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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):

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 Desserts, Miscellaneous, on April 5th, 2024.

Oh, I’m in love. Never again will I make it on the stovetop!

You’ve read it here before – I have a lovely Meyer lemon tree. It’s probably 30 or more years old, and it just keeps on producing the most wonderful lemons. The first crop each year, the biggest crop, is always the one that is in full fruit in about February each year. I get 3-4 crops/year on this tree. Just amazing. But none is as big as this one. I’ve probably got 60 lemons on it right now, and I’ve already used 15-20 already.

My friend Dianne, who is a home economist, happened to mention to me recently about making lemon curd in the Vitamix. I’m sure I looked askance at her. She said, yup, look it up. Sure enough. I read comments – there were a number. Knowing that Meyer lemons are sweeter than regular ones, I knew I’d need to reduce the sugar. Several people had commented they thought the recipe had too much sugar in it. Fine with me . . . and I needed to adjust the recipe to make a smaller amount. Their recipe makes something like 4 cups. This one makes 2 cups. With 4 cups,  I’d never use it up in time before it would spoil.

I have a second, smaller (Vitamix) container (than the standard that comes with the Vitamix) and so I adjusted the recipe some. So my recipe not only includes a bit more egg, but also reduces the amount of sugar by a lot. If you use a non-Meyer, you will need more sugar.

Into the blender container you place the zest, juice, eggs and sugar. Oh, and a bit of salt. What makes this unique is that the Vitamix blender heats when you blend on high speed. So after increasing the speed, you blend for 5 full minutes at high speed. That mixes the lemon curd completely AND heats it. Then you remove the plug in the lid and add butter – slowly, piece by piece while it’s running – and because the curd is hot, it melts instantly. You continue to blend for another 30 seconds, and the lemon curd is done. Hooray. Yippee! No standing over the stove stirring for awhile.

What’s GOOD: this lemon curd is every bit as good as any I’ve ever made. My previous favorite lemon curd was from America’s Test Kitchen. I’ve been making it that way since 2012. But now I have this one. New favorite. So easy to make.

What’s NOT: well, if you don’t have a Vitamix blender you can’t make it. Sorry about that.

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

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Lemon Curd in the Vitamix

Recipe: Adapted some from Vitamix website
Servings: 28

Zest of 3 Meyer lemons
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice — from Meyer lemons
3 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar — heaping
1/2 teaspoon salt — optional
1/4 cup unsalted butter — cut into pieces

NOTE: This recipe varies slightly from the original on the Vitamix website. This one makes a smaller quantity, uses slightly more egg, and a lot less sugar because I used Meyer lemons.
1. Place lemon juice, eggs, sugar, salt and zest into the Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid. Turn machine on and slowly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High.
2. Blend for 5 minutes.
3. Reduce speed to Variable 5 and remove the lid plug. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, through the lid plug opening incorporating butter completely between additions.
4. Replace the lid plug and increase speed to Variable 10. Blend for 30 seconds. Mixture may seem too thin, but it thickens as it chills.
5. Chill before serving or allow to cool slightly and serve at room temperature.
Per Serving: 50 Calories; 2g Fat (37.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 24mg Cholesterol; 49mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 4mg Calcium; trace Iron; 10mg Potassium; 11mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on February 25th, 2024.

That looks kinda odd, doesn’t it? That’s a bit of whipped cream (not quite whipped enough, actually) on top of tapioca pudding that has some flecks of vanilla bean in it.

Since we went through Covid, every once in awhile I crave some dessert comfort food. Seems like more than I used to. And rice pudding is one I turn to, also my mother’s apple crisp, and occasionally tapioca pudding. So I reviewed my options and tapioca pudding was the choice. Made with more half and half than milk, using a Cook’s Country recipe to start from. I improvised a bit with it, but it’s pretty darned good. Worth making.

The dairy (half and half and milk) is poured into a saucepan, then you add the tapioca, sugar, an egg and an egg yolk (mixed up before adding), a tad of light brown sugar and salt. Then you add the innards of the vanilla bean (cut with a knife lengthwise, carefully, then use the side of the knife to scrape out all that good paste). The bean pod is added while it’s cooking and removed afterwards. The mixture is left to sit a few minutes before you bring it to a boil and simmer, carefully stirring constantly at that point, for two minutes. The tapioca does its thing (thickening) as it cools – it’s still pretty thin when you pour it into a bowl, then it gels up later. Add a piece of plastic wrap (after 15 minutes or so) to the top of the pudding, so it doesn’t develop a crust. Allow it to cool, then refrigerate for two hours. I had a hard time waiting two hours . . . then an extra step is added that I’d not done before. You whip up 1/2 cup of heavy cream – I whisked it by hand rather than get out my hand mixer – with a tablespoon of sugar added. HALF of that whipped cream is added to the pudding and stirred in. The other half is garnished on the pudding.

