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Just finished News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her parents were killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of a old west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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 Chicken, on March 28th, 2017.

deep_dish_turkey_chili_pie

Casseroles are so comforting. This one is especially delicious – made with ground turkey, a bit of corn, tomato puree, oodles of grated cheese, and an unusual bottom “crust.”

I really do love casseroles. I wish they’d come back into fashion. In some circles, they’ve never gone “out.” When I serve them, I always get raves. This one will be a repeater on my menu whenever I feel the urge to make a casserole for friends or family.

Occasionally my evening bible study group gathers for dinner – this one was a potluck, and everyone brought other things to round out the menu. The dish serves 12 – I made two of those pies like you see in the above photo – and every single, solitary bite of it was gone. It served exactly 12, though a couple of my guests went back for seconds.

I don’t remember how or where I acquired this recipe – but it won a chili contest in 1988, so the story goes, and the home cook who made it won $25,000. Does that give you a clue as to how good this is? It’s a Texas recipe, and when the one friend in our group who is from East Texas had some, his wife said, yes, this was very much like a lot of Texas casseroles.

A couple of days ahead of bake-day, I made the meat sauce.  It begins with chopped red onion and red bell pepper, then jalapeno minced up, a bunch of garlic and parsley. The recipe calls for parsley flakes – well, I used fresh. The ground turkey is added in, along with paprika, chili powder, ground cumin, a bay leaf, some dry mustard, a little jot of unsweetened cocoa powder, beef broth and tomato puree (I used tomato sauce). Here, though. is where I veered off the recipe just a little bit – I meant to buy a bottle of Mexican beer at the store – I forgot – and I wasn’t about to make a special trip just for that. It tasted fine without it, I thought. You can use your own judgment – however – if you do add the beer, you’ll need to cook off the fluid so it’s a thick sauce. There’s also some corn in it, a tiny jot of honey too.

deep_dish_chili_pie_unbaked

There’s the casserole just before I slid it into the oven.

Meanwhile, you “make” the crust. THIS is what intrigued me – the crust. You mix up some crushed saltine crackers, cornmeal, a little vegetable oil, some Jack cheese shredded and a whole cup of water. Once the water is absorbed, this mixture is just plain odd. It’s not really a dough, although the original recipe called it that. You divide it between two deep pie dishes and kind of spread it around as evenly as possible. It gets baked for 15 minutes until golden brown. It cools slightly, then you add a bit of grated Jack cheese on top of the “crust,” then scoop in the hot turkey filling. Lastly, Jack and cheddar cheese is sprinkled all over the top. Into the oven it goes to get hot and the cheese gets a bit golden brown. DO let it rest for about 5-10 minutes before serving – it would burn your mouth!!

With a green salad, this is a complete meal. We had a slaw salad, a veggie-rich green salad, a kale salad and a Jell-O salad – all wonderful with this. The green salad went with it the best, I think. The recipe can easily be halved to serve 6.

What’s GOOD: it’s just a delicious, comforting meal – the turkey mixture is full of flavor, and you can pick up on the different texture of the “crust.” It’s delicious – almost has a tamale pie familiarity, although nothing like the thick cornmeal type casseroles my mother used to make. The crust in this is super-thin. Altogether wonderful and easy to make. Don’t fill the pies until you’re ready to put them in the oven, though. I think it would soften the crust on the bottom.

What’s NOT: can’t think of a thing. It was wonderful.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Deep Dish Turkey Chili Pie

Recipe By: This won a $25,000 chili recipe contest in 1988, by Rosalinda De Leon
Serving Size: 12

FILLING:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup red onion — diced
1 cup red pepper — diced
1 jalapeño pepper — finely chopped
3 cloves garlic — finely chopped
1 teaspoon parsley flakes — or 3x as much fresh parsley
2 pounds ground turkey
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 2/3 cups beef broth
1 cup tomato purée
3/4 cup beer — Mexican type
12 ounces canned corn — drained
1 teaspoon honey
CRUST:
2 cups saltine crackers — coarsely crushed
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup warm water
TOPPING:
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese — divided use
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. FILLING: Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the onion, peppers, jalapeño, garlic and parsley flakes; and cook, stirring until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the turkey and cook, stirring until browned.
2. Add the seasonings and cocoa powder. Stir until the meat mixture is evenly coated with spices. Pour in the beef broth, tomato purée and beer, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want most of the liquid to simmer off.
3. Add the corn and honey, and simmer an additional 30–40 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally. While the chili mixture simmers, prepare the cracker pie crusts.
4. CRUST: Heat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch deep-dish pie dishes. Use your hands to combine crushed crackers, cornmeal, vegetable oil, shredded cheese and warm water in a large mixing bowl until a coarse mixture forms. Divide the mixture in half, and then press each half evenly into a pie dish. Bake the crusts 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside to cool briefly on wire racks.
5. Remove bay leaf from chili mixture. Sprinkle 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese into each warm pie crust. Divide the chili mixture between the prepared crusts, sprinkle the remaining cheese over pies, and bake 10–15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Let stand about 5 minutes before slicing.
Per Serving: 558 Calories; 30g Fat (47.7% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 89mg Cholesterol; 1100mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on April 2nd, 2017:

    I wonder what the definition of a casserole is over your side of the pond? Here, it is any kind of stew cooked the oven in a covered casserole dish. Interesting, no?

    Here it’s more a baked dish that contains a combo of protein, vegetables and maybe a carb too. Stew, to me, means gravy, and a casserole is thicker, more sturdy, able to be cut into wedges, squares or spooned without dripping anything. Does that make sense? . . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on April 2nd, 2017:

    That crust is really intriguing. This sounds like just the thing for when the family comes for dinner. I, too enjoy casseroles, but I don’t make them very often. That needs to change!

    My Northern California family will be visiting in a month or so and this will be on the menu while they’re here. They like casseroles! . . . carolyn t

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