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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 easy, Pork, pressure cooker, on February 5th, 2012.


A super easy pressure cooker recipe for country ribs. Not only was it easy, but the flavor of the sauce was outstanding. You can see the little pieces of onion in the sauce.

Going to the freezer, I grabbed a small package of the Berkshire pork we purchased last summer. I’m embarrassed to say that this is the first of it I’ve used (we bought a quarter of a 4-H Berkshire pig). My freezer has been just overflowing. I’ve not purchased any fresh meat for months (except for additional chicken which we eat often), in an attempt to use up some of the good stuff we have in the freezer. But with just two of us eating, it takes awhile to make much of a hole in the jam-packed freezer contents.

In addition, I didn’t even think about how I’d  prepare it. So I went to Eat Your Books, searched for “country ribs” and it told me in the short form what ingredients are in each recipe. Choosing one, yup, I had all that was needed. I can’t say that I have ever done country ribs in a pressure cooker. What a winner of a recipe this is. 25 minutes in the pressure cooker and it was done! Wow. Ordinarily I would have simmered the ribs for awhile in water, then we would have grilled them on the barbecue. Not needed with this recipe. It came from Pressure Cooking for Everyone by Richard Rodgers.

First the ribs were browned in oil in the pressure cooker pot. That was easy and took just a few minutes. The ribs were removed, then I lightly sautéed an onion, with a bit of garlic added in at the end. Catsup was added, some jalapeno jelly (or you could use apricot preserves instead), chili powder and some water to give it just enough saucy consistency. The ribs were added back in, on went the lid and I brought the pressure cooker up to steam and it cooked for 25 minutes. I brought the heat down right away by putting the pressure cooker under the cold water faucet in the sink. Done. While it had been hissing away I made a green salad and some cauliflower.

The pressure cooker pan did have a bit of grease in it, so I spooned that out, then scooped out the remaining barbecue sauce onto the cooked ribs. Oh, it was fantastic. This recipe was so easy – I’d make it again any day. And I just loved the flavor of the sauce.

What I liked: the flavor of the sauce was just right as far as sweet scale. Because the onions are chopped, they don’t disintegrate, and I liked that little bit of texture in the sauce too. Easy to make too. I loved how quickly it cooked too. Just what a pressure cooker is for!

What I didn’t like: nothing at all. (If you were going to make mashed potatoes or rice on the side, I’d suggest you double the amount of sauce as you’ll want some to spoon onto the side dish.)

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Sweet-and-Spicy Barbecued Country Ribs (pressure cooker)

Recipe By: Pressure Cooking for Everyone, by Rick Rodgers
Serving Size: 4

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 pounds pork country-style ribs — (cut into servings)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion — chopped
2 cloves garlic — peeled, minced
1 cup catsup — Heinz brand, preferably
1/2 cup jalapeno jelly — or apricot preserves
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 cup water

1. In a 5-7 quart pressure cooker, heat the oil over medium-high heat. In batches, add the ribs and brown lightly, about 5-7 minutes total for each batch. Transfer ribs to a plate, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
2. Pour out all but a tablespoon of the fat in the pan and return to the heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add garlic during last minute of cooking.
3. Stir in the catsup, jalapeno jelly, chili powder and water and stir. Add the ribs back into the pan. Cover and lock lid in place. Follow directions for your pressure cooker, but bring it up to pressure and cook for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and quick-release the pressure [I put it under a stream of cold water in the kitchen sink]. Open the lid, tilting it away from you to block any escaping steam.
4. If desired, you may heat the sauce on the stove top and boil it down to a desired thicker consistency. Or, spoon out any pools of fat and scoop the sauce on the top of all the ribs and serve.
Per Serving: 770 Calories; 47g Fat (54.7% calories from fat); 41g Protein; 47g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 160mg Cholesterol; 1141mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on February 5th, 2012:

    My aunt used to cook everything in her pressure cooker, a whole meal for three! The thing always scared me to death though, all that hissing!

    Well, my first pressure cooker years ago (1960’s) scared me, too. In fact, I went out and forgot it was cooking something – ruined it. It took me 20 more years to buy another one. I love this one – it’s much more automated and doesn’t scare me at all. They do have completed electric ones now, I’ve read. Anyway, it’s altogether easy to use now. And it sure does put together a meal in a hurry. . . .carolyn t

  2. Eddie Kominek

    said on October 31st, 2013:

    This worked really well. Meat was super tender, and the meal was made very fast. I made garlic mashed potatoes and purple cabbage coleslaw on the side. I went with the apricot preserves and put a few tbs of sriracha in the sauce as well as used 2 tbs instead of 2 tsp of chili. It was sweet and spicy, but we liked it! I also used garlic powder and lawry’s seasoning salt on the meat while browning. Great recipe, this is one to save. Fast, simple and my wife’s “favorite thing this month.”

    I’m glad you liked it. Your additions are good ones – maybe I’ll have to try it myself! . . . carolyn t

  3. Tiffany

    said on December 7th, 2015:

    My husband bought me a pressure cooker with the matching cook book advertised on HSN. So far, only 1 of 5 recipes has turned out well. I put the book away and found this wonderful recipe on Pinterest. These sweet and spicy barbecued country ribs turned out simply fantastic! The meat was tender and flavorful. In the end, I left the ribs in the cooker while I cooked down the sauce. We poured it over the ribs and the boys absolutely loved them. I’ll definitely be making these again!

    I’m so glad you tried this recipe. I’ve made it a dozen times, for sure, and it’s always turned out perfectly. They’re on the sweet side, but the short ribs flavor shines through. . . carolyn t

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