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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):

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.

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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)

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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.

Posted in Pork, pressure cooker, on June 4th, 2013.

pork_stew_calvados_cream

Another one of those “brown” photos. It’s so very hard to give brown colored food any eye appeal. All I can tell you is that this dish was absolutely sensational. The flavors – oh my goodness yes. I’ll be making this again and again. It would even be good enough for guests. What you see there is browned pork chunks (at top), sweet potatoes (bottom and far right), an organic purple carrot (right side, vertical) and fennel (left). And drizzled over the top is the lightly creamed Calvados and broth which was then topped with chopped chives. Thank goodness for chives!

Out of the freezer came our last package of Berkshire pork. It was pork chunks, and by the time I got into the kitchen to start dinner, it was after 4pm, so I needed to figure out something fast. What I didn’t know was what kind of pork it was – it was labeled pork stew meat, that’s all. It could have been trimmings from pork chops, pork shoulder, tenderloin bits, or pork loin. All needing different cooking times. But oh well, I just had to guess. With time of an essence, I knew I needed to do this in the pressure cooker, so the recipe below is done that way, but you can do this all without one – just cook the meat mixture on the stove until barely cooked through, and cook the vegetables until they’re tender. You can add the Calvados cream ingredients with everything in the pot.

You know about Calvados, right? It’s an apple brandy from the northern part of France. It’s still a brandy. I’ve had my bottle for about 15 years, and with this dish I emptied it. We never drink it – I use it exclusively for cooking. Time for a new one now. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

Calvados is distilled from cider made from specially grown and selected apples, of which there are over 200 named varieties. It is not uncommon for a Calvados producer to use over 100 specific varieties of apples, which are either sweet (such as the Rouge Duret variety), tart (such as the Rambault variety), or bitter (such as the Mettais, Saint Martin, Frequin, and Binet Rouge varieties), the latter being inedible. The fruit is harvested (either by hand or mechanically) and pressed into a juice that is fermented into a dry cider. It is then distilled into eau de vie. After two years aging in oak casks, it can be sold as Calvados. The longer it is aged, the smoother the drink becomes. Usually the maturation goes on for several years.

Don’t Have a Pressure Cooker?

Just cook the pork low and slow until it’s tender, add the veggies and cook those until just tender and add the Calvados and cream in at the end. The pressure cooker just cut down the cooking times, that’s all.

Here’s what I did: I sprinkled the pork chunks with Herbes de Provence, then browned them until they were caramelized brown on several sides, not crowding the pieces. That took 2 batches. I removed the meat and poured out the fat that had accumulated in the pan. Meat went back in, then I added a 6-ounce (can) of pineapple juice, 1 1/2 cups of water, bay leaves, fresh thyme sprigs, salt and pepper, and Penzey’s soup base (I used pork, but chicken would be fine). I pressure cooked that for about 13 minutes. Cooled it under a cold running tap, and the pork was just perfectly cooked. I removed the meat (because I didn’t want to cook the meat any further – it was perfectly cooked), then I added all the vegetables and apples and those were pressure cooked for 4 minutes. The vegetables were perfectly cooked so I removed them also. With the liquid left in the pan I added the shallot and Dijon mustard and let that simmer for a few minutes until the shallot was cooked. Then I added the cream and heated it through, then in went the Calvados. I cooked that for 2-3 minutes just so it would boil-off the alcohol. Then I added the meat back in and let that simmer for 2-3 minutes so the meat would be piping hot. The veggies stayed hot, so those were divided amongst the wide soup bowls, then I spooned the meat equally between the bowls (there won’t be lots of meat per person – 2 pounds of pork doesn’t end up being all that much, surprisingly) and poured the Calvados cream over them equally as well. Chopped chives went on top and it was ready to serve.

What’s GOOD: Oh, just everything. The meat, the juices, the veggies, the apples and of course, the creamy Calvados sauce I drizzled over the top. You’ll be licking the bowl.
What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever. Unless you don’t like stew. Or meat, or you’re averse to a little bit of cream.

printer-friendly PDF using Cute PDF Writer, not Adobe
MasterCook 5+ import file – right click to save file (remember where), run MC, File|Import

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pork Stew with Fennel, Carrots, Apples, Sweet Potato and Calvados Cream (Pressure Cooker)

