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Currently Reading

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Am just starting News of the World: A Novel by William Morris. 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 requires me to read it. It’s about an old man, during the early, old wild west times, who goes from town to town and people pay him money to read the newspaper to them. (Imagine, there WAS such a job.) By chance he’s asked to take a very young girl to Texas to reunite with her family. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby, raised by them, and she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!).

Just finished Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

Recently finished reading The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Also just read Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

Also read H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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 October 2nd, 2009.

cheese ball whole

Cheese Ball. Brings back memories for me of nearly every celebratory party of the 1960’s. Nearly every cook made a cheese ball. They went out of fashion, for sure. But they’re actually quite good, and it took going to a cooking class with Cathy Thomas (the food editor of our local  newspaper, the Orange County Register), to try an updated version.

I was all over this cheese ball with a hint of curry powder in it. The sharp cheddar plays a minor role here, although you do know there’s a sharper cheese in it. But it’s the toppings that set this apart. The mango chutney, the toasted coconut (unsweetened), toasted pecans, green onions and dried cranberries. No 1960 cheese ball ever had that kind of stuff on it. Cathy served this cheese ball with water crackers, but the star accompaniment is slices of apple. That’s a marriage made in heaven.

And, did I tell you this recipe is EASY? Really. The cheese ball itself is made in the food processor (cream cheese, sharp cheddar and curry powder). And you form it into a disk shape (mine was more round there in the picture, I’d advise making a flatter type, so more of the toppings will stay on the top). It’s chilled for awhile. Then you make the toppings – I toasted the pecans and the unsweetened coconut together, although the coconut will toast faster, so it might be better to do them separately.

cheese ball cut You chop up some green onions (including the green tops) and dried cranberries (I chopped them because sometimes they’re really big and maybe people don’t want so much of them in one bite). Once you take the cheese ball out of the refrigerator (about 30 minutes before you want to serve it), spoon on the mango chutney. All the toppings kind of adhere to the sticky chutney, so be generous with it. The pecans and coconut go on first, then the green onions and cranberries last. Sit back and wait to hear raves from people about it. I thought I’d have plenty of leftovers when I served it last week to some friends. Well, they ate 3/4 of it, so when I served the remainder I packed on some more toppings. It was barely enough. I’ll be making this again and again. Our friends are going to get tired of it, I’ll be serving it so often. Does that tell you you need to MAKE THIS? Hope so.
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Bombay Cheese Ball

Recipe: From a cooking class with Cathy Thomas,
Food Editor, Orange County Register
Servings: 8 (maybe)

8 ounces cream cheese — room temp, cut into pieces
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese — room temp, grated
1/4 teaspoon curry powder — or more to taste
1/2 cup mango chutney — or more if preferred (chopped, if pieces are large)
2 tablespoons coconut — unsweeted, flaked, toasted
1/4 cup toasted pecans — chopped
1 tablespoon green onions — finely minced, including green tops
1 1/2 tablespoons dried cranberries — chopped

1. Combine cream cheese, grated cheddar and curry powder in food processor fitted with metal blade. Puree until smooth. Shape cheese into a ball (it’s be soft) or flatter disk shape. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 3-4 hours. Can be made a few days in advance.
2. Unwrap cheese ball and place in the center of a serving platter. Sprinkle all the garnishes on top, starting with the chutney (so the other things will stick to it), and ending with the dried cranberries. Serve with apple wedges and water crackers.
Per Serving: 200 Calories; 15g Fat (67.0% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 46mg Cholesterol; 176mg Sodium.

Two years ago: Southern Peach Cobbler

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  1. Jeannie Wolff

    said on September 15th, 2012:

    Hi Carolyn…this cheese ball sounds awesome! Can’t wsit to make it. Since I’ve never bought chutney wanted to know what brand you use. Just discovered your sight and really love it, especially your ‘favs’…… Thanks!!

    Hi Jeannie- if I’m inspired I make my own, but the recipe called for bottled mango chutney. Most large markets carry at least one type. I’m on a trip right now and can’t go to my frig to see what I have. Major Greys? Something like that. . . . Carolyn t

  2. Jeannie Wolff

    said on September 21st, 2012:

    Hi Carolyn, man, is this stuff good! I made it last night and had a little,and it was good, but today it is much better. I noticed the chutney dried out a little so, the next time I make it I’ll really load it on. Have you ever tried or considered a different chutney? And, you’re right, it’s MUCH better with apple slices. I used Granny Smiths since that’s what I had. You?

    Hi Jeannie – I don’t remember for sure, but I think I used a red apple type. Am so glad you liked it! . . . Carolyn t

  3. Debbie McDonald

    said on December 14th, 2012:

    Hi Carolyn,

    I had this cheese ball today made by your friend and mine, Susan. It is delicious and so different from the standard cheese ball. I love reading and trying your recipes and your site is part of my daily blog reading.

    Thank you, Debbie. Yes, Sue is a dear friend – you’re lucky to have her living near you now! And thanks for reading my blog so regularly! . . .carolyn t

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