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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2021, I’ll still participate, but the two daughters are going to do more posting from here on out.

We participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) if you purchase any books recommended (below), or buy products occasionally mentioned on the blog with an amazon link. 

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BOOK READING:

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. The book IS a novel, but the event is true. 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. On the voyage the ship encounters a hurricane and several giraffes are lost, but two young ones survive. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission. A young boy (barely an adult) becomes the driver (his only goal is his desire to go to California), with the zoo’s delegate (a middle-aged man with a past), and it’s the story about these two misfits and their caring for the giraffes, feeding them (that’s a laugh – onions play a big part). No freeways existed back then, and the mental picture of the vehicle they used (basically a small truck) with the two giraffes confined within two tall boxes precariously strapped to the truck, and their driving and carrying-on getting under bridges and over rivers is just a hoot. I so wanted this story to be true – parts of it ARE true. Worth reading if you enjoy such animal stories. The giraffes survive, thankfully, and they both lived to a ripe old age at the zoo!

Also a kind of quirky book by Beth Miller, The Missing Letters of Mrs. Bright. Picture a middle-aged woman, slogging through life with a not-very-attentive husband, grown children, and one day she decides to leave. Completely. Maybe she had a bucket list of sorts, and she knew none of those places would ever happen in her life if she stayed put. She sets off to find a long-lost girlfriend. The book is about her journey. Her travels. Friendships, and lost friendships. Everyone can probably empathize with Kay Bright as she examines her life. And yes, there are letters and chapters with her daughter, Stella. Cute book.

Katherine Center’s book, Things You Save in a Fire: A Novel is certainly vivid. There aren’t very many women firefighters out there in the world – this is about one. A novel, however. About her work life and the harrassment she endures (some of it’s with love, some not) and about her relationships. The pros and cons of transferring to a different fire station (just like any job move, not always smooth). Good read.

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. Such relationships were fraught with problems from the very strict Japanese families who resented the American presence in their country, to the American military higher-ups who made it impossible for the servicemen to marry Japanese nationals. Could hardly put it down. Yes, it’s a romance of sorts, but not in the typical sense of today’s novel-romance-writing. There aren’t always happy beginnings, middles or endings, but the in between made for very interesting reading.

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. Wow. What an eye-opener. Of their small but loyal family enclaves, the hard-scrabble lives they led, the near poverty level of farming. I’d never heard that any Indian migrants were a part of farming here in California. Obviously they made up a very small percentage of the immigrants who settled there.

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. Fascinating glimpse into the hardships not only for patients (the war-wounded) but for the underappreciated and hardworking staff at various hospitals (even a tent one in Normandy where she worked for many months after D-Day). She meets her to-be husband and even that is fraught with difficulty from many angles.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. My friend Ann recommended it. I was gripped with the story within the first paragraph, and it never stopped until I turned the last page. 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. Some very ugly things happen at that school. Eventually they  escape, and they are “on the run.” With a few others with them. If you loved Huckleberry Finn, you’ll have a great appreciation for this story as they use a canoe to get themselves down river. Never having very much to eat and getting into trouble way too often, and authorities on their tail. Well, you just have to read the book to find out what happens.

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. The book is heartbreaking, but one of those that everyone should read. The hardship, the hunger, the dirt and dust, the failed crops, the lack of rain, then the story picks up again in central California, back in the day when the wealthy growers just used up the migrants. I don’t want to spoil the story. So worth reading. Hannah really knows how to weave a story.

