Grocery Shopping Tips to Save Money and Still Get the Best

I love grocery shopping. I know…I am a weirdo. Wandering the aisles, seeing what’s new, looking for bargains in the mark down bins, and sometimes running into neighbors in my local Smith’s is fun for me.  I have my local supermarket, but I don’t stop there with my grocery list. I have learned through trial and error, and happy accidents, that many of the things on my grocery list can be found at better prices, oftentimes fresher, if I am willing to shop in more than one store.

Read on for some of my biggest money saving tips.

We all get into a rut when it comes to routine tasks in our everyday lives. This includes grocery shopping. Sometimes, knowing the layout of the store makes for an easy, quick, and manageable task. I say throw caution to the wind and try another grocery store! It could be the same chain or a different one, but because the layout will be different, you MAY find grocery items you overlook in your regular store, or you may find that elusive ingredient from your childhood that you never seem to be able to find. For me, that item is Gravy Master – no, I am not buying 3 jars on Amazon for $25 and no, Kitchen Bouquet is NOT the same. It’s just NOT. And no, I don’t shop in W-Mart so I rarely see my beloved Gravy Master.

Everyone knows about their local Chinese grocery store, or Asian grocery store in general. You know you can get chicken feet for broth and stock. Of course you can get the freshest fish, wonton wrappers, premade lumpia and egg rolls. You want an abundance of gorgeous fresh mushrooms? They’ve got it! And because the turnover in the cases is a lot faster and more frequent, you are bound to get fresher product than you will at a traditional grocery store. There is so much more to international grocery stores and cuisines out there! And believe me when I say they overlap a LOT.

This is a “happy place” for me. The entire right side of the store is filled with grocery items from several countries across Europe and the Middle East. The entire left side of the store is every flavor of Asian you could imagine from Hawaiian to Japanese, Thai, Korean and everything in between. What makes this grocery store so great? Fresh fish at a fraction of what you pay at a traditonal grocery store. Because of the high turnover rate, their phyllo and puff pastry are better, fresher, and less likely to have freezer burn. The Bulgarian feta in the dairy case is outstanding.

They are so small and intimate they don’t even have a website! I love this place because when I go in, the owner is there and greets me. He is fantastic at helping me find what I think I want and offers suggestions on new things to try, and the herbs…seriously! Gigantic bunches for a lot less than a traditional grocery store. A few other things I love about this store – the amazing mortadella with pistachios at the deli counter. It’s $7.99/lb as opposed to $11.99/lb for the Boar’s Head version which no longer has pistachios in it. And let’s face it, mortadella without pistachios is basically fucking bologna! The freshest pita, and flat breads in various sizes all at great prices. And the French feta! It’s so creamy & smooth and Aladdin has the best prices I have seen.

Again, no website! When I first started experimenting with Indian cuisine, I was so confused and the folks here were AMAZING! Stepping into a new culture’s cuisine often involves unfamiliar grocery items and I was completely at a loss. Besan flour? WTF, and who knew there was more than one kind? I didn’t know what curry leaf looked like, let alone smelled like, but they helpfully showed it to me and taught me how to select good specimens. You want beautiful okra? Hit up this grocery store for the most gorgeous okra I have ever seen outside the south and at a fantastic price too!

Additionally, their spices are all priced extremely well and can be bought in multiple sizes of pkgs. Best of all, the spices are sold whole, not ground, so they will last a lot longer in your pantry (think cumin, coriander seed, star anise, cinnamon, etc.). Get yourself an inexpensive spice grinder like this one from Amazon so you are ready to roll when you load your cart with these whole spice beauties.

I know a lot of people use online shopping to streamline a task that for them may be enervating. I get it. Keep in mind you are in some cases paying a premium to NOT go in the store. Pay attention to delivery fees, pick up charges, and higher prices than if you actually go in the store.

During the pandemic, I used Misfit Market, Imperfect Foods, and the like. I felt like I was helping the planet with a food rescue situation, and it stopped me from going into the grocery store with a bunch of people that I didn’t know and probably didn’t want to be around. I have since stopped that practice because they aren’t cheaper, it wasn’t saving me money, I LIKE going to the store, and too often produce would arrive damaged or worse. In the end I had to go to the grocery store anyway to replace the unusable food items.

We love chili crisp (thanks Gemini & Kim for cluing me in on this condiment). The Hubs got so excited he ordered it online thru Amazon for $10…I pleasantly told him to stop grocery shopping unless I ask him to get something. The large jar at the Asian grocery store is less than $5. Keep in mind as well at the Mexican grocery stores, cilantro and green onions are typically 2 or 3 bunches for a dollar instead of a dollar each. And again, high demand and turnover make items like these fresher than at a conventional grocery store.

