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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 2022, 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):

Have only begun Geraldine Brooks’ brand new book, Horse. Oh my, is it a page turner. Loving it so far. 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 miniscule 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.

Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy. To say that this book stretched my comfort zone is the least of it . . .think about a time in the not very distant future, when global warming has done it’s worst and nearly all animals are extinct. No bird song in the air or fish in the sea. There’s this woman, Franny, who is on a quest to follow the very small, but last migration of arctic terns, who fly from pole to pole each year. She somehow sees this migration as a paean to her own life (of many travails). Is this book a foretelling of what our world will be like?  There’s a lot of angst going on here in this book, with her marriage, with her career, with her perpetual need for travel . . . always needing to go somewhere else other than staying at home and finding peace and happiness there. Then this final, gritty, illegal at-sea voyage trying to find the terns. Very much worth reading if you can stomach the sadness in it. Soul-searching is a common denominator here, but then aren’t a lot of books?

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. A German Kommandant enters the picture in this tiny berg in France. Knowing her husband is in a camp, most likely a death camp, she compromises her morals to save the picture and possibly save her husband’s life. Jump to somewhat current day and the painting, which has survived all these years, and is in the hands of a young widow who has an extraordinary connection with the painting. A lawsuit ensues having to do with art stolen by the Nazis and a convoluted trail of how the painting traveled in the intervening years. Even though this was WWI, not WWII, but the law encompasses the past. It’s a heart-wrenching story. There’s a love interest too. Well worth reading. Would make a good book club read.

Memoirs are such fun, especially if you really enjoy/love the author. This was the case as I read Rachael Ray 50, an ode to  her age. So I read online, Rachael discloses more about her personal life in this book than she has done in her many other cookbooks. I really enjoyed reading the book, as she told stories about her growing up, including some of her mother’s recipes and from other family members. She and her family eat tons of pasta, so lots of the recipes I probably won’t prepare, but okay, I still enjoyed reading all the stories.

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. I’m not a gardener at all, but I found the story just fascinating. It chronicles the love story between a young couple, human ones, not trees, one a Greek, one a Turk and their relationship (verboten back in the 70s). It goes back and forth between the 70s (when the real conflict was going on) and current day (2010ish). Loved this book from page one to the last.

If you’re a fan of Kazuo Ishiguro, you’ll find his newest book a league apart. Klara and the Sun. It takes place in the near future when we humans can go to a store and buy an AF (artificial friend). These robotic humanoid “things” have knowledge and personalities. The book follows along as a family buys Klara, an AF with perhaps a better personality than some. She has feelings, but not very many needs. The reader never really “sees” Klara except for a few descriptions of her human-type shape. You get into Klara’s brain (her PC chip) and know how she feels about her family. Her main job is to be a friend to the daughter, Josie, who has some kind of unnamed illness. The AF must spend a part of every day in the sunshine (some kind of hidden solar unit must be within Klara). There are any number of other characters in the story (mostly human, not AFs) which add dimension. I was quite mesmerized by the story and am in awe at the creativity of this author. Loved the book. May not be for everyone. I’m not a science fiction fan at all, but this was believable. And you’ll fall in love with Klara who wants so much to be wanted and loved.

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. The husband and wife own a tennis school (this takes place in Australia) and the children grow up surrounded by tennis everything. The children don’t necessarily get along. The parents haven’t always gotten along, either, although through many years the parents were quite besotted with each other, to the detriment of the parenting. Much travail from all the family members. But oh what a story. It had me riveted and wondering, until the last 5 pages of so when the resolution occurs. Big surprise.

Amor Towles’ new book, The Lincoln Highway: A Novel. Literally it’s a page turner. I think it’s still on the best seller list. A young man, Emmett, is released from a youth work camp (back in the day) and is returned home (by the camp warden) following the death of his father, to find that the home they’d lived in was in foreclosure. His mother abandoned them years before. His intent is to pick up his 8-year old brother and they will head off for Texas, but then he discovers two of his work-camp-mates had hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Oh my goodness, such a tangled web. Fascinating, and Amor Towles has such a way with words. His sentences are like blooming flower vines, with metaphors in nearly every sentence. Such a gifted writer.

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. Oh there are plenty of twists and turns. Couldn’t put it down.

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. She moves to San Francisco and becomes the bride, and mother to the man’s young child. But all is not right with the world. Sophie senses an undercurrent about her husband’s life. He’s elusive, leaves her alone for days on end, doesn’t share her bed, and she begins to feel the only reason he wanted a wife was to care for the child. Then the world turns upside down with the 1906 earthquake. And then there’s more. . . and more. . . very gripping read.