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 woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks. The father was very dark, but he plays no part, really, in this story. Growing up, the girls leave home at 18 to find their way in New Orleans. Suddenly, one twin disappears (her clothes and suitcase all gone in the wink of an eye). Her twin left behind has no idea what’s happened to her. As the story reveals, with divided paths, one twin continues her life as a black woman, and the other twin, the one who left, is able to pass as a white woman. She marries well, has a daughter. Well, let’s just say that there are lots of wicked webs woven throughout the story, starting from the girls’ mother who never wants to speak again of her lost daughter. But you know where this is going, don’t you? Things are found out. The author does a great job of weaving the story apart and then back together.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress. She was a brilliant mind, and a beautiful woman. It tells the story of her coming of age, how she navigated the world of acting back in that time period (she was Austrian, and Hitler was in power). The writing was very well done – to tell Hedy’s story with detail and poignancy. Eventually Hedy made it to the U.S. and her life story changed, but still had its difficulties. I loved the book, beginning to end. She should have become an engineer as she invented several war related bomb tools. 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, when aristocrats were chased and killed, guillotined in many cases. There is a young couple (part of the royal court) who escape to a remote small castle owned by his family, located on the edge of France and Italy, hoping to wait out the revolution and hoping the villagers love and care about them. Then jump to current day as a small English group of close friends decide to retire somewhere on the continent, and settle on a small abandoned castle in the remote hills of France along the Italian border. Got the picture? The historian in the group is quite interested in the history of the home, and clues are revealed (in the tower) that lead her and the group on a quest to discover what happened to the couple who used to live there. There was a fire once upon a time. There’s an pesky ghost. There’s also a very old child’s doll/playhouse on the grounds. Plus there’s a small graveyard. It is VERY intriguing. 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. The story is all about Mary, her growing up, her scholarly pursuits, and then from the moment she meets Jesus as a young man. The story follows along to and beyond his death on the cross. In the time of Christ it was extremely uncommon for a man not to marry. It was almost unseemly. Fraught with suspicions, I’d suppose. Although scripture, as scripture, does not play a very strong part here, if you’ve read the Bible you’ll see many of the stories of Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. 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. Her husband was a journalist, and his life was always in danger because he wrote the truth, and that was taking a risk. The story is about her escape, with harrowing chapters as she makes her way north from Acapulco, with various major detours, one step, or sometimes nothing more than a hair’s width ahead of the cartel minions trying to find her. I could NOT put this book down. The author is not Hispanic, and some have criticized her for that, but she did her research, and many authors write about places and people they are not. I have nothing but respect for her having told this story. You need to read this.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice, living in an English home which lacks much, leaps to agree to marry a visiting American. It was an escape for her. He is a man of some family wealth, and she travels from England to Kentucky, during the 1920s. Once settled into the family home, she discovers married life is not what she had expected. Affection is lacking, and she must share the home with her tyrannical father-in-law, the owner of mines in the deep mountains. And with the ghost of the deceased mother-in-law. The family cook won’t tolerate Alice’s help in the kitchen. Alice is terribly lonely and unhappy. The town doesn’t much like this English woman with her funny way of speaking. But then, she meets a woman who encourages her to join the Horseback Librarians. With trepidation, she begins traversing the remote hills, through unbelievable weather, to deliver old, battered and tattered books to the remote inhabitants of the area. She makes friends, wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There is tremendous tension from the danger of the mines, the unions trying to get a foothold, plus the unraveling of her marriage, including the dreaded father-in-law who feels she should answer to him, behave as he wants. Uh, no. Alice goes her own route. Her new friends become her family, and, oh, what love. There has been much criticism of Moyes’ possible plagiarism of another book regarding the Horseback Librarians. I read the other book – but I didn’t feel remotely as intrigued by that story as I was by Moyes’ version. A feel good story, but it takes some while getting to that “feel good” part, nearly to the end.

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. It’s about Ellen. Her early years, under much hardship. About her teens, some of it as an orphan. Then a young adult, which includes marriage, a marriage blanc, which I didn’t understand until you learn the meaning. Then a child enters the picture, a child that will become a focus for the remainder of the book. Through the war, and beyond. I cried several times, as will you, I suspect. What’s a constant is the descriptions of the place, a town called Upton, near Southampton. About the hills and dales, the flora and fauna, the rain, the mud sometimes, the flooding sometimes. But throughout, it’s about neighbors caring for neighbors, and about love. A must read. Would make a really good book club read.

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.

Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called 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. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a 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 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. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

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, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

 

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 Uncategorized, on September 2nd, 2019.

Hi everyone – Carolyn here . . .
Somewhere in New Mexico on I-40, the old Route 66

Not a whole lot of cooking has been going on in my kitchen, or Sara’s kitchen either, as we took a road trip from SoCal to Virginia, then to South Carolina, then flew home. Sara’s son John is now a freshman at Virginia Tech (bio-chem major, see picture below), so we delivered him there, driving across the hot-hot-hot southern route. The night we arrived in Scottsdale, at 7pm, it was 114 degrees. That was the highest temp we experienced, but as we drove east, the temp was slightly lower (under 100 for sure) but the humidity began to climb. We had a night in Santa Fe (more on that later), then to Amarillo, through Oklahoma City, overnight in Ft. Smith. Oh my. I think the hottest I felt was in Memphis with temps in the low 90s and 100% humidity. Cooler weather prevailed as we went through North Carolina and into Virginia (the eastern parts there are slightly mountainous and at a higher elevation).

We got John moved into his dorm, (his roommate Jaylon, is a freshman cheerleader) then headed to Asheville, NC. I treated Sara and me to a night at the Biltmore (we did that when we were scouting colleges 4 years ago with Sabrina). I was and am still in love with The Biltmore. We had been there in February before – gray, cloudy, rainy, icy and miserably cold, so this time it was mid-summer and we got to see the Biltmore Gardens in full bloom. Absolutely gorgeous. Sara and I had tea in the lounge (not the full afternoon tea, just a pot of TEA), had dinner at one of the restaurants on the Estate, then had lattes and a decadent flourless chocolate cake (yes, I ate some) on the terrace at the Inn as we watched the sunset. Oh my, again. So wonderful. I’d like to live there. On the Estate, of course! Ha!

