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Carolyn

Sara

      Sara and me

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Just finished reading The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The premise of this book is different . . . a woman writer goes to Scotland to connect with distant heritage. She hopes to gain inspiration for her next book. As she investigates, she discovers she’s related to a family that lived in the early 1700s at Slains Castle on the east coast of Scotland near Aberdeen. This was the time of the Jacobite rebellion (the exiled King James and his hoped-for return to England). When I say this woman gets inspiration . . .well, it’s more than that. She questions whether she could possibly have genes that contain memory (what an idea, huh?), because she begins to know how events took place, who the people were, what they said, exactly where they stood, the layout of the castle, even the furniture in the rooms. She wasn’t channeling, actually, but I suppose it could be interpreted so. The book is full of the Jacobite history (more than I’d ever known before, but then I love English/Scottish history). There’s a romance back then, and a romance in the today time. Both lovely. Great book. An historical novel of the first order.

Another great read, The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See. Six months ago I attended an author’s talk at the Bowers Museum. Lisa See was the speaker and shared her story about this book. I’ve heard her speak several times before (she lives near me) and have read several of her books. This one, though, is very different. She was sitting in a doctor’s office reading some magazine and spotted a tiny snippet of data about Jeju Island off the coast of Korea where the island as a whole is matriarchal because the women were trained from a young age to deep dive, free dive, for mollusks. These women were the bread winners. Husbands stayed home and cared for the babies. The island is real. The history is real. And what happened during WWII on this island is horrific – makes me feel ashamed that our military had a hand in what happened to many people. But everyone should read this book. It’s a novel, about 2 girls who are divers and how their lives diverge for a variety of cultural reasons and because of the war.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford. A novel about the early days of radio in London. This book takes place in the 1920s and tells not only the general history of the early days of radio, but also the role women played (a vital one). Initially it was in the background, because women weren’t considered intelligent enough. Maisie, the heroine in the book, works her way up the ranks. It’s a fascinating read from beginning to end. Many famous characters (real) flow through the studios. Early voting rights play a part in the story line also. And some wartime intrigue. You’ll find yourself cheering from the bleachers when women make a tiny inroad into the male-dominated field.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler. My friend Ann, from Idaho, brought it with her as we spent a week in Palm Desert in February. She handed it to me and said I’d really like it. Oh, did I! Loved the book. This book is a novel, but based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt (Belmont). Her family was nearly destitute (and faking it) when a marriage was proposed for her with William Vanderbilt. There is lots of dialogue in the book which is made up, but I’m guessing the author probably read many diary entries of Alva (and the family) to create a very intriguing and readable story. A life of unbelievable privilege. Several children, including one who marries into a titled family in England. You see the inner life of Alva – her day to day busy work, charity work, visiting for afternoon tea, the undercurrent of society’s morals – men were nearly expected to have mistresses or affairs. This was the Victorian Age when sex between husbands and wives was not necessarily, and usually not, passionate. I loved this book from page one until the end.  Alva was a suffragette of the first order. Having read the book, I have a lot of admiration for her, even though she lived in the highest echelons of society.

Also read In Falling Snow: A Novel, by Mary-Rose McColl. From amazon: Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her fifteen-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. But in Paris she meets the charismatic Dr. Frances Ivens, who convinces Iris to help establish a field hospital in the old abbey at Royaumont, staffed entirely by women—a decision that will change her life. Seamlessly interwoven is the story of Grace, Iris’s granddaughter in 1970s Australia. Together their narratives paint a portrait of the changing role of women in medicine and the powerful legacy of love. The book  gives you a vivid picture of the state of nursing in WWI, but the story is quite mesmerizing. And there’s a twist almost at the end. Highly recommend.

Also couldn’t put down The Secret Wife by Gill Paul. A long story that begins in war-torn Russia. Cavalry officer Dmitri falls head over heels in love with one of the daughters of Tzar Nicholas. But events intervene, as history tells us. That was 1914. Cut to 2016 when a young woman inherits an ancient cabin in upper New York State and she discovers a jeweled pendant. The two times weave together to make a really riveting story. Lots of Russian history; well written; as I said, couldn’t put it down.

Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is in western Pennsylvania. The warring native Americans play large in this book. There is a romance, yes, but this book is not “a romance.” It’s more than that – about the hardships of living on the land, away from protection, Tessa and her family struggle to make a living and avoid the angered natives who take revenge when their people are murdered. Clay Tygart is a respected officer/soldier and commands a fort near where Tessa lives. Clay was captured by Lanape Indians when he was a young man, so he straddles both sides of the equation – first hand, he knows how the natives feel, but also his role in the lure of American exploration of the west. The natives wish to preserve their hunting grounds from the encroaching settlers. This book takes place in the mid-1700s I think. Loved it. Not only the history that is brilliantly detailed, even to the summer heat they experience. The crops they raise, the constant fear of attack. And the sweet love that weaves through it. Not a speck of sex in it.

Reading mysteries has never loomed large in my reading life. Occasionally, yes. And some espionage type books. But light mysteries have not intrigued me much. But one of my book clubs had us read Louise Penny’s novel, A Rule Against Murder (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel). The member actually handed out a cheat sheet of the characters in the book (many) and posed several questions of us as we read through it. The cheat sheet really helped. She asked us when (or if) we caught the foreshadowing of the murder culprit (I never did). The book takes place at a lovely inn in Canada and Chief Inspector Gamache (he is quite a character – along with his wife – are vacationing there) when a murder occurs. None of the characters escape the C.I.’s scrutiny. Lois, our book club member, led us through a very thorough and lively discussion of the book. Usually, my complaint about murder mysteries is that they don’t make for good discussion at a book club – but this book was an exception, for sure. Many of my learned book club friends rave about Louise Penny. One told me I should read Still Life next, and probably should have read it before I read this one.

