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Kristin Hannah is quite an author. She’s written upwards of 20 books, I think. This one, Magic Hour: A Novel is another very mesmerizing read. I could hardly put it down. A young, 6-year old child is found in a small town on the Olympic Peninsula. She’s mute and frightened beyond reason. And she seems not to understand English. A psychiatrist is brought to town to try to unravel the mystery and to “reach” the child. I don’t want to spoil the story, but know that the whole subject of nature (biology) vs. nurture comes into play and will keep you hanging onto your seat until the last few pages.

Ever heard of Barbara Pym? I knew the name, but hadn’t ever read any of her work. She was an English author (deceased now), having penned several books. I think she was an inveterate spinster, and in this book, Excellent Women she wrote about a small village community in England with the humdrum, day to day life, but she wrote with such interesting detail. I thought I might be bored to tears reading it, as it describes a 31-year old woman, considered a spinster in the time (1950s), and the book is about her rather boring life with new neighbors who move into her small home (2 units, sharing a bathroom), the local vicar, his sister, and a myriad of other ladies of the parish. Yet you get caught up in the very minor intrigue of the deteriorating marriage of the couple in the building, the love life of the vicar, and the annual planning for a jumble sale at the local church. This book is considered Pym’s best. I loved the book. I highlighted a bunch of phrases and sentences (I will be doing a book review in one of my book clubs). It wasn’t boring at all, and was entertaining right up to the last page!

Did you ever watch Sandra Lee on the Food Network? This was in the early days of the network, and I did watch her some, although her cooking style didn’t mesh much with mine, since I’m a bit of a make-things-from-scratch kind of girl. But then, I don’t make my own mayo, or jam anymore. And I understand her philosophy, making it easier for busy women to feed their families and juggle a busy life. I’d never thought about reading her memoir. But then, a friend highly recommended I do so. I found a used copy online, and read Made From Scratch: A Memoir. She had a very, very hard young life. Her mother? Well, she shouldn’t have even been a mother. Sandra was the eldest and from a very early age she took care of all of her younger siblings. She was badly mistreated and nearly raped by a family member. Her grandmother Lorraine was her favorite person from the get-go and Sandra took care of her grandmother in her waning years. Once Sandra was old enough she left home and went to college for 3 years, then her entrepreneurial spirit just took over. She learned by doing in every job she’s ever had, and I have to admire her tremendously for her accomplishments. She made money, then lost it, found another niche, made money, then lost it. Yet she’s got the kind of grit that we should all emulate. There are 2 recipes in the book. Sandra is a Christian, and a paragraph that really gripped me was at the very end: “Grace has become one of my favorite words. To me it means learning to balance the good days with the bad. Grace is about being proud of yourself, your actions, your life, what you stand for, and the way you give back [Sandra is a huge philanthropist]. Its’ being generous when someone hurts you; it’s knowing when and how to react. It’s knowing that someone you’re not fond of today might turn out to be the only person who puts his or her hand out tomorrow just when you’re about to step in front of a moving bus. Grace is offering understanding and acceptance when the rest of the world does not.” This book isn’t great literature; yet I’m very glad I read it. She is an inspiration.

The book Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee had been recommended to me by several friends. Finally got around to reading it. It’s a novel about a family of Koreans living in Japan and covers several decades, beginning in the 1940s, I believe. They’re poor. Dirt poor, yet the women just get themselves back up and work. The husbands in the story have problems, health and otherwise. But what you see here is work, and work and more work just to keep above water. You’ve probably read about how poorly Koreans are treated in Japan – they’re kind of thought of as scum of the earth. I don’t know if this phenomena is still true today, but it apparently was even up until a couple of decades ago. As  you read this book, you’ll find yourself rooting for various family members as they progress in life. A fateful decision is made by one that reverberates throughout her life and those of her children. Pachinko (the machines and the gaming economy that runs because of it) is thought of as part of the underbelly of Japanese culture. I remember seeing the pachinko machines when I visited Japan back in the 1960s. So the book infers, much of pachinko is even controlled by a kind of Japanese mafia and certainly has no status if you work in the pachinko arena. Wealth, yes. Status, no. Very worth reading, even though it’s tough going part of the way. This isn’t a “happy” book. But still worth knowing and reading about the subject. Reading the author’s afterword at the end was very revealing and interesting.

