Get new posts by email:


Currently Reading

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 2023, I’m still doing 99% of the blogging and holding out hope that these two lovely and excellent cooks will participate. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

Remarkably Bright Creatures, by Shelby Van Pelt. Oh gosh, what a fabulous book. It’s a novel; however, much of the story is about the intelligence of octopus. In particular this one, Marcellus, who lives in an aquarium in a fictitious town in western Washington State. Marcellus himself writes some of the chapters. More than anything the book is about relationships, not only Marcellus with a woman (of a certain age) who cleans the aquarium at night, but the various people in this small town. Absolutely charming book. Both of my book clubs have it as a read this year. Loved it.

Trust, by Herman Diaz. This novel is an enigma in so many ways. It’s a book, within a book, within a book. About the stock market crash back in 1929, but it’s about a man. Oh my. I could hardly put this book down it was so riveting. Never read anything quite like it. Very hard to write a description of it. Read it. It’s really interesting. This book won the Pulitzer. That’s why I bought it.

Cassidy Hutchinson is a young woman (a real one) who works in politics or “government.” She’s worked for some prestigious Washington politicians, and ended up working for Trump. The book is a memoir of her short spin working at the highest levels, and obviously at the White House. She worked under Mark Meadows and suffered a lot of ridicule when she quit. Truth and lies . . . when she couldn’t live with herself and subvert the truth. Enough, gives you plenty of detail leading up to and after the January 6th uprising. She testified to Congress about what she knew. Really interesting. I almost never read books about politics because I think many (most?) of our elected politicians succumb to the lure of power and forget who they work for, us, the public.

Becoming Dr. Q, by Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, MD, is an Associate Professor of Neurosurgery and Oncology at Johns Hopkins University. This is his memoir about how he went from being a penniless migrant from Mexico to one of the world’s most renowned experts in brain tumors. About how he aspired to merely attend high school, how he made ends meet (barely) and how he eventually made it to medical school and became the expert he is. What an uplifting story. Here in California we have such a huge problem with illegal immigrants and I certainly don’t have the answers, but this story makes you stop and think.

The Invincible Miss Cust, by Penny Haw.  In 1868 Ireland, a woman wasn’t allowed to attend veterinary school, much less become a veterinarian. It took  years of trying (to the horror of her aristocratic family) and finally someone took her under their wing, she enrolled using a pseudonym (a name not revealing her gender). This is a true story of Aleen Isabel Cust, who did just that and was finally able to practice veterinary medicine in a rural area. This book is historical fiction, and some creative liberties were probably taken, but the tale itself is quite something. Enjoyed it from beginning to end.

Her Heart for a Compass, by Sarah Ferguson (yes), the Duchess of York. I was pleasantly surprised as I read this book that it wasn’t the usual romantic romp – there’s more to this story than you might think. Ferguson utilizes some of her family ancestors as real characters in the book. It starts with a young aristocratic woman on the eve of an arranged marriage. She just can’t abide the man, and runs away. Literally runs away with nothing. It’s the story of how she survives and becomes an agent for good in England and finally finds someone to love. The right love. Sweet story but with lots of twists and turns.

Someone Else’s Shoes, by Jojo Moyes. Moyes is such a prolific author, and comes up with the most unexpected stories. This being another one that grabbed my attention from the first page. Nisha, our heroine, is a wealthy socialite. She thinks her life is perfect. At the gym someone else grabs her gym bag, so she grabs the similar one. Then she finds out her husband is leaving her and he’s locked her out of their high-rise apartment. She’s penniless. No attorney will take her on. She has nothing but this gym bag belonging to someone else (who?). The gym has closed its doors. In the gym bag she did pick up are a pair of Christian Louboutin red crocodile shoes, and take big significance in the story, obviously. Nisha becomes a different person when she dons those shoes. Nisha meets some really kind people, people who barely subsist but willingly help her out. I marvel at Moyes’ ability to write a riveting story from the premise of a mistaken gym bag.

The Eleventh Man, Ivan Doig. What a story. Ben, part of a Montana college football team in the 1940s, joins the service during WWII. So do all of his eleven teammates. After suffering some injuries in pilot training he is recruited by a stealthy military propaganda machine. His job is to write articles about his teammates as they are picked off at various battle theaters around the Pacific and Europe. Ben goes there, in person, to fuel the stories. And sometimes accompanies bodies home, attends the funerals. There’s a romance involved; much of the book takes place in Canada, actually. Absolutely fascinating book. I don’t often read brutal war stories, but this one was a very interesting one. Ivan Doig is a crafty writer; I’ve read several of his books, my favorite being The Whistling Season.

Wavewalker, by Suzanne Heywood. Oh my goodness. A memoir about a very young English girl who goes off with her besotted and narcissistic parents and her brother on a years-long sailing journey supposedly following the route of James Cook. A very old, decrepit 70-foot schooner. Four people, 2 sort-of adults and 2 children. Sometimes a helper or two. A seasick mother. A dad who is driven to the extreme, whatever the damage he creates. She spent 10 years aboard, with a verve for sailing, a passion for reading and education (by mail) and survives the mood swings of her mother. She and her brother are left to fend for themselves in various places; the parents take on paying customers. Often there’s little or no food. I’m surprised they all survived, and they barely didn’t in several instances. You get to read all the details. Heywood managed to get into Oxford (despite her mother’s shenanigans and even her father’s unwillingness to help her, financially or otherwise). She’s a successful businesswoman and a very good writer. My DH (dear husband) always wanted to sail around the world; unfortunately I wasn’t a willing sailing mate for that as I get deathly seasick. The story intrigued me from beginning to end.

Claire Keegan wrote Small Things Like These. It’s won a lot of awards, and shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Takes place in Ireland. Some profound questions come up in this novella, about complicity, about restitution. There’s a convent nearby, and attached one of those places young girls were sent if they found themselves “in the family way,” and about how the church helped, supposedly, by taking the children and placing them in homes, without consent. It’s ugly, the truth of the matter. Really good read.

Nicholas Sparks isn’t an author I read very often because his books are pretty sappy, but daughter Sara recommended this one, The Longest Ride. It begins with Ira (age 93), stuck in his car as it plunges off the edge of a road, and it’s snowing. As the hours tick by, he reminisces about his life, having long conversations with his deceased wife. Then you pick up with a very sweet romance between a college student and a bull rider. The two stories interconnect. I really enjoyed the story.

The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind, by Barbara Lipska. Interesting that I’ve read two books recently about the brain (see Doctor Q above). This is a true story about a woman, a neuroscientist, who developed a metastatic melanoma in the brain. Because she in medicine, she chronicled her journey through it and coming out the other side. Fascinating if you’re interested in medicine (I am) and how the brain works (yes, that too). A very fascinating read. Not for everyone, I suppose.

The Price of Inheritance, by Karin Tanabe. This is a mystery, of sorts. Our heroine is an up and coming employee at Christie’s (auction house). In bringing a large collection of expensive art to auction, she makes a misstep about the provenance of a desk. She’s fired. She goes back to her roots, takes a job at a small antique store where she used to work. She begins buying antiques for the store, trying to make sense of what happened to her career. She meets a young Navy officer. The intrigue begins. I could hardly put this down. Although there is some romance in the book, it’s more about art and the lure of finding a gem amongst the junk. I loved this book because I’d never read anything about how auction houses work.

The Covenant of Water, by Abraham Verghese. Did you read Cutting for Stone, years ago, by this author? Such a good book, so I knew I’d enjoy this one, and oh, did I!. The book takes place in a little known area of southern India, and chronicles a variety of people over a few generations, who inhabit the place. Some who leave and some who come back. Verghese sort of writes like Ken Follett, or Michener, in that he delves into the intricacies of family relationships. There’s also a medical mystery involved too, which was very interesting. It’s a very, very long book, but worth reading.

Finding Dorothy, by Elizabeth Letts. My friend Dianne recommended this book to me, and it was so special. Loved it beginning to end. It’s based on the story of 77-year old Maud Gage Baum (her husband Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz) as she tries to advise the MGM folk as they are filming the 1938 movie with Judy Garland. You’ll learn lots of Oz and Baum history, and you’ll surely be rooting for Maud as she does her best to steer the director to stay true to the book. Absolutely fascinating read, every page.

The Bandit Queens, by Parini Shroff. I don’t quite know how to write a blurb about this book. The premise is so off the norm. It’s about a young Indian woman, Geeta, as she tries her best to make a living after her husband leaves her. Yet the community she lives in, thinks Geeta murdered him. Then some of her so-called “friends” ask her to help them get rid of their husbands too. It’s rollicking funny and unbelievable in many ways, including the backward ways of the local constabulary. I heard myself say “what?” many times in the weaving of this fanciful story.

Attribution, by Linda Moore. We follow art historian Cate, as she struggles to succeed in her chosen field against sexist advisors. She finds what she thinks is a hidden painting, perhaps a masterpiece. She risks everything to try to determine if it’s real or fake. It’s a mystery and a treatise in a way about art in general. What makes a masterpiece? Fascinating story and very well written. Loved it.

The Measure, Nikki Erlick. Oh my goodness. This story grabbed me from about the third sentence. Everyone in the world finds a wooden box on their doorstep, or in front of their camper or tent, that contains a string. Nothing but a string. People get various lengths of string and finally experts conclude it predicts the length of life. No one receives a string until they attain the age of 22. The author has a vivid imagination (I admire that) and you just will not believe the various reactions (frenzy?) from people who are short-stringers, or long-stringers. I’m sure the book is a parable or metaphor for us to be more understanding of how we segregate people – not black and white, this is short or long strings. I was in awe of the author’s ability to visualize how this kind of eventuality would complicate our lives. Yet there’s hope woven throughout. SUCH a good read. Highly recommend.

The Book Spy by Alan Hlad. True stories, but in novel form, of a special Axis group of men and women librarians and microfilm specialists, sent to strategic locations in Europe to acquire and scour newspapers, books, technical manuals and periodicals, for information about German troop locations, weaponry and military plans of WWII. I was glued to the book beginning to end. Fascinating accounts.

A Dangerous Business, Jane Smiley. What a story. 1850s gold rush, story of two young prostitutes, finding their way in a lawless town in the Wild West. There’s a murder, or two, or three, or some of the town’s prostitutes, and the two women set out to solve the crime.

Storm Watch, by C. J. Box. I’m such a fan of his tales of Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett’s adventures catching criminals. Loved it, just like I’ve loved every one of his books.

