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Just finished another great book, 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 January 14th, 2015.



Not a very good photo, but it was really delicious. Pears are a natural pairing with pork – kind of like apples are also. This is quite easy to make, even though it may look more complicated.

This recipe, made with 3 pork tenderloins, will serve 6-9 people, but if you have one big tenderloin, it will likely serve 3 people. You never know when you buy those packs of pork tenderloins what size they’ll really be once you open it up.

The pears are caramelized in butter and sugar. Easy. The pork is browned over high heat, then the brandy is added and ignited (remember to turn off the fan over your stovetop before doing this). Then it’s roasted in the oven for 20-25 minutes and allowed to rest for awhile.

Lastly, you finish the sauce by melting butter and adding shallots. Then some pear nectar is added along with some fresh thyme. THEN, you add the cream (a lot – this isn’t a healthy dinner) and simmer it a bit to reduce it down. The pears are added back in to reheat them, then you plate it all, or serve on a platter with a bit of sauce drizzled on it, but a pitcher of the sauce served around the table. The recipe came from a cooking class with Phillis Carey.

What’s GOOD: the caramelized pears make this dish, although the ignited brandy also adds a lot of flavor as well. Altogether delicious.

What’s NOT: nothing really, although there are a few steps to making this. Not low calorie, for sure!

printer-friendly CutePDF

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


* Exported from MasterCook *

Pork Tenderloin with Caramelized Pears and Pear Brandy Sauce

Recipe By: Phillis Carey, cooking instructor and author
Serving Size: 8

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 whole Anjou pears — or Comice, peeled, halved, cored, cut into 6-8 wedges per pear
2 teaspoons sugar
3 pounds pork tenderloin — about 3
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Sprigs of fresh thyme for garnish
1/3 cup brandy
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup shallots — minced
1/2 cup pear nectar
2 teaspoons fresh thyme — minced
1 1/2 cups heavy cream — (may use half cream/half chicken broth)

1. PEARS: Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pears in a single layer, sprinkle with sugar and saute until pears are tender and deep golden brown, about 8 minutes, turning over carefully to caramelize both sides. (Since the pork is pale, the sauce is white, it’s important to get some golden brown on the pears!)
2. PORK: Trim pork tenderloin of all fat and silverskin. Preheat oven to 400F. Melt butter in large, heavy skillet (with a long handle) over high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Brown pork on all sides, about 8 minutes total. Add brandy, turn off heat and ignite with a long match or lighter. Shake pan continuously until the flames extinguish. Do NOT have your kitchen exhaust fan on when you do this.
3. Set this skillet aside and transfer the pork to a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 150°F. Remove from oven and allow to rest for about 8 minutes before slicing on a diagonal (across the grain) into 1/2 inch thick slices. (If you happen to be baking something else at a lower oven temp, the pork can roast anywhere between 350°-425°F, just watch the time and still bake only until it reaches 150°F in the center. Use a meat thermometer.)
4. SAUCE: Melt butter in the skillet used to brown the pork. Add shallots, saute 2 minutes. Add pear nectar and thyme. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add cream and boil down until thickened to a sauce consistency, about 5 minutes or so. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs.
Per Serving: 478 Calories; 31g Fat (61.6% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 195mg Cholesterol; 105mg Sodium.

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  1. janet

    said on January 14th, 2015:

    Wow. That sounds wonderful. Love pears so much.

    What did you serve with it? Can you recommend any book or website that helps you design a menu for a dinner party?

    thanks Carolyn. Hope your foot and eyes are better. Once again, love your blog.


    Butternut squash goes well with this, even mashed potatoes, and green beans or broccoli would be good. Nothing too heavy or strong as you want the subtle flavors of the pears and the creamy sauce to shine.

    My eyes are good. Foot? Won’t know until mid-February when I see the doctor again. I’ve only been in the boot for 2 weeks – not enough time as I still have discomfort walking much of any distance. Thanks for asking . . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on January 16th, 2015:

    This looks incredibly delicious. As for decadent–well, at least it starts out with the leanest cut of pork! Have to eat low-fat for the time being for medical reasons but I hope to give it a try in a few weeks. (Haven’t commented lately because my computer was in the shop and then I was catching up with e-mails, but I’ve still been reading your posts and enjoying them.)

    Thank you, Donna. Amazing how attached we are to our computers, huh? When I come downstairs every morning I make myself a latte and then sit down at my computer to see what’s happened – my email first, then I look at my blog comments, then I have 3 games I play and I’m ready for my day. . . carolyn t

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