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Just finished another great book, The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

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 Novel by 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.


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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