Better Late Than Never

I did some cooking back when the kids were little, but for most of the time Bill and I have been married, he did the bulk of the cooking with one major exception—Thanksgiving Dinner. That was mine and still is.

But the everyday meal planning just wasn’t my cup of tea. Then a bout with something that turned out to be acute kidney failure followed by continuing health challenges turned that tradition on its ear, and suddenly I was the chief cook and bottle washer.

Early on in the pandemic, I made a batch of chicken curry that was not only RAW!!!, it was so spicy it drew tears. It was such a complete mess that you’ll find Mel Soames cooking up the same disaster in Den of Iniquity.

But I’ve learned a lot over time. I now know how to bread pork chops so the breading stays on the chop. I make a mean Full English Breakfast. I have yet to master the art of flipping eggs in the air, mostly because I’m the one who would have to clean up the resulting mess. No, I cheat by putting a lid on the pan while the eggs are cooking. What comes out are over easy eggs with no over.

I have learned the art of the reverse sear on steaks. Not John Howie worthy steaks but good enough for a late blooming home cook.

I favor one- or two-pot meals, and my crock-pot isn’t one of those. That thing is huge and takes two men and a boy to get in and out of the pantry and in and out of the dishwasher.

Occasionally I cook up a big batch of spaghetti sauce and then dole it out over a number of days. When I need a baked potato, I dose the potato with salt and PAM and then zap it in the microwave.

These days there’s not a lot of newsworthy news, so I can fast-forward through my online copy of the Seattle Timesette in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, but occasionally I’ve found myself scanning through the recipes.

If they call for lots of stuff that I don’t have readily available, I skip right over them. But last week one really grabbed me—Skillet Broccoli Spaghetti. The idea of making the sauce in a single pot and then cooking the pasta in the same sauce was more than I could pass up.

So yes, there were things I didn’t have on hand: anchovies, unsalted butter, a bulb of fresh garlic, a bag of fresh broccoli. But this time I put them on the shopping list, and tonight I made if for the first and probably not the last time. (After all, I still have all those ingredients.). And instead of regular spaghetti, I use angel hair pasta—it cooks faster.

I’m not going to put the link here, but if you do a search for Skillet Broccoli Spaghetti, you’ll find the recipe and a photograph. Mine turned out just like the picture.

And there’s enough left over for us to have with the reverse seared steak will be having tomorrow for Bill’s 84th birthday.

Maybe in the next book, Mel will take a crack at Skillet Broccoli Spaghetti, too. She’s another late blooming cook if ever there was one.

PS. Miss Rosewarne, my Home Economics teacher at Bisbee High School, would be incredibly surprised to find me handing out cooking advice. So would Miss Holt, the PE teacher, when I blog about physical fitness!

51 thoughts on “Better Late Than Never

  1. I love this post. It made me chuckle out loud. I’m very tired of cooking at age 76. Btw, my sister, who was born two weeks to the day before my first birthday, and I are huge fans if your books. If you hmever make it to Loveland or Fort Collins, Colorado, I’ll be there. She abandoned me and moved to Idaho to be near her kids and grandkids. Imagine that. ?

  2. I love this post. It made me chuckle out loud. I’m very tired of cooking at age 76. Btw, my sister, who was born two weeks to the day before my first birthday, and I are huge fans if your books. If you hmever make it to Loveland or Fort Collins, Colorado, I’ll be there. She abandoned me and moved to Idaho to be near her kids and grandkids. Imagine that. ?

  3. Judy, I’m like you when it comes to trying new recipes. Some look so good, but if it requires a lot of things I don’t have on hand I skip right over them. Of course, that means we end up eating the same dishes over & over, but luckily, Frank is not fussy so I don’t have to do much extra planning or shopping or figuring out which pan to use. It will be fun waiting to see Mel trying your dishes!

  4. Loved it! I never liked the routine of cooking every day! So I did , especially when my kids were little and my husband worked out of town a lot.

  5. That Skillet Broccoli Spaghetti sounds awesome…but I think I’ll make mine with fettucini…I’ll bet it would be good with tortellini, too.

    There’s a quick and easy tortellini soup that you might like, too…it takes about 30 minutes to cook, and the hardest part about it is opening the cans (grin).

  6. What a fun email! I so look forward to these. I started making meals each week for my 90 year old Mother in law last summer when her husband passed away. I truly love searching for new recipes to make sure, her last years are happy ones.

