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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 Miscellaneous, on July 22nd, 2012.

little_girlies_green_sauce_spoon

It’s been years ago that I found this recipe on a MasterCook (that’s the recipe software I use) user’s group recipe exchange. What got me was what she wrote about it – that she makes it up on Sunday, uses it for a family barbecue and always has leftovers to use all week long on everything you can think of – chicken, fish, even tomatoes and other veggies.

I think the gal who uploaded it was Terry Pogue – at least that’s the name I have on my original sheet for this. Whether it’s her original recipe, I don’t know. I also found it online at www.cookingjunkies.com and her name is associated with the recipe there as well. I just want to give credit where it is due. I’d want other people to do the same for me. The point is – I have no idea whatsoever what the title means or where it came from.

green_sauce_sausageIt’s not news that I love cilantro. And avocados, so putting the two together can just be a perfect duo for me. What makes this different is the addition of vinegar and water (plus the green onions, serrano chiles and a little bit of olive oil). We were grilling ribs (it wasn’t meant to go with the ribs since they had lots of barbecue sauce on them already) and some Italian sausages, so I made up a batch of the sauce – it makes a LOT – and served it that way. Not everyone at our dinner took any of it to go with the sausages, but those who did said they liked it a lot. I liked it a lot. Next time I think I’d make a 1/3 recipe (using one avocado) which would be fine for a dinner for 4-5, I think. It had to have made nearly 3+ cups of sauce. I gave half of it to our daughter-in-law, Karen, and I still have a big bowl of it! You don’t use a lot of it. It doesn’t stick much to the meat – you kind of dip it into it and try to get some onto the fork. It’s not a smooth sauce at all – it’s chunky and liquid, actually. Which is why I added less vinegar and water to it than indicated. Perhaps it depends on how much cilantro is in a “bunch,” too. Seems to me that cilantro bunches have less cilantro in them than they used to – do you agree? Maybe making the cilantro mixture in the blender would also emulsify it better as well. I just stirred it in at the end. The avocados are diced up and added after you’ve mixed everything else.

What I liked: the piquant taste (piquant=tart, from the vinegar), but it goes exceedingly well with a piece of protein. There’s almost no fat in it – I added about 2 T. to the entire recipe, so really hardly any at all. With all that acid, the avocados stayed perfectly green for many days.

What I didn’t like: it was just a tad too soupy to me, so that’s why I’ve reduced the vinegar and water in the recipe below – add more if you think it needs it. You don’t want it floating all over your plate!

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

Little Girlie’s Green Sauce

Recipe By: Adapted from a recipe at cookingjunkies.com
Serving Size: 15
NOTES: Make a batch and serve it on everything for the rest of the week – grilled chicken, fish, tacos, steak, roast chicken. Try it on sliced tomatoes too. You can make this in a food processor also, but the blender works better for finely mincing the chile peppers.

3 bunches cilantro — chopped (if small, use another bunch)
2 bunches green onions — white part and some green
3 whole serrano peppers — cored, chopped
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup white vinegar
A drizzle of olive oil
3 whole avocados — (3 to 4) cut in tiny dice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Roughly chop cilantro, and green onions and place in bowl.
2. Add chilies, vinegar and some water in a blender and blend until minced. Add remaining water, then add this to bowl. Add finely diced avocados. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Per Serving: 68 Calories; 6g Fat (73.5% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 6mg Sodium.

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  1. Kalyn

    said on July 22nd, 2012:

    Must try this!!

    It’s really good, Kalyn! I still have some in my frig as I write this – it’s 2 weeks old, and it looks fine. I think I’ll make a fresh batch though. The avocado is still light green and nice looking! . . . carolyn t

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