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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):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then becomes something else. There is graphic detail here.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words:

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave a story.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Uncategorized, on January 8th, 2024.

At Thanksgiving and Christmas every year I make a few things that I’ve made for decades. I suppose I could go to all the trouble of creating new, cropped photos of all these things, and write up a new blurb about them. But if you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you may have already seen them in years past. I’m not going to do that this time – it’s a ton of work. I’m just going to list them, in blog-style conversation and if you’re interested, you can click on the link.

At Thanksgiving, I made my usual cranberry relish. It’s different because it contains apple, a whole orange (including the skin and pith) and some fresh ginger (that you’d not know was there except I’m telling you). It keeps for about a month.

Early in December I made Bishop’s Bread, something I learned to make back in the 1960s and it’s filled with chocolate chips, walnuts and maraschino cherries. So it’s a fruitcake, but doesn’t have all those citron things in it. As I write this I still have part of a loaf that I nibble on with coffee or tea every few days.

Several of us gathered together to make Christmas cookies this year. Each person brought one cookie (already made, or mostly made) that was shared with our group of four. And we baked several throughout the day. We tried a couple of new recipes. Cranberry Moscow Mule Cookies are different, all the flavors of a Moscow mule, but in cookie form. They’re quite sweet. Not certain we’ll make them again. We always make Chocolate Almond Saltine Bars, and this year we made a double batch as one batch didn’t give each of us enough.

We tried a new snowball cookie called Bee’s Knees, and although they were fine, they weren’t as good as the ones we usually make, so we’ll go back to our original next year, I think. I made a double batch of Chocolate Salami, which is a real treat for me. It’s a mixture of bittersweet chocolate, cookie crumbs (this time I used graham crackers although I think the Biscoff cookie crumbs are better) and nuts, rolled into a log, chilled, then you slice them and they look kinda-sorta like salami.

We’d talked about making potato chip cookies (they were a winner last year) but we ran out of time. As it was, we baked nearly all day and since all of us are “of a certain age,” we were TIRED. Next year we’ll go back to the Cranberry Noels that have been a favorite for many years.

We also made Bushwhacker Bars (similar to the cocktail, but a cookie, obviously). I don’t think we liked them that much, so I didn’t write up the recipe to share. If anyone wants the recipe, click the link and it goes to Food & Wine magazine. If you make them, cut back on the sugar.

Nearly all the cookies are gone now – I gifted some, took some when I went to someone’s house, and I ate a lot of them myself. There are a few of the Cranberry Moscow Mule cookies left, but they’re not a favorite so they languish in the freezer.

Lots of baking . . . lots of dishes, and thanks to Jackie and Dianne for washing up dishes a jillion times that day. I made some soup, my Dad’s lentil soup, for us so we wouldn’t eat too much cookie dough, and we dashed out to visit a local store that was all decked out for Christmas. We had a really nice time of it. We skipped our usual cookie baking one of the years during Covid, but it’s nice to be back in the cookie groove again. At the end of the day we divided up everything so we all went home with about 6 different cookies, I think.

Posted in Uncategorized, on June 13th, 2022.

With great interest I read an article in Food & Wine magazine. About Kewpie brand Japanese mayonnaise, and why it’s an integral part of making this egg salad sandwich. And no, that’s not a lettuce leaf peeping out on the left, it’s the green measuring cup I used for the mayo. LOL.

A post from Carolyn. I have way too many recipes waiting to post – I must have 7-8 waiting to be written up and now this one. Ever since I handed over my gavel in PEO to a new president, I’ve had a lot more time on my hands. Good time. Time to read, to wind down the pile of magazines I have sitting in my family room, and time to cook. So, as I leafed through an issue of the magazine I stopped at this one, about a particular style of egg salad, from a 7-Eleven stores in Japan. The writer was on a mission of sorts – he’d spent some years in Japan and frequented a nearby store and often bought sandwiches there. He didn’t realize how much he loved them until he wasn’t living in Japan anymore. So he set about trying to recreate the sandwich.

I’m such a sucker for those kinds of stories, they just pull me in. I do love egg salad sandwiches and rarely eat them (since I try not to eat bread). I had some soft potato bread in the freezer. No, I didn’t have any of the specialty Japanese milk bread (although I have a local bakery that makes it and I love it), but the potato bread would suffice. But first, I had to find the Kewpie mayo. I could have taken a drive to a local Asian market about 7-8 miles away, but with the price of gasoline these days I opted to get it on amazon.

