Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Chili Cook-off heats up winter night

2/27/08 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

There’s nothing like a heaping bowl of “red” or chili con carne to warm body and soul on a cold winter’s eve. The evening of January 19, the good cooks at Delight Valley Church of Christ warmed up a whole roomful of folks at their chili cook-off.

Pastor Bob Friend introduced the judges for the event, beginning with representatives of the fire department — Howard Schesser and (later) Joe Raade. It was felt that they might be needed in case things got too hot! As it turned out, Joe was late due to some fire department business. Fortunately, his wife Lynn was able to step in for him and they later combined notes.

I was the third judge to be put on the hot seat and my husband Chuck rounded out the panel. When one gentleman playfully offered me a bribe, Chuck immediately stuck out his hand, changed hats and became my business manager!

Each of us was given a clipboard with a judge’s work sheet attached, leaving room for comments. Then, we trooped into the serving area and filled a tray with 11 numbered paper cups. The cooks hopefully filled our cups from their slow cookers and the tasting began.

While we were working hard at our job of tasting and choosing, the other guests were chowing down and making their choices for the People’s Choice award. They helped themselves to as many bowls as they could eat and topped them off with a variety of condiments: pungent diced onion, zesty salsa, smooth sour cream or freshly grated cheese. Hot corn bread was also served and ice cream was the final course to cool everyone’s tummies.

It was intensely quiet at the judges’ table as we began our task. To make an informed decision, some of us were even forced to go back and get second helpings. The ingredients were similar (beans, meat, tomato sauce, spices) but the results were diverse. One cook added mushrooms and another prepared a chicken chili with a clear broth.

I had brushed up on some terms to use in case I needed to validate my opinion. My favorite phrase was “It has a nice after-burn.” I used it a lot in my notes but no one seemed to care. In fact, I was the loser all the way around. The pastor made my favorite chili. It had a nice, almost smoky taste but I cast the lone vote in his favor.

The other judges were overwhelmingly in favor of Linda Bailey’s chili. It was made with cubed beef, had a strong chili flavor with a mild after-burn (isn’t that a wonderful word?) and a slight sweetness to balance out the chili. Linda is wisely not sharing her recipe because she plans to compete in the October Chili Cook-Off in downtown Cottage Grove.

The judge’s second choice was Donna Meyer’s chili. It was nicely balanced with a variety of ingredients that melded together into a tasty blend of meat, beans and veggies. A genuine meal in a bowl.

The judge’s third choice was Arlene Macauley’s chili. This chili is a simple blend of hamburger, kidney beans, tomato soup and spices. She’s what I call a “cook by the seat of your pants.” She doesn’t measure and just adds ingredients “until it tastes good.”

The People’s Choice awards reversed the judge’s first and third choices; they eliminated Donna Meyer’s chili and added Jim Horton’s. So, the People’s first place winner was Arlene Macauley; second place was Jim Horton and third place was Linda Bailey.

Jim, another free spirit cook, said that he doesn’t have a recipe. He just threw his ingredients together and the result won him a second place ribbon. And just for the record, my notes say that his chili had “a nice after-burn.”

Donna Meyer’s Favorite Chili

1-pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cans (15-ounce, each) kidney beans, drained
1 can (15-ounces) black beans, drained
1 beef bouillon cube
1 package chili seasoning (Durkee)
1 cup water
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) stewed Mexican tomatoes

Brown meat in large skillet on medium heat; drain. Add onions, garlic and bell pepper. Cook and stir 5 minutes or until tender.

Add beans, tomatoes, water, chili seasoning and bouillon cube. Mix well. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Arlene Macauley’s Chili

2 pounds of hamburger
4 cans of red kidney beans
1 can of tomato soup
Brown sugar
Cayenne pepper
Monterey Jack Cheese

Brown hamburger and drain. Add the remainder of ingredients and simmer. Taste periodically and add more of whatever seems to be needed.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! 
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes 
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fond memories of my aunt Kathryn

