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Just finished reading 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 Pork, on May 20th, 2014.

bacon_wrapped_pork_tender_sliced

If pork tenderloin is cooked just right, it can make a lovely entertaining entrée. And it will be doubly special if you serve it with the bourbon butter sauce to drizzle on top. But it’s also easy enough to do for a weeknight dinner, too. The bacon makes it special, but the sauce puts it over the top in the flavor department. I forgot to take a photo of a serving with the sauce. Just trust me on this one.

With a group of people coming over for dinner, I thought pork tenderloin would be a good one to serve. This was a week ago I did this, and we were in the midst of a blistering heat wave. We had 2 days with temps over 100° and a couple of days either side of that with temps in the high 90s also. And winds. Oh my yes, the winds. We get something in the California weather system – really only Southern California – called Santa Anas. It’s a hot wind that whips up and blows in from the desert and oh, does it blow. It can blow furniture around the patio, throw cushions 30 feet away, up into trees, stuck in shrubbery. In the previous house Dave and I owned we had a rolling metal trolley cart blow right into the pool. It didn’t break (had 2 pieces of glass too) but we had to ask our son to come over and dive down to the bottom of the pool to get the 2nd piece of glass that was just seemingly stuck to the deepest area. It was winter when this happened, so he donned his wet suit and did it for us, bless him! In years since we generally tie the rolling cart to a post somewhere so it doesn’t go wandering with the will of the wind. With these Santa Anas, about the only – ONLY – saving grace is that generally the humidity is low – this time about 10-15%, so if you stayed inside the A/C’d house, it was bearable. But it was way too hot to eat outside.

And I am going to admit something here that’s new . . . something startling . . . I don’t know how to barbecue. My darling hubby did all the grilling and barbecuing. Not that I didn’t give him some instructions with some frequency, but he did all that stuff. We have a gas barbecue that should be fairly foolproof. I just have to force myself to learn. My best friend Cherrie’s husband Bud has promised he will come one day and give me a lesson or two (they own the same barbecue), but I thought maybe I’d try doing something on my own first. Just to see how bad I am at this. Sometime soon. Stay tuned for that bulletin.

pork_tender_bacon_brownsugarOkay, now that I’ve got that big cooking character flaw out of the way, let’s get back to this great pork tenderloin that is BAKED IN THE OVEN. Not grilled. <BG> The recipe came from a great blog I read, The Runaway Spoon – sometime last year according to my notes. After removing the silverskin from the pork (a bit tedious, but necessary) I cut the thick slices of bacon in half lengthwise. The recipe calls for a pound of bacon – I didn’t have a pound of bacon. I had about 7 slices of thick bacon, so I made do, and it worked fine. First the pork is rubbed with Dijon mustard (a lot actually – and do use all that’s suggested – you’ll really not know it was there when you taste it). Then the bacon slices are wrapped around the pork tenderloin (you could use toothpicks if you’d like the bacon to stay neat and tidy). Then you pat on some light brown sugar – trying to stick it to the bacon if possible (not exactly a slam dunk – just do your best). The recipe recommended placing the pork in an iron skillet. I don’t have one big enough, so I used my Le Creuset, and slightly rounded them in my largest one, well oiled with grapeseed oil first.

bourbon_sauce_ingredThere at left is the uncooked sauce which I made about an hour or so ahead of time – it’s so very easy – mix good Dijon mustard, light brown sugar, bourbon, Worcestershire sauce in a saucepan, heat to a low simmer and cook until it thickens just a little bit, then you add in a copious amount of butter. A lot. 1 1/2 cubes to be exact (this served 8-9 people).bourbon_sauce_finished The butter is added in slowly when the sauce is just below a simmer. Then let it sit and rewarm it just before serving. The photo at right shows the finished sauce.

The pork is baked at 375°. If you like/want crispy bacon, you’ll want to turn on the broiler at the end – I didn’t want to overcook the pork, so didn’t do that step. The bacon was definitely cooked and tasted great, but it wasn’t crispy, just so you know. Everybody ate theirs even so. The meat took about 45 minutes, maybe a few minutes more, but the pork I had (from Costco) were big tenderloins, so that may be why. Cook it until it reaches an internal temp of 140°. Then, if you switch to broil, the meat will likely go to 145° which is what you want.

I made risotto to go with this and the meal all came together at the last minute. I reheated the sauce, sliced the pork and gave everyone some of the bacon, either still wrapped or loosely draped over the pieces of pork, drizzled each serving with the sauce and served up a big green salad, some very fresh sourdough bread and that was dinner.

