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The book Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee had been recommended to me by several friends. Finally got around to reading it. It’s a novel about a family of Koreans living in Japan and covers several decades, beginning in the 1940s, I believe. They’re poor. Dirt poor, yet the women just get themselves back up and work. The husbands in the story have problems, health and otherwise. But what you see here is work, and work and more work just to keep above water. You’ve probably read about how poorly Koreans are treated in Japan – they’re kind of thought of as scum of the earth. I don’t know if this phenomena is still true today, but it apparently was even up until a couple of decades ago. As  you read this book, you’ll find yourself rooting for various family members as they progress in life. A fateful decision is made by one that reverberates throughout her life and those of her children. Pachinko (the machines and the gaming economy that runs because of it) is thought of as part of the underbelly of Japanese culture. I remember seeing the pachinko machines when I visited Japan back in the 1960s. So the book infers, much of pachinko is even controlled by a kind of Japanese mafia and certainly has no status if you work in the pachinko arena. Wealth, yes. Status, no. Very worth reading, even though it’s tough going part of the way. This isn’t a “happy” book. But still worth knowing and reading about the subject. Reading the author’s afterword at the end was very revealing and interesting.

Also read An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones. The book is set in the south with a young, well-educated, middle-class couple and suddenly the husband is accused and convicted of rape (that he didn’t commit). The book is not about the justice system or his wrongful conviction. Not at all. It’s about the relationship, the husband, wife, and then the 3rd person who inserts himself into the mix. Much of this story is told through the letters that Roy and Celestial write each other during and after his incarceration. Jones recreates the couple’s grief, despair and anger until they finally work their way to acceptance, but maybe not how you would expect it. This is complicated emotional territory navigated with succinctness and precision, making what isn’t said as haunting as the letters themselves.  Some of the above (italics) came from the New York Times’ book review.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces. I’ve always admired her and her acting, but never knew much about her. I remember when she was involved with Burt Reynolds, but knew nothing about her dysfunctional coming of age. I think she’s a consummate actress, and was awed by her performance in Norma Rae, and also with her role as Abraham Lincoln’s wife.  She wrote this book herself, with help from a writer’s workshop and with some good advice from various other writers. It’s very well written. She spends a lot of time discussing the very young years and her perverted step-father. But the over-arching person in her life was her mother, be what she may as far as being a good/bad mother. I really liked the book; really enjoyed reading about how Sally throws herself into her tv and film roles over her life. And what a defining moment Norma Rae was in her career. Well worth reading if you enjoy movie star memoirs.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel. It’s a gripping novel about a young girl whose family moves to Alaska when her father is gifted a small plot of land with a ramshackle cabin on it that’s barely fit for habitation. The family survives only because some of the townspeople offer to help them learn how to live through an Alaskan winter, which is not easy. The girl’s father is a tyrant and a wife-beater as well. Some pages were hard to read. Surviving on the land with nearly no funds is an arduous task in the best of times, but doubly so when you’re dealing with an Alaskan winter which lasts about 9 months of the year. I don’t want to spoil the story by telling you too many details. The book touches on some very current social issues and is so worth reading. Although difficult at times, as I said. But I’m very glad I did. I think it would make for a good book club read – lots of survival issues to discuss, let alone the other social problems that ensue. But there’s also love, which makes it worth the read.

Recently finished reading a book for one of my book clubs. I’m interested to find out who in that group recommended this book, Tangerine: A Novel by Christine Mangan. Had it not been selected for my club, I wouldn’t ever have picked it up. Most of it takes place in Tangiers, in the 1950s. Alice and John have moved there, newlyweds, when Lucy Mason shows up. Lucy is Alice’s former college roommate. Lucy simply moves in. There’s bad blood between them following the death of Alice’s beau during their college years. Lucy, who might appear as a very sensible woman, has a dark physical and mental obsession with her “friend.” Is it horror? Not really by strict definition. Is it a mystery? Not quite, although there are several murders that take place. Chapters jump between Alice’s voice and Lucy’s voice and you understand the mental fragility of Alice, and this consuming obsession Lucy has for her friend. I’m NOT recommending this book, but I did finish it just because of my book club choosing this very strange book.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

