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Sara

 

Sara and me

I participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) to me if you purchase any books I recommend, or products that I buy and feature on my food blog. 

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Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children. The book is heartbreaking, but one of those that everyone should read. The hardship, the hunger, the dirt and dust, the failed crops, the lack of rain, then the story picks up again in central California, back in the day when the wealthy growers just used up the migrants. I don’t want to spoil the story. So worth reading. Hannah really knows how to weave a story.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks. The father was very dark, but he plays no part, really, in this story. Growing up, the girls leave home at 18 to find their way in New Orleans. Suddenly, one twin disappears (her clothes and suitcase all gone in the wink of an eye). Her twin left behind has no idea what’s happened to her. As the story reveals, with divided paths, one twin continues her life as a black woman, and the other twin, the one who left, is able to pass as a white woman. She marries well, has a daughter. Well, let’s just say that there are lots of wicked webs woven throughout the story, starting from the girls’ mother who never wants to speak again of her lost daughter. But you know where this is going, don’t you? Things are found out. The author does a great job of weaving the story apart and then back together.

Kathleen Wheeler has written quite a family story. Brought To Our Senses: A Family Saga Novel. The title calls it a saga, but two generations don’t make a saga – to me anyway. But that’s not the story . . . this is a book about dementia or Alzheimer’s, and it’s hard to read in many places. The mother, the matriarch, is in denial for years and years about her problems. Some of the children are also in denial. The daughters don’t all get along. The son moved away and chooses (mostly) to be absent for most of the drama. Such a sad, sad story, but could be and is real for lots of people with relatives, loved ones who suffer from this awful disease. There is resolution at the end (with the children, all adults, of course). But the mother’s downhill slope is so graphic and realistic. I don’t wish to stick my head in the sand because I know many families suffer through the kinds of angst written here. It’s just so hard to read. Good book, though.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress. She was a brilliant mind, and a beautiful woman. It tells the story of her coming of age, how she navigated the world of acting back in that time period (she was Austrian, and Hitler was in power). The writing was very well done – to tell Hedy’s story with detail and poignancy. Eventually Hedy made it to the U.S. and her life story changed, but still had its difficulties. I loved the book, beginning to end. She should have become an engineer as she invented several war related bomb tools. Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, when aristocrats were chased and killed, guillotined in many cases. There is a young couple (part of the royal court) who escape to a remote small castle owned by his family, located on the edge of France and Italy, hoping to wait out the revolution and hoping the villagers love and care about them. Then jump to current day as a small English group of close friends decide to retire somewhere on the continent, and settle on a small abandoned castle in the remote hills of France along the Italian border. Got the picture? The historian in the group is quite interested in the history of the home, and clues are revealed (in the tower) that lead her and the group on a quest to discover what happened to the couple who used to live there. There was a fire once upon a time. There’s an pesky ghost. There’s also a very old child’s doll/playhouse on the grounds. Plus there’s a small graveyard. It is VERY intriguing. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Agathe von Trapp was the eldest daughter of the renowned von Trapp family. Some years ago she wrote Memories Before and After the Sound of Music: An Autobiography beginning from her first memories at age 2 (yes, really!). The book tells the honest-truth about the family’s life in Austria and Italy prior to the war, and debunks many of the story lines from the musical, The Sound of Music. Liesl, the part played by Charmian Carr, was supposedly the story of Agathe. But it wasn’t, really. As long as you know that the musical and movie were written and changed to make a story for the stage and film, then reading the true stories about their family life, their escape (by train from Italy, with no problems at all, no hiding in an abbey) and eventual settling in Stowe, Vermont, where there still is a family lodge for paying guests. The family singers toured for many years, and earned enough barely money to then survive for some months in Vermont, practicing and gearing up for their next national or world tour. One of the sad parts for me was reading that although Maria von Trapp certainly kept the family together, her step-children didn’t necessarily love and adore her. They say she was quite selfish. A good enough read. Not a long book, and not exactly an example of fine, non-fiction literature, but still, it kept my interest mostly because I’ve been a fan of the movie ever since it came out in 1965-66.

Sarah Steele wrote a quite intricate book – probably more interesting to a woman anyway – called The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon. A young woman going through a breakup of her marriage, and the death of her grandmother, finds a box in the relative’s wardrobe. In it are fabric swatches attached to dress patterns, and a postcard of a woman wearing the dress. It’s all quite mysterious. Florence decides she should re-create the dresses and the journeys. Quite an interesting theme for a book, and it’s well done here. Travel to the Riviera is included, and some fun encounters with new friends. Well worth reading.

I’ve been a fan of C.J. Box for several years. Have read most of his books. Mysteries of a sheriff in Wyoming, solving murders, usually. Box has a gift of suspense. This new book, Long Range (A Joe Pickett Novel) This one starts with the after-effects of a deadly grizzly bear attack, then extends to the murder of a judge’s wife. All interconnected, and complicated. The book was too short . . . I always want more.

Tracy Chevalier has written another fascinating book . . . A Single Thread: A Novel. The time period is between the wars, Britain. So many spinsters were left following the war, and Violet doesn’t want to become an embittered woman, caring for her angry, feeble and declining mother. So she moves on to Winchester. She works at a ho-hum job, but also becomes a volunteer at the Cathedral (ever been there? gorgeous), helping to make needlepoint kneeling pads. There are traditions even for kneeling pads (yes, really), and Violet takes this very seriously. There’s a love story woven into the fabric of this story too, and how Violet blooms and grows. Chevalier has a way with words. A good read.

An unusual book, The Weight of a Piano: A novel by Chris Cander. It begins in 1962 in Russia, a young girl is gifted a Blüthner piano. She has real skill and hopes to keep it forever. Yet, once she marries, she must leave it behind when she emigrates to the U.S. Thence the story begins, of what happens to the piano, its interim stops (even a bit about how the piano feels –  yes, some surrealism here). And about how it survives the voyage to America itself. I don’t want to give it away. You’ll learn a LOT about pianos and equally as much about Blüthner ones, how they’re made. The book does not have a happy ending – at least not in my opinion, if that’s something that’s important to you. Quite a story; and again, unusual.

Erik Larson’s tome, The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. This book covers the “reign” of Winston Churchill during the height of WWII. You’ll learn so much more about him. About the war. About the inner workings of the British government, including political. I’m a great admirer of the late Mr. Churchill. One of my more recent trips to England I visited Chartwell, the family home and where Winston died. If you’ve never been there, do add it to your itinerary next time. Beautiful grounds, including the small studio he used to paint.

Ken Follett is one of my fav authors, and I pre-ordered his newest, The Evening and the Morning (Kingsbridge), which is a prequel to The Pillars of the Earth: A Novel (Kingsbridge), my all-time favorite book I’ve ever read in my life. Time period: 975 to about 1007 or so. Give or take. It follows a poor, but eager and intelligent builder as he earns his trade. It’s about his loves. His failures. The families all around, and much about the ever-present church (and its leaders, some honest, many not). Could hardly put the book down. Love Follett’s style of writing.

Every so often I read a romance of some kind. Historical ones mostly. And most I don’t include them here. But one I liked a lot is The Secrets of Saffron Hall by Clare Marchant. It happens to be very inexpensive right now on amazon, on Kindle, in case you’re interested. It jumps from 1538 and to 2019. Having to do with a precious book, a Book of Hours, and what secrets it contains. The growing of saffron plays large here and both romance in Tudor times and a tenuous marriage in current time, but nearly all of it takes place at a Tudor castle. Loved the book.

The book Where the Blind Horse Sings: Love and Healing at an Animal Sanctuary shares the story of a number of animals brought to an animal sanctuary in the Catskills. If you’re an animal lover, you’ll enjoy the stories, each animal bringing more to the human-animal relationship than you might even guess. Profound stories of love of animals. Not a long book; I think I got it as a bargain book from bookbub.

