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Carolyn

Sara

      Sara and me

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Just finished reading The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The premise of this book is different . . . a woman writer goes to Scotland to connect with distant heritage. She hopes to gain inspiration for her next book. As she investigates, she discovers she’s related to a family that lived in the early 1700s at Slains Castle on the east coast of Scotland near Aberdeen. This was the time of the Jacobite rebellion (the exiled King James and his hoped-for return to England). When I say this woman gets inspiration . . .well, it’s more than that. She questions whether she could possibly have genes that contain memory (what an idea, huh?), because she begins to know how events took place, who the people were, what they said, exactly where they stood, the layout of the castle, even the furniture in the rooms. She wasn’t channeling, actually, but I suppose it could be interpreted so. The book is full of the Jacobite history (more than I’d ever known before, but then I love English/Scottish history). There’s a romance back then, and a romance in the today time. Both lovely. Great book. An historical novel of the first order.

Another great read, The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See. Six months ago I attended an author’s talk at the Bowers Museum. Lisa See was the speaker and shared her story about this book. I’ve heard her speak several times before (she lives near me) and have read several of her books. This one, though, is very different. She was sitting in a doctor’s office reading some magazine and spotted a tiny snippet of data about Jeju Island off the coast of Korea where the island as a whole is matriarchal because the women were trained from a young age to deep dive, free dive, for mollusks. These women were the bread winners. Husbands stayed home and cared for the babies. The island is real. The history is real. And what happened during WWII on this island is horrific – makes me feel ashamed that our military had a hand in what happened to many people. But everyone should read this book. It’s a novel, about 2 girls who are divers and how their lives diverge for a variety of cultural reasons and because of the war.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford. A novel about the early days of radio in London. This book takes place in the 1920s and tells not only the general history of the early days of radio, but also the role women played (a vital one). Initially it was in the background, because women weren’t considered intelligent enough. Maisie, the heroine in the book, works her way up the ranks. It’s a fascinating read from beginning to end. Many famous characters (real) flow through the studios. Early voting rights play a part in the story line also. And some wartime intrigue. You’ll find yourself cheering from the bleachers when women make a tiny inroad into the male-dominated field.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler. My friend Ann, from Idaho, brought it with her as we spent a week in Palm Desert in February. She handed it to me and said I’d really like it. Oh, did I! Loved the book. This book is a novel, but based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt (Belmont). Her family was nearly destitute (and faking it) when a marriage was proposed for her with William Vanderbilt. There is lots of dialogue in the book which is made up, but I’m guessing the author probably read many diary entries of Alva (and the family) to create a very intriguing and readable story. A life of unbelievable privilege. Several children, including one who marries into a titled family in England. You see the inner life of Alva – her day to day busy work, charity work, visiting for afternoon tea, the undercurrent of society’s morals – men were nearly expected to have mistresses or affairs. This was the Victorian Age when sex between husbands and wives was not necessarily, and usually not, passionate. I loved this book from page one until the end.  Alva was a suffragette of the first order. Having read the book, I have a lot of admiration for her, even though she lived in the highest echelons of society.

Also read In Falling Snow: A Novel, by Mary-Rose McColl. From amazon: Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her fifteen-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. But in Paris she meets the charismatic Dr. Frances Ivens, who convinces Iris to help establish a field hospital in the old abbey at Royaumont, staffed entirely by women—a decision that will change her life. Seamlessly interwoven is the story of Grace, Iris’s granddaughter in 1970s Australia. Together their narratives paint a portrait of the changing role of women in medicine and the powerful legacy of love. The book  gives you a vivid picture of the state of nursing in WWI, but the story is quite mesmerizing. And there’s a twist almost at the end. Highly recommend.

Also couldn’t put down The Secret Wife by Gill Paul. A long story that begins in war-torn Russia. Cavalry officer Dmitri falls head over heels in love with one of the daughters of Tzar Nicholas. But events intervene, as history tells us. That was 1914. Cut to 2016 when a young woman inherits an ancient cabin in upper New York State and she discovers a jeweled pendant. The two times weave together to make a really riveting story. Lots of Russian history; well written; as I said, couldn’t put it down.

Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is in western Pennsylvania. The warring native Americans play large in this book. There is a romance, yes, but this book is not “a romance.” It’s more than that – about the hardships of living on the land, away from protection, Tessa and her family struggle to make a living and avoid the angered natives who take revenge when their people are murdered. Clay Tygart is a respected officer/soldier and commands a fort near where Tessa lives. Clay was captured by Lanape Indians when he was a young man, so he straddles both sides of the equation – first hand, he knows how the natives feel, but also his role in the lure of American exploration of the west. The natives wish to preserve their hunting grounds from the encroaching settlers. This book takes place in the mid-1700s I think. Loved it. Not only the history that is brilliantly detailed, even to the summer heat they experience. The crops they raise, the constant fear of attack. And the sweet love that weaves through it. Not a speck of sex in it.

