Thursday, August 26, 2010

Winning zucchini casserole and seasonal bruschetta too!

8/25/10 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Jennifer Pooler’s winning casserole and seasonal bruschetta too!

Everyone loves to be a winner and last month, Cottage Grove resident Jennifer Long-Pooler was the winner of a $250 shopping spree. Her recipe for a “Layered Vegetable Casserole” was featured in Safeway’s July edition of “Fresh Ideas” magazine, available monthly in the produce section.

Jennifer, the mother of two children, submitted her hand written recipe to Tony Tantillo, Safeway’s “fresh grocer,” via snail mail. The recipe was the result of an experiment when her mother Sandi Long and her aunt tried to use all the vegetables from their garden.

“I just put my own creative spin on it,” Pooler said, “and mailed it in, thinking my chances weren’t especially that great because I’m not on-line.” But (thinking like a winner) she added, “You can’t win if you don’t try. A few weeks later I got the phone call that I was the winner of a $250 gift card. I was so excited and surprised!”

Then, she received a congratulatory letter from Tony Tantillo along with a copy of the “Fresh Ideas” magazine that had published her recipe. He ended with a reminder to “Eat fresh and stay healthy.”

I had never heard of Tony Tantillo or his magazine so I checked out his website at He publishes ‘Fresh Ideas’ for Safeway, Vons, Genuardis, Dominicks, Randalls and Tom Thumb (only two of whom I’m familiar with). This glossy full color pamphlet has interesting facts about seasonal produce and how to use them. And if you’re looking to save money (and who isn’t?), it also has coupons.

One of the recipes in the July pamphlet is for an interesting fruit bruschetta. Normally, a bruschetta is a traditional Italian garlic bread. Grilled slices of bread are brushed with extra-virgin olive oil and fresh garlic and served before a meal. I often serve them as appetizers with a dollop of salsa, maybe an artichoke dip or some kind of cheese.

I hope you’ll try Jennifer’s casserole and maybe serve some bruschetta while you’re waiting for it to cook. With tomatoes, summer fruits and cucumbers just coming into season you might like to try one of the following ideas for something just a little different. For the plums, Tantillo suggests Dinosaur Egg Pluots. We might have trouble finding them here in C.G. so I’m sure other plum varieties will be equally good. Enjoy!

Jennifer Long-Pooler

3-4 cups cooked rice, white or brown
1 large onion, sliced thin
2 large tomatoes
1-2 bell peppers
2-4 zucchini (depending on size)
Salt and pepper to taste
Asiago or Parmesan cheese, grated to taste
1 pound browned sweet or hot Italian sausage (optional)

Cook rice per package directions; set aside
Clean and slice vegetables into 1/4-inch rounds.
Slice onion thinner than other vegetables.
Grease a 9X13-inch casserole dish and layer with half of rice, onion, tomatoes, bell pepper and zucchini; repeat. Use salt and pepper to taste as you go. Sprinkle grated cheese on top. Bake 60 min. in 350° F. oven.
Note: If using Italian sausage, incorporate on top of the rice layers.

Adapted from “Fresh Ideas”

1 sourdough baguette (24-inch)
4 ounces fat free cream cheese, whipped
6 cups plums, sliced
1 cup fresh basil

Slice a baguette into 24 one-inch thick pieces. Toast in a 350° F. oven until golden brown. Spread each slice of bread with fat-free cream cheese. Slice plums into thin slices. Place several slices of plum on each bruschetta. Garnish each with a fresh basil leaf.


1-8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 (.7 ounce pkg.) dry Italian-style salad dressing mix
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 French baguette cut into 1/-inch thick circles
1 cucumber, sliced
2 teaspoons dried dill weed

Mix together cream cheese, dressing mix and mayonnaise in a medium bowl. Taste and add more dressing if needed.

Spread a thin layer of the cream cheese mixture on a slice of bread and top with a slice of cucumber. Sprinkle with dill. Repeat until cream cheese mixture is all gone.
Note: Use fresh bread, as these are not toasted.
Warning: If you eat these as you go, the recipe may not serve very many people!