The title caught my attention on this one: Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim by Sabeeha Rehman. She’s written her own autobiography, beginning when she was a young child in Pakistan, to her eventual settling in New York. It’s about the Muslim experience. Their beliefs, their customs and traditions, told in a very pleasing and informational way. She marries in American Pakistani Muslim (an arranged marriage) and it’s the story of everything. Nothing much is left out of the journey she made, and still makes. She became a kind of activist for her religion, trying to bring Muslim customs to integrate into American culture (not always an easy task). Her husband is a doctor; she a hospital administrator. Likely you’ll learn more than you thought about Muslims. Very well written. Enjoyed it very much.

Finished Chinn’s story, The English Wife. What a great read. Could hardly put it down. I’m reading 3-4 books a week these days, and am so happy when I have a book I can’t wait to get back to. Really the story is about two sisters. Partly in Norwich, England, then in Newfoundland. One there, one here. And some of it takes place during WWII in Norwich, and much of it Newfoundland, then, and more recent. I loved the part of the book that took place on 9/11 when flights were diverted to Newfoundland. Family secrets, family lies, much anger between the sisters. There’s romance. There’s war. There is love of family. Particularly I savored the descriptions of Newfoundland, mostly rock, if you’ve never been there. It’s a twisted tale, by that I mean the family secrets which become the undoing. It’s a bargain on amazon right now, as I write this.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. The story is all about Mary, her growing up, her scholarly pursuits, and then from the moment she meets Jesus as a young man. The story follows along to and beyond his death on the cross. In the time of Christ it was extremely uncommon for a man not to marry. It was almost unseemly. Fraught with suspicions, I’d suppose. Although scripture, as scripture, does not play a very strong part here, if you’ve read the Bible you’ll see many of the stories of Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. Her husband was a journalist, and his life was always in danger because he wrote the truth, and that was taking a risk. The story is about her escape, with harrowing chapters as she makes her way north from Acapulco, with various major detours, one step, or sometimes nothing more than a hair’s width ahead of the cartel minions trying to find her. I could NOT put this book down. The author is not Hispanic, and some have criticized her for that, but she did her research, and many authors write about places and people they are not. I have nothing but respect for her having told this story. You need to read this.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice, living in an English home which lacks much, leaps to agree to marry a visiting American. It was an escape for her. He is a man of some family wealth, and she travels from England to Kentucky, during the 1920s. Once settled into the family home, she discovers married life is not what she had expected. Affection is lacking, and she must share the home with her tyrannical father-in-law, the owner of mines in the deep mountains. And with the ghost of the deceased mother-in-law. The family cook won’t tolerate Alice’s help in the kitchen. Alice is terribly lonely and unhappy. The town doesn’t much like this English woman with her funny way of speaking. But then, she meets a woman who encourages her to join the Horseback Librarians. With trepidation, she begins traversing the remote hills, through unbelievable weather, to deliver old, battered and tattered books to the remote inhabitants of the area. She makes friends, wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There is tremendous tension from the danger of the mines, the unions trying to get a foothold, plus the unraveling of her marriage, including the dreaded father-in-law who feels she should answer to him, behave as he wants. Uh, no. Alice goes her own route. Her new friends become her family, and, oh, what love. There has been much criticism of Moyes’ possible plagiarism of another book regarding the Horseback Librarians. I read the other book – but I didn’t feel remotely as intrigued by that story as I was by Moyes’ version. A feel good story, but it takes some while getting to that “feel good” part, nearly to the end.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat. It’s about Ellen. Her early years, under much hardship. About her teens, some of it as an orphan. Then a young adult, which includes marriage, a marriage blanc, which I didn’t understand until you learn the meaning. Then a child enters the picture, a child that will become a focus for the remainder of the book. Through the war, and beyond. I cried several times, as will you, I suspect. What’s a constant is the descriptions of the place, a town called Upton, near Southampton. About the hills and dales, the flora and fauna, the rain, the mud sometimes, the flooding sometimes. But throughout, it’s about neighbors caring for neighbors, and about love. A must read. Would make a really good book club read.

Jamie Ford has written another good one, Love and Other Consolation Prizes. Remember, he wrote The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Loved that book. This one takes on a rather ugly part of America’s past, when Chinese people were treated like trinkets. Ernest Young is such a boy, who ends up being a “prize” at an event, and with great angst, ends up as a kind of servant at a high-class bordello in Seattle. Yet, the women and girls there become HIS family. He is intelligent and learns many lessons. Eventually, when society women battle to close down such houses of ill repute, he leaves that life, with his wife. They have children. The bulk of the book is about the early years around the turn of the 20th century, then you pick up the threads nearing the end of his life, and his wife’s. There are any number of small mysteries, which unravel with a word here or there – you know that word foreshadowing? Really interesting read.

In between more literary novels, I bought a comedic memoir . . . Juliette Sobanet’s Meet Me in Paris. There’s the falling apart of a marriage (and divorce), but in the inbetween, she decides to take a trip (sans husband) around Europe to get her head straight. The kind of tour that would drive me crazy, but it was one night, maybe two at each major city. She knew no one, but soon enough bonds with  three other women. Then she has a chance-meeting of a young Frenchman who had been an exchange student in her home town. They’d lost touch, yet there were definitely sparks there, never realized. Some of the touristy stuff was trite, I must say, although the women do try to take in all the major sites, if only for a few minutes. There is plenty of humor. Some steamy stuff too as she meets up with the young man in another city. Apparently it’s a happy-ever-after story. Great literature it is not, but it was a fun romp, so to speak.

Recently finished Thomas Nelson’s The Hideaway. It seems like there are SO many novels out there about families finding, inheriting or otherwise going to an old house with memories. Especially ones on the water. With stories to tell. It’s a great way to introduce some light mystery to the telling of some other family story. In this case it’s Sara’s grandmother who was enigmatic in every way. And Sara inherits the run-down, ramshackle B&B on Mobile Bay. Cute story with lots of twists and turns.

Also just finished James Conroyd Martin’s Fortune’s Child: A Novel of Empress Theodora (Book 1 of 2). Theodora grew up the daughter of a circus performer, but then moved onto “the boards,” as acting was called back in Byzantine times (Constantinople, 6th century). She always had high expectations – she just “knew” she was going to accomplish great things. She was an occasional prostitute, a mistress, and then, behold, the son of Emperor Justin is mesmerized by her beauty, takes her on, and makes her his wife, amid much royal machinations. A young eunuch also plays large in the story too, a man hopelessly in love with Thea, but knows his love can never be returned or fulfilled. He becomes an historian to the Empress. Quite a story – much of it chronicles her early life and not a lot of it in Constantinople. But riveting story.

I’m doing SO much reading of late. Read this book in one day. The Glass Hotel: A novel by Emily St. John Mandel. Loosely based on the story of Bernie Madoff (Ponzi scheme), it tells a novelized version of a man with incredible power and charisma who gathers a group of willing partners. It’s about the people he cuckolded, and the people who took him down. At the beginning drugs come into play and I almost didn’t continue, but that was a very short section. Well worth reading. Lots to discuss if you’re looking for a book club read.

Once in awhile I read a poignant animal story, as you know if you’ve followed this sidebar for any length of time. Craig & Fred: A Marine, A Stray Dog, and How They Rescued Each Other by Craig Gross, tells the story of his military duty in Afghanistan, in a war zone. And how his unit befriended a dog, a stray, and how that dog really did become his lifeline.

Cara Wall’s new book, The Dearly Beloved: A Novel. It tells the story of two couples. The two husbands become co-pastors of a New York City church. The wives? Oh my, are they ever different. They don’t abide. The husbands try to get a grip on their jobs, pastoring, preaching, and keeping the wives happy.

