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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 aging 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, wealthy women) 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.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

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, Desserts, on April 29th, 2011.

choc_chunk_brownies2

The other day I was thinking about chocolate. Of late, I haven’t had much chocolate except in an occasional cookie. And what I was craving was a brownie. Then I recalled this recipe, one that was originally published in Chocolatier magazine a very long time ago. A magazine that is no longer, unfortunately. I never subscribed, but occasionally bought an issue. I did a search on the internet just in case it still existed, but could find nothing concrete.

choc_chunk_brownies_singleDon’t you just want to reach right into the screen and grab that piece? Way back in about 1989 Chocolatier published an article about the best of the best brownies. We’d been to the home of some business associates of my DH, and the wife, Karen, served these incredible brownies to us, with some good vanilla ice cream. I was smitten with them. Karen kindly snail-mailed me a photocopy of the recipe a week or so later (email didn’t exist back then), and over the years I’ve made these a few times. I’ve just never blogged about them before, so that means I haven’t made them in over 4 years!

choc_chunk_in_panYou do need both semisweet and dark chocolate to make these. Other than that – and some corn syrup, walnuts and a few eggs, the other ingredients are regular staples in most kitchens. What makes them different? I have no idea, except the combo of the dark and medium chocolate seems in just the right proportion. They’re not overly sweet, which is something that’s important to me. I’m not so much a candy-type person – except for very small pieces, even fudge is too sweet for my taste buds. But these are rich with chocolate, no question about that.

It’s best, really, if you bake these the day before you need them, as they’re more easily cut into bars or squares after they’ve set overnight on your kitchen counter. They like to have a rest (and firm up just a bit) before you easily remove the entire pan full using the foil sling (see photo) and set a knife into them. They keep (closed up in an airtight container) at room temp for about 5 days. Otherwise, freeze them if you think the recipe makes too much for you to eat in that time period. I do love these brownies. Here on my blog I do have another brownie – called Classic Brownies – The Best Ever. And my Heavenly Cream Cheese Brownies too. Oh, I do love those as well. Sigh. I just love chocolate! Anyway, the Classic Brownies are one of my favorites, but they’re quite plain. These, on the other hand, contain nuts and chocolate chunks. There’s a place in my repertoire for both!

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Chocolate Chunk Brownies

Recipe: From “Chocolatier,” 9/1989
Serving Size: 24

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon baking powder — double acting
1/8 teaspoon salt
14 ounces semisweet chocolate — finely chopped
1 cup granulated sugar — (I scant the cup by about 2 T.)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
9 tablespoons unsalted butter — cut into tablespoons
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
3 large eggs — chilled
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups walnuts — coarsely chopped
9 ounces dark chocolate — chopped in 1/4″ chunks

1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325. Line a 9×13 baking pan with a double thickness of foil so the foil extends 2 inches beyond the 2 shorter ends of the pan. Fold overhang down along the sides of the pan. Butter the bottom of the foil-lined pan.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Place the semisweet chocolate in a large bowl.
3. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, corn syrup and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the butter melts. the sugar is dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and pour hot syrup over the chocolate. Let mixture stand for 1-2 minutes, to melt the chocolate. Whisk until smooth.
4. One at a time, whisk in the eggs, blending until smooth. Whisk in the vanilla and the flour mixture, mixing until the batter is smooth. Using a rubber spatula, fold in 1 cup of the walnuts and 6 ounces of the dark chocolate chunks.
5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of walnuts and 3 ounces of chocolate chunks over the top of the batter. Bake the brownies for 40-50 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it.
6. Invert the brownies onto a large plate or cutting board. Remove the pan and carefully peel off the foil. Invert again onto a smooth cutting surface and cut into 24 bars. Cool the brownies in the pan and set on a wire rack. When the brownies are completely cool, cover the pan of brownies with plastic wrap and let them set at room temperature for at least 6 hours, or overnight. Will keep in a covered container for about 5 days.
Per Serving: 295 Calories; 18g Fat (49.8% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 35g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 38mg Cholesterol; 43mg Sodium.

A year ago: Chocolate Chip Cookies – Silver Moon Bakery (a real favorite)
Two years ago: Cornflake Crusted Halibut with Aioli Sauce
Three  years ago: Shrimp Bacon Veggie Chowder

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  1. Priscilla Davis

    said on January 22nd, 2016:

    So glad you posted this recipe! I have a battered and falling apart copy of the original 1989 Chocolatier magazine buried somewhere in a box (waiting for me to find a way to preserve it somehow), and when I couldn’t put my hands on it quickly I thought, “Why not check online…?” I haven’t made these brownies for years but remember them vividly. Perfect dessert for this weekend. Thank you!

    You’re so very welcome. Isn’t the internet just wonderful?? I’m amazed what I can find online nowdays! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. . . carolyn t

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