7 Lesser-Known Foodie Apps We Love

With nearly 1.5 million mobile apps in the Apple app store alone, one could say the market is just a little saturated. Among all this noise, how’s a consumer supposed to know which ones are worth while? Hopefully this post will help! We all know recipe apps are wildly popular (watch out for ours, set to launch this winter!), but here we’ll shine some light on a few lesser-known products that solve problems faced by foodies everywhere. Enjoy!

1. ipiit

App1

For the gluten-free, lactose-free, meat-free or otherwise restricted foodie, this app is a real gem. Just set your dietary preferences, scan a product barcode, and see if you should chow down or steer clear. Although the library of recognized products could be expanded upon (and to my knowledge, it’s growing all the time!), this app has real potential.
Free, Available for iOSAndroid

2. Roaming Hunger

App2

Mobile food is all the rage right now, but it can be hard to keep track of where all those trucks are stationed! Roaming Hunger attempts to solve this problem by listing/mapping the mobile food offerings nearest to you. The app provides detailed information on each vendor, and also lets you book food trucks directly for events and parties.
Free, Available for iOSAndroid

3. NoWait

App3

Ok, this one is really cool. Instead of waiting in line at a busy restaurant, just check in using the app, and show up when your table is ready! For restaurants, the app also provides a complete front-of-house management tool that can help staff manage waitlists, reservations, server rotation, and more.
Free, Available for iOSAndroid

4. Instacart

App7

If the thought of grocery shopping makes you want to curl up in a corner, this is the app for you. Instacart is a grocery delivery app that lets you select a nearby store, fill up your virtual cart, and sit back and relax while your groceries are selected, transported, and unloaded for you. The first delivery is free, and following deliveries begin at $3.99 (which I justify by the fact that bus fare alone costs $2.75 one-way here in Seattle).
Free, Available for iOSAndroid

5. Seafood Watch

App5

Us Seattleites love our seafood (and we’re definitely not alone), but there has been growing concern and publicity regarding the sustainability of many of our favorite ocean eats. Seafood Watch, created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium (to whom I give major props, by the way), offers a guide to sustainable seafood, informing the consumer as to which restaurants, seafood picks, and sushi selections are your best ocean-friendly bets.
Free, Available for iOSAndroid

6. Escoffier Cook’s Companion

App6

Auguste Escoffier was a French chef famous for popularizing and updating traditional French cooking methods. The Escoffier Cook’s Companion app is a great resource for any home cook (think obscure ingredient explanations and a complete kitchen glossary…), and contains many of the tools so often needed in the kitchen (converter, timer, etc).
Free, Available for iOS

7. Substitutions

App4

I was trying to keep this list composed of only free apps, but I just had to include this one. I so often find myself in need of an ingredient substitution when, say, I don’t have a third egg on hand, or I’m looking to lighten up a butter-laden recipe. This app contains a comprehensive list of all your ingredient substitution options, so you’ll always be able to make it work.
$2.99, Available for iOS

Take a peak at some of the above recommendations and let us know what you think! We’re always on the lookout for snazzy new food tech!

Check in next Tuesday for our next post, and until then, happy cooking!

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Guacamole Showdown: We Tested 7 Kinds and Here’s Our Favorite

IMG_4589

In the spirit of Football season, we decided to do a little taste testing here in the Cookpanion office! I’m a big guacamole fan (I’m frankly shocked by anyone who isn’t), but I’m often skeptical of the many pre-packaged options at the grocery store. Well, we’re here today to set things straight. We tried out seven different brands, many of which are available at supermarkets across the country, in a “blind” tasting to figure out just which brands have nailed this classic dip.

Methodology: The seven competing guac varieties were gathered from three grocery stores here in Seattle: Safeway, QFC, and Kress Supermarket. Each package was labeled with a letter (A-F), and seven clear plastic cups were marked with corresponding letters. The guacamole was then scooped into its respective cup, and the taste testers (the Cookpanion staff) were sent to work! Each person was given a survey where they were asked to rank the dips in order from best to worst. Testers were also asked to note why they selected their top and bottom choices. We used Juanita chips as our vehicle, which are (in my opinion) the perfect crispy-crunchy, classic tortilla chip.

Guac10

Guac7

Guac12

Guac5

Once the surveys had been collected, I tallied the votes, and (drumroll please) here are the results!