Defiant Dreams, by Sola Mahfouz. True story about the author, born in Afghanistan in 1996. This is about her journey to acquire an education. It’s unbelievable what the Taliban does to deter and forbid women from bettering themselves. Many trials and tribulations – just so you know, she makes it to the U.S. and becomes a quantum computer researcher at Tufts University. A book everyone should read.

Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This is fairly light read, a novel – but interesting, about the meaning behind many flowers – like roses, you’d think of love. But red roses mean something else. You’ll learn about the various flowers as they’re woven into a story about a woman who studies them and creates a niche for herself producing beautiful bouquets and flower arrangements for special occasions.

The Rome Apartment, by Kerry Fisher. Such a cute story. Maybe not an interesting read for a man. It’s about Beth, whose husband has just left her, and her daughter has just gone off to college. Beth needs a new lease on life, so she rents a room from a woman who lives in Rome. Beth has much to learn about herself from the landlord, a woman of vast experience and compassion. Did I say cute? Yup.

All the Beauty in the World, a memoir by Patrick Bringley. Absolutely LOVED this book. Bringley was at loose ends and accepted a job as a guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. He’d been a journalist at The New Yorker magazine, but after his brother was ill and died, he needed refreshing. After his training at the museum, he moves from room to room, guarding the precious art, and learning all about the pieces and the painters or sculptors. He takes special interest in many pieces and shares it in the book. He definitely has a writing gift. Lots of funny stories sprinkled throughout the book. I guarantee if you have any interest in art, you’ll love the book and Bringley’s story. He worked at the museum for a decade.

The Queen’s Lady, by Joanna Hickson. I love stories about Tudor England, and this one didn’t disappoint. Joan Guildford is a lady in waiting to Queen Elizabeth. Oh my goodness are there twists and turns. I went to my reference book on English kings and queens to verify the lineage of one person or another, and read several Wikipedia entries about various people in this book. So interesting. If you enjoy English history, this is a good one, probably more interesting to a woman than a man.

Once in awhile I’m ready to read another Louise Penny mystery. This time it was World of Curiosities. Usually I’d write something wonderful regarding “another tome about Three Pines.” Not going to say it this time. Three Pines becomes a sinister place. Murders (many).  Of course. Some bad folk out there, far too close to home. I had to put it down a couple of times because it was so frightening. But Inspector Gamache prevails. Of course he does! A piece of very complicated art is involved (I think it may be a real painting). Louise wrote a nice epilogue about how she devised the whole idea. Very interesting read.

Over the years I’ve read many of Jodi Picoult’s books. This, her newest, or very new, is called Mad Honey. Oh, my. This book is beyond Picoult’s usual borders, but then she always writes edgy books. That’s her genre. This one is written with a co-author, a woman who is gay (I think) and also a trans-gender. There is a lot of learn in this book, and might be very difficult or hard for some to read. Very engrossing story, though, as always.

Philippa Gregory is one of my fav authors. Just finished her 3rd (and last, I think) in the Fairmile series called Dawnlands. If you scroll down below you’ll find the 2nd book in the series, Tidelands. Very interesting about English history, but about the same families from the first book in the group. Loved it, as I loved all of them.

Am currently reading Rutherfurd’s long, long book, Paris. I love these involved historical novels about a place (he’s written many about specific places in the world). It’s a saga that goes back and forth in time, following the travails of various people and families, through thick and thin. Some of it during the era of the King Louis’ (plural, should I say Louies?). Very interesting about some of the city’s history and royalty.

Although this book says A Christmas Memory, by Richard Paul Evans, it’s not just about Christmas. A young boy is the hero here, but really an older widower man who lives next door plays a pivotal part of this book. It’s poignant, heart-rending and sweet. It delves deep into childhood memories to take readers back to an age when a world felt like it was falling apart, reminding us that even in the darkest of times, the light of hope can still shine. A beautiful read.

Wish You Were Here, by Jodi Picoult. Another page-turner. I loved this book. A thirty-something woman, about to take a trip with her boyfriend, when Covid breaks out. Covid plays a major role in this book, beginning to end. She decides to go anyway as her boyfriend is a doctor and cannot leave. She ends up on a remote Galapagos island, and you go along with her – with people she meets, the life she leads, the isolation she experiences, the loneliness she feels, but the joy of nature is a sustaining aspect. She’s stuck there because of Covid. Not boats, no airport, no nothing. Barely enough food. But yet, she survives. I could NOT put down this book. It had me riveted. You know, Covid is going to play a major role in a lot of books in our future – it has to. It was such a pivotal moment in this century!

Not everyone wants to read food memoirs. When I saw Sally Schmitt had written a memoir, titled Six California Kitchens, I knew I wanted to read it. I met Sally a few times over the years when I visited Napa Valley, and bought some of her famous pickled items, chutneys, jams, etc. She was the original chef at The French Laundry, before it became truly famous by Thomas Keller. Sally shares her food story, how she came to become a chef and entrepreneur. It’s a charming book and there are a few recipes (I think one at the end of every chapter). Enjoyed reading it. If you ever visited Napa Valley in the early days (the 1960s through 80s) you will enjoy reading how “California cuisine” kind of came into being.

Being a fan of Vivian Howard (from her TV show), when I saw she’d written another book, I knew I should buy it. This Will Make It Taste Good is such an unusual name for a cookbook, but once you get into the groove of the book, you’ll understand. She’s now divorced, but still running two restaurants and raising twins (part-time, I’m guessing as I assume her ex is involved some). I don’t know how she had time to write another book. She’s hysterically funny. I mean it. Over the years (and I’m guessing most of this came from her North Carolina roots and the mayhem she encountered opening a restaurant in her tiny, rural town, to great fame) she developed a group of tasty “things,” to complement her food. It’s hard to pinpoint what these are – they’re recipes for some “kitchen heroes” she calls them. They’re condiments. They’re food additions, they’re flavor enhancers. If I make some of them (I hope to) I’ll post them on my blog. They have umami flavors, and she says it’s how she survives and makes everything taste good. She includes the recipe for each of these kitchen heroes (and each title is laugh-out-loud funny in and of themselves) and a few uses of them. Recently she wrote a column in Garden & Gun (magazine) about online dating, and about how she filled out her profile and of some of the not-so-happy first dates. I laughed and laughed over that. I hope you click on that link and read it.

As soon as it came out, I ordered Spare, by Prince Harry. I’ve always been interested in the Royal Family. And I’m old enough to remember when Queen Elizabeth was crowned – my mother and I watched it on tv, in those early days of television. I admired her throughout her long life. What you learn in this book is how abominably Harry and Meghan have been treated. We all know the Royal Family has a company of people who “handle” them, called “the firm.” These people control what everyone in the R.F. does, when, who is present, who can take a vacation where, and some of them give permission for journalists to photograph, in somewhat private spaces, in return for leaving them alone for awhile. The paparazzi, and the photojournalists are ruthless. Absolutely ruthless and relentless. I cannot imagine having to live with that kind of low-life awaiting  your every move. It could break anyone, as it did Diana. I’ve never been a fan of Charles, and this book doesn’t endear him to me. I’ve never been a fan of Camilla, either. There’s a lot of verbiage given over to outing many people in the R.F. Betrayals on many levels. I devoured it, but then I’m an Anglophile of the first order.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. Usually I don’t seek out short stories. I might have purchased this book without realizing it was. There aren’t that many stories – each one gets you very ingrained in the characters. I love her writing, and would think each story in this book could be made into a full-fledged novel. I was quite taken with the main characters in each and every one of them. Since each story is different, I can’t describe one, without describing all of them; no space for that. With each story I was very sad when I realized it was the end, leaving you hanging. I wondered if these were stories Lahiri wrote hoping they would transcend into a full length novel, but she grew bored, or couldn’t quite flesh out more. But I always felt there could/would be more. I wanted there to be more.

A Lantern in Her Hand, by Beth Streeter Aldrich. A very interesting and harrowing story of early pioneer days in the Midwest (Nebraska I think); covered wagon time up to about 80 years later as the heroine, Abbie Deal, and her husband start a family in a small town. On land that isn’t lush or reliable. Many years of drought, winds, grasshoppers. The story is a novelized one of Aldrich’s own family roots. It’s full of good old-fashioned family values and is a record of some difficult Midwest pioneering history.

The Messy Lives of Book People, by Phaedra Patrick. From amazon’s page: Mother of two Liv Green barely scrapes by as a maid to make ends meet, often finding escape in a good book while daydreaming of becoming a writer herself. So she can’t believe her luck when she lands a job housekeeping for her personal hero, mega-bestselling author Essie Starling, a mysterious and intimidating recluse. The last thing Liv expected was to be the only person Essie talks to, which leads to a tenuous friendship. When Essie passes away suddenly, Liv is astonished to learn that her dying wish was for Liv to complete her final novel. But to do so Liv will have to step into Essie’s shoes. As Liv begins to write, she uncovers secrets from the past that reveal a surprising connection between the two women—one that will change Liv’s own story forever.

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. I’m a fan of this author and relished reading his book about a year in his personal life, with his wife and very new, newborn twins. Doerr was given an auspicious award – a year of study in Rome, with apartment and a stipend. There are four chapters, by season. You will laugh and cry with him/them, as they have to work very hard to survive days and nights with crying babies that will not settle down. As he escapes to his study lair, if only to get away from the babies, sometimes to nap because he was up all night. Those of us who have had fussy babies know what this feels like. He suffers greatly because the “great American novel” isn’t coming to him. He feels the year wasting away from the standpoint of the award. The time in Rome was wonderful, and he and his family enjoy many wonderful visits to city high points, to stand in awe at old relics. I loved every bit of this book – so well written. If you’ve ever been to Rome you’ll enjoy it all the more.

Kristin Hannah’s Distant Shores is quite a read. Some described it as like a soap opera. Not me. Interesting character development of a couple who married young. She put her own career/wants/desires aside to raise their children. He forged ahead with his life dreams. The children grow up and move on. Then he’s offered a huge promotion across the country. She’s torn – she doesn’t want to be in New York, but nothing would get in the way of his career. They try to make the marriage work from separate coasts. The wife begins to find herself again, re-igniting her own passions. Lots of family dynamics.

Oh, William! by Elizabeth Strout. Lucy Barton is divorced. But she’s still sort of friendly with her ex. It’s complicated. Out of the blue he asks her to go on a trip with him to discover something about his roots. They go. And of course, they’re taken for a married couple most of the time. Lucy laments the things she loved about her ex, William. Hence she says “Oh, William” more than once. They encounter some very funny circumstances, and she guides him along, lamenting again, “Oh, William,” again. I don’t think she ever says it TO him, however. Very funny book. Sweet. Elizabeth Strout is a gifted writer.

