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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.

Recently finished 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.

Also finished Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. About a dysfunctional family, through and through. I picked this up from amazon from someone who read the book, named “McReader,” and she says: “Set in the 70s, the story follows a Chinese American blended family in Ohio. When Lydia [the daughter] is found floating in the lake, her family is forced to analyze what put her there. Was it pressure from her family to succeed? Was it pressure to fit in? Was it a crime of passion or convenience? I was spellbound reading the last half of this book. I loved each flawed family member, especially Hannah,. While the story went where I hoped it would go, I was not disappointed at all with the progression. It was also quite insightful on the prejudices that society had about Chinese Americans still during that timeframe and how careful parents have to be to put their dreams onto their children.” Such a good book and definitely worth reading. Would be a good book club read. You’ll be hearing more from this author. Am currently reading her next novel, Little Fires Everywhere.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant. A very, very intriguing book. The book is written from the voice of a Jewish grandmother as she tells her granddaughter the saga of her life starting about 1910, who struggles with her own individuality, with her domineering mother who never says a kind word to her. It’s certainly a coming-of-age story as she grows up, finds a job, makes friends, joins a literary girls club, moves out, but still suffers under her mother’s thumb and tongue. She becomes a reporter on a local newspaper, which opens her eyes to more of the world than she ever knew. She finally meets the right man (of course!) and she shares the stories about her life, and her friends and family members as she grows up, giving some sage advice along the way. Part of the time she’s talking to herself – to her young self  (really wanting to tell young Addie to keep on, forgive herself for her perceived transgressions, to live life, and experience the world).

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time – 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.

As soon as I finished the above book I promptly visited my church library and found a whole shelf of Rivers’ books, and grabbed one called The Atonement Child. This book takes place in the 1980s or 90s, about a young college student who is raped. She was engaged to be married, was a stellar student. The book chronicles what happens to her when she discovers she is pregnant from the rape. Every possible thing goes wrong in her life. I don’t want to spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it, but I couldn’t put it down. I ended up spending a good part of a day plowing through it. You hear her inner voice (I’m guessing this is a common thread in Rivers’ books) from a Christian perspective. Lots of meaty issues to discuss in a book club if your group would be interested and willing to talk about rape, abortion, adoption and the thorny issues surrounding all of those things, but with a Christian bent, for sure.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen. It’s kind of amazing how many and varied plot lines can be created from events of WWII. This is another one, about a current day woman who finds papers in the attic, after her father’s death, with references to “the child.” She never knew her father could have had another child – could she have a step-sibling somewhere? Her father she knew, had been shot down over Italy, but he never talked much about it. But of course, she must go to Italy to find out about this “child.” The book flips back and forth from this daughter on the search, to her father during the war, all of it taking place in a very small town in Tuscany. It’s about the varied people she meets who want her to go away and not dredge up anything about the war years (are they hiding something, you question), about how much she loves the landscape, and some of the people. And about the intense love affair between the injured pilot and a caring woman of the village. Very charming story. I could almost smell the flowers, taste the olives, hear the bees flitting, and loved the prose about the simple meals that were described. I really enjoyed the book. Perhaps not enough meat for a book club read, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it nonetheless.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

 

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, 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!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

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)

* Exported from MasterCook *

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!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

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.

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

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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)

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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.

Posted in Cookies, on March 8th, 2017.

choc_biscotti_

Why, oh why, did I wait so long to try these easy biscotti? They are just wonderful, and maybe even more so if they’re allowed to mellow for a few days. These must be easiest biscotti I’ve ever made.

Farmgirl Susan’s blog was one of the first ones I started following when I began reading blogs back in about 2004. I just loved reading her story about how she and her (then) husband wanted to move from California, got as far as Missouri, their car broke down, and the story starts from there. She shed the husband, found her hunky husband Joe, and has been writing and blogging from the backcountry ever since. She grows a lot of her own produce, barters all kinds of things with neighbors, and doesn’t get to grocery shop very often because they’re a loooong way from a town or city.

choc_biscotti_uprightSusan posted this recipe years ago. And I’m just plain embarrassed to say it’s been sitting in my to-try MasterCook file for years. YEARS! Too bad, cuz these are going to make a more frequent appearance in my house in the future. I rescued one biscotti (I tasted one when I made them) from the bag as I distributed most of them to friends and that one got dunked into my morning latte. OH-SO-GOOD!. Trust me on this one.

choc_biscotti_2nd_bakeSometimes biscotti is a bit persnickety. At least I’ve found them so. You bake them in a flat log the first time around, then you have to cut them into those unique and very recognizable angled flats, and bake them again to get them extra crispy. Often, in my experience, cutting the once-baked logs is problematical – you often break off ends, etc. These, however, were cinchy easy and the knife just cut perfectly. Susan mastered this recipe to a T. The only addition I might make would be nuts, or chocolate chips. But they’re pretty darned perfect just the way they are. Thank you, Susan, for a really great recipe!