6 or 7 plum tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
6-8 basil leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1 baguette French bread , sliced 1/2-inch slices on the diagonal
1/4 cup olive oil to brush on bread

Bring a pot of water to boil. Dip the tomatoes for one minute in the water and drain. Remove the skins of the tomatoes, cut out and discard the stem and core. Finely chop the tomatoes and add the garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, vinegar and basil. Season, put in a serving bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450° F. and put the top rack in place.

Using a brush, coat one side of the bread in olive oil and place it on a cooking sheet, oil side down. Toast 5-6 min. or until the bread just begins to turn golden. Put the bread on a serving platter, oil side up.
Top each slice with a dollop of tomato or allow guests to serve themselves.
Note: An alternative is to briefly toast the oil side of the bread also.

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.

Betty's boys savor summer

Betty Kaiser

Josh chillin' at the pool
Betty’s boys savor summer

Time magazine recently published “The Case Against Summer Vacation,” in which David Von Drehle addressed summer learning loss and how it is (theoretically) causing us to fall behind other countries academically. My grandsons and I disagree. We know there is value in summer vacations.

According to the article, Education Secretary Arne Duncan views today’s school calendars as being old school, a holdover from not only the 19th century agrarian society but also mid-20th century Donna Reed-style parenting. Duncan is quoted as saying, “”Our children are no longer working in the fields. Mom isn’t waiting at home at 2:30 with a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. That just doesn’t happen in many American families anymore.”

The object is to give kids more hours in school and less summer play time. That point is well taken for some students but not all. Generations of students (including Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation”) have been educated on a standard 6-hour school day with vacations and that includes the Einsteins and Bill Gates of the world. Is this generation less capable of learning what they need to know in the same time frame as those geniuses? I don’t think so!

Some California school districts already address what is perceived as a summer brain drain problem and routinely assign homework over the short vacation period. Reading and book reports are the most common assignments. As an avid reader, I say, challenge the kids to read for fun and save the reports for school time.

But hey, what do I know? I’m a behind-the-times senior citizen. So, I pooled the most trusted, reliable sources available, — my grandsons. The five boys range in age from 7 to 19 years of age and are the children of educated (and one educator) parents. They excel in school. And they unanimously look forward to a solid two months of summer vacation. Here’s what they had to say when I asked them if they would like shorter summer vacations:

Josh is an old soul in a seven-year old body and very articulate. He shook his little blond head and said, “No, I need time to relax and get away from homework and schedules.” Really, he said that.

Robby is 12 and his answer was accompanied by a disgusted sigh. “I think they’re short enough anyway. I’d rather have longer school days (add an hour) than shorter vacations.”

J.D., at 15, is an old-timer in the school system. He said, “They’ve shortened them already. We used to have three months when I was in Middle School!”

Matthew, 16, is very succinct: “Summer is waaaaaaaaay too short!” At 19, his brother Paul’s vacations are already virtually non-existent.

I found the article confusing and contradictory. “Dull summers take a steep toll,” the author said. He cited case after case of poorer kids falling behind in school and talked about the romance of summer as being a sham.

But ordinary middle class kids don’t feel that way. They are not the underprivileged students being addressed in the article but it seemed as if their progress was being ignored. Their education future would be linked with those who were on a different page and that isn’t fair.

I wished that the author had spent the summer at our house or in the many towns around the country where ordinary kids in ordinary families are enjoying family time. They aren’t bored at all.

Our three Kaiser grandsons and their parents just left after spending their annual summer vacation with us. I asked them to share with you how they spent their days. I think you’ll be surprised that these city kids happily put away their electronic toys and gadgets to have an Ozzie and Harriet summer experience: whittling, guitar playing, chicken fights at C.G. Lake, family baseball, watching movies and trying to beat grandpa at ‘Trouble.’

Their five responses had many things in common. The first thing that everyone appreciated was — sleep. They slept and took naps most days to recharge their batteries. Eating was also high on their list, testing grandmother’s ability to keep up with their voracious appetites. Another daily event was swimming in the lake every afternoon. Josh said, “We usually swim in the ocean but here the water is warm and there aren’t any waves. The lake is awesome.”

