Travel Egypt – Part 3 – It’s All About the Experience

When we travel, each of us is looking for an experience of some sort. We want to be made to feel special and treated like a valued guest. We want to be immersed in culture, or relax and listen to the waves, or expand dining horizons, or learn something new. All of those things are valuable, but for me I want to experience new things. I want to do things I have never done before and eat things I have never eaten before. I want to stretch my comfort zone and reach just a little further.

Stretch My Comfort Zone

When you cruise you have that opportunity to stretch, immerse, and relax regardless of your itinerary. With a river cruise it’s even easier to get immersed in all of the joys of travel. Touring around different towns, trying local food and beverages, and meeting the local people. I find on a river cruise I am more fully able to stretch my comfort zone than when I am on an ocean cruise because on an ocean cruise all the ports feel the same to me.

Typically with a river cruise, the smaller ship allows for more personalized service and attention to detail. What is great about Uniworld as a cruise line is that all of the ships are small and intimate. The staff gets to know you, and your preferences, and you are treated like you are the single most important guest on the ship. That was made even more apparent to me on our Nile River cruise.  I have a habit of making friends with chefs and bartenders. I had made friends with Chef Daniel on our Uniworld cruise through Europe and he clued the staff on the River Tosca that I was on my way. And the staff of the River Tosca made this trip a truly memorable experience.

Value Added Experience

From the initial welcome, to walking the souk with Chef Hamdy and Sameh to the experience that follow, I was made to feel truly special and like a little mini celebrity. And who doesn’t like that?

If you have been following along on Facebook or Instagram, you know that there was some fun with a scimitar and some fun with fire. Uniworld likes to kick off each cruise with a champagne sabering, or in this case a scimitar-ing. My husband just casually mentions to our butler, Abd el Salam, “Yeah. My wife knows how to do that”, so as we gather up on deck for the sabering things got a little weird. I had no idea of John’s conversation with Abd el Salam, so I was clueless as to what was going on. Sameh and the staff ask me to come over and explain what is about to happen and how it is done and then I did it. It was my very first time ever. No pressure or anything, it just happened to be in front of all the other guests and the staff. Thanks to Panche our butler on the Europe cruise for the lesson and tutorial.

Oui Chef!

If you are a culinarian and a Chef tells you to do something, the only appropriate response is “Oui Chef!” And that’s how the fire started…I am only half kidding. So Chef Hamdy asked me if I knew how to flambe, “Oui Chef, of course.” Then he says, “Good! Then you are cooking with me!” And I gave the only acceptable response, “Oui Chef!” I asked for a loaner jacket and hat because I didn’t bring one on this trip and the next thing you know, I am making bananas foster in the dining room in front of all the guests. Now this wasn’t such a problem because I have done over 1000 live cooking demos in my lifetime, so I was not intimidated in the slightest.

Pretty soon you will see a “Travel With Us” button on my site (which is being revamped as we speak) so you will be able to experience events WITH me. I have decided I enjoy traveling SO MUCH that I have joined the industry! Our first Travel With Us opportunity will be Cuba October 2020, giving you plenty of time to put it on your calendar and save up for it. So hold on to your hats, get your passports up to date, and stay tuned for more on travel, eating, cooking, and learning!

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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.

Support Local – Burlington, Vermont – Part 2

Can you think of anything more picturesque than Vermont in the snow? Me neither! Here is part 2 of the Vermont trip…many months later. Eating and drinking in local joints made this a fun, if chilly, spot.

On our recent trip to New England this past fall, we tried to hit up not only nationally known brands, but we supported small business, and shopped and ate local as much as possible. Here are my picks for what to do in Burlington. Supporting local in Burlington is frankly fairly easy since there are no big box stores. No massive malls, no W-Mart, Target or other discount retailers. I did not see a single chain restaurant while I was there, how refreshing! You naturally turn toward the businesses owned by the local peeps.

