Get updates sent to you for free by RSS, or by email:


Currently Reading


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

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. 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.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Cookies, on November 21st, 2015.


Well, so . . . . we had some cookies while we were in the safari camps. They put them out for our game drive stops, and sometimes they served them after lunch, or at the sundowner stops as well. They called them biscuits since that’s the British tradition to call them so. They were really wonderful, so I asked for the recipe. There begins the tale.

There at the camp, they called these Anzac biscuits, but since I knew all about ANZAC Biscuits (ANZAC – Australia New Zealand Air Corps – click on the link to read my post about it) from our trip to Australia some years ago, I knew these weren’t ANZAC. But, oh well, they called them such, so I just added on the “safari” part. The original ANZAC biscuits were developed when World War II caused lots of rationing, and the biscuits would keep well if they were shipped to soldiers abroad.

safari_anzac_biscuitsThere at left is the photo I took of the cookies at the camp where these were served first. Do note how completely different these look than mine – more cookie than anything else. Whereas my cookies (above) are nearly all seeds and oats and coconut and almost nothing to hold them together.

The cookies are healthier than some – they contain some good nutritional stuff in them, as I mentioned. Lots of seeds. That’s part of what intrigued me about them – they had pumpkin seeds and flax seeds (that’s mostly what you see at left).

So once I was home for awhile, I decided to tackle this recipe – I bought a big bag of flax seeds, and a big bag of pumpkin seeds too. I thought I had sesame seeds, but couldn’t find them, so maybe next time I’ll add them too.

The recipe is fairly straight forward, other than the butter and syrup (Golden syrup or Karo) is melted together, and you also dissolve baking soda in boiling water and combine the two before adding that to the cookie dough. I used my stand mixer because I suspected the dough would be a bit unwieldy. Yes, it was. But I certainly didn’t know how much unwieldy it would be.

When the camp director handed me the recipe she mentioned that they also added about 1 1/2 cups of seeds. She’s written it in on the side. She mentioned flax, pumpkin and sesame. Okay. No problem. So, I did a combo of two of those and after adding in the oats and coconut, I poured in the seeds. And the mixer laboriously tried to mix it all up. It succeeded, but only barely. I had to do some of it by hand because it was fairly stiff.

Because the dough didn’t look like the camp cookies, I baked just one cookie sheet of them. And once out of the oven I groaned – these didn’t look anything like theirs. Oh dear. I decided to try another tray. Then I added in some chocolate chips and just a tiny bit of flour. Oh dear me. That mixture became almost impossible to work with, but I went ahead and made more cookies out of it. I really thought that I was going to have a monumental failure on my hands. At that point, though, what else could I do but try to make it work.

I ended up giving nearly all of them away, keeping only about 3-4 of the seeded ones without chips. The ones without any chocolate chips were better (to me anyway), though I rarely turn down chocolate in anything. And I’ve enjoyed eating them – chewing and chewing – as those seeds get stuck in your teeth (particularly the flax).

My take-away from this is – I think – that they SUBSTITUTE seeds for the oats and coconut – not adding them IN ADDITION TO. I reduced the amount of seeds from 1 1/2 cups to 1 1/4 cups only because I felt they had enough. But, for the sake of this recipe, I’m giving it to you exactly as I made them – with all the add-ins, which makes the cookies up top – mostly seeds, oats and coconut. And they’re really quite delicious. They just don’t look like the camp cookies. I took these to a friend who phoned me this morning to tell me she thought these were the BEST cookies she’d ever tasted and can’t wait to make them. And here I thought they were a failure! As I’ve had a cookie each day since I made these, I’m liking them even more. I may try them again with just seeds and try baking one tray first, to see how they turn out, then I may add in the oats and coconut anyway. If I make them again with changes, I’ll be sure to report all about it.

What’s GOOD: well, sometimes what you think is a failure turns out to be a great success. These aren’t quite like what I had on safari, but they’re really wonderful and worth making. They’re healthier than some, which is a bonus.

What’s NOT: they’re not a traditional cookie – they’re more add-ins than they are cookie. But I have no complaint!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click on link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Safari Anzac Biscuits (cookies)

Recipe By: From “And Beyond” safari camps, Africa
Serving Size: 20-24

1 cup cake flour — [I think you could use all-purpose]
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup desiccated coconut — (desiccated means unsweetened)
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons golden syrup — or Karo syrup
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups seeds — flax, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds

1. Preheat oven to 180° C or 350° F. Grease baking sheets.
2. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add oats, coconut, sugar and salt. Stir to combine.
3. Melt butter and syrup in a small saucepan over low heat.
4. Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water and set aside.
5. Add water to the melted butter mixture, then add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the seeds and mix well.
6. Roll 1 1/2 T sized balls and place on greased cookie sheets. The batter is a bit on the dry side, so it takes some elbow grease to get them to hold their shape. Allow room for the cookies to spread. Flatten the dough some with the palm of your hand.
7. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Do not over bake.
8. Remove from oven, place biscuits on cooling racks. Store in an airtight container for up to a month. The note on the recipe says: “Serve as a wake-up biscuit or for morning game drives.” Yes, indeed!
Per Serving: 239 Calories; 17g Fat (61.3% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 12mg Cholesterol; 145mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on October 14th, 2015.


Not savory cookies – no, these are the real deal – walnut cookies with a moderate jot of black pepper.

Needing some cookies to serve to my friends who were coming to play Scrabble, I saw this recipe online and thought what a wonderful combination – WALNUTS and BLACK PEPPER. And different, for sure. They were SO easy to make – I had them mixed and baked in a little more than an hour, and my hands-on time was probably no more than 20 minutes. The cookies are baked low (at 300°F) for 25 minutes. That’s a long time for cookies. I could smell the butter browning as they baked – I almost thought they were burning, but they weren’t. They bake until the bottoms begin to turn a golden yellow.