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. Oh the various twists this book can give you. There’s a guy she meets, but she’s keeping her boyfriend at home on the string, sort of. Then there’s the desk itself, that has history. Oh my, does it have history. Really interesting story, light reading.

One of my book clubs has us reading Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library: A Novel. What a premise for a book. About a library you can whiz to in the middle of the night and discover other lives you could have lived. And experience them. To find out the answers to those questions we ask ourselves sometimes, “I wonder what would have happened if I’d . . . .” taken that other job, gone out with that guy, taken that trip. That kind of thing. You’ll find out what happened to one particular woman who thought she had nothing left to live for. Good read. Very different. A bit space-agey. Sort of time travel, but not really. But yes, maybe.

James Shipman has written an intriguing book, It Is Well: A Novel, about a man who has lost his wife. And about a woman who has lost her husband. But their relationship stalls, big time, because the guy made a promise to his wife, and he feels duty-bound to honor it. There is much angst about it all. Much wringing of hands, some tears on her part. Nice book; good read.

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers.

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. The story is mostly about a young woman, educated, a Jew, who is the scribe (in secret) to an aging religious leader (in a time when women would have been verboten to hold such a position). And about her own curiosity about her religion and how she eventually begins writing letters (using a male pseudonym) to various Jewish leaders abroad, questioning their religious beliefs. The book is extraordinarily long – not that that kept me from turning a single page! – and complex with the cast of characters from the 1600s and the cast in today’s world of highly competitive experts analyzing the ancient papers. Altogether riveting book. Loved it from beginning to end.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid. Then to current time as a young woman tries to ferret her family history and particularly about some old-old jewelry that they can’t quite figure out – how the grandmother came to have them. Fascinating tale.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius.

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.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name. She meets a guy and they share a bond of reading and some romance. Years go by and she’s now owner of a failing independent bookstore (and married, or separated) and suddenly begins receiving a used book (that she recognizes) every day from a different place in the country. A message for sure, but where will it lead? Yes, it’s a romance. Lots of introspection going on. Enjoyed it.

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.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

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.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

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.

Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape.

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 Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America.

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

 

Tasting Spoons

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

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Uncategorized, on May 16th, 2021.

Hi there, I’m Karen.  I have enjoyed being Carolyn’s daughter-in-law for almost 20 years now.  Both sides of our family enjoy getting in the kitchen.  I love the holidays as much for enjoying what everyone brings to the table as I do for how it can bring us all together.  My husband, Powell, and I have one son, Vaughan and you will likely see our Bernese Mountain Dog, Shelby from time to time. (Yes, I have to sweep the Shelby hair out of the kitchen before I start cooking!) As you have seen from Carolyn’s previous entries, we are doing what we can to encourage Vaughan’s confidence in the kitchen too!

In addition to enjoying the kitchen, I teach piano and enjoy reading, camping, fishing, gardening, volunteering on the school district foundation, and a number of winter sports.  I used to do Tae Kwon Do regularly until my body decided I would have some arthritis in my hip.  So….I’ve adjusted my sights.  But I do miss that one!

Customers never saw the lovely backside of this machine. It had to face the wall in Dad’s shop.

So, what is with the picture of the espresso maker?  When Powell and I were getting married, my Dad had just retired from running his coffee business of 13 years.  I was visiting my parents one day, standing in the garage with my dad, who had just asked what I would like for a wedding present.  I looked over at the professional copper espresso maker just sitting in his garage and said – If that is going to just sit in here, I’d love the Espresso Machine!”  My soon-to-be husband thought I was nuts…until a few years later when we had the opportunity to install it and get it back in action.  I can’t say it is practical but it comes with a lot of great memories from my Dad’s store and has helped us create even more as we gather with friends and family.

I look forward to sharing my kitchen exploits with you- recipes coming soon!

Posted in Uncategorized, on April 22nd, 2021.

Unbeknownst to all of you readers, there’s been a problem brewing behind the “face” of my blog. Some hackers have created a robotic script and have been trying to gain access to my blog.  Trying to take it down – just for the fun of it. No, we don’t know where they’re from. It’s a game to them – to try to access blogs or websites, go in and destroy stuff, so the website can’t operate. Such hackers are wreaking havoc all over the world doing this – it’s not just me or my blog. Once the blog is taken down by the hackers, the owner has to have a programmer recreate it to get it up and running again. You can’t prevent them from trying, although I’ve done various things to discourage the attempts. But they keep trying. Last month I had over 360,000 attempts to get into my blog. Can you imagine? Good thing I have a really strong password. Makes me think I need to create a new password that’s at least 160 characters long. With numerous numbers, symbols, capitol letters, etc. You know the drill on that stuff.