Reading mysteries has never loomed large in my reading life. Occasionally, yes. And some espionage type books. But light mysteries have not intrigued me much. But one of my book clubs had us read Louise Penny’s novel, A Rule Against Murder (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel). The member actually handed out a cheat sheet of the characters in the book (many) and posed several questions of us as we read through it. The cheat sheet really helped. She asked us when (or if) we caught the foreshadowing of the murder culprit (I never did). The book takes place at a lovely inn in Canada and Chief Inspector Gamache (he is quite a character – along with his wife – are vacationing there) when a murder occurs. None of the characters escape the C.I.’s scrutiny. Lois, our book club member, led us through a very thorough and lively discussion of the book. Usually, my complaint about murder mysteries is that they don’t make for good discussion at a book club – but this book was an exception, for sure. Many of my learned book club friends rave about Louise Penny. One told me I should read Still Life next, and probably should have read it before I read this one.

Rachel Hauck is an author I’ve enjoyed reading over the years. Just finished reading The Memory House. It’s about relationships. Love. About family. About secrets. Doesn’t that just describe about 90% of every novel out there these days? Beck is a cop in NYC; a series of events occur and she is forced to take leave. Just then she inherits a house in Florida. She barely remembers the woman who bequeathed the house to her. Then you meet Bruno, a sports agent who will figure large in Beck’s life. Then the book jumps back in time to Everleigh, the woman who owned the house and you learn her story. Really stories of her two husbands. And how do those stories connect to present day. Very sweet book. Not a speck of sex in this one, either.

The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship by Joanna Burger. Such an interesting book – nonfiction. The author is an ornithologist by profession (and a PhD) and this memoir of sorts is about her Red-Lored Amazon parrot she and her husband own. But no, it’s the parrot who owns her/them.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. A book club friend recommended this book, I immediately bought it on my Kindle. I could NOT put the book down. I devoured it. Any other “work” I should have been doing was swept aside as I read and read of Resolute’s adventures. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

Finished The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Novel by Kim Richardson.  It’s a novel about the first mobile library in Kentucky (this is the 1930s) and the fierce, brave packhorse librarians who wove their way from shack to shack dispensing literacy, hope, and, just as importantly, a compassionate human connection.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This book was offered as a bargain book from Bookbub, and something about the description resonated with me – maybe because of my Old Testament readings regarding the lives of shepherds back in ancient days. I utterly loved this book. It might not suit everyone – it’s a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. He bickers with his father, eventually moves out. One night in a pub with his blokes (friends) he enters some kind of a contest in the pub and realizes he has a lot more knowledge than he thought he did. In time he applies to get what I’d call here in the U.S. a G.E.D (high school diploma), which he does, and then he applies to Oxford, on a whim. And gets in. He graduates. He applies his knowledge to his rural life. He marries, has children, but still, his day to day life is all about his Herdwick sheep, although he does have a day job too working for UNESCO. You’ll learn more about sheep than you might have wanted to know. I absolutely loved, LOVED this book. If you are interested, James Rebanks has a Twitter feed, called @herdyshepherd1, and you can sign up to get updates from him about his farm and his sheep. I don’t do Twitter or I would.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation. So it is with surprise that she finds in this cold and bitter country the capacity for new love and perhaps even a new home. I just loved this book – could hardly put it down; yet it’s not a mystery. You’ll come away with a desire to find that house by the fjord. I want to go there and have some coffee with the Anna, who was a Brit, yet fell head over heels in love with Norway.

Running Blind (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child. A Jack Reacher mystery. From amazon: Across the country, women are being murdered, victims of a disciplined and clever killer who leaves no trace evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to an apparent motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. Until Jack Reacher gets in the middle of it. A page turner, as are all of the Jack Reacher stories.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. A sweet book, true story, of the author and her friend, during one summer in the midst of their college years, going by train to NYC and ultimately getting a job of Tiffany’s.  Cute read.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? If I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? I marvel sometimes about how authors ever come up with the ideas they do, to create the premise for a novel. And this one is right up there at the top of the list. Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who has a big lack of self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. He discovers she’s blind and needs some help, which he gives her.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes.

Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) by Francine Rivers.

Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America

Answer As a Man

Celeste Ng Little Fires Everywhere.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel).

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively.

 

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 November 17th, 2017.

sheet_pan_chix_thighs_bacon_sourdough_sw_potatoes

As a family of one, I sometimes don’t want to fix a standard sized meal, when there’s only me eating it. But that could be a mistake when something is as good as this sheet pan dinner comes to town.

My daughter-in-law’s sister Janice sent an email to the family recently, with a link to a recipe online at Food & Wine, that she raved about. I looked it up, added it to my MasterCook software and had it in the back of my head that I’d try it soon. As I glanced at the recipe again I realized I didn’t have white potatoes – but I did have one sweet potato. Okay, that could be substituted. I did have a red onion, and I had boneless, skinless chicken thighs – the recipe called for those thigh/drumstick combinations. I didn’t have a sourdough boule, but I did have sliced sourdough bread in the freezer. And last but not least, I didn’t have fresh oregano, but I prefer dried oregano anyway. I figured I could improvise. Since I want vegetables in my meals, I decided to add some yellow squash to the mix also, as there weren’t any veggies in the original (unless you count onion and potatoes). The original also called for slab bacon cut into square chunks. I certainly didn’t have that either, but I did have thick sliced bacon. It would have to do!

