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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):

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.

Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy. To say that this book stretched my comfort zone is the least of it . . .think about a time in the not very distant future, when global warming has done it’s worst and nearly all animals are extinct.

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.

If you’re a fan of Kazuo Ishiguro, you’ll find his newest book a league apart. Klara and the Sun. It takes place in the near future when we humans can go to a store and buy an AF (artificial friend). These robotic humanoid “things” have knowledge and personalities.

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.

Amor Towles’ new book, The Lincoln Highway: A Novel. Literally it’s a page turner. I think it’s still on the best seller list. A young man, Emmett, is released from a youth work camp (back in the day) and is returned home (by the camp warden) following the death of his father, to find that the home they’d lived in was in foreclosure. His mother abandoned them years before. His intent is to pick up his 8-year old brother and they will head off for Texas.

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.

One of my book clubs has us reading Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library: A Novel. What a premise for a book. About a library you can whiz to in the middle of the night and discover other lives you could have lived. And experience them. To find out the answers to those questions we ask ourselves sometimes, “I wonder what would have happened if I’d . . . .” taken that other job, gone out with that guy, taken that trip.

James Shipman has written an intriguing book, It Is Well: A Novel, about a man who has lost his wife. And about a woman who has lost her husband. But their relationship stalls, big time, because the guy made a promise to his wife, and he feels duty-bound to honor it.

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

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid.

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

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

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tasting Spoons

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

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Posted in 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.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

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.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

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.

Posted in Desserts, on August 6th, 2022.

I’ve done so much cooking of late I’m having a hard time keeping track of what I’ve posted or what I haven’t.

A post from Carolyn. It’s been a couple of months since I made this – – rhubarb was plentiful at the grocery store, and I was having a moment with almonds – either in almond paste form, or almond extract in things. I do love almond flavoring in whichever form. This galette (which means rough pastry with fruit) was so very simple to do. I had a Pillsbury sheet of pie dough. And just an FYI: I don’t buy store brands of pie dough – – I just think they’re inferior. If I were really doing this right, I’d have made my own pie crust, but I was lazy and bought the ready-made.

First I combined the fresh cut rhubarb with some sugar and lemon zest and set it aside. The pie crust was put out onto a Silpat (or you could use parchment paper) on a big sheetpan. Then I made the frangipane (almond flour, sugar, salt, egg, orange liqueur and almond extract). That was pureed in the food processor and I poured/scraped it out onto the center of the pie dough and spread it evenly leaving an ample border as the pastry gets rolled inward. Then the rhubarb went on top – note that I cut some of the rhubarb in long chunks and mostly short ones. No reason, just thought it would look more interesting. Then you gently bring up the sides of the dough. Do this gently – do NOT under any circumstances try to stretch the dough. You might note that my crust cracked on one side and some of the rhubarb and filling oozed out a bit. Not so attractive, but it made no difference in the end result. Crimp the edges so the dough will stay in place (hopefully) and HOLD the frangipane and the fruit inside.

Melted butter is brushed over the edges of the dough and any remaining you can drizzle on top of the tart. Sugar is sprinkled all over the top, then the galette is baked for about 35 minutes, or until it’s golden brown on the pie dough edges. It needs to cool some before serving (warm is perfect). Then make some whipped cream with a few drops of almond extract and sugar in it. You could add vanilla too, but I prefer the almond. The recipe was adapted from one I found at Alexandra Cooks.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was delicious. Loved the frangipane (almond filling) with the rhubarb. Loved the almond flavoring in the whipped cream too. And then, there’s rhubarb, which I am crazy about anyway.

What’s NOT: only that you need rhubarb on hand to make this.

