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The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes. Story: Jennifer Stirling wakes up in hospital, having had a traumatic car accident. She’s introduced to her husband, of whom she has no recollection, and is sent home with him eventually, to a life she neither remembers or embraces readily. But this is the life she was raised to have, so surely it must be worth living, underneath the strange, muted tones of her daily existence. Jennifer goes through the motions, accepts what she is told is her life and all seems to bob along well enough, except when she finds a letter that isn’t her husband’s handwriting, and is clearly a link to someone she has been involved with, but whom? London, France, Africa and America all come into play in this story of a woman piecing back together her life in effort to understand what she has lost, and what she threw away. There is a bit of a time-hop from 1964 to 2003. . . from a reviewer on amazon.  I loved this book from page one to the end. There’s some bit of mystery and you so get into the head of Jennifer Stirling. I could hardly put it down. I read this while I was in England just a week or two ago (as I write this) so could so identify with the characters, the homes, the life. Great read.

Francine Rivers, an author relatively new to me, but much admired, is most known for this: Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) It’s a trilogy. The first 2 books are about Hadassah, a young woman in the time of the Roman Empire. When Jerusalem was overrun and destroyed, the Christians still alive were sent off and away, separated and derided and abused. Hadassah was one of them. She’s a slave to a wealthy family and it takes 2 of the books to read before the son of the family finally realizes that he’s in love with Hadassah. If  you’re a Christian, you’ll learn a whole lot more about the time following Christ’s crucifixion, about the lot of the struggling Christian community. The 3rd book in the trilogy is about a gladiator who is part of book 1 and 2, but not a main character. You’ll learn about his life too, after he regains his freedom from the fighting ring and the battle of his soul. These books are a fabulous read. Can’t say enough good things about them all. I’ve never been a huge fan of old-world Roman Empire reading, but this one was altogether different. Very worth reading.

Amy Belding Brown wrote this book: Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America, a true accounting in 1676, of Mary Rowlandson, a woman who was captured by Native Americans.  Even before she was captured on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the ongoing bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. The story is riveting, and perplexing once she is traded back to her home. You’ll see a different side to the Indian problem back then and find yourself conflicted. An excellent read.

Taylor Caldwell was a prolific writer, and one I read when I was younger. She died in 1980, and this book, her last, Answer As a Man certainly delivers as her others did. All his life, Jason Garrity has had to battle intolerance and injustice in his quest for power, money, and love. His new hotel will give him financial security, the means to support a loving family and become an upstanding citizen. When family secrets and financial greed combine to destroy his dreams, his rigid moral convictions are suddenly brought into question. . . from Goodreads. Caldwell believed the banking industry was way too powerful, and often took aim at it, as she did in this book. It chronicles the life of a very poor, impoverished Irish immigrant to the U.S. He was an upstanding citizen, God-fearing, but maybe naive in some respects. Good book if you enjoy very deep character study.

Another book by Diney Costeloe, Miss Mary’s Daughter. When a young women is suddenly left with no family and no job or income, she’s astounded to learn that she’s actually a granddaughter of a “grand” family in Ye Olde England. She’s very independent (at least I thought so, for the time period), but is willing to investigate this new family of hers. There are many twists and turns – is she going to inherit the family home – or is the man who has been caring for the home and his daughter the logical inheritors. There’s a villain who nearly sweeps her off her feet, much intrigue from many characters. Well developed plot with a happy ending. A good read.

Celeste Ng is a hot new author. I read another of her books (see below) but this time I read Little Fires Everywhere. There are so many various characters and plots in this book, as in her others. This book focuses on a Chinese baby abandoned at a fire station and the subsequent court battle when the single mother surfaces six months later to try to reclaim her daughter from the family in the process of adopting her. Emotions well up, waxing and waning on both sides of the issue. You may even find yourself changing your own mind about the right or wrong of a child raised with a natural-born mother (albeit late to the raising) or the mother the child has known since near birth. Ng likes to write books with lots of grit and thorny issues. Although a good read, I liked Everything I Never Told You better than this one.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Oh my. This book has so many layers: (1) the young, impoverished couple and their infant son who live, literally, in a dump in Cambodia and about the precarious structure, if you can even call it that, that comprises their “house” in the midst and perched on top of trash; (2) the woman who collects the rent (hence the title and yes, people have to PAY to live there); (3) the young son’s chronic illness; (4) how they make a living out of collecting and selling trash; and (4) the life saving grace and wisdom imparted by characters in the book as the young mother begins to learn to read. If you decide to read this book, please don’t stop at about page 15-20, thinking you just don’t know if you want to read about this. Please continue. It’s so worth it. Have a highlighter pen in your hand because you’ll find so many quotes you will want to remember. Believe it or not, there is also quite a bit in this about literature.

