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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, easy, on September 9th, 2007.

herbed-biscuit-ring-450

This recipe doesn’t even begin to qualify as gourmet. It’s nothing but cinchy easy. I don’t buy Pillsbury biscuits much anymore. They probably have transfats in them. But they sure do make it easy to provide some bread for a company meal.

The combination sounds a bit odd – butter, herbs and lemon juice. And when the instructions suggest you MIX this together, just remember that an acid and butter are kind of like oil and water – they just don’t blend. The herbs stir in just fine, but it’s difficult to get the lemon juice to incorporate in the butter mixture. Just keep trying and it will absorb most of it.

So you get all that done ahead. Heat the oven. Spread each biscuit (top) with some of the butter/herb mix and arrange them into a 8-inch round cake pan with an edge of each biscuit overlapping the previous one. That way you kind of make a spiral. Use a Teflon pan if possible. If there’s some lemon juice left over in the mixing bowl just pour it over the biscuits anyway. Will make them more tangy.

Likely these would be even better made with a regular homemade biscuit – even Bisquick ones rather than the Pillsbury rolls. But I never remember these unless I see the Pillsbury tubes at the grocery store. So won’t somebody try those and let me know? They’re probably even better than this recipe. I’ve had this recipe for years – it was given to me by a friend, so I don’t know the origin. I even looked on the Pillsbury site and this recipe was not there. Kind of surprising, actually.

printer-friendly CutePDF

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

Herbed Refrigerator Biscuit Ring

NOTES: The mixture can be made up ahead and you just have to spread it on and bake the biscuits. Don’t refrigerate it, though, as it needs to be at room temp.
Servings: 6

3 tablespoons butter — softened
1 teaspoon lemon juice — fresh
1 dash paprika
1/8 teaspoon sage — rubbed
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon thyme — crushed
1 can biscuits — refrigerator type, buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400. In a small bowl combine the butter, juice, paprika, celery seed, thyme and sage. The lemon juice really doesn’t blend in well, but do your best. Open the canned biscuits and separate, spreading tops with the butter/juice mixture. In an 8-inch pie pan, arrange the biscuits, buttered side up and form into a ring, overlapping slightly. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serve while they’re hot.
Per Serving: 36 Calories; 4g Fat (86.1% calories from fat); trace Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 9mg Cholesterol; 53mg Sodium.

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  1. Kate

    said on September 10th, 2007:

    Yeah, Pillsbury biscuits are probably not on the Top 10 list anywhere for healthy foods, but once in a while….I tell ya, don’t they just WORK?

    On occasion, Griffin and I will buy a tube and a pack of good hot dogs and wrap a biscuit around each dog, baking them until done. Biscuit Dogs.

    Yum

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