Thursday, September 16, 2010

Berry good!

9/15/10 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

As I write this, it should be a sunny Sept. day. Instead, it’s cold, the skies have clouded over and it is pouring rain. I’ve put on a sweatshirt and am seriously considering a fire in the wood stove. Normally I would also be singing a song of gloom and doom. However, there’s a blackberry cobbler in the oven adding cheer to the otherwise dismal day.

In case you haven’t noticed, this has been a weird year for gardening! Every gardener I talk with has a different horror story to share. A friend’s green beans were planted three times; tomatoes are undersized and rotting on the vine; and our roses have only bloomed intermittently. There is only one word to describe our 2010 garden and that is — pathetic.

Fortunately, our berry crop is outdoing itself. In fact, our birds were so impressed that they managed to polish off the entire crop of our blueberries and cherries before we could get them picked. Our blackberries and strawberries, however, are still putting out glorious fruit every day.

The strawberries are tiny but oh, so sweet and Chuck’s thorn-less blackberries are to die for. They are plump, juicy and prodigious producers. And yes, I said ‘thorn-less,’ making them easier to pick. This is the first year we’ve had a bumper crop and I’ve been experimenting with pies and cobblers and sauces to put on ice cream. Next up is homemade ice cream. Maybe.

The following recipes are from the Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission. You can always count on them for great recipes and beautiful presentations. The first is a pretty straight-up cobbler recipe but the ginger adds a spicy twist to the topping. The cheesecake calls for frozen raspberries making them easy to find come winter but fresh berries can also be used. And if you only have fresh strawberries or blackberries, use them instead. Enjoy!


1 cup sugar
6 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
6 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For topping
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chilled whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Prepare fruit filling:
1.Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.
3. Mix first 4 ingredients in large bowl.
4. Add berries and lemon juice; toss to blend.
5. Transfer to prepared dish. Dot with butter.
6. Bake until mixture begins to bubble, about 30 minutes.
Prepare topping:
1. Mix flour, 1/2 cup crystallized ginger, powdered ginger and grated fresh ginger, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, lemon peel and salt in medium bowl.
2. Using fingertips, rub in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal or process in the bowl of a food processor for 30 seconds.
3. Add cream; stir until dough forms.
4. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead gently until smooth, about 6 turns.
5. Roll out to 3/4-inch thickness.
6. Using 2-inch shaped cookie cutter or round biscuit cutter, cut out biscuits. Re-roll dough scraps; cut out additional biscuits.
1. Place biscuits atop hot fruit, spacing closely.

Mix 1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in small bowl; sprinkle over biscuits. Bake cobbler until fruit is tender and biscuits are golden, about 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
©2009 Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission.


For the crust:
2 cups crushed vanilla wafers
3 Tablespoon chopped toasted almonds
4 Tablespoon melted margarine or butter
For the filling:
24 oz. low fat cream cheese
2/3 cup sugar
5 Tablespoon cornstarch
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup amaretto (or any liqueur of your choice)
2 tsp. almond extract (vanilla, if not using amaretto)
For the sauce:
(2) 12 oz. packages IQF raspberries, thawed
5 Tablespoon amaretto (optional)
1/3 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 400° F.

For the crust:
In a small bowl stir together crushed cookies and chopped almonds. Add butter and stir to combine. Press mixture into the bottom of a greased 9" springform pan.

For the filling:
In a large bowl combine cream cheese, sugar and cornstarch. Beat until smooth with an electric mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well each time. Add yolk and beat again. Stir in the whipping cream, amaretto and almond extract. Mix well.

Pour mixture into the crust. Bake for 10 minutes; lower temperature to 200 degrees F. and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the center no longer looks shiny.

Remove the cheesecake from the oven and run a knife around the inside edge of the pan. Turn the oven off; return the cake to the oven for an additional 30 minutes. Remove from oven and chill for 3 hours or more.

For the sauce:
Puree thawed berries in blender, food mill or food processor and strain through a fine sieve over a wide bowl to remove all seeds.
Heat puree with sugar till mixed. Remove from heat and add liqueur. To serve cheesecake pool 1/4 cup of sauce on each plate. Place serving of cheesecake on sauce. SERVES 10-12
©2010 Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission.

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.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Only cowards shoot cats and abandon dogs!

9/8/10 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Only cowards shoot cats and abandon dogs

There’s a reward poster circulating in our neighborhood describing a recent chilling cat shooting. Sadly, our peaceful countryside lifestyle is often punctuated with these posted cries for help on behalf of wounded or abandoned animals and their caregivers.

