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):

The Concubine, by Norah Lofts. Over the years I’ve read several books about the wives of Henry VIII. All quite fascinating. This one is all about Anne Boleyn. It’s historical fiction, in that the author gives a voice to all the characters, including Henry himself. Henry waited years upon years to have his way with Anne (she holding him off because he still was very married to Catherine of Spain). There’s one tidbit of insight (true? who knows?) that once Henry finally bedded Anne, he was quite disappointed with the act, and barely bothered to visit her bed except to his need for a son, each time equally disappointed (with the act). Such an interesting sideline to the fated life of Henry (and Anne), wanting nothing more than a son to succeed him. Henry did marry Anne Boleyn, but then beheaded her 2 years later, claiming she’d been an adulterer. Many people of the time called Anne The Concubine, hence the title. No one knows for sure whether she was or she wasn’t an adulterer. Made for a good read.

Fellowship Point by Alice Elliott Dark. Oh my goodness. One of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. I love nothing better than being engrossed in a book, so much that I can’t wait to get back to it. This book takes place in Maine, in some previous decades, and revolves around the friendship between two women and their families. This fictitious area, called Fellowship Point, was purchased by a small group of like-minded couples, as a place to spend the summers raising their children. There was a special land grant for this property, and as these two matriarchs reach old age, their purposes are at odds. The book covers so many subjects (let alone the beauty of the Maine landscape, which plays large) including reflections on aging, writing, land stewardship, family legacies, independence, and responsibility. Secrets are kept and then revealed. I guarantee you’ll be intrigued once you begin the first page.

On Mystic Lake, Kristin Hannah. One of Hannah’s earlier books. Another one I could hardly bear to stop reading. A woman sees her young adult daughter go off to school. In the next breath her husband tells her he’s in love with someone else and leaves. She’s nearly off her hinges. Grief? Yes. Disbelief? Yes. Eventually she retreats to her hometown in Washington State, hoping for some peace and understanding. She meets someone. Well, read the book.

A Wild and Heavenly Place by Robin Oliveira. A very different historical novel about the Pacific Northwest in its very early days. In the fleeting days of youth, in Scotland, a boy and a girl fall in love. The girl, with her family move to America, to some unknown place in Washington Territory. It takes years, but the boy makes his way to America too, to find her. Wishing doesn’t always make the best bedfellows. There is great plenty (coal) and great hardship (from the unforgiving land and equally unforgiving landlords of the coal industry). Very interesting history; liked the book a lot.

The Women, Kristin Hannah. Obviously I’m a fan of Hannah’s writing. She tackles some very difficult subjects, and this one is no different. During the Vietnam War, gullible Americans like me, believed what was delivered via media that there were no women in military service in Vietnam. Not true. Although this book is fiction, it delves deeply into the harsh environment of the nursing corps (and doctors too) who did their best to patch up the thousands of soldiers who could possibly be saved after the ugly battles. Another book I could hardly put down. It also covers PTSD, not only in the badly wounded soldiers, but the doctors and nurses who were bombed and lost lives too. The book is an eye-opener and one every American should read.

The Map Colorist by Rebecca D’Harlingue. Who knew there were such map-coloring artists back in the 1600s. And to find a woman doing it was unheard of. I was very intrigued by the actual art involved, and in this story she had to hide behind her mother’s skill because a young person simply couldn’t do the job, so the publishers thought. Her skill comes to the fore as she begins working with a wealthy man in her Dutch neighborhood. Very intriguing story. D’Harlingue is a very good story teller.

