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Just finished reading 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.

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Posted in Desserts, on May 14th, 2009.


When the bundt cake works, it works like a charm. I was extremely careful to butter every single ridge and groove of the pan, to help it along and make sure when I inverted it, it wouldn’t leave some cake behind. Then I poked holes all over the top and sides of this and drizzled the limoncello syrup over it, letting it sink in. Then I lemon-bundt-cakemade the mousse. The mousse was easy. Talk about delicious. Talk about a combination from heaven.

This recipe is going onto my favorites list, so if you have learned to trust in my “favs,” then you’ve gotta make this cake. In case you haven’t looked, I have a separate page (glance at the tabs across the top, under the home page photo) here on my blog that has a list of my favorite recipes, with links to the posts for each. Out of the 500+ recipes I’ve posted here at Tasting Spoons, they are my favorites.

This recipe came from Food & Wine. But, it was created by Lynn Moulton, Pastry Chef at Blu Restaurant in Boston. The cake contains lemon zest, and it’s drizzled with the limoncello syrup. The mousse is just a mixture of Greek yogurt (the strained type, so it’s thicker – use full fat for this) and whipped cream, with some freshly squeezed lime juice and sugar added. It’s stunning all on its own – could be used for a great parfait with a cookie. It’s thickened up with a package of plain gelatin, which helps it keep firm for a day or two. I think this cake will serve more like about 16 people, by the way, so keep that in mind.

lemon-cake-limoncelloOur son, who does enjoy sweets, said, “I think this is the best cake I’ve ever eaten.” Them’s are the kind of words every mom/cook/chef wants to hear. I urge you, without delay, to get yourself some limoncello, some lemons and limes, some Greek yogurt, whipping cream, and bake this CAKE! You simply MUST make the yogurt lime mousse too – it puts this cake into the superlative category. The cake is light (it’s a sponge cake) and very lemony, but with the limoncello glaze and the mousse, it’s just perfect!

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Lemon Cake with Limoncello Syrup and Lime-Yogurt Mousse

Recipe: Food & Wine, September 2007
Servings: 10 (more like 16, I think)

6 whole eggs — separated
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract Zest of 2 lemons
1 1/2 teaspoons gelatin
2 tablespoons water
6 tablespoons lime juice
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Limoncello — (lemon liqueur)
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup sliced strawberries

1. CAKE: Preheat oven to 375.
2. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in 1/2 cup of the sugar
3. Beat the egg yolks with the water, olive oil, vanilla and lemon zest plus remaining 1 cup of sugar. Add the dry ingredients.
4. Fold in the egg whites. Spoon into a well-buttered Bundt cake pan. Gently rap the bundt pan (twice) on the counter (to remove large bubbles). Bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove to a rack and cool for 15 minutes, then invert onto the rack to cool completely.
5. SYRUP: Meanwhile, for the syrup simmer the water and sugar in a saucepan for 6 minutes. Let cool and stir in the Limoncello. Using a toothpick, prick the cake in lots of places, then brush the syrup over the cake, allowing it to sink into the holes.
6. MOUSSE: Sprinkle the dry gelatin over the water and let stand for 5 minutes. In a saucepan combine the lime juice and 6 T. sugar. Simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the softened gelatin. Whisk into the yogurt.
7. CREAM: Beat the cream with the 2 T. sugar until firm. Fold into the yogurt mousse and refrigerate until chilled and set.
8. Cut slices of cake, spoon a large scoop of the mousse on the side or partly on the cake, then garnish with sliced strawberries.
Per Serving: 545 Calories; 25g Fat (41.0% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 72g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 169mg Cholesterol; 318mg Sodium.

A year ago: Barbecued Short Ribs (pressure cooker)
Two years ago: Algerian Carrots (a real favorite)

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