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Carolyn

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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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 made 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 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, as step-children, they didn’t always love and adore her. 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 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.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

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.

Posted in Lamb, on February 14th, 2021.

moroccan_lamb_meatball_shakshuka

Cross the pond to Morocco. Delicious dinner dish. There are a bunch of tiny lamb meatballs simmering in a rich tomato stew. Then the succulent steamed eggs on top.

Certainly I’m mixing cuisines here. I’ve just begun following a blog called MarocMama. Amanda (an American, I believe) resides in Morocco, and lives in a typical communal family household with her Moroccan husband, their children and his extended family. She writes about travel and food, and her cross-cultural lifestyle. When I saw this recipe, my mind went immediately to shakshuka. Amanda called this a kefta (for the little lamb meatballs). But with the eggs on top, well, it was nothing short of shakshuka for me.

[Shakshuka] was brought to Israel by Tunisian Jews as part of the mass Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim lands, where it has become a characteristic feature of the local cuisine. Shakshouka is typical of North African and Arab cuisine and is traditionally served in a cast iron pan or, in Morocco, a tajine. It is a Maghrebi dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, olive oil, peppers, onion and garlic, and commonly spiced with cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg. Egg shakshouka evolved from an Ottoman meat stew, also called shakshouka, into a vegetarian egg-based dish. Maghrebi Jews brought it to Israel, where it has become a characteristic feature of Israeli cuisine.. . from Wikipedia

And shakshuka is not usually a meat dish, either, so as I said up top, I’m mixing cuisines and cultural lines. Please no hate-mail! I’d purchased some ground lamb recently and knew I wanted to try this dish. I don’t own a tajine, but I knew that a wide skillet (iron one, even, although I used a nonstick high sided pan to make this) would work. I followed Amanda’s recipe mostly, but did make a few changes. Do use a pan that has a lid.

Recently I read on Food52 about a new-ish method of treating ground meat (that actually came from Cook’s Illustrated) with the addition of baking soda and water. Why? So glad you asked . . . sprinkling a mixture on ground meat helps the meat retain moisture, so it only gives off fat. And oh, does it ever work!

Typically, this dish served in Morocco would have a pile of some kind of soft or crusty bread on the side (chunks of a French baguette, or something similar to naan) so you could scoop up a meatball with the sauce, and drag it through a bit of the oozing egg. However, if that last part’s not your thing, you can cook the eggs until they’re hard and not drag the egg into it unless you wanted it.  You could even leave out the eggs – – but then it wouldn’t be shakshuka anymore, just so you know . . . but then, this recipe never started out to be shakshuka. I just renamed it. It began as kefta.

tiny_lamb_meatballsSo first off, I mixed up the lamb meatball ingredients, then I poured in a stirred-up concoction of 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1 T water. Then I squished the meatball mixture well, so the baking soda would be distributed. Then it needs to sit for 15 minutes, to soak in, to do it’s thing . . . which is to draw in the water in the meat.

You don’t brown the meat in this recipe. The little meatballs are dropped into the tomato-y sauce you make. While the meat is sitting for the 15-minute soak in baking soda/water, I started the sauce. First it was onion, then garlic, in some EVOO. Turmeric is added, some half-sharp paprika (or use regular paprika and a generous pinch of cayenne), salt, cumin. After the onions had softened a lot, I added in a large can of good San Marzano tomatoes. Next time I make this I won’t add all the juice from the can, as it made a bit too much “soup.” Amanda uses large fresh tomatoes, but I didn’t have any fresh tomatoes at all, so canned would have to do. They happened to be the whole type, so I needed to squish them in my hand to break the tomatoes up into edible chunks. Do simmer that mixture for awhile so the lovely cumin and turmeric spices can mingle with the tomatoes.

That mixture simmered while I made the meatballs. The recipe indicated forming them into tiny grape-sized meatballs. Wow, is that hard! I made about 38 meatballs (pictured) from the one pound of ground lamb.

moroccan_lamb_meatballs_shakshuka_full_panAmanda mentioned in the recipe that if you crowd the meatballs, they won’t absorb as much flavor from the lovely tomato stew, so to use the extra for another dish. As it turned out, I did have a small bunch of meatballs left over, so am going to make a soup with them in the next few days. I cooked those meatballs in a small frying pan, and there was not one speck of water-type moisture in the pan – only the fat. So easy to do.

Above you can see the full pan. I’m hoping you can see the meatballs a little better. I simmered the tomato mixture uncovered for awhile to try to reduce the amount of soupy liquid. And I only used two eggs, because I’m just a family of one. I’ll be having leftovers one of these evenings.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was delicious. Wonderful. So full of flavor – from the lamb, the turmeric, the cumin, and the good San Marzano tomatoes. Loved it. Even the soft, runny eggs. Such a break from tradition to have eggs in a lamb and tomato stew.

What’s NOT: nothing really. Took a bit of time to make the meatballs, but otherwise it was easy enough. You could probably do this in a little over 45 minutes if you start the tomato stew first.

