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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 2021, I’ll still participate, but the two daughters are going to do more posting from here on out.

We participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) if you purchase any books recommended (below), or buy products occasionally mentioned on the blog with an amazon link. 

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BOOK READING:

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. The book IS a novel, but the event is true. 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. On the voyage the ship encounters a hurricane and several giraffes are lost, but two young ones survive. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission. A young boy (barely an adult) becomes the driver (his only goal is his desire to go to California), with the zoo’s delegate (a middle-aged man with a past), and it’s the story about these two misfits and their caring for the giraffes, feeding them (that’s a laugh – onions play a big part). No freeways existed back then, and the mental picture of the vehicle they used (basically a small truck) with the two giraffes confined within two tall boxes precariously strapped to the truck, and their driving and carrying-on getting under bridges and over rivers is just a hoot. I so wanted this story to be true – parts of it ARE true. Worth reading if you enjoy such animal stories. The giraffes survive, thankfully, and they both lived to a ripe old age at the zoo!

Also a kind of quirky book by Beth Miller, The Missing Letters of Mrs. Bright. Picture a middle-aged woman, slogging through life with a not-very-attentive husband, grown children, and one day she decides to leave. Completely. Maybe she had a bucket list of sorts, and she knew none of those places would ever happen in her life if she stayed put. She sets off to find a long-lost girlfriend. The book is about her journey. Her travels. Friendships, and lost friendships. Everyone can probably empathize with Kay Bright as she examines her life. And yes, there are letters and chapters with her daughter, Stella. Cute book.

Katherine Center’s book, Things You Save in a Fire: A Novel is certainly vivid. There aren’t very many women firefighters out there in the world – this is about one. A novel, however. About her work life and the harrassment she endures (some of it’s with love, some not) and about her relationships. The pros and cons of transferring to a different fire station (just like any job move, not always smooth). Good read.

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. Such relationships were fraught with problems from the very strict Japanese families who resented the American presence in their country, to the American military higher-ups who made it impossible for the servicemen to marry Japanese nationals. Could hardly put it down. Yes, it’s a romance of sorts, but not in the typical sense of today’s novel-romance-writing. There aren’t always happy beginnings, middles or endings, but the in between made for very interesting reading.

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. Wow. What an eye-opener. Of their small but loyal family enclaves, the hard-scrabble lives they led, the near poverty level of farming. I’d never heard that any Indian migrants were a part of farming here in California. Obviously they made up a very small percentage of the immigrants who settled there.

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. Fascinating glimpse into the hardships not only for patients (the war-wounded) but for the underappreciated and hardworking staff at various hospitals (even a tent one in Normandy where she worked for many months after D-Day). She meets her to-be husband and even that is fraught with difficulty from many angles.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. My friend Ann recommended it. I was gripped with the story within the first paragraph, and it never stopped until I turned the last page. 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. Some very ugly things happen at that school. Eventually they¬† escape, and they are “on the run.” With a few others with them. If you loved Huckleberry Finn, you’ll have a great appreciation for this story as they use a canoe to get themselves down river. Never having very much to eat and getting into trouble way too often, and authorities on their tail. Well, you just have to read the book to find out what happens.

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. The book is heartbreaking, but one of those that everyone should read. The hardship, the hunger, the dirt and dust, the failed crops, the lack of rain, then the story picks up again in central California, back in the day when the wealthy growers just used up the migrants. I don’t want to spoil the story. So worth reading. Hannah really knows how to weave a story.

