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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Oatmeal Fudge Bars


Hi all–  Tonight we’re wrapping up our Monday ladies study and prayer time for the year.  I love those ladies. When they walk in the door on Monday evening, my heart feels happy.  They come in for a mug of tea/coffee and a little something sweet– and then the talk begins.  Little groups of friends, catching up all across the room.  It’s the best.  And here’s what we’re snacking on tonight:

OATMEAL FUDGE BARS

Oatmeal Layers:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
3 tab. milk
1 cup flour
1  1/2 cup whole oats
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup walnuts chopped for on top.

Fudge Layer:
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chocolate chips (6 oz.)
3 tab. butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Stir together the melted butter, brown sugar and egg until blended.  Then mix in the vanilla and milk until it’s thoroughly mixed.  Finally stir in the four, oats, baking powder and salt.

Spread 2/3 of the oatmeal batter in a 9″ square or 11″x8″ rectangular baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Then make the fudge layer.  In a sauce pan melt together the condensed milk, chocolate chips, butter and vanilla, stirring until it is all melty and blended.

Pour the fudge over the oatmeal layer in the baking dish, smoothing it with the back of a spoon to cover the whole layer.

Then break up the remaining oatmeal batter with your fingers to little bits and drop them over the fudge. It won’t cover completely, little bits of fudge will show through.  Sprinkle the chopped walnuts evenly over the top.

Pop the whole things into a 350 oven for 25 to 30 minutes.  Let it cool at least half an hour and then cut it into neat little squares.

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.

Cranberry Almond Baked Oatmeal

Good morning!!  Baking up a pan of oatmeal is a favorite when kids are in the house.  This was our Thanksgiving morning breakfast.  Bake it up.  Set it out with a basket of  berries, brown sugar, bananas and cream and as people wander in one by one breakfast is ready when they are.  Hearty, easy and delish!

CRANBERRY ALMOND BAKED OATMEAL
2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup  almonds, toasted, chopped*
1/3 cup dried cranberries, minced
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1  3/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
serve with cream or milk

In a large mixing bowl stir all the ingredients together.  Spoon the mixture into a 2 quart baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray and pop it all into a 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until the center is firm.

Serve with milk or cream and berries or bananas (or if grand-girls are in the house– chocolate sprinkles).

*Sliced, toasted almonds in bags ready to use at Trader Joe’s.

Jessica’s Morning Oatmeal

 

Good morning!  We were staying with our kids recently and Jessica pulled this dish of oatmeal from oven, hot & fruity & just a bit crunchy.  Add some warm milk and it’s the loveliest breakfast.

So I brought that recipe home and here’s my version– the best baked oatmeal yet!  (and we’ve eaten our share of baked oatmeal, let me tell you…)

JESSICA’S MORNING OATMEAL
2 cups oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup kefir or buttermilk
1 cup water
1 egg
3 tab. unsalted butter, melted & cooled slightly
2 tsp. vanilla
1 pound fruit (pears, nectarines, blueberries)*
garnish:  a pitcher of cream (or milk) to serve/more syrup (optional)

In a bowl, mix together the oats, almonds, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

In another bowl, stir up the maple syrup, buttermilk, water, egg, vanilla and 1/2 of the melted butter.  Set aside.

Cut the fruit to small chunks and spread it on the bottom of a 9″ square of 9″ deep round making dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Spoon the oat mixture over the fruit.  Then carefully pour the liquid mixture over the top of it all.

Bake the oatmeal at 375 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes until the oats are cooked through.  Drizzle the remaining butter over the oatmeal and serve with cream and syrup if you want a little more sweetness.

*I used 2 nectarines, 1 pear, 1 cup of blueberries (all unpeeled–easy!)

Oatmeal Granola Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Hello Cookie Lovers–  We have an old family favorite when it comes to cookies around here.  The page in my cooking notebook that has this recipe is stained and faded from so much use.  The original recipe from a friend in Spain called for granola (like here), but over the years we’ve thrown in any flakey cereal in it’s place (no Cheerios please!)  Sometimes we added in nuts or currants or dried cranberries white chocolate chunks.  It’a a basic recipe you can mix up to suit your cookie preferences.  Just trying to say– it’s a good cookie, soft on the inside an crispy around the edges. I think it could become a favorite of your family too.

OATMEAL GRANOLA CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup while sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup flour
1  1/4 cup oats
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup coconut
1 cup granola
2 cups chocolate chips

With an electric mixer, beat together butter, 2 sugars and eggs until they are smooth and creamy.  Then beat in the flour, oats, salt and baking powder.  Finally mix in the coconut, granola and chocolate chips.  It will be a stiff batter.

Then drop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Will make about 3 dozen medium cookies.  Put them in a 350 degree oven for 12 to 14 minutes until they are beautifully browned on top.  Best eaten (at least one or two) hot from the oven!!

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Caramel Pecan Oatmeal Bars

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Hello Baking Buddies– This year for my birthday, my father-in-law wrapped up those hugs bags of walnuts and pecans from Costco for much appreciated birthday gift!  I feel rich with all those nuts sitting in the cupboard, just waiting to be baked into something yummy.

So last week it was Chocolate Pecan Bars– and today I’m trying out these Caramel Pecan Oatmeal Bars.  I’m heading over to my in-laws house for a little lunch in a bit, so I’ll take Stu a little plateful to show him how I’m putting his pecans to good use!

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CARAMEL PECAN OATMEAL BARS
3/4 cup butter (1  1/2 stick), room temperature*
1  1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2  1/2 cups oatmeal
1  1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup caramel sauce**
1 cup pecans, chopped

With an electric mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla until smooth.  Then mix in the oatmeal flour, baking powder and salt.

Take 1 cup of the mixture out and set aside for the topping.  With your fingers spread the rest of the oatmeal mixture into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray to completely cover the bottom.  Pop this into a 350 degree oven for just 12 minutes.

When the bottom layer comes out of the oven, drizzle on 1 cup of caramel sauce.  Crumble up the one cup of oat mixture that you set aside into coarse crumbs over the top of the caramel.  Sprinkle on the pecans.

Put the whole thing back into the 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes until it’s lightly golden on top.  Let the bars cool completely before cutting them into little squares.

*If you’re taking the butter from the fridge (like me), put it into the microwave for 10 seconds to soften it up.
**The recipe I worked from gave instructions for making your own caramel sauce from scratch, but I love Hershey’s caramel sauce and also saving a little time, so that’s what I used.  But if you’re a caramel making whiz, you can stir up your own caramel!

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