Pizza Expo – 2024

I love tradeshows. And I love food tradeshows more than any other kind. Last week, I attended Pizza Expo for the very first time. Because pizza is my husband’s love language, he was ALL IN and had more fun than he ever thought possible at a tradeshow.

I attended lectures, workshops, and demos of all kinds, including a Trend discussion and a Q&A on tinkering with dough recipes to get exactly the results you want. I watched as local favorite Alex White of Yukon Pizza won Best Non-Traditional Pizza. The demo on the Chicago “tavern style” thin crust was illuminating. And I learned so much.

For years, all I ever wanted was a “New York” slice. It was hard to come by here in Vegas for many of our 26 years. Now we have some of the best pizza in the country! I have also broadened my horizons on what constitutes a “good” pizza. There are so many styles out there right now and I am learning to enjoy most of them. After watching a “New York” demo, I realized that MY favorite type of New York pizza isn’t the only type of New York pizza! The entire Expo for me was like a style workshop. Now I have a renewed interest in pizza, more about making it than eating it though. I feel like I must conquer the styles…Next style to try? Pizza al taglio.

We are volunteers for Slice Out Hunger (go to their site and get involved!) and we lent our hands to the the Pizza Tailgate event. As a thank you, we happily received an Ooni pizza oven. The Hubs nearly swooned. Of course, we put it to work right away, and I attempted a Detroit style pizza for the first time. It was delish! For those of you not in the know, a Detroit pizza is similar to a Sicilian, in that it is a pan style pizza, but it is generally MUCH smaller (think 8×10 or 10×14 instead of the entire sheet pan). The dough tends to be airier and lighter. Additionally, the toppings go all the way to the edges. The goal is to get a crispy lace of cheese all around the top outside edge. The Ooni made the process simple. The Lloyd pan (Made in the USA) I found at the show made the PERFECT crispy edge! Yes, the pan makes a big difference.

The most fun thing for me about these types of tradeshows is the vendors never want to pack up their product and ship it back, so they give a TON of stuff away on the final day. As we were walking by the Krinos booth, we heard, “Please take anything you’d like”. A little further down the aisle, a 2-pound wedge of Pecorino Romano and a 1.5 pound wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano were thrust into my hands. The fine folks at Ferndale Farmstead Cheese asked me to take a 3-pound bag of tiny cubes of mozz off their hands. And because we live where the Pizza Expo is…we can take a LOT home.

Using Tony G's recipe for Neapolitan crust in "The Pizza Bible" and the charcoal fired Ooni, we created this beauty.
Using Tony G’s recipe for Neapolitan crust in “The Pizza Bible” and the charcoal fired Ooni, we created this beauty.

When I attend a class, tradeshow, workshop or other learning experience, I get inspired! And my OCD and addictive tendencies kick in. I now have a fermentation station in the kitchen where I am testing out uses for sourdough discard in pizza dough, making poolish, biga, and other pre-ferments. Cookbooks are being scoured for the perfect dough recipes for me to try. The internet is being browsed for unconventional toppings – I am thinking Tikka Masala and Shawarma with feta or kashkaval right now… Needless to say, the Hubs is thrilled with my renewed interest in his favorite food. He has always said the pizza is his first love…

If you aren’t already following me on Instagram, check out the pics there as the discoveries unfold. And Subscribe (at the bottom of the page) to this blog while you’re at it so you never miss a spoonful.

HELP! I Need to Bring an Appetizer to the Party!

Who doesn’t love a party? It’s a mad dash for the rest of the year and there are TONS of parties. Let’s face it, we all love to be included, but when the word “potluck” comes out of someone’s mouth, you are never sure what to bring. Here, let me help you with a couple of links to easy crowd-pleasing recipes and a few of “no recipe” recipes for easy appetizers and dips. When clicking on my links, scroll to the bottom of the blog post to get to the recipe. I haven’t updated them all with the “jump to recipe” button.

Three Party Favorite Dips and Some Nuts

This Buffalo Bleu Cheese Dip is one of my most requested recipes. What’s great about it? You can use leftovers. You can make it ahead. It heats up equally well in the oven or in the microwave.

Bleu Cheese Walnut Dip – this doesn’t sound like it should work, but it is truly amazing. What’s great about it? You can make it ahead of time. It heats equally well in the oven or the microwave. You can eat it with fruit instead of crackers or crostini, so you feel a little healthier.

Really pressed for time on the day of the party? Make Deez Nuts NOW and have them ready to go! What’s great about them? You can make them up to 3 weeks in advance and store at room temp. They are everything you want in a snack – sweet, spicy, crunchy, salty. Put them in little half pint Mason jars and give them out as host/hostess gifts or hog them all to yourself.

The South has it right when it comes to Pimento Cheese. What’s great about it? Making it ahead of time only improves the flavor. You can make it as mild or as spicy as your crowd will enjoy. Packed in little Mason jars it makes a fun little host/hostess gift.

“No Recipe” Options

Photo by Sheri Silver on Unsplash
Pigs in Blanket – Photo from

I chose these because you can make them all ahead of time and reheat at the party, or serve at room temp.