When in Burlington, make your way to Handy’s Lunch

I love to eat breakfast and I dare say that I’d almost rather eat breakfast and lunch out than dinner in many cases. For dinner I can make do with an app and some cocktails, but a great breakfast? Now we are talking! When in Burlington, make your way to Handy’s Lunch. They’ve been around since 1945 and it’s just awesome! It’s not fancy, but everything we had was cooked perfectly and as Yankee fans, we were welcomed with open arms (LITERALLY) by Earl Handy, the son of the founders. Family owned and operated from the start, this lunch counter is a “must do” while there.

Even more entertaining than the local chatter you’ll hear at the counter are the names of the breakfast sandwiches…yes, Chuck Norris is a featured gem. Be sure to ask for the picture menu. The Chuck Norris is fucking huge! John’s “Blackbelt” is below and the Chuck Norris is even bigger! We had such a good time on our first visit, we made time for a second breakfast at Handy’s.

The Blackbelt at Handy's Lunch in Burlington

The Blackbelt is almost like a “club sandWISH” of breakfast ingredients.

In an effort to sample as much as we could, we hit up the Gryphon Gastropub.  I loved the old school feel of the room. We like to sit at the bar and this bar offers the full menu. Knowledgeable servers and good food made this a fantastic little stop. My fave dish there, the seafood grits, is available as a main AND a starter, so in case you aren’t really hungry, you can still enjoy this.

The Gryphon in Burlington serves up delicious upscale bar food.

That lobster butter and some secret voodoo magic made these grits a must have! They were truly unlike any I have ever had.

In an Easily Walkable City, do a Local Beer Hike

Because Burlington is an easily walkable city, we did a Beer Hike through town to hit up as many of the local breweries as possible. One of the differences we noticed between these New England breweries in Burlington, and those on the west coast is that they were really JUST breweries – not brew pubs. There wasn’t a ton of food to be had in any of these local spots to either give a “base” for a night of drinking, or to sop up all the great beer we were enjoying. A pretzel here, a hot dog there, some cheese curds along the way, but few signature items or fancy assed menus. The beer was stellar and there was fabulous variety throughout the city.

Each local brewery has its own style that they are known for and they all support one another. BeerTenders in each brewery were happy to point us to their favorite along the map. Of course, we hit up the local distillery as well. Each tasting room was unique with its own flavor. One was showing B Grade SciFi flicks on the wall with a DJ the night we were there. My fave was Queen City with its vintage reclaimed bar. The story goes that the bar top was from an old “club” where local wheeling and dealing went on.

Just some of the fantastic offerings in Burlington's brewery scene.

Just a view of some of the amazing brewery and distillery selections we enjoyed. The variety in Burlington is astounding considering how small the city is.

Did Someone Say Chocolate?

When in Burlington, down near the “brewery walk” be sure to stop in at Lake Champlain Chocolate company too. Lovely flavors and they have a “seconds” bin where they aren’t perfect in appearance, but the taste is perfect. Discounts on the “seconds” get you more bang for your buck and you can try more flavors.

Locally made chocolates make "supporting local" an easy choice!

This is the haul from Lake Champlain Chocolates. The individually wrapped pieces were from the “seconds” bin and the boxes are caramels.

It’s not a Soft Serve. It’s a Creamee!

Finally, on our way back to the hotel, the Hubs wanted ice cream, so we stopped in for a “Creamee” (aka soft serve) at Burlington Bay Market & Café where I had a delightful black raspberry cone and I enjoyed it while walking along Lake Champlain’s shores.The locals call it a Creamee

As mentioned in my previous post – Vermont is SO much more than meets the eye. I recommend the fall for the leaf peeping. If you are trying to beat the heat, visit in the summer; Lake Champlain has great water sports available. If you are into winter sports, you can’t go wrong with Vermont in the winter.

Bucket List and Firsts

I began writing this piece before my last post about Anthony Bourdain and his death. Since then I have been trying to find ways to verbally express my joy and it has escaped me. When I tell you in person about this trip, you can see the fun in my face, but writing my joy has been a challenge. I do hope you enjoy this, because it was a great day!

Life got Thrown at Me…HARD

Sorry I have been incommunicado for ages, but life got thrown at me…HARD. It’s been several months of traveling and events and FIRSTS. Of course I have been sharing the delish things I have been eating, and if you missed any of those, you can follow along on Instagram or Facebook to see what I am posting when I am not writing.