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 woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks. The father was very dark, but he plays no part, really, in this story. Growing up, the girls leave home at 18 to find their way in New Orleans. Suddenly, one twin disappears (her clothes and suitcase all gone in the wink of an eye). Her twin left behind has no idea what’s happened to her. As the story reveals, with divided paths, one twin continues her life as a black woman, and the other twin, the one who left, is able to pass as a white woman. She marries well, has a daughter. Well, let’s just say that there are lots of wicked webs woven throughout the story, starting from the girls’ mother who never wants to speak again of her lost daughter. But you know where this is going, don’t you? Things are found out. The author does a great job of weaving the story apart and then back together.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress. She was a brilliant mind, and a beautiful woman. It tells the story of her coming of age, how she navigated the world of acting back in that time period (she was Austrian, and Hitler was in power). The writing was very well done – to tell Hedy’s story with detail and poignancy. Eventually Hedy made it to the U.S. and her life story changed, but still had its difficulties. I loved the book, beginning to end. She should have become an engineer as she invented several war related bomb tools. 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, when aristocrats were chased and killed, guillotined in many cases. There is a young couple (part of the royal court) who escape to a remote small castle owned by his family, located on the edge of France and Italy, hoping to wait out the revolution and hoping the villagers love and care about them. Then jump to current day as a small English group of close friends decide to retire somewhere on the continent, and settle on a small abandoned castle in the remote hills of France along the Italian border. Got the picture? The historian in the group is quite interested in the history of the home, and clues are revealed (in the tower) that lead her and the group on a quest to discover what happened to the couple who used to live there. There was a fire once upon a time. There’s an pesky ghost. There’s also a very old child’s doll/playhouse on the grounds. Plus there’s a small graveyard. It is VERY intriguing. 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. The story is all about Mary, her growing up, her scholarly pursuits, and then from the moment she meets Jesus as a young man. The story follows along to and beyond his death on the cross. In the time of Christ it was extremely uncommon for a man not to marry. It was almost unseemly. Fraught with suspicions, I’d suppose. Although scripture, as scripture, does not play a very strong part here, if you’ve read the Bible you’ll see many of the stories of Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. 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. Her husband was a journalist, and his life was always in danger because he wrote the truth, and that was taking a risk. The story is about her escape, with harrowing chapters as she makes her way north from Acapulco, with various major detours, one step, or sometimes nothing more than a hair’s width ahead of the cartel minions trying to find her. I could NOT put this book down. The author is not Hispanic, and some have criticized her for that, but she did her research, and many authors write about places and people they are not. I have nothing but respect for her having told this story. You need to read this.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice, living in an English home which lacks much, leaps to agree to marry a visiting American. It was an escape for her. He is a man of some family wealth, and she travels from England to Kentucky, during the 1920s. Once settled into the family home, she discovers married life is not what she had expected. Affection is lacking, and she must share the home with her tyrannical father-in-law, the owner of mines in the deep mountains. And with the ghost of the deceased mother-in-law. The family cook won’t tolerate Alice’s help in the kitchen. Alice is terribly lonely and unhappy. The town doesn’t much like this English woman with her funny way of speaking. But then, she meets a woman who encourages her to join the Horseback Librarians. With trepidation, she begins traversing the remote hills, through unbelievable weather, to deliver old, battered and tattered books to the remote inhabitants of the area. She makes friends, wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There is tremendous tension from the danger of the mines, the unions trying to get a foothold, plus the unraveling of her marriage, including the dreaded father-in-law who feels she should answer to him, behave as he wants. Uh, no. Alice goes her own route. Her new friends become her family, and, oh, what love. There has been much criticism of Moyes’ possible plagiarism of another book regarding the Horseback Librarians. I read the other book – but I didn’t feel remotely as intrigued by that story as I was by Moyes’ version. A feel good story, but it takes some while getting to that “feel good” part, nearly to the end.

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. It’s about Ellen. Her early years, under much hardship. About her teens, some of it as an orphan. Then a young adult, which includes marriage, a marriage blanc, which I didn’t understand until you learn the meaning. Then a child enters the picture, a child that will become a focus for the remainder of the book. Through the war, and beyond. I cried several times, as will you, I suspect. What’s a constant is the descriptions of the place, a town called Upton, near Southampton. About the hills and dales, the flora and fauna, the rain, the mud sometimes, the flooding sometimes. But throughout, it’s about neighbors caring for neighbors, and about love. A must read. Would make a really good book club read.

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.

Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called 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. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a 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 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. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

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, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

 

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

Recipes highlighted in red are my favorites. The veggies and sides are divided up in several sections. Click on the title below to go to that section.

CARB SIDE DISHES (including pasta, polenta, potatoes, rice, etc.)!


BEANS and LEGUMES (if you’re interested, here’s a post containing a CHART on how to cook every kind of bean – the regular way, in a pressure cooker or in a slow cooker)
Barbecue Beans
Garbanzo Bean, Feta and Cilantro Salad
Garbanzo Bean Thai Curry Salad
Mujadara – Lebanese Lentils, Rice & Caramelized Onions
Tuscan White Beans
Western Style Baked Beans


BUTTERNUT and OTHER WINTER SQUASHES
About Winter Squash
Butternut Squash and Potato Gratin
Buttternut Squash Fries
Butternut Squash and Onion Gratin
Cornmeal and Kabocha Squash Polenta
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and Maple Sauce
Yams, Carrots and Ginger
Yam Slices with Garlic and Rosemary


CARROTS and PARSNIPS
Algerian Carrots
Apple Parsnip Mash
French Glazed Carrots
Orange Spiced Carrots (easy, done in microwave)
Parsnips in Orange Sauce (low calorie, easy, pressure cooker)
Roasted Carrots with Feta Vinaigrette
Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
Roasted Carrots with Thyme
Roasted Root Vegetables with Olive Relish
Yams, Carrots and Ginger


