Category Archives: Pepperplate

Thinning The Herd

This morning I decided to go through my Pepperplate account and thin out the deadwood. What qualified a recipe for deadwood status? Things I know I’ll never make. Duplicate recipes (do I really need 78 different versions of oatmeal cookies?), and recipes the tools for which I no longer own (think: rice cooker, crockpot).

I started at 11:30, and finally finished at 2:45 pm. I went from 2328 recipes in Pepperplate to 1649, a decrease of 679 recipes. When you consider that I have Pepperplate on both my iPad and my iPhone, you will understand why I wanted to reduce the space Pepperplate was consuming.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said

“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–

And whether hot dog manufacturers and hot dog bun bakers will ever agree on sizes.

Here’s what I mean:

For most of my life, hot dogs came in packages of 8, while buns came in packages of 6. Or was it the other way around? I really don’t remember. But it really doesn’t matter. The point is that you ended up with either a shortage of one or an excess of the other, which clever marketing technique forced you into buying one more of one of them.

This was probably the shrewdest piece of marketing since some unsung advertising executive decided to put “And repeat” on shampoo bottles.

But the excess problem has been resolved: I can now buy both hot dogs and buns in packages of 8.

So why am I complaining? For the simple reason that when I made my lunch today, I discovered that the packaging geniuses pulled a bait-and-switch: sure, the number of dogs and buns match, but now the dogs are so fat that the buns can’t hold them!

Today’s hot dog buns are barely wide enough to hold a hot dog, let alone the onions, sauerkraut, cream cheese, and jalapenos I want to add to it.

So I guess I’ll just go back to skinny hot dogs. Either that, or wait for the weather to cool and bake my own buns.

seattle dog

Writing Your First Cookbook

“ACK!” you say. “I don’t want to write a cookbook!”

I agree. That’s never been an item on my bucket list. I have Pepperplate and Pinterest to keep track of my recipes, and they both do an excellent job of that task.

But consider: if you’re like me, you’re on a limited income, so you can’t afford to buy expensive gifts for birthdays, weddings, Christmas, or any of the many other occasions we celebrate by giving gifts.

Enter The Custom Cookbook

But wait! There is something you can give that hardly costs anything more than your time. Not only that, but it is a personal gift of your own creation.

I’m talking about gathering together all your favorite recipes and kitchen tips and creating your very own electronic cookbook! Once you’ve created it, it’s a simple task to burn it to CD or DVD and give it to your friends or loved ones on an appropriate occasion.

And again, if you’re like me, you’ve already got an extensive recipe collection in electronic form in Pepperplate. It’s just a matter of copying those recipes and combining them into a single file. That’s something I did years ago (long before Pepperplate) in Microsoft Word, but now there’s a better way.

Scrivener “is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.” That’s what the web site says, but let me try to put it into practical terms.

Scrivener is a complete writing environment. From initial research through to final publication, every single task involved in creating (in this case) a cookbook can be done within Scrivener. In fact, that’s how I write this blog. Any research I do, I file under the Research heading. Each year has a folder, inside which there is a separate folder for each month of the year. And inside each monthly folder is where I write the actual entry for a given day.

When I’m satisfied with an entry, I copy and paste it into Open Live Writer (OLW) and post it to the blog. I’ve found OLW to be the best tool available to preview the entry and then post it.

Formatting A Cookbook

In the case of a cookbook, instead of a folder for each year, you could have a folder for each recipe type. For example:

  • Meats
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Breads
  • Dairy
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Each of those folders could, depending on how far down you wanted to break each category (”Meats,” for example, could contain “Beef,” Lamb,” “Pork,” etc.) contain sub-folders. Regardless, once you’ve got things structured as you want, you can start adding recipes, either by creating a new document and then copying & pasting from your existing recipe, or by using Scrivener’s Import function.

For details on everything Scrivener, I would address your attention to Scrivener’s support pages. They do a far better job of explaining things than I can!

Scrivener Versions

For the longest time Scrivener only came in two versions: Windows or Mac OS. But this week they announced the long-awaited (and much desired) iOS version for the iPhone and iPad. Naturally, I bought my copy!

I’ve configured both my iPad and laptop versions to save their files to Dropbox, so I can access them anywhere I have an Internet connection. This will be especially handy next month, which will find me on the road (well, to be honest, the rail) to Seattle, WA. Stacey and I have finally decided the time is right to head home to the Upper Left Coast. I’ll be traveling by Amtrak, and I’m bringing my iPad, laptop, and camera to document my journey. Stacey and Fyona will follow later by car.

So I would strongly urge you to investigate Scrivener, even if you have no desire to write a cookbook. It is the perfect writing tool for all your creative endeavors. You can download an evaluation copy, which is free to use for 30 days of writing. And that’s 30 actual days. For example, if you write every day, it’s 30 days. If you only use it two days a week, that’s 15 weeks of use.