Rachel Hauck is an author I’ve enjoyed reading over the years. Just finished reading The Memory House. It’s about relationships. Love. About family. About secrets. Doesn’t that just describe about 90% of every novel out there these days? Beck is a cop in NYC; a series of events occur and she is forced to take leave. Just then she inherits a house in Florida. She barely remembers the woman who bequeathed the house to her. Then you meet Bruno, a sports agent who will figure large in Beck’s life. Then the book jumps back in time to Everleigh, the woman who owned the house and you learn her story. Really stories of her two husbands. And how do those stories connect to present day. Very sweet book. Not a speck of sex in this one, either.

The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship by Joanna Burger. Such an interesting book – nonfiction. The author is an ornithologist by profession (and a PhD) and this memoir of sorts is about her Red-Lored Amazon parrot she and her husband own. But no, it’s the parrot who owns her/them.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. A book club friend recommended this book, I immediately bought it on my Kindle. I could NOT put the book down. I devoured it. Any other “work” I should have been doing was swept aside as I read and read of Resolute’s adventures. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

Finished The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Novel by Kim Richardson.  It’s a novel about the first mobile library in Kentucky (this is the 1930s) and the fierce, brave packhorse librarians who wove their way from shack to shack dispensing literacy, hope, and, just as importantly, a compassionate human connection.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This book was offered as a bargain book from Bookbub, and something about the description resonated with me – maybe because of my Old Testament readings regarding the lives of shepherds back in ancient days. I utterly loved this book. It might not suit everyone – it’s a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. He bickers with his father, eventually moves out. One night in a pub with his blokes (friends) he enters some kind of a contest in the pub and realizes he has a lot more knowledge than he thought he did. In time he applies to get what I’d call here in the U.S. a G.E.D (high school diploma), which he does, and then he applies to Oxford, on a whim. And gets in. He graduates. He applies his knowledge to his rural life. He marries, has children, but still, his day to day life is all about his Herdwick sheep, although he does have a day job too working for UNESCO. You’ll learn more about sheep than you might have wanted to know. I absolutely loved, LOVED this book. If you are interested, James Rebanks has a Twitter feed, called @herdyshepherd1, and you can sign up to get updates from him about his farm and his sheep. I don’t do Twitter or I would.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation. So it is with surprise that she finds in this cold and bitter country the capacity for new love and perhaps even a new home. I just loved this book – could hardly put it down; yet it’s not a mystery. You’ll come away with a desire to find that house by the fjord. I want to go there and have some coffee with the Anna, who was a Brit, yet fell head over heels in love with Norway.

Running Blind (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child. A Jack Reacher mystery. From amazon: Across the country, women are being murdered, victims of a disciplined and clever killer who leaves no trace evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to an apparent motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. Until Jack Reacher gets in the middle of it. A page turner, as are all of the Jack Reacher stories.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. A sweet book, true story, of the author and her friend, during one summer in the midst of their college years, going by train to NYC and ultimately getting a job of Tiffany’s.  Cute read.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? If I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? I marvel sometimes about how authors ever come up with the ideas they do, to create the premise for a novel. And this one is right up there at the top of the list. Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who has a big lack of self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. He discovers she’s blind and needs some help, which he gives her.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel.

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.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes.

Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) by Francine Rivers.

Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America

Answer As a Man

Celeste Ng Little Fires Everywhere.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel).

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively.

 

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 Fish, on February 26th, 2020.

halibut_sheetpan_nicoise_tapenade

Super easy dinner with loads of flavor.

I don’t know about you, but I love sheetpan dinners. They just simplify the dinner making. I’ve done dinner for guests using a sheetpan recipe – my favorite is still the  Chicken Thighs with Bacon and Sourdough Croutons. Some recipes roast several items for the same time period – not so with this one – you do have to start the potatoes ahead of time, then add other ingredients. But they’re all still done on the one sheetpan. And if you line the sheetpan with parchment or foil, you’ll have the simplest of cleanup ever.

This recipe uses small red or white (or a combination) potatoes. You want them to BE about 1” square or cut them into something close to that.  First the potatoes are tossed in EVOO, mustard, salt and pepper. Those are put out onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and roasted for about 20 minutes. That gives the potatoes a head start. The baby green beans (haricots verts) are tossed in the remaining oil mixture and go onto the baking sheet next. Those, along with the potatoes roast for 5 minutes, then you add the halibut that’s been topped with some ready-made jarred tapenade (olives). Another 12-15 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish) and everything should be roasted-done.

Meanwhile you will have chopped up some baby tomatoes, cut a lemon into wedges and chopped some parsley. Serve the fish with the toasty potatoes, green beans, the lemon wedge and the garnish of chopped parsley. Done. Easy-peasy. You can substitute sweet potato for the white potatoes, and you could easily add a small amount of squash or eggplant to the pan. The recipe came from a class with Susan V, although I changed it just a little bit to make it simpler.

What’s GOOD: how easy this is. Dinner on one pan. The nip of briny olives on the fish – a really tasty touch – and the crispy green beans. Also loved the addition of the fresh tomatoes at the end. Altogether delicious.

What’s NOT: nothing really.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Roasted Sheetpan Halibut Nicoise with Olive Tapenade

Recipe By: Cooking class with Susan V, Feb. 2020
Serving Size: 4

1 1/2 pounds small potatoes — red, if possible, cut into 1″ chunks
8 ounces haricot verts
3 tablespoons EVOO
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
HALIBUT:
1 1/2 pounds halibut fillets — cut into serving pieces
3 tablespoons olive tapenade — use ready-made
GARNISH:
lemon wedges
1 cup cherry tomatoes — or grape tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons fresh parsley — chopped

1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. In a bowl combine olive oil, salt, pepper and Dijon. Stir until well mixed. Add the potatoes and toss gently. There should be enough of the dressing left to use on the green beans.
3. Place potatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast them in the heated oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Meanwhile, toss the green beans with the dressing and add them to the sheetpan and bake for 5 more minutes.
3. Spread the tapenade on top of each halibut serving and add to the sheetpan. Roast fish and vegetables for 12-15 minutes, until fish flakes easily with a fork. Do NOT overbake the fish – start checking at 12 minutes.
4. Serve fish and vegetables with lemon wedges, fresh halved tomatoes and fresh chopped parsley on top.
Per Serving: 467 Calories; 17g Fat (33.7% calories from fat); 40g Protein; 37g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 54mg Cholesterol; 238mg Sodium.

