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Since I’m a fan of Ann Patchett, it’s no surprise that I wanted to buy her most recent book, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. It’s a book of short stories, but not fictional ones – it’s a compilation of essays and articles she’s written over the course of her writing life. My favorite is the one in which she describes in intimate detail how she goes about writing a book. About the process, her thinking, and the the hard, hard work it entails. I loved every one of the stories. She is quite self-deprecating about the book – it likely wasn’t her idea to put it together as she never thought any of her essays were worth much. She wrote them to make a living. Each of the chapters (essays) has been updated and/or addended to, so she did have to put some spit and polish on all of them before sending this group to the publisher. She’s written essays for a very esoteric group of publications; some I’d never heard of. But I enjoyed the book from beginning to end.

Also just finished reading The Invention of Wings: A Novel by Sue Monk Kidd. What a story. Sometimes it’s a good thing to read the author’s notes before you read a book. I guess I’m glad I didn’t (in this case the notes were at the end of the book) because it was then, afterwards, that I read that one of the characters in this novel is fictional; the other two (sisters) were real. There’s a bit about the Quaker religion in this book too, which was different. This is a slavery story and about the beginnings of the abolitionist movement. Interwoven between the 2 sisters who make waves about anti-slavery is the poignant story of one particular slave and her hard, hard life. It’s heartbreaking in many respects, not just because of the violence and abuse heaped upon her. The book is almost a page-turner. Very glad I read it.

Also read The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice by Laurel Corona. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I enjoyed it a lot. It has a rather unusual story line, all envisioned by the author from reading a tiny line of elaborate script from a journal at what remains of a foundling hospital (run mostly like a convent by Catholic nuns) in Venice. It said something like Antonio Vivaldi purchased “a bow for Maddalena Rossa.” That started the author’s novel journey. Two sisters are raised at the Ospedale della Pieta. One becomes famous for her violin skills; the other for her voice. One is married “out” and the other stays cloistered her entire life. Then you throw Vivaldi himself into the mix, as he really was paid by the Ospedale for his compositions and for teaching some of the residents to play instruments. It’s an enlightening story about Vivaldi himself (a priest, with a lot of questions about his piety). It takes place in the early 1700s. Fascinating story and I want to listen again in total to Vivaldi’s very famous work, The Four Seasons, as a result of reading this. I’ve heard it many times before, but it will have new meaning now.

Also read The Time In Between: A Novel by Maria Duenas (translated). Apparently this book has been a runaway best seller in Europe as it deals with a little known, or I should say a part of WWII that you’ve probably never read about – Spain. The heroine is a Madrid seamstress, but is seduced by a young man to go to Morocco. She knows no one and is left high and dry when the lover disappears. She finds her way, makes friends, begins sewing couturier clothing in Morocco. The Spanish Revolution intervenes and merges into WWII. She becomes a spy of sorts (in Madrid) because she is coveted as a seamstress to the Nazi wives of Madrid. It’s a page-turner and informative. Good read.

IN THE POWDER ROOM: Our guest half-bath has a little tiny table with a pile of books that I change every now and then. They’re books that might pique someone’s interest even if for a very short read. The Art of Travel, a collection of essays about traveling (it’s not a how-to), gathering a variety of stories of some historic authors and where and why they traveled; The Greatest Stories Never Told; and Sara Midda’s South of France; also Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages (just the cutest book – with a miscellany of things – letters, grocery lists, notes, reminders, confessions the author discovered hidden inside the books he purchased for his used bookstore); and The Trouble with Poetry (Billy Collins).

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small engraved sterling silver tea spoons that I use to taste 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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