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Recently finished reading The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by 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. 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 angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. 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.

 

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 August 5th, 2017.

grilled_chile_chix_strawb_salsa_lime_crema

That photo doesn’t do justice to this easy grilled chicken dish. This chicken was very easy to put together and was so nice with the strawberry salsa and the lime cream on top.

On the spur of the moment I invited 2 widow friends over for dinner and asked if we could do a potluck. One brought a nice green salad (with mandarin oranges and sliced almonds in it) and the other friend brought a tiny little chocolate cake (made from a Duncan Hines boxed mix that comes with the frosting). I had some cream of cucumber soup that I’d made the day before, so after having a glass of Trader Joe’s peach bellini and a few bites of Brie, served with my Roasted Figs that I’d kept in the freezer, I grilled this chicken.

A few hours before I made the marinade (easy), the strawberry salsa (easy) and the lime cream (super easy). The chicken was in the marinade for about 2 hours total. I am still learning how to grill, since my DH was the grillmeister in my house. I’ve had to learn. My most trusted tool is my instant read thermometer, and it was spot on with this, when the chicken reached about 152°F. I served the two condiments so my guests could add what they wanted. I sliced wide strips of the hot grilled chicken and piled them onto a very hot plate. Dinner was lovely. The company was fun and happy. We laughed and enjoyed the view outside my dining room windows. As I write this, it’s been stinkin’ hot and humid (so much so that we’ve been having tropical showers), so we had to eat inside. A couple of days ago it was nearly 100°F, which is very hot for July. My A/C has been running nearly 24/7. As much as I hate keeping the air on nearly all the time (it’s expensive first of all), I have decided I want to be comfortable. End of story.

I’d definitely make this again. It’s a recipe from a 2005 cooking class I took with Phillis Carey. I changed just a few things from her recipe. I used jalapeno chile instead of serrano (serranos are hotter); I cut down on the quantity of chile in the marinade and the salsa (because I didn’t think my guests would want so much chile-heat). I used strawberry balsamic vinegar (because I had some) in the salsa, and I used sherry vinegar in the marinade instead of raspberry (straight) vinegar (because I didn’t have any). We DO have to improvise, right?  I pounded the chicken breasts to an even thickness of about 1/2”, and they grilled perfectly in about 4 minutes per side on a medium-heat grill. The only mistake I made was not oiling the grill grate before starting, so the chicken stuck a little bit. No big deal, though.

What’s GOOD: the chicken was super tender and juicy. If you remove it from the grill when it reaches about 150-152°F, you’re sure to have juicy chicken. Past 155°F and it’ll be more dry. I loved the strawberry salsa – so “summer” and picnic-y if there is such a thing. Next time I’ll add more lime zest to the cream (I doubled the amount in the recipe below). It made a lovely presentation.

What’s NOT: nary a thing, really. You do have to make the salsa and the crema, but neither one takes much time to do. Even the chicken marinade took very little time.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grilled Chile Chicken Breasts with Lime Crema

Recipe By: Adapted a little from a Phillis Carey class, 2005
Serving Size: 6

CHICKEN:
6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 whole serrano chile — minced (or jalapeno)
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon chili powder
3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar — or sherry vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
LIME CREMA:
1 cup Mexican crema — “Cacique” brand (green lid) or sour cream
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon lime juice
STRAWBERRY SALSA:
3 cups fresh strawberries — diced
3 tablespoons fresh mint — minced
3 tablespoons sugar
1 serrano chile — or jalapeno
1/2 cup red onion — minced
3 tablespoons strawberry balsamic vinegar — or other fruit balsamic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. CHICKEN: Trim and pound breast to an even 1/2 inch thickness.
2. In a ziploc plastic bag add chile, garlic, chili powder, vinegar, olive oil and S&P. Add chicken, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours. Remove from marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Rub an oil-soaked paper towel over the grill. Grill chicken 3-4 minutes per side to cook through. Chicken breasts are done when they’ve reached about 150-152°F.
3. CREMA: Stir lime zest and juice into crema. Refrigerate a few hours, or up to 4 hours.
4. SALSA: Place strawberries, mint and sugar in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Add chile, onion and vinegar; toss together lightly. Season with salt and pepper. Let salsa rest at room temp for at least 20 minutes before serving. Spoon over chicken and top with lime crema. Note: Serve with black beans or cilantro rice.
Per Serving : 390 Calories; 23g Fat (53.8% calories from fat); 29g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 85mg Cholesterol; 104mg Sodium.

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