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Just finished The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

Read Grace Unshakled, by Irene Huising. From Amazon’s page, it says: “In the year 2025, 17-year-old Grace Duncan finds herself in shackles because of her faith in Christ. An obedient daughter and stellar student, doing time in jail was never on her mental radar, despite the changes in religious laws [this takes place here in the United States] over the past few years. Through twists and turns in circumstances, Grace and a small band of Christians in Newport Beach, California begin a journey to discover what it means to follow Christ with unwavering faith in the midst of increasing persecution. Facing the potential loss of all her hopes and dreams, would Christ be enough?” We read this for one of my book clubs, and it’s a scary thought about what it could mean if we take God out of our country. The author is a friend of a friend and she attended our book club meeting to share about how she came to write this book. I don’t often share my faith here on my website, but this book made me stop and think about the direction our government is going, removing more and more our ability to worship God. Or to worship in any religion. Will this book ever make waves in the book world? Probably not. My copy may be a pre-edited version, as it contained numerous typos and formatting errors. But they didn’t detract from the subject, just the cosmetics. The book doesn’t come to a resolution; in fact it leaves you hanging, as some books do. It was intentional (obviously), but left me wondering about the “end of the story.”

Also just finished reading The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Read The German Girl: A Novel by Correa. It chronicles the story of a wealthy German Jewish family in Berlin, as the Nazis arrive and make life a living hell. The family is lucky (I guess you could say this) to be allowed to purchase passage on the M.S. St. Louis, a passenger liner, to take them to “the Americas.” The destination is actually Cuba. The story is told from two voices – the teenage daughter in this story, and from a current-day distant family member who is trying to learn about her ancestry. Of the 900+ passengers on the ship, only a few were allowed to disembark since the Cuban President decided he needed more money to accept them. Most families had no money left, as the Reich had taken nearly all of their assets. The daughter and her very eccentric mother were allowed to stay in Cuba.  The remaining passengers are rejected by the U.S. too, and eventually return to Europe, where most of the Jews end up dying in concentration camps. The story goes back and forth from the 1939 journey to current day as the link between the two women is slowly revealed. I had a tough time sometimes, tracking the people in this book, but the story was very riveting. It’s based on facts about the ship (see Wikipedia link above if you’re interested). A shameful chapter in history.

Recently finished reading a magnificent historical novel. Not new. Philippa Gregory has been a favorite author of mine for a couple of decades. You may remember her most famous book, The Other Boleyn Girl, published some years ago. I thought that was a really great book. I’ve read other books by Gregory, but most recently I read The King’s Curse (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels). The time period is the 1450s to 1541, mostly under the rule of King Henry VIII, the infamous womanizer and wife/Queen-killer. The man who cursed Rome (the Pope) – he wanted his first marriage annulled because Queen Catherine couldn’t produce a living male heir. And subsequently made himself the head of the church in England in order to do so. It was a Catholic country at the time. This story (it’s fiction, but woven with intricate historical detail) is from the voice of Margaret of York (a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine),  who was a Plantagenet in her own right (which is key to the later events in the book). Certainly I’ve read other novels over the years that dealt with Henry VIII, but not with this much breadth of info. What a wicked, sinful man he was. And did I say tyrant. Wow.  I could hardly put it down, through its nearly 600 pages. In the author’s notes at the end, she shares relatively recent medical info that suggests Henry probably suffered from a rare problem, Kell positive blood type, which can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths IF the mother has the more common Kell negative blood type. And that in his later years, he may have had McLeod syndrome, a disease only found in Kell positive individuals. Around the age of 40 it causes physical degeneration and personality changes resulting in paranoia, depression and irrational behavior. All of those King Henry VIII had in spades. If you read the book, you might read the author’s notes (at the end) before reading the book. If you like historical fiction (I love any book about English history) you’ll just love this one. It’s interesting, though, as I think about the many books I’ve read covering this era in English history, that each book presented its hero/heroine as the most innocent and worthy individual vying for the crown of England. I remember thinking Anne Boleyn was dealt with so badly during her life (and certainly her beheading), and yet reading this book, I completely reversed my opinion. Anne Boleyn was called a wh–e by most people during the years she shared Henry’s bed. The “curse” from the title pertains to Henry’s inability or the curse on the Tudors, that caused him to fail in producing a male heir. In any case, none of Henry’s wives should have died for it – likely it was all Henry’s fault anyway. Just read this one, okay?

