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Just finished a stunning book, The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives (don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read and is reviewed below) and really liked it. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

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 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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