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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 August 16th, 2021.

Oh yum. Chocolate. Walnuts. Raisins. In a rich cookie. What’s there not to like?

A post from Carolyn. When I was a young-un, I read The Yearling, written by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. To this day I remember liking the book and I can’t tell you a thing about the story, other than it was set in Florida. But Rawlings’ name rolled off my tongue enough that I never forgot her name. Then I read her book, Cross Creek. Years went by and when I was visiting my first husband’s grandmother, I perused her cookbooks one day and noticed Cross Creek Cookery. My recollection is that I borrowed the book from her, and enjoyed reading the snippets of stories about her. And her recipes. Decades slipped by and I was reading a blog about Maida Heatter’s recipes (I do own two of her cookbooks) and up popped a recipe from Rawlings. I saved the recipe. Today was the day I finally got around to making them.

I don’t have the original recipe from Rawlings, but I have Heatter’s revised recipe, that contains no leavening (except eggs) and has the addition of some coffee. So the story goes. Heatter was driving across Florida, stopped at a gas station and inside, the owner served up a “brownie” that was (supposedly) Rawlings’ recipe. But the woman at the gas station was the one who added coffee. Maybe some one of my readers owns that Rawlings cookbook and can share the differences from there to here. Heatter thought they were more cookie than brownie, so they became such. Not sure if Rawlings’ original was called a brownie or a cookie.

Whatever they were called originally, the cookies are simple to make. The only slightly time consuming effort was to melt the unsweetened chocolate with the coffee. And cool it a bit before adding it to the butter-eggs mixture, then the eggs went in and flour; then the additions (walnuts, raisins [I used golden because that’s what I had on my pantry shelf] and chocolate chips). I used 3 cups of walnuts, not 4, which was in the original recipe. The batter is gooey – it’s not thin – but it’s certainly not moldable in your hands; far too wet for that, but using a spring-loaded cookie scoop they easily went onto cookie sheets and didn’t spread a bit. Mine baked for exactly 13 minutes and were done. Once cooled on a wire rack, they went into freezer bags and into the freezer for longer storage. I offered to take cookies to a reception following a memorial service for a dear friend’s husband, and she asked if her PEO sisters would bake cookies. Of course! When have I ever turned down the opportunity to bake cookies? . . . just as long as I get to keep just a few for myself!

What’s GOOD: just a lovely, fudgy, but cake-like cookie. Nice intense chocolate flavor. Like the chew with the addition of walnuts, raisins and chocolate chips. I’d definitely make them again.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chocolate Cookies

Recipe By: Adapted from Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings by Maida Heatter
Serving Size: 60

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup espresso — or dissolve 4 tsp of instant coffee granules in water
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate — coarsely chopped
6 ounces unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup raisins — black or golden
3 cups walnuts — chopped coarsely
2 cups chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and cover cookie sheets with parchment paper. Sift together the flour and salt and set aside.
2. Place unsweetened chocolate in a small saucepan with the espresso and melt over very, very low heat (definitely don’t allow it to burn), and stir until smooth. Remove from heat, stir and allow to cool for about 3-4 minutes.
3. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until soft. Add the vanilla and then gradually add the sugar, beating until mixed. Add the chocolate mixture and mix well (it is okay if the mixture is still warm).
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating them in well. On low speed, add the flour mixture and beat just until mixed. Stir in the raisins, nuts and chocolate morsels.
5. Use a spring-loaded cookie scoop if possible, or use two spoons together to scoop and place on the parchment paper about 2 inches apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes, reversing the pans halfway through baking. The cookies are done when they barely spring back when pressed. Do not overbake. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Per Serving: 192 Calories; 12g Fat (57.1% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 20mg Cholesterol; 106mg Sodium; 12g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 26mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 121mg Potassium; 72mg Phosphorus.

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  1. Katie Newman

    said on August 16th, 2021:

    Hi Carolyn — I believe the Chocolate Cookies in Cross Creek Cookery were likely called Boston Brownies.

    Google books has at least parts of the book scanned and freely online! Try this URL…. https://www.google.com/books/edition/Cross_Creek_Cookery/6RNvD5pvnvgC?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=%22Marjorie%20Kinnan%20Rawlings%22%20%22boston%20brownies%22165

    Boston Brownies, page 165 Cross Creek Cookery
    1 C sugar
    1/3 C butter
    2 eggs
    1 scant cup flour
    1/2 C raisins
    1 t baking powder
    2 squares melted chocolate in 1/4 C water
    1 C nutmeats
    1/2 t vanilla

    Mix as for cake. Drop by spoonfuls on waxed paper (!) laid in shallow pan. Bake in slow oven (350 F) about 10 minutes

    ——–
    Bon Appetit! I love that they have both nuts and raisins!
    Katie
    Champaign IL

    Thanks, Katie. I hadn’t done a search on it, so thank you! And I doubled the recipe, so the ingredients you list are exactly the same – except for the baking time. I think 10 minutes may be a better baking time – my recipe indicated not to overbake. I underbaked them by 1 minute, then 2 minutes on the subsequent batches. If I make these again, I’ll try 10 minutes. Thanks so much, Katie for the sleuthing for me!! . . . carolyn t

  2. Katie Newman

    said on August 16th, 2021:

    From: https://www.bostonbrownies.co.uk/

    Why “Boston Brownies”?

    ?Did you know the first-known printed use of the word “brownie” to describe a dessert appeared in the 1896 version of the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book by Fannie Farmer.

    That is why we are called “Boston Brownies”, we felt including ‘Boston’ in the name was an important part of the history of the brownie as we know it today!

    How very interesting, Katie. I had no idea! I always enjoy hearing stories about how recipes came into being! . . . carolyn t

  3. hddonna

    said on August 17th, 2021:

    I remember checking out Cross Creek Cookery from a library years ago–after reading Cross Creek–and enjoying both. I don’t remember anything about the recipes now, but I do remember her writing (in Cross Creek, I believe) about her disapproval of hearts of palm because of the destruction of a whole plant for a small edible portion. I never tried hearts of palm because of that.
    (I recently read somewhere that they are sustainable produced and bought a can for the next time I make a favorite recipe in which I have been substituting artichoke hearts for years.) Ahem! Back to topic. The cookie recipe sounds so good–I’ve always liked raisins and chocolate. And all those walnuts surely count for something towards making them more healthful than the average cookie.

    Ah, Donna, you and I are kindred spirits. But I didn’t remember anything about hearts of palm. Gee whiz, I love them. Hope you’re right about them being sustainably raised! Please read the other comment left by another one of my readers – she says the cookie was called Boston Brownies in the cookbook! I’m loving the cookies – just had TWO. Raisins aren’t something I crave, but I’ve really liked them in this cookie. . . carolyn t

  4. hddonna

    said on August 18th, 2021:

    I found Cross Creek Cookery in my library system, in a small-town library in Missouri, and have put a hold on it. When I get it, I’ll report back on the recipe.

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