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Just finished reading The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant. A very, very intriguing book. The book is written from the voice of a Jewish grandmother as she tells her granddaughter the saga of her life starting about 1910, who struggles with her own individuality, with her domineering mother who never says a kind word to her. It’s certainly a coming-of-age story as she grows up, finds a job, makes friends, joins a literary girls club, moves out, but still suffers under her mother’s thumb and tongue. She becomes a reporter on a local newspaper, which opens her eyes to more of the world than she ever knew. She finally meets the right man (of course!) and she shares the stories about her life, and her friends and family members as she grows up, giving some sage advice along the way. Part of the time she’s talking to herself – to her young self  (really wanting to tell young Addie to keep on, forgive herself for her perceived transgressions, to live life, and experience the world).

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time – Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

As soon as I finished the above book I promptly visited my church library and found a whole shelf of Rivers’ books, and grabbed one called The Atonement Child. This book takes place in the 1980s or 90s, about a young college student who is raped. She was engaged to be married, was a stellar student. The book chronicles what happens to her when she discovers she is pregnant from the rape. Every possible thing goes wrong in her life. I don’t want to spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it, but I couldn’t put it down. I ended up spending a good part of a day plowing through it. You hear her inner voice (I’m guessing this is a common thread in Rivers’ books) from a Christian perspective. Lots of meaty issues to discuss in a book club if your group would be interested and willing to talk about rape, abortion, adoption and the thorny issues surrounding all of those things, but with a Christian bent, for sure.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen. It’s kind of amazing how many and varied plot lines can be created from events of WWII. This is another one, about a current day woman who finds papers in the attic, after her father’s death, with references to “the child.” She never knew her father could have had another child – could she have a step-sibling somewhere? Her father she knew, had been shot down over Italy, but he never talked much about it. But of course, she must go to Italy to find out about this “child.” The book flips back and forth from this daughter on the search, to her father during the war, all of it taking place in a very small town in Tuscany. It’s about the varied people she meets who want her to go away and not dredge up anything about the war years (are they hiding something, you question), about how much she loves the landscape, and some of the people. And about the intense love affair between the injured pilot and a caring woman of the village. Very charming story. I could almost smell the flowers, taste the olives, hear the bees flitting, and loved the prose about the simple meals that were described. I really enjoyed the book. Perhaps not enough meat for a book club read, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it nonetheless.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

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.

 

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 IP, Pork, pressure cooker, on February 8th, 2018.

IP_spareribs_bbq

Oh yes, mouth watering happening as I look at that photo. So quick and easy.

The other day I discovered an ancient package of pork spare ribs (not baby backs) in my freezer, back when my DH and I bought a part of a Berkshire pig. It had unique wrapping, so I knew – and it had a date on it. 2011. Wow. It’s been in my freezer for nearly 8 years! I didn’t hold out much hope that it would be all that good, but guess what? It was wonderful. Maybe because it was packaged well to begin with!

With my new instant pot sitting on my kitchen counter, I scanned websites to find a recipe that would work. Sure enough, found one at the blog called iwashyoudry. Shawna had used baby backs, but I presumed the cooking time would be similar. First I removed the thin tissue along the back of the ribs. It’s a bit of a nuisance to have to do that, but I did it anyway, knowing the dry rub would reach all the inner meat if I took the time. Then I combined the dry rub – a little bit of brown sugar and a bunch of spices. A very good mixture, I think! Into the IP they went, to rest on top of the IP rack, leaning up against the sides of the pot.

Once the meat was in, you add some water, apple cider vinegar AND a tiny jot of liquid smoke to the bottom of the pot, making sure you don’t wash off any of the spices sticking to the ribs. Having used liquid smoke in the past I wasn’t altogether sure I’d like it – but  using just 1/4 tsp gave the ribs just a hint of smoke. The meat cooked under high pressure for 23 minutes (Shawna cooked her for 25, but spareribs have less meat on them, so I chose 23). It rested for 10 minutes, then quick release.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler during the last couple minutes of resting time and prepare a baking sheet with foil (for easy cleanup) and have at the ready your favorite bottled BBQ sauce. Lay them on the baking sheet and brush that on. Broil just until beginning to get crispy brown. Remove and dig in! For mine, the ribs were nearly falling off of the meat, so I just took the bones out and had a nice little plate of just meat. And sauce. And spices. All good tasty stuff! My thanks to Shawna for a great recipe that works!

What’s GOOD: you can have ribs on the table in a little over 35 minutes or so, that taste like you’ve spent hours smoking and tending to them. When you haven’t!! Loved the combo of spices in the dry rub and with using just a little bit of BBQ sauce to finish them off; these were perfect! A keeper.