What’s different about this mayo? Well, having taken a little tiny taste of it, I’d say it’s a bit more acidic – maybe vinegar or more lemon juice. Since I WILL be making this egg salad mixture again in the future, I have some more Kewpie mayo to use. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup, so this little bottle will keep me stocked for several iterations. This recipe supposedly makes enough for ONE sandwich. Gee whiz. Five eggs (well, yolks plus half the whites) in one sandwich? I think it makes enough for two, and since I’ll be making them in half-sandwich portions from now on, I might make 2/3 of a recipe next time, so with three eggs. Or heck, make the full recipe and you’ll have enough for a couple of leftover servings.

Start off with some hard boiled eggs. I do mine in the instant pot, as I’ve mentioned here before, the 2-10-2 method (2 minutes on high pressure, 10 to cool down inside the Instant Pot, then 2 minutes in an ice bath). Keeping the eggs moist when you store them is also a key to success, to keep that membrane inside sort of wet – makes for easier peeling. I keep mine in a refrigerator container with a paper towel inside that stays very damp. Anyway, separate the eggs. All the yolks go in a bowl. The whites, well, you’ll only use half of them. And they need to be chopped up VERY fine. Mine weren’t done near finely enough, as you can see with the egg salad kind of seeping out of the sandwich up top.

Then to the yolks you add the mayo, salt, pepper and a little bit of sugar. Yes, sugar. It’s an important ingredient – the author said he knew his copycat recipe wasn’t quite right until someone suggested he add some sugar. That did it – he felt this recipe was spot on. One of the tricks to this is letting it rest in the frig for an hour. I didn’t have time to do that, and I think the mixture needs that resting time to firm up. Mine was too loose. After firming up you add in two teaspoons of heavy cream. Yes, really. Then the bread is spread with a thin film of butter, and the egg salad added. Close the sandwich carefully and also very gently slice with a serrated knife, cutting the sandwich in half. I’m just saying this sandwich for one, will serve two.

What’s GOOD: loved every mouthful of this sandwich, even though it oozed. It has a very smooth texture, nothing to distract you (like pickle relish or celery or onion, or even celery seed that I might ordinarily add). I LOVED this. And yes, I’ll be making it again. I might even try it when I next make deviled eggs. Do seek out the Kewpie mayo, though.

What’s NOT: only that you do need Kewpie mayo to make it authentically. And a nice, soft (not sweet) bread. Ideally the Japanese milk bread. Next time I will go buy some of the milk bread.

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7-Eleven Egg Salad Sandwiches – Japanese

Recipe By: Food & Wine
Servings: 2

5 large eggs
1/4 cup Kewpie mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt — plus more to taste (use less if using table salt)
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter — softened
2 slices white bread — soft type, Japanese milk bread preferred

1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high. Using a slotted spoon, carefully lower eggs into boiling water; cook 11 minutes. Remove eggs using a slotted spoon, or carefully drain into a sink. Plunge eggs into a bowl filled with ice water, and let stand until cool, about 15 minutes. Drain well. Carefully peel eggs.
2. Using your hands, split eggs open; separate yolks and whites. Place yolks in a medium bowl, and mash using the back of a fork until broken down and a few chunks remain; set aside. Finely chop egg whites; place in a small bowl, and set aside.
3. Add mayonnaise, salt, sugar, and pepper to mashed yolks in bowl; gently stir until mixture is combined and some chunks remain. (Mixture should not be too chunky or a paste.)
4. Add half of the chopped egg whites to yolk mixture in medium bowl; reserve remaining egg whites for another use. Gently fold whites into yolk mixture until just coated. Chill 1 hour.
5. Stir cream into chilled egg mixture; season with additional salt to taste. Set aside. Spread butter evenly over one side of each bread slice. Top 1 slice, butter side up, with egg salad. Cover with remaining slice, butter side down. Trim off and discard crust; cut sandwich in half diagonally so you have 2 triangles. Serve.
Per Serving: 534 Calories; 42g Fat (74.3% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 535mg Cholesterol; 1088mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; 3mcg Vitamin D; 112mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 212mg Potassium; 277mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Lamb, Pork, Uncategorized, on October 25th, 2021.

A tasty way to use up that summer zucchini!

