Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cookies & Books: Lydia's Maple Nut Cookies for "Lydia's Charm" Review Plus "Shift" & "Book of the Dead" Reviews

No Simple Saturday Sipper today. The main thing I have been sipping the last couple of days is warm water with honey and lemon. I seem to have acquired some more seasonal bronchitis-like junk. ;-( I got some drugs today and should be on the mend. Instead of a sipper, I thought I would catch up on the steadily growing pile of review books sitting by my bedside (and that doesn't even include the cookbooks!). Anyone else feel like September and October just whipped by?!? Since this is a food blog, I like to cook recipes in or inspired by the books I read; in this case I just made one recipe, Lydia's Maple Nut Cookies from "Lydia's Charm" (Plus I figure that no one really wants a recipe inspired by the other two books anyway). ;-)

"Lydia's Charm" by Wanda E. Brunstetter is the story of Lydia King, an Amish widow trying to start her life over in her hometown of Charm, Ohio. After her husband is killed in a logging accident, Lydia moves back to Charm, an Amish settled town, with her son to be close to her mother and help care for her ailing grandfather. Lydia catches the eye of two of the town's bachelors, Menno, a recently widowed furniture store owner and father to four boys and Levi, a newcomer to the town who has dedicated his life to caring for his family. The novel follows Lydia as she struggles to overcome the tragedies in her life and find happiness. I have a fascination for Amish life and culture, which this novel covers well. I did find it a bit slow and a bit mild--it is a Christian novel though so that is to be expected, but the details on the Amish lifestyle were interesting. Brunstetter spends a lot of time in Amish settlements and her attention to detail is shown throughout the book.

There were two recipes included in the book, one for Nona's Frogmore Stew--Levi's mother's family recipe for a stew plopped on the table and consumed with the fingers, and this recipe for Lydia's Maple Nut Cookies. These are a simple iced cookie and nice for fall. I made a half- batch and made a couple changes in red below. Although the cookie recipe includes a frosting, I had leftover Maple-Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting and feeling that Lydia would not want me to waste, used that instead. ;-)

Recipe for Lydia's Maple Nut Cookies
From "Lydia's Charm" by Wanda Brunstetter

2 cups brown sugar
1 cup butter
3 eggs
1 1/4 Tbsp maple flavoring (I used pure maple syrup)
3/4 cup milk (I used non-fat)
4 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup nuts, chopped (I used pecans)

Frosting: (I used this one)
1/4 cup butter
1 egg beaten
1 tsp maple flavoring
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp water

To prepare frosting: Combine all frosting ingredients and mix well.

To prepare cookies: Preheat oven 350 degrees. Cream brown sugar and butter in large bowl. Add eggs, flavoring, and milk. Beat well. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in separate bowl. Add to creamed mixture. Fold in nuts. Drop by heaping teaspoons onto greased baking sheet and bake 8 to 10 minutes. Frost cookies when cooled.

Notes/Results: A very simple but good, soft cookie, perfect for the autumn season. The frosting really made this cookie for me--in addition to using my icing leftovers from my cupcakes, I sprinkled a little of the maple sugar from Marx Foods on top--delish!

Now, lets shift into something totally different: "Shift: How to Reinvent Your Business, Your Career and Your Personal Brand" by Peter Arnell. "Shift" is a business book all about changing and reinventing your life for the better. Arnell, a branding and marketing guru for companies like DKNY, Pepsi, Reebok and GNC, gives tips for transformation--ideas he used to lose 256 pounds and maintain his current weight.

The book talks about the shifts Arnell made to his own life as well as how he changed and transformed the brands of the companies he worked with. It is an easy to read book, full of short chapters written in an energetic and engaging style and is a glimpse into the world of branding and marketing. Not a heavy business book or heavy concepts--an example "going helium" to rise above the problems of everyday life, but an entertaining read.

Speaking of entertaining reads, "The Book Of The Dead: Lives of the Justly Famous and the Undeservedly Obscure" by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson, is quite the interesting book. Full of strange stories of both the famous and the oddly obscure who are of course...dead.

Each of the 10 chapters in "Book of the Dead" has an intriguing theme linking the dearly departed together. For example in "There is Nothing Like a Bad Start"--Leonardo da Vinci, Sigmund Freud, and Salvado Dali all had pretty rotten childhoods. "The Monkey Keepers"--we all know about Michael Jackson but Frida Kahlo, Oliver Cromwell, and Rembrandt, to name a few also had monkey companions. "Man Can Not Live By Bread Alone"--Howard Hughes, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and Henry Ford, all had interesting eating habits. This is a book chock full of historical tidbits that you won't find other places and lively British humor. With the short stories contained in it--a book to slowly savor in entertaining bits and pieces.

So three very different books that passed through my to-read pile the past couple of months (I do love a bit of diversity in my reading!)

What books have you been enjoying?

Disclaimer: These three books were provided to me free of charge in the hopes that I would read and review them but no compensation was given and of course the opinions in my reviews are strictly my own.

Happy Saturday!


  1. Lydia's Charm sounds quite interesting and like it would serve as a good look into Amish culture which, honestly, fascinates me as well. The cookies sound so tasty! Anything maple makes me happy at this time of the year.

  2. Lydia's Charm sounds interesting. I'll have to check it out.
    I just finished Castaways by Hilderbrand, Sizzling 16 by Evanovich, and MiniShopaholic by Kinsella. The Shack and What Dreams May Come are up next.

  3. Nice. Those are definitely three very different titles...but I enjoyed your take on all of them. And I love the simple spice cookie, as well...I love the frosting and would be very content to sit back and munch some whilst reading anything! :)

  4. Love to read...and eat cookies. I love maple flavored fall treats.

  5. gosh, hope you feel better soon.

    I'm reading "Underground" by Haruki Murakami, non-fiction and really eye opening stuff.

  6. Joanne--Yes--maple is such a great fall-like flavor.


    All Things Yummy--You have a great list of books there! ;-)

    Heather--a good cookie is the perfect reading snack. ;-)

    Debbie--Me too! ;-)

    Kat--I have herd of that book--about the subway gas attacks there right? I'll be curious to know how you end up liking it. Very interesting I have heard.

  7. I have that Dead book on my to read list. Sounds perfect!

  8. Mmmmm...maple! These sound so great and what an interesting book. Now you have my attention with Shift as well. I definitely need to get my hands on that one.

  9. Pam--I think you will like it--it's quirky and fun! ;-)

    Lori--thank you! They are two very different books but both good in their own way. ;-)

  10. My Mom would love Lydia's Charm - adding it to her Christmas list! And I would love the cookies - adding them to my recipe list! They are such a nice fall sounding cookie

  11. Reeni--thanks! The cookies are perfect for fall and really delicious. ;-)


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