Subscribe

Get updates sent to you for free by RSS, or by email:

Archives

Currently Reading


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Just finished reading 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 Novelby 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 (she arrived after the birth, actually). 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 father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. 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.

On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of middle-aged high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, and wealthy) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

 

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.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Breads, on May 10th, 2007.

It was an easy decision when he told me his men’s Bible study group would be meeting at our house this morning, and I knew I needed to bake something for the boys to eat. So I turned to my newest cookbook, Baking: From My House to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan (amazon.com, $26.40). Now, I’d never heard of Dorie before a few months ago. She’s an accomplished and witty writer, and now I’ve joined the legions of bloggers who are part of her fan club. She has her own blog, where she wrote yesterday about winning a James Beard Award for this book.
She collaborated with Julia Child some years ago for one of her books, and also with Pierre Herme.This is my second Dorie recipe. I’ll write about the other one, ginger-scented brownies, another day. I don’t bake muffins very often – we rarely eat them anymore, probably since I realized how laden they can be with fat, sugar and overall carbs. But since I know how Dave likes carrot cake, this seemed fitting for the group. They were easy to mix up – I did use my stand mixer, but on very low speed and only enough to blend the ingredients, and then I stirred in the coconut, carrots and raisins (I used golden). My muffin tin makes larger than average, so I only got 7 muffins from this recipe. They’re delicious – the way muffins are supposed to be, not a cake posing as a muffin. What I really liked is the balance of spices – you can definitely taste the spices, but they don’t overpower at all. Dorie nailed it on this one.

And I’m such a novice at this blogging stuff . . . how’d I do all this and post the recipe before 8:00 am, you ask? I baked the muffins yesterday, sealed them up in a Ziploc bag. I wrote up the recipe last night without tasting it (I had no doubt they’d be wonderful). This morning I dashed downstairs in my jammies a few minutes before 7:00 and cut one muffin in half, snapped the photo, grabbed a half to nibble on (delicious) and zipped back upstairs before the guys began arriving. Now it’s from my kitchen to yours.
Printer friendly PDF

Carrot Spice Muffins

Recipe: Dorie Greenspan’s BAKING: From My Home to Yours
Makes 12
Notes: These are at their best about 30 minutes after baking. They will keep for one day, well covered, but then they should be frozen (up to 2 months). Reheat them (whole or cut in halves) for a few minutes at 350°. And if you bake them in a larger muffin tin, this will make 7, and you’ll need to bake them slightly longer.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup shredded carrots, about 3, peeled and trimmed
1/2 cup shredded coconut, sweetened
1/3 cup raisins or currants
1/3 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted, cooled and chopped

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375°. Butter or spray the 12 muffin molds in a regular sized muffin tin, or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternately, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda and salt. Stir in the brown sugar, making certain there are no lumps. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the oil, eggs, milk and vanilla extract together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough – a few lumps are better than over-mixing the batter. Stir in the carrots, coconut, currants and nuts. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.
Per Serving: 310 Calories; 17g Fat (48.0% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 37g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 37mg Cholesterol; 219mg Sodium.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Get Recipes by Email, Free!

Leave Your Comment