What’s NOT: really nothing, other than ribs have a lot of fat, so for me, they’re a real treat. Not something I’d fix on a regular basis.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Instant Pot BBQ Spareribs

Recipe By: adapted slightly from I wash you dry (blog)
Serving Size: 4

3 pounds pork spareribs
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke — optional
1/2 cup barbecue sauce

1. Remove the thin lining from the bottom side of the ribs by running a butter knife under the skin and then using a paper towel to grip and remove completely. (This allows the dry rub to reach the meat underneath.)
2. Combine the brown sugar, chili powder, parsley, salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne pepper in a small dish and rub all over the ribs.
3. Place the rack in your IP/pressure cooker and place the ribs inside the pot, standing on their ends, wrapping around the inside of the pot. It’s okay if it leans against the pan. Pour in the water, apple cider and liquid smoke (if using), being careful to not wash off any of the seasonings.
4. Secure the lid, making sure the vent is closed. Pressure cook on high for 23 minutes. Let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes, then quick release the rest of the way.
5. Carefully remove the ribs from the pressure cooker and set on a foil lined baking sheet. Brush with your favorite BBQ sauce, and broil for 5 minutes, but keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
Per Serving: 686 Calories; 51g Fat (67.4% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 165mg Cholesterol; 994mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on February 11th, 2018:

    Instant Pot is a new one on me. Having looked at them on line, I can see that it would not suit me at all. Enjoy using yours though.

    As I recall, you don’t eat much meat, right? It’s ideal for meat lovers with the pressure cooker right in it. I use it for that and for slow cooking. So far. And steaming. .. carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on March 8th, 2018:

    I’m planning to make these in my electric pressure cooker. Remembered seeing the recipe, but it wasn’t listed in the recipe index under pork/ribs. Thought you might like to know–perhaps it’s slated for updating anyway, but in case it was missed…I checked back with the link to February posts on the home page and found it that way. My ribs haven’t been in there since 2011, but a couple years, anyway. Haven’t pressure-cooked ribs yet, so am looking forward to finding out how they come out.

    You couldn’t find it because I haven’t updated the index in about 3 weeks. I’m due to do it in a soon timeframe. . . carolyn t

  3. hddonna

    said on March 9th, 2018:

    I figured it would be something like that–only mentioned it in case it had slipped through the cracks somehow.

  4. hddonna

    said on March 9th, 2018:

    Say, that vegetable dish in the background looks intriguing–what is is? It looks cabbage–maybe brussels sprouts? And are those dark spots raisins? Is the recipe on the site? I was just checking the recipe index and found the sprout recipe with mustard butter–not it–no dark spots–but think I’ll try that one with the sprouts in my fridge.

    Well, that recipe isn’t really a recipe. When I’m just cooking for ease and have Brussels sprouts to make, I buy the already sliced ones at Trader Joes, but you can easily slice them yourself. I add oil and butter (equal quantities to the frying pan) and throw in the Brussels, stirring very often. If you leave them to go do something else, they’ll likely burn. IF I have orange juice I will add that in almost near the end drizzling it all over the pan, otherwise it concentrates in one spot, and then I add some dried cranberries. The dark spots are either blackened parts of the Brussels, or they’re dried cranberries. I can’t tell and don’t really remember, Donna! I love the dried cranberries as part of the Brussels sprouts dish – since the veggie is kinda-sorta on the bitter side, the cranberries brighten and sweeten it a bit. . . carolyn t

  5. hddonna

    said on March 9th, 2018:

    The preparation sounds really good. Thanks for explaining it– I’ll be inspired to try something like it. I am thinking maybe some currants would work. I like dried cranberries, but because of the added sugar, I don’t use them often, and when I do, I use them sparingly–but that’s true of most dried fruit. I don’t suppose it would take many cranberries to give a little pop of sweetness to the Brussels sprouts.

    Raisins would be fine, Donna. Or currants too. If you used dried cranberries, hydrate them, then chop them up fine and they’ll go a lot further to enhance the Brussels . . . c

  6. hddonna

    said on March 12th, 2018:

    Haven’t tried the brussels sprouts yet, but the ribs were a big hit. I loved how easy they were–so quick, and no mess. I’ll be doing them this way again for sure. I had some leftover broccoli to use up, but the Brussels sprouts are waiting to be used up, so I’ll be experimenting with that soon.

    So glad you liked the ribs. I liked that they weren’t overly sweet, and yes, so very easy in the pressure cooker. . . carolyn t

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