The problem was that all that robotic scripting (the login attempts) ran up my GPU usage, and I got dinged to the tune of about $50 last month on overage fees. Dang! So I had to take a hard look at my blog. Did I really want to keep doing this, running up these charges. Sara posts when she can, but she’s so busy at her full time job, she rarely has time, or remembers to take pictures of what she creates. Hard to do a post without a picture. So I’d almost decided I was going to close/shut my blog down altogether. But NO, I’m not.

I looked into some options, and have decided to move the blog to a different platform that doesn’t charge extra for those GPU overages. And, on top of that, my daughter in law, Karen, has decided that she’d really like to be part of the blog herself. She and Powell, and their son Vaughan, are all foodies of the first order. I’ve posted many recipes from Karen, or Powell, and some months ago I posted two recipes from Vaughan (13) who stayed with me for a few days.

Which means that I will be taking a more back-seat role here. After 14 years of food blogging, I’m cooking less, although I have to say I still feel that pressure to keep trying new recipes that might be blog-worthy. Sometimes they’re successes, sometimes not. Do I eat out much? No, not really, and not-at-all during this last Covid-year. Do I buy ready-made food? No, not at all. On a regular basis I eat a big green salad (with some kind of protein on it) about 6 evenings a week. Can’t really blog much about that, now can I?

I’ll still blog – I’m sure of it – because when I do make something new and fun, I’ll want to tell you about it. As I’ve explained before, when that happens, my fingers “itch” to get to the keyboard to tell all of you about it. Surely that will still happen.

As the next few weeks go by, I’ll introduce you to Karen, and Powell, and Vaughan, and hopefully going forward, you’ll get to know Karen’s cooking style. And Sara will chime in now and then too. I think I’m going to Powell & Karen’s for Mother’s Day, so perhaps we’ll take pictures and do a blog post from there. I need to spend some concentrated one-on-one time with Karen to acquaint her with how to blog.

There will be a difference on the posting face  – we’re going to simplify how recipes are posted. Neither Sara nor Karen want to fuss with the programming stuff (that I do because I like the recipe to look “pretty) to create a box that goes around a recipe. Nor do they want to pdf or create a MasterCook file, either. So it’ll be a post (the narrative) plus a recipe. You’ll want to cut and paste it to use somehow. To make my blog more print-easy, would require major programming – an expense I’m not willing to take on. Remember, I don’t take any advertising on my blog, so anything I do is out-of-pocket. My pocket.

In the next week or so my blog will migrate to a different server – hopefully you’ll never notice a difference, although at some point the blog will be off line for a short while, I suppose. They say they’ll do it at night so you’d not notice. We’ll see how that part goes.

. . . Carolyn T

Posted in Uncategorized, on December 23rd, 2020.

christmas_family_room

My family room – I should have lit the gas logs . . .

Recalling back many years ago when I first began reading blogs (about 2005, I think) I was always intrigued when the writer shared some little window into their family life. Whether it was a man, a woman, a couple, or a family. So here, above, you can see a little window into my world. My family room. Love my tree. It’s one I bought many years ago that comes in a flat box and you pick it up from the top, insert two interconnected metal tubes inside and set it into the stand. Plug it in, and it’s all ready for Christmas. My trick is trying to keep my kitty from playing with the lower edges. I’ve had to stack piles of cookbooks around the bottom to keep him from doing that. And I’ve had to resort to spraying him with water to keep him away. Poor little guy. His world is kind of narrow – he’s blind – and so anything at all that comes into the house that’s different is inherently fascinating to him. His sense of hearing is profound. And sense of smell. So this foreign “thing” that suddenly comes into his world once a year just has him intrigued. Now I have gifts stacked around the edges, so it’s even harder for him to try to reach the lower part. He likes to chew on artificial flowers or greenery, so obviously this tree meets all of his requirements!

perched_near_keyboard

There’s Angel (age 3) – he rarely perches himself next to my keyboard. In case you don’t remember, Angel was about 5 weeks old and was found one rainy night in a gutter, shivering and hungry. He had pneumonia, but he recovered. The vet said the mother cat probably abandoned him (presumably because of his blindness). He developed an eye infection en utero, so his eye socket is partially visible, but his eyes receded. He has no sight at all. But he doesn’t know better – he has a good life! Never fear. He knows every square inch of my house. Occasionally he accidentally runs into a wall, but his whiskers are his radar and as long as he’s not trotting too fast, his whiskers barely tell him to deflect and not run into a wall. He’s learned that warmth (the sun) comes through the front door and in the afternoons when the sun is streaming in, he knows to find a warm spot to sit.

