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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 Soups, on August 23rd, 2021.

A dry soup? Well, it’s a conundrum. Here it means you add a bunch of things (avocado, chicken, tortilla chips, bacon, sour cream and cilantro) to a bowl, then you add (pour) in an amount of fairly thick, chunky “soup.”

A post from Carolyn. This soup is very hard to describe. And I haven’t made it in years and years – before I started writing this blog in 2007. It is a Phillis Carey recipe, from a class I took from her many, long years ago. But I’ve modified it a little bit – mostly made it thicker. What this soup is not is a traditional chicken tortilla soup. Bacon? Probably not. Everything else – of the ingredients – is traditional – but it’s not served in a traditional way.

The base of the soup comes from dried chiles. They provide a depth of flavor you just can’t get from fresh ones. I had on hand some various types – and didn’t have ancho (those are dried poblanos). But I did have dried Anaheim, Cascabel and New Mexico ones, so I used a combination – with very few New Mexico ones as they would be the hottest. I removed all of the seeds, since the heat comes more from seeds than from the skin/shell. Once chopped up, they went into a food processor to mince more finely, then canned tomatoes were added and garlic. Also some broth to make the mixture more fluid. I like this soup chunkier – not big chunks – but didn’t want it to be a puree, either. Use your own judgment about this.

That mixture is simmered for 10-15 minutes, with some added oregano. There is some chicken broth in this, and you may use your own preference on how much. I liked the thicker style. Meanwhile I cooked some chicken breasts (or buy the ready-made ones and make sure they’re warm when you serve them), chopped the cilantro, made the tortilla chips (actually I did that first thing), chopped and cooked the bacon and got out the sour cream. And crumbled Cotija (or you can use shredded Jack), and diced avocado. Then you hand each diner a bowl – a dry bowl – and they put in what they want from the various condiments. Then you use a measuring cup (about a cup per person) to pour the soup part into the side of the bowl. If you pour it on top, everything is submerged. You want to see some of it.

For me, this soup is all about texture. The crispy tortilla chips, the chicken, the cilantro, the bacon, even the sour cream. And the background is the sort-of chunky soup poured in last on the edge, so you can still see the chunks of whatever you’ve chosen to add to the bowl. Afterwards, put the tortilla strips in a sealing plastic bag and they’ll keep for several days. Everything else will refrigerate well and make for a quick 2nd meal a night or two later. Add in your own extra condiments – maybe shredded cabbage, some tiny cherry tomatoes, halved, some green onion? Or two different kinds of cheese, perhaps?

What’s GOOD: as mentioned above, it’s all about texture for me. Loved the flavors (from the dried chiles, most likely) and cooling notes from the sour cream and Cotija cheese. Altogether delicious, and easily refrigerated for another meal in a day or two.

What’s NOT: only that you do need dried chiles – I keep several on hand always – and they keep forever. Try to seek out the ancho. Otherwise this soup is easy to make and really tasty. Nothing to complain about at all.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Dry Chicken Tortilla Soup

Recipe By: Adapted from a Phillis Carey recipe
Serving Size: 8

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 whole corn tortillas — cut in strips
4 ounces dried ancho chilies — rinsed and seeded
1 ounce dried New Mexico chiles — rinsed and seeded
30 ounces canned tomatoes — crushed, with juices
1 small onion — cut in chunks
6 large garlic cloves — peeled
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 1/2 cups chicken breast — cooked, shredded or cubed (and warmed just before serving)
2 cups Monterey jack cheese — grated, or Cotija cheese, crumbled
4 pieces bacon — cooked and crumbled
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups avocado — diced
3/4 cup cilantro — chopped

NOTE: If you puree this soup mixture in a blender it will make it very smooth – I prefer a more chunky style, hence the food processor is better for this. If sodium is a concern, use low-sodium tomatoes. If you are sensitive to heat from chiles, use fewer of them and make sure to remove every single seed from inside each one. The New Mexican are the hotter ones. Ancho chiles are dried poblano peppers.
1. In a wide pan heat oil and sauté the tortilla strips until golden brown. Remove to paper towel to drain. Keep the oil in the pan.
2. Open the dried chiles and discard all the seeds. Cut the chiles into small chunks. Pour into a food processor and finely chop. You may need to scrape down the bowl one or more times. Add canned tomatoes, onions and garlic to the processor and coarsely chop. Add some of the broth if it’s too thick.
2. Then pour the mixture in the food processor into the pan, with the remaining broth and simmer over medium heat, adding oregano. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Can be made several hours ahead. Heat to a simmer when ready to serve. You may add more broth if you prefer a more brothy soup.
3. SERVING: Prepare all the additions (warmed chicken, cheese, bacon, avocado, sour cream and cilantro) and set out in a row. Serve the dry soup bowl to each person, ask them to add the condiments they want. Then take the bowl to the soup pot and using a measuring cup, pour about a cup of soup at the side so some of the chunky stuff floats.
Per Serving: 661 Calories; 48g Fat (64.1% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 120mg Cholesterol; 787mg Sodium; 6g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 542mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 849mg Potassium; 565mg Phosphorus.

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