Recently finished C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel). I just love Box’s novels. They take place in present day semi-wild west, and chronicle the fish and game warden, Joe Pickett, as he unravels another crime in his territory. A woman has disappeared, and the governor has asked him to figure it out. He does, but the tale meanders through multiple layers of intriguing story. His books are riveting. Men and women enjoy his books – so if you have a fellow in your life or family that would enjoy an intriguing book (this is not espionage) then gift him one of Box’s books.

Also finished Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. About a dysfunctional family, through and through. I picked this up from amazon from someone who read the book, named “McReader,” and she says: “Set in the 70s, the story follows a Chinese American blended family in Ohio. When Lydia [the daughter] is found floating in the lake, her family is forced to analyze what put her there. Was it pressure from her family to succeed? Was it pressure to fit in? Was it a crime of passion or convenience? I was spellbound reading the last half of this book. I loved each flawed family member, especially Hannah,. While the story went where I hoped it would go, I was not disappointed at all with the progression. It was also quite insightful on the prejudices that society had about Chinese Americans still during that timeframe and how careful parents have to be to put their dreams onto their children.” Such a good book and definitely worth reading. Would be a good book club read. You’ll be hearing more from this author. Am currently reading her next novel, Little Fires Everywhere.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant. A very, very intriguing book. The book is written from the voice of a Jewish grandmother as she tells her granddaughter the saga of her life starting about 1910, who struggles with her own individuality, with her domineering mother who never says a kind word to her. It’s certainly a coming-of-age story as she grows up, finds a job, makes friends, joins a literary girls club, moves out, but still suffers under her mother’s thumb and tongue. She becomes a reporter on a local newspaper, which opens her eyes to more of the world than she ever knew. She finally meets the right man (of course!) and she shares the stories about her life, and her friends and family members as she grows up, giving some sage advice along the way. Part of the time she’s talking to herself – to her young self  (really wanting to tell young Addie to keep on, forgive herself for her perceived transgressions, to live life, and experience the world).

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time – Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

As soon as I finished the above book I promptly visited my church library and found a whole shelf of Rivers’ books, and grabbed one called The Atonement Child. This book takes place in the 1980s or 90s, about a young college student who is raped. She was engaged to be married, was a stellar student. The book chronicles what happens to her when she discovers she is pregnant from the rape. Every possible thing goes wrong in her life. I don’t want to spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it, but I couldn’t put it down. I ended up spending a good part of a day plowing through it. You hear her inner voice (I’m guessing this is a common thread in Rivers’ books) from a Christian perspective. Lots of meaty issues to discuss in a book club if your group would be interested and willing to talk about rape, abortion, adoption and the thorny issues surrounding all of those things, but with a Christian bent, for sure.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen. It’s kind of amazing how many and varied plot lines can be created from events of WWII. This is another one, about a current day woman who finds papers in the attic, after her father’s death, with references to “the child.” She never knew her father could have had another child – could she have a step-sibling somewhere? Her father she knew, had been shot down over Italy, but he never talked much about it. But of course, she must go to Italy to find out about this “child.” The book flips back and forth from this daughter on the search, to her father during the war, all of it taking place in a very small town in Tuscany. It’s about the varied people she meets who want her to go away and not dredge up anything about the war years (are they hiding something, you question), about how much she loves the landscape, and some of the people. And about the intense love affair between the injured pilot and a caring woman of the village. Very charming story. I could almost smell the flowers, taste the olives, hear the bees flitting, and loved the prose about the simple meals that were described. I really enjoyed the book. Perhaps not enough meat for a book club read, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it nonetheless.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

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 Chicken, Miscellaneous, on October 11th, 2018.

chakalaka_relish

A lovely relish (or kind of like a salsa) to serve with grilled meat.

Presuming you read my post from yesterday, about the BBQ Chicken, South African Style, then you already know this relish is supposed to be served with that chicken. It came from a cooking show with Sarah Graham, who’s from South Africa. This side/relish is just so different – when I watched the show a couple of years ago I was intrigued with the ingredients . . .

It has some very standard things you’d expect in a relish – onion, a chile pepper, a bell pepper, garlic, even tomatoes. But a bit more unusual is a bunch of grated carrots, some chutney (I used apricot jam), a jot of ketchup. But this one also has a little bit of curry powder (but not really enough to taste it), AND it has a small can of BAKED BEANS in it.

