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Just finished reading a magnificent historical novel. Not new. Philippa Gregory has been a favorite author of mine for a couple of decades. You may remember her most famous book, The Other Boleyn Girl, published some years ago. I thought that was a really great book. I’ve read other books by Gregory, but most recently I read The King’s Curse (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels). The time period is the 1450s to 1541, mostly under the rule of King Henry VIII, the infamous womanizer and wife/Queen-killer. The man who cursed Rome/the Pope because he wanted his first marriage annulled because Queen Catherine couldn’t produce a living male heir. And subsequently made himself the head of the church in England in order to do so. It was a Catholic country at the time. This story (it’s fiction, but woven with intricate historical detail) is from the voice of a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine, Margaret of York, later titled Countess of Salisbury, but a Plantagenet in her own right (which is key to the later events in the book). Certainly I’ve read other novels over the years that dealt with Henry VIII, but not with this much breadth of info. What a wicked, sinful man he was. And did I say tyrant. Wow.  I could hardly put it down, through its nearly 600 pages. In the author’s notes at the end, she shares relatively recent medical info that suggests Henry probably suffered from a rare problem, Kell positive blood type, which can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths IF the mother has the more common Kell negative blood type. And that in his later years, he may have had McLeod syndrome, a disease only found in Kell positive individuals. Around the age of 40 it causes physical degeneration and personality changes resulting in paranoia, depression and irrational behavior. All of those King Henry VIII had in spades. If you read the book, you might read the author’s notes (at the end) before reading the book. If you like historical fiction (I love any book about English history) you’ll just love this one. It’s interesting, though, as I think about the many books I’ve read covering this era in English history, that each book presented its hero/heroine as the most innocent and worthy individual vying for the crown of England. I remember thinking Anne Boleyn was dealt with so badly during her life (and certainly her beheading), and yet reading this book, I completely reversed my opinion. Anne Boleyn was called a wh–e by most people during the years she shared Henry’s bed. The “curse” from the title pertains to Henry’s inability or curse on the Tudors, that caused him to fail in producing a male heir. In any case, none of Henry’s wives should have died for it – likely it was all Henry’s fault anyway. Just read this one, okay?

Also recently read 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 free-lance 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 family was 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 an old (wild) 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.

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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