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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 2023, I’m still doing 99% of the blogging and holding out hope that these two lovely and excellent cooks will participate. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

The Concubine, by Norah Lofts. Over the years I’ve read several books about the wives of Henry VIII. All quite fascinating. This one is all about Anne Boleyn. It’s historical fiction, in that the author gives a voice to all the characters, including Henry himself. Henry waited years upon years to have his way with Anne (she holding him off because he still was very married to Catherine of Spain). There’s one tidbit of insight (true? who knows?) that once Henry finally bedded Anne, he was quite disappointed with the act, and barely bothered to visit her bed except to his need for a son, each time equally disappointed (with the act). Such an interesting sideline to the fated life of Henry (and Anne), wanting nothing more than a son to succeed him. Henry did marry Anne Boleyn, but then beheaded her 2 years later, claiming she’d been an adulterer. Many people of the time called Anne The Concubine, hence the title. No one knows for sure whether she was or she wasn’t an adulterer. Made for a good read.

Fellowship Point by Alice Elliott Dark. Oh my goodness. One of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. I love nothing better than being engrossed in a book, so much that I can’t wait to get back to it. This book takes place in Maine, in some previous decades, and revolves around the friendship between two women and their families. This fictitious area, called Fellowship Point, was purchased by a small group of like-minded couples, as a place to spend the summers raising their children. There was a special land grant for this property, and as these two matriarchs reach old age, their purposes are at odds. The book covers so many subjects (let alone the beauty of the Maine landscape, which plays large) including reflections on aging, writing, land stewardship, family legacies, independence, and responsibility. Secrets are kept and then revealed. I guarantee you’ll be intrigued once you begin the first page.

On Mystic Lake, Kristin Hannah. One of Hannah’s earlier books. Another one I could hardly bear to stop reading. A woman sees her young adult daughter go off to school. In the next breath her husband tells her he’s in love with someone else and leaves. She’s nearly off her hinges. Grief? Yes. Disbelief? Yes. Eventually she retreats to her hometown in Washington State, hoping for some peace and understanding. She meets someone. Well, read the book.

A Wild and Heavenly Place by Robin Oliveira. A very different historical novel about the Pacific Northwest in its very early days. In the fleeting days of youth, in Scotland, a boy and a girl fall in love. The girl, with her family move to America, to some unknown place in Washington Territory. It takes years, but the boy makes his way to America too, to find her. Wishing doesn’t always make the best bedfellows. There is great plenty (coal) and great hardship (from the unforgiving land and equally unforgiving landlords of the coal industry). Very interesting history; liked the book a lot.

The Women, Kristin Hannah. Obviously I’m a fan of Hannah’s writing. She tackles some very difficult subjects, and this one is no different. During the Vietnam War, gullible Americans like me, believed what was delivered via media that there were no women in military service in Vietnam. Not true. Although this book is fiction, it delves deeply into the harsh environment of the nursing corps (and doctors too) who did their best to patch up the thousands of soldiers who could possibly be saved after the ugly battles. Another book I could hardly put down. It also covers PTSD, not only in the badly wounded soldiers, but the doctors and nurses who were bombed and lost lives too. The book is an eye-opener and one every American should read.

The Map Colorist by Rebecca D’Harlingue. Who knew there were such map-coloring artists back in the 1600s. And to find a woman doing it was unheard of. I was very intrigued by the actual art involved, and in this story she had to hide behind her mother’s skill because a young person simply couldn’t do the job, so the publishers thought. Her skill comes to the fore as she begins working with a wealthy man in her Dutch neighborhood. Very intriguing story. D’Harlingue is a very good story teller.

The Paris Novel, Ruth Reichl. Such a cute book – I devoured it. As much for the story as the occasional descriptions of food. Stella receives an unlikely inheritance from her mother – a one way ticket to Paris. The time is right and she goes. Wandering the streets she spots a vintage Dior gown hanging in a consignment store. The store owner insists she try it on, and then insists she buy it and wear it for a night of new adventures. Next stop: oysters at Les Deux Magots. There she meets an octogenarian and her real adventure begins. Hold onto your seat as Stella’s life takes on wings. So cute. A little bit of magical thinking, but plausible and fun from beginning to end. Loved it and could hardly put it down.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle. Amazon tells it best: “Where do you see yourself in five years? Dannie Kohan lives her life by the numbers. She is nothing like her lifelong best friend—the wild, whimsical, believes-in-fate Bella. Her meticulous planning seems to have paid off after she nails the most important job interview of her career and accepts her boyfriend’s marriage proposal in one fell swoop, falling asleep completely content. But when she awakens, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. Dannie spends one hour exactly five years in the future before she wakes again in her own home on the brink of midnight—but it is one hour she cannot shake. In Five Years is an unforgettable love story, but it is not the one you’re expecting.”

The Paris Daughter, Kristen Harmel. Never ceases to amaze me how authors can come up with a different take on a war novel. Riveting. Two young women meet in a park is Paris in 1939. Elise and Juliette and Juliette’s very young daughter. Elise must run as she’s Jewish, but she entrusts her baby to her friend Juliette. At the end of the war Elise returns to Paris to try to find her daughter. Oh, what a wicked web we weave sometimes. You’ll hang onto every new revelation in her journey to find her daughter.

Master Slave Husband Wife by Ilyon Woo. This book almost defies belief, but it’s a true story. In 1848, an enslaved Black couple, she fairer skinned, him dark skinned, manage to escape bondage by posing as a white woman with her slave (not husband). They journey from Georgia by various means, mere feet from the slave traders trying to find them, with ingenious methods of disguise. They’re handed from one “underground railroad” home to another, in between taking public transportation. Their goal: freedom in Philadelphia. Yet once they get there they don’t feel free, so they continue their journey northward. What a story. Another one every American should read. This book has been given many awards; so worth reading.

The Tiffany Girl by Deanne Gist. Such an interesting story. Flossie Jayne, a student at the Art Institute in NYC, is asked to help THE Mr. Louis Tiffany, finish the very elaborate glass chapel at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, when the glassworker’s union goes on strike. Many women were employed (when it was thought they couldn’t possibly have the strength to cut glass), working day and night, to finish the work. This is Flossie’s story, of the people she meets, and foists off, but always with her eye on the dream, succeeding in the art of cut glass design. Very interesting story. If you’ve ever admired Tiffany glass lamps and other decor items, you’ll enjoy learning more about what’s involved in making them.

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post by Allison Pataki. Ah, to live within the life of the rich and famous. This is a book of historical fiction, but is very much the story of Marjorie Merriweather Post. Her life. Her goals. Her daughters. Amazon notes: “Presidents have come and gone, but she has hosted them all. Growing up in the modest farmlands of Battle Creek, Michigan, Marjorie was inspired by a few simple rules: always think for yourself, never take success for granted, and work hard—even when deemed American royalty, even while covered in imperial diamonds. Marjorie had an insatiable drive to live and love and to give more than she got.” Her life wasn’t all sweetness and light. She was a survivor, had a good solid head for business, and married several times. Her life was very Oprah-esque, with fresh flowers in abundance every day, dripping with jewels and custom clothing. But she also knew how to scrimp and remake herself. Fascinating read. Wish I could have met her and  had tea (one of her favorite things).

Fox Creek by William Kent Kreuger. A Cork O’Connor Mystery. Kreuger is known for his love of the land. I’ve been a fan of his work for a long time. This one is new. This one weaves Indian territory and mores with a murder mystery. Very riveting as any mystery should be.

Chenneville, Paulette Jiles. From Amazon: Union soldier John Chenneville suffered a traumatic head wound in battle. His recovery took the better part of a year as he struggled to regain his senses and mobility. By the time he returned home, the Civil War was over, but tragedy awaited. John’s beloved sister and her family had been brutally murdered.” This is the story of his dogged, relentless journey to find and kill the killer. Grip your seat as he weathers some very treacherous adventures. Really good read, rugged outdoors kind of story. I’ve loved Jiles’ writing ever since I read News of the World by her. She’s a really good story-teller.

The Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala. Oh my goodness. From Amazon: In 2004, at a beach resort on the coast of Sri Lanka, Sonali Deraniyagala and her family—parents, husband, sons—were swept away by a tsunami. Only Sonali survived to tell their tale. This is her account of the nearly incomprehensible event and its aftermath.” I’ll tell you, this is a very hard book to read. The writer, the victim, tells you in intimate detail what happened at the time, immediately after, and then recounts months by month and a loooong time after her journey of grief. She barely functions. Wishes she’d been swept away too. Harrowing account of the facts and the journey of living again.

The Art of Resistance by Justus Rosenberg. From amazon: Unlike any World War II memoir before it. Rosenberg, has spent the past seventy years teaching the classics of literature to American college students. Hidden within him, however, was a remarkable true story of wartime courage and romance worthy of a great novel. Here is Professor Rosenberg’s elegant and gripping chronicle of his youth in Nazi-occupied Europe, when he risked everything to stand against evil.” His parents sent him off to Paris early on to go to school, from Danzig (which likely saved his life), but he becomes the hunted, and eventually part of the underground. Gripping book; well worth reading.

