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Carolyn

Sara

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Just finished reading A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler. My friend Ann, from Idaho, brought it with her as we spent a week in Palm Desert. She handed it to me and said I’d really like it. Oh, did I! Loved the book. This book is a novel, but based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt (Belmont). She was nearly destitute (and faking it) when a marriage was proposed for her with William Vanderbilt. There is lots of dialogue in the book, which is made  up, but I’m guessing the author probably read many diary entries of Alva (and the family) to create a very intriguing and readable story. A life of unbelievable privilege. Several children, including one who marries into a titled family in England. You see the inner life of Alva – her day to day busy work, charity work, visiting for afternoon tea, the undercurrent of society’s morals – men were nearly expected to have mistresses or affairs. This was the Victorian Age when sex between and man and a woman was not necessarily, and usually not, passionate. I loved this book from page one until the end.  She was a suffragette of the first order. Having read the book, I have a lot of admiration for her, even though she lived in the highest echelons of society.

Also read In Falling Snow: A Novel, by Mary-Rose McColl. From amazon: Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her fifteen-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. But in Paris she meets the charismatic Dr. Frances Ivens, who convinces Iris to help establish a field hospital in the old abbey at Royaumont, staffed entirely by women—a decision that will change her life. Seamlessly interwoven is the story of Grace, Iris’s granddaughter in 1970s Australia. Together their narratives paint a portrait of the changing role of women in medicine and the powerful legacy of love. The book  gives you a vivid picture of the state of nursing in WWI, but the story is quite mesmerizing. And there’s a twist almost at the end. Highly recommend.

Also couldn’t put down The Secret Wife by Gill Paul. A long story that begins in war-torn Russia. Cavalry officer Dmitri falls head over heels in love with one of the daughters of Tzar Nicholas. But events intervene, as history tells us. That was 1914. Cut to 2016 when a young woman inherits an ancient cabin in upper New York State and she discovers a jeweled pendant. The two times weave together to make a really riveting story. Lots of Russian history; well written; as I said, couldn’t put it down.

Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is in western Pennsylvania. The warring native Americans play large in this book. There is a romance, yes, but this book is not “a romance.” It’s more than that – about the hardships of living on the land, away from protection, Tessa and her family struggle to make a living and avoid the angered natives who take revenge when their people are murdered. Clay Tygart is a respected officer/soldier and commands a fort near where Tessa lives. Clay was captured by Lanape Indians when he was a young man, so he straddles both sides of the equation – first hand, he knows how the natives feel, but also his role in the lure of American exploration of the west. The natives wish to preserve their hunting grounds from the encroaching settlers. This book takes place in the mid-1700s I think. Loved it. Not only the history that is brilliantly detailed, even to the summer heat they experience. The crops they raise, the constant fear of attack. And the sweet love that weaves through it. Not a speck of sex in it.

Reading mysteries has never loomed large in my reading life. Occasionally, yes. And some espionage type books. But light mysteries have not intrigued me much. But one of my book clubs had us read Louise Penny’s novel, A Rule Against Murder (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel). The member actually handed out a cheat sheet of the characters in the book (many) and posed several questions of us as we read through it. The cheat sheet really helped. She asked us when (or if) we caught the foreshadowing of the murder culprit (I never did). The book takes place at a lovely inn in Canada and Chief Inspector Gamache (he is quite a character – along with his wife – are vacationing there) when a murder occurs. None of the characters escape the C.I.’s scrutiny. Lois, our book club member, led us through a very thorough and lively discussion of the book. Usually, my complaint about murder mysteries is that they don’t make for good discussion at a book club – but this book was an exception, for sure. Many of my learned book club friends rave about Louise Penny. One told me I should read Still Life next, and probably should have read it before I read this one.

Rachel Hauck is an author I’ve enjoyed reading over the years. Just finished reading The Memory House. It’s about relationships. Love. About family. About secrets. Doesn’t that just describe about 90% of every novel out there these days? Beck is a cop in NYC; a series of events occur and she is forced to take leave. Just then she inherits a house in Florida. She barely remembers the woman who bequeathed the house to her. Then you meet Bruno, a sports agent who will figure large in Beck’s life. Then the book jumps back in time to Everleigh, the woman who owned the house and you learn her story. Really stories of her two husbands. And how do those stories connect to present day. Very sweet book. Not a speck of sex in this one, either.

