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I’m going to write up an entire blog post about this book. It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Florence as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

Also finished The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin. It popped up on a list I subscribe to and was available for $1.13 as an e-book. As it begins, you’re hearing from A.J., a grieving widower who owns a bookstore on an obscure island off the East Coast. He’s angry, rude and every other negative adjective you can imagine. A book rep comes to visit and he’s awful to her, yet she perseveres and manages to sell him a few books. You get to know his friends (a friendship with him is full of sharp points) and one day an abandoned toddler is found in his bookshop. In between the story line about A.J., the book rep, the little girl and others, you will learn all about A.J.’s book tastes. If you’re an avid reader, you’ll really enjoy that part. It’s a charming book; loved it.

Also read a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you need that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

 

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 April 29th, 2010.

The cookies I made last week, the Almond Cloud ones, were all given away. I wasn’t crazy about them (too sweet – they were too candy-like for my taste), although several other people I shared them with thought they were fabulous. Oh well. So, our cookie larder was bare. Dave does eat a chocolate chip cookie now and then when his blood sugar goes low, and I’m sorry to admit, but chocolate chip cookies are my all-time favorite. Mostly I make another recipe for them, called One-Bowl CC Cookies.

But sometimes I just want to try something different. This was from an older Gourmet issue. From the “You Asked for It” column. A regular reader who was about to move  out of the country was losing sleep over the thought of not being able to have her regular “fix” of CC cookies from the Silver Moon Bakery. This recipe is not online anywhere, except mention of the real-thing cookie you can buy from the bakery in New York City, whence this recipe comes.

What’s unique about them? They are: (1) more shortbread or cake-like in texture (because they contain a bit more butter than most cc cookies do); (2) smaller mounds of cookie, rather than flatter ones; (3) higher little mounds because the dough is chilled before making the dough balls to put on baking sheets.

Now, I did make a couple of changes to the Gourmet recipe. I added egg yolks (it’s what I had in the refrigerator) and since I’m a nut freak, I added chopped walnuts. Otherwise, the recipe is nearly identical. And what a great cookie this is. I made the cookies smaller than the recipe indicated (it said it made 30 2-inch cookies. I got 56 1 1/2 inchers out of the batch. I baked them at a lower temp (350 on convection instead of 375) for a bit shorter time (about 12 minutes). I also added bittersweet chocolate (the 365 brand from Whole Foods are little tiny squares of chocolate rather than the usual teardrop type) instead of semisweet. But you can use whatever you have on hand. Use a whole egg if you don’t have yolks on hand like I did.

We just LOVE them! Dave and I both. I took a few to one of my book club meetings the other morning (I’d just baked them, so they were almost still warm). Everyone thought they were very good. I really liked the texture – the more cakey, but firm cookie in the middle, plus the crispy edges are just what I like.
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Chocolate Chip Cookies a la Silver Moon Bakery

Recipe By: Adapted from Gourmet, and from Silver Moon Bakery, NYC
Serving Size: 56

NOTES: You can use two whole eggs, if you’d prefer. I happened to have egg yolks on hand. The original recipe called for one whole egg. With only the yolks, I added two. The walnuts were not in the original recipe, either. I also made them smaller than the 2-tablespoon size suggested. I baked them at 350 for about 12 minutes.

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter — softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 whole egg yolks [original calls for 1 whole egg]
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips — [I actually used Whole Foods bittersweet choc bits]
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts [optional – not in the original recipe]

1. In a stand mixer at high speed, beat together the butter, sugars and salt until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla until combined, then reduce speed to low and add the flour. Continue mixing just until combined. Add chocolate chips and walnuts and beat just until thoroughly combined.
2. Chill the cookie dough for at least 4 hours or overnight.
3. Preheat oven to 350.
4. Drop 1 heaping tablespoon mounds of dough onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake, switching pans halfway through, until the cookies are golden brown, about 11-12 minutes, or up to 15 depending on the size you make the cookies.
5. Cool cookies on sheets for at least 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough, cooling baking sheets in between batches.
Per Serving: 116 Calories; 8g Fat (59.4% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 19mg Cholesterol; 40mg Sodium.

One year ago: Cornflake-Crusted Halibut with Aioli Sauce
Two years ago: Shrimp, Bacon & Vegetable Chowder

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  1. Craig

    said on January 1st, 2014:

    I just made these and they were awful… I think you left out a leavening agent in your recipe. I humored you by doing the same just to see what would happen, and as expected these are very biscuity and un-cookie like. For those who might attempt this recipe, I would definitely recommend 1/2-t tsp baking soda!

    I’ve looked up the original recipe – it’s a clipping from Gourmet Magazine, or maybe it’s from Bon Appetit. Not sure, as the clipping doesn’t identify. It contains no other leavening than the egg. What it says as the header to the recipe is: “The trick to these classic mounds is chilling the dough (it’s heavy on the butter); this prevents spreading during baking and delivers a cookie that mounds in the middle and has a thinner, crispy edge.” As you can see from the photo, these cookies are more like mounds, and I agree, they were more biscuit-like than traditional cc cookies. I’m sorry you didn’t like them. The recipe (the clipping) says “Adapted from Silver Moon Bakery,” which is why I clipped it out to begin with as I’d heard they were just amazing. Do note that I added 2 egg yolks, instead of 1 whole egg so that might have made a difference. I also added walnuts which were not in the magazine’s recipe. I’ve made them several times, and I don’t dislike them, although they’re certainly different than Tollhouse! . . carolyn t

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