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Just finished The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

Read Grace Unshakled, by Irene Huising. From Amazon’s page, it says: “In the year 2025, 17-year-old Grace Duncan finds herself in shackles because of her faith in Christ. An obedient daughter and stellar student, doing time in jail was never on her mental radar, despite the changes in religious laws [this takes place here in the United States] over the past few years. Through twists and turns in circumstances, Grace and a small band of Christians in Newport Beach, California begin a journey to discover what it means to follow Christ with unwavering faith in the midst of increasing persecution. Facing the potential loss of all her hopes and dreams, would Christ be enough?” We read this for one of my book clubs, and it’s a scary thought about what it could mean if we take God out of our country. The author is a friend of a friend and she attended our book club meeting to share about how she came to write this book. I don’t often share my faith here on my website, but this book made me stop and think about the direction our government is going, removing more and more our ability to worship God. Or to worship in any religion. Will this book ever make waves in the book world? Probably not. My copy may be a pre-edited version, as it contained numerous typos and formatting errors. But they didn’t detract from the subject, just the cosmetics. The book doesn’t come to a resolution; in fact it leaves you hanging, as some books do. It was intentional (obviously), but left me wondering about the “end of the story.”

Also just finished reading The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Read The German Girl: A Novel by Correa. It chronicles the story of a wealthy German Jewish family in Berlin, as the Nazis arrive and make life a living hell. The family is lucky (I guess you could say this) to be allowed to purchase passage on the M.S. St. Louis, a passenger liner, to take them to “the Americas.” The destination is actually Cuba. The story is told from two voices – the teenage daughter in this story, and from a current-day distant family member who is trying to learn about her ancestry. Of the 900+ passengers on the ship, only a few were allowed to disembark since the Cuban President decided he needed more money to accept them. Most families had no money left, as the Reich had taken nearly all of their assets. The daughter and her very eccentric mother were allowed to stay in Cuba.  The remaining passengers are rejected by the U.S. too, and eventually return to Europe, where most of the Jews end up dying in concentration camps. The story goes back and forth from the 1939 journey to current day as the link between the two women is slowly revealed. I had a tough time sometimes, tracking the people in this book, but the story was very riveting. It’s based on facts about the ship (see Wikipedia link above if you’re interested). A shameful chapter in history.

Recently finished reading a magnificent historical novel. Not new. Philippa Gregory has been a favorite author of mine for a couple of decades. You may remember her most famous book, The Other Boleyn Girl, published some years ago. I thought that was a really great book. I’ve read other books by Gregory, but most recently I read The King’s Curse (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels). The time period is the 1450s to 1541, mostly under the rule of King Henry VIII, the infamous womanizer and wife/Queen-killer. The man who cursed Rome (the Pope) – he wanted his first marriage annulled because Queen Catherine couldn’t produce a living male heir. And subsequently made himself the head of the church in England in order to do so. It was a Catholic country at the time. This story (it’s fiction, but woven with intricate historical detail) is from the voice of Margaret of York (a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine),  who was a Plantagenet in her own right (which is key to the later events in the book). Certainly I’ve read other novels over the years that dealt with Henry VIII, but not with this much breadth of info. What a wicked, sinful man he was. And did I say tyrant. Wow.  I could hardly put it down, through its nearly 600 pages. In the author’s notes at the end, she shares relatively recent medical info that suggests Henry probably suffered from a rare problem, Kell positive blood type, which can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths IF the mother has the more common Kell negative blood type. And that in his later years, he may have had McLeod syndrome, a disease only found in Kell positive individuals. Around the age of 40 it causes physical degeneration and personality changes resulting in paranoia, depression and irrational behavior. All of those King Henry VIII had in spades. If you read the book, you might read the author’s notes (at the end) before reading the book. If you like historical fiction (I love any book about English history) you’ll just love this one. It’s interesting, though, as I think about the many books I’ve read covering this era in English history, that each book presented its hero/heroine as the most innocent and worthy individual vying for the crown of England. I remember thinking Anne Boleyn was dealt with so badly during her life (and certainly her beheading), and yet reading this book, I completely reversed my opinion. Anne Boleyn was called a wh–e by most people during the years she shared Henry’s bed. The “curse” from the title pertains to Henry’s inability or the curse on the Tudors, that caused him to fail in producing a male heir. In any case, none of Henry’s wives should have died for it – likely it was all Henry’s fault anyway. Just read this one, okay?

Also recently read News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a free-lance job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her family was killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of an old (wild) west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many. Just read this one first!

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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