Is your cookbook shelf stuffed to overflowing, or are you always casting about for something tasty and wholesome to make for dinner? In my case, both. That's why I welcomed Living Cookbook with open arms. This easy-to-use software not only organizes its own recipes, it makes it easy to add more. Living Cookbook also lends a hand with the grocery budget, shopping list, nutritional calculations, and other chores.
Living Cookbook is exceptionally flexible and easy to use, with tutorials to walk you through the major features. One of my favorites: Not only can you type in recipes manually, you can capture them. That means that if you have the text--from a Web page, say, or from a scanned-and-OCRed recipe card--you can paste it into the capture window and highlight sections (Ingredients, Procedures, etc.) to send them to the correct fields. It's a quick way to add recipes accurately and with a minimum of clicks.
Once you have recipes--and that's right away, since several cookbooks come installed with the program--you can unleash the real power. Living Cookbook isn't just a database of recipes. The program includes nutritional facts, so it can calculate crucial facts, such as calories and sodium content, about each recipe. If your recipe includes ingredients that aren't in Living Cookbook, you can associate similar items (reconstituted dried mushrooms with fresh, for instance) or input them yourself. One caution: If you don't associate the ingredients with something, they won't go into the nutrition total, which could lead you to think your recipes are less nutritious and/or fattening than they really are. Living Cookbook does warn you about this, but only on the printable recipe--not in the edit windows, where I expected to see it.
Even if you love cooking, you're probably less enamored of related tasks such as budgeting and grocery shopping. Living Cookbook includes prices for some ingredients, and you can change them based on the stores you frequent. If you're a bargain shopper, you can do this to take advantage of sales. You can also build grocery lists based on the recipes you select.
Taken together, these tools let you save time and money while eating like a king. Living Cookbook is a great way to organize your kitchen and explore food--whether you live to eat, or just eat to live.
Note: Living Cookbook has been updated for Windows 7 since this review was written. Living Cookbook 2011 has the same great features that Laura enjoyed, plus a much-improved interface (see the screen shot) and enhancements such as database security to protect your personal recipe collection, the ability to upload images into your recipes, and more.--Editor