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Currently Reading

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):

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. Marcellus himself writes some of the chapters. 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. Absolutely charming book. Both of my book clubs have it as a read this year. Loved it.

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. I could hardly put this book down it was so riveting. Never read anything quite like it. Very hard to write a description of it. Read it. 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. About how he aspired to merely attend high school, how he made ends meet (barely) and how he eventually made it to medical school and became the expert he is. What an uplifting story. Here in California we have such a huge problem with illegal immigrants and I certainly don’t have the answers, but this story makes you stop and think.

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 and was finally able to practice veterinary medicine in a rural area. This book is historical fiction, and some creative liberties were probably taken, but the tale itself is quite something. Enjoyed it from beginning to end.

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. It starts with a young aristocratic woman on the eve of an arranged marriage. She just can’t abide the man, and runs away. Literally runs away with nothing. It’s the story of how she survives and becomes an agent for good in England and finally finds someone to love. The right love. Sweet story but with lots of twists and turns.

Someone Else’s Shoes, by Jojo Moyes. Moyes is such a prolific author, and comes up with the most unexpected stories. This being another one that grabbed my attention from the first page. 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 gym has closed its doors. In the gym bag she did pick up are a pair of Christian Louboutin red crocodile shoes, and take big significance in the story, obviously. Nisha becomes a different person when she dons those shoes. Nisha meets some really kind people, people who barely subsist but willingly help her out. I marvel at Moyes’ ability to write a riveting story from the premise of a mistaken gym bag.

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. And sometimes accompanies bodies home, attends the funerals. There’s a romance involved; much of the book takes place in Canada, actually. Absolutely fascinating book. I don’t often read brutal war stories, but this one was a very interesting one. 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, with a verve for sailing, a passion for reading and education (by mail) and survives the mood swings of her mother. She and her brother are left to fend for themselves in various places; the parents take on paying customers. Often there’s little or no food. I’m surprised they all survived, and they barely didn’t in several instances. You get to read all the details. Heywood managed to get into Oxford (despite her mother’s shenanigans and even her father’s unwillingness to help her, financially or otherwise). She’s a successful businesswoman and a very good writer. My DH (dear husband) always wanted to sail around the world; unfortunately I wasn’t a willing sailing mate for that as I get deathly seasick. The story intrigued me from beginning to end.

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, having long conversations with his deceased wife. Then you pick up with a very sweet romance between a college student and a bull rider. The two stories interconnect. I really enjoyed the story.

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. Because she in medicine, she chronicled her journey through it and coming out the other side. Fascinating if you’re interested in medicine (I am) and how the brain works (yes, that too). A very fascinating read. Not for everyone, I suppose.

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. She begins buying antiques for the store, trying to make sense of what happened to her career. She meets a young Navy officer. The intrigue begins. I could hardly put this down. Although there is some romance in the book, it’s more about art and the lure of finding a gem amongst the junk. I loved this book because I’d never read anything about how auction houses 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. Some who leave and some who come back. Verghese sort of writes like Ken Follett, or Michener, in that he delves into the intricacies of family relationships. There’s also a medical mystery involved too, which was very interesting. It’s a very, very long book, but worth reading.

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) as she tries to advise the MGM folk as they are filming the 1938 movie with Judy Garland. You’ll learn lots of Oz and Baum history, and you’ll surely be rooting for Maud as she does her best to steer the director to stay true to the book. Absolutely fascinating read, every page.

The Bandit Queens, by Parini Shroff. I don’t quite know how to write a blurb about this book. The premise is so off the norm. 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. Then some of her so-called “friends” ask her to help them get rid of their husbands too. It’s rollicking funny and unbelievable in many ways, including the backward ways of the local constabulary. I heard myself say “what?” many times in the weaving of this fanciful story.

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, perhaps a masterpiece. She risks everything to try to determine if it’s real or fake. It’s a mystery and a treatise in a way about art in general. What makes a masterpiece? Fascinating story and very well written. Loved it.

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. People get various lengths of string and finally experts conclude it predicts the length of life. No one receives a string until they attain the age of 22. 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. I’m sure the book is a parable or metaphor for us to be more understanding of how we segregate people – not black and white, this is short or long strings. I was in awe of the author’s ability to visualize how this kind of eventuality would complicate our lives. Yet there’s hope woven throughout. SUCH a good read. Highly recommend.

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. Many trials and tribulations – just so you know, she makes it to the U.S. and becomes a quantum computer researcher at Tufts University. A book everyone should read.

Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This is fairly light read, a novel – but interesting, about the meaning behind many flowers – like roses, you’d think of love. But red roses mean something else. You’ll learn about the various flowers as they’re woven into a story about a woman who studies them and creates a niche for herself producing beautiful bouquets and flower arrangements for special occasions.

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. Beth has much to learn about herself from the landlord, a woman of vast experience and compassion. Did I say cute? Yup.

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. He takes special interest in many pieces and shares it in the book. He definitely has a writing gift. Lots of funny stories sprinkled throughout the book. I guarantee if you have any interest in art, you’ll love the book and Bringley’s story. He worked at the museum for a decade.

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. I went to my reference book on English kings and queens to verify the lineage of one person or another, and read several Wikipedia entries about various people in this book. So interesting. If you enjoy English history, this is a good one, probably more interesting to a woman than a man.

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).  Of course. Some bad folk out there, far too close to home. I had to put it down a couple of times because it was so frightening. But Inspector Gamache prevails. Of course he does! A piece of very complicated art is involved (I think it may be a real painting). Louise wrote a nice epilogue about how she devised the whole idea. Very interesting read.

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. There is a lot of learn in this book, and might be very difficult or hard for some to read. Very engrossing story, though, as always.

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. It’s poignant, heart-rending and sweet. It delves deep into childhood memories to take readers back to an age when a world felt like it was falling apart, reminding us that even in the darkest of times, the light of hope can still shine. A beautiful read.

