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November 7, 2007, 09:41 AM


When she started her own virtual-assistant business in 2001, Spotsylvania resident Kathy McHenry learned that the Web could help her have the work life she wanted--one that's based from home.

Last spring, she figured out a way to bring her passion for cooking into the mix.

McHenry has started a subscription-recipe service called My Online Meals, which sends weekly recipe plans, complete with shopping lists and kitchen tips, out to her estimated 5,000 subscribers.

She writes the recipes with quantities for serving two, four or six people.

Most recipes are adapted from ones that McHenry has found elsewhere. And while the avid cook says she's never found a recipe she hasn't tweaked, it's often not the ingredients she has to spend the most time honing before she sends them out.

McHenry has found that as more and more people start cooking without having learned the basics from a parent or a home-economics class, recipes have to do more to lead them through.

McHenry tells the story of her mother's old recipe card for Oriental cabbage salad. It's a list of ingredients, and the only instructions on the card are "Mix," and "Turn card over."

If that had been written today, you'd likely see mention of how to cook the chicken, a reminder to whisk the oil, vinegar and sugar together for the dressing or even a note about what size bowl to place the salad in.

"I just had to laugh," McHenry said. "I look at the old recipes and think so many people wouldn't know what to do."

McHenry wants to help change that. She wants to help more people get into the kitchen, so they don't have to resort to fast-food or takeout that can be unhealthy.

So on the My Online Meals Web site, she has started a blog where she talks about shopping techniques, the obesity epidemic and mixes in entries from other cooking enthusiasts.

"I want to bring in a lot of people who are really passionate about this," she said. "I would just like to see people be healthier. I see myself hopefully adding enough stuff to my Web site where people can come and learn."

If the growing food blogosphere is any indication, McHenry should find a healthy appetite for that kind of information.

In some modern kitchens, the laptop is beginning to rival the dog-eared cookbook as a source of food wisdom.

Food blogging is a phenomenon, with some bloggers giving up their day jobs when their writings land them book deals.

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