2/20/08 The Chatterbox Betty Kaiser There’s nothing like a death in the family, to put life in perspective. I was sadly reminded of this strange truism when I received the call that my dear aunt Kathryn Carroll Rush had passed on to her heavenly reward. She was 93 years old but in my heart, she will be forever young. I was five years old when I remember this lovely woman scooping me up in a big hug. She had jet-black hair that was turning prematurely gray, bright blue eyes and a delicate porcelain complexion. I thought that she was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. Over the years, her hair color changed many times but her flawless complexion and loving ways remained. Everything she did was thoughtful and tasteful. She dressed beautifully (I never saw her in slacks) and entertained elegantly. It was a family joke that her presentation of a hot dog could make you think that you were eating steak! My aunt was not a saint, but she was a bright and shining star who illuminated every corner of life that she touched. She was one of those rare people with a consistently gracious persona and a deliciously wicked sense of humor. She loved to laugh and have fun; delighted in dancing and listening to big bands. Singers Dean Martin and Michael Bublé were favorites. “Mom always looked on the positive side of things. If anything bad ever happened to her, she never told you about it. She lived a life of positive thinking,” her daughter Kathy Jean said. If her life sounds like fairy tale fluff and fancy, think again. She was a real person of substance who just happened to love the color pink! Born in Joplin Missouri in 1914, she was a member of what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation.” His book reminds us of the stories of real people like my aunt who suffered through the Great Depression, slugged through World War II and built modern America. Under that seemingly soft, sweet exterior she was tough as the next gal or guy. Kathryn was just coming of age when the Great Depression hit. In the late 1930s she was a young, single southern mother of a small son, living in rural Missouri. With no means of support (Alimony? What’s that?), she moved to California where she found employment in a cigar factory! Yes, this woman that I knew as a vision of elegance and White Shoulders perfume, sat in a factory, shoulder to shoulder with other workers and rolled cigars. Looking to the future, she attended night school to obtain a business degree, while she was rolling cigars. In an era when women working outside of the home were unusual, she did what needed to be done to pay the rent and put food on the table for herself and her son Billy. In 1941, she married the love of her life, William L. Rush. This was at the beginning of World War II, just before he shipped out for the battlefield. Like so many other women she became a Rosie the Riveter to help support the war effort. She worked at Douglas Aircraft where they turned out 30,000 aircraft between 1942-1945. When Bill returned from the war, he started a business and Kathryn worked as an interior designer. They lived in a lovely home in Glendale where her decorating skills took flight as far as Nevada when she decorated the Governor’s home. In 1957, after 16 years of marriage, she and Bill became parents (surprise!) of daughter Kathy Jean and later added Pat, another girl to the family. In 1966, her beloved husband suddenly died of heart failure. Kathryn became a single mother of two young girls and would remain a widow for the remainder of her life. She remained Mrs. William L. Rush and lived a full, interesting life for the next 40 years. Sitting in the funeral chapel, I had time to reflect and put together the whole person: the insecure young woman who began with nothing, moved west, worked hard and became an admirable woman. I looked around at her family of three grown children, their spouses, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. I saw her love reflected in them and was comforted in knowing that her loving family legacy is success at the highest level. Aunt Kathryn’s greatest gift was her unconditional love. And in return she was probably loved as much as anyone that I have ever known. Highly independent, she was a great role model, a loyal and true friend who loved us all equally. Sometimes all I had to hear her say was “Oh, honey,” and everything was all right. Meticulous to the end, she planned her own funeral. Three years ago when my mother died, she sweetly asked my son John if he would do her service “when the time came.” She decided on the scriptures to be read, the special music and the flowers — pink roses. Additionally and probably most important of all, she left a hand written synopsis of her life to be shared with generations to come. You probably have someone special like my aunt in your life. Someone who’s getting along in years. It could be your parents, an uncle or a cousin. Maybe just a dear friend. They need to be known for the whole personality that they are, not just for the white-haired old person that they’ve become. Do them and yourself a favor. Encourage them to write a simple timeline of their life. If they won’t do it, offer to do it for them. Write it down, folks. Write it down. If we don’t, someday it will be too late and all those wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experiences and character traits will be lost to future generations. My aunt Kathryn was a true blessing and her story is not lost. It will be handed down and she will be loved always. God rest her soul. Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Read her weekly columns at www.http//

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Spice up lunches with foccacia and tapenades!

