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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 Chicken, easy, on November 24th, 2011.

dinahs_chicken_curry

Looking for something simple for dinner? Something to make with leftover chicken or turkey? This is your ticket – easy – tasty and very, very healthy (only 4 grams fat per serving).

Yes, indeed, I’ve copied the title exactly – honest, I didn’t make it up. Some of you – those of you who are “of a certain age” will remember Dinah Shore.image She was a famous singer and entertainer back in the day. She produced many a vocal album, was the spokes-singer-woman for Chevrolet for years (remember “See the U S A in your Chevrolet?”). I can sing it in my head and just did!  One of her Chevrolet commercials is available on youtube if you’re interested. She had a long-standing relationship with Burt Reynolds (20 years her junior). Was married more than once, I believe.

During the 1970’s she had her own talk show, and I was a young stay-at-home mom at that time, so I must have watched her show regularly. It was about that time that I bought a small orange covered 6×9 3-ring binder, pictured below. I’d not been married all that long so didn’t have a huge repertoire of recipes anyway. I began copying all of my favorites into the binder and as the years progressed I added more and more. I scotch taped some recipes in there. I folded some newspaper articles, even a couple of pages that came loose from my then favorite cookbook. My mother even wrote a couple of recipes in the book at some point. I typed some, and some were written in by hand in blue, black or red ink. Some recipes now have a big, huge X over them. Tried and discarded, obviously!

orange_binder_collage

Many of the old-old recipes you’ve read here on my blog come from this binder. Most of the recipes have been transferred to my MasterCook software program, but there are still a few that haven’t made it there . . . . yet. This particular recipe is in the binder, neatly typed on my old Olympia portable typewriter my parents bought me when I went away to college, and I did write in Dinah Shore as the origin for the recipe and I wrote “from her TV show” and “winner of her cook-off.” The recipe isn’t in Dinah’s cookbook I own – it may not have ever made it into any of her cookbooks. Who knows. The recipe isn’t available anywhere online – I searched as I was writing this post.

Dinah had a helper at home – maybe she was Dinah’s full-time cook? – Pauline Bumann – who contributed lots of the recipes or to their collaboration. But Dinah was a good cook all by herself. She loved to entertain, and did so often according to the cookbook stories.

Dinah was a gracious host on the show. (Dinah Shore died in 1994 from ovarian cancer, age 77.) You can’t equate Dinah to an Oprah, for instance, but Dinah was entertaining and witty. A convivial host, as I recall. Dinah published several cookbooks. I own the 1983 Dinah Shore Cookbook. Can’t say that I cook from it anymore, but I haven’t given it away, either (oooh, I have a very hard time giving away any of my cookbooks, if you haven’t ever figured that out). Anyway, on the show she’d occasionally demonstrate a recipe, and this is one of those. My recollection is that cooking a quick meal didn’t have the traction that it does now. There WERE no 30-minute meals, hardly. We had Minute Rice, canned creamed soups that went into everything, and boxed cake mixes. But I don’t believe there were any easy-to-make entrees particularly. I’m not even certain you could buy packages of just chicken breasts at the market in the early 1970’s. You bought a whole chicken. Period. Correct me if I’m wrong!

curry_ingredients

Not all of the ingredients are piled up here on my board, but you can see the bacon, garlic, mushrooms (only add if you happen to have them, as I did this time), onion, celery, applesauce, curry powder and garam masala.

To cut to the chase here, this is a really simple recipe but it has good flavor in it. Sometimes I enhance the flavors a little bit – as I’ve become a better curry cook in the ensuing years, I know what enhances curries (like garam masala seasoning, for instance). But if you want a simple, weeknight dinner using some leftover chicken or some leftover Thanksgiving turkey, try this. Use whatever condiments you’d prefer. Don’t like raisins? Use dried cranberries. Add mushrooms if you want (I did this time, although they’re not in the original recipe). Don’t have any bell peppers? Eliminate them – they’re mostly for garnish anyway. Add cilantro or Italian parsley if you want. Add some minced apple to the garnish if you’d like. And if you don’t like curry powder – well, don’t use it – just  call it it a chicken and gravy instead. It’s a healthy dinner in any case if you don’t use much bacon.

