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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 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.

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

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.

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Posted in easy, IP, Soups, on March 17th, 2022.

So very easy to make in the Instant Pot. 

A post from Carolyn. For quite awhile I’m been reading a blog called Ministry of Curry. And I’ve made several of Archana’s recipes, since I’m a lover of all things Indian food. This recipe isn’t Indian – that’s not to say they don’t eat barley in India – – – I have no idea, actually. But there are no Indian spices here, as this is very much a simple, lightly seasoned mushroom and vegetable soup with some added barley. I started out with her recipe, although I altered it. You can find thousands of mushroom barley soup recipes on the web and there may be nothing all that unusual about this one. But I’ll just tell you it’s a good stick-to-the-ribs kind of cold-weather soup for these cool/cold evenings. The easy part is that it’s made in the Instant Pot. Love that pot.

A few weeks ago I was out in the desert at the 2nd home (condo) my daughter Sara, her husband John and I purchased in 2020. We’re in the process of renovating it now, and that will likely take a long time to finish. As I write this, the guest bath (mine) is getting a total makeover – new shower and tile, new cabinet, fixtures, lighting. Except for a vessel sink and granite countertop the bathroom was circa 1985. Old. Tired. Eventually we’re going to vinyl (wood-like) plank the floors in the whole house, but for now it’s tile. Anyway, I got sidetracked there – – I wanted to make a batch of butter chicken and the recipe I’ve posted here (that I just love-love-love) is made in the Instant Pot. Well, shoot  – we didn’t have an Instant Pot at that house. So, I went to Costco and bought one. I don’t think I could function anymore without an Instant Pot in my kitchen. My most common use for it is making hard boiled eggs (the 2-10-2 method – 2 minutes manual pressure – 10 resting – release pressure – then 2 minutes in ice water). I eat a hard boiled egg for breakfast seven days a week with a little yogurt and fruit on the side.

So back to this recipe . . . am I giving all of you TMI? . . . I went to a local market and got some bulk barley (I can’t tell you the last time I bought or ate barley), a big honkin’ leek, onions, mushrooms, celery, carrots, etc. This soup doesn’t inherently have any protein in it – although barley has some – but when I reheated bowls of it I added in some chopped up rotisserie chicken so I would have some protein. But many of the heated bowls I ate as is, no protein. It’s very filling, let me say. I really liked the addition of sour cream on top that gets mixed in as you eat it. There’s a little bit of tomato paste in the recipe (good umami flavor), and I also used mushroom soup base (try amazon) that is a regular fixture in my frig. And over a pound of mushrooms. And I added some sherry wine to it also. Every time I heat a bowl of it the sherry aroma wafts from the steam.

As with all soups, this one tasted so much better the next day and I’ve been eating away at it for a week with enough to put some in the freezer too. It’s very filling – a scant cup is plenty for me for lunch.

What’s GOOD: just the wholesomeness of it – healthy, hearty, filling. So very easy in the Instant Pot (15 minutes, that’s it). The chopping up of all the veggies took a lot more time than that! Good for freezing. Good umami flavors throughout.

What’s NOT: nary a thing.

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

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Mushroom Barley Soup in the Instant Pot

Recipe By: Adapted from Ministry of Curry
Serving Size: 6

1 pound mushrooms — crimini
4 tablespoons EVOO
4 tablespoons dry sherry
1 large leek — or two medium sized ones
1 1/2 cups onion — finely chopped
3 cloves garlic — minced
1 1/2 cups celery — thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups carrots — diced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons mushroom base — a concentrate
4 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup barley
1/4 cup parsley — minced
GARNISH:
1 cup sour cream

1. Slice half of the mushrooms. Dice the remaining half.
2. Set the Instant pot to sauté mode and heat half of the oil. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add cooking sherry as the mushrooms start to stick to the pot, cooking for additional 2 minutes. Remove cooked mushrooms with liquids and set aside.
3. To the Instant Pot add remaining oil, leeks, onions, garlic, and celery to the pot. Sauté for 2 minutes. Next, add mushrooms and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add carrots, tomato paste, bay leaves, barley, salt, pepper, and mushroom paste and water.
4. Pressure Cook for 15 minutes followed by natural pressure release. Remove bay leaves.
5. Stir in the reserved mushrooms. Cool soup and for best flavor, refrigerate overnight. Reheat then garnish with parsley. Serve hot with bread. You can also add a dollop of sour cream as a garnish.
Per Serving: 290 Calories; 16g Fat (48.0% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 32g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 19mg Cholesterol; 735mg Sodium; 10g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 107mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 833mg Potassium; 190mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, IP, on November 8th, 2021.