The Royal Librarian by Daisy Wood. A little bit of a reach, but believable nonetheless. A young woman, an accomplished librarian from Austria in 1940, is sent to Windsor to sort the centuries of valuable books, maps and treasures of the Royal Family. She believes she’s on a mission for British intelligence. She very distantly befriends Princess Elizabeth. Years later her sister unearths documentation about her sister, and she undertakes a journey of discovery too. You’ll learn a lot about Windsor Castle, even what they did during the Blitz. Lots of intrigue. Very sweet book and interesting since I love books about the Royal Family.

Long Time Gone by Charlie Donlea. If you watch any crime shows, you know how important DNA is these days. Here is a mystery that comes from familial DNA, in a framework of a current day research project. The protaganist is a fellow (woman) preparing to be a medical examiner. She’s assigned a project regarding DNA, requiring her to submit her own. She knows she was adopted, but nothing more. Oh my, stand by as this book unfolds with drama within nearly every page. Could hardly put it down. Her life is threatened and she doesn’t know who is friend or foe.

A Most Intriguing Lady, by Sarah Ferguson with Marguerite Kaye. Sarah Ferguson, yes, that Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, has now written her second novel. About a very astute young woman who deftly avoids the marriage mart, but comes from the ton. She wants to “do” something with her life other than be a companion to her aging mother. Plenty of characters, some intrigue, a love interest, cute story, you know how it will end, but good reading nevertheless. I liked Ferguson’s first book better, Her Heart for a Compass.

Under the Java Moon, by Heather Moore. Sometimes these WWII books are tough to read. This is a true story (written as fiction, though) about a few Dutch families who are taken prisoner on Java Island, by the Japanese. Certainly it’s a story about unbelievable deprivation and sadness, but also about resilience too. Not everyone survives, as you could guess, but you’ll be rooting for young Rita who takes on so many responsibilities far beyond her 6-year old’s abilities. I read this because a dear friend of mine’s husband (now deceased) was in the Army during WWII and spent a lot of his duty in Indonesia and had horrific stories to tell about the weather and environment (awful!). A period of his life he liked to forget. The book certainly brings that period and place to the forefront. I’m glad I read it.

Never in a million years would I have picked up Blind Your Ponies, by Stanley Gordon West. If I’d read the cover or flap that the bulk of the story is about basketball, I’d have put it back on the shelf. But oh, this book is – yes, about basketball, but it’s about a place in time in Montana, a few decades ago, when a tiny town supported their high school team. It’s about a dream. About the town who believed in them. About a tall young man who comes to lives in the town, and his deliverance, really, from a pretty awful background as he plays basketball, when he’d never played before. It’s about relationships, marriages, families and about how this little team makes it. Such a great story and SO glad I read it.

A Girl Called Samson, by Amy Harmon. I’m a fan of anything written by Harmon, and this one delivered as all her books do. 1760, Massachusetts. Deborah Samson is an indentured servant but yearns for independence. From being a rather tall, skinny kid (a girl) to faking it as a young soldier (a young man) in the Continental army. You’ll marvel at her ability to hide her true self. It’s quite a story. She’s thrown into the worst of situations in the war and comes through with flying colors. You’ll find yourself rooting for her and also fearing mightily that she’s going to either get killed, or be “found out,” by some of the men. Riveting story beginning to end. There’s a love interest here too which is very sweet.

On Mystic Lake, by Kristin Hannah. This is a book Hannah wrote some years ago, and tells the story of a woman, Annie, who finds out (on the day their daughter goes off to a foreign land for an exchange quarter) that her husband is in love with another woman and leaves her. Annie, who has been the quintessential perfect corporate wife, is devastated. She felt blind-sided. She cries and wallows, but eventually she returns home to her small town, where her widowed dad lives, in Washington. There she runs into many people she knew and at first feels very out of place. Slowly, she finds the town more welcoming and she helps a previous boyfriend, now widowed with his young daughter. A connection is there. Annie has to find herself, and she definitely does that. Her husband rears his head (of course he does!) after several months, and Annie has to figure out what to do. I don’t want to give away the story. Lots of twists and turns.

The Vineyard, by Barbara Delinsky. A novel with many current day issues. Husband and wife own a vineyard in Rhode Island. Husband dies. Widow soon (too soon) marries the manager, a hired employee, much to the consternation of her two grown children. Widow hires woman as personal assistant (much of the book comes from her voice) and she gets entangled into the many webs, clinging from the many decades the winery has tried to be successful. Really interesting. Lots of plot twists, but all revolving around work of the vineyard. Cute love story too. It wouldn’t be a Delinsky book without that aspect.

Consequences, Penelope Lively. I’ve always loved this author’s writing style. Have read many of her books. This one follows a rather dotted line family, the women, as they grow through worn-torn London and England. There’s poverty and both major events and minor ones that send the story’s trajectory in new directions. Riveting for me. Lively won the Booker Prize for Moon Tiger, her most famous book.

Below Zero, C.J. Box. Mystery of the first order. A Joe Pickett novel (he’s a game warden in Wyoming) with a family member thought dead is suddenly alive. Or is she? Joe’s on the hunt to find out. I don’t read these books at night – too scary. I love his books, though.

Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin on the Siberian Taiga, by Sylvain Tesson. I’m not sure what possessed me to read this book. About a late 30s guy who seems to crave solitude; he’s offered a 11×11 cabin in the cold/frozen Siberian outback, on a huge lake that freezes over in winter. Here’s a quote from the book: “A visit to my wooden crates. My supplies are dwindling. I have enough pasta left for a month and Tabasco to drench it in. I have flour, tea and oil. I’m low on coffee. As for vodka, I should make it to the end of April.” Vodka plays large in this book. Tesson (who is French, with Russian heritage) is a gifted writer, about the wilderness, the flora and fauna, about the alone-ness, the introspection. Mostly he ate pasta with Tabasco. No other sauce. Many shots of vodka every day. Drunkenness plays a serious role too – what else is there to do, you might ask? He lived there for about a year. I’d have lasted a week, no more.

The Auburn Conference by Tom Piazza. Another one, given my druthers I’m not sure I’d have picked up. For one of my book clubs. Excellent writing. 1883, upstate NY. A young professor decides to make a name for himself and puts on an event, inviting many literary luminaries of the day (Mark Twain, Frederick Douglass, Herman Melville, Forrest Taylor and a romance novelist [the outlier] Lucy Comstock). Part panel discussion, part private conversations, the author weaves a tale of discord, some moderate yelling, some rascism and much ridicule of the romance novelist. Also some words of wisdom, maybe not from the authors you’d have expected. Unusual book.

As Bright as Heaven, by Susan Meissner. 1918. Philadelphia. About a young family arriving with the highest of hopes. Then the Spanish Flu hits and dashes everything. You’ll learn a whole lot about that particular virulent flu and the tragic aftermath. Really good read.

Hour of the Witch, by Chris Bohjalian. Boston, 1662. A young woman becomes the 2nd wife of a powerful man, a cruel man. She determines to leave him, something just “not done” back then. Twists and turns, she’s accused of being a witch. Story of survival, and a redeeming love too.

My Oxford Year, by Julia Whelan. At 24, a young woman is honored with a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford. She’s older than most of her fellow classmates, and as an American, doesn’t fit in very well. She’s left a good job back home, but determines to try to work some for the political campaign job she’s left, and also do the work for her Oxford scholarship. She meets a professor. Oh my. Such an interesting book. I loved learning about the culture of Oxford, and there’s a fascinating romance too, somewhat a forbidden one with said professor.

Madame Pommery, by Rebecca Rosenberg. I love champagne. Have read a number of books over the years (novels) about the region (and I’ve visited there once). This is real history, though in a novelized form. Madame Pommery was widowed, and determined she would blaze a trail that was not well received (no women in the champagne business for starters). And she decides to make a different, less sweet version. She’s hated and reviled, but sticks to her guns, veering away from the then very sweet version all the winemakers were producing. Fascinating story.

The Wager, by David Grann. A true tale of shipwreck, mutiny and murder back in the 1740s. Not exactly my usual genre of reading, but once I heard about the book, I decided I needed to read it. This is a novelized version of the story, based on the facts of an English shipwreck, first off Brazil, then later off Chile. Of the men, their struggle to survive (and many didn’t). Yes, there’s murder involved, and yes, there’s mutiny as well. Those who survived stood trial back in England many years later. Riveting read.

Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate. 1939. A shantyboat in the backwaters of the Mississippi River. A 12-year old girl is left to care for her younger siblings when her mother is taken ill. A mystery ensues, and soon officials chase these youngsters to take them into an orphanage, one that became infamous for “selling” the children, weaving wild tales of their provenance. Dual timeline, you read about a successful young attorney who returns home to help her father, and questions come up about the family history. Fascinating read. You’ll learn about this real abominable woman, Georgia Tann, who profited by her “sales.”

The Vaster Wilds, by Lauren Goff. This tells the story of a young servant girl, in the aftermath of the starvation in Jamestown, the beleaguered town that virtually disappeared because the people weren’t prepared for the harshness of survival in those days. She escapes before the demise of the town and heads west, with nothing but the clothes she’s wearing. She survives longer than you might think, and encounters a lot of interesting experiences and people. Very interesting historical read.