The recipe was adapted by one of the chefs at the James Beard Foundation (until today I’d never looked at their website). The original recipe came from a cookbook called Cooking with Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily. I don’t own that cookbook – it sounds like a wonderful one to browse through.

Actually, because I was still in the midst of remodeling the day my friends were coming, we ended up going to one of the other gal’s homes. I didn’t think they’d want to hear the pounding going on. My decks are getting completely re-done (yet more dry rot discovered), and the roofers are still pounding away. By the time this recipe airs, the roof, decks, and everything else should be finished. Thank goodness.

This is a crispy crunchy cookie (no eggs in the batter) – just butter, sugar, honey, black pepper, a dash of salt, finely pounded walnuts and flour. It mixed up in a jiffy in the stand mixer, and as usual, I had a hard time keeping my fingers out of the batter. I love cookie dough.

What’s GOOD: the combo of walnuts and pepper was different, but really good. The heat from the black pepper is subtle – don’t expect it to assault your taste buds – it doesn’t, but you’re barely aware of some residual heat once you’ve chewed and swallowed a bite or two.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

printer-friendly PDF and FILE: MasterCook 14 (click on link to open)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Walnut-Black Pepper Cookies

Recipe By: James Beard Foundation – This recipe is adapted from Cooking with Italian Grandmothers by Jessica Theroux.
Serving Size: 18

1/2 cup unsalted butter — softened
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper — (don’t skimp – it needs all of it)
A pinch of salt
3 tablespoons dark honey — such as wildflower or chestnut
1 cup walnuts — (4 ounces) pounded or coarsely ground
1 cup all-purpose flour
Granulated sugar for sprinkling the cookies

1. Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. If the honey isn’t liquid, heat briefly in the microwave so it is pour-able. Add the black pepper, pinch of salt, and honey; mix to incorporate. Add the nuts and flour, and mix with the electric mixer until the dough forms moist clumps, a few minutes.
3. Roll large teaspoonfuls of the batter between your clean hands to make little balls. Place the balls on the baking sheet, and press down on them twice with the tines of a fork to make a crosshatch pattern. Sprinkle with a little bit of granulated sugar or sugar sprinkles.
4. Bake the cookies for 25 minutes, or until their bottoms have turned golden-nutty brown. Set aside to cool.
Per Serving: 132 Calories; 9g Fat (60.0% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 14mg Cholesterol; 1mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on September 12th, 2015.


Finally, I made time to do a little baking. I was all out of cookies in the freezer, and I could have made some chocolate chip ones, which seem to be everybody’s favorite, but I looked elsewhere first. Since I still don’t have my “old” bunch of to-try recipes for the last few years (my computer guru guy is trying to make the time to find out if the files are lost), I’ve been adding new ones. I’ve probably added about a hundred recipes to my to-try ones, and they’re all kinds of things from lamb roast to rosemary oil to this, a cookie recipe. The original recipe came from Food & Wine, about a year or so ago, and that recipe was a chocolate pine nut recipe.

We make all kinds of compromises in life, don’t we? I sure do, on a daily basis. Most are easy; a few are harder. This one was easy – the recipe called for bittersweet chocolate, and the only kind I had was Trader Joe’s big block that contains chunks of almonds. I suppose I could have removed the almonds once I melted the chocolate, but I just decided to make these with almonds rather than pine nuts. See? Easy compromise. I love almonds. Below you can see the glob of batter before baking, and then after baking.



These cookies could be a version of cloud cookies since they’re almost flourless (there is 1/4 cup added flour). They have the consistency of really chewy brownies on the inside, but the outsides have a crackly crust. But a thin crust for sure.

The batter is simple enough – eggs and sugar, then the melted (and cooled) chocolate, then the tiny amount of flour, baking powder and salt. Then the toasted choc_almond_facealmonds are added in at the last. Took no time at all to put together. The batter is fairly liquid – it barely holds together. I noticed that after I’d baked 2 pans of cookies, the batter still remaining in the bowl had firmed up a little bit – made it easier to scoop and put on the cookie sheets. They’re baked 12 minutes, rotating the pans half way through. At the halfway point they were still VERY soft – I mushed one with the hot pad and it was like a glob of hot molten chocolate. Fortunately it didn’t get to my fingers or it would have burned! The cookies are very tender once you remove them from the oven. The recipe didn’t say when to remove them to a rack, so I tried right away and wow, it was hard. The ones that sat on the other baking sheet for 3-4 minutes were easier to remove. So I’ve added that info to the recipe. I think I’ll need to put each cookie on waxed paper because I think these will stick to each other if stacked. Or else freeze them on a baking sheet, then put them into a plastic bag and they’d be fine.

What’s GOOD: For sure this is chocolaty. The texture is delicious – the bit of crispy on the outside (but I imagine that would soften if left out at room temp). And the insides are chewy, fudgy almost. Stick to your teeth type. But still, it IS a cookie. The crackly top is interesting. Altogether good. Rich. I like that each cookie is only about 100 calories.
What’s NOT: they’re a bit fussy – or maybe fragile is a better word. Cooling and packaging them for freezing is a little bit of a nuisance. Or else freeze them on a baking sheet, then pile them into a freezer bag.

printer-friendly PDF – and – Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chocolate-Almond Cookies