Recipe By: My own concoction, 2013
Serving Size: 4

2 pounds pork shoulder — fat trimmed, cut in 1″ chunks
1 1/2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons canola oil
6 ounces pineapple juice — or apple juice
1 1/2 cups water
2 whole Turkish bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme — left whole
1 teaspoon Penzey’s chicken soup base — or pork soup base, if you have it
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
VEGETABLES:
1 large fennel bulb — trimmed, quartered
1 large sweet potato — peeled, cut in large pieces
2 small apples — peeled, cored, cut in wedges
10 ounces carrots — peeled, cut in chunks
CALVADOS CREAM:
1 whole shallot — peeled, finely minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard — French style
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Calvados — (apple brandy) or regular brandy
2 tablespoons fresh chives — minced, for garnish

1. Trim the pork of the bigger pieces of fat, if possible. Toss them with the dried herbs.
2. In a tall pressure cooker heat the oil and brown the pork pieces over medium heat. Don’t crowd the pan (do this in 2 batches). Remove pieces to a plate.
3. Drain and discard the fat in the pan. Add pineapple juice, water, Bay leaves, fresh thyme sprigs, soup base and seasonings. Transfer the pork pieces back into the pan.
4. Bring the pressure cooker up to pressure and simmer for 13 minutes. Place under cold water tap to reduce heat quickly. Taste the pork to see that it’s done – it should be just perfectly tender and juicy. If it’s not, continue to pressure cook for 2-3 minuites at a time until the meat is cooked through but not dry. Remove meat from the pan and set aside.
5. Add the fennel, sweet potato, apples and carrots. Bring the pressure cooker back up to pressure and cook for 4 minutes. Again, place under cold running tap to cool quickly. Remove all the vegetables to another plate and set aside. Discard thyme stems.
5. To the liquid in the pan (about a cup) add the shallot and Dijon mustard and cook over medium-high heat until the shallot is tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add heavy cream and cook for about 1 minute at a slow simmer. Add the Calvados brandy and stir in. Continue to heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Add the meat back into the pan and heat the meat slowly for about 2-3 minutes.
6. Divide the vegetables in 4 wide soup bowls. Divide the meat and Calvados cream over each serving and garnish with chopped chives. Serve immediately.
Per Serving (this assumes you eat all the fat, most of which is drained off after you brown the meat): 699 Calories; 45g Fat (59.7% calories from fat); 32g Protein; 37g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 148mg Cholesterol; 352mg Sodium.

Posted in pressure cooker, Utensils, on March 20th, 2013.

duocombi_large_horizontal_product

This post isn’t about a recipe. It’s just about pressure cookers, what makes them tick (ha! that’s a joke, the old-fashioned ones did kind of tick or jitter, new ones don’t). Most of this is synopsized (is that a word?) from my latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated. It was so interesting I thought I’d share it with you.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you’ll already know that I particularly like to know the “why” of things. The science of cooking. I imagine this comes from the genetics I got from my dad – he was an engineer, and probably would have liked me to be one too, but I took a different path. Yet, when it comes to cooking, as I’ve gotten older (oh, excuse me, mature!) I really like knowing why things work. Like what is the maillard reaction (that’s the effect of caramelization or browning in a pan, mostly related to meat, but it could be anything that’s cooked to a high enough heat and creates a fond, that brown stuff that sticks to the pan, where all the flavor lies)? Or how/why does baking powder or soda makes things rise. Why is arborio rice different than long grain and why do they cook differently? You know, those kinds of things.

Just a bit of pressure cooker background here – I was given a pressure cooker in 1962 when I got married the first time. I used it, and then one unfortunate day I was cooking artichokes, got distracted, went outside and totally forgot about the artichokes jiggling away in the kitchen. When I came back through the door about 30 minutes later, the smell assailed me – burned is all I can say. The pressure cooker, one of those old-old Presto versions – was still on the stove, the jiggly top had blown off and the artichokes were burned to a crisp and obviously there was no more water inside. The interior couldn’t be cleaned up, and I discovered immediately that the bottom of the pan was warped. Big time warped. It had developed a rounded bottom – so bad that the pan wouldn’t sit level anyway, although it was still barely usable (amazing, when you consider what I’d done to it!). Plus, I couldn’t get that burned smell out of the pan in any event. I kept it for years, out of guilt, I think, that I’d been so careless as to ruin the darned thing. Hoping there would be a solution. (No.)

But I’d remembered all these ensuing years how much time they saved sometimes. It was at a cooking class about 5-6 years ago that the instructor (Deb Buzar) made short ribs, and she did it in the pressure cooker. It wasn’t a pressure cooker class – but she’d arrived at the class at about 5pm, was somewhat short on time to prep for the class. But, she explained that she always does her barbecued short ribs in the pressure cooker – mostly because the recipe she shared (linked just above – and is still my go-to short rib recipe) was from her mother-in-law, and SHE had always made it in the pressure cooker. It was at that class I decided to buy one.

