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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 Desserts, on August 9th, 2017.

danish_dream_cake

An easy cake to make with a kind of caramel coconut and brown sugar topping.

A couple of weeks ago I hosted one of my book groups here at my home. In this particular book group, the hostess chooses the book herself and leads the review of it. I had several books in mind, but then my friend Janet showed me a book she was given on a recent trip to Denmark, It’s called The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well. (By the way, hygge is pronounced hoo-ga.) Janet’s son Eric lives in Copenhagen and married a Danish woman, a physician. He speaks fluent Danish (he works for a Danish world relief organization) and he gave the book to his mom, and pointed out a photo of himself in the book (he’s friends with the author). I was enchanted with the book.

Image result for danish book of hyggeDid you know that the Danes are the happiest people on earth? So researchers say. This little book, a kind of handbook of sorts, tells you how and why that’s so. As an example, the first chapter is about candles. So, for my book group, I decided to veer away from reading a novel (our usual format), and have them read this book and so we could talk about the ideas in it, and to make some Danish goodies. I knew I’d be making Almond Puff (recipe up soon), but I wanted something else to serve along with fresh fruit, as we discussed all the different things that make the Danes so happy. And I invited my friend Janet to come to the meeting and share some of her experiences as they have visited their son and his family over the last decade or so.

In case you’re as enchanted with the book as I was, I just want you to know that the American edition (link above) is an slight alteration to the U.K. edition which contains dozens and dozens of photographs. I was sad to see that my copy didn’t have the photos. It’s in color with illustrations, but doesn’t contain the photos. Janet brought her copy and passed it around so everyone could see.

So, this Dream Cake. I found the recipe online (there are dozens of them). You make a very ordinary yellow cake batter and pour it into a 10×14 glass baking dish, bake the cake, and just before taking it out of the oven you make the hot butter/brown sugar/coconut topping that is poured over the top. It hardens as it cools (to a kind of chewy caramel consistency), then you cut it into squares and serve it. It’s REALLY good. Easy to make, and might even be a kind of Snacking Cake, except that in Denmark, this is like their “national” cake. Everyone makes it. It’s in all the bakeries and you can find it everywhere, apparently. They serve this to guests, and it’s also a staple in every Danish kitchen.

What’s GOOD: it’s a simple dessert to make, and the topping is the thing that puts it over the top – makes it so very good, chewy, sweet. Altogether good. It freezes well, too, though I wouldn’t do it for a long time. I made this a couple of weeks before I had the event at my home, then very slightly heated it in the oven before serving.

What’s NOT: it’s a little bit hard to cut – I finally used a sharp-edge spatula to cut through the caramel. Once I got the first piece out it wasn’t quite so difficult. You might try a sharp knife – that might work better.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Danish Dream Cake (DROMMEKAGE)

Recipe By: Nordic Food Living (website)
Serving Size: 16

CAKE:
9 ounces AP flour
9 ounces sugar
2 ounces unsalted butter
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar — or vanilla (liquid)
TOPPING:
4 1/2 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 cup milk
7 ounces light brown sugar
3 1/2 ounces coconut flakes — unsweetened

1. CAKE: Whisk eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Melt butter in a saucepan, then add milk to the butter. Add to the bowl of eggs and sugar. Add liquid vanilla, if using.
3. In a separate bowl mix the AP flour, vanilla sugar (if using) and baking powder. Mix with a whisk, then add it to the egg mixture and whisk to a smooth batter.
4. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 10×14″ glass baking dish with butter (or line it with parchment).
5. Pour the cake batter into the dish and smooth it out to the corners. Bake for about 20 minutes.
6. TOPPING: About 5 minutes before the cake is done, melt butter in a saucepan. Add milk and brown sugar and let it boil for about a minute.
7. Add coconut flakes and mix well.
8. Remove cake from oven and pour topping mixture evenly over the cake, using a knife to spread it evenly.
9. RETURN TO OVEN and bake another 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Cut into squares to serve.
Per Serving: 302 Calories; 13g Fat (37.9% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 44g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 67mg Cholesterol; 104mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on August 9th, 2017:

    I think I would simply make the topping and snack on that!

    Do you want me to get the UK version of the book for you? I would be happy to do that.

    Oh, Toni! You are so sweet to offer. My friend Janet has assured me she’s going to get the UK version (probably from her son) so she told me not to try to get it for myself that she’d “take care of it.”

    And yes, you could make just the topping. But I loved the cake too! . . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on August 10th, 2017:

    Looks very similar to a cake my mom used to make, called Lazy Daisy Cake. Used to love it as a kid. Bet this one would go over well with the grandkids and my coconut loving son-in-law–maybe I’ll make it for them next weekend when they come to view the eclipse.

    Oh, how fun, Donna! It could be the same cake – I haven’t compared the recipe. Maybe you can do that when you make it? .. . carolyn t

  3. hddonna

    said on August 12th, 2017:

    Willdo.

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