Get updates sent to you for free by RSS, or by email:


Currently Reading

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Just finished reading 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 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.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in easy, Soups, on October 8th, 2010.

Really, I thought I’d posted this recipe ages ago. I’ve had it for years. Have made it a few times. It’s incredibly easy. You can make it in less than 30 minutes. Which is probably why it was one of Rachel Ray’s recipes, although I got it at a cooking class some years ago. It was credited to Rachel, but I could not find this recipe anywhere online, so perhaps the cooking instructor had changed it a bit. Or perhaps it’s in one of Rachel’s cookbooks and not available online.

What’s a stoup, you ask? Something in between stew and soup. A thicker soup than a traditional soup. But not quite as thick as a stew. And I think Rachel Ray coined the word stoup. What makes this one thicker is the addition of 8 ounces of cream cheese. It could be made with ground turkey, I suppose (I use ground beef). And you can use any kind of pasta, really. I used egg noodles this time just because they were the handiest to reach in my pantry. You could use elbow macaroni, or penne, or bowtie pasta. It would be best to use some kind of short pasta – not long noodle type. Just keep that in mind.

First you cook up the ground meat, add garlic, then stock, Italian seasonings, then you add canned kidney beans (or any kind of beans would do – it’s just that the dark kidneys look good against the creamy backdrop of the soup) and canned, chopped tomatoes. Lastly you add in the pasta and cook just until al dente and add the cream cheese. It melts quickly enough if you stir it gently. Serve and sprinkle with fresh basil. Done. Now, wasn’t that easy? It’s all made in one pot. Great for a fall cool evening, I think. It’s almost soup weather around here.

printer-friendly PDF

Beef with Cheesy Macaroni Stoup

Serving Size: 8

12 ounces extra lean ground beef
2 whole garlic clove — minced
2 1/2 cups beef stock
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 cup macaroni — like penne, bowtie, short egg noodles or elbow
16 ounces tomatoes, low sodium — canned, chopped
16 ounces kidney beans — canned, drained
8 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons fresh basil — for garnish

1. In a large saucepan cook the ground beef over medium heat until it loses all of its pink color. Add minced garlic toward the end. Drain the beef in a strainer or colander, then transfer to a large plate lined with 3 layers of paper towels. Blot the beef with additional paper towels. Return beef to the saucepan.
2. Add broth and all the seasonings (except basil). Cover and bring to a boil, then stir in the pasta. Return to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer until the macaroni is al dente – just barely done, about 8 minutes (depending on the type of pasta, of course). Stir in the tomatoes and kidney beans, and return to a boil. Add the cream cheese, cut up into chunks and allow to melt. Serve immediately with a garnish of thin slices of basil.
Per Serving: 456 Calories; 18g Fat (35.4% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 48g Carbohydrate; 15g Dietary Fiber; 60mg Cholesterol; 796mg Sodium.

A year ago: Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting
Three years ago: Drop Biscuits

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Get Recipes by Email, Free!

Leave Your Comment