  • Get the tub of Spinach Dip from Costco. Add a can of drained chopped artichoke hearts, 3 minced cloves of garlic and a healthy handful of parmesan cheese. (Yes, all of those ingredients are already in there, but it’s a little bland and lacking oomph!) Mix it all together. Take a round loaf of bread, make a hole in the middle to create a bowl. Dump the dip in (it won’t all fit – you’ll have a snack for yourself or try the simple app idea below), wrap in foil, bake at 350 until hot. Serve with Pita Chips. Can be warmed in the microwave.
  • Use the leftovers from above – roll out a sheet of puff pastry, smear the leftovers on it. Roll up starting on a long side into a “cigar”. Wrap in parchment or plastic wrap. Put in the freezer for 20 minutes until everything is firm. Slice ½” pieces, place cut side down on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 until puffed and golden.
  • Take a wheel of brie (4-6 oz) wrap it in puff pastry from the freezer section (Phyllo also works here if you have that on hand). Using small cookie cutters, cut shapes from the scraps, put on top of the brie. Brush it all with a beaten egg. Bake at 400 until golden brown. DO NOT CUT until completely cool. Serve at room temp with crackers, crostini, sliced apples or pears.
  • There is no such thing as too much cheese at a party! Cut a wheel of brie horizontally in half. Smear 3 Tbsp of jam on the inside. Raspberry, apricot, fig all work well here. Top with some chopped walnuts. Put the top back on, cut side up, and bake at 400 for about 7 minutes just to warm everything through, but not make it ooze. Serve with same dippers as above. DO NOT microwave.
  • It’s not a party without pigs in a blanket! But don’t be boring about it. Take a sheet of puff pastry, roll it out and smear it with Dijon mustard (or your fave mustard). Cut into thin strips (1/2” x 2”) and wrap around Hillshire Farms Little Smokies. Put on an ungreased cookie sheet seam side down. Bake at 400 until golden. Make them ahead and store in an airtight container in the fridge and bake at the event or bake at home and reheat until hot. DO NOT microwave.
  • Take pitted dates and wrap them in bacon. Bake, seam side down, at 375 until bacon is crispy. Cheap, thin cut bacon works fine here because you want the crispiness of the fat. If you want to get fancy and have the time, stuff an almond and/or goat cheese in the date first.
  • Pretty much anything wrapped in bacon is a good thing! Try sautéed chicken livers (check out Rumaki recipes online) or whole water chestnuts.
  • If you find a nice cantaloupe, slice it, and wrap the slices in thinly sliced Prosciutto or Jamon de Serrano. This also works great with fresh figs when they are in season for a summer party.

Happy Holidays and You’re Welcome!

Mostly Meatless Cookbook?

In an effort to have some sort of social life during the COVID shut down I joined a cookbook club*. Helmed by new pal Kim Foster, each month or so we all work from a new cookbook and share our findings, our faves, and what we are loving or not loving about the book. This is more than a “book club” it’s a community of food lovers and cookbook lovers. In fact, in my Gift Guide 2020 my first book with this group was in the guide along with where to buy a great wok at a great price.

A Cookbook Club Like No Other

With this cookbook club, I have made my own ramen noodles, tackled cochinita pibil from scratch, learned how to season a wok and cook correctly in it, made my own Chinese dumplings (including the pasta wrapper), and so much more. I have made friends…yes, adults can make new friends. I have explored new territories in food, both in cuisines and in ethics. Additionally, I revisited some long forgotten skills.

Omnivore goes Pescatarian…at home

Well, hold on to your hats people! If you have been following along for any length of time, you know I am a dyed in the wool omnivore. If you read my last post, you also know I have been thinking A LOT about waste and how I personally can reduce the amount I am contributing to the overall waste problem. Our book this month is Dinner in One by Melissa Clark (you can buy it here, or at your own local bookstore). Unlike using a cookbook purely for the recipes, I actually read the prose. I find it helps me get familiar with the author’s style and it helps me get a feel for their voice. So, here I am reading away and getting into the new cookbook and in the intro, the author states that nearly half the meals are meatless. WHAT?!!! I don’t DO meatless! Frankly, I began to panic just a little bit. Did I just waste money on a book that I am not going to use? Do I really want to cook from this book? Will there be enough to interest me and my tastebuds?

Mostly Meatless Mondays

Dinner in One by Melissa Clark - Please Send Noodles Cookbook Club selection
Our current cookbook club selection

For a brief moment in time, I tried to do “Mostly Meatless Mondays”, but I fell out of the habit. I am not sure why exactly, maybe it was convenience and relying on tried and true recipes and dishes that I could whip up without thinking. Maybe it is because we eat out at events, pop-ups, and just because we feel like going out in an effort to support our local culinary community, and then we are eating leftovers. Of course, I still cook most days, but now I am thinking – always dangerous – “What if I cook meatless/pescatarian at home and save my carnivore dining for when we choose to go out for dinner?” As I flipped through the pages of the book, I found there were a lot of meatless recipes that I was willing to give a try. What’s even better? Each recipe in this book is designed to be cooked in one pan, pot, or casserole dish.

Use the Cookbook Dammit!

What is the point of joining a cookbook club if you aren’t going to COOK from the book? I am diving into this book like I have the others from the club’s selections. In addition to trying something new (pescatarian at home), perhaps I will hone some vegetarian skills and be ready if a veg head ever comes to eat dinner at my home. In thinking about this, it may help me get back on track to lose my COVID weight. It may also force me to look critically at what I am consuming, wasting, and how much of it. A win – win – win? We shall see.

The first dish from the cookbook was a rousing success at a recent weekly family dinner. The Offspring weighed in on the dish as well and it was a family affair of recipe critique. So far, I am four dishes into this cookbook and there hasn’t been a dog in the bunch! All of them were meatless, but I did add shrimp to the Kimchi Fried Rice (pg 90). The Lemony Baked Rice (pg 158) made for a light meal for The Hubs and I; the leftovers served as a great side dish with baked sockeye salmon and roasted broccoli for family dinner. We shall see how this progresses.

If you don’t know where to follow me, I am Good for Spooning, find me here – InstagramFacebookYouTube. While you are there, like posts, share posts, follow me on the Gram and FB. Did you know you can subscribe to my YouTube channel as well as this blog? Well you can. And you should so you don’t miss anything.

*You can too – on Facebook look for Please Send Noodles!!! (with the three !!!). A lot of online content, convo, Q&A, and other food related stuff. We mostly meet online through Zoom. Now that everyone is more comfortable being in public spaces, we have begun meeting in person again.

