Expert Interview Series: Melanie Carr of Dish Dish About How to Create More User-Friendly Recipes

Melanie Carr is the President and creator of Dish Dish, the ultimate online recipe organizer and family cookbook for foodies around the world. We spoke with Melanie about recipes and her thoughts on modern cooking. How is Dish Dish...

User-friendly recipes

Melanie Carr is the President and creator of Dish Dish, the ultimate online recipe organizer and family cookbook for foodies around the world. We spoke with Melanie about recipes and her thoughts on modern cooking.

How is Dish Dish different from other online recipe websites?

With Dish Dish, our free members can add unlimited recipes to their online cookbook account, download their entire recipe collection as a PDF, keep recipes private if they wish, and access their friends' cookbooks online as well. Our paid members enjoy the Recipe Import Tool for importing recipes from around the web into their cookbook account, plus added benefits of storing multiple photos with recipes and embedding videos with recipes. We enjoy helping our members get the most out of their digital recipe collection.

For someone who wants to begin using Dish Dish, how do they get started?

They can set up a free or paid account in just a couple of minutes, and I always suggest adding one recipe (something simple) to start off with in order to get used to the options and format. Then play around with that one recipe by adding the ingredients to your shopping list (with the click of one button), adding a photo or note with it, or scaling the recipe (from serving 8 to serving 2 or to serving 12) and seeing all ingredients recalculated with one click. If they set up a paid account, they can send over 20 recipes for us to enter into their account for them (either scan and send pictures by email or mail in hard copies). This is a great way to get a good number of recipes into the account quickly and really see the benefit of finding the recipe you want when you want it -instead of digging through a drawer or rummaging through bookmarked pages.

What other changes have you noticed about cooking as compared to a generation ago?

With so much foodie information available through TV and the internet, people are more likely to try new things when cooking - new techniques, new ingredients, new tools. At the same time, people are very busy, with seemingly more and more households where all adults are working full time, so they also want to keep things simple during the week when cooking. Sometimes they may prefer to stick with tried-and-true familiar recipes for every night dinners (or at least quick options), then maybe explore more on the weekends or their days off with dishes that are a little more unique or complicated. Either way, no matter where they are they want quick access to their recipes, shopping list, and the resources they need in order to enjoy getting meals on the table for the family consistently.

Let's talk about the community of people who share and discuss recipes on your site. What have you discovered during your time as a part of this "virtual cooking club?"

I have discovered during this time as part of a "virtual cooking club" that lots of families are looking for ways to share recipes, foodie traditions, and family heritage in this type of venue. Families and friends can be so spread out these days, literally around the world, and they enjoy having a place to share their long-time recipe traditions as well as new-found recipes with each other. They have their recipes on the site, so when "Jane" wants to look up mom's recipe for pie and it's the middle of the night wherever mom lives, she doesn't have to bother mom, but can look up the recipe in their shared cookbook account whenever she needs it - and even change it to add twists of her own as she adapts recipes for allergies, health concerns, or a change of taste.

What are some of the most frequently-stated complaints about modern cooking, baking, and food preparation?

Most often, it seems that people complain about cooking or food prep taking too much time - of which they already don't have enough.

At Dish Dish, we often highlight quick and easy recipes that help families enjoy a reasonably healthy meal without the stress of too much time in the kitchen getting it ready. Cooking or baking is like almost any other task. The first few times you try something new, it's a bit awkward, slow, and unfamiliar; but once you've done it a few times and don't have to think about each and every step of the process, it gets easier and quicker to complete. Cooking is very similar; start with simple tasks or recipes and do those a few times until you start to get more comfortable.

People also complain about having to recalculate amounts for ingredients in a recipe (nobody wants to do math while cooking), so we take the pain out of that by automatically recalculating ingredient amounts when you click to change the number of servings for that recipe.

Do you have a favorite recipe that was submitted to your site by someone else?

Personally, I really enjoy Southwest style and Mexican dishes, so one of my favorite recipes on the site that was submitted by someone else is a Crispy Southwest Chicken Wraps recipe. Tortillas are filled with shredded chicken, seasoned rice, black beans, cheese and cilantro, then rolled up, sprayed with cooking oil and browned in a skillet on both sides until crispy. Very yummy!

When you are cooking or baking, what are some of the must-have utensils and tools in your kitchen?

Truly, I generally keep it pretty simple when cooking and baking and don't require too many utensils and tools. Primarily, I have good pans (for cooking or baking) that are the best sizes and shapes for the type of meals I'm preparing; cutting boards; a good selection of sharp knives for various tasks like paring, chopping, dicing fresh meat, etc.; collapsible colanders; at least two sets of measuring spoons and cups; and a good selection of spatulas, scrapers, wooden spoons, whisks, a potato masher, pastry blender, and rolling pin.

What types of kitchen appliances, electrics or gadgets do you think are most versatile for today's "do-it-yourself chef?"

I love having a Kitchenaid mixer; it's great for so many tasks. It was an investment, but well worth it and something I use consistently to make baking so much easier. I still use a hand-held mixer regularly, and would miss not having one of those on hand.

When making soups or sauces, using an electronic hand blender is handy, and it works great for making shakes or smoothies, too. It's silly that one of my favorite gadgets, though, is my automatic salt and pepper grinder; I use it day in and day out and I am always glad to have it.

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