Lady Tan’s Circle of Woman, Lisa See. Historical fiction, from 1469, Ming Dynasty, China. Based on the true story, however, about a young woman mostly raised by her grandmother who is a well known physician. Her grandfather is a scholarly physician, her grandmother, more an herbalist, or like a pharmacist of the day. Tan eventually marries into a family and is immediately subjugated by the matriarch, who won’t allow her to practice any of her healing arts. Quite a story, and also about how she eventually does treat women (women “doctors” were only allowed to treat women) as a midwife and herbalist. You’ll learn a whole lot about the use of flowers and herbs for healing and about the four humors.

Winter Garden, by Kristen Hannah. Quite a story, taking place in Washington State with apple orchards forming a backdrop and family business. Two sisters, never much friends even when they were young, return home to help care for their ailing father. Their mother? What an enigma. She took no part in raising them, yet she lived in the home. She cooked for the family, but rarely interacted. Yet her father adored his wife, their mother. How do they bridge the gulf between each other and also with their mother. Another page turner from Kristen Hannah.

Trail of the Lost, by Andrea Lankford. Not my usual genre. This is nonfiction, about Lankford who has plenty of credentials for rescue services, and is an avid hiker herself, determines to try to find some missing people who have disappeared off the face of the earth on the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s about how rescues work, everything from the disconnect between active citizens who want to help, and seemingly the unwillingness of authorities to share information. Not exactly a positive for law enforcement in this book. Really fascinating. There are hundreds of people who have disappeared off various long hike trails in the U.S. This is about four who were hiking (separately and at different times) on the PCT.

Tomorrow, Tomorrow and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin. I’ve never been a “gamer.” Not by any standard definition, anyway. Not like people who really get into games, adventure, killers, etc. And this book isn’t a game .. . but it’s a novel (and a great story, I might add) about how these games come into being. How they’re invented, how they morph. First there were two college students, then a third person is added, and they end up creating a wildly popular game. A company is born. And it goes from there. Mostly it’s about the people, their relationships, but set amidst the work of creating and running a gaming company. Not all fun and games, pun intended.

Remarkably Bright Creatures, by Shelby Van Pelt. Oh gosh, what a fabulous book. It’s a novel; however, much of the story is about the intelligence of octopus. In particular this one, Marcellus, who lives in an aquarium in a fictitious town in western Washington State. More than anything the book is about relationships, not only Marcellus with a woman (of a certain age) who cleans the aquarium at night, but the various people in this small town.

Trust, by Herman Diaz. This novel is an enigma in so many ways. It’s a book, within a book, within a book. About the stock market crash back in 1929, but it’s about a man. Oh my. It’s really interesting. This book won the Pulitzer. That’s why I bought it.

Cassidy Hutchinson is a young woman (a real one) who works in politics or “government.” She’s worked for some prestigious Washington politicians, and ended up working for Trump. The book is a memoir of her short spin working at the highest levels, and obviously at the White House. She worked under Mark Meadows and suffered a lot of ridicule when she quit. Truth and lies . . . when she couldn’t live with herself and subvert the truth. Enough, gives you plenty of detail leading up to and after the January 6th uprising. She testified to Congress about what she knew. Really interesting. I almost never read books about politics because I think many (most?) of our elected politicians succumb to the lure of power and forget who they work for, us, the public.

Becoming Dr. Q, by Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, MD, is an Associate Professor of Neurosurgery and Oncology at Johns Hopkins University. This is his memoir about how he went from being a penniless migrant from Mexico to one of the world’s most renowned experts in brain tumors.

The Invincible Miss Cust, by Penny Haw.  In 1868 Ireland, a woman wasn’t allowed to attend veterinary school, much less become a veterinarian. It took  years of trying (to the horror of her aristocratic family) and finally someone took her under their wing, she enrolled using a pseudonym (a name not revealing her gender). This is a true story of Aleen Isabel Cust, who did just that.

Her Heart for a Compass, by Sarah Ferguson (yes), the Duchess of York. I was pleasantly surprised as I read this book that it wasn’t the usual romantic romp – there’s more to this story than you might think. Ferguson utilizes some of her family ancestors as real characters in the book. Sweet story but with lots of twists and turns.

Someone Else’s Shoes, by Jojo Moyes.Nisha, our heroine, is a wealthy socialite. She thinks her life is perfect. At the gym someone else grabs her gym bag, so she grabs the similar one. Then she finds out her husband is leaving her and he’s locked her out of their high-rise apartment. She’s penniless. No attorney will take her on. She has nothing but this gym bag belonging to someone else (who?).

The Eleventh Man, Ivan Doig. What a story. Ben, part of a Montana college football team in the 1940s, joins the service during WWII. So do all of his eleven teammates. After suffering some injuries in pilot training he is recruited by a stealthy military propaganda machine. His job is to write articles about his teammates as they are picked off at various battle theaters around the Pacific and Europe. Ben goes there, in person, to fuel the stories. Ivan Doig is a crafty writer; I’ve read several of his books, my favorite being The Whistling Season.

Wavewalker, by Suzanne Heywood. Oh my goodness. A memoir about a very young English girl who goes off with her besotted and narcissistic parents and her brother on a years-long sailing journey supposedly following the route of James Cook. A very old, decrepit 70-foot schooner. Four people, 2 sort-of adults and 2 children. Sometimes a helper or two. A seasick mother. A dad who is driven to the extreme, whatever the damage he creates. She spent 10 years aboard.

Claire Keegan wrote Small Things Like These. It’s won a lot of awards, and shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Takes place in Ireland. Some profound questions come up in this novella, about complicity, about restitution. There’s a convent nearby, and attached one of those places young girls were sent if they found themselves “in the family way,” and about how the church helped, supposedly, by taking the children and placing them in homes, without consent. It’s ugly, the truth of the matter. Really good read.

Nicholas Sparks isn’t an author I read very often because his books are pretty sappy, but daughter Sara recommended this one, The Longest Ride. It begins with Ira (age 93), stuck in his car as it plunges off the edge of a road, and it’s snowing. As the hours tick by, he reminisces about his life.

The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind, by Barbara Lipska. Interesting that I’ve read two books recently about the brain (see Doctor Q above). This is a true story about a woman, a neuroscientist, who developed a metastatic melanoma in the brain.

The Price of Inheritance, by Karin Tanabe. This is a mystery, of sorts. Our heroine is an up and coming employee at Christie’s (auction house). In bringing a large collection of expensive art to auction, she makes a misstep about the provenance of a desk. She’s fired. She goes back to her roots, takes a job at a small antique store where she used to work.

The Covenant of Water, by Abraham Verghese. Did you read Cutting for Stone, years ago, by this author? Such a good book, so I knew I’d enjoy this one, and oh, did I!. The book takes place in a little known area of southern India, and chronicles a variety of people over a few generations, who inhabit the place.

Finding Dorothy, by Elizabeth Letts. My friend Dianne recommended this book to me, and it was so special. Loved it beginning to end. It’s based on the story of 77-year old Maud Gage Baum (her husband Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz).

The Bandit Queens, by Parini Shroff. It’s about a young Indian woman, Geeta, as she tries her best to make a living after her husband leaves her. Yet the community she lives in, thinks Geeta murdered him.

Attribution, by Linda Moore. We follow art historian Cate, as she struggles to succeed in her chosen field against sexist advisors. She finds what she thinks is a hidden painting.

The Measure, Nikki Erlick. Oh my goodness. This story grabbed me from about the third sentence. Everyone in the world finds a wooden box on their doorstep, or in front of their camper or tent, that contains a string. Nothing but a string. The author has a vivid imagination (I admire that) and you just will not believe the various reactions (frenzy?) from people who are short-stringers, or long-stringers.

The Book Spy by Alan Hlad. True stories, but in novel form, of a special Axis group of men and women librarians and microfilm specialists, sent to strategic locations in Europe to acquire and scour newspapers, books, technical manuals and periodicals, for information about German troop locations, weaponry and military plans of WWII. I was glued to the book beginning to end. Fascinating accounts.

A Dangerous Business, Jane Smiley. What a story. 1850s gold rush, story of two young prostitutes, finding their way in a lawless town in the Wild West. There’s a murder, or two, or three, or some of the town’s prostitutes, and the two women set out to solve the crime.

Storm Watch, by C. J. Box. I’m such a fan of his tales of Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett’s adventures catching criminals. Loved it, just like I’ve loved every one of his books.

Defiant Dreams, by Sola Mahfouz. True story about the author, born in Afghanistan in 1996. This is about her journey to acquire an education. It’s unbelievable what the Taliban does to deter and forbid women from bettering themselves.

Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This is fairly light read, a novel – but interesting, about the meaning behind many flowers.

The Rome Apartment, by Kerry Fisher. Such a cute story. Maybe not an interesting read for a man. It’s about Beth, whose husband has just left her, and her daughter has just gone off to college. Beth needs a new lease on life, so she rents a room from a woman who lives in Rome.

All the Beauty in the World, a memoir by Patrick Bringley. Absolutely LOVED this book. Bringley was at loose ends and accepted a job as a guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. He’d been a journalist at The New Yorker magazine, but after his brother was ill and died, he needed refreshing. After his training at the museum, he moves from room to room, guarding the precious art, and learning all about the pieces and the painters or sculptors.

