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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.

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Posted in Chicken, on July 23rd, 2016.


Probably I’m old-school. No, not just probably, I’m sure I am. I don’t always get on the bandwagon with acronyms. But I do know what BFF means; it’s just that I wouldn’t have used it to name a recipe. But oh well, somebody else did.

To call these “chicken fingers” would probably make it sound like it’s just for kids, right? And these are definitely better than that! I made these for my granddaughter Taylor and her 2 friends who were visiting from NoCal. I was delighted to have them here – they’re all very nice girls – very helpful too. They cleared dishes and washed them every time I prepared a meal for them. They had a grand time shopping, beaching and walking around Disneyland until their feet were aching.

So, this dish. First I pounded 3 big chicken breasts until they were an even thickness of about 1/4-1/3 inch, then cut them into narrow little planks. Next, I set up 3 dunking or dipping stations – first it was seasoned flour, then eggs, then into a panko and Parmesan pan. They’re very briefly fried (really, like about 2 minutes total, maybe 3) in vegetable oil, then served on a bed of salad dressing-dressed greens. I made a watermelon salad with Feta cheese and fresh mint from my garden, and that was dinner. Vanilla ice cream rounded out the dinner with their choice of toppings.

Since I had some salad dressing (home made) in the refrigerator, I opted to not make the dressing you’ll see below in the recipe. However, because the recipe recommends you use leftovers in a sandwich the next day, and to garnish or spread the bread with the lemony Parmesan dressing, I have left that part of the recipe intact. Lots of people who made this, from Food52 land, used the dressing to DIP the chicken into as they ate it.

bff_crispy_chicken_narrowWe all enjoyed this – the chicken was hot and crispy right out of the pan. Each bite was eaten with a bit of the dressed salad. I did have leftovers, and I had them for dinner the next night and wished I’d had some of the dipping sauce. But I think the leftovers would have been great in a sandwich – and the creamy dressing would have been a wonderful treat with the chicken. All by itself, the chicken is good – I wouldn’t call it sensational – but it was very good. With the salad it was elevated to a much higher status in my book. Some readers of Food52 thought they’d try baking these to avoid the calories from frying.

What’s GOOD: a very simple dinner entrée. Especially for warm, summer dining as it was the night I served this sitting out on my patio. Although I didn’t make the dressing, next time I definitely will do so – it had great raves over at Food52. I enjoyed the piquant taste of the chicken served on the salad (I used arugula and baby spinach). Be sure to give the chicken sufficient salt – although Parmesan is salty, there isn’t all that much in it, so do season the flour mixture with both salt and pepper.

What’s NOT: some folks don’t like to dirty-up the kitchen range or countertop with fat spatters, and it definitely did need a bit of a clean-up. But no complaints at all about the taste of this dish.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

BFF Crispy Coated Chicken

Recipe By: From Food52
Serving Size: 4

3/4 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts — or chicken tenders
1/4 cup flour
Salt and pepper
3/8 teaspoon garlic salt
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups panko
3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated Vegetable oil
3/4 small garlic clove
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — finely grated
3/4 tablespoon crème fraiche
1 5/8 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon honey
4 3/4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon anchovy paste — optional
Salt and pepper

1. Pound chicken breasts to about 1/3 to 1/4-inch in thickness. Cut into narrow planks (fingers). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. Get breading stations ready. Mix flour and garlic salt on a plate. Next, beat eggs in a shallow but wide bowl. Then mix together panko and parmesan in another shallow bowl or plate. Put a clean plate at that end.
3. With one hand coat a piece of chicken with flour mixture and then drop into egg mixture. Pick it up, coat both sides with egg then drop into panko/cheese mixture. Using your other hand, coat both sides with panko/cheese. Set on the clean plate and continue coating the rest of the chicken.
4. Add enough vegetable oil to generously coat your nonstick frying pan and heat on medium high heat. Once hot, add enough chicken to fill the pan. Once the coating has turned golden brown flip each slice over, about 1 to 1-1/2 minutes. Add additional oil to make sure that the panko/cheese mixture can also brown evenly on that side, about a minute. When both sides are nicely browned, remove to a plate with paper towels and keep warm in a low oven until you’ve fried all the chicken. Do not over cook them or they’ll be dry.
5. The chicken can be served hot or room temperature. To reheat, heat in a 350° F oven or toaster for 5 minutes or until coating sizzles.
6. Dress the salad with the dressing and place chicken on top.
7. Pack chicken pieces into lunch boxes with a small container of ketchup.
8. Tuck pieces of chicken between two slices of your favorite toast with lettuce and tomatoes and the bread spread with some of the dressing.
9. DRESSING: Mash up the garlic clove your favorite way. Add garlic with Parmesan, crème fraiche, lemon juice and anchovy (if using) and mix thoroughly. Add olive oil and whisk until evenly mixed and emulsified. Taste and add salt, ample pepper, or more lemon juice.
Per Serving: 388 Calories; 22g Fat (50.6% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 162mg Cholesterol; 355mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on July 24th, 2016:

    Panko breadcrumbs are so much better than the normal sort – I wonder why that is?

    I’ve read about the process they use to make them, but it still doesn’t make sense to me, either. How can any bread product stay crispy like that? . . . carolyn t

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