Holiday Dinner Help from Foodily

The holiday season is stressful for all involved, in more ways that one. There’s shopping, family get-togethers and all that cooking. No one understands this more than the family chef, the person responsible for pulling off a beautiful meal that everyone, with all their peculiarities of preference, will love. And it’s best, of course, if the whole undertaking appears effortless.

Recipe/social cookbook app Foodily can’t finish up your holiday shopping or get that one string of lights to stop blinking already, but it can lend a hand when it comes to putting together a piping hot feast. A powerful search, recipes with user comments and pictures, and lots of advice from celebrity chefs are all on the table with Foodily.

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Stir it Up

You’ll have to sign up to get into Foodily, because it’s that sort of app. You can’t just get in, get recipes and get out. Foodily wants you to share the recipes with your friends and actively encourages you to engage with the community. No food loners here, eating bags of dry cornbread stuffing mix, gripping your iPhone with a quiet determination. So sign up and log in.

Make some famous people friends, because even if you they won't be calling you up on the phone, their awesome recipes will show up first in your recipes feed.

Make some famous people friends, because even if you they won’t be calling you up on the phone, their awesome recipes will show up first in your recipes feed.

Foodily will recommend some people (mostly celebrity chefs and Food Network types) for you to follow, along with some food and fitness magazines. It’s not a bad idea to take them up on the offer. While the quiet determination route may seem like a good plan to start, it’s nice to have some familiar faces to rely on, recipes from people you know you can trust, recipes that weren’t made up by someone eating bags of dry stuffing mix. If you have a ton of fabulous cooks in your rolodex, you can add friends from Facebook and your Contacts, too.

The home screen of Foodily will be plastered with beautiful pictures of all the wonderful things your friends have been cooking up — or thinking about cooking up — and tagging on Foodily. Your friends’ comments, tags and pictures will appear here, and you can tap the comment icon to get in on the discussion. This is a great place to see what people are eating right now, especially if you’ve managed to add some real friends to Foodily. It’s also a great place to get really hungry, what with all of the amazing photos.

That Time of Year Again

I’m using Foodily to plan my holiday dinner, and this is where everyone finds out I’m a vegan. Before you say that a vegan shouldn’t be reviewing a recipe app, especially before one of the biggest, eatingest holidays of the year, I’m going to have to disagree. There’s plenty of vegan dishes to make anyone, even the most voracious meat eater, happy at the holidays, and if Foodily can’t take care of me, well, it’s not doing a very good job.

Look at all that food. You can find all sorts of things with a little ingenuity.

Look at all that food. You can find all sorts of things with a little ingenuity.

With that in mind, I did some searches for “vegan christmas” and “vegan holiday.” Foodily had nothing for me, but that’s okay, because I can do more searches. I got lucky when I searched for specific vegan dishes, like vegan potatoes (lots of roast potatoes), vegan brussel sprouts or vegan pie.

I was heartened to find I wasn’t just hitting on dishes from a bunch of vegan cooks or blogs, either, but more mainstream chefs. These were just regular dishes that were accidentally vegan but had been appropriately tagged by someone at Foodily based on their ingredients. The same thing went for the other dietary restriction tags, of which I am less familiar but gave a go in the search bar, anyway. If I hadn’t specifically done searches for allergen-free recipes, I wouldn’t have known that’s what I was getting, the recipes looked so very normal and delicious!

Even if you have no dietary restrictions and just want a big plate of turkey, with a side of turkey and turkey pie for dessert (extra peanuts and gluten, please!), you’ll find lots of recipes to fit the bill. You’re just going to have an easier time than me.

Make a List, Check it Twice

So you’re finding all these great recipes for your holiday meal, but what do you do with them? Luckily, Foodily has solved that problem with lists. Whether you want to try out a few new things or plan out a whole meal, you can stick your recipe in a list. I created a list just for my Christmas dinner, and every time I found a recipe I wanted to use on the big day, I’d add it to the list. I can then go back through and review all of my recipes in one place.

You can track all of your favorite recipes, plan meals and create lists of your favorite recipes.

You can track all of your favorite recipes, plan meals and create lists of your favorite recipes.

On each recipe page, you can see who has favorited a recipe and their comments. The comments are so helpful, because users can let you know what didn’t go to plan, if they ran into any problems or if the recipe just didn’t work. This is such good information to have before you get started, but would usually only learn after everything has gone to pot. If anyone has uploaded photos, those will be attached to the recipe, too. I’m telling you, look at the photos! If you’re using a celebrity chef recipe, they had a team of staff helping and a professional photographer. You’re just going to have you. It’s nice to know what the reality is before you jump in with both feet.

Below all of that is the nutrition information. Foodily gives you the total calories for the entire dish if you were to eat the whole thing at one sitting, and honey, let me tell you, I’ve done that more times than I care to admit. But people who aren’t me won’t have a lot of use for those numbers. Foodily also breaks it down by calories per gram, but I’m not measuring my food that way, either.

The recipe pages are more than just lists of ingredients. They also show comments from other users and pictures of the completed dish.

The recipe pages are more than just lists of ingredients. They also show comments from other users and pictures of the completed dish.

If you’re not comfortable using your iPhone as a cookbook, and I can definitely see your logic there, you can email your ingredients lists to yourself, each with a link to the recipe on the Foodily website. You can share your recipes via Facebook and Twitter, even when you’re not actually planning to cook them; instead, just pretend you did. Tip: Use this method to show off to a mother-in-law or other snooty relative that you won’t actually be seeing over the holidays.

Come Back for Seconds

Foodily was well-organized and easy to search, even surprisingly so. If you’re on a special diet, Foodily hasn’t forgotten about you, and it’s easy for just about anyone to find something they’d like to put in their bellies. Not to mention, it’s a really well-designed app. Everything is easy to find, user-friendly and looks good.

While it will definitely be a help to me during the holidays, Foodily has also earned a place on my home screen for the long term. The breadth of chefs, sites and blogs included already encompasses many of my favorites, and the ability to post pictures of the things I cook and comment on others speaks to the latent food blogger in me. It will be an app I return to not just for special occasions, but also when I’m just looking for something new to try.


Summary

A great cookbook app for year-round help. User comments and pictures let you know what you're really getting into, and the excellent helps you find what you're looking for fast.

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