As your mother used to tell you, “You’ll thank me later.”

Robyn Jane

Collections and Hoardings

I’m a collector. It’s a habit I developed rather late in life, when I was in my early 30s. That’s when I got my first personal computer and discovered the world of public domain software. And in those early days of the computer revolution, with the exception of a few big-name, brand-name programs, that’s pretty much all there was. WordStar was the de facto word processing program, the Microsoft Word of its day. Because of several shortcomings in the program—mostly due to technical issues in the CP/M operating system—several add-on programs became available. SpellStar was a spell-checker which was later included with WordStar, as was DataStar, a program used to generate mass mailings. Eventually, a spreadsheet program, CalcStar, rounded out the package.

WordStar also needed help with academic writing. Again, because of hardware limitations and weaknesses in the O/S, it didn’t do such academic requirements as endnotes and bibliographies. That’s when I took it upon myself to learn to program in Turbo Pascal in order to write a couple of programs to overcome those limitations. This, in turn, developed into an obsession the habit of collecting Pascal source code, because hey! you never know!

Sadly (at least for my programming career), computers grew more powerful and programming languages grew more complex. BASIC and Pascal gave way to C and then C++. CP/M yielded to MS-DOS and PC-DOS, which in turn became Windows. Dr. Dobb’s Journal of Computer Calisthenics and Orthodontics (Running Light Without Overbyte) morphed into Dr. Dobb’s Journal of Propaganda for and People Who Program Exclusively in C and C++ For Windows. No longer could I whip out a nifty little utility in a couple of hours, and so I just gave up and let my compiler disks gather dust. There were a couple of DOS-based programs I wrote for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, but that was almost 40 years ago, and I’m sure they’ve moved on to Windows by now.

But I still have my obsession with collecting things. It’s no longer centered around software, since just about everything and anything I could possibly want is available on the Internet, but now concerns recipes.

Collecting and Organizing Recipes

My iPad Mini has replaced my floppy disk storage boxes for housing my collections. There are three main programs I use: Pepperplate, Evernote, and The New York Times Cooking app (available for both Android and iOS). My web browser has buttons that allow me to import recipes directly into either Pepperplate of the NYT app. In addition, my NY Times account is linked to my Evernote account, so everything I save to one app is also saved to the other. Currently, I have 166 recipes in NYT, 137 of which were imported from Evernote. My Pepperplate account has 2355 recipes.

All of these recipes are available on my iPad, which is why I rarely buy cookbooks anymore.

But as I said before, it’s an obsession. Why do I call it an obsession, as opposed to a hobby? Well, do I really need 15 different recipes for fried chicken? How about 8 recipes for pies and hand pies, when I’ve never made either in my life? And that doesn’t even count the number of recipes I’ve pinned or re-pinned on Pinterest!

And I almost forgot! I’ve also got a few in OneNote!

See? I told you it was an obsession!

Robyn Jane

Fine-Tuning Pepperplate

Oh, dear! I’ve done it again, haven’t I. I let a half month slip by without posting anything. Now we’re into a new month, and tomorrow is the quadrennial circus freak show that passes for elections here in the United States. What better time to fill the house with the aroma of freshly-baked bread? Tomorrow also is the day my food budget is replenished for another month, and that’s a Good Thing, since I’ve been out of coffee for the past week.

If it weren’t for tea, you might very well be reading about me in the newspapers. Something about a frustrated woman going on a murder spree….

But on to Pepperplate. Previously I had posted about how much I enjoy using the software, and that hasn’t changed. What has changed, however, is how I use it, and how I’ve recently streamlined it. How recently? This morning.

I used to have many more categories than I do now. For example, if I had a recipe for, say, sandwich bread made in the bread maker, I filed it under several categories:

  • bread
  • yeasted bread
  • bread machine
  • sandwich bread

That way, I could search for it under any of the four categories. Makes sense, right?

But the more I used Pepperplate, the more I realized that when I went searching for a recipe, such as the sandwich bread above, I always used the same search criteria: Sandwich Bread. The same was true for my English Muffin Toasting Bread recipes: they were filed under:

  • yeasted bread
  • english muffins
  • toasting bread
  • english muffin bread
  • bread machine
  • bread

But I only ever looked for them under English Muffin Bread.

So I spent quite some time paring down the categories. For these two examples, they are now listed under sandwich breads and engiish muffin toasting bread, respectively.

This may not seem to be a Big Deal, but as a result, whenever I search for a recipe, there are fewer categories to search, and as a result, the searches are faster. Which might not seem to be all that big of a deal, but considering my recipe database has over 2200 entries, it makes a noticeable difference.

So What’s The Point?

The point is that just as our skills with kitchen tools and utensils evolve over time, so can our skills with kitchen software improve the more we use it. Because when you get right down to it, isn’t that what Pepperplate is? A kitchen tool? A fancy shiny electronic tool for certain, but a tool nonetheless.