Maybe it’s the weekend.
Or maybe you’re having a few (ahem, all your) friends over.
Or maybe you just want to relax after a long day… the dog had an accident in the house (again), you forgot to sign your child’s permission slip (again) and that slow cooker chicken chili you tried to throw together that morning in a mere 1.7 minutes just isn’t tasting right come dinner time.
No matter the scenario, it’s always a good idea to have a few basic cocktails ready to go. Leave out the alcohol and you’ve got some kid-friendly beverages.
Vodka: Rose Kennedy
Because bubbles = happiness, and vodka crans (aka Cape Cods) are a little too standard. You deserve something special after all. We like using lemon-lime soda but club soda works too.
Margaritas are good, but Palomas really get the party started. Sparkling grapefruit juice and tequila are meant to be together. Don’t forget the lime! And a side of warm tortilla chips for munching. Plus some salsa and guac.
Rum: Piña Colada
Feeling tropical? Sip on a sweet piña colada. It’s like pineapple coconut dessert in a glass. Who can complain?
Gin: Gin & Tonic
Perhaps fruity and sweet just isn’t your thing. We understand. Simply pour yourself a gin and tonic. If only everything in life was this easy.
Tip: Ice and chilled glasses are your best friends.
Who doesn’t love a good snack?
There are definitely mediocre snacks out there. (Limp celery, we’re talking about you.)
But when snack time rolls around, you want to be equipped with the best of the best.
All you really need to know is sweet + salty. Yep! That’s the secret to an awesome, satisfying snack.
Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
Peanuts with Raisins & Pretzels
Salty peanuts and sweet raisins are basically best friends. Throw some crisp pretzels in there and your snackage game will be on point.
Cashews with Cherries & Chocolate
Nutty cashews pair with tart dried cherries beautifully. Semisweet chocolate makes everything better. Try to get one of each in every bite!
Almonds with Apricots & White Chocolate
Tangy dried apricots are amazing as is, but the party really gets going when you extend an invite to crunchy almonds and sweet white chocolate.
Pumpkin Seeds with Cranberries & Yogurt Covered Pretzels
Toasted pumpkin seeds. Sweet-tart dried cranberries. Irresistible yogurt covered pretzels. Need we say more?
The next time you have a few spare moments, mix together a healthy snack that tastes like a treat. Your taste buds and stomach will thank you.
In 2002, I stood in the produce aisle of our local neighborhood QFC grocery store with the jumbled list of 40+ items my wife had given me, wondering what to make.
Having forgotten items on the two previous trips at considerable spousal irritation, I made extra-sure to scan through that list multiple times. Since it wasn’t organized in any way, I started at the first aisle, scanned through that list, got a couple items, moved to the next aisle, scanned the list, and so on.
Forty minutes later, I thought I was done.
But sure enough, when I went home, I had forgotten the wheat bread. So back to the store I went. Drive. Park. Find. Queue. Pay. Drive. Park. And… done. So a grocery run that should have taken thirty minutes ended up taking about two hours.
As a developer, I felt that there had to be a better way. It seemed like a mobile device could let me keep my grocery list sorted by aisle, and maybe let me look up my family favorites, so that I’d save time and never forget something at the store again. I had just decided to depart a senior leadership position at Expedia, having built and sold my first startup called VacationSpot.com. In addition to some volunteering, I was very interested in getting back to my coding roots, and was playing around with the Pocket PC operating system.
After that frustrating grocery run, I booted up the development environment and wrote a simple shopping list manager, PocketShop™, which helped me create a quick grocery list and automatically sorted the items by aisle. It saved me a lot of time: about 15 minutes on every grocery run. Perhaps more important, I never forgot another item. I decided to publish PocketShop, and in 2003 and 2004, it won awards for Best List Manager by PC Advisor Magazine.
I wanted to hear ideas from the community to help improve it. So, built-into that little shopping list program was a feature letting customers suggest new features. Far and away, the number one comment was “the shopping list is cool, but please let me keep my recipes here, so I can add them to the grocery list directly, instead of just the ingredients and items themselves.” Some even said “In fact, let me plan the week’s meals here too.”
From this community encouragement, BigOven was born.
