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Just finished 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 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 parents were 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 a old 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 finished Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

Recently finished reading The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Also just read Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

Also read H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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 Beef, on September 9th, 2016.

meatloaf_ital_sausage_parmigiano

What makes meatloaf Italian? The addition of Italian sausage, Italian seasonings AND some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, of course! Was it good? Yes, indeed!

Family was visiting – the part of my family that’s likes the basics – a good hunk of meat, carbs, veggies and maybe a salad. The first night of their visit we had grilled pork chops with a cold orzo salad. Nothing fancy. The next night I decided to make meatloaf – I hadn’t made it in ages. As a widow/single person, making a meatloaf sounds like 5 dinners in a row and I’d be bored with it after about two. I could have used my old-favorite recipe, Meatloaf with Sweet and Sour Sauce, which has been a family favorite for decades. But I thought I’d change it up a bit. Not knowing what to do exactly, I went on the ‘net and searched for how all the Food Network chefs make their meatloaf and I picked and chose amongst the variations and made up my own. I suppose it could be said that as long as the basics are there, it’s hard to screw up a meatloaf, no matter what you put in it.

meatloaf_raw_readytobake

This one . . . first I minced up carrot, celery and onion and sautéed it in a little oil until the veggies were completely wilted. Meanwhile, into a big bowl I added lots of lean ground beef, some Italian sausage (actually what I had was turkey Italian sausage that I squeezed out of its casing), a heaping handful of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, seasonings (including a hearty bunch of Slap Yo Mama Cajun seasonings), bread that I soaked in milk and squished up with my hands so there were virtually no visible pieces left, 3 eggs and the cooled veggies. I mushed that up, as you do have to do with meatloaf and I literally poured it into a big oval baking dish. I shaped it a bit and topped it with loads of Heinz ketchup (my favorite brand, when I do use ketchup, which isn’t all that often) and baked it for 1 1/2 hours until the internal temperature reached about 158°F. Websites say to remove meatloaf between 155-160°F.

Usually mashed potatoes are my carb of choice for meatloaf, but I made lime cilantro rice instead (recipe coming up soon) which actually was a very nice side dish for it. It was a hit.

What’s GOOD: I really, really liked this mixture. The addition of Italian sausage added a different flavor component – I could taste it – it was probably the fennel that was what I tasted that made me think of Italian sausage since I’d used turkey Italian sausage. But I also added the grated Parmigiano too, and oodles of Italian seasonings. The bread/milk mixture lightened the meatloaf – it was amazingly tender when sliced, and although you really couldn’t taste the carrots and celery and onion, you could barely see them peppered throughout the meatloaf. An altogether great recipe. I’ll make it again for sure.

What’s NOT: hmmm. I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about this. My family enjoyed it – no complaints from them.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Meatloaf with Italian Sausage

Recipe By: My own combination, 2016
Serving Size: 10-12

2 pounds lean ground beef
1 pound Italian sausage — removed from casing (pork or turkey)
3 large eggs
2/3 cup onion — diced
2 small carrots — finely diced
1 cup celery — finely diced, including leaves
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon Slap Yo Mama seasoning — or other spicy Cajun-style dry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 slices white bread
1/2 cup milk — (may need slightly more)
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
2/3 cup ketchup — for topping

1. In a small bowl break up the white bread with milk and let sit about 5-10 minutes. Using your fingers, break up the mushy bread so there are almost no visible pieces.
2. In a medium saute pan heat the canola oil and add the vegetables (onions, carrots and celery). Cook them until they are completely limp. Set aside to cool.
3. In a very large bowl combine the meat, eggs, thyme, basil, Slap Yo Mama seasoning, pepper and Parmigiano cheese. When vegetables have cooled sufficiently, pour into the bowl along with the bread/milk mixture. Gently massage the meat until there are no streaks of egg or any chunks of bread and more-or-less the mixture is homogenous. The less you “work” the meat, the more tender it will be.
4. Preheat oven to 350°. Use a large, rimmed baking dish and carefully pour the meatloaf mixture into the dish, using your hands to mush it into a very long and wide oval. Press ends in so they are not pointed, if possible. Pour ketchup over the top of the meatloaf and spread out to the edges without it dripping down the sides (it will burn there). Bake for about 90 minutes, or until the meat reaches 155-160°F on an instant read thermometer. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes, tented with foil. Using a baster, remove the grease from the pan and carefully, using 2 large spatulas, remove the meatloaf to a serving dish larger than the meatloaf. Or, slice the meatloaf in the baking dish. Once meatloaf is cool it will be easier to remove and store leftovers. Makes wonderful sandwiches.
Per Serving: 418 Calories; 32g Fat (69.0% calories from fat); 22g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 140mg Cholesterol; 557mg Sodium.

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