Monthly Archives: November 2017

THE JOYS OF READING A GOOD BOOK TO A GRANDCHILD

Little Miss, Big Sis
Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Peter H. Reynolds
Children’s Literature
2015
44 pages


This big sister and little brother march through the delightful pages of a book that addresses the downsides of babyhood and the joys of being a big sister saving the day. “Hugging, holding, Love unfolding.” It is an active story of family love.

Reading this book is a joy: the message, the language, the real story of being a big sister to a new baby. It is charming. Text is minimal but valuable, and the illustrations walk the careful line between reality and family caring.

My granddaughter loves the book. She is a three-year-old with a newborn baby brother. She has been preparing for him, and as she listens to this book and participates, she so clearly identifies as a big sister. She is loving and kind. As I visit in her home I observe how she is realistic and participatory in his care. I was once a big sister and I clearly remember some of the bittersweet feelings from that time.

My heart swells with memories and with present day love for my grandchildren and somehow the book eases the strong emotions. The two of us have great fun with this story. Thanks to these authors. They capture the universal in the particular. All writers hope their words and pictures do that job.

Ackroyd’s Scottish Bakery, since 1949

Thanks to my brother and my daughter today was my first visit to this Detroit Institution. What a welcoming place. Hospitality matches the good food. At the counter and in the kitchen Joe Hakim was totally charming and answered all my questions. Service is outstanding.

Joe Hakim at the bakery with some lovely fern cakes

Meat Pie is the top seller with Mac and cheese pie coming in second. There are five Scottish bakeries in the country and this one is unique because of its vintage pie machine.

You can find this bakery on facebook and twitter. They ship nationwide. The website is ackroydsscottishbakery.com

This bakery features savory pies, pasties, tea cakes, breads, and meats as well as imported groceries such as biscuits and crackers. This time I bought chicken curry pie, Steak and mushroom pasty, bridie, cheese and onion pie and a sausage rolls.

We also had a taste of Irn-bru, pronounced iron brew, really quite delicious.

I have tasted some of these wares, and also shortbread and raspberry bars. Everything so far tasted delicious. The curry is a bit spicy but be brave.

Let’s hear it for Scottish Bakeries! Gracious hospitality and a taste of Scotland….so delicious!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

WISHING YOU A FANTASTIC THANKSGIVING!

So many blessings I am grateful for: visiting brother to help make side dishes for the feast, new grand baby I will soon travel to see and the baby’s father and mother and sister, daughter to host Thanksgiving, family to celebrate the day with, visiting son, my other grandchildren and more. Today I must make a gratitude list.

I pray that all of you are enjoying your Thanksgiving and all the items on your gratitude list.

A big THANK YOU to all who read this blog. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

HATS OFF TO NEWSPAPERS: FIVE INTERESTING ITEMS

Newspapers offer such a breadth of information. All kinds of stuff falls into your brain when you read a newspaper or surf the internet. But I’m a print fan, so this is a giant Thank-you post to newspapers.

And this weeks five interesting bits of info:

A BIRD, the bar-tailed godwit flies from the Yukon delta in the Arctic to New Zealand, a journey of more than 7000 miles, the longest non-stop over water bird migration. The arctic tern is no slouch, shuttling from the Arctic to Antarctica.

Great Magazine Gifts for your Gardening Friends according to Nancy Szerlag in the Detroit News.
Country Gardens
Fine gardening
Garden Designs
The American Gardener
Garden Gate

The Keystone Pipeline leaked 210,000 of Canadian crude into the South Dakota grasslands this week. This follows a 2011 spill in North Dakota and a 2016 spill in South Dakota. They will need to excavate to repair the Keystone. It is 10 years old.

The Museum of the Bible opens this week in Washington, D. C. It houses more than 500 biblical artifacts and texts and the world’s largest private collection of retired Torah scrolls.

Versatile Michigan actor Jeff Daniels stars in Godless out Wednesday on Netflix in which he plays a vicious villain. The Western is a series. Love westerns, hate spooky bad people portrayed in dramas filled with inhumanity. I’m a Daniels fan, but I don’t know about this one.

Yes, I surf the internet on my phone, but newpapers are one of my favorite kinds of reading!

Thinking about reading, I picked up Ron Chernow’s Grant this weekend on hold for me at the library. It’s almost too heavy to carry. Since I’m already deep in two long and challenging reads, I’m not sure when, or if I’ll be reading much of Grant. That’s what is hard about library holds. Books never seem available at the right time.

Today I must do many things other than reading. So I’m posting early on readeatlive.com

Thanks for visiting. Do tell your favorite kind of reading.

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS – BOOK COMMENT

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS
Author: Lisa Wingate
Publisher: Ballantine Books 2017
Genre: Novel/historical fiction
Hardcover Edition: 354 pages
Source: Personal copy

This story wraps itself around the reader and as the events unfold the wrap is tighter, warmer and more suspenseful.