Also recently read News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a free-lance job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her family was killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of an old (wild) west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many. Just read this one first!

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Recipes highlighted in red are some of my all-time favorites. These dessert recipes are divided up in several sections. Click on the title below to go to that section. Brownies are kind of a cookie, but also kind of a dessert. They’re listed here, but you may find other bar-type desserts under COOKIES!


Posts (Informational) – About Specific Fruits or Dessert Things:
Cherries
Peaches and Nectarines
Plums
Vanilla

Brownies!

Brownie Bottom Pudding Pie
Bailey’s Cream Cheese Brownies
S’Mores Brownies
Chewy Brownies
Chocolate Chunk Brownies
Classic Brownies (the Best Ever)
Heavenly Cream Cheese Brownies
Irish Cream Brownies
New Method Cream Cheese Brownies Brownies
Peanut Butter Fudge Brownies


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Cakes, Cupcakes and Cheesecake!

86 Proof Chocolate Cake (Maida Heatter)
Almond Buttermilk Cake
Almond Cake with Lemon & Creme Fraiche Glaze
Angel Food Cake (GF)
Anise Cake a la Coyote Cafe

Apples – Apple Pear Upside Down Cake
Apples – Apple Raisin Custard Cake
Apples – Apple Pie Cake with Brown Sugar and Rum Sauce
Apples – Apple Sharlotka
Apples – Apple Snacking Spice Cake
Apples – Applesauce Spice Cake with Caramel Topping
Apples – Babette Friedman’s Apple Cake
Apples – Cajun Apple Cake with Brandy Drizzle
Apples – Caramelized Apple Gingerbread
Apples – Emily Luchetti’s 50-Year Apple Cake with Crumb Topping
Apples – Ginger Apple Cake Torte
Apples – Mrs. Paxton’s Apple Cake
Apples – Grandgirl’s Fresh Apple Cake
Apples – Marie-Helene’s Apple Cake
Apples – Rum Raisin Apple Cake with Apricot Glaze
Apples – Rustic Raw Apple Cake
Apples – Teddie’s Apple Cake
Apples – Umbrian Apple Apple Cake with Cider Creme Anglaise

Applesauce Bundt Cake with Caramel Icing

Apricots – Apricot Plum Raspberry Strudel Cake
Apricots – Roasted Apricot Almond Cake
Apricots – Apricot Nectar Cake (bundt cake)

Blueberry Nutmeg Cake
Banana Caramel Chocolate Chip Cake
Blood Orange Polenta Upside Down Cake
Brown Sugar Cake
Brown Sugar Berry Shortcakes
Carrot Cake (used to be my favorite – – see next one below)
Neva Tee’s Carrot Cake (layer cake)

Cheesecake – Lemon Cheesecake
Cheesecake – Lindy’s Cheesecake (New York City fame)
Cheesecake – Sweet Potato Cheesecake
Cheesecake – Gourmet Cheesecake
Cheesecake – Peach Yogurt Cheesecake

Chocolate – 86 Proof Chocolate Cake (Maida Heatter)
Chocolate – Bittersweet Chocolate Pear Cake
Chocolate – Chocolate Chip Banana Loaf Cake
Chocolate – Chocolate Citrus Almond Torte GF
Chocolate – Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Lecha Frosting
Chocolate – Chocolate Dried Cranberry Sponge Cake
Chocolate – Chocolate Grand Marnier Decadence Cake
Chocolate – Chocolate Guinness Cake
Chocolate – Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
Chocolate – Chocolate Mug Cake (a single serving cake in a mug)
Chocolate – Chocolate Olive Oil Cake (an easy one using a cake mix)
Chocolate – Chocolate Pistachio Bundt Cake (an easy one using a cake mix)
Chocolate – Chocolate Sponge Roll
Chocolate – Chocolate Walnut Truffle Cake
Chocolate – Craggy Chocolate Cake (kind of a souffle cake with a crinkly top)
Chocolate – Flourless Chocolate Cake with Caramel Sauce
Chocolate – French Chocolate Cake
Chocolate – German Chocolate Chip Cake (an easy family favorite using box mix)
Chocolate – Joanne Weir’s Mom’s Best Chocolate Cake
Chocolate – Mexican Chocolate Almond Torte (GF)
Chocolate – Mexican Chocolate Torte with Brown Sugar Glaze
Chocolate – Mocha Pecan Roll
Chocolate – Mocha Sheet Cake with Chocolate Frosting and Pecans
Chocolate – Molten Chocolate Cake with Caramel Sauce
Chocolate – Orange Chocolate Souffle Cake
Chocolate – Rocky Road Coca-Cola Cake
Chocolate – Silky Chocolate Cake
Chocolate – Triple Chocolate Torte with Raspberry Sauce
Chocolate – Unbelievable Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Cocoa Spice Cake

