Books & Cookies!


Hey there– It’s reading weather around here– cooler, calling for mugs of tea and books on the couch.  I wonder if you’re in the middle of a good book these days.  What are you reading??!

“Let’s be reasonable and add an eighth day to the week that is devoted exclusively to reading.”
– Lena Dunham

If you’re a reader (and I think a lot of you are!), get read to be charmed by Anne Bogel’s new book, I’d Rather Be Reading, the Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life. You’ll see yourself on these pages in chapters like Confess Your Literary Sins or Bookworm Problems (so funny!).
Here’s a quote from Anne:
“It took me thirty-five years to find my twin… We’re no bound by blood or formal ties. We’ve never shared a last name or an address or Thanksgiving dinner. Our twinness is confined to our reading lives: she’s that remarkable reader whose taste bears an astonishing resemblance to my own.”
The good news is that Anne also has a well curated book blog at Modern Mrs. Darcy.  Check it out!!

I discovered Kate Morton this year and am starting to make my way though her engaging stories.  Mostly recently, The House at Riverton.  In this book, is the recounting of a 98 year old woman with the family who lived in the house and the tragic death that shaped their history.  It was written before Downton Abbey but feels very much the same in detail and characters (I wonder if Julian Fellowes read the book!).  The narrator tells the stories of Hannah and Emmeline, sisters, whom she served as a lady’s maid.  The story pulls you along right until the end when the mystery unfolds. Now I’m waiting for her newest book, The Clockmaker’s Daughter!

I have a special affinity for Fatiima MIrza’s book A Place for Us. Rafiq and Lyla are the parents of 3 grown children who were raised in their conservative Muslim family in the Bay Area.  When the oldest daughter marries, the prodigal son, Amar, returns to the family.  Different family members recount incidents in the the growing up years of the children with tenderness and sometimes sorrow.  I loved the parents hearts for their three children and the last section of the book, the father’s recounting of his interactions with his son, had tears streaming down my face.  Beautiful complicated characters and the beautiful telling of one family’s story.

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain describes of the tumultuous love affair and marriage of Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway.  Mostly told from the point of view of Martha, third of Hemingway’s four wives.  She is a writer and journalist and strong personality who comes to love Hemingway when they are both war correspondents, in war torn Madrid, as Franco captures the country.  They made their home together in a writer’s get away in Cuba and travel and write around the world.  Fascinating picture of their relationship– and of course, it sent me to Wikipedia to see home much of the story was actual.  MacLain also wrote The Paris Wife, the telling of Hemingway’s first marriage, also a worthwhile book.

Last month’s book for our was Lit group was Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward.  This story was a difficult one, narrated by sturdy 13 year old Jojo and his drug using mother Leonie.  Living in southern Mississippi with Jojo’s grandparents, they set off on a road trip to collect Jojo’s father who is being released from prison.  The story is populated by Jojo’s younger sister, his steady grandfather, Pop, an ailing grandmother and a pair of ghosts from the past.  The book is at points disturbing and at others hopeful.  Not an easy book, but a worthwhile one.  Winner of the National Book Award.

I’ll end with a sweet story, Dear Mrs. Bird by A J Pearce.  Emmeline is a young woman, living with her best friend Bunty, in war torn London during WWII.  She spends her nights at the phone bank for the Auxilary Fire Services, which responds to nightly bombings.  And by day, she is the assistant to crotchety Mrs. Bird, an advice columnist for a women’s magazine.  When Mrs. Bird discards letters from people who truly need help, Emmy can’t help responding to them.  It’s a story of deep loss and firm loyalties, of the courage of two young women.  I’m not sure why, but this book reminds me of a 1940’s Katherine Hepburn movie– girls with spunk!  Very enjoyable

   To read more book notes (all my books from the the last 3 years)–
Click on Booklist

 

 

And to go with a good afternoon read on the couch, it’s pretty essential to include a mug of hot tea and perhaps a plate of cookies.  Here’s a chewy chocolaty cookie that came out of our kitchen this week.  You might like them along with a good book…

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE OATMEAL COOKIES
3/4 cup butter (1  1/2 stick), room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa*
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup whole oats (uncooked!)
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

With an electric mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar to make a creamy paste.  Then beat in the egg, water and vanilla.  When that’s blended, mix in the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder and oats.  And finally beat in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop the batter by large spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray (or has a silpat mat).  Bake them up at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, until they feel firm.  Let them cool a couple minutes on the cookie sheet before you lift them onto a cooking rack.  So chocolaty good!