Farm to Table

Farm to Table has become a big bullshit buzz phrase over the last half dozen years in the culinary world. I started this piece a while ago and sat on it because I wasn’t sure how to write it without sounding like a pity party or an asshole. I’ve now decided I don’t care if I sound like either of those things. Read on…

Oh the People You Meet

Not too long ago, I had a very brief conversation with a man who tried to tell me that “The foodie movement really started in Napa”. I patted him on the shoulder and said, “Nice try buddy, but New York’s food scene has been killing it for ages.” He looked outraged and exclaimed, “But Chez Panisse!” I kinda rolled my eyes at him and said, “Well that’s a whole ‘nother story.”

My hackles raised because I had lived the farm to table life, and it isn’t all pretty pictures and photo spreads in magazines. I eyed this guy up and down, took in his brand name, designer clothing, and without getting into an in-depth conversation with this guy (whom I did not know), I was able to GUESS a few things about him (judge-y much? YUP!). I am guessing this guy has always lived in a city or suburbs, nowhere near a farm, or farmers, or a rural community of any kind. If he honestly thought Alice Waters invented farm to table cooking, that would be my guess. I am guessing he grew up privileged in one fashion or another. It would also be my guess that he never grew his own tomatoes, or anything else for that matter. I would further guess he was repulsed by the smell of manure and had never visited a “U-Pick” farm and odds were 50-50 that he even knew what one was.

Alice Waters Just Made Farm to Table Chic

What I really wanted to tell this guy was that farmers and the rural poor around the globe have been cooking farm to table for centuries. When Chez Panisse opened in 1971, I was in first grade, living on Long Island. In 1973 we moved “to the country”, upstate New York. and THAT is where I learned about farm to table cooking. People who didn’t know there was any other way have been doing just that for their entire lives. It wasn’t trendy, it was just the way to eat. Alice Waters did a lot of good things in opening the eyes of city-folk to farm fresh food, but in NO WAY did she invent farm to table cooking. Alice Waters just made it chic…and expensive…and over the top.

The Business of Growing Food

The town where I grew up had some terrific home cooks who worked wonders with whatever was in season. They cooked everything fresh from the farm during the season. As the summer turned into fall, the canning and freezing began so they would have home grown vegetables and fruit for the colder months. We knew people who had commercial farms, orchards, and dairies. It was not uncommon to see a large family, or blended family, or extended family in the business of growing food. We grew our own and picked our own from commercial farms to sustain our family, we never grew enough to make a profit on it. In high school I made friends with a set of identical twins (yes, I can still tell them apart). Their family owned a dairy and potato farm. And yes, they had milk and potatoes at every damn meal. Because that is what they had plenty of at all times. I’ve always wondered if the fruit growers had fruit at every meal and do those now adults love or hate what their families grew.

What the Country Folks Do

As I reflect further on this incredibly brief convo with this unknown man, I think about my friend Kim and the book she is writing. She is writing a book about poverty and food insecurity in America. Where I grew up there were two classes of people – the Haves and the Have Nots – we were decidedly the latter. We lived in the country, about 5 miles from the center of town. While we were poor, we rarely went without food during the warm months. My stepfather was a butcher and got meat at cost. We had chickens, so breakfast for dinner was common because we had eggs. We grew our own tomatoes, squash, and other vegetables. Our 20-acre property was bracketed by fruit orchards where we would cross the property line and “snitch apples”. Never enough to cause them loss, but enough for us to eat and the owners knew about it, saying better us eat them than the birds. Everyone who lived out by me canned, froze food or made their own jam. My mom’s grape jelly was SO good that it has ruined me for store bought grape jelly for the rest of my life. I don’t know what the people “in town” did, but I hope some of them, if they read this, take the time to comment and let me know.

The August 2021 issue of Bon Appetit magazine has a “day in the city” piece for a few different cities. The idea is a local foodie, chef, food writer, takes the “reader” where the locals eat in their city. My hometown was one of those cities. I nearly choked on my tea. I can promise you, that town was NOTHING like that when I was growing up.

Cover photo – Photo by Peter Wendt on Unsplash

I’ve Moved and How it Changes the Way I Cook

If you have been following along via my last post, or Instagram or Facebook, you know I have moved. And while I don’t WANT to make this blog about home renovations, for now, it will include the trials and tribulations of how having moved has an impact on my kitchen time. My kitchen is my happy place. On most days, I would rather spend time there than anywhere else…even in this “Welcome to the Gates of Hell” weather we have been having. Renovations haven’t changed that, I just had to alter my approach to things. For now, bread making is suspended. Anything I make must be uncomplicated, no new challenges, and it MUST bring me comfort.

My cookbook club chose Repertoire by Jessica Battilana as our book to work from for the time being. This dish was stellar and perfect comfort food for the Hubs and I in the midst of chaos. You can order your copy here from
The Writer’s Block

Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome

As I type, I have moved everything out of my kitchen for the massive tear out. I am sitting in what will be my breakfast room, completely surrounded by my kitchen stuff. The only cabinet left in the kitchen is the one supporting my sink. The walls in the kitchen are partially torn out and we can see the original walls from 1939. I was sharing this info with Friend Natasha, and she said, “So, what are you doing for eating now?” I have grills, the stove is still hooked up, I have my portable burners, I have running water and an InstantPot, so I am rolling with the punches and following the old military adage – Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome. We are eating anything that can be created with the above appliances, and of course supporting our local restos by dining in and take out.

I’ve Moved this Shit Four Times Already!