What I liked: how easy it is. What a great use of leftover chicken. Maybe I need to start a new subject category here on my blog for “leftovers,” since they seem to be such a problem for people. The dish has good flavor – certainly not gourmet fare by any means, but it’s tasty and great for a weeknight.

What I didn’t like: can’t think of a thing. Obviously if I’ve been making this since the 1970’s, it’s something I like! Don’t expect haute cuisine, though. This is simple food.

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MasterCook 5+ import file – click to run MC or right click to save file

Chicken Curry Without Worry

Recipe By: A Dinah Shore cook-off winner from 1972
Serving Size: 6
NOTES: If you have the ingredients at hand, this is a dish you can whip up in a few minutes. The original recipe used twice as much bacon. I sometimes make it with no bacon at all, just a teaspoon or two of canola oil to saute the vegetables. I usually add the raisins in with the hot mixture, and the pineapple can be a condiment or part of the curry sauce itself. Dinah Shore demonstrated this on her TV show, and it’s has been an occasional recipe I’ve used ever since. Particularly when I have leftover chicken, which is a perfect use for this.

2 slices bacon
2 whole onions — diced
2 cloves garlic — minced
4 stalks celery — chopped
3 large chicken breast halves without skin — cooked, bones removed, diced
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup applesauce
14 ounces chicken broth — low salt
1 cup milk — or coconut milk
4 teaspoons curry powder
1 tablespoon garam masala
5 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup canned pineapple chunks — diced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup bell peppers — chopped, your choice of color
3 cups cooked rice

1. Prep all the ingredients and have them ready when you’re beginning to cook. Start the rice so it’s done just as you’re about to serve the meal.
2. After you’ve cooked the bacon, pour off most of the grease, then in what’s left sauté the onions and celery until they’re soft. Add garlic, flour, and cook a few minutes, then add the applesauce, broth, milk, curry powder and tomato paste. Simmer a few minutes until thick and bubbly. Add diced chicken and heat through.
3. Serve over rice with raisins, red or green pepper bits, avocado, bacon on top, and serve hot chutney on the side.
Per Serving: 361 Calories; 4g Fat (10.6% calories from fat); 22g Protein; 60g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 42mg Cholesterol; 440mg Sodium.

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  1. Elizabeth

    said on November 24th, 2011:

    Wanted to let you know I made your cranberry relish and loved it! Also did a spatchcocked, roasted turkey marinated with the herb/garlic/olive oil and I’ve never had a turkey so moist. It was great to be able to use the backbone in the broth for gravy. Also made the Phillis Carey pumpkin pie which was great. Thank you!

    I’m SO glad, Elizabeth. I made it again this year (of course) and have way too much leftover. Even my daughter-in-law says it’s her favorite too. We’re going to have turkey sandwiches today, so with 9 of us, we’ll use up some of it! . . . thanks for your comment, Elizabeth. . . carolyn t

  2. Elizabeth

    said on November 24th, 2011:

    p.s.
    I liked Emily, Alone: A Novel. Thanks for the rec.

    You’re welcome. Glad you enjoyed it. It’s not for everyone. Not exactly a page-turner, but good. . . carolyn t

  3. Lisa

    said on December 6th, 2011:

    Search is not working on this site for specifics. I googled Refrigerator desserts and your site came up with the one I am looking for. Pineapple Refrigerator dessert. I would like the recipe but “Search” will not bring it up. Could you send it to me. This is something my mother-in-law makes and it is my husbands fav so I would like to have it this Christmas.
    Thanks, Lisa
    I’ve sent the link to your email. Good luck with it, and hope your family likes it. . . carolyn t

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