Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Banana Nut Bread

Banana bread is the epitome of "giving food" to me. I never make just one. If I'm making banana bread, I bake multiple loaves and share the rest.

Which happens to be kind of often because Johnny will not heed my advice on banana purchasing. He consistenty buys two or three extra bananas per week. I've come to the conclusion it's his sneaky plan to require banana bread baking more often.

See- I freeze the extra bananas. Just freeze them whenever- bright yellow or starting to get spotty, it doesn't matter. They turn brown in the freezer and keep for a few months. It makes the banana bread really banana-y because they're so ripe and extra moist because of their thawed consistency.

Every couple of weeks or months I empty out the freezer and we have a guessing game of how many bananas will be in there. He always guesses low, in the teens. I think he's still in denial because it's always upwards to mid-twenties or low-thirties. I thaw them on the drain side of the sink in a big bowl, or put the bowl in the fridge overnight.

Warning- they will be soggy and somewhat limp. I usually snip the top by the stem with kitchen shears and then flip the banana upside down and squeeze it out into the batter kind of like a go-gurt. Johnny thinks it's really gross, which I guess it kind of is in comparison to a normal ripe banana. But once you taste the difference it makes in your banana bread you'll be willing to convert to this ritual. Trust me.

This recipe comes from one of my mom's cookbooks - I think a big, red Betty Crocker one? She made adjustments years ago- penciled into the margin and I make them by those directions that she emailed to me once I moved out. There are so many splatters and spills on that page from her making it over the years that you don't even need to look it up in the index- you just flip right to the dirtiest page! haha I'm sure she'd kill me for revealing that.

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 1/4 cups mashed bananas (I always use 4 bananas)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350°. Mix all ingredients together, adding nuts last so they don't get too crunched up. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake 60-70 minutes until a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean.

I usually dump everything into the Cuisinart in one shot and blend about 15 seconds, scrape down the sides with a spatula, and blend again. Then I pulse in the nuts until they're incorporated and plop into the sprayed pan. It works out great because once one batch is done I can just keep making bowlfuls quickly in the Cuisinart to swap out in the pans when the others are done baking.

Growing up we always put cream cheese on a slice and an ex boyfriend introduced me to putting peanut butter on while it was still warm so it kind of melts down into it. Also butter is great OR just eating plain. You can't go wrong with a good piece of banana bread no matter what the topping!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Rustic Cabbage Soup

This was one of the recipes I printed out to try from 101 Cookbooks. Tonight was the first time I attempted it and both Johnny and I really liked it a lot.

Somehow or another I thought February, instead of September, was wrapping up and that we were approaching March, not October. Do not ask me how this happened, it just did. Sometimes I write a date and end it with some random year like 1998, too. My brain just plays tricks on me.

Anyways, I'm thinking it's almost March and I get super excited to make corned beef and cabbage. My mom makes a huge surplus sized pot every year and we eat it for like a week and give huge rations out to family and friends. I LOVE corned beef and cabbage, but usually only remember to make it when it's the beginning of March. Last year was the first year I tackled it by myself, because the year prior my mom happened to be visiting that time of year and made it for us, leaving us with a couple extra servings to freeze. I hit the store ready to cook it again myself this year.

In my mistaken excitement of March approaching I picked out a big ole cabbage to put in our cart and later looked at the corned beef briskets. $25-35 a piece - I was appalled. My mouth wide open I stare at Johnny in disbelief as to why they aren't on sale? They always put corned beef on sale this time of..... oh. That is literally when it hit me that it was not February.

So I snap back to reality, don't buy the corned beef, but now am terribly in the mood for this. Plus I already have a cabbage bagged and in our cart. I'm not going to walk in shame all the way back to produce, unwrap my bagged cabbage and stick it back in the pile with the others. I figure I'll just buy it anyways and find a use for it to avoid hurting the poor chosen cabbage's feelings of being returned.

I was leafing through my recipes and saw Heidi's cabbage soup. Perfect!!! I just needed beans, which I grabbed on the next grocery trip. Today was a rainy, overcast day with the temperature beginning to have a bit of a chill in it. What better time to make soup?