One of my book clubs occasionally reads a kind of edgy book. This is one of them. By Mohsin Hamid, Exit West: A Novel is a book set in an age not dissimilar to our own and in current time, but something bad has happened in the world. Something never divulged, although symptoms of a civil war are mentioned. A unmarried couple, Nadia and Saeed, are given the opportunity (as others are, as well) to go through a door (this is the exit part of the title) and to another place in the world – it takes but a second – to go through the special door. They go to England (London), to a palatial mansion. Sometimes the power grid is sketchy. Another door. And yet another. And finally to Marin County (north of San Francisco). You follow along with the ups and downs of the chaste relationship of the two, this couple from a house to living on the streets. And the eventual dissolution of the relationship too. I wasn’t enamored with the book, but after listening to the review of it and hearing others talk about it, I suppose there’s more to this story than it might appear. Hope is the word that comes to mind. The book is strange, but it won the Los Angeles Times book award in 2017. It’s received lots of press. It made for some very interesting discussion at our book club meeting.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes. Story: Jennifer Stirling wakes up in hospital, having had a traumatic car accident. She’s introduced to her husband, of whom she has no recollection, and is sent home with him eventually, to a life she neither remembers or embraces readily. But this is the life she was raised to have, so surely it must be worth living, underneath the strange, muted tones of her daily existence. Jennifer goes through the motions, accepts what she is told is her life and all seems to bob along well enough, except when she finds a letter that isn’t her husband’s handwriting, and is clearly a link to someone she has been involved with, but whom? London, France, Africa and America all come into play in this story of a woman piecing back together her life in effort to understand what she has lost, and what she threw away. There is a bit of a time-hop from 1964 to 2003. . . from a reviewer on amazon.  I loved this book from page one to the end. There’s some bit of mystery and you so get into the head of Jennifer Stirling. I could hardly put it down. Great read.

Francine Rivers, an author relatively new to me, but much admired, is most known for this: Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) It’s a trilogy. The first 2 books are about Hadassah, a young woman in the time of the Roman Empire. When Jerusalem was overrun and destroyed, the Christians still alive were sent off and away, separated and derided and abused. Hadassah was one of them. She’s a slave to a wealthy family and it takes 2 of the books to read before the son of the family finally realizes that he’s in love with Hadassah. If  you’re a Christian, you’ll learn a whole lot more about the time following Christ’s crucifixion, about the lot of the struggling Christian community. The 3rd book in the trilogy is about a gladiator who is part of book 1 and 2, but not a main character. You’ll learn about his life too, after he regains his freedom from the fighting ring and the battle of his soul. These books are a fabulous read. Can’t say enough good things about them all. I’ve never been a huge fan of old-world Roman Empire reading, but this one was altogether different. Very worth reading.

Amy Belding Brown wrote this book: Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America, a true accounting in 1676, of Mary Rowlandson, a woman who was captured by Native Americans.  Even before she was captured on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the ongoing bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. The story is riveting, and perplexing once she is traded back to her home. You’ll see a different side to the Indian problem back then and find yourself conflicted. An excellent read.

Taylor Caldwell was a prolific writer, and one I read when I was younger. She died in 1980, and this book, her last, Answer As a Man certainly delivers as her others did. All his life, Jason Garrity has had to battle intolerance and injustice in his quest for power, money, and love. His new hotel will give him financial security, the means to support a loving family and become an upstanding citizen. When family secrets and financial greed combine to destroy his dreams, his rigid moral convictions are suddenly brought into question. . . from Goodreads. Caldwell believed the banking industry was way too powerful, and often took aim at it, as she did in this book. It chronicles the life of a very poor, impoverished Irish immigrant to the U.S. He was an upstanding citizen, God-fearing, but maybe naive in some respects. Good book if you enjoy very deep character study.

Another book by Diney Costeloe, Miss Mary’s Daughter. When a young women is suddenly left with no family and no job or income, she’s astounded to learn that she’s actually a granddaughter of a “grand” family in Ye Olde England. She’s very independent (at least I thought so, for the time period), but is willing to investigate this new family of hers. There are many twists and turns – is she going to inherit the family home – or is the man who has been caring for the home and his daughter the logical inheritors. There’s a villain who nearly sweeps her off her feet, much intrigue from many characters. Well developed plot with a happy ending. A good read.