By the time this renovation is complete I will have touched every single item in my kitchen at least 6 times (packing it from there to here; unpacking it here; putting it in the cabinets here; moving it out of the cabinets onto temp shelving and then having to move the temp shelving to another room, and so on). It’s really making me wonder, “HOW MUCH stuff does one human need in their kitchen?” Having sold cookware for 17 years, I have quite the collection of kitchen ware. And I am not kidding when I tell you that I have at least a dozen skillets and fry pans, not including my cast iron. Then came my LeCreuset addiction which added even more. We moved, in part, to downsize. In my effort to downsize, however, the one category I am having difficulty reducing is my kitchen gear. If I give something away, what will happen when I need it?! Having moved every fucking item in my kitchen four times in less than three months, I am ready to part with some stuff. But which stuff? Who do I gift it to? And no, none of the LeCreuset is going anywhere!

I Cleaned When I Moved! Isn’t that Enough?

When we moved from the Big House, I scrubbed so it would be nice for the family taking possession. That’s the military wife in me. With each of our PCS moves, the house had to be spick & span before we could check out. When we moved into this house, it was filthy, so I scrubbed again. I am at the point in renovations where I have stopped cleaning. There is a film of plaster dust on everything and while it triggers my minor OCD, I have decided it is futile to clean daily right now.

What the Hell is in My Mouth?!

Every time I turn around, I find pieces of dry wall (sheetrock) lying about. I must clean everything before I cook anything and clean everything after I cook. The dust is literally on every surface of my house, including my cookware and plates because everything is on open shelving for the time being. NO matter how well you “tape off” a room, the dust finds a way to out-maneuver you. Whenever I get grit in my mouth, I wonder, “Is it spices I didn’t grind finely enough? Sand? Sheetrock?” Who the fuck knows at this point?! And frankly right now, I just don’t give a damn.

Shameless plug: If I have invited you on Facebook and you haven’t accepted, why not? They changed the platform and I don’t know who is along for the ride. Be sure to follow along on Instagram for the most recent pics and SUBSCRIBE to this blog by entering your email address and joining the mailing list. You will hear from me Tuesday nights at 8 pm PT when I choose to write something, and no, I don’t share your info.

*To purchase the cover photo in a poster – visit Red Bubble

The COVID Times – What I’ve Learned

Yeah – I get it. COVID has made this summer suck. Vacations cancelled. Weddings Cancelled. Graduations cancelled. Everything cancelled. Thanks COVID! The opportunities to share and celebrate with friends and family and enjoy your “normal” activities were severely reduced. I get it. I feel it too. BUT I learned a lot about myself and others through COVID mandated social distancing, small gatherings, cancellations, and closures. As a social person by nature who feeds off excitement and activity, isolation is literally my worst nightmare. Being cut off from everyone and everything was nearly trauma inducing for me in April. Then I got my head screwed on straight.

I took this time of isolation to learn and observe.



For more than 25 years I have tried to make sourdough bread. I’ve killed starters, made shitty versions of sourdough, and thought I was a lost cause. Then Friend Gemini gave me some of her starter. I thought, “I have nowhere to go and nothing to do. This is the perfect time to try again.” So, like most of the country, I started baking again. Using a book gifted to me by Friend Chris M, I began. First with no success, then with moderate success, and now a few months into attempts, I am having fairly good results. I finally learned a lot of what I was doing wrong with sourdough. My problems were multifold. Firstly, I didn’t know all of the “tricks”. I thought all sourdough was supposed to have that tang like “San Francisco Sourdough” NOPE! I wasn’t following the directions precisely because I thought I knew how to make bread. Being impatient, I was trying to rush the process. Lastly, I was treating sourdough like other breads, thinking it could be done in one day. NOPE! Sourdough takes way more time than I realized. It takes 3 fucking days! COVID taught me to slow down.  

 I also learned how to finally make great Cacio e Pepe – read about it here.


I have always been in awe of Martha Stewart – that bitch can do anything! So, I decided I wanted to learn to sew. I had made crafts before, but now I wanted to sew garments. Well, of course no one is teaching classes right now, so it was up to me to teach myself. Thankfully, Friend Jeanie is a master seamstress, so I could call her and ask for advice. Friend Janet has been sewing for years and taught me some tricks too. And even though I had bought fabric and patterns, the mere idea of creating a garment made me break out in a cold sweat. “I have nowhere to go and nothing to do. This is the perfect time to try again.” So I did. I have made 3 dresses! I made a bunch of masks from scrap fabric that I had laying around from craft projects – those were easy. My problems with sewing in the past have been multifold as well. I am impatient…again…and want the results YESTERDAY! Because the crafts came together so easily and quickly, I thought garments would as well. NOPE! I didn’t know all the lingo or how to read a pattern. And being a novice, I was choosing patterns and fabrics “out of my weight class”. COVID taught me to slow down.


Sister Nancy wanted me to teach her how to cook online through live videos. I was hesitant to try, but jumped into it because I love my sister. I learned A LOT doing this for/with her. There is a LOT that goes into a live demo, and I knew some of that having done over 1000 in my lifetime, but this was different. I had to look at a camera, talk to a virtual audience, and describe things more fully than if people were there in person. I learned how to “go live” on Facebook and how to transfer the videos over to YouTube. You can watch all the recipes on my YouTube channel*. What I also learned is that while I don’t think I am fast…I kinda am. And when teaching others via live video, it was hard for some folks to keep up. COVID taught me to slow down.

What I RE-Learned About Myself

  • I really like to read trashy novels – not romances, just stuff that I don’t have to think too hard about
  • Cooking is comfort for me
  • I love to travel…and I get cranky when I can’t “get away” for a few days
  • Planning anything (travel, parties, get-togethers, etc.) makes me happy and gives me something to look forward to doing.
  • When I don’t have anything to look forward to, depression sets in
  • Depression BLOWS!

