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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 Miscellaneous, on May 16th, 2015.

tartar_sauce_with_cottage_cheese

Don’t stick up your nose at the title of this – I know what you’re thinking – how could tartar sauce made with cottage cheese taste like anything? Well, I might have been in that camp, but laziness on my part made me inventive.

You see, I didn’t want to go to the store to buy sour cream. Or, yuk, to buy ready-made tartar sauce, which I think is awful. So, since I did have cottage cheese in the refrigerator (full fat type), I decided to snoop around on the ‘net to see if anyone had devised a recipe that was palatable. I took ideas from a couple of different recipes, and  used different proportions. I didn’t want a lot – it’s just me these days – and I had just one piece of salmon to eat.

What I wanted was a tartar sauce similar to what you’re served in a restaurant, which  usually is made fresh daily. So, I fiddled with what to add, a little jot here and there, and it tasted pretty darned good. Generally, I don’t buy “diet” labeled items, and I don’t necessarily stint on using butter (in moderation) when it’s needed. And I’d have used sour cream if I had it; but I didn’t. I’d have  used yogurt, except what I have in the refrigerator is sweetened slightly, and I didn’t think that would taste good with salmon! So, you see, I made do.

The capers are essential – they add a little sour taste and a briny flavor from their juices. And the pickle relish is also essential for me. But you can jiggle the proportions to suit your taste if you’d like. The cottage cheese kind of flew around inside my little tiny food processor, and the part that stuck to the lid was still little curds, so I didn’t scrape that down or use it in the finished sauce. Just the part that got whizzed well until it was smooth (remember, I wanted it to taste like sour cream). I tasted, add more lemon juice, more pepper, then scraped it out into a bowl, with some going into that little ramekin in the photo. If I’d had fresh dill I would have added it, but I didn’t. You could add dried dill.

What’s GOOD: I was almost amazed at how good this was. Of course, it’s not like the real thing, but salmon has a lot of flavor all on its own, so the tartar sauce was just fine. And yes, I’d make it again if I needed to. Note that there is a tiny bit of mayo in it – I think that helped. I used regular Best Foods/Hellman’s because that’s all I have in my refrigerator.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. No, it’s isn’t like the real thing, but it’s pretty darned close!

printer-friendly CutePDF

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Tartar Sauce made with Cottage Cheese

Recipe By: My own concoction, but based on several internet ones.
Serving Size: 2

1/3 cup cottage cheese (full fat)
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon chives — minced

1. In a small food processor combine the cottage cheese, mayo, lemon juice, pepper and mustard. Whiz until you can no longer see any cottage cheese curds, and it’s smooth.
2. Scrape out into a bowl and stir in the pickle relish, chives and capers. Taste for seasonings. Chill for 30 minutes or more to blend the flavors. Will keep for several days.
Per Serving: 93 Calories; 7g Fat (62.1% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 6mg Cholesterol; 288mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on May 17th, 2015:

    That was very resourceful of you. Although that wasn’t your original intent, it would certainly be a healthier alternative to regular tartar sauce. It wouldn’t have occurred to me, as mine doesn’t contain sour cream, just mayo, but it sounds good and worth a try.

    I’m sure if you tasted the real thing against this, this one would lose, but it wasn’t all that bad, considering! . . . carolyn

  2. Toffeeapple

    said on May 22nd, 2015:

    I would be happy to eat that, especially with Salmon.

    It was great with salmon. I’d make it again – maybe with more herbs. . . carolyn t

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