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. She’s stuck there because of Covid. Not boats, no airport, no nothing. Barely enough food. But yet, she survives. I could NOT put down this book. It had me riveted. You know, Covid is going to play a major role in a lot of books in our future – it has to. It was such a pivotal moment in this century!

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. Sally shares her food story, how she came to become a chef and entrepreneur. It’s a charming book and there are a few recipes (I think one at the end of every chapter). Enjoyed reading it. If you ever visited Napa Valley in the early days (the 1960s through 80s) you will enjoy reading how “California cuisine” kind of came into being.

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. She’s now divorced, but still running two restaurants and raising twins (part-time, I’m guessing as I assume her ex is involved some). I don’t know how she had time to write another book. She’s hysterically funny. I mean it. Over the years (and I’m guessing most of this came from her North Carolina roots and the mayhem she encountered opening a restaurant in her tiny, rural town, to great fame) she developed a group of tasty “things,” to complement her food. It’s hard to pinpoint what these are – they’re recipes for some “kitchen heroes” she calls them. They’re condiments. They’re food additions, they’re flavor enhancers. If I make some of them (I hope to) I’ll post them on my blog. They have umami flavors, and she says it’s how she survives and makes everything taste good. She includes the recipe for each of these kitchen heroes (and each title is laugh-out-loud funny in and of themselves) and a few uses of them. Recently she wrote a column in Garden & Gun (magazine) about online dating, and about how she filled out her profile and of some of the not-so-happy first dates. I laughed and laughed over that. I hope you click on that link and read it.

As soon as it came out, I ordered Spare, by Prince Harry. I’ve always been interested in the Royal Family. And I’m old enough to remember when Queen Elizabeth was crowned – my mother and I watched it on tv, in those early days of television. I admired her throughout her long life. What you learn in this book is how abominably Harry and Meghan have been treated. We all know the Royal Family has a company of people who “handle” them, called “the firm.” These people control what everyone in the R.F. does, when, who is present, who can take a vacation where, and some of them give permission for journalists to photograph, in somewhat private spaces, in return for leaving them alone for awhile. The paparazzi, and the photojournalists are ruthless. Absolutely ruthless and relentless. I cannot imagine having to live with that kind of low-life awaiting  your every move. It could break anyone, as it did Diana. I’ve never been a fan of Charles, and this book doesn’t endear him to me. I’ve never been a fan of Camilla, either. There’s a lot of verbiage given over to outing many people in the R.F. Betrayals on many levels. I devoured it, but then I’m an Anglophile of the first order.

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. I was quite taken with the main characters in each and every one of them. Since each story is different, I can’t describe one, without describing all of them; no space for that. With each story I was very sad when I realized it was the end, leaving you hanging. I wondered if these were stories Lahiri wrote hoping they would transcend into a full length novel, but she grew bored, or couldn’t quite flesh out more. But I always felt there could/would be more. I wanted there to be more.

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. On land that isn’t lush or reliable. Many years of drought, winds, grasshoppers. The story is a novelized one of Aldrich’s own family roots. It’s full of good old-fashioned family values and is a record of some difficult Midwest pioneering history.

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. The last thing Liv expected was to be the only person Essie talks to, which leads to a tenuous friendship. When Essie passes away suddenly, Liv is astonished to learn that her dying wish was for Liv to complete her final novel. But to do so Liv will have to step into Essie’s shoes. As Liv begins to write, she uncovers secrets from the past that reveal a surprising connection between the two women—one that will change Liv’s own story forever.

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. You will laugh and cry with him/them, as they have to work very hard to survive days and nights with crying babies that will not settle down. As he escapes to his study lair, if only to get away from the babies, sometimes to nap because he was up all night. Those of us who have had fussy babies know what this feels like. He suffers greatly because the “great American novel” isn’t coming to him. He feels the year wasting away from the standpoint of the award. The time in Rome was wonderful, and he and his family enjoy many wonderful visits to city high points, to stand in awe at old relics. I loved every bit of this book – so well written. If you’ve ever been to Rome you’ll enjoy it all the more.

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. They try to make the marriage work from separate coasts. The wife begins to find herself again, re-igniting her own passions. Lots of family dynamics.

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. They go. And of course, they’re taken for a married couple most of the time. Lucy laments the things she loved about her ex, William. Hence she says “Oh, William” more than once. They encounter some very funny circumstances, and she guides him along, lamenting again, “Oh, William,” again. I don’t think she ever says it TO him, however. Very funny book. Sweet. Elizabeth Strout is a gifted writer.

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. Her husband has disappeared. The feudal system at the time isn’t any friend to Alinor. In comes a man (of course) who is a priest, but to the Catholic king, not the Protestant people, and everything Catholic is abhorred and suspect. A fascinating read, loved every chapter.

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. Hoover has such a gift of story-telling and keeping you hanging on a cliff.

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. Then she inherits his aunt’s house, back in her home town, where the quizzical Munro baby disappearance provides a living for many of his family. Sophie moves there, only to have to unearth all the bad stuff that happened before. Quite a story.

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. You get to know them all, and Mrs. Palfrey’s subterfuge effort to show off her “grandson.” I might not have ever picked up this book, but one of my book clubs had us read it, and I’m ever so glad I did.

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, Desserts, on August 18th, 2023.

Brownies – oh my – so rich and decadent. A different technique.

Today, I’m also philosophizing a bit about cookbooks. If you want to jump to the recipe write-up, scroll down further.

Lately, I’ve been having a talk with myself. About my cookbooks. My couple-hundred or three-hundred cookbooks. And don’t get me wrong, I love my cookbooks. But how often do I really go to those shelves to look or hunt for recipes? Truthfully, not all that often. Case in point . . . this recipe. I had decided to make some brownies. But as I looked through my MasterCook recipes on my computer, not a one jumped out at me. I wanted to try something new, and there were only about 5 or 6 brownie recipes that I hadn’t made before, and none suited me. So I went to my more recent cookbook purchases . . . so maybe I should say here . . . I still buy cookbooks, even though I tell myself not to. Sometimes I give in and buy one anyway. I’ve had to resort to storing my cookbooks in various other places in my house. Some are upstairs in my study (mostly cookbooks I can’t give up but rarely view), others are on various shelves and cupboards in my kitchen and family room. I’ve begun having to stack a cookbook or two sideways on top of a shelf full of cookbooks. I’m running out of room. And you may recall, about 3-4 years ago I donated at least 100 cookbooks, ones I almost never referred to. It’s an addiction. What can I tell you?

