Subscribe

Get updates sent to you for free by RSS, or by email:

Archives

Currently Reading


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Just finished a stunning book, The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives (don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read and is reviewed below) and really liked it. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant. Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

 

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.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Desserts, on January 7th, 2017.

choc_cake_ddl_frosting

Lovely chocolate cake (springform pan) and a rich cream cheese and dulce de leche frosting.

My friend Cherrie attended a cooking class awhile back and I couldn’t go – I think I was volunteering that morning at my church. I “work” in my church’s Samaritan Care Center twice a month, where it is staffed by 2-3 volunteers every weekday, who pray for church members (and non-members who regularly attend the church) going through tough times. It could be illness, cancer, other medical issues, divorce, grief, hospitalization, for their family members too, etc. We make choc_dlc_cake_slicenumerous phone calls to make sure we’re praying for the right things, and just let them know we’re praying for them. It makes a big difference in the lives of many people, to just know someone cares. I’m blessed each and every time I volunteer – someone gives a big “thank you,” or they tell us what a lift it gives them to hear from somebody.

Anyway, I couldn’t go to the class, but Cherrie shared the recipes, and said this dessert was the best of the bunch. Since she knows I enjoy baking, I tried this recipe first. My weekly nighttime bible study was meeting at my house, so I used that as a reason to make this cake. I parceled out the left overs so I wouldn’t have any of it in my refrigerator, to tempt me. I ate a tiny sliver of it – oh yes, it was good!

choc_cake_batterThe cake is a light textured chocolate cake – made in a springform pan, lined on the bottom with parchment, and the sides were butter-greased. It was easy enough to make. There at left you can see the batter in the pan. Once out of the oven, the center of the cake dropped some. Sometimes cakes done in a springform do that. Don’t understand why. Anyway, once it was cooled, I used a wide spatula to get the cake off onto a footed cake stand. Easy enough to do, too.

dulce_de_leche_frostingThen I made the frosting (see photo at right)– canned Dulce de Leche (it’s a thick Mexican caramel sauce), cream cheese, butter and vanilla. It was super-easy to spread on the top of the finished cake.

A small amount of chocolate sauce was next – I had a little trouble with it – it was supposed to be a drizzle (melted chocolate, butter and a tetch of warm water), but I just couldn’t get it to drizzle – it wanted to drop in round plops – so I just spread it all over the top. DO refrigerate the cake if you have left overs – with cream cheese in it, you need to keep it chilled.

What’s GOOD: this cake was really scrumptious. Rich? Absolutely. The frosting puts it over the top – but because the dulce de leche sauce has cream cheese mixed in, it gave it a really lovely texture, soft, great mouth-feel. The cake was really nice. Even though I used dark chocolate, it wasn’t overly deep in chocolate flavor – it certainly WAS chocolate. The cake isn’t dense at all. The frosting is what makes this cake.

What’s NOT: nothing, other than it takes an hour or so to make it. The cake batter is quite standard, and the frosting was too. For how beautiful it was, it actually was quite easy to make. Not a bad thing!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche Frosting

Recipe By: From my friend Cherrie, who got it at a private cooking class
Serving Size: 10

CAKE:
3/4 cup unsalted butter
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate — or dark chocolate
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups sour cream
FROSTING:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter — softened
8 ounces cream cheese — softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
13 3/8 ounces Dulce de leche — (canned)
DRIZZLE:
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate — chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon warm water

1. CAKE: Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Butter the sides of the pan.
2. In a large bowl microwave the butter and chocolate for 2-3 minutes until melted. Stir until all the chocolate and butter are completely mixed. Cool for 5 minutes.
3. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, soda, baking powder and salt.
4. In a stand mixer, add the chocolate mixture, then add sugar and mix in thoroughly. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Alternately, beat in the sour cream and flour mixture, starting with sour cream.
5. Transfer batter to the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hours 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cake completely on a wire rack. Once cool, remove cake from the pan and set on a serving plate.
6. FROSTING: Beat butter and cream cheese with a mixer. Add vanilla and the Dulce de Leche and beat until smooth. Frost the cooled cake with the icing.
7. DRIZZLE: In a small bowl microwave the butter and chopped chocolate for about 45 seconds to a minute. Stir it until smooth and stir in the warm water. Drizzle mixture over the cake.
NOTES: Cake can be made a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate, then remove cake an hour before serving. If you want to make a half of a recipe, use a 7-inch springform pan. Can also be made into cupcakes.
Per Serving: 758 Calories; 48g Fat (54.9% calories from fat); 12g Protein; 77g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 163mg Cholesterol; 496mg Sodium.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Get Recipes by Email, Free!

Leave Your Comment