Then we drove to South Carolina to deliver the 2001 Toyota we had driven across the country (that has really good A/C in it, thankfully) to Sabrina (the car is hers) who is a senior now at Clemson. We drove to Greenville, had dinner in the very quaint downtown there, got dropped off at an airport hotel and spent the night, then flew home.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been catching up. Made a new soup, not great, so won’t be posting that one. Sara and I both couldn’t wait to get back home to eat more healthy salads and things. We stayed in Hampton Inns mostly, and got overly weary of the rubbery, tasteless scrambled eggs on the breakfast buffet and sometimes fruit that had seen better days or had some kind of strange taste to them. Even the hard boiled eggs seemed to have zippo flavor. And never did they peel easily (obviously they don’t use the InstantPot method of pressure cooking hard boiled eggs which make for the easiest shell removal ever!). But hey, it was free with the overnight stay. Salads as I know them, filled with all kinds of vegetables, are virtually unknown to the restaurant world in the South. They know lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and bottled dressings mostly. Not my fav. No celery, no shredded or chopped carrots, no crumbled Feta or goat cheese, no radicchio or fennel, no fresh herbs, avocado, red or green cabbage either. I really missed them. If we were having a more upscale dinner, then yes some salads contained more ingredients, but we were traveling on a moderate budget, so rarely did we have nice salads. Just sayin’ . . . .

Several times Sara and I went to a grocery store and bought sliced Boar’s Head turkey, some fresh apples and a variety of cheeses and had that for dinner at our hotels. We traveled with a styrofoam ice chest in the back seat where we kept fruit (grapes, blueberries, cheese, a few diet sodas, water and apples). Perfectly satisfying. We stayed hydrated everywhere. I have a new, very tall Hydro Flask and at the hotels each morning I filled up my flask with purified water we found in the gym at every hotel, added some fruit flavor drops, topped with ice and that got me through most of the day. Lots of restroom breaks, however.

I’ll do another post with more pictures . . .

Posted in Desserts, Uncategorized, on August 11th, 2019.

The Right Way to Make Tres Leches Cake!

This cake is easy and delicious without the soggy mess. 

A post from Sara – I’ve made a few Tres Leches cakes in my time and have always been disappointed with the soggy mess left by the milk mixture.  Finally, I’ve found a cake that can stand up to the mixture and a trick to prevent the sogginess thanks to Ina Garten.   There is no butter or oil in this cake which, in my opinion, allows the cake to absorb it after baking.  I think traditionally the Tres Leche cake is frosted with either meringue or a whipped topping.  I love the simple square cut of the cake topped with whipped cream and berries.  It’s much easier to store and serve which makes it a perfect make-ahead dessert.  Just whip up the cream and toss the strawberries together before serving.  I used strawberries from Bonsall Farms here in Vista.  It’s a local grower and the berries are naturally sweet perfectly red all the way through.  I actually decided not to add the extra sugar into the berries.

The trick with this cake is to beat the sugar and eggs for 10 minutes.  Yes!  Really!  It leaves the eggs thick and fluffy and a pale yellow color.  Then add the milk and flour mixture alternately.  Mix it a couple more times by hand to be sure its combined.  After it’s baked and cooled slightly, you are ready to add the milk mixture.  GO SLOWLY… pour 1/4 of mixture over punctured cake, then wait until its all absorbed.  Then another 1/4 of mixture and so on.  It allows the cake to take in the liquid rather than it sinking to the bottom of the pan and becoming a soggy mess.

Just wanted to say that mom and I (OK, just me!) having technical difficulty adding the .pdf recipe file into the blog.  So, I officially give up.  Please print screen from here or cut and paste the recipe into word processor.  Sorry.

What’s Good:  I love how easy this cake is to make.  I almost always have the ingredients in my pantry.  And I am all about make ahead dishes.

What’s Not:  It’s definitely a plan ahead dessert.  This would not work for an unexpected guest.

Tres Leches Cake with Berries

Recipe By : Farmhouse Rules
Serving Size : 12

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs — room temperature
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
12 ounces evaporated milk
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 vanilla bean — scrape seeds
whipped cream — for topping
8 cups strawberries, sliced

1. Pre heat oven to 350 and butter 9×13″ pan.
2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into small bowl and set aside.
3. Place eggs, 1c sugar and vanilla extract into bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle. Beat on medium-high for 10 min (really!) until light yellow and fluffy.
4. Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour mixture, then milk, then last of flour mixture.
5. Pour into prepared pan, smooth top and bake for 25 mins, until cake springs back when touched and cake tester comes out clean.
6. Set aside to cool in pan for 30 mins.
7. In a 4c measuring cup, whisk together the heavy cream, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, almond extract and vanilla bean seeds. Using a skewer, poke holes all over the cooled cake and slowly pour cream mixture over the cake allowing to be absorbed completely before continuing to pour more. Cover cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hrs.
8. To serve, toss strawberries with 5T sugar, cut square of cake, add strawberries and whipped cream.

Per Serving: 432 Calories; 16g Fat (33.4% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 64g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 108mg Cholesterol; 320mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on May 31st, 2019.

One of my granddaughters is currently studying abroad in Argentina. This would be Sara’s daughter, Sabrina. It took her a full two months to learn the dialect they speak in Argentina. She spoke perfectly wonderful and fluent California/Baja California Spanish, but could hardly understand, or be understood in Argentina. It was very frustrating to her. She and the other 37 Clemson University students studying there all had the same difficulty. She’s finally got the language down pat, and she’s really enjoyed her classes she’s been taking there (all in Argentinian Spanish, of course). She just took a trip to Iguazu Falls and has one more trip before she comes home, that one to Machu Picchu. Then she’ll fly home at the end of June.