The Paris Novel, Ruth Reichl. Such a cute book – I devoured it. As much for the story as the occasional descriptions of food. Stella receives an unlikely inheritance from her mother – a one way ticket to Paris. The time is right and she goes. Wandering the streets she spots a vintage Dior gown hanging in a consignment store. The store owner insists she try it on, and then insists she buy it and wear it for a night of new adventures. Next stop: oysters at Les Deux Magots. There she meets an octogenarian and her real adventure begins. Hold onto your seat as Stella’s life takes on wings. So cute. A little bit of magical thinking, but plausible and fun from beginning to end. Loved it and could hardly put it down.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle. Amazon tells it best: “Where do you see yourself in five years? Dannie Kohan lives her life by the numbers. She is nothing like her lifelong best friend—the wild, whimsical, believes-in-fate Bella. Her meticulous planning seems to have paid off after she nails the most important job interview of her career and accepts her boyfriend’s marriage proposal in one fell swoop, falling asleep completely content. But when she awakens, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. Dannie spends one hour exactly five years in the future before she wakes again in her own home on the brink of midnight—but it is one hour she cannot shake. In Five Years is an unforgettable love story, but it is not the one you’re expecting.”

The Paris Daughter, Kristen Harmel. Never ceases to amaze me how authors can come up with a different take on a war novel. Riveting. Two young women meet in a park is Paris in 1939. Elise and Juliette and Juliette’s very young daughter. Elise must run as she’s Jewish, but she entrusts her baby to her friend Juliette. At the end of the war Elise returns to Paris to try to find her daughter. Oh, what a wicked web we weave sometimes. You’ll hang onto every new revelation in her journey to find her daughter.

Master Slave Husband Wife by Ilyon Woo. This book almost defies belief, but it’s a true story. In 1848, an enslaved Black couple, she fairer skinned, him dark skinned, manage to escape bondage by posing as a white woman with her slave (not husband). They journey from Georgia by various means, mere feet from the slave traders trying to find them, with ingenious methods of disguise. They’re handed from one “underground railroad” home to another, in between taking public transportation. Their goal: freedom in Philadelphia. Yet once they get there they don’t feel free, so they continue their journey northward. What a story. Another one every American should read. This book has been given many awards; so worth reading.

The Tiffany Girl by Deanne Gist. Such an interesting story. Flossie Jayne, a student at the Art Institute in NYC, is asked to help THE Mr. Louis Tiffany, finish the very elaborate glass chapel at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, when the glassworker’s union goes on strike. Many women were employed (when it was thought they couldn’t possibly have the strength to cut glass), working day and night, to finish the work. This is Flossie’s story, of the people she meets, and foists off, but always with her eye on the dream, succeeding in the art of cut glass design. Very interesting story. If you’ve ever admired Tiffany glass lamps and other decor items, you’ll enjoy learning more about what’s involved in making them.

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post by Allison Pataki. Ah, to live within the life of the rich and famous. This is a book of historical fiction, but is very much the story of Marjorie Merriweather Post. Her life. Her goals. Her daughters. Amazon notes: “Presidents have come and gone, but she has hosted them all. Growing up in the modest farmlands of Battle Creek, Michigan, Marjorie was inspired by a few simple rules: always think for yourself, never take success for granted, and work hard—even when deemed American royalty, even while covered in imperial diamonds. Marjorie had an insatiable drive to live and love and to give more than she got.” Her life wasn’t all sweetness and light. She was a survivor, had a good solid head for business, and married several times. Her life was very Oprah-esque, with fresh flowers in abundance every day, dripping with jewels and custom clothing. But she also knew how to scrimp and remake herself. Fascinating read. Wish I could have met her and  had tea (one of her favorite things).

Fox Creek by William Kent Kreuger. A Cork O’Connor Mystery. Kreuger is known for his love of the land. I’ve been a fan of his work for a long time. This one is new. This one weaves Indian territory and mores with a murder mystery. Very riveting as any mystery should be.

Chenneville, Paulette Jiles. From Amazon: Union soldier John Chenneville suffered a traumatic head wound in battle. His recovery took the better part of a year as he struggled to regain his senses and mobility. By the time he returned home, the Civil War was over, but tragedy awaited. John’s beloved sister and her family had been brutally murdered.” This is the story of his dogged, relentless journey to find and kill the killer. Grip your seat as he weathers some very treacherous adventures. Really good read, rugged outdoors kind of story. I’ve loved Jiles’ writing ever since I read News of the World by her. She’s a really good story-teller.

The Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala. Oh my goodness. From Amazon: In 2004, at a beach resort on the coast of Sri Lanka, Sonali Deraniyagala and her family—parents, husband, sons—were swept away by a tsunami. Only Sonali survived to tell their tale. This is her account of the nearly incomprehensible event and its aftermath.” I’ll tell you, this is a very hard book to read. The writer, the victim, tells you in intimate detail what happened at the time, immediately after, and then recounts months by month and a loooong time after her journey of grief. She barely functions. Wishes she’d been swept away too. Harrowing account of the facts and the journey of living again.

The Art of Resistance by Justus Rosenberg. From amazon: Unlike any World War II memoir before it. Rosenberg, has spent the past seventy years teaching the classics of literature to American college students. Hidden within him, however, was a remarkable true story of wartime courage and romance worthy of a great novel. Here is Professor Rosenberg’s elegant and gripping chronicle of his youth in Nazi-occupied Europe, when he risked everything to stand against evil.” His parents sent him off to Paris early on to go to school, from Danzig (which likely saved his life), but he becomes the hunted, and eventually part of the underground. Gripping book; well worth reading.

The Royal Librarian by Daisy Wood. A little bit of a reach, but believable nonetheless. A young woman, an accomplished librarian from Austria in 1940, is sent to Windsor to sort the centuries of valuable books, maps and treasures of the Royal Family. She believes she’s on a mission for British intelligence. She very distantly befriends Princess Elizabeth. Years later her sister unearths documentation about her sister, and she undertakes a journey of discovery too. You’ll learn a lot about Windsor Castle, even what they did during the Blitz. Lots of intrigue. Very sweet book and interesting since I love books about the Royal Family.

Long Time Gone by Charlie Donlea. If you watch any crime shows, you know how important DNA is these days. Here is a mystery that comes from familial DNA, in a framework of a current day research project. The protaganist is a fellow (woman) preparing to be a medical examiner. She’s assigned a project regarding DNA, requiring her to submit her own. She knows she was adopted, but nothing more. Oh my, stand by as this book unfolds with drama within nearly every page. Could hardly put it down. Her life is threatened and she doesn’t know who is friend or foe.

A Most Intriguing Lady, by Sarah Ferguson with Marguerite Kaye. Sarah Ferguson, yes, that Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, has now written her second novel. About a very astute young woman who deftly avoids the marriage mart, but comes from the ton. She wants to “do” something with her life other than be a companion to her aging mother. Plenty of characters, some intrigue, a love interest, cute story, you know how it will end, but good reading nevertheless. I liked Ferguson’s first book better, Her Heart for a Compass.

Under the Java Moon, by Heather Moore. Sometimes these WWII books are tough to read. This is a true story (written as fiction, though) about a few Dutch families who are taken prisoner on Java Island, by the Japanese. Certainly it’s a story about unbelievable deprivation and sadness, but also about resilience too. Not everyone survives, as you could guess, but you’ll be rooting for young Rita who takes on so many responsibilities far beyond her 6-year old’s abilities. I read this because a dear friend of mine’s husband (now deceased) was in the Army during WWII and spent a lot of his duty in Indonesia and had horrific stories to tell about the weather and environment (awful!). A period of his life he liked to forget. The book certainly brings that period and place to the forefront. I’m glad I read it.

Never in a million years would I have picked up Blind Your Ponies, by Stanley Gordon West. If I’d read the cover or flap that the bulk of the story is about basketball, I’d have put it back on the shelf. But oh, this book is – yes, about basketball, but it’s about a place in time in Montana, a few decades ago, when a tiny town supported their high school team. It’s about a dream. About the town who believed in them. About a tall young man who comes to lives in the town, and his deliverance, really, from a pretty awful background as he plays basketball, when he’d never played before. It’s about relationships, marriages, families and about how this little team makes it. Such a great story and SO glad I read it.