Being a judicious buyer as I am, I went online and read reviews about PC’s. Mostly at amazon.com. There are all varying prices – from under $100 to nearly $300. After reading reviews, I decided to buy a Fagor, and purchased a variation of the 5-piece set (the one you see pictured at the top) – Fagor Duo Combi 5-Piece Pressure Cooker Set. It has 2 different sized pans, with two lids – one which includes the rubber sealing ring that allows the pan to come to pressure, and the second one just an ordinary glass lid,  and also came with a pasta/steamer insert. I think it’s about $150. The set I bought from amazon didn’t come with the pasta insert and didn’t have the glass lid. I’ve been nothing but happy with my purchase. I don’t use it every day. I don’t even use it every week, but when I use it – I’m very grateful I have it. Lately I’ve used it most often for cooking dried beans, which has been a revelation to me. I’m not trying to convince you to buy a Fagor. I’m only sharing my process and that I’ve been happy with my decision.

So fast forward to the other day when I was reading Cook’s Illustrated, and they had a lengthy article about PCs. Purposely I didn’t flip the couple of pages to read which ones were their winners. Here’s what I learned.

Pressure cookers function based on a very simple principle. In a tightly sealed pot, the boiling point of liquid is higher. As the pot heats up, pressure begins to build. This pressure makes it more difficult for water molecules to turn to vapor – therefore raising the boiling point from 212 to 250 degrees. Why does this matter? The superheated steam generated in the cooker makes food cook faster. And because the pot stays closed, cooking requires much less liquid than usual, and flavors concentrate.

steam_digesterContraptions for cooking under pressure have been around for a long, long time. They were first invented by Denis Papin in 1679. He was a French mathematician and physicist and invented it because he wanted to reduce bones (probably from cows, pigs and sheep) to bone meal. Some time in the 1900’s, after World War II, there was a big surge to develop them for the home cook. At one time I used my badly warped pressure cooker to cook chicken backs and necks (which were dirt cheap back in the 1970’s), reduce them to mush, and feed them to my female dog who had just whelped and was quite thin and weary from caring for and feeding her litter of puppies. It worked like a charm to give her lots of calcium. The bone mixture was loaded with calories too. She wolfed it down.

Anyway, early pressure cookers had some inherent problems (and the article said there were some unscrupulous manufacturers too), but as the years have gone by they’ve been tested and designed for ease of use – and safety for home use. No toggle thing that ticks. With mine, I bring it up to temperature and it starts to spit steam. Once it’s a steady stream of steam, I reduce the temp, and it sits on the range with no need to watch it at all, until the minutes have ticked away. Once done, you can just let it cool down on its own. You can flip a toggle and release the steam, or I put it in my kitchen sink and run cold water over it for about 15 seconds and it’s down to a regular/no pressure. Mine has a tiny little plastic plug and when it’s under steam pressure the plug sticks up (kind of like those little plastic thingies that come in turkeys, that supposedly pop out when the turkey is done). Once pressure is released, the plastic plug slips back down into the lid so I know it’s safe to remove the lid. It’s very easy and I feel very safe using it.

The article concluded that 6-quart pans aren’t very useful. Mine is an 8-quart, which was the preferred size. They also highly recommended a 9 inch width. Some are 7 1/2 inches, but they didn’t like them much. The bottom of pressure cooker pans enclose a heavy-duty aluminum ring, encased in stainless steel, that regulates and retains heat. If that ring is too small, food on the outer edges can burn. And they cautioned about using pans on a burner where the flame can lick up the sides and can damage both the locking mechanisms in the lids and the rubber gaskets. So don’t use the cooker on a really high BTU burner (those are always a wider ring of flame). Better to use a regular burner, although it will take a bit more time to bring it up to temperature. The 2 winners had base thicknesses of over 7 millimeters thick. Several other models were under 7 millimeters and didn’t perform as well. Some models didn’t quite reach/maintain the 250 degree desired temp. Only the top one did. fissler_vitaquick_pressurecookerThe 2nd best, their Best Buy model (the one I own, above) didn’t quite get to 250 degrees, but was very close. All the others were less, so cooking times were longer. Some models also lost fluid (meaning they vented too much steam). The two top models lost a very tiny amount, which is ideal. The number one model was the Fissler Vitaquick Pressure Cooker, 8.5qt.  It’s $279. The #2 choice was the one I own (see link in top paragraph if you’re interested).

