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Recently finished reading 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 Chicken, on January 3rd, 2009.


Until a few months ago I’d never even HEARD of Alabama White Sauce. I read about it over at the Blue Kitchen blog, but the sauce recipe comes from some fella called Big Bob Gibson, dating back to 1925. I’ve had the Blue Kitchen recipe in my to-try pile for awhile, but just needed the right group of diners here at home to make it. After sleuthing on the internet about Alabama white sauce, they all have somewhat similar ingredients (mayo, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, hot pepper of some kind and horseradish) although some recipes I found didn’t have horseradish or lemon juice. It seems that slathering it on chicken is the most popular use, but I’ll tell you that when I served the leftovers with some hot steamed baby broccoli, I also drizzled just a tad of the sauce on the vegetable. Oh my was that good.

Here’s what you do – grill some chicken – brown it over direct heat/fire, then cook it on indirect heat until it reaches 165° F. Then slather the sauce on both sides, continue cooking for about 5 minutes, slathering it again. It should be done, or nearly so. Remove from the grill, loosely cover with foil and let it sit for about 5 minutes and serve with another dollop of the sauce on top of each piece. And maybe on any vegetables you happen to be serving with it. L-o-v-e-d it. Even l-o-v-e-d it better with the leftovers, I think. The sauce had time to sink into the meat a bit more and I just reheated the chicken pieces in the microwave.
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Alabama White Sauce, with Grilled Chicken

Recipe: Blue Kitchen Blog, but was first created by Big Bob Gibson in 1925
Servings: 6
Serving Ideas: If you have leftovers of this sauce, put it on steamed vegetables. Would also make a good dip for artichokes.

1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper — or up to 3/4 tsp if you want it HOT

1. Make the sauce. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and whisk well to combine. Cover bowl and store in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. It will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
2. Salt and pepper the chicken pieces of your choice (legs and thighs). Grill the chicken – on direct heat first, then off direct heat until it reaches 165ºF. Began slathering the chicken liberally with the White Sauce, again turning it a couple/few times and saucing it each time. After 5 or so minutes,transfer the chicken to a serving platter, let it rest for about 5-10 minutes, then serve it with another dollop of sauce on top of each piece.
Per Serving (uhm, this is JUST the sauce, not including the chicken): 275 Calories; 31g Fat (94.7% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 13mg Cholesterol; 371mg Sodium.

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  1. Marie

    said on January 3rd, 2009:

    Ohh, I’m going to have to try me some of this Carolyn! My boss is from Alabama you know. I bet they’d love it too!

    I’ll betcha they would like it. Be sure to drizzle some on a veg too. Or serve just a tiny little bowl on the side for people to dip into. I really must try it with an artichoke too. . . . Carolyn T

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