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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 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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