Back to the picture at top .. . Most evenings you’ll find me sitting at right on the sofa (the sofa is covered with a blanket because Angel loves to sharpen his claws on the sofa itself). I do my every-other-day outdoor 30-minute walking routine around my house at about 4 pm, while it’s still light, but the sun has nearly waned. If I go later in the day I don’t have to put on sun screen. Once back in my house I give Angel his evening dinner, pour myself a cocktail or a glass of wine (most nights anyway), and I watch the network news. I was watching the weather report on tv last night when I decided to take this picture. We are supposed to have rain this weekend. Wow – first real rain of the winter.

island_xmas_decorOn Friday, Christmas Day, I’ll be home by myself. My cousin Gary, who usually spends Thanksgiving and Christmas with me (he lives in Northern California) isn’t coming south this year because of Covid. Daughter Sara invited me to come for Christmas Day with them, but decided not to.

Because – the next day I’m driving to Palm Desert and will meet Sara and her family there. The three of us have just bought a small 2-bedroom condo, and it’ll be our first visit to the house since closing escrow. It’s fully furnished, so all we have to do is move in our clothes and food, and we’re all set. I’ll take some pictures once we have it situated. If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, early on, my DH Dave and I still owned a house in the desert. We sold it in 2010 because Dave couldn’t play golf anymore, and it was a big house to manage. Even though it was the right choice at the time, I’ve missed having a place there. I’ve shared pictures of staying at a friend’s home there for a week every winter for the last several. It was staying in Maggie’s house there that got me strongly interested.

Anyway, real estate in California is just going crazy. Hard to believe, but true. Anyway, we found the right place (just like Maggie’s) for us and now I’ll be able to go stay there whenever I want to. The condo is over 30 years old, but has two 18-hole golf courses on it, and every home has a golf course view. Ours doesn’t have a water view, unfortunately. Sara and John need a get-away from their stressful work week. I’ll use it more on weekdays, and they’ll use it almost exclusively on weekends. Sometimes we’ll both be there. We plan on having a steak dinner on Saturday, grilled on the outdoor grill that we hope is working properly (the home inspection didn’t include outdoor equipment, like the golf cart, the fire pit and the barbecue).

My grandson John returns to Virginia Tech in early January, so he’s hyped up about playing golf before he heads east. He’s definitely got some of his Grandpa Dave’s genes – he loves playing golf. And we’ll likely take drives in the golf cart to acquaint ourselves with the neighborhood. It’s a gated community, just like the place Dave and I owned, but a different one. There are numerous neighborhood pools dotted all over, many tennis courts, plus a clubhouse and dining area. I wasn’t thrilled with the food when my friend Ann and I ate there, so don’t know that we’ll use it much.

believe

Yes, I believe. Remember the reason for the season, my friends.

Thank you for reading my blog and hope you enjoyed this little window into my world.

Posted in Uncategorized, on January 14th, 2020.

You’re probably wondering, what? What does that mean? I toyed with “the curvy road becomes straight,” and “food enlightenment.” But they were out there. All the title means is that I’ve stopped eating the Plant Paradox diet. It’s possible I mentioned awhile back that I was getting very frustrated with the plan and my cravings for bread and an occasional dessert were vexing me a lot. It’s been 2 years. Once in awhile I did have dessert, but very little. And a couple of times in the 2 years I had something containing wheat flour. Well anyway, I was doing some research online and found a blog post by someone who was confounded by the whole notion of lectins in our bloodstream and the Plant Paradox plan. I began looking at more contrarian websites or posts here and there. What I discovered is that the eminent Dr. Gundry doesn’t always do his homework, OR he is vague about his sources. One learned scientist chastised him about being obtuse in his footnotes (you’re supposed to put chapter and page numbers when you use other studies as the basis for a thesis or medical theory, and he doesn’t do that at all). Apparently many of his footnote sites (of studies done by medical schools, etc.) don’t seem to exist. The final one I read that set me back on a more normal food track was a site that said Gundry drew a conclusion about human intestinal biology from reading a study of worms. Now worms are biologic, I know, but how can you say that if something happens to the gut of a worm and then conclude that the same thing happens in humans without having done the research on humans. And Gundry never disclosed that the study was of worms. I think that’s dirty pool. Maybe I was just “looking” for a reason to quit this diet. I haven’t vetted Dr. Gundry’s footnotes and don’t intend to. So I’m choosing to believe the contrarians. I could be wrong . . .

The truth is that I never did have intestinal difficulty as many people do who go on this diet. People with IBS or similar conditions, well, that’s another story. Maybe they should be following his diet. I didn’t and don’t, so I’ve gone back to drinking regular cow’s milk. I’m eating cheddar (yea!) and BREAD. I went right off the deep end a few days ago and had a delicious tuna sandwich on still-warm sourdough bread. With Best Foods mayo. Oh my, died and went to heaven. And I can have beans/legumes. And there’s squash in my refrigerator (zucchini). Next will be green beans. Gosh, did I miss green beans. Who’d have thought . . .

