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Currently Reading

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Just finished another great book, The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.


Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Recipes highlighted in red are my favorites. The veggies and sides are divided up in several sections. Click on the title below to go to that section.

CARB SIDE DISHES (including pasta, polenta, potatoes, rice, etc.)!

BEANS and LEGUMES (if you’re interested, here’s a post containing a CHART on how to cook every kind of bean – the regular way, in a pressure cooker or in a slow cooker)
Barbecue Beans
Garbanzo Bean, Feta and Cilantro Salad
Garbanzo Bean Thai Curry Salad
Mujadara – Lebanese Lentils, Rice & Caramelized Onions
Tuscan White Beans
Western Style Baked Beans

About Winter Squash
Butternut Squash and Potato Gratin
Buttternut Squash Fries
Butternut Squash and Onion Gratin
Cornmeal and Kabocha Squash Polenta
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and Maple Sauce
Yams, Carrots and Ginger
Yam Slices with Garlic and Rosemary

Algerian Carrots
Apple Parsnip Mash
French Glazed Carrots
Orange Spiced Carrots (easy, done in microwave)
Parsnips in Orange Sauce (low calorie, easy, pressure cooker)
Roasted Carrots with Feta Vinaigrette
Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
Roasted Carrots with Thyme
Roasted Root Vegetables with Olive Relish
Yams, Carrots and Ginger

Chunky Cider Applesauce with Walnuts

Creamy Orzo with Corn, Spinach & Arugula
Fettucine with Artichokes and Prosciutto
French-style Poppy Seed Noodles
Israeli Couscous Salad with Tomato
Noodles and Cabbage
Noodle Kugel
Orzo Risotto
Orzo with Artichoke Hearts and Olive
Orzo with Dried Cherries and Almonds
Orzo with Peas, Dill, Pancetta and Lemon
Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce
Tofu Shirataki Noodles (not a recipe, really, but it’s a low-carb substitute for pasta)

Australian Style Potato Salad
Baked Bacon Hasselback Potatoes
BLT Smashed Potatoes (bacon, leeks and fresh tomatoes)
BLT Mashed Potatoes (bacon, leeks and sun dried tomatoes)
Broth-Braised Potatoes
Caribbean Sweet Potatoes (with bananas)
Celery Root & Potato Mash with Arugula
Crispy Potato Roast (a very dressy side dish)
German-Style Mashed Potatoes with Apples (great with sausages)
Goat Cheese Potato Gratin
Green Potatoes (mashed with Spinach)
Hash Brown Casserole
Mashed Potatoes, Make Ahead (Slow Cooker)
Mashed Potatoes with Bacon, Cheddar and Chives
Mashed Potatoes with Blue Cheese & Caramelized Onions
Mashed Potatoes with Mascarpone Cheese
Mashed Potatoes with Shallots and Truffle Oil
Monterey Scalloped Potatoes
New Potato Salad with Chipotle Vinaigrette
Pear and Potato Gratin with Horseradish
Poblano, Potato and Corn Gratin
Potato and Onion Cakes
Potato, Corn and Spinach Gratin
Potato Gratin with Blue Cheese
Roasted Root Vegetables with Sage
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Sweet Potato Black Bean Salad with Jalapeno Dressing
Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes with Bacon and Parmesan
Smashed Potato Cakes with Rosemary Salt
Sweet Potato Gratin
The PERFECT Baked Potato

RICE and WILD RICE (including Risotto)
Armenian Rice Noodle Pilaf
Balinese Yellow Rice
Butternut Squash Risotto with Pancetta
Baked Rice Poblano Corn
Caribbean Rice
Champagne & Asparagus Risotto
Curried Pineapple Rice
Garlic Lime Cilantro Rice
Greek Spinach and Rice
Lemon Rice Pilaf
Lemon Southwest Rice
Mexican Rice
Mujadara (a Lebanese rice and lentil dish)
Mushroom Risotto (pressure cooker)
Rice Pilaf with Pistachios and Prunes
Rice with Pecans, Garlic and Spinach
Risotto with Mushrooms, Brandy & Cream
Saffron Basmati Rice
Saffron Risotto Cakes
Wild and Brown Rice

Leek and Turnip Puree

Apricot Almond Couscous
Boursin Polenta
Italian Sausage Dressing (for Turkey) with Leeks and Mushrooms
Mushroom Bread Pudding
Parmesan Cheesy Grits
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Baby Artichoke & Scallion Saute
Roasted Roman (Stuffed) Artichokes

ASPARAGUS – and a post just About Asparagus
Absurdly Addictive Asparagus
Asparagus with Bits of Bacon
Asparagus with Chile Butter
Crumbled Asparagus (that’s with a panko coating)
Pan Roasted Asparagus with Shallots and Orange

