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Recently finished reading 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.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant. Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

 

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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