The Queen’s Lady, by Joanna Hickson. I love stories about Tudor England, and this one didn’t disappoint. Joan Guildford is a lady in waiting to Queen Elizabeth. Oh my goodness are there twists and turns.

Once in awhile I’m ready to read another Louise Penny mystery. This time it was World of Curiosities. Usually I’d write something wonderful regarding “another tome about Three Pines.” Not going to say it this time. Three Pines becomes a sinister place. Murders (many).

Over the years I’ve read many of Jodi Picoult’s books. This, her newest, or very new, is called Mad Honey. Oh, my. This book is beyond Picoult’s usual borders, but then she always writes edgy books. That’s her genre. This one is written with a co-author, a woman who is gay (I think) and also a trans-gender.

Philippa Gregory is one of my fav authors. Just finished her 3rd (and last, I think) in the Fairmile series called Dawnlands. If you scroll down below you’ll find the 2nd book in the series, Tidelands. Very interesting about English history, but about the same families from the first book in the group. Loved it, as I loved all of them.

Am currently reading Rutherfurd’s long, long book, Paris. I love these involved historical novels about a place (he’s written many about specific places in the world). It’s a saga that goes back and forth in time, following the travails of various people and families, through thick and thin. Some of it during the era of the King Louis’ (plural, should I say Louies?). Very interesting about some of the city’s history and royalty.

Although this book says A Christmas Memory, by Richard Paul Evans, it’s not just about Christmas. A young boy is the hero here, but really an older widower man who lives next door plays a pivotal part of this book.

Wish You Were Here, by Jodi Picoult. Another page-turner. I loved this book. A thirty-something woman, about to take a trip with her boyfriend, when Covid breaks out. Covid plays a major role in this book, beginning to end. She decides to go anyway as her boyfriend is a doctor and cannot leave. She ends up on a remote Galapagos island, and you go along with her – with people she meets, the life she leads, the isolation she experiences, the loneliness she feels, but the joy of nature is a sustaining aspect.

Not everyone wants to read food memoirs. When I saw Sally Schmitt had written a memoir, titled Six California Kitchens, I knew I wanted to read it. I met Sally a few times over the years when I visited Napa Valley, and bought some of her famous pickled items, chutneys, jams, etc. She was the original chef at The French Laundry, before it became truly famous by Thomas Keller.

Being a fan of Vivian Howard (from her TV show), when I saw she’d written another book, I knew I should buy it. This Will Make It Taste Good is such an unusual name for a cookbook, but once you get into the groove of the book, you’ll understand. What’s here are recipes for some “kitchen heroes” she calls them. They’re condiments. They’re food additions, they’re flavor enhancers.

As soon as it came out, I ordered Spare, by Prince Harry. I’ve always been interested in the Royal Family.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. Usually I don’t seek out short stories. I might have purchased this book without realizing it was. There aren’t that many stories – each one gets you very ingrained in the characters. I love her writing, and would think each story in this book could be made into a full-fledged novel.

A Lantern in Her Hand, by Beth Streeter Aldrich. A very interesting and harrowing story of early pioneer days in the Midwest (Nebraska I think); covered wagon time up to about 80 years later as the heroine, Abbie Deal, and her husband start a family in a small town.

The Messy Lives of Book People, by Phaedra Patrick. From amazon’s page: Mother of two Liv Green barely scrapes by as a maid to make ends meet, often finding escape in a good book while daydreaming of becoming a writer herself. So she can’t believe her luck when she lands a job housekeeping for her personal hero, mega-bestselling author Essie Starling, a mysterious and intimidating recluse.

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. I’m a fan of this author and relished reading his book about a year in his personal life, with his wife and very new, newborn twins. Doerr was given an auspicious award – a year of study in Rome, with apartment and a stipend. There are four chapters, by season.

Kristin Hannah’s Distant Shores is quite a read. Some described it as like a soap opera. Not me. Interesting character development of a couple who married young. She put her own career/wants/desires aside to raise their children. He forged ahead with his life dreams. The children grow up and move on. Then he’s offered a huge promotion across the country. She’s torn – she doesn’t want to be in New York, but nothing would get in the way of his career.

Oh, William! by Elizabeth Strout. Lucy Barton is divorced. But she’s still sort of friendly with her ex. It’s complicated. Out of the blue he asks her to go on a trip with him to discover something about his roots.

Tidelands,  by Philippa Gregory. It tells the tale of a peasant woman, Alinor (an herbalist and midwife), who lives barely above the poverty level, trying to raise two children, during the time of great turmoil in England, the rancorous civil war about Charles 1.

Read Reminders of Him, by Colleen Hoover. A page turner of a story. A young woman is convicted of a crime (young and foolish type). Once released her sole purpose is to be a part of her daughter’s life.

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty. Oh my goodness. The wicked webs we weave. How in the world did the author even come UP with this wild story, but she did, and it kept me glued. Sophie walked away from her wedding day, and always wondered if she made the wrong decision.

Very funny and poignant story, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, by Elizabeth Taylor (no, not that one). Mrs. Palfrey, a woman of a certain age, moves into an old folks’ home in London. It’s a sort of hotel, but has full time elderly quirky residents.

For one of my book clubs we read Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus. This book is so hard to describe. Elizabeth is a wizard at chemistry and struggles to be recognized for her intelligence and research. She meets a man at her company who is brilliant too. They make quite a pair. They have a child, then he suddenly dies. Her work isn’t taken seriously, so she leaves her employment and becomes an overnight phenom on a cooking show where she uses the chemical names for things like sodium chloride, etc. You go alongside her struggles, and her raising of her daughter. LOTS of humor, lots to discuss for a book club.

Horse. Oh my, is it a page turner. Loved it from the first page to the last. Sad when it ended. It’s a fictional creation but based on a real racehorse owned by a black man, back in the 1850s. Technically, the story is about a painting of the horse but there are many twists and turns. If you’ve ever enjoyed Brooks’ books in the past, this one won’t disappoint.

The Book of Lost Names, by Kristin Harmel (no, not Hannah). Certainly a little-known chunk of history about a woman who becomes a master forger during WWII to help get Jewish children out of France. Not easy to read, meaning the difficulty of anyone finding the means and place to DO the forgery and right under the noses of the Nazis. Really good read.

Liane Moriarty’s first novel, Three Wishes, follows the travails of adult triplets, so different, yet similar in many ways. Two are identical, the third is not. So alike, and so not. It takes you through a series of heart-wrenching events, seemingly unrelated, but ones that could bring a family to its breaking point and test the bonds of love and strength.

Recently I’ve read both of Erin French’s books, her cookbook, The Lost Kitchen, and since then her memoir, Finding Freedom. About her life growing up (difficult) about her coming of age mostly working in the family diner, flipper burgers and fries (and learning how much she liked to cook). Now she’s a very successful restaurant entrepreneur (The Lost Kitchen is also the name of her restaurant) in the minuscule town of Freedom, Maine. She’s not a classically trained chef, but she’s terrifically creative. See her TV series on Discover+ if you subscribe.

Jo Jo Moyes has a bunch of books to her credit. And she writes well, with riveting stories. Everything I’ve read of hers has been good. This book, The Girl You Left Behind, is so different, so intriguing, so controversial and a fascinating historical story. There are two timelines here, one during WWI, in France, when a relatively unknown painter (in the style of Matisse) paints a picture of his wife. The war intervenes for both the husband and the wife.

Eli Shafak’s Island of Missing Trees. This book was just a page turner. If you’ve never read anything about the conflict in Cyprus (the island) between the Turks and the Greeks, you’re in for a big history lesson here. But, the entire story centers around a fig tree. You get into the head/brain/feelings of this big fig tree which plays a very central part of the story. You’ll learn a lot about animals, insects (ants, mosquitos, butterflies) and other flora and fauna of Cyprus.

Also read Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. Ohhh my, such a good book. I couldn’t put it down. Whatever you do, do not read the ending before you start the book. I’ve never understood people who do this. The book chronicles the day a mom just ups and disappears. The grown children come back home, in panic. The dad isn’t much help, and he becomes the prime suspect of foul play. There is no body, however.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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 November 6th, 2022.

No, those aren’t biscotti. I know they look like them, but they’re not.

A post from Carolyn. A dear friend passed away recently at 96. Such a sweet PEO friend; she’ll be missed. Our PEO chapter offered to bake cookies for the reception, so I looked through my to-try files and this one seemed to fit the bill. They would transport well (with waxed paper between layers, that is) and they weren’t all that difficult to make. Plus they had fall, spicy flavors in them. A win-win.

This is a Dorie Greenspan recipe that I’d downloaded a year or two ago, but after reading the comments, I changed the recipe some. Many said they were too sweet. So I reduced the amount of brown sugar and the amount of molasses. I didn’t have enough golden raisins, so I used half of them and half currants. I also added some ground cardamom. I think you could still reduce the sugar in these, especially because of the icing, which is 98% sugar. I also have reduced the quantity of icing – it made too much.

They are baked in long logs – they seemed quite thick – I should have made the logs thinner, so because of that, I cut the pieces (after they were cooled and iced) into smaller ones. Usually hermits are kind of oblong-ish squares. Oblongs would have been way too big. So, therefore I cut them into thinner biscotti-like pieces.

