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The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This book was offered as a bargain book from Bookbub, and something about the description resonated with me – maybe because of my Old Testament readings regarding the lives of shepherds back in ancient days. I utterly loved this book. It might not suit everyone – it’s a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being about attending further education and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. He bickers with his father, eventually moves out. One night in a pub with his blokes (friends) he enters some kind of a contest in the pub and realizes he has a lot more knowledge than he thought he did. In time he applies to get what I’d call here in the U.S. a G.E.D (high school diploma), which he does, and then he applies to Oxford, on a whim. And gets in. He graduates. He applies his knowledge to his rural life. He marries, has children, but still, his day to day life is all about his Herdwick sheep although he does have a day job too working for UNESCO. You’ll learn more about sheep than you might have wanted to know. I absolutely loved, LOVED this book. If you are interested, James Rebanks has a Twitter feed, called @herdyshepherd1, and you can sign up to get updates from him about his farm and his sheep. I don’t do Twitter or I would.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. I could hardly put it down. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote. You yearn to hug her, comfort her. Yet she finds eventually happiness and peace. A beautiful book worth reading. Was a book club read.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation. So it is with surprise that she finds in this cold and bitter country the capacity for new love and perhaps even a new home. I just loved this book – could hardly put it down; yet it’s not a mystery. You’ll come away with a desire to find that house by the fjord. I want to go there and have some coffee with the Anna, who was a Brit, yet fell head over heels in love with Norway.

Running Blind (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child. A Jack Reacher mystery. From amazon: Across the country, women are being murdered, victims of a disciplined and clever killer who leaves no trace evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to an apparent motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. Until Jack Reacher gets in the middle of it. A page turner, as are all of the Jack Reacher stories.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. If you like Hyde’s novels, for the month of September many of her books are available on Kindle at a very reduced price ($1.99 and $.99 each). Go grab them while they’re available. I just purchased 6 of her books. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. A sweet book, true story, of the author and her friend, during one summer in the midst of their college years, going by train to NYC and ultimately getting a job of Tiffany’s. This took place in the 40s, and at the time no women were ever seen on the showroom floors, but these two pretty young women were the harbinger of equality, though none of that comes into play here. They were “runners,” who whisked orders and money to and fro from the salesMEN to the office. They stood in silence near the elevators on the ground floor and waited for a sale to take place. They lived in cramped quarters. They enjoyed everything NYC had to offer them at the time, and they were wowed by an occasional celebrity sighting. Cute read.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. No one can seem to solve them, and those who try also get caught in the crossfire. Finally a man is brought in from back East. That’s where the inception of the FBI comes into play, though there was no FBI then. This is a very interesting read, probably sufficient info to do a book club read. A book everyone should read if you know little (or a lot) about the abominable treatment given to the Native Americans over the last several hundred years. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? When I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did. It tells the tale of a 70ish man, a widower, who has been diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. He’s a retired physician, knows the scenario of death by cancer, and doesn’t want to do it. He decides he’s going to take a bird hunting trip, east of the mountains in Washington State (Guterson writes a lot about his part of the world), with his two dogs, and he’ll commit suicide. He sets up an elaborate ruse with his children and grandchildren, and heads out. All of this, so far, takes place in the first 10 pages of the book. First he has an accident in his car, and that sets off a cavalcade of incidents. You’ll learn a whole lot about flora and fauna (one of Guterson’s writing attributes). You’ll learn a lot about apple and pear orchards, which abound in eastern Washington (I’ve been there, it’s beautiful, pastoral and full of fruit). Flashbacks of his life story are interspersed throughout, his growing up on an apple farm, meeting his wife, his service in WWII, their reuniting after the war and the life they had. You’ll learn some about his cancer pain, the grief of his wife’s death 5 years prior, and about his resolve to end it all. Please don’t NOT read this because  you’ll think it’s depressing. It is and it isn’t. It’s so much more for the better. And I just read, this book is being made into a movie.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? I marvel sometimes about how authors ever come up with the ideas they do, to create the premise for a novel. And this one is right up there at the top of the list. Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who has a big lack of self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. He discovers she’s blind and needs some help, which he gives her. Then he discovers that there is a lot more to know and understand about this elderly little lady down the hall and he begins a journey to try to find someone for her, the Luis Velez of the title. If you want to use coming-of-age to describe this, that’s partly true. He learns all about himself, the abilities he didn’t know he had, the kindness that lives within him that he never realized was there, and the friends he makes along the way who make some life-changing differences in his young life. He discovers he has some gifts that he can give to others, something most teenagers don’t understand. I can’t recommend this book highly enough – it’s a bit of a tear-jerker, but for every good reason and moral character trait described in the book. It’s there.

Kristin Hannah is quite an author. She’s written upwards of 20 books, I think. This one, Magic Hour: A Novel is another very mesmerizing read. I could hardly put it down. A young, 6-year old child is found in a small town on the Olympic Peninsula. She’s mute and frightened beyond reason. And she seems not to understand English. A psychiatrist is brought to town to try to unravel the mystery and to “reach” the child. I don’t want to spoil the story, but know that the whole subject of nature (biology) vs. nurture comes into play and will keep you hanging onto your seat until the last few pages.

Ever heard of Barbara Pym? I knew the name, but hadn’t ever read any of her work. She was an English author (deceased now), having penned several books. I think she was an inveterate spinster, and in this book, Excellent Women she wrote about a small village community in England with the humdrum, day to day life, but she wrote with such interesting detail. I thought I might be bored to tears reading it, as it describes a 31-year old woman, considered a spinster in the time (1950s), and the book is about her rather boring life with new neighbors who move into her small home (2 units, sharing a bathroom), the local vicar, his sister, and a myriad of other ladies of the parish. Yet you get caught up in the very minor intrigue of the deteriorating marriage of the couple in the building, the love life of the vicar, and the annual planning for a jumble sale at the local church. This book is considered Pym’s best. I loved the book. I highlighted a bunch of phrases and sentences (I will be doing a book review in one of my book clubs). It wasn’t boring at all, and was entertaining right up to the last page!

Did you ever watch Sandra Lee on the Food Network? This was in the early days of the network, and I did watch her some, although her cooking style didn’t mesh much with mine, since I’m a bit of a make-things-from-scratch kind of girl. But then, I don’t make my own mayo, or jam anymore. And I understand her philosophy, making it easier for busy women to feed their families and juggle a busy life. I’d never thought about reading her memoir. But then, a friend highly recommended I do so. I found a used copy online, and read Made From Scratch: A Memoir. She had a very, very hard young life. Her mother? Well, she shouldn’t have even been a mother. Sandra was the eldest and from a very early age she took care of all of her younger siblings. She was badly mistreated and nearly raped by a family member. Her grandmother Lorraine was her favorite person from the get-go and Sandra took care of her grandmother in her waning years. Once Sandra was old enough she left home and went to college for 3 years, then her entrepreneurial spirit just took over. She learned by doing in every job she’s ever had, and I have to admire her tremendously for her accomplishments. She made money, then lost it, found another niche, made money, then lost it. Yet she’s got the kind of grit that we should all emulate. There are 2 recipes in the book. Sandra is a Christian, and a paragraph that really gripped me was at the very end: “Grace has become one of my favorite words. To me it means learning to balance the good days with the bad. Grace is about being proud of yourself, your actions, your life, what you stand for, and the way you give back [Sandra is a huge philanthropist]. Its’ being generous when someone hurts you; it’s knowing when and how to react. It’s knowing that someone you’re not fond of today might turn out to be the only person who puts his or her hand out tomorrow just when you’re about to step in front of a moving bus. Grace is offering understanding and acceptance when the rest of the world does not.” This book isn’t great literature; yet I’m very glad I read it. She is an inspiration.

