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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2021, I’ll still participate, but the two daughters are going to do more posting from here on out – well, I hope that’s not wishful thinking. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

We participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) if you purchase any books recommended (below), or buy products occasionally mentioned on the blog with an amazon link. 

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

At the moment I’m reading Amor Towles’ new book, The Lincoln Highway: A Novel. Literally I’ve just started it, but it’s a page turner. I think it’s still on the best seller list. A young man, Emmett, is released from a youth work camp (back in the day) and is returned home (by the camp warden) following the death of his father, to find that the home they’d lived in was in foreclosure. His mother abandoned them years before. His intent is to pick up his 8-year old brother and they will head off for Texas, but then he discovers two of his work-camp-mates had hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Oh my goodness, such a tangled web. Fascinating, and Amor Towles has such a way with words. His sentences are like blooming flower vines, with metaphors in nearly every sentence. Such a gifted writer. Loving it so far.

If you’d like a mystery read, try Dete Meserve’s The Space Between. It’s just the kind of page-turner I enjoy – a wife returns to her home after being away on business for a few days, to find her husband missing and what he’s left for her is an unexplained bank deposit of a million dollars, a loaded Glock in the nightstand, and a video security system that’s been wiped clean. Oh there are plenty of twists and turns. Couldn’t put it down.

Read Alyson Richman’s historical novel called The Velvet Hours. Most of the book takes place in Paris, with a young woman and her grandmother, a very wealthy (but aging) woman who led a life of a semi-courtesan. Or at least a kept woman. But this grandmother was very astute and found ways to invest her money, to grow her money, and to buy very expensive goods. Then WWII intervenes, and the granddaughter has to close up her grandmother’s apartment, leaving it much the way it had been throughout her grandmother’s life, to escape the Nazis. Years go by, and finally answers are sought and found. An intriguing book, based on the author’s experience with an apartment that had been locked up similarly for decades, also in Paris.

Susan Meissner is one of my favorite authors. This book, The Nature of Fragile Things tells a very unusual story. About a young Irish immigrant, desperate to find a way out of poverty, answers an ad for a mail order bride. She moves to San Francisco and becomes the bride, and mother to the man’s young child. But all is not right with the world. Sophie senses an undercurrent about her husband’s life. He’s elusive, leaves her alone for days on end, doesn’t share her bed, and she begins to feel the only reason he wanted a wife was to care for the child. Then the world turns upside down with the 1906 earthquake. And then there’s more. . . and more. . . very gripping read.

Also read Rachel Hauck’s The Writing Desk. You could call this a romance. A young professional, a writer of one successful book, has writer’s block. Then she’s asked to go to Florida to help her mother (from whom she’s mostly estranged) through chemo. She goes, hoping she can find new inspiration. Oh the various twists this book can give you. There’s a guy she meets, but she’s keeping her boyfriend at home on the string, sort of. Then there’s the desk itself, that has history. Oh my, does it have history. Really interesting story, light reading.

One of my book clubs has us reading Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library: A Novel. What a premise for a book. About a library you can whiz to in the middle of the night and discover other lives you could have lived. And experience them. To find out the answers to those questions we ask ourselves sometimes, “I wonder what would have happened if I’d . . . .” taken that other job, gone out with that guy, taken that trip. That kind of thing. You’ll find out what happened to one particular woman who thought she had nothing left to live for. Good read. Very different. A bit space-agey. Sort of time travel, but not really. But yes, maybe.

James Shipman has written an intriguing book, It Is Well: A Novel, about a man who has lost his wife. And about a woman who has lost her husband. But their relationship stalls, big time, because the guy made a promise to his wife, and he feels duty-bound to honor it. There is much angst about it all. Much wringing of hands, some tears on her part. Nice book; good read.

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers. The story is mostly about a young woman, educated, a Jew, who is the scribe (in secret) to an aging religious leader (in a time when women would have been verboten to hold such a position). And about her own curiosity about her religion and how she eventually begins writing letters (using a male pseudonym) to various Jewish leaders abroad, questioning their religious beliefs. The book is extraordinarily long – not that that kept me from turning a single page! – and complex with the cast of characters from the 1600s and the cast in today’s world of highly competitive experts analyzing the ancient papers. Altogether riveting book. Loved it from beginning to end.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid. Then to current time as a young woman tries to ferret her family history and particularly about some old-old jewelry that they can’t quite figure out – how the grandmother came to have them. Fascinating tale.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then becomes something else. There is graphic detail here.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name. She meets a guy and they share a bond of reading and some romance. Years go by and she’s now owner of a failing independent bookstore (and married, or separated) and suddenly begins receiving a used book (that she recognizes) every day from a different place in the country. A message for sure, but where will it lead? Yes, it’s a romance. Lots of introspection going on. Enjoyed it.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave a story.

 

Tasting Spoons

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

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Posted in Cookies, on February 16th, 2018.

almond_anise_biscotti

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

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

Image result for sambuca

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Almond Anise Biscotti

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

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

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

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  1. Linda

    said on February 17th, 2018:

    Thank you for the kudos! Glad you enjoyed my biscotti!

    I did, Linda, and I want to make them! . . .carolyn t

  2. Lisa

    said on February 19th, 2018:

    Lol! You just nailed why I popped over today two fold: I like to “check” in for both your recipes, how things are going with you and your book recommendations! I was just at the grocery and unable to find anise seed as I was wanting to make anise biscotti. I do have a recipe I use that’s just plain, it requires the seed, extract and brandy which I sometimes change out for my homemade bourbon vanilla instead and am excited about doing the combo with almond! We have about 4 different recipes I go through to have something in the cookie jar to go with coffee each morning as we all are on such different schedules; what is one person’s work day is another’s day off. So every day is a day off and in need of something tasty to go with the coffee! Thank you for all you offer up to what may seem an unresponsive world.

    Well, it was just serendipity, I’d guess! Glad you will try these – they’re really good. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did! . . carolyn t

  3. hddonna

    said on February 19th, 2018:

    These have my mouth watering–I love biscotti, and I love anise. I hope to try them soon–didn’t get any made at Christmas this year, for the first time in decades–and I’m craving biscotti! These sound similar to my own favorite recipe, which I adapted from one in Gourmet years ago. I like to use macadamia nuts–their texture works really well. (You might want to check your ingredient list above; it appears to call for vanilla vegetable spray.)

    Oh, thank you, Donna! I’ll go check that right this minute!!!! . . . carolyn t

  4. Toffeeapple

    said on February 23rd, 2018:

    I like Biscotti very much but I can’t see me making them somehow. I did manage a batch of flapjacks last week, for my daughter who ran a half marathon. I thought it might revive her and her running chums.

    Toni, I have to laugh! Do you cook? I know you eat dinner at your friend’s home, but otherwise do you cook at all? You must be interested in food, otherwise why would you read my blog? Even though I’m alone now, I still enjoy cooking, but I do cook differently than I did when my DH was alive. I eat leftovers with gusto, and my cooking is somewhat more simplified, I think. . . carolyn t

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