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With Thanksgiving only two days away, people are bringing out their favorite recipes for turkey, gravy, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. How do you keep your recipes from year to year? My father's method was to put his favorite recipes into notebooks that would be brought out every year. But even with laminated pages, eventually his notebooks got pretty messy. My mother used index cards to store recipes, but over time the ingredients would fade, especially if the recipe was popular with the family.

In the search for a better method through software, I discovered some good recipe database programs anyone can use. These handy apps let you store all your favorite Thanksgiving recipes (along with all your other recipes) in a searchable database which you can quickly print out for easy access in the kitchen. You can also catalog things like spices and ingredients on hand, and then search for results using those and other parameters. Some of these apps let you explore other databases online with countless recipe variations and varieties of foods to choose from.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, you (or whoever does the cooking) may not want to get caught up adding recipes to a database right away. But once the holiday is over, you can use one of these programs to start tracking your recipes electronically so it's easy to find and print your favorites when you need them. Having everything on your computer along with some of these programs' features will make your experience easier during the rest of the holidays.

ERM offers several fields to help you narrow your search for that perfect gravy recipe. (Credit: CNET Networks)

ERM, the Electronic Recipe Manager, isn't the prettiest program in the group, but offers a super fast search feature to find recipes quickly. You'll be able to create itemized ingredient lists, plan your menu and shopping excursions, and track your ingredients on hand. This one offers thousands of recipes to get you started, plus you can add more from popular cooking Web sites.

A huge database means you\'ll know just how to use those leftovers (Credit: CNET Networks)

BigOven is one of the more popular recipe database apps with features for meal planning, adding pictures to your recipes, and searching over 160,000 recipes online. The interface is a step up from ERM with nice looking buttons which make it easy to navigate through the programs many features. One striking feature I particularly like is the ability to drag-and-drop a recipe to make a shopping list of all the ingredients.

Computer Cuisine Deluxe
If you want a more refined interface, check out Computer Cuisine Deluxe (Credit: CNET Networks)

Computer Cuisine Deluxe for both Windows and Mac includes more than 1,000 recipes to get you started and an exceptional graphical interface that emulates the pages of a real cookbook. This one is my favorite for its overall look and ease of browsing the recipes it offers. Unfortunately, a lot of the features are only available once you register ($19.95), but if you're serious about cooking, this one might be good enough to take the leap.

Instead of flipping through a cookbook, sifting through index cards, or breaking out the Thanksgiving notebook, why not quickly search for and print out a fresh copy of your favorite recipes? Using one of these programs, I think you'll find that getting your recipes sorted out now will make for a much more relaxing and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday in the future.

Jason Parker has been at CNET for more than 13 years. He is the Senior Editor in charge iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.