Paradise Found


I drove around National City this morning around 8 am trying to find the Olivewood Garden and Learning Center. I cursed Google Maps and used my spidey senses to find it, parked my car and then just sat staring.

The first thought that burst into my mind was that of my mother. I couldn’t help but wish she could have lived her life in a place this peaceful and full of the simple beauty and joy that so many of us crave. For you see, I was staring at a stately Victorian home surrounded by what seemed to be acres of every type of flower, fruit and vegetable known to man. It reminded me a perfect farm on Farmville.

Camera in hand and perma-grin spread across my face I began to wander the grounds without even checking in with anyone.  And to what to my wonderous eyes did appear? A flock of  not so tiny chickens peacefully doing their chicken  thing under the watchful eye of a very handsome rooster. I wandered around just never wanting to leave, admiring the veggies (Oh Jessica,you would love this!), feeling not envious but just overjoyed that such a philanthropic place exists.

But I was there to lend a hand to one of my newly found passions; helping others learn to make healthy food  choices. You see, this Garden is run by the International Community Foundation and just recently, thanks to the efforts of Chef Julie Darling , Michelle Duggan Cox and many others, is now hosting local school children at the garden to learn about cooking with the organic goods found at the garden. The program has now expanded to include guest chefs who volunteer to teach groups of children about food, health, choices and cooking.

As always, I met some wonderful people to include Chef Chad White and Chef Andrew Spurgin.  My good friend Chef Basil Hernandez was there and soul sister Michelle Duggan Cox, who runs the Learning Center at Olivewood.

The day started with Julie lending me one of her Chef coats! Man, I am such a sucker for that stuff. The coat was actually really comfy and I kept it on all day. I wonder if my niece, the future Chef Alex Ashforth ,likes her coat? I’m guessing yes!

yep, thats my elf ear. learn to love it!

Will this be my only chance to ever dress up like a chef? hmmmm.

Yes, there was some early goofing off and breakfast eating and of course I wanted to open the wine that was in the fridge, but cooler senses prevailed and we soon all got to work.

Several bunches of kids came in throughout the morning learning about and helping to make Chef Chad’s Grapefruit Soda. Each group would then rotate outside and work with the Master Gardener of the property, Martha and then stop by and crowd around a table set up by Chef Andrew that was set up with good and bad food choices and exotic fruits that were donated by Specialty Produce for the kids to try. I admire these people so much, very busy professional Chefs giving back in a way that really matters.

The very patient Chad White teaching the kids to squeeze a grapefruit

Chef Andrew want to know "what side of the table are YOU on?"

Chef Julie explains why we are making grapefruit soda

Soon after, a group of donors to the foundation came through and it was the main event. We were to serve lunch with the help of the kids and there was quite a whirlwind of activity although a lot of prep had been done beforehand. We set a nice area up near the pool and had the kids serve these philanthropically minded people the grapefruit soda. Meanwhile, the kitchen was a last minute frenzy as lunch came out and was carried down to the pool area to be served.

All in all the event came off nicely and the meal that Chefs Chad, Julie and Basil put together was beautiful. It was really fun to see how proud the kids were of the soda they helped make. I really hope it helped to encourage the donors to bug their friends for more donations.

menu, recipes and party favor of garden herbs

I just want to say thank you to Michelle,can you believe that she put down on the card that I’m a “Food Writer”? I love her! It was a thrill to see my name next to that dream job! Of course, I covered it up with rosemary in this picture, but who cares? I brought one of the cards home with me 🙂

I learned so much today and absolutely fell in love with Olivewood. As far as my chef friends go, how did I get so lucky to meet such wonderful people at this time in my life?

Luann Harris Gould

Food Writer

Don't worry, that chicken will never be dinner!

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Finding A Way: frugal ideas for the beginner’s kitchen


I’m really getting interested in finding ways to help new and beginner cooks. I was thinking that one of the first obstacles a person might face in a new quest to cook and eat at home is having a properly supplied kitchen and how expensive that might seem to a novice cook.

My first suggestion to someone who has very little to no kitchen equipment is to let friends and relatives know what you are looking for. Free is awesome! Many people love to buy new stuff and then give away their old stuff. Me? I rarely buy anything new. If I look around my kitchen, most of it was gifts, freebies from friends or stuff I found at the thrift store.