The book Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee had been recommended to me by several friends. Finally got around to reading it. It’s a novel about a family of Koreans living in Japan and covers several decades, beginning in the 1940s, I believe. They’re poor. Dirt poor, yet the women just get themselves back up and work. The husbands in the story have problems, health and otherwise. But what you see here is work, and work and more work just to keep above water. You’ve probably read about how poorly Koreans are treated in Japan – they’re kind of thought of as scum of the earth. I don’t know if this phenomena is still true today, but it apparently was even up until a couple of decades ago. As  you read this book, you’ll find yourself rooting for various family members as they progress in life. A fateful decision is made by one that reverberates throughout her life and those of her children. Pachinko (the machines and the gaming economy that runs because of it) is thought of as part of the underbelly of Japanese culture. I remember seeing the pachinko machines when I visited Japan back in the 1960s. So the book infers, much of pachinko is even controlled by a kind of Japanese mafia and certainly has no status if you work in the pachinko arena. Wealth, yes. Status, no. Very worth reading, even though it’s tough going part of the way. This isn’t a “happy” book. But still worth knowing and reading about the subject. Reading the author’s afterword at the end was very revealing and interesting.

Also read An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones. The book is set in the south with a young, well-educated, middle-class couple and suddenly the husband is accused and convicted of rape (that he didn’t commit). The book is not about the justice system or his wrongful conviction. Not at all. It’s about the relationship, the husband, wife, and then the 3rd person who inserts himself into the mix. Much of this story is told through the letters that Roy and Celestial write each other during and after his incarceration. Jones recreates the couple’s grief, despair and anger until they finally work their way to acceptance, but maybe not how you would expect it. This is complicated emotional territory navigated with succinctness and precision, making what isn’t said as haunting as the letters themselves.  Some of the above (italics) came from the New York Times’ book review.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces. I’ve always admired her and her acting, but never knew much about her. I remember when she was involved with Burt Reynolds, but knew nothing about her dysfunctional coming of age. I think she’s a consummate actress, and was awed by her performance in Norma Rae, and also with her role as Abraham Lincoln’s wife.  She wrote this book herself, with help from a writer’s workshop and with some good advice from various other writers. It’s very well written. She spends a lot of time discussing the very young years and her perverted step-father. But the over-arching person in her life was her mother, be what she may as far as being a good/bad mother. I really liked the book; really enjoyed reading about how Sally throws herself into her tv and film roles over her life. And what a defining moment Norma Rae was in her career. Well worth reading if you enjoy movie star memoirs.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel. It’s a gripping novel about a young girl whose family moves to Alaska when her father is gifted a small plot of land with a ramshackle cabin on it that’s barely fit for habitation. The family survives only because some of the townspeople offer to help them learn how to live through an Alaskan winter, which is not easy. The girl’s father is a tyrant and a wife-beater as well. Some pages were hard to read. Surviving on the land with nearly no funds is an arduous task in the best of times, but doubly so when you’re dealing with an Alaskan winter which lasts about 9 months of the year. I don’t want to spoil the story by telling you too many details. The book touches on some very current social issues and is so worth reading. Although difficult at times, as I said. But I’m very glad I did. I think it would make for a good book club read – lots of survival issues to discuss, let alone the other social problems that ensue. But there’s also love, which makes it worth the read.

Recently finished reading a book for one of my book clubs. I’m interested to find out who in that group recommended this book, Tangerine: A Novel by Christine Mangan. Had it not been selected for my club, I wouldn’t ever have picked it up. Most of it takes place in Tangiers, in the 1950s. Alice and John have moved there, newlyweds, when Lucy Mason shows up. Lucy is Alice’s former college roommate. Lucy simply moves in. There’s bad blood between them following the death of Alice’s beau during their college years. Lucy, who might appear as a very sensible woman, has a dark physical and mental obsession with her “friend.” Is it horror? Not really by strict definition. Is it a mystery? Not quite, although there are several murders that take place. Chapters jump between Alice’s voice and Lucy’s voice and you understand the mental fragility of Alice, and this consuming obsession Lucy has for her friend. I’m NOT recommending this book, but I did finish it just because of my book club choosing this very strange book.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

One of my book clubs occasionally reads a kind of edgy book. This is one of them. By Mohsin Hamid, Exit West: A Novel is a book set in an age not dissimilar to our own and in current time, but something bad has happened in the world. Something never divulged, although symptoms of a civil war are mentioned. A unmarried couple, Nadia and Saeed, are given the opportunity (as others are, as well) to go through a door (this is the exit part of the title) and to another place in the world – it takes but a second – to go through the special door. They go to England (London), to a palatial mansion. Sometimes the power grid is sketchy. Another door. And yet another. And finally to Marin County (north of San Francisco). You follow along with the ups and downs of the chaste relationship of the two, this couple from a house to living on the streets. And the eventual dissolution of the relationship too. I wasn’t enamored with the book, but after listening to the review of it and hearing others talk about it, I suppose there’s more to this story than it might appear. Hope is the word that comes to mind. The book is strange, but it won the Los Angeles Times book award in 2017. It’s received lots of press. It made for some very interesting discussion at our book club meeting.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes. Story: Jennifer Stirling wakes up in hospital, having had a traumatic car accident. She’s introduced to her husband, of whom she has no recollection, and is sent home with him eventually, to a life she neither remembers or embraces readily. But this is the life she was raised to have, so surely it must be worth living, underneath the strange, muted tones of her daily existence. Jennifer goes through the motions, accepts what she is told is her life and all seems to bob along well enough, except when she finds a letter that isn’t her husband’s handwriting, and is clearly a link to someone she has been involved with, but whom? London, France, Africa and America all come into play in this story of a woman piecing back together her life in effort to understand what she has lost, and what she threw away. There is a bit of a time-hop from 1964 to 2003. . . from a reviewer on amazon.  I loved this book from page one to the end. There’s some bit of mystery and you so get into the head of Jennifer Stirling. I could hardly put it down. Great read.

Francine Rivers, an author relatively new to me, but much admired, is most known for this: Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) It’s a trilogy. The first 2 books are about Hadassah, a young woman in the time of the Roman Empire. When Jerusalem was overrun and destroyed, the Christians still alive were sent off and away, separated and derided and abused. Hadassah was one of them. She’s a slave to a wealthy family and it takes 2 of the books to read before the son of the family finally realizes that he’s in love with Hadassah. If  you’re a Christian, you’ll learn a whole lot more about the time following Christ’s crucifixion, about the lot of the struggling Christian community. The 3rd book in the trilogy is about a gladiator who is part of book 1 and 2, but not a main character. You’ll learn about his life too, after he regains his freedom from the fighting ring and the battle of his soul. These books are a fabulous read. Can’t say enough good things about them all. I’ve never been a huge fan of old-world Roman Empire reading, but this one was altogether different. Very worth reading.

