Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day and Robert E. Lee cake

5/26/10 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Memorial Day: First we remember and then we eat cake

Memorial Day has its roots in the bitter Civil War that divided our nation from 1861-1865. It originated not as a federal holiday but as a grassroots movement called Decoration Day. Southern women would gather bouquets of spring flowers in May and scatter them over the graves of all soldiers, whether from the North or the South.

At the end of the Civil War, formal remembrance observances were sharply different in the North than in the South. In the North, huge military parades and special programs of that era always included the reading of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

The rural South, however, was still racially divided and smarting with defeat. There were no caretakers for the graves of the fallen. So it became a Decoration Day eve tradition for families to go to the cemetery, clear the plots of weeds and decorate them with vases of flowers. They would then return home to share cake and coffee and memories of their loved one while they remembered happier times.

One of those memories was of the famous General Robert E. Lee, commander-in-chief of the Virginia forces. A top graduate of West Point, he was the great Southern hero of the war and remains an iconic figure of American military leadership despite the controversy.

Today families in the South continue the tradition of decorating grave sites and serving cake at home afterwards. The cake most often served has been the Robert E. Lee Cake. It is called one of the most famous Southern American cakes of all times. So I offer the recipe today as perhaps a new tradition. As we bake, we can remember all those who have served and died for our country in all wars.

The cake is simple to prepare but it is also time consuming. There are three parts to the confection. The first part is similar to a lemon pound cake. While the cake bakes, you prepare a filling and put in to cook in the refrigerator; then, while the cake cools, you prepare the frosting.

It is a credit to the people of the United States of America that every Memorial Day our once divided nation comes together to honor the fallen in all wars. A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m., local time May 31. I hope you join me and take time to reflect in gratitude and humility for all those who bravely paid the supreme sacrifice for each of us. Then, we can eat cake.

Robert E. Lee Cake
(with Lemon Filling and Lemon-Orange frosting)

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

8 eggs, separated and room temperature

2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (peel)

1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Lemon Filling (see recipe below)

Lemon-Orange Frosting (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cream of tartar, and baking powder; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat egg yolks until very thick and creamy. Gradually add sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, and continue beating until mixture is smooth and pale yellow. Stir in lemon zest and lemon juice; gently fold in the flour mixture until well incorporated.

In a large bowl of your electric mixer beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk batter; fold in remaining egg whites until no streaks remain.

Spoon batter into prepared cake pans. Bake approximately 20 to 25 minutes or until cake begins to pull away from sides of the pan.

Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes in the pan. Loosen edges with a knife and turn out onto racks to finish cooling.

Prepare the Lemon Filling and Lemon-Orange Frosting.

When cake is completely cool, with a long-blade serrated knife, cut each layer horizontally in half to make four (4) layers.

Spread Lemon Filling between layers of the cooled cake. To keep cake from sliding to one side, insert a long wooden skewer into the middle and all the way to the bottom

Spread Lemon-Orange Frosting on sides and top of the cake.

Store cake in the refrigerator until serving time.

Makes 8 to 10 serving.

Lemon Filling

3 tablespoons grated lemon zest (rind)

1/2 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar

6 tablespoons butter

3 eggs, lightly beaten

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar. Bring just to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 5 minutes. Add butter and stir until it has melted. Remove from heat and let mixture cool to room temperature.

When cool, beat eggs into the lemon-sugar mixture until well blended. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly, 10 to 15 minutes or until mixture thickens and coats a spoon. Remove from heat. Cool in refrigerator until ready to use.

Lemon-Orange Frosting

1/4 cup butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (peel)

3 to 4 tablespoons grated orange zest (peel)

2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice

6 cups sifted powdered (confectioners') sugar

1/4 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice

In a medium bowl, beat butter until it has the appearance of thick cream. Beat in the lemon zest, orange zest, and lemon juice. Stir in the powdered sugar and orange juice, a little at a time; continue beating until mixture is very smooth (stir in enough orange juice to make a spreadable frosting).

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.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Flat Stanley visits Cottage Grove

5/19/10 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Flat Stanley visits Cottage Grove

A large envelope from California arrived at our house earlier this month. As I opened it, a miniature little guy wearing slacks and a shirt and tie with neatly combed hair slid out onto the table. “Flat Stanley” was this unexpected visitor’s name and he had been sent to visit us by Joshua, our youngest grandson.

Joshua lives in Templeton, Calif. where his first grade class is studying geography in a unit called “Journeys.” As part of their study, they read the humorous story of “Flat Stanley” by Jeff Brown. Then they learn to write letters, address an envelope and complete a story map as they send a replica Stanley to faraway places and track his travels.

