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Just finished News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her parents were killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of a old west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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 Cookies, on January 17th, 2014.


Every year when my wheat-allergic cousin comes to visit I try to find a few new recipes to try. Things that he’d like while he’s here, but also a couple that he might enjoy making at home. And if I were to tell you these cookies are every bit as good as peanut butter chocolate chip cookies made WITH flour, would you believe me? Well, you should, because I’m going to be making these just for myself cuz they’re that good!

After making them (actually Gary made them while I sort-of supervised) I took one to try. Oh my goodness. They were absolutely fantastic. And I mean really fantastic! They have a very light crumb – as you’ll see from the recipe below – they have nothing but smooth peanut butter, brown sugar, soda, salt, an egg and vanilla. Oh, and the chocolate chips. How easy can that be? The recipe makes a very short texture – I mean buttery, crumbly (and there isn’t any butter in it except the smooth peanut butter) cookie. Rich, though. And with such great flavor.

You cannot use high-end peanut butter in these – we bought regular plain-old JIF, the smooth version. Apparently folks at King Arthur Flour have tried this with the Laura Scudder’s, for instance, and it just doesn’t work (too dry and crumbly for some reason). So do seek out JIF (not low fat, not low sugar, and not crunchy). The dough is very easy to mix up and the chocolate chips added in at the last. The recipe below makes just 18 cookies. When I make them I’m going to double the recipe. Gary took all the cookies home with him (he and I each ate 2, so he took home 14). Therefore, I’m going to need to make them sometime soon.

What’s GOOD: they’re fabulous. As long as you like peanut butter; and chocolate chips, then you’ll love these cookies. The fact that they’re GF is nearly beside the point.

What’s NOT: not a thing that I can think of.

printer-friendly Cute PDF

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Flourless Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe By: King Arthur Flour
Serving Size: 18

1 cup smooth peanut butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips — or mini chips

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
2. Beat the peanut butter, sugar, baking soda, and salt at medium speed of your mixer, until well-blended.
3. Add the egg and vanilla, and blend on low-medium speed until incorporated.
4. Stir in the chocolate chips.
5. Scoop the dough by the tablespoonful onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (a tablespoon cookie scoop is best for this job) and push the top of the dough to flatten just slightly.
6. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and cool right on the pan. The tops should be slightly crinkled and you will want to remove them from the oven BEFORE they begin to brown on the edges.
Per Serving: 142 Calories; 9g Fat (55.7% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 12mg Cholesterol; 116mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on January 17th, 2014:

    These are indeed wonderful! I have made them many times. I mailed packages of them to my son when he was in Iraq and Afghanistan. They ship very well. (I was surprised to learn that there was no problem shipping chocolate chip cookies to Iraq–the chocolate survived just fine.) And I did use crunchy JIF, and it worked great. I prefer them chewy, and it’s possible to get that result by underbaking them a bit. Eventually, they lose the chewiness, but either way, they are very peanutty and delicious!

    I’m glad to know you CAN use crunchy, because I would probably prefer them that way. Thanks for the info . . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on July 28th, 2015:

    Correction: I’m sorry–I was mistaken; the flourless chocolate chip cookie recipe I used was not the one on KAF. It’s from It actually calls for super chunky peanut butter, and there are slight differences in the other ingredients. The most important one is probably that it calls for a full cup of brown sugar. It still calls for one large egg, but the baking soda is one teaspoon, the vanilla one half teaspoon, and the chocolate chips a full cup (they call for miniature semi-sweet). Baking time called for is about twelve minutes, but the doneness criteria would be the same–you wouldn’t want them to brown on the edges–so it would probably depend on your oven. Donna

    I’ll have to try the other one. My cousin will be coming down for Christmas, so I’ll be ready to make them by then. Thanks for the suggestion. . . carolyn t

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