So, let’s talk for a minute about cookbook writing . . . in many of my older cookbooks there are very few author notes. In the cookbook world those are called “headnotes.” That little paragraph – tucked in between the title and the list of ingredients. In most of the recipes from the Joy of Cooking, there are NO headnotes. Even some of the old tomes from Betty Crocker and such, there are no notes to give you an idea about the recipe – you know, the things like “the reduced balsamic glaze is what makes this dish special.” Or, “don’t eliminate the almond extract even though there’s only 1/4 teaspoon in it.” I do love those headnotes, so going to my more recent cookbooks there were lots of headnotes. I grabbed one book after another, still hunting for just the right brownie recipe to try, not finding anything that I fancied. I have several books that are just about baking. Nothing there, either.

I’ve been thinking, that in my spare time (oh dear, do I really have any?) I should go through all of my cookbooks and mark them with sticky notes. Maybe I should add the actual recipes to my MasterCook online file. We’re talking thousands here! What a lot of work. I don’t know that I have it in me! Would you? But when I’m thinking about a recipe, what I don’t do, usually, is go hunt in my cookbooks. Part of that is the intervention of the internet. We need only go to a browser, put in a search term, “brownies” and the internet will provide hundreds. Likely thousands of recipes. Magazine recipes seem to come up first. Now that Bon Appetit and that group charge to access their recipe files, I’m no longer a fan. I subscribe to numerous food magazines so why wouldn’t I have access to the recipes online? When my subscriptions run out for a few of them I’m going to let them lapse. This practice annoys me. So far, Southern Living, Sunset, Food & Wine, and Garden & Gun are free for internet searching and browsing. If any of those begin charging a fee to access online I might just drop those subscriptions too.

I do have a subscription to EatYourBooks, a website that keeps track of all the cookbooks one owns (obviously you have to input the titles into your “library”), and as time has gone on, people have indexed all the recipes in most cookbooks out there. And so, let’s say I want to make lamb stew. I can go to my EatYourBooks website and hunt for “lamb stew,” and it will tell me what cookbooks I own contain a recipe for lamb stew. Then I have to go find the book and look it up. I was very enamored with the idea at first, and I used it quite often. But as time has gone on, I don’t research things there very much anymore. In this case, I could have gone there, input “brownies” and probably gotten a list a mile long for brownies. I just did a search and it provided me with 130 entries. Probably if I were to be searching for a recipe for brownies that contain sour cream, I could have done a more refined search and found fewer (a more manageable) number of recipes to locate. Some of the ingredients are listed along with the titles. In this case, I didn’t have a preconceived idea about ingredients in my brownies. So that website wouldn’t have helped me unless I were willing to devote a lot of time researching brownie recipes in my cookbook results. As it is, the cookbook I eventually used I don’t have listed in my “library.” Obviously I need to update the list!

So, I kept perusing my cookbook shelves and pulled out an old one. Actually I bought the book used, probably about 10 years ago, but it’s from 1987. The Nantucket Open-House Cookbook. Sarah Leah Chase is an accomplished chef and cookbook author. She likely has 8-10 cookbooks to her name, the most famous she co-authored with Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso (the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook and  Silver Palate Desserts). The work on those books put her on the map in the culinary world. She wrote two little cookbooks (on her own and all her other books are her own, not shared authoring) about bicycling, with food in mind, through France (in general) and the other one through Burgundy. I’ve made several recipes from those books over the years.

THE BROWNIES: There was one brownie recipe in this cookbook, and it was the headnotes that grabbed me front and center. Chase owns (or owned, I don’t know) a food shop/bakery on Nantucket, and these brownies were a regular on the menu. Everyone wanted the recipe – nobody could figure out what made them different. They were a bit crusty on the top but dense and almost wet inside. Finally, Chase decided to share the recipe in this cookbook. She explains that the recipe origin was Maida Heatter’s Palm Beach Brownies, but Chase made a few changes, mostly in the technique. When I went online, there is a bakery in Indiana with Chase’s original name from her Nantucket store, Que Sera Sarah. So maybe she’s now moved to the Midwest.

And, indeed, these brownies use three very unusual techniques. First, the 10-minute batter (sugar, eggs, extracts, espresso powder, salt) is whipped up at high speed in a stand mixer for 10 minutes (yes, TEN minutes). Set the timer; don’t guess. Secondly, they are baked in pure convection. Apparently that’s what creates the top crust of the brownie – it hardens almost. And lastly, the brownies must be refrigerated a minimum of 6 hours before even removing from the baking pan or cutting.

The batter is easy enough to put together – but as I mentioned just above, the sugar and egg mixture has to be mixed at high speed for 10 minutes. Makes the batter very airy. It’s interesting that you do that because the finished brownies are very dense. Once poured into a foil-lined and butter-greased 9×13 pan, they bake with pure convection for 25 minutes at 350°F. And they’re to be removed from the oven immediately. No guesswork – she suggests you stick a toothpick in and there should be WET batter on the toothpick. I used a metal pick and there were some wet crumbs, so I hope I didn’t over bake them.

