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The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes. Story: Jennifer Stirling wakes up in hospital, having had a traumatic car accident. She’s introduced to her husband, of whom she has no recollection, and is sent home with him eventually, to a life she neither remembers or embraces readily. But this is the life she was raised to have, so surely it must be worth living, underneath the strange, muted tones of her daily existence. Jennifer goes through the motions, accepts what she is told is her life and all seems to bob along well enough, except when she finds a letter that isn’t her husband’s handwriting, and is clearly a link to someone she has been involved with, but whom? London, France, Africa and America all come into play in this story of a woman piecing back together her life in effort to understand what she has lost, and what she threw away. There is a bit of a time-hop from 1964 to 2003. . . from a reviewer on amazon.  I loved this book from page one to the end. There’s some bit of mystery and you so get into the head of Jennifer Stirling. I could hardly put it down. I read this while I was in England just a week or two ago (as I write this) so could so identify with the characters, the homes, the life. Great read.

Francine Rivers, an author relatively new to me, but much admired, is most known for this: Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) It’s a trilogy. The first 2 books are about Hadassah, a young woman in the time of the Roman Empire. When Jerusalem was overrun and destroyed, the Christians still alive were sent off and away, separated and derided and abused. Hadassah was one of them. She’s a slave to a wealthy family and it takes 2 of the books to read before the son of the family finally realizes that he’s in love with Hadassah. If  you’re a Christian, you’ll learn a whole lot more about the time following Christ’s crucifixion, about the lot of the struggling Christian community. The 3rd book in the trilogy is about a gladiator who is part of book 1 and 2, but not a main character. You’ll learn about his life too, after he regains his freedom from the fighting ring and the battle of his soul. These books are a fabulous read. Can’t say enough good things about them all. I’ve never been a huge fan of old-world Roman Empire reading, but this one was altogether different. Very worth reading.

Amy Belding Brown wrote this book: Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America, a true accounting in 1676, of Mary Rowlandson, a woman who was captured by Native Americans.  Even before she was captured on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the ongoing bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. The story is riveting, and perplexing once she is traded back to her home. You’ll see a different side to the Indian problem back then and find yourself conflicted. An excellent read.

Taylor Caldwell was a prolific writer, and one I read when I was younger. She died in 1980, and this book, her last, Answer As a Man certainly delivers as her others did. All his life, Jason Garrity has had to battle intolerance and injustice in his quest for power, money, and love. His new hotel will give him financial security, the means to support a loving family and become an upstanding citizen. When family secrets and financial greed combine to destroy his dreams, his rigid moral convictions are suddenly brought into question. . . from Goodreads. Caldwell believed the banking industry was way too powerful, and often took aim at it, as she did in this book. It chronicles the life of a very poor, impoverished Irish immigrant to the U.S. He was an upstanding citizen, God-fearing, but maybe naive in some respects. Good book if you enjoy very deep character study.

Another book by Diney Costeloe, Miss Mary’s Daughter. When a young women is suddenly left with no family and no job or income, she’s astounded to learn that she’s actually a granddaughter of a “grand” family in Ye Olde England. She’s very independent (at least I thought so, for the time period), but is willing to investigate this new family of hers. There are many twists and turns – is she going to inherit the family home – or is the man who has been caring for the home and his daughter the logical inheritors. There’s a villain who nearly sweeps her off her feet, much intrigue from many characters. Well developed plot with a happy ending. A good read.

Celeste Ng is a hot new author. I read another of her books (see below) but this time I read Little Fires Everywhere. There are so many various characters and plots in this book, as in her others. This book focuses on a Chinese baby abandoned at a fire station and the subsequent court battle when the single mother surfaces six months later to try to reclaim her daughter from the family in the process of adopting her. Emotions well up, waxing and waning on both sides of the issue. You may even find yourself changing your own mind about the right or wrong of a child raised with a natural-born mother (albeit late to the raising) or the mother the child has known since near birth. Ng likes to write books with lots of grit and thorny issues. Although a good read, I liked Everything I Never Told You better than this one.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Oh my. This book has so many layers: (1) the young, impoverished couple and their infant son who live, literally, in a dump in Cambodia and about the precarious structure, if you can even call it that, that comprises their “house” in the midst and perched on top of trash; (2) the woman who collects the rent (hence the title and yes, people have to PAY to live there); (3) the young son’s chronic illness; (4) how they make a living out of collecting and selling trash; and (4) the life saving grace and wisdom imparted by characters in the book as the young mother begins to learn to read. If you decide to read this book, please don’t stop at about page 15-20, thinking you just don’t know if you want to read about this. Please continue. It’s so worth it. Have a highlighter pen in your hand because you’ll find so many quotes you will want to remember. Believe it or not, there is also quite a bit in this about literature.

Recently finished C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel). I just love Box’s novels. They take place in present day semi-wild west, and chronicle the fish and game warden, Joe Pickett, as he unravels another crime in his territory. A woman has disappeared, and the governor has asked him to figure it out. He does, but the tale meanders through multiple layers of intriguing story. His books are riveting. Men and women enjoy his books – so if you have a fellow in your life or family that would enjoy an intriguing book (this is not espionage) then gift him one of Box’s books.

