Rating recipe sites
Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post. This week Mindy Athas offers the staff’s top recipe website picks.
Finding new recipe and meal ideas is a challenge for even the most experienced cook. Since home-cooked meals tend to be lower in calories, fat and sodium, finding easy-to-follow recipes you can repeat with success is important. I pooled our clinical nutrition staff for their favorite recipe sources.
Most sites include seasonal, international, quick-and-easy, vegetarian, budget, entertaining, holiday, healthy, special diet and kid-friendly recipes. When searching for a specific recipe, cross-reference several sites or books; combine, mix-and-match or double check for ingredients, portions or amounts. One caveat: scouring resources is so much fun, you may run out of time to cook.
Whether you’re planning a sumptuous Sunday brunch or a simple weeknight supper, look no further than Epicurious (www.epicurious.com). This comprehensive site is packed with recipes, tips, resources, menus and wine pairings. Beautiful and easy to navigate, it’s a stellar resource for all your food quests. The free recipes from Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines range from classic to complex. Also available are dining and travel resources, a food dictionary, phone app and “Epi Log” of blogs. Recipes include user ratings and feedback, videos and a nutritional analysis. There are articles, guides, a chat room and member groups to join and submit recipes. Overall, our top choice.
Loved what you saw on television today? Download it all and showcase your own skills with The Food Network site (www.foodnetwork.com). Find visually stunning photos, videos and a variety of recipes from both the TV shows and chef picks. Links include chef bios, favorites, show listings, full TV episodes and a great vault of recipes with links to a food encyclopedia. Recipes range from easy to difficult. The site also includes a free membership area that allows you to rate, review and chat. A similar site in the same format is www.cookingchanneltv.com.
Want lower-fat, tasty versions of your favorites? Explore Cooking Light (www.cookinglight.com). With tips on essentials, techniques and resources, recipe makeovers and smart choices, this site has ideas, tricks and valuable information. You’ll eat smarter and cook quicker. Also included are a message board, blogs, virtual recipe file, travel deals, promotions and a shop for buying kitchen items and books. Informative reads such as “Top Nutrition Mistakes” are packaged in a tight, reader-friendly format. There’s also a phone app and raffles.
A favorite for the generic search, www.allrecipes.com, includes a vast recipe selection and many easy-to-prepare versions to compare, often semi-homemade, which readers submit. The site includes reviews, all food types, and highlights special diets (gluten-free), low-carb and low glycemic. It also has a nutrient database to calculate calories, fat and cholesterol for each recipe. Join for free and create a virtual recipe box to save your favorites.
Another good, general-purpose resource, Betty Crocker (www.bettycrocker.com), has a recipe finder in which you enter three ingredients and get linked to a bevy of menu ideas. A busy and colorful site, it includes a large recipe library as well as searches for dishes that require five ingredients or less and take 15 minutes or less to prepare. Got apples? Click and find 10 categories, each filled with apple-based items. Good basics, classics and a great resource for diabetes-friendly and heart-healthy ideas.
Need some humor with your tuna casserole? Check out Chow (www.chow.com) with nifty picks like red bean ice pops, peach gazpacho soup and vegetarian muffuletta. They also showcase nonalcoholic drink recipes, food news and bizarre videos such as “How to cook salmon sous vide in your kitchen sink.” A hip and funky site, there are geographically located message boards (Chowhound), and great tips, tricks and cleverly titled food articles, as well as a weekly newsletter.
For the advanced cook
Want to showcase your culinary expertise? Head to Williams Sonoma (www.williams-sonoma.com). High-brow foodies will be no stranger to this site. The recipes are inspiring, and the site includes guides, techniques, spice blends and drink recipes. Don’t expect to skimp on ingredients or save cash. This is not a beginners’ site, but the recipes will wow any crowd.
Got time for a good read? Click on the Cook’s Illustrated site and expand your food knowledge base. See why www.cooksillustrated.com is a fantastic resource: Both the magazine and website offer detailed and painstakingly tested, and retested, recipes with extensive research and description. This is a pay site, and you must join to peruse it, but you will keep these winning recipes forever.
Aiming to eat locally, sustainably and seasonally? Go green with the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s site (www.marylandsbest.net). Newly redesigned and full of resources, you can find pick-your-own farms, local vineyards and organic growers, as well as news, events and recipes from local farmers.
Need more health-conscious versions of your favorites? Check out Eating Well (www.eatingwell.com). This busy site has many ads, but the recipes are solid and start with a healthful base of high-fiber and whole-grain items, plenty of fruits, vegetables and nuts, and low-fat dairy items. The site offers food news, food origins, reader recipe photos, gardening tips, community info, videos and blogs.
The Vegetarian Resource Group (www.vrg.org), based in Baltimore, offers a site stocked with information, tips and recipes running from gluten-free to vegan. It has business information, teen nutrition, baby foods, guides, handouts and vegetarian restaurant information. The recipes are links and look a bit dated, but the info is solid, and the overall site is very comprehensive.
Weight management is a billion-dollar industry, but surprisingly few sites provide just recipes. One excellent resource, an offshoot of the wildly popular Spark website, is www.sparkrecipes.com. Submitted by members, this huge recipe database provides detailed reader feedback, ingredient adjustments and suggestions; plus, nutrient information is alongside each recipe.
Eating on a budget? Check out www.livingonadime.com, which offers simple recipes in addition to tips on frugal living, housekeeping and menu planning, and printable coupons.