1st Place: Mary’s Harvest Fresh Guacamole

Price: $4.49 at Kress Supermarket
Ingredients: Guacamole (hass avocado, tomatillo, onion, jalapeño pepper, salt, cilantro, garlic), tomatoes, yellow onion, jalapeño pepper, lime juice, cilantro, salt, pepper, cumin
Nutritional Breakdown: One two-tablespoon serving contains 40 calories, 3.5 g fat, 4 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 1 g sugar, and 1 g protein
Our Thoughts: Our team loved the addition of fresh tomatoes in this classic guacamole, and also commented that it had a pleasant spice balance and a nice tang.

2nd Place: Wholly Guacamole, Classic

Price: $3.49 at Safeway
Ingredients: Hass avocado, jalapeño puree (white vinegar, jalapeño peppers, salt) dehydrated onion, salt, granulated garlic
Nutritional Breakdown: One two-tablespoon serving contains 60 calories, 5 g fat, 3 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 0 g sugar, and 1 g protein
Our Thoughts: This one was my personal favorite. It is simple, with big chunks of perfectly-ripe avocado and a wonderful oniony flavor that compliments the avocado without overpowering it. Unfortunately this guac browned relatively quickly, but that speaks to its purist recipe and lack of added preservatives (which is a-ok in my mind!).

3rd Place: Sabra Classic Guacamole 

Price: $3.99 at Safeway
Ingredients:
 Hass avocado, onion, tomato, jalapeño, cilantro, salt, garlic, lime juice concentrate, dehydrated onion, ascorbic acid (added to maintain freshness)
Nutritional Breakdown: One two-tablespoon serving contains 45 calories, 4 g fat, 3 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 0 g sugar, and 1 g protein
Our Thoughts: This was another variety that contained fresh tomato as well as fresh cilantro, both of which added flavor, texture, and an overall well-rounded quality to the guac. I noted that this one had a slightly deeper, earthier flavor than the other contenders.

4th Place: Peakfection Traditional Guacamole by Kroger

Price: $3.99 at QFC
Ingredients: Avocado, dehydrated onion, salt, jalapeño puree (water, jalapeño peppers, salt), dehydrated garlic, white pepper
Nutritional Breakdown: One two-tablespoon serving contains 60 calories, 5 g fat, 3 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 0 g sugar, and 1 g protein
Our Thoughts: This guac was quite smooth, while still containing visible, if not soft, chunks of avocado. The flavor was mild, and the spices subtle.

5th Place: Marcela Valladolid Guacamole by Safeway

Price: $3.49 at Safeway
Ingredients: Hass avocado, jalapeño puree (white vinegar, jalapeño pepper, salt), onion, lime juice, salt
Nutritional Breakdown: One two-tablespoon serving contains 60 calories, 5 g fat, 2 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 0 g sugar, and 1 g protein
Our Thoughts: This one was plain ‘n simple, not necessarily in a bad way, but it didn’t elicit “wow!” responses.

6th Place: Yucatan Organic Guacamole

Price: $3.49 at Safeway
Ingredients: Organic hass avocados, sea salt, organic onion, organic garlic powder, organic sugar, ascorbic acid (vitamin c), xanthan gum, organic jalapeño peppers, citric acid
Nutritional Breakdown: One two-tablespoon serving contains 50 calories, 4.5 g fat, 2.5 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, .5 g sugar, and 0 g protein
Our Thoughts: Our team was generally off-put by this variety, which was quite acidic (sour) and had a strange, unnatural taste. Despite what looked like real avocado chunks, the texture was entirely homogenous.

7th Place: Calavo Guacamole, Authentic Recipe

Price: $3.59 at Kress Supermarket
Ingredients: Hass avocado, tomatillo, onion, jalapeño pepper, salt, cilantro, garlic
Nutritional Breakdown: One two-tablespoon serving contains 40 calories, 4 g fat, 2.5 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, .5 g sugar, and 1 g protein
Our Thoughts: This variety came in last due to its overly smooth texture, its artificial flavor, and its unpleasant aftertaste.

Well, there you have it! Lucky for us, there are a huge variety of guacamole products on the market, many of which we discovered aren’t half bad! Of course, for the purists, homemade guac is always the way to go, but when the game starts in half an hour and you suddenly find yourself with a crowd of hungry fans to feed, there’s no shame in letting someone else do some of the hard work for you!

Stay tuned for next week’s post, and until then, happy cooking!

Back To School Meal Tips: Dinner Edition

In what was intended to be a “school’s back in full swing, folks!” post, I’m left laughing because here in Seattle, school has yet to even begin! A teachers strike that will have soon lasted a full week means 53,000 kids who would have been scanning syllabi and sharpening pencils are still on sweet summer break. Parents, however, are not, and although I have no kids to speak of, I can only imagine the ensuing logistical chaos Seattle moms and pops are having to deal with right now.

