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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2021, I’ll still participate, but the two daughters are going to do more posting from here on out.

We participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) if you purchase any books recommended (below), or buy products occasionally mentioned on the blog with an amazon link. 

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BOOK READING:

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. The book IS a novel, but the event is true. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. On the voyage the ship encounters a hurricane and several giraffes are lost, but two young ones survive. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission. A young boy (barely an adult) becomes the driver (his only goal is his desire to go to California), with the zoo’s delegate (a middle-aged man with a past), and it’s the story about these two misfits and their caring for the giraffes, feeding them (that’s a laugh – onions play a big part). No freeways existed back then, and the mental picture of the vehicle they used (basically a small truck) with the two giraffes confined within two tall boxes precariously strapped to the truck, and their driving and carrying-on getting under bridges and over rivers is just a hoot. I so wanted this story to be true – parts of it ARE true. Worth reading if you enjoy such animal stories. The giraffes survive, thankfully, and they both lived to a ripe old age at the zoo!

Also a kind of quirky book by Beth Miller, The Missing Letters of Mrs. Bright. Picture a middle-aged woman, slogging through life with a not-very-attentive husband, grown children, and one day she decides to leave. Completely. Maybe she had a bucket list of sorts, and she knew none of those places would ever happen in her life if she stayed put. She sets off to find a long-lost girlfriend. The book is about her journey. Her travels. Friendships, and lost friendships. Everyone can probably empathize with Kay Bright as she examines her life. And yes, there are letters and chapters with her daughter, Stella. Cute book.

Katherine Center’s book, Things You Save in a Fire: A Novel is certainly vivid. There aren’t very many women firefighters out there in the world – this is about one. A novel, however. About her work life and the harrassment she endures (some of it’s with love, some not) and about her relationships. The pros and cons of transferring to a different fire station (just like any job move, not always smooth). Good read.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman. Such relationships were fraught with problems from the very strict Japanese families who resented the American presence in their country, to the American military higher-ups who made it impossible for the servicemen to marry Japanese nationals. Could hardly put it down. Yes, it’s a romance of sorts, but not in the typical sense of today’s novel-romance-writing. There aren’t always happy beginnings, middles or endings, but the in between made for very interesting reading.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s. Wow. What an eye-opener. Of their small but loyal family enclaves, the hard-scrabble lives they led, the near poverty level of farming. I’d never heard that any Indian migrants were a part of farming here in California. Obviously they made up a very small percentage of the immigrants who settled there.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war. Fascinating glimpse into the hardships not only for patients (the war-wounded) but for the underappreciated and hardworking staff at various hospitals (even a tent one in Normandy where she worked for many months after D-Day). She meets her to-be husband and even that is fraught with difficulty from many angles.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. My friend Ann recommended it. I was gripped with the story within the first paragraph, and it never stopped until I turned the last page. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. Some very ugly things happen at that school. Eventually they  escape, and they are “on the run.” With a few others with them. If you loved Huckleberry Finn, you’ll have a great appreciation for this story as they use a canoe to get themselves down river. Never having very much to eat and getting into trouble way too often, and authorities on their tail. Well, you just have to read the book to find out what happens.