Final tip. If you are shopping in a traditional mass market grocery store, be sure to have their frequent shopper card and download their app. Lately I have found coupons through the apps that save big bucks on meat, dairy, and produce.

My Most Enjoyed Food of 2022

If you follow me at all on social media, you know I take a lot of pics of my food. Not all dishes are created equal. Some are miserable (and I don’t post those pics), some are just ok (and most of those don’t get posted either), then there are the REALLY good and the mind blowing. That is what I am sharing here. A recap of the most interesting or surprising or delicious things I ate in 2022. Frankly, there wasn’t a ton of that going on. I stuck to tried and true places, except when I was traveling, and a lot of this food is from out of town.

I sit down at the computer every day with the best of intentions of writing you something informative or fun or thought provoking and then I get distracted…The smart person in my brain knows that those who make “to do” lists accomplish more each day than those who don’t, so yesterday I sat down and made a list that included writing this for you (and me quite frankly). Enjoy this list of fantastic food in no particular order

Birthday Surf & Turf

The Lobster en Croute and a beautiful piece of wagyu made up the surf & turf for my Birthday dinner at Carversteak. Chef Dan Ontiveros always hits it out of the park. And this picture and the cover picture of the post say it all!

Surf & Turf at Carversteak, Las Vegas
My Birthday dinner consisted of beautifully prepared dishes by Dan Ontiveros and staff, including this fabulous version of surf & turf.

Coastal Margherita

On our spring trip to Portland, we hit up a bunch of breweries and a cool tiki bar (The Alibi). While we were there The Hubs gets a text from Chris Decker at Metro Pizza telling us we HAD to go to Apizza Scholls. When Chris says you HAVE to go, you go. And we are so glad we did! This was literally a life changing pizza for the Hubs because he normally hates anchovies on his pie. He is now a convert.

Coastal Margherita at Apizza Scholls
This pie is actually half & half – Coastal Margherita and Pepperoni & Mushroom. With Owner Brian Spangler

Farmhouse Tart at Pine Dining

The Pine Dining series was fantastic all the way around. They were single weekend events with outrageous menus and fabulous food. This dish was the one I embarrassed myself over and asked Chef Nicole Brisson if there were leftovers could I take them home…and there were, and I did. Flaky pastry filled with sausage, fontina, and walnuts. In case you are wondering, it reheated beautifully.

Farmhouse Tart by Chef Nicole Brisson
Farmhouse Tart by Chef Nicole Brisson with sausage, fontina, and walnuts.

Bratislavan Food Specialty Halusky

Whenever we travel overseas, we attempt to try as much local food as possible and “eat like the locals”. We try all the local beer we can, and while at the bars ask the folks there where we should eat. In Bratislava we were told the national dish is Halusky (hal-oosh-key). They are little potato dumplings, somewhat like a cross between gnocchi and spaetzle, covered in a decadent sour cream sauce loaded with a local sheep’s milk cheese and topped with bacon & green onion. Incredibly rich and this plate was more than enough for The Hubs & I.

Creamy, rich, and decadent are three words I would used to describe this dish. I really need to learn how to make it!

Mortadella Agnolotti

Chef Oscar Amador at EDO and Anima is a marvel! Pal Gemini invited me to lunch at Anima and we shared these agnolotti. They were so good I was speechless for a moment. I am sure my eyes rolled back in my head and a groan escaped my lips. Gemini laughed aloud because she had never seen me speechless over a dish before.

Mortadella Agnolotti at Anima by EDO
Mortadella is my fave cold cut, and this just put it over the top!

Tony’s in San Francisco

While we do have an outpost of Tony Gemignani’s here in Vegas (Pizza Rock), when my sister-in-law Gretchen says “go to Tony’s”, you go. I have only had coccoli twice and both times they were revelatory for me. If you are unfamiliar, they are like salty beignets. The ones at Tony’s were served with thinly sliced “Italian Beef” and horseradish. I was supposed to be sharing them and had to stop myself from hogging all of them. The salad is pictured just to prove I do eat healthy-ish food now & then.

Coccoli at Tony's in San Francisco
Both the beef and the coccoli were amazing. Add horseradish and giardiniera and you have a hands down winner.

Fried Food

I love fried food and I love all the fish (except catfish), but I have a special love for anchovies. These ones were whole, coated in cornmeal, and lightly fried at the Hog Island Oyster Bar in the Ferry Building in San Francisco. The Hubs even liked them and as mentioned before, he is NOT a fan of anchovies. The aioli was the perfect accompaniment and we scarfed them down in a flash!