Amy Belding Brown wrote this book: Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America, a true accounting in 1676, of Mary Rowlandson, a woman who was captured by Native Americans.  Even before she was captured on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the ongoing bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. The story is riveting, and perplexing once she is traded back to her home. You’ll see a different side to the Indian problem back then and find yourself conflicted. An excellent read.

Taylor Caldwell was a prolific writer, and one I read when I was younger. She died in 1980, and this book, her last, Answer As a Man certainly delivers as her others did. All his life, Jason Garrity has had to battle intolerance and injustice in his quest for power, money, and love. His new hotel will give him financial security, the means to support a loving family and become an upstanding citizen. When family secrets and financial greed combine to destroy his dreams, his rigid moral convictions are suddenly brought into question. . . from Goodreads. Caldwell believed the banking industry was way too powerful, and often took aim at it, as she did in this book. It chronicles the life of a very poor, impoverished Irish immigrant to the U.S. He was an upstanding citizen, God-fearing, but maybe naive in some respects. Good book if you enjoy very deep character study.

Another book by Diney Costeloe, Miss Mary’s Daughter. When a young women is suddenly left with no family and no job or income, she’s astounded to learn that she’s actually a granddaughter of a “grand” family in Ye Olde England. She’s very independent (at least I thought so, for the time period), but is willing to investigate this new family of hers. There are many twists and turns – is she going to inherit the family home – or is the man who has been caring for the home and his daughter the logical inheritors. There’s a villain who nearly sweeps her off her feet, much intrigue from many characters. Well developed plot with a happy ending. A good read.

Celeste Ng is a hot new author. I read another of her books (see below) but this time I read Little Fires Everywhere. There are so many various characters and plots in this book, as in her others. This book focuses on a Chinese baby abandoned at a fire station and the subsequent court battle when the single mother surfaces six months later to try to reclaim her daughter from the family in the process of adopting her. Emotions well up, waxing and waning on both sides of the issue. You may even find yourself changing your own mind about the right or wrong of a child raised with a natural-born mother (albeit late to the raising) or the mother the child has known since near birth. Ng likes to write books with lots of grit and thorny issues. Although a good read, I liked Everything I Never Told You better than this one.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Oh my. This book has so many layers: (1) the young, impoverished couple and their infant son who live, literally, in a dump in Cambodia and about the precarious structure, if you can even call it that, that comprises their “house” in the midst and perched on top of trash; (2) the woman who collects the rent (hence the title and yes, people have to PAY to live there); (3) the young son’s chronic illness; (4) how they make a living out of collecting and selling trash; and (4) the life saving grace and wisdom imparted by characters in the book as the young mother begins to learn to read. If you decide to read this book, please don’t stop at about page 15-20, thinking you just don’t know if you want to read about this. Please continue. It’s so worth it. Have a highlighter pen in your hand because you’ll find so many quotes you will want to remember. Believe it or not, there is also quite a bit in this about literature.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel). I just love Box’s novels. They take place in present day semi-wild west, and chronicle the fish and game warden, Joe Pickett, as he unravels another crime in his territory. A woman has disappeared, and the governor has asked him to figure it out. He does, but the tale meanders  through multiple layers of intriguing story. His books are riveting. Men and women enjoy his books – so if you have a fellow in your life or family that would enjoy an intriguing book (this is not espionage) then gift him one of Box’s books.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. A

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. W

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively.

 

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, Gundry-friendly, on October 6th, 2019.

gf_almond_brownies

Decadent tasting, full of chocolate, chocolate chips and chopped almonds. AND gluten free.

Last week I had a new friend come to visit for a few hours. She’s a Type 1 diabetic (like my DH was) and she does her best to avoid carbs. I introduced her to chaffles (you can google it – it’s quite a phenom in the low carb world). My chaffle is not really one made with cheese (that what the ch means in the name, the affle means it’s made in a little Sur La Table Dash Mini Waffle Maker waffle iron which makes one waffle round). Mine was made of egg and a tetch of almond flour, a tablespoon of mayo, baking powder and water. I doubt many of you would be interested in any of this, but they make a great substitute for bread. Put two together and you have a sandwich. If you’re interested in the recipe, click that link.

Anyway, when I pulled out my bag of Costco’s Kirkland almond flour to demonstrate how easy it is to make a sandwich chaffle, my friend Vicki asked if I’d tried the almond brownie recipe on the back of the bag. Nope, had not. But it got my taste buds hankering for brownies.

Daughter Sara and her husband were here this weekend so I had a reason to make these brownies. I did use Hershey’s cocoa powder extra dark – so the resulting brownies were really dark/black. Regular cocoa powder might not make them so dark colored. Me? I’m all into the intense flavor. But, if I’d made them for myself, I’d have eaten them all – myself. Not good. Even though they’re GF, and not too high in fat, they’re still calories. As I’m writing this, there are just 4 left. Maybe I’ll freeze them so I can dole them out to myself slowly. We’ll see how THAT goes! I cut them into small squares – I think I got more than 16 out of the 8×8 pan. But you can cut them any size you want.

Because I loved them. And I know my cousin Gary, who loves carbs and chocolate, but is GF, will love these too. He’s not much of a baker, so I’ll make a batch for him when he comes to visit next month. I mixed these up in a bowl with my hand mixer and they baked for about 30+ minutes. Once cooled, these were still quite wet/sticky, but by this morning they were perfect for picking up in hand and didn’t fall apart. I forgot to put more almonds on top. Made no never-mind in the end. These are delicious. I did use some sugar (not supposed to have any sugar, but I used half and half with artificial sugar). I think next time I’ll use a little less sugar and Swerve – I think they’re quite sweet.

What’s GOOD: the intense chocolate flavor. Love that I can have a brownie recipe that satisfies my desire for something brownie-like. The longer I’m on a no-flour diet, I realize how much white flour is used in everyday cooking, and how incredibly versatile it is. AND how important it is to making baked goods have the texture they do. Can’t get that with any of the substitute flours out there. Anyway, I loved these and will most definitely be making them again.

What’s NOT: nothing really – you do need almond flour. Trader Joe’s brand does have the skins in with the flour in their bag (which I can’t have on this diet – lectins live in the skins of almonds, amongst hundreds of other places in various foods). Kirkland’s is ground up blanched almonds. That’s what I buy now and keep it in the freezer to store it so it stays fresher, longer. What these don’t have if a ton of chewiness – they’re quite tender and soft. You won’t get chew from almond flour, I guess.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file – click link to open recipe

* Exported from MasterCook *

Gluten-Free Chocolate Almond Brownies

Recipe By: adapted slightly from Kirkland brand almond flour package
Serving Size: 16

2 tablespoons butter — softened
1/4 cup Swerve — or other artificial sweetener
1/4 cup sugar — or use all artificial
1 egg
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk — or whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup almond flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup almonds — chopped
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
More almonds for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Cream together butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl. Blend in egg. Blend in almond milk and vanilla.
3. In another bowl, whisk together almond flour, cocoa powder, sea salt and baking powder. Add to butter mixture and blend just until mixed. Stir in chopped almonds and chocolate chips.
4. Coat an 8 X 8 baking pan with non-sticking cooking spray. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving. They’re better if allowed to cool well (like overnight). Right out of the oven they may be quite wet and sticky, hard to hold together.
5. Garnish with more chopped almonds or with sliced almonds, toasted. Goes well with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Per Serving: 98 Calories; 6g Fat (42.3% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 17mg Cholesterol; 66mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on January 3rd, 2019.

prize_winning_coconut_caramel_bars

A recipe from Sara – a delicious bar she’s made a couple of times in the last few weeks and everybody just LOVED them.