So I suppose this post may actually come at an ideal time. To the parents who are juggling restless youngsters, work schedules, extra babysitters, 4-page-long to-do lists, and mealtime: this one’s for you.

Weeknight Dinner Tips

1. Utilize the underutilized appliance. Now’s the time to dust off that gadget you bought, used fervently for a month, then completely forgot about. Crock pots, pressure cookers, food processors, and even your oven’s broiler are all awesome tools for saving time in the kitchen.

2. Consider cook time. Going off that last point, take a strategic approach to cook times right from the get-go. If you’re dying to serve a slow-cooked pot roast, use your crock pot. If you’re trying to throw together a 30-minute dinner from scratch, choose quick-cooking proteins like fish or even eggs (who doesn’t like a good omelet for dinner every once in a while?!). This rule applies to veggies, too. Baking whole potatoes can take over an hour, for example, but a delicious hash can come together in less than 20 minutes.

3. Ready your produce as soon as you buy it. To save time in the kitchen later, make peeling, chopping, and when possible, washing veggies part of your grocery day routine. Onions, for example, can be peeled, chopped, and stored neatly in the fridge for super easy suppers later. Carrots can be peeled. Broccoli can be cut into florets. Mushrooms can be brushed clean. You get the idea. One exception here is delicate herbs and lettuces, which will wilt and brown if washed and chopped too far in advance.

Chickpea, Spring Onion + Tuscan Kale Salad
Chickpea, Spring Onion + Tuscan Kale Salad

4. Stay seasonal. Seasonal produce requires less work to make it shine because it’s already packed with great flavor. Simple green salads with some shaved parm, thinly sliced tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil, and mixed root vegetables roasted with flaky sea salt are a few of my favorites this time of year. Bonus: in-season produce will also be more affordable!

5. Maintain a well-stocked pantry. By keeping your cupboards stocked with a collection of essentials, you’ll be able to whip up a tasty dinner no matter what life throws at you. Here are some pantry staples I try to always have on hand, but feel free to devise your own list: pastas and grains (brown rice, quinoa, and pasta are my go-to’s); canned beans (black & garbanzo are both quite versatile); broth or stock; jarred veggies like sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and roasted red peppers; door-of-the-fridge staples like lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and dijon mustard; extra virgin olive oil (no explanation required); and finally a few long-lasting produce selections like garlic, onion, and potatoes.

Update: The Seattle teachers strike has at last come to an end after a tentative contract deal was reached this morning. No matter where this leaves you (hopefully in a calmer place), I hope our back-to-school series has helped you face the new year head-on, and enjoy some delicious food as you do so! Stay tuned for our next post next Tuesday, and until then, happy cooking!

Sources: http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/crispy-slow-cooker-carnitas/, http://gffmag.com/the-best-effing-chicken-recipe-ever-seriously/, http://www.halfbakedharvest.com/mad-greek-quinoa-dinner-omelets-feta-tzatziki/, http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/pan-roasted-salmon-with-collards-and-radish-raita, http://heatherchristo.com/cooks/2014/01/27/spicy-thai-curry-noodle-soup/, http://www.thefirstmess.com/2013/04/10/chickpea-spring-onion-kale-panzanella-salad-recipe/, http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/sauteed-pork-chops-with-sweet-potato-apples-and-mustard-sauce-51171620, http://www.saywhatyouneedtosayblog.com/2012/09/27/his-hers-dinners-how-to-make-2-meals-without-the-effort/, http://www.foodiecrush.com/2014/01/tortellini-soup-with-artichokes/#_a5y_p=1193631, http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/smoky-black-bean-chili/

Back-To-School Meal Tips: Lunch Edition

An apple and a paper bag with lunch. Vintage Style.

Can you believe it’s September 1st?! The summer flew by, and the fall leaves and yellow school busses are moving on in. Last week we shared some great back-to-school breakfast tips, and this week we’re focusing on quick, easy, and good-for-you lunches (for the kiddos and you!). Read on and rest assured you’ll be eating well this fall, even amidst the seasonal chaos.

