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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 Appetizers, on May 26th, 2007.

In years gone by, I used to entertain on the fly a lot more than I do now. So I always needed recipes that were quick. My problem is that quick doesn’t always mean good or tasty to me. Or at least back in those years I didn’t have many quick recipes that were also exceptional. One of my other problems is that when I prepare a dinner for friends, at the back of my mind I’m always wanting to wow them. I’ve learned that’s just not possible with every part of a meal, but I still try. So, this recipe was a regular for me because I could make it ahead and it “lived” in the freezer until I needed some tasty hot appetizer for guests. Originally I made this just around holiday time, but it’s really just fine any time of year. I might not make it in the heat of summer just because I prefer cold foods then.

And when I tell you this is easy, I really mean easy. Bisquick dough is hardly difficult – it rolls out easily (really). But as you’ll read in the recipe itself, you simply must use a fatty sausage. No Jimmy Dean or butcher ground lean stuff. You want the grocery store tube (I used to buy Farmer John, I think, because that was what my local market carried). High fat. It’s necessary to give the biscuit dough the tender flakiness. I tell you this because I’ve made the mistake of buying leaner sausage, and it absolutely doesn’t look right. Doesn’t taste good, either. So trust me on this. The other caveat is that you simply must allow the sausage to warm to room temperature – about an hour – before you start spreading it. You can separate the sausage into smaller bits and it will take less time. So, you spread out the sausage on the Bisquick dough and sprinkle it with a tad of cayenne. A tiny tad, actually. Roll up the rolls, reshape them gently, seal the edge, cut them into smaller sections if desired, wrap in waxed paper, then in foil and freeze. The small sections allow you to use only a small amount for a few people, if that’s what you need. Otherwise you will be making a lot of them.

Here’s a picture of them in the frozen state. When you’re ready to prepare them, you must leave them out at room temperature for at least 15 minutes, maybe 20, in order to cut them. If you don’t the dough will crack off, which you don’t want, of course. As long as you warmed up the sausage ahead of time, this doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to prepare, start to finish. You can trust me on that, too.

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Hot Sausage Pinwheels

Recipe: I’ve been making these for so long I don’t remember where the recipe came from!
Servings: 12
1 pound pork sausage — NOT lean
1 dash cayenne
2 cups Bisquick® baking mix
2 tablespoons margarine — softened
Milk

1. Important: allow sausage to warm to room temperature, then blend in cayenne. Mix Bisquick with butter, then add milk according to the “biscuit” directions on the box. On a floured surface, roll dough to a rectangle measuring 12″ x 18″. With your fingers, spread sausage on the dough, leaving a dough edge around it. Starting from one of the short sides, roll dough like a jelly roll. Seal edge with water and press lightly to seal well. Press doughy ends in a little and seal as best you can.
2. Wrap the rolls in waxed paper, then in foil, seal well, and place on a flat surface in the freezer. Once frozen place in a plastic bag to seal.
3. Preheat oven to 375°. Remove about 10 minutes before you need to slice them. Slice in 1/3 inch slices and place on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
NOTES: I think I could make these in my sleep. These are really tasty and if your crowd is hungry they’ll disappear in a flash. In years gone by I used to keep one or more of these rolls in the freezer at all times, just in case I might need them. It is necessary to use good-old fatty sausage for this dish in order to make the crust tender. Brands like Jimmy Dean are too meaty.
Per Serving: 255 Calories; 20g Fat (70.3% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 26mg Cholesterol; 508mg Sodium.

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  1. Anonymous

    said on June 22nd, 2007:

    Wow,these are the best EVER!!!! I remember as a child my mom would make these for parties. I would have a couple and then a couple more. Mom would tell me no more, but I always managed to sneak a couple more. Mom, I will be down in a couple days so pull the extras from the freezer!!!

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