At the beginning of the diet I did lose 25 pounds. In the last month I’ve gained 3 pounds, so am not sure if it’s the bread, or what. I made tapioca pudding the other day, although I did use artificial sweetener in it. I’m still eating low carb, and will just need to be judicious about what carbs I do eat. And originally I thought the diet would be forever, because of wanting to improve my heart health. I don’t have a problem, but I have heart disease in my family. So, perhaps I’m shortening my life, per Dr. Gundry’s theories. We’ll see what my next blood work looks like. In the meantime I’m paying no attention whatsoever to lectins.

I made one of my old standby favorites, Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls. Used beef and pork, and made it in the Instant Pot. Used artificial brown sugar. Hmm. It was not very good. Maybe artificial sugar breaks down under pressure. Next I’m craving some chili (with a few red kidney beans in it). Tonight I’m going out to eat with a friend and we’re going to have Mexican food. I haven’t had any for 2 years. I think I’m ordering a chile relleno and a cheese enchilada. At least that’s the plan.

And, in March I’ll be giving up my job as President of my PEO chapter after two years. I’m very ready to step down and turn it over to someone else. So hopefully I’ll have more time. To cook. And blog.

Posted in Uncategorized, on December 28th, 2019.

wine_slogan

I don’t think I’ve posted a picture of this before. Bought the sign when daughter Sara, grandson John and I were on our cross country trip to deliver John to Virginia Tech. Found this at the gift shop at The Biltmore (Asheville, NC). My DH Dave would have absolutely loved this sign. He had a saying – – – don’t ever let a few facts get in the way of a good story. So when I saw this sign, there was no question I was buying it!

The photo was taken in my family room where I often sit and have a glass of wine in the evenings. Or a Fireball (like those?). Or a Fireball with a shot or two of Rumchata (oh my goodness, one of my favorites). Or an occasional Bailey’s with or without coffee. Over the last month I’ve been enjoying Trader Joe’s spiked eggnog.

New Years’ Eve will be spent quietly, I expect. A toast to 2020 to all of you, my faithful readers, that it will be a good year.

Posted in Uncategorized, on December 18th, 2019.

Carolyn_1999_590

Oh my goodness – 1999. It was a good year.

Since I’ve been going through old photos – throwing out lots – archiving some – and scanning them in rather than keeping them in boxes and albums – I ran across this picture. Taken in my kitchen in the house we lived in before we bought this one in 2003. I wore glasses most of my life – until I had cataract surgery about 5 years ago, and now I don’t have to except to drive. My hair is more white now, although I think you can still tell I am/was a blonde. And there in the foreground a rose that my DH, Dave, had cut from our garden. He loved roses and would cut them and bring them to me wherever I was working in the house. This day, obviously, in the kitchen, and we were drinking red wine. Isn’t that wine glass a hoot? I think we left those glasses in our Palm Desert house when we sold it 10 or so years ago.

Christmas is a time when I feel nostalgic. I miss Dave so very much – it’s been nearly 6 years (in March). He was such a part of my life for 33 years, 31 of them married. We had so much fun entertaining here at home, or going out on the boat, sharing our love of red wine (I still have 200+ bottles in the cellar which I’m drinking, slowly but surely). We shared many activities at our church, and both of us sang in the choir for about 15 years. Dave also loved Christmas, as I do. As I write this, all my gifts are wrapped, Christmas cards have all been mailed, and I’m going to one of my book clubs this evening, for our annual potluck dinner, taking a salad (new recipe). If It’s good, I’ll share it with you in coming days. My cousin Gary is arriving on Monday to spend a week with me. We’ll be with daughter Sara for Christmas Day and the 26th also.

My daily food and cooking routine is kind of boring, although I’ve found a great chocolate chip cookie recipe that doesn’t contain wheat flour, since wheat products are a no-no on this Gundry diet I’m still on. I did make some delicious Indian Butter Chicken the other night. I’ll need to take a photo of it and could post it – made in the Instant Pot. I make lots of soups, but they’re ones I’ve made and posted, or they’re kind of boring and not worthy of a post. My normal dinner is salad with some kind of protein on it. I made my favorite sheet pan dinner the other night for a group of friends – it’s here on my blog already – Sheetpan Chicken with Sweet Potatoes, Sourdough Croutons and Squash. So delicious. And I’ve found that I can have small amounts of artisan sourdough on my diet. Yeah! I’m attending a family gathering on Saturday and will make the Bombay Cheese Ball and some kind of salad. The salad is also a new recipe – if it’s good I’ll post it. Maybe when I visit Sara next week I can get her to post something. She’s been baking up a storm (cookies that she gives to their customers).

