Saturday, January 31, 2009

Thank you Rosa Parks

1/28/09 Chatterbox Betty Kaiser “It’s a great day to be an American — is it not?” Keith Jenkins, pastor of Church Jubilee, posed that rhetorical question to thunderous applause at the opening of the Rosa Parks Plaza dedication in Eugene on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And indeed it was a great day to be an American. Hundreds of kids and dogs, moms and dads, office workers and senior citizens of all colors and creeds gathered in frosty weather under a bright blue sky to unveil a statue in honor of the legendary Rosa Parks.
Some of the participants at the renaming of the Lane Transit District’s Eugene Plaza Station could appreciate Parks’ contribution to the Civil Rights movement more than others. At some time or in some way they had been victims of segregation or discrimination. Those of us who grew up on the West Coast rode public transportation, ate in restaurants and attended school with people of all races weren’t quite on the same page. For us, the Rosa Parks incident was a huge wakeup call. Until then, my generation was clueless that the freedoms we enjoyed were way different that the segregation life-style of the Deep South. The events of 1955 educated us. First there was the brutally evil murder of 14-year old Emmett Till in Mississippi for allegedly flirting with a girl. He was black and she was white. An all white jury set the perpetrators free. Then came Rosa Parks of Montgomery, Alabama. One day after work, she was weary and refused an order to go to the back of the bus. The law dictated that blacks pay their money, go back outside and come in the bus by the back door. On this particular day, she sat down up front, refused to budge and was arrested. It was 100 days after Till’s murder. Park’s actions galvanized the black community into a boycott of public transportation that spread throughout the country and she became known as the mother of the Civil Rights Movement. From that day forward, the entire nation’s attention was riveted on the Deep South. We could no longer ignore that it was a dangerous time for Americans who were people of color. For most of us, it was a gut-wrenching time to be an American. We watched in horror as fire hoses and police dogs were used to control our fellow citizens. Martin Luther King, Jr. organized and led a nonviolent response to the brutal ways the black population was being treated. Victories were interspersed with violent setbacks. Bus, school and lunch counter desegregation successes were followed by the murder of Medgar Evers. A bomb killing four girls followed King’s triumphant “I have a Dream” speech before 250,000 people. Thurgood Marshall became the first black Supreme Court Justice but the following year King was shot and killed. At the age of 35, King was the youngest man to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Now, 41 years after his death, his life of non-violence is still the gold standard for conduct in the face of injustice and hatred. As a young woman in Los Angeles, I used to walk a mile down the hill from my house to begin a series of transfers that would take me across town to Pepperdine College. First I caught a bus on Crenshaw Blvd. Then I transferred to a streetcar and finally to another bus that dropped me off at 78th and Vermont Ave. Some of the neighborhoods that we drove through were a little rough— even dangerous. In those areas it paid to look straight ahead and keep your mouth shut if you wanted to stay out of trouble. And so I marvel at the courage of Rosa Parks. She was a woman of color, talking back to “the man” as it were. She had a lot to lose by opening her mouth. But on that day in 1955, she didn’t care what the repercussions of her actions would be. At the dedication, area middle and high school students read some of Park’s comments about her courageous decision to sit down in a forbidden front seat and stay there: “He (the bus driver) pointed at and said, ‘that one won’t stand up.’ The policemen came near me and only one spoke to me. He asked me if the driver had asked me to stand up. I said ’yes.’ “He asked why I didn’t stand up. I told him I didn’t think I should have to stand up. So I asked him: ‘Why do you push us around?’ And he told me, ‘I don’t know but the law is the law and you are under arrest.’ And I told him to go on and have me arrested. “Our mistreatment was just not right and I was tired of it. I knew someone had to take the first step and I made up my mind not to move. When I made that decision, I knew that I had the strength of my ancestors with me.” Later, King said of her, “If it had to happen, I’m glad it happened to Mrs. Parks. She is a fine person. No one can doubt her intent.” There was an audible murmur when the bronze statue was unveiled. As the news media closed in with their big cameras, little girls clamored to sit next to the serene Parks. One child looked deeply into her face. Adults lovingly caressed her cheek, murmured and moved on. Many had tears in their eyes. One lady standing near me softly said, “ I’m thrilled to be part of this day.” I think that she spoke for all of us. It is a great time to be an American! Now let’s get to work and keep it that way.
Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Superbowl Snacks

01/21/08 Cook’s Corner Betty Kaiser Football fans all over the U.S.A. are looking forward to watching the 2009 Super Bowl on Feb.1 in Tampa Bay Florida. They are also looking forward to eating their way through the entire game as they sit in front of large and small screen television screens, Snack foods tend to be traditional high fat goodies that fill us up and out. What to do? Well, I wish that I had an answer but I don’t. Are there acceptable alternatives to chips, pizza, chili dogs and beer for those who traditionally nosh on them during games? Probably not. Men and women’s appetites are different. The intricacies of a cucumber sandwich and the adorable shapes of tea sandwich breads may fascinate us ladies but football games call for something more substantial. I can guarantee you that the guys are usually hankering for a main course — something to go with their carrot and celery sticks and Ranch dressing. So, here’s a mix of ideas to hopefully please everyone. Most of them are oldies but goodies. All of them have been stolen from other cooks. When it comes to appetizers I don’t have an original bone in my body. Now folks, remember: think simple. Dole out the work. Don’t do it all yourself. Appetizers are tedious at best. Pre-assembled veggie trays from the market are a great time saver. Peanut butter filled pretzels are really yummy and all you have to do is open the bag! You get the idea. Mix the homemade with the packaged. Guests will think you’re a genius. Finally, a word about the alligator wings recipe. I have had this recipe forever. BUT did you know that you could actually buy the real deal alligator “wings”? Yep. I found a place online (Cajun Ed’s) that sells the front legs of the gators marinated. You defrost them overnight and bake them at 165° F. until tender. They also sell “Turducken” a boneless duck and chicken separated by cornbread and pork stuffing. Really! I kid you not! But I digress. Back to real life and more mundane eating tips. Here’s a semi-healthy Super Bowl appetizer menu to enjoy.
Super Bowl Snacks Pretzels Peanuts Vegetable tray with Ranch dressing Bruschetta Primavera Hot Alligator Wings Chili ‘n Cheese Rollups Taco Dip
Bruschetta Primavera
2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, diced ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dry) 2 large cloves garlic, minced 12 slices crusty bread, 1/3-1/2 cup olive oil In a small bowl stir together tomatoes, parsley, basil and ½ the garlic with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Stir the remaining garlic into olive oil. Arrange bread slices on a baking sheet. Broil in the oven, turning often until the bread is golden brown, about 1 minute. Remove and immediately brush one side of each slice with garlic oil. Top each slice with 1 tablespoon of tomato mixture and place on platter. Serve immediately. Bread will soften if allowed to stand but still be tasty.
Hot Alligator Wings Serves 8-10 (maybe!)
50 chicken wings Seasoned salt 2 cubes margarine 3 cloves pressed garlic 2 tablespoons sweet basil 1 tablespoon tarragon 112-ounce jar Frank’s Red Hot cayenne pepper sauce (Durkee) 6 ounces beer (to thin sauce if needed) 16 ounce bottle Ranch dressing Preheat oven to 350° F. Sprinkle wings with seasoning salt. Bake on cookie sheet in single layers in oven 15-20 min. When done, remove and drain on paper towels. Melt margarine and add garlic, basil, tarragon and hot sauce. Heat sauce and add cooked chicken wings. Cook and stir frequently 7-10 minutes or until wings are hot and well coated. Use beer to thin if sauce becomes too thick. Serve on platter with side dish of Ranch dressing to cool things down!
Hilton Head Culinary Health Taco Dip
8 ounces light cream cheese 32 ounces 1% cottage cheese 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese 8 ounces Mild or hot taco sauce 3 cups Shredded ice berg lettuce 6 each Roma tomatoes, diced 2 each Green onions, top and bottom, diced, 1 tablespoon Cilantro, fresh, chopped In food processor, puree cream cheese and cottage cheese and spread cream mixture on large platter. Top with taco sauce Then layer lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, onions and cilantro. Serve with baked corn tortilla chips or baked pita chips. Serves 8.
Chile ‘n Cheese Roll-Ups Makes 48 appetizers
8 ounces light cream cheese, softened 2 tablespoon ranch salad dressing mix 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded 1 4-ounce can diced green chiles ½ cup green onions, sliced ½ cup ripe olives, pitted, chopped 4 (6-inch) flour tortillas Blend cheeses, chiles, onions and olives in bowl. Spread ½ cup cheese mixture on each tortilla. Roll up jelly-roll fashion. Wrap each tortilla in plastic wrap and chill at least one hour. To serve, cut each roll into 12 (½ inch thick) slices. Serve with salsa. Note: These keep well. Make ahead! Double or triple recipe as needed. The preparation process will go faster if you use larger tortillas.
