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Currently Reading

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Just finished another great book, 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 Veggies/sides, on September 13th, 2016.


Quick-like, I snapped this photo with the rice still in the rice cooker, rather than my usual staging with a plate, the meatloaf on the plate, a napkin and background . . it’s just the rice. But oh, it’s good!

A few days ago I gave you the new recipe for Italian-style meatloaf that I made up myself, that was really wonderful. This is what I served with it. Normally I’d do mashed potatoes, but for whatever reason – it was a warm, summer night – I didn’t have potatoes on hand anyway – I decided to accompany the meatloaf with rice.

This recipe came from the Pioneer Woman and she served it as a side with a Mexican menu. Yes, with the cilantro and lime in it, it certainly would be nice with Mexican flavors. But, it was just lovely with the meatloaf, I thought.

Previously I’ve talked about my Breville rice cooker – it’s really a bit of everything – you can sauté in it, make risotto in it, and use it as a slow cooker. And it has a rice setting, of course. It was perfect for this – I sautéed the onion a bit first, then added the garlic (lots) and lastly the rice and allowed that to sauté briefly. Then I added in the chicken broth and lime juice (I had to supplement with a tiny bit of lemon juice as I had just 2 limes). The lime zest was apparent in the dish – loved the flavors.

Ree Drummond’s recipe has you making this in a saucepan and she added just some of the chicken broth, adding more if needed. Well, my rice cooker shut off after about 12 minutes (because it was dry – and the rice wasn’t done) so I added in the remaining cup of chicken broth and let it go for another 4-8 minutes until it was perfectly done. Next time – with the rice cooker, I would just add all the broth at once. Just before serving I stirred in most of the cilantro and sprinkled the last of it on top just for the appearance factor!

What’s GOOD: the lime juice and lime zest add a real bonus flavor here – I loved it. The garlic is apparent also, and the onion added great texture. It’s not just rice – the onion is noticeable, in a good way. I liked this a lot and I’d definitely make this again.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. It’s a great recipe.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Garlic Cilantro Lime Rice

Recipe By: A Pioneer Woman recipe, 2012
Serving Size: 8

1 tablespoon canola oil
3 cloves garlic — minced
1 large onion — chopped
2 cups long-grain rice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 medium limes — (use juice of 3, zest of 2)
1/3 cup fresh cilantro — chopped, for garnish

NOTES: I made this in my Breville rice cooker – I sauteed the onion in it also, then added liquid as indicated. It needed the extra cup of water, which I added in part way through the steam cycle. It was perfectly cooked. My advice – add in all the liquid at the beginning if using a rice cooker.
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the rice and salt. Cook over a low heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly to make sure the rice doesn’t burn. Add 2 cups of the broth, lime juice and zest of 2 limes and bring it to a boil.
2. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until the rice is done. Add more liquid as needed. The rice shouldn’t be sticky.
3. Just before serving, stir through the juice of a lime and lots of cilantro.
Per Serving: 210 Calories; 3g Fat (12.0% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 42g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 254mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on September 20th, 2016:

    When I had a microwave oven, I used to cook something similar in that. Nowadays, I rarely eat rice but I have no idea why that might be. I do like cilantro though, and lime.

    Well, as you’ve likely picked up from my blog, I TRY not to eat carbs, or if I do, in very small amounts. I LIKE them, that’s the trouble. And if I make rice with flavoring, and other stuff in it, I can eat ample amounts if I let myself. Particularly good with my chicken curry dishes I make. I don’t enjoy curry nearly as much plain, without any rice at all. . . carolyn t

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