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On my recent trip, I managed to get in a lot of reading on my Kindle. On airplanes, waiting for airplanes, waiting for the bus to load, waiting in lobbies for everybody to show up to leave, and at night when I couldn’t sleep. A fun book was Mr. Mac and Me, by Esther Freud. It takes place in England in 1914. In a time and place where a 13-year old boy has a lot of freedom. Although the war is looming, this little village is relatively quiet and safe, as life used to be. Boys will be boys, and he enjoys sort-of spying on people, especially people he doesn’t know well. He imagines that a man who arrives in town to rent a house with his paints and easels, might be a spy. Thus begins a story that starts from that premise, but eventually takes you into a very special friendship that develops between the man, Mr. Mac, his wife, and this boy. The story is absolutely charming. War brings some brutal truths for everyone in the village, yet this friendship flourishes. Great book.

Occasionally I’ll latch onto a book about food or restaurants. This one, The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O’Neal, is a romance (not a sticky sweet one) about a youngish woman (and her dog) who take a big leap to Colorado when she’s offered a job as a chef. The restaurant is fraught with some issues, but the author weaves in a romance, her skills as a leader in the kitchen, throws in some recipes (that I have yet to extract from my Kindle pages, that I want to try) along with it, and you have a book that held my interest all the way through. Formulaic, I suppose, but it’s a cute story. Books about restaurants always divulge some new tangle of how a kitchen runs. I enjoyed the read.

If you haven’t already read it, you are missing a really good and insightful book, Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan by Bill O’Reilly. I was riveted from page one, all the way through to the end. O’Reilly has a very engaging way of re-telling history and making it ever-so readable and interesting. He weaves people’s stories, ones  you likely haven’t read or heard, into his narrative, to give you such a sense of place. You can just feel how these soldiers, pilots, prisoners and seamen made their mark, but likely all unsung heroes. It’s a must-read, it really is.

Having read some of Kent Haruf’s other books, I read Our Souls at Night. A lonely widow decides to invite a neighbor man, also a lonely widower, if he’d like to come to her home, at night, to spend the night. I simply can’t tell you anything else because it would give away the story. This isn’t a story about s-x, but about two lonely people who come together for friendship and companionship. It’s very sweet, not twee, but sweet. You really feel for both of these older people. Read it.

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.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Uncategorized, on January 20th, 2017.

No, this isn’t a repeat from yesterday – these are the best-est recipes I posted last year. Yesterday’s post was for 2015. Sorry if this is confusing. Altogether different recipes here. For 2016 I had a total of 8 recipes. In years past I’ve had more best-est recipes, but I used to post every 2-3 days then. These days I’m posting every 4-5 days. Here’s 2016 best-est recipes:

 

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Spinach, Jicama, Red Onion and Orange Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

 

 

 

 

 


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Pork Enchilada Verde Casserole

 

 

 


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Chile-Buttermilk-Brined Pork Tenderloin

 

 

 

 


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Safari Seeded Cookies

 

 

 


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Blueberry Buckle

 

 

 


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Apple Bread Crumb Pudding

 

 

 


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Best Almond Cake

 

 
   Cinnamon Chocolate Cake

 

Posted in Uncategorized, on January 19th, 2017.

Last January, apparently, I forgot to post a list of my best-of-the-best recipes from the previous year. So, I’m rectifying that now. Tomorrow you’ll see the best of 2016.

There were only 7 best-est recips in 2015. And here they are. Click on the link to go to the original post about the recipe.

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Cranberry Salsa with Cream Cheese

 

 

 

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Roast Chicken Salad (simplified Zuni Café recipe)

 

 


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Braised Lamb Shanks with Carrots

 

 

 

breadfarms_grahams_175Breadfarm’s Homemade Graham Crackers

 

 

 


berry_cobbler_sublime_175Sublime Berry Cobbler

 

 

 


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 No-Bake Holiday Cookie Cubes (Dorie Greenspan)

 

 

 


peach_blackberry_almond_crisp_175Peach & Blackberry Almond Crisp

Posted in Uncategorized, on January 4th, 2017.