Recipe By: Adapted from a recipe in Food & Wine Magazine, 2014
Serving Size: 30

3/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate — finely chopped
1/2 stick unsalted butter — cubed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup superfine sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 325° and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large skillet, toast the nuts over moderate heat, tossing occasionally, until they are golden, 5 to 7 minutes. (Alternately, toast them for about 6 minutes in a 350°F oven.) Cool completely.
2. Meanwhile, in a large heatproof bowl set over a medium saucepan of simmering water, melt the chopped chocolate with the butter, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 5 minutes; let cool completely.
3. In a small bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar at medium-high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the melted chocolate, then fold in the dry ingredients. Stir in the almonds.
4. Bake the cookies in 2 batches: Scoop 1-tablespoon mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 12 minutes, until the cookies are dry around the edges and cracked on top; shift the sheets halfway through baking. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough.
5. Allow cookies to rest for 2-3 minutes on the baking sheet before attempting to transfer them to a rack, but do do that part then allow them to cool completely before serving. Freeze on a baking sheet, then package into freezer bags, or eat them in a hurry and don’t worry about packaging.
Per Serving: 102 Calories; 8g Fat (62.5% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 18mg Cholesterol; 38mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on August 7th, 2015.

almond_paste_choc_chip_cookiesThe other day I decided I really needed to make some chocolate chip cookies. I haven’t made any in a long, long time and I do like to have some in the freezer. I guess I was craving them. There were some other cookies left over from Christmas still lurking in freezer corners. I tasted one and threw out the bag – they had zero flavor. That’s what you get for freezing cookies for 7 months! So new cookies were in order, but I wanted to do something different. Enter almond paste.

The original recipe came from Cheryl Sternman Rule’s blog, 5 Second Rule, one I read regularly. And her epiphany about these cookies is a bit round about, but she ended  up making little tiny balls of almond paste to mix in with the cookie dough at the last, so there would be some little pockets of straight-shot-almond-paste mixed in. A little flavor explosion. I thought I was going to make them the same way.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t keep almond paste on my pantry shelf. It just dries out. So, no, I didn’t have any almond paste. So, I’ll just make some. Hmmmph. I’ll only make enough to use for this recipe, since almond paste is really expensive stuff. I know from experience that using a part of a tube of it isn’t a good idea either, because then it really dries up fast.

So I researched almond paste recipes. That led to determining the difference between almond paste and marzipan (usually it’s the amount of sugar – more in marzipan according to several sources). But I went through my pantry and lo and almond_pastebehold I found a package of toasted almond flour (from King Arthur Flour). I opened it to see how it smelled – it smelled great, like toasted almond flour should. So I made almond paste with 3/4 cup of that flour, 3/4 cup of powdered sugar, a tetch of almond extract and one egg white.

That got whizzed up in the food processor and that’s what I ended up with (at right). A little bowl – exactly the 2 ounces I needed for the cookies. I thought.

Mixing up the cookie dough was simple enough. Cheryl explained that it’s basically the Tollhouse recipe, but she was so enamored with almond paste that she decided to incorporate the almond paste in little tiny balls. She had a tube of commercially produced almond paste. A product that is firm and will actually make into little balls. If you look at my bowl of home made almond paste, can you imagine trying to make little balls out of that? Impossible. I added more almond flour assuming it would firm up some. Not much. I tried to make it into little balls again. Nope. No luck at all. After adding yet more almond flour, I gave up and just added the paste into the cookie dough so it was mixed in totally. No little balls – it simply was too wet to work with that way.

cookies_on_baking_sheetSo, I made a bigger recipe than Cheryl did (double, actually) and I got about 50 cookies. She made hers a bit smaller, I think. I should have gotten 60. I used my handy-dandy cookie scoop, so they were all uniform.

The recipe said 10-14 minutes baking time – mine took 6 minutes, then I turned the sheet around 180° and another 6 minutes and they were done. So 12 minutes.

We’ve been having really humid weather – as I’m writing this it’s still morning and it’s 75° and 78% humidity outside and the A/C is already running. If nothing else the A/C helps lower the humidity. When I’m cooking I just have to keep the temp down – I’m miserable otherwise. That said, I left these cookies to sit out for about 2 hours on the kitchen island, on a rack. That was a mistake, because they became quite soft. Since I eat them frozen anyway, I probably won’t notice, but I should have packed them up as soon as they cooled. Lesson learned.

The day after I made these I took a bag of about 12 of them to a friend. He’s my financial adviser, but he’s almost more a friend than a financial adviser. He emailed me this morning – this is a guy who professes to not like sweets (i.e., when we go out to lunch he never orders dessert), and he thanked me for the cookies and said by far the 4th cookie he ate out of the bag was the best. Ha!

What’s GOOD: I really like these cookies – the almond paste adds a totally different flavor to choc chip cookies and I really enjoyed it. They’re simple – well, except for making the almond paste as that was an added step. Buy the paste if you want to, and refer to Cheryl’s recipe to add the little balls of paste inside the cookies.

What’s NOT: it’s a little bit more work than a traditional choc chip cookie recipe, but very worth it. No down side to me!

printer-friendly PDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Almond Paste and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe By: Adapted from 5 Second Rule (blog) 12/2011
Serving Size: 50

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter — at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/3 cups chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds — toasted
3/4 cup sliced almonds — or almond meal or King Arthur Flour’s toasted almond flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg white

1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking liners (Silpat).
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, soda, and salt.
3. ALMOND PASTE: In bowl of food processor combine almonds, (or almond meal or toasted almond flour), powdered sugar, and egg white. Continue processing until it is a smooth, cohesive gluey mixture. This makes about 2 ounces of almond paste.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and two sugars. Add the egg, then the almond extract, beating well. Add the flour mixture in two additions, beating just until incorporated. Then add the almond paste and continue mixing until it’s smooth. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Fold in the mini chips and toasted almonds.
5. Bake for 10-14 minutes, rotating the sheet pans halfway though, and checking the undersides carefully to ensure they don’t burn. (For best texture, consider under-baking them rather than the alternative.) Stored airtight, they’ll keep a good 5 days. Otherwise, store in freezer for up to 2-3 months.
Per Serving: 141 Calories; 9g Fat (55.5% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 18mg Cholesterol; 74mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on July 10th, 2015.