Fried Anchovies at Hog Island Oyster Bar
Fried Anchovies at Hog Island Oyster Bar

“The Crime Scene”

In February I went on a real vacation entirely by myself. I took a cruise with Virgin Voyages* and it was superb. We all know that the food on cruise ships is notoriously mediocre at best. That is NOT the case on The Scarlet Lady! Each meal was much better than any mass market cruise line’s meals and the Test Kitchen was the showstopper for the entire cruise. This menu changes regularly, so you may not ever see this when you travel with Virgin Voyages, but it was superb. I nicknamed it “The Crime Scene” because of the splashes of beet juice, but it was a perfectly cooked venison loin with a Vietnamese salted caramel sauce and pickled blueberries.

venison on board the Scarlet Lady
Venison loin “crime scene” on board Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady.

*when you are ready to try Virgin Voyages for your next trip, give me a call and I will happily help you book it.

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It’s Giftmas Time Again – Holiday Gift Guide 2022

Oh, the weather outside is frightful…not really here in Vegas…but it is time to shop for the Holidays! Here are my top picks for shopping for your fave foodie, cook, or wannabe cook. All these Holiday gifts are non-denominational and perfect for any time of year, not just the Holiday Season.

My Favorite Cookbook of the Year

Dinner in One by Melissa Clark

Dinner in One by Melissa Clark is fantastic! Each recipe is intended to be made in one pan, pot, or casserole dish. To date, I have made 11 recipes from this book and not a dog in the bunch. There are so many veg-centric dishes that I actually find myself cooking more vegetarian dishes! Support your local bookstore when purchasing. The link above is to my local bookstore and they ship! $30

For the Gardener

Photo from Reel Steel website linked below

I always aspire to grow the perfect herb and/or vegetable garden and rarely do I succeed. If I had these adorable little garden gnome plant markers maybe I would! They are made of steel, so they will hold up in all kinds of weather and there is a huge variety to choose from. As I type, they are on sale and if you use the code “holidaygifts” you save an additional 40% off your second one. $8 each for the small ones (approx 12″). They MAY not arrive in time for the holiday, but they will be there in plenty of time for spring planting.

Eat Healthier for the Holiday

Image from their website

I have tried a LOT of food delivery services and so far, this one is my fave! The organic produce is insanely fresh and some of the most beautiful I have ever seen! Use this code to save when you sign up LEAN4665 *. Prices Vary depending on what you order, how large your box is, etc. What I like best about this is that there is NO COMMITMENT! You order when it is convenient for you. The “box” is totally customizable. Remove things you can’t or won’t eat and add in those that you want. It’s not available in all areas yet.

*Moment of truth – when you use my referral code, I get a bonus too.

Reduce Single Use Plastics

Image from Hydaway – linked below

I love the portability of these collapsible “sippy cups” from Hydaway. You can fold them up, jam them into your handbag or carryon and refill them at any convenient water source. A lot of airports now have fountains that are designed to refill water bottles, so you’ll never pay $5 for a single bottle of water again. Available in 17oz and 25oz in a variety of colors. Starting at $20 and grab a carrying case while you’re at it.

Stylish Storage

Image from Calamity Ware linked below

If you have seen the pics of my completed kitchen, you may have noticed these FANTASTIC canisters in the background. I have all three sizes, but get the ones that fit your needs. What makes these so cool and special is that they are covered with what looks like a damask pattern. When closely inspected you can see it is a damask design made of “witchy” things like bats, newts, frogs, etc. Check out their other offerings like dish towels, dishware, and other kitchen goodies. Medium is $36 on sale right now and linked above.

When in doubt, or if shopping for the person who has everything, think about a donation to charity in their name. Of course, my favorite charity is my local food bank – Three Square. If you aren’t sure what your recipient’s food bank is, you can look here and use their zip code to find their local Feeding America partner.

A New Home and 11 Years of This Blog

As I type I am writing from the back deck of our new home. Last week marked 11 years that I have been writing this blog. 11 damn years! In that time the following has happened in my life:

  • My only child graduated from high school and college and moved into his own apartment
  • We have taken 5 cruises – 2 in Europe, one in Egypt, and 2 in the Caribbean. And one of those was my first EVER solo vacation
  • I became a travel agent – mainly to get a kickback on my own travel, but if you need help planning YOUR vacations, hit me up!
  • John got his doctorate
  • I had my left knee replaced
  • I lost a parent
  • I lost 40 lbs
  • I joined a cookbook club and made new friends
  • We downsized to a smaller home
  • And so much more

I have been absent for some time, and I apologize, but I am here now.

I haven’t had the mental bandwidth to write anything except thank you notes. I’d sit in front of my laptop and just stare at the blinking cursor feeling overwhelmed and like no one wanted to hear anything I had to say.

