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Am still reading The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Oh my. This book has so many layers: (1) the young, impoverished couple and their infant son who live, literally, in a dump in Cambodia and about the precarious structure, if you can even call it that, that comprises their “house” in the midst and perched on top of trash; (2) the woman who collects the rent (hence the title and yes, people have to PAY to live there); (3) the young son’s chronic illness; (4) how they make a living out of collecting and selling trash; and (4) the life saving grace and wisdom imparted by characters in the book as the young mother begins to learn to read. If you decide to read this book, please don’t stop at about page 15-20, thinking you just don’t know if you want to read about this. Please continue. It’s so worth it. Have a highlighter pen in your hand because you’ll find so many quotes you will want to remember. Believe it or not, there is also quite a bit in this about literature.

Recently finished C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel). I just love Box’s novels. They take place in present day semi-wild west, and chronicle the fish and game warden, Joe Pickett, as he unravels another crime in his territory. A woman has disappeared, and the governor has asked him to figure it out. He does, but the tale meanders through multiple layers of intriguing story. His books are riveting. Men and women enjoy his books – so if you have a fellow in your life or family that would enjoy an intriguing book (this is not espionage) then gift him one of Box’s books.

Also finished Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. About a dysfunctional family, through and through. I picked this up from amazon from someone who read the book, named “McReader,” and she says: “Set in the 70s, the story follows a Chinese American blended family in Ohio. When Lydia [the daughter] is found floating in the lake, her family is forced to analyze what put her there. Was it pressure from her family to succeed? Was it pressure to fit in? Was it a crime of passion or convenience? I was spellbound reading the last half of this book. I loved each flawed family member, especially Hannah,. While the story went where I hoped it would go, I was not disappointed at all with the progression. It was also quite insightful on the prejudices that society had about Chinese Americans still during that timeframe and how careful parents have to be to put their dreams onto their children.” Such a good book and definitely worth reading. Would be a good book club read. You’ll be hearing more from this author. Am currently reading her next novel, Little Fires Everywhere.

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 Pork, Veggies/sides, on June 16th, 2018.

roast_pork_tenderl_carrot_romesco

Simple spice-rubbed pork tenderloin, but served with luscious cooked carrots. Who knew they could taste so good when roasted? You may want to make these again and again. Then there’s the grits, creamy with smoked Gouda. And then there’s the salad too, with a sherry and honey mustard vinaigrette.

Pork tenderloin is something I cook for myself now and then. I probably should buy one, cut it in half and freeze the other half because one pork tenderloin (at least the Costco ones) are big – usually enough for 4 meals for me. Maybe even 5 if I don’t dole out too much on any one serving. And by day three, I’m tired of pork tenderloin! But this meal, this pork tenderloin is merely a way to eat the scrumptious carrots on top, the creamy grits with Gouda and the lovely green salad on the side. I’m telling you true, your fork is going to want all of those carrots to the exclusion of everything else on the plate.

The carrots, scrubbed and halved, are roasted for 15-20 minutes in a hot-hot oven, sprinkled with some kind of various spice rub (your choice). Once cooled, you whiz some of them up with pine nuts and olive oil to make the Romesco part. The remaining carrots are served in the salad. The pork is seasoned with the same spice rub, browned on the stove, then finished off in the oven.

Meanwhile, you make the grits – using a combination of broth and milk to make them creamy, then at the last, add in the Gouda (did you know it’s pronounced gow-da? not goo-da, as we do?) and serve it right away while it’s still piping hot. When I make this, I use regular Gouda, not smoked. I’m not a big fan of smoked cheeses for some reason – I like the pure stuff, but suit your own palate. Place the pork tenderloin slices napped over the edge of the grits and top with the Romesco carrots.

carrot_watercress_salad_alongside_pork_tenderloinYou will have tossed up a lovely green salad too (adding arugula for sure, maybe even watercress or some other unusual greens if you can find them), toss with the sherry wine vinegar vinaigrette and the remaining carrots, and that’s dinner. The recipes came from a cooking class a couple of months ago with Tarla Fallgatter. I was still eating some carbs then, so I can attest to the deliciousness of those carrots. Now I’m only eating raw carrots.

What’s GOOD: well, the carrots Romesco are the best part of this dish in my opinion, but the grits are good, as is the pork AND the lovely greens on the side. Altogether great meal – would definitely be suitable for a company dinner.

