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Just finished reading 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 Novelby 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 (she arrived after the birth, actually). 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 father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. 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.

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 middle-aged 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, and wealthy) 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.

 

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 Brunch, Vegetarian, on August 28th, 2016.

apple_dutch_baby

A Dutch Baby. Oh my. So delicious. This one with a layer of sliced apples that have been cooked with a bit of butter, cinnamon and brown sugar. Then the puff pancake mixture is poured in. Yes!

It’s been years since I’d had one of these treasures. Years ago I used to go to a pancake house in Denver that had it on the menu. It was served plain, sprinkled with powdered sugar and a wedge of lemon to drizzle on top. I recall that I ordered it fairly often. Many years ago I tried to make one and my recollection is that it failed – it didn’t rise. It didn’t have that characteristic popover-type custardy tender texture.

These things are also called a German pancake, a Bismarck, or a Dutch puff. Normally it’s made in a cast iron frying pan. According to Wikipedia, which cites Sunset magazine as its source, Dutch babies (by that name) were introduced in the early 1900s at a restaurant in Seattle, called Manca’s Café. It was family run, and one of the daughters is said to have coined the name, Dutch Baby.

A few months ago I was reading someone’s facebook page and it contained one of those rip-roaring fast videos of how to make an apple Dutch baby. I watched it twice and determined then and there that I’d try making it again. So, a week or so later I went to my friend’s facebook page to watch it again, and it was gone. Huh? I emailed my friend and asked about it – she had no idea about any Dutch Baby video on her page. So I did some sleuthing – I couldn’t remember where it had come from, but I finally found it. I think – although I’m not certain about this, so don’t quote me – that if you ever DO allow one of these video sources to post a video on your facebook page, you have right then and there, agreed to let that source company post more videos to your facebook page without your knowledge. I finally found the video at tiphero. I’m not going to give you the link because if in fact that’s what they do, I don’t want to be spreading the problem. The recipe for this dish can be found at other places on the web.

dutch_baby_apple_sideMaking this recipe, the proportions and directions came from their website. According to Wikipedia, there is a formula, for every 1/4 cup flour, you need to have 1/4 cup milk – very similar to a popover batter. And for every 1/4 cup of those you need an egg. So, 3/4 cup flour, 3/4 cup milk and 3 eggs. The apple slices are cooked in a bit of butter, then removed. The pan is wiped clean (so the butter doesn’t burn) and you heat up the iron skillet in a 425°F oven for 8-10 minutes, so it’s literally smoking hot. Handle with care! Remove the pan, melt a bit more butter, pour in the apples, then pour in the batter. And back into that hot oven it goes for 18-20 minutes. Mine was done at 18. Again, I was very careful with it because that pan is really hot. I slipped the pancake out onto my serving plate, and I’m embarrassed to tell you that with the exception of about 3 bites, I ate the whole thing. It was my dinner. I relished and I mean relished every single bite! You don’t have to make it with apples – I just liked the idea of it.

What’s GOOD: Oh gosh. I thought it was fabulous. But then I also love popovers, though I never make them. This was quite easy to do – just have everything ready when you start, and be prepared when it comes out of the oven to eat it immediately. No fiddling around with setting the table or pouring a glass of milk. No. Serve. Sit. Eat.

What’s NOT: nothing at all – it was quite easy and was a special treat for me.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Dutch Baby with Apples

Recipe By: From Tip Hero (online videos)
Serving Size: 2

2 tablespoons butter — divided
1 large granny Smith apple — peeled, sliced ¼-inch thick
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
BATTER:
3 large eggs — room temperature
3/4 cup whole milk — room temperature
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Confectioners’ sugar and lemon wedges, if desired.

