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On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of aging high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, wealthy women) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) 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 Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

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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MasterCook 5+ import file – right click to save file, run MC, then File|Import

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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