Subscribe

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

Archives

Currently Reading


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

Just finished reading The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant. A very, very intriguing book. The book is written from the voice of a Jewish grandmother as she tells her granddaughter the saga of her life starting about 1910, who struggles with her own individuality, with her domineering mother who never says a kind word to her. It’s certainly a coming-of-age story as she grows up, finds a job, makes friends, joins a literary girls club, moves out, but still suffers under her mother’s thumb and tongue. She becomes a reporter on a local newspaper, which opens her eyes to more of the world than she ever knew. She finally meets the right man (of course!) and she shares the stories about her life, and her friends and family members as she grows up, giving some sage advice along the way. Part of the time she’s talking to herself – to her young self  (really wanting to tell young Addie to keep on, forgive herself for her perceived transgressions, to live life, and experience the world).

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time – Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

As soon as I finished the above book I promptly visited my church library and found a whole shelf of Rivers’ books, and grabbed one called The Atonement Child. This book takes place in the 1980s or 90s, about a young college student who is raped. She was engaged to be married, was a stellar student. The book chronicles what happens to her when she discovers she is pregnant from the rape. Every possible thing goes wrong in her life. I don’t want to spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it, but I couldn’t put it down. I ended up spending a good part of a day plowing through it. You hear her inner voice (I’m guessing this is a common thread in Rivers’ books) from a Christian perspective. Lots of meaty issues to discuss in a book club if your group would be interested and willing to talk about rape, abortion, adoption and the thorny issues surrounding all of those things, but with a Christian bent, for sure.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen. It’s kind of amazing how many and varied plot lines can be created from events of WWII. This is another one, about a current day woman who finds papers in the attic, after her father’s death, with references to “the child.” She never knew her father could have had another child – could she have a step-sibling somewhere? Her father she knew, had been shot down over Italy, but he never talked much about it. But of course, she must go to Italy to find out about this “child.” The book flips back and forth from this daughter on the search, to her father during the war, all of it taking place in a very small town in Tuscany. It’s about the varied people she meets who want her to go away and not dredge up anything about the war years (are they hiding something, you question), about how much she loves the landscape, and some of the people. And about the intense love affair between the injured pilot and a caring woman of the village. Very charming story. I could almost smell the flowers, taste the olives, hear the bees flitting, and loved the prose about the simple meals that were described. I really enjoyed the book. Perhaps not enough meat for a book club read, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it nonetheless.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

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 and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. 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-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.

 

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 Uncategorized, on January 7th, 2012.

For the last several years I’ve created a list, in January, of all my favorite recipes I’ve posted during the last 12 months. It’s really quite easy to do since I keep a list of my posts and they get highlighted as the year goes by. I wasn’t sure I’d have enough for 2011, but not so – I have more than I’ve had in some years. That was a surprise. I’ve ended up with about 19. That’s about 1 1/2 per month. As I looked back through the list I tried to delete a few from this list, but just couldn’t. They’re all just too good to not include. They’ve all been added to my Carolyn’s Favs list you can access on my home page (just under my main blog photo, a file tab far right). So here goes (kind of in a category order):

burgers_bacon_feta_thumb

Beef Burgers with Bacon, Thyme and Wine Sauce on a Spinach Bed – a recipe I created myself – the sauce from an old Julia Child standby, the bacon inside the burger to add flavor and juiciness, the bed of spinach on the bottom to round out the meal.

easy_cassoulet_thumb

Easy Cassoulet – oh my goodness, do I love this dish. Cassoulet is a French peasant dish, but this version is easy, has chicken (instead of duck), pork and sausage in it. Part of the deliciousness comes from the crunchy fresh bread topping. Make lots so you can freeze some.

roast_chicken_juiciest_thumb

Have you always wanted to make THE perfect baked chicken? You’ve found it here, with this Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Weeknight Roast Chicken. Requires just a little bit more time, but uses a different method. The juiciest chicken you’ll ever eat. Promise.

weeknight_bolognese_thumb

Really, I love Ina Garten’s recipes. And this Weeknight Bolognese is a blue-ribbon winner in my book. I’ve made this at least 7-8 times in 2011, and I make it in big quantities so I’ll have some to freeze in 2-person portions (without the pasta, of course). So worth making.

risotto-sausage-spinach-corn_thumb

This risotto – oh gosh – is so delicious. I really think I could make this entrée for my own dinner about every two weeks for the rest of my life. A Phillis Carey recipe, called Risotto with Turkey Sausage, Corn, Leeks, Fresh Spinach and Tomatoes. It’s chock full of vegetables too.

green_beans_balsamic_dill_thumb

There are days when I think I could live as a vegetarian, if I had some of these side dishes (here and below) to eat every day. Like this delicious Haricot Verts with Balsamic Vinaigrette. But then, if I were a vegetarian I’d have to give up turkey sausage. And grilled steak. And roast chicken. Nope, can’t do that!

