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Currently Reading

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Just finished 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 want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

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. Just read this one first!

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 May 6th, 2010.

In the last week I’d read on two independently-written blogs about Cinnamon Toast. And like many people, I think I did the same “oh yea, sure, you sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on buttered toast . . . what’s the big deal.” Well, let me tell you right off the top. This is NOT your typical cinnamon toast.

Can I just tell you right now – you gotta make this stuff. It’s absolutely delicious. Easy. Fun. Different, and oh, so gosh darned good! This would also be a great project for you and your children. It took about 20 minutes, I’d guess, to make these, then 25 minutes to bake. But then, you’ve got to seal them up and let them sit for 24 hours (that’s really hard). In that 24 hours they go from being crispy cinnamon toast to something more like shortbread with cinnamon and sugar. A cookie. Naturally, I tasted them when they cooled, but the butter is still almost a liquid at that point. Hence you want it to sit so the bread soaks it up. At least I guess that’s the chemistry.

If you go over to Orangette to read the story, you’ll learn that this is a recipe that Molly found in her grandmother’s recipe box, her dear, beloved grandmother who died recently. But Molly got her recipe box when the family divvied up her grandmother’s things. I just love stories like this, but then Molly is a good story-teller of the first order! She’s written a book about recipes and her life called A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table. A wonderful read, I’ll tell you first hand. She and her husband Brandon Pettit now own a (mostly pizza) restaurant called Delancey in Seattle. A big dream for two people who had zero restaurant experience. Her blogging probably didn’t hurt any in the popularity department. Wish I lived in Seattle so I could go try it! And run into Molly, perchance.

So here’s what’s involved with making this simple treat/cookie. You mix up some cinnamon and sugar, you melt some unsalted butter, brush trimmed sandwich sized white bread triangles with the melted butter, sprinkle it with the cinnamon-sugar, place on a parchment-covered baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. That’s it. Told ya it was easy!

The other recipe (that I didn’t make) is over at Pioneer Woman. Hers is different – soft butter spread on bread then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and broiled. More a breakfast food or maybe a fun snack.

So, please go out and buy some of that we-won’t-tell-white sandwich bread and give yourself a real treat! Trust me!
printer-friendly PDF

Baked Cinnamon Toasts

Recipe By: Orangette blog (from her grandmother’s recipe box)
Serving Size: 12

1 stick unsalted butter — (4 oz.) cubed
6 slices sandwich bread — thin white, or more slices if needed
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. If you want, line a baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil. It makes cleanup easier.
2. Put the butter into a pie plate or similar baking dish. Slide the dish into the oven, and keep an eye on it. You’re looking for the butter to melt completely.
3. Stack the slices of bread, (cut off the edges if you’d prefer – I did) and then cut them diagonally into quarters. You should have 24 triangles.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon. Turn the cinnamon sugar out onto a dinner plate, or another pie plate.
5. When the butter is melted, remove it from the oven, and brush it onto both sides of a triangle of bread. Don’t be shy: apply the butter generously, so no spot is left uncoated. The bread should feel a little heavy in your hand. Dip the bread into the cinnamon sugar, (or hold each piece in your hand and use a spoon to cover both sides well) taking care to coat both sides. Lay it on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pieces of bread.
6. Bake the toasts for about 25 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer to a rack. The toasts will crisp as they cool. When cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Note: These taste best with a little age. Per Serving: 125 Calories; 8g Fat (54.7% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 21mg Cholesterol; 53mg Sodium.

A year ago: Mushroom Risotto (made in a pressure cooker)
Two years ago: Brownie-Bottom Pudding Pie
Three years ago: Mexican Chopped Salad (a favorite)

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  1. Stacey

    said on May 16th, 2010:

    This sounds scrumptious. Colin and Kaitlyn love everything cinnamon and sugar. I can’t wait to try this recipe.

    I guarantee they’ll like this one, Stacey! . . . carolyn t

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