Loved-loved Gregory Buford’s humorous memoir, Kept: An American Househusband in India. He aims to be a U.S. diplomat, takes the tests and fails. On a whim, his wife takes the test and is hired. Their first assignment: Chennai, India. They spent two years there, with his much-loved wife going off to do diplomatic duties (albeit at a low level – everyone must pay their dues at the beginning) and Greg is left at home to deal with the servants, the house, the beggars, the nanny, the construction next door, shopping, and also partly caring for their infant.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Shirley Ann Grau’s book, The Keepers of the House. Hmmm. Much to think about. [from an amazon review]: There is a reason it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1965. Seven generations of Howlands have lived on this rural Alabama plantation in good times and bad. It tells the story of this family from the time its patriarch settled the land in the early 1800s to the mid-20th century.

Marie Martin wrote Harbored Secrets. From amazon: In May of 1935, Blinny Platt’s homestead shack burns to the ground forever leaving her family asunder, scattering them like the embers flew on the Montana wind. She was only 8, sent away and in charge of her little sister. She could handle that because Platts take care of Platts. However, it is the hidden secrets of her parents smoldering beneath the charred remains that haunts Blinny until 1982.

Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a story.

Alan Hlad has written quite a novel. From true life. The Long Flight Home. It tells the story based on family history, of the homing pigeons that were used in Britain during WWII that flew back and forth across the English Channel into German-occupied France. It’s a heartwarming story. Heart-wrenching sometimes. War is an awful thing no matter which side you’re on when it comes to how it affects everyday people. You’ll learn a lot about pigeons, but also about love. Great read.

Riveted to Katie Munnick’s novel The Heart Beats in Secret. It begins in Scotland in 1940. A woman, a single mother. A journey across the sea. Then her daughter’s story, and finally the granddaughter’s story, when she inherits her grandmother’s old cottage back in Scotland. Plenty of mother-daughter dysfunction. But it comes right in the end.

Sarah Vallance has written a book about her devastating brain injury. Prognosis: A Memoir of My Brain. What a story. What a saga of her recovery. And how she did it. An open wide sharing of her angst, her anger, her journey. Well worth reading. If you have anyone who has suffered a brain injury, it would be wise reading.

Just love all of Amy Harmon’s books. This one is no exception. Where the Lost Wander: A Novel. A pioneer story of a young woman made a widow on the trail to the west. 1850s. As it was in life, tragedies occur. But there is caring and love too. Loved it.

Read Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers. After leaving her childhood home of Switzerland, young Marta Schneider dreams of one day owning a boardinghouse, until marriage and motherhood change her ambitions. Determined to give her family a better life, she vows to raise strong children. But her tough love is often misunderstood, especially by her oldest daughter, Hildemara Rose, creating repercussions that will echo for generations.

Esther Freud’s book The Sea House: A Novel is about a small village on England’s southern coast.  The book is about love found, love lost, love sometimes found again, sometimes not. About how fleeting it can be or seem.

Amor Towles’ book, Rules of Civility: A Novel was quite a read. It’s NYC, 1937. Twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent [Kon-TENT she iterates to many] is in a Greenwich Village jazz bar when a handsome banker happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society.

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien. What an adorable book. True story about Stacey’s 20 years with a feisty but lovable barn owl.

Loved The Wedding Officer: A Novel by Anthony Capella. It takes place in the middle of WWII in Naples. A young British officer, Captain James Gould, is sent to Naples to wade through the zilions of applications from soldiers to marry local Italian women (and presumably take them back to England when the war ends).

Reading behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian by Jill Grunenwald. So interesting. Jill is  young, with a newly minted degree in library science at a time when the economy was very slow. She accepts a position in a minimum security prison in Ohio.

The Walls of Lucca by Steve Physioc. A novel that takes place in between WWI and II about a weary Italian soldier.

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna. A novel about Croatia in the aftermath of their more recent wars.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

Having read all of Kristin Hannah’s books, I knew I’d read her latest too: Between Sisters: A Novel.  Two sisters, raised by the same mother but different fathers. At a young age a rift occurs and the sisters go their own way.

Just finished Matt McCarthy’s book The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician’s First Year. It tells the true life story of his first year as an intern at a New York hospital.

Also read Karen Harper’s book The Royal Nanny: A Novel. The time frame is 1890s onward, at Sandringham, when Charlotte Bill (a real person) was hired by the Duke and Duchess of York, to care for their children.

Also read Roger Swindell’s Mendelevski’s Box. It’s an historical novel about the aftermath of WWII in impoverished Amsterdam.

Also read a very quirky non-fiction book: The Perfect Gentleman: The remarkable life of Dr. James Miranda Barry by June Rose. This is a biography about a person who lived in the mid-1800s. He was a surgeon; graduated from Edinburgh Medical School at the age of 14. Joined the British Army as a medical officer then sent off to South Africa and many other tropical outposts during his career.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The premise of this book is different . . . a woman writer goes to Scotland to connect with her distant heritage.

Another great read, The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See. It’s 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 breadwinners. Husbands stayed home and cared for the babies. The island is real. The history is real.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford. A novel about the early days of radio in London.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler. 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.  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.

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. 

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.

Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is in western Pennsylvania.

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. 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.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is 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. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

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.

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.

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? Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who  lacks 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. Sweet story.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee. Everyone should read this one.

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones. DIdn’t like it much, but others do.

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.

 

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 Beef, Miscellaneous, on April 11th, 2021.

argentinian_steak_red_chimichurri_sauce

Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

Listen up. You just gotta make this. I can’t praise this enough. If you like steak, this is your lucky day. The recipe was demonstrated on Milk Street, and Jim Hirsch, one of the producers, went to Argentina and his job, with the film crew, was to find out what makes Argentinian steak so special. Certainly steak is the signature dish of Argentina. They raise a LOT of beef cattle in the country. My granddaughter, Sabrina, spent 5 months in Argentina (not exactly a happy experience, I’m sorry to say, even though it was through her university college exchange program). But she told me she had steak similar to this when she was there.

Normally, in Argentina, steak is grilled outside, on a grill that has an adjustable grate level – in other words, you can lower it to be close to the coals, or way up high (more like 10-12 inches), away from the wood coals. Most restaurants make this steak with a 2-hour grilling. Can you imagine? Likely they do that to have a very precise control over the temperature.

strip_steak_seasonedOnce the Milk Street crew returned to Boston, they began trying to recreate this steak (using American/different equipment) – and the chimichurri sauce. Speaking of the sauce, you may be familiar with green chimichurri sauce (that’s all I’d ever had prior to making this). This red sauce is a strange combination of things – 1/4 cup sweet paprika, 1/4 cup red pepper flakes (yes, really), and 1/4 cup dried oregano, and lastly 3/4 cup of neutral oil. Added later, garlic and balsamic vinegar. If you’ve ever watched Chris Kimball (he’s the guy who started Cook’s Illustrated, but was ousted some years ago and started Milk Street) you know that he does not like spicy heat. Not that he’s into bland food, but heat bothers his palate. So when they were making this in the test kitchen, when he was asked to add 1/4 CUP of red pepper flakes, he said oh-no, no, I won’t be able to eat this. The chef pleaded with him to follow the recipe and he might be surprised. And indeed he was, and so was I.

At left is the photo of the beautiful New York strip steak, 2” thick, with the rub on it (having rested in the frig for 24 hours), on a rack, before it went into the oven. One of these steaks will serve at least 2 people, maybe even 3 people.

There are a few steps to making this:

1. Make a rub of black pepper, freshly grated nutmeg (lots of it) and sugar. Put it on the 2” thick steak.

2. Place the steak on a rack, open, in the refrigerator, for 24 hours.

3. Put the steak in a 250°F oven for about 45 minutes. Remove it and let it rest for 30 minutes.

4. Make the sauce.

5. Grill the steak in a searing hot pan on the stove (or do this on your outdoor grill) to caramelize the two sides, then let it rest for 10 minutes. Get the rest of the meal ready.