A post from Karen.  Among the things I loved about this creation is it is one of the few ways I can get my son to eat zucchini.  He not only ate it…he went back for seconds!  And that was my motivation for coming up with this.  My fruit truck guy, Roberto, visits every Thursday morning in our neighborhood with his picks of the freshest and most tasty produce.  On this day he had gorgeous-looking zucchini.  I couldn’t resist, even though I knew it would be tough going to convince my son to enjoy it with us.  So I started thinking about what I could pair with the veggie to make it more palatable to him.  Sausage was a good starting point.  I looked online for existing recipes for zucchini casseroles, but on this particular day, nothing looked like something that would tempt my son.  So, it was time to get creative.

I’m all for making your own sauce, but if you need to save time, we really liked the Vero Gusto Calabrian Marinara.

In addition to the sausage, I had some stale ciabatta bread that I didn’t want going to waste.  I also had cottage cheese and started thinking about layering ingredients like lasagna.  So that was the impetus for cutting the zucchini lengthwise instead of in rounds.  Among the recipes I had read on casseroles, more than one mentioned taking the time after slicing to salt the zucchini to draw out the extra moisture so you would avoid an overly mushy casserole.  sounded sensible to me, so I incorporated that step.

I hadn’t made a lot of casseroles using bread cubes but knew I wanted to make sure they absorbed enough flavors and moisture, so I decided I would try folding them in with the cheese, egg, and cream mixture.  This ended up working really well.  I have made this recipe more than once experimenting with different types of bread.  We have decided the ciabatta has both a nice chew texture and savory flavor profile that we prefer.  The Savory Spice “Limnos Lamb Rub” was a wonderful blend of herbs to add to both the white sauce and for topping off the casserole.  If you need to select a different rub or make your own, this particular rub is a blend of coarse sea salt, garlic, lemon peel, onion, black pepper, fennel, rosemary, Mediterranean thyme, sage, basil, parsley, Greek oregano, spearmint, marjoram.  As for the different sausage choices, we enjoyed both the Hot Italian Sausage and the Lamb Merguez, so I’m content to let my mood or freezer dictate which one I use.  Speaking of the freezer, I have tested freezing the leftovers into individual portions and it worked really well!

What’s Good:  My son will willingly eat this dish.  Paired well with a lite salad for a complete meal.  It’s a great way to use up some bread that is past its prime.

What’s Not:  Only that I have to be organized enough to make sure I have the ingredients on hand.

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Zucchini and Sausage Casserole

Recipe By: Original by Karen
Serving Size: 12

28 ounces zucchini slices — about 1/4 inch slice, length wise vs. rounds
1 pound hot Italian sausage — no casing, or a lamb merquez sausage
1 large onion — chopped
20 ounces tomato sauce — Vera Gusto (Medium Heat)
8 ounces cottage cheese
2 eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 cups bread cubes — dried thick cut,1 inch cubes, I prefer Ciabatta, crust removed
1 tablespoon herb rub — I use Limnos Lamb rub from Savory Spice or similar
1 pound mozzarella cheese — low moisture, shredded
1/4 cup parmesan cheese — grated
kosher salt — for sprinkling

1. Place sliced zucchini on clean kitchen towels and sprinkle with kosher salt. Let sit at least 30 minutes to draw out moisture. Then wipe dry with a clean towel.
2. Preheat oven to 350*
3. Saute loose and broken up sausage – let brown on one side then add onions and continue to saute until onions are soft, 5-10 minutes.
4. Mix egg into cottage cheese (or can substitute Ricotta) with 1 TBS. Limnos Lamb Rub and heavy cream. Pour mixture over dried bread cubes and mix well.
5. Grease a 9×13 casserole pan and pour in 1/2 the red sauce. Place 1/2 the zucchini slices in an overlapping layer over the sauce. Pour bread mixture on next and spread evenly. Sprinkle sausage and onion mixture and then 1/2 of the shredded Mozzarella cheese. Create another overlapping layer with the remaining zucchini. Spread remaining red sauce over zucchini, followed by remaining Mozzarella. Top with 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and sprinkle with more Limnos Lamb rub if desired.
6. Bake for 1 hr or until bubbling and nicely browned on top.
Per Serving: 377 Calories; 26g Fat (62.0% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 109mg Cholesterol; 597mg Sodium; 6g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 326mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 503mg Potassium; 321mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Uncategorized, on August 9th, 2021.

