Foodie Tuesday: Real Simple Recipes: No Time to Cook?

How many times have you looked to the clock at the end of the day, exhausted, and felt overwhelmed when trying to decide what’s for supper tonight? Your brain is frazzled from work and walking the isles of the grocery store doesn’t inspire any fresh ideas. All you want is something simple and tasty, nothing complicated or cheffy. The app store is full of apps that want to help you solve this problem, including Real Simple: No Time to Cook?

Real Simple magazine is known for their fresh, modern aesthetic and smart ideas that are easy to execute. The magazine covers often feature mouth-watering photos of modern, flavorful dishes. The app boasts 850 easy recipes that can be made in 40 minutes or less, but at $4.99, is it worth the price? Keep reading to find out.

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Getting Started

The Home screen is true to the Real Simple design aesthetic: colorful, fun and smartly designed. It’s bold and punchy, with cute icons and enthusiastic lettering. Real Simple is dedicated to making life easier for women with busy lives, and the app encourages you to jump right in by selecting the main ingredient you’ve got on hand: poultry, beef or lamb, pork, seafood, pasta or vegetarian. Next you just select how much time you’re willing to spend cooking and tap Go!

Real Simple Recipes is a fun, beautifully designed app that makes it easy to decide what’s for supper tonight.

Real Simple Recipes is a fun, beautifully designed app that makes it easy to decide what’s for supper tonight.

Select your criteria and all the recipes appear instantaneously. Scroll through the list and the photos load as you go down the page, lagging behind or refusing to appear at all. This is annoying, but on the positive side it’s great to see such a vast array of diverse dishes. For example, a search for 20-minute poultry recipes reveals barbecue sandwiches, stir-fries, tostadas, quesadillas, curries, grilled skewers and much more. Pasta recipes range from run of the mill marinara to the more unusual “scrambled pasta.” Hearty vegetarian dishes like “Black Bean Soup with Roasted Jalapeño Salsa” are sure to satisfy your hungry family. The photos that appear are bright, fresh and appetizing.

After selecting an ingredient and time allotment, an extensive list of recipes appears, left. Now you can filter the recipes further, right.

After selecting an ingredient and time allotment, an extensive list of recipes appears, left. Now you can filter the recipes further, right.

You can filter the list further by a set of options, like low-calorie, make-ahead, one-pot, no-cook, family-friendly or easy-elegant. It’s too bad you can’t select multiple filters from that list at once, like low-calorie and no-cook. Also, users will be looking for filters for common dietary preferences, like gluten-free and dairy-free, but none are to be found.

The Recipes

Select a recipe and view an enlarged photo and the recipe stats: servings and filters (like low-calorie) even if they weren’t set for your search, which is helpful. You can add the recipe to your favorites or shopping lists with the touch of a button. Ingredients lists are easy to read and uncomplicated. Directions are broken up into short and easy-to-digest bites. The design is sleek, modern and clean.

Select a recipe and you’ll find an enlarged photo with the recipe stats, ingredient list and directions.

Select a recipe and you’ll find an enlarged photo with the recipe stats, ingredient list and directions.

Turn the phone to landscape mode for step-by-step view, which displays each task on a single screen, along with a time you can set manually. The timer has one huge problem though: it only works if the app is open and running — you can’t minimize the app to answer your phone or check your Email. Once you’re in this mode it’s easy to access the ingredients or your notes with the touch of a button. It would be nice to see voice navigation implemented to make all these actions hands-free, like other apps offer.

Each recipe comes with a full breakdown on the nutritional info, left. Some recipes come with a relevant technique video, like “Easiest Way to Slice an Onion.”

Each recipe comes with a full breakdown on the nutritional info, left. Some recipes come with a relevant technique video, like “Easiest Way to Slice an Onion.”

The recipes come with additional helpful features, like a full nutritional breakdown, which is great if you’re counting calories. You’ll also find tips on cooking techniques, ingredient substitutions and recipe variations. How-to videos from the editors of Real Simple demonstrate basic techniques like honing a knife or chopping an onion. Users will appreciate the ability to share a link to the full recipe via email, Facebook or Twitter.

Shopping Lists and Favorites

Real Simple Recipes includes 850 recipes, so it’s great to be able to keep your favorites all in one place. Just below your favorites is a list of recently viewed recipes, which is good to have handy if you’ve been browsing and want to refer to something you’ve seen but would never find again in the sea of options. The app also features a general search tool so you can comb all 850 recipes for words like “salad” or “mango.”

You can create a shopping list for each recipe and check off  the ingredients as you go.

You can create a shopping list for each recipe and check off the ingredients as you go.

The Shopping List is a collection of all recipes you’ve added, each with a separate list of ingredients. This way of organizing isn’t the best — it would be more efficient if the lists were combined. Select a recipe and check off the ingredients as you shop. Being able to email or send the list as a text is a good thing. Also, ingredients are conveniently organized by grocery store isle: produce, dairy, condiments, meat, etc. You can even add notes.

Conclusion

Real Simple Recipes: No Time to Cook? is a massive collection of dishes that are quick and easy to prepare. When this app was released in 2010 it was probably way ahead of the curve, but now it’s in danger of being left behind by the pack. Sure, it’s great to have access to 850 Real Simple recipes on your iPhone and the filters make narrowing down your choices fun and fast, but slow-loading images, non-functional timers and a lack of modern-day filter options (gluten-free and dairy-free) make for a user experience that’s mediocre. $4.99 is a lot to ask for an app that doesn’t function perfectly. That being said, a few minor improvements could make this app great. The recipes are fresh and exciting, delivering bold, worldly flavors and fresh, healthy meals to the hands of busy women on the go.


Summary

Real Simple Recipes: No Time to Cook? is a database of 850 quick and easy recipes you can search by ingredient or time to cook.

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