Celeste Ng is a hot new author. I read another of her books (see below) but this time I read Little Fires Everywhere. There are so many various characters and plots in this book, as in her others. This book focuses on a Chinese baby abandoned at a fire station and the subsequent court battle when the single mother surfaces six months later to try to reclaim her daughter from the family in the process of adopting her. Emotions well up, waxing and waning on both sides of the issue. You may even find yourself changing your own mind about the right or wrong of a child raised with a natural-born mother (albeit late to the raising) or the mother the child has known since near birth. Ng likes to write books with lots of grit and thorny issues. Although a good read, I liked Everything I Never Told You better than this one.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Oh my. This book has so many layers: (1) the young, impoverished couple and their infant son who live, literally, in a dump in Cambodia and about the precarious structure, if you can even call it that, that comprises their “house” in the midst and perched on top of trash; (2) the woman who collects the rent (hence the title and yes, people have to PAY to live there); (3) the young son’s chronic illness; (4) how they make a living out of collecting and selling trash; and (4) the life saving grace and wisdom imparted by characters in the book as the young mother begins to learn to read. If you decide to read this book, please don’t stop at about page 15-20, thinking you just don’t know if you want to read about this. Please continue. It’s so worth it. Have a highlighter pen in your hand because you’ll find so many quotes you will want to remember. Believe it or not, there is also quite a bit in this about literature.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel). I just love Box’s novels. They take place in present day semi-wild west, and chronicle the fish and game warden, Joe Pickett, as he unravels another crime in his territory. A woman has disappeared, and the governor has asked him to figure it out. He does, but the tale meanders  through multiple layers of intriguing story. His books are riveting. Men and women enjoy his books – so if you have a fellow in your life or family that would enjoy an intriguing book (this is not espionage) then gift him one of Box’s books.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. About a dysfunctional family, through and through. I picked this up from amazon from someone who read the book, named “McReader,” and she says: “Set in the 70s, the story follows a Chinese American blended family in Ohio. When Lydia [the daughter] is found floating in the lake, her family is forced to analyze what put her there. Was it pressure from her family to succeed? Was it pressure to fit in? Was it a crime of passion or convenience? I was spellbound reading the last half of this book. I loved each flawed family member, especially Hannah,. While the story went where I hoped it would go, I was not disappointed at all with the progression. It was also quite insightful on the prejudices that society had about Chinese Americans still during that timeframe and how careful parents have to be to put their dreams onto their children.” Such a good book and definitely worth reading. Would be a good book club read. You’ll be hearing more from this author. Am currently reading her next novel, Little Fires Everywhere.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant. A very, very intriguing book. The book is written from the voice of a Jewish grandmother as she tells her granddaughter the saga of her life starting about 1910, who struggles with her own individuality, with her domineering mother who never says a kind word to her. It’s certainly a coming-of-age story as she grows up, finds a job, makes friends, joins a literary girls club, moves out, but still suffers under her mother’s thumb and tongue. She becomes a reporter on a local newspaper, which opens her eyes to more of the world than she ever knew. She finally meets the right man (of course!) and she shares the stories about her life, and her friends and family members as she grows up, giving some sage advice along the way. Part of the time she’s talking to herself – to her young self  (really wanting to tell young Addie to keep on, forgive herself for her perceived transgressions, to live life, and experience the world).

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time – Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

As soon as I finished the above book I promptly visited my church library and found a whole shelf of Rivers’ books, and grabbed one called The Atonement Child. This book takes place in the 1980s or 90s, about a young college student who is raped. She was engaged to be married, was a stellar student. The book chronicles what happens to her when she discovers she is pregnant from the rape. Every possible thing goes wrong in her life. I don’t want to spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it, but I couldn’t put it down. I ended up spending a good part of a day plowing through it. You hear her inner voice (I’m guessing this is a common thread in Rivers’ books) from a Christian perspective. Lots of meaty issues to discuss in a book club if your group would be interested and willing to talk about rape, abortion, adoption and the thorny issues surrounding all of those things, but with a Christian bent, for sure.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen. It’s kind of amazing how many and varied plot lines can be created from events of WWII. This is another one, about a current day woman who finds papers in the attic, after her father’s death, with references to “the child.” She never knew her father could have had another child – could she have a step-sibling somewhere? Her father she knew, had been shot down over Italy, but he never talked much about it. But of course, she must go to Italy to find out about this “child.” The book flips back and forth from this daughter on the search, to her father during the war, all of it taking place in a very small town in Tuscany. It’s about the varied people she meets who want her to go away and not dredge up anything about the war years (are they hiding something, you question), about how much she loves the landscape, and some of the people. And about the intense love affair between the injured pilot and a caring woman of the village. Very charming story. I could almost smell the flowers, taste the olives, hear the bees flitting, and loved the prose about the simple meals that were described. I really enjoyed the book. Perhaps not enough meat for a book club read, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it nonetheless.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

 

Tasting Spoons

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

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Posted in 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.

Posted in Gundry-friendly, lectin-free, Soups, on March 25th, 2019.

creamy_mushroom_soup

Since I’m really into soups these days, and since I’ve made this one three times in the last couple of months, I decided I should post it.

When Ree Drummond made a version of this soup, I decided to adapt it to my low carb diet and to a LF (lectin free) diet. You can find her recipe for this online – she adds flour and also prepares some of the mushrooms as a garnish. I merely cut to the chase – removed the flour altogether and partially blended the soup so it still had some chunkiness to it. And didn’t bother with the mushroom garnish. And, as mentioned above, since I’ve made it three times since early January, you should have this recipe.

