Laptop to stovetop
Forget about buying a fancy garlic peeler or salad spinner - a laptop and a cell phone are today's most time-saving tools for the kitchen.
They can be used to download and organize recipes, make grocery lists and even watch - and cook along - as your favorite celebrity chef prepares sushi or crème br le.
"I have basic cookbooks, but I rarely use them anymore," admits Rachel Severson, a Salt Lake City mother of five, ages 6 to 6 weeks.
Severson, like a growing number of cooks, prefers to go to online, keeping a virtual recipe box at her favorite cooking sites. On the Web she can search for recipes, read what other cooks have to say about the dish before trying it and write her own comments after she has cooked it.
And when her family and friends rave about the dish, Severson can quickly e-mail it to them. No more writing it on a recipe card.
"Technology makes cooking more organized," she said. "I can plan out menus for the whole week and create a grocery list without thumbing through cookbooks every day."
Sometimes she brings the laptop right to the counter as she cooks; other times she prints a copy of the recipe. If the paper gets grease spots and splatters, she just throws it away, knowing the original is saved in her hard drive.
"If I can save time in any way, I'm all for it," said Severson, whose favorite site is http://www.allrecipes.com, probably the largest community food site with some 40,000 recipes, reviews and photos.
But there are many other sites where cooks can find recipes, menu ideas, cooking tips and advice, including recipezaar.com, epicurious .com, cdkitchen .com, foodnetwork.com and myrecipes.com.
Many of those sites are making their recipes archives available to cell-phone users as well.
It's all about accomplishing more with less time, said Lisa Sharples, president of allrecipes.com. "Home cooks literally have a proven meal-planning resource at their fingertips no matter if they are at the grocery store or cheering on their kids at a soccer game."
PodcastGo, a global, mobile network dedicated to lifestyle-based "edutainment," offers cooking demonstrations of some of the country's most popular celebrity chefs, including Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse and Ming Tsai. The demonstrations can be downloaded for free through the Internet or any video-capable mobile device. Cooks can get shopping lists as well as pause or rewind the video after each step and work at their own pace.
For food lovers who want more personal interaction, there are blogs - short for Web logs. These online journals are updated frequently, and in the case of food, give commentary about what the author happens to be consuming at home or when dining out. Readers can post their comments and hold online conversations with people from all over the world.
Some blogs have broad themes; others, like Kalyn Denny's site, are more focused.
Denny, a Utah public-school teacher, operates Kalyn's Kitchen at http://www.kalynskitchen.blogspot.com. Several times a week she offers up low-glycemic recipes for those who follow the South Beach Diet.
The blog, which has nearly 700 recipes, was selected earlier this year as the best themed food blog by the Well Fed Network, a sort of clearinghouse for the food-related blogs.
Technology, said Denny, has the potential to make people better cooks.
"I've learned how to make things I never would have tried from a cookbook, she said.
It also creates more knowledgeable cooks.
"It makes food trends spread more quickly," she said, noting that blogs have been one of the reasons that "eat local" initiatives have spread so quickly throughout the country.
And while some people might say technology only hinders personal communication, Denny disagrees.
"Through the Web you meet a whole community of people who love food," she said. "I've made friends who are perfectly in tune with my own interests."
* KATHY STEPHENSON can be contacted at kathys@sltrib .com or 801-257-8612. Send comments about this story to livingeditor @sltrib.com.