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Just finished a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Also recently read News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a free-lance job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her family was killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of an old (wild) west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many. Just read this one first!

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 Breads, on August 10th, 2007.

Sometimes it just seems that a dinner requires a different kind of bread. I love ciabatta loaves – they’re so tasty and so easy. Buy them, serve them. But, once in awhile for a company meal or for breakfast I will serve some different kind of bread. I think the first time I served these it was for a breakfast for my group of girlfriends along with fresh fruit, juice, coffee and yogurt. They were a big hit.

The recipe came from Gourmet Magazine, back in 1999, according to my notes. I’ve made them several times and never been disappointed. The goat cheese adds a little zing to the texture and the flavor. Sometimes I have chives in my garden, which makes it particularly easy to throw together. Make these when you have a simple protein and sides, not with something like a hearty lasagna or beef Stroganoff which would overwhelm the subtle goat cheese and chive flavors of the muffins. Instead, serve it alongside a simple grilled pork chop, or chicken breast. Or quiche. Or chili. Or make them for Sunday breakfast, which is my favorite.
printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click link to open in MC; 14 includes photo)

Scallion Goat Cheese Muffins

Recipe: Gourmet Magazine, January 1999
Servings: 12
COOK’S NOTES: These are really delicious – and easy to make. They would go well with a nice salad, or even with a traditional meat and potatoes dinner.

1 cup whole milk
4 ounces soft goat cheese
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg — slightly beaten
1 bunch scallions, or chives

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Butter 12 small muffin cups. In a small bowl stir together the goat cheese and 2 T. of the whole milk until combined. It helps if the goat cheese is left out at room temp awhile before you try to do this.
2. In a medium-sized bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Melt the butter. Remove from heat and add the remaining milk and the egg to the butter. Finely chop the scallions to measure one cup. Add them to the flour bowl with the butter mixture and stir gently. Don’t overmix.
3. Kind of estimate how much is half of the biscuit batter and scoop a large tablespoon of the biscuit mixture into each muffin cup and spread with the spoon to fill the bottom. Place a spoonful of the goat cheese mixture into the center (if possible) of the muffin, then cover that with the remaining biscuit mix.
4. Bake in the middle of the oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Serve while hot.
Per Serving: 155 Calories; 9g Fat (52.2% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 40mg Cholesterol; 263mg Sodium.

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