Not our first rodeo or our first old home

Last April, we put our suburban home on the market and moved into a vintage 1939 Tudor style home in downtown Las Vegas. We’ve been remodeling the home and LIVING in it at the same time. You can go to my Instagram and scroll through to see some of the pics.  It’s been a massive undertaking, one that we frankly were unprepared for. You see, when we put our home on the market, we didn’t realize the state of the housing market. We had no clue that we’d sell the house in less than 24 hours. We had hoped we’d live in the “old” house for at least a couple of months while renovating our “new” digs. Instead, we ended up living in a construction zone for the better part of a year while we waited on every damn thing to arrive. Cabinets took 16 weeks instead of the originally planned 8 weeks. It was a 6 week wait just to get on the calendar for the folks to come and recreate a stairwell that was not built to code. You get the idea.

Everything Old is NEW again

This is not our first old home. In Sumter, South Carolina, our home dated to the 1800’s, so we knew there would be challenges. We were wholly unprepared for all of the major things the home inspector missed (rotted floorboards, leaking hot water heater, cracked and damaged plumbing, and so on). Because we want to maintain as much of the original home as possible, in the kitchen I kept the original footprint with the lovely windows. Everything else was updated. The claustrophobic drop ceiling was raised and the kitchen was gutted from floor to ceiling and to the wall studs.

The kitchen was the lynch pin on which all other projects revolved. Nothing could be completed until the kitchen was done because everything that belonged in the kitchen was being stored in every other room of the house. The originally anticipated completion date was 1 November 2021. It was finally completed in January 2022.

I knew a new home would be stressful…but seriously?

We moved 13 times in 21 years with the Air Force. Change is always stressful. With all the military moves in my rear view, you’d think I’d have the stress of moving on lock. I learned that is NOT the case. The movers showed up more than 4 hours late. All they had to do was load and unload the truck. I had already packed everything. By the time they unloaded, it was after 1:00 am. That should have been my first clue that all was NOT going to go as planned.

This past year was the first time in our married life that we didn’t eat T-giving dinner in our home. It was bizarre to say the least, but thanks to wonderful new friends we had places to go, and people to be with who made us feel welcome. Not cooking was a serious blow to my already crumbling mental state. I had to shake my expectations of what a holiday could be and embrace something new. It was worth it!

Soon…I promise

Now that the kitchen is done, I am sure some of you are waiting on the restart of the live online cooking classes. While I am prepped and raring to go, Sister Nancy got herself a new job and she is in training right now, so we will resume once she knows what her schedule is going to be. Take note – since this was a way to teach Nancy how to cook long distance, it may not be on a weekend like before, but of course you will be able to go to YouTube and watch it there after the fact.

We have one room left to repair, but we hosted a “thank you party” for everyone who welcomed us to our new ‘hood, helped us move, or helped us complete projects. It was a smaller, more intimate get-together than we usually host, but after 2 years of not socializing in groups, and still figuring out where things fit in this space, we knew that “going big” was NOT the way to go this time. We were very excited to open our doors to guests for the first time and host our first party. And I do hope a good time was had by all who were able to attend.

I am cooking and doing recipe trials, and getting ready to write and record some simple recipes for all of you. Hopefully that will happen sooner, rather than later. The biggest obstacle is on the weekends when my “camera man” is home, we are busy doing home renovation projects to get this place finished.

In the meantime, I hope you take the time to follow, like, and share my content on other platforms and be on the lookout for cool new stuff soon!

Best Bites of 2021

Look, I know I am late with this. But c’mon…! I have been in the middle of renovation hell. Who has time to think about excellent food when they can’t create any of their own? Please enjoy this extremely late post and make time to hit up these places if you are in the Vegas Valley.

For several years in January, I have included the “best” things I have eaten in the past year. I recently read a piece where the writer said “best of” lists were stupid, and in many cases I agree. What is best for me, might be run of the mill for you, or on your “no fly” list. To that end, am trying to come up with a better title. Most interesting? Most intriguing? Most memorable?

In years past, many of my “best bites” or most interesting things I have eaten have come by means of travel and sadly, that has been lacking the past couple of years – thanks COVID. Still, I find wonderful things to eat, but fewer surprises. And I am stretching myself in the kitchen (see below). Admittedly there was a LOT of dining out this year due to the kitchen remodel, but many choices were Thai takeout, a walk to our fave pizza joint, take out Sandos from our new fave sandWISH place, or a walk in the ‘hood for beer & a quick bite.