Posted in Travel, on February 20th, 2020.

chicken_sand_barn_kitchen

What makes this one different?

Last week I spent in Palm Desert, my annual one-week winter trip. The weather was just perfect (about 70 every day) and my friend Ann (from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho), flew down to spend the week with me. We stay at the home of a dear friend of mine who rarely goes there anymore, so I’m very grateful she lets us use the condo. It’s a cozy 2-bedroom overlooking a golf course with palm trees and Mallard ducks in the small lake. There’s a spouting stream of water just outside that provides lovely sound. We ate breakfast in every day, and I made a soup that fed us for two of the evenings. I take my beloved Nespresso machine out there, and in fact Ann has now become a convert to Nespresso and says she’s going to buy one for herself.

barn_kitchen_sparrows_lodgeAnyway, we visit with old friends of mine (from when my DH Dave and I owned a house there), and with a mutual friend Ann and I have too. We were wined and dined by all the friends. But one of the days we ventured toward Palm Springs (about a 30 minute drive from Palm Desert) and went to a kind of boutique hotel/restaurant. It had been written up in a magazine a few months ago. What a find. I’m so glad my GPS got us there, because you’d literally drive right by the entrance and never know it was there. It’s called the Sparrows Lodge. The property, legend has it, was the site of Elizabeth Montgomery’s first marriage, back in the day. It’s now been transformed into a small inn with 8-10 luxury cabin-like rooms with a beautiful, tranquil and wide open space between, where they’ve created a casual outdoor eating space. The restaurant is called the The Barn Kitchen.

In inquiring with our waiter about the menu, he recommended the chicken sandwich. I’m sure I probably gave him a mild wrinkled nose glance, but he said oh no, this is really a good sandwich, and that people from all over the valley (the Coachella Valley) go there just to have the chicken sandwich. That was good enough for both of us.

The picture at top doesn’t really do it justice. On that cut half you see facing the camera, there is really nice rustic white bread that’s been grill-toasted ever so slightly, there’s a layer of sliced avocado peeking out at the top, lettuce, slices of tomato, then the oh-so juicy chicken below that, AND some kind of a sauce or dressing. The waiter said it was Veganaise, not mayo. At first we thought there was mustard on the sandwich, because it had heat – nose tingling, sinus-clearing type. We thought mustard with horseradish? Maybe. Or else Veganaise with Sriracha in it. We couldn’t really TASTE mustard, so it may well have been the spicy Veganaise. Or perhaps they spread a bit of plain-old horseradish on it.

What I’m telling you is that the combination was perfection. I was trying to describe this sandwich to a friend yesterday . . . all I can say is that the chef has a deft hand at the balance of the lightly toasted bread, the layers of lettuce, the number and thickness of the tomatoes, and the sublime juicy, tender chicken, plus the sliced avocado made for a stunning sandwich. And then the elusive sinus-clearing dressing/sauce/condiment. Never thought I’d be writing up a post about a restaurant chicken sandwich, my friends.

The Barn Kitchen does take reservations. We went at 1:00 pm and enjoyed our leisurely lunch and were so stuffed we didn’t have any dinner that night. I’m back home now and my mouth is just watering thinking about that sandwich.

Posted in Soups, on February 14th, 2020.

chix_satay_noodle_soup

Full of flavor soup, for a cold winter’s night. Or day.

Every once in awhile I am able to attend a cooking class that’s not an hour or two away, where my friend Cherrie and I usually drive (to San Diego). Once a month Susan has a class in her home, half an hour away – she used to own a cookware store and still does classes to a small group of fans. This class was all about soup.

This recipe came from Rachel Ray, actually, and although it has a long list of ingredients, this soup is entirely easy to make as long as you have all the ingredients. It’s got lots of veggies in it (cabbage, bean sprouts, scallions – and next time I’m going to add celery) and the flavor comes from peanut butter, soy sauce, red curry paste, some thick tomato paste, chicken broth, and apple juice. You could use leftover chicken, but in this case Susan used a raw chicken breast that she thinly sliced and it cooked in a flash once it hit the hot pan. Literally, the soup comes together in minutes and you’re ready to serve it. You could add different pasta if you don’t have spaghetti. Susan highly recommends Skippy’s super chunky peanut butter (I saw it at Costco the other day, 2 big jars of it, way too much for my minimal cooking needs since I don’t eat peanut butter on much of anything). Susan said that brand got high marks in a peanut butter taste-test somewhere.

What’s GOOD: loved the full-flavored chunky aspect – lots of good things to chew on. Tons of flavor – umami for sure. Easy.

What’s NOT: nothing at all  unless you don’t like Asian-inspired soups.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chicken Satay Noodle Soup

Recipe: From a class with Susan V, 1/2020
Serving Size: 4

1/2 pound spaghetti — broken into short lengths
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 pound chicken breast — thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic — finely chopped
3/4 cup peanut butter — (Skippy super chunky)
6 tablespoons soy sauce — or tamari
1/4 cup red curry paste — use less if you’re sensitive to heat
2 tablespoons tomato paste — low sodium, if possible
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 piece fresh ginger — (1 inch) thinly sliced
1/2 head napa cabbage — or savoy cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup apple juice
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
4 scallions — thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Lime wedges — for serving

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, in a soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the chicken and garlic and cook, stirring, until the chicken is opaque, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the peanut butter, tamari, curry paste and tomato paste to the pot and stir. Increase the heat to medium-high and whisk in the chicken broth; add the ginger. Bring to a boil, then stir in the cabbage and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot and stir in the apple juice.
3. Divide the pasta among 4 bowls. Ladle the soup over the pasta. Top with the bean sprouts, peanuts, scallions and cilantro. Serve with the lime wedges.
Per Serving: 843 Calories; 47g Fat (45.4% calories from fat); 56g Protein; 71g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 44mg Cholesterol; 2803mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on February 10th, 2020.

Oh, is this stuff the food of the Gods? So flavorful.