I’ve been to festivals, been a judge for the culinary portion of Motley Brews Great Vegas Festival of Beer, attended a birthday celebration with an absentee honoree, attended three weddings, had my house painted and pool resurfaced, had high school friends visit, went to Seattle, and so much more. With all of THAT going on, you’d think I had stuff to write about, and I do, but couldn’t make/find the time, or find my joy in writing.

Photo by Michelle Grace Photography
Dancing at my nephew’s wedding with the Hubs.


I Suggest You Start a Bucket List

If you haven’t started one for yourself, I suggest you start a “bucket list”. Like the movie, but without Nicholson’s character’s bank account, I started my bucket list a few years ago, and I add to it and scratch stuff off as I experience or do an activity. My bucket list is nearly 50 items long and I figure the bucket list will grow as I find new things I want to experience. Some are off the charts crazy. Like “have my picture taken by Annie Leibovitz”. Others are pretty down to earth, like “drive the length of Route 66”.

The one I was able to scratch off the bucket list this week was “deep sea fishing” thanks to my BIL Walter. I have never enjoyed lake or stream fishing because you are supposed to be quiet and not scare the fish. If you know me at all, you know I have trouble keeping quiet, so those activities are not for me. However, with deep sea fishing of the trawling type that we did, the motor makes so much noise that my talking isn’t an issue. Basically, you cast the line off the back of the boat, and then motor the boat thru the water. The lure and bait jump about in the wake of the boat to catch the attention of the prey. In our case, the prey was dolphin fish (aka Mahi Mahi or Dorado depending on where you are located). When the fish bite, the line starts to spool out FAST and that’s when the excitement begins.

Friend Steve helpfully skinned, cleaned and filleted the catch faster than I could have ever done, and that night we enjoyed fresh Mahi ceviche and grilled fish tacos with all the classic accompaniments.  And of course there are no pics of that either.

A few things to note here:

  • I was so excited, and there was such an adrenaline rush when pulling the fish in that I took NO pics or video of Walter’s efforts. I was truly living in the moment and only thought of the potential for great copy for the blog AFTER the fact. Sometimes living in the moment is the way to go.
  • I spotted the lines spooling out (which meant there was a fish on the end) and Walter did all of the reeling in. And a good thing too! The second fish we caught was over 25lbs and jumped a full 3 feet out of the water at one point. Walter had to get down on one knee and lean way back to get that fish on the deck. Had I tried to do it, that fish would have pulled me into the water.
  • Never before in my life had I experienced sea sickness on a small boat – cruise ships yes, but never on a small boat. That has changed. As soon as the boat stopped moving so we could reel in the fish, my stomach did not cooperate. There were 3 episodes and I powered through them like a champ, chumming the water and begging to keep going. Yes…really. After the third round, Walter called the fight and we went back to shore.
  • I had such a good time that I can’t wait to go back and do it again with Walter! But this time I am taking my seasickness meds!

Lately I have spent a LOT of time living in the moment. Putting my phone down, not posting and sharing and just LIVING my life. I attended the sold out Vegas Unstripped event and I didn’t take a single picture. I went to Hopped Taco and the only pics I took show up on my Instagram account. When  my friends were here, I took virtually no pics of our time together. I know it is self defeating, but I am trying to truly live in the moment.

Happy New Year! Don’t Drink & Drive

Thank you for following my food adventures this year and I look forward to sharing new ones in 2018. Your continued reading is the drive I need to keep posting. When you enjoy the post, share, comment and “like” it and of course, subscribe with the easy button at the bottom. Like many others, I reflect on the past today and am grateful for the possibility of a new beginning tomorrow.

Just a few of the great food experiences that I enjoyed in 2017

2017 has been a rough one for many communities across the country and the world. We have seen mass shootings, intense, destructive weather and raging forest fires just in the past few months. Those tragedies have shown us our strength as citizens and humans. I personally witnessed the outpouring of love, care and community here in Vegas after the Route 91 shooting. I saw people lined up for hours to donate blood for the victims, restaurants and companies banding together to donate food to feed the relief workers and families, and clergy and therapists donating their time for grief counseling. Through the news, I have seen the same sense of community demonstrated across this country in ways great and small. We ARE stronger together.