Also read An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones. The book is set in the south with a young, well-educated, middle-class couple and suddenly the husband is accused and convicted of rape (that he didn’t commit). The book is not about the justice system or his wrongful conviction. Not at all. It’s about the relationship, the husband, wife, and then the 3rd person who inserts himself into the mix. Much of this story is told through the letters that Roy and Celestial write each other during and after his incarceration. Jones recreates the couple’s grief, despair and anger until they finally work their way to acceptance, but maybe not how you would expect it. This is complicated emotional territory navigated with succinctness and precision, making what isn’t said as haunting as the letters themselves.  Some of the above (italics) came from the New York Times’ book review.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces. I’ve always admired her and her acting, but never knew much about her. I remember when she was involved with Burt Reynolds, but knew nothing about her dysfunctional coming of age. I think she’s a consummate actress, and was awed by her performance in Norma Rae, and also with her role as Abraham Lincoln’s wife.  She wrote this book herself, with help from a writer’s workshop and with some good advice from various other writers. It’s very well written. She spends a lot of time discussing the very young years and her perverted step-father. But the over-arching person in her life was her mother, be what she may as far as being a good/bad mother. I really liked the book; really enjoyed reading about how Sally throws herself into her tv and film roles over her life. And what a defining moment Norma Rae was in her career. Well worth reading if you enjoy movie star memoirs.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel. It’s a gripping novel about a young girl whose family moves to Alaska when her father is gifted a small plot of land with a ramshackle cabin on it that’s barely fit for habitation. The family survives only because some of the townspeople offer to help them learn how to live through an Alaskan winter, which is not easy. The girl’s father is a tyrant and a wife-beater as well. Some pages were hard to read. Surviving on the land with nearly no funds is an arduous task in the best of times, but doubly so when you’re dealing with an Alaskan winter which lasts about 9 months of the year. I don’t want to spoil the story by telling you too many details. The book touches on some very current social issues and is so worth reading. Although difficult at times, as I said. But I’m very glad I did. I think it would make for a good book club read – lots of survival issues to discuss, let alone the other social problems that ensue. But there’s also love, which makes it worth the read.

Recently finished reading a book for one of my book clubs. I’m interested to find out who in that group recommended this book, Tangerine: A Novel by Christine Mangan. Had it not been selected for my club, I wouldn’t ever have picked it up. Most of it takes place in Tangiers, in the 1950s. Alice and John have moved there, newlyweds, when Lucy Mason shows up. Lucy is Alice’s former college roommate. Lucy simply moves in. There’s bad blood between them following the death of Alice’s beau during their college years. Lucy, who might appear as a very sensible woman, has a dark physical and mental obsession with her “friend.” Is it horror? Not really by strict definition. Is it a mystery? Not quite, although there are several murders that take place. Chapters jump between Alice’s voice and Lucy’s voice and you understand the mental fragility of Alice, and this consuming obsession Lucy has for her friend. I’m NOT recommending this book, but I did finish it just because of my book club choosing this very strange book.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

One of my book clubs occasionally reads a kind of edgy book. This is one of them. By Mohsin Hamid, Exit West: A Novel is a book set in an age not dissimilar to our own and in current time, but something bad has happened in the world. Something never divulged, although symptoms of a civil war are mentioned. A unmarried couple, Nadia and Saeed, are given the opportunity (as others are, as well) to go through a door (this is the exit part of the title) and to another place in the world – it takes but a second – to go through the special door. They go to England (London), to a palatial mansion. Sometimes the power grid is sketchy. Another door. And yet another. And finally to Marin County (north of San Francisco). You follow along with the ups and downs of the chaste relationship of the two, this couple from a house to living on the streets. And the eventual dissolution of the relationship too. I wasn’t enamored with the book, but after listening to the review of it and hearing others talk about it, I suppose there’s more to this story than it might appear. Hope is the word that comes to mind. The book is strange, but it won the Los Angeles Times book award in 2017. It’s received lots of press. It made for some very interesting discussion at our book club meeting.

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. 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.

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.

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 Uncategorized, on May 31st, 2019.

One of my granddaughters is currently studying abroad in Argentina. This would be Sara’s daughter, Sabrina. It took her a full two months to learn the dialect they speak in Argentina. She spoke perfectly wonderful and fluent California/Baja California Spanish, but could hardly understand, or be understood in Argentina. It was very frustrating to her. She and the other 37 Clemson University students studying there all had the same difficulty. She’s finally got the language down pat, and she’s really enjoyed her classes she’s been taking there (all in Argentinian Spanish, of course). She just took a trip to Iguazu Falls and has one more trip before she comes home, that one to Machu Picchu. Then she’ll fly home at the end of June.

