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Just finished reading How It All Began: A Novelby 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.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant (she arrived after the birth, actually). Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of middle-aged high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, and wealthy) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading 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

This is a tough job – but here are my favorites of the recipes I’ve posted to date. Click on the title and you’ll go to a post about the recipe. The ones with asterisks are blue ribbon in my book.


APPETIZERS
Bacon & Tomato Dunk (a dip)
Bombay Cheese Ball
Coriander Lime Shrimp
Corn, Green Chile & Cheese Dip
Cranberry Salsa with Cream Cheese
Crostini with Blue Cheese, & Apples *****
Crostini with Pea Puree, Yogurt & Mint
Layered Hummus & Eggplant *****
Mahogany Onion Bruschetta
Orange Fennel Mostarda (a chutney-like spread for baguette slices or on top of cream cheese)
Roasted Carrot Platter
Sausage Pinwheels

BEVERAGES
Horchata Milk Shake (can be a dessert also)
Margaritas (marinated)


BREADS
Bishop’s Bread (a holiday sweet bread) *****
and the slightly revised Golden Bishop’s Bread
Buttermilk Scones *****
Chocolate Scones
Custard-Filled Cornbread
Goat Cheese Chive Muffins
Irish Soda Bread with Orange Zest
Herbed Biscuit Ring (easy, using canned biscuits)
Pumpkin Raisin Bread (yeast)
Welsh Cakes (like scones)

BRUNCH
Breakfast Eggy Muffins *****
Corn, Bacon and Cheddar Strata
Ham & Egg Cups (pesto, tomatoes) *****
Pineapple Upside Down French Toast
Pork & Ground Turkey Breakfast Sausage


COOKIES
Almond Spice Wafers  (like Moravian Sugar Cookies)
Baked Cinnamon Toasts
Blue Chip Chocolate Chip Cookies
Breadfarm’s Graham Crackers
Choc Chip Cookies from Silver Moon *****
Chocolate Almond Saltine Toffee *****
Chocolate Kiss Treasures
Cranberry Noels *****
Ginger Cookies
Harlequin Pinwheels
Heavenly Cream Cheese  Brownies
Mexican Wedding Cookies
No-Bake Cookie Cubes (chocolate)
One Bowl Chocolate Chip Cookies (crispy, chewy, thin) *****
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies – GF
Rocky Road (like fudge)
Safari Seeded Cookies
Viennese Chocolate-Walnut Bars


DESSERTS
Anise Cake a la Coyote Cafe
Apple Bread Crumb Pudding
Applesauce Bundt Cake with Caramel Icing
Applesauce Spice Cake with Caramel Glaze *****
Apricot-Plum-Raspberry Streusel Cake
Banana Caramel Chocolate Chip Cake
Berry Cobbler (with cream biscuits on top)
Best Almond Cake
Blueberry Buckle
Butterscotch Pudding
Cajun Apple Cake with Brandy Drizzle
Chocolate Chunk Brownies
Classic Gingerbread
Crisp Apple Pudding *****
Dario’s Olive Oil Cake ****
86-Proof Chocolate Cake
Emily Luchetti’s 50-Year Apple Cake with Crumb Topping
German Chocolate Chip Cake (easy)
Ginger Apple Cake Torte *****
Gourmet Cheesecake
Grandgirl’s Fresh Apple Cake
Hazelnut Shortcakes with Plum Raspberry Compote
Horchata Milk Shake (add Kahlua and it’s decadent)
Lemon Cake, Limoncello Glaze, Yogurt-Lime Mousse
Lemon Velvet Ice Cream *****
Mixed Berry Meringue Parfaits
Peach & Blackberry Crisp
Pear & Chocolate Tart
Pear Crisp
Plum & Almond Cobbler
Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifle (easy)
Purple Plum Torte
Raspberry Brown Sugar Gratin (unbelievably easy)
Regal Chocolate Sauce
Rice Pudding
Rum Cake (an egg-separated sponge-type pound cake)
Aarti’s Indian Rice Pudding
Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Ice Cream
Roasted Banana Ice Cream/Gelato
Teddie’s Apple Cake
Tiramisu (from America’s Test Kitchen)
Wattleseed Ice Cream (but you do need a source for Australian wattleseed to make it!)
Woodford Pudding