2/13/08 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Over the last 20 years, I have made countless trips down Interstate 5 to Southern California to visit friends and family. Unless you factor in the occasional blizzard, it’s a long, boring bouncy drive, whether we’re in the car or motor home. Fortunately, my husband does the driving, leaving me free to catch up on my reading, reprogram my cell phone and plan our next meal.

Eating out on a repetitive road trip is pretty boring and expensive. So, we eat as many meals in the RV as possible. Basic and uncomplicated, our meals are simply a necessary biological function. Until we get to the Olive Pit at Corning.

I love the Olive Pit! Just walking in the door inspires me. Suddenly I’m salivating over the possibilities to spice up our formerly bland ham and cheese sandwiches. I’m conflicted by all of the choices facing me: cranberry-mustard spreads, artichoke salsas, tapenades, pickled vegetables, flavored oils and vinegars and more! The Jordan almonds and fresh, locally grown oranges are just the icing on the cake.

The olive selection is overwhelming. Olives are one of those foods that you either love or hate. Personally, I love them.

My family prefers colossal black olives but my personal favorites are the big fat green ones. You can serve them to me whole, pitted or stuffed with garlic and pimiento. I’ll even eat the ones stuffed with jalapeños but they’re a bit hot for my taste. In the Middle East I devoured the bitter Kalamatas for breakfast along with yogurt and cucumbers.

One of my favorite ways to spice up a sandwich is with a specialty bread such as Foccacia, spread with an olive tapenade. Foccacia sounds rather elegant but it’s really just a rustic yeast bread. A tapenade is simply a rich olive spread. (Sorry, I know that combining ‘olive’ and ‘tapenade’ is redundant but I like the sound of it!)

Spice up your next sandwich with one of these recipes. The tapenade is also delicious spread on crackers or toasted, thinly sliced Italian bread.

Foccacia Bread
Recipe by Holly Smith, Café Juanita and California Olive Ranch
purloined from the Corning Olive Pit

1-cup water
¾-ounce cake yeast (cut in half for dry yeast)
2 cups flour, sifted
¾ cup water
½ cup white wine
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
4 cups flour, sifted
¾ ounce kosher salt
¼ cup additional olive oil to drizzle before serving

Combine sponge (water, yeast and 2 cups flour) in bowl and let sit in warm place, uncovered, 20-30 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients and mix until just combined. This is wet dough. Cover with a damp towel and let this double — 1 hour.

Punch down as you transfer this to a well-oiled baking sheet. Allow to rise 30 minutes in pan. Once it has risen and is able to hold a fingerprint. Then, oil your fingertips and press them into dough randomly, yet evenly, 1-2 inches deep.

Place in oven and bake at 350-dgrees for 25-30 minutes. Time varies depending on thickness of dough. When ready, dough will be golden with a slight crumb to the top. Invert onto a tray and cool on a rack.

To serve, drizzle with extra olive oil and kosher salt.

Green Olive Tapenade
“Bon Appétit” December 1995

1-1/4 cups pitted manzanilla olives or other green Spanish olives; rinsed and drained well
1-tablespoon capers, drained
1 large garlic clove, minced
1-teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Makes approximately 1 cup.

Black Olive Tapenade
“Green Living”

1 1/2 cups Klamath or Gaea olives, pitted
3 tablespoons capers, drained
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
1/2-teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4-cup extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor or using a mortar, combine the olives, capers, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Slowly add the oil and pulse or work with the pestle into a coarse paste, retaining some bits of olive and caper for texture. Taste to adjust the seasonings. Stored tightly covered in the refrigerator, this will keep well for a week or two.

Makes about 2 cups.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! 
Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes
that are delicious, easy to prepare and families will enjoy.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Rounsaville Twins Growing and Giving