Electric pressure cookers were also examined and found wanting, for a variety of reasons: smaller size (too small), the nonstick coating inside was less durable than the stainless steel in regular models, they lacked handles, they spun around when stirring, and weaker heating elements. The only model they half-heartedly recommended was Emeril by T-fal CY4000001 6-Quart Electric Pressure Cooker, Silver.

If you’re interested, the article says that 5 recipes from Cook’s Illustrated’s new book, Pressure Cooker Magic (not out yet, I gather, since I can’t find it online anywhere), are available for free for 4 months (until May 13th, 2013). You will have to sign in/up (free) in order to access the recipes. There’s one for Asian-Style Boneless Beef Short Ribs, Chicken Broth, Easy Chicken and Rice, Easy Ziti with Sausage and Peppers, and Parmesan Risotto.

I do have a number of recipes on my blog prepared in the pressure cooker. In case you’re interested, click on the links below. And I just posted 2 days ago an article about cooking beans – if you click on this link, you’ll go to that one, and do print out the 2-page chart which includes the cooking times for cooking every possible kind of bean in a pressure cooker.

Malaysian Inspired Pork Stew
Parsnips in Orange Sauce
Lamb Shanks with Garlicky Madeira Gravy
Sweet and Spicy Barbecued Country Ribs
Carnitas Tacos
Italian Pot Roast
Mushroom Risotto
Beef Stew with Dumplings
No Heat Beef Chili (the beans are made in the pressure cooker)

Posted in easy, pressure cooker, Veggies/sides, on January 25th, 2013.

parsnips_orange_sauce_pressure_cooker

Do you have a pressure cooker? I don’t use mine enough, but when I do, I’m so delighted with the results. Usually parsnips take a good long time to cook. Not this way!

It was last Sunday afternoon. I went to a concert at our church – to hear the Male Chorale from Cal Baptist (a college in Riverside, 40 miles or so east of where we live). What a performance it was, and I loved every minute of it. But when I got home it was later than I’d planned and I’d not done much preparation for dinner! My DH helped me some – he prepped the Brussels Sprouts with Maple Syrup. I had made a new salad dressing (I’ll post it soon). I’d marinated some steaks and just needed to make the sauce to go on them, chop the salad and pan roast the Brussels sprouts. I’d also wanted to use the parsnips too, that were growing feathery roots in my vegetable bin. I did a quick search on the internet and found something immediately that sounded good. I had oranges from our trees and I had the pressure cooker all ready!

First I peeled the parsnips, which took about a minute. I sliced them into smaller pieces, threw them in the pot, added a little bit of butter, zested the orange (and set that aside for later), then squeezed the juice. The recipe indicated some sugar, salt and that was it. They were pressure cooked for 5 minutes and I did a quick cool-down under the faucet and into a serving bowl they went with a sprinkle of Italian parsley and the orange zest. Delicious. It’s not really a “sauce,” like I think of sauce – to me sauce means something thickened – not a jus. This was just orange juice that permeated the parsnips like magic. It was very low calorie – 104 calories and 2 grams of fat per serving.

What’s good: how easy and quick it was to make. I may try this same recipe with carrots. You could make it with no butter (the original didn’t have any added fat), but I did use a little bit. Altogether delicious. My DH could hardly get enough of them.

What’s not: nothing! Just be careful and don’t over cook them.

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Parsnips in Orange Sauce (Pressure Cooker)

Recipe By: Adapted from food.com
Serving Size: 4

1 pound parsnips — peeled and cut lengthwise into quarters
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Italian parsley — minced
1/2 teaspoon orange zest

1. Place parsnips in pressure cooker. Combine orange juice, sugar, butter and salt; pour over parsnips.
2. Close pressure cooker cover securely and cook for 5 minutes only. Do not over cook. Run cold water over top of pressure cooker to reduce pressure quickly. Sprinkle parsnips with orange zest, Italian parsley and serve.
Per Serving: 104 Calories; 2g Fat (14.4% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 4mg Cholesterol; 143mg Sodium.

Posted in easy, Pork, pressure cooker, on February 5th, 2012.

sweet_and_spicy_barbecued_country_ribs

A super easy pressure cooker recipe for country ribs. Not only was it easy, but the flavor of the sauce was outstanding. You can see the little pieces of onion in the sauce.

Going to the freezer, I grabbed a small package of the Berkshire pork we purchased last summer. I’m embarrassed to say that this is the first of it I’ve used (we bought a quarter of a 4-H Berkshire pig). My freezer has been just overflowing. I’ve not purchased any fresh meat for months (except for additional chicken which we eat often), in an attempt to use up some of the good stuff we have in the freezer. But with just two of us eating, it takes awhile to make much of a hole in the jam-packed freezer contents.