Isn’t that just the prettiest cocktail you’ve ever seen?

A post from Carolyn. For my birthday my granddaughter Taylor (the one who is living with me) gave me a bottle of lavender-colored gin. From the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC. So, we began searching for some recipes to use it. As we perused many, they required simple syrup (which I could have made, but it wouldn’t have had time to cool down and we wanted these cocktails right then). Many suggested items we didn’t have on hand. So, as they say, ingenuity is the mother of invention. What I did have was a bottle of Crème de Violette – a gift daughter Sara gave me a couple of years ago after we had enjoyed an Aviation cocktail in Asheville, NC. We made a kind of a variation on the Aviation cocktail.

The Empress Gin is a gin, but with perhaps some other botanical flavors in it: In addition to the butterfly pea blossom and requisite juniper, the gin uses blended tea from Victoria’s own Fairmont Empress Hotel. Other botanicals used are grapefruit peel, coriander seed, rose petal, ginger root, and cinnamon bark.

Taylor and I began with a recipe, but because we veered off with more than one item, I guess this is my own invention of an Empress Gin Cocktail with Violette & Tonic. The recipe called for soda water, but I had Fever Tree tonic (that I really like – see picture) so I added that. I popped out to my kitchen garden and grabbed some fresh lavender and a sprig of rosemary and added those to the mix.

There at left – the short bottle is the Empress Gin, the tall one the Crème de Violette, and the short turquoise bottle is the Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic.

What’s GOOD: oh, so refreshing. Lovely flavors and gosh, isn’t the color just beautiful? I’m a sucker, I guess, for a lavender colored cocktail! Not too sweet, but it did have some sweetness from the liqueur. I’m looking forward to having another one. We’re having a family celebration (3 birthdays within a few days of one another) and I’ll offer to make these for anyone who wants one.

What’s NOT: well, you need the Crème de Violette (do get the Rothman & Winter brand – Sara had to mail order it). And you’ll need to buy the Empress Gin too. Search out the tonic.

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

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Empress Gin Cocktail with Crème de Violette and Tonic

Recipe By: My own invention, loosely based on an Aviation cocktail
Serving Size: 1

1 1/2 ounces Empress gin
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce Crème de Violette liqueur
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh lavender
2 ounces Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic water
ice cubes

1. Combine the gin, lemon juice and Crème de Violette, in a glass.
2. Add the sprig of rosemary and lavender. Then add ice.
3. Add a couple of ounces of tonic. Stir and serve immediately.

Posted in Uncategorized, on July 28th, 2021.



More road trip from Carolyn. Whenever I dig out my suitcases, my kitty, Angel, is ever so curious. He’s blind, but hey, it doesn’t bother him one bit, he’s just as inclined to jump into boxes. He was all over this suitcase, pawing the corners, for bugs? Who knows what cats think sometimes.


These photos aren’t in any particular order, so I’ll just give you a little bit of commentary. I love big flower arrangements outside, this one at Big Sky, at the golf course restaurant.


Big Sky, Montana, is surrounded by mountains, these were on the east side.


Other than the scenery in Big Sky, on one of my days returning to California I drove from Klamath Falls to the north east side of Mt. Shasta. This was a view as I was driving. It was a gorgeous day, bright blue sky, and no fires or smoke anywhere to be seen there.


This was actually on my first day out, driving up the “old” 395 highway with a view of the Sierra Nevada. It was crystal-clear that day (and beastly hot too) but the views were beautiful.


At Big Sky, the small private lake there serves lunch from a food truck, with a small set of tables set amidst the sand. This beautiful group of flowers graced one side of that area.


At Powell & Karen’s condo, this picture hangs on the wall in one of the guest rooms. It just riveted my eye, how curious the dog was, about to sniff that lovely trout.


One of my favorite pictures of the whole trip, a view of the lake at Big Sky, through the trees. My grandson, Vaughan, went out into the lake in a kayak for awhile.

Posted in Uncategorized, on July 16th, 2021.

Snapshot I took of the Sierra/Nevada mountains (California) as I was driving.