So, in a long conversation with her parents, they asked her what she wants to do first when she gets back home. She has it all mapped out. Sara, John, John Jr. (Sabrina’s brother) and I will drive to LAX to pick her up. First, take her to a Mexican restaurant because she’s been dying, just dying, for Mexican food. First order: a burrito. I don’t know what kind. She arrives early in the morning at LAX, so we’ll have to scope out a place that’s open. Might have to be fast food. . ..  Then, she said, you have to drive me to the beach (LAX IS right on the Pacific Ocean) so she can walk in the sand and stick her feet in the salt water. Then we’ll drive to Pasadena where Uncle Powell (Sara’s brother) and Aunt Karen live. They want to see her, of course, get a de-briefing of her 5 1/2 month sojourn, then, ta-da: she wants to have Grandma’s Grilled Salmon with Watercress Salad. This is the photo from my post – I posted the recipe in 2007 or 2008, but I updated the photo in 2009. This has been one of my go-to favorites for decades.

This request just warms my heart. I haven’t made this salmon/watercress salad for quite awhile. I was sharing Sabrina’s requests with my bible study group and we’re having a potluck dinner in a week or so, so I’m going to make this for them, especially after they heard about it.

Posted in Desserts, Uncategorized, on April 11th, 2019.

Wanna know what SMBC means?  SMBC is Swiss Meringue Butter Cream.

This is a post from Sara.  Please note this recipe takes time but is not difficult.

Sorry for the long delay in getting a blog post up here but I chose a ridiculously complicated dessert to be my first attempt on my own.  What ever made me think I should post a cupcake that includes 3 separate recipes, I’ll never know.

I’ve been baking since I was itty bitty and I’ve never found a chocolate cake this moist or a frosting so good.  I’m never going back to a standard butter cream recipe.  You know, the typical butter, powdered sugar and liquid.  The SMBC is the lightest, fluffiest frosting I’ve ever worked with.  As with all other frostings, you can color it and flavor it but it is best done without liquids.  Colored gels and powdered flavors are best.  The cake is a buttermilk recipe that is now my absolute go to favorite.  I’m very new to Pinterest but found this website Livforcake.com.   The blogger, Olivia, gave me the inspiration for this recipe.  I actually used her buttermilk chocolate cake and her SMBC peanut butter recipe but added the surprise center filling on my own.

The original cake recipe used oil and buttermilk but as I am watching my fat intake, I substituted low fat buttermilk and unsweetened applesauce.  I’ve made the recipe both ways and the original recipe is excellent.  It’s fluffy, moist and very intensely flavored.  However, with the sweetness of the filling and frosting, I don’t mind the change.

There is a real trick to making SMBC (Swiss Meringue Butter Cream).  There is a tips blog page on Olivia’s website that I would mandate you read first if I could grab the link.  So search SMBC on her website for “How to make swiss meringue buttercream”.  The biggest and most important detail is to use metal utensils and bowls and to wipe them down with lemon juice or vinegar before using.

I have a thing for filled cupcakes so this has 3 recipes that make up the cupcake.  If I could suggest, bake the cupcakes beforehand.  Then scoop out the centers (keep for snacks later!) and make the peanut butter filling.  Drop a ball into each cavity.  Then make the frosting.  Assemble and decorate.  I made these for my niece and her soccer team.  She shoots and she SCORES!  Needless to say, they were a big hit.

What’s GOOD:  What’s not to like?  These are moist, decadent cupcakes with a peanut butter surprise and intensely flavored peanut butter frosting.  I love this cake recipe.  I think it’s my new favorite.

What’s NOT:  If you haven’t made a meringue frosting before, it can be intimidating.  As I said, read up on it first and DO NOT skip the acid wipe of your all metal utensils.  I’ve made the SMBC twice now and haven’t had any problems.  The recipe is time consuming, I admit.  But I made the cupcakes Thursday night after work.  Stored them in lidded containers.  Then Friday after work, I scooped out the cupcakes, made the filling and dropped it in.  It probably took me 30 mins to make the frosting.

printer friendly pdf for the cupcakes

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

Adapted from LivForCake.com
Servings: 24

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
3/4 cup hot water
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350F, line cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
2. Place all dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Stir to combine.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk all wet ingredients (pour water in slowly as not to cook the eggs if very hot.)
4. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix on medium for 2-3 mins. Batter will be very thin.
5. Pour evenly into prepared cupcake trays.
6. Bake until a tester comes out mostly clean 18-22 mins.
7. Cool 10 mins in pans then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.
8. CUPCAKES: scoop out center of cupcake to make room for filling, if using.