So, in a long conversation with her parents, they asked her what she wants to do first when she gets back home. She has it all mapped out. Sara, John, John Jr. (Sabrina’s brother) and I will drive to LAX to pick her up. First, take her to a Mexican restaurant because she’s been dying, just dying, for Mexican food. First order: a burrito. I don’t know what kind. She arrives early in the morning at LAX, so we’ll have to scope out a place that’s open. Might have to be fast food. . ..  Then, she said, you have to drive me to the beach (LAX IS right on the Pacific Ocean) so she can walk in the sand and stick her feet in the salt water. Then we’ll drive to Pasadena where Uncle Powell (Sara’s brother) and Aunt Karen live. They want to see her, of course, get a de-briefing of her 5 1/2 month sojourn, then, ta-da: she wants to have Grandma’s Grilled Salmon with Watercress Salad. This is the photo from my post – I posted the recipe in 2007 or 2008, but I updated the photo in 2009. This has been one of my go-to favorites for decades.

salmon watercress salad

This request just warms my heart. I haven’t made this salmon/watercress salad for quite awhile. I was sharing Sabrina’s requests with my bible study group and we’re having a potluck dinner in a week or so, so I’m going to make this for them, especially after they heard about it.

Posted in Desserts, Uncategorized, on April 11th, 2019.

Wanna know what SMBC means?  SMBC is Swiss Meringue Butter Cream.

This is a post from Sara.  Please note this recipe takes time but is not difficult.

Sorry for the long delay in getting a blog post up here but I chose a ridiculously complicated dessert to be my first attempt on my own.  What ever made me think I should post a cupcake that includes 3 separate recipes, I’ll never know.

I’ve been baking since I was itty bitty and I’ve never found a chocolate cake this moist or a frosting so good.  I’m never going back to a standard butter cream recipe.  You know, the typical butter, powdered sugar and liquid.  The SMBC is the lightest, fluffiest frosting I’ve ever worked with.  As with all other frostings, you can color it and flavor it but it is best done without liquids.  Colored gels and powdered flavors are best.  The cake is a buttermilk recipe that is now my absolute go to favorite.  I’m very new to Pinterest but found this website Livforcake.com.   The blogger, Olivia, gave me the inspiration for this recipe.  I actually used her buttermilk chocolate cake and her SMBC peanut butter recipe but added the surprise center filling on my own.

The original cake recipe used oil and buttermilk but as I am watching my fat intake, I substituted low fat buttermilk and unsweetened applesauce.  I’ve made the recipe both ways and the original recipe is excellent.  It’s fluffy, moist and very intensely flavored.  However, with the sweetness of the filling and frosting, I don’t mind the change.

There is a real trick to making SMBC (Swiss Meringue Butter Cream).  There is a tips blog page on Olivia’s website that I would mandate you read first if I could grab the link.  So search SMBC on her website for “How to make swiss meringue buttercream”.  The biggest and most important detail is to use metal utensils and bowls and to wipe them down with lemon juice or vinegar before using.

I have a thing for filled cupcakes so this has 3 recipes that make up the cupcake.  If I could suggest, bake the cupcakes beforehand.  Then scoop out the centers (keep for snacks later!) and make the peanut butter filling.  Drop a ball into each cavity.  Then make the frosting.  Assemble and decorate.  I made these for my niece and her soccer team.  She shoots and she SCORES!  Needless to say, they were a big hit.

What’s GOOD:  What’s not to like?  These are moist, decadent cupcakes with a peanut butter surprise and intensely flavored peanut butter frosting.  I love this cake recipe.  I think it’s my new favorite.

What’s NOT:  If you haven’t made a meringue frosting before, it can be intimidating.  As I said, read up on it first and DO NOT skip the acid wipe of your all metal utensils.  I’ve made the SMBC twice now and haven’t had any problems.  The recipe is time consuming, I admit.  But I made the cupcakes Thursday night after work.  Stored them in lidded containers.  Then Friday after work, I scooped out the cupcakes, made the filling and dropped it in.  It probably took me 30 mins to make the frosting.

printer friendly pdf for the cupcakes

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

Adapted from LivForCake.com
Servings: 24

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
3/4 cup hot water
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350F, line cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
2. Place all dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Stir to combine.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk all wet ingredients (pour water in slowly as not to cook the eggs if very hot.)
4. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix on medium for 2-3 mins. Batter will be very thin.
5. Pour evenly into prepared cupcake trays.
6. Bake until a tester comes out mostly clean 18-22 mins.
7. Cool 10 mins in pans then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.
8. CUPCAKES: scoop out center of cupcake to make room for filling, if using.