Also finished Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. About a dysfunctional family, through and through. I picked this up from amazon from someone who read the book, named “McReader,” and she says: “Set in the 70s, the story follows a Chinese American blended family in Ohio. When Lydia [the daughter] is found floating in the lake, her family is forced to analyze what put her there. Was it pressure from her family to succeed? Was it pressure to fit in? Was it a crime of passion or convenience? I was spellbound reading the last half of this book. I loved each flawed family member, especially Hannah,. While the story went where I hoped it would go, I was not disappointed at all with the progression. It was also quite insightful on the prejudices that society had about Chinese Americans still during that timeframe and how careful parents have to be to put their dreams onto their children.” Such a good book and definitely worth reading. Would be a good book club read. You’ll be hearing more from this author. Am currently reading her next novel, Little Fires Everywhere.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant. A very, very intriguing book. The book is written from the voice of a Jewish grandmother as she tells her granddaughter the saga of her life starting about 1910, who struggles with her own individuality, with her domineering mother who never says a kind word to her. It’s certainly a coming-of-age story as she grows up, finds a job, makes friends, joins a literary girls club, moves out, but still suffers under her mother’s thumb and tongue. She becomes a reporter on a local newspaper, which opens her eyes to more of the world than she ever knew. She finally meets the right man (of course!) and she shares the stories about her life, and her friends and family members as she grows up, giving some sage advice along the way. Part of the time she’s talking to herself – to her young self  (really wanting to tell young Addie to keep on, forgive herself for her perceived transgressions, to live life, and experience the world).

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time – Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

As soon as I finished the above book I promptly visited my church library and found a whole shelf of Rivers’ books, and grabbed one called The Atonement Child. This book takes place in the 1980s or 90s, about a young college student who is raped. She was engaged to be married, was a stellar student. The book chronicles what happens to her when she discovers she is pregnant from the rape. Every possible thing goes wrong in her life. I don’t want to spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it, but I couldn’t put it down. I ended up spending a good part of a day plowing through it. You hear her inner voice (I’m guessing this is a common thread in Rivers’ books) from a Christian perspective. Lots of meaty issues to discuss in a book club if your group would be interested and willing to talk about rape, abortion, adoption and the thorny issues surrounding all of those things, but with a Christian bent, for sure.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen. It’s kind of amazing how many and varied plot lines can be created from events of WWII. This is another one, about a current day woman who finds papers in the attic, after her father’s death, with references to “the child.” She never knew her father could have had another child – could she have a step-sibling somewhere? Her father she knew, had been shot down over Italy, but he never talked much about it. But of course, she must go to Italy to find out about this “child.” The book flips back and forth from this daughter on the search, to her father during the war, all of it taking place in a very small town in Tuscany. It’s about the varied people she meets who want her to go away and not dredge up anything about the war years (are they hiding something, you question), about how much she loves the landscape, and some of the people. And about the intense love affair between the injured pilot and a caring woman of the village. Very charming story. I could almost smell the flowers, taste the olives, hear the bees flitting, and loved the prose about the simple meals that were described. I really enjoyed the book. Perhaps not enough meat for a book club read, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it nonetheless.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Chicken, on August 13th, 2018.

chix_thighs_garlic_lime

Can we ever have enough recipes for a weeknight chicken dish? Here’s another one, a new one for me, bright with leeks, lime juice and garlic.

As I clicked through recipe after recipe for some new way to fix chicken, I finally came across this one – I had chicken thighs to begin with, I had fresh garlic and I had a lime. Plus a leek, which needed using. As I read this one, it said I’d entered it into my recipe program years ago (in 2001), from Cooking Light. Wow, long time ago. The original recipe didn’t have leeks in it, but I decided to use them anyway, and they provided a nice topping (and a side dish as you can see on the plate). I had 2 leeks – one would have been ample.

The chicken is mixed with lime juice and garlic. I let that sit while I sweated the leek in olive oil. Then I added the chicken thighs to the pan along with more lime juice, a little tiny bit of low-sodium chicken broth and white vinegar. That was brought up to a boil and baked for about 20 minutes – or until the middle of the chicken reaches 165°F. If you use bone-in meat, it’ll take a bit longer, just so you know . . .

The chicken and leeks were removed, then I boiled down the juices in the pan (on the stovetop), and that was spooned over the chicken. If you remember, serve with lime wedges and some chopped cilantro on top. Done. I’d roasted some broccoli and onions and served that alongside. One thigh was enough for me, but my son-in-law who was visiting, ate two of them.

What’s GOOD: the chicken was perfectly done – still moist, yet tender. Loved the sauce on it – you’ll want to scrape your bite of chicken through whatever is lingering on your plate. Leeks were tender and delicious too. Altogether nice dish, albeit with a bit more work than some.

What’s NOT: nothing, really.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chicken Thighs wtih Garlic & Lime

Recipe By: Adapted from Cooking Light, May 2001
Serving Size: 2

1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice — divided
1 large leek — cleaned, chopped
1 tablespoon EVOO
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
3 tablespoons low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
2 lime wedges

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl; stir in 1 tablespoon juice. Rub garlic mixture over chicken.
3. Heat EVOO in a medium skillet and add leeks (patted dry with paper towels). Cook until leek mixture is translucent and fully cooked. Do not brown. Place chicken on top of leeks.
4. Combine 1 tablespoon juice, chicken broth, and vinegar; pour over the chicken. Place over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Wrap handle of pan with foil. Cover and bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 165°.
5. Remove chicken and leeks from pan; keep warm. Place pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup (about 3 minutes). Spoon over chicken. Zest half the lime and wedge the other half. Sprinkle with cilantro and lime zest, and serve with lime wedges.
Per Serving: 415 Calories; 23g Fat (48.8% calories from fat); 42g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 170mg Cholesterol; 728mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on August 12th, 2018.

Without a doubt, the best photo I took on the whole trip.

This trip my family took was 16 days – 3 nights in London, 4 nights in Florence, 4 nights in Paris, 3 nights in Normandy and the last night at an airport hotel. Our Airbnb adventure began in Florence, at an apartment just 30 steps from the Piazza Santa Croce. In hunting for a place, I knew about what area I wanted us to stay, and it was difficult, 10 months before the trip, to even find anything available to sleep 8 of us. As I mentioned earlier, however, the only reason (I believe) this apartment was available was because it was up 4 flights of stone steps without an elevator. We all got used to the climb (my grandson John carried my luggage up and down for me – bless him!). With my workout routine (cardio) I was able to walk up the full 4 flights without stopping – the first time each day – but each subsequent climb I’d usually have to pause at the 3rd floor for about 3 breaths, then continued on up. 

