Celebrate the Holidays with Better Homes & Gardens ($3.99)
Would you like to throw great parties, and need more help than just a recipe book? The Celebrate the Holidays with Better Homes & Gardens app has you covered with menus, recipes, decorating ideas, and even playlists of music perfect for each occasion. There are several different parties for each holiday, and each one can be viewed in grid mode or in full view, with large photos and detailed instructions for each dish.
Since each party has a complete menu, this app takes all of the guesswork out of entertaining. While specific instructions aren’t included for the decorating ideas, the photos are very good and provide enough visual cues to help you reproduce the same effect, or to serve as a jumping off point for your own variations.
This app doesn’t include any of the advanced features you’ll find in other cooking apps, such as user reviews and shopping lists, but it is a good place to start for those who don’t have much experience entertaining and need help pulling the whole event together.
Classic Italian Pasta Recipes ($7.99)
Classic Italian Pasta Recipes is more of a magazine than a true recipe app, but it contains a wealth of information — from making pasta from scratch to an amazing array of sauces and entrees with meat, poultry, and other ingredients. Unfortunately it suffers from two issues, one minor and one major. The minor issue is that all of the measurements are in the metric system, because the source material was initially published in Europe. It can be frustrating to convert, but it isn’t a dealbreaker.
However, the app is extremely crash-happy. You can flip through several pages before the problem strikes, but after a certain point you will try to advance the page and the app will crash. That’s a shame, because in all other respects it is very well done. The transitions from page to page are nifty, and the cover flow-style view of the entire magazine is superb. Hopefully these issues will be addressed in a future update, because this app truly does have everything you need to know about pasta in one place, with detailed instructions and appealing photos.
Cocktails HD ($4.99)
If you’re having a holiday party and want to serve “adult beverages” beyond simple beer and wine, then you definitely need the Cocktails HD app. It includes a wealth of information for novices and experienced home bartenders alike, from how to stock your bar to instructions on garnishes, cocktail shaking, and layering drinks.
Choose any of the category tabs on the main screen or tap on the All Drinks button at the bottom of the screen for an alphabetical listing of every drink in the database. Each drink is nicely illustrated, with step-by-step instructions. If you tap on a drink card you will be taken to the relevant page in the app that shows similar drinks plus ideas for variations in case you want to mix things up.
I’m not an experienced bartender by any means, but it looks like all of the basics are here, as well as plenty of drinks and cocktails I’ve never heard of. There’s even a Sommelier section accessed by tapping on the relevant icon at the bottom of the screen, but I found that part of the app to be less successful. It suggests wines based on food selections, but the items are quite limited and suggestions are limited to a particular type of wine, not specific bottles. Then again, this is Cocktails HD and not Wine HD, so perhaps I’m being a bit harsh on that point. In any case, Cocktails HD will make sure that you know exactly what to do when your guests call for a Green Grinch or Brown Cow Cappuccino.
Cook IT Allergy Free for iPad ($8.99, also available for iPhone)
Cook IT Allergy Free is a great resource for those who are allergic to specific ingredients, but it doesn’t quite go far enough. You have to select a particular recipe to see what ingredients it uses, and its utility is limited because there is no way to search for recipes by category, such as gluten-free, dairy-free, etc. I was also surprised to see the advertising within the app, since it is one of the most expensive apps included in this roundup.
The layout is also somewhat cramped, with the large photos taking space away from the actual recipes, and no way to increase the font size for easier use during food preparation. You will find a recipe box where you can store your favorites, as well as a grocery list feature and the ability to add the necessary ingredients to your shopping list, but that’s about it. I really like the concept, but the current execution is flawed.
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