What’s NOT: maybe a bit more prep than some meals.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Carrot Romesco

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter cooking class, 2018
Serving Size: 6

CARROTS:
1 1/2 pounds carrots — small, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon spice rub — (your choice)
Salt and pepper to taste
ROMESCO:
1/4 cup pine nuts — toasted
1 clove garlic
1 pinch red chili flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
PORK:
2 pork tenderloins — silverskin removed, trimmed
2 teaspoons spice rub — (use same as in carrots)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups greens — watercress, arugula, dark hearty lettuces
VINAIGRETTE:
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon honey mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss carrots with oil, spice rub and salt and pepper to taste. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and roast, tossing occasionally, until carrots are softened, browned, about 15-20 minutes. Carrots should be very tender. Let cool slightly.
2. Meanwhile, season pork with salt, pepper and spice rub. Heat a saute pan to high, add oil and sear tenderloin on all sides. Transfer to oven and roast until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 145°F, about 10 minutes. Remove, tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
3. Pulse the pine nuts, garlic and red chili flakes in a food processor with oil, salt and pepper to taste. Add about a cup of the cooked carrots, vinegar and process until it reaches a coarse texture, adding more oil if necessary. Taste for seasonings.
4. SALAD: Toss the greens and the remaining carrots with vinaigrette. Slice pork and serve with romesco alongside the salad.
Per Serving: 373 Calories; 28g Fat (66.8% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 49mg Cholesterol; 90mg Sodium.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Smoked Gouda Grits

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter cooking class, 2018
Serving Size: 6

1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup grits — coarse ground (NOT instant)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter — cut into pieces
3 ounces gouda cheese — smoked or regular
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — chopped

1. Bring milk, salt and water to a boil in a large pan over medium high heat. Gradually whisk in grits until smooth.
2. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, whisking frequently, until creamy but still with some bite, 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with Italian parsley.
Per Serving: 164 Calories; 10g Fat (52.5% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 33mg Cholesterol; 457mg Sodium.

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  1. Leslie C

    said on June 17th, 2018:

    This recipe sounds absolutely delicious, every component! I’ve forwarded this to my foodie friends, it will be my birthday dinner for hubbie! Love your posts, the books as much as the recipes. Thanks so much!

    Warm regards,
    Leslie C

    It IS a good recipe. I made it the other night for a group of friends (without the grits because some people brought other food). It was really good. Glad you enjoy my book recommendations too! . . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on June 19th, 2018:

    Carolyn, how do you do it? You are always coming up with a new way to cook something I’ve been meaning to cook soon. There’s a pork tenderloin in my fridge just waiting for this recipe!
    I learned about the proper pronunciation of “Gouda” from a cheese expert on The Splendid Table some years ago. Whenever I say it to a deli worker, though, I get a confused look, and I have to pronounce it wrong so they understand what I’m talking about.

    I’m LOLing here. Yes, I’ve stopped saying it correctly because almost no one understands! So funny. You and I must be soul sisters or something like that. Wish we didn’t live so far away from one another as I’d be phoning you to meet for coffee this week! . . . carolyn t

  3. hddonna

    said on June 20th, 2018:

    It seems I’m having a problem posting comments on your site lately. I submitted one last night, but today it has disappeared, without the usual notification that it is awaiting moderation–it’s just gone. Will try again!
    Wanted you to know that you have an uncanny habit of posting recipes that are just what I’m looking for–new ideas for cooking something I have on hand and need to use. I’ve got the pork tenderloin in my fridge, waiting for me to decide what to do with it, and this recipe looks like the answer!

    I learned about the correct pronunciation of “Gouda” on The Splendid Table a few years ago, but I’ve found that it is hard to use it. If I say it that way when ordering at the deli, I get a puzzled look and have to repeat myself, either changing the pronunciation or explaining how I found out the correct one. I’ve explained it to friends and family, but I don’t think anyone else has actually adopted the pronunciation. Glad to know someone of my acquaintance knows about it, too!

    Your other message did come through – I just didn’t read it until just now. I don’t look for updates to comments except in the mornings when I’ve got my cup of coffee in hand. Comments don’t post until I’ve “approved” them. I get tens of thousands of spam comments (fortunately there is a background program that sets most of them aside so I need only delete the long list of them every few weeks) so I don’t let comments go “up” and live until I’ve approved them. . . .c

  4. Toffeeapple

    said on June 23rd, 2018:

    Goodness me, you do set me thinking! Especially about Grits, which I love – I thought they were loaded with Carbs but it turns out that I was wrong so, the next thing is how to get some since no relatives are coming from North Carolina this year!

    As for Gouda, if you are in the Nederlands they would not recognise Gowda, it is more gutteral. Oh look, here is a link for pronunciation: https://www.eatingamsterdamtours.com/blog/dutch-gouda-cheese/

    In winter, I always roast vegetables, I put them all in a roasting tray, with lard, if I can get it, then salt and pepper (white) and perhaps Rosemary and let them all meld together in the heat and serve with gravy…

    I am not too bothered about the meat, as you know. Sometimes I buy a pack of cooked Prosciutto, 100 grams, perhaps four slices and that lasts me a week – but I savour each slice with whatever I choose to eat with it.

    It is the weekend, apparently – enjoy it!

    Can you buy cornmeal in Britain? I think the fine-ness of the grain is different from grits, but it would give you much the same result, I think. I’ve enjoyed many a fine meal with roast vegetables, but when you give the vegetables plenty of space on the baking sheet, they caramelize better (more) and that’s what I like the best. I’ve have family here this weekend, prepared a big meal for everyone yesterday – – recipes up soon. . .carolyn t

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