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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, on August 28th, 2007.


Thanks to my DH, he managed to make a nice chicken dinner the other night. Albeit, we only had one chicken thigh and some frozen asparagus each, but it worked. The freezer-burned asparagus was over the hill – but the chicken was scrumptious. We have leftovers, which is a good thing, and I would definitely make this again. The recipe came from Elise, over at Simply Recipes. I’ve made several of her recipes in the last 6 months, and have enjoyed them all. This one is a stand-out, for sure. The marinade and sauce (one in the same) is just delicious. You could eat it right out of the bowl it’s so tasty. Her recipe was adapted from an article in the New York Times, she said. The recipe is very simple – you make a cashew-based marinade in the food processor, with cilantro, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, lime juice and some fresh chiles. Some of this is reserved to scoop on top at serving time, but you marinate the chicken in this stuff for at least an hour, then grill or broil or bake and serve. Even my DH, who doesn’t cook, found this fairly easy to make. That’s saying a lot from him!

This marinade kind of resembles pesto, except rather than basil and pine nuts, this is cilantro and cashews. My recipe will include a few changes: (1) next time I’ll use boneless, skinless thighs (because I don’t like to eat the fatty chicken skin and most of the thick marinade sticks to the skin); (2) we used one small jalapeno and a part of a poblano chile, and I’d definitely do that again; and maybe if baking these (3) I’ll pat a bit of Panko crumbs on top of the chicken (I like the crunch of Panko); (4) I’ll make more of the sauce since it’s just so unbelievably yummy (I’d like to try it on other things – like a grilled pork chop – or as a spread on a sandwich, maybe even as a salad dressing – we both just l-o-v-e-d the sauce; and (5) I substituted brown sugar Splenda for the brown sugar just because we try to limit sugar in our diets. Although the recipe says to marinate just an hour or two, most likely it would be fine up to 24 hours. No more, though, or the chicken will begin to “cook” with the lime juice in it.

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Spicy Garlic Cashew Chicken Recipe

Recipe: From Simply Recipes food blog and she got it from the New York Times
Servings: 6

1 cup cashews — salted
6 Tbsp cilantro — chopped with stems
1/4 cup olive oil — or grapeseed oil
4 whole garlic cloves — roughly chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar — or Splenda brown sugar
1 whole jalapeño peppers — seeded, chopped
1/2 poblano chile, seeded, chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 pounds chicken thighs — boneless, skinless

1. In a blender or food processor, blend together the cashews, cilantro, oil, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, chiles, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons of water. Blend until a smooth paste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reserve a third of the marinade for serving with the chicken. Use the rest for coating the chicken.
2. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the chicken pieces. Coat the chicken pieces with the marinade. Chill for an hour or two. Bring to room temperature before cooking.
3. Preheat broiler or grill. Broil or grill chicken, turning frequently, until golden and crisp and a meat thermometer reads 175°F when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (not touching a bone), or when the juices run clear (not pink) when cut into with a knife. About 20 to 30 minutes. Serve with lime wedges, reserved marinade, and cilantro.
Per Serving: 600 Calories; 47g Fat (70.0% calories from fat); 35g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 151mg Cholesterol; 487mg Sodium.

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  1. Anonymous

    said on September 17th, 2007:

    This was AWESOME. THe chicken just melts in your mouth. I served it for the first time at a small dinner party. Everyone LOVED it!! This will definately be a keeper.

    I did make some extra sauce and I am anxious to try it on some pasta, or even some pork chops.

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