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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 Soups, on March 15th, 2020.

creamy_reuben_soup

Just imagine all the best of a Reuben Sandwich combined into a soup.

Do you always fix a traditional Irish-American corned beef and cabbage dinner on March 17th? Not always for me, and less often since I’ve been a widow. You can’t buy a small corned beef for 1-2 meals. In this instance, though, I cooked a whole corned beef and used almost all of it to make a double portion of this soup. I was having a group of friends over to play Mexican Train and my co-hostess Holly brought part of the meal (salad and dessert) while I did a nice varied cheese tray and this soup. Oh, and also an Ina Garten Guinness wheat bread I baked (recipe up soon).

The original recipe came from Phillis Carey, although I didn’t attend the cooking class when it was prepared. She sent it out to her email list as a recipe of the week. I did make a few changes from the original: (1) I added some celery; (2) I thickened the soup with cornstarch because I thought it needed to have more heft; (3) I used a quite sour brand of sauerkraut, so I added a tetch of sugar which just took the edge off of that sour flavor, but  you’d never think there was sugar added (and I used monkfruit anyway); and (4) I added a little bit more cream. If you are watching carbs, you don’t have to thicken the soup – although you could take out some of the vegetables (not the corned beef) and whiz that up in the blender to provide a thicker consistency.

reuben_soup_simmeringAnd I also changed the way you make and serve the croutons – because I made a double batch of this and was serving a bunch of people, I didn’t want to put 8 bowls of soup in the oven. So, I toasted the croutons in the oven to begin with (drizzled with EVOO), then I kind of mounded them into 8 little crowns and sprinkled the grated Emmental cheese on top and put that into the oven to broil and get golden brown. So, when serving the soup, I scooped the soup into bowls, then used a spatula to take a crouton-cheese crown on top of each bowl of soup.crouton_crowns See photo below.

What I did forget to do was sprinkle the top with Italian parsley, but it made no-never-mind to the flavor. I did make the soup the day before serving, and no question, the overnight chill helped meld the flavors. As I write this, I’ve had leftovers twice now, for lunch, and oh-so-good.

What’s GOOD: oh, my, the flavor. Just like a corned beef and cabbage dinner with the Reuben element of sauerkraut and cheese. The croutons and cheese just put this soup over the top. This is a keeper.

What’s NOT: only that you need to prepare a corned beef – or buy thick slices from a deli counter in order to cut cubes. This soup is better made a day ahead.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Creamy Reuben Soup with Corned Beef, Sauerkraut and Rye Croutons

Recipe By: Adapted from a Phillis Carey recipe, 2020
Serving Size: 7

CROUTONS:
1 tablespoon EVOO
7 slices rye bread — crusts removed, cut into 1/2″ cubes
SOUP:
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 small onion — finely diced
1 carrot — peeled and finely chopped
1 stalk celery — finely chopped
1 clove garlic — minced
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth — reserving 2 cups (set aside)
1/2 pound corned beef brisket — sliced, cubed
8 fluid ounces sauerkraut
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
5 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 tablespoon sugar — or monkfruit sweetener
1/4 cup chopped parsley — plus more for garnish
Salt to taste (probably won’t need it)
6 ounces Gruyere cheese — grated or Emmental

NOTES: Ideally, make this the day before as the taste is enhanced with an overnight chill to meld flavors.
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread rye bread cubes on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with EVOO then toss well to distribute oil. Bake for about 5-8 minutes until golden but not burned. Watch carefully. Remove and set aside.
2. In a large soup pot, heat EVOO over medium-low. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add carrots, celery, garlic, caraway seed and pepper to the pot and cook, stirring often until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer on low for 20 minutes.
3. Stir in corned beef, sauerkraut, and heavy cream; bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Combine the reserved, room temp chicken broth with cornstarch and mix well. Pour into soup pot and stir for several minutes until it comes to a simmer and soup thickens. Add sugar or alternative sweetener. Stir in parsley and add salt if needed – it probably won’t be needed. If soup is too salty adjust by adding small amounts of water and bring back to a boil.
4. Mound portions of croutons on baking sheet and top with grated cheese. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat until cheese is melted and bubbling, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour soup into bowls then carefully (using a spatula) place bubbling crouton crown on top of each bowl of hot soup. Sprinkle with more parsley if desired. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 438 Calories; 29g Fat (55.3% calories from fat); 24g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 79mg Cholesterol; 604mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on March 16th, 2020:

    This sounds incredible! And how clever of you–I love the “bubbling crowns of croutons!” I did my corned beef early this year, but I’ll be doing after taking a little break–we’ve had baked corned beef, corned beef hash, reubens, and corned beef and swiss sandwiches. If I have to, I’ll get some at the deli, because I definitely have to do this. Don’t know what I’ll be making for “the day,” as the Irish Session Players have an all-day gig at an Irish pub tomorrow, unless it gets cancelled. Coronavirus guidelines and rules keep changing, but so far this one is still on. I’ll be bushed when I’m done playing. Too bad there won’t be some of this lovely soup waiting at home in the fridge!

    I’m still eating away at the left over soup. I think I’ve had it 5 times since I made it mid-week last week. With another 2 portions to go, or else I’ll freeze what’s left. I’ll be making this again soon, though, because it was so good. . . carolyn t

  2. Toffeeapple

    said on March 21st, 2020:

    I have no idea what a Reuben sandwich might be but the name would probably put me off trying it.

    I have never made corned beef, is it difficult?

    Really? Do you not have corned beef in Britain? It means brined/pickled. It used to be a way to store meat for long periods without refrigeration. But, here’s the wikipedia link for the sandwich: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reuben_sandwich
    It’s brisket (corned/brined then cooked) layered with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and a Russian style dressing on it. And served on rye bread. The article says it originated in Omaha, Nebraska. The making of corned beef is not difficult. Our grocery stores have packages of raw brisket that’s in a sealed package with all kinds of herbs/spices, so marinated, and all you have to do is simmer it for about 4 hours and it’s tender as can be. There are countless recipes online for making your own marinade, using a fresh beef brisket that simulates the pre-seasoned stuff. I’d prefer to do my own, but it’s just easier to buy the pack that’s already done for you. Perhaps it’s called something different in Britain? I don’t know . . .carolyn t

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