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Rhubarb Frangipane Galette

Recipe By: Adapted from Alexandra Cooks blog
Servings: 6

1 sheet pie pastry — store-bought (not a formed pie shell)
3/4 pound rhubarb — cut into 1-inch lengths, cutting a few longer lengths for top
1/3 cup sugar zest from one lemon
1/2 cup almond meal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 pinch salt
1 small egg
2 teaspoons orange liqueur
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar — for sprinkling, regular or turbinado
2/3 cup heavy cream — whipped, sweetened, for serving, may also add a few drops of almond extract to the cream

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF and place a rack in the center of the oven.
2. RHUBARB: Stir the rhubarb with the sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl and set aside.
3. Pastry: Unroll the pastry dough onto a Silpat or parchment lined sheetpan.
4. FRANGIPANE: Combine almond flour, sugar, salt, egg, orange liqueur and almond extract in a food processor. Purée until smooth, about 10 seconds.
5. Spoon the frangipane into the center of the rolled out dough leaving a 1- to 2-inch border. Pile the rhubarb and all of the juices into the center of the frangipane and spread out to cover. Choose some of the more red pieces of rhubarb and arrange them on top. Carefully bring up the sides, gently crimping pleats as you move around the galette. Do NOT stretch the dough.
6. Brush the edge of the dough with melted butter. If there is any remaining, drizzle the remainder over the exposed rhubarb. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the top.
7. BAKE for 35 minutes or until golden. Remove pan from the oven and let rest on cooling rack for 5 to 10 minutes or until Silpat or paper is cool enough to handle. Grab the edges of the paper or Silpat and slide to a cooling rack to cool further or to a cutting board to serve. Cut into wedges. Serve on its own or with vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream with almond extract added.
Per Serving: 431 Calories; 28g Fat (57.2% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 42g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 71mg Cholesterol; 232mg Sodium; 19g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 97mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 288mg Potassium; 96mg Phosphorus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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Almond Apple Bars

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

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

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

Posted in Desserts, on July 13th, 2022.

My friend Dianne made this scrumptious pie – so good while strawberries are at the top of their form! And this one is super-easy.

A post from Carolyn. Think refreshing. Think summer. And strawberries. Last summer I remember thinking the strawberries I’d purchased were just the best I’d ever had. And this year isn’t much different. Just such good strawberries on the market. My friend Dianne made this the night she had my granddaughter Taylor and me to dinner. Taylor has just fallen in love with my friends. How life-affirming is that when your young millennial grandchild thinks your friends – who are nearly all about my age – are the bee’s knees? She even ASKS me when she’s going to get to see so-and-so. Love having this grandchild of mine living with me, but it won’t be long now and she graduates from nursing school and will be moving back home to Northern California to begin the next chapter of her life – hopefully as a labor & delivery nurse. She’ll have to take the nursing exam, then she can begin applying to hospitals in the east Sacramento area where she hopes to find a job. She’ll live at home with her mom (my daughter) until she’s saved up enough money to buy a house, she hopes. Her plan is that’ll happen within a year. And maybe so as nurses are so very well paid these days.

Back to this pie – – it requires a graham cracker crust, then you chop up the strawberries, make the cream mixture (sweetened condensed milk and whipped cream, sugar, a little bit of lemon juice and vanilla), add the berries and pour it into the shell. Freeze for 6 hours or so and it’s done. Save a few berries for the garnish. And let the pie sit out at room temp for 5-10 minutes before trying to slice it. Make this before all the strawberries are gone. The recipe came from Joanna Gaines/Magnolia Network.

What’s GOOD: how good strawberries are this year – and making them into this pie is super easy.

What’s NOT: only if you can’t get good strawberries – save the recipe for another day if the strawberries are not at their peak.

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

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Strawberry Pie – Frozen

Recipe By: Joanna Gaines, Magnolia
Servings: 8

3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk — PLUS 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups strawberries — hulled, cut into 1/4″ dice, to yield about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 whole graham cracker pie crust
More berries for garnish

1. In a large bowl whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice, then stir in diced strawberries.
2. In a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, mix heavy cream, vanilla and powdered sugar, on low for 30 seconds, then increase speed to medium high and beat until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.
3. Add whipped cream to bowl with milk mixture and gently fold it in. The consistency will resemble a thick pudding. Pour the pie filling into a graham cracker crust.
4. Freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight. Garnish with strawberries (fanned).
5. Remove from freezer and allow to thaw for 5 minutes or so before slicing into wedges. Will keep in freezer for up to 5 days.
Per Serving: 344 Calories; 19g Fat (49.2% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 40g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 43mg Cholesterol; 153mg Sodium; 27g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 117mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 256mg Potassium; 131mg Phosphorus.

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