silver-palate The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins
This oldie but goodie was my first real cookbook.  Their recipes soothed my soul after my mom died, when I cooked from her copy nonstop.  I still have her original copy, filled with food smudges and worn pages. The book is available at Amazon

try-this-at-home Try This at Home by Richard Blais
Seriously, this man is a culinary creative genius.  And yet, he can talk about his love for Snak-Pak pudding cups in the same breath that he explains the mailliard reaction.  Gosh I love him, and his amazing family. (see page 146 of his book for a family portrait unlike any you’ve ever seen.) The book is available at Amazon 

healthy-vegan Healthy Happy Vegan Kitchen by Kathy Patalsky
Kathy and I met virtually when I was still on Next Food Network Star, as she blogged along the episodes, remaking some of the finalist’s recipes into vegan versions.  We met in person a few months later, and became fast friends and supporters of one another.  I eat meat, and I LOVE Kathy’s food.  Whether you are looking to explore veganism, are interested in just learning about it with a truly non-judgmental guide, or just love good veggie eating, this book is seriously full of amazing food.  Kathy is fully responsible for my love affair with nutritional yeast. The book is available at Amazon

present-over-perfect Present Over Perfect
I can’t remember reading a book with so many “aha’s” for me. Shauna’s personal quest to leave behind frantic life for a simpler, soulful one is truly an open, invitation for us to do the same, and it doesn’t feel stressful or unattainable or judgmental. Wow. Just wow. Please read this book if you are tired or untethered or wondering if maybe there is more than just more. The book is available at Amazon

blood-of-the-lamb The Blood of the Lamb by Peter DeVries
The authenticity of the emotion in this book makes it life-changing.  If you happen to be Christian, then I must insist that you get this book (and then let’s talk about it later!).   This book is readable enough for a casual beach day, but the themes will stick with you. The book is available at Amazon

daring-greatly Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
Brené Brown is a game-changer.  If you haven’t seen her TED talks, do yourself a favor, stop what you are doing, and watch her speeches now.  Wow, right?  I love all of her booksThe book is available at Amazon

what-on-earth-am-i-here The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
I heard pastor Rick Warren say “you never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul.” Wow. He inspired me to invest in what is lasting, and to be generous while we are here on earth.  Did you know he and his wife Kay give away 91% of what they earn?  They live on 9% of what they make.  An interviewer once asked Rick why he thought God chose him to write one of the most successful books of all time ? Rick’s response: “because God knew he could trust me with the money.” Pithy answer that has me pondering this week. The book is available at Amazon

the-knight-in-rusty-armor The Knight in Rusty Armor by Robert Fisher
If you liked Jonathan Livingston Seagull, then you’ll love this book!  The story works on two levels: as a light story of a knight told in a humorous tone, and as the deeper story about life and its meaning.  Plus, the whole thing is 70-some pages, so if you have even an hour or two at the pool, you can escape into this little gem. The book is available at Amazon

getting-to-yes Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Try
If you have any interest in business, doing business, getting a job in business, or if you ever need to negotiate anything (ever), then this book is a must.  My greatest takeaway was the discussion on dovetailing interests, and the discussion on BATNA.  (Read it!  And let’s discuss!) The book is available at Amazon

a-whack-on-the-side-of-the-head A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech
This book on creativity is somewhere between textbook and easy-to-follow guide with exercises for increasing creativity.  Sometimes if I’m struggling with finding a solution for a problem, I just read one chapter, which is enough to unlock some of my assumptions, thus opening up more possibilities.  And, read as a (perhaps less exciting) textbook, it’s a worthwhile study in creativity – I’ve become more aware of the general roadblocks, which has proven helpful in business and in creative pursuits.  If you are looking for lighter summer reading, though, I suggest picking a chapter that interests you and trying out the exercises in it. The book is available at Amazon