The list of ingredients and instructions are Heidi's:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
a big pinch of salt
1/2 pound potatoes, skin on, cut 1/4-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
5 cups stock
1 1/2 cups white beans, precooked or canned (drained & rinsed well)
1/2 medium cabbage, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch ribbons

Warm the olive oil in a large thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the salt and potatoes. Cover and cook until they are a bit tender and starting to brown a bit, about 5 minutes - it's o.k. to uncover to stir a couple times. Stir in the garlic and onion and cook for another minute or two. Add the stock and the beans and bring the pot to a simmer. Stir in the cabbage and cook for a couple more minutes, until the cabbage softens up a bit. Now adjust the seasoning - getting the seasoning right is important or your soup will taste flat and uninteresting. Taste and add more salt if needed, the amount of salt you will need to add will depend on how salty your stock is (varying widely between brands, homemade, etc). Serves 4.

I wasn't sure how much 1/2 of a pound of potatoes were, so I used two large potatoes. I'm a big fan of using the little jar of pre-minced garlic. It's a huge time saver and saves the hassle of peeling and mincing garlic by hand. I used the Knorr's vegetarian stock, but only 2 cubes which is supposed to equal 4 cups of water and I put in the whole 5. I thought the other flavors might make up for it, and I was right. I just added a little black pepper and the flavor was great. I used canned white beans for the convenience as well.

The one thing I always notice when I'm making one of Heidi's recipes is the smell they produce. Nothing else I ever cook has such a hearty, wholesome smell. I imagine it's how a kitchen in the 1800's might have smelled. Some stronger, rawer odors from chopping the raw potatoes, onions and cabbage. And then this almost earthy, deep smell from the layering of the ingredients as she builds the recipes up. It's homey and warm, Johnny also always notices when he walks in the door from work.

Her original recipe called for an extra drizzle of olive oil and parmesan cheese shavings on top, both of which I omitted, but would be great touches if you preferred.

I was so eager to eat I didn't grab a picture until the end. This was when I was ladling the leftovers into a storage container so forgive the lack of presentation.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Low-fat Raisin Bread Pudding

I made this recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks. It's the Ronald McDonald House Charity cookbook titled Specialties of the House. It's a three ring binder style with little tabbed sections for quick flipping. The recipes are a compilation of regular people's submissions so they are all relatively easy to make and use everyday ingredients.

The coolest part?! The cover folds on a seam and a vinyl strap allows it to become its own self-standing easel. My mom had a cookbook like this when I was little and I was always tickled to see it standing on the counter, easily readable while she prepared a dish. Now I have my own cookbook that does this and am still amused each time I set it up. I don't know why more cookbook manufacturers don't use this technique.

Friday was Johnny's mom's birthday, but we celebrated today. Last Christmas I made an apple pie and cinnamon bread pudding from another recipe and it was not good. It was so sickeningly sweet that it hurt your teeth. Johnny's mom said she really liked bread pudding, though. So I remembered and made her this recipe, which I think is a LOT better.

4 cups skim milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups cubed white bread
1 cup egg substitute or 4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins or chopped dates
dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large saucepan, scald skim milk; add sugar, butter and salt. Add bread cubes and let mixture soak a few minutes. Stir in egg substitute, vanilla and raisins. Stir well and pour into 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Place baking dish in a pan of hot water and bake 1 hour in preheated oven.

I used 1% milk, 4 eggs and all spice b/c I didn't have nutmeg. When it comes out I usually cut a tiny slit in the center to see if the custard-style texture is cooked through. It will be very moist from the raisins being plump and juicy, so don't let that fool you into thinking it's still raw. I personally like it a little warm, so I usually reheat a slice. Refrigerate the leftovers.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman 1925-2008

I was very sad to learn that Paul Newman died today. I buy Newman's Own products a lot because I respect the cause and I know they are wholesome and organic.

I was in elementary school when I noticed my mom putting some Newman's Own items in our cart and Paul Newman's face on a variety of things as we walked around the store. This was unusual to me because we always bought generic. She explained that he was a great movie star with famous blue eyes and he donates 100% of the profits to help charities and hungry kids, so by us purchasing the product to feed me and my brother we were, in a way, also helping to feed other kids.

This was a long time ago before organic was "hip" and we knew all the benefits. Paul Newman, to me, branched that gap between organic being a privelege that only the rich could afford to provide to their families. He put an array of items out there that made it possible for the everyday parent to feed their kids with organic options.

Hands down my favorite salad dressing is Newman's Own caesar. The oil and vinegar based one, not the creamy. For a long time we couldn't find it in North Carolina (where I lived with my parents). Once in a blue moon a relative, sometimes as far away as Florida, would find a few bottles and mail them to me. Even now, I always have a bottle in my pantry and use it not only on salads, but also to marinate meats and vegetables with. We also regularly use his salsa and olive oil.