  7. I started making meals each week for my 90 year old Mother in law last summer when her husband passed away. I truly love searching for new recipes to make sure, her last years are happy ones. I look forward to Fridays, and your emails Judy!

  8. Use slow cooker liners. Makes for easy clean up. No dishwasher required. Find them with the wax paper etc.

  9. You use the phrase,”two shakes of a lamb’s tail.” The word “shake has a meaning to nuclear physicists. The nuclear reaction that powers an atomic bomb happens VERY fast. Los Alamos scientists found it cumbersome to use the term “ten billionth of a second” and coined a new term “shake” which is one ten billionth of of a second.

  10. I can really relate to this weeks topic on cooking! The man I married 49 years ago has taught me all about Diabetes, Kidney Failure and Dialysis, Kidney/Pancreas Transplants and Heart problems. The man should have married a Nurse! Anyway, on top of all that he is a picky eater. He actually does eat many of the things he says he doesn’t eat because I have gotten creative with ingredients and the names of things I make. For some reason in his mind everything has to have a name. He keeps me on my toes and shaking my head often. Now that there is just the two of us, cooking has become a really big chore for me. He doesn’t even know how to boil water so if we are going to eat, it’s my job. I have found a lady online that sends out daily emails and most of what she makes are small portions for two or three people. I’ve gotten some good recipes from her. You probably wouldn’t allow a web address so I am just going to say her first name is mariealicejoan and the title is The English Kitchen. She seems like a down to earth lady which is my kind of people!


  11. My father was a meat and potatoes man, so that is about all I learned about cooking from my mother, and my husband would only eat fried or broiled, absolutely no casseroles so I never even owned a cookbook. The Thanksgiving turkey was the only thing that came out of the oven. Today, just for me, if it doesn’t come out of the freezer in a box, I don’t do it, The one recipe I would do in a heartbeat is my mother’s lentil soup, but after she died I looked at every scrap of paper in her house, but never found it. Have never found anything even close. It was more like split pea soup than broth. If anyone has a recipe, Please, please, please let me know. I would even go to the grocery for the ingredients.

    • Use the recipe on the lentil package. I put in Polish sausage instead of ham. I’ve found the best recipes are usually printed on the product.

        • Your Mom probably did something she didn’t even think about so wouldn’t pass it on. Maybe you were so hungry at the time you didn’t question how she made it!

          • This is a bit off-topic, but funny. I don’t if it is true or not, but a woman wrote that her mother had a secret cheesecake she brought to every event. People begged for the recipe, but she never would give it.

            After she died, they found her freezer stocked full of frozen cheesecakes from a store. She had never made them herself.

  12. Thanks, Judy, for a fun and funny blog. I use the cover over the pan technique when I make eggs over easy – I’m not a flipper either.
    Cooking has always been a part of my life. First with my Grandma cooking Polish foods. Then with my Mom as a single Mother, and then with Ted as a newlywed, cooking for two. As our family expanded to include 8 children, my cooking skills grew to include mega meals. As the kids left home, I gradually downsized from meals for 10 to 9, 8, etc. Now I am back to cooking for two. Quite an experience. I still overcook once in a while and we end up having leftovers for a few days. Right now, we are on Day 5 of Easter ham! Hope Bill had an enjoyable birthday.

    • I forgot to mention that I won the Betty Crocker Homemaker of the Year award in high school. I still have the medal they gave me. I guess Betty knew something I didn’t!

  13. This gives me hope!
    At almost 75, I too may be able to master some one-pot meals- The only problem is, we are limited to a microwave and an electric kettle- We do have a crock pot still in its original packaging from about 10 years ago, supposedly in storage-
    So at the moment we can make tea, make oatmeal, and warm-up left-overs from take-out in the microwave- (The stove croaked some years back)
    I have in the distant past made decent meals in the microwave that preceded the one in storage, but it is necessary to do some preparations on the stove for most of them-
    So now as we are renovating our apartment, with only the kitchen and bath left to work on, we may need to spring for some new appliances- ( I forgot to mention that we had our old dishwasher for many years, while the new one lasted for less than 24 months)
    I am definitely going to search for that photo of your latest recipe!