*I used Hershey’s dark chocolate cocoa

 

And here’s a couple other cookie recipes that could accompany your reading:


Chocolate Toffee Slice and Bake Cookies


Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Cookies


Lemon Nut Shortbread Cookies

 

And to finish up– a few of my favorite pictures of people reading:
     
The Lady in the Polka Dot Pants by Rae Andrews
Self Portrait by Michelle Ranta


Little Girl and her bedtime books– Claire Fletcher


Daniel Gerhartz

   
Yuri Petrovic Kugach
Young Clergyman Reading by Martinus Rorbye


Henry Loved Eating all sorts of books!  Oliver Jeffers

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”
– Henry David Thoreau

The brilliant painting at the top of the post is by Karen Cooper.  thanks.

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Chocolate Toffee Slice and Bake Cookies

Hey there– Been a busy week getting ready for Grammy Camp!!  I’m just jumping up & down excited for 4 grand-girls to get here.  I’ve got little tubs of activities tucked away all in a row and the “Welcome to Grammy Camp” poster taped to the front door. And cookies.

Baked these girl friendly cookies for picnic lunches for the days they are here.  Tiny bits of chocolate and crunchy toffee in a buttery cookie.  I think they’ll be a hit.

CHOCOLATE TOFFEE SLICE AND BAKE COOKIES
1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup toffee bits*

With an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla.  Then beat in the flour, baking powder and salt until the dough looks like coarse crumbs.  Then beat in the chocolate chips and toffee bits until the dough is a solid lump.

Divide the dough into two halves.  Roll the first half into a log shape about 2″ thick. And then set them in the fridge for an hour (or up to several days).

When you’re ready to bake the, slice the logs into 1/4 inch rounds and set them on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake them up at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, until they are just brown around the edges.  Delish!

*the toffee bits I used were Heath “Bits O’ Brickle” — on the shelf were you buy chocolate chips.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hi Cookie Eating Friends– I know, I really do, that there are SO many chocolate chip recipes out there.  But I happened on this one that combines 3 favorite cookies– peanut butter, oatmeal and chocolate chip!!  And they are just the right amount of crispy edges and softy centers.

I made them for my Monday ladies yesterday evening.  And Kendall, our student friend staying with us, just about polished them off during his late long studies last night.  They’re pretty great.

OATMEAL, PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
1/2 cup butter softened*
1  1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup chunky peanut butter
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1  1/4 cup flour
1 cup whole oats
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups chocolate chips

With an electric mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar, white sugar, peanut butter, eggs and vanilla until it’s thoroughly blended.  Then beat in the flour, oats, baking powder and salt.  Finally mix in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter onto a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Makes about 3 dozen smallish cookies.  And pop them in a 350 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes.  Delicious hot from the oven!!

*10 to 12 seconds in the microwave makes refrigerated butter just right.

Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies

Hello Cookie Eating Friends–  You know there are some foods that just belong together– peanut butter & jelly,  peaches & cream,  bacon & eggs…  What’s your favorite pair??  Mine is chocolate & almonds!  When the occasional box of See’s candy comes in our door, I search the box for the little mound of perfectly chocolate coated almonds.  Heavenly!

So here’s a great little chocolatey almond cookie.  I made a big batch for an evening with friends and am sorry to say I ate almost I ate almost all the leftover cookies!!  Not too sweet, rich and buttery.  I think you’d like them as much as I do!!

CHOCOLATE CHIP ALMOND COOKIES
1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature*
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tab. amaretto** (or vanilla)
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup mini chocolate chips

With an electric mixer (start on low so ingredients don’t fly out of the bowl!), beat together the softened butter, powdered sugar, amaretto, flour and salt– until it is a bowl of coarse crumbs.  Be patient.  It takes 3 or 4 minutes to combine the butter and flour.

Then add in the almonds and mini chocolate chips and beat it with the electric mixer until the dough all sticks together.