The icing, Dorie said, could be made with lemon juice (in the powdered sugar) or rum, or milk. I opted to do two of the logs with lemon juice and two with dark, spiced rum. There is a difference in the color of the icing if you use spiced rum. I liked both, so use your preference.

What’s GOOD: easy to make, great for fall. Would be nice as Christmas cookies too. You can make the batter several days ahead. Am sure these would keep well – layer with waxed paper, though, so you don’t damage the icing.

What’s NOT: nothing, really .. . make sure you have golden raisins and/or currants.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Iced Spiced Hermits

Recipe By: Adapted from Dorie Greenspan
Servings: 48

4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal salt — or 1 tsp. Morton kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 2/3 cups light brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter — room temperature
2 large eggs
1/3 cup molasses
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup currants
GLAZE:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar — (220 g) sifted
4 tablespoons milk — (or more)or use fresh lemon juice, or rum

NOTES: I altered the original recipe – I used less brown sugar, less molasses and added ground cardamom. I also used some black currants (dried) in place of some of the golden raisins. Plus I reduced the quantity of the icing.
1. Whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, baking powder, and pepper in a medium bowl.
2. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat brown sugar and butter until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs and molasses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients; beat until just combined. Add raisins and currants and mix just to evenly distribute. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.
3. Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350°. Divide dough in quarters and transfer to two parchment-lined baking sheets. Using wet hands, shape dough into two 12″-long logs (a plastic bowl scraper is helpful for this). Use your fingers or your palm to flatten the logs. They spread some, so don’t let the logs touch. Arrange on opposing long sides of baking sheet, spacing 2″ from long edges.
4. Bake logs until edges are just set but centers are still soft, 23–26 minutes (logs will spread and crack). At the halfway point, switch sheets and turn them around so they bake evenly. Remove and let cool on the baking sheet.
5. GLAZE: Whisk powdered sugar and milk (or rum or lemon juice) in a small bowl until smooth. Glaze should be thick but pourable; thin with more milk, juice or rum as needed. Drizzle glaze erratically over logs; let sit until set, at least 30 minutes. Using a serrated knife, slice logs crosswise 1″ thick (or slice 2″ thick and cut in half down the center for a squarish cookie). Store airtight at room temperature. Freeze for longer storage.
6. Do ahead: Cookie batter can be mixed up to 4 days ahead.
Per Serving: 131 Calories; 4g Fat (28.3% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 18mg Cholesterol; 131mg Sodium; 14g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 24mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 95mg Potassium; 27mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on October 30th, 2022.

Oh so tender little cakey bites with dried apricots and golden raisins plus a brandy syrup poured over the top. And then a lemony drizzle on top of that.

A post from Carolyn.  This isn’t a new recipe here on the blog, but it’s been years – YEARS – since I made them. And because I did – make them last week, that is – any of you who weren’t around in 2008 should know about them.

Originally the recipe came from a 1996 issue of Sunset Magazine. I’d put it into my recipe program way back then, and have made them many times. What appealed to me was the combination of apricots and brandy. And that’s still the same thing that encourages me to make them.

You mix up an easy batter  – kind of a cake type, not cookie type and pour it into a buttered 10×15 pan. You can do it in a 9×13 pan, but they’ll take a bit longer to bake. The cake is baked for about 25 minutes. Once out of the oven you pour over a syrup made up of sugar, apricot brandy and lemon juice. Once the bars have cooled, you drizzle on a lemony icing. That’s what you can see in the photo – the icing. The syrup completely soaks into the cake. Although the bars are not soggy or wet at all – you can taste the brandy, certainly, and you might think the brandy is in the icing. But no.

They keep at room temp (sealed in a container, of course) for three days, but after that you should freeze them, using waxed paper to separate the layers. When you store them at first you should separate them with waxed paper also.

What’s GOOD: Love the tender cake rather than firm, chewy cookie-style bar, exactly. Love-love the brandy in these (not much). Definitely something for adult palates. You probably don’t give your children bourbon balls – so you might not want to give them these bars either. So, so good with a cup of coffee or tea. They freeze well (separate with waxed paper). They lend themselves well to fall flavors or Christmas, but you could make them any time of year.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. Absolutely wonderful little nuggets.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Brandied Apricot Bars

Recipe By: Sunset Magazine, 1996
Servings: 36

COOKIE/CAKE BATTER:
1 cup butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tbsp grated orange peel
1 tbsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups dried apricots — minced
2/3 cup golden raisins
BRANDY SYRUP:
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup apricot brandy — or Cointreau
3 teaspoons lemon juice
LEMON JUICE GLAZE:
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2/3 cup powdered sugar

NOTES: Be sure to use fresh dried apricots and golden raisins. If they’re the least bit firm (from sitting on your pantry shelf for months) rehydrate them in hot water for at least 30 minutes before draining, blotting dry and adding to the batter.
1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, beat butter, 1/3 cup sugar, and brown sugar with mixer until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, then add orange peel and vanilla.
2. In separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, soda and cinnamon. Stir into butter mixture along with apricots and raisins.
3. Pour batter into lightly buttered 10×15 in. pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until cookie is lightly browned and springs back in center. Set on rack to cool.
4. BRANDY SYRUP – Just before cookies are done, combine 1/3 cup sugar, brandy, and lemon juice in sauce pan. Bring to boil over high heat, remove and when cookie comes from oven, spoon warm apricot syrup evenly over it. Let cool completely, then cut into 3 dozen equal pieces and leave in pan.
5. Lemon Icing – mix lemon juice and powdered sugar until smooth. Drizzle over the cookies. Once drizzle is sort of dried, remove cookies from pan. Store airtight up to 3 days; after that freeze them.
Per Serving: 132 Calories; 6g Fat (38.7% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 34mg Cholesterol; 78mg Sodium; 11g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 23mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 132mg Potassium; 41mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on September 6th, 2022.

A winner of a good cookie.

A post from Carolyn. In my recipe program, MasterCook, I have 344 cookie recipes. I’ve probably made half of them; maybe more. And, of course, I keep adding to the list. Last week I was preparing some food to ship off to my granddaughter who is in medical school in South Carolina. She’s been there for about 6 weeks now – loving it as far as I know. I’ve texted with her a few times. She studies a lot. Obviously! And although she likes to cook, she’s learning that she just doesn’t have much time to cook because of the amount of studying she must do. Fortunately, there’s a Trader Joe’s in her neighborhood. But food from home is always welcomed. I hope the cookies survive the flight across country in a box that may get thrown and tossed.

I made a batch of granola bars (with dried cranberries and walnuts). Not sure they will ever make the rotation again (they were all for her), but we’ll see what she says. They were very sticky and not as firm as I’d hoped. They were altogether too sweet for me, but then she’s young and needs nutrition in any form she can get it.

Then I made these cookies. I had started out with a recipe from Half Baked Harvest, but I altered it some. I’m not such a fan of cookies made with all brown sugar, so I used about 2/3 brown, and 1/3 regular white sugar. I’d debated about adding walnuts, but ended up not; I also reduced the quantity of chocolate chips. Otherwise, the recipe is mostly the same. Butter gets gently browned in a skillet. Be sure to use a light colored pan so you can SEE how brown the butter is getting. It goes from looking like golden melted butter to dark in a matter of about a minute. It needs to cool awhile before being added to the cookie batter.

I kept the dough in mounds (I thought they would ship better), but you can also flatten the dough on the pan too. In mounds, the cookies took about 13 minutes to bake (until golden brown). If flattened, they’d probably bake in 2-3 fewer minutes.

What’s GOOD: loved the crispy texture and taste. Good and nutritious. The chocolate doesn’t overwhelm the cookie but you know the chips are there. The browned butter adds a rich flavor. Yes, I’d make these again.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of . . . they’re really delicious.

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

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Oatmeal Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe By: Adapted from Half Baked Harvest
Servings: 60

4 sticks unsalted butter
1  1/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups oatmeal — old fashioned
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 cups chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Add the butter to a skillet set over medium heat. Cook until the butter begins to brown, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a heatproof bowl. Let cool about 10 minutes.
3. In bowl of stand mixer, combine brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla, mixing until smooth. Add browned butter, then add flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Gently fold in the chocolate. As the batch sits, it will get more firm (as the oatmeal absorbs liquid).
4. Using a scoop, make rounded tablespoon size balls and place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes. Rotate sheets and continue to bake for about 5 more minutes until are golden brown and show some dark brown around the edges.
5. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet. They will continue to cook slightly as they sit on the baking sheet. Let cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Per Serving: 175 Calories; 9g Fat (45.9% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 30mg Cholesterol; 112mg Sodium; 11g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 24mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 66mg Potassium; 54mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on August 2nd, 2022.

Bars that are kinda cookie, kinda dessert, a happy match of the two.

A post from Carolyn. It’s been years ago that I downloaded this recipe from a now-defunct food blog called Alpineberry. It’s been long ago enough that I don’t remember the writer’s name, just that I remember her blog’s name, and I’d made a note of it in my recipe, and I have a few other recipes from that blog too. This recipe is a keeper, for sure.