Meanwhile, I hope each and every one of you has a very good holiday – whether it’s Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukah. I’m planning on having a wonderful time. And enjoying Trader Joe’s already bottled and spiked eggnog. Oh my, is it ever good. They’re totally sold out at my local store. Cheers!

Posted in Uncategorized, on September 2nd, 2019.

Hi everyone – Carolyn here . . .
Somewhere in New Mexico on I-40, the old Route 66

Not a whole lot of cooking has been going on in my kitchen, or Sara’s kitchen either, as we took a road trip from SoCal to Virginia, then to South Carolina, then flew home. Sara’s son John is now a freshman at Virginia Tech (bio-chem major, see picture below), so we delivered him there, driving across the hot-hot-hot southern route. The night we arrived in Scottsdale, at 7pm, it was 114 degrees. That was the highest temp we experienced, but as we drove east, the temp was slightly lower (under 100 for sure) but the humidity began to climb. We had a night in Santa Fe (more on that later), then to Amarillo, through Oklahoma City, overnight in Ft. Smith. Oh my. I think the hottest I felt was in Memphis with temps in the low 90s and 100% humidity. Cooler weather prevailed as we went through North Carolina and into Virginia (the eastern parts there are slightly mountainous and at a higher elevation).

We got John moved into his dorm, (his roommate Jaylon, is a freshman cheerleader) then headed to Asheville, NC. I treated Sara and me to a night at the Biltmore (we did that when we were scouting colleges 4 years ago with Sabrina). I was and am still in love with The Biltmore. We had been there in February before – gray, cloudy, rainy, icy and miserably cold, so this time it was mid-summer and we got to see the Biltmore Gardens in full bloom. Absolutely gorgeous. Sara and I had tea in the lounge (not the full afternoon tea, just a pot of TEA), had dinner at one of the restaurants on the Estate, then had lattes and a decadent flourless chocolate cake (yes, I ate some) on the terrace at the Inn as we watched the sunset. Oh my, again. So wonderful. I’d like to live there. On the Estate, of course! Ha!

Then we drove to South Carolina to deliver the 2001 Toyota we had driven across the country (that has really good A/C in it, thankfully) to Sabrina (the car is hers) who is a senior now at Clemson. We drove to Greenville, had dinner in the very quaint downtown there, got dropped off at an airport hotel and spent the night, then flew home.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been catching up. Made a new soup, not great, so won’t be posting that one. Sara and I both couldn’t wait to get back home to eat more healthy salads and things. We stayed in Hampton Inns mostly, and got overly weary of the rubbery, tasteless scrambled eggs on the breakfast buffet and sometimes fruit that had seen better days or had some kind of strange taste to them. Even the hard boiled eggs seemed to have zippo flavor. And never did they peel easily (obviously they don’t use the InstantPot method of pressure cooking hard boiled eggs which make for the easiest shell removal ever!). But hey, it was free with the overnight stay. Salads as I know them, filled with all kinds of vegetables, are virtually unknown to the restaurant world in the South. They know lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and bottled dressings mostly. Not my fav. No celery, no shredded or chopped carrots, no crumbled Feta or goat cheese, no radicchio or fennel, no fresh herbs, avocado, red or green cabbage either. I really missed them. If we were having a more upscale dinner, then yes some salads contained more ingredients, but we were traveling on a moderate budget, so rarely did we have nice salads. Just sayin’ . . . .

Several times Sara and I went to a grocery store and bought sliced Boar’s Head turkey, some fresh apples and a variety of cheeses and had that for dinner at our hotels. We traveled with a styrofoam ice chest in the back seat where we kept fruit (grapes, blueberries, cheese, a few diet sodas, water and apples). Perfectly satisfying. We stayed hydrated everywhere. I have a new, very tall Hydro Flask and at the hotels each morning I filled up my flask with purified water we found in the gym at every hotel, added some fruit flavor drops, topped with ice and that got me through most of the day. Lots of restroom breaks, however.

I’ll do another post with more pictures . . .

Posted in Desserts, Uncategorized, on August 11th, 2019.

The Right Way to Make Tres Leches Cake!

This cake is easy and delicious without the soggy mess. 

