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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 Veggies/sides, on August 1st, 2017.

twice_cooked_cabbage_bacon

An easy side vegetable, could be made ahead.

Back a week ago I’d purchased a package of pre-sliced green cabbage at Trader Joe’s. I’d intended to use it in a cole slaw, to go with some Italian sausage I’d defrosted. I didn’t, so needed to find a recipe for cabbage. Searching through my recipes I came across this, a Kalyn’s Kitchen one. I had everything except Mozzarella, so I substituted Cheddar. And I needed to use up a red onion (so I substituted for the yellow onion). I had a package of thick-sliced bacon in my refrigerator that needed to be opened and rolled up and packaged for freezing, so it was an easy decision to make this recipe. Kalyn’s adheres to a South Beach diet, and this one qualifies on all counts. My DH would have loved this casserole.

I used just one skillet – I cooked up the bacon and removed it to a paper towel. There was very little fat left in the pan, so I used that plus a tad of olive oil and sautéed the onion until it was wilted, then added the cabbage. That needed to be stirred frequently or only the cabbage touching the pan would have been cooked, so as I prepared other parts of my dinner, I just tossed the cabbage several times until it was about 2/3 cooked. Then the bacon is put back in and stirred a minute or two. Then that mixture went into a deep pie dish (I made a smaller version of Kalyn’s recipe). Sour twice_cooked_cabbage_bacon_casserolecream was haphazardly spread on top, then I grated the cheddar and sprinkled that all over the top. Into a 375° F oven it went and baked for about 18 minutes. If you make a larger casserole, it likely will take longer to bake, to get the cheese all bubbling and beginning to brown here and there.

I scooped out that big spoonful onto my plate and had my dinner. I needed to let the cabbage sit a few minutes because it was tongue-burning hot. Thanks Kalyn, for a easy, tasty recipe!

What’s GOOD: I loved the flavor of the cabbage, onion and bacon. I mean – – – really, what’s there not to like about that? Surely this qualifies as comfort food with the ooey-gooey cheese on the top. I could easily have had 3 servings. I don’t suppose I would say this dish knocked my socks off, but it sure was satisfying. Easy. Tasty. I had enough for 4 dinners for myself. If I’d been making this for eating in one meal, I’d have left the cabbage mixture in the cast iron skillet and just added the sour cream and cheese and served the whole thing on the table. Minimal dishes! It’s also very low calorie.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Takes a bit of preparation, but not much.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Low-Carb Twice-Cooked Cabbage with Sour Cream and Bacon

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Kalyn’s Kitchen, 2016
Serving Size: 4

2 slices thick-sliced bacon — cut into thin strips
1 teaspoon olive oil — or bacon fat
1/3 cup yellow onion — finely minced
1/2 head cabbage — core cut out and cut into thin strips
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup sour cream
3/8 cup cheddar cheese — grated (or mozzarella)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F/190C. Slice the bacon. Cut the core out of the cabbage and cut it into thin strips. Mince the onion.
2. Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat, add the strips of bacon, and cook until the bacon is browned and very crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels.
3. Heat olive oil (or use the bacon fat that’s in the pan, if you prefer) in the frying pan, add the minced onion, and cook over medium-high heat until it’s barely starting to brown. Add the sliced cabbage, season with paprika, salt, and pepper, and cook just until it has softened partly, stirring frequently. Then add the crisp bacon pieces, stir to combine with the cabbage, and cook 1-2 minutes more to combine flavors.
4. Spray a glass baking dish with olive oil or non-stick spray. Pour the sauteed cabbage in the casserole dish and spread the sour cream over, then sprinkle with the grated cheese.
5. Bake about 20-30 minutes, or until it’s bubbling hot and the top is nicely browned. Serve hot.
Per Serving: 159 Calories; 14g Fat (77.5% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 29mg Cholesterol; 185mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on August 1st, 2017:

    A dish made in heaven! Do you know what kind of cabbage you used? I think I would opt for a Savoy since they have a good texture. I don’t buy buttermilk anymore since it comes in a large pack so I think Greek yogurt would be my replacement. I shall try to remember to do this the next time I am home alone.

    I used regular green cabbage, but am sure Savoy would be fine. It’s quicker to cook, so I’d do it less time in the pan and less in the oven. I do buy buttermilk and freeze what I don’t use in 1-cup quantities. It works fine for cooking and baking (although it separates, it still works fine). . . carolyn t

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