This post comes from Taylor, Carolyn’s granddaughter. 

This part from Taylor. This is such a special cheesecake recipe! One of my dear coworkers, Candy, was famous for bringing this to birthday celebrations at work. Our department went all out for birthdays and Candy was known for her baking! Everyone had requests for what their special birthday treat would be. This was always mine. After my sweet friend Candy retired, she passed the famous cheesecake recipe on to me to continue making it for celebrations. It was an honor to take this on and while it may not ever taste the same as hers did, it sure is a good cheesecake! There are some special additions I’ve included that make it that much more delicious.

This additional info from Carolyn.  At right is a photo of Taylor – at her nursing school’s “white coat ceremony” recently. I was privileged to be the family member who helped her put on her coat. Taylor is living with me while she attends nursing school through Concordia University near where I live. Taylor is my daughter Dana’s daughter. Home for her is near Placerville (east of Sacramento). A few years ago, after she graduated from Sacramento State (with a BS in Health Care Administration) she began applying to nursing schools, which took awhile. She worked in a clerical job in the ER at her local community hospital while she applied to nursing schools. That’s where she met Candy. Anyway, now Taylor is in Concordia’s accelerated nursing program (13 months long, rather than the more traditional 2 years) and when she graduates next August, she’ll have a 2nd bachelor’s degree (this one a BSN). After that she’ll probably go back home to Placerville, study for and take the nursing exam, then try to find a job in the Sacramento area.

Taylor isn’t a cook – she’d be the first one to tell you that – but she does like to bake. As I write this, Taylor made some wonderful cookie bars recently that will be posted eventually. I’m just loving having this granddaughter of mine living with me. She’s a great companion, helps me out when I need things done around home, and we have a lot of fun together. Although she doesn’t have a whole lot of extra time – she’s in classes, working a day a week at a local hospital (part of her nursing program) or studying like crazy on her days off.

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

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Instant Pot Cheesecake with Cherry Topping

Recipe By: adapted from Pressure Cook Recipes
Serving Size: 8

CRUST:
10 whole graham crackers — finely ground, 120 grams
3 tablespoons unsalted butter — (42g – 56g) melted (3 to 4)
1 pinch sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar — or less if you prefer it less sweet – start with 2 tsp
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
BATTER:
16 ounces cream cheese — (454g) room temperature
2 large eggs — room temperature
2/3 cup sugar — (133g)
1/2 cup sour cream — (120g) room temperature
2 tablespoons cornstarch — (16g)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract — (10ml)
2 pinches sea salt
TOPPING:
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
CHERRY TOPPING:
15 ounces cherry pie filling