I reasoned there were at least five important parts of the cooking cycle that software could help with: discovery, planning (including diet/nutrition constraints), grocery shopping, preparation and sharing.
The web was always an integral part of BigOven (our site went live in 2003), but initially, the method of viewing the shared web archive and adding to it was via a 60Mb Windows desktop application, which was available for download but also purchase in boxed form at Staples, Office Depot and Amazon.
Building a desktop Windows application was a deliberate choice, since many of the “power collectors” of recipes had already adopted MealMaster, MasterCook and other solutions to organize their recipes, and importing home-grown collections from those formats was very important to get the shared archive going. BigOven for Windows let home cooks upload their recipe collection to a shared archive, so everyone could search it. That Windows application was fine for 2002-2008, but then a little thing called the iPhone came along and helped change everything.
As use of the web and at-home high-speed internet connections continued to spread, I quickly heard from people that they wanted to access recipes from anywhere, yes on the web, but particularly on mobile devices, which are equally at home on grocery runs and the kitchen counter.
A traffic boom of unexpected proportion arrived with the first release of BigOven for iPhone.
BigOven was the first cooking app on the iPhone and Android and tied for first with the iPad. One anecdote that helps put into perspective just how important mobile devices are for home cooks: the day before the iPhone app was available, we had 768 downloads of our Windows recipe software. The day the iPhone app was shipped, we had 228,000 downloads, a three-hundred-fold increase. When the iPad and other tablets came to market, it was very clear that tablets and smartphones are where people want their cooking information. Today, well over half of our traffic comes from mobile devices. Four years ago, we adjusted our pricing strategy to reflect this – the desktop application was given away free with one Pro membership applying across all devices.
Mostly, I find grocery shopping to be frustrating, but occasionally, particularly at local and farmers’ markets — it can be quite pleasurable.
For a city dweller, grocery shopping usually includes fighting traffic, parking, struggling mightily over what to make at the store and beforehand, threading-the-needle on too-many picky-eaters, crowded aisles, elevator music, slow checkout, the occasional screaming child, tedium of restocking staples, paying, getting everything home and realizing you’ve either bought the wrong items or that some were forgotten. Survive all that, and too often, we let a good deal of this perfectly good food go to waste. (Americans throw away about 23% of what we buy at the grocery store as unused food waste.)
The pleasurable parts of grocery shopping, at least for me, are the creative, aspirational, experiential sides. Oh look, these gorgeous peaches are in season. The ahi tuna is fresh today, and would make a terrific ahi salad. Endive is on sale.
Or, the anticipation of a simple comfort-meal to come.
Food helps connect and nourish us. Dinner helps us slow down, reconnect, pass along family lore, and share stories. The benefits of a regular all-family meal are well documented. Meals with my family were extremely important to me growing up, and I’ve always thought there’s more that we can do to get people centered around the dinner table once again.
At the grocery store, the promise of a great new discovery is right around the corner. And with growing confidence that comes from experience as a home cook, it is tremendously satisfying to be able to effortlessly whip-up a great meal and share the love through food, helping someone you care about end their day with a delicious thing that you dreamed up in the kitchen.
As a software entrepreneur and primary cook for a family of five, I know that innovative software, mobile devices and the cloud can do a lot more to help the life of the home cook. If you enumerate these problems and pain-points, you’ll see innovative solutions to these drive our product releases.
Let’s start with the shopping list — we did.
It is incredibly frustrating to go from one aisle to the next, scanning a random list in full, trudging back and forth across the megamart, only to arrive home without that important item.
Why can’t a smart grocery list sort all the items for you, letting you add recipes and individual ingredients – even change your mind at the grocery store and strike recipes off the list, taking the ingredients with them? Why can’t I make a grocery list during the week from my work computer on the web, then simply look at my mobile app in the store? These features are all now available in BigOven’s grocery list. Why can’t I just tell the grocery list I’m making Caesar Salad tonight and have it add the items? Or, if I don’t know what goes into a good souffle, why can’t I look that up at the grocery store, in the aisle?
And of course, with more and more online grocery delivery options on the horizon, why not simply pass those items to a delivery company?
Next, it can seem to take forever to figure out what to make – shouldn’t a computer be able to recommend what I should make? Can’t I go to a device and say “what are all the things I said I wanted to try, when I had some browsing time the other day?” And why can’t I digitize all my family favorites so I can look them up instantly when I see what inspires me at the grocery store?
