I have never been big on the whole shopping thing. You know, the stereotypical woman who lives and breathes to buy things? Not me.

I buy clothes when I need them - I go to the store, get what I need and get out. I might try something on to make sure it fits, but the idea of scooping up clothes, just to try them on and maybe buy something - or just buy because I fleetingly like something - just isn't in my genes. I'm not big on grocery shopping either. I make a list, gather my coupons, and I'm in and out of the market in an hour or less.

I love bookstores. I could happily spend an entire afternoon browsing the racks and stacks of books. Cookbooks, novels, books on every subject imaginable, all ripe for the choosing.

Another one of my favorite stores is a hardware store. I'm entranced by all the things there - most of which I have no idea what they are or what they are used for. Left on my own, I could fill a shopping cart with goodies - hooks, tools, gizmos and thingamajigs. I'm in awe that there are people who actually know what the things are and how to use them.

But my real downfall is a dollar store. Not a store with the word "Dollar" in it, but a real, everything-in-the-store-costs-$1 store. And my weakness in a dollar store is the spices and extracts. OK, so the spice jars are only filled two-thirds of the way, but you're supposed to replace spices every six months to a year anyway. (Right, and how many of us do that? I had cream of tartar that borrowed from my mom - and she passed away in 1992! I finally replaced it two years ago.)

My son was with me on a recent foray to a dollar store, where I picked up fajita seasoning, garlic powder (which had dried out on me and was like cement - maybe there is something to this replacing spices periodically) and fivespice powder.

David looked at me.

"OK, I can see the fajita seasoning and the garlic powder, but what is five-spice powder and why do you need it?" he asked.

"It's used in Chinese cooking," I explained. "I might need it someday and I'll have it."

He gave me the grown-man version of rolling his eyes, but to his credit didn't pursue the matter - until we got home and I asked him to put the new acquisitions into the spice cupboard.

"Mom, there's no room. Can't we get rid of some of these? What are these little bottles? Lime extract, lemon extract, orange, rum, vanilla and Mexican vanilla You really need two types of vanilla?"

"Yes."

"Jerk seasoning, Montreal steak seasoning, fajita seasoning, beer-can chicken seasoning, Cajun seasoning You use all of these?" he persisted.

I nodded.

"Fennel seed? Pumpkin pie spice - when was the last time you made a pumpkin pie? Pickling spice? When did you make pickles?"

"Pizza burgers, pumpkin pie dip and you've got me on the pickling spice," I admitted. "I needed it for a recipe I was going to try, bought the spice and couldn't find the recipe."

"Garlic powder and dried minced garlic? Onion powder and dried minced onion? Celery salt and celery seed? Ground nutmeg and whole nutmeg?"

I nodded again.

"Cinnamon, ground cloves, more ground nutmeg, ground ginger, allspice if you have allspice, why do you need the other four?"

"It's not the result of mixing them all into one spice. Allspice is a spice on its own."

"Basil, parsley, oregano and Italian seasoning? You can't just use the Italian seasoning?"

" Ground black pepper, red cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, ground white pepper, mixed whole pepper? One isn't enough?"

I shook my head.

He shook his head, shoved all the spices back into the cupboard and walked away.

Emeril Lagasse would understand.


Gameday Fajita Burger

Serves 4

1 packet fajita seasoning mix (about 1 1 2 to 2 tablespoons)

1 4 cup melted butter

1 pound ground beef

1 Vidalia onion

2 green peppers

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 hamburger buns

Mix fajita seasoning and butter until well blended. Add ground beef to fajita/butter mixture, and blend with hands. Note: Do not overmix. Form four even patties with hands.

Thinly slice onions and peppers. Saute onions and peppers in olive oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and caramelized. Place onions and peppers in aluminum foil.

Place foil with onions and peppers on grill, and burgers on grill at the same time. Grill 5 minutes on each side for medium burgers.

Remove burgers from heat, let rest 5 minutes, and serve with toasted bun, sautéed onions and peppers. Add queso to the burger for a real treat!


Pumpkin Pie Dip

15 oz can pumpkin

3 4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or more to taste)

6 ounces plain Greek yogurt

8 ounces Cool

Whip In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin with brown sugar, vanilla and spices. Using a spatula, blend well.

Stir in yogurt. Fold in Cool Whip, until all ingredients are well blended.

Chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or until ready to eat.

Serve with graham crackers, cookies and/or fruit.