Tidelands,  by Philippa Gregory. It tells the tale of a peasant woman, Alinor (an herbalist and midwife), who lives barely above the poverty level, trying to raise two children, during the time of great turmoil in England, the rancorous civil war about Charles 1. Her husband has disappeared. The feudal system at the time isn’t any friend to Alinor. In comes a man (of course) who is a priest, but to the Catholic king, not the Protestant people, and everything Catholic is abhorred and suspect. A fascinating read, loved every chapter.

Read Reminders of Him, by Colleen Hoover. A page turner of a story. A young woman is convicted of a crime (young and foolish type). Once released her sole purpose is to be a part of her daughter’s life. Hoover has such a gift of story-telling and keeping you hanging on a cliff.

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty. Oh my goodness. The wicked webs we weave. How in the world did the author even come UP with this wild story, but she did, and it kept me glued. Sophie walked away from her wedding day, and always wondered if she made the wrong decision. Then she inherits his aunt’s house, back in her home town, where the quizzical Munro baby disappearance provides a living for many of his family. Sophie moves there, only to have to unearth all the bad stuff that happened before. Quite a story.

Very funny and poignant story, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, by Elizabeth Taylor (no, not that one). Mrs. Palfrey, a woman of a certain age, moves into an old folks’ home in London. It’s a sort of hotel, but has full time elderly quirky residents. You get to know them all, and Mrs. Palfrey’s subterfuge effort to show off her “grandson.” I might not have ever picked up this book, but one of my book clubs had us read it, and I’m ever so glad I did.

For one of my book clubs we read Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus. This book is so hard to describe. Elizabeth is a wizard at chemistry and struggles to be recognized for her intelligence and research. She meets a man at her company who is brilliant too. They make quite a pair. They have a child, then he suddenly dies. Her work isn’t taken seriously, so she leaves her employment and becomes an overnight phenom on a cooking show where she uses the chemical names for things like sodium chloride, etc. You go alongside her struggles, and her raising of her daughter. LOTS of humor, lots to discuss for a book club.

Horse. Oh my, is it a page turner. Loved it from the first page to the last. Sad when it ended. It’s a fictional creation but based on a real racehorse owned by a black man, back in the 1850s. Technically, the story is about a painting of the horse but there are many twists and turns. If you’ve ever enjoyed Brooks’ books in the past, this one won’t disappoint.

The Book of Lost Names, by Kristin Harmel (no, not Hannah). Certainly a little-known chunk of history about a woman who becomes a master forger during WWII to help get Jewish children out of France. Not easy to read, meaning the difficulty of anyone finding the means and place to DO the forgery and right under the noses of the Nazis. Really good read.

Liane Moriarty’s first novel, Three Wishes, follows the travails of adult triplets, so different, yet similar in many ways. Two are identical, the third is not. So alike, and so not. It takes you through a series of heart-wrenching events, seemingly unrelated, but ones that could bring a family to its breaking point and test the bonds of love and strength.

Recently I’ve read both of Erin French’s books, her cookbook, The Lost Kitchen, and since then her memoir, Finding Freedom. About her life growing up (difficult) about her coming of age mostly working in the family diner, flipper burgers and fries (and learning how much she liked to cook). Now she’s a very successful restaurant entrepreneur (The Lost Kitchen is also the name of her restaurant) in the minuscule town of Freedom, Maine. She’s not a classically trained chef, but she’s terrifically creative. See her TV series on Discover+ if you subscribe.

Jo Jo Moyes has a bunch of books to her credit. And she writes well, with riveting stories. Everything I’ve read of hers has been good. This book, The Girl You Left Behind, is so different, so intriguing, so controversial and a fascinating historical story. There are two timelines here, one during WWI, in France, when a relatively unknown painter (in the style of Matisse) paints a picture of his wife. The war intervenes for both the husband and the wife.

Eli Shafak’s Island of Missing Trees. This book was just a page turner. If you’ve never read anything about the conflict in Cyprus (the island) between the Turks and the Greeks, you’re in for a big history lesson here. But, the entire story centers around a fig tree. You get into the head/brain/feelings of this big fig tree which plays a very central part of the story. You’ll learn a lot about animals, insects (ants, mosquitos, butterflies) and other flora and fauna of Cyprus.

Also read Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. Ohhh my, such a good book. I couldn’t put it down. Whatever you do, do not read the ending before you start the book. I’ve never understood people who do this. The book chronicles the day a mom just ups and disappears. The grown children come back home, in panic. The dad isn’t much help, and he becomes the prime suspect of foul play. There is no body, however.

If you’d like a mystery read, try Dete Meserve’s The Space Between. It’s just the kind of page-turner I enjoy – a wife returns to her home after being away on business for a few days, to find her husband missing and what he’s left for her is an unexplained bank deposit of a million dollars, a loaded Glock in the nightstand, and a video security system that’s been wiped clean.

Read Alyson Richman’s historical novel called The Velvet Hours. Most of the book takes place in Paris, with a young woman and her grandmother, a very wealthy (but aging) woman who led a life of a semi-courtesan. Or at least a kept woman. But this grandmother was very astute and found ways to invest her money, to grow her money, and to buy very expensive goods. Then WWII intervenes, and the granddaughter has to close up her grandmother’s apartment, leaving it much the way it had been throughout her grandmother’s life, to escape the Nazis. Years go by, and finally answers are sought and found. An intriguing book, based on the author’s experience with an apartment that had been locked up similarly for decades, also in Paris.

Susan Meissner is one of my favorite authors. This book, The Nature of Fragile Things tells a very unusual story. About a young Irish immigrant, desperate to find a way out of poverty, answers an ad for a mail order bride.

Also read Rachel Hauck’s The Writing Desk. You could call this a romance. A young professional, a writer of one successful book, has writer’s block. Then she’s asked to go to Florida to help her mother (from whom she’s mostly estranged) through chemo. She goes, hoping she can find new inspiration.

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.

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 becomes something else. There is graphic detail here.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Chicken, Soups, Veggies/sides, on October 27th, 2023.

Tummy-warming soup with a Mexican bent – made with poblano chiles, canned green chiles and a bunch of vegetables. Plus chicken, of course.

First, a little update about me. My jury duty is finally over with – it lasted four weeks. Thank goodness I’m done with it. I wasn’t ever called to be a deliberating juror (I was an alternate), but when the jurors did meet they convicted the defendant on all five counts, including an enhancement charge that she had intended to cause bodily harm. I wrote a letter to the prosecutor (thanking her), one to the police detective who was assigned to the case (thanking him for his 14 months of working on the case), another to the police chief (telling him how much I admired the detective for his work, but also for his compassion to the victim), and lastly I mailed a Halloween card to the victim herself telling her how brave she was to testify (age 11). The defendant will be put away for a long time.

Now let’s talk about soup. When the weather begins to turn cooler I’m all in for making soups. This one started out as a slow cooker soup, but since I no longer have a large slow cooker (only the instant pot one – and it would have been too small for this batch) I changed the recipe all around, added more vegetables into it and made it on the stovetop. If you have leftover chicken (or in my case it was some rotisserie chicken) this is a perfect soup to use it up.

This is a quick and easy soup if you have all the ingredients. The original recipe called for rice (you can add it if you’d like), but I added some sweet potato and a bit of butternut squash. Actually, for the record, I bought a box of fresh, chopped up veggies at Trader Joe’s, a kind of fall medley, so I’m estimating how much sweet potato and squash it added. Soups like this aren’t exact – add more of anything that suits you and your family.

There are bunches of recipes on the ‘net lately, all made in a crockpot, using a brick of cream cheese. That adds a lot of luscious creaminess to the soup as it melts slowly. I almost always have an 8-ounce brick of cream cheese in my refrigerator. You don’t have to decorate the servings with grated cheese or cilantro, but those two things add a nice touch to the soup. Finishes it off.

What’s GOOD: loved this soup. It makes a big batch, so I have ample to freeze in Ziploc quart bags. Loved the creaminess of it, and the various vegetables added, the sweet potato and butternut squash. The various chiles add a lovely umami flavor to the soup, I think. Altogether delicious.

What’s NOT: nothing really. I suppose you could adapt this to an instant pot (make half the recipe) and then add the cream cheese at the end and let it simmer (not pressure cook) to blend slowly into the soup itself. Made on the stovetop, with all the chopping, etc. it probably takes an hour to make the soup.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Green Chile, Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Recipe: Adapted significantly from an online recipe
Servings: 8

1 tablespoon EVOO
1 large yellow onion — diced
1/2 cup celery — diced
2 whole poblano peppers — seeded, diced
2 garlic cloves — minced
1 tablespoon chili powder — or more if you like more heat
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
29 ounces low-sodium chicken broth
30 ounces green enchilada sauce
8 ounces diced green chiles — canned
2/3 cup frozen corn — or fresh if you have it
1 large sweet potato — peeled, diced
1 cup butternut squash — diced (or more if desired)
8 ounces cream cheese — cubed
4 cups cooked chicken — shredded or cubed
salt and pepper
Monterey jack cheese and freshly chopped cilantro

1. In a large pot heat EVOO, then add onion, celery and poblano peppers. Saute on low for about 10 minutes, then add fresh garlic, chili powder and ground cumin. Continue to cook over low for about 1-2 minutes.
2. Add chicken broth, canned green enchilada sauce, canned chopped green chiles, corn, sweet potato, and squash. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until veggies are just about tender.
3. Add cubed cream cheese and cooked chicken. Stir and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until cream cheese is well incorporated and smooth in the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Serve in bowls and top with Monterey jack cheese and chopped cilantro.
Per Serving: 428 Calories; 18g Fat (38.0% calories from fat); 44g Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 129mg Cholesterol; 839mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 100mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 956mg Potassium; 401mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, Soups, on October 20th, 2023.

We used to think that coconut milk was bad for us – because of the saturated fat it contained. But now the experts think that type of saturated fat isn’t the same as from animal fat. Good thing, since this soup is so delicious and contains not one, but two cans of coconut milk.

So, first, just to catch you up. I’ve been on jury duty for about 3 weeks (as I write this). And the trial isn’t over yet. Maybe I’ll talk about it eventually. It’s absolutely gruesome. It’s not a murder trial but about child abuse. Erroneously, I thought that once you got to be my age, you didn’t have to serve on jury duty anymore. Not so in my county. There were 60 of us assigned to a courtroom and over the course of 1 1/2 days they finally got a jury selected, me included as Alternate #3. Lots of potential jurors didn’t want to be a juror for this trial. The judge warned us it was going to assault our senses when we’d see photos. Some people likely lied about their inability to view child abuse. Some jurors were released; others weren’t. When I was called to the jury box (I was potential juror #55) and questioned, I knew all the arguments the judge had heard. I’d resigned myself that this must be what God had in mind, that I needed to serve. So when the judge asked me if I could be fair and impartial, I said yes. Did I want to be there? Absolutely not. But I wouldn’t lie. That’s not in my nature anyway.