In addition, I didn’t even think about how I’d  prepare it. So I went to Eat Your Books, searched for “country ribs” and it told me in the short form what ingredients are in each recipe. Choosing one, yup, I had all that was needed. I can’t say that I have ever done country ribs in a pressure cooker. What a winner of a recipe this is. 25 minutes in the pressure cooker and it was done! Wow. Ordinarily I would have simmered the ribs for awhile in water, then we would have grilled them on the barbecue. Not needed with this recipe. It came from Pressure Cooking for Everyone by Richard Rodgers.

First the ribs were browned in oil in the pressure cooker pot. That was easy and took just a few minutes. The ribs were removed, then I lightly sautéed an onion, with a bit of garlic added in at the end. Catsup was added, some jalapeno jelly (or you could use apricot preserves instead), chili powder and some water to give it just enough saucy consistency. The ribs were added back in, on went the lid and I brought the pressure cooker up to steam and it cooked for 25 minutes. I brought the heat down right away by putting the pressure cooker under the cold water faucet in the sink. Done. While it had been hissing away I made a green salad and some cauliflower.

The pressure cooker pan did have a bit of grease in it, so I spooned that out, then scooped out the remaining barbecue sauce onto the cooked ribs. Oh, it was fantastic. This recipe was so easy – I’d make it again any day. And I just loved the flavor of the sauce.

What I liked: the flavor of the sauce was just right as far as sweet scale. Because the onions are chopped, they don’t disintegrate, and I liked that little bit of texture in the sauce too. Easy to make too. I loved how quickly it cooked too. Just what a pressure cooker is for!

What I didn’t like: nothing at all. (If you were going to make mashed potatoes or rice on the side, I’d suggest you double the amount of sauce as you’ll want some to spoon onto the side dish.)

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Sweet-and-Spicy Barbecued Country Ribs (pressure cooker)

Recipe By: Pressure Cooking for Everyone, by Rick Rodgers
Serving Size: 4

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 pounds pork country-style ribs — (cut into servings)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion — chopped
2 cloves garlic — peeled, minced
1 cup catsup — Heinz brand, preferably
1/2 cup jalapeno jelly — or apricot preserves
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 cup water

1. In a 5-7 quart pressure cooker, heat the oil over medium-high heat. In batches, add the ribs and brown lightly, about 5-7 minutes total for each batch. Transfer ribs to a plate, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
2. Pour out all but a tablespoon of the fat in the pan and return to the heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add garlic during last minute of cooking.
3. Stir in the catsup, jalapeno jelly, chili powder and water and stir. Add the ribs back into the pan. Cover and lock lid in place. Follow directions for your pressure cooker, but bring it up to pressure and cook for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and quick-release the pressure [I put it under a stream of cold water in the kitchen sink]. Open the lid, tilting it away from you to block any escaping steam.
4. If desired, you may heat the sauce on the stove top and boil it down to a desired thicker consistency. Or, spoon out any pools of fat and scoop the sauce on the top of all the ribs and serve.
Per Serving: 770 Calories; 47g Fat (54.7% calories from fat); 41g Protein; 47g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 160mg Cholesterol; 1141mg Sodium.

Posted in Pork, pressure cooker, on April 24th, 2011.

carnitas_tacos_pressure_cooker

The latest issue of Food and Wine magazine had a quick (and easy) method of making carnitas (pork) tacos. Two of our grandchildren were visiting the past week, and I know they enjoy Mexican food, so this seemed like an easy entrée. I served it with a green salad, and that was dinner.

The pork shoulder roast should be trimmed of noticeable fat, cut into small chunks, and it’s pressure-cooker cooked for 25 minutes. Do run the pressure at a low level if possible. Also, don’t put much water in the pan – it makes some fluid (water and fat) as it cooks, but after the meat is cooked, you mix the limited amount of fluid with the three spice powders (ancho, chipotle and achiote) to make a kind of sauce on the meat at the end. The meat chunks are drained, then briefly fried in a bit of vegetable oil – to caramelize the outside edges a little. Then you just pile some pieces onto a hot corn tortilla, add some cilantro, a squirt of lime juice and some sliced avocado. If you desire, put out some shredded cabbage, and cheese and let people help themselves. Result? Well, this isn’t quite as flavorful as a many-hour roasted carnitas roast, but for a quick weeknight dinner this was just fine. Flavor was good and it made for an easy cooking experience. I do have another recipe on my blog for a caramelized pork carnitas also. That recipe requires a bit more cooking time than this one, but it has some added steps too. Both are good, but if time isn’t a problem, I’d opt for the caramelized one which also has a bunch of cheese added to it as well. I adapted the magazine recipe a little (I used more pork and I’m glad I did because we barely had enough for 5 people), so the recipe below has been changed with my additions and changes.