Lunch Tips:

  • It’s all about the container. I don’t know about you, but brown bags and stained tupperware don’t exactly scream “eat me!” to me. Investing in a nice, reusable lunch tote and keeping a few real plates, bowls, and utensils at the office can elevate your packed-lunch routine and, at least for me, make weekday lunches feel like real meals again. For the kids, let them pick out a lunchbox they love, and surprise them every now and then with a cool new snack container, printed napkin, or just a nice note. For my latest lunch container obsessions, check out LunchSkins and PlanetBox.
  • Prep work is the name of the game. I know, I know, you’re sick of me telling you to prep ahead of time, but I’m telling you, it’s key here. Start the week by washing, peeling, chopping, and prepping a whole bunch of fresh fruits and veggies. It will make grabbing healthy snacks, packing lunches, and even cooking dinner so much easier!
  • Stick to a theme. Packing lunches for multiple family members can be tricky, but try your hardest to stick to a common theme each day. For example, on turkey sandwich day, start with the same basic ingredients for everyone, then make the necessary modifications by switching up the bread (try ciabatta or for the adults and sandwich bread or pita pockets for the little ones), condiments (chutneys or grainy mustards for the grownups, hummus or cream cheese for the kiddos), and other components until everyone is happy.
  • Plan for leftovers. When making dinners that will reheat easily, double the recipe and you’ll have leftover lunches for days! If you’re worried about getting sick of the same dish, just portion out individual servings and pop them in the freezer.
  • Keep it fun. It’s amazing how far fun cookie cutters, pasta noodle shapes, and wacky colors (green eggs, anyone?) can go with the little ones. Get creative!

Lunch Recipes:

1. Easy Pita Pizzas: Treat yourself to a warm, gooey pizza without the hassle of homemade crust or the price tag and calorie count of pizza parlor pie. Pack whatever toppings you like alongside and voila, a tasty take-along lunch.

Source: http://www.laurafuentes.com/easy-pita-pizza-recipe/

2. Tuscan Tuna And Cannellini Bean Sandwich: Forget the mayo-drenched tuna sandwich on Wonderbread. This is a serious upgrade to a classic, complete with fresh garlic and herbs, briny Kalamata olives, rustic Italian bread, and luscious Cannellini Beans. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

3. Easy Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce: These healthy rolls are crisp and satisfying without weighing you down the rest of the afternoon, plus they pack beautifully. Play around with the fillings until you find a combo that you and your family love.

Lunch1
Source: http://chewnibblenosh.com/2013/05/21/summer-rolls-peanut-dipping-sauce/

4. Ham and Corn Relish Cooler Pressed Sandwiches: Cooler-pressed sandwiches are just what they sound like: sandwiches you actually want to stick at the bottom of your lunchbox so the weight of the other food compresses them and allows the juices to soak into the bread.

5. Melon Pasta Salad: Make a big batch of this sweet and savory pasta salad over the weekend and enjoy in your lunch all week long. The kiddos usually enjoy this one as-is, but try using fun pasta shapes to jazz it up for them!

Lunch2
Source: http://www.macheesmo.com/melon-pasta-salad/

6. Fiesta Veggie Wrap: Who couldn’t love cheese, avocado, pesto, and some fresh veggies all rolled up in a tortilla? This wrap comes together in a snap (we’re talking less than 10 minutes) and packs well. A perfect lunch for the whole family.

Source: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/fiesta-veggie-wrap-366989
Source: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/fiesta-veggie-wrap-366989

7. Feta, Garbanzo Bean and Eggplant Pita Sandwiches: This unique recipe is perfect for when you just can’t stand another ham and cheese sandwich. The feta, garbanzo bean and eggplant salad can be made ahead of time and scooped into a pita pocket at the last minute for a quick and satisfying lunch.

8. Chicken Caesar Sammie: Pack the chicken salad filling and bun separately, then just layer on for a gourmet sandwich.

Lunch3
Source: http://blogchef.net/chicken-caesar-sandwiches-recipe/

9. Spicy Sesame Noodles with Chopped Peanuts and Thai Basil: This is a great make-it-yourself alternative to heavy takeout food. Enjoy warm or cold.

10. PB&J Wrap: An upgrade to a classic, complete with hearty granola, fresh fruit, and a whole wheat tortilla in place of bread. Even parents will find themselves scarfing down this ultra kid-friendly wrap.

Lunch4
Source: http://www.flatoutbread.com/pbj-with-sbg-flatout-wrap/

11. Chickpea and Cucumber Salad With Hummus: This salad is simple enough that kids typically won’t put up a fight, but chickpeas, feta, and dill elevate it just to the point of being satisfying and interesting for mom and dad, too.

I hope I’ve provided you with some lunchtime inspiration, and taken some of the load off your shoulders! Stay tuned for the last post of the series a week from next Tuesday, where we’ll be covering easy weeknight dinner ideas!