I love to cook, and I love cookbooks. I don't, as a rule, love recipes I find on the internet. Crowd-sourcing has no place in the kitchen, and those blogs where every recipe is prefaced by a photo essay about some woman's feelings about fall, or whatever, make me want to gently rest my head inside the oven and close my eyes forever. (This threat was less idle when I had a gas oven.) I trust Deborah Madison. I do not trust Epicurious.
But for some reason, every cookbook does not come with a meal-planning app (WHY NOT WHY NOT), and since I'm a basically disorganized and poorly equipped human, sometimes I lose the gum wrapper on which I've written my shopping list, leaving the internet as the only recipe source at hand when I'm shopping for dinner.
For that eventuality, I just downloaded an app called Five Plates, created by Portlander Melissa Lion. (Full disclosure: Lion has freelanced for the Mercury in the past.) Five Plates is a meal planning app that pushes five new recipes to your iPhone every week. The recipes are adapted by Lion from pre-existing recipes, or are republished with permission; all have been tested, all use whole foods, and all take less than an hour to prepare.
"I am a freak about meal planning," Lion says. "I love it because it means I can get fresh dinner on the table every night. And I hate it because it takes up too much of the little bit of free time I have. Five Plates is there to take the pain out of meal planning. If you just need a few ideas for weeknight meals, Five Plates provides that inspiration. If you want to just put your cookbooks and recipe cards away forever, Five Plates offers you a complete meal plan, with a grocery list for the week."
It's a slick little app: The ingredients for the week's meals pop up on a shopping list, organized by what section of the store they're found in (dairy, canned food, etc.) If you don't like a recipe, you can skip it, and it removes those ingredients from the list; you can also save your favorites.
What I like about Five Plates is that the recipes are curated and sourced: This week, for example, its offerings include recipes adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything (broiled chicken with cilantro) and The Splendid Table (roasted apples, pears, and sausage).
Five Plates isn't going to replace my copy of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone or Plenty, and I'm unlikely to use it every week, but I'll definitely get some use out of it—sure beats staring vacantly into the meat freezer at Sheridan, wondering if I should buy three pounds of goat bones.
The app is currently free to download for iPhone.