Probably the Custom Culinary Gold Label Vegan Mushroom Base I use has a lot to do with the flavor. Buy it on amazon (link shown) for $16, I think it is. I use it often and it’s been in my frig for a couple of years without any problem. It pumps up the mushroom flavor. I added heavy cream, but you could use coconut milk if you’d prefer. And note there is 3/4 cup of sherry wine in it. That’s more than most soups would add, but I really like it – whatever it is that does! You do not taste the wine at all, but it must add some depth of character to the soup. The little squirt of balsamic vinegar is unusual, but also adds to the flavor profile.

What’s GOOD: the flavor, the texture, and by far, the low calorie aspect, though you’d not know it. In recent days I’ve had this for my lunch (with nothing else). At 200 calories or less, it’s a winner for me. And yes, I’m still losing weight, albeit slowly. At 77, you don’t lose weight very fast. The soup freezes well.

What’s NOT: really nothing – easy to make.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Creamy Mushroom Soup LF

Recipe By: Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Serving Size: 8

4 tablespoons butter — or EVOO
2 pounds cremini mushrooms
1 large onion — diced
3 stalks celery — sliced
4 cloves garlic — minced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup sherry — dry type, not sweet
1 tablespoon mushroom soup base — Custom Culinary Mushroom Base (or use low sodium chicken broth)
3 1/2 cups water (or up to 4 cups)
1/2 cup heavy cream — or full fat coconut milk
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

1. Heat butter or EVOO in a pot over medium-high heat. When melted, add mushrooms. Reduce the heat to medium and add the rest of the mushrooms, along with the onion, celery, and thyme (crush the dried thyme between your palms as you sprinkle it over the soup). Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are soft, about 5 to 6 minutes.
1. Season with salt and pepper then slowly add the sherry, stirring while you add. Allow it to heat and bubble up for a couple of minutes, then slowly pour in the stock.
4. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove it from the heat and let it cool for 20 minutes. Remove about 1/3 to 1/2 of the soup and puree in a blender. Return to pan. NOTE: You may use an immersion blender in the pot if you have one, and you don’t have to let the soup cool first. Transfer the soup back to the pot, add the cream and heat it to a simmer. Add balsamic, then taste and adjust seasonings.
Per Serving: 171 Calories; 12g Fat (67.5% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 36mg Cholesterol; 104mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on March 21st, 2019.

My friend Kathy’s daughter, Meredith, took these pictures. We, here in California, are experiencing what’s called a “super bloom” because of all the rain we’ve had over this winter. Our open spaces everywhere are in full green and grow mode. But we have poppies here in California that bloom like weeds. Meredith and a girlfriend went out into the desert earlier this week and took these pictures. Aren’t they just gorgeous?

Meredith took dozens of pictures, but I chose two of the best ones. Thanks, Meredith for sending to me so I could post them on the blog.

Posted in Travel, on March 20th, 2019.

irish_at_buena_vista

Can you read the inscription? It was 9:30 am and we 4 girls were having Irish coffee at the Buena Vista. So very fun. After downing the very tasty stuff, we had eggs Benedict (3 of us) and one had corned beef hash. It was actually pretty darned good, considering the Buena Vista is known for Irish coffee, not for the food! That’s me on the left, my friends Judy, Nancy and Lois.

So, let me back up . . . I’m alive and well. Busy. Very busy. I’ve been trying to get Sara up to speed with doing posts, and I spent the weekend with her (and family) and part of Sunday we tried to get a recipe posted. We ran into a glitch, however, when I tried to log her into the FTP software (that’s the special software that uploads the pdf files to the blog site). Could not seem to do it. Sara has a rather complex recipe for chocolate cupcakes with a peanut butter filling and a Swiss buttercream (with peanut butter) frosting. Three separate recipes in one post. I don’t think in all my years of posting on my blog I’ve ever had 3 separate recipes in one blog post. Always a first time, however! Once she’s able to post from her home computer, she should be up and running.

gg_bridgeMeanwhile, a week and a half ago my 3 friends and I (above) flew to SFO and spent 3 full days and 2 nights touring, eating, drinking, walking. Pause and repeat. We had SO much fun, I just can’t tell you. I gained not one ounce, thankfully, but only because I stuck to my diet with the exception of eating an entire popover at Neiman Marcus. With strawberry butter. Oh my, did I feel like I’d fallen off the wagon!

japanese_tea_garden1We stayed at the St. Francis (Union Square) and used Lyft and taxis to get us around to various places. We visited the De Young Museum (a place I’d never been to), went up into the Tower there too – if you haven’t ever been there, you should! We walked a block away and went through the japanese_tea_garden2Japanese Tea Garden – also not raining while we did that. Late in the afternoon we popped into a darling wine bar around the corner from the front door of the St. Francis – I think it was called Eno (for enoteca, I presume) and we enjoyed fabulous boutique wine, cheeses and salami. We had dinner at Scoma’s, an ancient restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf. I had scallops and shrimp in butter sauce.

cablecar_sfoWe took the cable car over the hill the next morning for our breakfast at the Buena Vista. Sat at a table with a darling young couple who were having a romantic weekend away. Took the streetcar along the wharf to the Ferry Building and walked all over that place. I spent a bit of money there on myself and a few gifts.