Here’s what wikipedia has to say about it:

Chakalaka is a South African vegetable relish, usually spicy, that is traditionally served with bread, pap, samp, stews, or curries. Chakalaka may have originated in the townships of Johannesburg or on the gold mines surrounding Johannesburg, when Mozambican mineworkers coming off shift cooked tinned produce (tomatoes, beans) with chili to produce a spicy relish with a Portuguese flair to accompany pap. The many variations on how to make Chakalaka often depend on region and family tradition. Some versions include beans, cabbage and butternut. For example, a tin of baked beans, tin of tomatoes, onion, garlic, and some curry paste can be used to make the dish.

In case you’re interested, pap is a kind of cornmeal porridge, and samp is another kind of dried corn variant where the corn kernel shells are removed and then the inner meat made into a porridge type dish. Reading about the history of this dish, it makes so much sense that mine workers had to use canned foods and they discovered a way to make a spicy relish/side from canned tomatoes and baked beans.

The onion, chile, bell pepper and carrots are cooked a little bit (I cooked them VERY little as I wanted crunch) with the onions getting the most amount of cooking time, then you merely add in all the other ingredients. Since I made it I’ve had it alongside the leftover chicken, also some grilled sausages, and some fish. All good with it. I made part of mine without the beans (cuz I’m not eating beans on this diet I’m on), but I DID taste it, and thought the addition of the beans was really good. I was expecting it to not taste good, but it was. I gave away all of the bean relish and kept the part without beans and enjoyed it for a week or so afterwards.

What’s GOOD: it’s unusual, that’s for sure. Liked all the lively flavors in it – because I was having guests I used the lesser quantity of curry powder – I’d likely add more next time. Make ahead is fine, and it keeps for at least a week.

What’s NOT: nothing really . . . it was a really good addition to my potluck dinner to serve with the chicken.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chakalaka Relish

Recipe By: Sarah Graham, Cooking Channel, 2016
Serving Size: 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion — finely chopped
1 whole red chile — seeded, finely sliced
1 whole red bell pepper — seeded, finely chopped
1 clove garlic — minced
1 teaspoon curry powder — (1 to 2)
1/2 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
2 medium carrots — grated
14 ounces baked beans
14 ounces canned tomatoes — chopped
1 tablespoon chutney — or apricot jam
1 tablespoon ketchup
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, at least 5 minutes.
2. Add the red chiles, bell peppers, garlic, curry powder, mixed herbs and carrots, and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add the beans, tomatoes, chutney, ketchup and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. (I didn’t cook this for 30 minutes as I liked the crunch to the vegetables, but traditionally you would.)
Per Serving: 227 Calories; 8g Fat (27.5% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 38g Carbohydrate; 9g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 602mg Sodium.

Posted in Miscellaneous, Soups, on August 21st, 2018.

microwave_bowl_cozy

Isn’t that the cutest thing?

As I mention frequently, soup is a common theme here at my house. I eat soup year ‘round. Recently my best bud, Cherrie gave me one of these things. She’d won it a a Bunko night and didn’t think she’d use it. I loved it so much I ordered the larger size too.

They’re on etsy.com – here’s the link to Mary Egan’s website called “Just 2 Dang Cute”:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/just2dangcute

In the event you want the larger ones, here’s a picture of both sizes:

sm_lg_microwave_bowl_cozy

May I make a suggestion – these would make a great gift – for a birthday, or a housewarming gift, or a Christmas gift (maybe buy 2 matching ones). Or a Bunko prize! I heat soup with the cozy in the microwave and then I take the whole thing to the table and leave it on. You can pull the soup bowl out and off, but it’s just as easy to leave it. Mary makes them with all kinds of sports teams fabric, and plenty of collectible kind of designs. She makes other things too – obviously she’s an accomplished seamstress! I think these bowl cozies are just the most adorable thing! I use mine several times a week.

Mary has kindly emailed me saying that if you order anything from her during August, 2018, and write in BLOG ON THE COZY she will refund the shipping. SUCH A DEAL! Thanks, Mary.

Posted in Miscellaneous, on May 20th, 2018.

comeback_sauce_2_fish_seafood

Little did I know – there is comeback sauce, and then there is comeback sauce. Of course there could be riffs, and maybe that’s all this is. A riff with comeback sauce for fish, not meat or poultry. Or every other kind of food thing on the planet.