Consequently, my life has kind of been on hold. And let me tell you, coming home in the evenings I was just a “basket case” of sadness (for the children involved), anger (at the defendant and that the abuse had gone on for so long, undetected). I have cried in the courtroom several times; so did some of the other jurors. The judge had forewarned us that he expected some of us to shed tears. At home, I found myself unable to concentrate. Unable to do normal tasks. Most evenings I watch mindless TV just to reset my brain. Each weekend I went through the motions of doing tasks I knew I needed to do (grocery shopping and errands), but my heart wasn’t in it. By Sundays I’ve been mostly back to normal. And then it starts all over on Monday mornings.

Cooking has not played center stage for me in these past weeks, except for making a couple of soups that I could take to court (and reheat in the microwave in the large jury pool room on the lunch hour). One was fabulous (this one) the other one not so much (won’t be posting it).

The Soup: the original recipe came from the internet, but I altered it some, making it my own. It had rice; I eliminated the rice – but you can add it if you’d like to. Surely you know me by now, I like to eliminate carbs when possible. This has sweet potato in it, but that veg is a resistant starch that gets mostly eliminated through your gut and intestines and not absorbed as a carbohydrate. I added zucchini (just because I love zucchini) and I added bok choy too. It called for spinach, but I added a lot more.

The meatballs were very easy to make – with ground chicken, shallots, fresh ginger, a bit of soy sauce. They were lightly browned on a couple of sides in EVOO, then removed. Then you begin assembling the soup part – more shallot, some onion, garlic, curry paste, curry powder, chicken broth, bok choy, zucchini and the sweet potatoes. Once the veggies are tender add in the coconut milk and spinach. The meatballs are added back in and simmered for a few minutes. Done.

What’s GOOD: loved the umami flavors in this – probably the coconut milk, the ginger, garlic, even the sweet potato! SO flavorful. I’m so glad I have many more portions of this soup to enjoy in the next week or so. Whether it’s taking it to the jury room, or having here at home once this trial is over. Altogether wonderful soup. If you’re pressed for time, don’t make the meatballs, just add all the flavors into the soup and you’ll be happy with the results.

What’s NOT: maybe the sticky meatball-making, but that’s about it. It’s a very simple soup to make.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chicken Meatball Soup with Coconut Milk, Bok Choy and Zucchini

Recipe: based on an internet recipe, but altered a bit
Servings: 6

1 pound ground chicken
1 small shallot — chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger — minced
2 teaspoons soy sauce — reduced sodium
black pepper + kosher salt, to taste
1 teaspoon EVOO — for your hands, to make the meatballs easier to roll
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 shallot — minced
4 cloves garlic — chopped
1 whole yellow onion — chopped
2 cups bok choy — chopped, or use half the amount of celery, finely diced
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 tablespoon curry powder
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup sweet potato — peeled, cubed
28 ounces coconut milk — use full fat
4 cups zucchini — chopped
5 cups baby spinach — chopped
1/3 cup cilantro — chopped
toasted chili sesame oil and/or chopped cilantro garnish

1. In a bowl, combine the chicken, one of the shallots, the ginger, soy sauce, a pinch of pepper, Coat your hands with a bit of oil, and roll the meat into small balls, to make about 20-24. .2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pan. Add the meatballs and sear until crisp, about 4-5 minutes, turning them 2-3 times. Transfer to a bowl or plate.
3. To the same pot, add the curry paste, shallot, ginger, onion and the garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, bok choy, zucchini and sweet potatoes. Cover and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
4. Add the coconut milk and spinach. Simmer, uncovered another 5-10 minutes, until thickened slightly. Slide the meatballs back into the soup. Stir in the cilantro. Season with salt.
5. Divide the soup into bowls, with 3-4 meatballs per serving. If desired, drizzle with chili oil and sprinkle with additional cilantro on top. Serve with Naan on the side.
Per Serving: 592 Calories; 44g Fat (64.1% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 11g Dietary Fiber; 65mg Cholesterol; 391mg Sodium; 11g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 288mg Calcium; 11mg Iron; 1465mg Potassium; 400mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, on September 8th, 2023.

OMGoodness. Was this ever beyond delicious.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote up a post about Vivian Howard’s book, This Will Make It Taste Good. And about my friend Cherrie and I getting together to cook for a day and making three of the flavor enhancers Vivian shares in the book. This post is about the one called Red Weapons.

To make this chicken and grits, you need to make the Red Weapons. They’re not hard – not in the least. But it is a separate process, and they need to be made a day ahead, at least. The red weapons mixture Vivian says will keep in the frig for 3 months. It’s a pickled kind of mixture but also contains EVOO.

What’s in it? First you cut up 2 pounds of tomatoes, put them in a bowl. Glass one if you have it. Then in a big saucepan you combine green onions, jalapenos, fresh ginger, garlic, cumin, mustard seeds, cayenne, turmeric, brown sugar, EVOO, salt, unseasoned rice wine vinegar and white wine vinegar. The mixture is heated to a boil then it’s poured over the bowl of tomatoes. It’s set aside to sit, for many hours, or even overnight. This allows all those flavors to mingle – once you refrigerate this it will stop the flavor-mingling. Because of all the vinegar it contains, it IS a pickling liquid, but tempered by the EVOO. While you heat it up and then pour all that hot liquid over the tomatoes, it semi-cooks the mixture. The tomatoes stay relatively intact.

The recipe below makes twice this amount, pictured. At right is a quart of it (half). The EVOO is sitting there on top and the red weapons and the pickling liquid below that (called for separately in most of the recipes that accompanied the red weapons recipe in the cookbook). If you make this, store it in a wide mouthed glass container (do NOT use plastic). Or you can divide the mixture into several smaller containers – just use wide mouthed ones as the congealed EVOO on top makes it hard to get to the goodies underneath.

WARNING: turmeric stains everything it touches. There’s only 1 1/2 teaspoons in the entire batch, but it gets on everything –  your counter, your clean-up sponge, and if you mop any of it up with a paper towel, you’ll sure know there’s turmeric in it. But you can’t taste the turmeric at all. Funny how that is. The tomatoes and jalapenos are the primary flavors here. Ideally the mixture is left out at room temp overnight, then it’s refrigerated.

In the cookbook, Vivian suggests you can use the red weapons for these things: on any kind of cooked egg, added to braising liquid (stews, soups), mixed into cooked rice or beans, as a sauce or marinade for grains, legumes or pasta salads, added to reheated chicken or pork, a marinade for ceviche or a dressing for crudos, chopped up with fresh herbs as a salsa, blended with mayo for a dipping sauce and stirred into potato, chicken, shrimp or tuna salad. Recipes in the cookbook include: pickled shrimp, a breakfast casserole with sausage, bread and cheese, in deviled eggs, as a condiment for fish, beef or lamb tartare, added to fried chicken, Vivian’s sausage sauce (Sunday sauce) served over broccoli, not pasta, with greens on mozzarella toast, plus several vinaigrettes.

Now, we can get on to the Chicken and Grits recipe. First, I made a huge mess trying to extract the cup of red weapons (the stuff underneath).  I removed about half of the EVOO covering it, then dug deep into the glass container to get to the goodies. You need a cup of red weapons and 1/2 cup of the pickling liquid.

I didn’t have skin-on chicken thighs, so I used boneless, skinless ones. They were lightly browned in a skillet – the big, huge 12-inch Lodge cast iron one. They were removed, then you add a chopped up leek to the fat in the pan. As it began to soften I mushed them a bit so they’d separate into rings. Then garlic is added, then the grits, the red weapons, the red weapons liquid, milk and water. The recipe suggested adding more salt, but I didn’t think it was needed. The picture here at right is of the thighs nestled into the grits (which is very liquid at this point).

If you’re using skin-on thighs, they’re nestled into the mixture and the pan goes into a 375°F oven. With skinless thighs, I baked the grits for 20 minutes, then nestled the thighs into the grits mixture to finish cooking them. The total bake time is 40 minutes and you let the pan cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Vivian suggested serving the grits with another one of her flavor bombs, a mixture called herbdacious. I haven’t posted that recipe yet. I had guests the night I made this chicken, and we did use some of the herbdacious on the top and I agree, it made it even better.

What’s GOOD: I’ll say it again – OMGoodness. So good. There is very little fat in this (except for the chicken skin if you use it plus a tablespoon of EVOO used to brown the chicken). There’s no butter, no cream. The red weapons provide a wonderful flavor to everything – chicken and the grits. I will be making this again and again – providing I have some red weapons in my refrigerator.

What’s NOT: well, only that you need to plan ahead at least a day to make the Red Weapons first, then the chicken and grits later.

RED WEAPONS: printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook file (click link to open)

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chicken and Grits with Red Weapons

Recipe By: Vivian Howard, This Will Make It Taste Good
Servings: 4

4 chicken thighs — bone in, if possible
2 teaspoons kosher salt — divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 whole leek — white and light green parts, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
3 garlic cloves — thinly sliced
1 cup grits — stone ground (Albers brand, if possible)
1 cup Red Weapons — roughly chopped
1/2 cup Red Weapon pickling liquid — here)
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups water

NOTE: if you make this with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, go ahead and bake the grits for about 20 minutes (half the time), then add the boneless, skinless thighs to the mixture, nestling them down into the grits. It will still take 40 minutes altogether, but the chicken won’t overcook.
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Season chicken thighs with 2 tsp of salt.
3. In a 12-inch ovenproof skillet or braising pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Brown chicken skin side down, until nicely caramelized. Take the chicken out of the pan and set aside.
4. Lower the heat slightly and add the leeks, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pan. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until the leeks have softened (and break them apart as they soften) and picked up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and stir for about a minute, then stir in the grits, the chopped Red Weapons, the Red Weapons liquid, milk, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt (taste to see if it’s needed), and 1 1/2 cups water. Make sure everything is mixed together in a homogeneous way and that nothing is stuck on the bottom of the pan.
5. Nestle the thighs on top of the grits mixture. They will sink a bit because the grits are watery at this point, but as long as the browned chicken skin peeks out, all is good. Slide the skillet onto the center rack of the oven and bake for 40 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer in the chicken reaches 165°F.
6. Remove skillet and allow it to cool for about 5 minutes before serving. If desired, this would be great dotted with a little Herbdacious.
Per Serving: 721 Calories; 43g Fat (54.7% calories from fat); 40g Protein; 41g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 201mg Cholesterol; 1375mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 173mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 657mg Potassium; 445mg Phosphorus.

