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Am just starting News of the World: A Novel by William Morris. 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 requires me to read it. It’s about an old man, during the early, old wild west times, who goes from town to town and people pay him money to read the newspaper to them. (Imagine, there WAS such a job.) By chance he’s asked to take a very young girl to Texas to reunite with her family. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby, raised by them, and she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!).

Just finished 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.

Recently finished reading 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.

Also just read 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.

Also read 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 Brunch, on August 3rd, 2007.

pineapple_french_toast

Whenever the family (our kids and the grandkids and/or other relatives) come to visit over the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter), I try to have something in mind for breakfast on the holiday morning. Some kind of a breakfast casserole, so I don’t have to become a short order cook for all the varied appetites. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a variety of brunch casseroles in my repertoire, and this is another one that competes for first place.

The original recipe for this came from Gourmet Magazine some years back. I adapted the recipe just a little – I couldn’t find brioche or challah bread the first time I made this, and King’s Hawaiian bread was available. If you don’t have that where you live, it’s just a very soft, eggy and SWEET bread. It’s too sweet for sandwiches. But it makes great toast. And it’s probably wickedly bad for you because it’s made with white flour and contains a fair amount of sugar. But it makes wonderful French Toast – by this recipe or any other.

But, because Hawaiian bread IS so sweet, I knew I needed to reduce the sugar. So if you use different kinds of bread, you’ll want to adjust the sugar accordingly.

The pineapple, just the crushed, canned type, is what makes this different. There isn’t all that much in it, so you really can’t SEE the pineapple much – but you can taste it. You can serve this with syrup if you choose, but it’s already so sweet and flavorful – and moist – it doesn’t really need anything. Maybe some fresh fruit, fresh juice, hot steaming coffee and you’re done. As with many of my brunch recipes, I get all the ingredients ready the night before so it’s very easy to make this the morning of.
printer-friendly PDF

Pineapple Upside-Down French Toast

Recipe Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Servings: 4
COOK’S NOTES: The original recipe didn’t use any low-fat ingredients, so I adapted it some. You can cut down even more on the butter if you wish, and can use all egg substitute if you would prefer. The original called for challah or brioche bread, but since I couldn’t find any of that I used Hawaiian bread. It’s quite sweet and rich, so that’s why the sugar has been reduced by half. If you’re going to prepare this for breakfast and don’t have much time, just get all the ingredients ready the night before, including mixing up the milk, eggs, etc. It doesn’t take long to put it together.

1/4 cup unsalted butter — (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup brown sugar — firmly packed
3/4 cup crushed pineapple — pack & drain well
1 whole egg
1/4 cup egg substitute
1 1/2 cups 2% low-fat milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 slices egg bread — or Hawaiian bread

1. Preheat oven to 400. In a saucepan melt butter over moderate heat and stir in sugar and pineapple, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
2. In a shallow bowl whisk together eggs, milk and salt.
3. In a baking dish, 9 x 13 inches, spread pineapple mixture evenly over bottom. Dip bread slices into milk mixture in batches and arrange in one layer on top of pineapple mixture. If you have spaces in the pan, just mush the bread a little to squeeze in some more slices. It’s fairly easy to mix up a little more egg/milk mixture to make the dish feed more people.
4. Bake French Toast in middle of oven for 20-25 minutes, or until bread is golden brown. Cool in pan for one minute and serve.
Per Serving: 424 Calories; 20g Fat (41.7% calories from fat); 12g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 122mg Cholesterol; 527mg Sodium.

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