One day the guys had a “manly day.” It began at the Country Donut before moving on to the UO to check out the new athletic buildings. They were most impressed with Hayward Field. Avid athletes all, they appreciated the history, feel and appearance of a dedicated track stadium. Autzen Stadium was a drive-by so that John could beat his boys at put-put golf. After hamburgers and milkshakes, they checked out Summer’s Hot Rod Museum where they were dazzled by hot rods and muscle cars. They all agreed it was a great day.

Everyone loves Cottage Grove. Son John said, “We come here to relax in the peace and quiet. It’s somewhat like Mayberry, the stereotypical All-American town. The people here are genuine and have time to talk to you about a myriad of subjects. Sunday at church we heard a cool clarinet solo by Bob Dill, came home for mom’s brunch and took a nap.” Another great day.

Betsy, my daughter-in-law said “When we get to Oregon, we all stop and spend time together without the distractions of electronics or the demands of a ringing telephone. It’s such a drastic change to be able to slow down, visit, watch the boys run around, ride bikes and swim in the lake. Sometimes we did nothing! Family time is the most precious gift of all and the best summer vacations are here.

As the kids headed home, I realized that our time together had been spent eating, chatting, laughing, relaxing and playing. In other words, sharing summer. These intangibles are also life lessons. That’s why I will continue to advocate against the demise of summer vacations. Some things take time. They have to be caught. They can’t be taught.

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

Blueberries, Quiche & Paul Newman, too!

8/11/10 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Blueberries, quiche and Paul Newman, too!

Today’s column is dedicated to reader Mary Gary who has nagged me into correcting a former column. I occasionally suffer from brain drain and leave out a major ingredient or, in this case, an entire recipe. Last month, my “True Blueberries” column ran while I was on vacation — without the promised recipe for blueberry vinegar.

Mary and her husband Ed are both avid cooks and never fail to let me know when they like or don’t like a Cook’s Corner recipe. They keep me on my toes and I truly enjoy the interaction with them and other readers. So today, I’m reprinting in its entirety, the Wild Summer Greens recipe including the missing blueberry vinegar for the salad dressing. Mary, this is for you.

I am also including the corrected version of Kathy’s Krab Quiche that ran last year. Again, another sharp-eyed reader noticed that I had left out a vital ingredient — the liquid. The recipe calls for 1-1/2 cups canned milk. I had completely overlooked that ingredient when typing. Fortunately I was home when a sharp-eyed reader called to say, “I want to make this but just how much milk should I use?”

I’m always learning something new from my readers. And while I believe that when it comes to cooking, there’s truly nothing new or original, there’s always something that I don’t know. It’s especially nice to discover a simple but interesting way to spice up everyday meals. For-instance, it took me years to figure out that orange sections and red onions tossed with romaine lettuce and Italian dressing would upgrade a daily green salad from the ordinary to the sublime.

Now, before I correct my errors, I am first offering a wonderful main dish salad from the Paul Newman Co. This salad’s grapefruit sections offer a touch of tartness to balance out the sweetness in the orange and the smooth texture of avocado. The tasty grilled chicken elevates this entrée to company dinner status. Serve with crispy sour dough rolls and you’ve got a meal. Then, since you’ve eaten such a healthy dinner, treat yourself to a dessert. Enjoy!

Nutty Raspberry Chicken Salad
“Newman’s Own”

2 cups torn leaf lettuce
2 cups torn radicchio
2 cups torn arugula
1 medium Belgian endive, cut up
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 medium skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 lb. total)
2 medium oranges, peeled and sliced
1 pink grapefruit, peeled and sectioned
1 avocado, pitted
2 green onions, thinly bias-sliced
Newman's Own Raspberry & Walnut Dressing
Fresh red raspberries or strawberries (optional)

In a large bowl mix leaf lettuce, radicchio, arugula and endive; toss gently. Cover and chill for 2 hours.