sweet_cole_slaw_thumb

Regular, ordinary cole slaw just doesn’t hold a candle to the couple of recipes here on my blog. It’s obvious I just don’t like those mayo-based dressings. Period. If that’s you too, then try this Sweet Cabbage Slaw (I made it with Splenda so my diabetic hubby could have all he wanted). And it’s not that sweet.

rice_veg_salad_thumb

This rice and veggie salad has been a staple in my summer grilling rotation for years. And it’s the Silver Palate Vinaigrette that “makes” it. So really, this 2011 favorite is about both – the salad – Rice and Vegetable Salad – and the vinaigrette dressing – the Silver Palate’s one. They’re both in the same recipe/post.

summer_squash_casserole_ritz_crackers_thumb

One of my favorite veggies is yellow crookneck squash. More so in the summer when the squash is at its prime sweetness. This casserole is just full of flavor – Summer Squash Casserole with Jalapeno and Cheese.  You could make it with zucchini too, I’m sure. But it’s really great with the yellow squash.

corn_bacon_cheddar_strata_thumb

This brunch dish – Corn, Bacon and Cheddar Strata – will just blow your socks off. At least it does for me. Nothing low calorie about it, but you could try smaller portions and it wouldn’t be quite so decadent! It’s the bacon that adds fat. But there’s also lots of carbs (corn and bread slices). But it’s sensational.

posole_pork_hominy_stew_thumb

It’s no secret around my house that I’m a nut for soups. I make them year ‘round. This one I made when we were visiting our Northern California kids and grandkids. A great way to use up some leftover pork roast, if you happen to have some. It’s called Pork and Hominy Stew, but it’s really a type of Posole, the Mexican hominy soup. Just add toppings of your choice (I used avocado, cilantro and sliced radishes). Even our teenage grandkids liked this soup.

farm_house_veggie_soup_thumb

I’ve been on a mission for some years trying to find a great vegetable soup that satisfies me. That isn’t bland, or too heavy with carbs. I’ve found it, and since trying it just a couple of months ago, I’ve made it three times. It does contain some carbs (and you could add more if you want them) but mostly it’s all kinds of good-for-you veggies. Part of its secret is porcini mushroom powder (you grind up the dried ones in a blender or spice grinder) which adds great flavor to the liquid in the soup. It’s a Cook’s Illustrated recipe (from a recent issue) and it’s called Farmhouse Vegetable Soup.

ital_sausage_mushroom_leek_dressing_thumb

This is the dressing (turkey stuffing, but not stuffed into the bird) that I made this last Thanksgiving. And I suspect it will be my be-all, end-all dressing for years to come. It’s a very veggie-rich mixture (many more veggies than standard in most dressings). It also contains Italian sausage, but the flavor comes from the multitude of mushrooms and leeks in it too. It’s called Italian Sausage Dressing with Leeks and Mushrooms. It’s a Phillis Carey recipe.

ginger_apple_cake_whole_thumb

As I’ve been compiling these recipes I’m laughing at myself – I have three desserts with apples. I guess I really do love them, huh? This one, Ginger Apple Cake Torte is worth making. A winner of an online contest at Food52, a food blog written by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. The two women wrote my latest favorite cookbook, The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century.

choc_chunk_brownies2_thumb

Do note, those of you who know me well, that there is only ONE chocolate recipe in this list. Amazing, really. Apples must be my dessert of choice this year! Yet, these brownies are so good, so rich, so decadent. You’ll be very glad to have made them. Chocolate Chunk Brownies are a must-make.

teddies-apple-cake_thumb

If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog, you know that last year I wrote up this post and this other post about how much fun I had reading the The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century. I’m still tremendously impressed with the cooking marathon performed by the authors (Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs) to compile the jillion recipes in the cookbook. They tested every single recipe, some more than once. And one of the most requested recipes is this one, Teddie’s Apple Cake. Oh so very worth making. And not difficult, either.

purple_plum_torte_thumb

On the coattails of the apple cake above, this recipe, the Purple Plum Torte, is THE #1 most requested recipe at the New York Times. And it’s SO easy. Trust me. You just need to have plums in season. This also comes from the The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century.

classic_gingerbread_cake_thumb

As I’m writing this, I just made this Classic Gingerbread a few days ago. Again. I didn’t make the Pumpkin Spice Gingerbread Trifle with it, that was also delicious, but I made it just for a family gathering and topped it with some vanilla ice cream. And I snuck a little piece of it yesterday with my lunch. The best gingerbread I’ve ever had – tender, flavorful and packed with spices. After having this version of gingerbread, I can just about guarantee you’ll never try another recipe.

cajun_apple_cake_thumb

And lastly, here’s the last apple dessert of 2011. A Cajun Apple Cake with Brandy Drizzle. It’s the drizzle that makes it. Not for tea-totalers. A tender cake filled with chunks of apple and lots of spices, then topped with nuts and the boozy sauce. Another great Phillis Carey recipe.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Get Recipes by Email, Free!

Leave Your Comment