When they come out, I guess, they’re way too soft to manipulate. They cool in the pan (so that probably took about 2 hours), then need to be refrigerated for 6 hours or overnight. I lasted about 4 hours before I removed the foil sling from the 9×13 pan (and because they were cold, they came out of the pan easily in a nice big slab) and cut off one end and sliced it up for the photo at top. I have to confess – I forgot to add the walnuts. Crazy me! I’d taken the walnuts out of the freezer, put them in a bowl and into the microwave just to take the frozen chill off of them. Then promptly forgot to add them to the batter. Oh well. I’ll probably freeze most of these brownies – there’s no reason they wouldn’t freeze well enough. I’m guessing you’re supposed to keep them in the refrigerator. Not sure, as the recipe doesn’t say. Just that the finished brownies must be refrigerated before removing from the foil sling and sliced up.

What’s GOOD: the brownies are really good. They’re very sweet – I might use a bit less sugar if I made them again (like 3 cups instead of 3 1/2 cups). The chocolate flavor certainly comes through, and the texture is almost fudgy, but it’s not fudge by any means. Hard to describe. Definitely these are not light, cake-type brownies; far denser than that. And yes, there definitely is a little crust on the top too. It’s not thick enough to be visible except from a side view, but yes, it has a bit of a bite to it. Guess you’ll have to make them yourself and come up with a better description of the texture. Help me out here if you do.

What’s NOT: only that it has some unusual techniques – the 10 minutes of batter-mixing, and the 6+ hour of refrigeration before cutting and eating. And you need a convection oven to make these exactly as the author does.

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Brownies – Sarah Leah Chase

Recipe By: Sarah Leah Chase, Open-House Cookbook
Servings: 25 (or more if you cut them smaller)

8 ounces unsweetened chocolate
8 ounces unsalted butter
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons espresso powder
3 1/2 cups granulated sugar — [next time I would try 3 cups]
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour — sifted
8 ounces walnuts — (large halves) or large pecans, optional (chopped)

1. Preheat convection oven to 350ºF.
2. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil. Butter the foil.
3. Place the chocolate and butter in the top of a large double broiler over hot water on moderate heat, or in a medium-sized, but heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted and smooth. Do not let the chocolate burn on the bottom. Remove from the heat and set aside.
4. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the vanilla and almond extracts, salt, espresso powder, sugar and flour at high speed for 10 minutes. On low speed, add the chocolate mixture and beat only until mixed. Remove the bowl from the mixer.
5. Stir in the nuts and pour into the prepared pan. Smooth the top.
6. Bake for 25 minutes – the brownie will have a thick, crisp crust on top, but if you insert a toothpick into the middle, it will come out wet and covered with chocolate. Do not over bake.
7. Remove pan from the oven and let stand until cool. Refrigerate the brownie for a few hours or overnight, or place it in the freezer for at least 6 hours.
8. Cut the brownies using a long, heavy knife with a sharp blade. Serve as is, or in a square shape with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
Per Serving: 336 Calories; 19g Fat (49.1% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 39g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 57mg Cholesterol; 122mg Sodium; 28g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 25mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 143mg Potassium; 97mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on August 4th, 2023.

Cute little bites – shortbread layers and a luscious chocolate filling in between.

As it happened, I made these in a slightly smaller Pyrex baking dish than I should (like an 8×11?) . . . so these delicious bites were taller (thicker) than intended. If you make it in a 9×13 as you’re supposed to, they’d be a better proportion of shortbread cookie type layers and the delicious chocolate layer. These disappeared in a hurry. I gave some to a neighbor, a friend, another friend who just lost his wife, then the last few just kind of disappeared, period.

These are easy to make. First you melt the chocolate chips, cream cheese, and evaporated milk in a heavy-duty saucepan or a double boiler. If using a saucepan, watch carefully so the chocolate doesn’t burn on the bottom. Once everything is melted, remove from the heat, add walnuts and almond extract, and set aside to cool a bit. Then make the pastry layer (flour, sugar, butter, eggs, walnuts and almond extract – which I added because I like almond flavoring). Half of it is pressed into the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan. Then pour over the chocolate layer and spread it out to cover. Then the crumbs of the remaining pastry layer are sprinkled over the top. Then it’s baked for 35-40 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Easy. Let the bars cool until they’re cut-able, then store in the refrigerator. Warm to room temp before serving. They freeze well. This recipe came from a P.E.O. California cookbook my friend Cherrie gave me – it was submitted by Collette, from a P.E.O. chapter in Morgan Hill (that’s here in California).

What’s GOOD: everything about these were good. Loved the layers. Loved the chocolate. Easy to make. For me, this recipe is a keeper.

What’s NOT: nothing in particular; loved these.

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Chocolate Layer Bars

Recipe By: Collette R, Chapter WJ, Morgan Hill, CA, P.E.O.
Servings: 36

2 cups chocolate chips
8 ounces cream cheese
2/3 cup evaporated milk
3 cups unsifted flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter — softened
2 large eggs
1 cup walnuts — chopped
1/4 teaspoon almond extract — optional

1. Combine chips, cream cheese and evaporated milk in medium saucepan or double boiler. If using a saucepan, watch carefully so the chocolate doesn’t burn on the bottom. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.
2. Stir in walnuts and almond extract and set aside.
3. Combine remaining ingredients in large mixing bowl; blend well with mixer until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
4. Press half of mixture in greased 9×13 pan. Spread with chocolate mixture. Sprinkle remaining crumble on top. Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.
Per Serving: 239 Calories; 15g Fat (54.5% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 34mg Cholesterol; 118mg Sodium; 14g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 44mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 103mg Potassium; 75mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Breads, Desserts, on July 14th, 2023.

Always on the lookout for a new use for my home grown Meyer lemons. This one is a real winner.

This recipe came from The Splendid Table. I don’t recall if the author of the recipe, Paul Hollywood (that very handsome man on The Great British Bake Off) was interviewed about this cake or whether I happened to be at the website looking for something else. Either way, I’m so glad I downloaded it and then made this cake. You’ve heard me say that when someone writes (or says) prosaic words, I pay attention. Paul said this: This is my favorite cake of all time. Could you resist making it after hearing those words? Not me!