– – – – – – –

* Exported from MasterCook *

Red Weapons – Tomatoes

Recipe By: Vivian Howard, This Will Make It taste Good
Servings: 16

2 pounds plum tomatoes — cut into quarters lengthwise
1 bunch scallions — sliced thin
5 jalapeños — sliced into thin rings
3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard seeds — yellow or brown
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt — plus 1 teaspoon
1/2 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar
3/4 cup white wine vinegar

NOTES: Store this mixture in glass containers as the turmeric will stain plastic. Wear an apron. Use a wide mouth glass jar, or several, to store this. You can use all of the ingredients – the oil by itself for flavoring/frying, the juice to add a piquancy to dishes, and the tomato mixture to flavor a bigger dish of something.
1. Put the tomatoes in a large, wide, heatproof bowl that is plenty large enough to hold all the ingredients. Assemble and start to “pickle” my weapons on the counter, which lets the flavors marry as they cool down. Then, once they’re mixed together and have reached room temperature, transfer to smaller containers suitable for the fridge getting an equal amount of oil, tomatoes and liquid in each one. (This recipe is sized to just barely fit into two quart-size mason jars, but you may have a little extra. While you can try to pull it all together directly in the jars, that might just be a big mess waiting to happen.)
2. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, bring all the ingredients except for the tomatoes and the olive oil to a boil over medium heat. Let it boil for 1 minute. Then add the olive oil and bring back to a boil. Immediately pour over the tomatoes in the big bowl, pressing them down to make sure they are submerged.
3. Let the tomatoes and the liquid cool to room temperature without the aid of an ice bath or anything to speed the process along. If you’ve got room in your fridge, the big bowl can go in there. But if the weapons sit out at room temperature overnight, that’s totally fine. The more slowly they cool down, the more quickly they will pickle. Once they’ve cooled, transfer the pickled tomatoes to jars and refrigerate for a minimum of 3 days or up to 3 months. Do not freeze.
Per Serving: 243 Calories; 21g Fat (75.5% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 443mg Sodium; 12g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 28mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 201mg Potassium; 28mg Phosphorus.
MORE NOTES: Once they’ve spent a few days in the frig, you’ll notice Twin B, the olive oil component, rises to the top and creates a lid over Twin A, the pickling liquid and the tomatoes and other solid stuff. This act of science makes the weapons and their offspring easy to separate from one another, but it’s not a pretty process. You’ll likely find yourself with your hand in the jar and a puddle on the counter. It’s easier to do if the mixture is cold. These are good on eggs, in braising liquids or soups, mashed with guacamole,, on cream cheese, mixed into cooked rice or beans, a sauce or marinade for grain, legume or pasta salads, with leftover chicken or pork, chopped with fresh herbs for salsa, blended with mayo as a dip, or stirred into potato, chicken, shrimp or tuna salad.

Posted in Chicken, Grilling, on June 23rd, 2023.

Ah, the best laid plans – of taking a picture of the finished kabobs. I guess you just need to trust me that they looked delicious after grilling and with the herby crema drizzled all over the top! And tasted wonderful.

My cousin Gary has a girlfriend. It’s been nine months now, and they finally came south to visit. It happened to be Gary’s birthday too, so I invited members of the family and some friends who’ve known Gary for a long time, to come for an outdoor dinner. It was delightful meeting Susan, and the family was happy to come to celebrate the birthday and to meet this new person in Gary’s life. In addition to the kabobs (which actually had 3 of the food groups – protein, veggies and carbs in them) I made one of my favorite salads. It’s been posted here before – many, many years ago (you realize I’ve been writing this blog for 16 years now). A rice and vegetable salad from the Silver Palate cookbook.It went well with the kabobs. Gary can’t eat wheat, so I catered the menu to meet his GF needs. I had ample salad leftover – some I gave away and I ate some in the ensuing days and enjoyed every single bite. Actually, Gary had told me ahead of time about all the things Susan doesn’t eat. We had a big laugh about it because Susan does eat all of the things Gary thought she didn’t. Like raisins. I asked her, as I was making the salad, if it was okay to put the raisins in the salad and could she move them out or would it ruin the salad for her if I put them in. She looked at me quizzically — I said, “Gary told me you don’t like raisins.” She looked at him, frowning, I believe, and asked why he thought so. Anyway, that was one of several things we laughed over as she has very few things on her no-no list, if any. The salad has raisins – or currants – or golden raisins in it. I prefer currants because they add a speck of dark color to the salad, but I didn’t have any, so used golden raisins instead.

Incidentally, Susan and I had been briefly acquainted some years ago – she wrote a blog called Wild Yeast. She wrote about sourdough and I happened to write a comment – I had no recollection of it – but when she heard that I write a food blog, she remembered it. Her blog is still up and available (though she doesn’t post to it anymore), if you’re at all interested in bread baking in all forms. Susan is retired now, and is quite the birder, which is kind of funny, because Gary’s mom was a birder too. Small world!!

Anyway, back to this recipe. The chicken is marinated in taco seasoning and oil for awhile. You can use breasts in this, but I prefer thighs, especially for grilling. Then you thread the chicken onto skewers with peppers, corn coins and red onions. The skewers are grilled briefly – my son in law John did the grilling  – and did it perfectly. The chicken was nicely cooked through and not at all dry. The kabobs are then drizzled with a simple sour cream “crema” that has Tajin seasoning, some cumin, Cotija cheese, cilantro and lime. Brilliant! Originally I found the recipe on the web, but I changed it some to suit my tastes.

Once the kabobs are cooked, have everything ready to serve since the meat and veggies will cool off quickly. Sara had brought home made angel food cake for the birthday dessert. Altogether lovely meal.

What’s GOOD: the kabobs are delicious – the marinade makes it, along with the crema drizzle. It makes a very appealing presentation and altogether succulent combination of flavors in your mouth.

What’s NOT: only that you need to prep all the kabob ingredients ahead of time. Not hard, just takes a bit of planning. You could prep the kabobs altogether several hours ahead – and the sauce too. Loved the flavor of the chicken and the drizzle “makes” it.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Tex-Mex Chicken Kabobs with Vegetables

Recipe By: Adapted from Lena’s Kitchen blog
Servings: 8

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs — cut into 1 1/2″ cubes (see NOTE below)
2 whole corn on the cob — husked, and cut into 1″ coins
2 whole poblano peppers — trimmed, cut into 1-1/2″ pieces
1/2 small red onion — cut into 2-inch pieces
5 tablespoons safflower oil
1 1/2 tablespoons taco seasoning
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons cilantro — finely chopped, then remove about 2 tbsp for garnish
1 small lime — zested and juiced
1 tbsp Tajin seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup Coija cheese — grated
more Tajin seasoning, cilantro and Cotija cheese

NOTE: If you’d prefer to use chicken breasts, cut them into similar-sized pieces as the chicken thighs and grill the kabobs for a shorter period of time – 1-2 minutes less, but still cooked to 165°F internal temperature.
1. Preheat the grill to medium high – about 400ºF.
2. Combine 4 tablespoons of safflower oil and taco seasoning in a bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat. Refrigerate chicken for an hour or two, covered.
3. Using skewers, thread the chicken, corn pieces, red onions, and poblano chiles, alternating until filled. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in the same bowl the chicken was in and lightly brush the corn, onions, and jalapeno pieces. Sprinkle all skewers with salt on both sides.
4. Grill over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway. Use an instant read thermometer to check the chicken – remove when the center has reached 165ºF.
5. SAUCE: Combine sour cream, 1 tablespoon of Tajin seasoning, cumin, lime zest, juice, and cilantro in a small bowl. Mix well. Mixture may be too thick to drizzle, so add water to thin it to a sauce consistency, about a tablespoon or less.
6. SERVING: Place the skewers on a serving plate. Drizzle the sauce on top, and sprinkle with Tajin seasoning, cilantro, and cotija cheese. The kabobs will cool quickly, so serve immediately.
Per Serving: 297 Calories; 19g Fat (56.0% calories from fat); 23g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 115mg Cholesterol; 732mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 56mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 224mg Potassium; 70mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, Veggies/sides, on June 16th, 2023.


Talk about flavorful? You need to make this – these two recipes.

It’s been a couple of months since I made this – I’ve had lots of recipes to write up for the blog – I think this was over Easter weekend. My friend Linda and I shared cooking responsibilities. I made this one of the evenings. Two fabulous recipes (below). You definitely need to make them both – not necessarily together, but the chicken was great with the cheesy cauliflower, and the zinfandel gravy was tasty to have with the cauliflower.

The chicken recipe was in Bon Appetit in November of 2001. A long time ago, and I just got around to making it. Nothing about it is difficult. You do need bacon (adds so much wonderful flavor), shallots and good mushrooms. The recipe called for boiling onions – I tried to find them (frozen) at Trader Joe’s, but they told me they only carry them around the holidays. So I used regular yellow onions instead, cut into some wedges and some chopped. I took along a good bottle of Zinfandel, and Linda and I enjoyed drinking it – the part I didn’t use in the chicken. The recipe was developed by Chef Jeff Mall, from a restaurant in Healdsburg, CA, called Zin. No longer in business, so the internet says. I’m glad I have this recipe – it’s a good one to serve to guests, and you could make a large or small quantity. I prefer cooking chicken thighs over breasts (too easy to overcook breasts) and I think thighs have more flavor.

The thighs are dunked in flour, salted and peppered, then browned in the bacon grease. Don’t over-brown them as you’ll cook them through right there in the pan. Since I always use thick cut, meaty bacon,  there wasn’t a lot of grease anyway. The recipe suggests adding a dash of olive oil to the pan also, which I did. Once browned, the thighs are removed while you make the sauce (shallots, garlic, onions, mushrooms and Herbes de Provence, if you have it –  if not, use thyme). The original recipe called for marjoram –  I didn’t have it but did have the Provence herb mixture on hand. Chicken stock is added plus the Zinfandel, and you scrape up all that browned goodness from the bottom of the pan. The original dish was baked, but I cooked it on the stovetop. Boneless, skinless thighs don’t take that long to cook! The chicken and veggies are removed, then you make a butter roux and thicken the sauce. Add the chicken and veggies back in to re-warm. Just warm everything through.

