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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 aging 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, wealthy women) 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.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

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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