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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 Pasta, Pork, on October 28th, 2016.

First off, I have to tell you about one of my birthday gifts. I happened to mention to my daughter in law, Karen, about Rachel Ray’s pasta pot, about how it’s an elongated oval in shape so you can plunge the entire length of linguine or spaghetti or whatever long pasta you’re using and you don’t have to stand there over the steam facial trying to stuff the pasta down into the boiling water. Always seems to me like that’s problematical at times. I thought my DIL would want one for herself, since she makes pasta with some frequency for her family. I never thought she’d buy it for ME! But she did – for my daughter Sara (our birthdays are 5 days apart) and for me. Then she went shopping and bought some lovely California olive oil and several packages of long pasta and some high-end tomato sauces and wrapped it all up in cellophane and gave it to us. What a fun gift.

rachel_rays_pasta_pot

This is Rachael Ray Porcelain Enamel II Nonstick 8-Quart Covered Oval Pasta Pot with Pour Spout, Red Gradient– it’s quite long – oval in shape. Comes in 3 or 4 colors. It’s available at Amazon – click the link.

This new pot is SO great. I just LOVE LOVE the long oval shape and I made pasta last night just so I could use it and try it out. On the far side – the edge – you can barely see it, there’s a pour spout. The handles (can’t see them in the photo, sorry) have soft red covers so they don’t get too hot to handle. The pot is nonstick, though I don’t know that I’ll use it for actual cooking. It’s not a super heavy pot, not like cast iron. I was gleeful as I decided to make some pasta since I consider it a real treat.

I’ve been working on a project – it’s taken me weeks and weeks – sorting through and throwing away most of my old-old recipes that I’ve been collecting (these are clippings from numerous magazines and newspapers, 3×5 cards sometimes, a few from the early internet days and some stray cooking class recipes on which I’d made no notes whether the dishes were good, bad, etc.) since the mid-1960s. Most of them I’d never made, but they were sorted into categories and I’d rarely dip into the folders. Some of the pocket folders I haven’t touched for 5 or more years. Definitely time to do something about them. None are in my recipe software. So I’d dump out a pile of recipes – somewhere between 50-300 in each folder and standing at my kitchen island I’d start a discard pile and a few would go the other way to be input into MasterCook. In the pasta pocket folder containing about 100 recipes I saved out 5 recipes, of which this was one.

creamy_sausage_sauce_pastaThe recipe I decided to try comes from one of the Café Beaujolais (Mendocino, California) cookbooks. Don’t know which one. It called for andouille sausage or linguisa. I had regular Italian sweet sausage instead. And it might be really good with chorizo too. And I added onion which wasn’t in the original recipe. Otherwise it’s mostly Margaret Fox’s recipe. I used less cream, more cheese and maybe a few more slivered peppers.

What’s GOOD: oh my goodness, was it good. Maybe I was just over the moon at having pasta in any way, shape or form, but I loved the combo of sausage and cream – which is what Margaret Fox wrote in the original recipe, about the affinity of the two; something she’d never tried before until her husband created this dish. I used half a cup of cream for the whole dish which serves at least 3, maybe 4 small servings. So, not too bad. Loved this. I’d definitely make it again. And, it came together in a jiffy.

What’s NOT: not exactly a low calorie or low fat dish, sorry to say. It satisfied all my cravings for sausage and pasta and then some. Seems like I dirtied up a bunch of pots and pans, but really only two; it’s just that they were both big ones.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Spicy Creamy Sausage Sauce

Recipe By: Adapted from a recipe from Cafe Beaujolais, Mendocino (from Margaret Fox, the original owner/chef)
Serving Size: 3

2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 pound Italian sausage — cut into chunks
1/2 yellow onion — slivered
1/2 cup bell peppers — slivered
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
2 cloves garlic — minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup green onion — chopped
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
1/2 cup Italian parsley — chopped
8 ounces linguine
1 teaspoon salt — for the pasta water
Save some of the cooking water

1. Set aside some of the chopped green onions and parsley for garnishing.
2. Heat a large skillet and add olive oil. Add the Italian sausage and brown well on all sides (helps develop flavors). Add onion and saute for 3-4 minutes, then add peppers and continue cooking for 2-4 minutes until onion is cooked through. Add garlic and red chili flakes and stir for about a minute. Don’t let the garlic brown.
3. Add the white wine and cook for 2-4 minutes to let the flavors marry.
4. Meanwhile, heat a large stock pot with water and add salt. Cook linguine until barely tender (al dente).
5. To the sausage pan add heavy cream, the green onions, parsley and grated cheese. Stir as you heat the sauce through.
6. Drain pasta and add to the meat mixture, stirring to combine. Add some of the pasta cooking water as needed to make the mixture fluid. Immediately serve and garnish with the reserved parsley and green onions.
Per Serving: 942 Calories; 61g Fat (59.7% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 64g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 141mg Cholesterol; 1574mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on November 1st, 2016:

    If I had one of those pans, I would have to sleep in it – there would be nowhere to store it in my tiny kitchen!

    Oh, dear! But you don’t do a lot of cooking anyway, right? I’m blessed to have a very large kitchen, although that pan (which has no home in my actual kitchen) must live in my laundry room on some deep shelving that holds a whole lot of kitchen stuff I don’t use all that often. If you saw my kitchen you’d think there’s no way I’d have more stuff than would fit in all the shelves and cupboards, but I do. I suppose some day I’ll have to pare down, but I’m not ready to do that yet! . . . carolyn t

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