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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 Beef, on July 24th, 2009.

Our granddaughter, Taylor (at right in the picture), asked: “What’s for dinner, Grandma?”
I said: “A ground beef casserole with biscuits on top.”
kids with bowl
Logan, our grandson (center in the picture) said, after a long pause: “Grandma . . . what’s a casserole?”

We all chuckled that Logan didn’t recognize the word. It’s not that he hasn’t had one – Taylor even reminded him of the last casserole I made a couple of months ago when they visited – he just didn’t know it by that name. Even Mikayla (Taylor’s friend, also in the picture at left, who came along for this visit) knew about casseroles.

To say that this casserole was a roaring success is visible in the very few sticky remains in the deep casserole. The kids were all over it. Wanted seconds and thirds if they could have had them. Most of the adults at the dinner had seconds also. My DH was limited only by the fact that his first serving was large enough. Good thing since the kids wanted more and more of it.

This recipes goes w-a-a-a-y back in my repertoire. I’ve tweaked it over the years, and this time I tweaked it some more. Now, this isn’t anything gourmet. And you really can’t make it ahead of time because of the biscuits. But you can make the meat mixture ahead, then just reheat it before you compose the casserole.

The meat is ground beef (and you could just as easily use ground turkey), with onion, garlic, green chiles (canned), a bit of corn (I used canned because I had an open can), tomato sauce, and chili powder. Then you add some light sour cream and a goodly amount of shredded Jack cheese. The trick to this casserole is the biscuits. Now my guess is this recipe may have come about when Pillsbury first came out with the canned (tube) biscuits. The original recipe is in lots of places on the internet. And that’s the way I used to make this (and you can too if you choose). I might have this time except I didn’t want to make another trip to the regular grocery store for the biscuits, so I made them from scratch. Took very little time since I had the buttermilk on hand. I simply went to my own blog and found my favorite recipe for Drop Biscuits and made them – but I rolled them out instead.

biscuit casserole

The casserole has a bunch of horizontal biscuit halves on the bottom of the casserole. Then you spoon in all the meat mixture, top that with the other half of the biscuits, sprinkle with some Jack cheese and you’re ready to bake. All I did was divide the biscuit batter in half and rolled out each half to make about 12 thin biscuits – half goes on the bottom, the other half of the batter makes more to go on the top. It was really very easy. But if you want to make it super easy, then use the tube biscuits (with this recipe you’ll likely need 2 tubes) – the kind with visible layers, so you CAN separate them into thin halves.

What’s different about my recipe? I add fresh garlic. I also add corn. Sometimes I add shredded Cheddar if I don’t have Jack cheese. I also eliminated an egg in the meat mixture that was in the original recipe. Didn’t seem to be needed as far as I was concerned. So, if you haven’t ever made this, it’s a crowd pleaser. Especially children. For me, it’s the biscuits.

What’s GOOD: this dish is just comfort food at its finest. When you crave something ooey, gooey, cheesy, and you don’t mind the casserole concept, well, this is the one! All of our grandkids just love-love this dish. Me too.

What’s NOT: not one single thing. It’s certainly not low calorie, though. But it’s not wicked, if you understand what I mean. Definitely worth making for a big crowd.
printer-friendly PDF

MasterCook 5+ file and MasterCook 14 file

Ground Beef & Corn Casserole with Biscuits

Servings: 10

1 large yellow onion — chopped
2 cloves garlic — chopped or mashed
2 pounds lean ground beef
4 ounces diced green chiles — canned (mild)
16 ounces tomato sauce — canned
3 cups Jack cheese — shredded, divided use
4 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 cups corn — canned (drained) or frozen (thawed)
1 cup light sour cream
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk — VERY cold
8 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted, cooled

1. In a large skillet brown onion in a bit of olive oil. Add ground beef and continue until all the meat has lost its pink color. Add green chiles, tomato sauce, garlic, chili powder and corn and continue cooking gently for about 5-10 minutes. Add the sour cream and most of the Jack cheese and stir to combine. Set aside. (The meat mixture can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated.)
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt in a large bowl. (Or, you can sift it together.)
3. In a medium bowl (at least 1 1/2 cups or larger) combine the cold buttermilk and the melted and slightly cooled butter. Stir until buttermilk forms clumps.
4. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir with rubber spatula until just incorporated and batter pulls away from side of the bowl.
5. Using a bit of flour on your hands, divide the biscuit dough in half.
6. With first half of biscuit dough, roll out to about 1/2 inch thick. Carefully place biscuits into an ungreased 9×13 pan.
7. Spoon the meat mixture on top of the biscuits and spread to level the meat.
8. Roll out the remaining biscuit dough and cut more biscuits. Place on top of the meat. Sprinkle with the reserved Jack cheese.
9. Place casserole in oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes, until the tops of the biscuits are golden brown. Remove and allow to sit for about 5 minutes. Serve.
Per Serving: 478 Calories; 29g Fat (55.3% calories from fat); 22g Protein; 32g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 96mg Cholesterol; 720mg Sodium.

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  1. adele

    said on October 21st, 2013:

    Wish I could print some of the recipes to my cards.

    Sorry, I just do a pdf and the MasterCook versions. You can reformat from a cut/paste and try to fit it in a card to print? . . . carolyn T

  2. Jill

    said on October 21st, 2013:

    I love seeing the old recipes. Now this is a basic recipe for taco pie and it would be topped with tortilla chips or doritos
    -Great recipe

  3. BA

    said on February 1st, 2017:

    I made this for church on Sunday. I was so disappointed because the biscuits o the bottom didn’t cook-they just got soggy. Raw soggy dough.

    I’ve never had that happen. Did the casserole itself get heated through completely? If it was thicker, perhaps it just didn’t have enough heat to it, though it should have. I’m so sorry you were disappointed with it. This casserole has been a hit for years and years in my family. Some in my family don’t put the biscuits on the bottom, they just put the whole biscuits on top and scoop out a biscuit per person and spoon the casserole partly on top.

    Did you make the casserole (unbaked) ahead of time to take to your church event? Possibly the weight of the meat part pressed on the biscuits and they couldn’t rise properly. Try it again and just put the biscuits on the top. . . carolyn t

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