Last year, my son and his wife Karen bought a condo in Big Sky, Montana. They’d vacationed there for several years, and decided they wanted to have their own place to ski and summer vacation. For the month of July Karen and grandson Vaughan are here, with Powell flitting in and out when he can get away from work. So, several months ago when they invited me to come visit during July, I said yes. And I’d make a road trip out of it. Having never been to Big Sky, I didn’t really know what to expect, other than photos I’d seen. Big Sky is located about 1 1/4 hour drive south of Bozeman, and about an hour north of the western gate to Yellowstone. Set nestled in between very tall peaks and valleys.

That picture was taken from the restaurant at the golf course near the Big Sky Resort. As you can see, there is smoke in the air, but we enjoyed a really nice lunch, sitting outside.

As I’m writing this, I AM in Big Sky, and have been for several days, enjoying the alpine location (7200 feet), the wonderful pine tree smell that pervades, the good food (both out and at home). And not enjoying the altitude sensitivity I have. I won’t be here long enough to acclimate to the altitude, so I’m just being careful by not exerting myself too much. I had a low grade headache for the first two days, but that finally went away. Walking much at all is out of the question as I get winded. But going in and out of various restaurants is certainly do-able!

That’s the view from their living room window. Ski slopes abound in every direction and that ramp you can see on the right is a ski-on, ski-off way to get down the hill to the ski lifts.

And again, as I write this, I’m having to re-adjust my itinerary as my next stop was going to be in Lolo National Forest (near Missoula, Montana), which is currently under fire evacuation orders. So, scratch that long day trip of driving in the Bitterroot Valley. In a few days I’ll head back to Coeur d’Alene, where I’m staying with my friend Ann (you’ve seen photos of her when she visited SoCal over several winters for a week in Palm Desert with me – we couldn’t do it that last Jan/Feb because of Covid, but hopefully this next winter she’ll be able to fly south).

My plan is to do some wine tasting in Walla Walla, Washington and if I find anything I really like I’ll have it shipped to home. I don’t want to cart cases of wine in my car trunk through hot summer weather. I have encountered lots of high temps on this trip (over 100 degrees, driving up the old 395 highway along the eastern edge of California). I had just driven through the area that was hit with a 5.9 earthquake that tumbled boulders down onto the highway. And yes, my car tipped left and right – I thought it was an uneven road . . . no, it was the earthquake! I stayed at a hotel nearby and was awakened several times during the night with aftershocks. Good thing I’m used to those kinds of tremors.

Once I arrived in Idaho it was about 100 degrees every day. Oh my goodness, is that ever hot! During my drive in California I encountered one day at 109 degrees, but I was comfortable in my air conditioned car, thankfully! I enjoyed the three days of driving to get from Southern California to northern Idaho, and I’ve been listening to a couple of books as I go. I’ve subscribed to Chirp, a discounted website for audio books. They don’t offer very many books at the lower prices, but I’ve found a few to keep me entertained. My car doesn’t have a CD/DVD slot anymore (my newest car that’s now 1 1/2 years old and still had less than 10,000 miles on it because of Covid) so I can’t use books on CD anymore from the library as I’d done in the past.

FYI, last night I made those vegetarian enchiladas that were posted about a week ago. Karen and Vaughan really enjoyed them, and me too. That recipe is a real keeper. I’ll post again in coming days if I have time.

Posted in Uncategorized, on June 26th, 2021.

These used to be called 7-layer salads? Remember them? I’ve seen several recipes recently, so I guess there’s been a renewed interest in them.

The layered salad is supposed to be made in a glass bowl so you can SEE the layers. Other than a trifle bowl I didn’t have a clear glass bowl so I needed to use my etched glass salad bowl. You can sort of see through the various vegetables silhouettes etched in the outside of the glass. I was making the salad to serve 5, so the various veggies didn’t exactly line up in layers because the bowl is quite wide. But, oh well, it was the idea that counted. The recipe I’d read recently was a Keto version, but I’d already decided I wasn’t going to make it a keto salad anyway.

Really, you can use ANY vegetables you want to in this kind of salad. Supposedly, it’s the colored layers that make it so pretty. Try to have some dark green (I used arugula on the very bottom), some light green (Romaine, sugar snap peas and green onions), some orange (carrots and yellow/orange baby peppers). Mine also had a layer of corn, just sliced off the fresh cobs. Red is another nice layer (tomatoes for mine but red bell peppers would be good too). You don’t want to put two green layers next to each other, so put in an orange layer or a red one in between. In the old-time salad there was always a layer of frozen peas put in as the last veggie layer. Instead I added 3 hard boiled eggs that had been chopped up. Then you spread the dressing (used to be just a big glob of mayo) on top and add a generous layer of shredded cheddar cheese to the top. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. See photo at left of the top view.