I'm very glad that his daughter joined the cause and this Newman's Own tradition will be carried out in his name with honor and dignity. To date, Newman's Own has generated over $250 million dollars in revenue that was immediately recycled and donated to charity.

That's such a great legacy to leave behind and I think he went above and beyond the company's motto of
"Shameless exploitation in pursuit of the Common Good."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Stuffed Green Peppers

This meal is one of my tried and true regular go-tos. It has a small list of common ingredients, is really easy to cook and the clean up is a breeze. We have it probably once every week or two weeks for these reasons and because it is delicious.

See? Couldn't be simpler.

To start: 1 lb. Italian sausage. I use Johnsonville because it tastes excellent and I don't have to do anything additional to it. Plus, the ingredients read: pork, water and then a list of spices. I like when a packaged product keeps the integrity of ingredients and nutrition by omitting unpronouncable names and chemicals. It is on sale buy one get one free every few weeks so I'll buy 2 or 4 packages and freeze them to have on hand, since I know I'll be making this recipe often.

4 green peppers: I try to pick out the fat, almost square shaped peppers with 4 bumps at the bottom instead of 3 bumps. It makes for a wider, flatter bowl to stuff.

1 onion of your choice: Depending on size I put in half to a whole. It really just boils down to preference.

1 small jar of Prego: I'm 75% Italian and was in my late teens the first time I tried a sauce that wasn't home-made. I'm not abandoning the fact that home-made sauce is great and delicious, but this is a quick go-to meal for me, so I'm not above Prego helping make it easier (sorry, Dad!). The little jar is the perfect size for this recipe, otherwise I'll find half of a big jar in the back of the fridge later that needs to be thrown out and I hate wasting food. It works out great money-wise because I also buy Prego during "2 for" sales and keep them in the pantry for this recipe.

Mozzarella cheese: I always have at least one bag of shredded cheese on hand and buy whatever brand happens to be on sale that week, is reduced or low fat and is whey free.

After pre-heating your oven to 350°, cut up the onion in small chunks and throw it in a high-sided skillet. Then break up the sausage and cook together in the pan until the sausage is done. It's usually really lean and I don't have much oil at the end, but if you do and are watching fat just pour some off.

While this is browning it leaves your hands free to prepare the peppers. Cut them in half lengthwise and rip out the membrane and seeds. Give them a good rinse and then arrange in a big casserole or baking dish. It usually times out perfectly that these two tasks end at the same time.

Turn off the stove and grab a generous handful of the cheese and sprinkle it in the pan, stirring a little bit to distribute, but not fully incorporating it to the point of melting completely away. Divide and scoop the meat, onion, cheese mixture into the pepper halves. Open the jar of Prego and put heeping spoonfuls of sauce over each pepper half.

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake until the peppers are tender. I usually go 40-45 minutes, but sometimes we can't wait and eat them a little firmer at 30 minutes. Either preference is fine since the meat is already fully cooked! We usually eat 3 halves each, which leaves 2 that I can re-heat the next day for lunch.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Inedible Creation

You can't eat it, but I still made it and am super proud! :)

My God-daughter, Marissa, is turning 2 on October 4th and loves old-school Holly Hobbie. She was even her for Halloween last year, so I made a Holly Hobbie quilt. All by hand, except hemming the satin border. Total worktime was close to 14 hours.

A close-up of the little needlework inscription hidden on the underside.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Southwestern Quinoa

I had read about quinoa in a few recipes and the Trader Joe's newsletter. I just never really got around to trying it. Then my cousin mentioned it to me and I read about it in Skinny Bitch. I googled some and was intrigued enough to try it. I set to work looking around the grains and rice in Trader Joe's but couldn't find it. Why didn't I just ask somebody? Well - I was embarrassed I'd say it wrong and look like an idiot! So I put it off again. Then one day while perusing the organic aisles of Jewel I found it! I literally lept for joy, grabbed it and threw it in the cart. The traditional one because it was white and looked less scary. They had an heirloom option that is a purpley red, that I waited to try later and is just as good.

I'm sad it took me so long to find this! It is SUCH a great addition to the grain family in your pantry. Hailed as the "mother grain" it is very high in protein and contains all amino acids, making it a complete protein. A lot of vegans and vegetarians eat it because of those benefits, but it's also gluten (and whey!) free for those allergen sufferers out there.