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Moroccan Lamb Meatball Shakshuka

Recipe By: Adapted from MarocMama blog
Serving Size: 4

MEATBALLS:
1 pound ground lamb — or beef, or combination of both
1 tablespoon garlic — minced
1/2 onion — finely diced
1/2 teaspoon salt — scant
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley — finely diced
1/2 teaspoon baking soda — mixed with 1 T water
TOMATO SAUCE:
2 tablespoons olive oil — (2 to 3)
1/2 onion — finely minced
28 ounces canned tomatoes — San Marzano, reserving some of the liquid for another use
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika — half-sharp, or use regular plus a pinch of cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt — or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon flat leaf parsley — minced
1 teaspoon garlic — crushed
3 large eggs — or one for each serving

1. In a bowl combine the ground meat with crushed garlic, onion, salt, and paprika and a small handful of chopped Italian parsley. Mix well with your hand to combine all of the ingredients. Pour in the mixture of baking soda and water, and massage into the meat. Set aside for 15 minutes for the soda to do it’s job of retaining moisture in the meat.
2. Roll into about 35-40 small balls slightly larger than a grape.
3. In a tajine (or use a large skillet with a lid) add 2-3 tbsp olive oil and minced onion. Place the tajine on the stovetop on medium heat, using a diffuser if you have an electric range.
4. Mix in turmeric, spicy paprika (sudaniya in Morocco), salt, ground cumin, chopped Italian parsley and crushed garlic. Pour in the tomatoes with only about half the liquid from the can and stir well.
6. Arrange the meatballs in the tomato stew so that they each have a little space to soak up the sauce. If you have more meatballs than space in the tajine reserve them for another dish. Each meatball needs enough room for some sauce to surround them. I used a heat diffuser so the mixture would simmer very slowly, and for the next section of cooking the eggs.
7. Cover the tajine and continue to cook on low. Check after 30 minutes. Once the meatballs are cooked through, crack 3 (or more) eggs and place on top of the meatballs and sauce. Cover the tajine again so that the eggs can cook through. Some people like the eggs to be steamed just until they are set but the yolk still is runny. You may also cook the eggs until the yolk is hard.
8. Serve and eat by scooping up bites of meatball and egg with crusty bread.
NOTE: You could also serve this with rice or couscous and scoop servings of the meatballs and the tomato stew with an egg on top onto each plate or bowl.
Per Serving: 511 Calories; 38g Fat (65.8% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 222mg Cholesterol; 1301mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 135mg Calcium; 7mg Iron; 846mg Potassium; 317mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Soups, on February 8th, 2021.

cabbage_roll_soup

Ever made a soup that every time you reheat it, it tastes even better?

What got me thinking about a soup such as this, is a memory of a favorite of mine, the Deconstructed or Unstuffed Sweet and Sour Cabbage. And then I came across the recipe for this Cabbage Roll Soup, that I figured would be much like that beloved dish, but in a soup form. Well, it wasn’t exactly – I may have to go tweak that cabbage recipe and see how to make it into a soup. Shouldn’t be all that difficult. Next time . . .

Since I had a big, fat Savoy cabbage in my vegetable drawer in the frig, it got me to thinking about ground beef, vegetables, in a kind of spicy tomato-y broth and bingo, I thought about cabbage rolls. But no, I wasn’t going to make cabbage rolls. Way too much work. I wanted soup, besides. Sure enough, I had this untried recipe in my arsenal.

It took relatively little time to make – chopping up the vegetables, cooking down the ground beef, finding the various cans of things in my pantry, heating up broth, measuring here and there. Tasting. Chopping up about 3/4 of a cabbage, tasting again. Tweaking the flavors a little bit (a tetch of sugar, a can of tomatoes instead of tomato juice, more dried thyme). Rice went in at the end. I don’t eat much rice (though I love rice and I miss it, hence I decided to put some in this soup). I used Basmati, because that’s about the only rice I have in my pantry anyway. Be sure to make this a day ahead. It really improves with an overnight chill.

More than half of it was bagged up and given to my neighbor, Josee. She’s been a God-send to me, for me, since this pandemic, as she visits Costco at least once a week, if not more often, and gladly buys what I need from there. If I ask, she’ll go to Trader Joe’s for me too, though I try not to ask. In between I buy a $50+ of groceries at Ralph’s and they bring the bags out to my car and put them in the trunk. That way I don’t have contact with people. But anyway, Josee doesn’t really like to cook, and is always so grateful when I send over a big pot of something for her young family. She feels pampered because I cook for them sometimes. I feel blessed and appreciate her errand-running and shopping for me, so it’s a good and fair trade.

This soup made a TON. Way, way more than I could ever eat, but I knew I was going to give some of it away, so what was left fed me lunch for about 6 days. After 6 lunches, I’m ready for something new. Up soon will be a wild rice soup with chicken. Reminiscent of a casserole my mother used to make when I was young. That used cream of mushroom soup, something I never use anymore.

A little aside here . . . I’ve finally had my first Covid vaccine, as I write this. When this recipe posts, I’ll be a week away from having my second vaccine. YEAH! Then, I’m laughingly talking about my freedom – to go to the grocery store. And Target, maybe. Maybe sit outside at a coffee place, even.

What’s GOOD: good, stick-to-your-ribs kind of soup. It was nice to have some rice since I so rarely eat any. Liked the flavor combination – the thyme, the little bit of sour (lemon juice) and the little big of sweet (sugar and tomatoes). Great lunch for these cold, winter days. Try to make this a day ahead – it’ll taste better.