This cake is divine. Just absolutely divine. All I wanted was more of it. I think the Brits call that more-ish. Yup, it qualified on all counts. My Meyer lemon tree doesn’t have many lemons on it at the moment, but new ones are in development, so it won’t be long before I have more. My tree is very pokey – i.e., you can seriously damage your arms trying to reach inward to grab a lemon. You almost need one of those long, long gloves vets use for handling some wild animals. Anyway, I did have some lemons available and I had house guests who devoured this bread in no time flat (with me helping along the way too).

The cake was so easy to make – get the ingredients out and measured before you begin. I have a bread pan that has grooves (very light ones) so nothing sticks to it; but I still used the parchment, which makes it very easy to remove from the pan. I’ll just say -again – this cake is really tender, so getting it out of the pan without the parchment might not turn out well.

You use a hand-held mixer – the immersion blender type, but with the whisk attachment. Made it so easy to combine the ingredients in a medium bowl and pour it into the prepped pan. While it bakes make the drizzle (lemon juice and sugar). While the loaf is still hot (and in the pan, still), poke many tiny holes in it and slowly drizzle the cake with the mixture – it soaks in easily enough. If you want to be fancy, sprinkle confectioner’s sugar on top just as you serve it. If you left it on the cake for long it would dissolve into the top and you wouldn’t see it at all; hence, do that at the last minute.

What’s GOOD: everything was wonderful about this cake. So lemony. So very tender – the tenderest of loaf cakes. Truly it’s a cake rather than a bread, even though it’s made in a bread pan.

What’s NOT: I sure can’t think of anything – only that you’ll be out of it in a jiffy – it’ll get eaten up way too soon. My advice: make two.

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Lemon Drizzle Cake

Recipe By: Paul Hollywood, Great British Bake Off
Servings: 12

12 tablespoons butter — softened, plus extra to grease the pan
3/4 cup superfine sugar — PLUS 2 tablespoons
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
3 large eggs
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour — (175g)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
A pinch of fine salt
2 tablespoons whole milk — approximately
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

NOTE: If you don’t have superfine sugar, run/pulse granulated sugar in a food processor for quite a long time until the sugar is like fine sand.
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and line a 2-pound (1kg) loaf pan with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest together, using a hand-held electric whisk, until the mixture is very light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until smoothly combined. Add just enough milk to achieve a dropping consistency.
3. Spoon the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and gently smooth the surface to level it. Bake for 45–50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
4. Once you’ve removed the cake from the oven, make the drizzle topping: mix the lemon juice and sugar together in a small pitcher. While the cake is still warm, use a toothpick to prick holes all over the top of the cake then trickle over the lemon drizzle. Leave to cool completely in the pan before removing. Cut in slices to serve.
Per Serving: 228 Calories; 13g Fat (50.1% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 77mg Cholesterol; 186mg Sodium; 15g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 86mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 39mg Potassium; 140mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on May 19th, 2023.

Just make this, okay? So good.

A post from Carolyn. This recipe came from Southern Living magazine, in 2020. I’d added it to my to-try recipes, and so glad I did. It’s very easy to make (unless you count as tedious pressing out some dough onto a board and cutting them up into squares). The biscuit dough was super tender (flour, baking powder, salt, butter, sugar and heavy cream). Originally the recipe was developed for individual servings (baked in ramekins), but as I mentioned a few posts back, I was out at the Palm Desert house and there aren’t any ramekins there, so I made it in a long loaf pan. I adapted the recipe slightly . . . the biscuits were intended to be 3/4″ thick and it made really thick ones . . . too thick in my thinking, for the volume of fruit. So the recipe is altered for smaller biscuits and baked in a glass dish, 9×13 or maybe even a 8×11-ish one.

The blueberries (so lovely this time of year) are mixed with some light brown sugar, cornstarch, orange zest and some freshly grated ginger. That’s poured into the baking vessel and – note – you bake the fruit for awhile first – in a hot oven (400°F) for about 20 minutes. THEN you add the biscuits on top and continue baking for 10-15 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown.

Ideally, serve this warm with vanilla ice cream, or sweetened whipped cream.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was good. Delicious. Worth making. Easy. Do use the ice cream or whipped cream – I think it needs the “foil” of the cream. It’s not overly sweet – it’s perfect, in fact.

What’s NOT: nary a thing. This recipe is a keeper.

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Blueberry-Orange-Ginger Cobbler

Recipe By: Adapted from Southern Living
Servings: 6-9

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter — cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon heavy cream — for brushing biscuits
1 tablespoon sugar — for sprinkling on biscuits
6 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon orange zest — (from 1 orange)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger — approximately a 1″ piece
Vanilla ice cream

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and 1/3 cup of the granulated sugar in a large bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until crumbly and mixture resembles small peas. Freeze 5 minutes. Add 1 cup cream, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.
2. Turn dough out onto parchment paper; gently press or pat dough into a 1/2-inch-thick, 9- x 6-inch rectangle. (Mixture will be a little crumbly.) Cut into 9 (3- x 2-inch) rectangles. Place biscuits in a single layer on a baking sheet. Brush tops with 1 tablespoon cream, and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Refrigerate until ready to use.
3. Stir together blueberries, brown sugar, cornstarch, orange zest, and grated ginger in a large bowl until well blended. Spoon berry mixture evenly into a 9×13 glass dish.
4. Bake in preheated oven 23 minutes. Remove from oven, and place biscuits on top. Return to oven, and continue baking at 400°F until biscuits are golden brown and done, about 13-14 more minutes. Cool on baking sheet on a wire rack at least 30 minutes. Serve with ice cream. Leftovers are wonderful for breakfast with cream of half and half poured over the top.
Per Serving: 647 Calories (less if you serve 9, one serving per biscuit); 31g Fat (42.6% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 89g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 88mg Cholesterol; 515mg Sodium; 47g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 232mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 228mg Potassium; 321mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on April 7th, 2023.

Yet another rice pudding, you ask? It was so different I had to try it.