Without further ado, in no particular order, here are my most memorable bites of 2021

Valentine’s Day Dinner at Home

I always pull out all the stops on VDay. We labeled it Amateur Night years ago, and rather than dine out with hordes of people, I go to extreme lengths to make a dish I NEVER make. 2021 had me laminating my own puff pastry and creating a Beef Wellington.

Perfectly cooked Beef Wellington with home made puff pastry (THAT was a pain in the ass!)

Thai Curry & Chorizo Mussels at The Shores, San Diego

In August, Mom came to visit, and we took a little drive to San Diego to see relatives. While there, I had to visit Vegas transplant, Chef Mike Minor at La Jolla Shores Hotel. This dish was so good, I drove out a second time to make sure I wasn’t just overly hungry when I ate it the first time. Pro Tip – order a side of rice on the side so you can get every luscious drop of the sauce.

Mangonada at Cream Me Ice Creamery

This hits ALL the notes for me for summer. Perfect mango sorbet, Chamoy sauce, dried chile coated mango chunks. Sweet, spicy, salty, cold all in one delicious mouthful. And while you are there, check out the groovy floor!

Parisian Lobster Gnocchi with White Asparagus at Sparrow + Wolf

Parisian gnocchi are different than Italian ones in a few ways. These are shaped like pillows without the telltale lines marking Italian gnocchi. And while Italian style gnocchi are soft through and through, Parisian gnocchi have a little bit of a crispy edge. Toss in some lobster and paired with sautéed white asparagus, this was a big hit for me. The most fun thing about Sparrow + Wolf is you never know what’s going to be on the menu!

Cappellacci “Oreganata” at Brezza

Chances are, if Nicole Brisson is in the kitchen, I am going to be a happy camper. No matter what she does, it is executed with the highest level of skill and is usually perfect. This dish was so unexpectedly good. The pasta itself is a marvel, combined with cauliflower, spinach, lemon, and crispy capers? Yeah…that. Photo by Sabin Orr, courtesy of Chef Nicole.

Photo by Sabin Orr courtesy of Chef Nicole Brisson and Brezza

A Holiday Season Like No Other

I woke at 2:30 this morning unable to shut my brain off. With Giftmas quickly approaching I began thinking of all the things I have yet to do, but this holiday season is like no other. I haven’t baked a single pie, I’ve made exactly one batch of cookies, and I haven’t hosted a single gathering. The holidays are incredibly different this year.

Like many others, I always anticipate the holiday season for several reasons. The parties, the fellowship, the camaraderie, and of course the food. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the entire year and I truly enjoy cooking that meal. Christmas is one of three days on the calendar when I don’t cook. By this time I have usually scoured all the casino restaurants’ menus and made a reservation for dinner, but I didn’t do that this year. This year is unlike any other since we got married.

“Island of Lost Toys” Thanksgiving

For more than 30 years my husband and I have hosted the “Island of Lost Toys” Thanksgiving. It started when we were overseas. We couldn’t fly home for the holiday, so we invited our friends from the barracks and the childless couples we knew and enjoyed “chosen family”. When we moved back to the states, the tradition continued. With my kitchen in shambles because of the renovation (no sink, no workspace, or countertops) we hosted no one. To say it was weird is an understatement. I was literally bereft. I cried (in the shower like I always do so no one can see me or hear me) because I didn’t want to be alone. Yes, I’d have my devoted husband, my darling offspring, and my sib from another crib, but what about everyone else?

Then I got to thinking. Many of the people we have hosted over the past decade are no longer in our circle of friends for one reason or another. Some have left the area; some have moved on in other ways, and the boundaries I have learned to set for myself have forced me to tighten my circle as well. But what of the others? My mom brought it up – No one thought to invite us to join their table when they knew I couldn’t cook a true Thanksgiving meal.

New Neighbors to the Rescue

Our new neighbors came to the rescue! After helping friend Kim cull her turkeys (yes, I mean slaughter and butcher them), she kindly invited us to join her Thanksgiving tradition of yakitori. I had never done that before. Chinese food on Christmas? SURE! But Japanese on Thanksgiving? My brain couldn’t compute it. Oddly, it was just what I needed. Helping man the grill with other invitees, casually hanging around and noshing instead of loading a plate and being seated was a perfect antidote to my Thanksgiving ennui. It was like the best cocktail party you ever went to. Interesting people, fun conversation, tasty small bites of food, and wandering around meeting new people. I walked in a nervous wreck and left lighter and happier. It was just what I needed but didn’t know it.

We then proceeded to Esther’s Kitchen where Chef James Trees had kindly invited us to join him, his family, and staff for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Because I was raised to never show up empty handed, I brought the aforementioned batch of cookies and Deez Nuts. This gathering was exactly what I needed too. Again, surrounded by loads of people, eating delicious food, and feeling like I was part of something bigger than myself. I was honored and humbled to be included. I think I thanked him profusely to the point of embarrassment, both mine and his. And I wept on the way home.