What’s NOT: can’t think of anything. This isn’t off the charts kind of thing you’re going to tell all your friends about – just good comfort food in soup form.

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Cabbage Roll Soup

Recipe By: Adapted from Sweet Recipeas
Serving Size: 10

1 1/2 pounds ground beef — or ground chicken or a combination
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 cups cabbage — chopped
3/4 cup onions — diced
1 cup celery — diced
1 cup carrots — diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
7 cups low sodium beef broth
4 cups vegetable broth — or chicken broth
1 tablespoon sugar — or sugar substitute
14 ounces canned tomatoes — diced
1 tablespoon mushroom soup base
1/3 cup rice
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh dill — chopped
3 tablespoons parsley — chopped
3 tablespoons lemon juice red pepper flakes to taste
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups grated Cheddar cheese — for garnish
6 tablespoons flat leaf parsley — chopped, for garnish

1. Using a large stock pot add olive oil and cook the ground beef over medium-high heat, breaking up with a potato masher or meat masher. Drain the fat from the ground chuck, leaving about a tablespoon of drippings.
2. Add cabbage, onions, celery, carrots, and garlic and cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the both types of broth, rice, canned tomatoes, mushroom soup base, sugar, Worcestershire, thyme, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat medium-low and simmer soup until the cabbage and rice are tender, about 30 minutes.
3. Remove pot from heat and add dill, parsley, and lemon juice. Discard the bay leaf and season well with salt and pepper. Serve hot with grated cheese and Italian parsley as garnishes.
Per Serving: 367 Calories; 23g Fat (56.7% calories from fat); 24g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 80mg Cholesterol; 1055mg Sodium; 8g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 322mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 618mg Potassium; 330mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Salads, on February 2nd, 2021.

mixed_lettuce_snap_pea_salad

Nice, refreshing salad with Meyer lemons.

We had a gathering at my house a week or so ago, finally celebrating Christmas with my two families who live here in Southern California. All done outside except for some food prep. My son Powell brought a beautiful, big smoked ham he’d done in his fancy barbecue. I made Ina Garten’s zucchini gratin, a favorite of mine. We had a casserole of smashed sweet potatoes, and then I made this salad. Karen brought some fresh strawberries that could be dipped in crème fraiche and brown sugar, and I’d put out a big cheese platter ahead of time.

meyer_lemon_cream_dressingAn entire package of sugar snap peas is in that salad, above, but I don’t think you can see a single one of them in the picture . . . but they’re there. And there are more lemons than I thought, but each serving maybe had two slices of them (halved). I used a combination of Romaine lettuce and baby spinach. Then tons of radishes (an entire bunch) were added too. But the crown of the recipe is the lemon cream dressing. It starts with a minced shallot, then Meyer lemon juice, EVOO, salt, pepper, and lastly, a big glug of heavy cream. The dressing made enough to dress two big salads, so I used it on my dinner salad for a few days. Taste the dressing with a leaf of lettuce – if you think it’s too tart, add another little jot of EVOO. The recipe came from Sunset Magazine some years ago.0

All of the salad could be made ahead and tossed at the last minute. And it could easily be taken to someone else’s home and assembled there.

What’s GOOD: the lemony flavored tart dressing. I actually enjoyed eating the little thin wedges of lemon too. It made a very pretty salad with lots of crunch (from the sugar snaps and radishes) and the dressing was just lovely. Definitely I’d make this again. Loved the mint in the salad too. Such a nice addition to salads.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. I might put in even more radishes and sugar snaps next time.

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Lettuce Snap Pea Salad with Meyer Lemon Cream

Recipe By: Sunset 1/15
Serving Size: 6

1 whole Meyer lemon
1 1/4 pounds lettuce — mixed types, ends trimmed; or use 10 oz. salad mix
1 cup sugar snap peas — thinly sliced on a diagonal
3/4 cup radishes — thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves — torn into small pieces
DRESSING:
2 tablespoons shallot — finely minced
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt — divided
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil — plus 2 tbsp.
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1. Very thinly slice lemon crosswise, using a handheld slicer and removing seeds with a knife tip as you go. Discard ends. If the lemon is large, you may only use half the lemon. Cut lemon slices in half.
2. Toss lettuces in a large bowl with about 1/2 cup dressing. Add snap peas, radishes, and a little more dressing and toss again. Arrange salad on chilled plates and tuck in lemon slices and mint. Serve with more dressing if you like.
3. DRESSING: To a jar add shallot, lemon juice, and 1/4 tsp. salt and let stand 5 minutes. Add oil, then cover and shake well. Add in 1/2 tsp. more salt, 1/8 tsp. pepper, and the cream. Taste and add more salt, pepper or EVOO (if it tastes too tart) if you like. Shake before using. Make ahead: up to 3 days, chilled.
Per Serving (you don’t use all the dressing on this salad above, so calorie count is way too high): 236 Calories; 23g Fat (84.3% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 15mg Cholesterol; 334mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 74mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 346mg Potassium; 55mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Soups, on January 27th, 2021.

mixed_mush_soup_sherry_thyme

OH MY Goodness! This may be my favorite mushroom soup to date.

How can I exclaim loud and wide enough for you to try this soup. SO good. SO deep with flavor. You may have to buy a couple of unusual items to make it the way I did, but it’ll be worth your time and the expense.