It does require the making of three layers (a crust, an apple layer and a cream cheese filling). None is hard to do – the most tedious is probably the peeling, coring and slicing (thinly) the apples. The crust contains the usual things plus some cream cheese AND both almond and vanilla extracts. Some of it is set aside to make the topping. The filling is a cream cheese, egg, sugar and lemon juice combination. You can barely see it on top of the apples in the picture above. It’s not a thick filling – just enough to provide some nice creamy texture to the finished bars.

The crust is baked, cooled some, then the apples are added (you use Granny Smith so the apple filling doesn’t turn into applesauce) and gently smoothed out. Then the cream cheese filling is poured on top and gently spread out. Then the topping (the remainder of the crust plus some almonds, flour and more sugar. Sliced almonds are added on the top. That’s it. Baked for about 50 minutes.

What’s GOOD: loved the apple flavor, the texture, the little creamy layer and the crunch of the almonds. Altogether delicious bar or dessert. My granddaughter Taylor loved these. They’re especially nice served with some vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream. But they don’t need embellishment – served as is would be fine too, even out of hand.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Almond Apple Bars

Recipe By: From Alpineberry blog (no longer exists)
Servings: 12

CRUST:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt — (or 1/4 tsp table salt)
3 ounces cream cheese — softened
4 tablespoons unsalted butter — softened
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar — may use half artificial sweetener
1/4 cup light brown sugar — may use half artificial sweetener
1/3 cup almonds — finely chopped
TOPPING:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar — may use half artificial sweetener
2 tablespoons light brown sugar — may use half artificial sweetener
1/4 cup almonds — coarsely chopped
FILLING:
5 ounces cream cheese — softened at room temp.
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 pinch salt
1 pound Granny Smith apples — peeled, cored & cut into thin slices (about 3 apples)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9×9 inch square baking pan with parchment. Butter the parchment.
2. CRUST: Sift flour and salt. Set aside dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Add the almond and vanilla extracts and beat on medium until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the granulated and brown sugars and beat on medium speed until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. On low speed, mix in the flour-salt mixture and the 1/3 cup of finely chopped almonds just until the dough comes together. It should be crumbly.
3. Reserve about 2/3 cup of the crust mixture for the topping. Press the remaining dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. You may use an offset spatula, your fingertips, or the bottom of a glass to smooth out the dough. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Bake until light golden, about 16-18 minutes. Remove crust from the oven.
4. TOPPING: While the crust bakes, make the topping by adding the flour, granulated and brown sugars to the reserved crust dough. Mix until well combined. It should be crumbly. Set aside topping and 1/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds while you make the filling.
5. FILLING: In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg, lemon juice and salt until well mixed.
6. ASSEMBLY: Arrange the apple slices over the baked crust. Pour cream cheese filling over the apples and gently spread (using an offset spatula) the filling to cover. Crumble the topping over the filling. Sprinkle with the almonds. Bake until light golden brown, about 45-50 minutes. Let the bars cool in the pan for about 30 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a cooling rack before cutting.
Per Serving: 279 Calories; 14g Fat (45.7% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 45mg Cholesterol; 176mg Sodium; 20g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 49mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 151mg Potassium; 83mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on June 9th, 2022.

Have you learned to trust Ina Garten’s recipes?

A post from Carolyn. If you haven’t, you should trust Ina’s recipes. I’ve not ever thought of making a grand statement about Ina’s recipes, but here goes: I’ve never made an Ina Garten recipe that hasn’t been spot-on. She’s a genius in the kitchen. And almost never are her recipes difficult or laborious. Some are expensive since she uses nothing but the best ingredients like pounds of fresh crab right off the boat, or beef tenderloin, or imported cheeses. But many of her recipes are simple. Easy. And many use ordinary ingredients.

So speaking of lemon bars here . . . have you ever eaten some that were not quite up to snuff? I sure have. And I’ve made them too, and not been happy with the results. I mean – they were okay, but not exceptional. These – this recipe – goes into the exceptional category. Just the right amount of sweet to tart, and just the right amount of lemon filling to the sugary topping. And the right amount of crust too.

One time, years ago, I was making a recipe for an appetizer. Don’t even remember what it was, but it was a loosey-goosey kind of recipe – a little this and a little of that. Oh, I remember, it’s on my blog already, they’re called Ginger Picks. It required a little square of ham, a fresh piece of pear and a little nub of crystallized ginger. In making them, I needed to taste it to see if the flavors worked. They did, but I figured out that you needed a piece of ham in a just-so size, a piece of pear in a just-so size, and a piece of crystallized ginger in a just-right size. In order to be perfect, each needed to be a very particular size, otherwise it didn’t work. Hence the same with these lemon bars. They need to have each part – crust – filling – topping be just right.

What’s GOOD: that they’re perfect. Just the right amount of tart to sweet, filling to crust, all in one bite. Make these.

What’s NOT: really, nothing at all. Ina Garten is a wizard.

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Lemon Bars

Recipe By: Ina Garten
Serving Size: 40

CRUST:
1/2 pound unsalted butter — at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
FILLING:
6 extra large eggs — at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest — grated, 4-6 lemons
1 cup lemon juice — freshly squeezed
1 cup flour Confectioners’ sugar — for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.
3. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
4. For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature. Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.
Per Serving: 156 Calories; 6g Fat (31.2% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 43mg Cholesterol; 20mg Sodium; 18g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 8mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 30mg Potassium; 29mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on May 27th, 2022.

A post from Sara: I’ve always been a huge fan of chocolate and peanut butter. And when you use chewy brownies and melted peanut butter? Well, simply fantastic. I made these little jewels to ship to my kids in school in the South. It packages and ships well enough. I do put each in its own cupcake paper so they don’t stick. Then I boxed them up in aluminum 8×8 throw away containers with lids before packaging in a shipping box.

I used my go-to recipe for chewy, dense brownies. They’ve been posted here on the blog before. After pouring the batter into 9×13 pan, melt 1/2 cup peanut butter. I use a glass measuring cup and heat it gently in the microwave so it’s easy to pour onto the brownie batter. Then use a knife and swirl peanut butter into brownie batter for a marble effect. (See photo at left)

Bake according to directions. Once cooled, frost with a basic peanut butter frosting recipe.

I use a Betty Crocker recipe, and once frosted you need to place the pan in the freezer for a few hours. Then I cut out the shape I wanted using a cookie cutter. Since it was Easter, I chose egg shapes. You freeze again for at least 30 mins. Then use a chocolate glaze made with dark chocolate chips and a smidge of margarine. Using your hands, each one is dipped into the chocolate and set on a rack to dry, then sprinkled with decoration before the chocolate sets.

What’s GOOD: I was really surprised at how easy and professional they looked. They were a huge hit as every bit of leftovers pieces (photo above right) were consumed at Easter. I guess everyone loves peanut butter and brownies as much as I do! The number of servings is based on cookie cutter size. In this case the batch made about 32. Would make a great gift in an Easter Basket.

What’s NOT: it takes a bit of time to make the various layers, but altogether they’re very easy to make. Allow for freezing time in between.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownie Eggs

Recipe By: A combination created by Sara
Serving Size: 32

PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIES:
1 cup butter — PLUS 2 tablespoons
2 1/4 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour — PLUS 1 tablespoon
3/4 cup cocoa powder — PLUS 1 tablespoon
1/4 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped nuts — (optional)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter — for swirling in batter
FROSTING:
1 cup butter — softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
CHOCOLATE GLAZE:
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 tablespoon margarine — yes, margarine, not butter
decorative sprinkles for the top

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Line 9×13 pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray.
3. Melt butter and sugar in a heavy saucepan on very low heat. Let the mixture cool slightly and transfer to a large bowl. Add eggs gradually, mixing well. Add vanilla extract.
4. Sift dry ingredients together and add to egg mixture, stirring gently and minimally. Add chocolate chips and nuts (if using). Pour into prepared pan and spread to edges if needed.
5. Melt the 1/2 cup peanut butter in a glass measuring cup in microwave on low power (spout is important here) until pourable. Pour on top of the brownie batter in the pan. Using a knife, swirl the peanut butter throughout.
6. Bake approximately 35 minutes – do NOT overbake or you’ll lose the fudgy, gooey texture! Cool completely.
7. FROSTING: Beat butter in medium bowl on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in peanut butter, 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, the milk and vanilla. Gradually beat in remaining 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, beating after each addition until smooth. Spread frosting all over the brownies, then place pan in freezer for 1-2 hours.
8. Using a cookie cutter (in this case an egg shape) cut brownies into preferred shape. Freeze again for about 30 minutes.
9. GLAZE: Melt chocolate chips and margarine in small saucepan over low heat until completely smooth. (Once cooled the margarine helps the chocolate to set up more firmly.)
10. Using your hands, dip each cookie/egg into chocolate to cover the top and sides. Set on a rack to cool, then sprinkle decorations on top before the chocolate cools and sets. Cool completely. To package for shipping, place each egg in a cupcake paper to keep them from sticking together. Pack in a disposable aluminum pan with a lid.
Per Serving: 378 Calories; 23g Fat (52.1% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 42g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 60mg Cholesterol; 207mg Sodium; 35g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 24mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 128mg Potassium; 50mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on March 14th, 2022.

Ah, yes, yet another chocolate chip cookie recipe. Hope you’re not tired of them.

