The internet is an amazing piece of technology. Sure, at times it can be a scary, unpredictable place, and giving everybody the means to put their thoughts, opinions and art out there for the world to see can make for a lot of crap to wade through in order to search out the true gems, but it’s more than worth it when you do find those gems – the sites that make your life just that little bit more easy, inspired or exciting.

Two and half years ago my friend and then-housemate Rosie Percival and I decided to write a cookbook. We had been cooking vegetarian meals together for awhile, and both had a huge love and respect for food and cooking as well as compassion towards animals and the environment.

I hadn’t always been so into food, years before while at University I could make a mean frittata, but other than that I relied on 2 minute noodles, takeaways and frozen soups and stews my Mum would drop off for me (sad, I know). This is kind of strange since as a kid I loved to cook (and eat, although that love has never really faltered), home economics was one of my favorite classes, and I even considered going to a cooking school after high school graduation before deciding arts was more my thing. But after finishing up at Uni and moving across the ditch to Melbourne that love of food that had lay dormant was reawakened, in a big way.

I put this down to a few factors, things like not having my Mum around to drop off frozen home-cooked meals for me, being in a relationship and enjoying the time spent cooking and eating together, as well as the exposure to a whole new world of food and cooking thanks to the diverse ethnicity we are so lucky to have here in Melbourne. But above all I think the thing that really sparked that newfound appreciation for good food was the internet.

I found that I could go to a restaurant, eat an amazing bowl of pasta, go home and look it up on the net and find out just how to cook it. Soon I was discovering whole communities of foodies who would submit and rate each other’s recipes, videos that showcased the best way to dice an onion or peel a tomato, and vegetarian websites where I learnt that making meat free meals was far from restrictive, instead, once you scratched the surface, it opened up a world of culinary adventure and possibilities. The internet was more then just inspirational to me as a cook, it changed the way I ate and thought about food. I learnt so many tips and techniques following the recipes I found online that my cooking was improving daily, and I soon found I didn’t need to follow recipes anymore, the internet had provided me with enough useful information that I was creating my own recipes, and having success with them too.

While these days I might first consult some of the encyclopedia sized cookbooks I now have on my kitchen shelf for advice when preparing a specific type of meal, I know that if they fail to come up with the goods, or I feel that I need a second opinion, the internet will be there, patiently waiting, to dish out advice on a whole range of food related topics.

So, in honor of the internet and all that I’ve learned from it, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite food-related sites. Some are old favorites, others are newly discovered, but all are incredibly valuable assets to any home cook’s online library.

http://101cookbooks.com/

Heidi Swanson is one of my food heros. A home cook who was sick of constantly purchasing cookbooks only to find they’d sit around with pages marked not getting much use in the kitchen, she decided to start a website devoted to making the meals featured in her huge kitchen library. While Heidi still documents the recipes from her ever expanding cookbook collection, she also posts her own creations, all of which focus on natural, seasonal ingredients. She even posted one of the recipes from our cookbook, Martha Goes Green, which was huge for us and gave us exposure in the States that we’d never had before.

http://cannelle-vanille.blogspot.com

A beautifully presented food and photography blog created by a Spanish ex-pat living in the States. The blog focuses on gluten-free cooking, and has some amazing looking baked treats on offer, however what I like most about it is the gorgeous photography that accompanies each post. Very insprirational.

http://www.whatkatieate.blogspot.com/

This is one of the coolest designed and photographed food blogs I’ve come across, with a rustic vintage feel and mouth-watering photography, even when not looking for recipes it’s a pleasure to scroll through for aesthetics alone.

http://www.taste.com.au/

While this site is somewhat obvious, and I’m sure has been stumbled upon anyone who’s looked for a recipe on google, it’s worth mentioning for the sheer numbers of recipes available (over 20,000) many of which come from prominent Australian cooking magazines. An easy bet if you’re after a recipe for a specific meal.

http://cuisine.co.nz/

What I like most about Cuisine magazines website is the “meal maker” section, where you can type in up to 4 ingredients you may have in your fridge or pantry and the site will search it’s files for recipes to match. Genius!

http://www.chow.com/

This website is a food lovers mecca. With tons of how-to videos and articles, recipes, reviews and message boards, if you have a food-related question that needs answering this is the place to look.

http://www.thesweetbeet.com/

A food blog that concentrates on the nutritional aspects of food and cooking, this is the site to go to if you’ve ever wondered how good for you soy milk really is, or wether or not the  “natural flavorings” used in processed foods are natural at all. While it is an American site so not all of the nutritional information correlates to our side of the planet, it is an interesting and informative read nonetheless.

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