A post from Sara – I’ve made a few Tres Leches cakes in my time and have always been disappointed with the soggy mess left by the milk mixture.  Finally, I’ve found a cake that can stand up to the mixture and a trick to prevent the sogginess thanks to Ina Garten.   There is no butter or oil in this cake which, in my opinion, allows the cake to absorb it after baking.  I think traditionally the Tres Leche cake is frosted with either meringue or a whipped topping.  I love the simple square cut of the cake topped with whipped cream and berries.  It’s much easier to store and serve which makes it a perfect make-ahead dessert.  Just whip up the cream and toss the strawberries together before serving.  I used strawberries from Bonsall Farms here in Vista.  It’s a local grower and the berries are naturally sweet perfectly red all the way through.  I actually decided not to add the extra sugar into the berries.

The trick with this cake is to beat the sugar and eggs for 10 minutes.  Yes!  Really!  It leaves the eggs thick and fluffy and a pale yellow color.  Then add the milk and flour mixture alternately.  Mix it a couple more times by hand to be sure its combined.  After it’s baked and cooled slightly, you are ready to add the milk mixture.  GO SLOWLY… pour 1/4 of mixture over punctured cake, then wait until its all absorbed.  Then another 1/4 of mixture and so on.  It allows the cake to take in the liquid rather than it sinking to the bottom of the pan and becoming a soggy mess.

Just wanted to say that mom and I (OK, just me!) having technical difficulty adding the .pdf recipe file into the blog.  So, I officially give up.  Please print screen from here or cut and paste the recipe into word processor.  Sorry.

What’s Good:  I love how easy this cake is to make.  I almost always have the ingredients in my pantry.  And I am all about make ahead dishes.

What’s Not:  It’s definitely a plan ahead dessert.  This would not work for an unexpected guest.

Tres Leches Cake with Berries

Recipe By : Farmhouse Rules
Serving Size : 12

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs — room temperature
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
12 ounces evaporated milk
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 vanilla bean — scrape seeds
whipped cream — for topping
8 cups strawberries, sliced

1. Pre heat oven to 350 and butter 9×13″ pan.
2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into small bowl and set aside.
3. Place eggs, 1c sugar and vanilla extract into bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle. Beat on medium-high for 10 min (really!) until light yellow and fluffy.
4. Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour mixture, then milk, then last of flour mixture.
5. Pour into prepared pan, smooth top and bake for 25 mins, until cake springs back when touched and cake tester comes out clean.
6. Set aside to cool in pan for 30 mins.
7. In a 4c measuring cup, whisk together the heavy cream, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, almond extract and vanilla bean seeds. Using a skewer, poke holes all over the cooled cake and slowly pour cream mixture over the cake allowing to be absorbed completely before continuing to pour more. Cover cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hrs.
8. To serve, toss strawberries with 5T sugar, cut square of cake, add strawberries and whipped cream.

Per Serving: 432 Calories; 16g Fat (33.4% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 64g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 108mg Cholesterol; 320mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on May 31st, 2019.

One of my granddaughters is currently studying abroad in Argentina. This would be Sara’s daughter, Sabrina. It took her a full two months to learn the dialect they speak in Argentina. She spoke perfectly wonderful and fluent California/Baja California Spanish, but could hardly understand, or be understood in Argentina. It was very frustrating to her. She and the other 37 Clemson University students studying there all had the same difficulty. She’s finally got the language down pat, and she’s really enjoyed her classes she’s been taking there (all in Argentinian Spanish, of course). She just took a trip to Iguazu Falls and has one more trip before she comes home, that one to Machu Picchu. Then she’ll fly home at the end of June.

So, in a long conversation with her parents, they asked her what she wants to do first when she gets back home. She has it all mapped out. Sara, John, John Jr. (Sabrina’s brother) and I will drive to LAX to pick her up. First, take her to a Mexican restaurant because she’s been dying, just dying, for Mexican food. First order: a burrito. I don’t know what kind. She arrives early in the morning at LAX, so we’ll have to scope out a place that’s open. Might have to be fast food. . ..  Then, she said, you have to drive me to the beach (LAX IS right on the Pacific Ocean) so she can walk in the sand and stick her feet in the salt water. Then we’ll drive to Pasadena where Uncle Powell (Sara’s brother) and Aunt Karen live. They want to see her, of course, get a de-briefing of her 5 1/2 month sojourn, then, ta-da: she wants to have Grandma’s Grilled Salmon with Watercress Salad. This is the photo from my post – I posted the recipe in 2007 or 2008, but I updated the photo in 2009. This has been one of my go-to favorites for decades.

This request just warms my heart. I haven’t made this salmon/watercress salad for quite awhile. I was sharing Sabrina’s requests with my bible study group and we’re having a potluck dinner in a week or so, so I’m going to make this for them, especially after they heard about it.

Posted in Desserts, Uncategorized, on April 11th, 2019.

Wanna know what SMBC means?  SMBC is Swiss Meringue Butter Cream.

This is a post from Sara.  Please note this recipe takes time but is not difficult.

