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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, 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!

printer-friendly PDF

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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