Cookie Science via @kingarthurflour

There’s a fascinating article over at Flourish, the blog written by the bakers at King Arthur Flour. I subscribe to their blog (have for years) and this particular one is so interesting. But then, I’ve always been interested in how a little tiny change in a recipe for cookies can make such a huge difference. Photo: King Arthur Flour

 

Have you ever wondered what would happen:

If you added 2 T of milk to the cookie batter?

If you added a little extra white sugar?

If you added brown sugar instead of white?

What if I used water instead of milk?

 

Head over to this blog piece, then, to get all the answers and the chemistry behind each one.

Posted in Uncategorized, on December 31st, 2016.

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I don’t much like pictures of myself. Janice, a family member, took this photo of my cousin Gary and me on Christmas Day. We were staying at my son’s home near Pasadena, and I think that was just some morning coffee in my hands! My cousin is very dear to me. He’s single, lives in Northern California, and has spent Christmases with me for years and years. He’s gone back home now, but I sure enjoyed having him here for the 10 days he visited. He did a whole bunch of “honey-do” items for me since I don’t have a “honey” anymore. He’s a tech wizard, and we managed to get nearly all the items accomplished. He’s my GF (gluten-free) relative, and I made a fabulous GF angel food pumpkin cheesecake trifle for Christmas Eve and Day. You’d not have known it was GF. Recipe coming up sometime soon.

Meanwhile, I hope all of you have a lovely New Year Holiday. I’m not doing anything special, just me with my little blind kitten, Angel, who’s been a great companion for me since I got her. She now knows her way around my downstairs, knows where her litter box is, and for now she spends nights in a downstairs bathroom. I’ll introduce her to my upstairs eventually, and likely she’ll sleep with me in time. She can’t go through the night without using her litter box, so I’m not ready to have her wake me up throughout the night. Why would she wake me up, you ask? – because as a blind kitten she can’t find her way off the bed – I’ll have to train her how to do that – the same thing training her how to get up on the bed – with a footstool and a pillow for her to climb and get down on, but because she can’t see her destination, it takes repetitive training to teach her – she’s very smart, so I know she’ll get it soon enough. She’s about 11 weeks old now. Here she is curled up in the cat tree beside me at my kitchen computer. Her eyes are recessed and if you look at her straight on, you know she’s blind, but gosh, she sure has acute hearing and smell. She’s a sweet little thing – when I don’t call her Angel I call her “sweet pea.”

Posted in Uncategorized, on December 18th, 2016.

A pool of melted chocolate. Using the best baking chocolate is important when making holiday desserts.

Photo: Consumer Reports

I read about this on another website (I think it was Eat Your Books). It was a link to a site at Consumer Reports where you can read just about everything you’d ever want to know about baking chocolate. It’s a great resource – one I should print out or at least save to my computer. Here’s the link:

http://www.consumerreports.org/holiday-food/best-baking-chocolate/

Posted in Uncategorized, on December 6th, 2016.

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I have a new kitten – isn’t that just the cutest photo?

Not that all of you keep track, but I had a cat, Oliver, for about 1 1/2 years. He was a good cat until a few months ago when he started biting me. Badly. Not just a friendly, playful nip. I had to make a very hard decision about him after he bit me so badly I had to go on antibiotics because my arm swelled up with infection. I tried training him with suggestions I read on the ‘net  – I could tell when he was going to leap and bite – his eyes dilated and he got into a stance to leap (and bite). He began to view my right arm as a predator, for some reason. I don’t know what was wrong with him – I never abused him or anything like that. But he had to go. It was heart-breaking – truly it was. I cried about it, but knew that no one else should adopt him if he had “issues.”