NOTES: Use a hand mixer, not a stand mixer, as it overmixes the batter.
1. Place cream cheese, eggs, sour cream on counter-top to reach room temperature. Then, melt the 3 – 4 tablespoons unsalted butter. This step is critical to the success of the batter.
2. Crust: Finely grind in a food processor. Or place the graham crackers in a Ziploc bag and roll them with a rolling pin. Then, in a small mixing bowl, mix finely ground graham crackers, a pinch of sea salt, brown sugar together with a fork. Mix in 1/4 cup all-purpose flour. Mix in roughly 3 – 4 tbsp unsalted butter until the mixture sticks together.
3. Line the side and bottom of cheesecake pan with parchment paper. Do not butter parchment paper. Pour in the graham cracker crumbs mixture. Gently press down the crumbs with a ramekin or Mason jar to form an even layer. You can also use a spoon for the edges. Blind bake crust in a 325°F oven for 15 minutes. Cool completely before continuing.
4. Mix cornstarch, 2 pinches of sea salt, and white sugar together in a small mixing bowl.
5. In a medium mixing bowl, briefly break up cream cheese by beating it for 10 seconds with a hand mixer using low speed. Add in HALF the sugar mixture and beat until just incorporated using low speed (roughly 20 – 30 seconds). Scrape down the sides and hand mixer blades with a silicone spatula every time a new ingredient is added. Add remaining sugar mixture and beat until just incorporated using low speed (roughly 20 – 30 seconds).
6. Add sour cream and vanilla extract to the cream cheese mixture. Beat until just incorporated using low speed (20 – 30 seconds).
7. Blend in the two eggs using low speed, one at a time. Mix until just incorporated (about 15 – 20 seconds with a hand mixer and less time if you are using a powerful stand mixer). Try not to overmix on this step.
8. Scrape down the sides and any batter on the hand mixer blades with a silicone spatula and fold a few times to make sure everything is fully incorporated. Pour batter in cheesecake pan. Tap cheesecake pan against the counter to let air bubbles rise to the surface. Burst the air bubbles with a toothpick or fork. Tap until you are satisfied. Ensure the surface is clear of air bubbles or fork marks.
9. Place a steamer rack and pour 1 cup water in pressure cooker. Bring water to a boil (Instant Pot users: Press manual/Pressure Cook and set the time to 28 minutes). When the water begins to boil, place cheesecake pan on the steamer rack with a foil sling right away. *Caution: Don’t wait too long to place the cheesecake in pressure cooker, as it’ll affect the cooking time. Place it immediately once the water begins to boil. This prevents too much water from evaporating. Immediately close the lid with venting knob at venting position. Turn venting knob to sealing position and let it pressure cook at high pressure for 28 minutes and full natural release. It should go up to pressure in roughly 1 minute. Natural release will take roughly 7 – 9 minutes. Open the lid gradually. Absorb any condensation on the surface by lightly tapping it with a soft paper towel.
10. Allow cheesecake to cool to room temperature with the lid open in the pressure cooker. Or place it on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
11. After cooling for 10 – 15 minutes, carefully run a thin paring knife between the sidewall and parchment paper to release the cheesecake from the pan. Pull the slightly wrinkled parchment paper lightly to straighten it out for a smooth side.
12. Once the cheesecake has completely cooled, place it in the refrigerator for at least 4 – 8 hours (preferably overnight).
13. Before serving, add sour cream mixture and spread it out fully to edges. Pour cherry topping over the top and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, to get the topping cold.
14. Serving: Remove cheesecake from the refrigerator and cut into wedges to serve.
Per Serving: 551 Calories; 32g Fat (51.3% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 60g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 129mg Cholesterol; 365mg Sodium; 29g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 110mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 220mg Potassium; 152mg Phosphorus.

Posted in IP, Pork, on November 19th, 2019.

herb_garlic_pork_tenderloin_IP

Tender, juicy, and oh-so easy in the Instant Pot

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you have probably figured out I’m a pretty experienced cook. Not a chef – just a regular home cook. And you’d think I’d know how to make just about anything. But I have had to learn the ins and outs of the instant pot. I love the thing, use it once or twice a week to hard boil eggs (which are just the best way). And make soups and stews in it. As a family of one, though, I generally don’t cook a pork tenderloin anymore (except for guests), just because it leaves me with a lot of leftover meat that may or may not be all that juicy when reheated.

Yet, I’m a sucker for learning something new. My local Bloomingdale’s has a very small demonstration kitchen right in the middle of the cookware department. I was walking nearby after I’d been into the store to buy a couple hundred dollars worth of Nespresso pods for my beloved machine. My Nespresso machine needs to be buried with me – I want it in heaven. Oh, I’m going to be cremated . . .well, that presents a problem, doesn’t it? Not much good to have a cremated Nespresso. Oh I’m getting way off topic, here! Anyway, I noticed there was a cooking class going on, I paused, and grabbed a flyer. And now I’m on the mailing list. The classes are ridiculously cheap/free. All I had to do was buy myself a $10 gift card which I could use as a gift or for myself – which I did – I bought the OXO Good Grips Silicone Egg Rack, plus a flat rack that’s not metal for the IP too. I’ve used the egg rack already – my hard boiled eggs are now much more yolk-centered, which I like. Haven’t yet used the rack.

