As a teenager, I spent many days creating soups and dishes to feed my four brothers and became very good at whipping up healthy, simple dishes that they went crazy over. I learned about spices and herbs by smelling them and then pairing their aromas with what I was cooking. Through a lot of trial and error I came up with some incredibly simple, healthy and decadent recipes that will knock your socks off!

In 1979, I moved from Southern California to Oregon and got a job as a chef at a dude ranch. I had the time of my life making homemade bread every day, using the milk from the goats and cow to make cheese, butter and yogurt, and picking fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden. Everyone should grow a garden even if you have to grow herbs and vegetables in pots or containers; it will enhance your health and life and make your dishes more delicious.

I was also a very entrepreneurial kid and had my share of lemonade stands and cupcake sales. As a life-long entrepreneur, I have always firmly believed that you should make your living doing what you love. While I was happily cooking at the dude ranch, I met my best friend and future husband, David, who was working there as the foreman. Although we were both from the Southern California suburbs, we loved life in Oregon and decided to start a business together on the side. Through working at the ranch, we had discovered that city kids really benefited from up-close and personal experiences with animals. To make a long story very short, we started a traveling petting zoo business to bring the animals to the cities. David and I grew our business from a little educational petting zoo at one venue in Ventura, California to the number one traveling entertainment company in the country. With the fair and event industry as our market, we have specialized in petting zoos, pony rides, and children’s entertainment for nearly 30 years.

The greatest benefit along the way has been the hundreds of troubled teenagers we have had the pleasure of working with. We discovered that we had a perfect environment to help troubled kids and teens. They showed up at our door and we took them in. Not only did they excel in animal husbandry, but they learned public relations, leadership and 15 years later, many of them became our partners. If you are interested in the entire story, you will have to get a copy of my book, “Everything That Matters: In Life, Business, Parenting, and Cooking.”

The reason I am sharing my story with you is because I believe, as my father always expressed to me, that everything in life should be simple. Even cooking should be simple. My belief is that if it takes more than 20 minutes to make a recipe, then find a different recipe. I also love seeing people succeed; it is like a sport to me! I have even coined the saying “Everything in life starts with one idea.” I feel that if I can help you to be confident in one thing, then you can succeed in anything.

In 2004, I started a local radio show because I was eager to share my love of cooking, gardening, parenting, and even some down home kitchen table politics. This led me to my next venture: cooking shows for the fair and event industry. My husband, a classic car builder and jack-of-all-trades, built an incredible live cooking stage for me from a 1940 Ford Convertible. Completely self-contained, I am booked at fairs and events around the country. If you love going to your local fair, then look for me.

Always experiment, even with my recipes. I have also created a Cooking Journal to go along with this cook book to record your own recipes and ideas. If you make up a recipe, write it down, and every time you make it and you tweak it, make a note of it in your journal until you have the perfect recipe. Good luck in your cooking adventures, and remember, “Everything in life starts with one idea.”
Dianne Linderman