So, Sara hasn’t yet learned how to post recipes, so I’m doing it for her, for the moment. She’s going to come visit me sometime soon and she’ll learn, get it down pat, then she can post recipes and the write-ups herself, from home. . . carolyn

Sara says: these were an easy-fix to take to a party, to serve to friends, especially with a cup of coffee in hand, or to provide for a kids’ event. These are sweet and chewy, and chocolaty. I love to make recipes like this because they are fast, easy to cut and pretty to display on a tray.

In reading the original recipe at King Arthur Flour, I found several complaints, and one in particular about the addition of the caramel layer (it worked for some and didn’t for many who tried it), SO, I made some adjustments.

In the original recipe, people complained about getting them out of the pan – so I added the step of lining the pan with parchment; the recipe didn’t say light or dark brown sugar, so I chose dark; I prefer dark chocolate chips, but you can use semisweet, or even milk chocolate if that’s your preference; and the biggest change . . . I’ve started using canned dulce de leche for all of the recipes I make that call for baking the caramel. It’s just easier, period. And I’ve never had a failure. These cookies are very sweet, so a little bit goes a long ways – hence I cut them in 1-inch cubes. That’s truly enough!

What’s GOOD: this recipe is a definite keeper for me. All my friends enjoyed them and my kids went nuts over them. They’d be easy to ship to my daughter away at college (cookies = love from mom). I loved the sweetness of the caramel and the robust flavor of dark chocolate. These are easily frozen and brought out for unexpected guests.

What’s NOT: nothing except incorporating the changes I made to the recipe – all for flavor or for ease.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Grand Prize Coconut-Caramel Bars

Recipe By: Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Serving Size: 90

2 cups sweetened coconut flakes — toasted, reserving 1/2 cup for topping
1/2 cup butter — softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar — packed
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 can dulce de leche
2 cups dark chocolate chips

1. Toast coconut in 9×13 glass baking dish in a preheated 300°F oven, for 18-20 minutes. Stir coconut halfway through and watch carefully as it may burn quickly. Remove coconut and set aside to cool.
2. Line the same 9×13 dish with parchment paper that is higher than the pan edges.
3. Increase oven temp to 350°F.
4. In a large bowl beat butter, brown sugar, vanilla and egg. Mix in flour, salt, baking powder and 1 1/2 cups of the coconut.
5. Spread mixture into prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes. Just before the 15 minutes are up, put the entire contents of the dulce de leche in a glass measuring cup and heat in microwave in 20-30 second intervals until pourable. [It took me 90 seconds.] Remove crust from oven, pour caramel on top and smooth to all edges. Return to oven to continue baking for 10-13 minutes. Caramel will bubble up. Remove from oven. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top of hot caramel. Let stand about 5 minutes for the chips to melt. Spread evenly over top of bars, then sprinkle with the reserved toasted coconut. Set aside to cool completely.
6. Using the parchment paper “handles” lift the bars out of the pan and set on cutting board. Cut into 1″x1″ bars.
Per Serving: 62 Calories; 3g Fat (42.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 5mg Cholesterol; 32mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on December 9th, 2018.

choc_peanut_butter_globs

Chocolate and peanut butter, plus nuts. What’s there not to like in a cookie?

These cookies come from daughter, Sara. She loves to bake, and even though she’s following Weight Watcher’s (and has lost 40 pounds) she still bakes for her family (husband and HS senior son and for daughter at Clemson – she ships packages to Sabrina regularly – and she bakes for the small staff at their business, and for customers). She may have a bite or two, but she’s got lots of will power. Anyway, she made these cookies and everyone raved about them. I didn’t try them as I was sure I’d eat an entire cookie. Not on my diet, either.

I record all of Ina Garten’s programs, and I’d remembered when she made these on her show, thinking to myself, what a name for a cookie? Globs? But, okay. They’re similar to one of those cloud cookies. But the ingredients here are somewhat different.

Sara’s only comments were – be sure the eggs are at room temp. She made this recipe twice, and the 2nd time she used chilled eggs, and there was definitely a difference in the volume of the cookie. So be forewarned! She also mentioned to use walnut HALVES – not finely diced – you want to encounter the texture of the nut.

These cookies were gone in a flash – that’s all I’ll say – does that tell you enough? Sara made hers smaller – she used a cookie scoop rather than 1/2 cup portions (which makes a really big cookie) so adjust according to your own taste.

What’s GOOD: the texture, the chocolate, the crunch.

What’s NOT: not a thing, so everyone said!

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Globs

Recipe By: Ina Garten recipe
Serving Size: 22

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 large eggs — at room temperature
1 tablespoon espresso powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnut halves
1 cup pecan halves — whole
2/3 cup peanut butter chips — such as Reese’s

1. Heat oven to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. In a bowl stir together 1/3 cup flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
2. In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water melt the butter, 1 cup chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
3. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs, espresso powder, and vanilla until combined. Add the sugar and beat until light and thickened, about 2 min. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the melted chocolate. By hand, fold the flour mixture into the batter. Fold nuts into the batter with remaining chocolate and peanut butter chips.
4. Drop 1/2 cup mounds [Sara made smaller mounds] of batter onto the prepared baking sheets. Press mounds to flatten slightly. Bake until set around the edges and slightly gooey in the centers, 18 min. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Per Serving: 273 Calories; 19g Fat (59.8% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 9mg Cholesterol; 79mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on December 5th, 2018.

glazed_double_almond_bars

If you’re a fan of almond in cookies, oh, this one’s for you.

Since I didn’t actually eat these . . . I made them, served them, gave all the remaining cookies to my guests to take home, but I didn’t have any . . . I can’t tell you from my own taste buds that they’re sensational, but from the feedback I received when I served them to one of my book club evenings, this cookie gets rave reviews.

The recipe came from another blog, The Runaway Spoon, a blog I read regularly. Apparently this is an old recipe of Perre’s; one she’s been making for years and years. The cookies are easy to make – as long as you have a fresh tube of almond paste. Not marzipan in the tube, but almond paste. I’ve learned over the years to NOT buy one to keep in my pantry. They simply don’t keep – they get dry and hard as a rock = unusable. So buy a fresh one and start with the simple shortbread type base for these cookies (butter, sugar, eggs, flour, salt and the almond paste). It’s pressed into a 9×13 baking dish and baked for an hour. During the last 5 minutes before they come out of the oven you need to mix up the glaze – powdered sugar, almond extract and milk, and then you try to spread it around on the top of the hot cookie.