For me, the pudding was very thick – too thick to my liking when I took it out of the refrigerator – even with the small amount of whipped cream added, so I added some extra milk to it and stirred it in until it was smooth, without clumps. Scoop out servings into small bowls and dollop the whipped cream on top. Serve. Divine.

What’s GOOD: well, rich and creamy. That’s the ticket. Absolutely delicious. A keeper of a recipe. The half and half (obviously) gives it a nice richness, and the whipped cream gently added in at the end gives it a nice texture. Really liked that part. After the first serving, I ate it without the whipped cream. It was plenty-rich, so if you don’t want to do that whipped cream topping, just add it all in when you stir it in at the end.

What’s NOT: nothing at all, unless you don’t have vanilla bean on hand. Or half and half!

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

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Creamy Rich Tapioca Pudding

Recipe: Adapted from Cook’s Country
Servings: 8

3/4 cup whole milk
1 3/4 cups half and half
1 large egg
1 egg yolk — lightly beaten
1/4 cup granulated sugar — plus 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup tapioca — Minute type
1 whole vanilla bean
More milk to thin the pudding, if needed
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Combine half and half, milk, egg and yolk, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt and tapioca in a medium saucepan.
2. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and use a sharp knife to scrape the seeds into the mixture. Drop the scraped bean pod into the pan (it will be removed later), and allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes.
3. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent sticking. Remove the bean pod, and then pour the pudding mixture into a bowl. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the top of the pudding and allow to cool completely. Remove plastic wrap. Cover bowl tightly and chill for at least two hours. When ready to serve, stir the pudding – if it seems to be extra-thick, add some milk to it and stir well, to combine without big lumps.
4. Beat the heavy cream and remaining granulated sugar with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gently fold half of the whipped cream into the chilled pudding. Serve the remaining whipped cream dolloped on top of the pudding, along with fresh summer berries.
Per Serving: 195 Calories; 13g Fat (60.7% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 84mg Cholesterol; 129mg Sodium; 11g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 100mg Calcium; trace Iron; 127mg Potassium; 99mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, GF or Gluten Free, on February 23rd, 2024.

A really tasty GF Bundt cake. Every bit as good as one made with flour.

So I have to confess, the Bundt cake had a few problems coming out of the pan. Although I sprayed it with nonstick spray AND it’s a nonstick pan, still several chunks didn’t want to release. Therefore the underside that’s supposed to be the top side wasn’t at all pretty. Oh well, I just left it this way, topside up, and no one seemed to mind. I thought I had a photo or two of the sliced cake, but after a recent purge of food photos on my phone, I guess I must have deleted it.

I made this over Christmas, for my cousin Gary, who can’t eat wheat. Most holidays when he comes to visit, I make at least one or two GF desserts for him for our family gatherings, so he isn’t left out of the celebration.

Nielsen-Massey - Pure Lemon PasteThe recipe came from the ‘net, All Day I Dream About Food (a blog). I made a couple of changes – I used lemon paste (I bought it from King Arthur) in addition to lemon zest, and I didn’t make the glaze because I was lazy. And what was left of the cake went home with Gary in his backpack, on the plane. I hope it didn’t get squished beyond recognition. What the lemon paste does is give a more intense lemon flavor. What’s there not to like about that option?

The only really unusual ingredient here is whey protein powder, unflavored. I have some that I keep on hand as it’s a common item in keto baking. I’m not eating keto anymore, but I still use keto recipes frequently. Whey proteins have excellent water-binding properties, which can help to increase the moisture content and softness of baked goods. Hence, this cake was VERY tender and moist.

The making of it was quite standard, and it was baked at a little lower temperature. When using whey protein it’s better to either bake a cake for fewer minutes and/or lower the temp so it doesn’t dry out.

What’s GOOD: this makes a really tasty, lemony, tender Bundt cake. The recipe is a keeper.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. If you have concerns about your Bundt pan sticking, bake this in a loaf cake instead. And use parchment paper.

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

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Poppyseed Lemon Bundt Cake GF

Recipe: Adapted from: all day I dream about food blog, 2019
Servings: 12

3 cups almond flour
1/3 cup whey protein powder — unflavored
3 tbsp poppy seeds
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter — softened
2/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs — at room temperature
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon paste
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup water
Glaze: (optional)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
a little bit of fresh lemon juice

NOTES: Do grease the Bundt pan, even if you’re using a nonstick one. Be generous with the coating.
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Liberally grease a bundt pan. Make sure you get into all the nook and crannies. Otherwise, bake in a loaf pan and line with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk dry ingredients together: the almond flour, protein powder, poppy seeds, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat the butter with sugar until well combined. Add eggs, scraping down the beaters and the sides of the bowl as needed. Add lemon zest, lemon paste, and vanilla extract.
4. Add half of the almond mixture in until there are no more dry patches, then mix in the water. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula.
5. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until top is deep golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 30 minutes, then flip out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
6. GLAZE: whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth. If too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar until it’s the right pouring consistency. Drizzle glaze over the cooled cake.
Per Serving: 163 Calories; 10g Fat (52.8% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 67mg Cholesterol; 241mg Sodium; 14g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 109mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 49mg Potassium; 157mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on December 22nd, 2023.