What I Observed About Myself:

  • I have far more patience with myself than I realized – sewing illustrated that for me
  • I have far less patience for other people’s bullshit than I ever dreamed possible
  • Never underestimate the power of a good hug.
  • I never realized how spoiled I truly am.
  • If I put my mind to it, I can do nearly anything
  • I am more of an introvert than I thought
  • Masks hide my resting bitch face
  • I enjoy peace & quiet with no one talking to me
  • I don’t enjoy gardening as much as I used to
  • Don’t take the company of others for granted

What I Learned About Others

  • No matter what you do, someone will always be there to criticize you
  • Tempers become VERY short, when people are cooped up
  • People really don’t understand science
  • Isolation makes everyone react differently
  • Isolation allowed people’s true colors to shine through. Some good. Some not so good.
    • “When someone shows you who they are believe them”
  • Some people can’t read a “one way” sign
  • A person can remain calm, PEOPLE panic

*(shameless plug – subscribe to my YouTube channel, linked above, so you get all the video content. When new videos are posted, you’ll get notified so you can watch them whenever it’s convenient for you). Even better – if you want to cook along live with me when the videos are created, you can follow me on Facebook at Good for Spooning. Same handle on Instagram to see everything I am eating!

Quarantine Kitchen – THIS is a First

I blame my sister Nancy. It’s all her fault. For years she has been calling me and saying things like the following:

  • I am trying to make __________. I don’t have ____. What’s a good substitute?
  • What do I NEED to know before I attempt making ______?
  • Why isn’t my ________ ______ing?
  • I have <ingredient X> in the fridge/pantry, what do I do with it?

And so on . . . ad nauseum

After seeing my post about Nina Manchev of Forte Tapas doing a live cooking event in conjunction with and how much I loved it, she called me. So I kinda blame Jolene and Nina as well.

YOU should do this!

“I have a great idea! You are such a good teacher. You’ve taught me over the phone! You have done a million live demos. YOU should do this.” Nancy thought it would be more fun to watch someone she knows (a/k/a ME) make something that looks difficult, but with the right instruction and a little interaction and feedback, is fairly uncomplicated. “We” could post the ingredient and equipment lists ahead of time so that we can actually cook together, instead of watching a cooking demo and having to try to recreate it later because (1) she didn’t have the ingredients; (2) the chef goes too fast; (3) the timing is not accurate (the video was edited); and (4) she can’t ask questions. “Let’s do something I don’t know how to make!”

My Mouth Agreed Before My Brain Caught Up

And because I am bored at home, my mouth agreed before my brain could catch up. If this is the only way my friends can visit with me, I thought it would be a good idea… at the time…then Nancy started inviting her friends on FaceBook… and a bunch of people accepted (!)…and then I got nervous. WTF was I thinking?

And thus, Quarantine Kitchen was born (thanks to pal Gemini for that catchy name).

By now, most of us are sick of cooking the same shit…all the time. Few people are willing to test out new recipes under the best of circumstances because they don’t want to waste time on a dish they might hate. Now that we all have plenty of time at home, few people are willing to test recipes for a different reason — screwing up a dish. Or worse, buying all the stuff and never making it, meaning a wasted trip to the grocery store, which has the potential of dire consequences involving death.  

Keeping It Real

To keep it real for what the original intention was, Nancy and I will be picking recipes that we both love which she does not know how to make well. Of course, I’ll be doing most of the “heavy lifting” so to speak, but I told her that if I am doing this, she is doing it with me. The Hubs will be with us monitoring the camera and letting me know your questions in real time and the Offspring may be brought in as well because he loves to cook!

If you read my last blog about being in quarantine, this is a chance for you to learn something new and engage with others in a safe way – social distancing to the MAX here. For me, it’s a way to stretch my comfort zone, connect with some friends and strangers, and do something I love – cooking for others. Remember in the blog that I said I miss cooking for a crowd? Well here is my chance, and as I type there are more of you interested than I thought possible.

Croque Madame was the Star of the Show

Croque Madame at Bouchon, Las Vegas
The Croque Madame at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon, Las Vegas. Photo by me.

Our first dish was Croque Madame. My all-time fave brunch dish. And let me tell you, it sounds way fancier than it is. When was the last time I made if for myself? Exactly never! I order it when I go out for brunch, but who knows when the next time that will fucking happen! Next up? My version of the only thing I will eat from Olive Garden – that Sausage and Kale soup.

Go to Good for Spooning on Facebook, check out the ingredient and equipment lists (most of which you probably already have on hand). (Truthfully, it is not quite as long as it looks at first glance. Don’t be scared! I added EVERY DAMN THING you need and a description of it in case you need to sub an item.

I Will Try to Answer ALL of your Questions

During the events I will answer questions as we go along, so don’t be afraid to chime in. The Hubs will read the questions to me so I can answer them. At the end of the demo, I’ll ask you to make suggestions for dishes you’d like to see. I can’t promise that I’ll do them, Nancy must want to learn the recipe since this is her damn idea.

It had been more than 5 years since I had done a live demo. And while I have done more than 1000 of them in my lifetime, I have only ever recorded a couple of them. If you are going to critique, please do so, but please be kind. I am sure I will suck in the beginning, but I am also sure I will get better. A little warning – it may end up being like “Auntie Fee” peppered with foul language, but I hope the recipes won’t be quite as disastrous.  

Can’t wait to see you and cook with you on Saturday!

Cover Photo by
Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Veganuary? I don’t think so!

A New Year

Like many of you, I start off the new year trying to be healthier. Don’t lie! You know you do it too! There are mantras of exercising more, eating less junk, drinking less, or cutting carbs. There are those trying a new diet, whether it be keto, Whole 30, WW or Noom. And then there are the month challenge people. The ones who make January “dry” or those that embrace Veganuary.

