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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 Chicken, on January 27th, 2017.

indian_chix_green_chiles

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you already know that every so often I crave Indian food. This time it was chicken in a kind of yogurt-laden sauce with green chiles.

I read a blog called Indian Simmer. It’s a combo of several cooks, and when I read a recipe for a chicken curry mixture (with a long, unrecognizable Indian name) I vowed I’d make something similar. After a trip to the grocery store to buy Anaheim chiles, a Poblano chile, and a mild yellow chile, I dug into my freezer for chicken thighs, defrosted them in about an hour in their pouches by plunging them into a big bowl of cold water, weighted down to keep the bags submerged, and I was off and running.

Veering off the original recipe some, I didn’t use a pressure cooker, but I baked the mixture instead in a low oven, and as I mentioned above, I added a variety of chiles rather than just one kind as the recipe indicated. I also added a bit of chicken broth, AND some Madras curry powder.

I could have flame-grilled the chiles (for more flavor and to remove skins) but I was into “easy” not time consuming, so I just chopped them up raw, skins on. I used more chiles than the recipe indicated (so I could get more veggies into the dish), but they weren’t hot chiles, so it added more layers of flavor, and not capsicum heat. The finished dish was mildly hot, which was perfect for me.

The recipe made a lot, and I’ve had it 3 times since I made it, and I still have leftovers. I can’t freeze it as the chicken was frozen before – well, I could freeze it, but they say the chicken really deteriorates if you re-freeze it. The juices provided just a little bit of sauce to enhance the rice I poured in the bowl. I used very little rice (about 1/3 cup at most) but it gave great texture and very few carbs. If you’re feeding a carb-hungry family with this, obviously, use plenty of rice and you could also add more chicken broth and a sprinkling of flour to give the sauce a bit more thickening.

What’s GOOD: loved the chile flavor – there are ample chiles in this dish, but they were mild ones, so they provided very little heat to the dish. It was very satisfying, eating this – the chicken, chiles, rice and broth. Really good. Not off the charts good, but very tasty. I’d make it again. The yogurt (I always use full fat for Indian food) adds such a lovely creaminess to the dish.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. It was easy to make and baking it in the oven made it doubly easy since I didn’t have to stir it periodically. A reminder – don’t boil the finished dish once you add the yogurt, or the sauce will separate.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Indian Green Chile Chicken Thigh Stew

Recipe By: Adapted from Indian Simmer blog, 2016
Serving Size: 6

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds — whole
1 medium yellow onion — diced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger — grated using the wide side of a box grater
3 cloves garlic — minced
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs — cut into 1″ cubes
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder — optional
1 medium tomato — chopped
2 whole Anaheim chili pepper — seeded, chopped
1 large poblano chile — seeded, chopped
1 small yellow chile — seeded, chopped
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup cilantro — chopped
3/4 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat
More chopped cilantro for garnish
Basmati rice, to accompany

1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. Heat the oil and add the cumin seeds and wait until they begin to sizzle. Add the chopped onions and saute until translucent. Add in ginger and garlic and cook for about a minute.
3. Add chicken and salt and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the tomato and mix well. Add chicken broth, cilantro, curry powder and chilies and stir well. Cover and bake for about 45-55 minutes. Taste for seasonings. Add in yogurt and stir until thoroughly mixed in. Heat mixture slightly, but do not let it come to a complete simmer or it will separate.
4. Garnish with more cilantro and additional chopped chiles (if desired) and serve with basmati rice.
Per Serving: 319 Calories; 18g Fat (49.8% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 125mg Cholesterol; 299mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on January 28th, 2017:

    I have yet to see named chillis here, we get mild, hot and extra hot, so there is very little information on what they might taste like. I suppose we can grow them indoors but it doesn’t happen often.

    Well, you can identify them by their shapes, but I suppose you might have different varieties than we do here, anyway. Try the mild, if you want to begin using some, but don’t know about the flavors. . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on January 29th, 2017:

    I know I’d like this. Might just use poblanos, though.

    You could use just poblanos, but I’d err on the side of caution since poblanos can – sometimes – be quite hot. They vary, like jalapenos do. Usually they’re quite mild and add so much great flavor. Let me know what you think, if you decide to make it. . . carolyn t

  3. hddonna

    said on January 30th, 2017:

    I usually taste poblanos (carefully!) before I use them, just to be safe. My husband can’t take heat at all, and my son and I like mild heat. I have no experience with what you refer to as a small yellow chili, so wouldn’t know what I was getting. I have not used Anaheims, though I believe they, as well as poblanos, are used in chiles rellenos. In your experience, are they more reliably mild than poblanos? I do sometimes see them in my supermarket. As for jalapenos, I have grown them in my garden, and sometimes I find that the same chili varies in hotness from the tip to the stem, so mine can be unpredictable indeed! The weirdest thing I’ve experienced with poblanos is that sometimes, if I saute them, the fumes cause my eyes to sting and water, and they make me cough uncontrollably. But when they are cooked, they taste quite mild.

    Well, there is a lot of data in your comment . . . I don’t think yellow chiles are used in chile rellenos – only Anaheim chiles (here in California, anyway). Anaheim chiles are a bright green, and longer, more tapered than a poblano. I can’t insert a photo here in comments. If you look up the scoville units, anaheims are a little bit milder (but not by much) than a poblano. The small yellow chiles I included weren’t named at my grocery store, but I knew they were a mild chile – they were also a bright yellow with a very slight green tint. More like a cherry chile, but yellow. More than shape. Actually, they’re more like a jalapeno. I’ve never tasted a chile from one end to the other – I’m actually mildly allergic to chiles – when I chew and swallow a tiny, tiny bite of chile, all by itself, I can feel my throat start to swell. If I eat them in salsa, I’m fine because it goes down in a flash. Anyway, I never, ever (now) taste a chile. Can you buy canned green chiles in your market? Those are anaheims. Like Ortega brand? Once cooked, they are very mild. So perhaps you could use some of both. . . carolyn t

  4. hddonna

    said on January 31st, 2017:

    I do see fresh Anaheims in my market, usually in the summer. And yes, I can get the canned ones. Interesting that you can eat the raw chile in a salsa. Apparently, once they are cooked, they don’t cause a problem? Otherwise, I don’t suppose you would be posting recipes like this one!
    I’ll have to find just the right time to make this recipe, as even these milder chiles would bother my husband. My son, who lives with us, does like a little heat now and then, but he’s not crazy about Indian food. He eats it anyway, though, and I myself love it, so sooner or later, I’ll work this one in. And yes, I’ll let you know when I do.

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