The apartment was wonderful – and the best part – it was air conditioned. Florence was HOT. Hot in temps and high in humidity. We all complained of the heat, but then, we asked for it by traveling to Europe in July. It got worse after we left (in fact, Europe has been experiencing a heat wave since we came home). 

I’ve been to Florence multiple times – and my choice always is to be out in the hills, the small towns, the countryside – but this was the first time there for some of them and there are so many things to see in Florence, so we needed to be in the hub of things. The closest grocery store was about 3/4 mile away, and Karen, Sara and I made the trek the first afternoon to stock up. We ate all our breakfasts at the apartment, drinking copious cups of coffee and filling ourselves with wonderful fruit, bread and cheeses. Plus some lovely salumi as well. You know, in Italy, the custom is bread without any salt – salt was an expensive commodity somewhere back in the dark ages, and the Italians simply got used to bread without it. We were able to buy baguettes too (also without salt) so we enjoyed those every day. The cheeses and salamis were my favorite.

My family all had varying goals in mind – the Uffizi museum, the statue of David (by Michelangelo), the Galileo museum (a highlight for 10-year old Vaughan because of it’s interactive gadgets showcasing Galileo’s infinite scientific inventions), Fiesole (a hill town nearby the city), the Duomo, of course, gelato and more gelato. And pasta. I think the 3 children had pasta every day in one way or another. One of my goals was to eat at Il Latini, my favorite Florence restaurant. Karen’s uncle, who speaks a bit of Italian, was able to make a reservation for us weeks ahead (it’s a very popular restaurant) and we were whisked right in when the doors opened at 7:30. Another goal of mine was to visit Michelangelo’s tomb which is housed in the Santa Croce church. You have to pay to enter. 

Back last year when I knew we were going to make this trip I sent my granddaughter Sabrina a copy of one of my favorite books of all time – The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo by Irving Stone. I read it when I was in my 20s and have never forgotten it. Sabrina brought the book along on the trip, and since she’s an artist (she’s the granddaughter going to Clemson, who now says, she thinks, that she wants to go to med school, not vet school) she was really interested. After going to see the statue of David, she came flying into the apartment, arms outstretched, to hug me and thank me for the trip, but also the joy she felt at seeing the David statue. I didn’t go with them as I was standing guard at the apartment, hoping young John’s luggage was going to be delivered, but it was deadly hot that day and I remembered from before that there is simply no air in the building that houses the statue. I was thankful to be in the apartment, in the A/C, pleasantly reading. 

The tomb of Michelangelo

There’s the Michelangelo tomb, inside the Santa Croce church. You can’t walk up to it – they’ve constructed an ornate railing and there are engravings in the marble floor in front of it, so they don’t want the general public walking all over it. Many exhibits in Florence have English and Italian captions.

One of the evenings we took taxis (two, obviously) to a hill on the south side of the Arno. It’s an open piazza, on a hilltop, and there were about 300-400 other tourists angling to get the best camera shot of the river, of Florence, of the Ponte Vecchio bridge (the one closest to the viewer) at sunset. And oh, that did not disappoint. I took about 30 photos. There was a collective sigh when the sun finally disappeared.

Posted in Uncategorized, on August 9th, 2018.

Our family + one, L-R: Shelby (friend), Sabrina, Vaughan (now 11), Karen, me, Sara, Powell, John, John Jr having dinner at a pub in London

Our last night in London we got ourselves to a well recommended pub (I think it was called the Grenadier). I have no recollection what I ordered. In the foreground, where I was sitting, you’ll see a drink – we had it several times in London – strawberry gin. I’d never heard of it – Karen ordered it first, and then Sara did, then I did, then Sabrina did. It’s mixed usually with soda or tonic, and I must say, it was really refreshing. Sabrina bought a bottle at the airport as we left England; Karen did too. I didn’t think I would have room in my suitcase (actually I did, but just thought I’d wait until I got home) so yesterday I went to Total Wine and they carry Linton Hill strawberry gin. I’ll enjoy it this evening, I think.

The other drink that we found was on many menus was Aperol Spritz. Aperol is an Italian apéritif made of gentian, rhubarb, and cinchona, among other ingredients. It’s not sweet in the least, and it’s mixed with soda water and sometimes not on ice, as many European drinks are. It was so hot in Europe that most of us adults enjoyed a cocktail before dinner to help us cool down. 

Obviously, Westminster Abbey. We had to wait in line for quite awhile.

I’d told everyone that Westminster Abbey needed to be high on the must-visit list. All of the kids used the tube one evening they were “out,” but the adults weren’t so enamored with the thought of it (hot and very crowded), so our last day we taxied over to the Thames and stood in line for about an hour. Everyone was in a bit of awe over the tombs of several English kings and queens, and the Poet’s Corner. We probably spent about an hour walking around. Photography is no longer allowed in Westminster Abbey, so I have nothing to show for being inside. The next morning we got ourselves to London’s “City” airport (closer than Heathrow) and flew to Florence. Next post . . .

Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on August 8th, 2018.

mushroom_asparagus_garlic_sauce_shirataki

You know about shirataki noodles? They’re a pseudo-pasta. They contain zip-zero-nada carbs.

Many years ago when shirataki noodles became more widely available, I bought some for my DH and me to try. Since he was a Type 1 diabetic, any suggestions on how to reduce carbs was a good thing in his world (and hence, mine). We prepared them according to the package directions, and I served them with some kind of sauce (don’t remember what). We thought they tasted awful. They had a kind of musty taste and the texture was mushy. Yuk. Well, since then, since I’ve gone on the Gundry (Plant Paradox) diet, I’ve learned more about these shirataki noodles (Gundry calls them fool-dles) and have followed his method of preparation (which isn’t much more work, but there are 3 steps to it – rinsing, cooking, drying). I decided to give them another try, and was very surprised at how good they tasted this time. You can find them in most mainstream grocery stores, usually in the refrigerated Asian section – they come in a flat pack, clear. There are a few brands out there – I used Miracle Noodles. They also come in a spaghetti shape and rice shape. What’s nice, is that the noodle becomes zero calories (they are made from an Asian yam and apparently they just slip through your digestive track without metabolizing, hence zero calories).