Do you have food in the freezer that calls out to you? That sings your name and says “come hither?” Well, there’s a little box of these in my freezer and in the mid-afternoon when I need a pick-me-up, I swear, they start beckoning.

Not really, but they certainly could sing to me. These brownies. Oh my goodness. I’d forgotten all about these, about how fantastic they are, how chocolaty they are. I cut them into small pieces so I wouldn’t get carried away and I do take just ONE of them. I baked them for an event recently and hoped most of them would be eaten, but alas, there were about 15 of them left over. Oh, sigh. They’re in my freezer.

I posted this recipe back in 2007, a couple of months after I started writing this blog, and I waxed glorious about them then, and hadn’t made them since. It’s a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated – according to my notes it was published in 2004 and I think they call them Classic Brownies. The link at left is to my original post. The only thing different about this one is that I used walnuts instead of pecans.

There is one important point – DO use really good quality chocolate. I’m not sayin’ that these won’t be good if you use grocery store, cheaper chocolate. I had a chunk of Valrhona in my pantry and that’s what I used. It calls for unsweetened chocolate. Nothing about the preparation of these is difficult. There are dry ingredients.There are eggs, and then chocolate and butter that are melted together.

You can bake these in a 9×13 pan. Mine?: I used an odd shaped one. One of my cooking teachers recommended brownies_ready_to_bakeMagic Line, a U.S. company that produces real solid aluminum pans. They’re available on amazon in oodles of shapes and sizes. This one I used is a jelly roll pan, but I wasn’t making a jelly roll, obviously. What’s unique about Magic Line is the nice little lip they put on the edges, which makes it much easier to grab the hot pan out of the oven. Anyway, Parrish Magic Line 10 x 15 x 1 Inch Jelly Roll/Cookie Sheet is the one. In the photo at left I’ve lined the pan, both directions, with foil, with edges sticking out, to make it easier to remove once the brownies are cooled.

I wanted to have thinner brownies and more of them; hence I decided to use the larger pan. I baked them slightly less time, about 29 minutes, rather than 30-40 in the 9×13 pan. I used my Thermapen to check the internal temp and took them out when they reached 200° F. And, I used walnuts. I didn’t toast them – I was running low on time that day, so I took a shortcut. But toasting walnuts, or any nuts, before baking with them is a good idea.

What’s GOOD: everything about these is good, providing you like chocolate. The brownies are dense, but not gummy, and they’re just overflowing with good chocolate flavor. Now I remember why they’re called “best ever.” That was a designation from the folks at Cook’s Illustrated. You’ll hear raves, I promise you.

What’s NOT:  nothing, unless you don’t have any good unsweetened chocolate on hand. These are worth making a trip to a specialty store to find the Valrhona. Or Scharfenberger  would be fine too. Just use good chocolate, that’s all I ask!

printer-friendly PDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Classic Brownies (the best classic brownie ever)

Recipe By: Erika Bruce & Adam Reid, Cook’s Illustrated, 2004
Serving Size: 24 (or about 40 if you use the different pan size)

4 ounces walnuts — or pecans, chopped and toasted
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate — chopped fine [I used Valrhona brand]
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325°. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8 inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 x 9 inch baking dish (preferably glass), pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edge. Cut 14-inch length foil and, if using extra-wide foil, fold lengthwise to 12-inch width; fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray. If using nuts, spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, about 4-8 minutes. Set aside to cool. Whisk to combine flour, salt and baking powder in medium bowl. Set aside.
2. Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.) When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogenous.
3. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Sprinkle toasted nuts (if using them) evenly over batter and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 30-35 minutes, or until the brownies are at about 200° F on an instant-read thermometer. Cool pan on wire rack at room temperature about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve. Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days (they won’t last that long!). NOTE: I used a 10x15x1 jelly roll pan to bake these, so it made about 40 brownies. When using that sized pan, they baked for about 29 minutes.
Per Serving (if making 24): 224 Calories; 13g Fat (50.2% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 51mg Cholesterol; 73mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on June 30th, 2015.


Can I just tell you that you have to make these and leave it at that? No, you probably won’t believe me, will you? I don’t use that kind of forceful declaration very often. Well, just believe me, okay?

Often I’m led down a cooking path by the description of a recipe. Maybe it’s something unusual about it – or in it – that piques my interest. Other times it’s because there’s such an interesting background story about it. Or maybe it’s a homegrown recipe from way back. In this case, it’s Molly Wizenberg, of Orangette blog, cookbook fame, and her husband’s restaurant Delancey fame too. I’ve always admired Molly’s writing – she has a gift of building up a great story and I was following her long before she became famous. I read her blog and liked it. This recipe came from her column in Saveur.

And I got hooked on it because of the story. She and her family were on a drive in Washington, and her daughter was hungry. So was everyone in the car and most of the stores were closed in Edison. They found Breadfarm was about to close – they grabbed some things and dived into the bags as they stood in the parking lot. What emanated from them all were ooohs and aaahs. But it was the little package of freshly baked graham crackers that made the biggest impression. They were gone before she arrived home. And, because you’re Molly Wizenberg, you obviously can pick up the phone and tell the people at Breadfarm that you want to feature them and their recipe in an article in Saveur.

I’m ever so glad she did. Normally I’d probably not make home made graham crackers. Crackers, in grahams_closeupgeneral, are a lot of work, and one meal, usually, and they’re gone. But Molly just made this graham cracker/cookie sound so divine that there just wasn’t anything to do but make these. First, however, I had to go shopping. I don’t stock whole wheat flour much – it turns rancid so quickly (the remainder is in the freezer for now). And I certainly had never used whole wheat pastry flour. Had to go to two stores before I found those items. It also uses wheat bran – another thing I don’t keep on hand because it doesn’t keep all that long, either.