We will be celebrating at home with some of our nearest and dearest playing Cards Against Humanity in our PJ’s. For years we had a Black & White themed NYE party, and have since abandoned that tradition in favor of something more relaxed.

Please be safe. DO NOT drink and drive!

If you are heading out for your revelry, please be safe. DO NOT drink and drive! There are so many options available to you to preserve your life and the lives of those around you. DO NOT be a statistic. If you really don’t care about yourself that much, please think of the rest of us that might have to drive on the roads with you.

While these may cost some money, trust me when I say they are definitely cheaper than a funeral or a DUI conviction. Here is a list of safe alternatives:

  • Choose a designated driver – If you have a friend who is on a cleanse or is simply not a drinker, offer to pay for their food & bev if they drive your drunk ass around.
  • Lyft or Uber to and from your destination – beware of “surge pricing”. You can walk a couple of blocks away from a busy event and get a better price.
  • Get a hotel room and sleep it off
  • Call a cab
  • Many cities are offering free rides on public transportation services – including Vegas, Chicago, Denver and many others. Check your city’s mass transit website for details in your area.
  • AAA – Tipsy Tow – 1-800-AAA-HELP  First 10 miles free – check here for availability in your area. They tow your car and drive your drunk ass home.
  • Stear Clear – download this app – they will drive your drunk ass AND your car home!

Wishing you all safe and happy celebrations tonight and a healthy and prosperous New Year!

Vegas Strong – Community Action Has Huge Impact

As I am sure you are aware, there was a horrific mass shooting in my beloved city last night. Of course, things like this bring out the best and the worst in many people. I am proud to belong to this community and so proud of the way people came together from all walks of life to help out in any way they could.

Community – a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

People waited in line for up to 10 hours to donate blood. Citywide, culinary community members delivered meals, water, snacks and blood to donation locations across the valley.

Our culinary community and hospitality community offered meals, drinks, blood, and hotel beds to anyone who needed them. Read this great article by pal Al Mancini to see how so many are helping out.

Even if you are not in Vegas, you CAN help.

Follow the link to donate funds to the GoFundMe campaign to help victims and their families.

Many restaurants are donating food and beverages around the clock. Call a local restaurant and offer to pay for some meals to be delivered. Here’s a short list of some that are active participants.

Donate to the Urban Seed Foundation’s Nevada Big Give campaign to provide food and air mattresses to aid locations.

Give cash to the Red Cross or donate blood in your community.

Be sure to hug your loved ones often. Give thanks for their safety. Finally – many thanks to all of you who reached out, called, texted, messaged or emailed to make sure my family, friends and I are all safe. Thanks as well to the many readers of this blog who have donated time, cash, blood, food and every other thing imaginable.

(red) Dinner by Mario Batali

This past week John and I were honored to participate in the first ever (red) Dinner by Mario Batali here in Vegas to raise funds for (red), an HIV and AIDS charity. All of the Batali-Bastianich restaurants participated and each had a different menu. We elected to go to Carnevino and I am so glad we did! Interesting conversation and terrific steak and wine were enjoyed by all at the communal table. The only downside? It wasn’t as well attended as I think it should have been. Maybe because it wasn’t well publicized? Maybe because it occurred during Restaurant Week (more on that later)?

Of course Chef Nicole Brisson, the new culinary director for all the Batali-Bastianich properties here in Vegas, served incredible meat from their beef program to give us all a wonderful meal, as seen below. Each course was paired with wine, and while I am no expert, I truly enjoyed most of them. and what could be more (red) than gorgeous beef?

Right now beef carpaccio and tartare are two of my favorite things and this was a stellar representation. 

90 day aged ribeye carpaccio. Yeah, it was THAT good!

90 day aged ribeye carpaccio. Yeah, it was THAT good!


Bone-in NY Strip. perfectly cooked and perfectly rested as you can see.

Bone-in NY Strip. Perfectly cooked and perfectly rested as you can see.

