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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 Soups, on May 22nd, 2008.

Chilled Cucumber Soup, with just the hint of thickness to it. You can garnish it with fresh dill if you have it, or do as I have, sprinkle the top with some toasted sliced almonds (good for the crunch).

It’s been years – eons even – that I’ve been making cold cucumber soup. And I always thought my recipe was just the greatest. Well . . . until I tasted my friend Jackie’s soup recently. It was a lovely bridal shower at her home, and this cold cucumber soup was served as a first course. It was absolutely wonderful. Smooth. Extra smooth, with a different texture than mine has. Jackie graciously shared the recipe with me (thank you, Jackie!), and come to find out this is a COOKED soup (mine is a raw soup only, although it also has buttermilk added). And this one has the addition of Cream of Wheat (just a little bit) to thicken it very slightly. You have no idea it’s there, but that’s what the elusive texture was.

You cook up some green onions with butter, then add chicken broth, vinegar and dill weed (fresh), also some Cream of Wheat and finally the chopped-up cucumbers. The soup is smoothed twice in the blender and sour cream is added at the end. Then you garnish it with a bit more dill weed. I did make it with full-fat sour cream. Next time I might try it with low-fat just to see how it tasted. A lovely soup. Try it. Highly recommended.
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Cream of Cucumber Soup

Recipe: From my friend, Jackie P.
Serving Size: 8

1/2 cup green onions — minced
3 tablespoons butter
6 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1 1/2 pounds cucumbers — peeled, seeded, chopped fine
4 tablespoons Cream of Wheat — (farina)
salt and pepper — to taste
2 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons dill weed — for garnish

1. In a large saucepan melt butter over medium heat and add green onions. Sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add chicken broth, vinegar and dill weed. Bring to a boil, add the Cream of Wheat and the chopped cucumbers. Simmer, partially covered, for 20-25 minutes.
2. In batches, blend soup mixture in a blender (hold lid and don’t overfill or the heat will blow off the top). Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cool completely, then refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
3. Blend soup again with the addition of sour cream. This can be done up to an hour before serving. Whisk soup just before serving. Serve cold sprinkled with dill weed on top.
Per Serving: 225 Calories; 18g Fat (69.5% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 37mg Cholesterol; 652mg Sodium.

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  1. Alanna @ A Veggie Venture

    said on May 23rd, 2008:

    Of all the vegetable soups I’ve made, cream of cucumber I’ve yet to try. I love the idea of the farina as a thickener plus — oh whoa — all the sour cream. Delicious, delicious!

  2. Carolyn

    said on May 24th, 2008:

    It was (is) delicious. I still have some in the refrigerator and it’s kept just fine for 5 days. It has a very VERY smooth texture, which I like a lot. My previous soup was very chunky, crunchy with the raw cucumbers (although grated). This soup is so much better.

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