Cupcakes – Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting (Ina Garten mix)
Cupcakes – Chocolate Spice Cupcakes
Cupcakes – Cocoa Creme Fraiche Cupcakes
Cupcakes – Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting

Dates – Moroccan Date Cake
Four Spice Cake

Gingerbread – Ginger Spice Cake with Dried Cherries
Gingerbread – Classic (moist and light)
Gingerbread – Laurie Colwin’s Damp Gingerbread
Hazelnut Shortcakes with Plum Raspberry Compote
Honey Glazed Spago Cornbread Cake

Kahlua Bundt Cake
Lemon Bundt Cake (from a mix – easy)
Lemon – Lemon Cake (Ina Garten’s)
Lemon – Lemon Cake with Lemoncello and Lime Mousse
Lemon – Lemon Curd Frosted Angel Food Cake
Lemon – Lemon Upside Down Cake
Lemon – Lemoniest Lemon Ice Box Cake
Chocolate – Chocolate Walnut Truffle Cake
Mace Cake
Orange – Dario’s Olive Oil Cake
(a dense style bundt cake)
Peach Raspberry Streusel Cake
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (Thomas Keller’s)
Plum Blueberry Kuchen
Purple Plum Torte

Pound Cake – Anise Pound Cake
Pound Cake – Chocolate Coconut Pound Cake
Pound Cake – Grilled Pound Cake with Balsamic Peaches
Pound Cake – Almond Pound Cake with Limoncello
Pumpkin Cake (in a pumpkin mold)
Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Gingersnaps – a very tender and beautiful cake
Rhubarb – Fern’s Rhubarb Cake
Rhubarb-Almond Cake
Rhubarb Upside Down Cake
Rum Cake (kind of a cross between a pound cake and a sponge cake – amazing)
Stone Fruit Tea Cake
Tres Leches Cake
Warm Honey Gingerbread
Wattleseed Bundt Cake
Woodford Pudding (a cake-like pudding)
Yellow Cake with Fudge Frosting (made from scratch super-tender cake)
Zebra Cake (chocolate and vanilla, zebra design)


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Cobblers and Crisps!

Apple Bread Crumb Pudding (kind of like an apple pie without any crust
Apple Cobbler with a Cookie Crust
(My Mom’s) Apricot Cobbler
Berry Cobbler – with cream biscuits on top
Blueberry Buckle
Brown Sugar Apple Cobbler – with brown sugar biscuits
Crisp Apple Pudding (really it’s an Apple Crisp – my all-time favorite, my mother’s recipe)
Peach Bourbon Cobbler
Peach Cobbler
Peach Cobbler with Almond Flavoring
Peach Cobbler – Dottie’s Peach Cobbler
Peach Cobbler – Texas Style
Peach Crisp
Peach-Blackberry Crisp with Cream Biscuits
Peach Crisp with Maple Cream Sauce
Peaches a la Piemontese
Pear Cobbler
GF Pear Crisp
Pear Cranberry (and Vanilla) Crumble
Pear Crisp
Plum and Almond Cobbler
Raspberry Brown Sugar Gratin
Rhubarb Crisp
Southern Peach Cobbler
Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler


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Dessert Sauces!

Bing Cherry Compote
Chocolate Syrup (oh gosh, this stuff is delicious!)
Lemon Curd (not my favorite – see the one just below)
Lemon Curd from America’s Test Kitchen
Mango Coulis
Orange Ginger Custard Sauce
Plum Compote
Regal Chocolate Sauce


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Ice Cream, Frozen Yogurt, Gelato!

Apricot Ice Cream
Balsamic Fig Sherbet
Ginger Ice Cream
Honey Lavender Ice Cream
Honeydew Mint Sorbet
Lemon Ginger Frozen Yogurt
Lemon Velvet Ice Cream
Olive Oil Gelato
Peach Ice Cream
Peach Buttermilk Ice Cream (like a sherbet – healthy)
Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Ice Cream
Roasted Banana Ice Cream
Roasted Peach Ice Cream
Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream
Sour Cream Ice Cream
Strawberry Ice Cream with Kirsch
Wattleseed Ice Cream (but you’ll have to GET wattleseed from Australia to make it)


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Pies and Tarts!

