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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 Beef, Grilling, on May 13th, 2012.

grilled_skirt_steak

Skirt steak! Not something I make with any regularity. But it was FULL of good, beefy flavor. It marinated for just about an hour in an oil/soy sauce mixture and grilled for 2-3 minutes per side. Topped with some caramelized onions. Really good stuff! I forgot to remind my hubby to slice it across the grain – but it really didn’t matter much because the meat was super-tender.

The other night I opened the freezer door and stared in there, wondering what to fix for dinner. You ever do this too? Chorizo? No, not for dinner. Must have bought that 6 months ago when our son-in-law was coming down, then I didn’t use it (he loves chorizo, obviously). Andouille sausage? No; I usually use that with something else, not as an entrée; not time for that. Chicken breasts? No, tired of those. Oh, what’s that package? Skirt steak. Well, why not? It had been in the freezer for well over a year, probably longer than that, and it had gotten tucked under something else so I hadn’t noticed it. My normal method of defrosting meat is to put it in a big bowl filled mid-way with water, and weighted down so the meat stays under the water (and therefore stays quite cold). This is assuming it’s in a Ziploc bag or vacuum sealed, of course. In a few hours it was completely defrosted.

I have a recipe for Mexican style skirt steak on my blog, but it’s part of a multi-dish ethnic dinner. Way too much work – besides I already had the side dishes picked out (also items from the freezer). I could have gone to Eat Your Books to hunt for recipes within my own cookbook collection, but I was in a hurry, so I just did a Google search for “skirt steak,” and one of the early search results was this recipe, from She Wears Many Hats, a blog I wasn’t familiar with. Amy’s recipe was very easy – the marinade went together in a hurry (some oil, soy sauce, a little bit of rice wine vinegar, ginger, garlic, S & P and it was done. It went right into the Ziploc bag I had used in the freezer. I squished it around a bit so all the surfaces of the skirt steak were saturated with the marinade and I plopped it in the refrigerator for awhile.

We were on a timetable (gosh, I hate those nights sometimes – have to sit down to eat by 6 in order to be at choir rehearsal by 7). We prefer to eat at about 6:30 or 7 on most nights. It’s just the routine we’re into.

I’ll include the recipe for the caramelized onions too. I made these a week or so ago, using a new recipe that included a little bit of dark rum and thyme, and served it with something else. But those little puppies go a long way, so I had sufficient for another meal. It was just perfect with the steak. The sweetness of the onion blended so well with the steak. My DH grilled the meat in no time at all – probably just 2-3 minutes per side – as we wanted it to be rare to med-rare in the middle. I got dinner on the table before 6 and dishes were done and put away in ample time.

What I liked: the flavor of the beef – the marinade isn’t overpowering at all. The soy sauce is mellow in this as well – I used Trader Joe’s low-sodium. Also loved the caramelized onions on top. Make a bunch so you can have left overs. My plan as I write this, is to serve the leftover beef on top of a Greek salad.

What I didn’t like: nothing at all. Delicious. I’d make this again.

printer-friendly PDF for the steak
MasterCook 5+ import file – right click to save file, run MC, then File|Import

Grilled Skirt Steak

Recipe By: Amy at http://shewearsmanyhats.com/2011/06/skirt-steak/
Serving Size: 4
Serving Ideas: Because I had some on hand, I served the steak with a large spoon of caramelized onions. The sweetness of the onions was wonderful with the steak. Although the marinade contains soy sauce, the flavor does not predominate.

1 pound skirt steak
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons rice vinegar — [I used seasoned because it’s what I had in my pantry]

1. Mix all ingredients together in a zip top bag, adding skirt steak last. Squish it around some to coat well and marinate refrigerated until ready to cook. Marinate for at least 30 minutes if time allows.
2. In an iron skillet over medium-medium high heat place the skirt steak. Slightly press down to create sear. For medium rare, cook for 3 minutes. Flip steak and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Alternately you can barbecue on an outdoor grill for the same period of time.
3. Let steak rest about 10 minutes tented with foil, then cut narrow slices across the grain.
Per Serving: 264 Calories; 19g Fat (64.4% calories from fat); 22g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 58mg Cholesterol; 336mg Sodium.