It is told in two voices: Rill Foss and Avery Stafford. Many reviewers spoke highly of the character Rill Foss and the scenes of Rill and her siblings stolen from their parents and kept in the Tennessee Children’s Home waiting for adoption. It was not a nice place and Rill’s voice is strong in telling the tale of her family. But it was the character of Avery Stafford who captured my heart. A young lawyer from an old South Carolina family she pours her heart and soul into learning more about her grandmother’s mysterious past.

The tale is based on the real-life scandal of the Memphis adoption organization that kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families. Wingate gives us a window into the treatment of some children in the thirties. It would seem that greed and injustice have been present in our world in places we sometimes least expect. Our heroine Avery Stafford has no inkling of such a situation, but she senses that something is not as it seems in the history of her beloved grandmother, who is now receiving care in a nursing home with a memory unit. The reader, who is told the story by Rill Foss as a young girl, knows what is going on. But it is how this author Lisa Wingate is able to fit together the pieces of this story and the feeling each represents that creates a riveting and mysterious tale.

With each passing chapter the story and the characters are more vivid and pull at the heart more strongly. For this reader, Avery is the heart of the story. As book clubs choose and discuss this story, no doubt readers will feel most strongly for different characters. Though some critics do not agree with me, I take this to be a sign that Wingate knows how to create characters as well as plots. It is far from easy to write multiple young children with clarity and interest as Wingate has done. Many readers agree. This book has been weeks on best-seller lists.

A BREAKFAST TO STOP THE COLD IN ITS TRACKS

Maple Breakfast Sausage

I seldom eat sausage. No store-bought breakfast sausage or restaurant sausage ever tastes right to me, too fatty or off flavors. I’m always dreaming of breakfast sausage I had in a Wisconsin restaurant near LaCrosse one early morning on my way to Minnesota many years ago with my son, who was maybe 15 at the time. When our breakfast arrived and I began eating my sausage, I remember I said to him. “This is real country sausage, so good.” The Detroit kid was unimpressed. He liked Bob Evans or Jimmy Dean or whatever, and mostly he liked the Italian sausage we purchased at a good meat market.

This is part of the explanation for why I was taken with an article in the New York Times Magazine last week titled “The Pleasures of a Pork Patty” by Samin Nosrat. The use of the term pork patty also reminded me of a Fourth of July Pork Burger in Reinbeck, Iowa at the Methodist Church that was to die for, as we like to say. I stared at the picture, I dreamed of that Wisconsin sausage and the Iowa pork burgers.

Okay, enough. On to the recipe.

Maple Breakfast Sausage
(the ingredients I used – roughly half of the recipe printed in the magazine. More variations at nytimes.com/magazine)
this amount makes four patties

½ dried sage
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small pinch nutmeg
1 small pinch ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ pound ground pork
½ tablespoon maple syrup and a little more
Extra virgin olive oil

Combine the spices in a bowl, add pork and syrup.

Use your hands to mix thoroughly for 1 full minute until the pork is tacky, sticky in the palm of your hands.

The recipe suggested a cast iron pan. I have a small one. It was too small. Just use a heavy pan of the size for your needs and heat the olive oil until it shimmers. I used a ¼ cup to make my patties, flat and one the small side. Choose a pan that will not crowd the elements of the breakfast you are cooking.

The author suggested you make one small patty first to check for seasoning. I ate my one patty. Then I added more seasoning (the extra in a small bowl from the measuring) and formed and froze the remaining patties. In other words, my patty was delicious but I thought a bit more seasoning would make it even better.

I followed the suggestion that I cook my sausage, egg and bread in one pan. The author talked of how the bread soaked up the pork juices and so good. Well my pork was quite lean and little fat or juices to soak in the bread.

I went back to the article and read the suggestion you talk to your butcher and ask how much fat they add to ground pork. She suggested 20 to 25 percent. I bought my ground pork at a good market, but I did not ask about the fat content. I didn’t want it too fatty but a smidge more would have been perfection for cooking. For eating I was most happy with the sausage patty I had for my breakfast.

Your sausages may need draining on a paper towel. When I put mine on a paper towel, no fat. Good for me but as I said nothing to flavor the bread.

I cooked the sausage patty, an egg and a half slice of bread in the skillet at the same time.

I loved this sausage. My tummy feels fine. It was a satisfying breakfast. Just as good as my memories of Wisconsin, so I guess with this recipe there is good Michigan sausage. (To clarify MI is home to all sorts of delicious flavored sausages or sausages made with multiple ingredients such as spinach and feta. Here I’m yearning for country pork sausage.)