The original recipe came from a website called vindulge. My D-I-L found that website when she began making smoked beef brisket chili using their left over smoked beef brisket. Such a fabulous recipe, so ever since I’ve been following vindulge’s blog. This recipe popped up awhile ago, and since I had an abundance of mushrooms, I thought I’d try a new recipe for it.

What intrigued me was the quantity of sherry – 3/4 cup. That’s a lot of sherry. Was it too much? Absolutely not. Just be sure to use a good sherry – either dry or medium. Don’t use a sweet sherry. Although all sherry is a bit on the sweet side compared to white wine.

Sponsored Ad - Organic 100% Porcini Mushroom Powder Milled a 200?m Kosher Certified Made in France Vegan Vegetarian, 2ozAwhile back, in watching a Rachel Ray show (I think this is when I ordered this product) she used some dried porcini mushroom powder. I bought Organic 100% Porcini Mushroom Powder Milled a 200?m Kosher Certified Made in France Vegan Vegetarian, 2oz from amazon. She mentioned that it added a ton of flavor to things.

The recipe called for an ounce of it (there are two ounces in the package). I’ve found less than that is sufficient, so I used about a tablespoon. The porcini powder is mixed with the sherry and sits for awhile, so the powder absorbs the sherry. Don’t know exactly what difference that makes, but sounded like something different. Meanwhile, I sweated some onion in EVOO, then added garlic, then a lot of chopped mushrooms. I always buy whole (uncut) mushrooms – somewhere, sometime in the past it was recommended that you should not buy already sliced mushrooms because too many hands have been in contact with them. So I do chop and mince my own mushrooms. I also think mushrooms last a tad bit longer if they’re left whole. Long-lasting (mushrooms) is a relative term, however, as no mushrooms will keep for very long.

Soup | Search Results | TastingSpoons | Page ?The vindulge recipe called for chicken broth, but I have this wonderful mushroom soup base (a kind of thick gel that must be stored in the refrigerator) that adds a lot of flavor to mushroom dishes too. I’ve had the soup base for more than a year, and it still seems to be good and has not developed off flavors or mold. I’m sure it’s for the restaurant trade, but I love the flavor of it.

The soup comes together quickly – providing you have all the ingredients at hand – and you could probably have it on the table in about 45 minutes including prep time. Crème fraiche is added at the end, and I also added about 1/4 cup of cream just because I had some that needed using. At the end, I added a bit of water to the soup because it needed thinning just slightly.

This is a very rich soup – so portions should be smaller than normal. Sprinkle with a little chopped parsley on top, just to make it look pretty. In the original recipe, some of the cremini mushrooms were chopped up, fried in butter and set aside to add as a garnish.

What’s GOOD: the mushroom flavor just jumps on your palate. Very hearty soup. Rich. Delicious. I loved the sherry in it – the quantity used certainly makes the sherry flavor very prominent. A keeper.

What’s NOT: only if you don’t have the mushroom soup base, or the dried porcini mushrooms. I know it wouldn’t taste as good, but it might still be delicious.

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Cream of Mushroom Soup with Sherry and Thyme

Recipe By: Adapted from vindulge
Serving Size: 6

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms — see directions about whole or powdered form
3/4 cup sherry wine — use a good one, not cooking sherry
2 tablespoons EVOO
2 cups onion — white or yellow, chopped
1 pound mushrooms — cremini, cleaned and chopped with stems
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic — finely diced
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon mushroom soup base — or chicken or vegetable
3 cups water
1 tablespoon dried thyme — tied with string
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup crème fraiche
1/4 cup heavy cream — optional
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley — chopped (garnish)

1. If using whole dried mushrooms they need to be rehydrated. Place dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and add sherry. Soak for at least 30 minutes, no more than an hour. Stir to make sure the sherry incorporates with all the dried mushrooms. If using porcini powder, soak the powder in the sherry for 30 minutes. Stir well so powder is absorbed.
2. After re-hydrated the whole ones, strain the liquid from the mushrooms, and keep the strained liquid. Dice up the re-hydrated mushrooms prior to putting into the soup.
3. In a 3 quart soup pot over medium heat add olive oil and white onions. Saute for 8 – 10 minutes or until soft. Next add cremini mushrooms and continue to stir for another 15 – 18 minutes or until they start browning. Add butter and garlic and stir until the butter is melted.
4. Add flour and continue to stir for another 3 minutes to make the roux. Add stock, sherry, thyme, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Add the porcini mushrooms, and simmer the soup for 20 minutes, it will slightly thicken.
5. In a separate medium sized bowl add the crème fraîche and place one cup of the hot soup mix in the bowl and stir. This will temper the cream and keep it from curdling. Place the entire mix back into the soup and stir, bringing back to a simmer for another 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste as needed. Serve 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup servings. Sprinkle Italian parsley on top to garnish. Serve with crusty white bread or rolls. Freezes well.
Per Serving: 223 Calories; 16g Fat (62.2% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 32mg Cholesterol; 813mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 50mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 469mg Potassium; 118mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Fish, on January 20th, 2021.

salmon_tomato_caper_vinaigrette

What an easy entrée! Easy to make and amazing flavor.