It’s great for taking to a picnic or a shared gathering or a backyard barbecue. The dressing I made was an equal quantity of sour cream and mayo, then I added about 1/2 teaspoon of dill weed (in the jar because I don’t have fresh) and just because . . . I added about 1/2 teaspoon of blackened seasoning. No real reason – just that the packet was already opened and you know that mixed seasonings don’t last. That was spread over the top layer and the grated cheddar was added last.

All I’ll tell you is that everyone at the dinner table went back for seconds on the salad. Me too.

What’s GOOD: that it can be made the day ahead. Just takes a bunch of chopping and layering. Loved the dressing mixture with the dill and blackened seasoning. Altogether refreshing salad, and yes, I’d make this again exactly as I made it this time. It was a good combination.

What’s NOT: only that it requires a bunch of chopping and mincing, layering, and it’s best if prepared the day before serving. I made it about 8 hours ahead, which was fine too.

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

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Layered Salad

Recipe By: An old-old recipe, updated with different veggies and a new dressing
Serving Size: 6-8

3 cups romaine lettuce — chopped
1 cup baby arugula — chopped
2 large carrots — chopped or shredded
1 bunch green onions — chopped, including tops
3 ears corn — kernels removed, cobs discarded
1 cup grape tomatoes — halved
1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas — trimmed, chopped
3 eggs — hard boiled, peeled, chopped
2 cups cheddar cheese — grated
DRESSING:
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon blackened seasoning

1. In a glass bowl with 3-4″ sides, add in the Romaine and arugula. Add carrots next, with the corn. Add sugar snap peas, then halved tomatoes, placing more of them around the outside edges (for color). Add a layer of green onions. Add more greens if you prefer (arugula and Romaine) then add the chopped up hard boiled eggs.
2. DRESSING: Combine in a bowl the sour cream, mayo, dill and other seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste, then spread the dressing all over the top of the salad, spreading it out to the edges as much as possible.
3. Sprinkle the grated cheddar all over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for up to 24 hours. When serving suggest your guests dig deep into the bowl to reach the bottom layer with only a small amount of the dressing and cheese in each scoop.
Per Serving (6): 538 Calories; 37g Fat (60.6% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 184mg Cholesterol; 721mg Sodium; 11g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 655mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 783mg Potassium; 547mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Uncategorized, on June 19th, 2021.

A vegetable-laden soup with chicken, plus croutons and a spicy sauce (it’s French).

A post from Carolyn. This soup recipe has been in my repertoire for a long time. Just now I looked at my MasterCook soup file and see that it contains 458 recipes. That’s both soup recipes I’ve tried and those I haven’t. This one came from a Phillis Carey cooking class many years ago – I’m guessing 15. And why I’ve not made it more often, I don’t know (maybe because of the extra steps to make the sauce?), because it’s full of good flavor.

Bouillabaisse (pronounced boo-ya-bess) traditionally is a fish and seafood soup. So why not adapt it to chicken, eh? What sets this one apart is the use of saffron and the spicy rouille (pronounced roo-eel). And it contains some bread to thicken the sauce (baguette, to be exact) and does involve that extra step to whiz up the rouille in a blender. I changed the recipe just a little bit – I like celery in soups, not only for flavor, but for texture. I had a whole red bell pepper and decided I wasn’t going to roast it (too much trouble) so I merely used some in the soup and some in the sauce. The recipe called for potatoes – I didn’t have any – and I’d usually leave them out anyway, but they are traditional. There’s also a strip of orange peel in the soup. That is unusual, too. Up top, in that picture, you can’t see the little baguette slices – they’re underneath the rouille that I dolloped on top. The rouille adds a TON of flavor to this – don’t even think about making this without doing the sauce. And you can drizzle the rouille all over the soup – not just on the little croutons – the soup is enhanced so much with the garlicky flavors from the sauce.

The sauce, the rouille, contains saffron too, along with lots of garlic, Dijon, mayo, oil, salt and a dash of cayenne. But you start with some of the broth from the soup – first you add that to a shallow bowl, add the saffron (so it will develop its unique flavors in the warm liquid) and the garlic, then the bread – so it soaks up the liquid. You let that sit for awhile and the garlic sort-of cooks a little (barely), then the batch goes into the blender container, along with Dijon, the red bell pepper, mayo, 1/2 cup of EVOO, and some salt and cayenne to taste. The bread gives the sauce a little bit of substance, a thickener, of sorts. Do blend awhile to make sure it purees the way it should and it emulsifies.