6. Slice the steak across the grain, in 1/4” thick slices, plate it and drizzle the sauce on the ends and offer more sauce at the table.

red_chimichurri_cookingThe sauce takes no time, really, to make, but there are steps to making it also. In a skillet you combine the oil, paprika, red chili flakes and the oregano, and cook it over very low heat (never allowing it to boil) for 5-7 minutes. Then you add the garlic, and let it cool. Once cool, you add the balsamic vinegar and salt. The photo at right is before it even cooked – so you can see the ingredients.

When Chris Kimball tasted the sauce, he first barely touched his bite of steak with the oily part of the sauce, as he was not thinking he could eat it. He was surprised, and my friend Linda and I (when we made it) were also amazed that our mouths weren’t burning up. The guesswork is that the addition of 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar somehow tempers the spicy, fiery heat of 1/4 cup of red pepper flakes.

The only thing I’ll say is that you need a meat thermometer for this recipe – I eat my steak medium-rare, and you remove the steak from the oven when it reaches 110°F (about 10-15 degrees below that magic medium-rare temp). I did that, but during the resting time, the temp went up nearly 10 degrees, and once I seared it, it went up even more. We got it out of the pan at about 128°F, which is a few degrees higher than I wanted. So watch it carefully.

What’s GOOD: I absolutely LOVE-LOVED this steak and the sauce. Definitely well enough to make it again. You do need to plan ahead 24 hours, and make sure you have a whole pod of nutmeg for each steak. You do not taste nutmeg in the rub when eating it. It’s uncanny there could be so much nutmeg on the rub and you wouldn’t taste it in the finished steak (although I was able to taste it when I ate the leftovers, cold). And the sauce – oh my goodness. So good. Very easy – make it the day ahead to save time if you’d like. It’s also uncanny there is so much red pepper in the sauce and I could eat it. I won’t say I ate copious quantities, but I certainly ate some with every bite, and went back for more.

What’s NOT: only that the steak is expensive (do buy a good one, though I did choose choice, not prime beef); however, one steak will feed 2 people, maybe 3. You do have to visit a butcher, as the steak must be 2” thick. I don’t know of any grocery store that has pre-cut 2” steaks. The nearly one pound steak cost me $29. The recipe is for feeding 4, so twice that amount. And you do need to plan ahead, as I mentioned, so the steak can sit in the frig for 24 hours.

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Grilled and Oven-Baked Argentinian Strip Steak with Red Chimichurri

Recipe By: Milk Street, Jim Hirsch
Serving Size: 5

STEAK:
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly grated nutmeg — from two whole nutmeg pods
2 teaspoons white sugar
2 strip beef strip steaks — (about 20 ounces each) about 2″ thick, patted dry
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil — or other neutral oil
RED CHIMICHURRI SAUCE:
3/4 cup neutral oil
1/4 cup sweet paprika
1/4 cup red pepper flakes
1/4 cup dried oregano — do not use fresh
2 medium garlic cloves — finely grated
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
kosher salt

NOTES: Using this much red pepper flakes seems like WAY too much. You can reduce the amount by about a tablespoon, but apparently the balsamic vinegar tempers the heat. This red chimichurri is not as well known in the U.S. as the green herb style.
1. Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. In a small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons salt, 1 tablespoon pepper, the nutmeg and sugar. Measure out and reserve 2 teaspoons of the seasoning mixture, then rub the remainder onto all sides of the steaks, pressing it into the meat. Place the steaks on the prepared rack and refrigerate uncovered for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
2. Heat the oven to 250°F with a rack in the middle position.
3. Place the baking sheet with the steaks in the oven and cook until the centers reach 110°F, 45 to 55 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for up to 30 minutes.
4. In a 10- or 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until barely smoking. Place the steaks in the skillet and cook, without moving them, until well browned, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip the steaks and cook until the second sides are well browned and the centers reach 120°F (for medium-rare), 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Transfer the steaks to a large plate and let rest for 10 minutes. Alternatively, the steaks can be seared for the same time over direct heat on a very hot charcoal or gas grill with a well-oiled grate.
6. Transfer the steaks to a carving board and cut into thin slices. Place on a platter, pour on the accumulated juices and sprinkle with the reserved seasoning mixture.
7. SAUCE: In a small saucepan over low, combine oil, paprika, pepper flakes and oregano. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to bubble, 5-7 minutes. Do not allow it to come to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in garlic. Let cool to room temp.
8. In a medium bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar and 1 tsp salt and stir until salt dissolves. Slowly whisk in the cooled oil mixture.
Per Serving: 500 Calories; 42g Fat (73.2% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 47mg Cholesterol; 59mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 71mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 521mg Potassium; 215mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Veggies/sides, on April 5th, 2021.

caesar_style_brussels

Think everything Caesar (garlic, garlic, anchovies, bread crumbs, cheese) and instead of salad, add them to Brussels sprouts.

I don’t remember whether I watched Cook’s Country on TV, or whether this recipe was in one of the magazines – either way, it’s a winner. But then, I love Brussels sprouts just about any way except straight boiled (which is the only way my mother ever made them).

First, make the Caesar-style dressing – lemon juice, mayo, Worcestershire, Dijon, ample garlic, anchovy (I used the tube), S&P and EVOO. I made that up a little ahead of time – actually, my friend Linda made the dressing as she was helping me in the kitchen the night I made this when we were out in Palm Desert. The Brussels were cleaned, trimmed and quartered, then were pan-seared. The panko bread crumbs were toasted in the same pan and then it was all tossed together with the dressing and the Parm on top. SO good.

If you make up the dressing ahead of time, this is an easy dish and quick as well. They also taste wonderful leftover, just so you know . . .

What’s GOOD: with loving Brussels sprouts like I do, everything was “right” about this dish. Easy, and over the top on taste. A keeper.

What’s NOT: not a thing. Great recipe.

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Caesar Brussels Sprouts

Recipe By: Cooks Country Dec/Jan 2019
Serving Size: 5

DRESSING:
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon mustard — Dijon
3 whole garlic cloves — minced
3 whole anchovy fillets — rinsed, minced
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons EVOO
BRUSSELS SPROUTS:
2 pounds Brussels sprouts — trimmed, quartered
5 tablespoons EVOO
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup panko crumbs
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated

1. DRESSING: Whisk juice, mayo, Worcestershire, mustard, garlic, anchovies, pepper and salt in large bowl until combined. Slowly whisk in oil until emulsified; set aside.
2. SPROUTS: Combine Brussels sprouts, 1/4 cup oil and 1/4 tsp salt in 12″ nonstick skillet. Cover skillet, place over med heat; cook, stirring occasionally until Brussels sprouts are bright green and have started to brown, about 10 min.
3. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re deeply and evenly browned and paring knife slides in with little to no resistance, about 5 min. longer. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet and let cool for 15 min. Wipe skillet clean with paper towels.
4. Combine panko, 1/4 tsp salt and remaining 1 T oil in now empty skillet and cook over med heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 2-4 min. Transfer to small bowl and stir in Parm.
5. Add Brussels sprouts to dressing and gently toss to combine. Transfer to serving platter. Sprinkle with panko/cheese mixture and serve.
Per Serving: 312 Calories; 23g Fat (63.5% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 3mg Cholesterol; 387mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 103mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 778mg Potassium; 149mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on March 30th, 2021.

corn_poblano_chile_lasagna_baked

A combination that is positively made in heaven. Lasagna with a Southwest twist.

Linda_T2My good friend Linda, who lives about 50 miles south of me, (pictured at right) spent a few days with me out in Palm Desert. (We’ve been friends for about 30 years.) We agreed ahead of time that we’d maybe go out to lunch, and would cook dinner in. She cooked dinner one night, and I did it the following evening. This is what Linda made – and oh my goodness – is it ever good. There are a number of recipes here on this blog from my friend Linda, who is an excellent cook. If you do a search (search box top left on my home page) for “Linda,” all of her recipes should come up.

corn_poblano_before_baking

There’s the casserole before baking.

