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Issue 5.4


Recipe Box

Issue: 5.4 (May/June 2007)
Author: Toby Rush
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 4,393
Starting Page Number: 10
Article Number: 5406
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Full text of article...

Computers are finding their way into nearly every room in the house, and the kitchen is no exception. An inexpensive machine and monitor placed on the kitchen counter can potentially serve as a convenient way to do meal planning, shopping list management, and even provide some visual or aural entertainment for the cook.

Sonora Graphics' Recipe Box is aimed at this use; as a recipe database, it allows the storage, editing and viewing of any type of recipes. In addition, however, it allows recipe scaling and the creation of smart shopping lists based on selected recipes.

Adding a recipe to the database consists of typing the recipe into the Edit Recipe window; in order to parse the recipe for future scaling and ingredient inventory, each ingredient must be entered and verified separately. As you enter ingredients, Recipe Box constructs dictionaries of measurement types, ingredients and ingredient preparations ("diced," for example). As you are entering the information, Recipe Box will autocomplete items that it sees in the dictionary, so ingredient entry becomes quicker as more information is entered. Each recipe can be categorized in multiple ways, simplifying the management of large recipe books. The various dictionaries can be viewed as lists, but they cannot be added to except through the addition of recipes.

Recipe Box will automatically create a shopping list for any combination of recipes; simply select the recipes in the "My Recipes" window and select "Create Shopping List" from the Shopping Lists menu. The list is formatted clearly with blanks for checking ingredients off as they appear in your shopping cart.

The View Recipe window provides two useful features. First, the recipe can be enlarged to fill the entire screen, allowing the recipe to be seen from across the kitchen and preventing the need to use the keyboard with dough-covered hands. Second, the recipe can be quickly scaled to nearly any number of servings with two clicks of the mouse.

Recipe Box shows an incredible amount of potential, but will often reach its limits, causing the user to be reminded of how complicated recipe parsing really is. The capability to correctly interpret measurements is stymied by the fact that a given measurement may have several abbreviations (pound, pounds, #, lb, and lbs, for example); Recipe Box allows only for a singular form and a plural form, though of course measurements in this case can be entered as multiple items in the measurement dictionary. There is no means to coordinate between different measurements of mass or weight, so a scaled recipe might include a direction for 9 teaspoons of vanilla, instead of calling it 3 tablespoons out of convenience. Measurements that include multiple words (fluid ounces, for example) or more complex measurements (2 cups + 2 tbsp flour, for example) also throw a wrench in the works.

Recipe Box would also benefit greatly from the capability to parse entire recipes, even with some level of user guidance, so that recipes found on the internet or collected via e-mail could be brought into the database in one fell swoop, rather than laboriously typed line-by-line.

And of course, a pre-loaded database of recipes, or at least of measurements and ingredients, would just be the icing on the cake. Mmmm...icing....

End of article.