I have appreciated food from an early age. Not just food, but the act of preparing it and gathering for a meal was an important fixture of my upbringing. Mom worked hard to feed us and made sure that we were punctual when we gathered around the dinner table every evening. She showed me the value of preparing a meal on your own and how rewarding it was to share it.
Therefore cooking has always been rewarding for me. When Elise was overloaded at work, I loved being able to cook for her while she relaxed. When I was overloaded at work, Elise loved being able to cook for me while I relaxed. When we were both overworked, we loved to cook together and complain about how overworked we were. And today we just love to cook to together because it is fun.
Long before I thought about creating this site, we had collected quite a library of cook books and magazines. But like most people we had our own selection of favorites. Some were photocopied into a binder. Some were still in the original books marked with tabs. Others were on index cards, inherited from our mothers and grandmothers. Putting together a menu was never hard for us, but finding the recipes to then make the grocery list became very challenging.
I had for years been thinking about digitizing our catalog, but avoided it since it is a lot of work. However COVID and its first lockdown gave me a lot more time at home and it was a great opportunity to finally take on this task.
Before you dismiss this as a lot of work (it is), understand what you gain from this. If you love food like we do, it is wonderful and very useful to have your entire recipe catalog with you wherever you are. If you are grocery shopping you can instantly double-check ingredients. Also its great to hand a guest your iPad and tell them to choose a drink from the menu.
Here’s what I did.
- Old iPad
- A bunch of cookbooks and recipe magazines
- A book stand
- An angled USB to lightning connector (optional)
There is of course no reason you have to use Paprika Recipe Manager. In my research it did everything I needed it to do and it seemed well supported, well reviewed, and actively developed. I personally love how you can open basically any recipe on any web page and import it with a tap or click.
The same is true with Adobe Scan. I already subscribe to Creative Cloud, so I had it available, but any scanning app with OCR should do just fine.
All you need to do is start scanning.
I generally would take one cookbook or magazine at a time and scan all of the recipes that I wanted into one PDF. Make sure to lay the book flat with plenty of good, non-glaring light. With the PDF captured I then let the OCR do its job. Be sure to select the correct language when doing OCR if you are scanning in multiple languages.
Not much more to say other than just do it. You probably want to do one or two to see how it goes and test the import into Paprika.
Once you have a PDF with recognized text, it is time to create some recipes.
I just copied the text from the PDF and dropped it into Paprika. I dragged and dropped the images into the recipes as well.
This of course could be scripted. I did this over such a long period that the copy-paste method was fine. There are other recipe managers that handle this part of the process as well, but I didn’t think they stacked up to Paprika in other areas. And this is a one-time effort.
Create Tags and Menus
Once you have everything imported you can tag your recipes and group them into menus. If you always serve the maple-basted salmon with the walnut and wild rice as a side and the endive salad to start, group it in a menu. It makes for easier meal planning and is also easier to browse than a complete list of individual recipes.
Use your tagging to flag favorites, but also recipes by cuisine for when you have a jonesing for a particular culinary excursion. Tag based on dietary restrictions for when you entertain guests. Tag based on season or holiday or whatever you need. This makes finding recipes as well as building meals much easier.
Create a tag for “to try.” If you are like me, you will find all kinds of inspiration and import recipes left and right. A “to try” tag can help you burn through your backlog of recipes that you want to try, but keep forgetting about.
If you like cocktails, you also must tag your drinks. Nothing is quite as much fun as welcoming guests into your home and handing them the iPad and asking them what they would like to drink.
Set Up Your iPad
This is a perfect use for an old iPad. Paprika is not a demanding app, so even if your iPad can hardly do anything, it can still likely run Paprika. And it is much easier on the nerves to keep a disused iPad constantly next to the stove and sink than your latest 1k USD iPad Pro.
It can be as easy as signing into iCloud, downloading Paprika and synching. However I had a concern that if I am passing this iPad around at dinner parties, I didn’t want anyone to be able to access my data. I did the following:
- I created a new iCloud account just for the recipe manager.
- I added this account to my family.
- I signed into the iPad with this account.
- I downloaded Paprika via family sharing.
- I signed into Paprika with my Paprika synch account (not attached to iCloud) and synched.
- I went into settings and maxed out the screen lock time since it is annoying to wake it when cooking and there is no data to protect anyway.
- I used the parental controls to lock down the iPads other functions like being able to edit settings, download other apps, etc.
Now I have a dedicated recipe tablet in the kitchen. Place it in a book holder next to the stove or sink and enjoy! If you need to charge it regularly, consider getting an angled USB to lightning cable. This way the iPad can still stand up and be usable in the book stand while it’s charging.
And don’t forget to download the Paprika app for your other devices. This way you can snag a recipe any where you find one.