Seems like I read, or heard, that comeback sauce is a condiment almost as ubiquitous as salt and pepper on the dining tables of the South . Not that it could live there (out on the table) – no – because it has mayo in it. But it can live in the frig for quite awhile and be used for all variety of things over the course of many meals.

So I read, Comeback sauce was originally used on fish and shellfish, but since it’s been around a loooong time, it’s kind of morphed into something that can be universally  used as a condimentcomeback_sauce_2_bowl on just about anything. At least I think that’s the case – if I have any Southern readers, please correct me in the comments below!

I suppose this could be more like a tartar sauce, but it’s with more of the comeback additions. I wrote about Comeback Sauce awhile back. That one has more tomato type ingredients (jarred chili sauce and ketchup) than this one, though both are mayo based first.

Wanting to try this one, I made it to go with some shrimp I had left over from a restaurant meal. And I liked the recipe because it contained capers (love them), cornichons, and it had a bit of minced celery – which gives the sauce some lovely crunch. It took but a few minutes to prepare – I made a green salad and some fresh veggies to go with it, and there I had a lovely meal. I think, since I’ve been a widow (4 years now) I’ve become more inventive with making a full meal with stuff – left overs from various things I’ve made.

When I made this, I had only one recipe/post in the queue for posting here. Gracious! I needed to get busy. But then I went to a cooking class which created a whole raft of new recipes to write about, and I totally forgot I’d made this. As I write this, I still have the sauce in the frig, and it still tastes great. I’ll give it another week, and if I haven’t used it up, I’d best toss it out. The celery is about the only thing that could go “off.” Otherwise, I would think this would keep for a month. The recipe I used said it could be made 3 days ahead. Well . . . mine’s a whole lot older than that, and it still tastes as good as the day I made it. Amazingly, the celery still has crunch.

The making of this is so easy – grab a small bowl and start adding the ingredients. Stir, chill for a little bit to let the flavors meld, and you’re good to go.

What’s GOOD: as I mentioned, this is a kind of a universal sauce for lots of things, but this one lends itself better to fish (with the capers, cornichons and lemon), but I’ll tell you right off, since I made it I’ve used it to dip leftover chicken into, and even some asparagus. It was lovely. AND, I’ve used it instead of mustard or mayo on a sandwich.

What’s NOT: really nothing – it’s a great basic sauce to serve for fish, but don’t let that limit you to using it on other things.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Mississippi Comeback Sauce for Fish

Recipe By: From Food & Wine, May 2018
Serving Size: 6

1/2 cup mayonnaise — Duke’s or Hellman’s/Best Foods
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 celery stalk — peeled and minced
1/2 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley — minced
1/2 tablespoon cornichon — minced
3/4 teaspoon shallot — minced
3/4 teaspoon capers — drained, rinsed, minced
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest — (grated, not in strings)
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne — or more if desired

Note: If making this to serve 4 as a tartar sauce with fish, double the recipe.
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well.
2. Cover and chill. This will keep for a week or two. Serve with shellfish or fish. Leftovers taste great on vegetables or other protein (chicken, pork, or as a spread on a sandwich).
Per Serving: 148 Calories; 16g Fat (88.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 6mg Cholesterol; 374mg Sodium.

Posted in Miscellaneous, on February 27th, 2018.

As you know if you’ve been reading my blog for the last 4-5 months, you’ve seen several sheetpan dinners. I make them often, and often I just wing-it on some weeknights – looking to see what I have in my refrigerator, and what kind of protein (if any) I might use with it.

Every time I’d wing-it, though, I’d have to go hunt for information about how much time each vegetable takes. So, I’ve written up a chart. And a separate row for the meat. As best I know, this chart is accurate, although depending on how big you chunk up some of them, you may find your Brussels sprouts might not be done in x minutes, but x + 2 minutes, for instance. Sheetpan dinners aren’t an exact science.

And if you use chicken breasts, I explain here (on the chart) that sometimes they’re problematical as some are thinner than others. I opt, always, to cut chicken breast meat into larger sizes because I definitely do not want to overcook them. Test the meat more frequently with an instant read thermometer and remove the meat if it’s reached temp. Ideally, use chicken thigh meat as it’s more forgiving.

HERE’s the PDF you can stick inside your kitchen cupboard (that’s where mine is now).

Carolyn’s CheatSheet on SheetPan Dinners (this is a pdf)

Posted in Miscellaneous, Miscellaneous sides, on December 31st, 2017.

cranberry_apple_sauce

So good. Not quite as tart as regular cranberry sauce, but more mellow. Milder, I guess I’d say.Very easy to make and would keep for awhile. Serve alongside any kind of meat.