FRUIT
Chunky Cider Applesauce with Walnuts


PASTA
Creamy Orzo with Corn, Spinach & Arugula
Fettucine with Artichokes and Prosciutto
French-style Poppy Seed Noodles
Israeli Couscous Salad with Tomato
Noodles and Cabbage
Noodle Kugel
Orzo Risotto
Orzo with Artichoke Hearts and Olive
Orzo with Dried Cherries and Almonds
Orzo with Peas, Dill, Pancetta and Lemon
Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce
Tofu Shirataki Noodles (not a recipe, really, but it’s a low-carb substitute for pasta)

PARSNIPS:
Potato & Parsnip Mash

POTATOES and SWEET POTATOES
Australian Style Potato Salad
Baked Bacon Hasselback Potatoes
BLT Smashed Potatoes (bacon, leeks and fresh tomatoes)
BLT Mashed Potatoes (bacon, leeks and sun dried tomatoes)
Broth-Braised Potatoes
Caribbean Sweet Potatoes (with bananas)
Celery Root & Potato Mash with Arugula
Colcannon
Crispy Potato Roast (a very dressy side dish)
German-Style Mashed Potatoes with Apples (great with sausages)
Goat Cheese Potato Gratin
Green Potatoes (mashed with Spinach)
Hash Brown Casserole
Individual Potato Gratins
Mashed Potatoes, Make Ahead (Slow Cooker)
Mashed Potatoes with Bacon, Cheddar and Chives
Mashed Potatoes with Blue Cheese & Caramelized Onions
Mashed Potatoes with Mascarpone Cheese
Mashed Potatoes with Shallots and Truffle Oil
Monterey Scalloped Potatoes
New Potato Salad with Chipotle Vinaigrette
Pear and Potato Gratin with Horseradish
Potato and Parsnip Mash
Poblano, Potato and Corn Gratin
Potato and Onion Cakes
Potato, Corn and Spinach Gratin
Potato Gratin with Blue Cheese
Roasted Root Vegetables with Sage
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Sweet Potatoes Parmesan
Roasted Sweet Potato Black Bean Salad with Jalapeno Dressing
Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes with Bacon and Parmesan
Smashed Potato Cakes with Rosemary Salt
Sweet Potato Gratin
Yellow Sweet Potato Gratin
The PERFECT Baked Potato


RICE and WILD RICE (including Risotto)
Armenian Rice Noodle Pilaf
Balinese Yellow Rice
Butternut Squash Risotto with Pancetta
Baked Rice Poblano Corn
Caribbean Rice
Champagne & Asparagus Risotto
Curried Basmati Rice with Apple
Curried Pineapple Rice
Garlic Lime Cilantro Rice
Greek Spinach and Rice
Lemon Rice Pilaf
Lemon Southwest Rice
Mexican Rice
Mujadara (a Lebanese rice and lentil dish)
Mushroom Risotto (pressure cooker)
Rice Pilaf with Pistachios and Prunes
Rice with Pecans, Garlic and Spinach
Risotto with Mushrooms, Brandy & Cream
Saffron Basmati Rice
Saffron Risotto Cakes
Wild and Brown Rice


TURNIPS
Leek and Turnip Puree


OTHER
Apricot Almond Couscous
Boursin Polenta
Italian Sausage Dressing (for Turkey) with Leeks and Mushrooms
Mushroom Bread Pudding
Parmesan Cheesy Grits
Smoked Gouda Grits
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Vegetables!

ARTICHOKES
Baby Artichoke & Scallion Saute
Roasted Roman (Stuffed) Artichokes


ASPARAGUS – and a post just About Asparagus
Absurdly Addictive Asparagus
Asparagus with Bits of Bacon
Asparagus with Chile Butter
Crumbled Asparagus (that’s with a panko coating)
Pan Roasted Asparagus with Shallots and Orange
Roasted Asparagus with Dijon & Thyme


BEETS
Orange Glazed Beets


BROCCOLI
Broccoli Affogati (it’s an Italian method using red wine)
Broccoli Casserole
Broccoli Mayo Mustard
Broccoli Rabe
Broccoli with Garlic and Dried Cranberries
Crumbled and Roasted Broccoli
Dilled Broccoli and Leeks
Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Olive Oil (easy)
Sauteed Broccoli with Mellow Garlic and Thyme


BRUSSELS SPROUTS
Braised Cabbage & Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts Slaw with Mustard Butter
Brussels Sprouts with Brandy, Orange and Dried Cranberries
Brussels Sprouts Gratin
Brussels Sprouts with Maple Syrup
Caesar Brussels Sprouts
Creamy Brussels Sprouts
Grilled Brussels Sprouts (a food52 recipe)
Honey Mustard Brussels Sprouts
Marinated Brussels Sprouts Salad
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts
Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Pine Nuts