MAIN DISHES (including main dish salads)
Baked Salmon with Agave & Lime
Beef & Biscuit Casserole (old-fashioned comfort food)
Beef Burgers with Bacon, Thyme Sauce on a Spinach Bed
BLT Salad
Braised Lamb Shanks (Moroccan style)
Chicken & Dumplings *****
Chicken in Red Wine Vinegar Sauce *****
Chicken with Alabama White Sauce
Buttermilk Brined Pork Tenderloin
Cornflake-Crusted Halibut with Mayo Aioli *****
Cornish Game Hen Salad
Country Captain Chicken
Easy Cassoulet
Eggplant Parmesan (a non-traditional method, healthier)
French Hamburgers
French Pot Roast
Greek Lamb with Pasta
Grilled Salmon on Watercress Salad *****
Grilled Shrimp on Tabbouleh Salad
Grilled Shrimp Scampi
Chicken with Mustard & Herbs
Crunchy Shrimp on Couscous with Spicy Sauce *****
Italian Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs
Kurobuta Ham with Mustard Sauce
Greek Lamb Ragu over Pasta
Lemon Risotto
Pecan Crusted Chicken Breasts with Corn & Blueberry Salsa
Pork Enchilada Verde Casserole
Ribeye Steaks with Amazing Glaze *****
Pasta a la Puttanesca
Pasta with Tomato and Butter Sauce
Pecan Crusted Chicken Breasts with Corn and Blueberry Salsa
Pizza with Chicken, Red Onion & Olives
Pork and Hominy Stew (similar to Posole)
Pork Loin Roast with Apricot Glaze *****
Pork Medallions with Chili-Maple Glaze *****
Pork Stew with Calvados Cream
Risotto with Avocado Tomato Salsa & Shrimp
Risotto with Turkey Sausage, Corn, Leeks, Tomatoes and Spinach
Roast Chicken (the best ever)
Roasted Chicken Salad a la Zuni Cafe
Salmon Steaks with Soy Maple Glaze
Salmon with Leeks, Maple Syrup and Orange Sauce
Savory Tomato Pie or a more recent version called Tomato Corn Pie
Sheetpan Chicken Thighs with Cabbage
Shepherd’s Pie with Chipotle Mashed Potatoes *****
Shrimp & Crouton Skewers with Romesco Sauce
Sizzling Ribeyes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Spicy Garlic Cashew Chicken *****
Summer Sandwich (make only in tomato season – vegetarian)
Unstuffed Sweet/Sour Cabbage
Thomas Keller’s Roast Chicken with Vegetables
Weeknight Bolognese (Ina Garten) (a different, quick kind of spaghetti sauce using red wine and a bit of cream)
Zinfandel Sausage Sauce for Pasta (like a meat sauce)


MISCELLANEOUS/OTHER
Chocolate Syrup
Cranberry Relish (for Thanksgiving)
Cucumber Herb Butter for Tea Sandwiches
Little Girlie’s Green Sauce (a relish/salsa to go with all kinds of grilled meat or veggies)
Peppered Pecans (for sprinkling on a salad) *****
Pineapple (or mango) Salsa


SALADS
Apple, Cherry & Walnut Green Salad
Barbecue-Sauced Macaroni Salad
Corn, Tomato & Scallion Salad (has almost no fat in it – really tasty stuff)
Crunchy Napa Cabbage Slaw
Fresh Cranberry, Pecan and Apple Salad *****
Garbanzo Bean Salad w/Cilantro & Feta *****
Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms with Arugula Salad
Green Salad with Chevre Dressing *****
Joan’s Pasta Salad *****
Meyer Lemon Grains Salad with Asparagus, Almonds and Goat Cheese *****
Minted Watermelon & Feta Salad *****
Pesto Pea Salad
Radicchio Salad *****
Rice and Vegetable Salad with Silver Palate Vinaigrette
Sicilian Tuna Salad
Spinach & Berries Salad *****
Summer Grilled Panzanella Salad
Syrian Pita Bread Salad *****
Sweet Cabbage Slaw
Tomato & Watermelon Salad
Marinated Tomatoes
Watercress, Belgian Endive & Olive Salad


SALAD DRESSINGS
Caesar-Caper Dressing (mayonnaise based, part of a grilled Romaine salad) *****
Creamy Garlic Blue Cheese Dressing
Garlic VIP Dressing *****
Mock Caesar Dressing *****


SOUPS
Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger & Jalapeno
Cabbage Patch Stew *****
Cantaloupe Gazpacho (cold) ****
Cauliflower & Apple Soup with Almonds
Cream of Tomato *****
Cream of Cucumber (cold) *****
Creamy Cabbage Soup with Sausage
Eat-Your-Greens Soup (loaded with veggies, pureed)
Farmhouse Vegetable Soup
Georgia Cracker Salad
Italian Sausage & Tomato Soup *****
Moroccan Harira Chicken Soup *****
Pork and Hominy Stew with Red Chiles and Avocado (like a New Mexican Posole)
Roasted Poblano & Asiago Soup
Strawberry Gazpacho *****
Thai Pumpkin & Shrimp Soup
Watermelon Gazpacho (cold) ****


VEGGIES/SIDES
Algerian Carrots
Armenian Rice & Noodle Pilaf
Baked Onions with Thyme
Brussels Sprouts with Brandy and Dried Cranberries
Calabacitas con Crema *****
Crumbled Asparagus *****
Garlic Green Beans *****
Haricot Verts with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Italian Sausage Dressing (stuffing) with Leeks and Mushrooms
Mexican Street Corn with Cotija Cheese
Monterey Scalloped Potatoes
Orzo, Dried Cherries and Almonds
Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce (easy) *****
Pepper & Onion Roast with Soft Indian Spices
Perfect Baked Potato
Potato, Corn and Spinach Gratin
Roasted Asparagus with Chile Butter *****
Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Pancetta
Roasted Sweet Potato & Black Bean Salad with Jalapeno Dressing *****
Saffron Basmati Rice *****
Summer Squash Casserole with Jalapeno
The Best Bean Salad
Zucchini Gratin