I usually make a quinoa pilaf of sorts by throwing in carrots, onions, broccoli and garlic at the beginning with a few dashes of spices and water. Tonight I was feeling a little more inspired.

I started with one cup of the traditional white quinoa. To that I added two big spoonfuls of Newman's Own mild salsa, a small spoonful of pre-minced garlic and about 1/4 cup (give or take) each of tiny chopped onions and green peppers. A splash of olive oil and dashes of garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, pepper and Old Bay. I know it's weird, but I love Old Bay and my cousin and I just had a huge love-fest conversation about it the other day so I was inspired to throw him in there.

Typically you add two parts water for one part quinoa. I've found that if you're putting fresh veggies in from the beginning it's still a little moist at the end, so cut back just a bit. This time I also had the moistness of the salsa, so I put maybe 1 and 4/5ths (?) of water in the pot. I brought it up to a boil, lowered it to a simmer, put the lid on and set the timer for the full 15 minutes of cook time.

The end result was a colorful bowlful of quinoa. Despite it's much-altered appearance, the flavor was still pretty mild and not spicey. Almost a warm comforting level of salsa in the background.

To continue with the southwestern theme we topped our bowls with a small sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese (low-fat!), a dollup of sour cream and a few chunks of avacado. We ate really late tonight, but it was still a hearty meal that left us satisfied, but not in that "I over-ate" kind of way. Which was my intention with choosing quinoa-- because who wants to feel all bloated and stuffed after a really late dinner?

Compliments to Johnny for taking the pictures as I prepared the plates and being brave enough to try it, no questions asked!

Oh and P.S. I have got to try this:

(Be warned - he uses a PG-13 word in there once if you're at work or around the kiddies.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cauliflower Soup

I love cauliflower! I think it's a very underestimated vegetable. It tastes good raw, steamed, baked, roasted and smothered in cheese sauce. I'm also a fan of mashed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes. I know - it's a huge debate among dieters and carb-watchers (with cauliflower usually losing). But, I generally find mashed potatoes kind of boring and bland to begin with so they started off down a point.

As previously mentioned, I printed off some recipes from 101 Cookbooks to try and one of them was a cauliflower and gorgonzola cheese soup. The first time I made it specific to Heidi's instructions. This second time I felt like I'd already kind of gotten a hang of it and strayed from the recipe a little bit, plus I didn't have some of the ingredients on hand.

To start, chop about 2 cups of onions. I used a medium sized yellow onion and half of a red onion I had on hand. Saute these in the bottom of a pot with some butter or olive oil (I used olive oil) until translucent.

Next, take a medium sized cauliflower and chop into smaller pieces. You don't need to be neat since it's all going in the blender. Throw these pieces into the pot with the onions and salt and pepper to taste.

Pour 4 cups of stock into the pot, along with spices of your choice and a few bay leaves. I used a mix of Italian seasonings (parsley, thyme, basil, oregano) and 2 small leaves. Johnny usually has a problem with bouillon and broths so for a long time I avoided soups. Then I found a Vegetarian vegetable bouillon by Knorr's and we "tested" a small amount one brave evening and he was fine! What a lifesaver because I love making soups during transition seasons and on a chilly winter evening.

After everything is in the pot, seasoned and cooking away, put a cover on it and let it continue to simmer for 20-30 minutes until the cauliflower is nice and tender. The original recipe called for creme fraiche, which I didn't have on hand, so I just splashed a little 1% milk to give it a creamy feel. I think the soup would also be perfectly fine and just as tasty leaving out the milk, and I plan to try this in the future. Then throw in as much gorgonzola cheese your taste permits. The original recipe called for a cup, but Heidi reduced it to 1/3 of a cup. That was still a little overpowering for me, so this time I just threw in what felt right- it probably ended up being about 1/4 of a cup. Stir it in the last minute or so and let it melt.While this is happening you want to set up an assembly line that looks a little something like this:

