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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 aging 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, wealthy women) 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.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

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 27th, 2017.

sheetpan_chix_cabbage_onions

Have you joined the sheet pan dinner craze? I have to admit, until this dish, I hadn’t tried it. I’m now a convert if this recipe is any indication!

My friend Linda is such a good cook. She is a single person and cooks most nights. Maybe she has a few leftovers now and then, but she believes in a good, varied, veggie enhanced meals. And without shortcuts necessarily. She and I were working on a MasterCook issue she was having – her program had “lost” her special format for printing her recipes (the way my recipes look when you print out the pdf here). So she emailed me a couple of recipes with “the problem.” This recipe from Food52 was one of them, and she happened to mention that it was really delicious. So good that she could hardly keep her fork out of the sheet pan after she’d eaten her dinner. That kind of praise merited me trying this one myself.

From the gold and brown photo above, you might not be able to tell there’s a chicken thigh in the foreground (boneless, skinless), and what’s behind it are kind of bedraggled combo (but over the top in flavor) of cabbage wedges and some slivers of onion. All of this overlaid with a delish “dressing,” or vinaigrette with an oil (see next paragraph), rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce and sriracha. It’s drizzled on the chicken and the veggies before baking. The chicken is baked for 10 minutes all by itself, then the vegetables are added to the pan, to nestle in and around the chicken, and it continues to bake for another 20-25 minutes. And bingo, it’s done. Depending on the size of the cabbage, it may need another 15 minutes or so of baking. Mine didn’t – it was done after the 20-25. If you cook it further, you remove the chicken from the sheet pan and keep it warm while the cabbage continues to roast.

The original recipe calls for coconut oil. Which is a congealed fat, and it’s difficult to make a dressing out of it – like trying to mix shortening into a salad dressing. A no-go. I heated it up so it would mix, but as soon as it cooled to room temp, the coconut oil congealed again. I think next time I’d use olive oil, which is optional in the original recipe. I couldn’t taste the coconut oil at all.

What’s GOOD: This dinner was SO easy, and so off the charts delicious. But then, I love chicken thighs. I love cabbage (especially roasted like this) and I added onion just to give it a bit more flavor. The dressing was easy enough to mix up – I guessed as I poured in the ingredients. A winner of a recipe. If you are sensitive to chile-heat, reduce the amount of sriracha. I thought it was perfect just the way it is. Make twice what you’ll eat the first time and you’ll have a second complete dinner (I did).

What’s NOT: Nary a thing – everything about this dish was great. Next time I will cover the sheet pan with foil first – kind of a messy cleanup, but it’s really just one pan . . . plus one bowl to mix up the dressing and toss the chicken, then the veggies.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Roasted Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs with Cabbage & Onion

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Food52 (I added onion)
Serving Size: 4

1 teaspoon canola oil — for greasing the pan
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup coconut oil — melted, or olive oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce, low sodium if possible
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce — optional
8 pieces skinless chicken thighs
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 head cabbage — 2 to 3 lbs.
1 large yellow onion — peeled, halved and cut in thin wedge slices

NOTE: If you’re using coconut oil, it’s a firm fat (like shortening). It doesn’t mix very well in the dressing, so I heated the “dressing” in the microwave until the coconut oil melted. Once it was poured onto the chicken [cold] it congealed again. It doesn’t seem to matter – it all mixes up fine once it begins to bake.
1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. (If you want an easy clean-up, line the large sheetpan with foil.) Pour a teaspoon of neutral oil over a rimmed sheet pan. Rub to coat.
2. In a small bowl, stir together the sesame oil, coconut oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sriracha, if using. Place chicken in a large bowl. Season all over with salt and pepper. Pour ¼ cup of the prepared mixture over the chicken and let marinate while the oven preheats. (Chicken can marinate longer, too, but try, if time permits, to bring it to room temperature before cooking—the coconut oil will solidify in the fridge and look clumpy, which is fine.)
3. Cut the cabbage in half through the core. Cut again through each core and repeat this process until you are left with many wedges, no greater than 1-inch wide. Cut up the onion and place both in a large bowl, season all over with salt and pepper, and toss with the remaining dressing.
4. Place chicken on prepared sheet pan spreading it out evenly. Roast for 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven, and nestle cabbage wedges and onion all around the pieces, tucking it under if necessary—it will feel like a lot of cabbage. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes more or until chicken is golden and cooked through. Remove pan from oven, transfer chicken to a platter to rest. Return cabbage to the oven to roast for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until juices have reduced and edges of cabbage wedges are caramelized.
Per Serving: 346 Calories; 24g Fat (61.4% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 115mg Cholesterol; 988mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on April 27th, 2017:

    Sounds like the dressing really makes this one. I’d have to leave out the sriracha for my husband, but could probably segregate his portion on one end and add the sriracha into mine. With foil, one could even make a ridge down the middle to keep things completely separated. Haven’t done many sheet-pan meals, but this one looks like a winner. I’m a cabbage fan, too. Remember a while back I mentioned that I couldn’t find savoy cabbage here? Well, I happened to get a chance to go to a Whole Foods Market recently–it’s inconveniently located, but we were eating out nearby, and I thought of the cabbage. They had it. It’s taken me two years to find it!

    Your idea of the ridge in the middle is a good one! You’ll hardly notice the heat anyway, but perhaps he could detect it. And yes, I remember your savoy story – so happy you found some!! . . .carolyn t

  2. Toffeeapple

    said on April 27th, 2017:

    Now then, over here we have what we call roasting tins – which, I presume, will take a higher heat than a sheet pan. Well, the French do call us Les Rosbeef, so we are known for our roasting.
    http://www.pyrexuk.com/products/roasters/plat-a-four-rectangulaire.html

    Your pan really is a roasting pan. These pans, the sheet pans with a rim, are only about 3/4 inch or maybe an inch high around the edge, so plenty of the oven heat circulates. These pans, the better quality ones like I have, can take really high heat without bending.
    https://www.amazon.com/Bellemain-Heavy-Duty-Aluminum-Sheet/dp/B01AGQ027S/ref=sr_1_2?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1493651131&sr=1-2&keywords=flat+sheet+pan

    The link isn’t to the brand I have, but it looks very similar. Am sure you could use your roasting pan for this dish in either case! . . . carolyn t

  3. Toffeeapple

    said on April 27th, 2017:

    You have changed your picture back!

    I think you’re the only person who has noticed. The other picture, the professionally done photo, looked a bit too “twee,” to me, too posed, maybe? So I switched back. I like the other one, the one up now, better anyway.

  4. hddonna

    said on May 1st, 2017:

    My husband often asks if I’ve put in something hot even when I haven’t! With Sriracha, I can’t imagine putting a whole tablespoon into anything–maybe half a teaspoon if I feel daring.

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