Since I try to reduce carbs, this was a super-treat for me. Lasagna in any form is a treat. But corn and poblano sounded so good. Linda said she was served this lasagna at the home of a friend, and she was SO enamored with it, she wouldn’t leave until the hostess gave her the recipe. Linda has made it many times since then, and has altered the original recipe a little bit.

The original recipe came from Marcela Valladolid (Food Network). In the comments many people increased the number of zucchini, onion, and increased the corn too. And increased the peppers. She did all of those things, and Linda also added just a little bit more to the corn and cream mixture too.

corn_poblano_lasagna_servingSo what is it? It’s lasagna noodles layered with roasted poblano (pasilla) chiles, thinly sliced (and cooked) zucchini, a mixture of corn and cream, and plenty of grated Mozzarella cheese. Linda had made it the morning we went to Palm Desert. She took it in a Rachael Ray Lasagna Lugger, Marine Blue Stripe Casserole Carrier, 13X9. If you don’t own one of these, you should – they are just the best out there. I bought the carrier for her several years ago. I own one too, and it’s rated highly for keeping the temp of things (both hot or cold) better than most other carriers out there.

mex_chop_saladSo I didn’t see all the work that went into making this (yes, it’s a lot), but then making any kind of lasagna is a labor of love, I think! It went into the oven and baked for about 50 minutes, then we turned on the broiler, and it took only a few minutes to get the top really golden brown.

Linda also made Mexican Chopped Salad, a Phillis Carey recipe (picture at right) I’ve had on my blog since 2007. I hadn’t made that salad in a long time, and it went so well with the Southwest style lasagna.

What’s GOOD: the unusual flavors for a lasagna. SO tasty. Different. Worth all the work, Linda says. I absolutely love the unique flavor of poblano/pasilla chiles, so this was a winner in my book!

What’s NOT: This recipe takes a lot of time to make and assemble, requires the use of lots of pots and dishes, plus it’s high fat with cream. The carb count on this is off the charts. You could try to cut this into 10 servings, but I assure you, hungry eaters will go back for a second portion if you do that.

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Corn and Poblano Lasagna

Recipe By: Marcela Valladolid, Food Network
Serving Size: 8

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic — minced
2 1/2 cups frozen corn — thawed, may use fire-roasted style
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large white onion — thinly sliced (on Mandoline preferably)
8 medium poblano chiles — also called pasilla, charred, peeled, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1-inch strips, or use 4-5 if they’re very large
2 medium zucchini — halved crosswise, then thinly sliced, preferably on Mandoline
12 lasagna noodles — plus a couple extra in case of breakage during cooking
3 cups mozzarella cheese — grated, or Oaxaca cheese, reserving 1 cup for the top of the casserole.

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add two-thirds of the garlic and the corn and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream. Add dried thyme. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes for the flavors to incorporate. Turn off the heat and let cool slightly. Transfer to a blender and season with the thyme and some salt and pepper, and puree until smooth. Pour out into a 6-cup measuring cup/bowl, so you can measure how much you pour onto each layer.
3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining garlic and cook for 1 minute. Mix in the poblano strips and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes for the flavors to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.
4. Reserve one cup of the grated cheese to put on the top.
5. Spread about one-quarter of the corn mixture over the bottom of an 11-by-8-inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagna sheets. Spread one-quarter of the poblano mixture and one-quarter of the cheese over the pasta. Repeat the layering three more times. Add cheese to top layer. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the casserole (inside dimensions – this is to keep the cheese from sticking to the foil) then cover casserole with foil.
6. Bake until the pasta is cooked and tender, about 50 minutes. Remove the foil and turn up the oven temperature to broil. Broil until golden brown and bubbly, 5 to 8 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.
Per Serving (this calorie count is too high – I think the recipe program doesn’t interpret the pasta correctly – I think it’s more like 750 calories per serving – still high, but more reasonable than this): 1138 Calories; 55g Fat (43.1% calories from fat); 42g Protein; 121g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 169mg Cholesterol; 466mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; 2mcg Vitamin D; 542mg Calcium; 5mg Iron; 685mg Potassium; 668mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on March 24th, 2021.

dried_cherry_amaretto_almond_biscotti

See those dark cherries? Soaked in Amaretto. And almonds added too.

In my recipe arsenal I have two biscotti recipes I favor. Both posted here. Most recently my favorite is Chocolate (chip) Anise Biscotti; my other favorite is Chocolate Biscotti. I wanted to try something new, so I dug out some of my cookbooks and found this one in Martha Stewart’s Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and to Share: A Baking Book cookbook. I can’t say that I’ve made very many of the recipes in it, but it’s a huge cookbook. And this one appealed to me. I had dried cherries (Trader Joe’s) and they were soaked in Amaretto I had on hand. I didn’t have whole blanched almonds on hand, but I did have slivered ones, so I chopped those up.

When I bake these days, I’m using more artificial sugar. My current favorite is So Nourished Erythritol Sweetener Granular – 1:1 Sugar Substitute. In this recipe I used a scant half cup of sugar and a scant half cup of the So Nourished sweetener. I cannot taste the artificial sugar at all – in other words, there were no off flavors or the cooling tendency people talk about. Next time I’ll proportion it with more of the erythritol.

The recipe called for sanding sugar – I probably have something in my pantry, but I didn’t add it – can’t say that I missed it. I did use some of the erythritol sprinkled on top, but it was absorbed into the biscotti, so you couldn’t see it once these were baked. I wouldn’t bother doing that.

The dried cherries are gently simmered in the Amaretto, so they’re nice and plump. They’re drained, and the remaining liquid is added to the dough, then the cherries and almonds are added in at the end. I used my stand mixer for all of it. The dough wasn’t hard to shape into logs, they baked easily enough, cooled for a set number of minutes, then I sliced them on the diagonal with a serrated knife, then back onto the cookies sheets to bake some more. The recipe indicates 8 minutes per side, but I think the biscotti needed about another 3-8 minutes of baking to get them dry enough. Once I frozen them, I can’t tell the difference, but when I ate one that was cooled after baking, it kind of broke off like a cookie would. I added those instructions into the recipe below.

What’s GOOD: liked the flavor – you can’t really taste the Amaretto – at least I couldn’t. The cherries, yes. Liked the crunch of the almonds. I put them all in the freezer and bring one out now and then. And they’re plenty firm if you eat them straight out of the freezer – be careful and don’t break a tooth! Yes, I’d make them again.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. I still like my other two favorites better, but these were nice for a change.

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Dried Cherry, Amaretto and Almond Biscotti

Recipe By: Martha Stewart’s Cookies
Serving Size: 36

1 3/4 cups dried cherries
1/2 cup Amaretto liqueur — (almond-flavored liqueur), plus more if needed
3 cups all-purpose flour — plus more for work surface
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt — use coarse if you have it
4 tablespoons unsalted butter — room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar — (may use half artificial sugar)
4 large eggs — (3 whole, 1 lightly beaten)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup blanched almonds — whole or slivered, chopped
3 tablespoons coarse sanding sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat cherries and liqueur in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until cherries have softened, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 2 tablespoons liquid. If liquid equals less than 2 tablespoons, add enough liqueur to make 2 tablespoons.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Put butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in 3 whole eggs, one at a time. Mix in reserved cherry liquid and the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, and gradually mix in flour mixture. Stir in cherries and almonds.
3. On a lightly floured surface, halve dough. Shape each half into a 12 1/2 by 2 1/2-inch log. Flatten logs to 1/2 inch thick. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with a parchment paper. Brush logs with beaten egg; sprinkle with the sanding sugar.
4. Bake 35 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer to wire racks to cool, about 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
5. Cut each log on the diagonal into 16 to 18 pieces. Transfer pieces to racks, laying them on sides. Set racks on baking sheets. Bake 8 minutes; flip. Bake 8 minutes more. Test them to see if they’re on the crisp side – may need 3-5 more minutes in the oven. Let cool until crisp.
Per Serving: 127 Calories; 4g Fat (24.9% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 24mg Cholesterol; 62mg Sodium; 12g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 34mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 69mg Potassium; 65mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Beef, Soups, on March 18th, 2021.

chili_guy_fieri

Dig out your spices in multiple types and heat.

