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Recently finished reading The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by 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. 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 angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. 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.

 

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 Salads, Veggies/sides, on April 19th, 2010.

This is a kind of a salad. Well, or a side dish. What do you call a pasta dish that’s served at room temperature? In any case, this was a very easy one to make and had lovely fragrances (saffron and basil). I think the clipping I have is from an ancient Gourmet article, but I’m not sure. I’ve changed it some anyway. Not a lot, but a little. And the best part is that you can make this ahead. We were entertaining the night before Easter, and I needed to take a carb for Easter dinner too. So I made a big portion and divided it in half. Just remember to add the garnishes (almonds, green onions and basil) just before serving. I had some extra fresh squeeze orange juice, so I drizzled that into the salad just before serving.
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Orzo with Dried Cherries and Almonds

Recipe By: Adapted from a recipe in Gourmet
Serving Size: 4
NOTES: If you squeeze extra orange juice, save it until just before serving and drizzle it over the pasta. It gives it a new little jolt of flavor. And if you make this as a part of a large dinner, it will serve more than 4 people.

1 cup orzo
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads — crumbled
2 teaspoons orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup dried cherries
2 tablespoons slivered almonds — toasted
2 whole green onion — sliced thin diagonally
1/2 cup fresh basil — minced

1. In a saucepan, boil the orzo in 6 cups boiling water with the saffron for 8 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Drain it and rinse under cold water.
2. In a bowl stir together the zest, orange juice and salt to taste, adding the oil in a stream, whisking, and whisk until it is emulsified.
3. In a bowl toss the orzo (drained well), with the dressing, the cherries and half of the green onions. Just before serving garnish with almonds and the extra scallion. Serve the orzo at room temperature.
Per Serving: 320 Calories; 13g Fat (37.1% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 44g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 7mg Sodium.

A year ago: Pork Tenderloin with Pears and Mustard and Port Wine Sauce
Two years ago: Coffee Walnut Cookies

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  1. Savvy in the Rockies

    said on July 24th, 2013:

    Just took this salad for picnic at outdoor concert at Deer Valley….22 hungry palates all agree this salad is a keeper!! Easy to make, can deal with 100++ temps, and made for even better leftovers the next day!! Will make it again- and again!

    That’s great – so glad you enjoyed it. I haven’t made it in awhile so thanks for the reminder! . . . carolyn t

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