The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship by Joanna Burger. Such an interesting book – nonfiction. The author is an ornithologist by profession (and a PhD) and this memoir of sorts is about her Red-Lored Amazon parrot she and her husband own. But no, it’s the parrot who owns her/them.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. A book club friend recommended this book, I immediately bought it on my Kindle. I could NOT put the book down. I devoured it. Any other “work” I should have been doing was swept aside as I read and read of Resolute’s adventures. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

Finished The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Novel by Kim Richardson.  It’s a novel about the first mobile library in Kentucky (this is the 1930s) and the fierce, brave packhorse librarians who wove their way from shack to shack dispensing literacy, hope, and, just as importantly, a compassionate human connection.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This book was offered as a bargain book from Bookbub, and something about the description resonated with me – maybe because of my Old Testament readings regarding the lives of shepherds back in ancient days. I utterly loved this book. It might not suit everyone – it’s a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. He bickers with his father, eventually moves out. One night in a pub with his blokes (friends) he enters some kind of a contest in the pub and realizes he has a lot more knowledge than he thought he did. In time he applies to get what I’d call here in the U.S. a G.E.D (high school diploma), which he does, and then he applies to Oxford, on a whim. And gets in. He graduates. He applies his knowledge to his rural life. He marries, has children, but still, his day to day life is all about his Herdwick sheep, although he does have a day job too working for UNESCO. You’ll learn more about sheep than you might have wanted to know. I absolutely loved, LOVED this book. If you are interested, James Rebanks has a Twitter feed, called @herdyshepherd1, and you can sign up to get updates from him about his farm and his sheep. I don’t do Twitter or I would.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation. So it is with surprise that she finds in this cold and bitter country the capacity for new love and perhaps even a new home. I just loved this book – could hardly put it down; yet it’s not a mystery. You’ll come away with a desire to find that house by the fjord. I want to go there and have some coffee with the Anna, who was a Brit, yet fell head over heels in love with Norway.

Running Blind (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child. A Jack Reacher mystery. From amazon: Across the country, women are being murdered, victims of a disciplined and clever killer who leaves no trace evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to an apparent motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. Until Jack Reacher gets in the middle of it. A page turner, as are all of the Jack Reacher stories.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. A sweet book, true story, of the author and her friend, during one summer in the midst of their college years, going by train to NYC and ultimately getting a job of Tiffany’s.  Cute read.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? When I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? I marvel sometimes about how authors ever come up with the ideas they do, to create the premise for a novel. And this one is right up there at the top of the list. Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who has a big lack of self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. He discovers she’s blind and needs some help, which he gives her.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes.

Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3)by Francine Rivers.

Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America

Answer As a Man

Celeste Ng Little Fires Everywhere.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel).

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. A

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. W

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively.

 

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 January 22nd, 2020.

almond_cocoa_logs_stacked

Chocolate cookies. Yes. But not exactly. Hard to describe. Maybe Biscotti is a better name.

Laughing at myself. I’ve finally gone off this restrictive diet and after having a couple of old dinner favorites (already posted here) I settled back into a fairly low-carb regime with an occasional sweet or treat. I was craving a cookie, and after going through my huge to-try file, I settled on these things. It’s a recipe that’s been in the file for years, I believe. These cookies – not exactly biscotti, because they’re not double baked liked biscotti, or cookies either, because they’re sliced on the diagonal (kind of like biscotti would be) are different. Kind of hard to describe, as I said above. You could call them chocolate rocks. Or biscotti. Or chocolate sliced cookies. Any name would work.

almond_cocoa_logs_cuttingThe dough contains no butter or traditional fat – the only fat comes from the nearly one pound of chocolate in the batter. That’s enough, although I’ll tell you, the dough is not very easy to man-handle. It’s a very dry dough (eggs, espresso, cocoa, vanilla, leavening, flour, sugar, fresh orange zest, and a hefty amount of cinnamon and ground cloves). At the end you add in some nuts (hazelnuts and/or almonds). I ended up removing half the dough and just mixing half at a time. Overworking the dough would make for a very tough cookie. The dough – almost the consistency of firm bread dough  – is sectioned into 4 pieces, then rolled into short logs. Because of the chocolate pieces in it and the nuts, it makes for some difficult handling, I’ll tell you. The rolls don’t want to roll very well. Or as you roll one, a drier spot appears (more nuts, for instance) and then the roll falls apart. I ended up adding a bit more espresso to the mixture to help hold it all together. The original recipe, from Susan Herrmann Loomis almond_cocoa_logs_tobakeis called Almond Cocoa Cookies. Maybe they came from one of her cookbooks as I don’t find the recipe on her website.

You can see from the above picture – the rolled  up log at the top and then the cut (raw) cookie dough below. Onto a cookie sheet they went (mine are ridged, so nothing sticks) although the recipe suggested parchment be used.