I have a package of cranberries in my refrigerator right now, and I’m going to make this in the next few days. It’s really easy to do – start to finish in about 20 minutes, I’d say. The hardest thing you do is peel and chop the apples. There’s just enough sweetness to this to make it easily edible, but just enough tartness from the cranberries, to make it a good side for meat.

Tarla Fallgatter made this at a recent cooking class and served it alongside a whole host of holiday side dishes. And my fork dipped into it with the dressing she made, and with the potato/parsnip mash she made. I wished I’d had more on my plate! It will be used several times over the holidays as I serve chicken, or turkey, or even beef or pork. As I mentioned above, I don’t think this would go with fish – although salmon might work. Try it and see!

Tarla recommended Braeburn apples as her first choice, but Gala works too. Do not use a tart cooking apple like Pippin or Granny Smith. It gets peeled and finely chopped. In a pan you combine apple cider (or juice), sugar, the apple, cinnamon and cloves. Once brought to a boil you add the fresh cranberries and simmer it for 10-12 minutes or until the berries burst and the sauce begins to thicken. See? Easy. Then you add in a teaspoon or apple cider vinegar. Let it cool and it’s ready to serve. Put it in an airtight jar and it will keep for a week or so. For longer storage, freeze it.

What’s GOOD: the lovely fruity flavor, mellow with the addition of apples. So pretty. You could eat it straight, I’m telling you!

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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Cranberry Apple Sauce

Recipe By: from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter, 2017
Serving Size: 10

1 cup apple juice — or apple cider
1/2 cup sugar
1 Braeburn apple — or Gala, peeled, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1. Place cider (apple juice), sugar, apple, cinnamon and cloves in a pan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
2. Bring to a boil. Add cranberries and simmer 10-12 minutes, or until berries burst and sauce thickens. Stir in vinegar. Let cool to room temp.
Per Serving: 76 Calories; trace Fat (1.7% calories from fat); trace Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 1mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, Miscellaneous, on June 12th, 2017.

bing_cherry_compote

There is something beautiful about a big pile of ripe cherries. Maybe it’s just because I love the color red!

This isn’t a new recipe post, but when I bought 3 pounds of cherries the other day, I knew I’d be making this compote that’s a real favorite of mine. But, of course, only when cherries are in season. Which is NOW! I posted this recipe in 2009, and again in 2012, and I haven’t changed it; it’s still cherry_pitsthe same recipe from Russ Parsons. That I’ve been making for 8 years. Every single year in cherry season, I buy them and make this. I hoard the results, because I adore putting some of the compote over vanilla ice cream. And I nearly lick the bowl. I’m posting it again just because you may not have read my posts going back that far. I want you to make this, while cherries are in the markets! The only downside to the recipe is having to pit the darned things. But I use a olive pitter and I sat at my kitchen island while I did it.

The above bowl contains the pitted cherries, a sprinkling of sugar, whole cloves, whole allspice and cinnamon sticks. When you cook them, it’s nice to use a big, wide pan so you can put the cherries in one layer and cook them JUST until they’re cooked through about halfway or so. You want them to retain their color and shape. You add red wine to the mixture which helps them steam-cook. This year I didn’t have a bottle of red wine opened, so I pulled out an old bottle of so-so Madeira that had about a cup or so in it, and I used that instead of regular drinking red. After they’re cooked you add a big dash of balsamic vinegar, which is just the icing on the cake, IMHO. These taste better if they’re allowed to chill in the syrup for a few days – that way the spices permeate all the cherries, and the balsamic too.

bowl_of_pitted_cherries

Yes, I definitely do like the color red! Having heaped all the cherries into a bowl, I just had to take a picture of them before I cooked it all. And here, below, is the finished product:

cherry compote 3

What’s GOOD: there’s nothing quite like the taste of ripe cherries in a delicious spice syrup. Absolutely loverly on top of vanilla ice cream. No nuts. No whipped cream. JUST the cherries. They keep for several weeks. I don’t think they’d freeze well – they’ll likely get very soft and possibly lose their color too.

What’s NOT: maybe the pitting process, but that’s about it. It’s simple to make.