Meanwhile, you will have made the cauliflower. I started with a recipe from Kalyn’s Kitchen – she calls it “the best pureed cauliflower.” I agree! Once the cauliflower has steam-cooked for about 20 minutes, you drain it well. In fact, you drain it for about 5 minutes so you know there isn’t much water left (this way the mashed version won’t be too thin/watery). The cauliflower goes into the food processor along with some grated Parmesan (the good stuff, not the canned variety), salt, pepper, a little bit of cream, and Kalyn used 1 1/2 T of soft goat cheese. What I had on hand was Boursin garlic herb cheese – that’s what I used – about 1/4 cup (more than in the original recipe). Taste it for seasonings. You might need to reheat the mashed cauliflower just before serving – over low heat as it could burn easily. My friend Linda was quite enamored with the cauliflower – she’d never had any that was so flavorful. Yup! Really good. When you serve it, lap some of the sauce on the cauliflower – not a lot.

What’s GOOD: both of these recipes are delicious. Worthy of a company meal. It does require several steps to making it, but neither is overwhelming. Count on about 1 1/2 hours total including baking time for the chicken. The chicken is extra-tasty. Also a bit rich from the bacon and the buttery sauce. Love-loved the sauce! If you have leftover sauce be sure to use it in soup (I made a chicken and vegetable soup the following week). The cauliflower recipe is a real keeper. Well, both of these are. Loved the cauliflower with the cheesy components in it. Not overwhelmingly cheesy – just GOOD cheesy. Altogether fabulous two recipes.

What’s NOT: only that the chicken does take some time, start to finish. Cauliflower is easy, though.

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

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Coq au Zin

Recipe By: Adapted from Bon Appetit, Nov 2001 (from Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar, Healdsburg), Chef Jeff Mall
Servings: 8

2/3 cup all purpose flour — for coating the chicken
Salt and pepper, sprinkled on the chicken thighs
6 slices thick-sliced bacon — chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 boneless skinless chicken thighs — excess fat trimmed
1 cup chopped shallots
3 garlic cloves — minced
1 pound onions — (boiling onions are called for, but you may use yellow onions, some in wedges and some coarsely chopped)
12 ounces crimini mushrooms — quartered, or white mushrooms, halved or quartered
2 tablespoons herbes de provence — dried
1 bottle Zinfandel — (750 ml)
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons all purpose flour — at room temperature
2 tablespoons butter — (1/4 stick) room temperature
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

1. Place flour in shallow dish.
2. Cook chopped bacon in heavy large pot over medium-high heat until crisp, about 4 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Add olive oil to bacon drippings in pot. Sprinkle chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Working in batches, coat chicken thighs with flour and add to pot; sear until light, golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Boneless, skinless thighs will not brown as much – and if you did, it might dry out the chicken too much. Remove chicken and set aside.
3. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons fat from pot. Add shallots and garlic to pot and sauté 1 minute only. Add onions, crimini mushrooms, and herbes and sauté until onions begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Add red Zinfandel and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Add chicken stock and bacon; simmer for 5 minutes. Add chicken back in and bring liquid to a simmer. Cover and reduce heat so the juices just barely simmer and cook slowly for about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and vegetables and set aside.
4. Mix flour and butter with a fork in small bowl to blend. Bring wine mixture to boil. Whisk in flour mixture and boil until sauce thickens and is reduced to 2 3/4 cups, about 8 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper (it may not be needed since you reduced the sauce). Add chicken and vegetables back into the pot and heat through. Serve immediately over a bed of mashed potatoes or cheesy mashed cauliflower.
Per Serving: 518 Calories; 26g Fat (45.8% calories from fat); 48g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 227mg Cholesterol; 503mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 32mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 402mg Potassium; 135mg Phosphorus.


* Exported from MasterCook *

Cheesy Mashed Cauliflower with Boursin Cheese

Recipe By: Adapted from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Servings: 6

1 large head cauliflower — cut into small same-size florts
1 clove garlic — minced
1 tablespoon half and half — or more if needed
4 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
4 tablespoons Boursin Gourmet Spreadable Cheese, Garlic & Herb — crumbled
salt/pepper to taste

1. Place cauliflower florets in a pan with enough water to cover, and add garlic and a small amount of salt.
2. Let cauliflower come to a boil, then lower heat and cook 15-20 minutes, or until cauliflower is very soft.
3. Remove from heat and pour into a colander. Allow to drain for at least 10 minutes. Do not skip this step or the finished dish will be watery.
4. When cauliflower is well drained, pour into food processor and puree, adding the half and half if needed. You could also use a potato masher or a small hand beater to “whip” the cauliflower as you would potatoes, although the texture will not be as smooth.
5. Put cauliflower back into the pan you cooked it in and heat on very low. Add Parmesan, Boursin goat cheese and stir until both are incorporated and melted. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Heat 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly so it does not stick to the bottom. Serve hot, with a little freshly grated Parmesan on top if desired.
Per Serving: 81 Calories; 6g Fat (67.5% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 18mg Cholesterol; 170mg Sodium; trace Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 133mg Calcium; trace Iron; 68mg Potassium; 79mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, on April 28th, 2023.

So good! There’s spicy sauced chicken underneath, then a thin layer of slowly browned onions, some mint and cilantro, then a layer of saffron rice on top with more onions and herbs.

A post from Carolyn. Ever had biryani? That’s beer-ee-yahn-ee for the uninitiated! If you want to know more, click on that link to wikipedia and you’ll learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about biryani with its different spellings, variations and origins. My relative Janice (my daughter-in-law Karen’s sister) sent the recipe to me and I decided to augment it and to prepare it differently because I had about a half a chicken from a whole roasted one I’d done a few days before. Janice had made a couple of alterations when she made it, and I made even more, but the flavor basis of this dish is the same.

I love Indian food, and have learned over the years that the dishes from Hyperabad are considered the best of the best (it’s the region of India known for its haute cuisine). This is one. Anything that resembles butter chicken or chicken khorma is at the top of the list for me. This one is different in several ways: (1) it uses saffron rice; (2) it layers the chicken on the bottom, rice on the top (not served side by side on the plate); (3) those browned onions are just the bomb; and (4) the layer of herbs in the middle just add to the flavor profiles.

The original recipe has you cook the well-marinated chicken thighs in a heavy-duty pan (like a Le Creuset) with the hot rice on it – the rice that’s just partially cooked and spooned all over the top of the chicken. It’s a very different way to make this – only partially cooking the rice so it finishes cooking once it’s put into the heavy pan with the chicken. Obviously I couldn’t do that with mine since I had already cooked chicken and didn’t want to cook the daylights out of it even more. So I needed to improvise a lot.

There below is the chicken in the sauce. Uncooked. Ready to be adorned with the rice component. Although the chicken in it is cooked, it’s just that the sauce wasn’t cooked. The only cooking it underwent (is that a word?) was in the oven or microwave.

I still marinated the cooked chicken in the “marinade” and let it sit in the refrigerator for 2 days. That gave it ample time to let all that flavorful yogurt spicy sauce with kashmiri chili powder in it to seep into the meat. Then I prepared the rice, using the directions provided, but I cooked it almost to done with just a tiny bit of bite to the rice. I also cooked up those super-browned onions (easy, just cook them long and slow in olive oil).

Once I was ready to put together my casserole I spooned it into the baking dish (above), and spread it out. Then I added some of the browned onions and fresh herbs (cilantro & mint), then I put a rice layer on top. It had a lovely yellow color from the turmeric in it, and also from the saffron. The remaining onions were added on top. At this point I could have baked the casserole in the oven for about 30-35 minutes, but I decided to take a shortcut and microwave it. Actually what I did was heat up the chicken layer first, then added the hot rice on top and returned it to the microwave for about a minute. The garnishing herbs went on top and I chowed down. Oh so delicious.

What’s GOOD: the flavors in this dish are just over the top. Creamy, flavorful, just a bit of heat from the kashmiri chili, the texture of the rice, the lovely hint of mint and cilantro. Divine. This recipe is a keeper.

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever. I’ll be making this again soon.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chicken Biryani Cassserole

Recipe By: Adapted from My Food Story blog and by my relative, Janice. And then adapted further by me.
Servings: 4

2 whole yellow onions — halved, sliced
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 cups cooked chicken — chopped in cubes or shredded
3/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup tomato puree — or tomato paste (use a bit less)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic — finely minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger — grated
1 tablespoon kashmiri chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala — ground to a powder
2 tablespoons onions — well browned
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup milk — or heavy cream
2 tablespoons hot milk
10 saffron strands — (10 to 15)
2 cups basmati rice
6 cups water
2 tablespoons salt
1 whole bay leaf
6 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2-3 cardamom pods
1 cup mint
1 cup cilantro — chopped
crispy brown onions from above
Add a little chicken broth if needed to the casserole.
Serving: black sesame seeds (optional), onion raita or plain raita (optional) or plain yogurt

1. ONIONS: pat the onions dry and if time permits, leave them out on a kitchen towel for 15-20 minutes to dry them out slightly. Heat oil in a pan and add the onions. Over a medium flame, shallow fry the onions for 15 minutes until they are a deep golden brown, without burning them. Drain them on a paper towel, and set aside. These can be made ahead and stored in an air tight container overnight. Burned onions will add a bitter flavor to the biryani. You can also use store bought fried onions/ shallots which are easily available in some supermarkets, Indian and Asian stores.
2. CHICKEN: Mix together all the ingredients under chicken and marinate for at least two hours or up to 2 days.
3. SAFFRON: When you are ready to make the biryani, soak saffron strands in hot milk and rub them slightly with the back of a spoon. Set this aside.
4. RICE: Bring water to a roaring boil and add salt, whole spices and basmati rice. Cook for about 15 minutes (until barely tender) and drain completely. Remove the whole spices in the rice.
5. CASSEROLE: If the chicken mixture is very thick, add a bit of milk or cream to thin it enough to loosen it. In a large casserole dish, pour the chicken and spread out evenly. Scatter half the onions all over the chicken, and then sprinkle half the cilantro and mint leaves. Next layer the rice all over the top, and in the end drizzle saffron milk over the rice. Then scatter the remaining onions over the top. You may heat this in the microwave (covered) for 5-8 minutes or bake in a 325°F for about 35 minutes until the chicken mixture on the bottom is fully heated through. Do not let the rice dry out – so you may need to cover the casserole with foil. If you’re in a mighty hurry, heat just the chicken in the casserole in the microwave, then add onions and herbs, then add the hot rice to the top, and finish with the garnishes. Heat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes maximum and serve.
6. Scatter the remaining mint and cilantro. Serve hot, digging the spoon deep to get all the layers. Serve with raita or additional yogurt.
Per Serving: 744 Calories; 40g Fat (48.0% calories from fat); 60g Protein; 36g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 153mg Cholesterol; 4378mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 164mg Calcium; 6mg Iron; 853mg Potassium; 497mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, on April 14th, 2023.