Fortunately I read and re-read the recipe before I began to make them. Making these requires several visits to the freezer as the precious little graham cracker cargo are chilled and slightly frozen before baking. I was home anyway, so I was certain to make these at a time when I would have no distractions.

My kitchen freezer is very full. (Actually, this is a mini form of hoarding, I think – I can’t seem to ever get my freezer to some manageable amount of fullness – it’s always chock full.) So I had to slide the cookie sheets with the rolled out cookies/crackers on parchment into my garage freezer (yes, there is room there). It required 2 visits to the freezer, and technically they were supposed to have a 3rd visit, but I did a shortcut on that one.

The batter is easy enough to make – you cream the butter, sugar (she calls for cane sugar, I used moscovado) and honey for awhile, then add the dry ingredients in 3 separate additions and continue mixing until it pulls away from the workbowl using the stand mixer. The batter is divided in half and pressed into a 1-inch thick rectangle on parchment. A 2nd piece of parchment goes on top and a rolling rolled_perforatedpin is used to squeeze down the dough to 1/8 inch thickness.  The recipe says to keep the dough in its rectangular shape. Well, I couldn’t do that – I was handling it too much, so I just lived with the results of an oval shape and re-rolled the scraps. Some time was spent in the freezer, then you poke the crackers with a fork and either perforate the dough into squares, or in my case, I used a square cookie cutter, which worked just fine. Back into the freezer they go, so they’re cold-cold before you bake them. They are separated and placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet. And they’re baked.

And I remind you – you have to make these. They’re just SO good. They’d be loverly with cheese as an after-dinner course. I’m serving them with my lemon velvet gelato on Father’s Day – this won’t post until a week or so later.

What’s GOOD: the taste. Oh my yes, they taste wonderful. And although you will have spent more time than usual making a batch of these, you’ll be glad you did, if you can make the time to do it. They make a very nice snack, or a straight-out cookie. And maybe you’ll think it’s not so bad because it’s almost all whole wheat flours.

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever is bad about the cookie/cracker. It just takes a bit of time to make. And they’re a little bit fussy – trying to get the dough flat and square as you roll it out – you don’t want them to be thicker on one side than the other, not only would they not bake evenly, but they’d look funny.

printer-friendly PDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Breadfarm’s Graham Crackers _ SAVEUR

Recipe By: From Molly Wizenberg’s blog, Orangette, and Saveur, 2015
Serving Size: 48

1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon wheat bran — plus 2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 sticks unsalted butter — softened
2/3 cup unrefined cane sugar — or turbinado sugar [I used moscovado]
2 tablespoons honey

1. In a medium bowl, whisk the flours with the wheat bran, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and honey on medium speed, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the mixture is creamy, 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three batches, stopping as needed to scrape down the bowl, until the flour is fully incorporated.
3. Continue beating until the dough comes together around the paddle, pulling away from the sides of the bowl.
4. Scrape the dough out onto a work surface and gather into a ball. Halve the dough ball and place each half on a 12” x 16” sheet of parchment paper. Pat each half into a 1”-thick rectangle and then cover with another sheet of parchment paper, lining it up with the first. Using a rolling pin, roll each dough half between the sheets of parchment to an even thickness of 1/8”, maintaining its rectangular shape [this was very difficult to do, so I made do with a big oval shape]. Carefully transfer the two dough halves, still between the parchment sheets, onto two baking sheets and freeze for 30 minutes.
5. Remove each sheet from the freezer, and transfer the parchment-wrapped dough sheets to a clean work surface. Remove the top sheet of parchment from each, and working quickly, use a fork or skewer to prick the dough sheets at roughly 1-inch intervals. Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, score the dough into 2-inch squares. Trim the scraps, and reserve to use for re-rolling and making more cookies. Return the pricked and scored dough sheets, still in single, large sheets, to the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes, until very firm.
6. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and heat to 350°. Remove the chilled dough sheets from the freezer, and invert each onto a clean work surface. Peel away and discard the parchment paper and, working quickly, separate the dough sheets along the score lines, into individual squares. Place the squares onto three parchment paper-lined baking sheets, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Chill the squares on the baking sheets for 15 minutes.
7. Bake the squares for 14 minutes, until golden at the edges; rotate the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through cooking. Transfer to a rack and cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. [I didn’t quite get 48 cookie/crackers out of my batch – probably because they were just a bit thicker than the 1/8 inch suggested – it’s hard to measure!]
Per Serving: 69 Calories; 4g Fat (49.7% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 10mg Cholesterol; 46mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on January 30th, 2015.


This was a Christmas cookie my friends Cherrie. Jackie and I made when we got together and baked nearly all day in mid-December. I still have cookies in the freezer from that. This cookie isn’t quite what you think – the macadamia nuts are ground up to a paste and become the fat, (in lieu of butter) in the dough, but they’re enhanced with dried cranberries AND chocolate chips. All things to like!

When Cherrie and I were planning what cookies we were going to make this year (we’ve been doing this for about 5 years, I’d guess), we have some favorites. Always we do the Chocolate Almond Saltine Toffee. It’s always #1 on our list. We make a double batch, although we do it one at a time because the caramel is hot and a bit unwieldy.  it’s our all-time favorite cookie. We usually make Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies for brandied_apricot_barsmy cousin Gary because he’s GF. We always make Cranberry Noels also – they’re #2 on our list, always. And we usually make Mexican Wedding Cookies too. This year, by special request from Cherrie, I made one of her favorite things, my Brandied Apricot Bars. You can see photo at right. I took new photos because what I had on the blog post was a really old and needed some updating.

Cherrie had mentioned to me that she had a can of macadamia nuts she wanted to use up, so shouldn’t we add a new cookie to our list. I said sure – found this recipe I’d saved from a few years ago. It was on Bake or Break’s blog. We decided to double the recipe. Hers made 30. We doubled it and didn’t get quite 60, more like 50 (obviously we made them a bit bigger than she did). We also added a few mini chocolate chips. Just because. They were sitting out on the kitchen counter, so we threw them in.

