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Sara

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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: Marta’s Legacy Series Book 1 (A Gripping Historical Christian Fiction Family Saga from the 1900s to the 1950s) (Marta’s Legacy) 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.

One of my book clubs had us read Louise Penny’s novel, A Rule Against Murder (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel). The book takes place at a lovely inn in Canada and Chief Inspector Gamache (he is quite a character – along with his wife – are vacationing there) when a murder occurs.

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.

Running Blind (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child. A Jack Reacher mystery. From amazon: Across the country, women are being murdered, victims of a disciplined and clever killer who leaves no trace evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to an apparent motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. Until Jack Reacher gets in the middle of it. A page turner, as are all of the Jack Reacher stories.

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.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. A sweet book, true story, of the author and her friend, during one summer in the midst of their college years, going by train to NYC and ultimately getting a job of Tiffany’s.  Cute read.

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

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones.

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.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes.

Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) by Francine Rivers.

Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America

Answer As a Man

Celeste Ng Little Fires Everywhere.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel).

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively.

 

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 June 29th, 2018.

fresh_mozzie_stuffed_chix_breasts_parm

See that ooey-gooey cheese seeping out of the middle of the chicken? My fork just made a mad dash to slick up that stuff. The only thing I’d add to the plate would be a small mound of buttered pasta. Not lots, but just enough to be flavored by the marinara sauce underneath the chicken.

My guess is that the #1 animal protein sold these days is chicken breasts. They come in mostly the same shape, but they can be small – these are chicken breast halves I’m talking about – (3-4 ounces) or huge (8-10 ounces) depending on whose label you purchase. Organic chicken breasts are smaller (because the chickies are not fed antibiotics, hormones or grain/corn – no GMO anything). If you buy regular ones, they’ve been treated with antibiotics and hormones to enhance their ability to plump up with all the fat in the grains and GMO corn they consume in the last week or two of their lives. Those latter were what I used to buy. Now I seek out organic and if I can find it, pasture raised. I watched a TV program recently where someone in the food science industry visited a poultry farm and categorically said if you ever visit one of those places, you’ll never eat another chicken in your life. I also read very recently that poultry farmers pretty much make up their own rules to describe their chickens as organic or pasture-raised. One example I read – a poultry farmer called his chicken meat “pasture-raised” if the 500+ chickens in the barn are given a 6 inch square opening to the outdoors once a day for 5 minutes. How many of those chickens ever get OUT the door that’s 6 inches square? And they just get there and they’re herded back into the smelly barn enclosure. Probably artificially lighted, is my guess. Supposedly, poultry farmers submit paperwork explaining how/why they call their birds organic and pasture-raised, and someone in Washington reads it (maybe) and says okay. Doesn’t make sense to me. But I’m certain there is a very powerful chicken lobby working on their behalf in Washington.

But I do still eat chicken. I like chicken, but my preferred cut is thigh meat, even though it’s higher in fat. I think the flavor is better, AND you run a lot less risk of overcooking it. But today I’m talking about chicken breasts. White meat for sure. Plump, juicy and tender. And really, I must admit, that if you cook a plain chicken breast with little or no enhancing flavor on it, the chicken meat is rather tasteless. Dull, flat. The chicken breast contains the least amount of fat of any meat on the bird, hence it’s tasteless characteristic. Salt helps. For me, though, you have to DO something to a chicken breast to make it interesting. I love chicken piccata. Funny, I don’t even have a recipe for that here on my blog. I don’t make it for myself – I order it out usually. It’s something I could have on my current diet as long as I didn’t overwhelm the sauce with butter.

Anyway, medium-thick chicken breast halves are what you want for this recipe – thick enough that you can cut a pocket into it (from the thicker side). Big enough to salt and pepper the inside just a little, and big enough that you can stick a long wedge of fresh mozzarella cheese in it. Do buy fresh mozzarella – this is not a dish to use the ubiquitous ball of Mozzarella you’d use in lasagna. No, use fresh. Some markets now have sliced fresh mozzarella cheese – that’s what you’ll want if you can find it. Otherwise, buy the medium-sized balls of fresh mozzarella floating in water. Cut it as best you can into rounds and stuff about 2 slices into each breast. You may have to cut off one side of each piece of cheese to make it fit. Once the cheese is nestled inside, do your best to kind of stretch the chicken so the 2 sides of the pocket hold together. The sticky consistency of the raw chicken helps the two edges to adhere a little bit. You don’t want any cheese sticking out of the pocket or ALL the cheese will ooze out during the baking.

The chicken is dipped in flour, eggs, then panko crumbs (mixed with some Parm, garlic powder and dried oregano). Then the chicken breasts are lightly sautéed in a big nonstick skillet with about 1/4” of olive oil heated in it. You’ll brown the chicken breasts on both side about 4 minutes per side. Then the chicken goes into a large glass or ceramic baking dish. Jarred marinara sauce (have you tried the Victoria brand from Costco?) is poured around the chicken (not on top), fresh basil is added to the sauce and the chicken is baked in a 425°F oven for about 14-16 minutes (depending on thickness). The dish is removed and allowed to sit for 4-5 minutes, then you garnish with parsley and serve.

What’s GOOD: it’s a lovely presentation, whether you make some pasta on the side or not. Really good flavor, but enhanced with the cheese that slightly oozes from the pocket. DO salt and pepper the interior pocket, however, as fresh mozzarella doesn’t taste like much either unless it has something on it. Delicious.

What’s NOT: well, there IS some prep to this dish, but not all that much. If you buy a good jarred marinara, really the steps are quite simple.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Fresh Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Parmesan

Recipe By: Phillis Carey cooking class, 2018
Serving Size: 4

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
8 ounces mozzarella cheese — fresh, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup flour
3 large eggs — lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups panko
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
2 cups marinara sauce
1/4 cup fresh basil — slivered
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — chopped

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Using a sharp knife, cut a deep pocket into the side of each chicken breast. Season inside lightly with salt and pepper then stuff pockets with fresh mozzarella and then gently press edges together to seal. Season outside of chicken with salt and pepper.
2. In 3 shallow bowls place flour, eggs and panko. Whisk into the panko bowl add the oregano, garlic powder and 1/4 cup of the grated Parmesan.
3. Dip the stuffed chicken breasts into flour, shaking off excess, then dip into beaten eggs, turning to coat, and lastly dredge in the panko, making sure the chicken is coated evenly.
4. Heat a 1/4″ layer of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a glass or ceramic baking dish.
5. Gently pour the marinara sauce around the sides of the chicken – NOT on the top – and sprinkle the marinara with the fresh basil slivers. Sprinkle chicken with remaining Parmesan and place in the oven and bake for about 16 minutes, or until cooked through (cheese will be slightly oozing from the edge). Serve garnished with Italian parsley.
Per Serving: 637 Calories; 23g Fat (32.9% calories from fat); 52g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 278mg Cholesterol; 947mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on July 4th, 2018:

    I think I would rather stuff the some thighs after boning out, then you would have flavour! Also, add garlic? :-$:-

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