My thought was that  I wasn’t going to have another cat for awhile. Then, a few days ago I had a kind of a hard day – my house is all decorated for Christmas – I had Christmas carols playing – I felt cozy and warm inside, especially since I had the fireplace on too, and I just felt very lonely. And very sad. And I was grieving over my husband and my little Oliver too. Then out of the blue I got a phone call the next day from a friend who had known Oliver and what had happened. He called me about this little kitten. She was found on the side of the street, cold, wet (it was raining) and she couldn’t figure out how to get from the gutter up onto the curb. What her story is, we don’t know. But she wasn’t at all frightened of people. Her hearing, of course, is acute. The vet says she was likely born blind. I went online and read what I could about blind cats and it says they adapt extremely well – with suggestions like not moving furniture around too much, and they can’t ever go outside. Well, I couldn’t do that anyway, because I live in coyote country, and this little muffin would be a coyote’s snack in a minute.

The family who found her took the photo at top. How could you NOT love this little thing. She’s tiny, though she’s about 7-8 weeks old. She’s figured out in a little over a day and a half how to navigate around my downstairs (LR, DR, FM, kitchen). I’ve kept other doors closed so as not to confuse her. As I write this, she’s still trying to learn where her litter box is – since I’m not sure she does, I’m ever-vigilant to waltz her down the hall to her box on a regular basis. What I am is tired – because she’s like having a toddler in the house. But she’s sweet and the vet, today, says she’s fine and should have a happy life.

Posted in Uncategorized, on November 7th, 2016.

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Posted in Uncategorized, on June 30th, 2016.

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My friend Darlene grows wonderful tomatoes every summer. She shared a little batch of these tiny guys. Aren’t they beautiful? They taste like sugar!

Posted in Uncategorized, on April 26th, 2016.

My friend Darci told me about Pinterest about 3-4 years ago, I’m guessing it was. And I’ve been hooked ever since. My gosh, you could just get lost following links and finding new and different boards, everything from home décor, DIY projects, travel photos and obviously, FOOD. I’ve been posting some of my blog post pictures on Pinterest for a couple of years. Most of the time I pay little attention to what, amongst my own recipes/posts/pictures are being re-pinned, but the other day I decided to really look. I get an email every day informing me what items have been re-pinned, but to add them all up is very interesting. So, I thought I’d share with you the most popular pins.

The one that has created the most re-pins is:

I call them French Hamburgers. It’s a Julia Child recipe, and as I explained in my post, back in 2007, that these are a family favorite, one of my favorites, and even worthy of a company meal. You don’t serve them with hamburger buns – this is a much more formal kind of burger – it has a luscious wine/butter sauce poured over it, and you eat it kind of like a meatloaf, I suppose, but you do cook it in a skillet, just like a hamburger.

This recipe, as I write it up today, has been re-pinned several thousand times. That’s a LOT! I think. If you’ve never made these, you’re depriving yourself of a treat. Do buy good ground meat.

The next recipe that gets re-pinned a lot, is this salad dressing:

lime_cilantro_salad_dressing

This dressing, Lime Cilantro Dressing, was posted in 2013, from a new cookbook I’d been given. As I recall, I was making a very Southwestern type meal for guests, and thought this dressing sounded so different, and good.

The only really important thing to remember is that is must be used within 24 hours, as the fresh cilantro doesn’t hold up well in a dressing. As we know, cilantro wilts when it gets wet, and even though it’s suspended in a dressing, it also dissolves, sort of.

This picture has been re-pinned about 1400 times, as I write this, anyway, and somebody re-pins it almost every day.

 

 

And another one that’s also extremely popular is:

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If you stabilize mashed potatoes with cream cheese, they’ll keep at low heat for a long, long time. That’s why this recipe for Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes works so well. It’s was a regular on my Thanksgiving Day menu for years and years. Since my DH passed away, I usually go to one of my kids’ home for that day and I bring vegetables or dessert. If I ever need a whole bunch of mashed potatoes for a gathering, though, this is my go-to recipe that I posted back in 2007. It’s been re-pinned several hundred times.