Ladle small amounts of the hot soup into a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. If you're going to be using a Cuisinart (like I did) please, please make note of the Max Fill line on the side. The first time I made this I scoffed at the idea that the people at Cuisinart knew what they were talking about. That's the Max?? It's only 2 inches up the side of the container! Liquid would never be able to reach the top of the bowl and spill out! Well, I was correct - it didn't reach the top of the bowl to spill out, but it did reach the top of the blade, which is not a waterproof seal and oozed all underneath and from the bottom of the machine. Just listen to them - they know what they're talking about. It usually takes me three or four small refills, but it's worth it to avoid the clean up. *As previously mentioned Johnny's mom loves giving. Whether it's vegetables and eggs on Sunday, or fancy jewelry at Christmas and birthdays. By last Christmas I had racked up 5 necklaces. Not a big jewelry wearer, I returned one with a gift receipt and darted to the kitchen section to indulge myself on a much-wished-for black and brushed stainless steel 14 cup capacity piece of heaven. Diamonds aren't every girls best friend! ;)

Before you blend the soup will look like this:

Afterwards it'll be a nice, smooth, creamy texture. You'll want to throw it back in the pot and bring it up to temperature again. Then, ladle into a bowl and enjoy a nice, hearty soup that utilizes cauliflower's healthy benefits of being low in fat and high in dietary fiber and vitamin C.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mexican Fiesta Casserole

I'll be honest. I hate tomatoes. Always have and probably always will. I'm fine with ketchup, tomato sauce, salsa and an occasional chunk that I didn't pick off my Taco Bell chalupa. Other than that, I avoid them. Johnny is generally not fond of them either, so they're something we never have on hand.

Johnny's mom loves fresh produce. We're over there every Sunday and it's like a farm stand set up shop in her kitchen. Before each of us leaves we take an empty plastic bag (or two) and fill with various fruits, vegetables and fresh eggs from the chickens she keeps on their property. She also keeps goats for milk, but I am insanely weird about milk regardless, so I won't even go there.

Somehow or another last weekend Johnny was talked into taking two tomatoes. His mom was laughing at the silliness of somebody only needing two tomatoes and what in the world would we do with two tomatoes? I was thinking the same thing to myself, but from the opposite standpoint. Use two whole tomatoes?? In our house?

The first tomato was sliced really thin for Johnny to put on his burger. He forgot to put it on his burger until the almost last bite, though. He ate a little bit with his celery slaw, but the rest was thrown out.

Then there was one.

This lone tomato taunted me. I had it sitting on the base of our banana hook, at room temperature on the counter. Every time I was in the kitchen I saw this bright red tomato and wondered what in the world I could make to use it before it rotted?

Then I remembered!!! I had made a Mexican casserole a few months back that both Johnny and I loved and it required tomato! I dug out my Betty Crocker's Hamburger Cookbook and found the recipe on page 40.

I love this cookbook because it is so specific. I'm thawing hamburger meat - where do I turn to for inspiration? The Hamburger Cookbook! It's perfect to not have to leaf through fancy recipes or tiny "beef" sections of other cookbooks. Plus, it's "dated." The inside cover says second printing, 1974. I find old cookbooks comforting. Something about a time when moms stayed home and cooked really wholesome meals for their kids from scratch. There aren't weird ingredients, brand name specific, like Parkay butter substitute or Campbell's cream of soup. It's just real ingredients from the food pyramid. This particular book I bought at a thrift store for $3. Kind of pricey for a thrift store, but it's hardcover and somebody else was looking at it so that frantic eBay last minute bidder gotta-have-it feeling took over me and I snatched it up.

After reading over the recipe I realized we had all ingredients on hand. That's all the go-ahead I needed! After a quick prep time it was assembled and popped in the oven. The casserole turned out great and is easy to clean up afterwards because so few pots and pans are used. Extra bonus.

I'll post the original recipe in case you want to follow verbatim, with my adjustments in red.

Mexican Fiesta Casserole - Betty Crocker's Hamburger Cookbook page 40

1 pound ground beef (I used ground sirloin for the 95/5 benefit)
salt and pepper
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (fat free/low fat option used)
1 cup dairy sour cream (fat free/low fat option used)
2/3 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing (fat free/low fat option used)
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 cups biscuit baking mix (Bisquick brand because Jiffy has whey)
1/2 cup water
2 to 3 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced (I use only one tomato and it's fine)
3/4 cup chopped green pepper
paprika (optional)

Heat oven to 375°. Cook and stir meat in skillet until brown. Drain off fat. (My mom puts her ground beef in a collander and runs it under warm water to rinse off even more of the fat) Season meat with salt and pepper; set aside. Mix cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, and onion; set aside.