What’s GOOD: how easy they are to make. Flavor is fabulous. They keep well. They satisfy a chocoholic’s cravings, they’re relatively low in calorie. Altogether wonderful cookie. Do try them.

What’s NOT: I can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about these. They’ll be making a regular appearance in coming months.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Farmgirl Susan’s Easy Chocolate Biscotti

Recipe By: Farmgirl Fare blog, 2005
Serving Size: 36

2/3 cup semisweet chocolate — (4 ounces) or dark chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)
1/2 cup butter
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour — and up to 1/4 cup more if needed
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder — (Susan cautions – make sure it’s fresh)
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg white — beaten, for glaze (optional)
1 teaspoon espresso powder — (optional) or more, added into dry ingredients

1. Heat the oven to 350°. Melt the butter and chocolate together (I put them in a Pyrex measuring cup and microwave them) and set aside.
2. With an electric hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until lightened, about two minutes.
3. Add the vanilla and chocolate mixture.
4. Mix in the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt (and espresso powder, if using) just until combined. You should have a soft, but not sticky, dough. Add the extra 1/4 cup of flour if dough is too sticky.
5. Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, form each half into a log that is 3½ inches by 9 inches. Place the logs on a heavy duty baking sheet and brush with egg white if desired. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the tops are set. Update: some readers have said their loaves sliced better when cooked a little less than 25 minutes, so I’ve changed the directions accordingly.
6. Reduce the oven to 275°. Let the logs cool as long as you can (the cooler they are, the easier to cut), and then slice into 1/2-inch thick slices (I use a large serrated knife and push it through the loaves rather than ‘sawing’ the slices). Arrange the slices on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, carefully turn the slices over, and bake for another 20 minutes.
7. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container or freeze.
Per Serving: 89 Calories; 4g Fat (37.7% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 19mg Cholesterol; 111mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on March 3rd, 2017.

butterscotch_walnut_meringue_bars

You might think that all I eat is baked goods. A friend who looked at my blog recently thought that, but then, she didn’t delve very deeply into my posts. I probably have more desserts and cookies than any of the other categories. I just enjoy baking a lot. I have no cookies in my house at the moment.

Needing some cookies and things for an event recently, I looked at some newer recipes I’d added to my to-try list. This recipe came from Peabody, at SweetReciPEAS. She raved about them, so that was a good enough excuse to bake them for my event. They’re two layers – a brown sugar and butter base (with flour and egg), then you press walnuts into that layer; then you mix up the brown sugar meringue mixture and spread it on top. Bake. See? Easy. She used bourbon in the base and in the meringue topping too  (though you can use vanilla instead). Truly, I couldn’t taste the bourbon, but perhaps if they’d been omitted, they’d have been less flavorful – won’t know unless I try them side by side. Out of the entire 9×13 pan batch, I ate one and either served them at my event or gave them away to friends. I thought they might not keep all that long anyway.

They’re delicious. A bit of crunch from the bottom layer and a light crunch from the meringue. Plus the walnuts in there too. The meringue doesn’t exactly stick very well to the base, so be careful as you cut them up. Perhaps a whipped up raw egg in between might solve that problem, if you’re inclined to try it.

What’s GOOD: the flavor and crunch. They’re sweet – very sweet. If I make them again I’ll cut down on the sugar in both layers by just a tetch, but everyone I served them to raved about them. They almost have the sweetness of candy, but they’re definitely NOT candy. You could cut larger pieces, serve with whipped cream as a dessert portion. I made bars and got about 18 or so from the pan. Very different – the meringue has a golden hue – almost like taupe, from the brown sugar. Kind of different. Not everyone recognized that it was a meringue top.

What’s NOT: really, nothing. These are delicious. Easy to make.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Butterscotch Walnut Meringue Bars

Recipe By: SweetReciPEAS, 2017
Serving Size: 18

BASE:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 Pinch salt
1 cup light brown sugar — firmly packed
1/2 cup cold butter — cut into pieces
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons bourbon — or vanilla
TOPPING:
2 egg whites
1 cup brown sugar — firmly packed
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 1/2 cups walnuts — chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. 2. Spray a 9-x-13-inch baking pan with baking spray. Set aside.
2. BASE: Add the flour, baking powder, salt & brown sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until the ingredients come together. Add the butter and process until the butter is the size of small peas. Add the egg yolk and bourbon and pulse until the mixture as the consistency of sandy clumps. Pat mixture into the pan and level off by pressing with a small offset spatula or spoon.
3. Top with walnuts. Push them into the dough. The dough is crumbly so it will need to be patted down again.
4. MERINGUE: Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment beat egg whites until they hold a peak when whisk is lifted. Add the brown sugar and beat at the highest speed about 4 minutes. Add the bourbon and beat for another minute. Spread the meringue over the walnut layer. The meringue does stick to the dough, sort of – the dough is sandy, so it’s not easy to spread. Just do you best you can. Bake 25 minutes or until tester inserted into pan comes out clean.
5. Let cool to room temperature and cut into squares.
Per Serving: 221 Calories; 12g Fat (47.2% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 37mg Cholesterol; 114mg Sodium.

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