CABBAGE
Braised Cabbage & Brussels Sprouts
Braised Red Cabbage and Apples
Cabbage and Leek Gratin
Cabbage and Noodles
Cabbage with Corn, White Beans, Raisins and Thyme
Low-Carb Cabbage, Bacon & Onion
Red Cabbage with Apples
Roasted Savoy Cabbage
Sweet and Sour Cabbage


CAULIFLOWER
Cauliflower and Green Onion Mash
Cauliflower Cheese
Cauliflower Gratin
Cauliflower Gratin with Tomatoes and Feta
Cauliflower Mash with Sour Cream
Cauliflower Tabbouleh Salad
Cauliflower with Bacon and Mushrooms
Cauliflower with Gruyere and Whiskey
Indian Spiced Cauliflower
Mushroom Cauliflower “Risotto”

Roasted Cauliflower with Fennel
Roasted Cauliflower with Pine Nuts and a Tahini Drizzle
Roasted Cauliflower Slices
Steamed Pureed Cauliflower
Tandoori Style Cauliflower
Twice Baked Cauliflower and Take Two


CORN (yes, it’s a carb, but I’ve listed it here with veggies)
About Corn
Calabacitas con Crema (corn, zucchini, grilled chiles)
Corn, Sugar Snap Pea and Bacon Saute
Corn with 10-Spice Rub
Grilled Corn with Peruvian Chile Lime Seasoning
Gulliver’s Creamed Corn
North African Grilled Corn on the Cob
North African Grilled Corn on the Cob (easier – foil wrapped and lightened up)
Quick Calabacitas (corn, zucchini and chiles)
Ricotta Cheese Corn Pudding
Southwest Corn Cakes
(Mexican) Street Corn with Cotija Cheese


CUCUMBERS
About Cucumbers


EGGPLANT
About Eggplant
Charred Eggplant Salad
Roasted Eggplant with Fried Onion and Lemons (a Middle Eastern style)
Sauteed Eggplant Salad
Stewed Eggplant and Tomatoes
Sweet and Sour Eggplant


FENNEL
Baked Fennel
Fennel Fritters
Fennel with Orange, Coriander and Fennel Seeds


GREEN BEANS
About Green Beans
Bihari Green Beans Masala
Feisty Green Beans
French Green Beans with Pears and Parmesan
Garlic Green Beans (almost dry pan roasted)
Green Beans with Caramelized Red Onions and Pine Nuts
Green Beans with Dijon and Caramelized Shallots
Green Beans with Garlic and Olive Oil
Green Beans with Hazelnut Butter
Green Beans with Pears and Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
Green Beans with Shallots and Balsamic Vinegar
Green Beans with Tomatillo Salsa
Green Bean Salad
Haricot Verts with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples
Quick & Easy Green Beans with Shallots & Balsamic Vinegar

KALE
Kale Mix (a salad)

Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes


MUSHROOMS
Casali Family Mushrooms (with wild harvested hen-of-the-woods)
Mushroom Bread Pudding
Mushroom Calabacitas
Spinach & Mushroom Cream Gratin


ONIONS
Baked Onions With Thyme
Butter and Herb Roasted Red Onions
Cheesy Roasted Onions
Madeira Onions
Onion & Pepper Roast with Indian Spices
Sugar Snap Peas and Mushrooms
Uncle Wilson’s Grilled Onions (done in foil)


PEAS (I know they’re a carb, but most people think of them as a veggie)
Peas with Pancetta


PEPPERS
Roasted Peppers & Onions with Mild Indian Spices


SPINACH
Creamed Spinach and Basil
Greek Spinach and Rice
Gulliver’s Creamed Spinach


SWISS CHARD
Sauteed Swiss Chard with Bacon
Swiss Chard with Dried Cranberries


SUGAR SNAP PEAS
Sugar Snap Peas and Green Peas
Sugar Snap Pea Tops


TOMATOES
About Tomatoes
Marinated Tomatoes
Oven Roasted Tomatoes


ZUCCHINI and YELLOW SQUASH
About Zucchini
Calabacitas (zucchini, corn, chiles)
Calabacitas Con Crema
Mushroom Calabacitas (my riff on calabacitas)
Simple Summer Squash
Southwestern Squash and Corn (easy)
Summer-Squash Casserole (with jalapeno chiles)
Summer Squash (both yellow and zucchini) “Linguine”
Yellow Crookneck Casserole
Yellow Crookneck, Corn & Sugar Snap Pea Gratin
Zucchini Cheesy Casserole
Zucchini Gratin
Zucchini Pancakes
Zucchini Patties with Feta (like this one better than one above)
Zucchini Ribbons
Zucchini (and other veggies) in Foil Packets (grilled)
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