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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 October 19th, 2020.

food_cart_chix_curry

My riff on a chicken curry recipe similar to what’s served from food carts in India.

You all know who Ruth Reichl is, right? From the venerable halls of food writers and editors, and cookbook authors. Memoir writers too. She used to work at the Los Angeles Times, so I’d been familiar with her for decades. I’m not sure which one of her books this recipe came from (I own a couple of her books, but not all of them). She’s such a good writer, witty and informative, providing plenty of humility when it comes to cooking. Anyway, this came through on one of my feeds from a blog – not sure which one. So the story goes, Ruth has spent more than one trip food-crawling in India, or maybe it was a similar food-crawl in New York City, but no matter how, this is one of her favorite pastimes, partaking of the chicken served from street food carts. She wrote:

The entire city smells like curry. Passing the fourth halal chicken cart, I can’t resist.

Spicy, tangy, irresistible. The taste of now.” Ruth Reichl

Lately I’ve been craving curry again, and since this was a recent recipe I added to my chicken recipes, it was what was on my mind. As I’m writing this it’s early October and this won’t post until later in the month, but what’s important is that I finally began going to grocery stores. It had been 7 months since I’d set foot in one. For my first foray, I visited a nice, new one, a bit smaller than the mega-grocery chains, and found it not crowded, which made me feel better about being there. I was able to buy a red onion for this dish, then I defrosted a pouch of chicken thighs. I used most of them in a soup that I’ll post in a few days, but I saved out some and made this chicken curry and served it on a bed of cauliflower rice.

Several hours ahead I marinated the chicken in a mixture of spices, with some EVOO and lemon juice added. That rested in the frig. Meanwhile I pulsed some fresh cauliflower (I’ve made a big decision – I much prefer prepping a big whole cauliflower into “cauliflower rice” than I like eating the stuff already prepared and sold as “cauliflower rice.” I’m guessing that by the time it gets to stores, it’s several days old. I may never buy the cut up bag  (but still raw) stuff again. I cooked the cauliflower rice in butter over low heat until it was just barely tender.

zucchini_with_food_cart_chix

The CHICKEN: When you’re ready to cook, have everything ready, as the dinner comes together quickly. Into a nonstick pan the chicken goes – it doesn’t need any fat as there is enough in the marinade. Cook it low and slow – it takes about 10 minutes. Test a little piece of chicken to see if it’s done. As I said, meanwhile I did the cauliflower with nothing more than butter in it. I plated the dish.

The ZUCCHINI: I also chopped up one big zucchini and sautéed it in the same pan once I removed the curry. The pan still had a bit of fat in it, AND some of the wonderful spices too. So I got two portions of veggies – the cauliflower rice under the curry AND the zucchini on the side.

I scaled down this recipe since I’m just one person, but two chicken thighs made enough for me to have at least 2 meals. I might even stretch it to 3. Especially if I serve a moderate portion of the zucchini as well. The only change I made to this recipe was to add some Greek yogurt at the end. And I used a bit more of the oregano than the original called for. As for the yogurt – I like a creamy curry. Street carts don’t do that, apparently, so I did veer off a little bit. Food carts serve a cold sauce on the side that’s a mixture of yogurt, mayo, sugar, salt, pepper and vinegar. So, your choice. I let the yogurt simmer too long so it began to separate – so do as I say, not as I did – simmer the yogurt for just long enough to heat it through, then serve.

What’s GOOD: This dish is divine! What else can I say – SO delicious. So comfort-food for me. I nearly licked the plate. Everything about it was fantastic. I’ll be making this again and again. Thank you, Ruth Reichl!

What’s NOT: only that you need to start this the night before or at least 4 hours ahead to marinate the chicken. The seasoning permeates the chicken well during that time – don’t eliminate that step.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Food Cart Chicken Curry

Recipe By: Adapted from Ruth Reichl
Serving Size: 4

1 pound chicken thigh, meat only — boneless, skinless
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 red onion — halved, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
2 cloves garlic — minced
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt, full-fat
Cilantro as garnish
Serve with rice or cauliflower rice and zucchini on the side

NOTE: I served this with a side of zucchini, trimmed, chopped, and cooked quickly over high heat in the seasoning and oil that was left in the skillet after making the curry.
1. Cut the chicken into bite-sized chunks, and slice the onion into thin slices.
2. Make a paste by combining the olive oil with 1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, the coriander, garlic, curry powder, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper.
3. Place onions and chicken into a plastic bag, with the marinade, and squish it all round so the onions and chicken are thoroughly coated. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.
4. Add onions and chicken to large skillet (nonstick) and saute for about 5 minutes, tossing every minute or so. It will splutter a bit.Taste the chicken to see if it’s tender and add additional salt and pepper to taste.
5. Serve over white rice or cauliflower rice. At many food carts they serve this with a white sauce – combine equal parts of mayonnaise and Greek yogurt, then add a dollop of sugar, salt and pepper, and a splash of vinegar. Some prefer to sprinkle on red hot sauce.
Per Serving: 354 Calories; 22g Fat (57.3% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 138mg Cholesterol; 157mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 43mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 372mg Potassium; 227mg Phosphorus.

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  1. hddonna

    said on October 19th, 2020:

    Oh, yum! This sounds perfect. I’m very into one-pan, quick to prepare dishes these days, and everything is already on hand in my kitchen. This will do nicely for Wednesday, when I hope my daughter will be able to come for the day.

    I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I just LOVED it, and can happily eat curry at least once a week. My Ancestry DNA doesn’t say I have any Indian in my blood, so I don’t know where this love of curry comes from! Let me know what you thought of it. . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on October 22nd, 2020:

    We had it yesterday, and it was great! I loved how easy it was–I set the chicken to marinate in the morning and was able to get dinner on the table quickly and with minimal mess. I discovered to my surprise that I was nearly out of curry powder–there was only about a teaspoon left, and although my card file said there was a partial bag in my storage bin, it wasn’t there! I used what I had and made up the difference with extra cumin, coriander, and turmeric. It was delicious, but I’m looking forward to making it again soon with the correct amount of curry powder. This was a hit with my 2 1/2 year-old granddaughter. Her mom makes a lot of curried dishes, most often a Sri Lankan curry her husband’s mom makes, which she learned when they were missionaries to Sri Lanka. I haven’t tasted that one yet, but Katie says it’s pretty hot and not a favorite of Lilly’s.

    I’m so glad you enjoyed it as much as I did. I can’t wait to make it again . . . just have to cook some chicken or buy a rotisserie one. I have extra spices and herbs stored in the wine cellar (my DH Dave would have had a FIT about that if he were still alive!) and I had to write a list to put in each one so I can find things too. Donna, you and I are so much alike! I’m tickled to hear a 2 1/2 year old likes curry. That’s pretty amazing considering their tender taste buds. . ..carolyn t

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