Get updates sent to you for free by RSS, or by email:


Currently Reading

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

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.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Soups, on June 5th, 2016.


If you’ve never made cauliflower soup, maybe this will entice you to try it. The recipe came from Pioneer Woman, on one of her recent shows. I think she suggested it be served with a toasted cheese sandwich, or maybe that’s what I thought about as I was making it. But no, I didn’t make a sandwich, as much as I would have liked to!

After watching Ree Drummond make this soup, I immediately bought a fresh cauliflower and then something came up and I didn’t end up making the soup that day. Or the next. Or the next. But a week later the cauliflower was still in perfect condition so I made the soup – it makes a LOT – and froze about 5 single portions and still have two containers in my frig to have this coming week.

The soup does dirty-up two pans – one for the soup and one for the cream sauce. I considered just thickening the soup in the big pot with the cauliflower, but there IS a reason you don’t do that – milk doesn’t like to be boiled – it separates. So, you prepare a cream sauce that’s on the thin side, but still it is a thickened base, and it gets poured into the already cooked and pureed soup and at that point the soup is done. You simmer it for just a very few minutes – not enough time for the milk to separate.

cauliflower_cajun_seasoningBacon features in this recipe – chopped up and rendered, then reserved to be sprinkled on top when it’s served. That’s what’s visible, barely, in the middle of the soup bowl in the photo. There’s onion in there too. The cauliflower is chunked up – you don’t have to be meticulous about it – you could cut it up if you’d like, rather than bothering with florets. Most of it gets pureed anyway, so the shape doesn’t really matter here. Cajun seasoning is needed – in fact I think the soup would be a tad bland without it – I used Slap Ya Mama brand. Now I can buy the seasoning at my grocery stores, but back a few years ago it wasn’t available in the West, so my friend Joan bought some when she visited family in Texas. See photo at right.

It may be hard to see, but I liberally sprinkled the seasoning all over the raw cauliflower – you could just as easily add it into the cooking pot – I don’t think it matters. If you don’t have Cajun seasoning, you can use this recipe from the Food Network – it’s a combo of a bunch of herbs and spices. Just don’t make a lot of it unless you plan to use it up – I’ll never use up that can before the flavors are shot – you just use a bit more once the mixture is 6-8 months old. That’s what I did here. I know I used more than 1/2 teaspoon, but use your own judgment. There was some heat in the soup, but not very much – just enough that you knew it was there!

As for the pureeing – Ree likes chunky soup, so she uses an immersion blender, but only whizzes it a little bit so it leaves plenty of texture. I mostly pureed it but left just a little bit of texture. You can also pour it all into a blender – it will take several batches as this makes about 15-16 cups of soup. The cream sauce is made and poured into the simmering soup, then you add the Jack cheese, parsley and sour cream and cook briefly – just enough to heat it through and it’s done. Ready to be scooped into a serving bowl with the bacon, more cheese and parsley added on top. As always, the soup is enhanced if you make it, cool it and chill it overnight. When reheating it, be gentle – don’t let it boil.

What’s GOOD: What can I say about cauliflower soup?  It’s not going to knock your socks off, but it’s delicious. Creamy, and even though it has a bit of half and half in it, it’s not all that unhealthy – 24 grams of fat in an ample serving. I had it for dinner, nothing else with it, just the soup. It was very satisfying and the bacon hits a nice note of texture and saltiness. It’s not overly thick, but it does have some little bit of texture to it. Altogether good soup.

What’s NOT: nothing, really – you do dirty two pans – that’s about the only down side I can think of!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

Recipe By: Ree Drummond, 2016
Serving Size: 10

4 thin slices bacon — cut into small bits
1 white onion — finely diced
1 head cauliflower — broken into pieces or chopped
1/2 teaspoon Cajun spice — or more to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth — (2 quarts)
4 tablespoons butter — (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup half and half
1/4 cup sour cream
3 cups Monterey Jack cheese — grated, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley — plus more for serving

1. In a large pot, fry the bacon pieces over medium-high heat until crisp. Drain the bacon on a paper towel and set aside. Pour off the grease and return the pot to the stove.
2. Add the onions to the pot and cook over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cauliflower, sprinkle with the Cajun spice and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and cook, stirring, until the cauliflower starts turning golden brown, another 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
3. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture slightly, or all the way if you prefer. (Or use a regular blender; just don’t fill too full.)
4. In a separate saucepan or skillet, melt the butter. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk to form a paste. Pour in the milk, then continue cooking until it thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the half-and-half.
5. Pour the white sauce into the soup. Turn the heat to medium high and bring back to a simmer for just 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, stirring in the cheese and sour cream until the cheese is fully melted. Stir in the parsley.
6. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve with a little extra cheese, a sprinkle of bacon and a sprinkle of parsley.
Per Serving: 298 Calories; 24g Fat (63.8% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 63mg Cholesterol; 352mg Sodium.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Get Recipes by Email, Free!

Leave Your Comment