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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 – well, I hope that’s not wishful thinking. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

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 (from Carolyn):

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers. It tells a detailed chronology of its inception, and all the various  parts that had to come together every day, three meals a day, plus some, to make a mammoth food machine run. I have no background in the restaurant biz, but found the story very interesting. Would make a great gift.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers. The story is mostly about a young woman, educated, a Jew, who is the scribe (in secret) to an aging religious leader (in a time when women would have been verboten to hold such a position). And about her own curiosity about her religion and how she eventually begins writing letters (using a male pseudonym) to various Jewish leaders abroad, questioning their religious beliefs. The book is extraordinarily long – not that that kept me from turning a single page! – and complex with the cast of characters from the 1600s and the cast in today’s world of highly competitive experts analyzing the ancient papers. Altogether riveting book. Loved it from beginning to end.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid. Then to current time as a young woman tries to ferret her family history and particularly about some old-old jewelry that they can’t quite figure out – how the grandmother came to have them. Fascinating tale.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius, held captive in a woe begotten prison. It’s about Jewish history, about relationships, and certainly a lot about the starvation and mistreatment (and many died there) of this boat load of people who never should have been sent there. So very sad, but it has bright and hopeful moments toward the end when many of them finally made it to Tel Aviv, their original destination.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then become something else. There is graphic detail here (was it really necessary? not sure of the answer) so if you don’t like that sort of thing, you might want to pass on this – or else skip by those details when you read it. Women have been victims in so many ways for so many centuries, and it’s hard to read that it’s still a common thing in today’s society.

Barbara Delinsky writes current day fiction. Coast Road is really sweet story. Jack (ex-husband) is called away from his career to care for his two daughters when his ex (Rachel) has an accident and is in a coma. Over the course of weeks, he spends time with his daughters (he was an occasional dad). He also spends a lot of time at his ex’s bedside, getting to know her friends. Through them he learns what went wrong in their marriage. I don’t want to spoil the story. I liked it a lot.

Christina Baker Kline has written quite a story about Tasmania. You may, or may not, remember that my DH and I visited Tasmania about 10 years ago (loved it) and having read a lot about Botany Bay and the thousands of criminal exiles from Britain who were shipped there as slave labor in the 1800s. This book tells a different story. The Exiles: A Novel. This one mostly from a few women who were sentenced to Tasmania. There is plenty of cruelty on several fronts, but there is also kindness and salvation for some. Really good read.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name. She meets a guy and they share a bond of reading and some romance. Years go by and she’s now owner of a failing independent bookstore (and married, or separated) and suddenly begins receiving a used book (that she recognizes) every day from a different place in the country. A message for sure, but where will it lead? Yes, it’s a romance. Lots of introspection going on. Enjoyed it.

Marion Kummerow wrote an amazing WWII novel. Not Without My Sister. If you don’t like concentration camp stories, pass on this one, but it’s very riveting, much of it at Bergen-Belsen. Two sisters (17 and 4) are separated at the camp. The story switches back and forth between the two sisters’ situations, and yes, the horror of the camp(s), the starvation, the cruelty. But, even though I’m giving away the ending . . . they do get back together again. The story is all about the in between times. Excellent book.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping. This book is about a young man, who is a young father also, loses his beloved wife. He’s barely functioning, trying to get through a day, taking care of his young son. And visiting the cemetery (the one in Montmartre, Paris). There are several peripheral characters (his son, a neighbor and best friend of his departed wife, a good fellow friend too, plus a young woman he befriends at the cemetery). Before his wife’s death she asks him to write 33 letters to her after she’s gone, and to put them in a special box hidden in the cemetery monument. And that begins the story.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

As you’ve read here many times, I marvel at authors who come up with unusual premises for their books. This one Meet Me in Monaco: A Novel of Grace Kelly’s Royal Wedding. And yes, it IS somewhat about Grace Kelly’s wedding, but most of the novel is about a young woman perfume designer, Sophie, who accidentally rescues Grace Kelly from the relentless photographers who hound her every move.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Also a kind of quirky book by Beth Miller, The Missing Letters of Mrs. Bright. Picture a middle-aged woman, slogging through life with a not-very-attentive husband, grown children, and one day she decides to leave. Completely. Packs up and leaves.

Katherine Center’s book, Things You Save in a Fire: A Novel is certainly vivid. There aren’t very many women firefighters out there in the world – this is about one.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

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.

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 black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  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, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. 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. 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. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave 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 Chicken, on November 17th, 2017.

sheet_pan_chix_thighs_bacon_sourdough_sw_potatoes

As a family of one, I sometimes don’t want to fix a standard sized meal, when there’s only me eating it. But that could be a mistake when something is as good as this sheet pan dinner comes to town.