Remember, I’ve mentioned that sometimes after I make something my fingers just can’t wait to get to the keyboard to write up a post? This is one of those times. What looks to be a relatively pedestrian kind of preparation for salmon, turns out to be something quite special. The recipe comes from Ted Allen, one of the founders (I think) of Food Network. The recipe was written up in Food & Wine, and as the story went there, with testers sampling the salmon, what was expected to be something ordinary, everyone agreed was really extra-delicious. There isn’t anything that unusual about what’s in it – fresh tomatoes, capers, shallot, red wine vinegar. A dash of cumin, some EVOO, with parsley and basil as a garnish.

Ideally, get everything ready before you begin as it comes together very quickly. The recipe has you pan-roast the salmon in a hot, 425°F oven. That’s assuming you have a really nice, thick piece of salmon. Mine wasn’t all that thick, probably 5/8” at the thickest point. So I chose to continue cooking the salmon in the pan on the stove, rather than doing the oven roasting part. I’ve included directions for both in the recipe, so you can decide which one to use.

The vinaigrette: minced shallot, chopped cherry/grape tomatoes, a tiny splash of red wine vinegar, some capers. And a dash or two of ground cumin. For some reason the cumin is not added into the vinaigrette. I don’t know why – try it – I can’t imagine adding it to the mixture rather than sprinkling it in the pan would make any difference .. .but I’ll let you be the judge of that. It was surprising to me that the vinaigrette included red wine vinegar, since the capers have some brine action going on, but it certainly enhanced it.

The salmon (salted and peppered) is seared in oil on the stovetop, skin side  up at first. If you make this all on your cooktop, you may use a nonstick skillet. But if going in the oven, you’ll need to use a flat sauté pan that can handle high heat. I didn’t use a nonstick, and yes, the salmon stuck some. Either means the pan wasn’t as hot as it should have been or there wasn’t enough oil in there. Anyway, after browning on that side, you turn it over, skin down. That’s when you would put it into the oven, but I left it on the stove, and used a lid for part of the cooking. I turned down the heat too, as it was way too hot for the kind of gentle heat I thought it should have. Once the fish registered 140° with my instant read thermometer, I removed it to a platter.

tomato_caper_vinaigretteThen you make the vinaigrette. The oil in the pan is drained, then you add the vinaigrette mixture and cook it for about 2 minutes. It’s poured onto the top of the salmon and then garnished with the chopped basil and Italian parsley.

I’d made Brussels sprouts to go with this (pan sautéed in halves, with butter, EVOO and dried oregano) which was a good choice.

What’s GOOD: everything about this dish was fabulous. I liked it so much, it’s going to go onto my favs page. It’s also very easy to do. Just have everything ready before you begin. The dish may not look all that exciting, but something about the combo of flavors just works brilliantly.

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever. It’s a winner.

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Pan-Roasted Salmon with Tomato Caper Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Food & Wine, from Ted Allen
Serving Size: 4

VINAIGRETTE:
2 cups tomatoes — grape or cherry type, halved or chopped
1 medium shallot — thinly sliced
1 tablespoon capers — drained
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
SALMON:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil — divided use
28 ounces salmon fillets — cut into 4 pieces, about 7 ounces each
Freshly ground pepper and sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 tablespoon chopped basil

1. Preheat the oven to 425°. In a bowl, toss the tomatoes with the shallot, capers, vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
2. In a medium ovenproof skillet (do not use nonstick as it can’t be put into a hot oven), heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and add it to the skillet, skin side up. Cook over moderately high heat until well-browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Carefully flip the fillets. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast until the salmon is cooked through, about 7 minutes. Transfer the fish to plates and pour off any fat in the skillet.
NOTE: If the salmon is relatively thin, you might wish to eliminate the oven roasting. Just continue cooking the salmon over low heat on the stovetop with a lid partially covering the pan, until the interior of the thickest part of the salmon reaches 140°F.
3. Place the skillet over moderate heat and add the tomato mixture along with the cumin, canola oil and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook, scraping up any bits stuck to the skillet, until the tomatoes just soften, about 2 minutes. Pour the sauce over the salmon, sprinkle with the parsley and basil and serve right away.
Wine: Argentinean rosés, with their emphatic, berry-driven flavors and lively structure, are ideal here.
Per Serving: 414 Calories; 25g Fat (54.4% calories from fat); 41g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 147mg Cholesterol; 447mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 41mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 1156mg Potassium; 595mg Phosphorus

Posted in Fish, Grilling, on January 14th, 2021.

broiled_bourbon_orange_glazed_salmon

Looking for an easy weeknight salmon? Try it.

This recipe was so easy to prepare – the salmon just needed 30-90 minutes to hang out in a marinade. (Don’t marinate overnight or the acidity in the marinade will “cook” the fish, something you don’t want.) And the marinade was very easy to make too: bourbon, some orange juice, soy sauce, a tad of brown sugar, green onions, chives, garlic and lemon juice. Easy peasy. My file says I put this recipe in my file in 1999, from Cooking Light.

It was a cold night (well, cold is relative; here in California anything under about 50 is cold for us, and it was about that temp. I didn’t want to fire up the grill outside, so I made this in my toaster oven on the broil setting. Very easy.

After draining the fish, I put it on a piece of foil and onto a small baking pan that fits in the toaster oven. I preheated the oven for about 10 minutes and stuck the pan in there. The fillet I had wasn’t all that thick, so first I did 4 minutes, then removed it, turned the salmon fillet over and broiled it another 2 minutes. Done. You can brush the fish with the marinade during the broiling or grilling process. If your salmon is thicker, it might take another minute on each side.

