for which I don’t have/need a recipe), like broccoli, to the meal plan. I usually just throw a couple things together for quick meals because I don’t take the time to plan. Today, I made scallion scones, pan-seared salmon with balsamic drizzle, green beans with goat cheese and lemon vinaigrette, and red velvet cupcakes for dessert. Quite an improvement, just because I actually planned ahead.
Tomorrow for breakfast we’ll have cinnamon pancakes with maple cream cheese glaze. Then dinner will be ricotta pasta with grape tomatoes, peas, and basil. I’ll be making the ricotta cheese myself during the day. Again, planning ahead allowed me to put the dinner for which I wanted to make homemade cheese on a Saturday so I’d actually have time to make the cheese. Stephen has already been asked to make white beans in the pressure cooker tomorrow, so that I can use them in my tortellini in garlic broth with white beans and greens on Monday. It’s going to be a tasty week!
The next phase of getting organized with my meal planning (in addition to adding more recipes) is to do a better job of planning my workday lunches and snacks, which is easy since I can put custom items on the Paprika menu. I don’t need a recipe for a sandwich (with Stephen’s homemade bread!) or leftovers, but I always seem to do better when I plan ahead.
Update: May 24, 2014: At some point, Hindsight Labs has added an Android version of Paprika (not to mention Kindle Fire and Nook Color versions). This is good news because I am using a Google Nexus instead of an iPhone right now, although it is also bad news because it just means one more version of Paprika to purchase. I guess I’d rather pay for multiple versions to support Paprika’s cloud sync than pay a subscription fee, but for someone who is pretty frugal, buying separate versions for iMac, iPad, iPhone (which I’m not even using right now), and Android, makes me feel horribly extravagant. That being said, would I pay $35 for a terrific recipe manager that allowed me to sync between multiple platforms? Well, yes. But I’ll still resent it.
I am happy to see the Android version, so I can just use the grocery list on my phone when I go to the store. I just check things off as I go, and by the time I am done shopping, my grocery list is reset. Unlike a lot of products I’ve tried, more than a year later, I am still just as pleased with Paprika.
(Please click on the screenshots to enlarge them.)