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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 Chicken, on July 7th, 2016.

curried_maple_mustard_chicken_breasts

It may be a little hard to see, but the chicken breast has been sliced – I had large boneless, skinless breasts, so I could have fed 4 people, I swear, with just 2 breasts. The glaze/sauce is subtle but really, really good.

The recipe for this came from Food & Wine magazine, although it called for bone-in chicken breasts, which I didn’t have. I searched around the ‘net and found a few other bloggers or sites that prepared this chicken, and one suggestion was to reduce the amount of sauce. I did that, although when finished, I wished I’d had a little extra to drizzle on the finished, sliced chicken. So, I went back to the recipe and upped the amount of sauce from what I prepared. But, if you or your family like more stuff to drizzle, do more sauce that indicated below. Someone else had used part butter, part olive oil. I liked that option. SO, all that said, the recipe below is changed a bit from the magazine’s version.

First I pounded the chicken breasts to an even thickness (about 1/3 inch) with a piece of plastic wrap covering the meat. Then you briefly melt the butter in the baking dish/pan in the oven – (don’t use a big, honkin’ pan as the butter/oil will spread all over – confine it to a baking dish that’s just a bit bigger than the chicken breasts, however many you’re making). Don’t melt it for more than a few minutes or the butter will burn. You can mix all the other ingredients in at the same time (Dijon curry_maple_mustard_glazemustard, maple syrup and curry powder) but unless you watch this very, very carefully, the mixture WILL burn (mine nearly did). Then you dunk the chicken in the glaze mixture (mix it right on the pan – see photo). Once the butter melts, whisk it just a bit, then do the dunking. Turn the breasts over a couple of times to get as much of the mixture on the chicken as possible.

Then it’s merely baking the chicken until it reaches 160°F. Now, I’ll warn you – use an instant read thermometer if at all possible –  when I baked this it took about 15 minutes, but depending on how thick your chicken is, it might even be LESS than that. If it’s not quite there, just continue baking for another 2-3 minutes before you check it again. If it goes higher than 160°, trust me, the chicken will be dry.

I used frozen chicken breasts, thawed, of course, and I’ll tell you for sure – this was SO juicy. I was vigilant, though, about the temperature. I hate-hate dry chicken. So do yourself a favor and use the thermometer. I had a little bit of the wild rice salad with watercress left over from a few days ago, and it was perfect with this chicken (you can see it in the background on the plate.

What’s GOOD:  The flavors were subtle, believe it or not! The curry hardly could be tasted (I know, doesn’t sound right, but it wasn’t a strong flavor at all). You’re aware that there’s a little bit sweet, a little bit sharp (the mustard) but when mixed together it’s quite mellow. Liked it a LOT, and it was SO SO easy! I had dinner prepared in about 20 minutes. I have left overs of this, and I may put it on a salad. Actually I have 3 more meals of it ahead of me, so I’ll need to think about other ways to eat it. Very juicy and tender meat. Liked it all a lot.

What’s NOT: I can’t think of anything – even the pounding of the chicken took about one minute total. If you have some other left over veggies or salad to serve with it, it’s a cinchy easy dinner.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Curried Maple-Mustard Chicken Breasts

Recipe By: Adapted from Food & Wine
Serving Size: 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter — cut into pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon curry powder — mild or hot
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

NOTES: As shown, there isn’t much “sauce” to serve or really, to even baste with. You can double the amount of sauce, but reserve some from the beginning (i.e. don’t dunk the chicken into all of it – the raw chicken would contaminate the sauce), then use that warmed reserved sauce for serving.
1. On a flat surface place a chicken breast, cover with a piece of plastic wrap and pound gently until the chicken is evenly thick, about 1/3 inch thick. Don’t pound the thin end. Repeat with other breasts.
2. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a glass or ceramic baking dish a bit larger than the chicken breasts, combine the butter with the maple syrup, mustard, curry powder and cayenne. Bake for about 4 minutes, until the butter is melted – don’t do it any longer or it will start to burn. Whisk in a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and let cool slightly, 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, add to the baking dish and turn to coat with the sauce. Bake for about 15 minutes, basting occasionally, and turning the chicken over once during the baking time, until the chicken is glazed and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 160°. Transfer the chicken to a work surface and slice into pieces, on an angle and serve immediately. If there is any sauce left in the pan, spoon over the chicken.
Per Serving: 277 Calories; 15g Fat (47.7% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 84mg Cholesterol; 173mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on July 7th, 2016:

    I’ve done maple-mustard chicken; the curry would add a nice touch. Will try it next time I’m looking for a simple chicken recipe.

    It was nice. Not particularly memorable, but I liked it. . . carolyn t

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