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I’m going to write up an entire blog post about this book. 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 Florence as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

Also finished The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin. It popped up on a list I subscribe to and was available for $1.13 as an e-book. As it begins, you’re hearing from A.J., a grieving widower who owns a bookstore on an obscure island off the East Coast. He’s angry, rude and every other negative adjective you can imagine. A book rep comes to visit and he’s awful to her, yet she perseveres and manages to sell him a few books. You get to know his friends (a friendship with him is full of sharp points) and one day an abandoned toddler is found in his bookshop. In between the story line about A.J., the book rep, the little girl and others, you will learn all about A.J.’s book tastes. If you’re an avid reader, you’ll really enjoy that part. It’s a charming book; loved it.

Also read a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you need that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

 

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 February 6th, 2017.

pumpkin_cheesecake_trifle_bowlWhat a success this was! It’s a trifle – with layers of  angel food cake, whipped cream and a pumpkin-cream cheese mixture. Was it easy? Absolutely.

Nearly every year on Christmas Eve, we join family for a big dinner celebration (anywhere from 16-30 people) and to play that gift exchange where you can steal the gift up to 3 times. And every year my cousin Gary flies south from the Bay Area, to spend the holidays with me, and he has to eat GF.

So, my mission, always, is to bring a GF dessert – something kind of special, spectacular, and certainly one that tastes good. If you do a search for GF here on my blog, you’ll find any number of desserts I’ve made over the years.

This one was particularly good and for sure it was easy to make. A friend served it at a party I attended –and I went online – found this version at Mom on Timeout. I’d purchased an angel food cake mix, but realized that it contains flour. WELL! Had to improvise by making a GF angel food cake from a recipe I found at King Arthur. It was easy to make, used a dozen egg whites, and was really delicious all by itself. I had some GF all-purpose baking mix in my pantry, so it was an easy recipe to make.

Once that was cooled (several hours), I cut it up into flat pieces, mixed up the pumpkin and cream cheese mixture , whipped the cream, and hunted all over for my trifle bowl before finally finding it. Anyway, it went together in a jiffy once I had all the 3 things made. I sprinkled some cinnamon and nutmeg on top, and chilled it overnight. Except for making the GF angel food cake, this is Trish’s recipe.pumpkin_cheesecake_trifle_spoonful

I will definitely make this again. If Gary isn’t here, I’ll make it with a boxed angel food cake mix. Some company does make a GF angel food cake mix, but Gary said it’s AWFUL, so I scratched that idea, even if I’d been able to find it somewhere. With the extra pieces of angel food cake Gary and I swiped the two mixing bowls clean. Yum.

What’s GOOD: this was really special. I’ll definitely be making this again next fall, in October, probably. It’s easy. If you buy ready-made angel food cake, you’ll eliminate more steps and it’d be cinchy easy to put together. I love-love pumpkin in every shape and type, so it was probably a no-brainer I’d like it. Unless you succumbed to using Cool-Whip instead of the real cream.

What’s NOT: can’t think of a thing. Great recipe. Easy.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifle

Recipe By: Mom on Time Out (blog)
Serving Size: 18

1 Angel Food Cake
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
16 ounces cream cheese — may use Light
15 ounces pumpkin puree — (not pumpkin pie filling)
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice — (plus extra for dusting the top)

NOTE: Pumpkin pie spice is a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice. If you don’t have it on your shelf, create your own blend.
1. Beat cream and powdered sugar together until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
2. In another bowl, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy.
3. Add pumpkin, brown sugar, vanilla extract and pumpkin pie spice and continue beating until thoroughly combined.
4. Fold in one third of the whipped cream. Cut Angel Food Cake into small pieces and line the bottom of your trifle dish with one third of the cake.
5. Layer with one third of the pumpkin mixture followed by one third of the remaining whipped cream. Repeat layers twice, finishing with remaining whipped cream.
6. Sprinkle with additional pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon, if desired. Cover with plastic wrap (use toothpick to hold the plastic wrap above the whipped cream) and refrigerate (overnight is fine) until ready to serve.
Per Serving: 310 Calories; 19g Fat (53.3% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 32g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 64mg Cholesterol; 257mg Sodium.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake

Recipe By: King Arthur Flour
Serving Size: 14

3/4 cup gluten free baking mix — or 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown rice flour blend
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups egg whites — separated, yolks discarded or reserved for another use – up to 12 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract — or Fiori di Sicilia
3/4 cup superfine sugar — + 2 tablespoons

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and place the oven rack in its lowest position.
2. Whisk together and then sift the flour, cornstarch, and 3/4 cup sugar. Set aside. In a large, clean (grease-free) mixing bowl, beat together the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar until foamy.
3. Add the flavorings. Gradually increase the speed of the mixer and continue beating until the egg whites have increased in volume, and thickened.
4. Gradually beat in the 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, a bit at a time, until the meringue holds soft peaks.
5. Gently fold in the sifted flour/sugar blend ¼ cup at a time, just until incorporated.
6. Spoon the batter into an ungreased 10″ round angel food pan. Gently tap the pan on the counter to settle the batter and remove any large air bubbles.
7. Bake the cake until it’s a deep golden brown, and the top springs back when pressed lightly, about 45 minutes.
8. Remove the cake from the oven and invert the pan onto the neck of a heatproof bottle or funnel, to suspend the cake upside down as it sets and cools, about 2 hours.
9. Remove the cake from the pan by running a thin spatula or knife around the edges of the pan, and turning the cake out onto a plate.
10. Cut the cake with a serrated knife or angel food cake comb. If it’s difficult to cut, wet the knife and wipe it clean between slices. Serve with whipped cream and fruit. Wrap any leftovers airtight, and store at room temperature.
Per Serving: 128 Calories; trace Fat (0.6% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 134mg Sodium.

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