Back to business – so I signed up to take the pork tenderloin class for the IP. The chef, Sandra Hauser, gives classes a couple times a week. Many aren’t interesting to me, but this one was, and we were served the pork, mashed potatoes and an Oreo cheesecake (made in IP – will share that recipe soon).

First she made a fresh herb rub with a lot of garlic in it. After the tenderloin was oiled well with EVOO, she rolled the meat around in the herb rub, then sautéed it in the IP – just a couple of minutes on each side. Then she added some big sprigs of herbs, some chicken broth and set the IP to cook for ONE MINUTE. Yes, one minute. Once the IP had finished that part of the cycle, she began watching the timer on the IP itself, which starts counting up once it’s finished. She waited 10 minutes, quick released the pressure and removed the pork to a heated platter, then tented the meat with foil. She turned the IP to sauté again and boiled down the pan juices. Meanwhile she’d made a monstrous mound of mashed potatoes (no I didn’t eat even one bite) and served both with the pan juices.

You can’t really tell from the picture that the pork is perfectly cooked. She gave advice about that – if the tenderloin is about a pound, the meat needs 10 minutes of resting time after the one minute under pressure. If it’s more like 1 1/2 pounds per tenderloin, then it needs about 13 or 14 minutes rest time. So be sure to weigh the tenderloin before cooking this. The meat was perfection. Just the right kind of pink in the middle and very tender and juicy.

What’s GOOD: the meat was ever so tender and juicy. Perfectly cooked. Who knew? The IP is quite a magical piece of equipment. Just have everything else ready and finish up during that 10-14 minutes of resting time. The meat does like to sit after it’s out of the IP for a few minutes, however. That’s when you boil down the pan juices. So very tasty. Yes, I’ll be making this next time I have house guests.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. Easy dish.

printer-friendly PDF and Mastercook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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IP Garlicky Fresh Herb Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

Recipe By: Cooking class at Bloomingdale’s, South Coast Plaza, 11/19 (Sandra Hauser)
Serving Size: 3

1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin
1 tablespoon EVOO — for pork
2 tablespoons EVOO — for searing
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 sprigs fresh thyme
HERB RUB:
1 large garlic clove — finely chopped (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Italian parsley — fresh, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary — minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme — minced
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
GARNISH:
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — minced

NOTE: You may use dried herbs in this – use a teaspoon dried in place of a tablespoon fresh.
1. DRY RUB: Combine all ingredients and set aside.
2. Remove any silverskin from the pork tenderloin. Rub the small amount of EVOO on the pork, then gently pat the dry rub on all surfaces.
3. Heat IP on saute function and add the remaining EVOO, then add the pork and brown on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. No more than that, or the pork will begin to cook through.
4. Add the chicken broth to the pot along with the sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Close and lock lid and set IP to manual cook for ONE MINUTE. Yes, one minute. As soon as the one minute sound occurs, start a timer for 10 minutes or watch the screen on the IP. If the pork tenderloin is about a pound, you’ll want to let the IP sit for 10 minutes (meanwhile, the pork will continue to cook at pressure, but in off position). If the tenderloin is closer to 1-1/2 pounds, set timer for 12 minutes. Quick-release pressure at appropriate time, use instant read thermometer inserted into the middle of the thickest part of the meat, looking for 140°F. You can replace lid and bring back to pressure for another 2-3 minutes and read temperature again. Don’t overcook the meat or it will dry out.
5. Remove pork to a heated platter and tent with foil for 5 minutes.
6. Turn IP to saute and reduce the pan juices by about half, about 3-4 minutes.
7. Slice tenderloin on the diagonal and pour pan juices over the top. Garnish with Italian parsley.
Per Serving: 417 Calories; 23g Fat (47.4% calories from fat); 53g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 148mg Cholesterol; 760mg Sodium.

Posted in Gundry-friendly, IP, lectin-free, Soups, on February 25th, 2019.

chix_enchilada_soup_GFLF

EASY to make soup in the Instant Pot. Lots of flavors to savor.