I can’t Embrace Veganuary

This year, I started tracking a lot of my small behaviors in an effort to improve myself and my health. I am tracking things like eating five fruits and/or veggies a day (I truthfully suck at it because I am a carbaholic). But I can’t go so far as to embrace Veganuary because it is, after all LeAnneuary*. I’d have to cut out ALL of my favorite foods and I simply cannot have that kind of restriction while I celebrate! I AM, however, trying to make at least one meal a week “mostly meatless”. And by that, I mean that I am not eliminating the umami power of anchovy paste or Parmigiana Reggiano. I am not eliminating the wonderful egg, or rendered fat of beasts for pan frying or sautéing. I am simply not making meat the focus of the dish.

For those of us that grew up with a meat, a starch, and a veg on the plate (with maybe a salad tossed on the side), changing up the way you think of dinner is a challenge. One of the challenges I have set for myself is to use ALL of the veggies from my Bountiful Baskets Co-Op purchase each week I choose to participate. This, in itself, is monumental! You really get a lot of bang for your buck with this particular Co-Op (look into what’s available in your area). We’ve been doing a lot more salads, incorporating veggies into dishes where they weren’t featured before, and making veggies the FOCUS of the dishes instead of the meat.

Bountiful Baskets Produce
This is what one “regular” basket plus a couple of add ons looks like from Bountiful Baskets

When thinking about cooking for Veganuary or any vegan meal, try Thug Kitchen cookbooks. They are peppered with profanity and offer up some pretty tasty options. Also look at What The Fuck Should I Make for Dinner. Each day there will be a different menu – one for omnivores and one for vegetarians or those celebrating Veganuary. And get the book. Many of the recipes can be altered to be vegetarian and there are great veg mains and salads like a vegan fennel salad with citrus and avocado, or a frisee (aka curly endive), apple and lemon salad. All of the recipes in WTF are infinitely “riff-able”; for example, I made the frisee salad for a get together, and subbed radicchio and sweet apples for the Belgian endive and tart apples called for and it was glorious anyway! Oh, and try this recipe I found in the New York Times. It was more delicious than a vegan recipe had any right to be. I ended up using the left over tahini dressing on shawarma salads.

It’s not too late to celebrate Veganuary if you choose. There are 10 days left to embrace your inner veg-head. Try out this recipe. To make it Vegan – simply eliminate the anchovy paste and the cheese. It’ll still taste great, I promise! The best part of this recipe is that you can do nearly all of the prep work while the cauliflower is roasting, so there is no wasted time.

Roasted Cauliflower with Pasta and Pine Nuts

Serves 4 generously. Total time, including the roasting of the veggies – about an hour
• 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
• Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• Kosher Salt
• Black pepper
• Crushed red pepper flakes
• 6 large cloves garlic, crushed into a paste or finely minced – for divided use
• 1 lb pasta – choose a fun shape like cavatappi or campanelle
• 1 shallot – finely diced
• 1 tbsp anchovy paste (optional)
• ½ C dry white wine
• 1 lemon – zested and juiced
• 3 – 4 tbsp Pine nuts (aka pignolis) toasted in a dry skillet – do this carefully and watch them like a hawk, they will go from not done to burnt in the blink of an eye. (see notes)
• 3 – 4 tbsp capers, drained, rinsed and dried in a hot dry skillet (trust me, you’ll get more caper flavor and less brine flavor this way)
• 3 tbsp Finely chopped fresh parsley if you have it on hand – totally optional (see Notes)
• Grated Parmigiana Reggiano or Pecorino Romano for serving (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400.
Step 1 – Toss florets with ¼ – 1/3 cup of olive oil, a tsp of Kosher salt, ½ of the garlic, and a ½ tsp each ground black pepper and the crushed red pepper. Place on a shallow rimmed baking sheet in the preheated oven and roast, shaking the pan and tossing the cauliflower frequently, for 30-40 minutes until it is dark golden brown.

Roasted Cauliflower
The florets should be bite sized. You don’t need a knife to eat this dish. And remember what Anne Burrell says…”Brown food is good food.”

Step 2 – While cauliflower is roasting, do your prep. Dice the shallot, zest and juice the lemon; and drain, rinse, and dry the capers (see pic below). Finely chop the parsley, if using. Set everything aside.

Build a flavor ladder when you cook.
These are the prep ingredients. from Top center: Pecorino Romano, juice of one lemon, anchovy paste, zest of one lemon, garlic mashed into a paste, finely diced shallot, the dried capers.
Capers get dried in a skillet for more flavor
Drain and rinse the capers. Then “toast” them in a hot dry skillet until they start to pop a little. You will get more caper flavor and less brine flavor that way.

Step 3 – Bring a pot of salted water to a boil (always remember – your pasta water should be as salty as the ocean) using HALF the water you think you should. You want the water to be super starchy because it will help make the base of your sauce. Cook the pasta until just al dente, or firm to the bite, remembering that it will cook a little more in the skillet. Remove 2 cups of the pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta (DO NOT RINSE IT) and leave it in the colander.
Step 4 – Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil, about 3 tbsp, and heat until it shimmers. Sauté the shallots until softened, add the remaining garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the anchovy paste and continue to cook until the shallots just start to brown. Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up any delicious browned bits on the bottom of the pan (this is called the “fond” and is a big part of your flavor ladder when building a sauce). Reduce the liquid by half – don’t skip this step or all you will taste is the wine; wine, like everything needs to cook to mellow out. Add in the starchy pasta water and cook until a thin sauce forms – about 2 minutes. Stir in ½ of the lemon juice (reserve remainder for another use), then add the pasta and the cauliflower, stirring to coat. If you didn’t use the anchovy paste, taste for salt and add if necessary. If you used the anchovy paste, AND you properly salted your water, you shouldn’t need any salt.
Finally – stir in the lemon zest, pine nuts and parsley. Either put into individual serving bowls or transfer to a platter for family style service with the cheese and additional crushed red pepper on the side for serving.

Roasted Cauliflower with Pasta & Pine Nuts
The finished dish. Sadly it doesn’t photograph really well, but trust me, It’s delish!