Orange Glazed Beets

Broccoli Affogati (it’s an Italian method using red wine)
Broccoli Casserole
Broccoli Mayo Mustard
Broccoli Rabe
Broccoli with Garlic and Dried Cranberries
Crumbled and Roasted Broccoli
Dilled Broccoli and Leeks
Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Olive Oil (easy)
Sauteed Broccoli with Mellow Garlic and Thyme

Brussels Sprouts Slaw with Mustard Butter
Brussels Sprouts with Brandy, Orange and Dried Cranberries
Brussels Sprouts Gratin
Brussels Sprouts with Maple Syrup
Creamy Brussels Sprouts
Grilled Brussels Sprouts (a food52 recipe)
Honey Mustard Brussels Sprouts
Marinated Brussels Sprouts Salad
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts
Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Pine Nuts

Braised Red Cabbage and Apples
Cabbage and Leek Gratin
Cabbage and Noodles
Cabbage with Corn, White Beans, Raisins and Thyme
Low-Carb Cabbage, Bacon & Onion
Red Cabbage with Apples
Sweet and Sour Cabbage

Cauliflower and Green Onion Mash
Cauliflower Cheese
Cauliflower Gratin
Cauliflower Gratin with Tomatoes and Feta
Cauliflower Mash with Sour Cream
Cauliflower Tabbouleh Salad
Cauliflower with Bacon and Mushrooms
Cauliflower with Gruyere and Whiskey
Indian Spiced Cauliflower
Mushroom Cauliflower “Risotto”

Roasted Cauliflower with Fennel
Roasted Cauliflower with Pine Nuts and a Tahini Drizzle
Roasted Cauliflower Slices
Steamed Pureed Cauliflower
Tandoori Style Cauliflower
Twice Baked Cauliflower and Take Two

CORN (yes, it’s a carb, but I’ve listed it here with veggies)
About Corn
Calabacitas con Crema (corn, zucchini, grilled chiles)
Corn, Sugar Snap Pea and Bacon Saute
Corn with 10-Spice Rub
Grilled Corn with Peruvian Chile Lime Seasoning
Gulliver’s Creamed Corn
North African Grilled Corn on the Cob
North African Grilled Corn on the Cob (easier – foil wrapped and lightened up)
Quick Calabacitas (corn, zucchini and chiles)
Ricotta Cheese Corn Pudding
Southwest Corn Cakes
(Mexican) Street Corn with Cotija Cheese

About Cucumbers

About Eggplant
Charred Eggplant Salad
Roasted Eggplant with Fried Onion and Lemons (a Middle Eastern style)
Sauteed Eggplant Salad
Stewed Eggplant and Tomatoes
Sweet and Sour Eggplant

Baked Fennel
Fennel Fritters
Fennel with Orange, Coriander and Fennel Seeds

About Green Beans
Feisty Green Beans
French Green Beans with Pears and Parmesan
Garlic Green Beans (almost dry pan roasted)
Green Beans with Caramelized Red Onions and Pine Nuts
Green Beans with Dijon and Caramelized Shallots
Green Beans with Garlic and Olive Oil
Green Beans with Hazelnut Butter
Green Beans with Pears and Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
Green Beans with Shallots and Balsamic Vinegar
Green Beans with Tomatillo Salsa
Haricot Verts with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Quick & Easy Green Beans with Shallots & Balsamic Vinegar

Kale Mix (a salad)

Casali Family Mushrooms (with wild harvested hen-of-the-woods)
Mushroom Bread Pudding
Mushroom Calabacitas
Spinach & Mushroom Cream Gratin

Baked Onions With Thyme
Butter and Herb Roasted Red Onions
Cheesy Roasted Onions
Madeira Onions
Onion & Pepper Roast with Indian Spices
Sugar Snap Peas and Mushrooms
Uncle Wilson’s Grilled Onions (done in foil)

PEAS (I know they’re a carb, but most people think of them as a veggie)
Peas with Pancetta

Roasted Peppers & Onions with Mild Indian Spices

Creamed Spinach and Basil
Greek Spinach and Rice
Gulliver’s Creamed Spinach

Sauteed Swiss Chard with Bacon
Swiss Chard with Dried Cranberries

Sugar Snap Peas and Green Peas
Sugar Snap Pea Tops

About Tomatoes
Marinated Tomatoes

About Zucchini
Calabacitas (zucchini, corn, chiles)
Calabacitas Con Crema
Mushroom Calabacitas (my riff on calabacitas)
Simple Summer Squash
Southwestern Squash and Corn (easy)
Summer-Squash Casserole (with jalapeno chiles)
Summer Squash (both yellow and zucchini) “Linguine”
Yellow Crookneck Casserole
Yellow Crookneck, Corn & Sugar Snap Pea Gratin
Zucchini Cheesy Casserole
Zucchini Gratin
Zucchini Pancakes
Zucchini Ribbons
Zucchini (and other veggies) in Foil Packets (grilled)
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