In the 1964 bedtime story, the fictitious Stanley Lambchop and his brother Arthur are given a big bulletin board to put pictures and posters on. Their dad hangs it over Stanley’s bed but one night the board crashes off the wall and flattens poor Stanley in his sleep. He wasn’t hurt but he was no longer round. He was flat as a pancake.

Stanley survived that ordeal and discovered ways to still play and have fun. He learned to enter locked rooms by sliding under the door and played with his brother by becoming his kite. One time, in a visit to an art museum he posed as a painting on the wall to help catch some thieves. Stanley’s parents even mailed him in an envelope and sent him on a journey to visit some friends in California.

Well, Flat Stanley arrived in our Oregon mailbox with an introduction from Mrs. Zemella, Joshua’s first grade teacher. It said, “Each student in the class has selected one far away friend to entertain Stanley on another trip. YOU ARE ONE OF THE LUCKY ONES! We hope you will return Stanley and tell your friend what he did for fun and what he learned about the place he was visiting.”

Then came some instructions. Oh, my. Suddenly, we were back in school again. This was no longer a ‘visit.’ It was a project. We had an assignment with a deadline.

Mrs. Zemella continued, “I have included a letter for you to fill out. Feel free to add your own personal note on it. We would also love to get back pictures of Stanley as he visited and did activities with you. Have fun with him and be creative! We will map Stanley’s travels and make a special bulletin board in our classroom to show where Stanley went and what he did. Please return Stanley to our school within the next couple of weeks.”

Yikes! Poor Stanley. We received him just three days before we were leaving for California. We had no time for adventures. Mowing the property, pulling weeds, washing clothes and packing suitcases were not exactly fun activities. What were we to do?

Well, we live in the country. He was from the city. So we photographed him doing all kinds of things around the property. First he was introduced to our animals: busy dogs, cats, birds and yard art raccoons and bears. He sat on the mower with grandpa and inspected his project car. An avid USC fan he was indignantly photographed with a bright green and yellow UO flag (and grandma).

Sunday morning at church, I scored my only celebrity photo. Stanley was photographed with our pastor and her husband. Yea! We then moved on to brunch where he cuddled up to the waitress and ate off our plates. That was a good day.

The next day, I put Stanley in the car with my camera. Unfortunately, I forgot and left him inside with the windows rolled up while I shopped. That was a near catastrophe. If the police had seen him in there without fresh air, I would have been hauled off to jail. That night Joshua called and asked, “So, how’s Stanley doing? I was too embarrassed to tell him.

One day we recorded a mini-excursion. We visited and were photographed with Rosie at the Sentinel and Beth at the Chamber of Commerce. But later, at the Family Relief Nursery luncheon, I forgot that Mayor Williams was also there and missed Stanley’s big photo op. I’ll bet none of the other kids would have had their picture taken with the town’s mayor. Of course, neither did Stanley …

At the Eugene airport I took a quick photo of Stanley and slid him safely back into his envelope where he resided until we arrived in California.

That weekend we attended his cousin’s track meet in Santa Barbara. There at the Channel Island’s league finals he got to cheer on Matthew as he ran the 110-meter hurdles and 300-meter hurdles. Even better, he got his picture taken with the Buena High School track team.

Saturday there was a joyful reunion between Joshua and Stanley. His family drove down to Ventura to attend Matthew’s Eagle Boy Scout Court of Honor. There were flags, balloons, cake and uniforms everywhere. It was a glorious day for pictures and autographs.

At the end of our visit, Joshua was happy to have Stanley back and I was happy to not have Stanley! Of course, then I had to fly home and finish my assignment. There were pictures to upload, edit, caption and send; plus a form to fill out. I hope Mrs. Zemella is pleased. I know that Joshua is.

In the book, Stanley’s brother Arthur uses an air pump to miraculously pump him back to his old self. Sadly, that didn’t happen in Cottage Grove. Maybe Joshua will bring him back this summer when we have more time to check out our town’s murals and covered bridges and go for a swim in the lake. We can’t promise to restore him but we do promise to not let him sleep under a bulletin board!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mother's Day: It's all about family

5/5/10 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Mother’s Day: It’s all about family

As a mother and a grandmother I know that the Mother’s Day celebrations depicted on television are just creative hype. Unless you’ve got Martha Stewart living at your house, the day is wonderful but chaotic. Real life is real different that a television set or movie studio.

