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Just finished reading How It All Began: A Novelby 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.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant (she arrived after the birth, actually). Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of middle-aged high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, and wealthy) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

 

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, easy, on March 6th, 2014.

easy_chicken_tikka_masala_leftover_chicken

Last week I was just craving Indian food. We have a couple of Indian restaurants in our vicinity, but since I was craving chicken tikka masala, I knew I’d prefer my own version rather than a less flavorful restaurant variety. However, I had left over chicken, not fresh, raw. What to do? Easy  solution – make my favorite recipe but adapt it using the already cooked chicken.

Spotting a nice little Kosher chicken at Trader Joe’s a week ago, I bought the 3.5 pound baby and we had a really lovely roast chicken dinner from my favorite-est recipe. It was loverly, as they say. The meat was so very moist and tender. When we finished, I still had half a chicken left over, so I picked all the meat off the bone and stuck it in a Zip-loc bag and put it in the refrigerator, having no idea what I’d do with it. So when the Indian food craving hit, I just decided I’d adapt my recipe I already have for chicken tikka masala, but here I’d use the already cooked chicken.

It wasn’t hard to do, and I put the dinner together in a jiffy. First I got out all the ingredients – I chopped up the chicken meat, got out all the spices, prepped the vegetables, opened the can of tomatoes, minced the garlic and ginger. Then I got out my Breville BRC600XL The Risotto Plus Sauteing Slow Rice Cooker and Steamer to make rice (it has a standard rice setting which made just perfect Basmati rice). Once that was going I started the sauce. I tossed the chicken pieces with the spices first, then I added in the  yogurt. That was set that aside while I fired up the pan on the range. It was quick work with the onion and garlic, added in some other spices, and the canned tomatoes including their juices.  When everything was ready I added in the chicken which had been “marinating” in the yogurt and garam masala and stirred it into the pan. This recipe does contain a little bit of cream – I used less than usual and I mixed it with some whole milk I had. I allowed it to come up to a very slow simmer – I didn’t allow it to actually simmer, though, as the dish was “done” at that point. If I’d allowed it to boil, even gently, it might have separated from using some milk in it. Maybe not, but I wasn’t taking any chances.

What I wanted was for the chicken to be done at the precise time the rice was done. The basmati rice prepared in the risotto cooker is perfection when the heat switches off, so I was all ready and scooped rice out on the plate, then added some of the chicken in masala sauce on top, sprinkled with cilantro and we were ready to eat.

What’s GOOD: I think this was every bit as good as the original recipe made with raw, bone-in chicken. Of course, the kosher chicken was ever-so moist anyway. This recipe was super-easy. And super good too. I’d definitely make this again when I have left over chicken.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. Altogether good dish.

printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on line to open in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Quick and Easy Chicken Tikka Masala

Recipe By: Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Serving Size: 3

CHICKEN:
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken — approximately, chopped
1/2 cup yogurt — whole-milk preferably
MASALA SAUCE:
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion — diced fine (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 medium garlic clove — minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons fresh ginger — grated
1/2 serrano pepper — ribs and seeds removed, flesh minced (see note above), or one large jalapeno [optional]
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 tablespoon garam masala
14 ounces canned tomatoes — use chopped or chop yourself
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/3 cup heavy cream — or whole milk
1/8 cup fresh cilantro leaves — chopped (or mint, if preferred) for garnish

1. FOR THE CHICKEN: Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne and garam masala in medium bowl. Add the cooked chicken pieces and stir until the chicken has picked up all the dry spices. Then add the yogurt and combine; set aside.
2. FOR THE SAUCE: Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, and garam masala; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and return to simmer. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm. If using milk instead of cream, don’t allow the mixture to boil or it will separate.
3. Add the chicken yogurt mixture to the pan. Allow the mixture to warm up gently and when it’s hot, taste for seasonings. Add chicken broth if needed if the sauce is too thick. Stir in cilantro or sprinkle it on top as a garnish and serve over hot basmati rice.
Per Serving: 345 Calories; 22g Fat (55.6% calories from fat); 25g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 101mg Cholesterol; 477mg Sodium.

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  1. Heather Stave

    said on March 11th, 2016:

    Wow. I was looking for a tikka masala recipe for leftover meat, and I ran across your blog. My husband (who also cleans dishes and loves trying new foods and helping me cook) is from Yorba Linda. His mother was a home economist, and a recipe tester for California avocados, Kenmore, Baskin Robbins, etc. She is a California native who loves to travel, cook, has a collection of spoons, is part of a Christian women’s organization, provides musical instruments to elementary school students (my husband is a fiddle player), loves (uhh… LOVES) to travel with her husband, and is in her early 70’s. It’s just too coincidental to be true. I’d love to stay in contact if there’s a way to subscribe to your blog. Just let me know how I can continue to see your art and recipes and travel posts! Thank you so much!

    Thank you for visiting my blog, Heather. I sent you a private email with instructions on how to subscribe. Sounds like we have a lot in common . . . carolyn t

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