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Pressure Cooker Pork Carnitas Tacos

Recipe By: Adapted from Food & Wine, May 2011
Serving Size: 5
NOTES: You want very little fluid in the bottom of the pressure cooker when you add the spices. Start with less than 1/4 cup, add the spices, then add more of the broth as needed to make a sauce. The nutrition info does not include calories for the tortillas, cilantro and avocado. It’s important that you don’t allow the pressure cooker to steam too much – you want it to be under very low pressure. Some cookers are adjustable for 15-25 psi. Use lower setting if possible.

3 pounds pork shoulder (butt) roast — boneless
1 teaspoon achiote paste — a dry paste product
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder salt, to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil — for frying
about 10-12 6-inch corn tortillas, lime wedges, 1 cup minced cilantro, 1 sliced avocado, and green onions

1. Pour 1/4 inch of water into a pressure cooker and add the pork. Cover and cook at 15 PSI for 25 minutes, regulating the heat to prevent excessive steam from escaping through the valve. Turn off the heat and wait for the pressure cooker to depressurize so that the lid can be removed without force, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a strainer. Stir the achiote paste and both chile powders into the pan juices and season with salt.
2. In a medium skillet, heat 1/2 inch of oil until shimmering. Working in batches, fry the pork over high heat, turning once, until crispy, 3 minutes. Season with salt. Add the meat to the sauce and stir to coat. Serve the carnitas with tortillas, sliced avocado, cilantro and lime wedges. Makes about 10 tacos.
Per Serving: 533 Calories; 42g Fat (72.3% calories from fat); 35g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 145mg Cholesterol; 167mg Sodium.

A year ago: Chicken Breasts with Maple Mustard Sauce
Two years ago: Mint Juleps with Agave Nectar
Three years ago: Caramelized Onion Sage Puffs

Posted in Beef, easy, pressure cooker, on February 1st, 2011.

italian_pot_roast_pressure_cooker

That’s sliced pot roast in the foreground, laid partly on pasta, and the sort-of red sauce that got whizzed up in the food processor after cooking the meat in the pressure cooker.

I’m on a kitchen mission. A mission to work more diligently to clean out my freezer. I not only have a huge full freezer in my kitchen, but I have a second lower-drawer freezer in the refrigerator/freezer in our garage. That latter freezer holds mostly meat. And it holds a LOT. Enough that, were we to have a catastrophe of major proportions, I think we could live (with a generator, mind you, keeping the meat frozen) for at least 3 months without buying any meat. At a guess, 3 months. Veggies – well that’s a different matter. I have some canned stuff and a few frozen bags, but mostly my freezer is full of meat products, at least 5 pounds of different kinds of nuts, a few oddball things like frozen limeade, squeezed lemon juice from our Meyer lemon trees, chutneys of a few varieties, and some ordinary things like chili, soup (lots), bread, bacon, sausage that we have for breakfast most days, a few cookies, one dessert I made a couple of weeks ago, and some chipotle chiles.

My DH, darling that he is, often tells people how much meat we have in our reserve freezer, and that all he must buy is a Coleman stove and we’d be in business. We could set up a local soup kitchen. But we’d need that stove first, which we haven’t purchased. We should. All part of earthquake or emergency preparedness. We don’t have a generator, either. So, the next best thing is to start eating up the meat.

Therefore, I defrosted a 3-pound chunk of boneless chuck roast a few days ago. It was nicely sealed up in plastic (I have one of those FoodSaver things that seals foods of all kinds so they don’t get freezer burn). My guess is that there are other people out there like me – who really know how to pack a freezer. Right? We’re almost to the point that our kitchen freezer door must be opened carefully – like Fibber McGee’s closet, for fear something will fall out and break your toe. Most of you readers are too young to remember Fibber McGee and Molly, a long-running radio program (1935 – 1959), where one of the long-standing jokes was about somebody inadvertently opening the hall closet to a long, noisy crash of stuff. I vaguely remember the program because my parents loved the show. Once we got a television (about 1946, when I was 5) we didn’t listen to much radio anymore. But the joke about the closet lives on and it always ended with Fibber’s comment: I’ve gotta clean out that closet one of these days. My freezer, therefore, is my Fibber McGee’s closet!

