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Just finished 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 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 parents were 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 a old 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.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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 August 4th, 2007.


My friend Linda emailed me one day just to tell me about this glorious apple cake. With the most unlikely name: Grandgirl’s Fresh Apple Cake from Georgia. Huh? She mentioned it again a few weeks later. We do share recipes all the time, and she’s a good cook. She still works full time, so can’t go to cooking classes much, if at all.

She has the MasterCook software also, and I’ve taught her how to use it, how to capture recipes off the web and easily import them into the software. It’s really quite easy. MasterCook is not expensive software, but it’s a very powerful program that accomplishes nearly everything I need to do to save my recipes. I have over 400 recipes in My Cookbook within MasterCook 9. It has a lot of functions that aren’t exactly “advertised,” but are subtle enhancements the program offers if you learn how to use them. Like scaling recipes. You’re having 10 for dinner and the recipe serves 6? No problem. Two keystrokes and you have the recipe re-sized for 10.One of the things I like the best is the fact that I can create my own custom cookbook design. In other words, I’ve set up a pretty design for all of my recipes. If you have printed out one of the recipes from my blog, the recipe was entered into MasterCook 9, then I converted it to a PDF file (for Adobe Acrobat) so you can print the exact recipe, with picture, in the format I’ve chosen.

I love working with MasterCook. One of its better features is how easy it is the copy and paste a web-based recipe into the program. It takes about 3 keystrokes to get to the import assistant, a small help screen that requires very little to get the recipe into MasterCook. I move a few things around sometimes (the program likes the recipe to be in a certain order), I hit a couple more keystrokes and the recipe is there. Sometimes a photo is available; if so, I import that too. I never forget that adage – a picture speaks a thousand words. Or, I use a fairly new feature called the Web Import Bar which will help you transfer a web recipe into the program. Also very easy.

So back to the fresh apple cake. Last weekend Linda drove up to our house (she lives about 50 miles south of us) on Sunday JUST to fix a wonderful dinner for us. Bless her heart! DH was delighted not to have to cook. I was delighted to finally eat two of Linda’s favorites that I’d not gotten around to trying. Grandgirl’s Apple Cake from Georgia was one of them. We’re still eating off the cake 5 days later. It’s SO SO good.

The recipe came from Paula Deen, and unfortunately it’s no longer available online at the food network, but you can find it at a couple of other sites if you do a search on the web for the title. It doesn’t need any changes or embellishments. It’s perfect just the way it is. It’s a dense, nutty cake. Just overflowing with apple flavor. And once the cake is baked, you pour over it this luscious buttermilk sauce that takes a bit of time to soak in. Please try this recipe. It doesn’t need anything to serve with it, but it’s good with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or even a drizzle of heavy cream too. So, thanks Linda, for another winning recipe.
printer-friendly PDF

Grandgirl’s Fresh Apple Cake from Georgia

Recipe By: Paula Deen via my friend Linda
Servings: 20

CAKE:
Butter — for greasing pan
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
1/4 cup orange juice
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups apples — peeled and finely chopped
1 cup coconut — shredded
1 cup chopped pecans
SAUCE:
½ cup butter — (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
½ cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon baking soda

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Generously grease a tube pan.
2. For the cake: in a large bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, oil, orange juice, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and vanilla extract; and mix well. Fold apples, coconut, and pecans into batter.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 1 ½ hours.
4. Shortly before the cake is done, make the sauce: Melt the butter in a large saucepan, stir in the sugar, buttermilk, and baking soda, and bring to a good rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute. Pour the sauce over the hot cake in the pan as soon as you remove it from the oven. Let stand 1 hour, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

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  1. Anna

    said on August 11th, 2007:

    Hi Carolyn,

    I just saw that grandgirl apple cake recipe on FoodTV today, so I guess it’s back on-line. It’s something I’d like to try. My mother’s coming for a visit, so maybe I’ll make it for her.

    As for Mastercook, I have it and love it but am not really happy with the cookbook publishing functionality. Lately, I’ve been working with something called http://www.Blurb.com The site lets you download publishing software. After you build a book using their software, you submit it and they print it and bind it. You have to enjoy playing with publishing type software to really get into it, but the end result will look professional.

  2. Carolyn T

    said on August 11th, 2007:

    Thanks for the idea about blurb.com. I’ll go check it out. I agree with you that printing is the poorest feature in MC. I’ve never printed my entire cookbook. I’ve learned from the MC discussion group on Yahoo (Yahoo Groups) that most people who print divide up their “cookbook” into smaller ones (like one cookbook is just appetizers, even if it’s only 4 recipes; another would be cookies, even though that might be just 10 of them) as that seems to be an easier number of recipes to work with. And, if anything went wrong with a huge cookbook like mine is, it’d be forever before the printer would stop.

    Funny about the Grandgirl’s recipe. It truly wasn’t online earlier this week! But I noticed that Paula is on reruns right now.

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