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me_in_paris_198That’s me, on a trip,  sitting in a Paris restaurant.
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Just finished reading a really sweet memoir, called Champagne Baby: How One Parisian Learned to Love Wine–and Life–the American Way by Laure Dugas. The author is very young, considering she’s written a book already (good for her, I say!). She was born to an old Champagne family in France, and paid little attention to anything regarding the wine business until her uncle (the CEO) offered to send her to the United States to do a 6-month tour with the vineyard’s distributor. She was fresh out of college and hadn’t really decided what she was going to do exactly. She’d be the spokesperson (brand ambassador they called her) for the family. Despite having a boyfriend, she made the leap anyway. Each chapter tells the story of her journey in America (with little language skills) or about what she learned about wine. And what she learned about long-distance relationships too. If you’ve never experienced much French wine, this would be a good introduction (she explains all about the different French wine regions and how/why they raise the grapes they do), but it’s woven into the very interesting life she led, living on a shoestring, meeting other French ex-pats in New York, and her thoughts on going to California, Boston, Memphis and other cities. When her 6 months were up, she wasn’t ready to go home. You’ll have to read it to find out what she did then. I liked the book immensely.

If you’ve been reading this sidebar much over the years, you’ve rarely seen mysteries here. Great for an airplane read, maybe, but I don’t find them (usually) gripping enough. But one of my book clubs is reading a book by C.J. Box, called Open Season (A Joe Pickett Novel). Joe Pickett is a game warden in the wild country of Wyoming. He’s a good man. A family man. A good husband. AND a dogged investigator whenever anything goes awry in the hills. Usually it’s a murder of some kind. He writes a really good book that incorporates the mystery, lots of character study, some family stuff, but also a lot about the animals, the flora and fauna of the parks and land, and this one is also about an endangered species. I could hardly put it down. I’m SO glad I read this, and yesterday I visited my local library and checked out two more of his books. They’re easy reads; not overly long. But very absorbing. You’ll fall in love with Joe Pickett’s daughter Sheridan, too.

A page-turner of a book, Before the Fall by Noah Hawley grabbed me nearly from the first sentence. A small group of people take a private jet out of Martha’s Vineyard. Sixteen minutes later the plane crashes into the ocean. Two survive, a 4-year old boy and a single guy, an artist/painter, who ended up on the plane almost by happen-chance. What might have looked more like a fluke accident turns a bit sinister when you begin to learn more about the passengers on the plane, and the crew; the parents of the young boy, and a few others. Each person is scrutinized through the author’s lens and his/her culpability is analyzed. The painter and the boy form a bond because the man rescues the child and they swim miles and miles to shore. It’s just riveting. It’s not a James Bond type of thriller, but a real-life kind of drilling down into the core of each person on the plane. What I will mention, though, is that once you’ve read this, there isn’t a whole lot to discuss as a book club read, which is often the case for mysteries. Once the case is solved, there isn’t much to talk about except the characters, perhaps.

Also read another book by Haruf, called Eventide. It’s a bit of a carryover from Haruf’s book Plainsong (see review a paragraph or so down). Haruf is a “spare” writer. There is sufficient description. You definitely get a sense of place and the people, but there isn’t much emotion elicited. You have to scratch it out in between the lines. He’s a wonderful writer IMHO. I’ve now read 3 of his novels. This book takes place in high and deep Colorado country, and it’s a small town, with small town kinds of goings-on. There are some unsavory characters, and the heartwarming ones too which make the book worth reading. Good over evil, for sure. Worth reading. Too bad Haruf died in 2014. His books will be missed.

Eight Hundred Grapes: A Novel by Laura Dave. I bought it because it’s about Sebastapol, a cute little town in California wine country, in Sonoma County, although it’s on the fringes of the more mainstream wineries. A daughter of a friend of mine recently moved there, and when I visited her a few months ago, I was charmed by the cute downtown and the small village feel to it. Anyway, although the backdrop of the entire book is about the winery, the wines, the fields, the processes of wine making, it’s more about the family relationships. It seems that everyone (mom, dad, 2 sons, wife of one, a daughter [who is the protagonist] and her fiance and his ex-girlfriend) is in the midst of extreme turmoil. I swear, when I think about authors as they toil away in their aeries writing, they compile a big long list on a huge whiteboard of all the different awful things (divorce, affairs, fistfights, love lost, love gained, screaming and yelling, public drunkenness) they can make happen in one book and they pick and choose, yet make every effort to pack in as many of them as they can. No one in this family is immune from high levels of emotion and action or acting out about something or many things. I enjoyed the book despite those character flaws which occur on nearly every page. You have compassion for each one of them. Yet they’re a close family nonetheless. I haven’t read any of Laura Dave’s other books, but I suspect this one will be a winner. It’s not on any best-seller lists, but amongst book club readers, I believe it’s a strong contender.

When one of my book groups gathered last week, we discussed a bunch of books that we might read for our next Sept-August “year.” We select them all, for the whole year, in advance. On the list of 18 possible ones (we’ll read nine only) was an old classic – I guess you could call it a classic – Plainsong – by Kent Haruf. Since it was published some years ago I dropped by the library, and sure enough, they had a copy. I came home and devoured it in one fell swoop. What a story. Tender, yet harsh in some respects. It tells the story of a group of small-town people (a teacher – a man separated from his wife, but he has the 2 boys who both play prominent roles in the book; a single woman caring for her aging and Alzheimer’s driven father; a young teenage girl who should have known better, but got pregnant; a couple of very old brothers, both single, struggling along with their ranch). All this takes place in a small town in eastern Colorado. I laughed. I cried. I wanted to reach through the pages to some of these characters to give them a hug. It’s a winner of a book. I may have to read more of Haruf’s books. The prose is spare, yet you can feel the anguish, the pain, the love, the caring. What a book!

 

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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