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me_in_paris_198That’s me, on a trip, in a Paris restaurant.
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Just finished a very interesting novel, The Color of Water in July by Nora Carroll. It takes place in the upper peninsula of Michigan, an area I’ve never been to, but I have friends who live there and have been trying to get me to visit them for years, having told me (and sent photos) of how beautiful it is. The story takes place at a remote little cottage enclave on a lake. It’s clique-y, in that generations of families have kept these cottages in the family, not wanting any “outsiders” to come in. A young woman, Jess, who grew up partly with a crazy gypsy-like mother, and a loving but stern grandmother (who owns a home in the enclave) has a romance in her youth during the annual trek to the cottage, but a long ago tragedy ripples down through the years to affect her. When her grandmother dies, Jess has lots of mixed emotions about returning to the cottage. She wants to, but doesn’t. Finding papers in the house, she begins to unravel events over the course of two previous generations of family with startling revelations all along the way. Good character development for Jess, Daniel, her long-lost love, her grandmother, Mamie, and her current boyfriend, Russ. And great descriptions of the landscape of the area.

Champagne Baby: How One Parisian Learned to Love Wine–and Life–the American Way by Laure Dugas, another book I read recently. The author is very young, considering she’s written a memoir already (good for her, I say!). She was born to an old Champagne family in France, and paid little attention to anything regarding the wine business until her uncle (the CEO) offered to send her to the United States to do a 6-month tour with the vineyard’s distributor. She was fresh out of college and hadn’t really decided what she was going to do exactly. She’d be the spokesperson (brand ambassador they called her) for the family. Despite having a boyfriend, she made the leap anyway. Each chapter tells the story of her journey in America (with little language skills) or about what she learned about wine. And what she learned about long-distance relationships too. If you’ve never experienced much French wine, this would be a good introduction (she explains all about the different French wine regions and how/why they raise the grapes they do), but it’s woven into the very interesting life she led, living on a shoestring, meeting other French ex-pats in New York, and her thoughts on going to California, Boston, Memphis and other cities. When her 6 months were up, she wasn’t ready to go home. You’ll have to read it to find out what she did then. I liked the book immensely.

If you’ve been reading this sidebar much over the years, you’ve rarely seen mysteries here. Great for an airplane read, maybe, but I don’t find them (usually) gripping enough. But one of my book clubs is read a book by C.J. Box, called Open Season (A Joe Pickett Novel). Joe Pickett is a game warden in the wild country of Wyoming. He’s a good man. A family man. A good husband. AND a dogged investigator whenever anything goes awry in the hills. Usually it’s a murder of some kind. He writes a really good book that incorporates the mystery, lots of character study, some family stuff, but also a lot about the animals, the flora and fauna of the parks and land, and this one is also about an endangered species. I could hardly put it down. I’m SO glad I read this, and yesterday I visited my local library and checked out two more of his books. They’re easy reads; not overly long. But very absorbing. You’ll fall in love with Joe Pickett’s daughter Sheridan, too.

A page-turner of a book, Before the Fall by Noah Hawley grabbed me nearly from the first sentence. A small group of people take a private jet out of Martha’s Vineyard. Sixteen minutes later the plane crashes into the ocean. Two survive, a 4-year old boy and a single guy, an artist/painter, who ended up on the plane almost by happen-chance. What might have looked more like a fluke accident turns a bit sinister when you begin to learn more about the passengers on the plane, and the crew; the parents of the young boy, and a few others. Each person is scrutinized through the author’s lens and his/her culpability is analyzed. The painter and the boy form a bond because the man rescues the child and they swim miles and miles to shore. It’s just riveting. It’s not a James Bond type of thriller, but a real-life kind of drilling down into the core of each person on the plane. What I will mention, though, is that once you’ve read this, there isn’t a whole lot to discuss as a book club read, which is often the case for mysteries. Once the case is solved, there isn’t much to talk about except the characters, perhaps.

When one of my book groups gathered last week, we discussed a bunch of books that we might read for our next Sept-August “year.” We select them all, for the whole year, in advance. On the list of 18 possible ones (we’ll read nine only) was an old classic – I guess you could call it a classic – Plainsong – by Kent Haruf. Since it was published some years ago I dropped by the library, and sure enough, they had a copy. I came home and devoured it in one fell swoop. What a story. Tender, yet harsh in some respects. It tells the story of a group of small-town people (a teacher – a man separated from his wife, but he has the 2 boys who both play prominent roles in the book; a single woman caring for her aging and Alzheimer’s driven father; a young teenage girl who should have known better, but got pregnant; a couple of very old brothers, both single, struggling along with their ranch). All this takes place in a small town in eastern Colorado. I laughed. I cried. I wanted to reach through the pages to some of these characters to give them a hug. It’s a winner of a book. I may have to read more of Haruf’s books. The prose is spare, yet you can feel the anguish, the pain, the love, the caring. What a book!