sheet_pan_chix_thighs_bacon_sourdough_sw_potatoes_closeupBecause of the substitutions, I lowered the oven temp by 15°, to 385° (from 400°). Why? Because the croutons (nothing but sandwich bread cut into cubes) might have burned at 400°. Plus, the chicken was in smaller pieces as well. I just thought it would be safer baking at a lower temp.  So, first I combined the bread cubes, sweet potatoes, red onion wedges and bacon. That was drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with red chili flakes, dried oregano plus salt and pepper. Use your hands to mix it all up so everything has a thin coating of oil. Into the oven it went for 15 minutes. Although the combo is spread on a large sheet pan (rimmed) you kind of bunch it up in the middle (but still in a single layer) and I actually laid the bacon slices over the tops of all the onion wedges. Meanwhile I combined the boneless skinless chicken thighs that I cut into more manageable pieces and the yellow squash and sprinkled them with salt, pepper and oregano. Those things were added to the pan, trying to put the squash on the outside edges (because they’re a wet veggie and would weep water) and the chicken draped over the top of the center stuff. Another 40 minutes in the oven and the chicken was done with a bit of browned edges, all the veggies were perfect. If you have some parsley, sprinkle it on top and serve immediately. For a family meal, just put the pan on the table (on a towel maybe) with a big spoon or spatula to serve with; otherwise, pour it all out onto a HEATED platter and serve. I promise, you’ll hear mmmmm’s.

What’s GOOD: how incredibly easy this is, providing you have all the ingredients on hand. I made a smaller size (using one package of Costco’s boneless, skinless chicken thighs) but it was enough for 4 meals. If you have hearty eaters, well, it might feed fewer. Flavor is magnificent – probably from the bacon and the oil, plus the chicken fat that slowly oozed out of the meat as it roasted. I could hardly keep my fork out of the pan when I was packaging up the leftovers.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs with Bacon & Sourdough Croutons

Recipe By: Adapted from a Food & Wine recipe, 2017
Serving Size: 8

8 ounces sourdough bread — cut into 1″ cubes
2 red onions — peeled, chopped in wedges
5 slices thick-sliced bacon — cut in 1″ pieces
3 small sweet potatoes — peeled, cut in 1″ chunks
2 tablespoons dried oregano — divided use
3 tablespoons olive oil — divided use
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs — cut into big chunks
Salt and pepper and more dried oregano
3 large summer squash — either zucchini or yellow
3 tablespoons Italian parsley — for garnish, if desired

1. Preheat oven to 385°F.
2. Prepare a large rimmed sheet pan (line with foil for easy clean-up). Add bread, onions, bacon and sweet potatoes on the pan. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle most of the oregano all over and season with red chili flakes, salt and pepper. Using your hands, toss these ingredients so most of them are oiled. Spread out, but still leave it in a centered mass, but a single layer.
3. Bake for 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, lightly oil the squash and chicken in a bowl, and season with salt and pepper and oregano.
5. Remove pan from oven. Place the squash around the outside edges and place the chicken pieces on top of the middle mound (so the juices will drip into the mixture below it).
6. Return pan to the oven and roast for 40 minutes until the chicken has begun to brown around the edges and the squash is roasted. Remove and serve immediately. Sprinkle with chopped parsley if desired.
Per Serving: 403 Calories; 18g Fat (40.2% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 92mg Cholesterol; 509mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on November 19th, 2017:

    I’m looking for quick and easy meals for the weekend after next, when my daughter and her four sons will be staying for three days so we can go to the Nutcracker performance and bake and decorate cookies. There won’t be much time for cooking and leaning up. This should be just the thing! I love the idea of roasting onions with bacon draped over them. That sounds fantastic!

    In the last month I’ve prepared this dinner 3 times. And I’m not tired of it at all. You can also change up the contents a little bit with different potatoes, or squash, or adding butternut squash. But as I think I wrote in the post, it’s the bacon and sourdough bread croutons that put it over the top, for me anyway! Let me know what you think! … carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on December 7th, 2017:

    I made this as planned last weekend, and everyone liked it–especially the croutons! Since I had bone-in chicken thighs–that’s what was on sale last week–I used the link to the original recipe in Food and Wine and followed those directions, but I used your guidelines for fat, and I used thick sliced bacon, as you did. It was still very rich. Those croutons are amazing–part crispy and part soft, moistened with chicken juices and bacon fat and flavored with oregano–wow! It was kind of like stuffing, which is my favorite dish in the Thanksgiving meal. Next time I think I’ll go with you and use skinless, boneless thighs, or at least skin the thighs, as the bacon and olive oil provide plenty of fat. And I’m eager to try it again with butternut squash.

    I had enough leftovers that I could turn them into a soup the next day. I cut the potatoes, chicken and onions up and added some carrots and celery and some chicken broth. I re-crisped the croutons in the oven and topped the soup with them.

    Your version sounds great, too, Donna. The nice thing about sheetpan dinners is that they’re versatile. So glad your family liked it, and how clever to turn the leftovers into soup! . . . carolyn t

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