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Just finished News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her parents were killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of a old west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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 June 1st, 2009.

ranger-cookies

It was about 25 years ago that Ranger Cookies hit my cooking radar. Aunt Harriet and Uncle Orville used to make them and store them in tall coffee tins in the freezer. Orville became the expert at making them, and when I’d visit them in Eugene, Oregon, they were able to convince me that because they contained some wheat-type cereal and oatmeal, therefore they were HEALTHY. Yeah, right. But every now and then I crave them.

After years of not making them, I looked up Epicurious’ recipe and decided to try theirs. My friend Debbie was visiting for a couple of days, so I asked her to be the cookie maker and baker. She gladly obliged. We both stood at the cookie dough bowl and needed to do several general taste-tests to make sure the dough was good enough (she and I both are fans of cookie dough . . .). Lots of quality control going on, you see. You know about that kind of rationalization?

The dough is nothing but easy. We used corn flakes (organic –  see – more healthy stuff), rolled oats (more organic healthy stuff), dried flaked coconut (unsweetened) and chopped walnuts. But then we fell off the health wagon and added chocolate chips. If you bake these on the lower side of the 8-11 minutes, they’ll still be very, VERY soft when you try to use a spatula to move them to a cooling rack. But they continue cooking and dry/cool to perfection. These took 8 minutes on the convection bake setting. If you want crispy cookies, by all means bake a bit longer. Actually I reduced the oven temp to 360 because they got a bit too brown before they were cooked through. I also reduced the sugar quantity in this recipe, and it’s just right to me. Even using unsweetened coconut too.

This recipe makes large cookies – next time I’d reduce their diameter to about 2 inches. We made 40 HUGE cookies, so a smaller size would make maybe 55? A guess.  Most of these went to my friend Norma, whose potassium has come down to a normal level, so she’s able to have nuts and chocolate again.
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Ranger Cookies

Recipe: adapted from Epicurious | November 2001
Servings: about 40 large, 55 smaller

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
Generous 1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter — (1 stick plus 2 2/3 tablespoons) slightly softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening [not hydrogenated]
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup chocolate chips
2 cups corn flakes — crushed
1 1/4 cups chopped walnuts — (5 ounces)
1 1/4 cups flaked sweetened coconut — (about 3 1/2 ounces) [I used unsweetened]

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease several baking sheets or coat with nonstick spray. Or, use silpat liners.
2. In a medium bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together the butter and shortening until lightened. Add the brown sugar and sugar and beat until fluffy and smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until evenly incorporated. Beat or stir in the flour mixture until evenly incorporated. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, corn flakes, walnuts, and coconut until evenly incorporated. Let the dough stand for 5 to 10 minutes, or until firmed up slightly.
3. Shape portions of the dough into generous golf-ball-sized balls with lightly greased hands. Place on the baking sheets, spacing about 3 inches apart. Using your hand, pat down the balls until about 1/3 inch thick.
4. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, in the upper third of the oven for 8 to 11 minutes, or until tinged with brown and just beginning to firm up in the centers; be careful not to overbake. Transfer the sheet to a wire rack and let stand until the cookies firm up slightly, about 3 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to wire racks. Let stand until completely cooled.
5. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month.
Per Serving: 180 Calories; 11g Fat (52.0% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 19mg Cholesterol; 55mg Sodium.

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  1. Marie

    said on June 1st, 2009:

    Hi Carol. I remember making these for a snack to take to my middle son’s pre-school way back when! They were very popular. Of course this was way before nut allergies etc.!! Carol I wonder if you would mind checking out my new page and giving me some feedback? I would really appreciate it! TIA
    http://theenglishkitchen.blogspot.com/

  2. Toffeeapple

    said on June 4th, 2009:

    I love the way it’s all healthy until you hit the chocolate, makes me giggle every time. I don’t eat much sweet stuff, I’d rather have savoury, but I do love the way you write about it. Thank you.

    Thanks, T-A! Gotta make this chocolate consumption sound a bit more healthy, even if it really isn’t! . . . carolyn t

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