Sorry for the long delay in getting a blog post up here but I chose a ridiculously complicated dessert to be my first attempt on my own.  What ever made me think I should post a cupcake that includes 3 separate recipes, I’ll never know.

I’ve been baking since I was itty bitty and I’ve never found a chocolate cake this moist or a frosting so good.  I’m never going back to a standard butter cream recipe.  You know, the typical butter, powdered sugar and liquid.  The SMBC is the lightest, fluffiest frosting I’ve ever worked with.  As with all other frostings, you can color it and flavor it but it is best done without liquids.  Colored gels and powdered flavors are best.  The cake is a buttermilk recipe that is now my absolute go to favorite.  I’m very new to Pinterest but found this website Livforcake.com.   The blogger, Olivia, gave me the inspiration for this recipe.  I actually used her buttermilk chocolate cake and her SMBC peanut butter recipe but added the surprise center filling on my own.

The original cake recipe used oil and buttermilk but as I am watching my fat intake, I substituted low fat buttermilk and unsweetened applesauce.  I’ve made the recipe both ways and the original recipe is excellent.  It’s fluffy, moist and very intensely flavored.  However, with the sweetness of the filling and frosting, I don’t mind the change.

There is a real trick to making SMBC (Swiss Meringue Butter Cream).  There is a tips blog page on Olivia’s website that I would mandate you read first if I could grab the link.  So search SMBC on her website for “How to make swiss meringue buttercream”.  The biggest and most important detail is to use metal utensils and bowls and to wipe them down with lemon juice or vinegar before using.

I have a thing for filled cupcakes so this has 3 recipes that make up the cupcake.  If I could suggest, bake the cupcakes beforehand.  Then scoop out the centers (keep for snacks later!) and make the peanut butter filling.  Drop a ball into each cavity.  Then make the frosting.  Assemble and decorate.  I made these for my niece and her soccer team.  She shoots and she SCORES!  Needless to say, they were a big hit.

What’s GOOD:  What’s not to like?  These are moist, decadent cupcakes with a peanut butter surprise and intensely flavored peanut butter frosting.  I love this cake recipe.  I think it’s my new favorite.

What’s NOT:  If you haven’t made a meringue frosting before, it can be intimidating.  As I said, read up on it first and DO NOT skip the acid wipe of your all metal utensils.  I’ve made the SMBC twice now and haven’t had any problems.  The recipe is time consuming, I admit.  But I made the cupcakes Thursday night after work.  Stored them in lidded containers.  Then Friday after work, I scooped out the cupcakes, made the filling and dropped it in.  It probably took me 30 mins to make the frosting.

printer friendly pdf for the cupcakes

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

Adapted from LivForCake.com
Servings: 24

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
3/4 cup hot water
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350F, line cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
2. Place all dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Stir to combine.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk all wet ingredients (pour water in slowly as not to cook the eggs if very hot.)
4. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix on medium for 2-3 mins. Batter will be very thin.
5. Pour evenly into prepared cupcake trays.
6. Bake until a tester comes out mostly clean 18-22 mins.
7. Cool 10 mins in pans then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.
8. CUPCAKES: scoop out center of cupcake to make room for filling, if using.

. . .
printer friendly pdf for peanut butter filling

* Exported from MasterCook *

Peanut Butter Filling

Recipe By: Adapted from an old magazine
Serving Size: 28

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter — softened
1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1. Stir together peanut butter and butter.
2. Gradually add sugar, stirring til combined.
3. Shape into balls. Place on wax paper and chill til needed.
Per Serving: 55 Calories; 4g Fat (56.1% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 3mg Cholesterol; 34mg Sodium.

. . .
printer friendly pdf for SMBC PB Frosting

* Exported from MasterCook *

Peanut Butter SMBC (Swiss Meringue Butter Cream) Frosting

Recipe By: LivForCakes.com

5 large egg whites
1 2/3 cup dark brown sugar lightly packed
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter cubed — room temperature
1/2 cup powdered peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla

1. Place egg whites and dark brown sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk until combined. Ensure there is NO trace of egg yolk.
2. Place bowl over a hot water bath on the stove and whisk constantly until the mixture is hot and no longer grainy to the touch (approx. 3mins). Or registers 160F on a candy thermometer.
3. Place bowl on your stand mixer and whisk on med-high until the meringue is stiff and cooled (the bowl is no longer warm to the touch (approx. 5-10mins)).
4. Slowly add cubed butter and mix until smooth. It may look like it’s curdling at some point. Keep mixing until it comes together.
5. Add powdered peanut butter & vanilla and whip until smooth.
Per Serving: 96 Calories; 0g Fat (0.0% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 274mg Sodium.

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