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Recently finished reading 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.

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. 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 angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. 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.

 

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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