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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2021, I’ll still participate, but the two daughters are going to do more posting from here on out.

We participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) if you purchase any books recommended (below), or buy products occasionally mentioned on the blog with an amazon link. 

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BOOK READING:

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. My friend Ann recommended it. I was gripped with the story within the first paragraph, and it never stopped until I turned the last page. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s (I think). At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. Some very ugly things happen at that school. Eventually they  escape, and they are “on the run.” With a few others with them. If you loved Huckleberry Finn, you’ll have a great appreciation for this story as they use a canoe to get themselves down river. Never having very much to eat and getting into trouble way too often, and authorities on their tail. Well, you just have to read the book to find out what happens.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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 January 11th, 2016.

veg_soup_bacon_herbs

Sometimes the simplest dishes are amazingly delicious. Vegetable soup can be so good, and yet when I order it out it’s usually got lots of root vegetables in it (which makes it a carb soup in my book – and definitely not my favorite in generic category of “vegetable” soups), tomatoes and has a red hue. This one is nothing at all like that – mostly green veggies with the hint of smoky bacon (optional) and a bit of milk and cream. This is a “dry” soup – not much liquid.

A year or so ago I began subscribing to a blog called Cooking in the Archives. It’s a blog from 2 very erudite women, both professors and researchers in English Lit, books in general, and rare books in particular. They must have become friends somewhere along the way and they both enjoy researching “old-tyme” recipes and updating them to today’s kitchens. I always enjoy reading their own journey as they identify a recipe (always shown in “old-tyme” language as well, then their translations) and about the permutations they make to the recipe.

A recipe that had me interested was one they posted earlier this year, called Herb Soop (no, that’s not a typo). Today I set out to make it – but then when I went to the grocery store I somehow forgot to buy some of the important ingredients that went into it. So I decided to make my own detour with what I had on hand. I’ll make that soup another day.

In February I’m hosting a luncheon here at my house (along with my friend Linda I.) for a small group of my P.E.O. sisters, as we watch a DVD on some thing yet-to-be-selected about American history, and I thought it would be fun to prepare a lunch that highlighted old-tyme food as well. The blog actually highlights recipes from 1600-1800, and not always American ones. But this soup recipe I made was just fabulous – although not necessarily an historical recipe.

Now, this soup. I started off with some very lean bacon, just because I think a bit of bacon adds SO much flavor to soups. You could leave it out if you’re a vegetarian. And you can use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth too. I rendered the bacon, then added a bit of oil (because the bacon had almost no fat in it), then half an onion chopped, and let that cook for a bit. Then I added Savoy cabbage (chopped), a poblano chile chopped up (certainly not in the original recipe) and celery and let that cook a bit. Then I added a package of frozen veggies I had on hand from Trader Joe’s (it’s a mixture of green beans, cauliflower, broccoli and peas). I didn’t really want cauliflower in this and I’ve not included it in the recipe below, but you can add it if you’d like to. Meanwhile I chopped up some fresh parsley and fresh mint and had those ready nearby. I added some chicken broth and allowed the vegetables to cook until they were nearly done, but not quite. Then I added a cup of milk to which I’d whisked in an egg (to thicken the soup just a little – this was in the Herb Soop recipe), and the herbs, plus a little sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg (so good in creamy things – strictly my idea) and let that heat through and the veggies were cooked just perfectly. I scooped the soup into a wide bowl, garnished it with some more herbs and ate it with relish.

What’s GOOD: I threw this together in about 30 minutes of chopping and stirring. It’s a DRY soup – if you know what that means – it does not have a lot of liquid in it – so it’s mostly vegetables with a bit of a creamy base. I absolutely loved it. It was very filling, had a delicious variety of flavors and textures, enhanced by the herbs. I particularly liked the fresh mint in it – not something you see often. The poblano chile added quite a bit of heat – if you’re sensitive to hot stuff, leave it out. It will be just fine without it. You can add heat to your own taste with cayenne or some of the Slap Yo Mama Cajun seasoning. Don’t overdo it, though.

What’s NOT: Make sure you’ve GOT enough green veggies to make this – variety is the spice of life, and this soup! If you have a meat-eating family, they may not be satisfied with this. If I had to add some protein to this I’d add some shrimp, I think. Maybe some mild fish like sole.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Vegetable Soup with Bacon & Herbs

Recipe By: My own concoction but very loosely based on a recipe from Cooking in the Archives, 2015
Serving Size: 3

2 slices bacon — chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil — optional
1/2 yellow onion — chopped
1 cup celery — thinly sliced
1/2 Savoy cabbage — chopped
1/2 poblano chile — seeded, chopped small (optional)
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup green beans
1/2 cup broccoli — cut in small florets
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 pinch red pepper flakes
2 dashes Slap Yo Mama Cajun Seasoning — or cayenne
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg — freshly ground
1/2 cup Italian parsley — save some for garnish
1/4 cup fresh mint — save some for garnish
2 tablespoons chives — chopped
1 cup whole milk
1 large egg — beaten
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

NOTE: This soup is very flexible – add what vegetables you like, but I particularly made this to NOT include any root veggies. If you add them you’ll need to adjust the cooking time accordingly and note that there isn’t a lot of liquid, so root veggies won’t be submerged in broth.
1. In a large high sided pan render the bacon over low heat until it has begun to crisp.
2. Add oil (if needed) to the pan then add the chopped onion. Cook for 5-7 minutes until onion is translucent.
3. Add celery and cabbage, and poblano chile. Turn heat to low and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring several times.
4. Add chicken broth, then add green beans, broccoli, peas, red pepper flakes, nutmeg and Cajun seasoning. Cover and allow mixture to simmer for about 7-10 minutes until vegetables are not quite tender.
5. In a small bowl whisk the egg, then add the milk. Add it to the pan, then most of the parsley, chives and mint. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1-2 minutes (don’t let it boil), then add heavy cream. Heat just until mixture is hot and vegetables are cooked to your liking. Taste for seasoning (salt and pepper) and add to suit your own palate. Scoop into bowls and garnish with additional parsley and mint.
Per Serving: 314 Calories; 22g Fat (61.6% calories from fat); 13g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 113mg Cholesterol; 726mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on January 11th, 2016:

    Oh, boy, I’m going to have to try this! I really like the idea of the mint, and the egg thickening is very unusual. I have been trying to find Savoy cabbage for over a year now. They used to have it at my supermarket every now and then, but I requested it from the produce manager, who’s always very accommodating, and he keeps trying, but they can’t seem to get it. I’ve checked the international grocery store I frequent also, several times, but no luck. It baffles me. This store has an excellent produce department. I may have to resort to planting some myself this spring. I’ll have to make do with regular green cabbage for now, but Savoy would be especially nice.

    How strange that you can’t get Savoy. I do love the stuff – better than regular. But I’m sure this would be okay with regular cabbage too. It might take a bit more cooking, depending on how thick the ribs are. Yes, the egg as a soup thickener is very unusual, and obviously was something they did back in the old days. Why, I don’t know. Flour surely is/was cheaper, but maybe it was more precious than using an egg yolk from the chickens in the coop behind the house. We’ll never know . . .carolyn t

  2. Toffeeapple

    said on January 12th, 2016:

    Without the milk and cream, this is my kind of soup.

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