 

Another favorite on Pinterest is this concoction:

Supposedly, this recipe comes from Rachael Ray. I got it at a cooking class many years ago, and even just now I searched amongst Rachael Ray’s recipes online, and it’s not there. So, who knows the origin. At any rate, it’s a cross between a soup and a stew. It’s thick. It’s easy peasy – ground beef and some pasta with a creamy sauce (from cream cheese added in at the end) and tomatoes and kidney beans. You can throw it together in no time flat. My mouth is watering . . .

Beef & Cheese Macaroni Stoup

This recipe hasn’t been re-pinned all that many times (like the ones above), but enough to make me notice!

If you’re not a regular on Pinterest, you might want to check it out. It’s fun. Addicting. Very interesting. Start your own “board,” and you save things to it, kind of like your own bulletin board at home, but it’s online. Create categories that suit your interests (like hobbies, reading, travel, etc.). I have a board for Zentangles (an art form) and yesterday I must have pinned 20 new Zentangle art pieces to my own board. You can visit other people’s boards, and you can “follow” specific people on boards also. It’s all about the pictures!

Posted in Uncategorized, on December 11th, 2015.

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On Monday, the 3 of us spent nearly all day baking Christmas cookies. What cookies, you ask? Read below.

Looks like I was the only one holding the glass of champagne and cassis we decided to share. Another friend, Sandy, stopped by with a bottle of champagne (thanks, Sandy). Sandy took the picture of us. Cherrie and I both made some of the cookie dough ahead of time so we had a leg up on the long day of baking. Here’s what we made – all recipes you can find here on my blog:

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Chocolate Almond Saltine Toffee – seems like this cookie/candy thing made with saltine crackers, caramel, chocolate and almonds has made the rounds for several years now. It’s such a winner of a recipe. I particularly like these because they’re sweet, salty, crunch and chocolate all at the same time. Love the texture. I’m not much of a fan of chocolate or caramel, but this. Oh yes, love it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next on the list of cookies were Cranberry Noels. They’re a slice and bake type – a sugar cookie type with chopped dried cranberries inside, formed into long rolls, then gently rolled in unsweetened shredded coconut. They’re chilled for several hours or overnight, sliced and baked. One of my favorites, and I even make them at other times of the year than Christmas.

 

 

These are just the best Ginger Cookies – a recipe from my friend Ann N. They’re crispy and crunchy and very easy. They flatten out all by themselves in the oven – all you do is roll them, press them down with a fork and bake. Great with a cup of coffee, I can attest.

 

 

 

 

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Mexican Wedding Cookies – the picture at left looks like they’re beige. No – I must have taken the photo under ambient light, not under my good lighting. So, they’re traditional and coated in powdered sugar that gets all over you and everything. But, they’re oh-so good. A must every Christmas.

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Viennese Chocolate-Walnut Bars. What can I say – good and chocolatey, but not like fudge. It’s more like a thick cake on top then topped with another thin layer of icing, then chocolate and nuts.  It’s a Maida Heatter recipe if that gives you any clue as to how perfect these are. I hadn’t made these for several years, but I’m glad we did. I’ve had one piece two mornings in a row with my coffee.

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Baked Apricot Rosemary Bars – the filling does have to cook for awhile (dried apricots, white wine, sugar, honey, brandy and salt) then it’s whizzed up in the blender. It is spread on top of the baked shortbread type layer (that contains the fresh chopped rosemary) and topped with crumbs, then baked.

We had a really fun day – Jackie and Cherrie both kept the kitchen sink clean by washing several batches of cookie sheets, mixing bowls and utensils. I almost took a picture of my kitchen floor to show you what it looked like. Not a pretty sight. My cleaning gals came the next day so I just left it all there and they cleaned it up.

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