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children. The book is heartbreaking, but one of those that everyone should read. The hardship, the hunger, the dirt and dust, the failed crops, the lack of rain, then the story picks up again in central California, back in the day when the wealthy growers just used up the migrants. I don’t want to spoil the story. So worth reading. Hannah really knows how to weave a story.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks. The father was very dark, but he plays no part, really, in this story. Growing up, the girls leave home at 18 to find their way in New Orleans. Suddenly, one twin disappears (her clothes and suitcase all gone in the wink of an eye). Her twin left behind has no idea what’s happened to her. As the story reveals, with divided paths, one twin continues her life as a black woman, and the other twin, the one who left, is able to pass as a white woman. She marries well, has a daughter. Well, let’s just say that there are lots of wicked webs woven throughout the story, starting from the girls’ mother who never wants to speak again of her lost daughter. But you know where this is going, don’t you? Things are found out. The author does a great job of weaving the story apart and then back together.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress. She was a brilliant mind, and a beautiful woman. It tells the story of her coming of age, how she navigated the world of acting back in that time period (she was Austrian, and Hitler was in power). The writing was very well done – to tell Hedy’s story with detail and poignancy. Eventually Hedy made it to the U.S. and her life story changed, but still had its difficulties. I loved the book, beginning to end. She should have become an engineer as she invented several war related bomb tools. Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, when aristocrats were chased and killed, guillotined in many cases. There is a young couple (part of the royal court) who escape to a remote small castle owned by his family, located on the edge of France and Italy, hoping to wait out the revolution and hoping the villagers love and care about them. Then jump to current day as a small English group of close friends decide to retire somewhere on the continent, and settle on a small abandoned castle in the remote hills of France along the Italian border. Got the picture? The historian in the group is quite interested in the history of the home, and clues are revealed (in the tower) that lead her and the group on a quest to discover what happened to the couple who used to live there. There was a fire once upon a time. There’s an pesky ghost. There’s also a very old child’s doll/playhouse on the grounds. Plus there’s a small graveyard. It is VERY intriguing. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. The story is all about Mary, her growing up, her scholarly pursuits, and then from the moment she meets Jesus as a young man. The story follows along to and beyond his death on the cross. In the time of Christ it was extremely uncommon for a man not to marry. It was almost unseemly. Fraught with suspicions, I’d suppose. Although scripture, as scripture, does not play a very strong part here, if you’ve read the Bible you’ll see many of the stories of Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. Her husband was a journalist, and his life was always in danger because he wrote the truth, and that was taking a risk. The story is about her escape, with harrowing chapters as she makes her way north from Acapulco, with various major detours, one step, or sometimes nothing more than a hair’s width ahead of the cartel minions trying to find her. I could NOT put this book down. The author is not Hispanic, and some have criticized her for that, but she did her research, and many authors write about places and people they are not. I have nothing but respect for her having told this story. You need to read this.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice, living in an English home which lacks much, leaps to agree to marry a visiting American. It was an escape for her. He is a man of some family wealth, and she travels from England to Kentucky, during the 1920s. Once settled into the family home, she discovers married life is not what she had expected. Affection is lacking, and she must share the home with her tyrannical father-in-law, the owner of mines in the deep mountains. And with the ghost of the deceased mother-in-law. The family cook won’t tolerate Alice’s help in the kitchen. Alice is terribly lonely and unhappy. The town doesn’t much like this English woman with her funny way of speaking. But then, she meets a woman who encourages her to join the Horseback Librarians. With trepidation, she begins traversing the remote hills, through unbelievable weather, to deliver old, battered and tattered books to the remote inhabitants of the area. She makes friends, wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There is tremendous tension from the danger of the mines, the unions trying to get a foothold, plus the unraveling of her marriage, including the dreaded father-in-law who feels she should answer to him, behave as he wants. Uh, no. Alice goes her own route. Her new friends become her family, and, oh, what love. There has been much criticism of Moyes’ possible plagiarism of another book regarding the Horseback Librarians. I read the other book – but I didn’t feel remotely as intrigued by that story as I was by Moyes’ version. A feel good story, but it takes some while getting to that “feel good” part, nearly to the end.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat. It’s about Ellen. Her early years, under much hardship. About her teens, some of it as an orphan. Then a young adult, which includes marriage, a marriage blanc, which I didn’t understand until you learn the meaning. Then a child enters the picture, a child that will become a focus for the remainder of the book. Through the war, and beyond. I cried several times, as will you, I suspect. What’s a constant is the descriptions of the place, a town called Upton, near Southampton. About the hills and dales, the flora and fauna, the rain, the mud sometimes, the flooding sometimes. But throughout, it’s about neighbors caring for neighbors, and about love. A must read. Would make a really good book club read.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a story.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

 

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

  4. Robin

    said on September 20th, 2020:

    Turn out awesome! Thanks for great simple but tasty recipe it was a hit with my family! I actually didn’t have the green chilies so swapped out for a secret substitute I have used as trick before for green chiles, I dice green beans to get one over (one vegetable) over on my picky eaters plus I get the beautiful color mix that i love in cooking dishes.

    I’m glad you enjoyed this. Clever idea about the green beans! My family loves this casserole too. . . carolyn t

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