  14. I became the improbably chief cook and bottle washer when I met my wife. I had been caring for my mom for years, cooking and learning all that it took to maintain the house. Long story short, my wife and I agreed I would take care of the house/cooking/etc. and she would bring home the bacon. After 33 years I got quite good and she loved my cooking. We had a number of recipe favorites. I will search for your broccoli recipe, it sounds very delicious. I too am a preferrer of one pot, also casseroles fall into that favorite category. I no longer cook, but miss it. Since she passed I get Meals On Wheels and just have a sandwich and salad at night (trying to lose weight – 30 pounds so far). I still gather recipes that catch my eye from email lists. I would like to cook again. There is pleasure in creating meals.

    Thank you for another great blog/story. You are so good at storytelling.

  15. i have always loved to cook and bake. I do things the old-fashioned way. No microwave or crock pot.

    The first time I try a recipe I follow it, but if I make it again I may do something different to it. Jacques Pepin mentioned in “Cooking My Way” to use what ingredients you have on hand. You’ll have something new.

    I’ll eat almost everything except organ meats. Before a trip to France I wrote down the names of things I might see on a menu that I wanted to avoid. However, I love escargot in garlic butter and frogs legs.

    Now I’m on a low sodium diet which is a challenge, but I’ve given up red meat which helps.

  16. I failed home ec both times I took it, but I quilt, can, bake, cook & (used to) do needlepoint. For being so awful at home ec, not to sure how I became good at all those things! Still am awful at ironing though…
    I’m currently having a rough patch with my love of cooking. Post rectal cancer, things no longer operate as they should (or how they did) & I’m not able to eat most of my favorite foods. My diet is very limited at the moment & I hate it. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to enjoy cooking again soon, as I’m actually pretty good at it!
    Agree on the crockpot problem too. I have a couple great recipes for it, but that thing is HEAVY!
    Please tell Bill ‘happy birthday’ from all of us.
    Signed, a proud DTR since Beau’s early days.

  17. The picture in my mind of you cooking and enjoying it is making me smile.
    Your account of your steps has encouraged me to get moving. I started at 3000 steps a day and have increased my goals. I am now walking 5000 and will up my goal to 6000 next week.

  18. Happy 84th birthday to you Bill. I miss seeing you at Judith’s book signings.
    Long time fan.

  19. We never thought we could live anywhere but our own home due to my husband’s celiac condition. But we are forever grateful to a retirement community we moved into in January where the chef embarrasses food diversity. My husband has had no issues of cross contamination and he enjoys numerous meal choices every day. And of course I am in heaven as I no longer cook. Life can turn out great after all.

  20. I hate to cook also. I live with only.four.legged friends, so it is really pretty easy to get.along just fine without any really cooking. I occasionally look at recipes on FB and think that that and that’s as far as I get. I somehow managed to get thru school with only taking Home Ed in junior high. My most vivid.memory from that is the day it was my turn to bring a.centerpiece. I of course forgot. Tried to cover up by borrowing one from a.different period. Did not get.away with it of course. I actually now have a.good.friend who is a

  21. Enjoy your blogs, I always have a Jance book close by! Broccoli spaghetti sounds good! Happy Birthday to Bill!???

  22. Gold Stars sent your way!!! Way to go, Miss Judy!!!
    I’ve taken to jotting my husband’s comments about the new dishes I try on the recipe, with the date it was first made. My favorite comment to date is “This one is a Charles Barkley diet buster,” about a no-bake Oreo Cookie Cheesecake. My favorite sound is the scraping the bottom of the bowl/plate to get every last drop. I can tell how good it is based on how long the scraping goes on…
    Happy Days!!!

  23. Of course I did all the cooking while my children were growing up and I still do if I’m hosting for the holidays. But my husband passed away many years ago and my children have also been on their own for quite some time, so it’s just me and I really hate cooking just for one. So, anything quick and easy gets my vote.
    Here’s a super easy recipe that my sister told me about. So easy that I didn’t even have to write it down. I haven’t tried it yet, but I plan to. My sister swears that it is delicious and healthy. Easy peasy, no need to even cook, except for heating up the chicken broth.
    In a soup bowl add as much or little of these ingredients as you like:
    some cooked shredded chicken, (get an already cooked chicken from Costco or your local grocery store) and shred it,
    sliced avocado,
    diced tomato and onion or you can substitute the tomato and onion with some pico de gallo if you want a little spice.
    Then pour some hot chicken broth over it.
    Add tortilla chips and sour cream to that if you like and voila! Enjoy! Let me know if you try it.
    Thanks for sharing! Love your weekly blogs!

