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Just finished a stunning book, 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 (don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read and is reviewed below) and really liked it. 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 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.

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. 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 angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. 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.

 

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 Brunch, on December 16th, 2014.

mini_quiche_lorraines

Oh my gracious, was this ever delicious. I think I’m going to make this for Christmas morning. My cousin Gary will be here with me, and he likes eggs. And bacon. And cheese. I’ll make two apiece for us, although probably one would be enough. They’re rich.

At the recent cooking class I went to, Diane Phillips made this as part of a brunch menu, and oh golly, the cheese, that fabulous Gruyere, gives this the best flavor. Diane used thick-sliced bacon, cooked it just enough that it was “cooked” but not crisp – otherwise it wouldn’t curl around in the muffin tin. Then she mixed up the egg part (eggs, cream, salt, pepper, Tabasco, green onions and the cheese) and that is poured into the middle of the muffin tin. She filled the muffin cups clear to the top and during the baking they rose up higher than the bacon. They looked beautiful in the 12-cup muffin pan. There were over 40 people in the cooking class, so I couldn’t very well get up and go up to the demo counter to take a picture, now could I? Wished I could though, as they were really something to behold.

Diane explained that she sometimes uses some white Cheddar. She’s also used sausage, although you can’t really get sausage to hug the rim of the muffin tin. She’s also used Gouda and chicken, and cheddar and smoked sausage also. Another variation: Havarti with dill and bay shrimp added to the mixture.

The quiches can be made ahead and partially baked, removed to cool, chilled, then baked at 350°F covered for just 3-4 minutes to finish the cooking, or long enough to heat them through completely. So, there’s lots of flexibility with this recipe. It’ s a keeper.

What’s GOOD: for me, it was the bacon with the Gruyere that shined through in the complex flavors here. It was wonderful. Rich. Special. And it was beautiful to look at, besides that.

What’s NOT: not a single thing – loved this. There’s nothing about it, however, that isn’t high in fat and calories. So it’s a treat, that’s for sure!

printer friendly CutePDF

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Bacon Wrapped Mini Quiche Lorraine

Recipe By: Diane Phillips, cooking instructor and author
Serving Size: 12

12 pieces thick-sliced bacon
8 large eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 shakes of Tabasco sauce
2 whole green onions — white part and a little of the tender green
3 cups Gruyere cheese — finely shredded

1. Cook bacon until cooked, but not at all crisp. This can be done in a 400° F oven for 7-8 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
2. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, cream, salt, pepper and Tabasco. Stir in scallions, then using a flat whisk, add the shredded cheese. Cover and chill.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F.
4. Coat the inside of 12 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray, arranging the bacon against the wall of each cup.
5. Pour the quiche batter into the muffin tins, (they’ll be quite full) and bake them until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean and the quiche has puffed up above the rim of the muffin tin, about 15 minutes. NOTE: you can bake this about half way the day before, cover and chill (or freeze for up to 6 weeks), bring to room temp and reheat, covered with foil in a 350° oven for about 20 minutes. Can be served warm or an room temperature. SUBSTITUTIONS: you can use other cheeses and meat combinations: white Cheddar and ground sausage; Cheddar and smoked sausage or Havarti/dill cheese with bay shrimp.
Per Serving: 372 Calories; 33g Fat (79.8% calories from fat); 17g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 236mg Cholesterol; 533mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on December 17th, 2014:

    That looks and sounds delicious, I love bacon and eggs.

    For sure, you’ll want to make this recipe, then. It’s quite easy, really. . . carolyn t

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