The cookies are easy to put together. But, there’s no butter in this recipe. As I mentioned above, the macadamia nuts, which are naturally high in fat, become the fat for these cookies. So they’re a bit healthier than some.

These do require a bit of chilling time. We let them chill for half an hour or so, but 10 minutes is all that’s required. I don’t know how much good 10 minutes does since it definitely wouldn’t read the middle of the chunk of cookie dough, but anyway, that’s what it says.

The little one-inch balls get dipped in granulated sugar, pressed down onto parchment-lined baking sheets with a fork and baked. That’s it. These are good. Different. Perfect with a cup of tea or coffee, or for a cookie exchange. Easy too.

What’s GOOD: they’re easy to make. Tasty with the dried cranberries and chocolate chips. You really don’t taste the macadamia nuts, just so you know. If I make these again I think I might add some chopped macadamias just because. I like their taste, and you don’t have any sense that you’re eating them in this cookie. Don’t, however, leave them in chunk form as the ground up nuts provide the glue to hold these cookies together. You’d need to substitute butter in lieu of the nuts if you wanted to change that part. These are very low in fat – only 3 grams per cookie.

What’s NOT: nothing, really.

printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Macadamia Nut Butter Cookies with Dried Cranberries and Chocolate Chips

Recipe By: adapted a little from Bake or Break blog, 2011 (she adapted it from Cooking Light)
Serving Size: 50

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/3 cups macadamia nuts
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large egg
1 cup dried cranberries — chopped
1/2 cup mini-chocolate chips
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Note: there is no butter in this cookie – the macadamia nuts are processed to a very fine grind and provide the fat.
1. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.
2. Place macadamia nuts in a food processor. Process until smooth, about 2 minutes.
3. In a large bowl, combine processed macadamia nuts, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and brown sugar using an electric mixer at medium speed. Add vanilla extract and egg. Beat well. Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Dough will be thick. Stir in cranberries and mini-chocolate chips. Chill dough 10 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 375°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
5. Place 1 tablespoon granulated sugar in a small bowl. Roll dough into balls about 1-inch in diameter. Lightly press each ball into sugar. Place cookie balls, sugar side up, on prepared baking sheets. Gently press the top of each cookie with a fork twice to form a crisscross pattern. Dip fork in water as needed to keep it from sticking to cookies.
6. Bake cookies (1 baking sheet at a time) for 9-11 minutes, or until golden. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.
Per Serving: 94 Calories; 3g Fat (31.8% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 8mg Cholesterol; 53mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on November 1st, 2014.

halloween_coffee_potSo, I wasn’t home for Halloween. I drove to San Diego to spend a few days with daughter Sara and her family. Got stuck in a gosh-awful traffic jam that had the northbound freeway completely closed down for over 12 hours. I was already en route southbound when I heard about it on the radio and within about 5 minutes my side of the freeway was creeping along at about 5-10 mph for about 15 miles. Two lanes were closed on my side because the big-rig that jackknifed not only went over on its side, but it hit the center divider (thank goodness for that as it might have kept going across 4 more lanes!) and sent debris into 2 lanes of the southbound lanes. . . .  . photo at left is my friend Cherrie’s coffeepot – she doesn’t use it – it’s just for decoration.

The traffic jam, though not fun to go through, didn’t seriously affect my drive other than delaying it by about 45 minutes – I had dinner with my friend Linda. We went to a favorite restaurant, Blue Ribbon Pizzeria that I’ve written up here on my blog long time ago. It’s in Encinitas. Every time we go there we order the same thing – the Signature (white) Pizza (fresh ricotta, lemon zest, basil, oil) – and we ask for their home made fennel sausage on it as well. Then we order the BLT Salad with the buttermilk dressing. So good. My friend, Linda, recently had heart valve replacement surgery, and I was so glad to see her up and around and looking great. She can’t drive yet, so she was happy to get out of the house.

Later in the evening I drove to Poway to stay with Sara and family. On Friday (yesterday) we drove to Point Loma to show Sabrina (granddaughter) my alma mater (the campus itself). It’s now a college called Point Loma Nazarene University, but when I went there in the 1960s, it was California Western University. Anyway, the campus has grown a lot, but the basics are still there. The dorm I lived in is still there, so I pointed out to Sabrina where my room was the 3 years I was there (I graduated from college in 3 years, by taking 20-22 units per semester and going to summer school, double sessions). We drove past the buildings where I attended most of my classes. We drove down to the beach (well, within about 600 feet of the cliffs there) too. Sabrina and her mom walked the “mall,” the long path that wanders through the middle of the campus. It’s not a huge school.

We had lunch at Dave’s/my yacht club where Dave’s sailboat is still sitting, waiting for the right people to buy it. Sara and I just couldn’t walk out to the slips, the docks, to see the boat – too emotionally tough for both of us – from the clubhouse we couldn’t see it. Probably a good thing. I would have broken down in tears, I know.


Returning to Poway after lunch, Sara needed to make chili for a group of friends who were coming over for dinner that evening, and between us we made these sugar cookies. Sara told me she’s been making these for years and years and years. I must admit, I’m not much of a sugar cookie fan. To me, they’re just blah. Sugar, flour, baking powder, shortening and salt. Maybe some vanilla. Kids love them – maybe because they’re bland, but also because they’re a blank page upon pumpkin_cookie_cutter_rolling_pinwhich to decorate. I’m not even much of a fan of sprinkles, but gosh, nearly every kid I’ve known loves them.

