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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 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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