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Carolyn

Sara

Sara and me

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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. Soldiers aren’t supposed to have any attachment to the stray dogs, let alone bring them onto the home base where he spent part of his time. His unit all fell in love with Fred, but Craig was obviously the dog’s first love. A very inspiring story; a few tears were shed here and there as I read it. Fred now lives here in the U.S. against all odds.

Also read 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. There is joy, grief, a tiny bit of religion, and likely this book wouldn’t make you think much of pastors. They’re flawed as we all are. Quite a read, for one of my book clubs. I had hoped the book would paint a brighter picture of the profession (I have a wonderful pastor at my own church).

Loved-loved Gregory Buford’s 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 is 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 caring for their infant. He is a consummate humorist and can find chuckles in almost every task. I ate this book up in one go. LOL funny and interesting on all fronts.

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, centered around a tragic event in their small town in Minnesota. About how he reviews his memories as he grows old, looking at the people, the event, and his part in it.

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. Abigail Howland, who came to the house as a little girl, lives with her crusty but loveable grandfather. Her grandfather’s forbidden love life is an open secret, but long after his death it is Abigail who must pay the price for a love match Southern society could not abide. Lots of sub-stories. Very interesting read.

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. She once again leaves the home place to build a house for herself. As the foundation is poured and the walls go up, each of the hurtful memories are uncovered. Finally the mystery, left in the ashes of the burned home, is revealed. How could her mother do what she did? Very interesting read.

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.

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 Beef, on October 21st, 2019.

lazy_sunday_pot_roast

Remember? Brown food doesn’t look so great in a picture! But oh, this one’s worth the effort, and it doesn’t take much to make this pot roast dinner.

Even though I eat a somewhat restricted set of foods, there are lots of things I can make and enjoy. Last night I had a group of friends over for dinner and made this pot roast, a tabouli salad made with millet, Brussels sprouts with bacon, golden raisins and pomegranate seeds, a type of dip – called a hummus because of its texture – but made with zucchini, and then I made a strawberry black pepper refrigerator cake. The only thing I made that wasn’t on my diet was the dessert. But I had some anyway. Well, I suppose I’m not to have pot roast, either (too much fat) but I did.

I still subscribe to a bunch of blogs, and truly, as I scan through them I can often whiz right past because they have foods that I’m not supposed to eat on this anti-lectin, Gundry diet. I’m a sucker, though, for an interesting story, and this one was just so special. Written by John “Doc” Willoughby, I was hooked from the first words. If you’re interested, click HERE, to the full story. In a nutshell, Doc knew from when he was a child, that he loved his Grandmother’s pot roast, but he never knew much about what was in it. After his grandmother passed away, Doc inherited her collection of cookbooks and recipes. And then he found the old 3×5 card with the recipe on it. Since then, he’s made this pot roast countless times, and often for company, because he says it’s pretty foolproof, AND it’s easy.

The recipe, on the surface, looks kind of mundane. But oh, it’s not. He explains that he’s made it without the caraway seeds, and without the marjoram, and he says the finished product doesn’t measure up. So, those herbs/spices are essential to the result. First, buy a 4-pound chuck eye roast. Pat it dry with paper towels, salt and pepper it, then sear it in oil in a big, lidded Dutch oven type pan. Remove the meat, then sauté 2 onions, halved and sliced, then you add in the other ingredients – broth, brown sugar, the caraway seeds and marjoram (I used dried), some bay leaves, and some apple cider vinegar. The roast is nestled in there, and more broth is added if needed, to bring the liquid level up halfway on the roast (mine needed about another 3/4 cup of water). Into a 300°F oven it went (covered) and baked for 3 hours. I removed it and turned the roast twice. Then you add 3 Granny Smith (or similar type) apples, cored and peeled, then sliced and cut in 8ths, cover and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the apples kind of puff up. A few of them fell apart in my pot, and some hardly seemed done, but they were.

The only kind-of-sort-of hard part was getting that 4-lb. roast out of the pot – it was hot and heavy and it fell apart. But oh well. It’s supposed to rest for 10-15 minutes before you serve it, so I put it out on the platter and covered it with foil while I wrestled with the good stuff left in the pot – the apples, onions and flavorful broth. It took a bit of doing – and my friend Judy helped me some – to remove some of the fat. I have a fat separator which helped, but the onions kept clogging up the sieve part. But we managed. The apples and onions went out onto the platter (see photo) and some of the broth swam all over the platter as well. The strained, somewhat de-fatted broth went into a pitcher to pass at the table.

What’s interesting is that none of us – me included – could taste the caraway or the marjoram. That was kind of astounding to me – I pride myself on being able to detect flavors. Couldn’t find it at all in this dish. With the list of ingredients, I’d guess this recipe has German origins (the caraway, apples and apple cider vinegar are the clues), but the marjoram makes me think France. But no matter, this dish comes together well. There’s a lot of liquid left over, so I’ll probably make some kind of soup with it – maybe with some of the left over pot roast cut into little cubes (if I can, as the meat is meltingly tender).

What’s GOOD: the flavor – oh my yes – so tasty. You can detect the sweet (brown sugar) and the apples impact a delectable flavor to the overall dish. It was perfectly tender, and I liked having a dish that offered the apples to serve alongside, with the very tender onions too. It was easy. The article actually suggested making it the day before up to the apple-adding step, then reheating it and baking for 15-20 minutes. I wasn’t so sure that was a good idea – so I made it the day of. Will I make this again? Absolutely, although probably not for myself. Only for company, I’d say. I’m sure you could make a smaller one – say a 2 1/2 pound roast, however.

