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Just finished reading How It All Began: A Novelby 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.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant (she arrived after the birth, actually). Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of middle-aged high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, and wealthy) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

 

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.
printer-friendly PDF

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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