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Just finished reading 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 Appetizers, on November 22nd, 2016.

maple_sriracha_oyster_crackers_appetizer

Addictive? Well, yes. Tasty? Oh my, yes. Salty and sweet and everything you want in a little tasty nibble to serve with drinks or other appetizers.

I think I saw this recipe on Pinterest awhile back and visited the website, The Cookie Rookie. I made a decision, right there and then, that I’d make these. I bought the oyster crackers and made these little beauties. It’s really VERY easy to do.

You heat up a mixture in a large, wide frying pan – canola oil, unsalted butter, sriracha sauce (use your discretion as to how much – I used 1 T. for the recipe size below and it was lightly hot/spicy from the sriracha), maple syrup, honey and seasoning salt. Becky, the blogger who devised this recipe, uses Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, but I think you could use any kind of seasoned salt of your choice. Once the mixture is melted and simmering, turn off the heat and pour in all the oyster crackers.

You’ll stir it and stir it so the crackers absorb the liquid. DO mix it continuously and until ALL the liquid is gone. You need to do this, otherwise you’ll have a puddle of sauce later on. Eventually all that liquid will be absorbed as you stir. Then you pour them out onto a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for an hour at 200°F, stirring the crackers every 20 minutes. If you decide to do a double batch, use two baking sheets – you want the crackers to have some room around them so they dry and get crispy.

What’s GOOD: Oh gosh, these are so very good. I gave some to 3 close friends of mine at a breakfast one morning and they could hardly keep their hands out of the baggies. I served them with appetizers to some guests one night. Loved them. A lot. They’re crispy. They’re crunchy, kind of. They’re sweet. They’re hot. All at the same time. Altogether delicious! A keeper.

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever. An easy recipe to make and do a day ahead if you want to. I think they’d keep for a week or so. Becky thought 2 weeks.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sriracha & Maple Syrup Oyster Crackers

Recipe By: The Cookie Rookie blog
Serving Size: 8

1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce — or more if you like it hot
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 tablespoon honey
1/2 tablespoon Lawry’s Seasoning Salt — or other seasoning salt
8 ounces oyster crackers — (I used Trader Joe’s)

1. Melt the oil and butter in a wide, large skillet. Add Sriracha, syrup, honey & salt. Bring to a low boil then turn off the heat.
2. Add the crackers and mix until the crackers are evenly coated. Continue to stir until all the liquid has been absorbed by the crackers (otherwise there will be a little puddle on the baking sheet).
3. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 200 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Cool and place in plastic ziploc bag to keep them crispy and fresh. Eat within a few days.
Per Serving: 251 Calories; 16g Fat (56.7% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 16mg Cholesterol; 228mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on November 22nd, 2016:

    I like the look of these but what is Sriracha and what are oyster crackers?

    Well. . . Sriracha is a hot sauce that’s full of the chiles and some chile pepper pulp and seeds. Its not as hot as Tabasco and has a totally different consistency. Altogether good, though. You could get the same effect with Tabasco (in much smaller quantity) or with cayenne pepper (very little). Oyster crackers are tiny octagonal crackers traditionally served on clam chowder. They have their origins from seagoing ships. I haven’t looked it up about the history, but obviously, you can see from the photo, they’re small – about 1/2 inch across. Very plain white cracker with air in the middle, kind of .. . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on November 24th, 2016:

    Sounds like these would be addictive. An economical snack, too.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

    It’s now post-Thanksgiving. Just got home from being with my San Diego family. Had great dinner and lots of fun with my 2nd oldest granddaughter, the one who is going to Clemson Univ. It was very fun being with her and hearing all about her freshman year at college. . . hope you had a good Thanksgiving too, Donna. . . Carolyn T

  3. hddonna

    said on November 30th, 2016:

    Glad you had a nice Thanksgiving. Mine was lovely–we had it at my daughter’s house, first time ever, but I was still the cook, as she works and plays flute for a Nutcracker performances over the pre-Thanksgiving weekend. All the kids and grandchildren were there, including my 3-year-old only granddaughter from Kansas. It was wonderful!

    How fun, Donna. Glad you had a good time. I did a lot of cooking too, but mostly in collaboration with my daughter. I was exhausted by the time Thursday night was done! . . . carolyn t

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