• I often get fresh parsley from the Co-Op. Adding it for color and freshness to this type of recipe is an easy way to use it up.
• You can toast the pine nuts ahead of time and store in an air tight container until ready to use
• The cauliflower can be roasted ahead of time and stored in the fridge. For example – double the roasted cauliflower one night as a side dish and make and assemble the recipe for dinner the following night using the leftovers.

*I celebrate the entire month of my birth, as my friend Deb taught me to do years ago. I know many of you will think it’s a “basic bitch” thing to do and I really don’t give a flying fuck. You celebrate YOUR birthday any way you like, or not; for me, I will have LeAnneuary.

The Best Oats You’ll Ever Eat

In all honesty I was never a fan of oatmeal. It’s a texture thing. But they are supposed to be good for you so I tried them again as an adult, and again, it was a texture thing so I started incorporating oatmeal into my diet in other ways – granola, cookies, toppings for crisps and crumbles – but those are not the healthiest options.

Several years ago while attending a wedding together, high school friend and fellow blogger Shari (she writes Life According to Somebody) tells me about steel cut oats. Now if course I had tried them before with the same result of disliking the texture. She proceeds to tell me about cooking them in cider…

WAIT! WHAT? I am a total convert!

When you cook steel cut oats in cider or apple juice something magical happens and now I love oatmeal in the morning. The oats don’t get that slimy texture that I find off putting, and they are chewy and toothsome when cooked in the cider. It’s almost like eating hot granola because of the flavors and textures. I have not tried this technique with rolled oats, but if you do, let me know how it comes out.

Try this the next time you are in the mood for something sweet-ish that will stick to your ribs and you can feel healthy about at the same time. Steel cut oats are often found in the bulk department of some groceries, so you don’t have to buy an expensive container of oats to find out whether you like this recipe or not, just buy a little bit. Additional Bonus – you can customize it anyway you want. See notes at the bottom.

Here’s what you’ll need to make the Best Damn Oats you will ever eat

Cidered Steel Cut Oats

Total time – 30 minutes

Serves 2

2 C apple cider or juice (filtered clear cider works best for this dish)

½ C steel cut oats

3-4 Tbsp dried fruit such as currants, raisins or cranberries

Pinch of salt

¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon

2 Tbsp coarsely chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds)

2 Tbsp flaked unsweetened coconut (optional)


In a small non-stick saucepan, combine cider and fruit. Bring to a simmer over medium low heat. This allows the fruit to rehydrate and get plump again.

Stir in oats, salt and spices. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently until the liquid is absorbed and the oats are tender to YOUR liking (see notes).

Divide between 2 dishes and top with the nuts and coconut. Enjoy!

Demerara sugar gets a blast from a torch to burn and melt the sugar making the oats “brûléed”



  • Stir frequently! The natural sugars in cider make it stickier than the water usually used, and as you cook, the cider will become syrupy. And DO use the non-stick pan rather than stainless. Clean up will be easier and the oats won’t stick to the pan as easily.
  • You can add literally ANY dried fruit you like. I choose the small fruits because I like the texture after they have been cooked in the cider. Try dried cherries, blueberries, or different varieties of raisins. If you are going to use dried apricots or something else that is already plump or large, cut them up and stir them in at the end.
  • If you like your oats really soft as opposed to al dente, or if you like your oats soupier, you may need to add more liquid. You can add water instead of more juice. Taste test for doneness and add liquid as necessary no more than a ¼ cup at a time.
  • If you want a higher fruit to oat ratio, increase your liquid because the dried fruit will absorb some of the juice and you’ll end up with undercooked oats.
  • You can also top this with fresh berries, sliced banana, or sliced fresh peaches
  • If you want to get fancy, before adding your toppings, sprinkle with demerara sugar and blast it with a torch (like in the photo above) caramelizing the sugar to brûlée the top. Allow to cool until the melted sugar is crunchy, about 15 seconds, and then add the toppings.
  • It can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight, and zapped in the microwave, but the texture is best the day you cook it. It will thicken up over night.

That Damned Instant Pot Craze!

Moment of Truth – I am NOT an “early adopter”. Of anything. I wait it out. I listen to others’ commentary, successes and failures. I read reviews online. I read articles, and I research. So when this Instant Pot craze started a couple of years ago, I waited. One person I know sent theirs back. One person I know let it sit and gather dust before actually using it. And several people told me they couldn’t live without their Instant Pot. I was mainly interested in trying it out because I am curious about pressure cooking and I’d heard RAVES about how fast, efficient, safe, and easy pressure cooking was in the Instant Pot. And frankly, after listening to some wild stories about pressure cooker explosions I was scared to death to use my stove top model. Novice cooks and intermediate skilled cooks were getting awesome results and a few of my chef pals weighed in and said they loved theirs too. Needless to say, I didn’t want to BUY one just to find out if it lived up to the hype. In late October I borrowed Friend Kristie’s Instant Pot. She told me, “I suppose I can live without it for a week, but no longer,” those were her exact words. That comment intrigued me. How can one appliance become so indispensable to a household? I was about to find out.

Just to give it a quick run through, I decided to make some lamb stock (using the “soup” setting) because I had bones in the freezer. All kidding aside, it was fucking amazing! No worrying about the stock coming to a boil and ending up cloudy, no skimming and constantly watching the pot. And what normally took a couple of hours was reduced to about an hour including my prep time. A fluke perhaps? Next I made fish stock, again because I had the stuff on hand. Same damn results! Crystal clear stock in a fraction of the time, nearly completely hands off.

So…in early November I bought myself an Instant Pot 10 in 1 Ultra 6 quart model, on sale with additional percentage off (I paid $138 including tax and free shipping – at the time the retail on it was $179 plus tax). And I have put it through its paces. Soups, braises, hard boiled eggs, rice, all came out with varying degrees of success due to my learning curve.