. . .
printer friendly pdf for peanut butter filling

* Exported from MasterCook *

Peanut Butter Filling

Recipe By: Adapted from an old magazine
Serving Size: 28

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter — softened
1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1. Stir together peanut butter and butter.
2. Gradually add sugar, stirring til combined.
3. Shape into balls. Place on wax paper and chill til needed.
Per Serving: 55 Calories; 4g Fat (56.1% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 3mg Cholesterol; 34mg Sodium.

. . .
printer friendly pdf for SMBC PB Frosting

* Exported from MasterCook *

Peanut Butter SMBC (Swiss Meringue Butter Cream) Frosting

Recipe By: LivForCakes.com

5 large egg whites
1 2/3 cup dark brown sugar lightly packed
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter cubed — room temperature
1/2 cup powdered peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla

1. Place egg whites and dark brown sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk until combined. Ensure there is NO trace of egg yolk.
2. Place bowl over a hot water bath on the stove and whisk constantly until the mixture is hot and no longer grainy to the touch (approx. 3mins). Or registers 160F on a candy thermometer.
3. Place bowl on your stand mixer and whisk on med-high until the meringue is stiff and cooled (the bowl is no longer warm to the touch (approx. 5-10mins)).
4. Slowly add cubed butter and mix until smooth. It may look like it’s curdling at some point. Keep mixing until it comes together.
5. Add powdered peanut butter & vanilla and whip until smooth.
Per Serving: 96 Calories; 0g Fat (0.0% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 274mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on March 21st, 2019.

My friend Kathy’s daughter, Meredith, took these pictures. We, here in California, are experiencing what’s called a “super bloom” because of all the rain we’ve had over this winter. Our open spaces everywhere are in full green and grow mode. But we have poppies here in California that bloom like weeds. Meredith and a girlfriend went out into the desert earlier this week and took these pictures. Aren’t they just gorgeous?

Meredith took dozens of pictures, but I chose two of the best ones. Thanks, Meredith for sending to me so I could post them on the blog.

Posted in Uncategorized, on December 31st, 2018.

You know, I’ve been writing this blog for nearly 12 years. And as time has gone by, I’ve lengthened the interval between posts (at first it was every day, then every other, then every 3 days, and currently about every 4 days). With this diet I’m on, I don’t imagine you, my readers, have been all that interested in what I have to write. It takes a firm discipline to be on the Stephen Gundry, Plant Paradox diet. It’s restrictive, and isn’t a diet that you take on lightly, or even as a diet you’ll eventually get to the end of. It’s a life-long commitment, if you choose to continue. There are days when I’m quite frustrated with it, but I do believe in the basic premise of it – virtually no carbs.

I’m experimenting with a few recipes to make “breads” that are edible on this diet, but are they satisfying? Not much, so far. I long for a slice of whole grain toast now and then, and a simple tuna sandwich slathered with some mayo and on white bread. Or a potato, or some kernels of corn in a soup. All no-no’s. My eating style has changed so much in the 9 months or so I’ve been on this diet. Currently I’m having 2 hard boiled eggs for breakfast, with a little mound of fresh blueberries on the side. For lunch I have soup, something I’ve made that contains foods I can eat. I have a small handful of nuts and a raw carrot in the mid-afternoon if I’m craving a snack. For dinner mostly I eat a salad with plenty of vegetables in it and tossed with a homemade dressing I’ve prepared. And at some point in the day I do indulge in some very dark chocolate (an ounce a day, which is allowed). That’s it. I can have a bit of wine if I want it, and I’ve been enjoying eggnog this month if it’s made with heavy cream. I do go out to eat some (with friends) and order meat and a veg mostly. Or a salad if they have one that’s got food I can eat.

On occasion I still cook “regular” meals, with carbs. But they’re for guests. Usually very little of it that I can eat. And yes, it’s difficult doing that. I have so many wonderful recipes on my blog and I’m sad I can’t have most of them anymore.

So, all that said, I’m giving myself permission to quit writing posts for the time being. Or at least not on the schedule I’ve been on. Or, unless I make something that I am really enamored with and feel a strong need to share with you. I’m not going away. My plan is to devote some of this extra time to my art, something I haven’t done in many years and I’d like to get back to it. Drawing and watercolor mostly. I’ll keep the blog up (it costs me about $12/month to keep it on the ‘net and an annual fee for the domain name). Maybe I’ll come back to it. I don’t know. I’ve never accepted advertising, nor guest posts (other than my daughter’s). Daughter Sara would like to take over this blog, and perhaps she will – she says she want to. There’s a certain discipline that’s needed when you write a blog, and I’m not sure with her so-very-busy life (full time job and family) that she has the time. But she took photos of 2-3 recipes on December 24th, and she wants to share them. I need to teach her how to do it all, however, so the plan is that sometime in the next few weeks she’s going to come here to my house and I’ll spend time with her doing that.