NOTE: You must have an iron skillet – a 10″ one to make this dish.
1. Preheat the oven to 425° F (218 degrees Celsius).
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, flour and sugar until smooth.
3. In a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the apple slices and sprinkle with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook for about 5 minutes, frequently tossing, until the apples are coated and have softened. Transfer to a dish.
4. Wipe the skillet with a paper towel and place in the preheated oven for about 8 to 10 minutes, until very hot.
5. Add the remaining butter to the skillet, swirling to coat the bottom and sides. Add the cooked apples to the center of the pan and pour the batter on top.
6. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the pancake has puffed and the edges are golden brown. The center should be set but custardy.
7. Sprinkle with the confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately with a lemon wedge, if desired. Note: The pancake will lose its puff as it sits out, so be sure to prepare this one right before you want to eat it and enjoy as soon as it’d done! Have your table set, beverages poured, fork poised, and dig in while it’s piping hot.
Per Serving: 664 Calories; 34g Fat (45.9% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 72g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 393mg Cholesterol; 273mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on August 28th, 2016:

    The Dutch baby or puff pancake is one of my favorite things to fix for Sunday brunch. Most of the time, I bake it plain and then top with berries–often a mixture of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, or with peaches, plus sour cream or whipped cream and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. I’ve only done an apple version a couple of times, but now you’ve put me in the mood to do an apple one. Glad to have your version to go by. My recipe calls for a cup of each major ingredient and 4 eggs, so it follows the formula. I hadn’t thought about it, but one could even do a small personal one with one quarter or one half of the recipe. I like to make myself special breakfasts now and then, so I’ll be doing this soon! (Sometimes I do a one-person breakfast bread pudding. I butter a small gratin dish, drop in a slice of bread either torn in bits or cubed, then beat an egg with a splash of milk–about a third cup–a bit of vanilla, and a teaspoon or two of sugar. Pour that over, let it get well soaked, then microwave until it puffs up and sets. Then I sprinkle a little more sugar on top and brulee it with my kitchen torch or put it under the broiler to crisp the top. It’s easily varied with the addition of fruit or nuts.)

    Wow, I want to come to your house for breakfast, Donna! And it sounds like you’re a real master of Dutch Babies, for sure. Until I researched it myself, I didn’t realize there was a formula for it, but it makes sense! . . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on August 28th, 2016:

    It’s a beauty, by the way!

  3. hddonna

    said on August 28th, 2016:

    Your Dutch baby, I mean.

  4. hddonna

    said on August 29th, 2016:

    I didn’t realize about the formula until you mentioned it, but I like recipes that can be cut down to one serving, especially ones where you don’t need to divide an egg. I make King Arthur Flour’s whole grain pancake mix to keep in the freezer, and I usually make myself just one serving (the guys aren’t crazy about whole grains). It takes half an egg, and I’m not sure what to do with it. If I save it in a jar, I forget to use it, and I like fried eggs, not scrambled, with my pancakes. I used to scramble it for my dog, but she’s gone now. Guess I should just make two servings and have pancakes two days in a row.

  5. Toffeeapple

    said on September 1st, 2016:

    That sounds like sweet Yorkshire Puddings! Same ingredients anyway.

    Ah, do you MAKE sweet Yorkshire Puddings? I’ve not read of them, but yes, I think they’re one and the same, except that this is made in an iron skillet so the batter can kind of climb the sides. I’ll have to look. . . thanks for the info. . . carolyn t

  6. Toffeeapple

    said on September 4th, 2016:

    In Yorkshire, the pudding would be served first, with gravy, then the meat and veg and gravy then more pudding with Golden Syrup on it. Makes for a filling but cost effective meal for farmers with hearty appetites!

    Hmmm. How interesting. Have never heard of that menu quite so yorkshire pudding-centric! I first had it in Canada (visiting some distant cousins of my father) who lived on a farm. They did the traditional – BIG – dinner at 1:00 on Sunday. Oh my gosh, what a feast. They did a huge roast and several courses, and the Yorkshire pudding made in the pan with the grease from the roast. That’s about the best, but so heavy/greasy. . . carolynt

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