You can make the sauce while the soup is simmering. You’ll likely have more sauce than you need for the number of soup servings, and I recommend you use the leftovers as a drizzle on roasted or steamed vegetables – like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans – even potatoes! The sauce is SO good. The garlic predominates, obviously.

What’s GOOD: so many layers of flavor – the sweet from the onions, the nuance of the saffron, the texture from the celery and chicken. And then there’s the rouille – the star of the show, in my opinion, which is very garlicky.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Maybe that it takes a little longer to make, because of the sauce, but you won’t regret it once you’ve whizzed it up in the blender. I have broccoli in the refrigerator now, which will be enhanced with some of that great leftover sauce.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chicken Bouillabaisse with Spicy Garlic Rouille

Recipe By: Adapted from a Phillis Carey recipe
Serving Size: 7

SOUP:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 whole onion — finely chopped
1 cup celery — diced
8 whole chicken thighs, without skin — boneless
14 1/2 ounces diced tomatoes — canned
2/3 cup red bell pepper — diced
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup vermouth
2 whole garlic cloves — peeled
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1 strip orange peel
1 whole bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon saffron
2 medium potatoes — White Rose (optional)
4 whole carrots
14 thin slices of baguette, toasted
Salt and pepper — to taste
ROUILLE:
1/4 cup liquid from soup pot
1/4 teaspoon saffron — crumbled
2 whole garlic cloves — parboiled
3/4 cup French bread — crustless, cubed
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup red bell pepper — diced
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste

1. SOUP: heat olive oil in a large pot and sauté onion for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add chicken pieces, cut in 3/4 inch cubes, and toss for 2 minutes to brown, but not cook through. Add canned tomatoes, broth, wine, garlic, saffron and herbs. Then add carrots, bell pepper and potatoes (if using), season to taste with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Lower heat, cover and cook until chicken and vegetables are cooked through, about 30-45 minutes.
2. To serve: place 2 toasted baguette slices in each soup bowl. Ladle soup on top and then drizzle with the rouille.
3. ROUILLE: During the soup cooking time, ladle out the 1/4 cup of soup liquid into a 2-cup bowl, then add the saffron and garlic. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add the cubed bread and let stand for at least 10 minutes to allow bread to soften and absorb the liquid. Place mixture in a food processor and puree. Add the mustard, red bell pepper and mayonnaise, then puree again. Drizzle in the oils until an emulsion forms. Season with about 1/2 teaspoon salt and a dash of cayenne or to taste.
NOTE: You’ll have leftover rouille, most likely. If so, drizzle it on hot broccolini, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans or potatoes.
Per Serving (this seems high – perhaps some of the ingredients aren’t reading the nutrition correctly): 617 Calories; 34g Fat (49.7% calories from fat); 39g Protein; 38g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 156mg Cholesterol; 742mg Sodium; 8g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 78mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 1088mg Potassium; 420mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Uncategorized, on June 9th, 2021.

A short post from Carolyn. No food in this post . . . just a little catch-up regarding the blog. Finally the blog platform is working the way it should, and those of you who have been long-time subscribers have been added to the new website that does subscription forwarding. It’s called follow.it, and they – of course –  are an online marketing website and offer a variety of tools to a user (like you) to “follow” various websites – news, or whatever. It’s up to you whether you utilize any of their other services besides the one you’ll get from the blog. You should receive an email in your inbox whenever there is a new post from tastingspoons. If you don’t get them, please email me – go to the contact page for how to reach me directly, or you can leave a comment on this post. I’m hoping they won’t be loading you up with more emails about their services – hopefully you can opt out of various notifications if it becomes a nuisance.

 

Chart above from flowingdata.com. If you want to see more charts describing changing food habits, click on See How Much We Ate Over the Years. It’s a fascinating article with multiple charts similar to the above. The one for vegetables was also very interesting. Are we surprised (the chart above) to note that chicken has taken over top spot for protein? Look where chicken was (on the left) back in the 70s and how it’s leaped up and up and up. Beef has moved into 2nd place, and pork into 3rd.

