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Recently finished reading The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant. Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

 

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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