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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, on March 11th, 2008.

Spinach & Strawberry Salad

We’ve had an informal and infrequently-meeting gourmet group for a few years. Initially we met every couple of months, but then traveling got in the way of more than one gathering. Now we seem to meet only when one of us can manage to get everyone’s schedule to jibe. And initially the group was also a “healthy” gourmet group. We called it – and still do – the HGG (Health Gourmet Group). The healthy part lasted about 2 years, I’d say, and now it’s more like a “try to be healthy if you can” group. But when we do get together, we have a great time.

My friend Sue brought this salad to one of our dinners, and everybody just loved it. I’ve served it more than once since then, always to raves. There is an elusive flavor in this salad. Maybe it’s just the combo with the strawberries, which isn’t often seen in salads. Sue said the recipe came from one of her Junior League cookbooks. I’ve altered the recipe a little – reducing the amount of greens to serve 6 – it served way more originally, and I always had leftovers which didn’t keep, of course.

I made this as a separate course the other night for a large dinner party, while the main entrée finished off its cooking in the oven. I liked doing that because this salad is just so darned good to get diluted with more intense flavors from the beef we had for our entrée, or the seasoned vegetables either. Know what I mean?
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Spinach & Berries Salad

Recipe By: from my friend Sue, from a Junior League cookbook
Serving Size: 10
Cook’s Notes: Get everything all ready ahead of time and it’s but seconds to get the salad mixed and served. Sprinkle some of the nuts in the salad, then add a few more almonds on the top of each serving (or if you’re passing the salad, just sprinkle the remaining nuts on top). Be sure to use baby spinach, as full-leafed spinach is too cumbersome to eat easily and a bit too tough in my estimation.

SALAD DRESSING:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 cloves garlic — minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
SALAD:
3/4 cup slivered almonds — toasted
12 ounces spinach leaves — baby spinach if possible
1 head butter lettuce
1 bunch green onions — chopped
1 pint strawberries — thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh dill — minced

1. Mix salad dressing – olive oil through onion powder – and allow to sit to mellow flavors.
2. Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl and pour dressing (taste to see how much is needed) over.
Per Serving: 198 Calories; 17g Fat (72.3% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 75mg Sodium.

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  1. yvette

    said on June 7th, 2010:

    Hello Carolyn,
    I made this salad last night for Joe and me and dinner
    guests. I love this salad !!! The dressing is superb.
    I loved having the strawberries in the salad. The toasted
    slivered almonds gave the salad a nice crunch
    This is a “must have” summer salad recipe.I look forward to
    making this again and again. My dinner guest, Lynn, took home a copy
    of the recipe. This definitely belongs on the “Carolyn’s Fav List”.

    Glad you liked it, Yvette! It’s a favorite of ours too. . . carolyn t

  2. Elizabeth

    said on February 24th, 2011:

    I made this for my husband’s birthday dinner, he loved it! I had everything for the dressing(added a squeeze of meyer lemon too), but for the salad didn’t have all the ingredients so used strawberry, avocado, sliced almonds and parsley. Thanks for another great recipe.

    Isn’t that just a great salad? I agree. Thanks so much. . . carolyn t

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