Today I’m sharing a recipe from my neighbor, Scott. His wife, Josee, has been my salvation this last year, as she has gone shopping for me to various places, but of late, it’s been weekly trips to Costco, since I wasn’t willing to go there during the pandemic – except once. Periodically I make something that has a big quantity and I’ve shared it with their family of four. I’m happy to do it as a thank  you for all the various trips Josee has made for me.

Now that I’m past the 14-day hold after the 2nd vaccine, I’m “free.” Happy days. No fear of eating out, outside still, though. Don’t have to wear masks in small groups. As I write this I haven’t had a chance yet to hug my kids and grandkids, but I will!

So, Josee brought over a plastic bag of chili for me – Scott had made it. He’s the weekend “chef” – he loves to barbecue –  and I think he’s a very accomplished home cook. He and I have had a few conversations about cooking and food in various contexts. Anyway, I managed to get two meals out of the baggie of chili Josee brought me, and OH, was it ever good.

Scott said it’s Guy Fieri’s recipe, so I was able to go online and print that out easily enough. Know from the get-go that you need to read the ingredient list carefully – you might not have everything on that list. So plan ahead, and of course, always with stew-type or soup type foods, it’s better the next day. Scott made beef Bourguignon a week or so ago and it was outstanding.

Since I didn’t make this recipe myself, I can’t really give you much info, other than what Scott told me. He said follow the recipe and do your prep ahead so you don’t miss anything. If you’re sensitive to heat, reduce the amount of cayenne, perhaps use half-sharp or mild paprika. Do note, the title of the recipe is Dragon’s Breath, so that should give you a clue about the fiery heat. It was fine for me – I can tolerate medium-heat. This is a great recipe. I’d definitely make it myself and yes, I would use the finely chopped up chuck roast, just because it adds a lot of flavor. If you have the bone to go with it, I’d put it in the pot too to add even more flavor. If you look at the online recipe, Guy Fieri always serves this with French Fries. I’m not much of a French Fry person (although hot ones from McDonald’s put in front of me would be eaten!).

Scott added fewer beans (their family is trying to reduce carbs too), but there were some in there.

What’s GOOD: as you know, for me it’s all about the end result – the flavor. The texture. And this scored on all counts.

What’s NOT: only that it takes hours to simmer and you might have to purchase a few ingredients if you don’t already have them in your pantry.

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Dragons Breath Chili – Guy Fieri

Recipe By: from my neighbor, Scott, but from Guy Fieri, Food Network
Serving Size: 10

3 tablespoons bacon grease — or canola oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 Anaheim chiles — roasted, peeled, seeded
3 poblano chiles — roasted, peeled, chopped
2 red bell peppers — diced
2 jalapeno chile pepper — minced
2 yellow onions — diced
1 head garlic — minced
1 pound chuck roast — boneless, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 pounds ground beef — coarse grind
1 pound Italian sausage — casings removed, or buy bulk
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper — (use less perhaps)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons hot paprika — (might use half hot and half regular)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup tomato paste
12 ounces beer — lager style
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
30 ounces canned kidney beans — with juice
30 ounces canned pinto beans — with juice
Saltine crackers — for garnish
1 bunch green onions — thinly sliced
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
sour cream for garnish (optional: not in original recipe)

1. Add the bacon grease and butter to a large stockpot over high heat. Add the Anaheim chiles, poblano chiles, red bell peppers, jalapeno chiles and onions, and cook until caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute longer. Add the chuck and brown, about 4 minutes. Add the ground beef and sausage and brown, stirring gently, trying not to break up the ground beef too much. Cook until the meat is nicely browned and cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. Drain off fat. Add the chili powder, cayenne, coriander, cumin, granulated garlic, granulated onion, paprika, salt and black pepper, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2. Add the tomato sauce and paste, and stir to caramelize, about 2 minutes. Stir in the beer and stock. Add the kidney and pinto beans; lower the heat and simmer, about 2 hours.
3. Serve the chili in bowls. May be served over Double-Fried French Fries. Garnish with crackers, green onions and Cheddar. Optional garnish: sour cream
Per Serving (sodium level is very high): 742 Calories; 40g Fat (48.4% calories from fat); 51g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 12g Dietary Fiber; 151mg Cholesterol; 1479mg Sodium; 11g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 227mg Calcium; 9mg Iron; 1643mg Potassium; 599mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Salads, Veggies/sides, on March 12th, 2021.

jamie_deens_green_bean_salad

Just lovely. So tasty.

Make this. It’s not that hard – although you do have to cut up tomatoes, toast the almonds, and shake together a very simple vinegar/oil combo, mince some fresh basil, red onion, and mince a clove of garlic. But that’s all. Get everything ready ahead of time – then cook the green beans in salted water. Drain them, dry them a bit, then toss them with the dressing.

The recipe comes from Jamie Deen, Paula’s son. Since I had green beans in my frig, and I had red onion – well, I had all the ingredients. The almonds toasted in my toaster oven for about 5 minutes. I went out into my garden and grabbed a nice little sprig of basil, I shook up the red wine vinegar, EVOO and garlic in a jar and let it sit for about 10 minutes. The beans were drained, I rinsed them well under cold water, then to cool to room temp (within about 10 minutes). I put the green beans in the little dish (pictured above) and added the vinaigrette and used my hands to mix it well. A little salt and pepper were added, then I piled on the tomatoes, goat cheese (his recipe called for feta, but I’m in a rut with crumbled goat cheese). Nuts sprinkled on top, the basil and it was ready to eat.

green_bean_salad_jamie_deenTruly, I could have eaten that whole dish full of them, they were that good. But I didn’t. I started with about 1/2 pound of beans, so I have enough for another day. If you’re not going to eat them all in one sitting, don’t put the dressing on the beans as the acid in the vinegar turns the beans kind of gray-ish. Not very pleasing to look at, although the taste isn’t impaired at all. This would make a lovely company side dish – it could easily go on a picnic, and can be assembled at the last minute at someone else’s home. Versatile. Just package everything separately.

What’s GOOD: everything about these were so tasty. Loved the vinaigrette. None of the flavors overwhelmed – just enough of everything. And did I mention how pretty the finished dish is? Gorgeous. Make more than you need so you can have leftovers  – although as I mentioned above, keep everything separate until ready to toss and serve.

What’s NOT: nothing, other than needing to do some prep work.

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Green Bean Salad – Jamie Deen

Recipe By: Food Network – Jamie Deen
Serving Size: 5

salt to season the water
1 pound green beans — use slender ones, if available, ends trimmed
1 cup goat cheese — crumbled, or feta
1 cup cherry tomatoes — sliced in half
2 tablespoons red onion — minced
1/2 cup slivered almonds — toasted
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 large clove garlic — minced
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Boil a large pot of water with a generous amount of salt added. Add the green beans and cook until tender crisp, 1 to 4 minutes. Drain and remove to a bowl of ice water. Or rinse well under cold tap water.
2. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes, pat dry and place the beans in a large bowl.
3. In small jar combine red wine vinegar and oil, then add garlic. Shake. Set aside.
3. Pour the dressing over the green beans and toss well. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds. Add the goat or feta cheese, tomatoes and red onions. Garnish with slivered fresh basil.
Per Serving: 344 Calories; 28g Fat (71.4% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 37mg Cholesterol; 205mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 211mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 431mg Potassium; 275mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Fish, on March 6th, 2021.

moroccan_fish_tomato_mint_sauce

A very quick dinner entrée – make it with any type of white fish or salmon.