You would think, “Mashed potatoes? Big Deal!” and you’d be dead wrong. These are the stuff dreams are made of. It arrives at the table as shown and then you break the yolk and mix the egg in. The first time I had this, I was skeptical, but this time I cleaned my plate without hesitation. All kidding aside, I could have eaten this and the carpaccio and been totally thrilled with my meal.

Mashed potatoes with a poached egg and guanciale? Yes Please!

Mashed potatoes with a poached egg and guanciale? Yes Please!


Light as air crepe filled with sweetened ricotta and lemon and topped with luscious berries and whipped mascarpone.

Light as air crepe filled with sweetened ricotta and lemon and topped with luscious berries and whipped mascarpone.

This is an event we will definitely attend again and you should too!

(red) works to make an AIDS free generation a reality by providing healthcare to AIDS and HIV positive patients, as well as research and education on HIV and AIDS worldwide.

To learn more about (red) click on the underlined link provided.

Prevent the Common Cold (and Scurvy) – Eat Cranberry Bread

Did you know that only three fruits are indigenous to North America? It’s true – blueberries, Concord grapes and the humble and oft maligned cranberry. All three were used as fabric dyes because of their intense pigments and the cranberry was used by Native Americans as a bartering tool among other things. Pirates (ARGH!) carried them on the seas to prevent scurvy. Being a member of the citrus family, ounce for ounce they pack more of a Vitamin C wallop than any other fruit. For years, many of us only ate them once a year in cranberry sauce, but Ocean Spray has done a great job of teaching us how to use them in other ways. We all know Craisins now and who hasn’t had a Cape Cod at the bar now and then? Besides the fact that they are good for you, they taste great when treated properly and fall and winter are the perfect time to enjoy them fresh.

Several years ago Friend Debbie gave me a loaf of Cranberry Bread that was so good I HAD to have the recipe. The recipe shared here is her recipe clarified with expanded directions for novice bakers.

A note about cranberries: To harvest cranberries, the “bogs” are flooded with water because they float. There is a small air pocket in the center that allows them to float. When prepping cranberries for cooking, swirl them in a bowl of water to wash them. The ones that float are fresh and delicious; toss out the ones that sink. Be careful when dumping them into the bowl too. They bounce!

A few tips about baking quick breads

  • When adding the dry ingredients, don’t overmix the dough or you will end up with a tasty, but tough brick instead of tender deliciousness
  • Like all recipes, get everything measured out first so the assembly and mixing is quick and easy
  • Because I like pecans and walnuts equally, they are mostly interchangeable for me. They have about the same weight ad mass, so measurement conversion isn’t necessary
  • My step mom Nettie always said quick breads were better the following day after having been wrapped in foil overnight (moister). Dad says they shouldn’t ever cool down completely.

Debbie Thomsen’s Cranberry Nut Bread

Makes 2 loaves, one to eat and one to gift

4 C flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp fine sea salt

3 large oranges

2 C sugar

¼ C Crisco®

2 large eggs

1 – 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped

1 C walnuts coarsely chopped


Preheat the oven to 350. Grease 2 standard sized loaf pans (I use Pampered Chef™ Stoneware loaf pans and Baker’s Joy™ baking spray).

Whisk together the first 4 ingredients and set aside.

Zest the oranges until you have 2 Tbsp of finely grated zest (usually 1 orange will net 1 Tbsp of zest). Juice the oranges for 1-1/2 C fresh orange juice. It’s easier to zest first and juice second. Remember, the zest is the orange part of the peel only. If you hit the white, you are getting into the pith and that cooks up bitter.

With an electric mixer on medium high, cream Crisco®, orange zest and sugar. Scrape the bowl down as necessary. Add eggs and beat until well combined. Reduce the speed and slowly add the orange juice and mix until well combined.

Gently mix in the flour mixture. Then add the cranberries and nuts just until combined. DO not over mix. There may be a few lumps other than the berries and nuts and that’s ok. The batter will be very thick.

Pour into prepared pans and bake for 50 – 60 minutes (depending on your pans) until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool 15 minutes in the pans before turning out.