What’s NOT: nothing really, except that you need to plan ahead several hours. But that’s not news to anyone who’s made a pot roast before. There were no complaints from anyone.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Lazy Sunday Pot Roast

Recipe By: John “Doc” Willoughby, from his grandmother Schwyhart
Serving Size: 8

4 pounds boneless beef chuck eye roast Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons oil
2 medium onions — halved and thinly sliced
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup fresh marjoram — or 2 tablespoons dried
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups low sodium beef broth — or chicken stock (2 to 2 1/2)
3 Granny Smith apples — or other tart apples such as Cortlands or Baldwins, quartered, cored, and peeled

1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
2. Dry the roast well with paper towels, sprinkle it very generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or other large, ovenproof pot over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the roast and brown well on all sides—this should take at least 10 or 12 minutes—then remove to a platter and set aside.
3. Add the onions to the pot and saute, stirring frequently, until translucent, 7 to 9 minutes. Put the meat back in the pot, add the bay leaves, caraway seeds, brown sugar, marjoram, vinegar, and enough stock so that the liquid comes just halfway up the sides of the meat. Bring just to a simmer then cover, put in the preheated oven, and cook for 2-1/2 hours, turning over once or twice during this time.
4. Add the apples to the pot and continue to cook until the apples are soft and puffed up and the meat is very tender, about 15 minutes. To check the meat for doneness: Plunge a fork straight down into the meat and try to pull the fork out; if the fork slides out easily, the meat is done; if the meat hangs on to the fork, give it more time.
5. Remove meat, cover it loosely with foil, and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. Skim the fat from the braising liquid and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cut the meat into thick slices and serve, accompanied by the apples, onions and the braising liquid. Strain some of the broth, if possible, and pass it at the table.
Per Serving: 490 Calories; 20g Fat (35.7% calories from fat); 65g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 184mg Cholesterol; 199mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on October 21st, 2019:

    I have never made a pot roast in my entire life! I doubt I shall start now. I have been cooking lots of vegetables though, especially a gorgeous Savoy cabbage, the remains of which are sitting in a container of water so that it continues to live. I have been roasting organic carrots, how sweet they taste, delicious! My supplier has Quinces for sale this week so I shall buy some and leave them on my kitchen counter so that they perfume the whole apartment before I cook them.

  2. Donna Woerth

    said on October 23rd, 2019:

    I’m hoping my market has chuck roast on sale this week, because I can’t wait to make this! The temperature is supposed to fall into the fifties tomorrow and stay there for at least a week, so pot roast sounds wonderful, and this recipe looks like it would be perfect!

    I’ve been munching on the leftovers. So good. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. . . carolyn t

  3. hddonna

    said on November 3rd, 2019:

    I did make this a few days ago, and it was great! My son commented on how tender and juicy the meat was. We could definitely taste the caraway, but I thought it went very well with the apples and the slight sweetness of the juices which I thickened just a tiny bit with a couple teaspoons of potato starch. I couldn’t taste the marjoram, but I’m not really attuned to that flavor, and I had only dried. And I was surprised that the vinegar wasn’t that noticeable. I was expecting a definite sweet-and-sour flavor, but that was subdued. My roast was 4 1/2 pounds, and we got four meals for three out of it, the last being individual cottage pies. It was a bit sweeter than one expects in that dish, but very tasty nonetheless! I love a meal you can stretch into several others! (I was munching on the leftovers, too! Kept nibbling on the last chunk of meat while I was working on that cottage pie!)

    I’m so glad you liked it, Donna. I noticed when I ate some of the juices in the leftovers, I COULD taste the caraway and marjoram, but hadn’t prior to that. I packaged up the leftovers in a vacuum seal bag and popped it in the freezer. My cousin Gary is coming down for Thanksgiving and I think I’ll pull that out when he’s here. Will make for an easy meal with a salad and veg. He’s not hard to please, so anything I make is fine with him. I used to make a pot roast – years ago – that was a recipe from Sunset Magazine (you know of it, in the Western States) that had all the various recipes for making leftover meals. I think I still have it – want me to copy and send it to you? I used to make it often when I was working and had so little time at night to make a full meal for the family. . . carolyn t

  4. hddonna

    said on November 4th, 2019:

    Oh, yes, please. I’d love to have the Sunset recipe. I’ve never seen the magazine, but I’ve got a couple of their paperback (magazine size) cookbooks. I recently made an apple cake that I’ve been making since the 80s that original came from Sunset Magazine and was printed in the newspaper back then. Still delicious! As for pot roast, I’m planning to try another one soon which appeared in my local paper, a request from a favorite restaurant of ours, The Big Sky Café. It also has apple, plus red wine vinegar, red wine, carrots, celery, onion, tomato paste, and a tablespoon of honey. If that interests you, do a search for stl today big sky potroast and it should come up.

    I so rarely make a pot roast because it’s just ME eating it. I’m not supposed to eat much beef anyway, on this diet. A little bit, but I give in when I’m offered a steak (not on the diet either). Only supposed to have pasture-raised 90% ground beef, and at that only about once a month. I’ve sent the recipe to you via email. . . .carolyn t

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