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Am just starting News of the World: A Novel by William Morris. 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 requires me to read it. It’s about an old man, during the early, old wild west times, who goes from town to town and people pay him money to read the newspaper to them. (Imagine, there WAS such a job.) By chance he’s asked to take a very young girl to Texas to reunite with her family. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby, raised by them, and she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!).

Just finished 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.

Recently finished reading 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.

Also just read 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.

Also read 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 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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