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Just finished another great book, The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

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 and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. 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-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.


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 December 15th, 2017.


A bit labor intensive – no, scratch that – it’s moderately labor intensive – but worth the effort. A cream cheese dough surrounding the filling of dried sour cherries, apricot jam and lightly salted cashews.

If you’re a blogger, when you’ve prepared a recipe, and your fingers just ITCH to get at the keyboard to tell everyone all about it – well, you know you have something interesting. That’s me, this morning. I made these yesterday. And as I said above, I’m not telling you this is an easy cookie to make. There’s more work involved than in many. But if you were to do decorated cookies, then this probably isn’t all that different concerning time spent. The recipe came from Christopher Kimball’s new venture, Milk Street, and was in their magazine issue. They call them “Sour Cherry Rugelach.”

Rugelach (it has many different spellings) is of Jewish origins (Ashkenazic). Traditional rugelach are made in the form of a crescent by rolling a triangle of dough around a filling. This one’s just a bit different – a roll. And likely much easier than having to prepare each individual piece by hand.  I vote for that alternative (rolled) version! Rugelach dough is made of either a sour cream or cream cheese dough. The cream cheese variety is more of an American innovation. Some older versions used yeast as well.

rugelach_dough_foldedrugelach_preparing_rectangleThe cream cheese dough must be made a bit ahead as it has to be refrigerated for awhile. You can make the dough the day ahead (which I would do next time). The dough is made in a stand mixer (hand mixer would be probably work), gathered together into a ball and patted out into a relatively perfect rectangle. The dough is very pliable at this point, but you do rolling and folding 4 times and end up with the perfect rectangle again  (all the specific measurements are in the recipe below). The dough then is chilled awhile.

rugelach_preparing_logMeanwhile, make the filling (it could be done the day before too). I made one mistake – I mixed the chopped cashews into the filling – they were supposed to be sprinkled and patted down on top of the filling before rolling into the logs. But oh well, I don’t know that it really makes that much difference. The tart cherries (dried) I bought at Trader Joe’s – they’re called Dried Pitted Tart Montmorency Cherries.

Back to the dough – after being chilled, it’s a bit hard to roll out – I left it sitting out for about 5-7 minutes and then started rolling. Perfect! You roll it out into that perfect rectangle again. It’s cut into long strips and each long third becomes a little jelly roll, sort of, with the filling spooned down the center, then it’s rolled, edge sealed, placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerated for at least 30 minutes (or overnight is okay too) and at that point you slice the log. The brilliant little trick is to just slice through the dough about 3/4 of the way through – that way when it’s baking, the filling doesn’t ooze out. Since I’d never made rugelach before, maybe that’s not a new trick at all, but just the way it’s done with all log-style rugelach.


Once baked, the rugelachs need to rest on the baking sheet until cooled – the pastry will tear if you try to rush it. I made a double recipe of the one below. I couldn’t wait to enjoy a piece with my coffee. The recipe suggests cutting them in 2” logs, but I decided to do shorter ones, about 1 1/2” each. Once cooled, all of them went into a plastic bag and into the freezer.

What’s GOOD: love the flavor – the filling is tart/sweet (I like that). The dough is tender and it’s a perfect combination of dough to filling – not too much of either. They’re very pretty.

What’s NOT: All the work involved – rolling, chilling, filling, making the logs, chilling again, etc. But if you’re going to be home anyway, it’s not all that difficult, just takes awhile to do all the steps.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sour Cherry, Apricot and Cashew Rugelach

Recipe By: Milk Street Magazine, 2017
Serving Size: 24 (or more)

16 tablespoons butter — (use salted butter) cut into 1 T pats
8 ounces cream cheese — cut into small squares
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
260 grams all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups dried sour cherries — finely chopped
1 cup apricot preserves
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons cashews — salted, roasted, finely chopped

3 teaspoons turbinado sugar — divided use
1 large egg — beaten

1. DOUGH: In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, cream cheese and white sugar on low until smooth, scraping bowl as needed, about 2 minutes. Add ground cardamom, salt and vanilla. Beat until combined. Add flour and beat on medium-low until the mixture comes together in a rough ball, about 30 seconds.
2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gather into a cohesive mass. Using your hands and a rolling pin, form it into an 8×10″ rectangle with a short end parallel to the edge of the counter. Starting from the short end, fold into thirds, as you would a letter. Using a metal bench scraper, square the edges, then rotate the rectangle one quarter turn. Repeat the process of rolling out, folding and turning the dough 2 more times, ending with a folded rectangle of dough. Press the seams firmly, wrap the dough with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.
3. FILLING: In a medium bowl, stir together the dried cherries, preserves, cardamom, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed; the filling may appear runny but the cherries will absorb the liquid.
4. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove dough from refrigerator, unwrap and transfer to a lightly floured counter. Allow to rest for about 4-6 minutes, then using a rolling pin, roll into a 13×12″ rectangle, squaring the edges with a metal bench scraper, cutting off edges as needed. Cut the dough into three 13 x 4″ strips. If the dough pulls back after cutting, gently roll each strip to the correct dimensions.
5. Working with one strip at a time, with a long side parallel to the edge of the counter, lightly brush the surface with the beaten egg. Mound 6 tablespoons of filling in a line down the center of the strip, leaving a 1 1/2″ margin on each side. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of chopped cashews onto the filling, pressing them in. Starting with the side closest to you, lift the edge of the dough up and over the filling and roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Pinch the seam to seal, turn the cylinder seam side down and gently stretch it into a 16-inch log. Transfer, seam side down, to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, egg, filling and cashews, spacing the logs evenly on the baking sheet. You will have leftover egg. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours. If refrigerating for longer than 30 minutes, cover with plastic wrap. Reserve the remaining beaten egg.
6. BAKING: Preheat oven to 375°F with a rack in the middle position. Brush each dough log with some of the remaining egg and sprinkle with a teaspoon of turbinado sugar. Using a knife, score each log at 2-inch intervals [I cut mine at 1 1/2″ or even shorter to make smaller cookies], cutting 3/4 of the way through. Do NOT cut all the way through the dough; the pieces should still hold together.
7. Bake until the logs are golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then use a knife to fully cut and separate the cookies. If desired, use a knife to neaten the cut edges of the rugelach, while they are still warm, turn each cookie onto its side and very gently press the cut side to flatten. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
Per Serving (based on a 2-inch piece): 248 Calories; 13g Fat (46.3% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 40mg Cholesterol; 176mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on December 17th, 2017:

    Sour cherries and apricots are my favorite dried fruits. This sounds like a real winner.

    I do like these – particular the fact that they’re not as sweet as many cookies. . . carolyn t

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