What’s GOOD: everything – the bacon, yum. The sauce, extra delicious. The perfectly cooked pork – tender, juicy and barely pink in the middle. Just the way I like it. Being able to make the sauce ahead of time was a bonus. The pork took 45 minutes in the oven, so just plan ahead.

What’s NOT: nary a thing – loved the dish.

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Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Bourbon Butter Sauce

Recipe By: slightly adapted from The Runaway Spoon, 2013
Serving Size: 8 (maybe 9 if smaller portions)

PORK:
3 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin — (2 tenderloins)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 pound thick-sliced bacon — halved lengthwise (original recipe used regular bacon and a whole pound)
2/3 cup light brown sugar
SAUCE:
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup butter — cut into small pieces

Notes: If you have very hearty eaters, this might not serve 8. Mine actually served 9, but each person had a medium portion.
1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Evenly coat a 12-inch cast iron skillet (I used a Le Creuset) with oil making sure it is all well covered.
2. Place the pork tenders on a cookie sheet or large cutting board. Tuck any thin ends underneath so you have nice, even logs of pork. Keep it tucked as you wrap. Brush 1 Tablespoon mustard evenly over each tender. Wrap the bacon around the tenders, starting the next piece where the first one ends and so on, so you have a nice little package mostly covered in bacon.
3. Sprinkle the sugar next to the tenders then start pressing it into the sides and top of the bacon. You can roll the tenders around in the sugar a little if needed. When they are nicely covered, tuck any bacon ends back in place and carefully transfer to the oiled skillet. Neaten up the bacon, but try not to let any stray sugar fall onto the skillet.
4. Cook the pork for about 45 minutes (or less if the tenderloins are smaller), until the internal temperature reaches 140°. Use a probe thermometer. Turn on the broiler to crisp the bacon on the top, and cook to 145°. Remove from the oven and transfer the pork to a cutting board. Pour a little water into the bottom of the skillet and scrape up any cooked sugar with a silicone spatula to make cleaner up easier. Tent the pork with foil and let it rest 5-10 minutes.
5. SAUCE: Mix the brown sugar, mustard, bourbon and Worcestershire sauce together in a small saucepan until it is all well combined. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a low boil, whisking frequently. Cook about 2 minutes, until the mixture is slightly thickened. Remove the pan from the heat, and when the bubbling subsides, return it to low heat and whisk in the butter a few small pieces at a time, letting each addition melt before adding another. When all the butter is combined, remove from the heat. Can be made an hour or so ahead of time, then gently reheat the sauce over low heat, stirring constantly.
6. Slice the pork slightly on the diagonal and on an angle (to make larger slices), then spoon the sauce over the sliced pork. Make sure each serving has some bacon around or on top of it.
Per Serving: 641 Calories; 38g Fat (55.7% calories from fat); 51g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 200mg Cholesterol; 912mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on May 20th, 2014:

    Mmmm! Bourbon and bacon? Can’t go wrong there! I like doing pork tenderloins–they are so quick and easy–so am always looking for something new to do with them. This looks like a winner!

    It was a winner – everyone liked it. . . carolyn t

  2. Nancy

    said on May 20th, 2014:

    Sounds wonderful, I can’t wait to try the sauce. I made a stuffed pork tenderloin over the weekend. They are so quick and easy to fix.

    Yes, they really are easy. Hope you’ll enjoy this one…carolynt

  3. janet

    said on May 20th, 2014:

    I will definitely try this one.

    Have to tell you about my first time grilling without a husband (mine was just a bitter divorce). I was determined to learn how to grill. He, of course, took the grill and all the cookware. So, i bought a gas grill. My oldest daughter (14 years old) and her boyfriend helped assemble it.

    Things were going fine. I’d grilled a couple of things. Then, the nieces were coming up from Southern California for Easter and I decided to do hamburgers. Well, I preheated the grill. It caught fire. I saw the flames licking around the propane tank. I YELLED AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS… GET OUT OF THE HOUSE, THE GRILL IS GOING TO BLOW!! We all ran out. This was pre cell phone, so I went to the neighbor to call the fire department. Her husband was home. He simply looked at me slowly, pulled out the fire extinguisher, and slowly walked next door to put out the flames. That was years ago and it has turned into a family legend. LOL

    Oh my goodness, that is SO funny. I hope I’ll be able to learn quickly enough – I just have to force myself to go try it. Seems silly, but maybe it’s still my grief kicking in that I don’t feel like tackling this right now. In awhile perhaps. . . thanks for sharing your story! . . .carolyn t

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