IMG_0264Late that afternoon we went to the Top of the Mark (Hopkins) and had cocktails while we ogled  the fantastic view. The weather was cold, and Saturday and Sunday were supposed to be rainy – it was – but we managed to dart in and out in between showers, so I never had to put up my umbrella. We had dinner at Cotogna, a very upscale Italian restaurant on Pacific Street – really gorgeous ambiance and fabulous food. I’d definitely go there again.

Our last day we trekked to Chinatown (and stopped at St. Mary’s church, the oldest church in SF) and back. Then headed to Neiman Marcus. We’d hoped to have afternoon tea, but we were on a timetable and they weren’t serving tea yet, so opted for lunch. Delicious, by the way. That’s where I gave in to the popover. After that we headed to the airport and got a 6:30 pm flight home to Orange County.

Posted in Gundry-friendly, IP, lectin-free, Soups, on February 25th, 2019.

chix_enchilada_soup_GFLF

EASY to make soup in the Instant Pot. Lots of flavors to savor.

So, Carolyn here – I’m still alive and well – I made this soup yesterday and it was so good I knew I needed to post it. I was supposed to have a group of friends over to my house to watch the academy awards last night, but a few days ago my Tivo went kaput – everything about my entertainment system goes through the Tivo. Tivo is sending me a new one, free, but it won’t arrive for about another week. Therefore I have no TV to watch in my family room. So we had our academy awards potluck dinner at someone else’s home. And I made soup.

Because I had a whole chicken in the freezer, I chose to use it instead of the chicken thighs noted in the recipe – I used the same timing – so you can do that too, if you choose.

Into the Instant Pot went the chicken, some diced tomatoes (canned), a can of chopped green chiles, an onion chopped up, a shallot minced, a package of chili seasoning (or taco seasoning), a bit of extra ground cumin, canned enchilada sauce and chicken broth. I set the Instant Pot on “soup” for 20 minutes. I let it slow release for 15 minutes, then fast release. The chicken was removed to cool, then I shredded up all the meat from the chicken.

Meanwhile, I used the immersion blender on the broth part, added in the sour cream and crème fraiche, added back in the shredded chicken and let it reheat briefly. Don’t let it boil or the soup part will separate. Then I cut up the garnishes and let everyone help themselves. If you want tortilla chips, smash a few to garnish the soup (I didn’t because I didn’t think it needed it, plus I can’t have tortillas on my diet).

And how am, you want to know? I’m good. Very busy. Have a done any painting yet? Only a little. PEO has been taking up a bunch of my time lately. I’m taking a trip to San Francisco with 3 girlfriends next month which will be great fun. My grandson has been accepted at Clemson in the Fall, although he hasn’t officially told them yet (he’s interested in bio-science) – Clemson is where his sister goes to school (she’s a junior there), although she’s in Argentina studying this semester and is really struggling with the dialect. She got accepted to do a medical internship at a fertility clinic in the city where she is living. And she starts her semester classes later this week, all in Spanish (or, this Argentinian dialect, I should say). Sabrina is planning to take the MCAT in the fall to be accepted to med school. She’s the one who started out wanting to be a vet, but I think she’s certain now she wants to be an MD or a PhD research doctor. My other granddaughter is finishing her senior year at Sacramento State and hopes to go on to get a Master’s in Nursing. By the way, I’m still keeping up the “Currently Reading” section of my blog (left sidebar of the main page) in case you’re interested. Last summer I couldn’t WAIT for winter to arrive. Be careful what you wish for, right? It’s been SO darned cold here in Southern California. Coldest on record almost. But it’s been going on for weeks now. I had to dig to find more coats and wraps because it’s so cold even in the daytime.

What’s GOOD: how easy it was. I could have made it a day ahead, but as it was, I made it just before I toted it to my friend’s home. The flavor of the soup part is really, really good. Lots of Mexican flavor too. It was filling (and fairly low calorie too) and everyone thought it was really good.