My favorite Short Crust Press-In Tart Shell
Apple & Champagne Custard Torte
Apple Crumb Pie
Blueberry Sour Cream Tart
Chocolate – Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Torte with Chocolate Caramel Sauce
Chocolate – Chocolate Apricot Torte
Chocolate – French Chocolate Silk Pie
Chocolate – Dark Chocolate Almond Tart
Furr’s Millionaire Pie (a pineapple cream pie)
Hot Lemon Souffle Tart (Julia Child’s)
Candied Kumquat Ricotta Cookie Tart
Lemon Buttermilk Pie
Peach Galette
Pear and Chocolate Tart
(My Mom’s) Pear Pie
Plum Sour Cream Tart
Pumpkin Pie with Ginger
Raspberry Almond Truffle Tart (chocolate)


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Puddings, Bread Puddings, Custards, Pudding Cakes, Steamed Puddings!

Puddings:
Aarti’s Indian Rice Pudding
Apple Bread Crumb Pudding
Arborio Rice Pudding
Blackberry White Chocolate Fool
ButterSCOTCH Pudding
Chocolate Mousse (quick – made in a blender)
Chocolate Pudding
Chocolate Tres Leches Tiramisu
Cinnamon Apple Pudding Cake
Coconut Tapioca Pudding
Coffee Cardamom Pot de Creme
Ginger Creme Brulee
Heavenly Rice Pudding
Lemon Panna Cotta with Blueberry Sauce
Milk Chocolate Pudding
Moro’s Noodle Pudding
Old Fashioned Lemon Pudding
Orange Ginger Custard Pudding (it’s a sauce, but it’s also great as a pudding)
Panna Cotta with Strawberries
Pumpkin Butterscotch Angel Food Pudding
Pumpkin Praline Pudding
Rice Pudding
Ricotta Souffle Pudding
Ultimate Lemon Mousse
Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Blackberry Zinfandel Sauce
Very Creamy Vanilla Rice Pudding
Woodford Pudding (a kind of cake-pudding)

Bread Puddings:
Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce
Chocolate Banana Croissant Bread Pudding
Cinnamon Raisin Apple Bread Pudding
Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Orange Ginger Custard Sauce
Raspberry Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding
White Chocolate Bread Pudding

Custards:
Almond Custard
Normandy Apricot Custard
Blackberry, Fig and Ginger Clafouti
Pear Clafoutis

Pudding Cakes:
Chocolate Upside Down Baked Nut Pudding Cake
Cranberry Pudding Cake
Gingerbread Pudding Cake
Lemon Pudding Cake
Lemon Sponge Pudding
Montreal Maple Pudding (Pudding Chomeur)
Peach Pudding Cake
Sticky Chocolate Sponge Pudding
Warm Chocolate Raspberry Pudding Cake

Steamed Puddings:
Chocolate Steamed Pudding


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Other – Everything Else!

Black Raspberry Ice Cream Float
Brownie Bottom Pudding Pie
Chocolate Amaretti Torte
Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Chocolate Ribbon Dessert (a layered dessert)
Cranberry Porter Trifle
Frosty Strawberry Squares (frozen dessert)
Kumquats – Poached Kumquats with Vanilla Syrup
Lemon Curd
Lemon-Lime Macaroon Bars
Lime Chocolate Delicious (a Jell-O dessert – eh)
Mixed Berry Meringue Parfait (easy)
Oranges in Vanilla Syrup
Pavlova (meringue shell with fruit & whipped cream on top)
Pineapple Refrigerator Dessert
Plums – Spicy Plum Soup
Portuguese Custard Tartlets
Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifle (easy)
Pumpkin Spice Gingerbread Trifle
Raspberry Lemon Sorbet Floats
Roasted Stone Fruit Olive Oil Madeleines
Strawberry Chocolate Refrigerator Dessert (a Jell-o dessert – eh)
Tiramisu – Orange Tiramisu (oh my gosh, SO delicious, nontraditional)
Tiramisu – Pumpkin Amaretti Cookie Tiramisu (very different – everything about tiramisu but with pumpkin)
Tiramisu
Tiramisu (another one – this from Cook’s Illustrated – I prefer this one)

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