I’ve been retired since 1995 – gee whiz – that’s 23 years ago – and I’ve actually accomplished all of the goals I made for myself when I did so. (Those goals: 1. write a cookbook for my children [I started this blog first, but I did print a cookbook that I gifted to all of my kids and close friends]; 2. start an investment club [did that for 11 years, I think it was]; and 3. learn to paint [yes, did that one too]. I hadn’t planned on becoming a widow, however. At least not this soon. In March, it’ll be 5 years since Dave passed away. But I’m so grateful he and I did lots and lots of traveling in the years of our marriage and especially so after we both retired. We visited every place we’d put on our travel list and then some. I’m still living in a great big house, and I truly love my home, but there are days when I get overwhelmed with keeping watch over everything. In the last year I’ve had a leak – sprinklers that were spraying the house rather than the garden and it caused a $10,000 repair bill to replace hardwood flooring inside, dry wall, stucco outside, treat for subterranean termites, paint inside and out, etc. It was a big job and fortunately there was no mold. Currently I have a roof leak of unknown origin. Fortunately, during our heavy rains last month it only leaked onto my glass-topped coffee table (family room) and nowhere else. Now a big towel and a wide bowl sit smack-dab in the middle of that table all the time. Heaven forbid that we’d have a rain and I’d have forgotten to put the bowl on the table, so it’s safer to leave it there all the time. Next step is to contact a leak detection company and have them make a go of it.

Recently I’ve subscribed to MasterCook’s online sync (currently $35.00/year), which gives me the ability to access all of my recipes from my phone because all the recipes that live on my kitchen computer as synced to the ones at the MasterCook website – those 4,000 recipes (and counting – I think yesterday I input about 12 recipes) I’ve input into the MasterCook program. Previously, if I was out, I could access only my blog to look up my recipes, but of course I couldn’t get to all the recipes I have in my to-try file. Now I can do that when I’m at the grocery store and forgot to bring the recipe with me, or forgot to make a shopping list. I use Alexa to add items to my shopping list, but sometimes I simply forget to do even that!

I’ll keep my blog up and available for awhile. And maybe in a month or so I’ll miss it so much I’ll start back up again. You never know! But if you’ve ever planned to go back and look at older recipes and download them, you might want to do it. But for now, the blog will just “be there.” You’re welcome to email me with questions.

carolyn AT tastingspoons.com

Posted in Uncategorized, on August 12th, 2018.

Without a doubt, the best photo I took on the whole trip.

This trip my family took was 16 days – 3 nights in London, 4 nights in Florence, 4 nights in Paris, 3 nights in Normandy and the last night at an airport hotel. Our Airbnb adventure began in Florence, at an apartment just 30 steps from the Piazza Santa Croce. In hunting for a place, I knew about what area I wanted us to stay, and it was difficult, 10 months before the trip, to even find anything available to sleep 8 of us. As I mentioned earlier, however, the only reason (I believe) this apartment was available was because it was up 4 flights of stone steps without an elevator. We all got used to the climb (my grandson John carried my luggage up and down for me – bless him!). With my workout routine (cardio) I was able to walk up the full 4 flights without stopping – the first time each day – but each subsequent climb I’d usually have to pause at the 3rd floor for about 3 breaths, then continued on up. 

The apartment was wonderful – and the best part – it was air conditioned. Florence was HOT. Hot in temps and high in humidity. We all complained of the heat, but then, we asked for it by traveling to Europe in July. It got worse after we left (in fact, Europe has been experiencing a heat wave since we came home). 

I’ve been to Florence multiple times – and my choice always is to be out in the hills, the small towns, the countryside – but this was the first time there for some of them and there are so many things to see in Florence, so we needed to be in the hub of things. The closest grocery store was about 3/4 mile away, and Karen, Sara and I made the trek the first afternoon to stock up. We ate all our breakfasts at the apartment, drinking copious cups of coffee and filling ourselves with wonderful fruit, bread and cheeses. Plus some lovely salumi as well. You know, in Italy, the custom is bread without any salt – salt was an expensive commodity somewhere back in the dark ages, and the Italians simply got used to bread without it. We were able to buy baguettes too (also without salt) so we enjoyed those every day. The cheeses and salamis were my favorite.

My family all had varying goals in mind – the Uffizi museum, the statue of David (by Michelangelo), the Galileo museum (a highlight for 10-year old Vaughan because of it’s interactive gadgets showcasing Galileo’s infinite scientific inventions), Fiesole (a hill town nearby the city), the Duomo, of course, gelato and more gelato. And pasta. I think the 3 children had pasta every day in one way or another. One of my goals was to eat at Il Latini, my favorite Florence restaurant. Karen’s uncle, who speaks a bit of Italian, was able to make a reservation for us weeks ahead (it’s a very popular restaurant) and we were whisked right in when the doors opened at 7:30. Another goal of mine was to visit Michelangelo’s tomb which is housed in the Santa Croce church. You have to pay to enter. 

Back last year when I knew we were going to make this trip I sent my granddaughter Sabrina a copy of one of my favorite books of all time – The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo by Irving Stone. I read it when I was in my 20s and have never forgotten it. Sabrina brought the book along on the trip, and since she’s an artist (she’s the granddaughter going to Clemson, who now says, she thinks, that she wants to go to med school, not vet school) she was really interested. After going to see the statue of David, she came flying into the apartment, arms outstretched, to hug me and thank me for the trip, but also the joy she felt at seeing the David statue. I didn’t go with them as I was standing guard at the apartment, hoping young John’s luggage was going to be delivered, but it was deadly hot that day and I remembered from before that there is simply no air in the building that houses the statue. I was thankful to be in the apartment, in the A/C, pleasantly reading. 