Stir baking mix and water until a soft dough forms. (I made the dough first so I could re-use the same bowl to make the topping) With floured fingers, pat dough in greased baking pan, 13X9X2 inches, pressing dough 1/2 inch up sides of pan. Layer meat, tomato slices and green pepper on dough. Spoon sour cream mixture over top and sprinkle with paprika. Bake uncovered until edges of dough are light brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool 5 minutes, then cut into squares. Makes 5 or 6 servings. (More like 4 in our house!)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Jump right in...

I guess I'll just dive headfirst into this blog, since there's no easy way to start.

I really enjoy food. I love eating it, reading about it, cooking it and watching food related shows on TV. I have a folder in my bookmark's toolbar labeled "Cooking." I receive recipes in my inbox from mailing lists and an occasional friend or relative. I love searching in the newspaper, magazines, cookbooks or online for new recipes.

I rarely, if ever, make a recipe following the ingredients and instructions. For some reason or another I always substitute items or alter a step to my liking. My mom gave me a tip once to pencil these changes into the margin if you ended up liking them, which I do and find it very helpful when re-visiting the recipe.

If I make something and really enjoy it I almost always tell somebody about it and offer to share the recipe. I've handwritten out recipes to share, along with emailed and even faxed them along! To me, cooking and food is an experience that should be shared. I'm sharing - just now on a grander scale!

Let me go back a little bit further and explain the inspiration to start this, though.

My boyfriend, Johnny, and I have lived together since October 2006. Before I moved in he was mainly a take-out eater. Since moving in I have cooked almost all of our meals at home from scratch. Johnny had always thought he had a sensitive stomach, but we noticed an increase in him getting sick and the severity over the course of time. We knew some of his relatives were allergic to dairy, so we started reading labels and omitting to find the source. We eventually found the culprit: whey.

Do you know how much stuff whey is in??? Take a look through your cabinets. Cereals, breadcrumbs, soups, Hamburger Helper, Rice-a-Roni, bouillon, chips, cookies, candies, etc. I could list on and on. My first step was to eliminate anything containing whey from the kitchen. That left some pretty empty cabinets and drawers. When we went shopping we had to read every. single. label. All of my staples were knocked out! Things I had been cooking since elementary school I could no longer make. Family recipes that my parents and grandmothers had shown me I had to stop making.

I was scared. Suddenly cooking seemed so exhausting to me. I couldn't go in carefree and whip up some meal on a whim. Everything was now calculated and I was working with a very limited ingredient list. Or so I thought.

The research began. I realized that by cooking a lot of vegetarian and vegan meals I could eliminate milk and meat products that contain whey. This was a starting point for me, and hope for the future.

I first stumbled upon 101 Cookbooks. This site is absolutely beautiful - the photos, the descriptions and the community. I was amazed by Heidi's ability to take a short list of fresh, healthy ingredients and turn them into stunning presentations almost too pretty to eat. I printed out a handful of recipes to try and most made a permanent home in a 3 ring binder I keep printed recipes in.

Next, I researched whey specifically and Wikipedia's article lead me to this site, which in turn lead me to NoWheyMama. I had no idea people were doing this sort of thing! I was so inspired, especially by her situation. She has a child allergic to all diary, not just whey specific. She's still able to cook healthy (and safe) meals for her entire family. I could conquer a little whey allergy and still find fun stuff for Johnny and me!

A friend sent me Skinny Bitch and I read it in two days. Could not put it down. Yes, it's slight propaganda to get you to become vegan and join PETA. Yes, they cited sources that lend themselves to their arguments. But, in the end I walked away with a lot of information. I knew I wanted to change our lives to eat really healthy.

I've since focused most of my food blog following to be strictly allergy or health conscious based. That's when I found Slim Shoppin' (through 101 Cookbooks) and it was the straw that broke the camel's back. I wanted one of my own!

I cook really well! And over the past year and a half (give or take) I've made some real progress on this whey allergy. I have a lot of substitutions and advice somebody could really use! Making meals whey-free also usually makes them healthier, too. Sometimes it even makes it kosher (even though I do not keep a kosher kitchen). If I put this information out there somebody might benefit from it. Plus, I'll have the added benefit of my food journey recorded in one place and can share my recipes with any friend or relative who wants to follow along!

I hope you enjoy and if you are going to be following this blog for whey allergy purposes I cannot stress enough to PLEASE, please check all labels and ingredient lists. You might have to search 10 different brands of a product before you find one that is whey-free. I don't want anybody getting sick from following my recipes or suggestions.