For sauce, combine Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper in small bowl; set aside. Place chicken on the rack of an uncovered grill right over medium coals. Grill for 12 to 15 minutes or until no longer pink (170 °F), turning once and brushing with sauce the last 2 minutes of grilling. Cool chicken slightly; cut into thin strips.

Arrange lettuce mix on dinner plates. Arrange chicken strips, oranges, grapefruit sections, avocado slices and green onions on lettuce mixture. Drizzle some of the Newman's Own Raspberry & Walnut Dressing over the salads. If desired, garnish with fresh raspberries.

Note: Black olives may be substituted for the grapefruit.

Wild Summer Greens with Oregon Blueberries & Tarragon Blue Cheese Blueberry Dressing

Combine fresh wild greens and edible flowers for a light summer salad. Include any of the following:
Nasturtiums, Johnny Jump-Ups, Day Lilies, Spinach, Shiso, Sweet Cecily, Endive, Arugula, Belgian Endive, Lemon Mint, Beet Greens, Mustard Greens, Tarragon Leaves, Garnish with Red Onion and Orange Wedges.
Top with Oregon Blueberries and dressing (as follows):

Tarragon Blue Cheese Blueberry Salad Dressing
In a small bowl, combine:
2 tablespoons blue cheese, crumbled
1 large clove garlic, pressed
1/3 cup blueberry vinegar
(purchase ready-made or use recipe that follows)
2 tablespoons, plus ½-cup olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1 clove chopped shallot
1 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste

Mash together blue cheese into blueberry vinegar until cheese is well incorporated. Pouring slowly, in a steady stream, whisk in the olive oil. Add 1 clove chopped shallot, 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon and 1 teaspoon honey. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Simple Blueberry Vinegar

2 pints Oregon blueberries, rinsed and drained
1 quart white vinegar, divided
½-cup granulated sugar

At least two days in advance of use, make blueberry vinegar. Place washed Oregon blueberries, 1½- cups vinegar and sugar in saucepan; simmer gently for 5 minutes. Cool. Pour into 1½-quart jar with remaining white vinegar. Cover and stand at least 2 days. Strain vinegar as it is used, but do not discard blueberries. Store in refrigerator.

Kathy’s Krab Quiche
Serves 6

½ pound (imitation) krab, chopped
1 cup jack cheese, shredded
1-1/2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
3 eggs
1-1/2 cups evaporated milk
¾ cup green onions and tops
2 tablespoons margarine
1 tablespoon flour
1 9-inch pie pastry lined pan

Mix together cheeses in medium bowl.

Put krab in pastry lined pie tin. Cover with 1-1/4 cups cheese mixture. Sauté onions in margarine and add flour, stirring well. Beat eggs lightly and blend with evaporated milk; add onion mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour over cheese and krab mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake at 400° F. 15 min. Reduce heat to 350° F. and bake 20-35 min. until custard is set and slightly puffy. Cool at least 15 min. before cutting.

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.

Friday, August 6, 2010

See the USA — it’s a lifelong journey!

Cameron Falls, AB Canada
August 4, 2010 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

See the USA — it’s a lifelong journey!

I vividly remember my growing-up family’s first (and only) road trip vacation. It was the early 1950s. Dad had bought mother a new Oldsmobile and wanted to road test it. He had paid $3,000 for that car and wanted to get it out on the highway. So, our family of five packed up and headed for Yellowstone National Park.

It was quite a trip. I'm not sure how old we were but I was about 12 years old and shared the back seat with my then 8-year-old sister and 4-year-old brother. Once we left Los Angeles, it was all open roads and hot, dusty countryside — no air-conditioning. It was on this trip that I learned my dad’s middle name was “Lead-foot.” Boy could he put the pedal to the metal! There were no Motel 6’s or McDonald’s. Lunch was from a cooler in the trunk of the car and motels were few and far apart. It was often after dark before we found a place to stay.