The tomb of Michelangelo

There’s the Michelangelo tomb, inside the Santa Croce church. You can’t walk up to it – they’ve constructed an ornate railing and there are engravings in the marble floor in front of it, so they don’t want the general public walking all over it. Many exhibits in Florence have English and Italian captions.

One of the evenings we took taxis (two, obviously) to a hill on the south side of the Arno. It’s an open piazza, on a hilltop, and there were about 300-400 other tourists angling to get the best camera shot of the river, of Florence, of the Ponte Vecchio bridge (the one closest to the viewer) at sunset. And oh, that did not disappoint. I took about 30 photos. There was a collective sigh when the sun finally disappeared.

Posted in Uncategorized, on August 9th, 2018.

Our family + one, L-R: Shelby (friend), Sabrina, Vaughan (now 11), Karen, me, Sara, Powell, John, John Jr having dinner at a pub in London

Our last night in London we got ourselves to a well recommended pub (I think it was called the Grenadier). I have no recollection what I ordered. In the foreground, where I was sitting, you’ll see a drink – we had it several times in London – strawberry gin. I’d never heard of it – Karen ordered it first, and then Sara did, then I did, then Sabrina did. It’s mixed usually with soda or tonic, and I must say, it was really refreshing. Sabrina bought a bottle at the airport as we left England; Karen did too. I didn’t think I would have room in my suitcase (actually I did, but just thought I’d wait until I got home) so yesterday I went to Total Wine and they carry Linton Hill strawberry gin. I’ll enjoy it this evening, I think.

The other drink that we found was on many menus was Aperol Spritz. Aperol is an Italian apéritif made of gentian, rhubarb, and cinchona, among other ingredients. It’s not sweet in the least, and it’s mixed with soda water and sometimes not on ice, as many European drinks are. It was so hot in Europe that most of us adults enjoyed a cocktail before dinner to help us cool down. 

Obviously, Westminster Abbey. We had to wait in line for quite awhile.

I’d told everyone that Westminster Abbey needed to be high on the must-visit list. All of the kids used the tube one evening they were “out,” but the adults weren’t so enamored with the thought of it (hot and very crowded), so our last day we taxied over to the Thames and stood in line for about an hour. Everyone was in a bit of awe over the tombs of several English kings and queens, and the Poet’s Corner. We probably spent about an hour walking around. Photography is no longer allowed in Westminster Abbey, so I have nothing to show for being inside. The next morning we got ourselves to London’s “City” airport (closer than Heathrow) and flew to Florence. Next post . . .

Posted in Uncategorized, on July 14th, 2018.

tex_mex_albondigas

We’re certainly not going into soup season, but I eat soup year ‘round. And this one is very satisfying if you like Mexican style cooking, this one is sort of a Tex-Mex.

Where this recipe came from, I know not. I think it came from a Rachel Ray TV program some years ago. But since I evolved the recipe some, it’s no longer “original” anyway, so it’s my version, and what exactly made this Tex-Mex, I’m not sure. Maybe the chorizo? Or the seasonings in the meatballs? Well, never mind about that. It’s still a really good soup.

Varying this was my way of sticking to my low-to-no carbs diet. What I eliminated from this recipe were bread and carrots – the crumbled up bread in the meatballs, and the carrots in the soup. And I substituted ground turkey for the chorizo, although I probably could have had chorizo; I just didn’t have any lean chorizo on hand. I like the chorizo at Whole Foods – it’s very lean and super-tasty. But I didn’t have any . . . and I forgot to garnish the bowl with a slice of lime. Oh well.

Since I’ve been on this new eating regimen I’m trying to find more recipes that get in lots of vegetables and lean protein, but with tons of flavor. There are lots of herbs and spices in the meatballs, AND there are plenty of seasonings in the soup part as well. I’ve upped the volume of onions in the soup, and added some celery (likely not authentic) to give the soup more texture. And I added some diced avocado to the garnish. On this Gundry diet, avocado is beloved; we’re advised to eat at least a half of one a day. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that for every 2 avocados I buy, at least one is rotten inside. My daughter Sara told me that she buys all her avocados at Costco and so far she’s had no throw-aways at all, but you have to buy a big bunch of them. Not sure I could eat them all before they’d go bad from over-ripening.

What’s GOOD: what puts it on the really delicious scale for me is flavor. I liked all the garnishes, and the meatballs, made with some ground turkey, are very tasty. You CAN discern the little tiny speck of cinnamon in the meatballs – that adds a lovely nuance to them. Might seem odd, but worth adding!

