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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 Desserts, on August 12th, 2016.

kahlua_bundt

For some reason I’ve neglected to add this cake to my blog. Good heavens! I used to make it often when our kids were living at home. It’s made with a cake mix and doesn’t have all that much Kahlua in it, but it’s divinely delicious and decadent. It comes together in a flash.

When I was visiting with my daughter Sara, she decided to whip together this cake and said, “this is your cake; remember, we used to make it all the time.” Sure enough, we did. I think this cake was my old business partner Audre’s recipe. Probably she made it for one of our potluck lunches we had at the office once in awhile. Remember when cake mix bundt cakes were just “the thing?” Everybody was making them, with rum or bourbon, or other types of alcohol additions.

This one is made with a regular cake mix – remember back then, BEFORE the cake mix producers started adding the pudding mix into the cake. I suppose you could use that type in this, then just eliminate the instant pudding. But I like this one the way it is, so we chose not to use that type. It makes a very tender cake, and VERY chocolaty. Sara made this in a jiffy – in her stand mixer she added the box mix, instant pudding, eggs, oil, the Kahlua. Then you stir in the chocolate chips, and into the bundt cake pan it went. Once baked and cooled, I made a very thin drizzle to go on it as it looked a little bare on the pretty platter with nothing. Guess you could use powdered sugar too – easier.

kahlua_cake_cutSara ended up using the new Hershey brand dark chocolate pudding INSTANT mix. It worked just fine, and I’ll tell you, the chocolate flavor was intense. I think when I made it years ago I used a devil’s food cake or a German chocolate mix (one of those has a reddish tinge to the finished and baked cake) and regular Jell-O brand instant pudding. I never buy the regular Jell-O pudding anymore because I’m in love with the Hershey’s dark chocolate one.

If you look at that photo at left, you can hardly SEE the cake it’s so dark. I Photoshop’d it, to lighten it, so you could perhaps see some of the cake texture in the photograph.

What’s GOOD: everything about it. If you like chocolate, and Kahlua, well, you’ll love it all. Very intense chocolate flavor, especially if you use a dark chocolate cake mix and the Hershey’s dark chocolate instant pudding mix.

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever. If you’re willing to eat boxed cake mixes, this one’s a winner; has been for generations of home cooks! This recipe probably exists in a thousand places on the internet already!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Kahlua Bundt Cake

Recipe By: Recipe came from an old friend, dates to the 1970s or 80s
Serving Size: 18

15 ounces chocolate cake mix
4 ounces chocolate instant pudding and pie filling
2 eggs
1/2 cup Kahlua
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sour cream — or yogurt unflavored (don’t use nonfat yogurt)
12 ounces chocolate chips

NOTES: DO use instant pudding, not anything else. If you use Hershey’s dark chocolate pudding and a dark chocolate cake mix, the cake will be really dark, almost black. You can also remove part of the chocolate chips and add in chopped walnuts instead.
1. Preheat oven to 350º.
2. Beat together all ingredients except chocolate chips. Add chocolate chips when batter is smooth. Pour into well greased and floured Bundt pan. Bake 40-50 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean, inserted about 1/2 inch from the center post of the bundt pan.
3. Cool about 10 minutes and turn out onto cake plate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar when cool. May also make a drizzle with powdered sugar and Kahlua, or simply milk and powdered sugar.
Per Serving: 329 Calories; 18g Fat (48.8% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 40g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 35mg Cholesterol; 309mg Sodium.

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  1. J.

    said on August 13th, 2016:

    Did you say you used a cake mix that did NOT have the pudding in it, or did you add the Hershey pudding mix to a cake mix that DID have pudding it? I’m not sure what you meant. Thanks. I’ve been enjoying your blog so much.

    Thanks for commenting . .. I used a mix that did NOT have the pudding in it. This recipe originates from a time before the cake mix manufacturers PUT pudding mix in the cake mix box. So, you can use either one – but if you use the mix with, then don’t put in the added pudding mix. I wanted to use the Hershey’s pudding mix, so I chose to use the old, regular cake mix type. Hope that clarifies . . . carolyn t

  2. J.

    said on August 13th, 2016:

    Thank you very much! Joan

  3. Toffeeapple

    said on August 14th, 2016:

    I had to look up Kahlua…

    No kidding? Gosh, Kahlua (ka-LOO-ah) is so common here. Made in Mexico. You can make a fake version of it with Vodka and coffee granules. It’s really good drizzled over vanilla ice cream. Lots of desserts here call for it. . . carolyn t

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