Onto a heated plate it went. The green onions and chives were sprinkled on top and I added some cilantro too as a garnish, although cilantro wasn’t in the original recipe.  I had the cilantro out to go with the green beans you can see in the photo.

What’s GOOD: how easy this was. You do need to marinate the salmon for an hour or so, but am sure it would be fine with less time if you don’t have it. The fish was so moist and flaky. Loved it. Liked the pretty garnish too. I try to keep cilantro in my frig all the time. I had green onions, and I found some chives in my garden. Altogether delicious.

What’s NOT: only that you should marinate it for 30-90 minutes. Otherwise, this salmon is very easy to do. I can’t say that I could taste the bourbon as the other citrus juices seem to be the predominant flavor.

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Grilled or Broiled Orange Bourbon Salmon

Recipe By: Cooking Light June 1999
Serving Size: 4

4 tablespoons bourbon
4 tablespoons fresh orange juice
4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
4 tablespoons brown sugar — packed
4 tablespoons chopped green onions
9 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
6 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves — chopped
24 ounces salmon fillets — 4 pieces, 6 ounces each
Cooking spray or foil
Green onions and chives as garnish

1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag, and add salmon to bag. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 1 1/2 hours, turning bag occasionally.
2. Prepare grill or broiler.
3. Remove salmon from bag, reserving marinade. Place salmon on a grill rack or broiler pan coated with cooking spray or lined with foil. Cook 4-6 minutes on first side (depending on the thickness of the fish), turn fillet over and continue cooking for another 1-3 minutes or JUST until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, basting frequently with reserved marinade. A thinner piece of salmon took 4 minutes on the first side and 2 on the second side.
4. Serve on heated platter and garnish with green onions and chives.
Per Serving : 294 Calories; 7g Fat (23.3% calories from fat); 36g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 126mg Cholesterol; 600mg Sodium; 11g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 40mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 850mg Potassium; 514mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Veggies/sides, on January 8th, 2021.

bahari_green_bean_masala

New and different way to make green beans.

Do you love green beans? I sure do. I think I could have them at least once a week. But I don’t want frozen ones – only fresh. I’ve been buying groceries online, then having the grocery store deliver the filled grocery bags to the trunk of my car. My last visit I ordered a pound of green beans.

Preparing a nice dinner for myself the other night, I wanted to do something interesting and different with these green beans. The recipe I’ve had in my to-try file for awhile seemed to fit the bill. The recipe came into my recipe file in 2010 from The Wednesday Chef. Luisa is no longer updating her blog (looks like she stopped in 2018, about the time she began writing a novel). She’s written a couple of cookbooks too. And she credits Julie Sahni for the recipe.

Julie Sahni is a Brooklyn chef and writer and runs an Indian cooking school there, and she’s of Indian descent. And I learned something – the word masala means “spiced.” And Bihar is a state in India. So, this is green beans with Bihar mixed spices, or in the style of Bihar, I suppose. It’s a winner.

First you make the topping (toasting the almonds), then you make the sauce which includes coconut milk. Onions are sweated first, then you add garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika, red pepper flakes and then the coconut milk. Once that is done, you add the green beans and steam them in the spicy coconut liquid until they’re just crisp-tender. Lastly, some lime juice is added in. The green beans are served with the toasted almonds sprinkled on top. When I pulled the beans out, I merely put them on the serving platter and didn’t include the lovely lightly orange colored coconut sauce. In Bihar this is an entrée, served with rice and you’d want all that lovely liquid drizzled over the rice. A vegetarian entrée, if you will.

What’s GOOD: loved the flavors from the cumin, coriander, garlic and onion, and the hint of lime juice at the end. Altogether lovely dish – whether you serve it as a side dish, as I did, or as an entrée with rice. A keeper. Easy to make, and quick, too.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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Bihari Green Beans Masala

Recipe By: Julie Sahni, via The Wednesday Chef blog, 2010
Serving Size: 4

4 tablespoons vegetable oil — or light olive oil
4 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 cup finely chopped onion
6 large cloves garlic — finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 1/2 pounds green beans — trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 teaspoons lime juice
4 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1. Heat the oil in a 3-quart sauté pan over medium heat. Add almonds and cook, stirring, until light golden. Remove from heat and transfer almonds to a plate or bowl; set aside for garnish.
2. Add onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika, chili pepper flakes and salt to the unwashed sauté pan, and return to medium heat. Sauté until the onion is tender and begins to fry, about 4 minutes.
3. Add coconut milk and green beans. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until the beans are tender, about 6 minutes.
4. Sprinkle beans with lime juice, and toss lightly. Transfer to a warmed serving dish and garnish with almonds and cilantro. Serve with plain cooked rice or roti flatbread.
Per Serving: 446 Calories; 39g Fat (72.6% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 9g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 897mg Sodium; 11g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 131mg Calcium; 5mg Iron; 783mg Potassium; 215mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Soups, on January 2nd, 2021.

creamy_parsnip_soup

Parsnip soup is in itself a bit of an anomaly here in the U.S. I don’t know why, but most of us don’t know how to cook them, or even how to eat them. Some times of the year you can’t even buy them.