. . .
printer friendly pdf for peanut butter filling

* Exported from MasterCook *

Peanut Butter Filling

Recipe By: Adapted from an old magazine
Serving Size: 28

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter — softened
1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1. Stir together peanut butter and butter.
2. Gradually add sugar, stirring til combined.
3. Shape into balls. Place on wax paper and chill til needed.
Per Serving: 55 Calories; 4g Fat (56.1% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 3mg Cholesterol; 34mg Sodium.

. . .
printer friendly pdf for SMBC PB Frosting

* Exported from MasterCook *

Peanut Butter SMBC (Swiss Meringue Butter Cream) Frosting

Recipe By: LivForCakes.com

5 large egg whites
1 2/3 cup dark brown sugar lightly packed
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter cubed — room temperature
1/2 cup powdered peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla

1. Place egg whites and dark brown sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk until combined. Ensure there is NO trace of egg yolk.
2. Place bowl over a hot water bath on the stove and whisk constantly until the mixture is hot and no longer grainy to the touch (approx. 3mins). Or registers 160F on a candy thermometer.
3. Place bowl on your stand mixer and whisk on med-high until the meringue is stiff and cooled (the bowl is no longer warm to the touch (approx. 5-10mins)).
4. Slowly add cubed butter and mix until smooth. It may look like it’s curdling at some point. Keep mixing until it comes together.
5. Add powdered peanut butter & vanilla and whip until smooth.
Per Serving: 96 Calories; 0g Fat (0.0% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 274mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on March 21st, 2019.

My friend Kathy’s daughter, Meredith, took these pictures. We, here in California, are experiencing what’s called a “super bloom” because of all the rain we’ve had over this winter. Our open spaces everywhere are in full green and grow mode. But we have poppies here in California that bloom like weeds. Meredith and a girlfriend went out into the desert earlier this week and took these pictures. Aren’t they just gorgeous?

Meredith took dozens of pictures, but I chose two of the best ones. Thanks, Meredith for sending to me so I could post them on the blog.

Posted in Uncategorized, on December 31st, 2018.

You know, I’ve been writing this blog for nearly 12 years. And as time has gone by, I’ve lengthened the interval between posts (at first it was every day, then every other, then every 3 days, and currently about every 4 days). With this diet I’m on, I don’t imagine you, my readers, have been all that interested in what I have to write. It takes a firm discipline to be on the Stephen Gundry, Plant Paradox diet. It’s restrictive, and isn’t a diet that you take on lightly, or even as a diet you’ll eventually get to the end of. It’s a life-long commitment, if you choose to continue. There are days when I’m quite frustrated with it, but I do believe in the basic premise of it – virtually no carbs.

I’m experimenting with a few recipes to make “breads” that are edible on this diet, but are they satisfying? Not much, so far. I long for a slice of whole grain toast now and then, and a simple tuna sandwich slathered with some mayo and on white bread. Or a potato, or some kernels of corn in a soup. All no-no’s. My eating style has changed so much in the 9 months or so I’ve been on this diet. Currently I’m having 2 hard boiled eggs for breakfast, with a little mound of fresh blueberries on the side. For lunch I have soup, something I’ve made that contains foods I can eat. I have a small handful of nuts and a raw carrot in the mid-afternoon if I’m craving a snack. For dinner mostly I eat a salad with plenty of vegetables in it and tossed with a homemade dressing I’ve prepared. And at some point in the day I do indulge in some very dark chocolate (an ounce a day, which is allowed). That’s it. I can have a bit of wine if I want it, and I’ve been enjoying eggnog this month if it’s made with heavy cream. I do go out to eat some (with friends) and order meat and a veg mostly. Or a salad if they have one that’s got food I can eat.

On occasion I still cook “regular” meals, with carbs. But they’re for guests. Usually very little of it that I can eat. And yes, it’s difficult doing that. I have so many wonderful recipes on my blog and I’m sad I can’t have most of them anymore.

So, all that said, I’m giving myself permission to quit writing posts for the time being. Or at least not on the schedule I’ve been on. Or, unless I make something that I am really enamored with and feel a strong need to share with you. I’m not going away. My plan is to devote some of this extra time to my art, something I haven’t done in many years and I’d like to get back to it. Drawing and watercolor mostly. I’ll keep the blog up (it costs me about $12/month to keep it on the ‘net and an annual fee for the domain name). Maybe I’ll come back to it. I don’t know. I’ve never accepted advertising, nor guest posts (other than my daughter’s). Daughter Sara would like to take over this blog, and perhaps she will – she says she want to. There’s a certain discipline that’s needed when you write a blog, and I’m not sure with her so-very-busy life (full time job and family) that she has the time. But she took photos of 2-3 recipes on December 24th, and she wants to share them. I need to teach her how to do it all, however, so the plan is that sometime in the next few weeks she’s going to come here to my house and I’ll spend time with her doing that.

