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Just finished reading 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 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 Brunch, on January 9th, 2009.

egg-muffins

Delicious Egg Muffins, just out of the oven. The one in front is turned slightly on its side.

My DH’s guys came to our house yesterday for their weekly Bible study. Usually they eat sweets – doughnuts, coffeecakes, etc. But I decided this time that perhaps they’d all prefer more protein instead. After all the sweets and overall excess of the holidays, I’d make this one a bit different.

So, I turned to a recipe I’d been wanting to try for awhile. I’ve mentioned previously Kalyn’s Kitchen, a blog I read regularly. Kalyn is a follower of the South Beach Diet, which means eating only a few specific low-glycemic carbs and consuming plenty of lean proteins and lots of vegetables. And eggs. Kalyn fixes this type of egg dish nearly every morning – she makes them up in quantity (a week’s worth) and quickly microwaves them as she’s rushing out the door.

Even using low-fat cheese which is a bit less flavorful as full-fat cheese (mine was a mixture of cheddar, jack and Mozzarella) it was very, very tasty. The green onions add a lot. I didn’t happen to have any vegetables that I thought were just “right” for these, and I wanted to try them once without veggies before I added them the next time I make them. I liked these a lot. They’re extremely easy – mincing up the green onions was about the most tedious, if there really was any tedium to making them. I made exactly 12, and when I pulled them out of the oven they were puffed up very high (like a popover), but within seconds they began to deflate to what you see in the photo above. What’s nice about these is that you can vary every single ingredient (egg whites, or more of them than whole eggs, different kinds of cheeses, and use whatever veggies you like). Just remember that the vegetables take up a lot more volume (space) in the muffin cup, so you’ll get more than 12 if you use bulky veggies. If you don’t like preparing breakfast every day, and want something healthy and easy, this is your ticket! Thank you, Kalyn.
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Breakfast Egg Muffins a la Kalyn Denny

Recipe: From Kalyn Denny, at Kalyn’s Kitchen blog.
Servings: 12 (or just 6 if you eat two)

3 whole green onions — minced
2/3 cup cheddar cheese — (I used low fat), or Feta, or any cheese variety you prefer
1/4 teaspoon Spike seasoning or other herb blend with a bite
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cooked vegetables — (broccoli, bell peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, celery, asparagus, artichoke hearts, jalapeno chiles) optional
15 large eggs

1. Heat oven to 375.
2. Break eggs into a large bowl, preferably with a pour spout.
3. Grease or oil-spray a muffin tin (12-spot). Into the wells of each muffin cup sprinkle some of the raw green onions. Then add cheese (not too much – the amount is just a guess) and vegetables, if using.
4. Lightly whisk the eggs with some salt and pepper. Gently and carefully pour the egg mixture into the muffin cups so they’re about 3/4 or 7/8 full. Don’t overfill them. Use a fork to gently probe (deflate any air bubbles) in each egg cup.
5. Bake for 25 minutes (approximately) until tops are golden brown. Remove and serve immediately. Depending on how much air was whipped into them, they may deflate some once they start to cool.
Per Serving: 119 Calories; 8g Fat (64.4% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 272mg Cholesterol; 127mg Sodium.

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  1. Marie

    said on January 10th, 2009:

    So much goodness here Carolyn. Everything looks so tasty. You are a wonderful cook and photographer!

    Thank you, Marie. Taking good food photos isn’t the easy task I thought it was going to be, but I’m improving. . . . Carolyn T

  2. Kalyn

    said on January 10th, 2009:

    I love the sideways tipped muffin! So glad that you liked them. Sometimes I have ones that rise more on one side than the other and I never can figure out why, but they always taste good!

    We DO like them. I’ve made them 4-5 times now and just use whatever cheese varieties I have on hand. I like Italian herbs sprinkled on top. Costco recently had Laughing Cow cheese on special (it’s low fat) and it’s great in these too. . . Carolyn T

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