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I’m going to write up an entire blog post about this book. It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Florence as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

Also finished The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin. It popped up on a list I subscribe to and was available for $1.13 as an e-book. As it begins, you’re hearing from A.J., a grieving widower who owns a bookstore on an obscure island off the East Coast. He’s angry, rude and every other negative adjective you can imagine. A book rep comes to visit and he’s awful to her, yet she perseveres and manages to sell him a few books. You get to know his friends (a friendship with him is full of sharp points) and one day an abandoned toddler is found in his bookshop. In between the story line about A.J., the book rep, the little girl and others, you will learn all about A.J.’s book tastes. If you’re an avid reader, you’ll really enjoy that part. It’s a charming book; loved it.

Also read a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you need that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

 

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 Appetizers, on July 18th, 2012.

corn_green_chile_cheese_dip_casserole

This is an OMG dish. Sinful beyond measure. And delicious beyond measure as well. Corn, green chiles and oodles of cheese mixed up and baked. To serve hot with tortilla chips. Make this, okay?

A month of so ago my DH and I drove to the San Diego area to attend the “promotion” events for two of our grandchildren – one from grammar school and one from middle school. We stayed at a Hampton Inn in Poway, near where one of our daughters live. We had dinner in Escondido at a restaurant called Tango, highly recommended over at Trip Advisor (I rely heavily on that website for travel recommendations). But before we headed out to dinner, we stopped in the hotel lobby to enjoy the complimentary happy hour there. My hubby was quite content with the wine they offered and insisted I had to try the appetizer (only one) available. Sure, I said. I dipped a big tortilla chip into a huge heated chafing dish full of ooey-gooey corn dip. As it hit my taste buds I had an ah-ha moment. Oh my goodness. SO good. I took another and did my best to figure out what was in it. I could see corn, of course, and knew there was cheese in it, and green chiles. And then it had some unctuous creamy stuff oozing all around it. Did I say OMG already? Yes, I did. That was it with the tasting – two bites, and I was hooked. But we had to leave, so I didn’t get to taste any further. I walked over to the front desk and asked them about it. The staff said it was provided by a catering company and they have different appetizers each night, but about 3x a week they did serve this corn dip because it’s so popular. But no, they didn’t have a recipe for it, sorry. Oh well, I tried.

So, some time has gone by since that trip, but I hadn’t forgotten the dip. When the occasion arose to make a dip for a big gathering (July 4th), I figured this was the time. I researched all over the internet and found several recipes. I pulled from them all and also added my own twist to it. So my corn_green_chile_dip_mixingrecipe below is my own version – very similar to all the others, but not identical. We had 2 events on consecutive days, so I made a double batch. I used Colby cheese (a mixture of Monterey Jack and Cheddar) and I added a fresh poblano chile that I minced up in the food processor. I could have used just canned green chiles, but I had a poblano in the refrigerator that needed to be used, so I did. I used canned corn because it was easier (some recipes use fresh, some frozen and some canned). One recipe called for Mexicorn (the type that has some green and red bell peppers in it), so I went with that type. It gets mixed up in a big bowl with mayonnaise (that was the unctuous creamy stuff) and grated Parmesan (I used a combo of Pecorino and Parm) plus a generous pinch of red chili flakes, then it’s poured into a casserole dish and baked. That’s it. Done. I made it up a few hours ahead, chilled it, then removed it from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking and baked it for 40 minutes. If it’s made at the moment and not chilled, 30 minutes will have it ready to serve. The first night I actually took it on a 30-minute drive, covered with foil and wrapped in a big towel and it was still plenty hot enough when we got there to serve it immediately.

dip_in_scoopIf you serve it right out of the oven be careful – it’s VERY hot. I’d let it sit for 10 minutes at least before serving, so I’ve added that to the recipe info. I served it with those Doritos “scoops” type of tortilla chip – they are just ideal for this dip because it’s a perfect little cup for just the right amount of dip. I put a spoon in the dip for people to use if they wanted. Most people just dipped in the scoop chip. This dish is NOT healthy at all. I’m sorry! But I guarantee you’ll enjoy it if you make it. And just eat two scoops full and you won’t have to feel guilty.

dip_finaleWhat I liked: every, single thing about it. So delicious. So worth making. This is going onto my favorites list, if that’s any indication of how much we liked it.

What I didn’t like: really nothing at all. A definite make again dish. Just don’t count calories, okay?

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Spicy Corn, Green Chile and Cheese Dip

Recipe By: Adapted from several recipes found on the internet
Serving Size: 10
NOTES: Once baked, if you cover with foil and wrap the dish well in towels, it will keep hot for at least 30 minutes. If you don’t have Colby cheese, use Monterey Jack only, or you could use just Cheddar also. If you don’t have a poblano pepper, just add another can of green chiles.

22 ounces canned corn — drained (Mexicorn variety if possible)
14 ounces chopped green chiles — canned, drained
1/2 poblano pepper — minced in food processor
2 1/2 cups Colby cheese — grated
1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
1/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese — grated (or you may also use one or the other Parm or Pecorino)
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes — or to taste, optional
Doritos Scoops chips for dipping

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray or butter an 8-cup baking dish. (If you double the recipe, use a 9×13 pan.)
2. Mix together everything but the chips in a large bowl. Transfer to prepared baking dish. You can make this ahead to this point, cover and chill. When ready to serve, bake, uncovered for 30 minutes (40 minutes if you refrigerate the dish ahead of time), or until golden brown and bubbly around the edges. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
3. Serve warm with the corn chips. You could also put this in a small crockpot and heat on low for several hours.
Per Serving: 346 Calories; 30g Fat (73.2% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 39mg Cholesterol; 531mg Sodium.

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  1. Gloria

    said on July 19th, 2012:

    Wow Carolyn. This dip looks heavenly and sinful all at the same time. You’ve convinced me I need this dip in my life!

    I just noticed you have a write up of Homer’s Odyssey. I absolutely adored that book. Hubby and I are parents to three kitties. 🙂 I laughed, I cried. Loved it.

    Gloria – wasn’t that just the sweetest, most poignant book ever? I loved it too. Do try the dip – you’ll never turn back! . . . carolyn t

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