Recently I went to a soup cooking class. Susan prepared four soups and a dessert. I liked three of the soups and I liked the dessert (raspberry chocolate brownies) but probably won’t post about it (couldn’t really taste the raspberry jam in the middle . . .). But this soup was the standout to me of the class.Image result for annatto seeds

But first I need to talk about annatto (or achiote). This may not be something in your cooking vocabulary. It’s a Latin kind of spice – seed pods, really. The Wikipedia article is very thorough if you’re interested. See them there in the photo at left. They’re a very irregular-shaped seed that come out of a pod of the achiote tree. I see annatto or achiote seeds in the Mexican area of my supermarket, the ones that hang in a cellophane bags. Or you can order them online – Whole Achiote Annato Seeds, 2 Oz. I have some in my pantry and use them so very rarely that I’m certain mine are over the hill. I’m going to be making this soup soon, so I need to buy some new ones. What you need to do is make a flavored oil out of simmering the seeds in a neutral oil (like avocado – definitely not EVOO). The oil will turn a brilliant orange color, which is why the finished soup has that bright hue to it. Annatto doesn’t have a ton of flavor – and yes,  you could leave it out, although your finished soup won’t have that color if you do. Online it says that annatto has a slight peppery taste with a hint of nutmeg. And it used to be used as body paint in tribal life. The tree grows from Mexico to Brazil.

If you make the oil, it will be enough for two batches of this soup. It would be very difficult to simmer 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan with the seeds in it – it would burn, I think. Hence, you simmer the seeds in the oil (to make a larger quantity) over a very low flame. Then you strain out the seeds and toss them. Smelling the seeds they’re similar to a chile pepper (dried), but they have no chile flavor or heat at all. They’re not a chile. They’re just a mildly flavored seed. I remember attending a class decades ago about Puerto Rican cooking where she used annatto oil just like this recipe indicates. If you’re interested here is my PDF recipe from that long-ago cooking class. The one unique thing I remember about that dish was the use of sliced green olives (the ones stuffed with pimento). In any case, annatto is common in Latin cuisine. You can also buy annatto in a paste – but don’t buy that type as it has other things added to it – you want the whole seeds only. And I wouldn’t recommend buying powdered annatto/achiote as it won’t keep long enough.

So back to this soup. If you’re not a shrimp fan, make it with chicken, scallops, or some kind of firm white fish. The shrimp is marinated with some of the garlic, green onions, lime juice and salt – for an hour or up to 3 total. Meanwhile you puree the corn with milk until it’s a smooth puree, then you strain it to remove any of the solids. (No, you wouldn’t have to do that step – you’ll have a bit more texture in the soup if you don’t.) Then you start with a big frying pan or sauté pan, add the annatto oil and cook the rest of the garlic, the onion, bell pepper and cumin. Tomatoes go in, then the corn milk, chicken broth and more seasonings and you bring the mixture to just BELOW a boil (boiling it will curdle the milk), then you add the shrimp. Taste for salt and then serve it with the salsa you’ve made an hour or so ahead (corn, fresh tomatoes, green onions, cilantro and lime juice). That’s it.

What’s GOOD: oh, the flavorful broth for sure. You can use whole shrimp, but I’d suggest (as Susan did) to cut each shrimp in half lengthwise and as long as you didn’t use really large shrimp, the half of one of those is a bite, a mouth full, without cutting. The overall taste is just beyond delicious. I wrote “fab” on the recipe.

What’s NOT: only that you might not have any annatto seeds or achiote paste. Try to find it if you can.
printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Shrimp and Corn Chowder with Corn Salsa

Recipe By: From a class with Susan V, 2020
Serving Size: 8

SOUP:
2 pounds medium shrimp — shelled and deveined
6 garlic cloves — minced
2 green onions — minced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt
2 cups corn — fresh or frozen, and thawed
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons annatto oil — (see below)
1 large red onion — finely chopped
1 red bell pepper — finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 plum tomatoes — seeded and finely chopped
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons cilantro — minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
TANGY CORN SALSA:
1 cup frozen corn — thawed
3 Roma tomatoes — finely chopped
2 green onions — minced
2 tablespoons cilantro — minced
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
ANNATO OIL:
1/2 cup neutral oil
1/4 cup annato seeds

NOTE: This soup could also be made with chicken, scallops, or a firm-fleshed white fish.
1. In a large, shallow glass or stainless-steel bowl, toss the shrimp with two-thirds of the minced garlic, the scallions, lime juice and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or for up to 3 hours.
2. In a food processor, puree the corn with the milk. Pour the puree through a coarse strainer, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible.
3. ANNATO OIL: Heat the oil and annatto seeds in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, remove from heat and cool. Strain to remove seeds. Will keep in refrigerator for about 2 months.
4. Heat the annatto oil in a large saucepan or enameled cast-iron casserole. Add the remaining garlic, onion, bell pepper and cumin and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the vegetables are slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add the corn milk, stock, cilantro and cayenne and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat until very flavorful, about 20 minutes.
5. Pour the soup through a coarse strainer. Working in batches, puree the vegetables in a blender. Return the puree and the strained broth to the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and its marinade and cook over moderate heat until the shrimp are just opaque throughout, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and serve in warmed soup plates or bowls with the Tangy Corn Salsa.
6. SALSA: Combine ingredients in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and allow to sit for at least an hour (refrigerate) then bring to room temp before serving.
Per Serving: 300 Calories; 10g Fat (27.1% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 181mg Cholesterol; 245mg Sodium.

Posted in Beverages, on February 4th, 2020.

masala_chair_pouring

Ever make this from scratch? I never had, and am glad I did.

For me, there is something special about sitting down, tray in hand, with a lovely pot of tea and whatever accoutrements you might want – honey, sugar, milk, cream, a pretty spoon, a lovely tea cup or pot too. And a tray. That tray above I purchased in France decades ago and brought it home in my suitcase. I use it often – usually for a platter of cheese and crackers. I’ve been careful about not ever putting anything greasy right on the rattan so it wouldn’t stain. I have several trays that are the right size for tea. The pot is Ralph Lauren (and I have 4 lovely mugs to go with it – one is in the picture) I purchased for a song many years ago at Home Goods. I love this teapot. But then, I love ALL of my teapots. Mostly I’m a coffee drinker, but in the winter I really enjoy tea either mid-morning or mid-afternoon in addition to my morning latte.