A post from Carolyn. This recipe came from Southern Living. What intrigued me was the sauce and garnish you put on top. It’s got butter, brown sugar, raisins, and rum in the sauce, then some toasted almonds sprinkled on top. It’s the sauce here that makes it.

The pudding itself is straight forward – the only unusual thing is that you toast the rice in a skillet first. The recipe called for using a cast iron skillet. I used a different pan, but it accomplished the same thing. This stovetop version is not as rich as the rice pudding I made a couple of months ago (that I still think is the best rice pudding ever). And I professed then that THAT recipe was my be all-end all of rice puddings. How fickle I am. I like Southern Living recipes (I subscribe to the magazine even though I don’t live in the South). The pudding itself is not as sweet as some – mostly because you add the sweet sauce on top. I’ve adjusted the recipe just slightly to add a tad more sugar to the pudding and a bit less in the sauce. I still have some of the sauce left – it’s scrumptious warmed up and spooned over vanilla ice cream.

What’s GOOD: It’s a good pudding – maybe not the very best out there (the one made with half and half is better tasting, but oh, the fat calories on that are over the top), but it’s good. I loved the sauce – it “makes” the dish altogether. It would be very blah without the sauce, so don’t think you can just make the pudding and forget the topping because a lot of the sweetness is in the sauce, and you want it mixed into every spoonful you eat.

What’s NOT: really, nothing that I can think of. I still prefer the other one (see link in second paragraph above), but this one is different and very pretty when serving.

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Stovetop Rice Pudding

Recipe By: Southern Living magazine
Servings: 7

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup Arborio rice
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 vanilla bean pod — halved lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup dark rum
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter — cut into 2 pieces
3 tablespoons sliced almonds — toasted

1. Melt butter in a large (12-inch) cast-iron skillet over medium. Add rice, and cook, stirring constantly, until toasted and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add whole milk, heavy cream, brown sugar, vanilla bean, and kosher salt; bring to a simmer over medium, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain a steady simmer. Simmer, stirring often, until rice is tender and mixture has thickened, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from heat; discard vanilla bean.
2. Beat egg yolks with a whisk in a medium bowl. Ladle in about 1/2 cup of the hot pudding mixture, whisking constantly to temper the eggs. Pour warmed egg mixture back into skillet. Stir mixture constantly until well combined, about 1 minute. Let cool slightly, about 10 minutes. (Pudding will continue to thicken as it cools.)
3. To serve warm, divide pudding evenly among individual servings. Spoon Buttered Rum Raisin Sauce evenly over the bowls; sprinkle with almonds. To serve chilled, transfer pudding to an airtight container and place plastic wrap directly on the surface. Chill until cold, about 3 hours. Top with warm Buttered Rum Raisin Sauce and almonds.
4. SAUCE: Stir together golden raisins and rum in a small saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium; cover, and remove from heat. Let stand until raisins are plumped, about 30 minutes. Uncover saucepan, and stir in sugar, 1 tablespoon water, salt, and cinnamon. Bring mixture to a simmer over low, stirring often to dissolve sugar. Let simmer, undisturbed, for 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until sauce is thick and glossy. Transfer sauce to an airtight container, and chill until ready to use, up to 4 days. To reheat, place sauce in a microwavable bowl and microwave on HIGH until hot, about a minute or two.
Per Serving: 363 Calories; 18g Fat (47.7% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 39g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 99mg Cholesterol; 317mg Sodium; 34g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 189mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 310mg Potassium; 160mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on March 3rd, 2023.

If you eat these warm, they literally melt in your mouth, almost like those meltaway mints. But these are chocolate. Brownies.

Recently I bought a stand mixer for the 2nd home I own with my daughter and her husband in Palm Desert. We’re having the place remodeled; and it’s almost done. We have a new kitchen with a really nice, large island, and even though I didn’t think we were going to need all kinds of baking appliances, I just decided we needed a stand mixer and a small food processor. The stand mixer arrived (bargain price on amazon because of its mint green color, I guess) and I needed to do a quality control check on it. Right? That house doesn’t have everything a baker would need, but we did have a 9×9 ceramic dish, and I had chocolate. And as it happened, I had some mascarpone cheese that needed using up.

Once the batter was mixed properly (and yes, the new stand mixer worked just fine) it was poured into the pan/ceramic dish and baked for about 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven and the size of your pan. I used an instant read thermometer and removed the brownies when the temp in the center reached 195°F. They rested and cooled, then the frosting was spread on top. One thing we don’t have in that kitchen is an offset spatula – makes it a bit difficult to spread the frosting, but I managed with a plastic butter spreader instead. I waited a couple of hours before cutting into them. OM Goodness, were they ever tender. And tasty. I’m a dark chocolate fan, so I used 85% chocolate (Trader Joe’s bars) for both cake and frosting. You can easily lighten it up by using semisweet or lighter. I don’t know that this recipe would work with milk chocolate (it has a different chemistry than other chocolates because of the milk contained in it).

If you’re not a fan of nuts in your brownies, then leave them out. I am a fan, so was happy to add about 1/2 cup into the brownie batter. You could use pecans or almonds too, but I prefer walnuts. Altogether wonderful.

What’s GOOD: the texture of these was sublime. So soft and tender because of the mascarpone cheese in them. Everything you’d ever want in a brownie.

What’s NOT: not a thing.