As we drove narrow roads far above the Snake River my terrified sister put her head in my lap and cried. We kids were bored silly until we reached Cody, Wyoming. Suddenly, we were in cowboy country. My little brother was a huge Hopalong Cassidy fan and we passed the time looking for Hoppy and his sidekick Gabby as we marveled at real cowboys on real horses, roping real steers.

The highlight of the trip, of course, was Yellowstone, the nation’s first national park. Old Faithful was nice but the wildlife was fascinating to this city girl. Sitting at breakfast, gazing out the hotel’s massive windows at herds of elk or buffalo was more entrancing than any movie. I knew then that I wanted to see more of this wonderful country and its national parks.

Many years would pass before I could begin that quest. After Chuck and I married and had children, our one-week’s yearly vacation was usually spent at a mountain cabin in the Sequoia — Kings Canyon area. Our horizons expanded during the 1970s as the kids got old enough to travel around the western states.

Our first road trip as a family was in a friend’s canvas tent trailer. Chuck had accumulated enough time for us to tour Northern California state parks. The kids and I had a blast swimming in rivers and exploring the redwoods. Chuck, not so much. If asked, he will explain in detail why hauling and setting up that trailer was almost a camping deal breaker for him.

But Kathy, Jeff and John and I prevailed. The next year, we purchased an upscale model with a separate tent for the boys and headed for Yosemite. We admired Half-Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls and endured clouds of mosquitoes on the way to Mirror Lake.

The night before we left, a large black bear came too close for comfort. It slept in a campground tree during the day. After a late snack of s’mores, we all turned in for the night. Suddenly, I heard a terrified, “Mom! There’s a bear outside. Mom! It’s under my bed. Mom! What about the boys? Do they have any food in the tent?”

I immediately elbowed Chuck and said, “There’s a bear outside and the boys are in the tent with food!” He jumped out of bed, flung open the door, peered into pitch-black darkness and said, “Nope. No bear. Go back to sleep!” And he did.

Kathy and I, however, did not sleep. We could only pray as we heard the bear snuffling around. In the morning we discovered that the boys hadn’t left food outside. We had — a picnic basket full of marshmallows. Thankfully, Mr. Bear had neatly sliced open the plastic bags, eaten the marshmallows and gone on his way.

Our national park adventures started accumulating when friends of ours moved to Colorado. A couple of times, we visited them at Thanksgiving. When the snow was deep and ice crystals decorated every cave and crevice, the usually dusty and desolate Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce, Zion, Mesa Verde and Grand Canyon took on a whole new aura.

Our move to the Pacific Northwest stretched our national parks discoveries but still, we have only been to 25 of the 64 parks. So last month we decided it was time to add another park to our cache. We packed the RV (good-bye tent trailer!), gathered a gazillion maps, programmed the GPS and headed for Glacier National Park in Montana.

Glacier is the world’s first peace park and we share it with Canada. It welcomes over 2 million visitors a year, many of them from outside the United States. In fact, if you sit quietly in any public place, you will probably hear as many foreign languages being spoken as English.

The absolute highlight of our time in West Glacier was taking a 7-hour Red Jammer tour bus trip over the going-to-the-sun road that runs through the park. We learned all about the park’s history, flora and fauna as we made our way past Lake McDonald and Bird Woman Falls and headed for Logan Pass and the Continental Divide. The top of the Jammer rolled back and we passengers could pop up and get a close-up of those famed Big Horn Sheep.

Next, we crossed the blowing sands of the Blackfeet Nation Reservation as we headed for Waterton Park on the Canadian side of Glacier. Waterton Village is absolutely charming and bike friendly enough to reach nearby trails and waterfalls.

A boat trip around the lake, overlooked by the magnificent Prince of Wales Hotel, gave us a bird’s eye view of how the glacier carved out this beautiful area. We turned around at Goat Haunt to get our passports stamped and soak up solitude. We were almost at the dock, sitting in the fantail, when a Filipino gentleman tapped me and pointed, saying, “Bar! Bar!” Sure enough, we were looking at two grizzly bears that were looking at us.

Life is good when you’re seeing this land we live in. So if you’re planning a trip, I suggest that you see the USA. America's still the most beautiful land of all.

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