Many, many years ago (1981 to be exact), I’ve mentioned it here before, my DH Dave and I took a trip to England. It was his first trip there, so I planned out the driving and off we went. Our first night out of London we stopped in a small village called Ilminster, checked into a nearby B&B and asked the owner where we should go to dinner. He pointed to “town,” and said turn left at the little square, there’s a nice pub down the street. We walked, in the pitch dark and finally found the pub. It was there that we met a wonderful couple, Pamela and Jimmy. They subsequently invited us to their home. Pamela was a superb cook. In fact, she worked as a chef/cook at a nearby manor house and entertained the young titled family who lived there, plus groups of people for hunt weekends, etc. We were fast friends and visited them every few years. They’re both gone now. But I treasure some of the recipes Pamela gave me, this one included. One year I wrote to her asking for some recipes for cold soups. This one was included. She’s the one who taught me how to make a proper pot of tea. You can read that long story here.

This soup doesn’t have to be served cold – in fact I’ve been eating it hot. With a tiny dollop of sour cream on top. I was lucky enough to find parsnips recently and knew I wanted to try this soup. Pamela didn’t include cream in her version, but after tasting it, I felt it needed some cream and milk. You could add coconut milk instead, or you can thin it with water if you’d like to not include the richness or dairy in your version.

Potato isn’t something I eat much, so I included a celery stalk in the soup instead. Not that celery acts the same as potato – it certainly doesn’t. You can add any amount of curry powder you want. However, a warning: there is cayenne in the recipe; be sparing with it as a little bit goes a long way. Then if you add curry powder too, it usually contains some kind of hot chile powder (or even cayenne) in some form or another, so then you’ll have a double-whammy of heat.

The soup comes together quickly enough, but requiring about 35-45 minutes of low simmering to get the parsnips tender. Parsnips look like carrots in shape, but they’re a pale beige, more an off-white color. Usually they’re cooked, not eaten raw.

What’s GOOD: just that this is a different kind of soup. Loved the soft, creamy texture and flavor. Parsnips are a carb-resistant starch, so it isn’t absorbed like a traditional carbohydrate. Sweet potatoes are the same thing.

What’s NOT: only that you might have trouble finding parsnips! The finished soup would freeze well, but raw parsnips would not, so you can only make this when your grocer carriers the rascals.

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Curried Parsnip Soup

Recipe By: From my friend Pamela James
Serving Size: 5

1 1/2 ounces butter
2 large onions — chopped
2 teaspoons fresh ginger — minced
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 pinch cayenne — don’t be tempted to add more
1 pinch turmeric
1 pinch ground cumin
1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 pound parsnips — peeled, chopped
1 medium potato — peeled, chopped
3 1/4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream — optional
salt to taste curry powder to taste
Milk or more broth to thin the soup to the right consistency
1/3 cup sour cream

1. Melt butter and add onion; cook until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add ginger, spices and cook for a minute.
2. Add parsnips and potato and cook for a minute over medium heat.
3. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
4. Allow to cool some, then puree in blender until smooth. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any fibers. Taste for seasoning; do not add pepper. Add curry powder and sour cream. Or add a dollop of sour cream on top when served. If served cold, you’ll definitely need to add more liquid as it will be too thick.
5. Serve hot. Or chill, if desired, and serve in small portions. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, perhaps.
Per Serving: 343 Calories; 20g Fat (51.8% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 35g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 57mg Cholesterol; 302mg Sodium; 10g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 84mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 797mg Potassium; 170mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Lamb, on December 24th, 2020.

Lamb Curry with Nuts and Coconut Milk

Lamb Curry. Enough said. Photo Attribution

Long ago, when I was a teenager, my best friend lived a few doors from me. Linda and I were fast friends for all these years. Sadly, Linda passed away of pneumonia about 2 years ago. She was severely handicapped and lived most of her young life at home, being home schooled. She eventually broadened her world, learned to drive a specially outfitted van with hand controls and a lift/gate, attended her last year of high school at the one I attended too, then she attended college, had several jobs too. Her dad was a Navy dentist; Van was a stay-at-home mom to Linda and her sister Joan. Once in awhile Linda’s mother Van and her dad would entertain a big group of friends, and one of her favorite things to prepare was lamb curry. This lamb curry. (It was my first introduction to lamb, as my dad wouldn’t eat lamb. He wouldn’t eat chicken, either. So my mom was kind of stuck with pork, beef and only very occasionally some fish.) Anyway, as we got old enough to handle knives, Linda’s mom would recruit us to help prepare the condiments. And they are legion. Van usually served about 25-30 condiments. So our job was to clean, dry, mince, chop and put things in tiny bowls, covered with waxed paper (I don’t think we had plastic wrap back then) and carefully refrigerated or stacked on a large tray, ready to serve. Van always made the curry the day before – the flavors are so much better with an overnight chill.

Over the years I’ve made this dish a multitude of times, always for guests because it makes a lot, and usually I’d serve about 10 condiments. Lamb lends itself well to a curry style sauce. And it’s not difficult to make. I’ve just not made it since I’ve been writing my blog. No real reason. Hence I don’t have a photo of it and needed to use someone else’s (at top).