I’ve been retired since 1995 – gee whiz – that’s 23 years ago – and I’ve actually accomplished all of the goals I made for myself when I did so. (Those goals: 1. write a cookbook for my children [I started this blog first, but I did print a cookbook that I gifted to all of my kids and close friends]; 2. start an investment club [did that for 11 years, I think it was]; and 3. learn to paint [yes, did that one too]. I hadn’t planned on becoming a widow, however. At least not this soon. In March, it’ll be 5 years since Dave passed away. But I’m so grateful he and I did lots and lots of traveling in the years of our marriage and especially so after we both retired. We visited every place we’d put on our travel list and then some. I’m still living in a great big house, and I truly love my home, but there are days when I get overwhelmed with keeping watch over everything. In the last year I’ve had a leak – sprinklers that were spraying the house rather than the garden and it caused a $10,000 repair bill to replace hardwood flooring inside, dry wall, stucco outside, treat for subterranean termites, paint inside and out, etc. It was a big job and fortunately there was no mold. Currently I have a roof leak of unknown origin. Fortunately, during our heavy rains last month it only leaked onto my glass-topped coffee table (family room) and nowhere else. Now a big towel and a wide bowl sit smack-dab in the middle of that table all the time. Heaven forbid that we’d have a rain and I’d have forgotten to put the bowl on the table, so it’s safer to leave it there all the time. Next step is to contact a leak detection company and have them make a go of it.

Recently I’ve subscribed to MasterCook’s online sync (currently $35.00/year), which gives me the ability to access all of my recipes from my phone because all the recipes that live on my kitchen computer as synced to the ones at the MasterCook website – those 4,000 recipes (and counting – I think yesterday I input about 12 recipes) I’ve input into the MasterCook program. Previously, if I was out, I could access only my blog to look up my recipes, but of course I couldn’t get to all the recipes I have in my to-try file. Now I can do that when I’m at the grocery store and forgot to bring the recipe with me, or forgot to make a shopping list. I use Alexa to add items to my shopping list, but sometimes I simply forget to do even that!

I’ll keep my blog up and available for awhile. And maybe in a month or so I’ll miss it so much I’ll start back up again. You never know! But if you’ve ever planned to go back and look at older recipes and download them, you might want to do it. But for now, the blog will just “be there.” You’re welcome to email me with questions.

carolyn AT tastingspoons.com

Posted in Uncategorized, on August 12th, 2018.

Without a doubt, the best photo I took on the whole trip.

This trip my family took was 16 days – 3 nights in London, 4 nights in Florence, 4 nights in Paris, 3 nights in Normandy and the last night at an airport hotel. Our Airbnb adventure began in Florence, at an apartment just 30 steps from the Piazza Santa Croce. In hunting for a place, I knew about what area I wanted us to stay, and it was difficult, 10 months before the trip, to even find anything available to sleep 8 of us. As I mentioned earlier, however, the only reason (I believe) this apartment was available was because it was up 4 flights of stone steps without an elevator. We all got used to the climb (my grandson John carried my luggage up and down for me – bless him!). With my workout routine (cardio) I was able to walk up the full 4 flights without stopping – the first time each day – but each subsequent climb I’d usually have to pause at the 3rd floor for about 3 breaths, then continued on up. 

The apartment was wonderful – and the best part – it was air conditioned. Florence was HOT. Hot in temps and high in humidity. We all complained of the heat, but then, we asked for it by traveling to Europe in July. It got worse after we left (in fact, Europe has been experiencing a heat wave since we came home). 

I’ve been to Florence multiple times – and my choice always is to be out in the hills, the small towns, the countryside – but this was the first time there for some of them and there are so many things to see in Florence, so we needed to be in the hub of things. The closest grocery store was about 3/4 mile away, and Karen, Sara and I made the trek the first afternoon to stock up. We ate all our breakfasts at the apartment, drinking copious cups of coffee and filling ourselves with wonderful fruit, bread and cheeses. Plus some lovely salumi as well. You know, in Italy, the custom is bread without any salt – salt was an expensive commodity somewhere back in the dark ages, and the Italians simply got used to bread without it. We were able to buy baguettes too (also without salt) so we enjoyed those every day. The cheeses and salamis were my favorite.