They’re baked at 375°F for somewhere between 15-20 minutes. Susan indicated at 15 minutes they’re still quite soft and cakey, and with 5 more minutes baking they’re then firm. I baked mine for 17 minutes and they were firm enough, although my oven runs a bit hot so that may be why. They cooled easily enough and Susan says they keep for a couple of weeks at room temp. I’ll be freezing mine, just because I always do. But as firm as they are, I may truly want to defrost them before eating. Don’t want to break a tooth.

MY CHANGES: I reduced the amount of ground cloves and that was a good thing. Clove flavor goes a loooong way, in my book. She used a full tablespoon. I also didn’t get as many cookies as Susan did. I may have added a little bit more espresso to the mixture just to get it to hold together. I also used half sugar and half Swerve, and used 1 3/4 cups total, not 2 cups. It made for a slightly less-sweet cookie. I also didn’t have vanilla sugar – I just added in a slightly large quantity of liquid vanilla. The original recipe called for 8 ounces of almonds AND 8 ounces of hazelnuts. There is simply no way the dough could absorb that much nuts. I didn’t have hazelnuts on hand so just added almonds and only about 5 ounces.

What’s GOOD: well, they’re different. Different texture (firm to the tooth) and flavor (lots of ground clove flavor comes through). Yes, chocolate too. Although there is all that bar chocolate in it, these don’t taste decadent. I think, overall, I prefer the easy chocolate biscotti recipe I have here on my blog already, but then it’s truly a biscotti (easy one, though). Later note: I enjoyed one of these with my morning coffee and have decided they really are more like biscotti. They’re not hard crunchy (break your tooth kind of crunchy), but more like a firm but dry cookie. The coffee flavor came through and the ground clove flavor has tamed down a bit. Do note the low calorie and fat – even with a pound of chocolate, I’m pleased at the statistics.

What’s NOT: only the difficulty rolling the logs. The dry parts of the cookies (the nuts, chopped chocolate and the dry ingredients in general) make it hard to combine. Cutting them into their log shapes was okay – if you have any larger pieces of chocolate in them, it may make for difficult slicing. Other than that, nothing is hard to do. They’d be good dunked in coffee which is probably what I’ll do tomorrow morning.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Almond Chocolate Biscotti Cookies

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Susan Herrmann Loomis, 2015
Serving Size: 50

4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch sea salt
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate — preferably Lindt brand
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups vanilla sugar
The minced zest of one orange — preferably organic
3/4 cup espresso coffee — or very strong coffee
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 ounces almonds — lightly toasted, or hazelnuts, or a combination or both

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powders, cloves, cinnamon, and salt together onto a piece of waxed paper.
3. Chop the chocolate into chips the size of a pea. The pieces will be uneven – don’t worry.
4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs and the sugar and whip until the mixture is pale yellow and light. Mix in the orange zest, 1/2 cup of the coffee, and the vanilla. Then add the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly but JUST until combined. If the mixture is very dry, add the remaining coffee – the dough should be somewhat sticky; it will also be very firm. Add the almonds and the chocolate and mix until combined. NOTE: If the mixture stresses your stand mixer, remove half of the dough and set aside and add half the nuts and chocolate. Remove it, then combine the 2nd batch of dough with the nuts and chocolate.
5. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Cover three of them with a damp towel to keep them from drying out. Lightly flour your hands and roll the fourth piece on a floured work surface to form a log that measures 14 x 1-1/2-inches.[I couldn’t get rolls that long no matter how hard I tried.] Roll over the log with a rolling pin to slightly flatten it, then cut the log diagonally into 1/2-inch thick strips. Transfer the strips to one of the prepared baking sheets, placing them 1/2-inch apart. Repeat with the remaining dough.
6. Bake the cookies in the center of the oven until they are puffed and look dry, 15 to 20 minutes. (When they have baked for 15 minutes, the cookies will have a somewhat cakey texture; during the last 5 minutes of baking they will harden like biscotti). Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container. They will keep for several weeks.
Per Serving: 135 Calories; 7g Fat (41.9% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 8mg Cholesterol; 37mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on January 23rd, 2020:

    These are certainly intriguing–unlike any cookie recipe I’ve seen before. I’m afraid I’m the only one in the family they’d really appeal to, but perhaps I’ll do a half recipe sometime.

    These cookies have “grown” on me. I’ve really enjoyed one with my coffee a couple of mornings. But, oh they are really like rocks straight from the freezer. Definitely need to defrost them. Or, if you make half a batch, they could be left out as they keep for awhile. . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on January 24th, 2020:

    Sounds like they would be very satisfying–important, since I have to limit the carbs. I am wondering if using all sugar would affect the texture–will let you know if I try it.

  3. Toffeeapple

    said on February 3rd, 2020:

    My arthritic hands will not allow me to even think about these!
    Oh, that’s too bad, Toni. You mean forming the logs would be difficult. So sorry! . . carolyn t

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