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Just finished The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

Read Grace Unshakled, by Irene Huising. From Amazon’s page, it says: “In the year 2025, 17-year-old Grace Duncan finds herself in shackles because of her faith in Christ. An obedient daughter and stellar student, doing time in jail was never on her mental radar, despite the changes in religious laws [this takes place here in the United States] over the past few years. Through twists and turns in circumstances, Grace and a small band of Christians in Newport Beach, California begin a journey to discover what it means to follow Christ with unwavering faith in the midst of increasing persecution. Facing the potential loss of all her hopes and dreams, would Christ be enough?” We read this for one of my book clubs, and it’s a scary thought about what it could mean if we take God out of our country. The author is a friend of a friend and she attended our book club meeting to share about how she came to write this book. I don’t often share my faith here on my website, but this book made me stop and think about the direction our government is going, removing more and more our ability to worship God. Or to worship in any religion. Will this book ever make waves in the book world? Probably not. My copy may be a pre-edited version, as it contained numerous typos and formatting errors. But they didn’t detract from the subject, just the cosmetics. The book doesn’t come to a resolution; in fact it leaves you hanging, as some books do. It was intentional (obviously), but left me wondering about the “end of the story.”

Also just finished reading The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Read The German Girl: A Novel by Correa. It chronicles the story of a wealthy German Jewish family in Berlin, as the Nazis arrive and make life a living hell. The family is lucky (I guess you could say this) to be allowed to purchase passage on the M.S. St. Louis, a passenger liner, to take them to “the Americas.” The destination is actually Cuba. The story is told from two voices – the teenage daughter in this story, and from a current-day distant family member who is trying to learn about her ancestry. Of the 900+ passengers on the ship, only a few were allowed to disembark since the Cuban President decided he needed more money to accept them. Most families had no money left, as the Reich had taken nearly all of their assets. The daughter and her very eccentric mother were allowed to stay in Cuba.  The remaining passengers are rejected by the U.S. too, and eventually return to Europe, where most of the Jews end up dying in concentration camps. The story goes back and forth from the 1939 journey to current day as the link between the two women is slowly revealed. I had a tough time sometimes, tracking the people in this book, but the story was very riveting. It’s based on facts about the ship (see Wikipedia link above if you’re interested). A shameful chapter in history.

Recently finished reading a magnificent historical novel. Not new. Philippa Gregory has been a favorite author of mine for a couple of decades. You may remember her most famous book, The Other Boleyn Girl, published some years ago. I thought that was a really great book. I’ve read other books by Gregory, but most recently I read The King’s Curse (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels). The time period is the 1450s to 1541, mostly under the rule of King Henry VIII, the infamous womanizer and wife/Queen-killer. The man who cursed Rome (the Pope) – he wanted his first marriage annulled because Queen Catherine couldn’t produce a living male heir. And subsequently made himself the head of the church in England in order to do so. It was a Catholic country at the time. This story (it’s fiction, but woven with intricate historical detail) is from the voice of Margaret of York (a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine),  who was a Plantagenet in her own right (which is key to the later events in the book). Certainly I’ve read other novels over the years that dealt with Henry VIII, but not with this much breadth of info. What a wicked, sinful man he was. And did I say tyrant. Wow.  I could hardly put it down, through its nearly 600 pages. In the author’s notes at the end, she shares relatively recent medical info that suggests Henry probably suffered from a rare problem, Kell positive blood type, which can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths IF the mother has the more common Kell negative blood type. And that in his later years, he may have had McLeod syndrome, a disease only found in Kell positive individuals. Around the age of 40 it causes physical degeneration and personality changes resulting in paranoia, depression and irrational behavior. All of those King Henry VIII had in spades. If you read the book, you might read the author’s notes (at the end) before reading the book. If you like historical fiction (I love any book about English history) you’ll just love this one. It’s interesting, though, as I think about the many books I’ve read covering this era in English history, that each book presented its hero/heroine as the most innocent and worthy individual vying for the crown of England. I remember thinking Anne Boleyn was dealt with so badly during her life (and certainly her beheading), and yet reading this book, I completely reversed my opinion. Anne Boleyn was called a wh–e by most people during the years she shared Henry’s bed. The “curse” from the title pertains to Henry’s inability or the curse on the Tudors, that caused him to fail in producing a male heir. In any case, none of Henry’s wives should have died for it – likely it was all Henry’s fault anyway. Just read this one, okay?

Also recently read 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 free-lance 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 family was 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 an old (wild) 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. Just read this one first!

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
BUTTERMILK BISCUITS:
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

MEAT MIXTURE:
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.)
BISCUITS:
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.
ASSEMBLY:
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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