My family all had varying goals in mind – the Uffizi museum, the statue of David (by Michelangelo), the Galileo museum (a highlight for 10-year old Vaughan because of it’s interactive gadgets showcasing Galileo’s infinite scientific inventions), Fiesole (a hill town nearby the city), the Duomo, of course, gelato and more gelato. And pasta. I think the 3 children had pasta every day in one way or another. One of my goals was to eat at Il Latini, my favorite Florence restaurant. Karen’s uncle, who speaks a bit of Italian, was able to make a reservation for us weeks ahead (it’s a very popular restaurant) and we were whisked right in when the doors opened at 7:30. Another goal of mine was to visit Michelangelo’s tomb which is housed in the Santa Croce church. You have to pay to enter. 

Back last year when I knew we were going to make this trip I sent my granddaughter Sabrina a copy of one of my favorite books of all time – The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo by Irving Stone. I read it when I was in my 20s and have never forgotten it. Sabrina brought the book along on the trip, and since she’s an artist (she’s the granddaughter going to Clemson, who now says, she thinks, that she wants to go to med school, not vet school) she was really interested. After going to see the statue of David, she came flying into the apartment, arms outstretched, to hug me and thank me for the trip, but also the joy she felt at seeing the David statue. I didn’t go with them as I was standing guard at the apartment, hoping young John’s luggage was going to be delivered, but it was deadly hot that day and I remembered from before that there is simply no air in the building that houses the statue. I was thankful to be in the apartment, in the A/C, pleasantly reading. 

The tomb of Michelangelo

There’s the Michelangelo tomb, inside the Santa Croce church. You can’t walk up to it – they’ve constructed an ornate railing and there are engravings in the marble floor in front of it, so they don’t want the general public walking all over it. Many exhibits in Florence have English and Italian captions.

One of the evenings we took taxis (two, obviously) to a hill on the south side of the Arno. It’s an open piazza, on a hilltop, and there were about 300-400 other tourists angling to get the best camera shot of the river, of Florence, of the Ponte Vecchio bridge (the one closest to the viewer) at sunset. And oh, that did not disappoint. I took about 30 photos. There was a collective sigh when the sun finally disappeared.

Posted in Uncategorized, on August 9th, 2018.

Our family + one, L-R: Shelby (friend), Sabrina, Vaughan (now 11), Karen, me, Sara, Powell, John, John Jr having dinner at a pub in London

Our last night in London we got ourselves to a well recommended pub (I think it was called the Grenadier). I have no recollection what I ordered. In the foreground, where I was sitting, you’ll see a drink – we had it several times in London – strawberry gin. I’d never heard of it – Karen ordered it first, and then Sara did, then I did, then Sabrina did. It’s mixed usually with soda or tonic, and I must say, it was really refreshing. Sabrina bought a bottle at the airport as we left England; Karen did too. I didn’t think I would have room in my suitcase (actually I did, but just thought I’d wait until I got home) so yesterday I went to Total Wine and they carry Linton Hill strawberry gin. I’ll enjoy it this evening, I think.

The other drink that we found was on many menus was Aperol Spritz. Aperol is an Italian apéritif made of gentian, rhubarb, and cinchona, among other ingredients. It’s not sweet in the least, and it’s mixed with soda water and sometimes not on ice, as many European drinks are. It was so hot in Europe that most of us adults enjoyed a cocktail before dinner to help us cool down. 

Obviously, Westminster Abbey. We had to wait in line for quite awhile.

I’d told everyone that Westminster Abbey needed to be high on the must-visit list. All of the kids used the tube one evening they were “out,” but the adults weren’t so enamored with the thought of it (hot and very crowded), so our last day we taxied over to the Thames and stood in line for about an hour. Everyone was in a bit of awe over the tombs of several English kings and queens, and the Poet’s Corner. We probably spent about an hour walking around. Photography is no longer allowed in Westminster Abbey, so I have nothing to show for being inside. The next morning we got ourselves to London’s “City” airport (closer than Heathrow) and flew to Florence. Next post . . .

Posted in Uncategorized, on July 14th, 2018.

tex_mex_albondigas

We’re certainly not going into soup season, but I eat soup year ‘round. And this one is very satisfying if you like Mexican style cooking, this one is sort of a Tex-Mex.

Where this recipe came from, I know not. I think it came from a Rachel Ray TV program some years ago. But since I evolved the recipe some, it’s no longer “original” anyway, so it’s my version, and what exactly made this Tex-Mex, I’m not sure. Maybe the chorizo? Or the seasonings in the meatballs? Well, never mind about that. It’s still a really good soup.