Now, you need to know, I love mushrooms. I’ll eat them just about anytime, although I rarely eat them raw (like in a salad). But cook them in a little oil and butter, salt and pepper, and I’m a happy camper. I love mushroom soup, and this came about because I had about a cup of mushroom soup without cream in my refrigerator. So I started with that and enhanced the mixture with more ingredients, and this soup was created. Since you won’t want to prepare a whole recipe of that soup, I’ve re-arranged it here with all the ingredients from the soup, plus the enhancements I added.

When I made it, it served two and I was tickled to have a second portion to have as leftovers. But here, I’ve started you off with 2 packages of shirataki noodles (I used the fettuccine shape) so it will make 4 portions, I believe. If you’re feeding a starving teenager, then this amount of shirataki may not satisfy. You can easily make this with regular pasta. I’m just telling you how I’m able to eat it with this carb-free diet I’m on.

This sauce comes together in a hurry – although you DO want to utilize some dried mushrooms in this (they have a LOT of flavor, believe it or not), and they need to be soaked in warm water for at least half an hour. But the rest of the preparation is just chopping and slicing the various ingredients. And then combining them at the right time. You don’t have to use asparagus, but I had some in my refrigerator and thought they added a lovely texture and flavor to the dish.

What’s GOOD: the mushroom flavor is very prominent (a good thing for me anyway), and I loved all the different textures of the different mushrooms. And the asparagus. And the shirataki. As long as you don’t overcook the shirataki, they also have good texture. Overcook them, and they become mushy. Obviously, don’t do that!

What’s NOT: there is a bit of prepping – all the slicing and dicing, but truly it’s not that time consuming.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Mushroom and Asparagus Shirataki [Pasta]

Recipe By: my own concoction
Serving Size: 4

12 ounces shirataki noodles — (I used fettucine shape) 6 ounce packages serve two
SAUCE:
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 medium onion — diced
1 large shallot — minced
1 large leek — cleaned, chopped
1 ounce dried mushrooms — cleaned, reconstituted in water for 30 minutes
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms — cleaned, sliced thickly
4 ounces shiitake mushroom — stems removed, chopped
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1/2 pound fresh asparagus — (use small stemmed ones) cleaned, chopped in 1″ lengths
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 large garlic clove — minced
1 cup low sodium chicken broth — or more if needed
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream — or half and half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — optional
3 tablespoons Italian parsley — minced EVOO to drizzle on top (optional)

1. NOODLES: Drain fluid from shirataki noodle package. Place noodles in colander and rinse well under tap water for 1- 2 minutes, using your fingers to move the noodles around. (Alternately, rinse for one minute, then place them in a clean bowl, fill with cold water and allow to rest for about 5 minutes, swishing them around once or twice.) Drain noodles.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add a sprinkle of salt and cook the noodles for 1-3 minutes (read package directions) until they are not quite done. If you overcook them they will be mushy. Cooked just under-done, they’ll be similar to al dente pasta. Drain and place noodles out on paper towels to dry. Move them around a little so they all will dry. Allow to sit at room temp while you prepare the sauce.
3. SAUCE: In a large skillet over medium heat, pour in EVOO and when hot add onion and shallot. Cook, stirring frequently, until both are translucent and mostly cooked through. Add fresh mushrooms and dried mushrooms (discarding the soaking liquid) and cook for 1-2 minutes until mushrooms have begun to cook through. Add fresh garlic and cook 3-4 minutes, then add chicken broth. Add fresh asparagus. Allow sauce to cook for 2-4 minutes, simmering. Test the asparagus to see that it is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add butter and cream and bring to a simmer. Add the noodles and allow mixture to simmer until the noodles are hot throughout.
4. SERVE: Using tongs, scoop up equal portions of noodles on plates and then spoon the sauce on top, dividing equally. Grate fresh nutmeg over the top, then sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and fresh parsley. Serve immediately. You may also add a drizzle of EVOO on top as extra flavor.
Per Serving: 389 Calories; 24g Fat (51.6% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 41g Carbohydrate; 9g Dietary Fiber; 56mg Cholesterol; 366mg Sodium.

Posted in Travel, on August 7th, 2018.

luggage_packed_in

This photo, from the family trip to Europe, was actually taken on our last day, in the driveway of the house we’d rented in Normandy. There are a few more smaller bags nestled onto the 9th passenger seat and floor in front of that seat, plus all 4 women had a purse as well.

You see, we’d had a meeting about 10 days before our trip, and I’d brought out my relatively small (the red one) suitcase and said yes, there would be 17 days of clothes and other stuff in there. I also took a small bag that rests on top of the roller bag and my purse too. One of the couples took a bigger bag for the two of them (black one, top left).

We only had one suitcase catastrophe. When we flew from London to Florence on CityJet, the airline left John Jr.’s (pictured above) suitcase sitting on the tarmac. It took them a day to find it. And two more days to finally get it to Florence and delivered to us. Meanwhile, Sara and John Jr. went shopping in Florence and bought him some new clothes. Adidas. He was a happy camper when his suitcase finally arrived in Florence, the afternoon before we left. I didn’t wear one pair of slacks and one top, but everything else was worn several times. Fortunately, we had washing machines in Florence, Paris and Normandy, so nobody lacked for clean clothes. Dry clothes were another matter – only Normandy had a dryer, so in the other 2 places there were typical European collapsible drying racks which were set up in hallways throughout our stays.