The last few days I’ve been more than a bit under the weather. But I’d defrosted this roast before I got my cough/cold thing I have, so on day 3 of my cold I dug out my Fagor Duo Stainless-Steel 6-Quart Pressure Cooker and fired it up. Referring to a recipe in one of my 3 pressure cooker cookbooks, I settled on an Italian style roast because I knew my DH would enjoy having just a little bit of pasta on the side. We don’t eat much pasta because Dave’s a diabetic, but once in awhile we celebrate and always savor every bite!

The pot roast took about 20 minutes of prep (browning the meat, cutting up all the veggies and cooking them briefly), and about 1 1/4 hours to cook it all under pressure. Then I removed the meat and tented it with foil while I prepared the sauce. All of the stuff left in the pan, the veggies (except the fat I was able to spoon off the top) went into my food processor and I whizzed it up to a smooth puree. I tasted it for seasonings, then poured it out over the sliced beef and the pasta. With a green salad, that was a complete dinner.

Bottom line: it was good. Certainly not as good as my tried-and-true French Pot Roast a la Mode that I’ve used for years. That takes innumerable hours to make and bake. But since I was in sort of a hurry, it was very good. My DH loved it – really loved it. And it was on the table in about 2 hours.

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Italian Pot Roast (Pressure Cooker)

Recipe By: Adapted from a recipe in Pressure Cooking for Everyone by Rick Rodgers and Arlene Ward, 2000
Serving Size: 6

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
3 1/2 pounds chuck roast — boneless rump or bottom round
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 large onion — peeled, chopped
3 medium carrots — peeled, chunks
3 stalks celery — chopped
3 large garlic cloves — finely chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
28 ounces canned tomatoes
1/4 cup Italian parsley — chopped
1/2 pound pasta — your choice of type, or mashed potatoes or rice

1. In a large pressure cooker (5-7 quart), heat one tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Dry the roast briefly with paper towels and add to the hot pan. Saute until one side is dark brown, turn over and repeat on second side, about 5 minutes. Transfer meat to a plate and season the meat with salt and pepper.
2. If there is fat in the pan you may pour it off, then add the other tablespoon of oil. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Saute for a few minutes until the vegetables are nearly limp. Add the garlic and stir, cooking for another minute. Add the red wine, seasonings, and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, using a wooden spoon. Add the chopped tomatoes and their juice. Stir.
3. Return the meat on top of the vegetables, adding any juices from the plate. Lock the pressure cooker lid in place and bring to high pressure. Reduce heat (using directions for your own pressure cooker) but maintain a steady steam and cook for 1 1/4 hours. Remove from heat and cool, using directions with your unit. Open lid and transfer the meat to a platter and cover lightly with foil.
4. Pour all of the veggie mixture into a food processor and blend until the mixture is pureed. Return to the pressure cooker pan and reheat. Taste for seasonings.
5. Meanwhile, prepare your choice of carbohydrate (1) pasta; (2) mashed potatoes; or (3) rice. Slice the meat across the grain and place beside and partly on top of the carb and pour the sauce over the top. Garnish with Italian parsley.
Per Serving (this assumes you consume all the sauce and fat – you may not): 802 Calories; 47g Fat (53.9% calories from fat); 49g Protein; 41g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 153mg Cholesterol; 554mg Sodium.

A year ago: Stacked Chicken Enchiladas
Two years ago: A list of travel websites
Three years ago: Chocolate Scones (fantastic!)

Posted in pressure cooker, Veggies/sides, on May 6th, 2009.

mushroom-risotto

When I bought my Fagor pressure cooker, I recall watching a video (on a DVD included in the package) and one of the recipes was for risotto. Really, I thought? You can make risotto in a pressure cooker?

Well, I’m here to tell you this recipe worked like a charm. I rarely make risotto, for two reasons: (a) rice is a high glycemic carb; and (b) it’s labor intensive. But, as you probably know, risotto is also downright delicious. It’s probably been 2 years since I’ve made risotto, but I think I might make it slightly more often with this new recipe.

arborio-riceWe had a nice thick ribeye steak for dinner, a green salad, an artichoke, and this risotto. Arborio rice always lives in my cupboard, even though I rarely use it.  I had some already-prepared mushrooms (leftovers) so I decided to add them to the mixture. I wasn’t sure the mushrooms would withstand the pressure cooker method, so I added them in at the end (along with the garlic and parsley and Parmesan cheese).