There isn’t much of the glaze. So when I handed my friend Ann the recipe that evening, since she said she needed to make these immediately, I suggested that she double the amount of the glaze. She did, but thought that was too much, so after she made them yet again, she and I agreed to 1 1/2 times the amount of glaze – that way you’ll have enough to spread all the way out to the edges, but not so much it might overwhelm the tender crumb of the base bars.

At this point you merely let the bars cool completely, then slice them up for serving. I cut two sizes (I had several other desserts – 2 cakes and another cookie) to serve that night, so I knew some of my guests would want a small cookie rather than a big one. I was surprised . . . . several people took the big ones and a few went back for seconds. Big thanks to Perre over at the Runaway Spoon for this great recipe.

What’s GOOD: from what I heard from my guests, it was the almond flavor that took them all by surprise and just said YES! It’s a kind of a chewy cookie/bar – how do I know that? – only because of the texture when I cut them. I could tell. But the reports from my guests were a definite thumbs up. (Do I hate being on a diet? Yes, especially in November and December!)

What’s NOT: only that you need to buy fresh almond paste to make this.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Glazed Double Almond Bars

Recipe By: the runaway spoon blog
Serving Size: 16

BARS:
1 cup unsalted butter — softened
7 ounces almond paste
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
GLAZE:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons almond extract
5 drops milk — guess?

1. BARS: Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a 9 by 13 inch baking pan with non-stick foil or parchment paper with some overhanging ends.
2. Beat the butter and the almond paste together in the bowl of a stand mixer until smooth and creamy and well combined. Add the sugar and the eggs and beat until combined and smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
3. Beat in the flour and salt until the batter is smooth, again scraping the bowl as needed. Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Use clean, damp fingers to press it out into an even layer if needed. Bake for 1 hour until firm and lightly golden and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
4. Spread the glaze over the bars as soon as you remove them from the oven.
5. GLAZE: [My suggestion: increase the amount of glaze by 1 1/2 times.] Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, almond extract and enough milk to make a glaze as thick as heavy cream. Pour over the warm bars, spread out to the edges and leave to cool completely.
6. Cut the bars into squares. If you cut them smaller, you’ll get at least 24 bars. The bars will keep in an airtight container for 2 days.
Per Serving: 373 Calories; 16g Fat (37.4% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 56g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 58mg Cholesterol; 79mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on November 28th, 2018.

dories_new_classic_cc_cookie

Is it possible to have yet another chocolate chip cookie in your repertoire? Uhm. Yes.

If you want to know, I fell off the (diet) wagon the day I made these. I was baking for an upcoming book group meeting at my house, and the hostesses of late have made 3-4 things. If you’re curious, I’m also making Dario’s Olive Oil and Orange Cake; and the Egg-Separated Rum Sponge Cake. These cookies will be served, and I’m also making some almond bars – if they’re good, I’ll post that recipe.

I knew when I started making the dough, that I would succumb to eating cookie dough. Yep. I did. More of it than I should have. And I did eat one single finished cookie. As it happened I burned the 2nd two trays I popped in the oven, and they all went into the trash can (forgot to set Alexa for 11 minutes!). So I have about 12 cookies altogether. I gave some away to a friend, too before I realized I was going to burn that 2nd set. Oh well.

So what makes these different? Well, if you follow Dorie Greenspan’s recipe exactly, you’ll include some whole wheat flour. I didn’t add that; I just used more regular flour. But she also adds some unusual spices: nutmeg and ground coriander. I couldn’t discern the spices in the dough at all. And could barely taste them in the finished cookie I ate, either. So if I made these again, I’d use more of those two spices. I mean, why add them if you can’t taste it? And I also added some chopped walnuts. Just because I like them in CC cookies.

The mixing/making of these is no different than any other chocolate chip cookie. The recipe recommends chilling the dough for an hour (which I did). They were the perfect consistency for crispy CC cookies. I’m not a soft-cookie kind of girl. Any cookie needs to be crispy in my book unless you count brownies in that category. Those need to be soft.

What’s GOOD: yet another chocolate chip cookie recipe. Do increase the spices by at least 50%. And you could add the whole wheat flour if you want. Crispy. Chocolaty for sure, and that’s important!

What’s NOT: nothing really. If you’re a CC cookie fan, this one will float your boat. Nothing at all to complain about!

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Dorie’s New Classic Choc Chip Cookie

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Food52, Dorie Greenspan
Serving Size: 50

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour — (238 grams)
2/3 cup whole wheat flour — (91 grams) [I used all-purpose]
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg — (add more)
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander — (add more)
2 sticks unsalted butter — (8 ounces; 226 grams) cut into chunks, at room temperature
1 cup sugar — (200 grams)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar — (150 grams)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large eggs — at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
10 ounces semisweet chocolate — or bittersweet (283 grams) coarsely chopped (or 1 2/3 cups chocolate chips)
1/2 cup walnuts — chopped (my addition – optional)

1. Whisk both flours, the baking soda, nutmeg, and coriander together.
2. Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter, both sugars, and the salt together on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.
3. One by one, add the eggs and beat for 1 minute after each goes in. Beat in the vanilla. Turn the mixer off, add the dry ingredients all at once and pulse to begin the blending, then mix on low speed until the dough comes together and the flour has disappeared. Add the chocolate and walnuts (if adding) and incorporate on low speed or mix in by hand with a sturdy flexible spatula. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour.
4. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat it to 375° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
5. Using a tablespoon, scoop out level portions of dough. Roll each tablespoon of dough between your palms to make a ball and place the balls at least 2 inches apart on the lined baking sheets. [Or use a cookie scoop which makes a ball.]
6. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back after 6 minutes, or until the cookies have spread, puffed a little, turned a light golden brown, and feel only just set around the edges. Transfer the baking sheets to racks and let the cookies rest on the sheets for at least 5 minutes before putting them onto the racks to cool to just warm or room temperature. Repeat with the remaining dough, being certain to use cool baking sheets.
Per Serving: 120 Calories; 6g Fat (45.6% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 18mg Cholesterol; 62mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on February 20th, 2018.

cornflake_cc_meringue_cookies

If you have to eat GF, then these may float your boat. Or if you like meringue cookies in general, they might float your boat as well.

As you’ve read here many times, my cousin Gary is wheat intolerant, so I always try to make him a batch of cookies when he comes to visit over the holidays. I gave him several choices, and these were the ones he chose. I’m not altogether sure he loved them (maybe he’ll leave a comment here?) – he ate most of them, at least, but he forgot to take the remainder home with him (though I think it was an oversight). They weren’t my favorites – meringues generally are too sweet for me, but that’s just my preference. You know meringue cookies will be sweet in any case since they always are. I have changed the recipe below from 1 cup sugar to 7/8 cup of sugar to make them a bit less sweet.

I’m including the post here because some of my readers are GF, and they may want an opinion about them if they haven’t ever made them. The original recipe came from a Saveur magazine one in 2014 and came from Iceland.

They’re very easy to make – egg whites are whipped up well, sugar added in slowly, then you fold in the chopped chocolate, cornflakes and vanilla. That’s it. Scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, about 1” apart, and bake for 20 minutes.