Every weekend (during the traditional school year) I attend a bible study about 5-6 miles away, where about 250 other Christian women attend to study for a morning. It’s called CBS (Community Bible Study). It’s a wonderful program and I’ve been doing it for about  8-9 years now. What I like about it is that it makes you think. No offhand thoughts you might pen in 30 seconds. This study makes you refer to other bible passages, makes you read between the lines. To analyze and consider the place and culture of the time. There’s about 60-90 minutes of homework required each week. So this particular day, I made myself the pot of masala chai to sip on as I did my homework. It took a little bit of work to gather together all of the spices needed – some were close at hand, others I had to go hunting for in my pantry (like the cinnamon sticks).  I keep some of the lesser-used ones in a bin in the wine cellar.

Oh my, does that make me laugh. If Dave were here, he’d be all over me with the various stuff I now store in the wine cellar. He’d be telling me to get this stuff outta-there – various pasta, a whole drawer of teas (that’s where I had to go to find plain black tea) and lots of extra herbs and spices. I store my rabbit fur coat down there (the wine cellar is below ground, underneath the garage in my house, has its own A/C system and I keep it at 58°F), and about 3-4 dozen various types of fancy wine glasses too. They’re boxed up as I don’t use them much. That would make him sad. I keep winnowing away at the wines in the cellar. I’m taking a trip in a month or so to visit some wineries in central California. Do I need more wine? Nope. But I’ll probably buy some anyway – maybe some rose and a few whites. I don’t drink white wine, except sparkling, like Champagne or Prosecco, but I need some for guests now and then. What I don’t need is any red wine. I opened a good bottle recently and only had a glass or so out of it. I need to throw out the rest. It’s been sitting on my kitchen counter for at least 2 weeks.

chai_spicesSo, back to chai tea. Here’s what went into the spice mix –  cinnamon, peppercorns, cardamom pods, whole cloves and fresh ginger. I used my pounder and hacked or smashed everything a little bit. All of it went into a small pot and was simmered with 2 cups of water, on my range for 10 minutes. Then the black tea was added and that steeped for 5 minutes. That’s all. Just 15 minutes total (not counting my scurrying around trying to find all the ingredients). Then it was strained and went into my piping hot tea pot (I swished a cup or so of boiling water in the pot first to warm it up) and the cup of hot milk. Onto the tray it all went. I use some kind of alternative sweetener. I’d prefer honey, but I’m trying not to eat much sugar if I can. The recipe came from a blog I read, Cooking with Amy.

I poured out a cup of the tea and enjoyed every bit of that mug-full. The rest of the tea I put in a glass in my refrigerator – I poured it over ice today.

What’s GOOD: loved the subtle-ness of this chai – the stuff I order at coffee places are way too heavily spiced and so sweet. This is not. It’s nuanced. Light. Lovely.

What’s NOT: nothing other than it does take 15-20 minutes to make. If you thought you’d want some, more often, make a mixture of the whole spices and then whack it just before making, along with the fresh ginger. Although, you want an even amount of each spice, so I’m not sure that’s a good idea, on second thought. I think you need to make up the spice mixture each time.

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Masala Chai Tea

Recipe By: Cooking with Amy (blog) 2020
Serving Size: 2-3

4 cardamom — pods
4 black peppercorns
3 cloves
1 stick cinnamon
2 thick slices fresh ginger
2 cups water
2 tea bags — or 1 tablespoon loose black tea
1 cup milk — or more to taste (dairy or non-dairy)
Sweetener—white sugar – or honey, or artificial sugar

NOTE: You may also add a little grating of nutmeg to this mixture, if desired, and a tiny little drop of vanilla. As expensive as vanilla beans are, these days, I would not use a vanilla bean in this – that would be too much, IMHO.
1. Crush the cardamom, black pepper, cloves and cinnamon and bash the ginger slices, but do not grind any of it completely.
2. In a pot combine the water and spices. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer over low heat, covered for 10 minutes. Add the tea and turn off the heat. Cover again and let steep for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the milk in the microwave just until below a boil.
3. Into a warmed teapot, strain the tea, add the milk and add sweetener to taste, or allow guests to add sweetener of their choice (or not).
Per Serving: 116 Calories; 5g Fat (32.0% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 11mg Cholesterol; 67mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on January 28th, 2020.

thin_crispy_cc_cookies_stack

One might think these aren’t mixed or baked correctly. They are, actually. They’re supposed to look like that, and act like that when these hit the hot oven.

Really, I think I was pussy-footing around about cookies – when I made and posted the chocolate log/biscotti last week. What I really wanted to make was choc chip cookies, but I was trying to convince myself not to. Since they’re not all that good for us – butter, chocolate, sugar, etc. And my problem is that if they’re available – meaning they’re IN my freezer – I want to enjoy one every day. And I shouldn’t. None of us should. But then, David Lebovitz posted a new chocolate chip recipe, and I got sucked down that vortex of I want – I want – I want. So I gave in and made these.

The recipe originated with Joanne Chang, a chef/baker of renown (her bakery, Flour, in Boston). She’s written a bunch of cookbooks. She’s slender/thin (how does she DO that and own/run a bakery and develop recipes?). Anyway, I think this recipe came from her most recently published cookbook. David Lebovitz adapted it slightly (reducing the amount of flour in it) and posted it on his website.

thin_crispy_cc_cookies_topWhat’s different about these? You have to use superfine sugar (I whizzed up regular sugar in the food processor). You have to whip up the butter and sugars until they’re really light and fluffy. It gives these cookies a totally different batter-feel. And when they pop in the oven they spread a lot. So the baking sheet can only hold six to seven of them at a time. But then, this recipe only makes 25 cookies. The cookies that David Lebovitz made were even thinner than mine – and even more slumped than mine – slumped with little whorls of ridges. There’s another recipe here on my blog that has very thin, slumped chocolate chip cookies and I don’t really understand how the chemistry works that way – it can’t be just the lesser amount of flour.

