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Just finished News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her parents were killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of a old west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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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