My Mother’s Day morning as a real mom of three real kids under the age of four years old went something like this: I would coax the kids out of bed and feed them cold cereal for breakfast. Sticky hands and faces were washed before they were dressed in their Sunday best; hair was combed and they plopped down in front of cartoons while I got dressed.

I seldom got my teeth brushed before an argument would inevitably ensue. Then, between the time I fluffed my hair and put on my stylish hat, one of the boys would run outside, fall down and rip out the knees of his new Sunday pants.

Somehow all five of us got out the door (after I was presented with a corsage) and into the car. As my husband drove, I would pull out a bottle of nail polish and ‘do’ my nails, praying they would be dry by the time we got to church. Mother’s Day was underway.

After church, our extended family would meet for lunch at a place of my mother’s choosing — usually a steak house. There the boys would crawl around under the table and generally cause mayhem and madness until the main course arrived. During lunch we mothers opened gifts that the children (guided by their father) had purchased at the dime store. Later we went to dinner at my in-law’s house before we all went home and collapsed. That was a ‘real’ Mother’s Day!

Of course, every family is different. So I asked a few other mothers of all ages about their Mother’s Day highlights.

“Mother's Day has never been very big around our house because we lived so far away from both our Mothers during most of our marriage. And the situation is pretty much the same with my children. My husband usually gives me a plant for Mother's Day and my children send me cards. In other words, Mother's Day isn't a very significant holiday for me.

“My all time favorite Mother's Day experience happened many years ago when my parents drove from their home in Kentucky to visit us in Seattle. Mother's Day weekend we took them up to Victoria, BC on the ferry, and spent most of Mother's Day at Buchardt Gardens, wandering all the paths and indulging in High Tea.” Neysa

“Mother's Day makes me rather sad that both my Mom and Jim's Mom are deceased. Since all my children live outside of Oregon it makes me miss them more. “My ideal Mother's Day will be, Lord willing, in July, when I'm with my children and grandchildren. All my children and all but one of my grandchildren plan on coming to our house. Great!” Sharron

“I gave up my seat to others who showed up in Church on Mother's Day and Easter. I was at Lake Powell reclining on the back deck of our houseboat, breakfasting on coffee, fruit and croissants. Our minister always gave his Mother's Day sermon in October — Just to keep everybody on their toes.” Lynn

“My favorite Mother’s Day will be this year celebrating Matthew’s Eagle Scout award and having my parents here! An ideal Mother’s Day at this point in my life with teenagers, college, volunteering and having a puppy would be to sleep ALL day and get up until the next day — unless of course, there would be chocolate waiting.” Kathy Sue (my daughter with a firefighter husband!))

“It isn't always the elaborate china setting or the selected/thoughtful gifts of expense that capture our memories of a good Mother's Day; but something subtle or heart-felt and not so pretty that are memories tucked away in our memory file. To that end what slides out from that file is a Mother's Day when my eldest daughter was 7 or 8 years old. She went to the local dime store and selected a pair of earrings for dear ole Mother.

“With a smile of pleasure and excitement Kim handed me the roughly wrapped gift. With enthusiasm I removed the ribbon and gift paper, then tilted the lid to the little white box. There I proved to be an actress extraordinaire. For nestled in cotton was the ugliest pair of purple glass earrings I'd ever seen. Giving a smile and a hug to the proud giver, I thanked her heartily. Kim was pleased. I did manage to wear them one time, and made sure she knew it. Of course, that day I never left the house. But, it was a great memory that I'll cherish since this was a gift from the heart." Charlene

And finally, we have a queen for a day experience:
“Mother’s Day is one of my favorite days of the year. It’s the day when I am deemed, ‘Queen for the Day!’ My husband started this when our first son was born 15 years ago. We begin the day going to church (he’s the pastor) and then off to brunch at any place I desire. No prep or dishes. It’s already a great day.

“After brunch we go home where I take a nap and read the newspaper. The rest of the day is spent doing whatever I want to do. Last year we all sat down and watched princess movies. That was quite a sacrifice for my husband and our 6, 11 and 14 year old sons. Dinner is my choice as well. The guys cook, clean and do the dishes while I watch home decorating shows! As the day ends I kiss all my sweet prince’ s faces, put my feet up and ponder my day. Ahhh … it’s good to be queen — and mom!” Betsy (my daughter-in-law)

It’s obvious from these comments that Mom’s happiness is all about family — being together, sharing a meal, loving and appreciating one another as well her. Presents are optional. Warm memories are mandatory. Enjoy the day!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. 
Read her columns weekly in the Cottage Grove Sentinel