What’s NOT: nothing really – the laundry list of ingredients might seem daunting, but a lot of them are seasonings of one kind or another. This would even work for a weeknight dinner – making the meatballs does take some time, but they’re not all that fussy to do.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Tex-Mex Albondigas

Recipe By: Adapted from a Rachel Ray recipe
Serving Size: 6

MEATBALLS:
2 tablespoons EVOO — divided
1 small yellow onion — very finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 pinches ground cinnamon
Salt and ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic — finely chopped or grated
1 egg
1/4 cup cream — or half-and-half
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound ground turkey — or use chorizo if preferred
SOUP:
3 tablespoons EVOO
2 large onion — chopped
2 medium carrots — chopped (optional, but authentic)
1 1/2 cups celery — chopped
1 large jalapeno chile pepper — seeded and chopped
28 ounces diced tomatoes
1 quart low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 lime — sliced, for garnish
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro — for garnish
4 scallions — thinly sliced, for garnish
1/2 cup sour cream — for garnish
1 whole avocado — diced

1. Place a large pan over medium-high heat with about 2 tablespoons of EVOO. Add onion, cumin, oregano, coriander, cinnamon, some salt and pepper to the pan and cook until the veggies are tender and spices are aromatic, 3-4 minutes. During last minute add the fresh garlic. Remove the skillet from the heat and let the veggies cool. Don’t wash the pan.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg with the cream. Add the cooled veggies to the bowl along with the ground beef and turkey, some salt and pepper. Combine the mixture with your hands and form into 1-inch balls.
3. For the sauce, in the same pot, heat over medium-high heat with 3 tablespoons EVOO. Add the chopped onion, carrots (if using) and jalapeno to the pan, and cook until tender, 5-6 minutes. Transfer about HALF of the mixture to a food processor and puree with the tomatoes. Return the mixture to the pot and add the chicken stock and chili powder. Bring up to a simmer and add in the meatballs. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, about 10 minutes.
4. To serve, scoop about 1 heaping cup of meatballs into a soup bowl, add about 1 cup of the soup part, then garnish each bowl with cilantro, chopped green onion, a squirt of sour cream and diced avocado. (If you have them and want to use them, add some crushed tortilla chips to the top – not authentic but gives lots of texture.)
Per Serving: 656 Calories; 47g Fat (62.8% calories from fat); 39g Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 169mg Cholesterol; 561mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on January 15th, 2018.

Every year I give you a short list of Carolyn’s best (this year it’s 12) I posted during the previous year. Click on the link if you’d like to go take a look again, or if you missed it the first time around! It’s interesting (to me anyway) to note that 2 of the 12 are sheetpan dinners! And one is a lowly, but elegant baked potato!

 

pumpkin_cheesecake_trifle_bowl_175

A very elegant dessert, a Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifle made with angel food cake, pumpkin stuff and whipped cream.

 

 

 

 

 


arugula_salad_peppers_stuffed_mushrooms_175

Lovely salad – for a special dinner, or could be an entrée salad: Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms with Arugula.

 

 


pepper_onion_roast_indian_spices_175

Roasted vegetables – oh gosh are these good – nothing more than bell peppers and onions with some Indian type spices (not hot). Worth making: Bell Pepper and Onion Roast.

 


sheetpan_chix_cabbage_onions_175

The first of the sheetpan dinners for the year – this one with chicken thighs and wedges of cabbage. Cabbage never tasted so good. Sheetpan Roasted Chicken and Cabbage.

 


perfect_baked_potato_175

Did you think there could be such thing as a “perfect” baked potato? New techniques, but oh, so worth the effort. It may be the star of your dinner plate. The Perfect Baked Potato. After I posted this my friend Joan’s husband Tom made it for himself – he liked it!

 


georgia_cracker_salad_175

The photo is kind of blah – but the dish is NOT! A salad, that sort of, kind of, tastes like potato salad, but made with saltine crackers. I took it to a potluck and many of the folks thought it WAS potato salad. A southern tradition. Georgia Cracker Salad.

 


grilled_shrimp_garlic_butter_sauce_175

Scampi at its finest. Never had it so good. Done on the barbecue, believe it or not. Grilled Shrimp Scampi.

 

 


applesauce_bundt_cake_caramel_icing_175

A very tender applesauce cake to remember, made in a bundt pan and drizzled with icing. Oh so good. Applesauce Bundt Cake with Caramel Icing.

 

 


raspberry_gratin_175

A dessert so easy you just won’t believe it. Fresh raspberries and brown sugar made into a quick gratin. Raspberry Brown Sugar Gratin.

 

 


eat_your_greens_soup_175

A soup of green stuff, but enhanced with some Parm. SO very delicious and healthy. From my friend Darci who had never given it a name, so I call it Eat Your Greens Soup.

 

 


sheet_pan_chix_thighs_bacon_sourdough_sw_potatoes_175

The second of the sheetpan dinners. I made this twice and want to make it again. Soon. Sheetpan Chicken Dinner with Bacon and Sourdough Croutons.

 


mushroom_soup_wo_cream_175

And last but not least, a so-flavorful mushroom soup, made with tons of umami flavor, but without a speck of milk or cream. And you won’t miss it. Mushroom Soup without Cream.



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