As long as I can remember, I’ve loved cooking. I have so many great memories with my family: being in the kitchen making chili in wintertime with my mom, my dad teaching me how to cook a traditional corned beef with cabbage, my step mom showing me how to fry chicken or my brother and I nearly setting the stove on fire.

(Just a tip about that last bit – put a grease fire out by putting a lid on the burning pot. Do not do what I did, which is run out of the house screaming.)

While I love cooking, food and I have had a tumultuous relationship.

When I was sixteen, I got my first job at an ice cream parlor. One of the perks of this job was that I got to take home a sundae each shift. What teenager wouldn’t love free ice cream? I sure did. It wasn’t long until I noticed how much my stomach was hurting, how sluggish and bloated I felt.

That’s when I first discovered my lactose intolerance. Following the guide of my older brother, who at this point, had been vegan for years, I cut out dairy and found excellent alternatives. So I couldn’t have butter anymore? Smart Balance margarine was an easy swap. No more milk? That’s fine because I liked soy milk better (I’ve since discovered that almond milk is my favorite!).

Sure, I still “cheated” from time to time. I mean, who passes up mashed potatoes made with real butter and cream on Thanksgiving? However, I always felt the effects of dairy on my body within minutes. I found that I could take a lactase pill to help alleviate some of the problems, but it didn’t remove all my symptoms.

Eventually, I just cut all dairy from my diet. I was feeling better overall and thought I had finally made peace in my relationship with food. But I noticed something shortly after I ditched dairy.

I was still having symptoms. I felt tired all the time, even when I slept a solid eight hours a night. My body still felt bloated, and I had other irritable bowel symptoms. These symptoms tended to wax and wane. It seemed like I was getting better, and then all of a sudden, everything hurt again. I couldn’t figure out the cause. For years, I dealt with this, sometimes silently, but sometimes everything hurt so much I had to skip school or work.

After working for Dr. Ratio for a while, he suggested muscle testing. Now, I’d seen him do this with countless patients, and I had heard all their successes – how he had figured out what was wrong when it seemed like no one else could. I still didn’t believe it would work. I’d been going through my symptoms for so long that at that point, I just thought it was normal. So much so that when he tested me, and I came up sensitive for gluten, I didn’t take his advice.

Months down the road, and the symptoms were all still there. I was missing work more and more frequently. I could barely get out of bed sometimes; my stomach cramps were that bad. I went to an MD who told me I had IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Dr. Ratio didn’t think this diagnosis was specific enough. He suggested testing again, so we did it. This time, when he told me no gluten, I listened.

Sure enough, I was feeling better. I had more energy. I wasn’t getting intestinal cramps. I felt so great!

Now, let me tell you a (not-so-secret) secret. I love beer. I am a HUGE craft beer fan. I’ve gone to tastings, festivals, and breweries the way that people who love music will go to concerts and Lollapalooza every year. My best friend works as a bartender for an amazing local brewery. I have a part time job at a liquor store, and I work in the beer department.
So, yeah, I drank some beer. I figured one wouldn’t kill me.

And oh, boy, did that come back to bite me. I could tell almost immediately that it did not agree with me. I’d be totally gluten-free for a few days, have some beer, and then start suffering. The effects were immediate, and I knew that I wasn’t just on a diet.

I had to make a lifestyle change.

Naturally, I did what any person my age would do – I turned to the internet. Pinterest became my best friend. Gluten-free substitutes. Recipes for delicious, whole foods that didn’t even need any bread or pasta substitutions. I was trying all these awesome new things and cooking foods in ways I never thought I could.

So now I have started compiling some recipes I’ve culled from Pinterest and the like, and I want to share them with you!

Starting this month, keep an eye out for recipes on the blog. These recipes are going to focus on the same things:

  • Natural, whole foods
  • Homemade versions of foods that typically contain gluten or other allergens (i.e. gravy)
  • Healthy ways to make family favorites (i.e. low calorie/low sodium alternatives)
  • Replacements/alternatives for
    • Dairy
    • Gluten
    • Corn
    • Soy
    • Egg

And of course, recommendations for those of you who still want to enjoy a cocktail or beer!