A Girl Called Samson, by Amy Harmon. I’m a fan of anything written by Harmon, and this one delivered as all her books do. 1760, Massachusetts. Deborah Samson is an indentured servant but yearns for independence. From being a rather tall, skinny kid (a girl) to faking it as a young soldier (a young man) in the Continental army. You’ll marvel at her ability to hide her true self. It’s quite a story. She’s thrown into the worst of situations in the war and comes through with flying colors. You’ll find yourself rooting for her and also fearing mightily that she’s going to either get killed, or be “found out,” by some of the men. Riveting story beginning to end. There’s a love interest here too which is very sweet.

On Mystic Lake, by Kristin Hannah. This is a book Hannah wrote some years ago, and tells the story of a woman, Annie, who finds out (on the day their daughter goes off to a foreign land for an exchange quarter) that her husband is in love with another woman and leaves her. Annie, who has been the quintessential perfect corporate wife, is devastated. She felt blind-sided. She cries and wallows, but eventually she returns home to her small town, where her widowed dad lives, in Washington. There she runs into many people she knew and at first feels very out of place. Slowly, she finds the town more welcoming and she helps a previous boyfriend, now widowed with his young daughter. A connection is there. Annie has to find herself, and she definitely does that. Her husband rears his head (of course he does!) after several months, and Annie has to figure out what to do. I don’t want to give away the story. Lots of twists and turns.

The Vineyard, by Barbara Delinsky. A novel with many current day issues. Husband and wife own a vineyard in Rhode Island. Husband dies. Widow soon (too soon) marries the manager, a hired employee, much to the consternation of her two grown children. Widow hires woman as personal assistant (much of the book comes from her voice) and she gets entangled into the many webs, clinging from the many decades the winery has tried to be successful. Really interesting. Lots of plot twists, but all revolving around work of the vineyard. Cute love story too. It wouldn’t be a Delinsky book without that aspect.

Consequences, Penelope Lively. I’ve always loved this author’s writing style. Have read many of her books. This one follows a rather dotted line family, the women, as they grow through worn-torn London and England. There’s poverty and both major events and minor ones that send the story’s trajectory in new directions. Riveting for me. Lively won the Booker Prize for Moon Tiger, her most famous book.

Below Zero, C.J. Box. Mystery of the first order. A Joe Pickett novel (he’s a game warden in Wyoming) with a family member thought dead is suddenly alive. Or is she? Joe’s on the hunt to find out. I don’t read these books at night – too scary. I love his books, though.

Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin on the Siberian Taiga, by Sylvain Tesson. I’m not sure what possessed me to read this book. About a late 30s guy who seems to crave solitude; he’s offered a 11×11 cabin in the cold/frozen Siberian outback, on a huge lake that freezes over in winter. Here’s a quote from the book: “A visit to my wooden crates. My supplies are dwindling. I have enough pasta left for a month and Tabasco to drench it in. I have flour, tea and oil. I’m low on coffee. As for vodka, I should make it to the end of April.” Vodka plays large in this book. Tesson (who is French, with Russian heritage) is a gifted writer, about the wilderness, the flora and fauna, about the alone-ness, the introspection. Mostly he ate pasta with Tabasco. No other sauce. Many shots of vodka every day. Drunkenness plays a serious role too – what else is there to do, you might ask? He lived there for about a year. I’d have lasted a week, no more.

The Auburn Conference by Tom Piazza. Another one, given my druthers I’m not sure I’d have picked up. For one of my book clubs. Excellent writing. 1883, upstate NY. A young professor decides to make a name for himself and puts on an event, inviting many literary luminaries of the day (Mark Twain, Frederick Douglass, Herman Melville, Forrest Taylor and a romance novelist [the outlier] Lucy Comstock). Part panel discussion, part private conversations, the author weaves a tale of discord, some moderate yelling, some rascism and much ridicule of the romance novelist. Also some words of wisdom, maybe not from the authors you’d have expected. Unusual book.

As Bright as Heaven, by Susan Meissner. 1918. Philadelphia. About a young family arriving with the highest of hopes. Then the Spanish Flu hits and dashes everything. You’ll learn a whole lot about that particular virulent flu and the tragic aftermath. Really good read.