But thin, chocolate chip cookies it is and I loved them. Hard to make? – no. Much the same ingredients as every other chocolate chip cookie out there with a mix of white and brown sugar, vanilla, egg, flour, in this case, baking soda not powder, and chocolate chips and little bit of water. There are nuances of that chemistry – far be it from me to understand it. For the last half of the cookies I added some very finely chopped walnuts. I know, blasphemy for some. I like them with nuts in them. This recipe has less flour in it than Joanne Chang’s original recipe, per David L.

These will be going into the freezer and I’ll hope to eat only one. A day. And savor every bite.

What’s GOOD: the thin, crispy texture, for sure. That’s what these cookies are all about. If you like soft, cakey cookies, skip by this recipe. Thin, chewy a little bit, all about the mouth-feel of the caramelization of the dark brown sugar. And then the chips. Use good chips, not Nestle’s. They recommended Guittard. I used Ghirardelli dark chocolate. In sum, though, I think I like my other iteration of these thin, slumped cookies better that did slump and have whorls. These cookies definitely have dark brown sugar caramelization going on in the cookie itself, just so you know.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. These are really delicious.

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Thin, Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe By: David Lebovitz from Joanne Chang
Serving Size: 25

8 ounces unsalted butter — (225g) at room temperature
1 cup superfine sugar — (200g) (see headnote)
1/2 cup light brown sugar — (100g) firmly-packed
1 large egg — at room temperature
3 tablespoons water — (45g)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour — (245g)
1 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt — or kosher salt, or if using Morton’s kosher salt, use 3/4 teaspoon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate — (280g, 10 ounces) or semisweet chocolate chips

1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or by hand with a wooden spoon or spatula in a bowl, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and creamy, about 5 minutes.
2. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula, reaching down to the bottom of the mixer bowl. Beat in the egg, WATER, and vanilla.
3. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add the chocolate chips, and toss in the flour mixture. With the mixer on low speed, stir in the flour and chocolate chip mixture until thoroughly combined. Cover the bowl (or transfer to a smaller container, and cover) and refrigerate the dough at least 3 to 4 hours, or overnight.
4. To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line two baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the dough, formed in 1 1/4-inch (1/4 cup, 45g) balls on the baking sheet, spaced at least 3-inches (8cm) apart. (They will spread, so expect to get 5 or 6 on a standard baking sheet.) Press the cookies down slightly (use a bit of water on your hand as the batter is very wet and sticky) with your hand and bake until the cookies have spread and just until there are no light patches across the center, rotating the baking sheet(s) midway during baking so they bake evenly. They’ll take about 13-14 minutes, but best to check the cookies a few minutes before and use the visual clues, rather than adhere to strict baking time, to get them just right.
5. Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.
Per Serving: 132 Calories; 6g Fat (35.6% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 8mg Cholesterol; 157mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on January 22nd, 2020.

almond_cocoa_logs_stacked

Chocolate cookies. Yes. But not exactly. Hard to describe. Maybe Biscotti is a better name.

Laughing at myself. I’ve finally gone off this restrictive diet and after having a couple of old dinner favorites (already posted here) I settled back into a fairly low-carb regime with an occasional sweet or treat. I was craving a cookie, and after going through my huge to-try file, I settled on these things. It’s a recipe that’s been in the file for years, I believe. These cookies – not exactly biscotti, because they’re not double baked liked biscotti, or cookies either, because they’re sliced on the diagonal (kind of like biscotti would be) are different. Kind of hard to describe, as I said above. You could call them chocolate rocks. Or biscotti. Or chocolate sliced cookies. Any name would work.

almond_cocoa_logs_cuttingThe dough contains no butter or traditional fat – the only fat comes from the nearly one pound of chocolate in the batter. That’s enough, although I’ll tell you, the dough is not very easy to man-handle. It’s a very dry dough (eggs, espresso, cocoa, vanilla, leavening, flour, sugar, fresh orange zest, and a hefty amount of cinnamon and ground cloves). At the end you add in some nuts (hazelnuts and/or almonds). I ended up removing half the dough and just mixing half at a time. Overworking the dough would make for a very tough cookie. The dough – almost the consistency of firm bread dough  – is sectioned into 4 pieces, then rolled into short logs. Because of the chocolate pieces in it and the nuts, it makes for some difficult handling, I’ll tell you. The rolls don’t want to roll very well. Or as you roll one, a drier spot appears (more nuts, for instance) and then the roll falls apart. I ended up adding a bit more espresso to the mixture to help hold it all together. The original recipe, from Susan Herrmann Loomis almond_cocoa_logs_tobakeis called Almond Cocoa Cookies. Maybe they came from one of her cookbooks as I don’t find the recipe on her website.

You can see from the above picture – the rolled  up log at the top and then the cut (raw) cookie dough below. Onto a cookie sheet they went (mine are ridged, so nothing sticks) although the recipe suggested parchment be used.

They’re baked at 375°F for somewhere between 15-20 minutes. Susan indicated at 15 minutes they’re still quite soft and cakey, and with 5 more minutes baking they’re then firm. I baked mine for 17 minutes and they were firm enough, although my oven runs a bit hot so that may be why. They cooled easily enough and Susan says they keep for a couple of weeks at room temp. I’ll be freezing mine, just because I always do. But as firm as they are, I may truly want to defrost them before eating. Don’t want to break a tooth.

MY CHANGES: I reduced the amount of ground cloves and that was a good thing. Clove flavor goes a loooong way, in my book. She used a full tablespoon. I also didn’t get as many cookies as Susan did. I may have added a little bit more espresso to the mixture just to get it to hold together. I also used half sugar and half Swerve, and used 1 3/4 cups total, not 2 cups. It made for a slightly less-sweet cookie. I also didn’t have vanilla sugar – I just added in a slightly large quantity of liquid vanilla. The original recipe called for 8 ounces of almonds AND 8 ounces of hazelnuts. There is simply no way the dough could absorb that much nuts. I didn’t have hazelnuts on hand so just added almonds and only about 5 ounces.

