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Just finished another great book, 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.

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Posted in Appetizers, on July 18th, 2012.


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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