What’s good: well, they’re GF. That’s a good thing for some. They’re a bit different because of the crunchy cornflake addition (liked that). Like the chocolate (I almost never turn down chocolate). They’re really sweet, as I mentioned (though I reduced the sugar in the recipe below to make them less so). They’re also lower in calorie (though not sugar carbs) than some cookies.

What’s NOT: if you need to eat GF, then you’ll definitely like them, I would guess! GF cookies in general, are not the easiest thing to make. Meringue cookies aren’t one of my favorite kind of cookies, but don’t take that as a true-negative about these – I’m just not partial to meringue cookies.

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Chocolate-Cornflake Meringue Cookies GF

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Saveur magazine, 12/2014
Serving Size: 24

4 large egg whites
7/8 cup sugar
4 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate — roughly chopped
3 cups corn flakes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

NOTE: do not use chocolate chips as they’re too heavy – they’ll sink to the bottom. Instead use chocolate squares chopped finely with a knife.
1. Heat oven to 300°. Using an electric hand mixer, beat whites while slowly adding sugar until stiff peaks form.
2. Fold in chocolate, cornflakes, and vanilla. Space tablespoon-size amounts of batter 1″ apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets; bake until crisp, about 20 minutes. Store in an airtight tin or ziploc bag. Will keep for about a week; otherwise, freeze and defrost as needed.
Per Serving: 70 Calories; 2g Fat (19.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 47mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on February 16th, 2018.

almond_anise_biscotti

Over Christmas I visited my good friend Linda, who lives in Carlsbad, a very sweet town north of San Diego. My cousin Gary was with me, and we couldn’t stay long. But, she served coffee and these gems. (Isn’t her mug the cutest thing? As you might guess, she’s a Scrabble fan.)

There are a number of recipes here on my blog from my friend Linda. Like her Bombay Chicken, Neva Tee’s Carrot Cake and  Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup. Oh, and a great lower-calorie dish (though you’d not know it), Chicken Madeira. OH, forgot her Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo, too. She’s a terrific cook, and loves to entertain and serve not one but two or three things for us. We were only there for about 30 minutes, I think. I gobbled these down like there was no tomorrow. I think I had two (both dunked into my cup of coffee), but I wanted another one (I didn’t – but I think she gave me two to take home – yea). She’d also baked a loaf cake, but she wasn’t thrilled with it, so that won’t get posted here. But these cookies – oh  yes. I’ll be making them. Linda even gave me a little bitty container of Sambuca, that anise flavored liqueur which is an addition to these cookies since I don’t have any in my liquor pantry. I offered to let Linda write the blog post, but she just didn’t think she had the writing skill (she does!) to write as I do. . . oh well. She thinks I have some special writing skill. I don’t think I do – though I like to write, but I write like I’m talking to each and every one of you. It’s just a conversation we’re having, right? The other day I clicked a link to someone’s blog and it was just a recipe. That was it. Not a word of comment, yea or nay. Nothing. Why do that? What’s the use if you don’t have the person’s perspective on the recipe – was it good or not?

Image result for sambuca

I don’t suppose you would HAVE to use Sambuca, but it does add good flavor to these biscotti. There are many brands out there – the photo at left is just one example. I had a friend, Doreen (who actually introduced me to my DH, Dave, back in 1981) who was Italian and her mother made anise biscotti – this would have been the mid-70s. I fell in love with biscotti way back then, and have made her recipe many times over the years. Guess I haven’t made them since I started writing this blog in 2007, as I’ve not posted that recipe.

This original recipe comes from America’s Test Kitchen, and is an alteration from it, slightly. After making them once, Linda decided that the flavor needed to be amped up, so she added more anise and Sambuca. Normally the biscotti would be just almond, or anise, not both, but she decided to try it this way. I liked the combo.

There are more steps than the usual biscotti – you may want to read the recipe through before doing it. This is no last-minute quick cookie to make. But no steps are difficult or all that time consuming – well, other than having to draw a specific sized rectangle on the parchment paper so you get exact-sized finished biscotti. Thank you, Linda, for a great recipe. (And no, Linda, don’t buy me a Scrabble coffee mug – much as you might want to – I drink my coffee, always, out of smaller cups.)

What’s GOOD: the flavor, first and foremost! Loved the combination of anise AND almond, and the anise flavor is subtle – even though you use both anise seed and Sambuca. If you’re used to more-traditional anise biscotti, this won’t qualify, as the anise flavor is light, but noticeable.

What’s NOT: maybe the extra steps required, but not all that difficult in the big scheme of things for biscotti. These types of cookie always require double baking.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 (click link to open recipe)

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Almond Anise Biscotti

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from America’s Test Kitchen cookbook
Serving Size: 30

1 1/4 cups whole almonds — lightly toasted
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon anise seed
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted and cooled
1 tablespoon Sambuca
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
vegetable spray
1 large egg white — whisked with a little bit of water

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325°F. Using ruler and pencil, draw two 8×3″ rectangles, spaced 4″ apart on a piece of parchment paper. Grease baking sheet and place parchment on it.
2. Pulse 1 cup of the almonds in food processor until coarsely chopped, 8-10 pulses; transfer to bowl and set aside. Process remaining 1/4 cup almonds in food processor until finely ground, about 45 seconds. Add flour, baking powder, anise seed and salt, process to combine, about 15 seconds. Transfer flour mixture to second bowl. Process eggs in now empty food processor until lightened in color and almost doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. With processor running, slowly add sugar until thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Add melted butter, Sambuca and vanilla and process about 10 seconds. Transfer egg mixture to medium bowl. Sprinkle half of the flour mixture over egg mixture and using spatula, gently fold until just combined. Add remaining flour mixture and chopped almonds and gently fold until just combined.
3. Divide batter in half. Using floured hands, form each half into 8×3″ rectangles, using lines on parchment as a guide. Spray each loaf lightly with oil spray. Using rubber spatula lightly coated with oil spray, smooth tops and sides of rectangles. Gently brush tops of loaves with egg white wash.
4. Bake loaves until golden and just beginning to crack on top, 25-30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.
5. Let loaves cool on baking sheet for 30 minutes. Transfer loaves to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, slice each loaf on slight bias into 1/2″ thick slices. Lay slices, cut side down about 1/4″ apart on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crisp and golden brown on both sides, about 35 minutes. flipping slices halfway through baking. Let cool completely before serving. Biscotti can be stored in airtight container for up to a month.
Per Serving: 130 Calories; 7g Fat (47.7% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 18mg Cholesterol; 58mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on December 15th, 2017.

rugelach_sour_cherry_apricot_cashew

A bit labor intensive – no, scratch that – it’s moderately labor intensive – but worth the effort. A cream cheese dough surrounding the filling of dried sour cherries, apricot jam and lightly salted cashews.

If you’re a blogger, when you’ve prepared a recipe, and your fingers just ITCH to get at the keyboard to tell everyone all about it – well, you know you have something interesting. That’s me, this morning. I made these yesterday. And as I said above, I’m not telling you this is an easy cookie to make. There’s more work involved than in many. But if you were to do decorated cookies, then this probably isn’t all that different concerning time spent. The recipe came from Christopher Kimball’s new venture, Milk Street, and was in their magazine issue. They call them “Sour Cherry Rugelach.”

