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On my recent trip, I managed to get in a lot of reading on my Kindle. On airplanes, waiting for airplanes, waiting for the bus to load, waiting in lobbies for everybody to show up to leave, and at night when I couldn’t sleep. A fun book was Mr. Mac and Me, by Esther Freud. It takes place in England in 1914. In a time and place where a 13-year old boy has a lot of freedom. Although the war is looming, this little village is relatively quiet and safe, as life used to be. Boys will be boys, and he enjoys sort-of spying on people, especially people he doesn’t know well. He imagines that a man who arrives in town to rent a house with his paints and easels, might be a spy. Thus begins a story that starts from that premise, but eventually takes you into a very special friendship that develops between the man, Mr. Mac, his wife, and this boy. The story is absolutely charming. War brings some brutal truths for everyone in the village, yet this friendship flourishes. Great book.

Occasionally I’ll latch onto a book about food or restaurants. This one, The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O’Neal, is a romance (not a sticky sweet one) about a youngish woman (and her dog) who take a big leap to Colorado when she’s offered a job as a chef. The restaurant is fraught with some issues, but the author weaves in a romance, her skills as a leader in the kitchen, throws in some recipes (that I have yet to extract from my Kindle pages, that I want to try) along with it, and you have a book that held my interest all the way through. Formulaic, I suppose, but it’s a cute story. Books about restaurants always divulge some new tangle of how a kitchen runs. I enjoyed the read.

If you haven’t already read it, you are missing a really good and insightful book, Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan by Bill O’Reilly. I was riveted from page one, all the way through to the end. O’Reilly has a very engaging way of re-telling history and making it ever-so readable and interesting. He weaves people’s stories, ones  you likely haven’t read or heard, into his narrative, to give you such a sense of place. You can just feel how these soldiers, pilots, prisoners and seamen made their mark, but likely all unsung heroes. It’s a must-read, it really is.

Having read some of Kent Haruf’s other books, I read Our Souls at Night. A lonely widow decides to invite a neighbor man, also a lonely widower, if he’d like to come to her home, at night, to spend the night. I simply can’t tell you anything else because it would give away the story. This isn’t a story about s-x, but about two lonely people who come together for friendship and companionship. It’s very sweet, not twee, but sweet. You really feel for both of these older people. Read 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 Desserts, on April 19th, 2012.

rhubarb_cake

A tender, tender cake with rhubarb. Full of brown sugar flavor, nuts and just overall deliciousness!

OMGosh. Trust me when I tell you you HAVE to make this cake. It’s rhubarb season, folks. Go buy some right now and make this asap. The recipe came out of the book I told you about a few days ago, Bonny Wolf’s Talking with My Mouth Full: Crab Cakes, Bundt Cakes, and Other Kitchen Stories. I’d told you I was going to bake her mother’s cake-mix style chocolate pistachio bundt cake first. I lied. When I went grocery shopping the other day I spotted rhubarb. Beautiful, pristine stalks that just begged to be bought. I did. I bought. I mixed. I made.

The cake itself was very, very easy to make. This one is not a cake-mix type – just simple ingredients – butter, brown sugar (hence that darker crumb to the cake), an egg (just one), some cream, flour and stuff like that. Then you fold in 1 1/4 cups of chopped up rhubarb and pour it into a 9×9 pan. The topping just “makes it.” A combo of sugar, softened butter, cinnamon and walnuts – sprinkled over the top and it’s baked for 45 minutes. Mine was done in about 41 minutes (I tested the interior of the cake with my Thermapen instant thermometer), when it reached 210°.

A few hours later I cut squares. Oops, I lied again. I cut one square. My DH didn’t want any. He’s not crazy about rhubarb (he says) and it did have quite a bit of sugar in it. I used some Splenda in the topping, but I have never tried the Splenda brown sugar mix (guess I should), so I needed to use the real stuff in the cake. But, when I put the first bite into my mouth I let out a resoundingly loud “mmmm.” He came walking over to me and I gave him a bite of mine. He too went “mmmm.” Then he said “wow.” I said “wow.” I was sorely tempted to cut another slice, but I resisted. This could be made as a coffeecake, I think – but it’s certainly a lovely dessert. I didn’t put anything on it (like ice cream or whipped cream) as it doesn’t need it at all. As I’m writing this it’s about 11 am and my DH said, after we returned from a bunch of food shopping, that he blood sugar felt low. I offered him a little piece of the cake and he scarfed it up in a matter of a minute. And pronounced it “delicious.”

What I liked: the extremely tender and moist crumb of the cake – soft and silky; loved the nutty and cinnamon laden topping. The rhubarb is a low-profile undercurrent. I might even add more rhubarb next time. The cake is certainly sweet enough it could handle more, I think. This is a keeper. It’s going onto my favorites list, if that’s any indication of how much I loved it. I’m so glad I read Bonny Wolf’s book and copied out this one.

What I didn’t like: absolutely nothing!

printer-friendly PDF
MasterCook 5+ import file – right click to save file, run MC, then File|Import

Fern’s Rhubarb Cake

Recipe By: Talking with Your Mouth Full, by Bonny Wolf, 2006
Serving Size: 9

CAKE:
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch salt — (more if using unsalted butter)
2 cups flour — (USE SCANT MEASURE)
1 1/2 cups rhubarb — finely diced
TOPPING:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts — chopped (or pecans)

1. Preheat oven to 350°
2. Butter a 9×9 baking pan.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg, cream and vanilla and mix. Add baking soda, salt and flour, then blend thoroughly. Stir in the rhubarb.
4. Pour batter into baking pan.
5. Mix the topping ingredients together and sprinkle over the cake. Bake for 45 minutes (or to 210° using an instant read thermometer). Cool on a rack.
Per Serving: 469 Calories; 24g Fat (45.6% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 59g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 81mg Cholesterol; 313mg Sodium.

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