My daughter-in-law’s sister Janice sent an email to the family recently, with a link to a recipe online at Food & Wine, that she raved about. I looked it up, added it to my MasterCook software and had it in the back of my head that I’d try it soon. As I glanced at the recipe again I realized I didn’t have white potatoes – but I did have one sweet potato. Okay, that could be substituted. I did have a red onion, and I had boneless, skinless chicken thighs – the recipe called for those thigh/drumstick combinations. I didn’t have a sourdough boule, but I did have sliced sourdough bread in the freezer. And last but not least, I didn’t have fresh oregano, but I prefer dried oregano anyway. I figured I could improvise. Since I want vegetables in my meals, I decided to add some yellow squash to the mix also, as there weren’t any veggies in the original (unless you count onion and potatoes). The original also called for slab bacon cut into square chunks. I certainly didn’t have that either, but I did have thick sliced bacon. It would have to do!

sheet_pan_chix_thighs_bacon_sourdough_sw_potatoes_closeupBecause of the substitutions, I lowered the oven temp by 15°, to 385° (from 400°). Why? Because the croutons (nothing but sandwich bread cut into cubes) might have burned at 400°. Plus, the chicken was in smaller pieces as well. I just thought it would be safer baking at a lower temp.  So, first I combined the bread cubes, sweet potatoes, red onion wedges and bacon. That was drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with red chili flakes, dried oregano plus salt and pepper. Use your hands to mix it all up so everything has a thin coating of oil. Into the oven it went for 15 minutes. Although the combo is spread on a large sheet pan (rimmed) you kind of bunch it up in the middle (but still in a single layer) and I actually laid the bacon slices over the tops of all the onion wedges. Meanwhile I combined the boneless skinless chicken thighs that I cut into more manageable pieces and the yellow squash and sprinkled them with salt, pepper and oregano. Those things were added to the pan, trying to put the squash on the outside edges (because they’re a wet veggie and would weep water) and the chicken draped over the top of the center stuff. Another 40 minutes in the oven and the chicken was done with a bit of browned edges, all the veggies were perfect. If you have some parsley, sprinkle it on top and serve immediately. For a family meal, just put the pan on the table (on a towel maybe) with a big spoon or spatula to serve with; otherwise, pour it all out onto a HEATED platter and serve. I promise, you’ll hear mmmmm’s.

What’s GOOD: how incredibly easy this is, providing you have all the ingredients on hand. I made a smaller size (using one package of Costco’s boneless, skinless chicken thighs) but it was enough for 4 meals. If you have hearty eaters, well, it might feed fewer. Flavor is magnificent – probably from the bacon and the oil, plus the chicken fat that slowly oozed out of the meat as it roasted. I could hardly keep my fork out of the pan when I was packaging up the leftovers.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs with Bacon & Sourdough Croutons

Recipe By: Adapted from a Food & Wine recipe, 2017
Serving Size: 8

8 ounces sourdough bread — cut into 1″ cubes
2 red onions — peeled, chopped in wedges
5 slices thick-sliced bacon — cut in 1″ pieces
3 small sweet potatoes — peeled, cut in 1″ chunks
2 tablespoons dried oregano — divided use
3 tablespoons olive oil — divided use
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs — cut into big chunks
Salt and pepper and more dried oregano
3 large summer squash — either zucchini or yellow
3 tablespoons Italian parsley — for garnish, if desired

1. Preheat oven to 385°F.
2. Prepare a large rimmed sheet pan (line with foil for easy clean-up). Add bread, onions, bacon and sweet potatoes on the pan. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle most of the oregano all over and season with red chili flakes, salt and pepper. Using your hands, toss these ingredients so most of them are oiled. Spread out, but still leave it in a centered mass, but a single layer.
3. Bake for 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, lightly oil the squash and chicken in a bowl, and season with salt and pepper and oregano.
5. Remove pan from oven. Place the squash around the outside edges and place the chicken pieces on top of the middle mound (so the juices will drip into the mixture below it).
6. Return pan to the oven and roast for 40 minutes until the chicken has begun to brown around the edges and the squash is roasted. Remove and serve immediately. Sprinkle with chopped parsley if desired.
Per Serving: 403 Calories; 18g Fat (40.2% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 92mg Cholesterol; 509mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on November 19th, 2017:

    I’m looking for quick and easy meals for the weekend after next, when my daughter and her four sons will be staying for three days so we can go to the Nutcracker performance and bake and decorate cookies. There won’t be much time for cooking and leaning up. This should be just the thing! I love the idea of roasting onions with bacon draped over them. That sounds fantastic!

    In the last month I’ve prepared this dinner 3 times. And I’m not tired of it at all. You can also change up the contents a little bit with different potatoes, or squash, or adding butternut squash. But as I think I wrote in the post, it’s the bacon and sourdough bread croutons that put it over the top, for me anyway! Let me know what you think! … carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on December 7th, 2017:

    I made this as planned last weekend, and everyone liked it–especially the croutons! Since I had bone-in chicken thighs–that’s what was on sale last week–I used the link to the original recipe in Food and Wine and followed those directions, but I used your guidelines for fat, and I used thick sliced bacon, as you did. It was still very rich. Those croutons are amazing–part crispy and part soft, moistened with chicken juices and bacon fat and flavored with oregano–wow! It was kind of like stuffing, which is my favorite dish in the Thanksgiving meal. Next time I think I’ll go with you and use skinless, boneless thighs, or at least skin the thighs, as the bacon and olive oil provide plenty of fat. And I’m eager to try it again with butternut squash.

    I had enough leftovers that I could turn them into a soup the next day. I cut the potatoes, chicken and onions up and added some carrots and celery and some chicken broth. I re-crisped the croutons in the oven and topped the soup with them.

    Your version sounds great, too, Donna. The nice thing about sheetpan dinners is that they’re versatile. So glad your family liked it, and how clever to turn the leftovers into soup! . . . carolyn t

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