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Just finished a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

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.

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.

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 Breads, easy, on September 9th, 2007.

herbed-biscuit-ring-450

This recipe doesn’t even begin to qualify as gourmet. It’s nothing but cinchy easy. I don’t buy Pillsbury biscuits much anymore. They probably have transfats in them. But they sure do make it easy to provide some bread for a company meal.

The combination sounds a bit odd – butter, herbs and lemon juice. And when the instructions suggest you MIX this together, just remember that an acid and butter are kind of like oil and water – they just don’t blend. The herbs stir in just fine, but it’s difficult to get the lemon juice to incorporate in the butter mixture. Just keep trying and it will absorb most of it.

So you get all that done ahead. Heat the oven. Spread each biscuit (top) with some of the butter/herb mix and arrange them into a 8-inch round cake pan with an edge of each biscuit overlapping the previous one. That way you kind of make a spiral. Use a Teflon pan if possible. If there’s some lemon juice left over in the mixing bowl just pour it over the biscuits anyway. Will make them more tangy.

Likely these would be even better made with a regular homemade biscuit – even Bisquick ones rather than the Pillsbury rolls. But I never remember these unless I see the Pillsbury tubes at the grocery store. So won’t somebody try those and let me know? They’re probably even better than this recipe. I’ve had this recipe for years – it was given to me by a friend, so I don’t know the origin. I even looked on the Pillsbury site and this recipe was not there. Kind of surprising, actually.

printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click link to open in MC – 14 contains photo)

Herbed Refrigerator Biscuit Ring

NOTES: The mixture can be made up ahead and you just have to spread it on and bake the biscuits. Don’t refrigerate it, though, as it needs to be at room temp.
Servings: 6

3 tablespoons butter — softened
1 teaspoon lemon juice — fresh
1 dash paprika
1/8 teaspoon sage — rubbed
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon thyme — crushed
1 can biscuits — refrigerator type, buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400. In a small bowl combine the butter, juice, paprika, celery seed, thyme and sage. The lemon juice really doesn’t blend in well, but do your best. Open the canned biscuits and separate, spreading tops with the butter/juice mixture. In an 8-inch pie pan, arrange the biscuits, buttered side up and form into a ring, overlapping slightly. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serve while they’re hot.
Per Serving: 36 Calories; 4g Fat (86.1% calories from fat); trace Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 9mg Cholesterol; 53mg Sodium.

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  1. Kate

    said on September 10th, 2007:

    Yeah, Pillsbury biscuits are probably not on the Top 10 list anywhere for healthy foods, but once in a while….I tell ya, don’t they just WORK?

    On occasion, Griffin and I will buy a tube and a pack of good hot dogs and wrap a biscuit around each dog, baking them until done. Biscuit Dogs.

    Yum

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