It all started with food allergies: I have ten of them. I've had them since I was three, but they've gotten worse as I've gotten older.

I'm not allergic to normal foods like peanuts or gluten. I'm allergic to the things you don't think about: sea salt, omega-3, DHA, fish—the list goes on.

You probably never think about sea salt, but did you know it's in every granola bar available? Or did you know most eggs, milk and oil have Omega-3? Or that any restaurant that fries fish in their baskets means someone with an allergy like me can never eat a fry from there again, because who knows when they last changed the oil? 

Because of all this, freshman year was tough when I had to eat in the cafeteria. Even if I could eat something, it was probably cooked next to an allergen, or someone could have used the tuna fork to pick up some fruit, making things even more difficult for me.

When I moved into an apartment sophomore year, I learned how to cook. I realized if I took the time to plan out what I wanted to make for the week, buying groceries became exponentially easier, and I could do it on a budget.

So junior year, I had an idea.

Nikki Naiman

I watched my friends eat frozen dinners or pick up fast food, only to feel hungry or sluggish an hour later. So I thought, why not share my recipes with other college students so they can have access to easy recipes, too? 

That's when FishAreFriendsNotFoodBlog was born (note the fish allergy and Finding Nemo joke—I think I'm pretty funny).

I began posting recipes and pictures. It turns out my idea worked—not only were friends texting me when they tried my recipes, but my creativity soared.

In every recipe, I provide step-by-step instructions, an ingredient guide and a list of allergens the recipe avoids. I try to include pictures of my process in creating the recipe, but most of the time, I get too excited and only photograph the final product. 

blueberry, cake, muffin, chocolate, blueberry muffin, cookie, pastry
Nikki Naiman

It has also taught me a lot about portion size. Did you know a serving of almonds is only 12 almonds? Or a serving of peanut butter is literally a small spoonful? Disturbing, I know.

But learning that makes it MUCH easier to eyeball the right amount of food to buy at the grocery store if I want to cook myself a single meal or if I want to make a recipe with tons of leftovers. I now buy kale and spinach in larger batches to save money and incorporate it into meals all week long.

These discoveries have helped me learn that eating healthy is not always budget-friendly. It would be way easier to just buy Lunchables and Oreos, but I'd rather feel full of energy. Instead, I turn to things like homemade egg rolls when I'm craving something like Chinese food.

chicken, sauce, cheese
Nikki Naiman

The blog has also taught me how to take food photographs (in fact, that's why I joined Spoon). Food photography is a whole different kind of photography. That gooey cheesy sandwich might look awesome on your plate but not on your camera roll. Lighting and placement are so important and I never would have thought about those things before the blog existed. 

Nikki Naiman

Finally, and most importantly, it's taught me embrace my allergies.

For my whole life, my allergies have always been in the way, stopping me from trying new foods or putting a damper on a fun evening due to a bad reaction. My blog has allowed me to take recipes I couldn't usually eat (like Pad Thai) and transform it into an allergen-friendly option.

broccoli, pasta, chicken, noodle
Nikki Naiman

Now, my allergies are the best part about me. They add fun and flavor to my personality. They allow me to love food even more than I already did, but best of all, they've allowed me to express myself through my recipes and have ultimately made me a better cook. 

#SpoonTip: If you want to see more, check out my Instagram

pizza, bread, cheese, beer
Nikki Naiman