And why do all these items that I’ve bought go to waste? Why can’t I enter a few ingredients into a vast recipe search engine to find out what I can make?
There are also some problems we haven’t yet solved, or solved well-enough yet. For instance, why can’t a device tell me when things are on sale that I typically buy? Why don’t my cookbooks talk to me while I’m cooking and interleave all the start/stop times for me of the menu that I’m making? And more.
BigOven is a full-fledged organizer and discovery source for home cooks and now food bloggers. We’re constantly improving the way BigOven lets you discover great things to make, use up what’s in your fridge, digitize your family favorites, and generally eat better when you dine-in. BigOven lets you find any recipe, make a grocery list, plan menus, find out nutrition of what you eat, and more.
Fast forward to August 2015, and we’re just now welcoming our three millionth member, with about 1,000 new signups happening every day, and hundreds of thousands of delicious recipe ideas. Thank you cooks for sharing your great cooking ideas and your thoughts on how to make BigOven better. We’re listening.
BigOven’s purpose is to get every home cook inspired and organized in the kitchen and on-the-go, and our goal is to be the best-loved, most used app for at-home cooking. How are we doing? What more can we do for you? Be sure to let us know.
A soggy sandwich will surely put a damper on anyone’s day…
You slapped together a sandwich in the wee hours of the morning, and when it finally came time to devour your masterpiece for lunch, those juicy tomatoes turned that once fluffy bread into a wet, mushy mess. And the sharp cheddar cheese became nothing less than waterlogged.
Alas, it is possible to avoid this sort of lunchtime tragedy in the future.
All you need to do is layer it right.
1. Start with the bread.
Hearty fillings require hearty slices of bread. Ciabatta, focaccia and whole grain breads are best. Flimsy slices of white bread don’t stand a chance against a killer smoked turkey situation with major veggie action and condiment heaven. Leave thin slices of bread for simple PB&J’s please.
2. Now think fat-based spreads.
It’s time to lather one side of both slices of your bread with mayo, butter, nut butter and/or pesto. This layer will act as a buffer between filling juiciness and that defenseless bread.
3. Next up, cheese.
Cheddar, Swiss, Havarti, mozzarella, feta, provolone, muenster, (we can go on). Cheese and bread are best of friends. Cheese and juicy fillings… not so much.
4. And now for the protein.
Whether you prefer turkey, ham, chicken, roast beef, salmon, tuna or tofu, your protein will help keep all of the lovely produce juices in the middle of your sandwich and prevent those juices from mingling with the bread.
5. It’s time for wet spreads.
Mustard, ranch, BBQ sauce and/or jam go best right on top of your protein. The flavors will be evenly dispersed and your sandwich will stay nice and edible.
6. Tomatoes, it’s your turn.
That’s right, those juicy veggies and fruits (think tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches, berries) do deserve a place in your sandwich, and this is where they belong–far away from the bread and cheese.
7. Last but not least, dry veggies and fruit.
Top your sandwich off with greens, bell peppers, sprouts, avocado, apple slices, banana and/or crisp pear. These veg and fruits will act as a buffer between the more water-packed produce and the bread. Of course, use your best judgement. Some pears are juicy and some cukes are on the dry side. (You get the point.)
Finally place the other slice of bread on top (dry side out) and you can say goodbye to soggy sandwiches forever.
Looking for more sandwich ideas? Browse through BigOven’s vast collection of Sandwiches and Wraps.
Fall is upon us. And that means one thing: pie. Lots. Of. Apple. Pie.
Check out the dos and don’ts on how to approach apple season:
1. Firm, sturdy apples are best used for baking. Apples like Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Honeycrisp maintain their shape and texture while in the oven, perfect for pies, muffins, and tarts.
2. Soft, easily broken down apples—like Fuji and Gala—are best used for cooking. These quickly smooth out in texture, an ideal outcome for butters, sauces, and soups.
3. Bruised and unusable? I don’t think so. Make the most of your batch by cutting up and cooking the mealy, but still delicious apples—a sure-fire approach to smart, economical cooking.