Varying this was my way of sticking to my low-to-no carbs diet. What I eliminated from this recipe were bread and carrots – the crumbled up bread in the meatballs, and the carrots in the soup. And I substituted ground turkey for the chorizo, although I probably could have had chorizo; I just didn’t have any lean chorizo on hand. I like the chorizo at Whole Foods – it’s very lean and super-tasty. But I didn’t have any . . . and I forgot to garnish the bowl with a slice of lime. Oh well.

Since I’ve been on this new eating regimen I’m trying to find more recipes that get in lots of vegetables and lean protein, but with tons of flavor. There are lots of herbs and spices in the meatballs, AND there are plenty of seasonings in the soup part as well. I’ve upped the volume of onions in the soup, and added some celery (likely not authentic) to give the soup more texture. And I added some diced avocado to the garnish. On this Gundry diet, avocado is beloved; we’re advised to eat at least a half of one a day. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that for every 2 avocados I buy, at least one is rotten inside. My daughter Sara told me that she buys all her avocados at Costco and so far she’s had no throw-aways at all, but you have to buy a big bunch of them. Not sure I could eat them all before they’d go bad from over-ripening.

What’s GOOD: what puts it on the really delicious scale for me is flavor. I liked all the garnishes, and the meatballs, made with some ground turkey, are very tasty. You CAN discern the little tiny speck of cinnamon in the meatballs – that adds a lovely nuance to them. Might seem odd, but worth adding!

What’s NOT: nothing really – the laundry list of ingredients might seem daunting, but a lot of them are seasonings of one kind or another. This would even work for a weeknight dinner – making the meatballs does take some time, but they’re not all that fussy to do.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Tex-Mex Albondigas

Recipe By: Adapted from a Rachel Ray recipe
Serving Size: 6

MEATBALLS:
2 tablespoons EVOO — divided
1 small yellow onion — very finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 pinches ground cinnamon
Salt and ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic — finely chopped or grated
1 egg
1/4 cup cream — or half-and-half
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound ground turkey — or use chorizo if preferred
SOUP:
3 tablespoons EVOO
2 large onion — chopped
2 medium carrots — chopped (optional, but authentic)
1 1/2 cups celery — chopped
1 large jalapeno chile pepper — seeded and chopped
28 ounces diced tomatoes
1 quart low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 lime — sliced, for garnish
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro — for garnish
4 scallions — thinly sliced, for garnish
1/2 cup sour cream — for garnish
1 whole avocado — diced

1. Place a large pan over medium-high heat with about 2 tablespoons of EVOO. Add onion, cumin, oregano, coriander, cinnamon, some salt and pepper to the pan and cook until the veggies are tender and spices are aromatic, 3-4 minutes. During last minute add the fresh garlic. Remove the skillet from the heat and let the veggies cool. Don’t wash the pan.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg with the cream. Add the cooled veggies to the bowl along with the ground beef and turkey, some salt and pepper. Combine the mixture with your hands and form into 1-inch balls.
3. For the sauce, in the same pot, heat over medium-high heat with 3 tablespoons EVOO. Add the chopped onion, carrots (if using) and jalapeno to the pan, and cook until tender, 5-6 minutes. Transfer about HALF of the mixture to a food processor and puree with the tomatoes. Return the mixture to the pot and add the chicken stock and chili powder. Bring up to a simmer and add in the meatballs. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, about 10 minutes.
4. To serve, scoop about 1 heaping cup of meatballs into a soup bowl, add about 1 cup of the soup part, then garnish each bowl with cilantro, chopped green onion, a squirt of sour cream and diced avocado. (If you have them and want to use them, add some crushed tortilla chips to the top – not authentic but gives lots of texture.)
Per Serving: 656 Calories; 47g Fat (62.8% calories from fat); 39g Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 169mg Cholesterol; 561mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on January 15th, 2018.

Every year I give you a short list of Carolyn’s best (this year it’s 12) I posted during the previous year. Click on the link if you’d like to go take a look again, or if you missed it the first time around! It’s interesting (to me anyway) to note that 2 of the 12 are sheetpan dinners! And one is a lowly, but elegant baked potato!

 

pumpkin_cheesecake_trifle_bowl_175

A very elegant dessert, a Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifle made with angel food cake, pumpkin stuff and whipped cream.

 

 

 

 

 


arugula_salad_peppers_stuffed_mushrooms_175

Lovely salad – for a special dinner, or could be an entrée salad: Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms with Arugula.

 

 


pepper_onion_roast_indian_spices_175

Roasted vegetables – oh gosh are these good – nothing more than bell peppers and onions with some Indian type spices (not hot). Worth making: Bell Pepper and Onion Roast.