What’s GOOD: well, they’re different. Different texture (firm to the tooth) and flavor (lots of ground clove flavor comes through). Yes, chocolate too. Although there is all that bar chocolate in it, these don’t taste decadent. I think, overall, I prefer the easy chocolate biscotti recipe I have here on my blog already, but then it’s truly a biscotti (easy one, though). Later note: I enjoyed one of these with my morning coffee and have decided they really are more like biscotti. They’re not hard crunchy (break your tooth kind of crunchy), but more like a firm but dry cookie. The coffee flavor came through and the ground clove flavor has tamed down a bit. Do note the low calorie and fat – even with a pound of chocolate, I’m pleased at the statistics.

What’s NOT: only the difficulty rolling the logs. The dry parts of the cookies (the nuts, chopped chocolate and the dry ingredients in general) make it hard to combine. Cutting them into their log shapes was okay – if you have any larger pieces of chocolate in them, it may make for difficult slicing. Other than that, nothing is hard to do. They’d be good dunked in coffee which is probably what I’ll do tomorrow morning.

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Almond Chocolate Biscotti Cookies

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Susan Herrmann Loomis, 2015
Serving Size: 50

4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch sea salt
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate — preferably Lindt brand
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups vanilla sugar
The minced zest of one orange — preferably organic
3/4 cup espresso coffee — or very strong coffee
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 ounces almonds — lightly toasted, or hazelnuts, or a combination or both

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powders, cloves, cinnamon, and salt together onto a piece of waxed paper.
3. Chop the chocolate into chips the size of a pea. The pieces will be uneven – don’t worry.
4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs and the sugar and whip until the mixture is pale yellow and light. Mix in the orange zest, 1/2 cup of the coffee, and the vanilla. Then add the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly but JUST until combined. If the mixture is very dry, add the remaining coffee – the dough should be somewhat sticky; it will also be very firm. Add the almonds and the chocolate and mix until combined. NOTE: If the mixture stresses your stand mixer, remove half of the dough and set aside and add half the nuts and chocolate. Remove it, then combine the 2nd batch of dough with the nuts and chocolate.
5. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Cover three of them with a damp towel to keep them from drying out. Lightly flour your hands and roll the fourth piece on a floured work surface to form a log that measures 14 x 1-1/2-inches.[I couldn’t get rolls that long no matter how hard I tried.] Roll over the log with a rolling pin to slightly flatten it, then cut the log diagonally into 1/2-inch thick strips. Transfer the strips to one of the prepared baking sheets, placing them 1/2-inch apart. Repeat with the remaining dough.
6. Bake the cookies in the center of the oven until they are puffed and look dry, 15 to 20 minutes. (When they have baked for 15 minutes, the cookies will have a somewhat cakey texture; during the last 5 minutes of baking they will harden like biscotti). Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container. They will keep for several weeks.
Per Serving: 135 Calories; 7g Fat (41.9% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 8mg Cholesterol; 37mg Sodium.

Posted in Salad Dressings, on January 18th, 2020.

green_curry_salad_dressing

Different? Yes. Good? Yes, indeed.

Over the holidays I was invited to a fun-filled afternoon/evening with part of my extended family. They know I love Indian food, and every so often they invite me to join them at their (and my) favorite Indian restaurant in our part of the world, the Royal Khyber. As it turned out, the restaurant was closed that evening for a private party, so they ordered all the food at noontime, picked it up and reheated it at their home for a late afternoon dinner. Janice and I conferred and I was to bring a salad.

So, hmmm. What kind of green salad and dressing goes with Indian food, I ask you? I had no idea. Since I knew curry would be on the menu, I googled some curry dressings and finally settled on one at the Cheeky Chickpea (is THAT not a cute name for a blog?). After making the dressing, and tasting it with a leaf of lettuce in hand, I thought it needed oil. The original recipe went onto a Thai noodle salad and the dressing, as is, no doubt works well with that, but on a green salad I was afraid the dressing would wilt the greens, and wouldn’t have enough heft to hold up to sturdy greens I used (Romaine and arugula). So I added oil. Tasted it again, then decided to try a trick I’ve read in many other recipe, some mayo was needed. Not much, but just enough to emulsify the dressing. I made it in a glass jar and shook it like crazy and it held together well for several hours.

The salad – as I said – was Romaine and arugula, but then to add some interest I included some sliced cabbage and a little bit of grated carrot for color. Then I added sliced almonds, fresh mango, and chopped dates plus a bunch of green onions. You could also use peanuts instead of almonds. I forgot to take a picture of it when I served it – so all you get to see is the dressing.

What’s GOOD: it was perfect with an Indian meal – the mango and almonds added nice crunch. It was not overwhelmingly curried.

What’s NOT: only that it might not be great with a meal that didn’t complement curry/Indian/Thai food.

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Green Curry Salad Dressing

By: Inspired by a recipe on the Cheeky Chickpea
Serving Size: 6

2 tablespoons lemongrass paste
4 teaspoons green curry paste
2 teaspoons fresh ginger — grated
2 tablespoons soy sauce — or Bragg’s aminos, or coconut aminos
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup — or sugar free substitute
2 tablespoons powdered almond butter
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Zest of 1 lime
1/4 cup EVOO
1/4 cup mayonnaise

1. Combine all ingredients in a container with a firm lid. Shake vigorously to break up the mayo.
2. Serve on a green salad that has added cabbage (finely sliced), green onions, fresh diced mango, slivered almonds (or peanuts) and diced Medjool dates. For the greens, I recommend the heartier type – Romaine, arugula.
NOTES: This dressing contains less oil than a standard one, with other liquids added so the lettuces will wilt if left on the salad, so dress only enough that you’ll eat right away.
Per Serving: 193 Calories; 18g Fat (81.9% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 3mg Cholesterol; 520mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on January 14th, 2020.