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Brownie Meltaways with Mascarpone Cheese and Walnuts

Recipe By: Adapted from an online recipe
Servings: 18

1 cup unsalted butter — with a little more to grease the baking dish/pan
3 ounces dark chocolate — 85% finely chopped
1 cup granulated sugar — (I used half Bocha Sweet)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese — softened
3 large eggs — at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup walnuts — finely chopped
6 ounces dark chocolate — 85% finely chopped
6 tablespoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

NOTE: If you don’t prefer dark chocolate, use a lighter chocolate like semisweet for both brownie and the frosting. If your eggs are straight from the refrigerator, place them in a bowl of hot water for about 10 minutes.
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter a 9-inch square glass or ceramic baking pan and set aside. If using metal, reduce oven temperature by about 15°F and reduce baking time. Use instant read thermometer to make sure you don’t overbake them.
2. In a microwave-safe bowl add unsalted butter and chocolate. Microwave at reduced power for 30 second at a time, stirring between each heating. Continue until both are completely melted.
3. Sift the sugar and cocoa powder. Add to the butter/chocolate mixture. You may mix this by hand. Add the mascarpone, eggs, and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Fold in the flour, salt and walnuts. You can use a stand mixer for this, but use it on slow speed and mix only until ingredients are combined.
4. Pour the batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 38-43 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If you have an instant read thermometer, remove brownies when the internal temp has reached 195°F. Cool in the pan on cooling rack.
5. FROSTING: Add chopped chocolate to a small bowl. Set aside.
6. In a small saucepan, heat butter and cream over medium heat, stirring constantly. When mixture is almost boiling, pour over the chocolate. Let stand for 30 seconds, then stir until smooth.
7. Pour the frosting over cooled brownies and spread evenly. Allow the frosting to cool completely before cutting brownies into about 18 small rectangles..When eaten within a few hours, the brownie just melts in your mouth. After an overnight rest, they taste more like a traditional brownie in texture. Still exceedingly tender. Will keep at room temperature for several days in an airtight container. If there are still any left by then, refrigerate, separated with layers of waxed paper. They freeze well.
Per Serving: 337 Calories; 26g Fat (66.4% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 76mg Cholesterol; 112mg Sodium; 18g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 28mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 172mg Potassium; 96mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on February 10th, 2023.

Such a luscious cake – tender, moist, juicy, and that sweet butter sauce puts it “over the top.”

My friend Linda – I have two Linda’s in my life, both good friends – my friend Linda T has a bunch of recipes on my blog already – but this one is from my other friend Linda I. (She’s quite thrilled to have one of her recipes show up here on my blog!) She made this cake for an event we had at my home a couple of weeks ago. I swooned (again) over this dessert, as she’d made it for some other event we had awhile back. This time she left me with two servings and I had to talk to myself to NOT eat it all in one sitting.

Searching online, I found it – it has an interesting past . . . it was published in a magazine for cross-stitchery in 1988. Looong time ago. It was a winner then, and it’s a winner now.

This cake is just so good. The finely minced apples make the cake so very moist. It’s a dark cake – I don’t understand, really, how/why the cake is dark as there isn’t any brown sugar in it. Perhaps it’s just the amount of regular sugar that helps provide that lovely dark golden color on the top of the cake. Well, anyway, it makes no difference how or why the cake has the dark consistency, what it has going for it is moistness, juiciness and a lovely apple-y taste. But then you pair it with the very simple sauce . ..  it’s just marvelous.

The sauce is nothing but butter, sugar, vanilla and some heavy cream. In the picture at top, you can see the sauce pooled on the left side of the plate – it’s not a creamy looking sauce, even though there is 1/2 cup of heavy cream in it. But oh, you’re going to want to lick the plate to not let any of that sauce go to waste!

Do use Granny Smith apples when making this. Sweet apples will fall apart, and that you don’t want. You can use pecans (what was in the original recipe) but Linda used walnuts on this version. I’m sure either would work just fine. You can easily make this the day before – and I can tell you for sure that it keeps just fine for several days. Do refrigerate the sauce, however, but warm it up when serving. You want the sauce to be WARM. And another must, is the whipped cream. It’s necessary. There’s something about the pillowy foil of whipped cream with some desserts – some just require it. This one does, for sure. Not that the cake wouldn’t be good without it, but it’s just better WITH whipped cream.

My thanks to my friend Linda I for her recipe. She’s been making it for years, so she tells me. Do make it – you won’t be disappointed.

What’s GOOD: love the moist, tender cake, but then the sauce. Oh, the sauce. So good. And adding the whipped cream just makes it. But the sauce is really the part that separates this apple cake from any other I’ve ever had. Do make it.

What’s NOT: not a thing. This is a winner – a keeper.

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Fresh Apple Cake with Sweet Butter Sauce

Recipe By: adapted slightly from a recipe on
Servings: 14

4 cups Granny Smith apples — peeled and sliced
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts — or pecans, chopped
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream — (1/2 cup canned evaporated milk may be substituted for the whipping cream)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch-by 13-inch baking pan; set aside.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the apples and 2 cups sugar.
3. In another medium mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the flour, soda, cinnamon, and salt.
4. Add the flour mixture to the apple-sugar mixture; stir well; set aside.
5. Place the eggs into a small mixing bowl and beat well with an electric mixer or hand held egg beater. Add the oil and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract; beat.
6. Stir the egg mixture into the apple mixture, blending until thoroughly moistened. Stir in the walnuts or pecans.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly pressed. Serve with warm Sweet Butter Sauce.
8. SWEET BUTTER SAUCE: In a small, heavy-duty saucepan, over low heat, melt butter. Add the sugar, vanilla, and heavy whipping cream or evaporated milk; stir. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook 3 minutes. Serve warm.
Per Serving: 582 Calories; 32g Fat (49.3% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 69g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 54mg Cholesterol; 475mg Sodium; 50g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 34mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 201mg Potassium; 104mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on November 25th, 2022.

Oh my. Oh my. This is so darned good I could not keep my spoon out of it for days on end. I will never make any other kind of rice pudding. Ever.

A post from Carolyn. I can’t take a speck of credit for this recipe, but it’s such a keeper. It’s going onto my favs list (the top right tab on my home page). It was just a week or so ago I watched Ina Garten in her newest series, Be My Guest, when she invited Nathan Lane to her home and served him some barely warm rice pudding. He swooned.

Perhaps you don’t think there’s much to say about rice pudding – it’s pudding. But you’d be dead wrong. This version, with either golden raisin- or currant-soaked in dark rum in a rich rice pudding made with half and  half, is just off the charts delicious. I can’t tell you if it’s the rum, or the plump raisins, or the pudding itself made with the half and half that make the strongest impression. It’s a combination made in heaven. I hope they serve this up there in heaven. Wish I’d discovered this version decades ago!