Salmon features frequently here in my kitchen and on this blog. I do love it, but was tired of it. So I reached into the freezer for a piece of mahi-mahi. I wish I could buy fresh fish more easily. We do have a lovely (high end) fish market that’s about 10 miles away. It always seems too far to go to buy a single piece of fish. Even though I don’t love eating fish that’s been frozen, I do it anyway, mostly for salmon. I have cod and mahi-mahi in my freezer now, so you may see some new recipes for both in coming months. I’m not willing to buy fish at my local grocery store. I just don’t trust it – that it’s been in the case for too long, and we’ve all read the horror stories of markets rinsing “old” fish in some solution and repacking it for sale. And sometimes when you walk into a grocery store you can smell the fish from 100 feet away. Always a bad sign to me.

Anyway, I’d intended to make this recipe with salmon, the way the original recipe had been written. But it ended up being used with the white fish instead, and it was lovely. The recipe meant the topping to be more of a relish (to me relish means raw, does it to you?) but in this case it was cooked some, so I call that a sauce. A chunky one, though.

The red onion was cooked thoroughly, and then I added the tomatoes and because I cooked things a little out of order (from the recipe, I mean). I just mushed the sauce/relish off on one side of the skillet, pulled the skillet over so only the fish was over the burner. The fish took little time at all, even though it was about an inch thick. I covered the pan so it would steam a bit. The sauce was just great – loved the flavor of it. I served it with pan-seared mushrooms.

What’s GOOD: it was a treat to have something other than salmon. Liked the tender, flaky mahi-mahi, and loved the sauce. The predominant flavor was orange – a good thing. I’m sure the ginger added flavor – so did the capers, the mint and the citrus zests too – all of it contributed to umami flavors in the sauce. I have leftover sauce which I’ll use on something. It would be good on chicken too, I think. It’s also very low carb, and low calorie.

What’s NOT: can’t think of anything, unless you don’t enjoy the smell of fish in your kitchen. I suppose you could grill the fish outside and serve the sauce on top if that’s something you’d prefer to do.

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Moroccan Fish with Tomato-Orange-Mint Sauce

Recipe By: Adapted from The Complete Step by Step Low Carb Cookbook, Jan 2005
Serving Size: 4

1/2 teaspoon salt — divided
24 ounces mahi-mahi — fillets (6-ounces each)
2 teaspoons olive oil — divided
1 3/4 cups red onion — chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger — peeled and minced
2 cups tomato — coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
4 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro — reserving some for garnish

1. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt evenly over fillets. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add fillets; cook 3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove from pan; set aside, and keep warm.
2. Add 1 teaspoon oil to pan; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion and ginger; sauté 2 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, tomato, and next 6 ingredients; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning.
3. Return fillets to pan, nestling fillets in tomato mixture; cook 3-4 minutes until fish is medium-rare or to desired degree of doneness. Cover pan for part of this cooking time. Use an instant read thermometer, and remove fish once it reaches 145°F. It will continue to cook when you place fillets on individual plates. Stir chopped mint and cilantro into tomato mixture; spoon mixture on top and around each fillet. Garnish with additional sprigs of cilantro. If using some raw onion and fresh tomato, sprinkle that on top.
Per Serving: 233 Calories; 4g Fat (15.0% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 124mg Cholesterol; 557mg Sodium; 10g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 78mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 1188mg Potassium; 308mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pork, on February 28th, 2021.

 

risotto_ital_saus_leeks_corn

Yes, I am giving you a recipe, but this post is also about today, mid-to-late Covid time.

On Wednesday last week I finally had my 2nd Covid-19 vaccine. Until I received the confirmation of my appointment, I wasn’t sure it was going to happen because California (and other states) experienced a shortage of serum because of the awful weather. Understandable. I won’t bore you with the details of the vaccine appointment (long, tedious lines, parking issues, awful) but the side effects hit me like a brick about 7 hours afterwards. I had a very hard night, little sleep, with body aches and pains like I’ve never experienced in my life. Headache too, and chills/shivering. Crazy. The next morning I took Tylenol and that helped, but I was not feeling good all day. Even the following day was not normal, either. Still had aching in my back and neck and general malaise. But about 4pm (this is 2 days post-vaccine) my world brightened. I could see the sun shine. I was back to the land of the living. I was rejuvenated, ALIVE! What a transformation!

Starting about a week ago I couldn’t stand it anymore, not going grocery shopping, so I’ve been visiting my local markets when needed. And yes, of course, I’m masking, even double masking sometimes. What a joy it has been to realize that if I need to go buy a leek, I can go buy a leek, and not wait until I do my once a week online shopping (that needed to reach $50 in order to be free of an extra fee). What I feel is liberated – from this long year of quarantining, from living indoors nearly every day of the week, week after week, after week. I’ve still been doing my walking (around my house for 30 minutes every other day) so I do get outdoors. But still, 2020 will be a year that will live long in our memories. And for many people 2021 isn’t immune from those bad memories, either.

What I am is grateful, too. That I fit in the age range so I could GET the Covid vaccine (I got the Moderna one). This might be the only time in my life I’m grateful for being OLD! Grateful that I’ve survived this year and not caught Covid. I’ve been careful – very careful. Rarely out in a public setting, not frequenting any stores, really. Rarely eaten out. Just being home. Alone. But grateful. Because I’m a believer, I thank God that I survived this year, have now had my 2 vaccines, and I can return to more normal life.

Earlier last week my friend Linda visited me (yes, we kept socially distant), and she and I visited Claro’s, a specialty Italian market not too far from my house. I hadn’t been in Claro’s for over a year. Yippee! I bought some fennel salami and thinly sliced provolone, plus some sweet Italian sausage. Hence I had this sausage in my frig and it needed to be frozen or used.

Maybe because I was in a state of euphoria (about being post-vaccine and about life in general) I decided to make one of my favorite dishes. And it’s full of carbs, which I try to avoid. For me, eating carbs is kind of like pigging out; like hitting a home run; like celebrating. Certainly like over-indulging!

This recipe is already on my blog, but it was years and years ago that I posted it. It’s a Phillis Carey recipe, and in 2011 when she taught this in a class, she said it was one of her home mainstays, that it’s comfort food for her on any given weeknight. It’s on my list of favorites, and rightly so. It’s a one-dish meal. Except for a few small things, it’s the same recipe as before . . . but this time instead of turkey Italian sausage, I used real pork Italian sausage. I made it for more servings that I needed – but remember, I needed to cook that Italian sausage! I’d purchased some leeks at Trader Joe’s (theirs are just the best – not only inexpensive, but they’re all cleaned and trimmed), I had the specialty rice for risotto, I had frozen corn, cherry tomatoes. I didn’t have spinach, but I did have baby arugula. I was in business!

Why do you need hot broth to add to risotto:

Pouring cold broth onto the hot rice shocks it, and the whole pot of food has to warm up again – making the cooking time much longer.

Ideally, have all the ingredients out and ready when you begin, including a pot of hot chicken broth to add to the risotto. Some people wonder why you have to have the broth hot – simple reason – if you add cold broth to the rice, it not only sort-of shocks the rice and it has to get warm again before it begins absorbing more fluid. The cooking process slows down. It takes a lot longer if you add cold or room temp broth. So I did everything as the recipe indicated and I had a big pan of risotto in about 40 minutes or so.

I ate with delight – that nice bowl of risotto with Italian sausage, corn, leeks and tomatoes. I hadn’t planned ahead about this, so at 6:45 I phoned my neighbor, Josee, (the neighbor who has been so kind to do Costco and other shopping for me over this last year) to see if she wanted dinner for her family. Long story – she was SO thrilled I had called. So, I used all the Italian sausage, feasted on it myself, then did something nice for my neighbor. That made me feel good.

What’s GOOD: such a wide variety of flavors – the sausage, the leeks, the corn, and the lovely creaminess of risotto, made right so it’s like thick soup. So good.

What’s NOT: only that you have to stand near the stovetop for 20-25 minutes stirring frequently while you’re making the risotto rice part.