Home for the Holiday…just not MY home

And now, on the precipice of yet another holiday, things are different again. For the first time in ages, I won’t be in my own home for Christmas. The last time this happened was when we skipped Christmas and went to Mexico. This year we are spending the holiday with my sisters in law. The Hubs’ sister Bonnie and her wife Gretchen live in San Francisco and we are braving air travel during the holiday season to join them. I am excited and a little nervous at the same time. New traditions will be embraced, and I am sure joy will be had with people we love, but I won’t be “home for the holidays”. It just feels weird.

The most entertaining thing (for me) about the plans for this trip was a text convo with Gretchen about Christmas dinner. She wanted to know what I wanted to make and was a little shocked by my response. I told her I don’t cook on Christmas and whatever she decided to do was fine. I will be sous chef this year. Because I was warned there will be shucking in my future, my oyster knife will be packed.

When we moved into this home in April, I had every intention of a holiday housewarming party. I had plans for decorating and a mental menu of the food and drinks I would serve. The guest list was all compiled in an Excel spreadsheet. Construction delays forced me to embrace a new timeline; one I am not at all happy about. I dislike uncertainty and frequently have trouble “going with the flow” unless I am on vacation. So maybe the housewarming will be in the spring? Who the hell knows!?

Hug your people, bring them in close and tell them you love them. That’s the most important thing about the holiday isn’t it?

I Have Become a Movie Character

I have become a movie character, or at least an amalgam of characters. If you are a cinephile, you can thank me later for all the movie references.

And WHAT a Character!

One day while breezing into my local bar, whipping off my sunglasses and surveying the room looking for my peeps, I was compared to Miranda Priestly – the character based on Anna Wintour. And I wasn’t offended. Calm, collected, and confident on the outside, using bitchiness to camouflage the raging mess on the inside. The tables have turned. I have now become Myrna Loy. Not the fun, cool Nora Charles version everyone wants to be friends with from the “Thin Man” films.

Myrna Loy & William Powell from the Thin Man

But the slightly neurotic, persnickety Muriel Blanding…and my husband is becoming the Cary Grant character from that film. Someone compared us to Shelly Long and Tom Hanks in The Money Pit, but let’s face it, Grant and Loy did it first and did it better.

Why Can’t ANYTHING be Simple?

Each time we tackle a project in the house, it leads to 3 others that must be completed before we can move on and do the initial project. And each complication adds a week or more to our timeline. Here’s an example – My original goal was to have the kitchen complete by 1 October. When I had the original measurements for the cabinets done, that was a realistic goal. Here’s the hold up: an ugly drop ceiling had to be removed and the actual measurements needed to include the additional 14 inches I was gaining. Once the hideous soffit was removed, we found out WHY there was a drop ceiling. To accommodate the plumbing for the master bath. A call to the plumber to raise the pipes to allow the raise of the ceiling and we have a one-week delay.…

We Are on Our Way

The measurements have been done and the cabinets and pulls have been ordered and now there is an 8 week wait…with all the delays and supply chain difficulties that are acting like gum in the gears, it is now looking more like 15 November. And that doesn’t include the gas line and stove…but that is another whole story in and of itself.

Have I mentioned that I am NOT patient? I am almost Veruca Salt (original Willy Wonka) level impatient without the brattiness. Well, most of the time I am not bratty. When I finally decide on something, I want it NOW. Not 3 weeks from now, but today; tomorrow at the latest.

Why am I telling you this?  Because at the end of it all, becoming a movie character has built some character. I am learning to be more flexible (not my strong suit). I am learning to go with the flow more. Side note: On vacation I am usually really flexible and willing to just roll with whatever looks like fun, but in day-to-day life? Not so much.

And through all of this, I am cooking. While it might sound fun to dine out every night, when you actually ENJOY cooking and your kitchen is your happy place, it’s really not. As I type, my mom is visiting, and I am cooking for her. I am trying out new recipes, shopping in the local ethnic markets and learning new things. Joyfully cooking in my hot mess of a kitchen with holes in the walls, bare board flooring and no cabinets. And a god-awful electric stove. “It builds character”, I keep telling myself. At this point I think it is more fun to BE a character.

Shameless plug – if you haven’t already – please take the time to SUBSCRIBE to the blog AND to the YouTube channel. And follow along on Facebook and Instagram to see what I am eating and cooking NOW.

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.

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10 Years of Sharing This Blog

Moment of Truth – I started writing this blog on the actual anniversary (6 June) and I am just now getting around to publishing it…yeah, it’s like that.