Kerry Clasby – The Intuitive Forager

Growing up on the east coast Kerry Clasby was no stranger to farm stands and farmers’ markets. They are literally everywhere. In California she found them as well, but not in Las Vegas. With a background in education, sales & marketing and business, she did the only sensible thing. She followed her intuition and started one here. And boy has it grown! She talked with family farmers, educated herself through hands-on time at the farms, and through reading and talking with clients. She is a wealth of information on produce, the health benefits of nearly everything she sells, and what is in season at any time of the year. Kerry forages through the farms’ offerings to bring us the best and she follows her instinct on what to choose. Kerry is a fascinating human and an excellent raconteur. If you get the chance to chat with her – good luck getting her to sit still for very long – ask her about rose scented geranium and Michael Mina. Or how Tom Colicchio called her his vegetable girl on national TV. And she always wants to know your Zodiac sign.Kerry Clasby

In 2007 Kerry, with the help and urging of Mario Batali, started to bring farm fresh produce to the Vegas Valley, running the market out of Batali’s warehouse on Dean Martin. It started out as a way for the Strip chefs to get the quality and variety they had been lacking previously. Heavy weights like Batali, Michael Mina, Joel Robuchon and the Blau Group all began shopping at the market and the local community jumped on the bandwagon and began shopping too. MTO, Grass Roots, VegeNation, Pizza Rock and Carson Kitchen, all in the downtown area, get their produce from the market now as well. Recently Southern Wine & Spirits has gotten in on the action, sourcing ingredients for their in house development kitchen from the market. With ever expanding cocktail programs in all the casinos and many bars, mixologists are on the hunt for new and interesting ingredients to showcase not only great spirits, but the talent of the mixologists as well. The market is an obvious fit. Fantastic fresh herbs and fruits, some used to make shrubs, are in demand as well as less common citrus fruits to round out their ingredient lists. Just like our culinary community, our beverage community is creating sensational seasonal menus of cocktails that highlight produce and herbs at their peak.

Locally grown heirloom tomatoes

Every bit of produce you see at the market is organic. No commercial farming practices are used in the creation of the beautiful produce. Because we don’t have a vast array of farms here in Nevada, most of the produce at the market comes from California, however there is a whole section devoted strictly to Nevada farmers. On any given week, you can go in and find up to 450 different items to choose from. Several varieties of peaches, plums, potatoes and melons were on display in addition to morel mushrooms and of course the ever popular heirloom tomatoes. In choosing the farmers she deals with, Kerry visits EVERY farm. She investigates their growing practices, their past production and walks their fields. She knows these farmers, their families and what’s going on in their lives. It makes a difference. Any salesperson worth their salt will tell you a personal relationship with the client makes all the difference in the world. That is the case with Kerry as well. Knowing what is going on in the lives of her producers is important to her and it shows. She can tell you the provenance of every single item on display; where it was grown, how it was grown and when it was picked.

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It is more than just a farmers market with fruits and veggies. Need gifts? You can find them at the market too. Handmade hardwood cutting boards, flavored oils and vinegars and so much more can be found there. There are food, home, personal care, jewelry and decorative items. May I suggest starting your holiday shopping NOW! You can also see live cooking demos by local chefs and test ride an e-bike (think electric moped for the hip cyclist commuter).

Does it cost more? Yes. But as the old adage goes, “You get what you pay for”. When you bite into a slice of tomato from the market, it tastes the way a tomato SHOULD taste! The melons and peaches are sweet and juicy. The reasons for this are the produce is allowed to ripen naturally, they are picked at the height of flavor and are at the market in 24 hours. None of that is true when you shop elsewhere. If you want fresher, you’ll have to grow it yourself. When asked why she does this, Kerry responded, “It’s the right thing to do”. I asked her if she meant right for the community, the earth, or our bodies. “All of it!” was her response.

After a few location changes, the markets have found two stable locations. You can find weekly markets at both the former bus station at Downtown 3rd street on Fridays and also at the Downtown Summerlin mall on Saturdays. Both locations run 9 am – 2 pm weekly. A quick note: bring cash. The market is cash only and the local craftsmen and food purveyors (Jamaican cuisine, fantastic granola, micro-roasted coffee, for example) on site appreciate cash as well. Go to for more details and to contact Kerry about purchasing the best produce for your business.