. . .
printer-friendly PDF for onions
MasterCook 5+ import file – right click to save file, run MC, then File|Import

Caramelized Onions with Dark Rum and Thyme

Recipe By: The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Serving Size: 12 (that’s just a guess – makes about a cup)

2 pounds yellow onions — thinly sliced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons dark rum
1 teaspoon fresh thyme — minced
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Have all the onions sliced and ready.
2. Melt the butter and oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Stir in the onions, brown sugar and about 1/2 tsp salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. [You may need to turn the heat down to prevent the onions from burning.]
3. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are deeply browned, about 40 minutes.
4. Add the rum, thyme and vinegar and stir well, off heat. Taste for salt and pepper.
Per Serving: 47 Calories; 2g Fat (41.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 3mg Cholesterol; 2mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on May 14th, 2012:

    What a coincidence! I made steak and caramelized onions this weekend, too! Mine happened to be sirloin, and I made it to put in a steak and caramelized onion panini for my son-in-law’s birthday party. There were leftovers, and we’ll probably use those in a salad, too!
    I love the idea of the rum in the caramelized onions. What isn’t better with a dash of rum–or bourbon–in it? I’ll try that next time. Have only done skirt steak once–it’s not easy to find around here–but I agree that it is delicious.
    Your marinade sounds yummy, too. I used my stand-by of red wine, soy sauce, garlic, and rosemary, with salt and pepper and some oil. It was originally based on a recipe by M.F.K.Fisher–do you enjoy her writings? I just throw together the marinade these days and don’t know how close it is to the original, but I do remember she offered the recipe as an example of how it is perfectly easy to cook a delicious dish without salt–and it had at least a cup of soy sauce in it! Needless to say, I have scaled that back considerably!

    Well, that’s very interesting. I have most of MFK Fisher’s books. Is it in one of those? I’d enjoy trying that version. I love rosemary in grilled meat. And yes, I’d likely cut down on the soy sauce too. . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on May 14th, 2012:

    The book in question is An Alphabet for Gourmets, and the discussion of salt and her recipe for steak are in the chapter U for Universal. The intro to the recipe itself does not refer to its lack of salt, but earlier in the chapter she makes the claim “my patio steak never sees anything but herbs and wine” (as opposed to another dish that may require salt). Actually, it isn’t as bad as I remember, as it calls for 3/4 cup of soy sauce to 3 cups of wine, but I still use less than that. Anyway, this was the inspiration for my go-to marinade. I just glug some red wine and some soy sauce into a dish or zipper bag, toss in a few sprigs of rosemary and a few smashed cloves of garlic, a glug of olive oil or vegetable oil, and some pepper. I said salt in my comment above, but I do not add that since it has soy sauce in it.
    The discussion of salt and people’s dependence on it is quite interesting. I’m glad you asked about which book it’s in, because now that I’ve found it, I think I’ll give it another rereading–haven’t looked at it in several years. Isn’t MFK Fisher fascinating? Her writing stands the test of time.
    If you don’t happen to have this book, I’d be happy to e-mail you her original recipe.

    Thanks, Donna. I’ll try your revision of the recipe – which sounds fine to me! I don’t think I have that M.F.K. Fisher book. Next time I’m at the library I’ll look for it. Indeed, I like her writing. I remember the first time I saw a photo of her – it was toward the end of her life and someone from Gourmet was interviewing her at her home in No. California. I think it was a stark black and white photo. And the interviewer was just mesmerized by her wit and wisdom about life. Anyway, Fisher had asked if the interviewer would like to have lunch with her; of course he/she said yes. And she served a very simple something – I have no recollection – but it included a piece of fruit at the end. The interviewer said the meal was perfect, and asked inwardly why we think we have to go to great lengths to cook things when sometimes the simplest are the best, which certainly reflected Fisher’s mantra for life, don’t you think? Thanks, Donna. . . . carolyn t

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