Rugelach (it has many different spellings) is of Jewish origins (Ashkenazic). Traditional rugelach are made in the form of a crescent by rolling a triangle of dough around a filling. This one’s just a bit different – a roll. And likely much easier than having to prepare each individual piece by hand.  I vote for that alternative (rolled) version! Rugelach dough is made of either a sour cream or cream cheese dough. The cream cheese variety is more of an American innovation. Some older versions used yeast as well.

rugelach_dough_foldedrugelach_preparing_rectangleThe cream cheese dough must be made a bit ahead as it has to be refrigerated for awhile. You can make the dough the day ahead (which I would do next time). The dough is made in a stand mixer (hand mixer would be probably work), gathered together into a ball and patted out into a relatively perfect rectangle. The dough is very pliable at this point, but you do rolling and folding 4 times and end up with the perfect rectangle again  (all the specific measurements are in the recipe below). The dough then is chilled awhile.

rugelach_preparing_logMeanwhile, make the filling (it could be done the day before too). I made one mistake – I mixed the chopped cashews into the filling – they were supposed to be sprinkled and patted down on top of the filling before rolling into the logs. But oh well, I don’t know that it really makes that much difference. The tart cherries (dried) I bought at Trader Joe’s – they’re called Dried Pitted Tart Montmorency Cherries.

Back to the dough – after being chilled, it’s a bit hard to roll out – I left it sitting out for about 5-7 minutes and then started rolling. Perfect! You roll it out into that perfect rectangle again. It’s cut into long strips and each long third becomes a little jelly roll, sort of, with the filling spooned down the center, then it’s rolled, edge sealed, placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerated for at least 30 minutes (or overnight is okay too) and at that point you slice the log. The brilliant little trick is to just slice through the dough about 3/4 of the way through – that way when it’s baking, the filling doesn’t ooze out. Since I’d never made rugelach before, maybe that’s not a new trick at all, but just the way it’s done with all log-style rugelach.

rugelach_ready_to_bake

Once baked, the rugelachs need to rest on the baking sheet until cooled – the pastry will tear if you try to rush it. I made a double recipe of the one below. I couldn’t wait to enjoy a piece with my coffee. The recipe suggests cutting them in 2” logs, but I decided to do shorter ones, about 1 1/2” each. Once cooled, all of them went into a plastic bag and into the freezer.

What’s GOOD: love the flavor – the filling is tart/sweet (I like that). The dough is tender and it’s a perfect combination of dough to filling – not too much of either. They’re very pretty.

What’s NOT: All the work involved – rolling, chilling, filling, making the logs, chilling again, etc. But if you’re going to be home anyway, it’s not all that difficult, just takes awhile to do all the steps.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Sour Cherry, Apricot and Cashew Rugelach

Recipe By: Milk Street Magazine, 2017
Serving Size: 24 (or more)

DOUGH:
16 tablespoons butter — (use salted butter) cut into 1 T pats
8 ounces cream cheese — cut into small squares
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
260 grams all purpose flour
FILLING:
1 1/4 cups dried sour cherries — finely chopped
1 cup apricot preserves
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons cashews — salted, roasted, finely chopped

3 teaspoons turbinado sugar — divided use
1 large egg — beaten

1. DOUGH: In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, cream cheese and white sugar on low until smooth, scraping bowl as needed, about 2 minutes. Add ground cardamom, salt and vanilla. Beat until combined. Add flour and beat on medium-low until the mixture comes together in a rough ball, about 30 seconds.
2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gather into a cohesive mass. Using your hands and a rolling pin, form it into an 8×10″ rectangle with a short end parallel to the edge of the counter. Starting from the short end, fold into thirds, as you would a letter. Using a metal bench scraper, square the edges, then rotate the rectangle one quarter turn. Repeat the process of rolling out, folding and turning the dough 2 more times, ending with a folded rectangle of dough. Press the seams firmly, wrap the dough with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.
3. FILLING: In a medium bowl, stir together the dried cherries, preserves, cardamom, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed; the filling may appear runny but the cherries will absorb the liquid.
4. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove dough from refrigerator, unwrap and transfer to a lightly floured counter. Allow to rest for about 4-6 minutes, then using a rolling pin, roll into a 13×12″ rectangle, squaring the edges with a metal bench scraper, cutting off edges as needed. Cut the dough into three 13 x 4″ strips. If the dough pulls back after cutting, gently roll each strip to the correct dimensions.
5. Working with one strip at a time, with a long side parallel to the edge of the counter, lightly brush the surface with the beaten egg. Mound 6 tablespoons of filling in a line down the center of the strip, leaving a 1 1/2″ margin on each side. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of chopped cashews onto the filling, pressing them in. Starting with the side closest to you, lift the edge of the dough up and over the filling and roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Pinch the seam to seal, turn the cylinder seam side down and gently stretch it into a 16-inch log. Transfer, seam side down, to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, egg, filling and cashews, spacing the logs evenly on the baking sheet. You will have leftover egg. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours. If refrigerating for longer than 30 minutes, cover with plastic wrap. Reserve the remaining beaten egg.
6. BAKING: Preheat oven to 375°F with a rack in the middle position. Brush each dough log with some of the remaining egg and sprinkle with a teaspoon of turbinado sugar. Using a knife, score each log at 2-inch intervals [I cut mine at 1 1/2″ or even shorter to make smaller cookies], cutting 3/4 of the way through. Do NOT cut all the way through the dough; the pieces should still hold together.
7. Bake until the logs are golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then use a knife to fully cut and separate the cookies. If desired, use a knife to neaten the cut edges of the rugelach, while they are still warm, turn each cookie onto its side and very gently press the cut side to flatten. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
Per Serving (based on a 2-inch piece): 248 Calories; 13g Fat (46.3% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 40mg Cholesterol; 176mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on November 27th, 2017.

saras_best_cc_cookies_plated

A post from Sara: This recipe is so old (close to 30 years ago, ugh, makes me feel old!) that I’m not even sure of its origin.  I’m pretty sure it’s from a woman I worked with by the name of Ms. Mackey.  It’s unique in that the flour to fat ratio is higher.  It produces the sweet, chewy cookie that I associate with chocolate chip cookies.  These cookies are undercooked just a bit to keep the tender chewiness.

cc_cookie_ball_handcc_cookie_ballThese are a huge hit at my kid’s sports events.  The recipe makes 6 dozen so there are plenty to feed everyone and if you use Ghirardelli chocolate, they are safe for nut allergy kids (omitting the optional walnuts). I’ve also been known to use them to make ice cream cookie sandwiches.  Another huge hit during the summer months.

cc_cookies_saras_bakedWhen making these cookies, please beat the sugars, butter and eggs 3 full minutes.  It’s important and if you watch you will see the dough lighten and fluff significantly.  And then, after baking, allow for a few minutes cooling time before removing them from the tray onto the wire racks.  Since these are slightly undercooked, they need the time to set before sliding a spatula underneath them. I’ve had many a time that I was impatient and the cookies crumbled (ha!). In our home, the crumbled cookies are fair game for anyone waiting for the freshest batch out of the oven.