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Fresh Bing Cherry Compote

Recipe By: Adapted from How to Pick a Peach, by Russ Parsons
Serving Size: 8

1 1/3 pounds cherries — fresh, Bing
1/4 cup sugar
1 whole clove
1 whole allspice berry
1 stick cinnamon — about 1 1/2 inches long
1/2 cup red wine — (I used more)
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1. Pit the cherries. You want to have 1 pound of pitted cherries.
2. In a bowl combine the cherries and sugar. Stir and set aside for about 30-45 minutes.
3. Add 1/4 cup of red wine, stir and set aside for 15 minutes.
4. Pour the mixture into a flat, wide skillet (just large enough to hold the cherries in a single layer). Combine in a cheesecloth bag the cinnamon stick, clove and allspice. Tie together and place it into the pan with the cherries.
5. Bring the cherries to a boil and simmer at a fairly high heat for about 10 minutes, while the juices begin the thicken. The cherries will still be in one piece.
6. Remove from heat and add the balsamic vinegar to the mixture. Cool, chill, and serve over vanilla ice cream.
Per Serving: 81 Calories; 1g Fat (7.8% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 12mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Miscellaneous, on May 17th, 2017.

What a wonderful way to use left over shrimp. Ever had remoulade? You’re in for a treat.

Here in Orange County, California, we had a restaurant called Nieuport 17 (it’s now closed, sad to say) that was a place I visited frequently to take customers for a business lunch. Clubby kind of ambiance; great service. And, delicious food. And of the dozens and dozens of times I had lunch there, about 95% of the time I ordered their Open-Faced Shrimp and Avocado Sandwich with Remoulade. It looked much like my recreation above. It was served on dark rye bread (untoasted), slathered with the delicious Remoulade sauce, topped with a few thin slices of ripe avocado, then shrimp cut nicely in half laid on top. Often I asked for a bit more sauce so I could put more on top. Before it closed, they’d taken this item off the menu – in fact they weren’t open for lunch anymore. The last several times I asked (at dinner time) if they could make it, they said no. Not that the Remoulade is all that hard to make, but they didn’t want to make it from scratch for just one customer.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

Remoulade: it is a condiment invented in France that is usually aioli- or mayonnaise-based. Although similar to tartar sauce, it is often more yellowish (or reddish in Louisiana), sometimes flavored with curry, and sometimes contains chopped pickles or piccalilli. It can also contain horseradish, paprika, anchovies, capers and a host of other items. While its original purpose was possibly for serving with meats, it is now more often used as an accompaniment to seafood dishes, especially pan-fried breaded fish fillets (primarily sole and plaice) and seafood cakes (such as crab or salmon cakes).

rye_toast_remoulde_slatheredI had some left over colossal shrimp (recipe coming soon) that had been grilled. I researched online for various Remoulade recipes, and took some items from one and other ingredients from others. I made it the way I think Nieuport 17 used to make it. Whether I’m right or not may never be determined. It was good enough for me!

In this case, the Remoulade is a mayo-based sauce with a bunch of add-ins. Lime juice. Creole mustard. Horseradish, cayenne, Sriracha, garlic, chopped parsley, and some paprika too. And I added in some capers because I think they used capers in theirs. I tasted it and knew I had a winner. It was absolutely wonderful.

remoulade_sauce_glass_dish

The sauce has this lovely golden-red color because there’s some paprika added and some Sriracha. Does it resemble what I used to have? Yes. It might be the very thing. I had enough leftover shrimp to make this twice. Yummy.

What’s GOOD: everything about the sauce is delicious. You could use it as a dipping sauce for lots of things, including shrimp, if you happened to serve them as an appetizer. Forever, though, Remoulade will be associated with this shrimp sandwich for me!

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of. It’s very easy to make as long as you have all the ingredients that go into it! Don’t forget the capers.

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Remoulade Sauce

Recipe By: My own combination
Serving Size: 6

1/2 cup mayonnaise — (I always use Best Foods/Hellman’s)
1 tablespoon Creole mustard — * see note in directions
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 small garlic clove — minced
1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce — (or Tabasco – use less probably)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 pinches cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons capers — drained, chopped
Salt if needed

*Note: if you don’t have Creole mustard, use Dijon and add more hot sauce and/ or cayenne to taste. The sauce isn’t supposed to be “hot,” just spicy warm.
1. Combine all of the remoulade ingredients in a medium bowl and stir well.
2. Allow to sit for about 30 minutes or more to allow the flavors to meld. Use within a couple of days.
4. SANDWICH: For each serving, place a slice of soft dark (or light) rye bread on the plate. Slather with some of the Remoulade, a few thin slices of ripe avocado, then cut 2-4 shrimp in half lengthwise and lay flat on the top. Slather a bit more remoulade on top and garnish with a parsley sprig. This recipe will probably be enough for 3-4 open faced sandwiches, using about 2-3 tablespoons for each sandwich.
Per Serving: 134 Calories; 16g Fat (97.6% calories from fat); trace Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 6mg Cholesterol; 129mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Miscellaneous, on February 1st, 2017.

tenderloin_w_mock_bearnaise

I do enjoy a good hunk of beef now and then. I had my share over the holidays – I think I had it 3 times (prime rib twice and this beef tenderloin once), and each time it was just fabulous. This one, with the super-tasty but lighter calorie mock Béarnaise was really special.