Hour of the Witch, by Chris Bohjalian. Boston, 1662. A young woman becomes the 2nd wife of a powerful man, a cruel man. She determines to leave him, something just “not done” back then. Twists and turns, she’s accused of being a witch. Story of survival, and a redeeming love too.

My Oxford Year, by Julia Whelan. At 24, a young woman is honored with a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford. She’s older than most of her fellow classmates, and as an American, doesn’t fit in very well. She’s left a good job back home, but determines to try to work some for the political campaign job she’s left, and also do the work for her Oxford scholarship. She meets a professor. Oh my. Such an interesting book. I loved learning about the culture of Oxford, and there’s a fascinating romance too, somewhat a forbidden one with said professor.

Madame Pommery, by Rebecca Rosenberg. I love champagne. Have read a number of books over the years (novels) about the region (and I’ve visited there once). This is real history, though in a novelized form. Madame Pommery was widowed, and determined she would blaze a trail that was not well received (no women in the champagne business for starters). And she decides to make a different, less sweet version. She’s hated and reviled, but sticks to her guns, veering away from the then very sweet version all the winemakers were producing. Fascinating story.

The Wager, by David Grann. A true tale of shipwreck, mutiny and murder back in the 1740s. Not exactly my usual genre of reading, but once I heard about the book, I decided I needed to read it. This is a novelized version of the story, based on the facts of an English shipwreck, first off Brazil, then later off Chile. Of the men, their struggle to survive (and many didn’t). Yes, there’s murder involved, and yes, there’s mutiny as well. Those who survived stood trial back in England many years later. Riveting read.

Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate. 1939. A shantyboat in the backwaters of the Mississippi River. A 12-year old girl is left to care for her younger siblings when her mother is taken ill. A mystery ensues, and soon officials chase these youngsters to take them into an orphanage, one that became infamous for “selling” the children, weaving wild tales of their provenance. Dual timeline, you read about a successful young attorney who returns home to help her father, and questions come up about the family history. Fascinating read. You’ll learn about this real abominable woman, Georgia Tann, who profited by her “sales.”

The Vaster Wilds, by Lauren Goff. This tells the story of a young servant girl, in the aftermath of the starvation in Jamestown, the beleaguered town that virtually disappeared because the people weren’t prepared for the harshness of survival in those days. She escapes before the demise of the town and heads west, with nothing but the clothes she’s wearing. She survives longer than you might think, and encounters a lot of interesting experiences and people. Very interesting historical read.

Lady Tan’s Circle of Woman, Lisa See. Historical fiction, from 1469, Ming Dynasty, China. Based on the true story, however, about a young woman mostly raised by her grandmother who is a well known physician. Her grandfather is a scholarly physician, her grandmother, more an herbalist, or like a pharmacist of the day. Tan eventually marries into a family and is immediately subjugated by the matriarch, who won’t allow her to practice any of her healing arts. Quite a story, and also about how she eventually does treat women (women “doctors” were only allowed to treat women) as a midwife and herbalist. You’ll learn a whole lot about the use of flowers and herbs for healing and about the four humors.

Winter Garden, by Kristen Hannah. Quite a story, taking place in Washington State with apple orchards forming a backdrop and family business. Two sisters, never much friends even when they were young, return home to help care for their ailing father. Their mother? What an enigma. She took no part in raising them, yet she lived in the home. She cooked for the family, but rarely interacted. Yet her father adored his wife, their mother. How do they bridge the gulf between each other and also with their mother. Another page turner from Kristen Hannah.

Trail of the Lost, by Andrea Lankford. Not my usual genre. This is nonfiction, about Lankford who has plenty of credentials for rescue services, and is an avid hiker herself, determines to try to find some missing people who have disappeared off the face of the earth on the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s about how rescues work, everything from the disconnect between active citizens who want to help, and seemingly the unwillingness of authorities to share information. Not exactly a positive for law enforcement in this book. Really fascinating. There are hundreds of people who have disappeared off various long hike trails in the U.S. This is about four who were hiking (separately and at different times) on the PCT.

