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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 August 24th, 2016.

grilled_chicken_greek_marinade2

What do you think of when you hear “Greek marinade?” Lemon juice? Olive oil? Garlic? Yes, all of the above plus oregano. This recipe is more lemon juice than oil and enhanced with some red pepper flakes.

Recently I had a houseguest, Jennifer, who is vegan, but also doesn’t eat a lot of other things as well. I can’t say that it was exactly hard to cook for her, but it was a bit foreign to cook for her. My cousin was along too, and he must eat GF. So one night I made the pasta recipe I made not too long ago, Pasta alla Trapenese with Eggplant. But we had to eat it with lentil (GF) linguine. And because Jennifer was very interested in having more veggies in the dish, I added a bunch of other things, which totally diluted the flavor from the eggplant, which, to me, was the star of the dish. I couldn’t even taste the eggplant. And I’ll just tell you, I didn’t much like the lentil linguine. It was mushy and I cooked it less time than the box suggested. I count myself lucky that I’m not allergic to wheat.

So the next evening I made an old favorite created by Paul Prudhomme, The BEST Bean Salad, one that’s been on my blog for years. I didn’t fiddle with the recipe at all (it’s extremely low in fat). It was all Jennifer had for dinner except for an English muffin she microwaved with some fake shredded cheese (non-dairy and not soy based, either) on top. But Gary was craving some meat, I think, so I defrosted boneless, skinless chicken breasts and had wanted to try this Greek marinade anyway. The bean salad has very similar seasonings (lots of oregano), so the two dishes were a complement to one another.

The marinade was simple enough to make – I found the recipe over at Julie’s Lifestyle blog. I tinkered with her recipe just a tiny bit – all the main ingredients are there, I just slightly adjusted the amounts. It’s a wonderful combination – the lemon juice is the star of the show, and it shines through in the grilled result – I thought it was wonderful. I’m extremely careful when grilling chicken breasts (boneless) because they can go from moist and juicy, to dry and inedible in a matter of a minute or two. Use an instant read thermometer and take chicken breasts off at 150°F. If you use chicken thighs, they need to cook until they reach 165°F. If you’re combining both types, put the thighs on first, then the breasts during the last 6-8 minutes as they cook in no time at all.

What’s GOOD: the lemon flavor for sure. Cooked perfectly, to 150°F, they were SO juicy and tender. Easy.

What’s NOT: for some it would be cooking/grilling to that exact temperature – an instant read thermometer is a must here. If you don’t have one in your gadget arsenal, you need one!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Greek Marinade for Chicken

Recipe By: Recipe adpated from Julie’s Lifestyle (blog) 2016
Serving Size: 4

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves — minced
3 tablespoons oregano — reduce by 2/3 if using dried herbs
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley — reduce by 2/3 if using dried herbs
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Chicken: use boneless, skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs

1. Combine all the ingredients in a sealing plastic bag and mush around to combine.
2. Add chicken pieces [ I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts] to the bag and mush it around so all the chicken surfaces are covered in the marinade. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours.
3. Remove chicken and blot dry on paper towels. Discard marinade.
4. Heat an outdoor grill to high, then reduce temperature to medium. Using a oil-soaked paper towel, rub the grill so the chicken will be less likely to stick.
5. Place chicken pieces on the grill and cook until one side is golden brown. If the chicken sticks to the grate, leave it a bit longer – once the chicken has cooked sufficiently it should be loosened so you can lift it. Turn the chicken over and continue grilling, with cover closed, until the internal temperature of chicken breasts has reached 150° or if using chicken thighs, cook it to 165°F. Remove to a platter and allow to rest for about a minute, then serve. If you are vigilant about not overcooking the chicken (past 150°F or 165°F), you’ll be rewarded with very tender and moist chicken.
Per Serving (marinade only): 174 Calories; 17g Fat (84.1% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 3mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on August 28th, 2016:

    Did this Friday evening, and it was delicious. I was so careful–tested the temp and it was 136 to 140 or so in different pieces, then two minutes later I was getting 160 and 170 plus! I had added a teaspoon of salt to the marinade, and that apparently acted as a brine and helped keep them from drying out, for, amazingly, they were still moist and juicy! I really liked how simple this recipe was. We had the leftovers in toasted buns, with barbecue sauce, tomatoes, and lettuce. Very tasty!

    I’m so glad it worked out well. It’s SO hard to measure temperature in chicken because of the uneven thickness of them, even ones that have been pounded, supposedly, evenly. Probably another minute (instead of two) would have been enough. You’ll know next time! And yes, the recipe really is simple, and we need simple now and then! . . . carolyn t

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