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On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of aging high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, wealthy women) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.


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 Breads, on August 10th, 2007.

Sometimes it just seems that a dinner requires a different kind of bread. I love ciabatta loaves – they’re so tasty and so easy. Buy them, serve them. But, once in awhile for a company meal or for breakfast I will serve some different kind of bread. I think the first time I served these it was for a breakfast for my group of girlfriends along with fresh fruit, juice, coffee and yogurt. They were a big hit.

The recipe came from Gourmet Magazine, back in 1999, according to my notes. I’ve made them several times and never been disappointed. The goat cheese adds a little zing to the texture and the flavor. Sometimes I have chives in my garden, which makes it particularly easy to throw together. Make these when you have a simple protein and sides, not with something like a hearty lasagna or beef Stroganoff which would overwhelm the subtle goat cheese and chive flavors of the muffins. Instead, serve it alongside a simple grilled pork chop, or chicken breast. Or quiche. Or chili. Or make them for Sunday breakfast, which is my favorite.
printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click link to open in MC; 14 includes photo)

Scallion Goat Cheese Muffins

Recipe: Gourmet Magazine, January 1999
Servings: 12
COOK’S NOTES: These are really delicious – and easy to make. They would go well with a nice salad, or even with a traditional meat and potatoes dinner.

1 cup whole milk
4 ounces soft goat cheese
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg — slightly beaten
1 bunch scallions, or chives

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Butter 12 small muffin cups. In a small bowl stir together the goat cheese and 2 T. of the whole milk until combined. It helps if the goat cheese is left out at room temp awhile before you try to do this.
2. In a medium-sized bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Melt the butter. Remove from heat and add the remaining milk and the egg to the butter. Finely chop the scallions to measure one cup. Add them to the flour bowl with the butter mixture and stir gently. Don’t overmix.
3. Kind of estimate how much is half of the biscuit batter and scoop a large tablespoon of the biscuit mixture into each muffin cup and spread with the spoon to fill the bottom. Place a spoonful of the goat cheese mixture into the center (if possible) of the muffin, then cover that with the remaining biscuit mix.
4. Bake in the middle of the oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Serve while hot.
Per Serving: 155 Calories; 9g Fat (52.2% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 40mg Cholesterol; 263mg Sodium.

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