Maybe you may not think of the thrift store (or flea market, swap meet,garage sales etc.) for kitchen essentials, but it is definitely worth a peek now and then and is my new favorite way to find things that I “need”. Look over items carefully before buying for chips or cracks. Check the label on the bottom because sometimes you may see that the item is for “decorative purposes only” or “not for use with food”, yikes!  I always try to find quality items, which really is not as hard as you may think. Sometimes, you may have to go to more than one store and a few different times to find everything you need. Thrift store prices vary greatly, so shop around and look before you buy.

Recently, my husband and I had really gotten into Asian soups. The only problem was the bowls we had totally did not work for sipping broth out of. We checked Target first. A simple bowl was over 6 bucks! To me, that is way too much. We then decided to go check out the awesome Amvet’s Thrift Store (very near Specialty Produce!). Within minutes, I had a little basket full of matching bowls at a whopping 65 cents apiece. Plus, I found a wonderful lidded rice server (3 dollars, made in Japan) and a pretty Japanese serving dish for around 1 dollar. Took it all home, ran through the dishwasher and ta-da! Fully stocked on bowls for slightly more than it would have cost me for just ONE bowl at a giant, big box retailer. Plus, I stuck to my ideals about reducing, reusing and recycling.

If you can’t find what you need either for free or at the thrift store, try checking Ross. Take it one step further though, and look for the clearance items. Usually they are buried in the back of the shelves. Takes a little time, but is definitely worth it.

To successfully feed yourself at home, at least in the beginning, really takes pretty simple equipment. As far as pots and pans go, stay away from dangerous, environmentally un-friendly non-stick cookware. Also, I recommend not purchasing cheap, light weight aluminum either. Here is my list for a starter kitchen which assumes most people already have a few forks, bowls and plates on hand:

  • Large heavy soup pot, preferably with a lid
  • Small saucepan with lid (to  hold about 2 cups or a little more)
  • Large Cast Iron frying pan ( I will post a tutorial on “seasoning” and using this pan. You will love it once you really use it!)
  • Small skillet
  • A medium size pyrex or corning type baking dish
  • A cookie sheet
  • Stainless steel spatula (or plastic in a pinch, try to stay away from plastic if you can)
  • Wood or Bamboo large spoon for stirring
  • Bowl scraper
  • Large mixing bowl
  • a couple of smaller ones
  • a measuring cup set and measuring spoon set
  • A decent chopping knife. (no, I do not own any really nice knives. I’m using an old Ginsu brand that I’ve had forever. By decent, I mean one that is sharp, is comfortable for you and has a wide flat blade.)
  • A cutting board
  • A  fine mesh strainer
  • A colander
  • Food storage equipment such as lidded bowls (I save containers and wash them to use over and over again)
  • Hot Pad

Gosh, I think that may be it! Of course, there is a ga-gillion different products out there and tons of different gadgets, but for basic cooking, that is really all you need.

That’s it for now, folks! Please let me know if this was useful for anyone.

Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

Something Good



And doing so you can recreate yourself and you can also come up with something that is not only original and creative and artistic, but also maybe even decent, or moral if I can use words like that, or something that’s like basically good.-Lester Bangs

That is exactly what I’m going to do here, create something good! Something really good. Something so good you will hopefully become inspired to create something good for yourself! Along the way, I hope you learn something new, laugh, share with your friends, create, try new foods and discover for yourself maybe a passion you didn’t know you had.

I would say my passion level for food in general is “high” to “obsessive”. I have recently become obsessed with Local Food, specifically the Farmer’s Market Bag available from Specialty Produce. So much so that I have become inspired to jump on the blog bandwagon and share my passion with you.

Sunday evenings, my party partner (also known as my husband, Shawn) and I place an online order for a “Farmer’s Market Bag” or “FMB” from a local wholesale produce supply company,Specialty Produce. Every Thursday we walk down with our very hairy child (also known as our dog, Missy) and pick it up. Every week, the bag is filled with different goodies from local Southern California Farms. And every week, that’s pretty much what we base our meals on.

It works a lot like CSA (community supported agriculture) that is available at many farmer’s markets. The basic idea is to help support local farmers by committing to purchase a certain quantity of product.

I am so excited to share with you my ideas for meals based on the FMB of the week, recipes made with the goodies from the FMB, cooking and storing techniques, food wisdom and resources. In a way, I guess I’m virtually feeding you, which makes me happy.

I hope to be adding video very soon of some cooking demonstrations I plan on putting on for you every week, but for now, no video camera (darn!).

Please leave a comment or a question any time. I appreciate the interaction!

Ciao!