A post from Carolyn. Until recently I’d never heard of Zoë Francois. That is until I began watching Magnolia Network where she has her own show call Zoë Bakes. She’s a baker of high esteem and her shows are filmed (I’m assuming) in her home kitchen in Vermont (so quaint). 90% of her recipes are sweets. Some of them are quite fussy (well, they are to me, who doesn’t really like fussy cooking or baking). But hey, I’m always on the lookout for a new or different chocolate chip cookie recipe.

So what’s different about this one? (1) she uses some shortening in it – mostly butter as the fat quotient, and just a little shortening (which supposedly helps the cookies not spread); and (2) she has you chill the cookie balls, on the sheet, before baking. If you are at all interested in reading the ins and outs of chocolate chip cookies and the ingredients that go into them and how they make a cookie react, you should read the long intro to the recipe. It’s quite detailed and unless you’re a professional baker, I’d guess you’d learn something from it. I certainly did.

My granddaughter Taylor loves chocolate chip cookies. And if you’ve followed this blog for any length of time you’ve learned that I do too. As I write this up, Taylor’s been home in Northern California for 2 weeks on a spring break and will hit the grindstone tomorrow with new nursing classes and two different hospitals where she’ll be learning clinical skills. I wanted her to be able to take a few cookies to school or to snack on when she’s studying here at home.

Who doesn’t like a good chocolate chip cookie? Maybe some of those rare people (I know one person – yes Kerry, that’s you) who don’t really care for sweets. I dug out my stand mixer and started in on these. I actually 1 1/2 times the recipe, but the recipe below is the original, which makes 36 cookies regular sized, or 18 if you like the giant ones. I did measure the ingredients carefully, even using my scale for the chips and flour.

For quite awhile I’ve not been doing any baking (trying NOT to), and when I dug out my brown sugar I discovered every speck of brown sugar I had was hard as a rock. Oh dear. I wasn’t about to make a trip to the grocery store. So I googled “how to rehydrate brown sugar,” and there are plenty of recommendations. The one that worked for me was to measure out about 1 cup of the hard brown sugar (first I had to break it up with a mallet) and it went into a sealing type plastic bag, then I added exactly 3/4 tsp of water. You just throw it in the bag and zip it up. It went in the microwave for 15 seconds, then you mush it around by hand, in the bag, breaking apart any of the hard chunks. Then back into the microwave for 10 second increments (it took just one more 10 second round) to make this brown sugar as soft and pliable as a fresh one from the store. At first there was a wet streak (that’s normal) in the middle of the sugar, but as it warms up, it absorbs into the whole lot. Just keep massaging it around. Who knew?

As it turned out, I was lazy and didn’t do the chill-in-the-frig part. I just scooped them and baked them. The recipe indicated 375°F for 8-9 minutes (using the chilled ones), but after making several trays straight from the bowl, I settled on 355°F for 12 minutes exactly. My oven runs a little on the hot side, I’ve learned. I made some of them without walnuts and some with them (the baker didn’t add them, but I prefer with walnuts). I added a measurement of walnuts in the recipe below, so you can choose to or not. I also didn’t add the flaky sea salt to the top. When I tasted the dough I thought they were plenty salty, so didn’t want to add more.

What’s GOOD: really good choc chip cookies. Are they better than others? I liked that they held their shape. They were a little on the brownish side underneath – that’s why I reduced the oven temp a little bit. Try a test batch when you make them. My favorite chocolate chip cookies still remain the ones from the Silver Moon Bakery. Click the link to read my post about them.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. These were delicious. Over the top? Maybe not. Certainly good, however.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies from Zoe Francois

Recipe By: Zoe Francois, Magnolia Network
Serving Size: 36

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour — (320g) unbleached
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter — at room temperature
4 tablespoons shortening — (57g)
1 cup granulated sugar — (200g)
1 cup brown sugar — (230g) packed
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs — at room temperature
12 ounces chocolate — use 72% cocoa, chopped in largish chunks (about 1/4-inch wide)
Flaky Sea Salt
ADDITION: 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped (not in the original recipe)

NOTE: Reserve one small chunk of chopped chocolate to place on the top of each raw cookie. If you are using the flake sea salt on top of the cookies you might want to scant the salt measurement in the batter.
1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
2. In a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, then add the shortening until evenly mixed in. Add sugars and beat for 3 minutes on medium speed. Mix in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time and mix on medium-low speed just until incorporated. Add flour and mix just until incorporated. Mix in chocolate, leaving at least one chunk of chocolate that you place on top of each cookie. [If adding walnuts, add them at this time.]
3. Scoop cookie dough using a portion scoop. You can make the cookies larger or smaller, but it will effect the baking time.
4. Refrigerate the raw cookies (on the baking sheets) for at least 30 minutes if you are in a hurry, but they improve if you let them sit for 24-36 hours. Resting will make them taste better, be more uniform in shape and color nicely when they bake. After they are chilled you can bake them or freeze the dough balls for later baking.
5. To bake: Heat oven to 375°F. Bake 6 chilled cookie balls (the large ones), evenly spaced on a sheet pan in the middle of the oven for about 12-15 minutes. If you’re making smaller cookies, you can fit 9-12 on a sheet and they will bake in about 8-9 minutes. Watch carefully that they don’t burn. When the cookies are about 3/4 baked, remove pan and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Continue baking. [For my oven, without chilling the dough, the cookies were best baked at 355°F for 12 minutes.]
6. Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the pan and then remove to a cooling rack.
Per Serving: 180 Calories; 11g Fat (52.4% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 21mg Cholesterol; 148mg Sodium; 10g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 17mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 98mg Potassium; 54mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on January 15th, 2022.

Are you a fan of thumbprint cookies? I didn’t think I was, but these made me become one.

A post from Carolyn. These cookies, this recipe, comes from my friend, Linda T. My blog contains a number of her recipes over the  years. I visited her (she lives about an hour or so south of me, toward San Diego) a couple of weeks ago and she always makes me a lovely cup of coffee (she became a Nespresso fan too), and she always has some little sweet waiting for me when I get there. What a treat these were. Truly, I would never have reached for thumbprint cookies if there was a spread of cookies being served. They always seemed over-the-top sweet with the jam on top. Well, this recipe has turned me around completely. Maybe it’s just that this recipe comes from Ina Garten. Her recipes are always foolproof, just like the title of some of her cookbooks. Her recipes are reliable. And always good. This recipe comes from her 2002 Family Style cookbook.

What’s different about these is that instead of rolling the dough in chopped nuts, Ina has you do it in sweetened coconut. The making of these isn’t much different that most cookie doughs, although you do need to make time to chill the dough for awhile. It helps to have a kitchen scale, as she wants these to be 1 ounce each. The balls are placed on an ungreased cookie sheet, then you press a little thumb indentation in the top (not actually flattening the entire cookie). Ideally these are filled with raspberry or apricot jam, a mere 1/4 teaspoon. How do you even measure 1/4 teaspoon of jam, I ask? In other words, very little jam.

Speaking about Nespresso, as I was up above, I had to phone the customer service people there to have them walk me through why one of my machines wasn’t working quite right. They figured it out easily enough and we got it back in working order. While we were waiting for hot water to pump through to clean out the head, I casually mentioned to the nice guy, Ricardo, that I’m just a huge fan of Nespresso, period. That I now own three of them, and that I joke with my family (I do) that I need to be buried with my Nespresso machine, because it has to go with me to heaven. Ricardo just burst into laughter, telling me that was the funniest thing he’d heard all week, and could he share my story with his co-workers at their next staff meeting. I said yes, of course!

What’s GOOD: these cookies are just scrumptious. Just sweet enough. Not too sweet. Lovely with the coconut on the outside edges, with them lightly browned. Thank you, Linda, for making these. This recipe is a keeper, and perfect anytime, but particularly as Christmastime.

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

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Thumbprint Cookies with Coconut

Recipe By: Ina Garten
Serving Size: 32

3/4 pound unsalted butter — at room temperature (3 cubes)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg — beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
7 ounces shredded coconut meat — sweetened type
Raspberry and/or apricot jam

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined and then add the vanilla. Separately, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Dump on a floured board and roll together into a flat disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
3. Roll the dough into 1-1/4 inch balls. (If you have a scale, they should each weigh 1 ounce.) Dip each ball into the egg wash and then roll it in coconut. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger. Drop 1/4 teaspoon of jam into each indentation. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the coconut is a golden brown. Cool and serve.
Per Serving: 175 Calories; 11g Fat (55.8% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 29mg Cholesterol; 23mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 6mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 42mg Potassium; 27mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on December 13th, 2021.

Have you ever tried potato chip cookies? I sure had not, but now I’m a fan.

A post from Carolyn. This recipe has been in my files for awhile. It came from Food52, and it just sounded so non-sensical. Potato chips in a cookie? Yet several commenters said they were wonderful, so I just had to try them. I never buy potato chips – they’re just something that I can walk right on by and never be tempted. Not that I don’t like them – I do. But I never crave them – maybe just a little bit with a ham sandwich. If I ever order a tuna sandwich (out) and potato chips are served with it, I’ll put some of the chips inside my sandwich. Not sure where that came from, though I know some people do that on lots of sandwiches.