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Risotto with Italian Sausage, Corn, Leeks, Spinach and Tomatoes

Recipe By: Phillis Carey
Serving Size: 5

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons olive oil — divided use
1/2 pound Italian sausage — or use turkey sausage
3 cloves garlic — minced
3/4 cup dry white wine — like Sauvignon Blanc (not vermouth), divided use
1 1/2 cups leeks — cleaned, chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup frozen corn — fire roasted, preferably
6 ounces baby arugula — or baby spinach
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated, using more to sprinkle on top
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes — halved
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil — sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan over high heat. Lower heat and keep the broth hot.
2. Heat 1 T. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and garlic. Cook, breaking up the sausage into small pieces. Add 1/4 cup wine to the sausage and simmer until the wine evaporates.
3. Heat remaining 2 T. oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven (Phillis suggests Le Creuset is the best pot for making risotto). Add the cleaned and dried leeks and cook for 6-8 minutes until they are softened. Add rice and cook, stirring often, until it turns white, but not brown, aout 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup wine and cook, stirring, until almost evaporated.
4. Add a cup of broth to the rice and cook, stirring constantly, lowering heat to just a simmer, until rice absorbs all the broth. Stir in another cup of broth and stir until absorbed. Continue adding broth and stirring until rice is just tender, about 20 more minutes.
5. Stir in the corn and sausage and then add the arugula or spinach by handfuls, cooking until wilted; season to taste with salt and pepper. Do not let the rice cook until it’s dry – add small amounts of broth (or water if you run out) even up until the end. Stir in the butter and Parmesan and stir until melted. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in tomatoes, parsley and basil and serve immediately with additional Parmesan to sprinkle on top, if desired.
Per Serving: 455 Calories; 28g Fat (57.5% calories from fat); 16g Protein; 31g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 50mg Cholesterol; 366mg Sodium; 4g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 105mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 680mg Potassium; 220mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Veggies/sides, on February 26th, 2021.

AF_green_beans_failure

Withered, stringy. Hardly edible . . .

As I looked at these green beans that I’d gone to so much work to prepare, I knew I couldn’t post them here, as they were awful. Barely edible. Then I got a chuckle – – perhaps you, my readers, think that everything I make is a stunning feast, wonderful, marvelous. Uh, nope.

I followed the recipe to a T. You weren’t supposed to put more than 25 green beans (I used about 12 for each batch) in the air fryer at a time, so they’d have enough air around them, giving them a chance to cook and get crisp. The beans were dunked in an egg wash, then into a cheesy breading, then loosely put into the air fryer. Four minutes at 400°, toss them, then back in for 2 more minutes.

I removed the cooked ones onto the extra breading pan while I made a second batch. Once they were barely cool enough I picked one up to taste. Ooooh. Tough. Stringy. And withered, as you can see in the photo. Oh dear. So that second batch I air fried for 6 minutes, tossed, then 3 minutes. Those weren’t quite so tough, but they were even more withered. I turned down the temp of the air fryer and went back to 4 minutes and 2 minutes. Nope. Still withered and stringy. After that batch I gave up, tossed most of them in the trash can and cooked the remaining half pound of green beans on the stove with shallot, garlic and orange zest.

I’m not posting the recipe. I’m thinking maybe green beans aren’t a vegetable you should do in the air fryer. The egg dunk didn’t seem to stick – well, it did because all of the green beans had the breading attached when I put them in the air fryer basket, but by the time they’d cooked, most of the breading had fallen off and was down in the bottom of the pot. And the poor withered beans? Oh gosh. Not very pleasant to eat. The breading, what little there was of it, was nice and crunchy, but little of it stuck.

Thought you’d all enjoy a laugh. . . if any of you have had success with green beans in an air fryer, let me know.

Posted in Soups, on February 20th, 2021.

meatballs_yellow_curry_vegetables

This was pure serendipity. Things I had in the refrigerator, made into a lovely soup that I’d definitely make again.

If you read my blog recently when I made lamb meatballs into a kind of shakshuka, then you know I had some leftover meatballs. Some that I cooked in a frying pan, but they didn’t go into that tomato stew shakshuka thing. What to do with them?

At first I searched some of my own recipes for soup, then went online, and finally I settled on 3 different recipes, and kind of combined them. I had to use what I had on hand. As I write this (about a week ago) I’m still not shopping at grocery stores, so I really did have to use pantry ingredients.

First I warmed some EVOO in a big skillet, then added a half of a shallot, chopped up, and half an onion, minced. I let that lightly sizzle until the onion was translucent, then I added garlic, and lastly some yellow curry paste. About a tablespoon, heaping, I’d guess. Mash that up well, so it’s evenly distributed. Once you add hot liquid whatever little chunks of yellow curry paste will still be in little chunks. Then chicken broth was added, and vegetables: celery, a little nub of carrot, and chopped up broccoli stems. I let that simmer while the vegetables cooked for about 5 minutes, then I added the broccoli florets. You don’t want them to turn gray! Then a can of full-fat coconut milk went in. If you like the coconut milk flavor, use Thai Kitchen brand; Trader Joe’s coconut milk cans have virtually no flavor. I added some chopped up baby spinach and dried mint flakes too. And the meatballs.

A note about the meatballs: I used the lamb meatballs I had, but I think chicken would be good, beef, too, even pork, or a combo of a couple of those. Do add seasoning to the meatballs, maybe some minced  up onion and some kind of flavoring that would go with this kind-of Thai or Asian soup. Like lemongrass maybe? The yellow curry paste gives the soup ample spicy heat, so I wouldn’t add more chiles or chile heat. If you had bok choy, that would be good in this too.

Once scooped into a wide bowl, I garnished with green onions, cilantro and some fresh mint from my meager mint garden. This isn’t mint season, so I couldn’t find much that was useful. That’s why I used some dried mint in the soup part.

What’s GOOD: really delicious, and a great way to use up some leftover meatballs.

What’s NOT: can’t think of anything.

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Meatball Soup with Yellow Curry and Vegetables

Recipe By: A creation I made with leftovers
Serving Size: 4

1/2 pound meatballs — I used lamb, but you can use beef or chicken or pork
2 tablespoons EVOO — or other neutral oil
1/2 large onion — chopped finely
1 medium shallot — minced
2 cloves garlic — minced
1 1/2 tablespoons yellow curry paste — or more to taste
2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 carrot — chopped thinly
2/3 cup celery — chopped
1 cup broccoli — stems and florets, chopped separately
14 ounces coconut milk — full fat
2 cups baby spinach — chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried mint flakes
1/4 cup fresh mint — minced, divided
1/4 cup fresh cilantro — chopped, divided
4 green onions — minced

1. In a large nonstick pot (with a lid), add the EVOO and allow it to heat slowly. Add the shallot and onion and allow to saute over med-low heat (do not burn or brown) until wilted. Add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the yellow curry paste and stir it well into the onion mixture until you don’t see any more chunks of it.
2. Add the chicken broth (or use a concentrate + water) and bring it to a simmer, covered.
3. Meanwhile, chop up the celery, broccoli, carrot and herbs and keep them separate. Add the broccoli stems to the soup with the carrot, celery and bring back up to a simmer. Add the meatballs and allow to simmer for about 5-7 minutes. (Note: if you’re using raw meatballs, add them earlier so they’ll be fully cooked through.) Add the broccoli florets, the dried mint, and half of the fresh mint. Add the coconut milk, scraping the can well to get all the rich cream out of it and into the soup. Taste for seasoning. Bring mixture back up to a simmer again and test the broccoli. If tender, it’s ready to serve.
4. Scoop 1+ cup servings into a flat, broad soup bowl and sprinkle top with more fresh mint, cilantro and minced scallions.
Per Serving: 357 Calories; 32g Fat (74.4% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 115mg Sodium; 6g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 100mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 815mg Potassium; 212mg Phosphorus.

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