It's That Time of Year again, and even if you don't celebrate The Holidays, chances are you have other people in your life who do. There's so much to get done as the end of year approaches, it can be hard to keep track of it all. And while paper might work for your own holiday wish list, these free Web apps can help organize the rest.
In the Kitchen
Planning a big dinner? If you're just having a couple of people over there won't be much problem tracking who's coming and who's not. But if you're having a big group over, electronic invitations can be quite handy.
Unless you and your guests are all under 25, odds are that not everyone is on Facebook, in which case you'll need an online invitation service. Having heard good things about Socializr, I used it to send out invitations for an open house last autumn, and it worked great. You can design your own electronic invitation and decide whether or not invitees can see the guest list or invite more people. And people who just want to send a simple response don't need to sign up for the site.
If you're cooking the big meal (or just bringing over multiple dishes to your host) and don't plan to make the same old favorites, some recipe-tracking help is in order. In my case, I've got a shelf of cookbooks, a stack of magazine clippings and a hand-written recipe notebook, making it tough to quickly zero in on a new cranberry relish recipe or that wild rice recipe I made three years ago that everyone liked.
OK, geek confession: Actually, I can find recipes I've already made before, since I hand-coded a recipe database years ago. Since then I've entered most things I've cooked that I think I'll want to make again. But that app doesn't scale to collecting all the recipes I come across that I might want to try someday.
Enter Evernote, the clipping/note-jotting service that runs on your desktop as well as in the cloud. Now as I'm leafing through cookbooks or magazines looking for Thanksgiving weekend inspiration, if I find something interesting, I jot it down in my Evernote "recipes" notebook and tag it "Thanksgiving." Typing in the entire recipe would be a drag, but I do enter key ingredients and a little about preparation and cooking time, as well as where to find the complete recipe.
Or I could scan the page -- Evernote does text recognition within images. Or, if the item is from a magazine with a robust Web site, I search for the article online and then use Evernote's Web-clipping tool within my browser.
Evernote also has a mobile version, which means I can pull up recipes (and ingredients) if I've stopped unexpectedly at the grocery store.
Have I mentioned how much I like Evernote?
Hat tip to Computerworld reviews editor Barbara Krasnoff, whose write-up inspired me to give the service a test drive.
If you want a Web application that's specifically geared toward recipes, several cooking magazine sites offer that kind of functionality. For example, MyRecipes.com not only aggregates recipes from several magazines like Cooking Light and Southern Living, but also offers the option of storing your own recipes as well.
The advantage is a specific structure for recipes and recipe categories (as opposed to remembering which tags to use in Evernote) as well as easy integration and search with a large database of already published dishes. The disadvantage is that the structure for entering your own recipes can discourage you from entering a lot of your own items. Plus, your information exists only in their cloud, whereas Evernote syncs with the desktop and entries can be exported.