 


sheetpan_chix_cabbage_onions_175

The first of the sheetpan dinners for the year – this one with chicken thighs and wedges of cabbage. Cabbage never tasted so good. Sheetpan Roasted Chicken and Cabbage.

 


perfect_baked_potato_175

Did you think there could be such thing as a “perfect” baked potato? New techniques, but oh, so worth the effort. It may be the star of your dinner plate. The Perfect Baked Potato. After I posted this my friend Joan’s husband Tom made it for himself – he liked it!

 


georgia_cracker_salad_175

The photo is kind of blah – but the dish is NOT! A salad, that sort of, kind of, tastes like potato salad, but made with saltine crackers. I took it to a potluck and many of the folks thought it WAS potato salad. A southern tradition. Georgia Cracker Salad.

 


grilled_shrimp_garlic_butter_sauce_175

Scampi at its finest. Never had it so good. Done on the barbecue, believe it or not. Grilled Shrimp Scampi.

 

 


applesauce_bundt_cake_caramel_icing_175

A very tender applesauce cake to remember, made in a bundt pan and drizzled with icing. Oh so good. Applesauce Bundt Cake with Caramel Icing.

 

 


raspberry_gratin_175

A dessert so easy you just won’t believe it. Fresh raspberries and brown sugar made into a quick gratin. Raspberry Brown Sugar Gratin.

 

 


eat_your_greens_soup_175

A soup of green stuff, but enhanced with some Parm. SO very delicious and healthy. From my friend Darci who had never given it a name, so I call it Eat Your Greens Soup.

 

 


sheet_pan_chix_thighs_bacon_sourdough_sw_potatoes_175

The second of the sheetpan dinners. I made this twice and want to make it again. Soon. Sheetpan Chicken Dinner with Bacon and Sourdough Croutons.

 


mushroom_soup_wo_cream_175

And last but not least, a so-flavorful mushroom soup, made with tons of umami flavor, but without a speck of milk or cream. And you won’t miss it. Mushroom Soup without Cream.

Posted in Uncategorized, on December 24th, 2017.

xmas_angel_2017

A beautiful, ethereal looking angel on a Christmas card I received this year. It was so pretty, I thought I’d share it. I hope you’re enjoying a lovely Christmas today.

Posted in Uncategorized, on October 28th, 2017.

freezer_after_tenting

Did I happen to mention in the midst of my termite tenting that I have a lot of NUTS in my freezer. Oh gracious. Maybe I’m part squirrel, because I’ve got a pound or two or three of nearly every imaginable nut in existence.

I didn’t discard any of them, so am determined that I will not, I swear, buy any nuts for at least a year, unless I’ve run out. I use more walnuts and almonds than anything else, but I have plenty of those as well!

It may not mean much to many of you, but to look at my freezer now, pictured at left, it’s manageable. It’s not chock-a-block full. I actually have places where I can SEE the shelf. The white bin (bottom left) is full of nuts, as are 2 drawers down below. I had some soup the other day that I defrosted from 2015. Hmmm. It had a lot of freezer burn in it, so wasn’t one of my better ones. But just about everything else in there is worth keeping and I’m slowly winnowing away at the contents.

I had the flu last week (guess it could have been worse had I not had a flu shot) and I dug into the soups for 2 meals once I was able to keep food down. I ate nothing for the first 24 hours except Sprite and sparkling cider.

Also, ERRATA – if you copied or printed out the recipe for the Pan-Roasted Brined Pork Chops I posted early this week, there’s a typo in it. (Thanks to my reader/friend Donna who noticed the error.) The ingredient list calls for 2 cups apple cider – no, it’s 2 cups apple cider vinegar. I’ve corrected the recipe online, the pdf and the MasterCook file in case you want to re-enter it or download the corrected versions.

Sara_375AND, big news, my daughter Sara, has asked me if I’d like her to write some posts on my blog. I’m thrilled. There are umpteen recipes already here on my blog that are hers. She’s a very good cook, and she absolutely loves-loves to bake. Her two kids (Sabrina is the daughter who’s at Clemson University and young John is still at home, in high school still) are her greatest fans. Her husband (also John) is too, of course. She’s the best sports-team mom there is as she loves to bake goodies for all the kids. She brought two delicious items to a family get-together last weekend (a stunning cocktail with Prosecco in it, and a delicious, healthy appetizer) but she says she really wants to share HER recipe for chocolate chip cookies. She promises this weekend she’s going to spend some time writing up some things.



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