4. Mix it up. For a complex taste explosion, use an assortment of tart and sweet apples in your recipes.
5. Fridge me! Apples are best stored in cold temperatures and away from their enemies—ethylene-sensitive fruits and veggies that are prone to spoiling, such as asparagus, blackberries, carrots, strawberries, and spinach.
6. Get the most out of our little, red friend by using a vegetable peeler instead of a paring knife. On top of being fast and efficient, it spares large chunks of apple from being taken off. And in the words of Grandma, “Remember to pull towards, not away!”
7. Keep the peels! Apple peels can be used in smoothies, oatmeal, tea, and jelly. Toss them in the freezer and have them on-hand for later.
8. Sliced, STILL FRESH apples in your sack lunch? Yes, it’s possible. Slice the apple and bind it back together using a rubber band.
Learn baskets of delicious uses for apples on BigOven.
Think violently growling stomach mid-meeting. Lightheadedness during the overly competitive annual neighborhood badminton match. Floating cream-filled doughnuts suddenly appearing above your math teacher’s head. Or maybe you just got a little hungry and simply needed something to munch on.
Keep a handful of these snacks on hand, and you can say adios to hangry outbursts forever. (Plus these durable snacks won’t get completely obliterated at the bottom of your bag.)
These protein-packed gems will keep you going for a couple hours, or at least until you can get your hands on some post-mega-hike deep dish pizza. Enjoy your favorite, or take along a mix.
No, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg stocking up your pantry with these convenient treats. Throw together a homemade batch and you’ll be set for a couple weeks.
Sweet and almost like dessert, dried fruit will satisfy your sugary cravings and prevent you from diving face-first into that tempting tupperwareful of cupcakes your coworker just brought in. We like apricots, mangoes, cherries and figs!
Standard low-fat mozzarella sticks are always a good choice. But get your hands on some cheddar cheese sticks if you can and your taste buds will thank you. So much more flavor!
Combine some nuts and dried fruit and you’ve got yourself a power snack! Chocolate is always a must. (Just try to get some nuts and fruit in there too.)
Aka healthy cookies. Oh yeah, you can get away with savoring a couple of these at a time. Bonus! You can make some at home.
Because slices of browning apples are not the most appetizing. To avoid annoying everyone and their mom with your munching and crunching, slice it up right before enjoying. Or just practice your ninja-quiet eating skills.
No need to wash this juicy fruit. Simply peel and enjoy. P.S. Your hands will smell amazing.
The tomato: is it a fruit or a vegetable? Who cares because cherry tomatoes are perfect for snacking. Whip out your cheese stick and you’ve got a snack worth bragging about.
They’re cute. They’re healthy. And how could anyone not love a baby?
Whether you’re on team green or team red, grapes will solve your inner snackage fiend issues. Please refrain from asking a random stranger to fan you with palm leaves while plopping grapes in your mouth.
Your new favorite vegetable. And your new favorite snack. Maybe your new favorite food? (We won’t push it, chocolate does exist after all.)
Whether you’re out camping in the wilderness, stuck in class all day, chained to your desk or just find yourself getting a little hungry between meals, it’s always a good idea to keep some nutritious snacks on hand. And no, potato chip dust doesn’t count.
Looking for more ideas? Browse through BigOven’s vast collection of snacks.
Cool down and satisfy your sweet tooth with one of these 3-Ingredient Milkshakes.
We won’t judge if you try them all in one sitting.
Peanut Butter Heaven:
Peanut butter lovers rejoice. This creamy, nutty shake is just for you. There’s protein and calcium involved, so it’s totally acceptable to gulp down both servings and lick the blender clean. (Just be careful of that blade.)
Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate:
WARNING: This shake is not for the faint of heart. Couldn’t pack in more chocolate if you tried. Kids and adults alike will be bouncing off the walls after consuming this indulgent treat.
We know some of you out there are suckers for all things fruity. No this is not a daiquiri, but who needs a cocktail when you can chug (ahem sip) a refreshing strawberry shake?
Comforting and simply tasty, cookies make every aspect of life 100 times better… including shakes. This kid understands.
Life is too short not to whip up a milkshake every once in a while. Don’t forget to share!
