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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 Pork, Soups, on October 8th, 2009.

creamy cabbage sausage soup

A happy camper am I. Last week, mother nature provided us with a few days of temps only in the low 80’s. Hallelujah. And the nights have been cooler too, which makes for better sleeping. My mind had been turning to soup already even with the summer temps. So when this recipe appeared in our local paper recently, credited to Karen Collard of Anaheim, CA, it sounded so easy. And tasty. In fact, it’s so easy I almost didn’t clip out the recipe. But, I’m telling you, as simple as it is, the flavor is really good.

The other thing – this soup may not look like much, but appearance doesn’t matter. Trust me on this one. The original recipe was intended to be very low fat – just cabbage, onions, chicken broth, and a packaged gravy mix mixed with some milk. I decided to ramp it up a mccormick country gravy mix little by adding some spicy Italian sausage and some parsley for garnish. Otherwise the recipe is essentially the same. You could substitute turkey sausage (although I wouldn’t advise it as the pork/sausage provides a ton of good flavor), or eliminate it. I added a bit of olive oil too, to caramelize the onions just a little bit. This doesn’t cook a long time – in fact I think it’s better if it’s NOT cooked for hours. You still want just a bit of texture to the cabbage. But what it is, is EASY. Trust me on this. You’ll have dinner on the table in about 45 minutes.

It’s a rare day when I use any packaged mix for anything. I had to shop at a couple of grocery stores to even FIND the McCormick sausage flavored country gravy mix. Look in the big grocery stores for it. It just made the preparation so simple. It’s mixed with more liquid (milk and chicken broth instead of water) to give it a soupy consistency. So, go make this, okay? We just LUVVVVED it. I had a hard time keeping my tasting spoon out of the pot as it simmered at the end. We had leftovers two nights later and it was just as good, maybe better, the way soups often are. I gave the recipe to my friend Cherrie, who made it a night or two later. She and her husband slurped up two bowls of it the first night. More testimony that this is a keeper.
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Creamy Cabbage Soup with Sausage

Recipe: Adapted from a recipe found in the Orange County Register, 2009.
Servings: 6

1 pound Italian sausage — crumbled (hot or mild)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion — chopped
1 whole cabbage — coarsely chopped
4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup milk — cold
2 5/8 ounces McCormick Sausage Flavor Country Gravy Mix — dry mix package
Salt & pepper to taste
3 tablespoons Italian parsley — minced, for garnish

1. To a large, heavy Dutch oven, heat olive oil and add chopped onion. While it sautes, crumble up the sausage meat and the cabbage.
2. When the onion is cooked through (10 minutes) add the sausage and continue cooking for about 10 minutes until the meat is cooked through. Add the cabbage and continue cooking for 15 minutes until cabbage is cooked, stirring frequently.
3. In a bowl combine the country gravy mix and milk. Stir with a whisk. Add it to the cabbage mixture, along with the chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking until the sauce has thickened. Taste for seasonings (salt and pepper) and serve. Garnish with some Italian parsley, if desired.
Per Serving: 413 Calories; 32g Fat (72.6% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 62mg Cholesterol; 1497mg Sodium.

Two years ago: Drop Biscuits (delicious, rich and easy)

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