If you’re a fan of chocolate . . . cherries . . . mascarpone cheese . . .whipped cream and cake, you’ll want to make this.

Another recipe from the double cooking class a few weeks ago. Sorry I don’t have a better photo of it. Daughter Sara and I both swooned over this cake, and have decided we need to make it some time over the holidays. Decadent? Oh yes. Chocolatey? Absolutely. Smooth and tender? Yes, indeed. If you’re a fan of chocolate, cherry and a tender cake, this will float your boat.

There are three different steps to making this: (1) marinating the cherries; (2) baking the cake; and (3) making the frosting and obviously then frosting the cake. First you need to do the cherries – you can use frozen cherries, no problem. Defrost first, then heat with cherry brandy or kirsch and some sugar and let it simmer for 10 minutes or so. Cool and chill. That part can be made up to five days ahead of time.

Next, the cake. You need two 9-inch cake pans here with nonstick cooking spray all over the inside. Making the cake batter isn’t difficult – it’s one of those hot water cakes (makes for a very tender cake). The only chocolate is unsweetened cocoa powder. Everything else is the normal stuff for making a cake. The batter, however, is quite thin. Don’t be concerned. Pour into the two pans, bake for 30-35 minutes, let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes then gently remove them and cool completely on racks. You can make the cake layers 2 days ahead or if you want to, freeze them, several weeks ahead is fine.

The frosting is a combo of heavy cream and mascarpone cheese. So good. Sturdy with the mascarpone in it. The cakes need to be sliced in half to make four layers. Diane had a great idea – if you cut a tiny little V in the side of each cake, you can be certain you’ll put those two thinner slices back together so they lay flat if you line up the V. The cherries are halved and you use about 1/2 cup on each layer. The cake needs chilling time, at least 4 hours or up to 24. Makes it even easier – make it the day ahead (and refrigerate it, of course).

What’s GOOD: the cake is so chocolatey and tender. The frosting is not ordinary – loved the combo of whipped cream and mascarpone. The cherry element is unexpected and a nice complement to the chocolate. Hence the name, black forest! Altogether fabulous.

What’s NOT: only that there are three steps. A bit time consuming. But worth it. Do a lot of it ahead – easier for the hostess. The finished cake wants to be refrigerated at least 4 hours or  overnight.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Black Forest Cherry Cake

Recipe By: Diane Phillips, cooking class 12/2023
Servings: 12 (or up to 16)

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups unbleached flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder — unsweetened
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
3 cups sweet cherries — pitted, either frozen and defrosted, or fresh
1/4 cup cherry brandy — or kirsch
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup dark chocolate shavings — for garnish
10 maraschino cherries — pitted, for garnish

NOTE1: The juice (vodka) used to soak the cherries is used to brush on each layer of the cake. Don’t discard it.
NOTE2: For the class, Diane cut about a 4″ circle in the center of the cake. She cut small wedges from the side of the cake and once those were plated, the center provided another 3-4 servings, so the cake would feed about 16 people.
1. CAKE: Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat two 9″ baking pans with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder and soda, and salt. Stir in eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. With an electric mixer beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water and mix until blended, about 2 more minutes. Batter is very thin. Divide batter equally between the two pans and bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes.
3. Remove pans and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and let cool completely on wire racks. You can make these ahead to this point and refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 6 weeks. Defrost before proceeding.
4. CHERRIES: In a saucepan combine the ingredients, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
5. Drain the cherries, saving the juices and allow to cool before assembling the cake. Cut the cherries in half if you have time.
6. The cherries and juice can be cooled, covered and refrigerated (separately) for up to 5 days.
7. FROSTING: In a large bowl beat the cream until stiff peaks form. Add the mascarpone cheese and beat until smooth.
8. Cut each cake layer in half horizontally. TIP: cut a tiny notch on the side of each cake so when you re-assemble the cake with the frosting you can line up the cake the way it should be (and hopefully level).
9. Lay strips of waxed paper or paper towels on the outside of the cake plate (to catch crumbs and drips). Set a cake half on serving plate. Brush cake with some of the cherry/cherry brandy juice. Spread with some of the cream mixture and top with some of the cherries.
10. Continue to layer with cake, juice, cream frosting, cherries and repeat. If there is enough frosting leftover, spread on the top and sides of the cake.
11. Decorate the top and sides of the cake with chocolate shavings and arrange maraschino cherries around the top of the cake. Refrigerate cake for at least 4 hours, or up to 24 hours ahead.
Per Serving: 668 Calories; 40g Fat (52.1% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 74g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 118mg Cholesterol; 559mg Sodium; 55g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 114mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 266mg Potassium; 181mg Phosphorus.

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.

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