If you’ve stopped trying to make turkey meatloaf because it just didn’t hit a flavorful high note, you might want to try this one from Ina Garten.

A post from Carolyn. A few weeks ago my good friend Linda T came to visit me out in Palm Desert. We had a lovely, quiet weekend together, and she made dinner one of the nights. She made this, Ina’s turkey meatloaf. What’s interesting about this is that it doesn’t have lots of herbs (it uses only thyme) or other things (flavor tricks) to make it tasty. It just IS flavorful. I was surprised how good it was. Linda’s been making this for a long time and has changed just a few things about Ina’s recipe.

Now, Ina’s recipe calls for making enough to feed a small army (5 pounds of ground turkey breast). Half that recipe (the picture above) is enough to feed at least 6 people. Halving recipes is sometimes problematical, so Linda has adapted the recipe just slightly – she adds a little more bread crumbs (sometimes she uses fresh bread crumbs, not dried), more tomato paste, and she uses a bit more egg. And, we decided that using a bit more ketchup on the top was in order. In my opinion, the ketchup on the top of the meatloaf is essential – it adds a little sweetness and tang.

There are lots of onions in this (you can see the onions in the raw meatloaf picture above) – two large onions are sauteed in olive oil for awhile until they’re very limp and translucent, along with the herbs, salt and pepper. That mixture needs to be cooled to room temp before mixing in with the ground turkey, Worcestershire, bread crumbs, some chicken broth (which likely helps keep it moist) and eggs. The meatloaf is shaped into a long, not very tall loaf, baked on a rimmed sheetpan in a 325°F oven. Ina’s recipe (with that 5 pounds of meat) suggests 1 1/2 hours baking time. A big casserole dish of hot water was placed underneath the meatloaf – Ina says that helps the meatloaf to not develop a crack in it. I think Linda started taking the temperature after about an hour – cook until it reaches 160°F inside the meatloaf. Then the meatloaf rests a few minutes before you slice it into thick pieces to serve. You could serve extra ketchup at the table if desired. Thanks, Linda, for a great new recipe.

What’s Good: everything about this was wonderful. We froze the leftovers so I haven’t enjoyed any of them yet. Ina suggests slices make great meatloaf sandwiches. That reminds me of my childhood: my dad used to love meatloaf sandwiches. This recipe is a winner.

What’s NOT: nothing really. You can’t expect a turkey meatloaf (albeit a really tasty one) to have the same flavor as a beef meatloaf. The texture just will never be similar – turkey meat is very tender while beef is more chewy, and has a lot more fat in it also, which contribute to more/different flavor.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Turkey Meatloaf – Ina Garten

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Ina Garten
Servings: 5 (maybe 6)

1 large yellow onions — chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3/8 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 1/2 pounds ground turkey — breast meat only
1 cup dry bread crumbs — plain, not seasoned
2 large eggs — beaten
1/2 cup ketchup

1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. In a medium saute pan, over medium-low heat, cook the onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme until translucent, but not browned, approximately 15 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste and mix well. Allow to cool to room temperature.
3. Combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, eggs, and onion mixture in a large bowl. Mix well and shape into a rectangular loaf on an ungreased sheet pan. Spread the ketchup evenly on top. Bake for 1 1/4 hours until the internal temperature is 160°F. and the meatloaf is cooked through. (A pan of hot water in the oven under the meatloaf will keep the top from cracking.) Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold in a sandwich.
Per Serving: 526 Calories; 23g Fat (40.0% calories from fat); 51g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 232mg Cholesterol; 1161mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 118mg Calcium; 5mg Iron; 862mg Potassium; 557mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, on February 24th, 2023.

Don’t you just want to sink your fork into these?

Recipe from Karen; write-up by Carolyn. Actually, I remember the first time I had a poblano pepper – stuffed similarly to this. Probably around 1990. At a restaurant in Pasadena, called the Parkway Grill. I believe it was a lunch menu special, and I really thought it was one of the most delicious things I’d ever eaten. Of course, I didn’t have their recipe, and back then poblano peppers weren’t commonly at grocery stores, either. Now they are, certainly here in California, where our grocery stores carry a variety of chiles, small and large. A few weeks ago I spent the day with Karen, and family. For lunch she served leftovers, a big favorite of mine, Pasta Puttanesca. If you click back to that story, you can read about Karen and my son Powell’s early dating, when Powell made that pasta. It’s a cute story.

So back to this story – Karen had four beautiful poblano peppers, and she and I worked on this dish together. Karen started from an internet recipe, but made a few changes to it. The poblanos have to be prepped – the tops cut off, the seeds and membranes removed, then gently sliced to open up the peppers kind of like a cup, so you can spoon in that luscious filling. The filling is a combination of fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt, oregano (or marjoram in this case as Karen didn’t have any Mexican oregano – did you know that marjoram is very similar to Mexican oregano? who knew?) and cumin. And cheese, and Mozzarella. (You could also add just a little bit of corn to this too.) Once the peppers are stuffed with that mixture (see picture just above), gently mounded in the pepper so none of it leaks out, the peppers are baked for about half an hour. Then you add cheese to the top. Karen had a package of Mexican blended cheeses, and that was gently mounded on the top and put back into the oven – on broil – until the cheese melted and was golden brown (see picture at top!).

Let the peppers rest for 4-8 minutes until they’ve cooled down enough so you don’t burn  your mouth! Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve. Thanks, Karen, for this delicious recipe. If you wanted a slightly different taste, add corn (and remove some of the chopped tomatoes).

What’s GOOD: for me, the poblano chile pepper is the star of the dish – it has a unique flavor. But the combination in the filling is also so delicious with this, and oh, the cheese. Everything’s better with cheese!

What’s NOT: nothing other than there is a bit of prep for this – maybe 30 minutes worth, then they baked for 30. Broiled for 2-3, and it was ready.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Chicken

Recipe By: Altered slightly from an online recipe
Servings: 4

Olive oil spray
4 whole poblano peppers — select evenly sized, larger rather than smaller
1 tablespoon EVOO
3/4 cup fresh tomatoes — diced
1/2 yellow onion — diced
1 tablespoon garlic — minced
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano — dried, crushed in your palms, or use marjoram if you don’t have Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups cooked chicken — diced or shredded, rotisserie is fine as long as it doesn’t have different flavors on it
1 cup Mozzarella cheese — grated
1/2 cup fresh cilantro — chopped, including the stems (mince those up very finely)
1 cup Mexican blend cheese — grated
3 tablespoons cilantro — chopped, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 400° F. For easy clean-up, line a large broiler-safe baking sheet or ceramic dish with foil and spray it with EVOO.
2. POBLANOS: cut off stems, remove ribs and seeds (discard), If there is sufficient pepper around the stem, discard the stem itself, then mince the remaining pepper into tiny pieces and add it to the filling mixture below. Cut a slit down the side of each pepper and open it slightly (without breaking the curve of the pepper) and remove any remaining seeds or membrane. Set aside.
3. FILLING: Heat EVOO in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt, Mexican oregano (or marjoram), and cumin. Cook, stirring often, until liquids have evaporated, 5-7 minutes. Off heat, stir in the chicken, mozzarella and the cilantro, mixing well.
4. Divide the filling among the peppers, using a spoon to get the filling in the pepper, filling all the inside curves, pressing down and out to fill the pepper completely. Use your hands as needed to keep the filling from falling out.
5. Place the peppers on the prepared baking sheet or dish, slit side up. Lightly spray them with olive oil. Bake until the poblanos are soft and charred in places, about 30 minutes.
6. Remove peppers from the oven. Change oven from bake to BROIL. Top the peppers with the Mexican cheese blend, molding it carefully over the filling.
7. Return peppers to the oven and broil the peppers 6 inches below the broiler element just until the cheese is melted, 1-2 minutes. WATCH CAREFULLY so it doesn’t burn. Remove from oven and let them rest for 5 minutes before serving. Do wait a few minutes to serve so you don’t burn your mouth!
Per Serving: 576 Calories; 31g Fat (49.0% calories from fat); 59g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 174mg Cholesterol; 2293mg Sodium; 2g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 531mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 939mg Potassium; 658mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, on November 11th, 2022.

Actually that’s the chicken before baking – it just got golden brown.

A post from Carolyn. Do you watch the show, Family Dinner with Andrew Zimmern? It’s so interesting to go along with him – it’s a reality food program – as Zimmern visits a home and the family prepares a big family feast. Zimmern usually makes one thing – something from his own repertoire that he hopes will complement the meal. Lots of the programs are about food from various parts of the world, from families who have been in the U.S. for a long time. Various family members contribute their willing hands and you get to enjoy the repartee of the family.

Recently I watched a program of a family with roots in Canton, China. They have a blog, too, The Woks of Life. Isn’t that the most clever name? And they’ve published a cookbook, that’s just come out (with the same title as their blog).

In the program, this dish intrigued me. When they said this was one of their family favorites, that got me more interested. Chicken thighs first. You generally can’t buy thighs that are boned, but still have skin. I found some with bone and with skin, so needed to remove the bone myself. It’s not hard, just a little bit tedious. Once done, the thighs are marinated for a bit, then stuffed with a rice mixture that included onion, mushrooms, shallots and five spice powder.

Their family recipe calls for Chinese sausage. I didn’t make a special trip to an Asian market to buy that, but the recipe indicated bacon could be substituted.

What’s unique about this is the use of sticky (sweet) rice. Many, many years ago I made a dessert for a Chinese-themed dinner, something like “jeweled” rice, and I had to buy 5 pounds of sweet rice because it was all I could find. After 10 years I finally threw away the rest of it as I didn’t know what to do with it. If you search on amazon you can find a smaller size – I bought a small plastic jar of it that holds about 3 cups.

Sweet rice isn’t sweet. I don’t know why they call it sweet because the only difference is it cooks up sticky. It’s also called glutinous rice, but that has nothing whatsoever to do with gluten, but about the fact that it’s glue-like. VERY sticky. Don’t be turned off by the name – it’s just rice that cooks up differently. I suppose it’s in this recipe because you want the rice combo to stick together in a kind of oval ball and you mold the boneless chicken thigh around it. Most sticky rice comes from Thailand or Japan. If you don’t want to buy sweet rice, use regular, but know it won’t look quite the same but it’ll taste just as fine!

