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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 December 24th, 2016.

apple_pie_cake_rum_sauce

Comfort food. Winter warmth. Rum. Whipped Cream. Nothing there NOT to like.

This recipe has been hanging around in my to-try file for awhile. It’s one that Marie posted on her blog, The English Kitchen. She has some really wonderful comfort food desserts on her blog, and this one is no exception. With 8 people coming for a bible study I whipped this up, made the simple rum sauce and whipped up some sweetened heavy cream. It barely served 8 – should have made a larger one, or two perhaps, but as it was, each person had a small portion, which was sufficient.

A simple cake batter is made (with a tad of hot water added in), then you add in all the chopped apples and spread that out into a greased pie plate. Use a large pie plate – 9” if you have one. It bakes for 45 minutes or so. It could be served warm or at room temp. The sauce is simple enough – butter, brown sugar, butter, heavy cream and some rum or rum flavoring. I used spiced rum. The sauce makes a lot more than you’ll need for the cake – I’d suggest you make half. I sent the sauce home with one of the families that came – it would be nice on ice cream or pudding.

apple_pie_cake_bakedThe pie cake came together very easily – you could make it without the sauce, but it was so good on it. No, you should make the sauce! And it takes very little time to make – heat the ingredients (without the rum), let it boil a couple of minutes without boiling over (watch it), then remove from heat and add the rum. Set aside to cool. Thanks, Marie, for a really delicious recipe.

What’s GOOD: it’s a nice, tasty, apple-y, sweet cake with lots of apples in it. It’s definitely a cake, just served in a pie shape. Loved the sauce (very sweet, however) and the dollop of whipped cream was a must in my book.

What’s NOT: not a thing – a nice treat.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Apple Pie Cake with a Brown Sugar and Rum Sauce

Recipe By: The English Kitchen blog, 2012
Serving Size: 7

2 ounces butter — softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup all purpose flour — sifted
2 tablespoons hot water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large Granny Smith apples — peeled, cored and chopped (about 3 cups)
SAUCE:
1/4 cup light brown sugar — packed
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter — softened
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon rum — or 1/2 tsp rum flavoring
Whipped Cream, sweetened, to serve on top

NOTES: I have reduced the sauce quantity by half – if you want some left over, double it.
1. Preheat the oven to 350*F. Butter and flour a 9 inch pie dish very well. Set aside.
2. Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar and the egg. Combine the flour, salt, cinnamon and grated nutmeg. Stir into the creamed mixture, along with the water and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Stir in the chopped apple. Spoon the batter into the prepared pie dish. Smooth the top and then bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
3. SAUCE: combine the two sugars, cream and butter in a small saucepan. Heat and stir over medium low heat until the butter is melted. Bring to the boil and allow to boil for one minute only. Remove from the heat, stir in the rum. Serve warm or at room temperature with the cake.
4. Cut the cake into wedges to serve. Top each wedge with some sauce and a dollop of whipped cream.
Per Serving: 397 Calories; 16g Fat (35.1% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 62g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 73mg Cholesterol; 287mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on December 24th, 2016:

    I shall take this opportunity to wish you a Happy Christmas and an exciting new year!

    Thank you, Toni. I appreciate your faithful reading here at my blog! Hope you had a lovely Christmas too, and that 2017 will be blessed and fun-filled. . . carolyn t

  2. Marie from Chester

    said on December 26th, 2016:

    So happy you enjoyed this Carolyn! That made my day. Thank you so much for the lovely Christmas card which we got from you. I must apologise as I did not get any cards out this year. Todd’s illness has knocked us for a loop. The hormone therapy and now radiation has knocked the stuffing out of both us with much to-ing and fro-ing to hospitals, etc. We will get on top of it however and remain very hopeful. I hope that you have a lovely and blessed Christmas filled with lots of love and pockets of joy, happiness and peace. God bless! xoxo

    Blessings to you and Todd as well. Take care of the Toddster . . . I know it takes a bit of doing. My Dave went through it – you WILL get through it, with God’s help. . . much love and hugs to you, Marie. . . carolyn t

  3. hddonna

    said on December 28th, 2016:

    It’s a bit late, but as there are twelve days of Christmas, let me add my wishes for a blessed Christmas, too. I’ve thought of you, but Christmas was chaos here, with all 6 grandchildren (aged 4 mo. to 8) and their parents and it was followed by several of us getting a 24-hour bug–at least it waited mostly until the festivities were over. Marie does have some lovely recipes on her site. I’ve got several favorites in my files from her. This looks like a winner, too.

    Thank you, Donna. That’s so sweet of you. Yes, I had a lovely, blessed Christmas with my family. Got home yesterday and now I’m trying to take down all the Christmas stuff and get back to normal! Sorry to hear you caught a bug – that was no fun since it must have traveled amongst you. Hope you’re better now. . . carolyn t

  4. hddonna

    said on December 29th, 2016:

    Yes, I’m better, thanks, as are the others who got it. Am still enjoying my Christmas tree during what Victor P. Hass called “that warm little hollow between Christmas and New Year’s.” (I believe he was quoting someone else, but don’t remember who it was.)
    By the way, I’m having my daughter and her husband for dinner on New Year’s Day, and we’re having those scallops with blood orange gastrique from your site. Have only ever made it for my husband and me, but I know they will love it!

    I’m starting to put away Christmas now. The trees are down (I have two artificial trees that are fully decorated and ribboned and lighted that are as easy as pie for me to put up). Those are put away, but now I’ve got to work on removing all my inside decorations. Maybe this afternoon I’ll get started on that. Glad you’re going to enjoy those scallops. Easy and so very tasty with the orange stuff with it. . . carolyn t

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