Tomorrow, Tomorrow and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin. I’ve never been a “gamer.” Not by any standard definition, anyway. Not like people who really get into games, adventure, killers, etc. And this book isn’t a game .. . but it’s a novel (and a great story, I might add) about how these games come into being. How they’re invented, how they morph. First there were two college students, then a third person is added, and they end up creating a wildly popular game. A company is born. And it goes from there. Mostly it’s about the people, their relationships, but set amidst the work of creating and running a gaming company. Not all fun and games, pun intended.

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. 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.

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. 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.

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.

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. Sweet story but with lots of twists and turns.

Someone Else’s Shoes, by Jojo Moyes.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 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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

The Bandit Queens, by Parini Shroff. 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.

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.

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. 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.

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.

Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This is fairly light read, a novel – but interesting, about the meaning behind many flowers.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. What’s here are recipes for some “kitchen heroes” she calls them. They’re condiments. They’re food additions, they’re flavor enhancers.

As soon as it came out, I ordered Spare, by Prince Harry. I’ve always been interested in the Royal Family.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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, on June 14th, 2024.

Remember, we had a meatloaf cook-off awhile back? This was Dianne’s recipe – it’s her family’s favorite.

That’s cubes of Swiss cheese poking out of the top – Dianne said her family loves to get a serving where there is a cube of melty Swiss in one bite. The cheese is cut into 1/2″ cubes and mixed in with the ground turkey (plus egg, bread crumbs, milk, ketchup, a little bit of dry onion soup mix and also a bit of soy sauce). Dianne cautions: do not overmix the meatloaf mixture. It’s formed into a log and placed in a loaf pan and patted down – hers was a ceramic one. She recommends pushing any exposed Swiss cheese down into the loaf – but you can see, they pop up during baking!

Just so you know, this cold meatloaf makes wonderful sandwiches. Dianne gave me a big chunk of it (see at top of sandwich at right) that I took home and I made several sandwiches over the course of a week. With some mayo, ketchup and lots of lettuce for crunch.

The recipe is Dianne’s own – I think she started with someone else’s recipe, but then she began adding her own touch to it and this meatloaf has been her family’s favorite for a looong time. Her grandkids ask for it when they visit. As I type this Dianne is in Germany visiting one of her daughters (and family), and I’m sure she was asked to make this while she was there. I wonder if it’s hard to buy ground turkey in Germany? I’ll have to ask her about that!

This makes a nice, firm meatloaf – you might think using ground turkey, that it would be soft, but the additions (egg, bread crumbs) make it much more sturdy. Not as firm as one made with ground beef or pork, but it was relatively easy to slice when it was hot. And it’s firm when slicing for sandwiches.

What’s GOOD: for one, this meatloaf is a lot healthier for us than the traditional ones. It has excellent flavor (that soy sauce adds umami flavor, but you can’t taste it) with the onion soup mix and Swiss cheese cubes. And it makes great sandwiches.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of. This is a good meatloaf – don’t expect it to taste like a beef meatloaf – you might be disappointed.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Turkey Meatloaf with Swiss Cheese

Recipe: An original recipe by my friend Dianne Y.
Servings: 8

1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
1 large egg
3/4 cup bread crumbs — Italian style
1/3 cup milk
1 cup Swiss cheese — diced in 1/2″ cubes
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 1/2 tablespoons dry onion soup mix
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. In large bowl add all meatloaf ingredients and mix with your hands until combined. Do NOT overmix it!
3. Form mixture into log to fit into a 9×5 loaf pan or place into a 2 quart casserole dish. If possible, push any exposed cheese cubes down into the meat.
4. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Note: this meatloaf makes great sandwiches.
Per Serving: 313 Calories; 17g Fat (49.6% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 111mg Cholesterol; 704mg Sodium; 2g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 319mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 319mg Potassium; 392mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, Soups, on March 8th, 2024.

Can I just say – this chili is SO good. So easy to make. Very satisfying.