In the Kitchen

digital-thermometer Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer
If you don’t have an instant read meat thermometer, put this on the top of your list (which is why it’s on the top of mine!)  Unless you are a very experienced, it’s quite tricky to tell how cooked meat is just by touching it.  A meat thermometer gives you incredible confidence with grilling or roasting meats.  Really, this is a game-changer. Available here

microplane Microplane
I love my microplane for shredding hard cheeses like parmesan, and I’m always grabbing it to zest oranges, limes and lemons (I even zest my kids’ oranges before we peel them for snacks!).  I keep that zest in small baggies in the freezer, and use it for flavoring muffins, pancakes, salad dressings, braising liquids, etc…  Another use:  grate garlic, ginger, shallots and onion on the microplane instead of mincing. Available here

Citrus Squeezer
I use my citrus squeezer all the time. It gets the maximum amount of juice and is easy to clean.  Available here

squeeze-bottle Squeeze Bottles
I use these little guys all the time for storage and for plating.  I store maple syrup, honey, agave, oil, and dishwashing soap in these bottles (even our girls’ gecko food!)  And when I’m making holiday or dinner party meals, these bottles make it easy to plate up sauces or flavored oils beautifully.  (Note: the bottles I use don’t have little lids, but versions exist that have them if you prefer.) Available here

whisk Whisk – Variety Set
It sounds like a small thing, but having the exact right-sized whisk when you reach in the utensil drawer is a luxury that actually makes me smile when I cook.  Especially when I’m making vinaigrettes or aiolis and I grab that perfectly-tiny whisk. I cannot believe for years I kept only size when ten dollars buys multiple options. Available here

fish-bowls Fish Bowls
I love them!  I bought mine at a boutique here in Coronado (called Charisma – if you ever come to Coronado, please go shop there because they have lots of cool things, including fish bowls!), but you can also get them online. Available here

yogi-bedtime Bedtime Tea
I love relaxing at night with a cup of herbal tea and a good book!  One of my favorites lately is Yogi’s Soothing Caramel Bedtime Tea.  It’s a great way to wind down after a long day. Available here.



breatheright Breathe Right
These little nose strips zoom straight to the top of my list.  They are super sticky spring-loaded strips that keep your nostrils open a little extra so you can breathe better.  We use them when sleeping with a stuffy nose.  Everyone gets a little congestion during cold and flu season, right?  So why aren’t we all talking about this amazing little drug-free wonders?  They open up your nasal passages by a good 20% (that’s my totally unofficial guess), which can make all the difference. Available here

clarisonic Clarisonic Face Brush
Years ago, my wonderful friend (and fellow Food Network Star winner) Aarti raved about her Clarisonic Face Brush as we sat together in the hair and makeup room before filming Drop 5 Pounds (btw…LOVED making that show!  I wish it were still in production!).  Anyway, she piqued my interest!  Within a week of arriving at home after the season filming wrapped, I received a package.  Aarti had sent me my own Clarisonic face brush.  I was hooked.  My skin never looks better than when I use that brush! The downside is it’s a bit pricey. Available hereThere are cheaper versions out there (such as this one by Olay – let me know what you think of it if you try it!)

macks-earplugs Mack’s Earplugs
When I was filming Food Network Star, we all shared a New York City apartment.  All the female contestants shared one bedroom filled with bunkbeds.  There were snorers and loud sleepers.  (If only I’d had some Breathe Rights to share….). Luckily, one of the women had brought some of these soft and bendy ear plugs.  They are made of a wax-like material so they are comfy enough to sleep in, and they really work!  I travel with them all the time now.  Tip to parents of toddlers:  Take a fresh package along with you when you travel on a plane and offer them those sitting near you when you board.  Let them know you’ll do your best to keep crying and toddler loudness to a minimum, but that you are also equipped with fresh ear plugs as a Plan B.  This small gesture goes a long way to placate any irritated travel neighbors. Available here




Disclosure of Material Connection: I include links to make it easy to purchase, however know that some of the links in this page may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.