About a dozen years ago I met author Vicki Pettersson completely by chance at Borders bookstore. I was buying her newly released first book and she was at the checkout as well. She shared with me that I was the first reader she ever saw buy her book. Kind of like a musician hearing their song on the radio for the first time. I am not sure who was giddier, me or her. As luck would have it, I learned that she came into my life at just the right time. After several meetings I mentioned that I was thinking of starting a blog, but I was worried that I didn’t have anything of value to say or share. She looked me square in the face and said, “Does that stop anyone else? You have a voice. Use it!” So, 10 years ago last month, this blog was born. Thank you, Vicki, for the kick in the pants.

I Over-Shared…a lot

In 10 years’ time I have shared a lot. I’ve shared recipes (that link will take you to the recipe archive on the site with ALL the recipes). My travels to Europe, Egypt, and many other places have been shared in words and photos, and sometimes a video or two. Sometimes when I share that kind of stuff, I feel I am bragging. Like, “Hey! Look what I am doing/eating/experiencing that you aren’t.” And then someone will thank me for sharing and I feel validated and less like a douchey braggart. Upon the death of Anthony Bourdain, I shared my own personal struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts. In 10 years, I may have over shared. I started out just talking about food, and inadvertently ended up sharing parts of my life, and heart, and soul with all of you, because my life revolves around food. The making of it, the eating of it, the sharing of it, and so on. To those of you who have been following along since the beginning, I thank you for sticking with me. To those who EVER read my words, I am truly grateful.

10 Years? Time Means Nothing

When I first started, my intention was to write something weekly. And for a while I did that, but even someone who talks as much as I do runs out of valuable things to say after 10 years. I didn’t want to blather on about nothing, and sometimes silence is golden. Moment of Truth: I have had writer’s block (or content fatigue or thought constipation – take your pick) since my Dad died, so the golden silence stretched into months at a time. I wanted this content to be more than masturbatory self-promotion, I wanted you to really enjoy reading it. It’s hard to come up with fresh, valid content ALL. THE. FUCKING. TIME.

And Then COVID Happened

Sister Nancy inspired me to do a set of online cooking classes during the shutdown after I told her about the SecretBurger cook along events that were going on here in Vegas. For a while that was exciting, and now those live cooking classes with my sister have dried up too, for a variety of reasons (primarily the one below). I didn’t want to regurgitate the same shit you see from everyone else, and I truly felt (feel) I have nothing original to say or share right now…but wait, let me catch you up!

But Wait! There’s More…

Earlier this year, I finally convinced my husband to sell The Big House and downsize to something smaller. We moved downtown to a pre-war home that needs a LOT of TLC. I could bore you with details, but let’s just say that I have spent the equivalent of a micro-nation’s GDP on plumbing since moving into this lovely storybook looking house. I have thought of documenting, in words and pics, the process of the remodel, but there are literally hundreds of blogs about that if you are truly interested. We are really enjoying living downtown and walking to many of our fave dining and drinking establishments. One of the reasons the cooking classes have dried up is that my kitchen is a fucking nightmare, complete with electric stove, exposed MDF cabinets with the laminate peeling off the edges, and crowded counters.  The only things I love in my kitchen right now are my new fridge and my Boos block commercial worktable that I have repurposed as an island. Once the kitchen remodel is complete, the classes will resume. I promise.

When you reach middle age, 10 years flies by in the blink of an eye. Some days it feels like I just started this writing project. But more than that, relationships change. My relationship with writing has changed. My relationships with people, places, and things have changed. The way I respond to events is different now, in part to aging. An event that in my teen years would have caused a messy snot filled girl cry, did not bother me at all recently. I seriously have no fucks left to give for bull shit. I have no space or time for people who irritate me like a rash. There is no room in my head space for those who make me feel shitty in any way.

Things Change…

The passing of 10 years has put me fully into middle age and heading toward senior citizenship. I find myself now, oddly, at a point in my life when I see old friends after a long absence, I ask about their health. Yes, really.  A dear friend of mine from high school blew through town recently on a road trip. We hadn’t seen each other in nearly 2 years (thanks COVID), but I know he has a heart condition and worries about his blood sugar. After a huge hug (he said it was the first hug in over a year), the first questions out of my mouth were, “How’s your heart?” and “How’s your blood sugar.” And it wasn’t weird. For us. For now. It just is who we are in middle age.

The bottom line is this, what started out as a way to communicate my love for food, has morphed into something else across 10 years. I do hope you keep reading, sharing, and enjoying this small bit of myself. To be fair, I share more on Instagram, so if you consistently want to see what I am doing, you should follow me there!