Just so you know, an 8-ounce bag of Lay’s classic potato chips (that brand is called for here), when crushed (food processor) yielded about 3 1/4 cups. I have to laugh at myself – the original recipe called for 1-1/2 cups, but when I poured out the bag I ended up with over 3 cups and didn’t remember that I needed only 1-1/2 cups. So I put in the entire bag – 8 ounces – of potato chips. So the recipe has been changed below to indicate 3 cups of crushed potato chips.

The recipe starts with a pound of butter (whew!). But you won’t eat that many cookies at a sitting, and (of course) with all that butter, these just about melt in your mouth. The butter needs to be at room temp. My four cubes weren’t, so I put two cubes at a time into the microwave and zapped them for 10 seconds, then turned the cubes over and did another 10 seconds. All four cubes were perfectly softened. Into the stand mixer they went (it would be ideal if you have a stand mixer here because this next step takes awhile) and they got whipped for 10 full minutes. No guessing here – set the timer so you know.

At right you can see how light and fluffy the butter gets. There is nothing in there except butter at this point. Then you add in sugar, mix a bit, then add vanilla, then the potato chips and finely whizzed-up pecans. You mix that just until combined. Note, there is no leavening here – none whatsoever. No eggs. No baking powder.

The baking sheets need to be lined with parchment paper, then you use a small (tiny) scoop, or use two teaspoons to drop small rounded teaspoon-sized blobs onto the parchment. The first cookies I flattened with a glass, but the next trays I just let them drop as they were. Those cookies were a little more craggy on the top – more or less flattened – but not quite as flat-flat as the first trays. I’m fine with the more craggy ones – you can actually see the little tiny pieces of potato chips in those.  The picture at top shows the craggy ones. The original recipe didn’t call for pecans, but one of the commenters mentioned adding them, so I did too.

Scooping the cookies is a bit tedious – because the cookies are really small. I can’t say that I was all that diligent about getting each and every cookie uniformly sized. But they didn’t bake-up irregularly, so I think you’ll be fine whatever size you make them. I ended up with over 90 cookies, far more than I would have thought.

So the recipe indicates, the cookie improves on day two or three, but mine will go into the freezer, since that’s what I do with almost all cookies. I doubled the recipe that I’d found on Food52 because it indicated it made just 24 cookies. Nowhere near enough for what I needed. But doubling (and using more potato chips as I did) yielded over 90 cookies.

As I write this, my good friend Cherrie and I are going to get together to bake Christmas cookies. We always do cranberry noels, and she’s making a lemon icebox cookie (if they’re good I’ll post it after Christmas, probably). I’ve made these potato chip cookies already, and am not sure what other cookies I’ll do. At least one other. And I’ll be baking one batch of Golden Bishop’s Bread which is a must-have at my home over the holidays. My cousin Gary is driving south next week to be with me through the holidays. My granddaughter Taylor (the one living with me who’s in nursing school) is finishing up her second (of four) semesters and gets to have four weeks off before she returns after Christmas to start again. She’s leaving to go home to Placerville in a couple of days and SO happy to have a month off. This concentrated nursing school is grueling – on the days she has off  from school or clinical work at a local hospital, she’s closeted in her room studying and/or watching nursing school videos, and doing practice quizzes. Going for a 14-month BSN is not for sissies! I just love having this granddaughter of mine living with me. She’s a real joy to have around.

What’s GOOD: everything about them is good – the flavor, texture, the melt-in-your-mouth quality to them, the little bit of crunch from the potato chips and the pecans. They look pretty, and surprisingly they are more sturdy than I’d have thought, what with using mostly whipped butter as a batter. The recipe is a keeper. You might expect these to be extra salty, but they’re not at all. Surprisingly!

What’s NOT: only that you need to have potato chips on hand. And a pound of butter!!

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Potato Chip Cookies with Pecans

Recipe By: Adapted from Food 52
Serving Size: 90

2 cups unsalted butter — softened
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup pecans — chopped fine in food processor (optional)
3 cups potato chips — classic Lay’s potato chips, chopped finely in food processor (you can use less – – I accidentally doubled the amount)
3 tablespoons powdered sugar — to sprinkle on top

NOTE: The original cookie didn’t have pecans, but someone added them and said they were good, with more texture in the finished cookies. You can delete the pecans if you prefer.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Use a food processor to finely mince the potato chips and pecans (not together) and set aside. Do not over-process as you want the chips to still have some form.
3. Using an electric mixer (preferably a stand mixer), beat the butter until light and fluffy – at least 10 minutes. Do not skimp on the mixing time. Then add sugar and beat well. Add vanilla, then gradually add in the flour. Add the pecans and crushed potato chips last and mix until just combined.
4. Drop by the teaspoon onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. If you don’t mind the tops being a little bit craggy, just mound the batter and they’ll flatten out in their own way.
5. Bake until slightly brown on the edges and still relatively white/creamy in the center of each cookie, about 10-11 minutes. Remove from oven and using a fine sieve, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar while still warm. Keep in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days, or freeze for longer storage.
Per Serving: 107 Calories; 7g Fat (59.5% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 11mg Cholesterol; 42mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 4mg Calcium; trace Iron; 102mg Potassium; 19mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on November 29th, 2021.

Pure bliss. Chocolate and nuts make my day. These are wonderful any time of year, but particularly so around the holidays.

This is a post from Carolyn, but actually Taylor made these. I merely helped a little and took photos. It’s such a joy to have this granddaughter of mine living with me. She wanted to make some cookies, asked me for some ideas and this one popped to the forefront. It’s a recipe from Food & Wine. Since she made them a month ago, I’ve made them as well and served them at a luncheon, topped with sweetened whipped cream. As I write this there are still 8-10 squares (I served larger squares as a dessert rather than a triangle or bar) in the frig. I wish they weren’t so darned delicious because I know that box beckons me nearly every day.

These aren’t hard to make at all, although they do have two steps – the shortbread crust, then the chocolate topping. You can combine the shortbread ingredients in a stand mixer or a food processor, which makes a dough. I’d separate the dough into about 6 pieces, then place them strategically on the sheet pan – which makes it easier to push the shortbread into the corners. There is just barely enough dough to fill a sheet pan.

You can see all the fingerprints in the dough (at left). It might have been nicer if we had used a flat glass to flatten it out, but it truly makes no difference in the finished product.

That gets baked (watch it so it doesn’t burn). Then you make the filling which is butter, dark brown sugar, a little bit of corn syrup, bittersweet chocolate, and cream. Once it cools slightly you add in the beaten eggs, and pour it out over the shortbread crust. That is baked awhile, then cooled slightly before you add the sea salt flakes on top. Cool completely, and they’re done. Oh so good.

At right you can see the baked bars, with all the pecans pebbling the surface. Once cooled you can cut them, or you can wait until they’re chilled. Be careful as you cut so the knife or sharp spatula doesn’t crack the shortbread. I cut them when they were room temp. After cutting, I put them into a refrigerator storage box with waxed paper separating the layers. Don’t put the cookies right on top of one another or it’ll ruin the chocolate top.

What’s GOOD: oh my goodness, so much chocolate and nut goodness. Loved these bars as a cookie or as a square piece as a dessert with the whipped cream on top. Altogether fabulous recipe. The chocolate part is a bit sticky, so when you handle them, do have them refrigerated first. And store them in the refrigerator. They make a bunch – they’re an easy dessert or cookie/bar to make. Great for the holidays.

What’s NOT: nothing really.

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Chocolate Pecan Shortbread Bars

Recipe By: Food & Wine magazine
Serving Size: 32

SHORTBREAD:
2 sticks unsalted butter — softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
CHOCOLATE TOPPING:
3 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate — finely chopped
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 large eggs — beaten
3 cups pecan halves — chopped (10 ounces)
Flaky sea salt

1. SHORTBREAD: Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 12-by-17-inch baking pan with foil, allowing it to extend 1/2 inch over the edge on all sides. Spray the foil with vegetable oil spray.
2. In a standing mixer or food processor, beat the butter with the confectioners’ sugar, flour and salt until a soft dough forms. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan, breaking it up into about 6 chunks and evenly place them on the baking sheet. Then use a flat-bottomed glass, to press the dough into an even layer. If you have difficulty, use your hands to gently coax the dough into the corners. Freeze the dough for about 10 minutes, until firm.
3. Bake the shortbread in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, until lightly golden. Do not overbake.
4. TOPPING: In a saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, chocolate and cream and cook over low heat just until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. If you add the eggs too soon, the hot chocolate mixture will “cook” the eggs, rather than thicken the topping. Add in the eggs, then fold in the pecans.
5. Spread the topping over the shortbread crust. Bake the shortbread bars for about 25 minutes, until the topping is set. Allow it to cool a few minutes, sprinkle lightly with sea salt, then cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until firm. Using the foil, carefully lift the bars out of the pan; discard the foil. Cut the shortbread into 32 triangles and serve. If you cut them into squares (larger) you can serve these as a stand-alone dessert with a topping of sweetened whipped cream. Or cut into triangles or smaller bars to serve as cookies. Store bars in refrigerator. You may stack them with pieces of waxed paper in between.
Per Serving: 312 Calories; 26g Fat (72.5% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 62mg Cholesterol; 34mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 21mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 67mg Potassium; 52mg Phosphorus.

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