Probably I’d cook a small beef tenderloin occasionally, but it makes no sense to do it for one person! Costco has them at a decent price, but they’re huge – only useful for me if I were to have a really big dinner party! Some Costco stores offer beef tenderloin that’s already been cleaned and trimmed of the silverskin and sinews. That job takes awhile, especially if you don’t do it all the time.

The cooking instructor, Caroline, from Antoine’s Restaurant in San Clemente (CA) demonstrated  this at a cooking class. She said she was catering a dinner party for a client, and the wife asked if she could do a Béarnaise, but not a fat-laden one. So Caroline came up with the idea of this mock Béarnaise. I won’t sit here and type to you, that the sauce is just as good as a butter-driven Béarnaise, but it was surprisingly delicious. It had ALL the flavors of Béarnaise, but just not all the fat. Some yes, but not the usual amount. I really liked it, and I’d definitely make it. Even for a grilled steak, or any time you need a Béarnaise.

The tenderloin is so easy to do – you season the meat with salt, pepper and oil, sear it on all sides, then roast it in a hot oven for about 20-25 minutes, remove, tent it, let it sit for 10 minutes, cut and serve.

The sauce is made similarly to a regular Béarnaise, but it’s thickened with a little cornstarch, so it will hold together, AND you can make it the day ahead and just reheat it before serving. That’s a big help, so you wouldn’t have to do this as you’re roasting the meat and putting together the rest of the meal.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was delicious. The meat was great (tender, juicy) and the sauce was amazing – since it’s a whole lot lower in fat and calories than a regular Béarnaise. My hat’s off to Chef Caroline for coming up with this option for Béarnaise!

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever. A great dish – both the meat and the sauce.

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Beef Tenderloin with Tarragon-Mustard Sauce

Recipe By: Caroline Cayaumazou, chef, Antoine’s, San Clemente
Serving Size: 6

MOCK BEARNAISE SAUCE:
3/4 cup vermouth
1/4 cup white Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons shallots — minced
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon — chopped
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard — regular, coarse grain
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
BEEF:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 pounds beef tenderloin — center cut (trimmed of silverskin and sinews)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

NOTES: do buy a tenderloin that has been cleaned and trimmed of the silverskin. If you do it yourself, allow about 45-60 minutes time to complete it for a full tenderloin.
1. SAUCE: In a small saucepan place the vermouth, vinegar, shallots, tarragon and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce quantity to about a third (solids and liquids combined). Strain and set aside.
2. In a 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add cornstarch and cook for one minute. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and cream. Bring to a simmer. Add the vermouth mixture.
3. In a small bowl temper the egg yolks with about 2-3 T of the sauce, then add to the sauce. Whisk and stir over low heat for about a minute. Add the coarse-grain mustard and adjust seasonings. May be made up to a day ahead. Gently reheat just before serving.
4. BEEF: Preheat oven to 450°F. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, sear tenderloin on all sides for about 10 minutes total time.
5. Transfer tenderloin to a roasting pan and place in the hot oven. Roast until a meat thermometer registers 130°F for medium-rare, about 20-25 minutes.
6. Remove meat from the roasting pan and place on carving board. Tent lightly with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and then serve with the heated sauce, passing more at the table.
Per Serving: 840 Calories; 66g Fat (74.5% calories from fat); 45g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 330mg Cholesterol; 182mg Sodium.

Posted in Miscellaneous, on October 11th, 2016.

mango_chutney

What rich color! Perfect side for some grilled steak, chicken, or pork. Or as a little condiment on a sandwich. Or, spread some on top of cream cheese for a nice appetizer with crackers.

Awhile back we had a family get-together and daughter Sara brought this chutney. She left some of it with me and I’ve enjoyed it with grilled chicken and some grilled pork chops.