Embarking on this trip had us all meeting at LAX (Los Angeles International). Son Powell had upgraded everyone so we had first class seats plus the use of the private lounge before both flights. We left late at night so I slept a few hours on the down-flat seats. We arrived at Heathrow, took the train into the city, then a taxi to our hotel. Son Powell is a member of the Penn Club, so we were able to use his reciprocal privileges at the Sloane Club hotel. A lovely hotel for sure, and so very proper English style. sara_powell_hotel_bar

As I mentioned a few days ago, after getting situated in our rooms, we met in the morning room and attached bar to decide what we’d do first.

That’s Sara and Powell, brother and sister. We were all tired, but knew we shouldn’t go to sleep, so we enjoyed the bar, eventually went out to dinner nearby and fell into bed relatively early. I was surprised how well I slept, with jet lag and all. During the following 2 days everyone scattered in different directions (Armory Museum, Churchill War Rooms, a couple of museums, London Eye, Westminster Abbey, the Thames, Changing of the Guard, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus). Powell had made reservations at his favorite restaurant, Veeraswamy, an Indian restaurant near Piccadilly. We all enjoyed a sumptuous meal there.

On Sunday the girls had afternoon tea at the Langham (hotel). Sara has a customer of theirs (here in California) who is a Brit, and he and his wife insisted we had to go to the Langham because it’s where Brits go. Not to any of the more well-known tea places like Fortnum & Mason (my favorite) or one of the big, more well-known hotels.IMG_2782

That was our take-away box – isn’t it adorable? We had extra scones and several of the little, dainty sweets. I think grandson Vaughan had some of the contents later that night or the next morning before we left for the airport.afternoon_tea_langham

As it happened, Sabrina (middle) had a friend – Shelby – of hers from Clemson visiting in London, so she joined us for afternoon tea also. Left to right, me, Shelby, Sabrina, Karen (Powell’s wife) and Sara (my daughter and Sabrina’s mom).langham_tea_sandwiches

There are the tea sandwiches – if you can’t read the small print I put on the photo . . . from left to right, cucumber and cream cheese, tomato, mozzarella and pesto, egg and chicken salad. The little thing on the right, as I recall was smoked salmon in a baby brioche bun. My favorite was the cucumber. And yes, I ate some of all of them, despite the bread which I’m not supposed to eat! Or the cucumber, either. Cucumbers contain lectins, a no-no. Unless they’re peeled and seeded, which I do here at home. langham_tea_room

There at right is a broad view of the tea room at the Langham. It was a lovely room, and the room was very full by the time we left at about 3:00 or so. The service was impeccable, our waiter was very fun, funny and gracious – he stood up on a chair to take the group photo up above.

That’s enough for this post. The weather was actually very nice – we had a spit of rain a couple of times, but it didn’t keep us from doing anything. Otherwise it was up to about 80°F each day we were there. Hot in the sunshine!

Posted in Salads, Veggies/sides, on August 3rd, 2018.

warm_barley_salad_pears

One might not think you could make a succulent salad with barley. You’ll need to try it to be a convert. Delicious flavors from prosciutto, hazelnuts and the best part, roasted pears.

Haven’t we been learning that nearly every food on the planet (well, probably not leafy greens) are enhanced with oven roasting. And pears are no exception. They turn super-sweet after a 25-minute roast in the oven, and then you let them cool.

The salad itself contains barley, which needs to be cooked, and either wheat berries or farro, which also need to be cooked. You could do that the day before, even. You may have to seek out pear vinegar – it’s a little bit hard to find, but you could probably use raspberry instead – there is some in it already – just use more. The pears are tossed with olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper and roasted on a foil-lined pan, turning them a couple of times. The prosciutto slices also get roasted – you sprinkle them with sugar (imagine!) and bake until they’re crispy, caramelized and glossy-looking. The onion is sautéed in olive oil and then cooked down in white wine until they’re roasted and caramelized also. Then you mix up the salad with your choice of greens (kale was used here) and then you add in hazelnuts, the onion, the barley and wheat berries or farro, and finally toss it with the dressing. Really, really delicious.

What’s GOOD: the flavors will just blow you away – the chewiness of the grains, the pears are the STAR, though, as they’re SO sweet and delicious. The dressing is light and lovely. Very satisfying dish. Serve with a grilled protein of some kind and that’s dinner.

What’s NOT: a bit fussier than some since you have to cook the grains, toast the prosciutto, long caramelize the onion, and make a dressing. But worth it. Trust me on that!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Warm Barley Salad with Roasted Pears

Recipe By: From a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter, 2018
Serving Size: 8

3 red bartlett pears — firm, cored, cut in wedges
3 tablespoons olive oil — divided use
1 tablespoon fresh thyme — chopped kosher
salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 pound prosciutto — thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup pearl barley — cooked
1/2 cup wheat berries, raw — cooked (or farro)
1 whole red onion — thinly sliced
2/3 cup dry white wine
4 cups mixed greens — use winter greens if available
1/2 cup hazelnuts — toasted and peeled
VINAIGRETTE:
3 tablespoons pear vinegar
1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar
2 teaspoons honey mustard
salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F degrees. In a large bowl, gently toss the pears, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon thyme, one-fourth teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper. Spread out the pears in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast, turning occasionally, until golden brown and fragrant, about 25 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.
2. On a large, parchment-lined baking sheet, arrange the prosciutto slices, making sure they do not touch. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the slices. Bake the prosciutto until the slices are caramelized and glossy, 8 to 10 minutes. Rotate the tray while baking for even coloring, and watch toward the end of baking that the sugar does not burn (it burns quickly). Remove and allow to crisp and cool completely.
3. Cook the barley and wheat berries, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 30 minutes; drain well.
4. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, one-fourth teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the wine, then return the pan to medium-high heat. Cook until most of the wine is absorbed, about 2 minutes, stirring often and removing any bits of flavoring from the bottom of the pan.
5. In a large bowl, combine the barley and wheat berries with the vinaigrette. Stir in the mixed greens. Gently stir in the pears and hazelnuts if using and check seasoning. Spoon salad onto a serving platter; crumble the candied prosciutto over the top before serving.
Per Serving: 439 Calories; 24g Fat (49.2% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 46g Carbohydrate; 8g Dietary Fiber; 14mg Cholesterol; 511mg Sodium.