I also didn’t have shiitake mushrooms on hand – but I had regular ones. I’m sure the shiitake would be better. They were finely minced.  The rice is flavored with onion, scallions, soy sauce, dry sherry (if you have Shaoxing wine use it – I didn’t), five spice powder, the mushrooms and a tiny splash of both dark and regular soy sauce. If you don’t have dark soy sauce, just use more of what you have. Years ago I bought a bottle of mushroom soy sauce, and it’s super-dark, so I use that when I need it. I use a low-sodium soy sauce when recipes call for the “regular” type.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was fabulous. I’d definitely make it again. Loved all the flavors that enhanced the rice. The meat was tender and juicy, and the Chinese flavors were quite subtle – nothing was overpowering. I see why it’s a favorite of the family. I think one chicken thigh is sufficient per serving.

What’s NOT: only the mound of dishes I had to clean afterwards. Engage a friend to help in the kitchen when you make this as it’s more labor intensive than a lot of dishes.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chinese Chicken with Sticky Rice

Recipe By: adapted slightly from The Woks of Life blog
Servings: 4

5 shiitake mushrooms — dried
4 chicken thighs — deboned, skin on
1 medium garlic clove — minced
1 medium shallot — finely chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine — or dry sherry
1 teaspoon five spice powder
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2/3 medium onion — finely chopped
1 1/3 cups sweet rice — also called sticky rice, raw
1 1/3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small lean Chinese sausage — (lap cheung) diced, or substitute bacon
1 scallion — finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/6 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 1/3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Salt and white pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon five spice powder — sprinkled on top of chicken

NOTE: the chicken skin is important, so don’t use skinless. Chinese sausages vary in size. I think for this dish, a small one will suffice or 1 thick sliced piece of smoked bacon.
1. MUSHROOMS & CHICKEN: soak mushrooms (if you didn’t soak them overnight already, this can be expedited into a 1-2 hour process if you soak in hot water) and debone the chicken thighs.
2. Chop the onions, garlic, shallot, and scallion. Cut the sausage into small discs and slice the mushrooms (after soaking and draining) lengthwise into thin strips.
3. MARINADE: Combine the shallot, garlic, wine (or sherry), five spice powder, and sesame oil into a stainless steel or glass bowl. Add the chicken to the mixture and coat it in the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to marinate for 1 to 2 hours.
4. RICE: The package said soak rice in cold water for 15 minutes, drain, then each cup of rice is cooked in about 7/8 cup of water in a saucepan, covered, for about 10-15 minutes. Do not overcook and don’t allow rice to stick to bottom (so, stir frequently). Set aside.
5. STUFFING: Heat vegetable oil in a wok using medium heat, and cook the onion until translucent. Add the Chinese sausage and cook for another minute. Then add the mushrooms, scallion, salt and white pepper. Cook another minute and add in the cooked sticky rice, salt to taste, then add the soy sauce, and dark soy sauce. Mix thoroughly (this will take awhile as the rice doesn’t like to come apart and mix very easily) and then allow the rice mixture to cool.
6. BAKE: Preheat oven to 375°F. Divide the rice into equal ovals for each thigh, and wrap meat around each portion, tucking all sides under. Lay them in a baking dish. Add chicken broth (pour it evenly in between the crevices of the chicken) and reserve the rest if needed during baking.
7. Combine salt, white pepper with five spice powder, and sprinkle a dash of the mixture over the skin of each chicken portion. Bake for about 35 minutes, and add additional broth if the bottom of the pan looks dry. Watch it closely, as you don’t want to overcook the chicken. Use an instant read thermometer and move to next step when it reaches 165°F.
8. Once the meat is cooked through, broil it on low for 2-3 minutes until the skin is golden brown. Don’t walk away as it broils! Watch it like a hawk to prevent burning. Serve immediately.
Per Serving (this isn’t quite accurate – it’s low – because not all the ingredients are listed online): 579 Calories; 38g Fat (60.1% calories from fat); 36g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 189mg Cholesterol; 840mg Sodium; 2g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 31mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 622mg Potassium; 389mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, on August 21st, 2022.

This is the best chicken makhani (butter chicken) I have ever eaten. Bar none. Can you tell I love cilantro?

A post from Carolyn. The various types of chicken curry I’ve eaten, that I’ve made myself and/or really enjoyed out, include khorma, butter and makhani, plus an old recipe I used to make from Dinah Shore (it’s here on my blog too), as it was an early iteration of curry that I made in my early cooking years, called Chicken Curry Without Worry. Perhaps they’re one in the same, just by different names; I’m not enough of an expert of Indian cuisine to know. But this recipe, which may become my all-time favorite and will be made in my kitchen with regularity from here on, is just so stunning in flavor.

The original recipe for this came from one online, and my daughter-in-law Karen’s sister Janice sent it to me (thanks again, Janice). She made a few changes to it, and when I made it; I did too. Again, not because I’m an expert at Indian recipes (for surely, I am not). A couple of ingredients I didn’t have in my pantry –  curry leaves and fresh serrano chiles (just didn’t want to make a trip to the store for those).  Janice’s husband is Indian. Actually he’s British, but has Indian heritage, so their family make and eat a lot of Indian food. Janice has become a really good Indian cook (though she’s not Indian at all). She introduced me to methi, which are fenugreek leaves. Not the seeds/pods, but the leaves. Methi chicken will often appear on Indian restaurant menus. And it’s a unique flavor; something I like.

This iteration of chicken curry relies on a huge variety of herbs and spices, used in different ways. First, there’s a yogurt-based marinade that includes ginger and garlic (such huge standards of Indian cooking), garam masala, turmeric, cumin, chile powder (and I used Kashmiri). A side note here, Kashmiri chile powder may not be something you’ll find at the grocery store. I bought mine on amazon (see link). Kashmiri chile is mild – and imparts a really red color, more red than some chile powders. It doesn’t have much heat. But it does have some, so don’t be misled that you can add a lot and not heat up the dish.

Chicken thighs were what I used – though you can use breasts if you’d prefer – just don’t cook it as long. I removed some fat from them, then cut them up into bite-sized pieces. The more surface available for flavor is what I was looking for. Into a ziploc bag went all of the marinade (yogurt, etc.) then I added the chicken. The practical part of using a plastic bag for this is you can smoosh the bag to get all those flavors all over the chicken pieces. Just move, squeeze, smoosh away. Into the frig for several hours (I did about 6 hours – but you can do overnight too) before beginning the cooking of the curry.

The sauce: the chicken pieces are added to a medium hot skillet to brown (with oil and butter first) and turned to get some good dark brown crust. Then onions are added plus more garlic and fresh ginger, then a plethora of additional spices. And some canned crushed tomatoes, more Kashmiri chile powder too and CREAM. Oh yes, the cream. An integral part of chicken curry in my book. The mixture is simmered briefly, then the chicken is added back in and simmered some more. Don’t let it get dry – add water if needed. That simmering time gives those flavors an opportunity to bloom throughout the sauce.

Meanwhile, I made a batch of rice in my Instant Pot (so easy — 2 cups rice, 2 1/2 cups water, 1 tsp salt; pressure for 3 minutes, rest for 10 and it’s done to perfection). That’s the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. Into that bowl it went with a couple of spoonsful of the curry on top and some chopped cilantro. That was dinner. Since my granddaughter Taylor has moved back home, I’ve been making a few things that I knew she didn’t like – specifically curry!

What’s GOOD: everything minute thing about this dish was fantastic. Can’t use enough superlatives here. Full of flavors – you can’t pick them out, just a beautiful homogenous sauce with abundant flavor.

What’s NOT: only if you don’t like curry or spices (several of my friends do not). Oh well, more for me!!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chicken Makhani

Recipe By: Adapted from an online recipe
Servings: 8

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs — or breasts, if preferred
2/3 cup plain yogurt — full or 2%
3 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh ginger — very finely minced
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon Kashmiri chile powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter — or ghee
2 large onions — coarsely chopped
3 whole garlic cloves — minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger — very finely minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon garam masala
2 teaspoons ground coriander
28 ounces crushed tomatoes, canned
1 1/2 teaspoons Kashmiri chile powder
2 teaspoons salt — or more if needed
3 whole curry leaves — optional
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon kasoori methi — (dried fenugreek leaves)
4 tablespoons cilantro — chopped, for garnish

1. In a large plastic Ziploc bag, mix all the ingredients in the marinade – squeeze the mixture in the bag until you cannot see any streaks of spices or yogurt, then add the chicken, cut up into bite-sized pieces. Squish the bag several times to distribute the marinade throughout the chicken; allow chicken to marinate in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours or up to overnight.
2. Heat half of the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When sizzling, add chicken pieces (including the sticky yogurt marinade on the chicken) in several batches, making sure to not crowd the pan. Fry on each side for 2-3 minutes maximum, just until the chicken is browned some. Remove chicken and continue browning remaining chicken. The chicken is not fully cooked here, but will finish cooking in the sauce. Some of the yogurt marinade will stick to the pan, scrape it loose and leave it in the pan.
3. Heat remaining oil and butter in the same pan. Fry the onions until they start to sweat, about 5 minutes, scraping any more browned bits stuck on the bottom of the pan.
4. Add garlic and ginger and sauté for one minute until fragrant, then add ground coriander, cumin and garam masala. Let cook for about 20 seconds until fragrant, stirring constantly.
5. Add crushed tomatoes, Kashmiri chili powder and salt. Let simmer for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens and becomes a deep brown red color.
6. Remove from heat, scoop mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. You may need to do this in two batches, and add about 3 tablespoons of water (or more) to each batch to allow the thickened mixture to puree.
7. Pour sauce back into the pan. Stir in the cream and crushed kasoori methi (fenugreek leaves). Add the chicken with juices back into the pan and cook over low heat (simmer) for an additional 8-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thick and bubbling. Don’t allow the mixture to get dry; if needed add water to keep it more fluid.
8. Instant Pot Rice: 2 cups basmati rice, rinsed, 2 1/2 cups water, 1 tsp salt; pressure for 3 minutes; rest for 10 and it’s done.
8. Serve curry with rice, naan and garnish the curry with chopped cilantro.
Per Serving: 538 Calories; 41g Fat (66.4% calories from fat); 32g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 220mg Cholesterol; 1317mg Sodium; 8g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 124mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 471mg Potassium; 107mg Phosphorus.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...