That touch of maple syrup may well be the secret. Maybe it was the sausage and slightly runny egg eaten together with a small piece of the hot bread in one bite. Oh my! Give this a try!

LOUISE PENNY WORKS HER MAGIC

Glass Houses
Author: Louise Penny
Publisher: Minotaur Books 2017
Genre: Fiction – Mystery
Hardcover Edition: 388 pages
Source: personal copy

Many of you have read some of Louise Penny’s best-selling Inspector Gamache novels. She lives in a small village outside of Montreal, similar perhaps to the Three Pines village of these novels. Her awards are numerous. This is because she is not only a writer of brilliant mysteries, but an outstanding writer in any category. Her prose is epic, poetic and readable.

This time the Chief Inspector, his family and his village are at the very center of the intrigue. The village is besieged by a hooded figure who stands on the village green. It is thought this figure is a “debt collector” arrived to provoke someone’s conscience. Soon a murder victim is discovered in the village church and as you might expect an engrossing mystery ensues.

This is without a doubt the best of her books that I have had the pleasure of reading. This is the book that makes me a true fan! The characters are so clear, the plot is also clear and riveting. And my concern for Gamache escalates with every chapter. Her plot involves history and present-day important issues at once. It also incorporates something of the supernatural. She has always been a master of plot. But this time caring and clarity are central to the novel. For that reason it is unforgettable!

Reading Lousie Penny is a delightful endeavor. I truly thank her! BookMarks magazine awards this one 4 stars and so do I. Don’t miss it!

TRYING OUT A NEW RECIPE: BRAISED CHICKEN WITH APRICOTS, LEMON AND SAFFRON


TRYING OUT A NEW RECIPE: BRAISED CHICKEN WITH APRICOTS, LEMON AND SAFFRON

It’s time for something new. I saw this recipe in the City Kitchen by David Tanis column in the New York Times food section a few weeks ago. With all the roasting and grilling, I haven’t cooked chicken this way for many moons, or so it seems anyway. The recipe also provided the opportunity to try some different flavors and spices.

The verdict is beautiful color and terrific taste. What I really loved was the soft texture of the chicken, while still so full of flavor.

I made half a recipe. Here’s the prep and the ingredients I used. The recipe and more ideas are printed below.

I generously seasoned the chicken on both sides with kosher salt and pepper and let it sit an hour at room temperature before cooking. (I get such a kick that this is now called dry rub by some, even though cooks have done this since the beginning of time.)

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs went into a frying pan with a turn-in-the-pan of olive oil. I cooked these, skin-side down, for about 15 minutes over medium heat until well browned with crispy skin that lifted easily from the pan. Turn the thighs and cook two or three minutes more.

In a small cup I combined saffron with lemon juice and ¼ cup of water and set this aside.

The browned chicken went into a baking dish.

I poured off most of the fat and cooked the onions in about 2 tablespoons of fat, stirring some until softened and just beginning to brown. I used less onions than called for even for half a recipe, but enough for added flavor.

To the onions in the pan add the saffron water along with the threads, easy on the tomato puree, cayenne, coriander, fennel, cardamon pods and then added the wine. This mixture needs to simmer for a minute or two. Since these spices are mostly new to me, I used slightly less than half of what the recipe called for.

I poured this mixture, which is the most lovely and enticing color over the chicken. Then I tucked in apricots and lemon slices among or atop the chicken pieces. (When I opened the package of dried apricots I had on hand, they were black, so I used canned apricots, not as good I’m sure but pretty and flavorful.)

Cover the pan tightly and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Uncover and bake 10 minutes more.

The aromas were unfamiliar to me, but not at all unpleasant. The color unbelievably gorgeous! Oh, I said that before, didn’t I?

I planned to serve this chicken with a chiffonade of argula and did not trouble with the pine nuts, although I think they would be wonderful.

On the plate with arugula and rice. Yum!

The chicken was equally delicious the second day served with packaged herb chicken rice and other grains.

In the printed recipe below you can see other garnishes that are suggested.

Chicken with Apricots, Lemon and Saffron

6 large bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
salt and pepper
¼ teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 large onion, diced
½ cup tomato puree
pinch of cayenne
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon green cardamom pods
1 cup white wine
6 ouches dried apricots
2 small lemons, thinly sliced
cilantro leaves and mint leaves for garnish
2 Tablespoons toasted pine nuts to finish.

There are so many ways to make this recipe your own: more tomato, thyme, mushrooms. Anyway you prepare it, this is a dish with complex flavors. And the prep is fast and easy!

You may wish to serve it with rice, orzo, or couscous.

This is a recipe I expect to save and prepare again. I know I wouldn’t need to mention it, but….even one bite of the skin on this chicken was heavenly. It’s possible that this recipe has turned this non-fan of chicken into a person that likes chicken again.