Posted in Travel, on July 30th, 2018.

sara_me_kir_royale_london

Having just arrived in London, I’m surprised I even look myself! Jet lag, and all.

About 10 months ago two of my kids (Sara, above, and her brother Powell) and their families (plus me) were enjoying a family get-together and discovered that both families had independently decided to take a European trip this summer. In a matter of seconds, they decided to do it all together, and they asked me to go along too.

I’ll be sharing more about the actual trip in the next week or so, as I get to it, to write up posts and work on the photos, etc. But for now, this photo will have to suffice. We had just arrived at our hotel in Sloane Square, deposited our bags in our respective rooms and I went to the lovely lounge/bar. Sara showed up and we ordered a kir royale. One of my favorite drinks. We were on an adrenaline high from the long flight. Within 15-20 minutes everyone else showed up and we had a fun time acclimating to the new time zone and deciding what we would do first. We had 3 children along – Sara and John’s 2 children, Sabrina (the 20-year old who is going to Clemson University in So. Carolina) and young John (17 and a high school senior) – and Powell & Karen’s son Vaughan (10, about to be 11).

At this family gathering, all those many months ago, we kind of narrowed down the scope of our trip to London, Florence, Paris and Normandy. Powell had (at that time) a ton of frequent flyer miles, and he upgraded all of us to business class. He’s a member of the Penn Club, which got us into the private Sloane Club hotel (lovely, by the way), and in the other locations I found us apartments or homes through AirBnB. Having been to all of those cities before, I had a firm idea as to where/what part of those places I wanted us to stay.

In Florence, I found an apartment very near Santa Croce. The only hitch to it was it was up 4 flights of stairs and no elevator. And that’s likely why the apartment was still available 10 months ago. It was a big, spacious apartment with plenty of bedrooms within hearing of the bells of the Santa Croce church, which was literally a long stone-throw from the apartment. A restaurant was within 4 steps from the front door, and we enjoyed more than one meal there. We stayed for 4 nights in Florence. The temps were high (mostly high 80s and low 90s, but with wicked high humidity).

In Paris, I’d found an apartment near the Marais. And when I tell you it had a spectacular view, well, it was amazing, overlooking a park. French doors opened up onto tiny little balconies. That one did have an elevator that would hold 1 person and a suitcase, or 2 people with nothing much to carry. One of the kids had to sleep on a sofa there (Sabrina and I shared a bedroom in most of our locations), and the place did not have A/C. Fortunately, for the 4 days and nights we were in Paris, the temps were in the high 80s, so it was not too bad if we left the apartment closed up until early evening, all things considered. The apartment had a well equipped kitchen and ample seating for all of us to enjoy breakfasts and lunches. A grocery store was about a block or less away.

Then, Powell and John walked to a location about 3/4 mile away and picked up a Mercedes Benz 9-passenger van, drove it back to our apartment and we piled in. Baggage for 8 people took up a fair amount of space, and the small area at the back did manage to hold almost all of our bags. Off we drove to Normandy. I’d found a beautiful home right on Omaha Beach (in a town called Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer), literally a hundred steps from the beach, and another hundred steps to the location of the D-Day landing. We all agreed that the Normandy part was our favorite – the house was beautiful – the owner was very nice and accommodating – and it was so peaceful hearing the ocean waves at all hours or day and night. We did a 2-day tour with a retired British Major General who is an expert at WWII D-Day history. I’d toured with him years ago on a previous trip to Normandy and booked him as soon as I was able to get ahold of him last year.

More on all of those as I’m able to write up the travel log with photos. We’re all home, safe and sound, glad to be in our own beds again. My kitty was so very happy to see me. And in case you’re interested, with my diet plan, about day two I had to abandon the diet – it was just too difficult. I ate a bit of bread, numerous sandwiches, more fruit than usual, had gelato once in Florence (how could I not have it once?), had full-on afternoon tea in London and I wasn’t going to miss out on that! Baguettes were a frequent item on our breakfast or lunch tables, with luscious meats and cheeses. I had 2 croissants in the 17 days – could have had many more, but opted not to. I had dessert 3-4 times at dinner, and on the flight home I ate a delicious cold muesli cereal with pineapple, and I splurged on a scoop of ice cream after one of our flight meals. With trepidation, I got on the scales that night (arriving home), again yesterday morning, and again today, and am happy to say I gained not one pound on the trip despite my falling off the diet. Now that I’m home, though, I’m back to the zero carb diet.

Posted in Desserts, on July 29th, 2018.

fresh_lemon_crostata_slice

Sometimes when I type up posts, my taste buds kick into high gear, remembering the flavor of the dish. That’s the case here, Proust-like, I remember the piquant taste of the lemon curd filling and the crispy top.

Since I’m not eating desserts these days, it’s with reverence that I recall the lovely mouth-feel of this crostata, and just wish I could have some. This was from a cooking class a several months ago; one I’d forgotten about, so am posting it now.