First you saute the onion, then add the rice and cook it briefly in olive oil. You add the white wine and let it evaporate, then broth is added and you let it do its pressure cooker thing. Mine pressured for five minutes. Once I removed the lid there was just the perfect amount of liquid in the pan, but once I added the mushrooms, it thickened up some, so I did end up adding a bit of water. Taste the rice to see if it’s cooked perfectly – still slightly firm to the tooth. You do not want to overcook it, that’s all. You may need to try your pressure cooker. The creaminess was perfect. And it was really tasty. Next time I might add a bit more Parmesan. If you’re eating this as your entree, it’ll serve 2. As a side, it’ll serve at least 4, maybe 5.
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Pressure Cooker Mushroom Risotto

Servings: 5

RICE:
1 medium onion — finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup arborio rice
1 cup white wine
22 ounces chicken broth — boiling, or beef broth (1 5/8 cups)
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup parmesan cheese — grated
freshly ground black pepper
MUSHROOMS:
1 cup mushrooms — sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic — minced
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — chopped

1. In pressure cooker pan, heat the olive oil and gently fry the onion until soft and translucent.
2. Add rice and saute for about 1-2 minutes until the rice glistens but does not brown. Add the white wine and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Add the broth, stir, then follow directions for your pressure cooker. Cook under pressure for about 5 minutes (or a maximum of 6 minutes).
3. Meanwhile, in a small nonstick skillet heat the oil and saute the mushrooms briefly, then add garlic. Continue to cook for about 2-3 minutes until the mushrooms are just cooked through. Add the parsley and set aside.
4. Cool the pressure cooker under cold tap water until the steam is released. Open the pressure cooker, place it back on the stove. If there is too much liquid, cook for a minute or two. Stir in the butter, parmesan and black pepper. Add the mushrooms and stir in to the risotto. If the rice is too dry, add a bit of hot water. If it’s too moist, continue to cook over low to medium heat until some of the liquid has evaporated.
5. Replace the lid on the pressure cooker (don’t cook it, you’re just trying to keep it hot) and allow to rest for 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 394 Calories; 21g Fat (52.2% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 25mg Cholesterol; 627mg Sodium.

A year ago: Brownie-Bottomed Pudding Pie (easy)
Two years ago: Mexican Chopped Salad (oh, a real favorite)

Posted in pressure cooker, Utensils, on July 10th, 2008.

fagor pressure cooker duo combi set

Some months ago I attended a cooking class where the chef prepared barbecued short ribs in a pressure cooker. The cooking school didn’t have one for her to use, so she brought her own. The owner of the cooking school recommended the Fagor brand (made in Spain) Duo. And she offhandedly said – you’ve gotta try carrots in the pressure cooker. Really, I thought? Carrots?

I haven’t had a pressure cooker for years. The one I was given in 1962 long ago bit the dust. Since I’m retired, I argued to myself that I really didn’t need one. Until I tasted the results of that recipe (the short ribs) I had kept that interest at bay. Then, my friend Cherrie loaned me her Fagor P.C. for a few weeks. I made three dishes in it and decided I wanted one. I bought mine on eBay – it was a Fagor Duo combi set – it comes with two base pots (a 4-quart and an 8-quart), one pressure cooker lid, a steamer insert, and a glass lid. The one I acquired was NIB (in eBay language that’s New-In-Box). Did I get a bargain? Well, after shipping I saved about $20, I think. I do not have an eBay addiction – in fact I’m not very good at keeping on top of the bid process on the few occasions when I’ve tried to buy something that way. I bought mine as a Buy Now, which bypasses the whole bid thing. Likely my set came from a Fagor outlet store as I discovered a black mark inside the lid. It won’t come off. But who cares?

My next project is to decide which cookbook(s) to buy. Nothing came with the pressure cookers except a tiny minimally informative booklet and a DVD. I did watch the video, though, which helped explain the procedures. I’ve got that down pat.


I went to the web, then, and researched the books. I think I must have two, so am going to add them to my amazon.com wish list (my birthday is coming up). In the interim, though, I went to the internet to find recipes online. There’s one definitive site – Miss Vickie’s – with lots and lots of recipes. I chose one for mixed vegetables (Brussels sprouts, one small potato, onion and several carrots). I sautéed the onions first, then piled into the pot the fresh chopped vegetables (with the potatoes and carrots cut smaller than the Brussels sprouts – otherwise they won’t get done at the same time). I added some chicken broth and a bit of butter, plus some thyme, salt and pepper and it was done. Took 4 minutes. FOUR MINUTES! Meantime I had sautéed some orange roughy, and my dinner was completed. All within about 15 minutes. Love it! And the vegetables? I thought they were terrific. And would you believe the best part was the carrots!

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