What’s GOOD: These cookies are your basic, all around fantastic chocolate chip cookie.  Tender, chewy. A real crowd pleaser. The cookies freeze well as does the dough.

What’s NOT: The recipe is not easily cut in half due the odd number of  eggs.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sara’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe By: Sara’s recipe from a friend, 30 years ago
Serving Size: 72

1 pound dark brown sugar
1 pound unsalted butter — warmed to room temp
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 large eggs — warmed to room temp
1 teaspoon salt — can add more if you like it more salty
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
6 cups all-purpose flour
24 ounces chocolate chips — (preferably Ghiradelli) *see note below about this
2 cups walnuts — chopped (optional)

NOTE: make sure butter is warmed to room temp. It makes a difference. The cookies will only be as good as the chocolate morsels you put into them – the better the quality, the better the cookies. * Ghiradelli is preferred. Chocoloate chips from Costco are a waste of money, as are ones from Trader Joe’s, IMHO. I prefer to use one bag of Ghiradelli 60% dark plus a bag of Ghiradelli milk chocolate.
1. Add brown sugar to bowl of stand mixer. Add white sugar and butter and mix on slow speed until well mixed.
2. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing slightly, then continue to mix at low speed until blended, then time it for THREE MINUTES. Turn up speed once everything is mixed.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F.
4. Add salt and baking soda. Continue beating. Add flour, one cup at a time as you SLOWLY mix it in. The bowl will be very full. Increase speed in between additions to mix in well. Turn off mixer and use thick wooden spoon to stir in chocolate chips and walnuts (if using).
5. Use a cookie scoop if you have one, or mound them one-inch high in your hand and roll gently to get a ball. Place on cookie sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 12 minutes (yes, you are undercooking them). Cookies should be cooked, barely. If you can see any part of the cookies that look like raw batter, bake for another minute. If you look closely they will still have some little glossy areas, which is what you want. Cookies must cool for 2-3 minutes on the sheet before using a spatula to remove to a wire rack to cool completely. They are very fragile, and if you eat them when still warm, they’ll be very soft inside and may crumble apart. These stale quickly, so it’s best to freeze them as soon as they’re cool.
Per Serving: 176 Calories; 10g Fat (49.8% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 23mg Cholesterol; 63mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on October 14th, 2017.

choc_chip_cookies_fireball

Have I mentioned that I like Fireball? So when I saw a recipe for chocolate chip cookies with bourbon in it, well, my mind just said, use Fireball (or Tennessee Fire) instead.

A few nights a week I pour myself a little bit of Jack Daniels’ Tennessee Fire (a bourbon like Fireball) over ice, and add a little splash of Rumchata. It’s my drink of choice lately. Even more than having wine. I sit down in my family room and listen to news. Or I watch a recorded episode of Tiny House Hunters, The Incredible Dr. Pol, maybe Nova, or CBS’s Sunday Morning (a favorite). I have 2 DVRs (one in my family room, the other in my study upstairs – the room where I always watched TV when my DH was alive). He and I had different tastes in TV viewing. I recently had that room remodeled (was called “the office,” but now, because of what I’ve done, I’ve renamed it “the study”).

study_library_wall

That’s my new bookcase all along one wall. There is red grass cloth wallpaper behind all the shelves and the lamps. And you can see all the cat accessories on the floor. I think I mentioned that I gave away about 400 books a few months ago because this room was going to be re-done. And that is about the only place I can now store books. And Darci has told me I may NOT stack any books horizontally on top of books. Sigh. That means I can’t buy very many more books.

If you’re new to my blog, you may not know that I have always wanted my very own library, maybe looking something like a room at Downton Abbey, with a rail and ladder. Dreams. Where I could read Faulkner, Yeats, War and Peace, and definitely the Bible. Alas, that kind of room is not in my future.

But this one was attainable. Darci, my decorator, designed the wall’s profile, although I saw the lamp (they’re wall mounted, with a half-shade on the front) in the Bay Area about 2 years ago and sent her a photo of it and said “I want those somewhere in my house.” She designed the wall around the lamps. I now have 4 of them, 2 in that bookcase and 2 on the opposite wall, where I have 2 very comfy chairs. The floor is hard wood now, and there’s a gray area rug kind of centered. A mirror is going on the back corner behind the table lamp, and I haven’t hung much art in this room yet. My kitty cat spends lots of time in this room with me, lounging on the carpet, sharpening his claws on the cardboard box scratcher, or dragging his toys around. Since he’s blind, he hasn’t discovered the shelf up above – he could reach it if I taught him, but I don’t want to. I’d like him to stay off of it!

study_window_chairs

That’s the opposite wall, with the view window looking northwest. The shades have a remote control (LOVE that) so I can lower them if the reflections outside are too much for TV watching. I sit in the left chair with my feet propped up on the ottoman. I’m there many evenings. The drapes (long overdue because the fabric came from Europe) have just been installed. Kitty (Angel) perches on the top of the chairs, or even on the top of my desk chair. He sleeps often on the desk chair at night as he leaves furry evidence behind!

study_desk_wall

And lastly, there’s my desk. It was a regular closet in this room. Had the doors removed and the space framed in properly. The back is grass cloth wallpaper, and they’re both the same color (above shelves and at desk level) but the fluorescent lighting underneath turns red a bit blue! The top one looks orange, but it’s not. Photography doesn’t always make colors true. When I’m working there, my kitten cat thinks he HAS to be up on the desk with me, getting into any kind of mischief he can find. Like cables behind the monitor, a pen or pencil to bat around, or book corners to chew on. The file drawer on the right (below) I can open and he loves to slink in behind the files and lay on top of a stack of empty file folders I have there.

How did I get off on this tangent, I ask you? Well, onward, and back to these cookies. I hadn’t made any cookies in ages, and having seen the recipe at Bake of Break, I began, but I did make two changes. I used the Tennessee Fire instead of regular bourbon and I substituted walnuts for the pecans. Otherwise I followed Jennifer’s recipe. They certainly satisfy my craving for choc chip cookies (they live in my freezer and I eat them straight from there), and the flavor is lovely. You can’t taste the bourbon (there’s not enough to do that) but there IS a little elusive taste. Perhaps it’s the cinnamon (which is part of the Fireball profile), but it’s not noticeable either. Very nice recipe.

What’s GOOD: there’s hardly any chocolate chip cookie out there that I don’t like – except store-bought. This one is very good! And will keep me in cookies for a few more weeks. Yes, I’ll make them again, and I might add just a tad more Tennessee Fire.

What’s NOT: nary a thing.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Fireball Chocolate Chip Cookies with Walnuts

Recipe By: Adapted from Bake or Break
Serving Size: 48

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter — softened
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons Fireball whiskey — or Tennessee Fire
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts — chopped

1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
2. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, brown sugar, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the bourbon and vanilla.
3. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
4. Cover the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Or, you can make them immediately.
5. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
6. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared pans (use a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop). Bake, one pan at a time, 10 to 12 minutes or until the edges are browned. Refrigerate the remaining dough between batches.
7. Cool the cookies for 5 minutes on the pans. Then transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.
Per Serving: 134 Calories; 8g Fat (49.4% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 19mg Cholesterol; 77mg Sodium.

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