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Currently Reading

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Just finished 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 Appetizers, Veggies/sides, on June 22nd, 2015.


I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much “over” hummus. And no, this recipe has nothing to do with hummus – I’m just ranting. I’ve just had too much of it. I don’t buy it for myself, and if I’m invited to someone’s home and that’s all they serve as an appetizer, well, guess I’d eat it. But I don’t seek it out. It’s like onion dip back in the 70s, and then vegetable platters with ranch dressing. But I do like to serve vegetables in some form as an appetizer.

So, when I was invited to a dinner, our little gourmet group, I brought appetizers this time, and that meant vegetables. As I’ve mentioned many times, my recipe to-try file on my computer is huge, but since all the recipes can be sub-categorized, I went through the appetizers and found 2 to prepare. This one and a red onion confit thing which I’ll post in a few days.

I do love vegetables. We should eat them twice a day, but I don’t. I prepare them for dinner only, and if I have left overs, then yes, they get eaten with lunch or for another dinner. But we as a population don’t eat as many of them as we should (unless you are vegetarians), so that’s why I prefer taking veggies in some form as appetizers because they’re GOOD for us, and they generally don’t fill us up as heavy, creamy dips do or bread things, or even cheese (which I did serve with the other appetizer).

These asparagus were already washed and pre-trimmed, so I did nothing but oil them a little and into a hot oven they went for 8 minutes. Meanwhile, I prepared the very simple oil and butter sautéed garlic sauce (low and slow, so you don’t brown the garlic slices at all), adding in the tiny jot of soy sauce (low sodium) and balsamic vinegar at the end. Once the asparagus was roasted, this warm sauce was poured over the top, and I used my hands to roll them around in the dressing. There isn’t very much OF it, so you do need to get all the spears covered with a bit of the mixture.

Then they go into a covered container – I suppose while they’re hot they may absorb more of the flavorings. I let the container cool down on my counter top first, then the tray went in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours.

This recipe couldn’t have been easier, although I did dirty up more dishes than I’d expected in preparing it. It can also be served as a vegetable with a dinner – maybe that’s how this recipe came about (over at – somebody had left overs and decided to serve them as an appetizer.

What’s GOOD: well, that it’s a vegetable appetizer. These are tasty. Not over the top, but they were good. Next time I’d add more garlic. I’ll be eating them (the left overs) as part of my dinner, I think. Do serve them with napkins, as your fingers will get a bit oily as you pick them up to eat out of hand. Everybody thought they tasted good.

What’s NOT: only that you want to eat them with your fingers – some people don’t like that when the item is oily, and these are. Not overly so, but you must serve with napkins.

printer-friendly PDF

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Roasted Balsamic Garlic Asparagus Appetizer

Recipe By: from
Serving Size: 6 (4 if serving as a side dish)

1 pound asparagus — medium to thick stems (not too thin)
olive oil or olive oil spray or mister
1/4 teaspoon sea salt — to taste
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper — to taste
1 teaspoon butter — not margarine
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic — peeled and sliced lengthwise into 3 pieces (amount of garlic to taste)
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
2. Trim the asparagus, then rinse, and cut about an inch off the ends, then use a vegetable peeler to take the outer layer off another inch of the remaining fibrous ends.
3. Place the trimmed asparagus in a single layer on a non-stick baking sheet, then spray with an olive oil mister or drizzle evenly with olive oil.
4. Season with the sea salt and the freshly ground pepper.
5. Bake for 8 minutes (don’t overcook). If the asparagus is thinner or thicker it may take less or more time, so adjust the baking time accordingly.
6. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over very low heat melt the butter and extra virgin olive oil.
7. Add the sliced garlic and simmer (again, over very low heat) for 5 minutes – careful not to burn. Remove from heat and add the soy sauce and balsamic. The garlic will absorb color from the liquids, so don’t be alarmed that the garlic is burned – as long as it wasn’t brown before you added it, you’ll be fine!
8. When asparagus is done, remove from the oven and place in a flat container which has an airtight cover.
9. Drizzle the balsamic mixture on the asparagus and use your hands to mix the sauce over all the spears. Cover tightly, allow to come to room temp, then place in refrigerator to chill. Please note that, at first, the asparagus is still hot in the container, and that covering them and adding the sauce at this point will continue to steam them a bit for a few minutes. Serve with napkins as you’ll be picking up the spears with your fingers.
10. Chill for at least 4 hours before serving, then place attractively on serving platter. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper on top, if desired.
Per Serving: 24 Calories; 1g Fat (49.3% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 2mg Cholesterol; 172mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on June 22nd, 2015:

    I would serve a warm finger-bowl with a slice of lemon in it, to de-grease the fingers, it’s a fresher way of cleaning rather than just wiping.

    I do love Asparagus but it is late this year since we are having cold weather this Spring. Something to look forward to.

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