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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 Salads, Vegetarian, on December 23rd, 2017.

delicata_squash_blue_arugula_salad

The kind of salad you could make as  your dinner – it’s definitely filling enough and satisfying, though it doesn’t have any meat in it!

Do you buy Delicata squash very often? I don’t – although my local Trader Joe’s has them – they do have a season and now’s the time. It has a delicate (hence the name Delicata?) rind (meaning that it’s not tough and thick, like the skin on a butternut squash, which you have to remove). In this case, you get to eat the rind – where a lot of the nutrition lies.

Image result for delicata squash

The squashes are cut into rings and halved then roasted in a hot oven for about 20 minutes. It’s easier to remove the seeds then – after they’ve cooled for 10 minutes or so. Mix up the vinaigrette while you’re baking the squash, and get out the blue cheese.

This recipe came from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter, and she had purchased some German blue cheese – called Grand Blue (currently available at Trader Joe’s). This cheese is not the mouth-stinging, deep flavored type, but it’s mild, without any tannins. It’s not of the soft blue style (like Brie) either, as it’s the normal crumbly type, but I liked it a LOT. I can’t eat regular blue straight – it’s just too strong for me, which makes it perfect, to my way of thinking for a salad. I love blue cheese in a salad, though. I’m just not fond of the ultra-strong flavored type unless it’s “cut” with a toasted baguette slice or fruit or something else with it.

When Tarla served it, the squash was still slightly warm. She tossed the arugula salad with the salad dressing, added the dried cranberries and pecans, then plated each salad with 2-3 half-rings of the squash and a lovely wedge of the Grand Blue. If you wanted to take this to a gathering, I’d chop the squash into smaller pieces, as well as the cheese and toss it all together in a large bowl. The only difficulty with that is that some people won’t get a full portion of the squash or the cheese.

What’s GOOD: the mild flavor of the squash was perfect with the arugula salad. Loved the addition of dried cranberries and pecans. I particularly liked the mild blue cheese with it also. Very pretty to look at, would make a lovely holiday salad. It’s also quite filling, so would be (for me, anyway) a perfect dinner all by itself.

What’s NOT: nothing, other than having to roast the squash and mess with removing seeds and strings, etc.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Delicata Squash Salad with Arugula, Blue Cheese and Pecans

Recipe By: from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter
Serving Size: 6

6 ounces arugula — wild, if possible
4 Delicata squash — cut in 1/2″ rings (skin on)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 ounces blue cheese — use a soft one like Castel or Grand Blue (use more if your desire)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup pecans — whole, toasted, or pumpkin seeds
VINAIGRETTE:
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
2 teaspoons honey mustard
6 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Shake the vinaigrette ingredients together in a jar and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss squash rings with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and roast them until tender, turning once, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly.
3. Toss arugula with vinaigrette to coat the leaves, add dried cranberries and pecans. Divide the arugula between the plates. Add the roasted delicata squash rings to each serving and place a small wedge of the blue cheese on the side.
Per Serving: 347 Calories; 33g Fat (83.9% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 28mg Cholesterol; 556mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on December 24th, 2017:

    Merry Christmas Carolyn!

    Thank you, Toni. It’s Christmas morning as I write this; I have my coffee in hand. My cousin is visiting, but he’s quite sick with a bad cold, so he hasn’t been able to participate in any of the family activities. Merry Christmas to you as well . . . carolyn t

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