  24. Great subject this week, everybody likes talking about food, bragging about their cooking skills or lamenting their culinary failings.
    I cut the cable a few years ago but still get PBS and watch Cooks Country several times a week. All the recipes they demonstrate are available and I think you can just Google the name of the program and find out how to get the many hundreds they have.
    I limit myself to just frying eggs, and do it pretty much the same as Judith does. I do use a paper plate instead of a metal or glass lid, though. I just set the paper plate upside down over the eggs and put a fork on top to help hold the steam in. I already have a piece of toast made so just slide the eggs out on top of the toast and have an open-face egg sandwich as easy as that. I can use the paper plate a couple times before recycling.
    We don’t use a crock pot to cook, but for chick pea or lentil soups we use a rice cooker. Works really good, light weight and easy to clean.
    Happy birthday to Bill, bon appetit everyone.

  25. Good job. I saw that recipe but stopped at the anchovies.

    Also, I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who doesn’t use a slow cooker. First one I had, I had to put it inside a jelly roll pan as the soup was running over. Second one I had, the roast burned. I’m not going for a third!!

  26. Congrats on the spaghetti. Sounds yummy. I like to cook more now that I’m retired and have more time but I still lean towards easy recipes. If it calls for more than 6-7 ingredients or I see words like clarify or carmalize you can bet that’s not getting made. Wishing Bill a very happy birthday.

  27. Congrats on being a late blooming chef. I too learned late and am plant-based so it is a challenge. So glad Bill is there to celebrate.

  28. I remember Ms Rosewarne and Ms Holt…really liked them both but only had PE with Ms Holt.

  29. OMG! If I thought I could be an author I would have written your blog today! I’m your kind of cook! If I can’t make dinner in 15 minutes I don’t want to do it. Meal planning is a chore that’s close to the task of cleaning the bathroom. I understand your thoughts about fancy cooking utensils, too. When my daughter was moving out of Alaska she brought her InstaPot down to me. She’d tried to sell everything on Marketplace but no one wanted the InstaPot. After a few weeks I decided to give it a try. Instant?? Nope! It takes longer to fix a meal in that thing! That is definitely a misnomer for that utensil! Just send me a cook and a cleaning service and I’d be in seventh heaven.

    Now tell me, please? Why can’t I find J.A. Jance books in Alaska? Why not at the airport in Seattle? I’m offended by marketing. I guess I’ll have to shop at Amazon.

  30. I prefer home cooked meals. I don’t like the flavor of most premade items and I like leftovers. I get to come home for lunch and being able to warm up lunch then put my feet up for 40 minutes makes the day bearable. I really enjoy having jars of soup available in the freezer, yum!

  31. You might like this recipe from Martha Stewart. It is good and not convoluted like so many recipes from people who cook for a living.
    It is a one pot spaghetti. I might try it with some broccoli next time, that sounds good.

    I remember one Readers Digest real short story. Cleaning out their dad’s house after he had passed away the adult children found a tiny room that had a large amount of empty grape jelly jars. Guess he used to make a spaghetti sauce everyone loved but he would not give out the secret. They finally figured he put some grape jelly into each batch.
    Happy Birthday to Bill.

  32. Happy birthday to Bill.

    I am going to try your broccoli spaghetti idea.

    I’m waiting patiently for your next Beau book.

  33. Bill and I share the same birthday. I am in Bisbee for the weekend with my four daughters. On your suggestion we went to Cafe Roka to celebrate my birthday and the food and service was great. The house we are staying in is on Quality Hill, so it is close to downtown. I love the old-town atmosphere of Bisbee. Now when I read the Joanna Brady books I can picture Bisbee in my mind.

  34. I am 71 years old and I remember my mother cooking spaghetti both ways. I loved it either way. Now, I only use one pot but the cooking is done in steps. I cook the meat ,onions, and garlic and put it on a paper plate, then I drain the grease from the pan, add water and cook the pasta and veggies. When the pasta is cooked, I drain the water and add the meat and ragu to the pasta, and let it simmer a short while .

    After reading your blog I am going to have to go back to the true one pot method. It will be good for a change and I already know I will love it.

  35. Hi Judy!
    I’m a loyal reader of your books and blog. In fact, when I know you will be doing a book signing near Tacoma, I try to attend. I find you fascinating to listen to your stories at your book signings because you are genuine.

    To ensure I continue to receive your emails blogs, please update my email address from to my latest email address of – Thanks so much!! Nancy Judge

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