BUT, these sugar cookies are a bit different than most – these contain egg and milk, so they produce a more tender cookie. Sara had mixed up the dough the night before, so she rolled out each section (4), cut them out using a pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter, and I (from a bar stool so I could rest my foot) decorated them with – you guessed it – sprinkles.

Do watch the baking time – as you’ll read in the recipe, if you roll the dough thinly, you’ll end up with thinner/crisper cookies. I prefer them that way, but if you want softer cookies, merely roll the dough thicker and bake them longer, but don’t over-bake them. You’ll need to use a bit of trial and error. When you take them out of the oven they’re still soft, but within a few minutes they’ll firm-up. They really should be cooled on a rack, but just be gentle with them as you use a spatula to get them off the cookie sheet. They take 8-10 minutes, or more depending on the thickness or the size cookie you cut.

What’s GOOD: well, they’re sugar cookies. If you’re a fan, you’ll love them. I liked them a lot, considering that sugar cookies aren’t something I ever make, or order, or even take from a plate of cookies if they’re offered. But these – they’re good. Tender yet crisp. You can color them for whatever season you’re in and cut any kind of shape.

What’s NOT: nary a thing. Easy to make. Easy to bake. Easy to decorate if you’re into that. Do start the night before if possible as the dough does need to chill.

printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sara’s Sugar Cookies

Recipe By: From my daughter, Sara, and she got it from her friend Stephanie.
Serving Size: 36

2/3 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
4 teaspoons milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Cream together shortening, sugar, vanilla, egg and milk, until fluffy and light. (If you want to color the dough, do so at this point – in this case it was orange – a mixture of red and yellow.)
2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Fold into creamed mixture. Chill dough several hours or overnight (covered).
3. Cut dough into 4 sections and roll out on floured board and cut into desired shapes. Place on cookie sheets, decorate as desired and bake at 375°F for 8-10 minutes. Cool cookies on a rack. If you want softer cookies, roll the dough a bit thicker. If you prefer more crispy cookies, roll the dougth a bit thinner and bake them until you can barely see a hint of golden brown. Definitely do not over-bake them. The yield is an estimate – it depends on how thick or thin you roll the dough, and what kind of cookie cutters you use. We got a yield of about 36 3-inch wide cookies.
Per Serving: 83 Calories; 4g Fat (43.2% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 6mg Cholesterol; 38mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on October 16th, 2014.


Oh my goodness are these ever good. I clipped the recipe out of a recent Food & Wine magazine, thinking well, maybe sometime I’d make them. They may have to become part of my annual Christmas cookie menu. We’ll see.

I have new neighbors. We share a driveway, and so the residents in these two homes need to – for sure – be neighborly. My house actually has an easement on their property so I have ingress and egress (isn’t that the legal language?). They moved in about 10 days ago but I’d actually met them several weeks before because their realtor, Celine, is a friend of mine, and she brought the whole family to my house to see the difference in my view vs. the view next door. We talked about the driveway – I can imagine some people would have concerns.

felicity_julietteAnyway, they’ve moved in now and are settling in. They’re a much younger family with two daughters, 9 and 11. The Mom and I have been texting frequently as she’s had lots and lots of questions about numerous things regarding our adjoining properties. She’s not a cook. Well, let’s rephrase that – she cooks – but only because she needs to feed her family. And because I’ve been kind of stuck in my house the last 12 days healing my foot, she asked if I’d like some company – she would send her two girls over to do something with me – to entertain me. She suggested they could teach me French (Mom is French Canadian and the girls go to a French school). Or I could give them an art lesson. Or, perhaps I’d like to teach them how to make cookies. Imagine your surprise? – I chose the last option. The Mom bought stuff for us, and we made two things, these cookies you see and also a pumpkin chocolate chip cake with a cream cheese frosting, which I’ll post in a few days.

I sat here at my computer in the kitchen, which is right by my baking center area. And I became the instructor – mostly from a seated position. They did all the work including most of the cleaning up. The girls don’t know too much about cooking, although the older one, Felicity, makes numerous breakfast things for the whole family. She makes eggs in various ways and omelets and French toast. But baking? No. I needed to give them lessons in how to use (and be careful of) a stand mixer. How to measure dry and wet things. How to scoop and scrape flour measurements. How to use a plastic spatula, spreading batter, all about scooping cookie dough (and yes, they ate their fair share of dough) and how to bake and turn the sheet half way through. Felicity, the 11-year old, did that part and was duly fearful of the hot oven. I taught her how to do the pulling out and turning. Felicity learned how to chop nuts using a rocking motion with a big butcher knife and the flat of her other hand holding down the blade. She did well. Both girls did a great job and we had so much fun!

Most of the cookies went home with them, but I have about a dozen. So now, about the cookies. They’re an easy cookie to make – the batter/dough is a bit on the dry side, but they are light and crispy when baked. The Nutella – oh gosh – what a great addition to an oatmeal cookie.  (You know what it is, right? A mixture of chocolate and hazelnuts?) The only unusual thing (other than using a full 13-ounce jar of Nutella) is that the cookie uses shortening. I buy the non-hydrogenated stuff and have been on the same small container for about 3-4 years, I think. I almost never use the stuff. It does create a different texture in cookies – a more neutral flavor, I think, and it acts differently in a chemical way, I believe.

Felicity and Juliette used my cookie scoop, placing about 12 cookies on each sheet pan lined with parchment paper. The girls made larger cookies than I might have, but it probably “makes no never-mind” in the flavor. Really large ones would take more baking time, I’m sure. They spread a little bit, so do leave 2 inches of space between the cookies.

What’s GOOD: oh, the flavor of the Nutella. It’s wonderful. And certainly a whole lot easier (and more tasty) than using expensive hazelnuts themselves. Loved the combination of the Nutella and oatmeal. Crispy (which I prefer anyway) and a bit chewy. Warm, they almost have a chewy fudgy quality, but once they cool they’re definitely a cookie. A keeper of a recipe.