 

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 July 12th, 2008.

one bowl chocolate chip, thin and buttery cookies
You’ve heard it here before – I have a very hard time passing up any chocolate chip cookie recipe. Good old Tollhouse is still my fav, but occasionally I’m tempted by another. Fickle cookie person that I am! What made this one unique was cornstarch. I know, cornstarch in a cookie? As I was reading Anna’s blog, Cookie Madness (I don’t know HOW that girl makes so many cookies, sometimes 2-3 batches a DAY!), she was talking about her very favorite CC cookie recipe, from Wellesley. She elaborated that they’re not the best-est looking cookie in the parade, but they’re thin, buttery and crispy, if you bake them right. She also mentioned that there’s a very fine line between looking done, and being just right – with crispy edges – and being overdone. That’s the secret. All RIGHT, I thought. Let’s give this a try.

Anna talked about the difficulty with her perfect recipe, of baking these so they come out at the perfect stage, so she decided to add one tablespoon of cornstarch. Hoping to encourage the crisp edges, but deter the overdone cookie. I’m never sure about adding either more liquid (like a dash of coffee, for instance) or dry stuff, just because it could change the chemistry of a cookie, big time. I’m glad she tried the combination. It works! In this case I did add some walnuts. If you’re a CC cookie purist, then you’ll omit those, I guess.

These cookies were easy as pie to mix up. Oh, that phrase is a misnomer. Pie isn’t easy, according to me. But you get my drift. One bowl? Yes. Thin? Yes. Buttery? Oh yes. Delicious. Oh my yes. I think my first batch got overdone – I saw what she meant about the fine line. I baked these one pan at a time as Anna suggested . . . I used a Silpat on the cookie sheet . . . and when I peeked at the cookies at 10 minutes, they didn’t show any sign of crispy (browner) edges, so I left them in for ONE MORE MINUTE. At 11 minutes they were too done. Oh, dear! So, the next pan I cut down the time by 30 seconds. Still too done. Maybe the 10 minutes was right. But, you do have to remember, that once the pan is hot, when you put in the second batch, they’ll take less time. So I still have a bit of learning to do with this recipe. But it doesn’t matter once you taste them! When I removed them from the oven, believe it or not, you could actually see light through some of the cookies, they’re that thin. Notice in the picture that the top cookie almost looks slumped. My husband looked at them and said “what’s wrong with those cookies?” Hah. Funny guy.

If you like soft crumbly cookies, this recipe is NOT for you. But if, like me, you love crispy crunchy cookies, these guys will float your boat. And also providing you don’t mind eating or serving some ugly ducklings! My one time fling may turn into an affair. We’ll have to see. Thank you, Anna, for sharing this wonderful recipe with us.
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One Bowl Thin & Buttery Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe By: Anna from Cookie Madness
Servings: 36

8 tablespoons unsalted butter — room temp (114 grams)
1/2 cup light brown sugar — packed (100 grams)
6 tablespoons granulated sugar — (78 grams)
1 teaspoon vanilla — (5 ml)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt — (2.5 ml)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda — (2.5 ml)
1 tablespoon cornstarch — (15 ml)
1 cup flour — (4.75 oz) – (135 grams) — scooped
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips — (270 grams)
2/3 cup chopped walnuts — optional (my addition)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) and have ready an ungreased cookie sheet – preferably one that is not insulated (I used a Silpat).
2. Beat the butter, both types sugars, and vanilla together in a medium bowl, using an electric mixer. When creamy, beat in the egg. When egg is well blended, add salt and baking soda and beat well, scraping sides of bowl once or twice and making sure baking soda is well distributed throughout batter. Add cornstarch and stir until blended. Add flour and stir (do not beat) until it is almost blended in. Add the chocolate chips (and nuts if you use them) and stir until all flour disappears.
3. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto the ungreased cookie sheets. Bake one sheet at a time on center rack for 8-10 minutes or until edges are golden brown. The cookies should get very brown around the edges, but do take care not to burn the bottoms.
Per Serving: 184 Calories; 11g Fat (51.1% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 21mg Cholesterol; 84mg Sodium.

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  1. Anna

    said on July 12th, 2008:

    Hi Carolyn!

    I’m glad you liked the cookies. Also, yours look gorgeous! Maybe it’s the way you arranged them in the photo, but I think they look delicious.

    As for burning and crispness issues, I like cooking mine on a non-insulated cookie sheet because I like the crispness even if it means I need to be diligent in checking the time. However, an insulated cookie sheet might work almost as well and would definitely prevent browning on the bottom. So I might go ahead and test some on an insulated sheet too.

  2. Carolyn

    said on July 14th, 2008:

    Maybe the secret would be using parchment paper. The Silpat may act as an insulator, but the parchment might be better. I’ll have to try that next time instead. I’m still loving these cookies – they are the most crisp cookie I’ve ever eaten, and the taste is just superb.

  3. Jerianne

    said on February 22nd, 2014:

    I really like this One-Bowl,Thin and Crispy CC Cookies. Mmmmmm

    Let’s get together some time next month??? I need a Carolyn fix! 😀

    Thanks for all your hard work putting your excellent blog together.

    I’m glad you liked those. I do too, obviously! . . . carolyn

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