What’s NOT: only the shredding of the chicken meat, and that took about 15 minutes, tops. I’m glad I still have some, because I’ll be having it for my lunch today.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

Instant Pot Chicken Enchilada Soup (also LF and GF)

Recipe By: adapted a lot from All Day I Dream About Food (blog) 2019
Serving Size: 8

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs — or you may use chicken breast meat
3 cups canned tomatoes — canned
1 whole yellow onion — chopped
1 medium shallot — peeled, minced
1 package taco seasoning mix — or chili seasoning
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 ounces chopped green chiles — canned
10 ounces red enchilada sauce — Frontera brand if you can find it
salt to taste, if needed
3 cups chicken broth, low sodium
2/3 cup sour cream
2/3 cup creme fraiche
grated cheese, chopped cilantro and chopped avocado for garnish

NOTES: I used a whole chicken (smaller sized one) but used the same 20-minute timing and it was cooked through just fine.
1. Place the chicken, tomatoes, onion, shallot, enchilada sauce, chiles, and seasonings in the bottom of an Instant Pot . Pour the broth overtop.
2. For the Instant Pot, seal the lid and make sure the vent is on seal. Set to the Soup Function for 20 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes.
3. If you want to use a slow cooker, place the lid on and set to low for 6 to 8 hours or high for 3 to 4 hours.
4. When cooking is complete, remove the chicken to a plate, cool and shred the chicken meat. Remove about 1 cup of the hot broth to a bowl and whisk in the sour cream and creme fraiche, then whisk this combo back into the pot. Use an immersion blender to smooth out the soup. Add chicken to the pot.
5. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve hot with grated cheese, chopped cilantro and chopped avocados.

Per Serving: 308 Calories; 18g Fat (53.3% calories from fat); 24g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 123mg Cholesterol; 1110mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on February 16th, 2019.

caramel_apple_rose_final

So quick and pretty – just 15 mins from start to oven

This is a post from Sara: The recipe is from Phillis Carey.  I attended a class a few months ago and am now on her mailing list.  I saw these gems on her Valentine’s Day email and I thought; I can do that!  They are so simple and quick; just 3 main ingredients.  I had them ready for the oven in less than 15 mins.  I baked them while finishing the rest of dinner and served them warm with vanilla ice cream.

apple_rose_tart_stripsThe puff pastry is folded in thirds so just cut the thawed pastry on the crease lines then each third in half to get 6 equal strips.  I used a silicone pastry brush to spread the caramel sauce from end to end. The microwaving of the apple slices is imperative because they must be soft to roll.  Then line the strip of pastry with the apple slices skin side up 1/4” above the top of the pastry overlapping a bit.  Fold the bottom half of the pastry over the apple slices leaving skin side exposed.  Then roll from end to end forming a rose.

apple_rose_tart_before_bakingPlace in muffin tin and continue with remaining strips.  Sprinkle with course sugar and bake.  I drizzled more caramel sauce on top and served it with vanilla ice cream.  My family just loved them.

What’s Good: I love how quickly I put this together.  Valentine’s Day was a weekday this year and I was able to put this together after work no problem.  I also think they are pretty and look difficult to make.

What’s Not:  There is some time to allow for the puff pastry to thaw.  Also I found the Smucker’s brand of caramel sauce not intense enough.  I think I’d try the Mrs. Richardson’s Butterscotch Caramel or maybe Dulce De Leche for a more robust flavor.

printer friendly pdf

* Exported from MasterCook *

Caramel Apple Rose Tart

Recipe By: Phillis Carey’s recipe
Serving Size: 6

1 apple — Honeycrisp, Pink Lady or Gala work best
6 tablespoons caramel sauce — purchased and extra for garnish
1 sheet frozen puff pastry sheet — thawed
Coarse sugar
Vanilla ice cream

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Cut apple in quarters and core. Then slice very thinly
3. Arrange apple slices on plate and microwave on HIGH for 45 seconds until soft and pliable, cool
4. Cut puff pastry into 6 equal strips. Brush each strip with 1T caramel sauce. Place apple slices lengthwise with skin edge up along the edge of the dough, sticking 1/4″ above the edge of the dough and slightly overlapping. Fold bottom half of dough over the apple slices leaving the skin edge exposed. Starting at one end, roll the dough up in a spiral to form a rose shaped pastry.
5. Generously butter or spray muffin tin and transfer a rose to each cup, apple edge up. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 30-40mins.
6. Cool in pan for 5 mins. Remove from pan and cool on rack. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream and drizzled with more caramel sauce.
Per Serving 294 Calories; 16g Fat (47.7% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 36g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; trace Cholesterol; 175mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on February 6th, 2019.

apple_blueb_cobbler

Lovely dessert. Apples and blueberries.

