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Just finished a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Also recently read News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a free-lance job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her family was killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of an old (wild) west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many. Just read this one first!

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 Soups, on March 19th, 2016.

 

mex_corn_soup_chix_baconTalk about delicious! Comfort food for a cold winter’s night. A one-dish meal, and it’s relatively easy to make, too.

Another winner of a recipe from a Phillis Carey cooking class I took in January. Over the years I can’t count how many soups she’s taught me to make. This one is just full of flavor, and quite easy to make. You could substitute tortilla chips (packaged) if you didn’t want to make the strips. You start with frozen corn (but defrosted) and add in fresh tomatoes, chicken broth, oregano, and some bacon. Then it has onion, Serrano chiles, garlic, black beans and shredded chicken. Phillis suggested we use chicken from a Costco prepared rotisserie chicken – or some left over chicken or turkey. The soup is garnished with some crème fraiche (or Crema Agria if you have access to Mexican markets), cilantro, some crumbled Cotija cheese (or use cheddar) and lastly, it’s topped with some strips of tortillas you’ve fried in a bit of oil.

The soup will come together in a little over half an hour, providing you have all the ingredients ready, chicken chopped or shredded, onion chopped, etc. This is a complete meal in one pot (except for the fried tortilla strips). This soup IS a carb-centric one – with corn being the main ingredient after chicken broth, but it’s very filling. The tortilla strips add great texture and crunch, and the bacon adds a lot of flavor, as it always does!

What’s GOOD: all the flavors and textures make for a filling and toothsome bowl of soup. Loved this recipe – very satisfying. Am sure you’ll agree if you make it. I did like the home made tortilla strips – to me they’re worth buying the raw tortillas to make your own, but if you’re pressed for time, use packaged chips, broken up in your palms.

What’s NOT: nothing I can think of. A great recipe.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Mexican Corn Soup with Chicken, Bacon & Tortilla Strips

Recipe By: Phillis Carey class, 1/2016
Serving Size: 6

3 cups frozen corn — thawed, divided use
2 medium tomatoes — seeded, roughly chopped (or 1/2 can of diced tomatoes)
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 slices thick-sliced bacon — diced
1 cup onion — chopped
1 medium jalapeno chile pepper — seeds removed, diced small
2 cloves garlic — minced
15 ounces canned black beans — drained, rinsed
3 cups shredded chicken Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup creme fraiche — or Crema Agria (Mexican style cream) or heavy cream
3 tablespoons cilantro — chopped
1/2 cup Cotija cheese — crumbled (you can substitute cheddar)
4 whole corn tortillas — cut into thin strips and fried briefly in oil until crispy

1. In a blender add half of the defrosted corn, all the tomatoes, oregano and a couple of cups of chicken broth. Puree until smooth. Set aside.
2. In a 4-5 quart pot, cook the bacon until crisp (about 10 minutes), stirring often. Remove with slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. To the pan add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is soft and tender. Add chile pepper and garlic and stir for about a minute.
3. Add the tomato-corn puree to the pot with the remaining chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and add remaining whole corn. Simmer over medium-low heat until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in the canned beans and chicken and continue simmering for 3-5 minutes to warm the beans and the chicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the creme fraiche and half the cilantro.
4. Serve soup garnished with bacon, remaining cilantro, cheese and tortilla strips.
Per Serving: 444 Calories; 17g Fat (31.3% calories from fat); 42g Protein; 42g Carbohydrate; 8g Dietary Fiber; 85mg Cholesterol; 488mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on March 21st, 2016:

    Looks good. Although it’s rather high in carbs, as you point out, it does have a hefty dose of fibre to offset them.

    Yes, and you wouldn’t be having this soup all that often, although since I made a “batch” it served about 5 servings, I think. I gave away 2 of them to friends, so I did eat it 3 times in the course of a week. . . carolyn t

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