 

Posted in Uncategorized, on May 27th, 2021.

Refreshing spring side-dish salad with Asian flavors

This is a post from Karen.  Back in 1976 when I was 9 our family and a number of others on our block hosted high school students from Japan.  Some of the students were game to host a potluck with dishes from their hometown.   Minoru was staying with our neighbor and he put together a dish his mother would make.  He enjoyed its simplicity and fresh spring flavors.  We enjoyed it so much, my mom made a  point to get the recipe from him.

It would be over a decade before we ventured into sushi, but our family has fully embraced that as well.  My dad and I even took a class on making sushi.  My son was 3 when I took him for his first taste.  He was starving after his Tae Kwon Do “Tiny Tigers” class and right across the street was what would become his favorite sushi bar, so I walked him in and let him order off of the picture menu.  He picked Ikura, which is the sushi topped with Salmon roe.  I had not ordered that personally because it was a texture I wasn’t into, and fishier than I chose to venture. I didn’t think I should be ordering something I grew up putting on the end of my fishing hook to catch trout!  I was about to stop my son from ordering it, but then told myself that I shouldn’t censor or bias his food choices just because they might not be mine.  Who knows, he might like it.  And guess what, he did!  I asked him what he liked about it and he told me, “It tastes good and I like the way the balls pop in my teeth!” For the next two years that was always the first thing he ordered.  The owner and the sushi chef were so delighted to see this American kid enjoying their sushi instead of asking for buttered pasta that they made a point to spoil him rotten and ensure that his parents brought him back, which we happily did for many years before we moved.  But I digress, back to the Harusame Salad and 1976:

Back then we didn’t have rice vinegar as an option, so mom used apple cider vinegar.  We used regular white sugar at the time, but now I’ve tried alternatives and settled on palm sugar.  Whichever one you use, I make the sauce first so the sugar has time to dissolve. I have listed one tablespoon of sugar, but the original recipe said 1-2 TBS.  One works fine for me.  If you only have access to thick-skinned and waxed cucumbers I would go ahead and peel those.

Short on time?

I have also cut the noodles by picking up a hand full and cutting them with my kitchen scissors directly into the bowl.

I have experimented over the years with different vegetables and proteins.  I was out of ham but had chicken.  And when I was out of cucumbers I used red bell pepper or carrots.  But I always stuck to Minoru’s premise that everything should be uniform in size, roughly 3″ lengths for the noodles, vegetable, and protein.  Once it is done, it’s all I can do to wait and give the flavors a chance to meld for at least 30 minutes.  It doesn’t last long after that because we all love it so much.  I do make a point to use chopsticks when I eat this.  They hold onto the noodles better than a fork can. I also use it up within 1-2 days.  Otherwise, the cucumbers get soft, releasing more of their liquid and ultimately diluting the flavor.

What’s good:  Very easy, fresh flavors, great texture between the crunch of the cucumbers and the chew of the noodles and ham.

What’s not:  It disappears too fast.  Will get watery and dull if not eaten within a couple days.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Harusame Salad

Recipe By: Minoru, a Japanese Exchange student that stayed with our neighbors in 1976
Serving Size: 8

1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce, low sodium
1 tablespoon sugar — I use palm sugar
150 grams Saifun Bean Threads — dried bean noodle package, softened and cut in roughly 3″ lengths
1 large cucumber — or 1 large Japanese or English Cucumer or 2-3 Persian cucumbers cut in matchsticks.
6 ounces ham slices — Black Forest or Canadian bacon works, cut in matchsticks
Garnish: toasted white sesame seeds, chopped green cilantro, onion or chives
Additions: red bell pepper, seaweed, tofu, carrots, shredded egg omlette, chicken

1. Mix together rice vinegar, soy sauce and sugar and set aside.
2. Set noodles in a deep dish and cover with boiling water, let stand about 20 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain well and chop into 3″ lengths. Place cut noodles in mixing bowl.
3. Cut cucumber and ham into 3″ matchstick pieces and add to bowl with noodles.
4. Give sauce a final stir and pour over noodle mixture, toss all ingredients to mix well.
5. Let chill in refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.
6. Use within 2 days.

Per Serving: 129 Calories; 4g Fat (25.0% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 13mg Cholesterol; 448mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 14mg Calcium; trace Iron; 152mg Potassium; 51mg Phosphorus.

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