So, Carolyn here – I’m still alive and well – I made this soup yesterday and it was so good I knew I needed to post it. I was supposed to have a group of friends over to my house to watch the academy awards last night, but a few days ago my Tivo went kaput – everything about my entertainment system goes through the Tivo. Tivo is sending me a new one, free, but it won’t arrive for about another week. Therefore I have no TV to watch in my family room. So we had our academy awards potluck dinner at someone else’s home. And I made soup.

Because I had a whole chicken in the freezer, I chose to use it instead of the chicken thighs noted in the recipe – I used the same timing – so you can do that too, if you choose.

Into the Instant Pot went the chicken, some diced tomatoes (canned), a can of chopped green chiles, an onion chopped up, a shallot minced, a package of chili seasoning (or taco seasoning), a bit of extra ground cumin, canned enchilada sauce and chicken broth. I set the Instant Pot on “soup” for 20 minutes. I let it slow release for 15 minutes, then fast release. The chicken was removed to cool, then I shredded up all the meat from the chicken.

Meanwhile, I used the immersion blender on the broth part, added in the sour cream and crème fraiche, added back in the shredded chicken and let it reheat briefly. Don’t let it boil or the soup part will separate. Then I cut up the garnishes and let everyone help themselves. If you want tortilla chips, smash a few to garnish the soup (I didn’t because I didn’t think it needed it, plus I can’t have tortillas on my diet).

And how am, you want to know? I’m good. Very busy. Have a done any painting yet? Only a little. PEO has been taking up a bunch of my time lately. I’m taking a trip to San Francisco with 3 girlfriends next month which will be great fun. My grandson has been accepted at Clemson in the Fall, although he hasn’t officially told them yet (he’s interested in bio-science) – Clemson is where his sister goes to school (she’s a junior there), although she’s in Argentina studying this semester and is really struggling with the dialect. She got accepted to do a medical internship at a fertility clinic in the city where she is living. And she starts her semester classes later this week, all in Spanish (or, this Argentinian dialect, I should say). Sabrina is planning to take the MCAT in the fall to be accepted to med school. She’s the one who started out wanting to be a vet, but I think she’s certain now she wants to be an MD or a PhD research doctor. My other granddaughter is finishing her senior year at Sacramento State and hopes to go on to get a Master’s in Nursing. By the way, I’m still keeping up the “Currently Reading” section of my blog (left sidebar of the main page) in case you’re interested. Last summer I couldn’t WAIT for winter to arrive. Be careful what you wish for, right? It’s been SO darned cold here in Southern California. Coldest on record almost. But it’s been going on for weeks now. I had to dig to find more coats and wraps because it’s so cold even in the daytime.

What’s GOOD: how easy it was. I could have made it a day ahead, but as it was, I made it just before I toted it to my friend’s home. The flavor of the soup part is really, really good. Lots of Mexican flavor too. It was filling (and fairly low calorie too) and everyone thought it was really good.

What’s NOT: only the shredding of the chicken meat, and that took about 15 minutes, tops. I’m glad I still have some, because I’ll be having it for my lunch today.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

Instant Pot Chicken Enchilada Soup (also LF and GF)

Recipe By: adapted a lot from All Day I Dream About Food (blog) 2019
Serving Size: 8

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs — or you may use chicken breast meat
3 cups canned tomatoes — canned
1 whole yellow onion — chopped
1 medium shallot — peeled, minced
1 package taco seasoning mix — or chili seasoning
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 ounces chopped green chiles — canned
10 ounces red enchilada sauce — Frontera brand if you can find it
salt to taste, if needed
3 cups chicken broth, low sodium
2/3 cup sour cream
2/3 cup creme fraiche
grated cheese, chopped cilantro and chopped avocado for garnish

NOTES: I used a whole chicken (smaller sized one) but used the same 20-minute timing and it was cooked through just fine.
1. Place the chicken, tomatoes, onion, shallot, enchilada sauce, chiles, and seasonings in the bottom of an Instant Pot . Pour the broth overtop.
2. For the Instant Pot, seal the lid and make sure the vent is on seal. Set to the Soup Function for 20 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes.
3. If you want to use a slow cooker, place the lid on and set to low for 6 to 8 hours or high for 3 to 4 hours.
4. When cooking is complete, remove the chicken to a plate, cool and shred the chicken meat. Remove about 1 cup of the hot broth to a bowl and whisk in the sour cream and creme fraiche, then whisk this combo back into the pot. Use an immersion blender to smooth out the soup. Add chicken to the pot.
5. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve hot with grated cheese, chopped cilantro and chopped avocados.