What’s NOT: maybe finding Nutella? I think my major grocery stores carry it. Trader Joe’s also makes their own version. I am not a connoisseur of Nutella so I don’t know if TJ’s is as good or not. Also the use of shortening might mean a trip to the grocery store. I was lucky, I had Josee, the girl’s Mom to fetch the grocery list of stuff for me! Hooray!

printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Oatella Cookies

Recipe By: Food & Wine, 9/2014
Serving Size: 60

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup vegetable shortening — (I use the non-hydrogenated type, not Crisco)
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
13 ounces Nutella
2 cups rolled oats

1. Preheat the oven to 375° and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the salt, cinnamon and baking soda. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the shortening with both sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the side of the bowl. Add the Nutella and beat until smooth. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the dry ingredients until just incorporated, then beat in the oats.
2. Scoop 1-tablespoon mounds of dough 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (mine took 10 minutes), until the edges are lightly browned and the cookies are just set; shift the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. Immediately transfer the cookies from the pan to racks to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Per Serving: 112 Calories; 6g Fat (44.2% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 7mg Cholesterol; 46mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on July 10th, 2014.


I don’t recall when it was that I first read about Earl Grey (tea) cookies (oops, I see I misspelled Grey in the photo). But I remember thinking hmmm, that might be very interesting. So, when I ran across a recipe for them at Food52 not so long ago, I decided to try them.

As it turned out, I came down with a cold 2 days before I was supposed to hostess a group of friends at my home for a book review. In this group the hostess obviously IS the hostess; she also selects the book, and she reviews the book too. So if the hostess gets sick, well, there’s trouble in River City! And I was sick. I’m sick as I write this – on day 3 of this cold. One of my friends agreed to have the group at her home. I took these to her – these cookies and the new cream cheese brownie batch I made also (all prepared a week ago before I had any symptoms, even, of a cold). I also took her all my notes so she could try to lead the discussion. It all worked out fine, she said, and everyone really enjoyed both cookies.

These guys were truly easy to make. But, you do need a coffee (spice) grinder, or in my case I have a coffee grinder that’s used only for grinding up herbs and spices – it’s never used for coffee. So, first off, I selected which Earl Grey tea I was going to use (Republic of Tea) and I put the amount needed into earl_grey_ground_finethe grinder, and let it whirl. Make sure you grind the tea into a complete powder – not just ground up like coffee. You want it to almost disappear in the dough – although with a dark color, of course you can’t do that. In the cookies in the photo, you can see the tea in it, obviously.

There at left you can see the tea ground to a fine powder. It probably could have been chopped even finer. Remember, Earl Grey has bergamot in it – and I don’t know whether they use bergamot flowers or also some of the twigs. If there is any question in your mind about whether it’s ground up fine enough, grind it some more. In a cookie I ate, I did find a little tiny bit of grit – so perhaps I didn’t grind it enough myself.

In the original recipe you were offered the choice of using coconut oil as the fat in it, or butter, so since I couldn’t find my coconut oil, obviously I had to use butter. There’s also 2 ounces of cream cheese in this. Otherwise, it’s a relatively standard shortbread kind of cookie. It was chilled for awhile (I ended up chilling it for a couple of days). But it does need to be warmed slightly in order to roll it out. I didn’t get it rolled out uniformly (see picture) but it didn’t seem to matter to the flavor. The dough was quite sticky, so I had to use flour with every smaller amount I rolled up.

The cookies are baked at 375°F for 10-12 minutes. Mine were done at 11 minutes, but your oven might be different. They are baked on parchment paper and you do have to allow them to rest for 10 minutes or so before removing them from the pan. I was able to fit this batch onto two half sheet pans. They freeze just fine too.

In the original recipe the originator of the recipe likes to make sandwich cookies with chocolate ganache in the middle. That sounded richer than I wanted for a morning event, so I just left them as is, and I was certain the chocolate would overpower the tea. They were delicious as is.

What’s GOOD: the subtlety of the tea – you have to concentrate to even taste it. I think it would be really nice with some Earl Grey tea – I haven’t tried it that way as yet, but I have some in the freezer, so I will on some cool morning. They were easy to make and certainly different!

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Earl Grey Tea Cookies

Recipe By: Food52
Serving Size: 45

2 1/2 tablespoons Earl Grey tea — loose leaf
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cream cheese
6 ounces coconut oil — or 2 cubes unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons apple juice
Chocolate Ganache for dipped cookies (optional)

1. Grind the tea in a coffee grinder until it’s VERY fine – like powder almost. Place the ground tea, sugar and salt into a food processor and mix together. Then, after each addition of the following, process for a few seconds to combine: flour, butter, cream cheese, vanilla extract and apple juice (last). Once the dough starts forming together, take the dough out of the processor and form into 2 balls. Refrigerate for 1 hour or more.
2. Preheat oven to 375°. Keep one ball chilled while you’re working with the other one. On a slightly floured surface, roll out one ball to a 1/8 inch thickness.
3. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Once you’ve rolled out the dough, cut out shapes (circles, squares or other type). Very carefully lift each cookie onto the parchment paper. The cookies will not spread, so you can place them on the cookie sheet quite close together. Chill cookie sheet with the cookies on it for less than a minute. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheet before you slide them off and let them finish cooling on a wire rack. Keep re-rolling and cutting the shapes until all your dough is gone, or roll dough into a log and freeze for later.
4. If desired you can use chocolate ganache and make sandwich cookies. Or, dip 1/3 of the cookie into chocolate ganache after the cookies have completely cooled off. In this case, make the cookie 1/4-1/2 inch thick and keep the ganache on the thin side so the cookies don’t break.
Per Serving: 69 Calories; 4g Fat (52.3% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 1mg Cholesterol; 14mg Sodium.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...