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Just finished reading How It All Began: A Novelby 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 (she arrived after the birth, actually). 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 father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. 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.

On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of middle-aged high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, and wealthy) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.


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 Salad Dressings, on February 2nd, 2010.

I was looking up a recipe on my own blog the other day. Since my computer is right here in the kitchen, it’s easier for me to pull up my blog and find the recipe than it is to find it in the recipe program I use. And I was astounded to find that THIS recipe had never been posted to my blog. My goodness. Can hardly believe it. I’ve done a bunch of salad dressings, but this is one of my favorites.

garlic salad dressing in blenderIt does have a bunch of ingredients in this. But as I’ve mentioned before about a couple of my garlic-enhanced salad dressings, the first thing I do is combine the fresh garlic (I always use the fresh stuff from a bulb) and salt in the blender. I whiz it up for about 30 seconds and just let it sit. Then, I leisurely find all the other ingredients needed for the dressing. Once they’re at hand, then I begin adding them to the blender jar. In this case, all the other ingredients (olive oil, canola oil, blue cheese, Parmigiano cheese, salt, pepper, celery seeds, dry mustard, are piled into the jar. Then you whiz it up until it’s thoroughly combined.

IMG_1673Oh, I forgot about the lime juice – from fresh limes, please. I happened to make a double batch, because when I make it, I might as well make a bunch. It keeps for weeks in the refrigerator.

There is no cream in the dressing. I call it “creamy” because once you whiz up the blue cheese, it makes it creamy colored. This is really a vinaigrette type – that’s why I included the photo of the dressing in the blender before I homogenized it. It uses just 2 ounces of blue cheese – so this isn’t like a creamy blue cheese dressing. The blue provides a nice undertone; it’s not the star of the show.

In the photo at right I made it and didn’t whiz up the blue cheese as much as usual, so it has small chunks of blue. I like it that way sometimes, although the recipe indicates to blend it thoroughly. Your choice.

Sometimes after it’s been in the refrigerator for awhile the dressing does separate. But I just shake it well and it’s fine. Because it contains some olive oil, when it’s refrigerated it solidifies, so just take it out of the refrigerator about 10 minutes before you need it and shake it. It should be of a thick pouring consistency.

I’ve been making this dressing for so long I don’t know it’s origin. It really isn’t “mine.” There are no notes on the page in my ancient recipe binder. It’s a family favorite, though, and worth making.
printer-friendly PDF

Creamy Garlic Salad Dressing

Serving Size: 12

2 cloves garlic — minced (use fresh garlic, not bottled)
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup lime juice — (please use fresh)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 ounces blue cheese — roughly chopped
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated

1. In the blender combine the garlic and salt and whiz a little. Let sit for a few minutes while you gather the other ingredients. Add all of the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Or blend just enough so there are still some small pieces of blue cheese visible. Either way . . .
2. Store in refrigerator.
Per Serving: 181 Calories; 20g Fat (95.2% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 4mg Cholesterol; 422mg Sodium.

A year ago: Apple Pear Upside Down Cake
Two years ago: Scott’s Broccoli Salad

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