Thursday, November 13, 2008

I Love the Internet!

Peter and I often ask each other, in tones of disbelief and amazement, 'What did we do before the Internet?' We usually decide that we laid awake nights, trying to place the character actor in a movie or struggling to remember lyrics to songs.

I rely heavily on the Internet for my recipe finding and meal planning. I understand that way back in the day, there were these things called 'cookbooks' that had recipes in them. I also understand that people kept recipe files with hand-written instructions for whipping up their favourite dishes. How primitive.

I swear by such founts of knowledge as Cooking Light and All Recipes. I especially like the search functions in Cooking Light, which can help me find a dairy-free, low-fat, bake-only, Italian side dish in less than twenty seconds. (Not that I've ever had cause to perform that particular search, but it's comforting to know that I could if necessary.)

The problem with Cooking Light is that they often act as though cost were no option and everyone has an ethnic foods specialty market in their vicinity. Irish retailers have come along way since the first time I lived here in 1995 and there was exactly one place to get bagels in all of Dublin, but the options still aren't as diverse as a place like Chicago.

Cost, particularly, has become a giant concern recently. As a four-time loser in the redundancy department, I get a bit edgy any time economic indicators start to take a swim in the toilet. Hearing that unemployment here is nearly at 7% and that the economic forecast is for limited to zero growth for the next year at least tend to result in an automatic stranglehold on my spending habits.

Today, in an effort to find cheap yet nutritious recipes, I stumbled across a site that I'm sure will become another of my go-to sources: the snappily named USDA Food Stamp Nutrition Connection Recipe Finder. This thing offers so many searching options, it boggles the mind (and shows that actual people sat down and thought about what actual users would want and need - which should be the standard MO for web sites, but somehow that important step is often overlooked).

At the top of the page, you can search by ingredient or recipe name. But wait, there's more. At the bottom of the page, you can select a general nutrition category (like high calcium or more fruit and veg), the menu item (like side dish or entree), the audience (like ethnicity or parental status), and the cooking equipment required.

And, here is the best part, you can also place monetary limits on the recipe. Like you want a recipe that is less than $1 per serving or less than $5 for the whole recipe. This is pure, simple genius. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a shopping list to plan.

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At 13 November 2008 at 10:39, Blogger Fence said...

Looks like a good site. I keep promising myself I'll start using some of the recipes I see online, but then something happens. Laziness, for the most part. ;)

At 13 November 2008 at 11:14, Blogger Babaloo said...

Now, I'm definitely going to check out that last website, it sounds perfect!

But I still love my cookbooks...

Although, what I ever did without, I don't know. It's saved me from many a sleepless night trying to come up with the name of "that actor I saw in what was the film called again?"

At 13 November 2008 at 15:38, Blogger Kaycie said...

Since I was a newlywed (the first time) in 1986, I have one of those recipe boxes with hand written cards. I cherish it, mostly because the recipes from my mother's best friend and my elementary school speech therapist (not kidding) and other people I knew my whole life are in that box in their own handwriting. Nothing cooler.

And of course, there's the "Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook" that my grandmother gave me for a wedding present, my circa 1975 Julia Child "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" cookbook set Mother found for me at an estate sale, and the cookbook no good Southern girl would be without, "Southern Living's Ultimate Cookbook". I have an entire cabinet full of cookbooks that I love!

All that said, I adore epicurious and the Cooking Light website and use them constantly. My new favorite, also on a thrifty theme, is called BeanPlate. It's a blog about eating well on a budget. I bet you'd love it!

At 13 November 2008 at 16:32, Blogger Noelle said...

Oh, a new site for my repertoire! I've said that "Cooking Light" should be renamed "Cooking Complicated," because every time I read down the list of ingredients or directions I'm all, "ok, ok, ok, ok, wha?????"

At 13 November 2008 at 19:34, Blogger Col said...

You'll be shocked to learn that I finally had to let my Cooking Light subscription lapse. The recipes got too complicated, and most of the recipes do not work with Nathan's weird diet. (He can't eat any wheat products now, either.) My latest find is "Everyday Food", which is published by Martha Stewart. Simple, quick, and good recipes. Their web site isn't much, though.

At 14 November 2008 at 12:46, OpenID conortje said...

speaking of difficulties finding food in Irish stores I was astonished on my last visit to find that the supermarkets don't stock tofu - as a vegetarian that had serious inmplications for me!

At 15 November 2008 at 21:08, Blogger The Boisterous Butterfly said...

Because I have a gastric band, my choices for food are very limited and simple and vary very little. I am a vegetarian and depend a lot on dairy products to make up for my lack of proteins. There is a large variety of dairy products available, not to forget cereals and porridge and eggs. I don't go hungry, au contraire, and manage to fill my stomach well. I just can't eat anything complicated and hard to chew and digest. So, I never need a cook book and I never do any real cooking.

At 19 November 2008 at 16:40, Blogger -Ann said...

Fence - Yeah, laziness is a tough one. You need to move to the middle of nowhere and then your choices will be cook or starve. :)

Babaloo - I think we drove ourselves crazy with questions like that.

Kaycie - Now you're making me wish I had that sort of recipe collection!

Noelle - I know - half the time I have no idea what some of those ingredients are.

Col - Understandable under the circumstances. Poor Nathan (and poor you - I can't imagine having to think that carefully about menu planning).

Conortje - Yes, for all the advances of Modern Ireland, vegetarians are still looked on with some level of mistrust.

TBB - A gastric band? That sounds sort of complicated and painful.

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