You can make this in one pan – cooking the basmati rice first, then adding the half and half, cooking it until it’s just right, adding a fork-stirred egg to thicken it slightly, then a splash of vanilla, and lastly those scrumptious plump rum soaked raisins (or currants if that what you have on hand like I had). It takes awhile to cool – I made one in a little ramekin just so take a picture of it, but the remainder went into a ceramic dish. That’s the dish I can’t keep my spoon from dipping in several times a day for just a bite.

It doesn’t make a thick pudding. Guess you could call it a loose pudding. Some commenters said the pudding was too thin, so I added less half and half.

What’s GOOD: every single solitary thing about this pudding is off the charts, in my book anyway. Can be made ahead. If you’re not a fan of rum or alcohol, just plump the raisins with apple juice or hot water. Maybe add a slight more vanilla.

What’s NOT: there isn’t anything about this I didn’t like.

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Rum Raisin Rice Pudding

Recipe By: Adapted a little from Ina Garten
Servings: 8 (maybe more)

1/2 cup raisins — golden, or currants
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum — use spiced rum if available
1 1/8 cups water
1/2 cup basmati rice
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3 1/4 cups half and half — divided, and more if needed
3/8 cup sugar
1 large egg — beaten
1 1/8 teaspoons vanilla extract

NOTE: If you prefer a more firm pudding texture, use less half and half. As is, this makes a pourable pudding.
1. In a small bowl, combine the raisins and rum. Set aside for 20-30 minutes.
2. Combine the rice and salt with water in a medium heavy-bottomed stainless steel saucepan large enough to hold all of the pudding. Bring it to a boil, stir once, and simmer, covered, on the lowest heat for 8 to 9 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed. Watch it carefully during the last 5 minutes or it will burn and stick. The rice is not fully cooked at this point. (If your stove is very hot, pull the pan halfway off the burner during the cooking.)
3. Stir in sugar and most of the half-and-half and bring to a boil. Simmer over very low heat, uncovered for 25 minutes, until the rice is very soft. Stir often, particularly toward the end.
4. Whisk egg in a small bowl and spoon some of the hot pudding into it, then pour into the large pot of bubbling pudding and continue to cook for 1 minute. Off the heat, add the remaining half-and-half, the vanilla, and the raisins with any remaining rum. Stir well.
5. Pour into a bowl, and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Serve warm or chilled. If you use a lesser quantity of half and half, wait until it cools and add more half and half, stirring thoroughly. This makes a more thick-soup style pudding. If you pour the pudding into ramekins it will probably serve 12.
Per Serving: 220 Calories; 12g Fat (48.7% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 57mg Cholesterol; 181mg Sodium; 19g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 115mg Calcium; trace Iron; 208mg Potassium; 117mg 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.

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Brandied Apricot Bars

Recipe By: Sunset Magazine, 1996
Servings: 36

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
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup apricot brandy — or Cointreau
3 teaspoons lemon juice
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 Desserts, on October 18th, 2022.

Tender, tender apple torte with not much cake, mostly apples.

A post from Carolyn. A few weeks ago one of my book clubs met to discuss the novel, Lessons in Chemistry (such a fun book, see the sidebar for a further explanation). We’re meeting now at the home of one of our members who has mobility issues, so each time we meet, one of us brings a sweet. I offered. This cake was the result.

An easy cake to make – maybe except for peeling and coring the apples – leaving them whole though, then slicing them carefully into rings. I used Fuji, but I think next time I’d use Honeycrisp. I’m guessing the Fuji apples I bought were last year’s crop. They were good, but not overly tasty. The apples are combined with the batter, then poured into a greased and floured 9″ springform pan. The apples don’t exactly lie down flat, so you need to help them along to flatten out the batter. I just used my fingers to get them settled down.

Ideally, serve this warm. I actually baked it the day before, and it kept just fine overnight – I left it in the springform pan (although I’d loosened it when it was still warm) and covered it overnight. Just before serving, I sprinkled on the powdered sugar. We had plenty of other food, so I didn’t serve it with the creme fraiche as the recipe suggested. Whipped cream would be lovely too.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was good. A delicious, tender cake with tender apples in it. Easy to slice. There at left you can see the slice – mostly apples. The cake is a lovely, eggy, light one.

What’s NOT: gee, nothing that I can think of. It kept for another day and I had the last slice. Everyone got a slice to take home.

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Apple Almond Cream Cake

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Sunset, Sept 2016 by Amy Traverso
Servings: 10

1 1/2 pounds apples — (3 or 4) such as Cameo, Fuji, or Gala
3 large eggs — at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon almond extract, or vanilla
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Powdered sugar
Crème fraîche (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Butter and generously flour a 9-in. springform pan. Shake out excess flour and set aside.
2. Using a paring knife or sharp corer, core apples from stem down through seeds and base to remove in one cylinder. Peel apples and slice crosswise into 1/4-in. rings. Set apples aside.
3. In a large bowl, using a mixer with whisk attachment, beat eggs and granulated sugar on high speed until pale and slightly thickened, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add cream and vanilla. Beat about 30 seconds more to blend. Add flour, baking powder, and salt and blend on low speed until evenly combined.
4. Add apples (including any uneven end pieces) to batter and stir gently with a spatula to coat, separating slices. Pour mixture into prepared pan and arrange apples flat.
5. Bake cake until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into center of cake (rather than an apple piece) comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Let cake cool on a rack 20 minutes, then run a slender knife between edge of cake and pan. Remove pan rim and cool cake at least 10 minutes more.
6. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar and topped with spoonsful of crème fraîche if you like.
Per Serving: 242 Calories; 8g Fat (29.5% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 40g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 76mg Cholesterol; 197mg Sodium; 28g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 77mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 125mg Potassium; 130mg Phosphorus.

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