I started off with a recipe from Kalyn’s Kitchen – she used ground turkey instead of chicken (and you could use either one – my daughter Sara happens to prefer ground chicken so I used that), and the sweet potatoes (no beans in this recipe). Since sweet potatoes are a resistant starch, I like including them in any potential recipe I make. Most of the seasonings are similar to Kalyn’s, but I made a few changes. I wanted more vegetables (just because) and I used some small pieces of cauliflower too which just melded into the soup (couldn’t see it or taste it). I’m not a fan of green peppers – never have been. I know they add a distinct flavor in some cuisines, but I just don’t like them. So in my recipe I used red. You could use yellow or orange, as well. Or a mixture.

The chili has a deep, dark color, which comes from using ancho chili powder. If you haven’t added this seasoning to your spice pantry, you should, as it has a wonderful deep flavor. It’s only been in recent years that you could buy it ground. Yes, you can use the whole, dried anchos – cut off the stems, remove the seeds, chop coarsely then run them through a spice grinder. I just buy the powder already ground.

I also use a spice mix from Penzey’s, called Chili 3000 (I also use the Chili 1000 too) but the 3000 was the one I used here. You don’t have to buy that unless you’d like to try it.

When I made this chili, I doubled the recipe. I was out at the desert house and I made it in our huge 12-inch “MadeIn” pot I bought for that house to use on our induction range. Sara and John were there, and we had it for dinner one night. It got rave reviews from all of us. I froze some of the portions, gave some to Sara to take home and I brought a few servings home with me too. Loved the toppings – we had yogurt, green onions, grated Cheddar and cilantro.

What’s GOOD: Gosh, so delicious. Loved the complex flavors (am sure it’s a combination of the ancho chili powder and the Penzey’s Chili 3000 mix). The ground chicken – don’t we know – doesn’t have a lot of flavor, but the protein is healthy for us – so the flavor here has to come from other things. Altogether fabulous. For me, this recipe is a real keeper.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Make sure you buy the ancho chili powder.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Ground Chicken Sweet Potato Chili

Recipe: Adapted from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Servings: 8

2 tablespoons olive oil — divided
1 1/2 pounds ground chicken
2 red bell peppers — seeds and stem removed and chopped
1 large onion — chopped
2 stalks celery — minced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground ancho chiles — (or use more regular chili powder if you don’t have ancho)
1 tablespoon Penzey’s Chili 3000 seasoning — or other chili seasoning mix
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
8 ounces diced green chiles — not jalapenos
14 ounces diced tomatoes — canned, undrained
8 ounces tomato sauce
28 ounces low sodium beef broth
2 medium sweet potatoes — skinned and diced into cubes
1 cup cauliflower — cut into small dice
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
TOPPINGS: unflavored yogurt (or sour cream), grated cheese, diced green onions and chopped cilantro

1. In a large soup pot, heat half of the olive oil, add ground chicken, and cook over medium-high heat until the chicken is well-browned and all liquid has evaporated. Break it apart with a spatula.
2. Spoon out the chicken into a medium-sized bowl and set aside.
3. Add the other amount of olive oil to the soup pot, add the chopped red pepper, chopped onion and celery, and sauté about 3-4 minutes over medium heat.
4. Add the minced garlic, chili powder, Ancho chile powder, and ground cumin and cook 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken back into the soup pot. Then add the diced green chiles with juice, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and beef broth to the soup pot. Bring the chili to a simmer, then turn heat to low.
5. Dice the sweet potato into pieces about 3/4″ square and add to the chili along with the diced cauliflower and simmer about 45 minutes, adding a little water if it gets too thick.
6. Taste for seasoning and add hot sauce if desired, salt, and fresh ground pepper to taste. Serve hot, with toppings of your choice: yogurt or sour cream, grated cheese, green onions and cilantro. The chili will keep in the fridge for about a week and it freezes well.
Per Serving: 239 Calories; 11g Fat (40.0% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 73mg Cholesterol; 328mg Sodium; 8g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 63mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 1086mg Potassium; 239mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, on January 5th, 2024.

An easy weeknight chicken breast dinner that comes together fairly quickly.

