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updated: 3/1/2011 8:48 AM

Cooking apps easy, but can leave you hungry for pictures

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  • This smoothie recipe was found using the Healthy Recipes application. Pictured is the Dinner Spinner application from allrecipes.com.

      This smoothie recipe was found using the Healthy Recipes application. Pictured is the Dinner Spinner application from allrecipes.com.
    Bill Zars

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By Jerome Gabriel

I got an iPod Touch a few months ago. It's easy to use and I love to watch YouTube videos, play games and listen to books. It's amazing that you can hold so much information in one tiny thing.

Some games I like are Fruit Ninja, where you slice fruit that flies across the screen, and Bistro Cook where you have to cook meat and fish and stuff and put it on a plate before it burns.

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Those food and cooking games are fun, but there are also real recipes that you can read and cook for yourself. Out of the hundreds of recipe- and food-related apps out there, I only found a couple that were just for kids and I don't like that you have to pay for them.

Still, there are a lot of free apps that kids and parents can use together.

AllRecipes has one called Dinner Spinner. You pick what kind of dish you want to make -- soup, main dish, dessert -- what ingredient you want to use -- vegetables, chicken, chocolate -- and how much time you have -- less than 20 minutes, 45 minutes or less, slow cooker. Main dish plus chicken plus 45 minutes or less turns up 81 matches. Beverage plus shellfish plus any gets no matches.

I like looking at cookbooks rather than finding recipes on the iPod because the pictures of the food are bigger. Still, you can find some good recipes, like this Strawberry Kiwi Smoothie. I found it when I searched for "kiwi" on the Healthy Recipes app.

A word from Mom: I wasn't a big fan of recipe apps, at first. Like Jerome, I like cookbooks. I actually like to read cookbooks, lingering on certain recipes and drooling over the pictures.

What I've grown to like about the apps, however, is the convenience of the mobile technology. When I'm at the grocery store and spy a good price on a beef roast or parsnips, I can open a program like Whole Foods Recipes and plug the ingredients and it finds a recipe. Pork, soy sauce and mushrooms yielded a tempting Pork Stir-fry Lettuce Wraps.

Many app producers offer "lite" versions, those with fewer recipes or not as many extra features, that may cost 99 cents or nothing at all. If you find the app useful, expanded versions might be available but you may pay upward of $10.

I think I'd like some of the recipe apps more if I had an iPad or similar device. Frankly it wasn't too easy to follow a recipe that appeared on a 2-by-3-inch screen. I ended up e-mailing myself a recipe so I could print it out.

When I found recipes I really like, it is nice to be able to share recipes with friends with just a few taps on the screen.

•Jerome Gabriel is in fifth grade and has been helping in the kitchen since he could hold a spoon. His mother, Deborah Pankey, is the food editor at the Daily Herald.

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