Spread a thin layer of flour on the counter and roll out the dough until it is about 1/4″ thick.  If it sticks to the rolling pin, flour a tiny bit on top as well.

Use your favorite cookie cutter shape to cut them out and lay them on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake them up at 350 degrees for 12 to 13 minutes until they are golden around the edges. Enjoy!!

*If you’re pulling it out of the fridge (like I did), just give the butter 15 seconds in the microwave.
**I use amaretto because it gives the almond flavor, but at a fraction of the cost of almond extract.  The recipe I worked from used vanilla instead, so that would be great too!

Orange Cranberry Pecan Butter Cookies

Hey friends– I know the name for these cookies is way too long!  But I wanted you to know up front all the goodies they have tucked inside.

And– the best part of these cookies is that you make the dough ahead, put it in the fridge and then slice and bake as many as you need when you’re ready to eat them.   I made the dough this morning, will slice and bake a few for friends coming in tonight and save the rest of the dough for next week when the kids are arrive!

ORANGE CRANBERRY PECAN BUTTER COOKIES
1 large orange
1  1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries, minced
1/2 cup pecans, chopped fine
garnish:  powdered sugar for dusting

Start by grating all the rind off of the orange.  Set it aside.  The cut the orange in half and juice it.  Set the juice aside for a minute.

Use a mixer to beat together the butter, sugar, powdered sugar, vanilla and orange juice– until it’s smooth and well blended.  Then add in the flour baking powder, salt, cranberries, pecans and orange peel.  Beat with the mixer until it all forms a big sticky ball of dough.

On a lightly floured counter take out half of the dough and roll it into a log bout 2″ thick.  Wrap it in plastic wrap and set it in the fridge.  Do the same with the remaining dough.  Chill it all in the fridge for an hour or more (up to several days…)

When you’re ready to bake– Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Slice the logs of dough into 1/4″ slices and set them on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until they are lightly browned around the edges.  Be sure to eat at least one warm from the oven (the best!).

When they cool you can dust them lightly with powdered sugar shaken through a sieve. Makes about 3 dozen.

Chocolate Sea Salt Cookies (Gluten Free)

Hi Cookie Lovers– I almost hesitate to call these cookies.  With no flour and with an unusual mix of ingredients, they are more like candy!!  But what they truly are is chewy chocolaty delicious!!

Making them for my Monday ladies tonight, and trundling the leftovers up with me to visit the kids in San Francisco this week.  A grandma should always arrive with a bag of treats!

CHOCOLATE SEA SALT COOKIES
3 cups of powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
sea salt

Stir together the sugar, cocoa and salt,  Then stir in the eggs, vanilla and oil until it is all blended.  Finally fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Spoon globs of batter at least 2″ apart (they really spread in the oven!) onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment (so that they don’t stick).  Lightly sprinkle with just a little sea salt on each cookie.

Bake them up at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Let them cool on the parchment to firm up before you take them off of the pan. Makes about 2 dozen.  Enjoy!!

Cherry Bit Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Hello all– We lived in Texas the first 4 years we were married. Larry was in seminary and I taught science all week.  So every Saturday it was the same routine.  He’d study– while I cleaned our student apartment (so tiny, it didn’t take long!) went with 3 friends to grocery shop together, did laundry and then made cookies. So many cookies!  Now days we don’t need weekly cookies…

But for some young friends coming in last Thursday, I pulled out this old recipe.  Homey and sweet and best hot from the oven!

CHERY BIT CHOCOLATE CHIP OATMEAL COOKIES
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1  1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1  1/2 cups oats
1 cup walnuts, chopped
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup dried cherries, minced*

With an electric mixer beat the butter, 2 sugars and eggs until they’re creamy.  Then beat in the flour, salt, baking powder and oats.  Finally, use the mixer to blend in the walnuts, chocolate chips and cherries.

Drop the batter by spoonfuls on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Flatten the cookies a bit with the bottom of a heavy glass.

Bake them up at 350 degrees for 11 or 12 minutes.  Be sure to eat at least one hot from the oven!!

*Whole dried cherries are too gummy for me.  I mince them to bits, for their cherry sweetness, but no gummy bites!