To cut to present day. A couple of months ago I was asked if I’d be willing to do a food oriented speech/talk and/or food demo on zoom, for my branch of AAUW (American Association of University Women), an organization I’ve been in since my 20s. First, it was discussed about Christmas cookies. Ho hum. And I’m trying not to bake them since I’m a family of one. My friend Ann, who was talking to me about this, asked if I’d cooked anything unusual recently. Oh, yes I had. That was the Food Cart Curried Chicken. And the Curried Shepherd’s Pie (click links in next paragraph). So I suggested I do a talk about curry. Ann thought that was a good idea.

I did some online research and wrote up my speech. Ann had hoped I could do a food demo on zoom, but with only 25-30 minutes to talk, I thought that was not feasible. Plus, lighting would be a problem (this was a nighttime zoom session). I ended up propping up my iPad a few feet away on the island, turned on the lights over my head, set up all of my props (various curry powders, and individual ingredients that go into them). And at the end, in talking about the two dishes I had made, the Food Cart Curried Chicken plus my recent Curried Shepherd’s Pie, I pulled them out of the oven and moved them closer to the iPad, steaming hot and tried to scoop up a big spoonful, so the guests could see how delicious they looked.

I talked about the history of curry – starting in India – then incorporating some of the surrounding countries, then into Japan (the Japanese fell head over heels in love with curry when it was introduced to their culture a long time ago). I talked about the Colonial Period in India, when British officers were running the country. About how they hired local cooks (usually men), and when they were transferred to a new station, sometimes their cooks with them, as well as the spice combination that cook used. At the new post, new British military families would be introduced to the curry of the last place, etc. Eventually curry made its way to the United States, probably to Savannah, or Charleston, and in the early decades of the last century, the south was introduced to a pivotal dish called Country Captain. I also mentioned my friendship with Kunda, my microbiologist friend, who taught me how to make Shrimp Khichdi, a favorite in her family. And about the gift Kunda made to me, a bag of her mother’s garam masala (also a combination of specific herbs and spices). Kunda’s family in India makes it once a year, it’s an all-day family work-party gathering, and one of her family usually flies to California to visit Kunda and that person is the courier of Mom’s garam masala.

You know, of course, that “curry powder” isn’t a powder made from a curry tree. Right? Curry powder is a combination of spices (also can be called a masala), and probably every curry cook has his/her own special mixture. I talked about the heat in curry (which can be mild to hot, to very hot). I’m certainly no expert on curry – I’m a white Anglo-Saxon female with Scottish, Irish, English and Welsh roots, but gosh, do I ever love curry. My speech went well, so many people told me. I went long – nearly an hour. There were numerous questions at the end, and then I got to eat my curry. Yum.

So here’s the recipe below.

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Indian Lamb Curry

Recipe By: An old recipe from a family friend, Van Canon, c. 1955
Serving Size: 12

1 large leg of lamb
3 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 tablespoons curry powder — or more to taste
2 tablespoons ghee — or unsalted butter
15 ounces coconut milk
2 cups lamb broth — from the lamb bone
2 cups hubbard squash — peeled, chopped, or use acorn squash or eggplant
1/4 cup lemon juice
8 medium onions — finely chopped
3 whole garlic cloves — minced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon sugar
8 medium Granny Smith apples — peeled, chopped
1/3 cup raisins — either black or golden
1/2 cup shredded coconut meat — unsweetened
For serving: fluffy basmati rice

1. Cut meat off the bone, discarding larger pieces of fat. Set aside the meat.
2. In a stock pot add water to cover the lamb bone and cook for a few hours, covered. You want to have at least 3 cups of broth. You may add some celery, onion and carrot to the mixture if you have it.
3. Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle the meat with salt, pepper and all the curry powder and use your hands to massage the seasonings into all sides of the chopped lamb.
4. Melt ghee (or butter) in a large, heavy pot. Add onions first, saute over medium heat for about 10 minutes, then add garlic. Continue cooking for one minute only. Don’t allow the mixture to brown. Remove mixture to a bowl and set aside.
5. Add oil to the same pot and brown the meat in batches (if you crowd it, the meat will steam rather than brown). Once all the meat has been browned, add the onion mixture, coconut milk, lamb broth, evaporated milk and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer mixture for about 30 minutes.
6. Add apples, squash, raisins, coconut, lemon juice, and cook for about 2 hours, covered. Taste for seasonings. This is best if made the day before and reheated. Serve with lots of condiments. Mixture freezes well.
CONDIMENTS: (this is a list of 30) in my order of importance: chopped fresh pineapple, coconut shreds, peanuts or cashews, chopped egg white and yolks, green onions, fruit chutney and crumbled bacon. Other condiments may include: chopped avocado, chopped celery, chopped green or red bell pepper, chopped tomatoes (no seeds), diced mushrooms, french fried onions (the canned ones), chopped black olives, minced candied ginger, guava jelly, toasted coconut, watermelon pickles, sweet pickle relish, canned mandarin oranges, chopped pimiento, sour cream (or yogurt), stuffed olives, capers, cocktail onions, golden raisins (plumped in warm water and drained), kumquats, fresh chopped papaya, sour cream or yogurt mixed with grated zucchini and lastly sour cream or yogurt with cardamom mixed in.
Per Serving: 308 Calories; 18g Fat (51.4% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 12mg Cholesterol; 711mg Sodium; 22g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 96mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 538mg Potassium; 136mg Phosphorus.

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