Per Serving: 308 Calories; 18g Fat (53.3% calories from fat); 24g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 123mg Cholesterol; 1110mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, IP, pressure cooker, on February 12th, 2018.

IP_crustless_quiche_lorraine_spinach

Goodness, me. This was so easy to make. I could even make this for myself for dinner, and then have leftovers.

Christmas morning I usually make something special for breakfast. My cousin Gary was visiting, and although he wasn’t feeling very good, still he knew he should eat, so I whipped this up in the IP. It was my first IP recipe I tried, and it turned out really well. My cousin has to eat GF, so going crustless was the way to go anyway. I was perfectly happy with the results.

I did research using the IP for quiche, but found several recipes, so I knew it was a successful thing to try. I had some baby spinach in the refrigerator that needed eating anyway, so I kind of combined two recipes and made it a quiche Lorraine style but with added spinach. Daughter Sara gave me an IP cookbook called Instant Pot® Obsession: The Ultimate Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook for Cooking Everything Fast. This recipe, with my modifications, came from that book.

The quiche ingredients were standard, starting with some thick sliced bacon that I sautéed for awhile to get it rendered out and crispy. There was hardly any fat in the pan anyway since the bacon I used was so meaty. The onion was cooked through, then I cooled and cleaned the IP pot. Meanwhile I mixed up the quiche ingredients (eggs, milk, cream, S & P, Emmental cheese, spinach) and the bacon and onion, of course. The rack is inserted into the IP, then the quiche, loosely covered with foil (you don’t want steam to get in there – it would ruin the chemistry of the quiche). It was pressure cooked for 10 minutes, rested for 10, then quick released.

IP_crustless_quiche_lorraine_spinach_wedgeI’d shredded a bit of extra Emmental and sprinkled more of it on top and stuck it under the oven broiler, just so it would have a bit of color. One thing about pressure cooking . . . you can’t get good color unless  you brown things before, or broil them after. It took no time at all to broil it for a few minutes. I let it rest for a couple of minutes because it was so hot, then cut into 4 portions and served it along with some yogurt and fruit.

What’s GOOD: it was basically a 2-dish prep (IP pot plus the ceramic baking dish) so there was easy cleanup. Loved the quiche. It may not have had the same consistency as a traditional oven-baked quiche – almost like eggs done in the microwave – but it was good and hit the spot. I liked the addition of spinach, even though it’s not traditional for a Lorraine type quiche.

What’s NOT: nothing really, unless you really miss the crust.

printer-friendly PDF and Master Cook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

IP Crustless Quiche Lorraine with Spinach

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Instant Pot Obsession
Serving Size: 4

1 teaspoon butter — (for coating baking dish)
3 slices bacon — chopped
1 small onion — sliced thin and chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fresh spinach — coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon white pepper — or black
1 1/4 cups Emmental cheese — or Gruyere, or other Swiss type
1 cup water — for steaming
TOPPING:
1/3 cup Emmental cheese — or Gruyere, or other Swiss type

1. Prepare a 1-quart round baking dish (that fits in the IP) and coat the bottom and sides with the room temp butter.
2. Using the IP saute function render the bacon until it’s crispy. Remove and set aside. Add onion and 1/4 tsp salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion is fully translucent and soft. Remove and set aside. Pour out any extra grease from the pot, cool, then clean the pot and replace into the IP.
3. In a large bowl combine the eggs, milk and cream, then add pepper and remaining salt. Add half the cheese to the mixture along with the spinach, bacon and onion, and pour it all into the prepared, buttered baking dish. Add remaining cheese on top. Cover with foil – not tight – but enough so steam won’t get into the dish. Install rack in the pot and gently place quiche dish on top of the rack. Add water to the bottom. Use manual pressure for 10 minutes, then let sit for 10 minutes as a natural release, then quick release.
4. Open IP, remove quiche, using the rack handles and set on countertop. Meanwhile, preheat broiler.
5. Add extra cheese to the top of the quiche and place under broiler just long enough to get some nice golden brown color to the top (watch carefully), remove, allow to cool for about 3-5 minutes. Cut in wedges and serve.
Per Serving: 386 Calories; 31g Fat (71.9% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 250mg Cholesterol; 519mg Sodium.

