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Just finished 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 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 parents were 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 a old 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 Desserts, on November 6th, 2009.

rice pudding

Rice pudding may not be on everyone’s radar. Maybe too comforty. Too old time. Too yesterday. But even though I don’t make it very often, whenever I do, it’s just so gosh darned GOOD. Hits the spot. And this one may be my forever go-to recipe from now on. My friend Norma thought rice pudding sounded good. She’s still recovering from very major surgery and because of radiation damage to her throat, has a very hard time swallowing. She’s had major skin cancer caused by anti-rejection medication she must take for the rest of her life. Taking the medication allows her to live with her transplanted lung, but she seems to be one of the many who develop skin cancer because of it. She’s getting better, but slowly.

A day or so ago I made another big, huge batch of the Italian Sausage and Tomato Soup that I just posted about 3 weeks ago. It was so good I had to make more of it. Half went to Norma and she says it tastes good. She just can’t swallow very much of it. But puddings she can do. They go down more easily, as long as they’re kind of soupy. There isn’t a pudding I haven’t made. I’ve done butterscotch, chocolate, tapioca, vanilla, milk chocolate and rice. So we’re starting back on ones I’ve made before, this time rice.

I did a search for rice puddings – even though I’d made Dorie Greenspan’s recipe the last time, I wanted to try something different. Norma wanted a thin, not too rich one. I found one at Elise’s blog, Simply Recipes that intrigued me. Basically I used her recipe, but I changed it a bit. I like the proportion of milk to rice (I added a tetch more rice than Elise did). And I used part 2% milk and part half and half. I used converted rice because I’d read a story awhile back about why it provides a better texture in rice pudding. I also used a part of a cinnamon stick to flavor enhance the milk/rice mixture. I also used  half the amount of brown sugar. I tasted it and thought it was just fine. I also added nutmeg. The real freshly grated stuff – both to the pudding and just a whiff of it on top too. This one’s a keeper.
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Rice Pudding

Recipe By: Adapted from Simply Recipes (blog)
Serving Size: 6

3 1/2 cups 2% low-fat milk
2 cups half and half
3/4 cup converted rice [Uncle Ben’s], or regular rice
2 pinches salt
1/2 whole cinnamon stick
2 large eggs
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins

1. In a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk, rice, cinnamon stick and salt to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20-25 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Remove scum from top of milk if any forms (and discard). Remove and discard the cinnamon stick.
2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together egg and brown sugar until well mixed. Add a half cup of the hot rice mixture to the egg mixture, a tablespoon at a time, vigorously whisking to incorporate.
3. Add egg mixture back into the saucepan of rice and milk and stir, on low heat, for 10 minutes or so, until thickened. Be careful not to have the mixture come to a boil at this point. Stir in the vanilla, ground cinnamon and nutmeg. Remove from heat and stir in the raisins. Serve warm or cold.
Per Serving: 364 Calories; 14g Fat (33.7% calories from fat); 12g Protein; 49g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 111mg Cholesterol; 177mg Sodium.

A year ago: Butternut Squash Soup with Pancetta

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on November 6th, 2009:

    I have to ask, what is converted rice?

    Gosh, never thought that might not be available everywhere. Here it’s “Uncle Ben’s” brand. It’s rice that’s been parboiled and dried, then packaged. It develops a bit of a harder skin, if you can call it that, which, when it is finally cooked (the same as regular rice, but uses less water and a bit shorter cooking time), is considered a low-glycemic rice – it takes longer to disgest (a good thing) and the kernels are more defined and don’t stick together at all. In this recipe you could just use regular rice. No change to the recipe at all. Thanks for asking . . . carolyn t

  2. julie

    said on November 6th, 2009:

    It really does sound heavenly 🙂 I love all the warm comforting flavors mixed in there together..yum!

    It is good – it’s really just rice pudding – I put the “heavenly” superlative on it. But it delish. . . carolyn t

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