Made this dessert last night for my bible study group. I ate a couple of bites of it, trying not to eat the cobbler part, just fruit. Thought it was great, and my group gave me raves.

apple_blueb_cobber_side

I used Envy apples, or were they Gala. Can’t remember what I bought, other than they were the red/yellow sweet, crisp type apples. They held their shape well, and were super sweet tasting. I adapted the recipe from Marie Rayner’s blog, The English Kitchen. I used different and more apples, more blueberries. The topping is easy but doesn’t really cover the fruit altogether. Just enough to kind of hold it together. The orange zest gives it an elusive flavor – nobody could identify it!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Apple and Blueberry Cobbler

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from The English Kitchen blog.
Serving Size: 8

2 pounds apples — use sweet, crisp variety, peeled, quartered, cored, cut into thick slices
2/3 cup blueberries — fresh
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon water
TOPPING:
4 ounces unsalted butter — at room temperature (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
4 ounces self-rising flour — a scant cup
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
the grated zest of one small orange
powdered sugar for dusting on top
whipped cream for serving

NOTE: If you don’t have self-rising flour, use regular all-purpose and add a teaspoon of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
1. Preheat the oven to 350*F.
2. Place the apples in the bottom of a 9×9 or larger baking dish, at least 2 inches deep. Add blueberries on top, then sprinkle the sugar over top along with the water. Bake for about 10 minutes while you make the topping.
3. TOPPING: Using a mixer, add softened butter and sugar and beat for several minutes until mixture is creamy and light. Add eggs, self-rising flour and continue beating until no flour streaks appear. Add orange juice and zest and mix in gently. Remove the fruit from the oven and spoon the thick batter evenly over top. Return to the oven and cook for 40 to 50 minutes until golden brown and the top springs back when lightly touched.
4. Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm with whipped cream, lightly sweetened.
Per Serving (oops, wrong as it served about 10 people, original recipe said served 6): 428 Calories; 18g Fat (36.1% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 66g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 112mg Cholesterol; 267mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, on February 4th, 2019.

2_ingred_bagels

A recipe from Sara

2_ingred_toppingsThis is an alternative to yeast breads that takes no time to make and has 10-11 grams protein per serving!  It’s my new favorite. I make this in double batches and my family goes through them within a few days. Always a good sign the recipe is enjoyed. 2_ingred_dough

The only negative is the self-rising flour, as it’s not something I normally use, so I had to buy some specifically for this recipe. And now I have to find a permanent home in my baking drawer!

Notes from Carolyn: you can make your own self-rising flour and store it that way, but if you don’t have self-rising flour and don’t want to have to buy it or store it, use this adaptation: for every 1 cup of all-purpose flour add 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

bagels_raw

In writing up this recipe for Sara, and going online to verify instructions, I discovered this gem is now in a Weight Watchers recipe frenzy. “Everybody” is making it – you can make all kinds of things with it: bagels (Sara’s favorite), calzones, pizza dough, pretzels, bread sticks, and even cinnamon rolls. Sara had difficulty making pretzel shapes with the dough (it’s very sticky). If you’re interested, go online and search for “2 ingredient (insert type)” and you’ll find many websites with the same recipe and perhaps more instructions for making the other varieties.Sara used the recipe from a website called Recipe Diaries. You might want to go there and check out some of Jenna’s hints about handling the dough (refrigerate it before shaping). The complete recipe (4 servings) amounts to 11 WW points, in case you’re following their nutrition/diet style.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

2 Ingredient Dough

Recipe By: Recipe Diaries blog (follows Weight Watcher’s)
Serving Size: 4

1 cup Greek yogurt, fat-free
1 cup self-rising flour
1 egg — for wash

1. Mix flour and yogurt together in bowl. Either spray Pam on your hands or dust hands with more flour as dough is sticky. Knead dough until smooth.
2. Divide into 4ths and shape into whatever you want. (I’ve made sandwich rolls, bagels – my preference – pizza crust, hotdog buns…)
3. Place on parchment paper on baking sheet. Whisk egg and brush onto dough. Then sprinkle with whatever topping sounds good. I love the Everything Seasoning from Trader Joe’s or Costco. I’ve also sprinkled mini chocolate chips, herbs and parmesan…. be creative!
4. Bake at 350°F for 22 minutes.
Per Serving: 160 Calories; 2g Fat (8.9% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 53mg Cholesterol; 437mg Sodium.

Posted in Books, on January 15th, 2019.

Image result for where the crawdads sing

Oh my goodness. Where does one begin explaining this book. It’s positively mesmerizing. I could hardly put it down. I wanted to snatch up my Kindle at all hours or day and evening to find out what was going to happen next. My favorite kind of read.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is a treasure. Not only the story itself – about a girl (very young) who is basically abandoned by her mother first, then a couple of  years later by her drunken and abusive father, yet she survives by herself, living on the edge of civilization (in the hinter marshland in North Carolina near the ocean), yet only a mile or so from a small town. In a primitive shack. But that’s not really the story. From the time Kya was a child she was interested in the wildlife in the marshy lands near her home. She became one with nature – the birds would mingle like one with her. She collected things, she observed the birds, lizards and insects in how they lived, mated, died. She collected shells and weeds and flowers. And she learned to harvest some food. And sell mollusks to buy more food to survive. She didn’t go to school.

