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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 Chicken, on April 7th, 2017.

chicken_pudding_pea_gravy

This recipe has such an interesting story, I just had to post it. Have leftover chicken? This makes a nice (and different) way to serve it, and get in a bunch of veggies.

Having mentioned before that I’m in P.E.O., a women’s organization, I’ve probably also mentioned that our chapter does very fun small-group fund-raising events. We, as an organization, help an all-women’s college in Missouri (Cottey College). We support a variety of other charitable causes as well, but each year every P.E.O. chapter is asked to donate money to the school. Our chapter’s method is to have small gatherings of our members (everything from a tour of some museum, or historic home, to lunch in someone’s home, or a game with lunch, or a wine-tasting, for example) and our members bid chix_pudd_bakedon attending. The money raised goes to Cottey College (we generally raise about $2000 a year for that). So, all that said, one of my other P.E.O. members (sisters, we call one another) had an event at her house – a lunch and a talk about George Washington (we love it when our events are educational). These gatherings are some of the most fun things we do, IMHO.

Chris searched for some recipes online that would have been in George Washington’s time. She came across this chicken pudding recipe from Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. She made the dish according to the online recipe, and served it with a light chicken gravy (not in the original recipe, but she thought it needed something on it). When I quizzed her about the dish, she thought maybe next time she’d spice it up a little more (cooks back in those days didn’t have many herbs and spices – they were quite dear), and she thought some veggies added into it would be a good enhancement.

onion_celery_carrot_medleyThe recipe just sounded so different – a chicken pudding? Really? If you do a search online you’ll find many, all somewhat similar.  I thought veggies in it sounded good too. I added in some onion, celery and carrots, thickened it, then made a chicken gravy as well. BUT, I thought the dish needed something more colorful on top (the carrots in the pudding weren’t all that visible), so at the very last minute, I added in some frozen green peas to the gravy. Voilà.

cream_gravy_peasThe night of the Oscars, I invited 2 friends over. With my remote control in hand (we muted nearly all the acceptance speeches because we didn’t want to hear political vitriol – thankfully there wasn’t much of that this year). Anyway, I set up TV trays, served this with a salad provided by Judy, and later dessert provided by Nancy. We had a fun evening.

What’s GOOD: this is a different way to use up cooked chicken – it helps a small amount go a long way. Even though I used some spices, I think it could be spiced up even more. Thyme and parsley were about it. The gravy is simple enough to do – just be sure to add the peas during the last minute of cooking so they stay bright green. This dish isn’t going to bring “wows” to the dinner table talk – it’s a simple dish. Nice enough, though.

What’s NOT: There are several steps to making this, but none is hard, just time consuming. It probably took about 30-40 minutes to do all the prep and cooking of both parts, pudding and gravy, then about 50 minutes for the pudding to bake. I did most of it ahead of time, left them on the stove and reheated them every half an hour to keep bacteria at bay. Next time I’d make the pudding just before baking it, and make the gravy while the pudding was cooking.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chicken Pudding with Pea Gravy

Recipe By: Adapted significantly from a Colonial Williamsburg recipe, c. 1827
Serving Size: 9

PUDDING:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup yellow onion — finely minced
1/3 cup celery — finely chopped
1/2 cup carrots — finely diced
5 tablespoons all purpose flour
4 large eggs
2 cups half and half
2 1/2 cups cooked chicken — cut in 1/2″ cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme — crushed between your palms
2 tablespoons fresh parsley — chopped
GRAVY:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
11 ounces low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons dried onion — (minced type)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen peas

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Melt butter, then add the onion, celery and carrots. Cook for about 10-15 minutes until the vegetable are soft. Add flour and cook a few minutes over low heat.
3. In a medium bowl beat eggs well, then add half and half and mix well. Add to the pan along with the seasonings. SLOWLY bring this mixture to a simmer and cook briefly until mixture thickens. If you cook it too fast, the eggs will start to scramble in the sauce.
4. Spread chicken in a greased 9″ square baking dish (use glass or ceramic), then pour the pudding part on top.
5. Bake 45 to 50 minutes until set. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
6. GRAVY: Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Whisk in broth and remaining ingredients (except peas). Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes, or until mixture thickens.
7. Run cold water over the frozen peas, drain briefly, then add to the gravy and cook for about a minute. Serve pudding on individual plates, and spoon the pea gravy on top. Garnish with additional chopped parsley if desired.
Per Serving: 343 Calories; 24g Fat (61.8% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 183mg Cholesterol; 189mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on April 7th, 2017:

    This looks like something my family would enjoy. Colonial comfort food! As it happens, my husband and I plan to take our grandchildren and their parents to Colonial Williamsburg after my dulcimer retreat in Sandbridge, VA, this fall, and I want to prepare them by reading to them about it. This gives me the idea to do some food-related activities as well. I’ll look forward to trying this with them.

    How fun, Donna. Just don’t expect something all that exciting – food in that time, I think, was relatively plain! And this dish is a bit on the plain side. Wholesome, different, etc. Let me know what you think . . . carolyn

  2. hddonna

    said on April 7th, 2017:

    I enjoy plain, old-fashioned dishes now and then. I don’t know whether the kids will like it, but it will be educational!

  3. Toffeeapple

    said on April 12th, 2017:

    This is what I imagined when I read Chicken Pudding:
    http://www.food-mag.co.uk/chicken-and-bacon-suet-pudding/

    We are fond of suet puddings in England and Wales especially in a cold winter. I quite like your version too though.

    Well, considering that early American settlers were often from England, it stands to reason many similar recipes would have found their way into our culture. . . carolyn t

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