Back decades ago I first read about Major Grey’s mango chutney. I was in the stage of my early experimental cooking and tried making chicken curry, as I recall, and with no recipe for chutney (or even a thought of making it myself) I bought a jar of it. My recollection is that it was very expensive! Too bad I didn’t try to make it. Presumably the Joy of Cooking contains a recipe for it (I haven’t looked). Here’s what Wikipedia says about it:

Major Grey’s Chutney is a type of chutney, reputedly created by a 19th-century British Army officer of the same name who, though likely apocryphal, presumably lived in British India. Its characteristic ingredients are mango, raisins, vinegar, lime juice, onion, tamarind extract (occasionally), sweetening and spices.

I think one of my grandmothers used to make chutney, and I must not have had a great memory of it – it probably had sticky dates and/or some candied fruit in it (yuk in my book). My grandmothers made numerous types of pickles that appeared on the dinner table (I wasn’t much into pickles in those days), and both of my grandmothers made some kind of piccalilli (mixed veggies in a slightly sweet brine). I wasn’t much into cauliflower back then, either, which was a major component of that condiment.

mango_chutney_with_steakBut chutney is a wonderful side dish. See photo at left nestled next to a nice piece of grilled ribeye steak. It’s s omething you can make a week ahead of time, and if you’re so inclined, this recipe gives instructions for canning it. Sara doesn’t can, and we ate a ton of this chutney that night, so don’t know that she had a lot left over. The recipe came from Simply Recipes. It’s very straight forward. First, you bring sugar and vinegar to a boil. While that’s happening, cut and prep the fruit, onion, and measure out the other ingredients. They’re all added to the liquid and cooked down (simmered) for about an hour until it’s thickened. At that point, can it for 15 minutes, or put in clean, sealed containers or jars and store in the refrigerator for several weeks. Actually, I have nothing fewer than 10 chutneys or marmalade sides on my blog. Go HERE if you want to view them.

What’s GOOD: Love this stuff. It’s sweet and only slightly savory from the onion. It’s not like jam, exactly, but it’s a close cousin. The crystallized ginger adds a nice little touch to it, and the raisins too. Altogether good. Make it ahead. Serve it with grilled meat.

What’s NOT: can’t think of anything. Try it; you’ll like it.

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Homemade Mango Chutney

Recipe By: From Simply Recipes (blog)
Serving Size: 12 (probably more than that)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
3 cups mangos — peeled and cut in 3/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup onion — chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/8 cup crystallized ginger — finely chopped
1/2 garlic clove — minced
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds — whole
1/8 teaspoon red chili flakes

1. Combine sugar and vinegar in a 6 quart pot; bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.
2. Add remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered, until syrupy and slightly thickened, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir occasionally during cooking. It will be thicker once it cools. If it gets too thick, thin with just a little bit of water.
3. Optional preparation: place in sealed jars in the refrigerator – it should keep for several weeks. Or, to can, pour into clean, hot jars leaving 1/2-inch head space; close jars. Process in a water bath 15 minutes.
Per Serving: 113 Calories; trace Fat (1.4% calories from fat); trace Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 3mg Sodium.

Posted in Miscellaneous, on December 19th, 2015.

Syrup  / Photo by Chelsea Kyle, food styled by Rhoda Boone

One of my readers, Donna, left a comment for me about the new grading system for maple syrup.

If you haven’t shopped for maple syrup lately, you might not have been aware that sure enough, the powers that be have come up with a new set of names for the same set of maple syrup types. I never did particularly like the way they graded maple syrup because it seems to me that Grade B implied a lesser quality than Grade A – when, in fact, Grade B was actually a stronger flavor. I guess some other people must have thought the same thing. So now, all maple syrup is Grade A, but they just have gradations of color and descriptors.

The photo above came from epicurious and most of the information contained here comes from an article on epicurious about the new grading system.

In a nutshell, here’s what’s new – just look for the descriptive name and you’ll figure it out:

GRADE A: Golden Color & Delicate Taste – The far left one, that used to be called Grade A, is still Grade A, but it’s the mildest form, more like honey. It’s the early season syrup.

GRADE A: Amber Color & Rich Flavor – The second from the left is also still Grade A, but it’s like the old Grade B, both “Medium Amber” and “Dark Amber.” This one is more mid-season syrup.

GRADE A: Dark Color & Robust Flavor – the 3rd from the left is a Dark Amber also, but has the deeper flavor and is harvested later in the season.

GRADE A: Very Dark & Strong Flavor – the far right one and has the most maple flavor. It was a type that wasn’t sold commercially, but sold to factories and candy producers and can be substituted for molasses. I’m guessing it’s not something we’d ever see in a store. And obviously, this one is the last of the maple syrup to be harvested.

Thanks, Donna, for informing me about this change – I’ll know now, and so will you as you shop for maple syrup.

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