Whether you grow your own produce or visit your local farmers market, the best of summer’s bounty of fruits and vegetables are peaking in August. We’re sharing some recipes to show them off as well as helpful tips! Your family won’t be able to get enough of these 7 summer favorite fruits and veggies.
Have your cucumbers overrun your garden? Cool and refreshing, look for firm, medium-sized cukes with bright colored skins.
Sweet sweet corn! We await its arrival each summer and cannot get enough of it. Did you know that as soon as corn is picked, the sugar begins its gradual conversion to starch? Try to buy and eat your corn as soon as possible to enjoy it at its best.
This member of the nightshade family (cherry, plum, heirloom, Roma, beefsteak) is great eaten at any mealtime! It’s the most versatile fruit/veggie and is a mainstay during the summer. Tomatoes can be enjoyed long after the summer harvest. You want to handle this summer delight gently, but look for firmness. Some blemishes are okay.
Beautiful to look at with their jewel toned skin, eggplants, also known as aubergines or brinjal, are never consumed raw but are a tasty enhancement to many dishes. These delights have a short season. The younger male fruit is the most flavorful and has fewer seeds. Males have an indentation or “navel,” and lighter eggplants also indicate fewer seeds.
It’s August and you can count on friends and family, who grow zucchini or crookneck (yellow) squash, to appear on your doorstep with them in hand because they have more than they can eat. These tasty veggies are best lightly cooked, eaten raw, or used in baking. Look for smaller squash with brightly colored skins and no spots or bruises for the best taste.
What is summer without WATERMELON?! This summertime fruit is an all-time favorite. A must have at every BBQ or picnic, this sweet, juicy fruit is the ultimate summer quencher on a hot day! There are over 50 watermelon varieties in the US so look for symmetrically-shaped, heavy, unbruised, and undented melons.
Pie and peaches go hand-in-hand and it’s definitely a summer delight not to be missed. With over 4,000 peach recipes to choose from and hundreds of peach varieties grown nationwide, the peach possibilities are endless. Remember peaches should have a sweet intense fragrance and give slightly when pressed.
With one of the hottest summers on our hands, what better way to cool down and relax than with a refreshing cocktail. Here’s a list of 7 simple (alcoholic) drinks to help you beat the heat and truly enjoy your summer. Cheers!
Now this is summertime in a glass. See the recipe
Clean and crisp with just a hint of peach brandy. See the recipe
Stay cool with this delicious fruit-infused beverage. See the recipe
Sweet with a splash of bourbon. A summertime classic. See the recipe
A light and refreshing summer drink. See the recipe
Perfect for your summertime parties. See the recipe
Fresh and citrusy, with a slight kick! See the recipe
S’mores are easily the best part of camping. Gooey marshmallows cushioned between slightly melted chocolate, oozing out of graham crackers – what’s not to love? Get creative with these five twists on the tried-and-true.
Create Your Own S’mores Bar
Ready to take things to the next level? Host a “S’mores Bar” at your next campfire by adding some of these ingredients to your repertoire.
The Outside: Graham crackers aren’t the only way to sandwich your s’more. Try cookies like snickerdoodles, chocolate chip or Oreos. Pack thin-sliced brownies or magic bars for yummy open-faced s’mores.
The Sauces: Amp up the flavor by spreading hot fudge, butterscotch, nutella, pumpkin butter, salted caramel, raspberry jam or even lemon curd on the graham crackers.
Fancy Up Your Chocolate: Hershey’s isn’t the only choice here. Try caramel or raspberry Ghirardelli squares, Peppermint Patties, Rolos, Reese’s or your dark chocolate bar of choice.
Add Some Fruit: Strawberries and bananas are the obvious choices here. For an unexpected boost of smokiness, add grilled peaches or pineapple.
Flavor Your ‘Mallows: With a bit of advanced planning, you can make delicious homemade marshmallows to put in your s’mores. We like these Peppermint Marshmallows, these Vanilla Marshmallows and this recipe for Chai or Coffee Marshmallows.
It might sound a bit crazy…These ideas are for the more adventurous. For a sweet and spicy combo, try sprinkling chili or chipotle powder on the chocolate before adding to your s’more. Add pretzels, candied bacon, chopped peanuts or cashews for a salty twist.
Feeling inspired? See more Camping Recipes.