30 October 2006

Reads & Listens, October 2006

Here Lies the Librarian by Richard Peck It's a hoot.

Left Bank by Kate Muir
Yes, yes, pity poor Perfect Family -- extremely flawed and far from happy. So what? The whole book left me shrugging "whatever."

Beginning With O by Olgar Broumas (forward by Stanley Kunitz)
"Cinderella" was my favorite poem, but "Thetis" ran a close second.

The Old Maid (The 'Fifties) by Edith Wharton
Part of Wharton's Old New York series of novellas. A skilfully written story addressing themes of motherhood and morality.

Farthing by Jo Walton
In alternate mid-1800s England which never went to war against Hitler and the Reich, class can only protect you from so much when you marry a Jew. Murder mystery/novel of manners.

Maurice by E.M. Forster
I know I should have a higher opinion of this book -- it is "A Gay Classic" -- but I hated Maurice and felt far more sympathy for his women.

3-Ingredient Slow Cooker Recipes: 200 Recipes for Memorable Meals by Suzanne Bonet
The recipes in this cookbook all seem simple and straight forward with no hard-to-find ingredients or extraneous prep work. Many recipes also come with "Add It!" entry listing additional ingredients and seasoning. I made three recipes (all using the "Add It!" additions) and the results were mixed. The tuna casserole came out really well and will be repeated, but the ravioli and the chicken rice dishes will never be repeated. Indeed, I wish to wipe them from my memory.

The Mysterious Private Thompson: The Double Life of Sara Emma Edmonds, Civil War Soldier by Laura Leedy Gansler
Sarah runs away from home and becomes a successful traveling book salesman. When the US Civil War breaks out, she enlists as Frank Thompson and serves as a medical orderly, mail courier, and Union spy (maybe). Excellent history and quite a nice read.

Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen
Fascinating and quirky little book.

27 October 2006

Year of Cake: Toasty Nuts

October's Cake of The Month is "Pumpkin Spice Cake" from Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book (Meredith Books, 1998) with maple syrup cream cheese frosting and toasted walnuts. I had never toasted walnuts before and was a little worried they'd burn, so I think I pulled them out of the oven a little too soon. Probably, could have toasted them another 2 or 3 minutes. Better under-toasted than burnt, I guess.

The cake came out pretty well. Everyone who tasted it thought the frosting was nice and maple-y without being overly sweet. Even my mother, the diabetic, enjoyed the frosting (with her heightened sensitivity to sugar, her sweetness threshold is a lot lower than ours). The cake itself was light and airy with just a hint of pumpkin in with all that spiciness. As a welcome bonus, the whole house smelled like pumpkin pie while the cake was baking.

December's cake will be fruitcake. Yes, my dad asked for fruitcake. He likes the scary commercially prepared ones, you see, and wonders what a homemade fruitcake will be like. I worry it's not the fruitcake he likes, but the novelty of it as it is one of those things he gets, maybe, a slice of once a year. Certainly, it isn't something my mother allows in her house.

I'm trying two recipes -- both from the King Arthur Flour people. I need to get them started in the next week or two as they'll need to set for five weeks or so before they'll be properly edible. I want my father to get his cakes well enough in advance of Christmas that he will still have an appetite for them. Also, if they turn out badly, I will still have time to order him one from the Baker's Catalogue.