2/6/08 Chatterbox Betty Kaiser I frequently hear complaints that the media is dominated by bad news. In light of that common perception, I decided to share some decidedly good news with readers this week. Last week I learned of two stories of unexpected gift giving that I’m passing on, in hopes that they will chase away the bad news blues. This Sunday, youngsters Kaiden and Kinslee Rounsaville will celebrate their ninth birthdays. It will be a festive, special occasion with family and friends enjoying cake and showering the girls with gifts. But for this family, every day with these adorable little redheads is a special occasion. I first wrote about these beautiful fraternal twin girls when they were just two years old. They had been born prematurely to Lisa and Eric Rounsaville Feb. 9, 1999 at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eugene. Spunky little Kaiden, weighing in at 3 pounds, 2 ounces, was born physically perfect. Tiny little Kinslee, who weighed in at 2 pounds, 11 ounces, was born with nearly overwhelming physical problems. She suffers from VATER Association, a congenital condition with no known cause. At the time of that first interview, she had undergone over 30 surgeries to correct esophageal, heart, intestine, anal and limb anomalies. Those first years as a family were pretty intense. The girls were babies and caring for Kinslee was an around-the-clock job. Mom and dad also had to go to work while constantly keeping doctor and surgical appointments. Rising to the occasion, the entire extended family rallied to help in whatever ways they could. Eventually, the family moved into a mobile home on grandparents Pete and Tracey Peterson’s property, making the complexities of life easier for all concerned. Thanks to a hardship permit, the family of four will soon move into a new manufactured home on the property. Kinslee has now endured about 50 surgeries and had her chest opened three times. She is due for another open-heart surgery this spring and the family fervently hopes that this is the last one. “We should be home free after this,” Tracey said. “She tires easily and has bouts with asthma and pneumonia (and always will) but all in all, she is doing really well. With all she’s gone through, it’s been tough but she has never said, ‘poor me’ or why me?’” The girls attend London School where ironically, their third grade teacher is Debbie Henderson who also taught their mother! As an added bonus they have an on-site grandmother. Tracey is the school’s kitchen manager, turning out nutritious meals, scrumptious cinnamon and dinner rolls or homemade corn bread for all the kids and staff. Kaiden is very athletic and plays all kinds of sports including basketball, soccer and volleyball. Each one has her own 4-wheeler and Kinslee joins Kaiden in riding around the property. They’re outdoor kids with several acres to explore. Perhaps because they have known suffering, they are very sensitive to the needs of others. Everyone agrees that Kinsley especially has deep compassion for others and demonstrates it daily. Their Aunt Kerri Stevenson called to tell me how the girls put caring into action last Christmas. Daddy Eric works at Les Schwab where every year customers fill several barrels with toys to be given to abused or neglected children at Jasper Mountain. The girls always participate in the gift giving but last December, they jointly decided to use their own money to purchase something really special. Their choice of gifts was not dolls or basketballs. It was bicycles! One year the girls had noticed there was only one bicycle in the barrel. Lisa, their mother, said that this inspired them to pitch in their own money and buy one bicycle for a boy and another for a girl, complete with helmets. Aunt Kerri was very emotional as she reported her feelings. “It was little kids giving to other kids and I think that people need to know about their good deed. Two kids had a nice Christmas because of them.” Happy Birthday, girls, and thanks for inspiring us with your lives and example. Karon Hills, 68, was another person calling to praise a gift-giver. This month, Karon’s brother Garry, 61, sent her and her sister Janice on an all-expenses paid vacation to Hawaii! “He’s a working man; a prosperous businessman but not a millionaire,” Karon said. “He did this not out of wealth but out of his heart. He’s been like this all of his life, always helping others.” Why Hawaii? “Well, my father was stationed in Hawaii with the Navy,” she said. “When I was a little girl, he would send home grass skirts and other Hawaiian memorabilia. I guess that I kept the fantasy alive and always wanted to go ‘someday.’“ But someday kept getting postponed, as life kept intervening. Last summer Karon’s son was diagnosed with melanoma. Then, she had a 2-1/2 pound abdominal mass removed. It was not malignant but produced many complications, displacing other organs and leading to the discovery of other problems. A month after her surgery, her husband was hospitalized with cellulitis. It was a rough year. She was ready for a heavenly vacation. Garry’s call offering to send his sisters to Maui was a dream come true. He paid all the expenses including airfare, hotel and spending money. And then, just like a proud dad, he smiled and snapped pictures as they boarded the airplane. “This trip was like a wonderful dream,” Karen sighed. “Total indulgence. We called him everyday. It was an emotional experience. My inner child was satisfied. I came home and felt complete.” Good news is like sunshine in the middle of winter. It warms our hearts and brightens our days. Thanks for sharing! Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Her columns are published bi-weekly in the http://www.cottagegrovesentinel