Posted in IP, Pork, pressure cooker, on February 8th, 2018.

IP_spareribs_bbq

Oh yes, mouth watering happening as I look at that photo. So quick and easy.

The other day I discovered an ancient package of pork spare ribs (not baby backs) in my freezer, back when my DH and I bought a part of a Berkshire pig. It had unique wrapping, so I knew – and it had a date on it. 2011. Wow. It’s been in my freezer for nearly 8 years! I didn’t hold out much hope that it would be all that good, but guess what? It was wonderful. Maybe because it was packaged well to begin with!

With my new instant pot sitting on my kitchen counter, I scanned websites to find a recipe that would work. Sure enough, found one at the blog called iwashyoudry. Shawna had used baby backs, but I presumed the cooking time would be similar. First I removed the thin tissue along the back of the ribs. It’s a bit of a nuisance to have to do that, but I did it anyway, knowing the dry rub would reach all the inner meat if I took the time. Then I combined the dry rub – a little bit of brown sugar and a bunch of spices. A very good mixture, I think! Into the IP they went, to rest on top of the IP rack, leaning up against the sides of the pot.

Once the meat was in, you add some water, apple cider vinegar AND a tiny jot of liquid smoke to the bottom of the pot, making sure you don’t wash off any of the spices sticking to the ribs. Having used liquid smoke in the past I wasn’t altogether sure I’d like it – but  using just 1/4 tsp gave the ribs just a hint of smoke. The meat cooked under high pressure for 23 minutes (Shawna cooked her for 25, but spareribs have less meat on them, so I chose 23). It rested for 10 minutes, then quick release.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler during the last couple minutes of resting time and prepare a baking sheet with foil (for easy cleanup) and have at the ready your favorite bottled BBQ sauce. Lay them on the baking sheet and brush that on. Broil just until beginning to get crispy brown. Remove and dig in! For mine, the ribs were nearly falling off of the meat, so I just took the bones out and had a nice little plate of just meat. And sauce. And spices. All good tasty stuff! My thanks to Shawna for a great recipe that works!

What’s GOOD: you can have ribs on the table in a little over 35 minutes or so, that taste like you’ve spent hours smoking and tending to them. When you haven’t!! Loved the combo of spices in the dry rub and with using just a little bit of BBQ sauce to finish them off; these were perfect! A keeper.

What’s NOT: really nothing, other than ribs have a lot of fat, so for me, they’re a real treat. Not something I’d fix on a regular basis.

printer-friendly PDF or MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Instant Pot BBQ Spareribs

Recipe By: adapted slightly from I wash you dry (blog)
Serving Size: 4

3 pounds pork spareribs
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke — optional
1/2 cup barbecue sauce

1. Remove the thin lining from the bottom side of the ribs by running a butter knife under the skin and then using a paper towel to grip and remove completely. (This allows the dry rub to reach the meat underneath.)
2. Combine the brown sugar, chili powder, parsley, salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne pepper in a small dish and rub all over the ribs.
3. Place the rack in your IP/pressure cooker and place the ribs inside the pot, standing on their ends, wrapping around the inside of the pot. It’s okay if it leans against the pan. Pour in the water, apple cider and liquid smoke (if using), being careful to not wash off any of the seasonings.
4. Secure the lid, making sure the vent is closed. Pressure cook on high for 23 minutes. Let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes, then quick release the rest of the way.
5. Carefully remove the ribs from the pressure cooker and set on a foil lined baking sheet. Brush with your favorite BBQ sauce, and broil for 5 minutes, but keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
Per Serving: 686 Calories; 51g Fat (67.4% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 165mg Cholesterol; 994mg Sodium.

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