Can you tell I made this before Christmas? What with those Christmas plates (Spode ones with the Christmas tree in the middle, you know that one, it’s been around forever). So, this dish is a chicken breast stuffed with all kinds of goodies – a little bit of cream cheese, some pepper jack cheese too, some poblano chiles (or you could use canned California green chiles, sliced), then it has a green chile salsa with onions and the remaining poblanos in the sauce. These are so very easy to make. Just have all the ingredients on hand (I did).

First off, consider the size of the chicken breast. I used a package of Costco’s sealed packet of chicken breasts. And there were only two of them in the packet. But they were huge. So I cut them each in half, crosswise. Then, I sliced each of those in half horizontally to make an open-book type of breast that’s suitable for stuffing. When doing the horizontal cut, stop cutting about 1/2″ from the other side so you can open it up to a nice chicken surface. Each made a nice-enough chicken breast serving, so I got four servings out of two breasts. Next time I make these I will pound all of those pieces a little bit as all of them were a bit too thick. I mean, they were fine, but they plumped up thicker once baked.

The poblano peppers should be blistered (to remove the skins), but if you’re short on time, you can make this without that step. Saute the onion and peppers in a bit of olive oil until the onions are translucent (otherwise they won’t cook through in the oven when it’s baked).

There are the chicken breasts sort-a, kind-a sealed up, seasoned, with the onions and peppers around the outside.

There’s the casserole with the salsa on top, before baking.

First you spread some softened cream cheese on one side of the chicken open book. Then place in a slice or two of pepper jack, then some of the poblano chile strips. Fold the chicken over so it mostly covers the filling. Place in a greased baking dish. Then you pour all the onions and remaining chiles around the chicken breasts, add the jar of green chile salsa (I use Trader Joe’s) and make sure some of it is spread on top of each breast. This doesn’t have to bake long – chicken breasts cook fairly quickly. Use an instant read thermometer and make sure the center of the breast has reached 150ºF. I served this with rice seasoned with lime juice and some broccoli.

What’s GOOD: loved everything about this – the melty, oozy cheese, the poblanos, and just how moist the chicken was. It was quite simple and easy to put together; maybe 30 minutes of prep work, then about 25-30 minutes in the oven. It made a very nice company meal.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. I’d definitely make this again.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Easy Cheesy Green Chile Chicken

Recipe: Adapted from Half Baked Harvest
Servings: 4

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts — see notes
2 ounces cream cheese — at room temperature
3 ounces pepper jack cheese — sliced
2 poblano peppers — sliced (or substitute whole canned California green chiles, cut into slices)
1 small yellow onion — chopped or sliced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
kosher salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
22 ounces salsa verde — Trader Joe’s jar
fresh cilantro and lime wedges for serving

NOTE :If you use really large chicken breasts, cut them in half across the breast.
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
2. Prep the peppers: slice each poblano open lengthwise, cut into about 3-4 pieces, removing the stem, seeds and membranes. Place them on a foil lined small baking sheet skin side up and roast for 8-12 minutes until the skin has blistered. Watch carefully so you don’t burn them. Allow to cool some, then remove the skin as best you can.
3. Slice the chicken through the middle horizontally to within a 1/2 inch of the other side. Open the 2 sides and spread them out like an open book. Spread the cream cheese on one side of the chicken, then add the slices of pepper jack and a few poblano pepper slices. Fold the other side of the chicken over the peppers/cheese, like a book, to enclose the filling. Place the chicken in a baking dish. Rub with olive oil.
4. In a small bowl combine the chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Rub the seasonings all over the chicken.
5. In a skillet add olive oil and gently cook the onions and remaining poblano chiles until the onions are translucent. Pour this mixture around the chicken. Drizzle everything with olive oil, then pour over the salsa verde. Bake 20-25 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Check with an instant read thermometer – chicken should be at least 150 F. Serve with fresh cilantro and lime wedges. Serve with rice seasoned with lime juice.
Per Serving: 425 Calories; 23g Fat (49.3% calories from fat); 35g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 116mg Cholesterol; 1661mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 208mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 1100mg Potassium; 447mg Phosphorus.

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.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...