Oh, but I’m giving away the story, and I can’t do that. You just have to read this book. The author is a naturalist/scientist by profession and has written other books, like Cry of the Kalahari. Many years of Owens’ life she and her husband lived in Africa, as scientists, studying the desert. I have that book on my Kindle and haven’t ever read it. I bought it to read while I was on safari some years ago, and never got around to it. Shame on me! I will now.

The author has a way with words – they’re lyrical – they’re poetic – they’re haunting. I highlighted many paragraphs on my Kindle to go back and read again later. Such beautiful writing. If you enjoy that kind of read, you’ll be doubly happy reading this book.

It’s difficult to categorize this book – probably 60% of it is about Kya’s growing up, her coming of age, and she does make a couple of friends. I can’t tell you more. There is a murder mystery involved, but this book is nothing like a common mystery novel. There’s also some poetry intermingled in the text. I must thank my reader Peg K for recommending this book to me. Thank you so much, Peg, for the suggestion. This has leaped up in my own list of favorites. I almost want to buy the hardcover just so I have it in my book collection. The book was published in 2018, so it’s still pricey in any form if you purchase it. Maybe you can find it at the library. Put it on your amazon wish list. But you’ve got to read it. Reese Witherspoon is going to produce a movie – I can’t wait.

Posted in Cookies, on January 3rd, 2019.

prize_winning_coconut_caramel_bars

A recipe from Sara – a delicious bar she’s made a couple of times in the last few weeks and everybody just LOVED them.

So, Sara hasn’t yet learned how to post recipes, so I’m doing it for her, for the moment. She’s going to come visit me sometime soon and she’ll learn, get it down pat, then she can post recipes and the write-ups herself, from home. . . carolyn

Sara says: these were an easy-fix to take to a party, to serve to friends, especially with a cup of coffee in hand, or to provide for a kids’ event. These are sweet and chewy, and chocolaty. I love to make recipes like this because they are fast, easy to cut and pretty to display on a tray.

In reading the original recipe at King Arthur Flour, I found several complaints, and one in particular about the addition of the caramel layer (it worked for some and didn’t for many who tried it), SO, I made some adjustments.

In the original recipe, people complained about getting them out of the pan – so I added the step of lining the pan with parchment; the recipe didn’t say light or dark brown sugar, so I chose dark; I prefer dark chocolate chips, but you can use semisweet, or even milk chocolate if that’s your preference; and the biggest change . . . I’ve started using canned dulce de leche for all of the recipes I make that call for baking the caramel. It’s just easier, period. And I’ve never had a failure. These cookies are very sweet, so a little bit goes a long ways – hence I cut them in 1-inch cubes. That’s truly enough!

What’s GOOD: this recipe is a definite keeper for me. All my friends enjoyed them and my kids went nuts over them. They’d be easy to ship to my daughter away at college (cookies = love from mom). I loved the sweetness of the caramel and the robust flavor of dark chocolate. These are easily frozen and brought out for unexpected guests.

What’s NOT: nothing except incorporating the changes I made to the recipe – all for flavor or for ease.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grand Prize Coconut-Caramel Bars

Recipe By: Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Serving Size: 90

2 cups sweetened coconut flakes — toasted, reserving 1/2 cup for topping
1/2 cup butter — softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar — packed
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 can dulce de leche
2 cups dark chocolate chips

1. Toast coconut in 9×13 glass baking dish in a preheated 300°F oven, for 18-20 minutes. Stir coconut halfway through and watch carefully as it may burn quickly. Remove coconut and set aside to cool.
2. Line the same 9×13 dish with parchment paper that is higher than the pan edges.
3. Increase oven temp to 350°F.
4. In a large bowl beat butter, brown sugar, vanilla and egg. Mix in flour, salt, baking powder and 1 1/2 cups of the coconut.
5. Spread mixture into prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes. Just before the 15 minutes are up, put the entire contents of the dulce de leche in a glass measuring cup and heat in microwave in 20-30 second intervals until pourable. [It took me 90 seconds.] Remove crust from oven, pour caramel on top and smooth to all edges. Return to oven to continue baking for 10-13 minutes. Caramel will bubble up. Remove from oven. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top of hot caramel. Let stand about 5 minutes for the chips to melt. Spread evenly over top of bars, then sprinkle with the reserved toasted coconut. Set aside to cool completely.
6. Using the parchment paper “handles” lift the bars out of the pan and set on cutting board. Cut into 1″x1″ bars.
Per Serving: 62 Calories; 3g Fat (42.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 5mg Cholesterol; 32mg Sodium.

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