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Just finished a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Also recently read News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a free-lance job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her family was killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of an old (wild) west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many. Just read this one first!

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 October 14th, 2007.

How many possible pizza combinations are there, out there? Way too many for me to guesstimate. When California Pizza Kitchen opened up, probably 20 years ago, I was amazed at the variety. It surely swept in with the “California” style of cooking. Lightening up, fresh ingredients, etc. Lots of chicken.

So, when our daughter, Sara, was still living at home with us (probably she was in college then), she had a hankering for pizza one evening, and looked through a cookbook I had. She settled on this one, using a whole wheat dough that was easily mixed up in the bread machine. By the time DH and I got home from work, she was in the middle of this and we all just raved about how good it was. I’ve made this umpteen times since then, always to good reviews. I don’t make pizza often. In fact I don’t think we’ve even eaten pizza in over a year, but it just sounded good.

Our son-in-law, Todd, is still staying with us (he’s an electrician, and is wiring the new house for our son and his wife), and he’s a pizza fan, so I thought this would be a good choice.

First you make the whole wheat bread dough in your bread machine. You don’t have to use whole wheat dough. We just liked it that way from the get-go. It’s a mixture of 2/3 white and 1/3 wheat flours. It still has the resiliency and easy rising ability of white, though. The joy of the bread machine is that it makes pizza dough so very easy. You use the machine for mixing the dough and rising it once. Then you remove it and continue by hand. Sara used the recipe from my bread machine’s book and we’ve stuck with it ever since. I used Trader Joe’s pre-made pizza dough: I bought one white and one whole wheat and mixed them together.

Meanwhile, you marinate the chicken pieces in some lemon juice, olive oil and oregano. But, having made this plenty of times, if you forget this step, just briefly saute the chicken pieces IN the lemon juice marinade, then you’ll get at least some of the wonderful lemony flavor. Thank you, Sara, for finding this gem of a recipe.
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Pizza with Grilled Chicken, Red Onion, Black Olives & Pesto

Recipe: From “Pizza, California Style” by Norman Kolpas.
Servings: 4
NOTES: This recipe uses a whole wheat crust that I make in the bread machine. It uses the standard bread machine pizza dough recipe that calls for about 3 cups of flour. It yields 1& 1 /2 lbs of dough, which can be divided into 4 individual pizzas, or divided in half to make two mid-sized pizzas. When I’m in a hurry I just pour the chicken and the marinade into a nonstick pan and cook gently until about half done, then proceed with slicing, etc. And I think I prefer the Feta cheese to the Parmesan.

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 pound boned and skinned chicken breast halves — trimmed, cut in half
3/4 cup pesto sauce
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese — or Feta
24 whole black olives — Mediterranean pitted
1/2 pound mozzarella cheese — shredded
1 medium red onion — thinly sliced
24 ounces pizza dough

1. In a small plastic bag combine the olive oil, lemon juice and oregano, add chicken and turn to coat evenly. Seal and refrigerate for several hours, or leave at room temperature if it’s only for 30-60 minutes. Turn the bag several times.
2. Preheat the oven (and pizza brick, baking tiles or baking sheet) to 550°. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and grill or broil about 1 minute per side, until they are seared but not cooked through. With a sharp knife, slice the chicken into 1/4 inch thick pieces. Place a ball of dough on your work surface that’s been sprinkled with semolina. Press down with heels of your hands and flatten the dough. Lift and gently pull the dough to stretch it into a circle about 8 inches in diameter. Press a slight rim around the outside edge. Repeat with remaining dough. Spread 1/4 cup of the pesto on each pizza, right up to the rim. Using about a third of the mozzarella, sprinkle that on the pizza, then add chicken pieces and red onion slices. Top with additional mozzarella, then sprinkle the Parmesan (or Feta) over each and dot with black olive halves.
3. If possible, slide a pizza paddle under the dough and transfer to the hot oven and slide onto the pizza bricks. Bake for 8-10 minutes in a traditional oven, or 6-8 minutes in a convection oven or until the dough is browned and crisp and the cheese is golden and bubbly. Remove from oven and allow to sit just a minute or so before cutting into wedges with a big knife or pizza cutter.
Per Serving: 1044 Calories; 59g Fat (50.4% calories from fat); 47g Protein; 83g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 102mg Cholesterol; 943mg Sodium.

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  1. Deborah

    said on October 16th, 2007:

    Yum! Pizza with pesto. Sounds like a movement. 🙂

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