Update about my diet: As an aside, I’m positively amazed that I’ve been able to not eat a single, solitary sweet thing for the last 2 1/2 months. I don’t crave sweets now (and I sure did in the past), and lucky for me, I can have an ounce of bittersweet chocolate a day. I went cold-turkey on carbs altogether – – and trust me, if this wasn’t working, I wouldn’t be continuing with the diet of zero carbs – except for the few carbs that exist in regular vegetables. Nary a piece of bread, a grain of rice, a bite of potato, a bean (legume), a grain of any kind, a speck of flour, sugar or pasta has passed my lips in the 2 1/2 months. I am able to eat 1/2 cup of fruit a day (berries only). I snack on a specific mix of toasted nuts (without peanuts or cashews, which are both legumes), 1/4 cup mid-morning and another 1/4 cup in the afternoon (if I’m hungry) and mostly I have soup (more cold soups lately) at lunchtime and I make a nice big salad for dinner with some kind of protein on it – maybe chicken, salmon, tuna, hard boiled eggs, or even a hunk of burrata cheese with a tasty salad dressing. Although I can make a more traditional dinner (a piece of grilled meat, for instance, with side vegetables) I’ve found that my weight loss continues at a steadier pace if I make my dinner meal a salad. I vary it with different dressings (just none like blue cheese, ranch or thousand island). I’ve never been a snacker type person after dinner, and I hope every night that when I go to bed my stomach is growling slightly. That means when I get on the scale each morning, it usually shows a weight loss.

If you missed my earlier mention of this diet, I’m following the food plan of Dr. Steven Gundry, a heart surgeon, who wrote the best selling book, The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in Healthy Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain. It all has to do with wicked lectins, which exist in so many foods (carbs, grains and legumes, even dairy). I didn’t have intestinal issues when I began this diet, but as I read his book, it simply made so much sense to me that I decided to go for it. And I am consistently losing about a pound a week, which is a healthy type of weight loss. I’m not hungry all the time. At my age, I’m content with losing a pound a week. Going out to eat is do-able (salads or fish and a vegetable), although I’ve found that when I do go out, my weight loss slows for a day or two, likely because of salt. If I sweeten my iced tea, I use a stevia product (Truvia or Sweet Leaf), which is okay because it’s derived from a plant, not chemicals. Of course, I’m a family of one, so sticking to this diet is easier, as I simply don’t buy or prepare any carbs. I’ve given away a whole lot of things from my pantry, and will likely continue doing that. If you’re interested in knowing what you can and can’t eat, this LINK will take you to Gundry’s website where he provides a printer-friendly group  of pages you can print out (I keep it in my purse).

fresh_lemon_crostata_wholeWell, so back to this lovely crostata. It’s made with an almond crust (it does contain some flour), and then you concoct a lemon curd filling. You’ll use a food processor for the crust (easy, really), adding only as much flour to make the dough hold together. It’s flavored with lemon zest and almond extract and does contain a big chunk of butter, which makes the crust kind of shortbread-like. There’s enough to make a bottom crust, and also to add strips to the top, which makes for a really beautiful presentation. The bottom crust needs to be blind baked and cooled.

The lemon curd is the normal type. You can use this version, or you can make my favorite lemon curd that came from America’s Test Kitchen. It needs to be made enough in advance that it can chill well, then it’s added to the cooled crust and baked again just long enough to get the extra pastry strips browned. Then the crostata is cooled completely on a rack before slicing and serving – along with some sweetened whipped cream and a sprig of mint for decoration.

What’s GOOD: the flavor – but then I love lemon anything – and the pretty presentation. Lots of good flavors in your mouth as you encounter the soft, acidic lemon curd and the crispy crusty bits. Softened by the whipped cream. Divine.

What’s NOT: this does take longer than some to prepare.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Fresh Lemon Crostata

Recipe By: From a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter, 2018
Serving Size: 10

CRUST:
3/4 cup whole almonds — toasted and cooled (or more substitute hazelnuts)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour — (yes, added separately)
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter — cut in cubes, well chilled
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons lemon zest — grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
FILLING (LEMON CURD):
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 stick unsalted butter — cut into small pieces
1/8 teaspoon salt
EGG GLAZE:
1 large egg
2 teaspoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
GARNISH:
8 mint leaves — for garnish
Sweetened whipped cream

1. CRUST: Pulse almonds and FIRST amount of flour in food processor until finely ground. Add almost all of the SECOND amount of flour, salt and sugar and pulse again. If dough needs the remaining flour, add it. Try to use as little flour as needed to bring the doughto a ball. Pulse in cold butter, extracts and zest. Pulse in egg until dough forms. Halve the dough and form each into a disk, one just slightly larger than the other. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill until firm.
2. Roll the larger piece of dough between two pieces of parchment paper. Remove top sheet and invert into an 8-inch springform pan lined with parchment. Press over bottom and at least an inch up the sides of the pan. Roll out remaining dough between sheets of parchment. Remove top piece of parchment, then cut dough into ten 1/3″ wide strips. Chill that dough until firm.
3. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line the springform pan with foil and add pie weights and bake until pale golden and edge is golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Cool shell on a rack.
4. FILLING: Beat egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar until very thick and trip le in volume. Transfer mixture to a heavy bottomed pan and stir in lemon zest, juice, butter and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking frequently, until lemon curd is thick enough to hold marks on a spoon, about 6 minutes. Transfer lemon curd to a bowl, cover top with plastic wrap so it’s touching the curd, cool and chill.
5. Spread filling in baked pie shell and arrange 5 dough strips one inch apart on top of filling. Arrange remaining 5 strips one inch apart diagonally across strips to form a lattice (of sorts, but not woven over and under). Trim edges. Brush tops with egg wash (egg mixed with water, whisked), then sprinkle top with remaining sugar. Bake crostata until golden and filling is bubbling, 25-30 minutes. Cool completely in the pan, on a rack, for 2 hours. Remove springform sides and completely the cooling. Serve with sweetened whipped cream and garnish with mint leaves.
Per Serving: 452 Calories; 31g Fat (60.6% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 38g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 198mg Cholesterol; 156mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, Veggies/sides, on July 24th, 2018.

roasted_eggplant_salad_feta_pinenuts

Really, you might want to call this a roasted red bell pepper and roasted eggplant salad with feta, kalamata olives and pine nuts. Lots going on in this salad. All delicious.

