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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 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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