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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 Soups, on August 17th, 2017.

eat_your_greens_soup

Oh my goodness. This. Soup. Is. So. Good. And healthy.

Yes, I know, it’s not hot soup weather. But as a food blogger, sometimes we have to take inspiration when it comes, and this one required me to act on it immediately. My decorator, Darci, has been working with me for well over 20 years. Maybe 25, actually. We’ve become friends, although she’s young enough to be my daughter. The other day I offered to go to her house to see some fabric for drapes, since she’s got a pesky, painful ankle. I took along a little portion of the Cantaloupe Gazpacho for her to taste. After that, she brought out her latest obsession. This soup. I was in heaven it was so gosh darned good.

The recipe is her own concoction – she must have had spinach, broccoli and cilantro in the refrigerator that day, and she’s become a convert to the wisdom of using bone broth instead of regular broth. She buys it at Sprouts (this soup uses beef bone broth) and likes it because each cup contains 9 grams of protein. She rattled off how she made it. The next morning I shopped for the ingredients, came home and made it immediately, even in our summer heat. It also has curry powder AND Thai green curry paste in it. That’s what gives it some zing. Coconut milk gives it a more subtle flavor.

eat_your_greens_closeup

On top of the soup you add 3 things: (1) a drizzle of good EVOO; (2) a drizzle of fresh lemon juice; and (3) a little sprinkle of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I added the cilantro leaf when I made it, but that’s just for fun. If you don’t like cilantro, you won’t like this soup – but I suppose you could make it without the cilantro.

Image result for thai kitchen green curry pasteIt takes little time to make the soup – and once the vegetables are cooked, you puree it in the blender then cook down the soup a little bit to make it thicker. I made a double batch and will be freezing at least 2 big bags of it for another day. And I have enough for a couple of dinners AND a bag to give to a good friend.

Earmark this recipe, or at least print it out so you can make it once it’s cool enough to do so. I know I’ll be making this over and over. It’s addictive. Honest. And thanks, Darci, for sharing the recipe and saying “yes” to putting it on my blog!

What’s GOOD: it’s silky smooth and full of bright, citrusy flavors (from the cilantro and the lemon juice). It’s healthy. Really healthy. But you’d never know it. If you want to cut corners, don’t put hardly any cheese on top, and do a little bitty drizzle of EVOO. It’s very low calorie. Last night I served myself one bowl (about a cup), but just had to go back for more. Just know, I told you it’s addictive. Maybe that’s a negative (ha)!

What’s NOT: nothing really, except maybe finding bone broth. Everything else in it is easy enough.
printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Eat-Your-Greens Soup

Recipe By: From my friend, Darci G
Serving Size: 8

2 tablespoons EVOO
1 whole yellow onion — chopped
2 whole garlic cloves — diced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon Thai green curry paste
4 cups fresh spinach
2 quarts beef bone broth
14 ounces coconut milk — (full fat)
3 cups broccoli florets — stems are fine too
3 cups cilantro — including stems
Salt and pepper to taste
GARNISH:
A drizzle of EVOO in each bowl
A drizzle of fresh lemon juice in each bowl
8 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese — sprinkled on each bowl

1. Saute the onion in EVOO, and when it’s softened, add the garlic to cook gently for just a minute or less.
2. Add the curry powder and green curry paste, stir in well, then add the spinach. Saute gently for a few minutes, then add all the bone broth and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer, then add in the broccoli. Simmer the soup for about 20 minutes, then set aside to cool slightly.
3. In batches, puree the soup in a blender, adding in a large handful of cilantro and the stems and blend until the soup is silky smooth. Repeat with remaining soup. Return to heat and cook gently for about 45 minutes, until the mixture has thickened some.
4. To serve: pour hot soup into a serving bowl and drizzle with EVOO, lemon juice, then sprinkle shredded Parm on top.
Per Serving: 215 Calories; 17g Fat (66.9% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 4mg Cholesterol; 135mg Sodium.

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  1. Lisa

    said on August 17th, 2017:

    This one is sending me to sprouts! That’s a lot of cilantro: are those lightly packed cups? I usually pick up cilantro from TJ’s and was wondering how much to buy.

    Well, first off, I wouldn’t buy the cilantro at TJ’s because their bunches are very small. I only buy theirs if I’m definitely not going to another grocery store. Actually Sprouts offers fairly hefty bunches. All I did was cut off the bottom ends (because you use all of the stems) – just the very tips and I guessed at the measure. I used 2 bunches for this batch of the soup. There is a lot of nutrition in the cilantro stems, so don’t throw those out. Hope that helps. Let me know what you think? . . . carolyn t

  2. Lisa

    said on August 18th, 2017:

    Thanks for your quick reply!!! I’m not a shopper of Sprouts, though it seems I should be! TJ’s cilantro is still bigger than the local groceries, which isn’t saying much. Sprouts used to be the only grocery to sell pippin apples but Stater Brothers was the only one offering last fall. I enjoyed your apple segment!

    Thanks, Lisa. I’m not a shopper at Sprouts, either. I got “burned” with poor quality produce when they first opened, and rarely go there, but this bone broth is only available there. I like the cilantro at Pacific Ranch Market, but it’s out of the way, for sure (Newport & Chapman, near the college). I shop there now and then. It seems to me that Albertson’s has reduced the size of their cilantro bunches a LOT, so I don’t buy it there if I can help it. Some days it’s buying it at TJ’s or I don’t get to have any. I wish I could grow cilantro, but it’s too darned hot here to do that. . . carolyn t

  3. Toffeeapple

    said on August 18th, 2017:

    I like the sound of this one but I doubt I have a pan big enough for those amounts.

    Really? Well, how about making half a recipe? . . . c

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