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Recently finished reading 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.

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Posted in Cookies, on March 3rd, 2017.

butterscotch_walnut_meringue_bars

You might think that all I eat is baked goods. A friend who looked at my blog recently thought that, but then, she didn’t delve very deeply into my posts. I probably have more desserts and cookies than any of the other categories. I just enjoy baking a lot. I have no cookies in my house at the moment.

Needing some cookies and things for an event recently, I looked at some newer recipes I’d added to my to-try list. This recipe came from Peabody, at SweetReciPEAS. She raved about them, so that was a good enough excuse to bake them for my event. They’re two layers – a brown sugar and butter base (with flour and egg), then you press walnuts into that layer; then you mix up the brown sugar meringue mixture and spread it on top. Bake. See? Easy. She used bourbon in the base and in the meringue topping too  (though you can use vanilla instead). Truly, I couldn’t taste the bourbon, but perhaps if they’d been omitted, they’d have been less flavorful – won’t know unless I try them side by side. Out of the entire 9×13 pan batch, I ate one and either served them at my event or gave them away to friends. I thought they might not keep all that long anyway.

They’re delicious. A bit of crunch from the bottom layer and a light crunch from the meringue. Plus the walnuts in there too. The meringue doesn’t exactly stick very well to the base, so be careful as you cut them up. Perhaps a whipped up raw egg in between might solve that problem, if you’re inclined to try it.

What’s GOOD: the flavor and crunch. They’re sweet – very sweet. If I make them again I’ll cut down on the sugar in both layers by just a tetch, but everyone I served them to raved about them. They almost have the sweetness of candy, but they’re definitely NOT candy. You could cut larger pieces, serve with whipped cream as a dessert portion. I made bars and got about 18 or so from the pan. Very different – the meringue has a golden hue – almost like taupe, from the brown sugar. Kind of different. Not everyone recognized that it was a meringue top.

What’s NOT: really, nothing. These are delicious. Easy to make.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Butterscotch Walnut Meringue Bars

Recipe By: SweetReciPEAS, 2017
Serving Size: 18

BASE:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 Pinch salt
1 cup light brown sugar — firmly packed
1/2 cup cold butter — cut into pieces
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons bourbon — or vanilla
TOPPING:
2 egg whites
1 cup brown sugar — firmly packed
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 1/2 cups walnuts — chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. 2. Spray a 9-x-13-inch baking pan with baking spray. Set aside.
2. BASE: Add the flour, baking powder, salt & brown sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until the ingredients come together. Add the butter and process until the butter is the size of small peas. Add the egg yolk and bourbon and pulse until the mixture as the consistency of sandy clumps. Pat mixture into the pan and level off by pressing with a small offset spatula or spoon.
3. Top with walnuts. Push them into the dough. The dough is crumbly so it will need to be patted down again.
4. MERINGUE: Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment beat egg whites until they hold a peak when whisk is lifted. Add the brown sugar and beat at the highest speed about 4 minutes. Add the bourbon and beat for another minute. Spread the meringue over the walnut layer. The meringue does stick to the dough, sort of – the dough is sandy, so it’s not easy to spread. Just do you best you can. Bake 25 minutes or until tester inserted into pan comes out clean.
5. Let cool to room temperature and cut into squares.
Per Serving: 221 Calories; 12g Fat (47.2% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 37mg Cholesterol; 114mg Sodium.

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  1. James McGrath Morris

    said on March 3rd, 2017:

    Not only do I want to make these butterscotch bars but I want to extend thanks for the kind words you wrote about my book. It’s an honor to think your book club read it.
    James McGrath Morris

    Gosh, thank you so much for stopping by my blog! Our book group DID enjoy reading your book, and I’ll never forget Ethel Payne and her life long struggles. Not just her personal ones, but the stories she wrote. Hope you enjoy the meringue bars too. . .. carolyn t

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