The Best of 2020 – Yes. There Was SOME Good

This Best of 2020 blog was started in January, then I had a bout of depression, and then we decided to move in February and now, while I have a few quiet minutes I am finishing it. Enjoy and apologies for the tardiness.

Fuck 2020. Yes. We’ve all said it. The entire year was a complete shit show of monumental proportions. There were many disappointments, hardships, and losses of all kinds. Even though they suck, hardships allow for growth in my experience. We all learned to rethink our priorities in several areas. Learning who and what I can, and should, live without was liberating in a way. I eliminated toxic people, situations, and yes, even some foods that I found I could and should live without. My mental and physical health became more of a priority. I normally love to shop in person, but I learned to be a better online shopper and I tried produce delivery services to avoid going into the grocery store as frequently (the delivery services were hit or miss, so I still ended up in the store). I was outraged on behalf of my friends in the small business community when they were held to crippling standards that the big businesses here in Vegas were not expected to follow as stringently. Supporting locally owned businesses became even more of an imperative for our family. I wept for and with friends for many reasons. We all did.

2020 Had it All…NOT!

There was a lot missing in 2020. Celebrations. Dinner Parties. Trips and vacations of all kinds. And even though I was annoyed by virtually ALL of it, I found myself willingly and gracefully falling into the dreaded “new normal” – a phrase I despise BTW – of COVID dictated frameworks. Checklist before I leave the house – phone, purse, mask – CHECK! Who knew a mask could become a fashion accessory? One more place to wear sequins, glitter, and rhinestones! Who knew Stephen King’s The Stand would resonate so profoundly with me every time someone sneezed or coughed in my general vicinity?

2020 was not a year of eating dangerously. It was not a year of new restaurants tried. And yet, 2020 did yield some surprisingly happy things. It had its charms in new and unusual ways. Many rediscovered the joy of takeout and learned about food delivery services (and their usury practices and fees).  Some of us learned to cook new things at home. Hello, Sourdough anyone? Many of us pushed beyond our normal kitchen/culinary comfort zones in 2020. I know I did. I am not usually a “joiner”, but I joined a cookbook club and made some new “e-friends” who are VASTLY different than I. Being involved with this community renewed my passion for feeding those in need.

With all the trials and tribulations of 2020, here is my list of the Best of 2020:

Please Send Noodles – My Cookbook Club

Helmed by James Beard Award Winner Kim Foster, this book club is unlike any other I have belonged to before. Every other week I join a Zoom meeting with anyone else who is interested. We choose a cookbook, and for a month or so, cook from it learning new techniques, recipes, and more about ourselves. Cookbook authors have joined us for private cooking classes and Q & A sessions that were informative and fun. We also do a once a month “community cook” where we band together to feed those less fortunate than ourselves. This group was a balm to my ragged soul in 2020. I thank dear friend Gemini for inviting me, and I thank each active member for contributing and helping me see more of myself. Cook-along Events

When the pandemic forced our local restaurants to close their doors, Jolene Mannina got creative as only she can do! Working with locally owned restaurants, she created limited edition cooking classes with the chefs. Instead of straight up take out, you picked up a pre-measured and prepped box of ingredients, and at a specified time, logged into FB and cooked along with the chef. BRILLIANT! A private cooking class with a local chef? SIGN ME UP! I was able to enjoy some of my fave dishes, like James Trees’ cacio e pepe. I learned his tricks to make it at home, and support locally as well. As much as I enjoyed all the meals cooked with the chefs, Nina Manchev from Forte Tapas is the best teacher on camera IMHO. Restaurants are now open again with limited seating, but Secret Burger is still doing amazing things. Click the link to find out more about upcoming events. Out of towners – this is your ticket to eating like a local…just sayin’.

Quarantine Kitchen with Nancy

Jolene’s cooking events encourage me to stretch my skill set a bit and I started doing online cooking with and for my sister Nancy. About once a month we select a recipe that she wants to learn how to make and I cook it LIVE on Facebook. This is one of the best of 2020 because it allowed me to stay more connected to my sister and out of town friends and I was able to do it through my love language of food. You can see all of the Quarantine Kitchen Videos on my YouTube Channel. While you’re there, take a sec and subscribe so you never miss a video class! If you want to know when the next one will be, be sure to “like” Good for Spooning on Facebook. It’s been a minute since we cooked together and it’s gonna be an even longer minute because I am moving and remodeling a kitchen (more on that soon).

My Sourdough Bread Adventures

From my previous blog you know that I learned to work with sourdough, and it truly is one of the best things from 2020. It’s not just the gorgeous boules that I have been turning out. I’ve branched into English Muffins and baguettes. I do love carbs and this is just a new way for me to love them.