Every so often in the course of running a blog you have to clean house. The digital house, that is. I store files on backup CDs and over the years I’ve collected about 4 dozen of so with the photos I’ve used. Not the stories, the write-ups. Those are saved by the blog server once a week. But the original photos and the finished ones. That’s when I ran across these files for a bunch of recipes I’d forgotten to post. So here I’m doing it now.

This salad was so refreshing – good for a summer evening. If you had a grilled chicken breast along side or a lovely piece of grilled salmon, this could be a complete meal. There are a lot of layers of flavor in this salad – the peppers and eggplant for sure, the spice rub you’ll sprinkle on the eggplant and onions, the feta, then the crisp arugula. And the light crunch of toasted pine nuts too. Or you could compliment the salad dressing too. Or maybe the subtle garlic (roasted also) thrown into the mix. A lot of them, really, but they’re so mellow once roasted. If you don’t want to roast the red peppers, buy jarred ones – they’ll be just fine. That’s save one roasting step.

Do try to find fig balsamic – it adds a lovely light sweetness to the dressing, along with the honey mustard in it. Use good olive oil too. And don’t forget those toasted pine nuts, either.

What’s GOOD: all the flavors you’ll find rolling around your taste buds. Great for a summer outdoor evening, I think.

What’s NOT: nothing other than waiting for the eggplant to roast (40 minutes or so) and taking the time to roast the garlic (30 minutes, but at a different oven temp, so you can’t do them together). Have 2 ovens? Perfect! If not, make the garlic ahead.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Roasted Eggplant Salad with Feta and Pine Nuts

Recipe By: From a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter, 2018
Serving Size: 8

2 large red bell peppers — roasted, peeled, seeded, sliced lengthwise
2 pounds japanese eggplants — trimmed, quarter lengthwise
1 whole red onion — peeled, cut in 1/2″ slices
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons Mediterranean spice rub
16 whole garlic cloves
16 whole kalamata olives — pitted, chopped
2 small frisee lettuce — torn
2 cups arugula
1/3 cup pine nuts — toasted
6 ounces Feta cheese — cut in small cubes
VINAIGRETTE:
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons fig balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons honey mustard
6 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss eggplant and onion slices with olive oil, spice rub, salt and pepper to taste and spread out on a large parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast until tender, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes.
2. Wrap garlic cloves in foil and place in a 300°F oven for 30 minutes, until cloves are very soft. Chop. Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together. Add the roasted garlic.
3. Toss eggplant, onions, pepper and olives with vinaigrette to coat. Toss in frisee and arugula and add to the eggplant mixture. Divide among plates. Sprinkle with feta cheese and pine nuts. Serve.
Per Serving: 312 Calories; 27g Fat (73.9% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 19mg Cholesterol; 381mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on July 19th, 2018.

curried_cauliflower_soup

As I write this, I’ve only eaten this soup warmed up (hot) but I think it would be delicious served chilled. For me, the garnishes are what make it – cilantro, almonds and chives.

The other day I was searching through my own recipes for soups, and ran across this one, and I’d taken a photo of it which was inserted into my MasterCook file, but I’d never posted it. No reason why, I’m sure (other than perhaps I made it before I started my blog in 2007?), as I’d made a note in the recipe that it was really good. So, I decided to make it again. I bought fresh cauliflower and a sweet potato (the latter, something I can have in light moderation on my low-to-no-carbs diet, as sweet potatoes are what are called resistant starches – meaning they mostly pass through the intestinal track without metabolizing much). You can add regular potatoes if you’d prefer.

This soup is a fairly thin consistency, even with the sweet potato, so if you prefer a thicker soup, do add potatoes or sweet potatoes, or use less chicken broth (which will then make less soup). I used just one sweet potato, but two was suggested in the recipe. And the recipe came from Cindy Pawlcyn, the famous chef at Mustards Grill in Napa Valley. I have her cookbook, Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook, published many years ago now, but it’s one I refer to now and then. Coconut milk is now considered one of those good fats, and it gives the soup some wonderful texture, color and flavor.

Don’t skimp on the garnishes – as I mentioned, they’re part of what “makes” this soup, for me.

What’s GOOD: overall flavor, not too thick, more on the thin side, refreshing; can also eat chilled.

What’s NOT: nothing really, other than chopping and mincing the cauliflower.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Recipe By: Based on a recipe from Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook, Cindy Pawlcyn
Serving Size: 8

2 tablespoons EVOO — or peanut oil
1 large onion — sliced
8 cloves garlic — sliced
1/2 whole jalapeno chile pepper
1 large carrot — halved lengthwise and cut into half-moons (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh ginger — peeled, grated
1 tablespoon curry powder — or more if desired
1 cup dry white wine
2 whole sweet potatoes — (or white potatoes) peeled and diced
1 large cauliflower — trimmed and chopped small (including stem, minced)
8 cups low sodium chicken broth — or vegetable stock
20 ounces coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Minced fresh cilantro (optional)
Toasted sliced almonds (optional)
Chopped fresh chives (optional)

1. To make soup, heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute several minutes, then add garlic. Cook for about one minute. Add in chile, carrot (if using), ginger and curry, and cook, stirring, several minutes. Add in wine and cook at medium-high until it is reduced by half. Add in potatoes, cauliflower, chicken stock; bring to a boil, skimming off any froth. Lower heat to a simmer and cook about 20 min, or until vegetables are tender but not falling apart.
2. Stir in coconut milk and season with salt and pepper. Puree about 75% of the soup in blender until smooth (be careful – don’t load bowl too full or it will explode). Leave the remaining 25% of the soup with chunky vegetable pieces. Pour puree back into main soup pot, add butter and garam masala and reheat. Taste for seasonings. Ladle into bowls and garnish with cilantro, almonds and chives. (May also be served chilled.)
Per Serving: 331 Calories; 22g Fat (60.3% calories from fat); 14g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 4mg Cholesterol; 810mg Sodium.

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