The Good

• SUPER fast pressure delivery on recipes that usually take a long time.
o My Pot Roast (using a chuck roast) took less than half the time including prep, pressurization and depressurization of the device.
• The “Sauté” feature allows you to brown meat, sauté onions and garlic before the pressure cooking starts to build your flavor ladder. So, when making a braise using the slow cook features you have one less pan to wash.
• Push button cooking that even a novice can master with great results.
• Easy clean up because its stainless steel interior pot can go in the dishwasher.
• There are TONS of blogs with recipes, a Facebook community with ideas, recipes and tips from fellow users, and the Instant Pot website is packed with info.
• I was able to give away my standard sized Crock-Pot, my rice cooker and my stove top pressure cooker.
• Comprehensive recipes on the Instant Pot website that are easy to riff on if you are an intermediate to highly skilled cook.

The Bad

• It takes up a LOT of space in a cabinet or you have to leave it on the counter. Friend Nancy says she intentionally leaves it on the counter so she KNOWS she’ll use it often. I have enough shit on my counters, so it’s taking up some real estate in a cabinet.
• If you have been following along, you know that The Hubs has a rule for me regarding the kitchen. I am not allowed to bring anything new in unless I have a space for it. So there was THAT challenge.
• The recipe book and owner’s manual that come with it are crappy, vague and not really helpful other than getting you started.

The Ugly

• It’s pretty pricey depending on what model you get.
• There are so many to choose from, knowing WHICH one is best for YOUR household can be tricky. I opted for less volume (6 qt over 8 because we are a small household) and lots of options for more flexibility. For more info on which model might best suit you and your household, check out this article with plenty of details on ALL of the models.
• The inner silicone seal in the lid that allows for the pressure cooking takes on the odor of whatever you cooked last. It doesn’t matter how you clean it. I’ve tried baking soda soak, vinegar, hot water…nothing worked. The odor doesn’t transfer to what you are currently cooking, but it’s there when you start. I worry about cooking curry in the Instant Pot because we all know how that odor lingers in the air.
• It offers a “delay” feature to set up and start at a later time. I worry about use of this when cooking proteins because of food born bacteria that will cause food poisoning. I SUPPOSE they could be killed during the pressure cooking, but I don’t want to take that chance and frankly neither should you.

After several trials, I have come up with this recipe that is changeable to meet your needs. See the notes at the bottom for tips and changes noted with *. There are no pics because this really doesn’t photograph well, but trust me, it’s delish. Read through the recipe and notes before you start so you have a handle on timing, procedure and substitution options.

Chicken and Wild Rice Instant Pot Recipe

Serves 4 with leftover rice
About an hour total time – 30 minutes active
Gluten free and dairy free
Skill level – EASY!

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
4 Bone in, skin on chicken thighs*
Kosher salt and pepper
½ C dry white wine*
1 small onion, diced finely
1 rib of celery, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
3 – 4 garlic cloves, minced
2 C brown and wild rice blend*
2 ½ C chicken or vegetable stock
4 – 6 oz button mushrooms – sliced if large, quartered if small
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried thyme or 2 sprigs fresh
2 tsp ground marjoram

1. Liberally salt & pepper the chicken. Using the sauté feature, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Working in batches, brown the chicken (skin side down first). When they release easily from the pan, it’s time to flip or remove. If you WAIT (not my strong suit) they will be beautifully golden browned. If you don’t, the skin will stick to the pan and come off the chicken.

2. While the chicken is browning, prep your vegetables as indicated, keeping them separate from each other because they will be added to the pot in the order listed above.

3. When chicken is browned, remove from the Instant Pot and set aside on a plate.Deglaze the pot’s bottom with the wine, scraping up the fond (the little delicious browned bits sticking the bottom of the pan). Reduce the wine by half. Add the onion and cook until translucent, then add celery and carrots. Cook a minute or two and then add garlic, again cooking another minute. Salt your veg and stir.* DO NOT add the garlic with the other veg as it cooks a lot faster and you will end up with a bitter burned taste…Remember you are building a flavor ladder.

4. Stir in the rice so it is well incorporated to the veg mixture and coated with the oil and wine. Salt your rice and stir*.

5. Add the chicken stock and spices, stir well. Top with the mushrooms and finally with the chicken, skin side up. (The above procedure should take about 30 minutes. Coincidentally, that is the preset time for the sauté feature on the Instant Pot).

6. Select “Pressure Cook” and set the timer for 22 minutes on high. Once the device reaches proper temp, the timer will start to count down. Because the pot is already hot it will take less time than starting it cold. You can walk away at this point and do something else.

7. When the timer goes off, set a timer and wait 5 minutes. Hit your quick release button and vent the device avoiding the steam so you don’t get burned. When the pressure button drops, open your Instant Pot and serve.

• You can substitute boneless, skinless thighs or breasts, but it won’t have as much flavor and it will not be as moist. Bonus – the bone-in thighs are usually cheaper. If you do go with a skinless option, add another Tbsp. of oil to compensate for the moisture loss. Do not reduce the pressure cooking time because the rice takes 22 minutes.
• You may sub additional chicken or veg stock for the wine
• Find brown and wild rice blend in the bulk dept. of your grocery store. You CAN use regular brown rice, but the texture is better with the blend
• When I say “salt your veg” or “salt your rice” I mean add a HEALTHY pinch of salt – about 3 fingers worth (index, middle and ring finger with your thumb). Trust me. If you add salt AS you are cooking your food will not taste salty, it will just taste like you know what you are doing. Adding all the salt at the end of a recipe is what makes it taste salty.
• If using fresh thyme, pick out the stems before serving.

Do share your successes and questions here or on my FB page. And subscribe so you don’t miss a spoonful!