You’re probably wondering, what? What does that mean? I toyed with “the curvy road becomes straight,” and “food enlightenment.” But they were out there. All the title means is that I’ve stopped eating the Plant Paradox diet. It’s possible I mentioned awhile back that I was getting very frustrated with the plan and my cravings for bread and an occasional dessert were vexing me a lot. It’s been 2 years. Once in awhile I did have dessert, but very little. And a couple of times in the 2 years I had something containing wheat flour. Well anyway, I was doing some research online and found a blog post by someone who was confounded by the whole notion of lectins in our bloodstream and the Plant Paradox plan. I began looking at more contrarian websites or posts here and there. What I discovered is that the eminent Dr. Gundry doesn’t always do his homework, OR he is vague about his sources. One learned scientist chastised him about being obtuse in his footnotes (you’re supposed to put chapter and page numbers when you use other studies as the basis for a thesis or medical theory, and he doesn’t do that at all). Apparently many of his footnote sites (of studies done by medical schools, etc.) don’t seem to exist. The final one I read that set me back on a more normal food track was a site that said Gundry drew a conclusion about human intestinal biology from reading a study of worms. Now worms are biologic, I know, but how can you say that if something happens to the gut of a worm and then conclude that the same thing happens in humans without having done the research on humans. And Gundry never disclosed that the study was of worms. I think that’s dirty pool. Maybe I was just “looking” for a reason to quit this diet. I haven’t vetted Dr. Gundry’s footnotes and don’t intend to. So I’m choosing to believe the contrarians. I could be wrong . . .

The truth is that I never did have intestinal difficulty as many people do who go on this diet. People with IBS or similar conditions, well, that’s another story. Maybe they should be following his diet. I didn’t and don’t, so I’ve gone back to drinking regular cow’s milk. I’m eating cheddar (yea!) and BREAD. I went right off the deep end a few days ago and had a delicious tuna sandwich on still-warm sourdough bread. With Best Foods mayo. Oh my, died and went to heaven. And I can have beans/legumes. And there’s squash in my refrigerator (zucchini). Next will be green beans. Gosh, did I miss green beans. Who’d have thought . . .

At the beginning of the diet I did lose 25 pounds. In the last month I’ve gained 3 pounds, so am not sure if it’s the bread, or what. I made tapioca pudding the other day, although I did use artificial sweetener in it. I’m still eating low carb, and will just need to be judicious about what carbs I do eat. And originally I thought the diet would be forever, because of wanting to improve my heart health. I don’t have a problem, but I have heart disease in my family. So, perhaps I’m shortening my life, per Dr. Gundry’s theories. We’ll see what my next blood work looks like. In the meantime I’m paying no attention whatsoever to lectins.

I made one of my old standby favorites, Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls. Used beef and pork, and made it in the Instant Pot. Used artificial brown sugar. Hmm. It was not very good. Maybe artificial sugar breaks down under pressure. Next I’m craving some chili (with a few red kidney beans in it). Tonight I’m going out to eat with a friend and we’re going to have Mexican food. I haven’t had any for 2 years. I think I’m ordering a chile relleno and a cheese enchilada. At least that’s the plan.

And, in March I’ll be giving up my job as President of my PEO chapter after two years. I’m very ready to step down and turn it over to someone else. So hopefully I’ll have more time. To cook. And blog.

Posted in Beverages, on January 10th, 2020.

aviator_ingred

An Aviator – the insanely delicious cocktail.

Oops, I typed in Aviator – wrong – it’s an Aviation.  When daughter Sara and I were on the cross-country trip, in August, taking grandson John to Virginia, after we’d dropped him off at his new college, we drove to Asheville, NC. On the way there, on a rainy mid-day, we stopped at a scenic overlook. We parked and walked 100 yards to the overlook and while there a woman joined us as we eyed the view and the stormy thunder clouds overhead. We got to talking – where she was going – where we were going – since she knew the area we asked about restaurants in Asheville. She promptly called her friend who lives there, and we were told where we had to go for dinner. I cannot recall the name of the restaurant – tried to look it up. Nothing rings a bell. Anyway, we went early and the waiter/waitress (we couldn’t tell the gender) was very friendly and suggested a drink, a house specialty. An Aviation. See this Wikipedia link to read about the history of the Aviation.

After our dinner there, we hung around near the bar to take a look at the liqueur used – see below. It’s imported from Austria. Hard to find. Sara had to order it online and have it shipped. We live in a hub of shopping, and some other brands are available, but those other brands are discouraged – this one, the Rothman and Winter is the only one to buy.

Now, the picture up above, showing the drink in that Irish coffee glass (wrong glass, obviously!) doesn’t even look appetizing. It’s a variant of a martini, so should be served in a martini glass, of course. I’m pretty sure Sara doesn’t own any of those. Sara liked more of the Creme de Violette in hers, so it’s much darker in color than any I’ve seen on the ‘net or the one we had in Asheville. The liqueur is a beautiful deep purple/lavender color. It’s shaken with ice to cool it, but it’s not served with ice. Sara bought the bottle of Rothman & Winter Creme de Violette for me for Christmas and we enjoyed a repeat of that fun drink.

Luxardo, Gourmet Cocktail Maraschino Cherries – I’d never heard of them until I’d had it in my drink in Asheville. Then I began reading about them in various places. These cherries are “dear,” meaning $$$. Each jar contains about 50 cherries. So a bit under 30-40 cents apiece. Yes, dear.

What’s in an Aviation Cocktail:

  • 1 1/2 ounces gin (we used Bombay Sapphire)
  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 to 3/4 ounce maraschino juice (Luxardo brand for cherries and the juice, imported from Italy – divine)
  • 1/4 ounce Crème de Violette (recommend Rothman & Winter)
  • a Luxardo maraschino cherry, for garnish (it sinks to the bottom, of course)

Combine in a shaker with ice (without the cherry) and strain into a martini glass and serve with the cherry. Some folks add a twist of lemon to the glass.

What’s GOOD: oh my – if you like cocktails, yes. If you like a bit of a sweeter cocktail, yes. If you’re a purist when it comes to martinis, then this wouldn’t be for you. Festive. Fun. Delicious. Especially the cherry at the bottom.

What’s NOT: finding the Rothman & Winter Crème de Violette.

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

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