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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 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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