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. Contact her via email:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Turning Life's Corners

01/14/08 Chatterbox Betty Kaiser
“Join me, friends, in this distinctively modern adventure, the almost certain journey into old age." Wayne Booth
Every journey has certain defining moments — especially the aging one. I remember the first time that someone offered me a senior discount. I was 60 years old and had ordered lunch at Taco Bell when the checker leaned over and whispered, “Are you by any chance a senior?” Standing there with my silver hair and wrinkled face, I could hardly say ‘no!’ So I fessed up to being a senior and received a complimentary soda with my lunch. Until then, I had never really thought about the perks or ramifications of aging. I was prematurely gray-haired at 37. At 60 years of age I was blessed with abundant energy, and didn’t feel a day over 49. But thanks to a senior discount, I was mentally on a new journey to being "older." Yesterday I turned another corner as I headed down that senior road. I celebrated my seventieth birthday — that’s 7-OH! — Gulp. I’ve been giving myself pep talks ever since. I say things like “Really, Betty, you were born an ‘old soul.’ Now that you’ve lived 24,500 days, your physical body has just caught up with your spiritual side. Deal with it!” So far it’s not working. The truth is that anyone old enough to experience the blackouts of WW II, recall the presidency of Harry S. Truman and remember when Alaska and Hawaii where NOT United States — is no longer a spring chicken. Many years ago, my then 80-year old neighbor Sallie introduced me to the difficulties of aging as she turned the various corners of life. Some days, frustrated and tearful, she would throw her apron over her head and say, “Oh, Betty, I’ve turned another corner!” I learned from her that as the numbers start to add up on this journey, the corners become more difficult to turn. I was born on a Friday, January 13, 1939, in Oklahoma City to unwed parents — in hard economic times. There are no records or even anecdotal knowledge of the first few years of my life. Eventually abandoned to an orphanage, I have only hazy memories of that era. Those were the years of the Great Depression, World War II and the so-called Dust Bowl migration. Wind driven, gritty dust storms blew through wide areas of Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. Unable to grow crops and feed their families, thousands of people fled the area and headed for hope in California. I was among them. Somehow, this tiny, orphaned, five-year old girl made her way to California with other migrants. In 1945 a family in Los Angeles began proceedings to adopt me. It was not an ideal situation for any child. My new mother was grief-stricken after losing a three-year old son to spinal meningitis. The family decided that adopting a child would compensate for her loss. They were wrong. We were not a mother and daughter match made in heaven. In fact, we were polar opposites. A life had been stolen from her and I was full of life. She was in mourning, anxious, sickly and controlling. I was a healthy outgoing, adventuresome and fearless child. I was her worst nightmare and she became mine. Two more children were added to the family and I assumed the role of nanny. It was a tense, fearful atmosphere. Every school day dad prepared breakfast while I packed lunches for my siblings and myself. I shared responsibility for household tasks with a housekeeper, was generally ignored and was clearly the family’s stepchild. My young life had turned another corner. School and church activities were literally my salvation. Unappreciated at home, I thrived on the warmth of acceptance and praise that I found in the classroom. Most of the time I talked too much and giggled too loudly but I loved learning and the freedom to be me. Sundays I lived to go to church where I learned that God loved me. ME! Wow. What a revelation. From that point on my soul was connected. I had someone to trust. I was safe in heaven’s corner. This old soul learned at a young age that life would always be challenging but with God anything was possible — even a successful teenage marriage. I met my future husband at 16, married at 19 and had three kids by the age of 23. Between the wedding vows, baby steps and growing pains those were exciting, exhausting and wonderful times. As the years unfolded, we learned that daily life is a seesaw. Sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down! Many years, the challenges seemed to outweigh the joys: times of serious illness, unemployment, the deaths of family and friends all took their toll on our happiness quotient — but never for long. Joy was always just around the corner. For 50 years, whatever the circumstances, our life has been a paraphrase of the old Captain & Tennille song, “Love kept us together.” We are often bewildered at the events that beset us but we are always bound together in love. 2008 was a celebratory year for the Kaiser Klan. Chuck turned 70 and together we celebrated our golden wedding anniversary; Kathy and Tim celebrated their silver wedding anniversary; John and Betsy opened the doors of a new church in Templeton; Jeff returned to school for a Ph.D. in music; and our grandsons filled our hearts with hope and laughter. The bulk of my life’s journey is behind me. Perhaps yours is also. Now comes the question: what does our “almost certain journey into old age” hold? I don’t know — but bring it on! And may God grant each of us the grace to meet its challenges and enjoy the ride as we turn the corners.
Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Read her weekly columns in the Cottage Grove Sentinel.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Back to healthy eating: Black beans, rice and corn salsa (with chocolate cake?)

01/07/09 Cook’s Corner After weeks of eating rich holiday foods, it’s time to take a deep breath and return to healthier eating: less fat, meat and sugar — and more vegetables. To start with a clean slate, open the refrigerator door and begin. Discard the last of the rich spinach dip, pumpkin pie and other leftovers. Wipe down the empty shelves and head for the cupboards. Pull out the junk food — candy, chips, cookies, etc. — and throw them into the trash. If you can keep them out of the house then they won’t go into your mouth! I use our vegetarian-vegan son as an example. Jeff was home for the holidays and his visits are always an enlightening culinary experience. His vegetarian diet keeps him slim, trim and healthy. He eats lots of rice, beans, tofu, tempeh and of course — vegetables. His carbohydrate intake is mind-boggling and his salads are so huge they would put a rabbit to shame! He is not food deprived. My husband and I are not vegetarians but I do make an effort to incorporate a couple of meatless meals into our menus every week. Eating vegetarian does not have to be an all or nothing at all choice. I have some great recipes ranging from soups to casseroles that help cut down the amount of saturated fat in our diet. Sometimes I sneak healthy food into our diets. Try these ideas: Roast a pan full of vegetables. They’ll taste richer and sweeter. Or, if you’re not a salad person, add extra lettuce to your sandwiches. If you can’t give up cheese (me!) put ½ slice on your sandwich instead of two. Can’t give up bacon? Eat two slices instead of six! The old “less is more theory” works every time. Today’s traditional main dish vegetarian recipe is adapted from the wonderful Williams-Sonoma Vegetarian cookbook. I guarantee that everyone in the family will enjoy it. The last recipe is a light as air cake that I made for Jeff’s Dec. 26 birthday. It’s very similar to the well-known Wacky Cake recipe and it’s Vegan! Enjoy!
Black Beans and Rice with Corn Salsa Serves 4-6
Beans 2 cups dried black beans 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced 1 large yellow onion, chopped Garlic Mixture ¼ cup olive oil 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped 1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley ¾ cup fresh cilantro, chopped 1 tablespoon brown sugar 1 teaspoon ground cumin (more if desired) 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano Salt and freshly ground pepper ¾ cup dry white wine (or combination water & red-wine vinegar) Rice 1 cup basmati rice 2 cups water Salsa 2 cups frozen corn OR kernels from 3 ears fresh corn 2 fresh jalapeno chilies, seeded and minced OR 1 can diced green chilies (milder than jalapenos) 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice ½ cup finely chopped red onion 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro Prepare beans Pick over the beans, rinse and drain. Place in a large pan and cover with plenty of water. Let soak 3 hours. Drain well. Add onion, bell pepper and water to cover by 2-inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the beans are tender, about 1 hour. Remove from the heat and reserve the beans in cooking liquid. Prepare salsa While the beans are cooking, make the salsa: Cook corn kernels 30 seconds in boiling water. Drain, place in a bowl and let cool. Add the chilies, lime juice, red onion and cilantro. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and set aside. Prepare garlic mixture In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic, parsley, cilantro, brown sugar, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is golden, about 10 minutes. Prepare rice Rinse and drain rice. In a heavy saucepan, combine water and ½ teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Add the rice, stir once and cover pan with lid. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes. Check to see if rice is tender and water absorbed. If not, cover and cook a few minutes longer. Meanwhile, add wine to the garlic mixture and simmer over high heat about 5 min. or until reduced by one-fourth. Reduce heat to medium, add beans and cooking liquid; simmer, uncovered until the liquid has evaporated about 15 minutes. To Serve Spoon the rice into individual bowls. Top with beans and salsa.
Vegan Chocolate Cake
1-1/2 cups sifted unbleached flour 1 cup unrefined sugar 3 tablespoons cocoa 1 teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon salt 6 tablespoons canola oil 1 tablespoon white vinegar 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 cup cold water Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare 8” square baking pan. Sift dry ingredients into large bowl. Make 3 holes in sifted ingredients. Pour oil into one, vinegar into second and vanilla into third. Pour cold water over all and stir until well blended. Pour into pan and bake 24-30 minutes. Do not overbake or it will burn.
¼ cup margarine 2-1/4 cups powdered sugar 2 tablespoons soy milk 1 teaspoon vanilla Mix together margarine and 1 cup of powdered sugar in mixer. Alternate adding remaining sugar with milk. Mix until smooth. Stir in vanilla.
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.