This time it’s our neighbors Pat and Ralph Deter who need help. They have two house cats and four outside cats (inherited when a neighbor moved away). During the day, the outside cats roam the acres of woods behind their house and come home at night to be fed and put to bed. August 28, one of their cats didn’t come home for supper. She was gone all night. Her name is Jane.

Animals that don’t come home are always a concern in our area because there are many natural predators. A large cougar has been caught on surveillance tape prowling the streets, along with the usual raccoons and other critters. But the person with a gun is the worst predator of all.

August 29, around noon, Jane came dragging her tiny body home. Upon examination, she was found to have been shot by a shotgun with at least 11 pellets embedded in her left side. She is paralyzed in her hindquarters. Blood tests will determine if the pellets are illegal lead birdshot. If so, it will slowly kill her.

It’s not unusual to hear gunshots in our area. In fact, there are two shooting ranges nearby. People not only practice target shooting but roam the area during hunting season. So no one probably paid any attention when someone blasted Jane close enough to pepper her with birdshot. If the shooter had been closer she would be dead. Neighbors would later recall hearing a single gunshot that afternoon.

Thrill seekers give warped rationale to justify using pets as target practice. It’s all very twisted logic. We can’t even give this shooter the benefit of the doubt and say that he or she was aiming at a wild animal. This little gal looks like a Siamese kitty with calico markings and blue eyes. Scary? I don’t think so!

Reactions to the shooting have ranged from anger and sorrow to indifference. Some shrug as if to say, “Oh, it’s just a cat.” Others say, “Your cat shouldn’t be roaming around anyway.” I say, that’s still no reason to shoot it. Unless an animal is threatening your life or someone else’s don’t wound, maim or kill it — report it!

Unfortunately, those of us who live in the country often see the results of what I call a “road kill” mentality. Some see a strange cat on their property and shoot it. If it’s already dead on the road, they’ll run over it again. It sounds sick and it is.

Over the years I have written many news briefs and stories of animal abuse and shootings. It’s a bizarre crime. And yes, it is a crime; a violation of Lane Code 7.120. So if you witness a person causing physical injury or death to an animal, you can report it to Lane County Animal Services at 541-682-3647.

Animal abuse and abandonment is on the rise. We always see abandoned dogs after the campgrounds close. Many of us have found homes for strays when our own rafters were full. One neighbor found an English Spaniel on her doorstep that just stayed until invited to live there. Pat Deter and my husband teamed up to get help for a dog living with a severe case of mange in a nearby park.

That poor mangy pup was not wearing any identification. It was homeless. One of life’s realities is that people get tired of their pets and illegally dump them far away from where they live. Those who live at the end of any country road can tell many stories of car doors opening, animals being dumped, and squealing tires as the cowards drive away from their trusting pets.

We are still haunted by the dog with ghost-like white eyes that ran out of the park every time Chuck’s Jeep drove by. Day after day he ran circles up and down our street and between the parks. One day we decided to tempt him into the car with some treats but he was wary and would get only so close. That afternoon, we heard a gunshot. A ‘yip!’ And the dog was never seen again.

Domesticated cats and dogs do not survive long in the wild. The survival instinct has been bred out of them. Dumped dogs are doomed to starve to death (or worse) while patiently waiting for their families to return for them. Cats and kittens quickly become part of the wild animal food chain. It’s heartbreaking.

A different kind of dog abandonment happened last week on the interstate. My husband was driving over the Main St. overpass when he saw a young boy carrying an armful of fur — on the freeway! Up ahead was a car and utility trailer. Chuck pulled over, turned on his flashers and got out to help the boy. He thought the dog had fallen out of the vehicle.

The boy’s mother got out of the car and told Chuck they had been traveling home when they saw this young, frantic dog tethered to the guardrail. They looked around and didn’t see an owner. Not wanting to abandon the dog to an uncertain fate, they impulsively decided to take it home with them. God bless them! Not all stories have such a happy ending.

Ralph Deter is a hunter and a cat lover. But he hunts for food, not to hurt and maim. He asked me to pass on this piece of advice to all neighborhood barbarians who shoot for fun: “Never shoot anything you aren’t going to eat — unless you like cat.”

Man up, cowards! And readers, don't ignore this stuff. Help stop the cycle of abuse by speaking up when necessary..

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

Oregon the first state to establish Labor Day holiday

9/1/10 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Oregon the first state to recognize Labor Day as a holiday

Summer’s last hurrah — Labor Day — is coming up this weekend
As holidays go, this one is a little different. On January 1, we celebrate a new year. February is the month we honor presidents. In May, we observe Memorial Day and those who have served our country. July is the really big holiday where patriotism rules and we celebrate the founding of our country.

And then comes Labor Day, on the first Monday in Sept., when we celebrate our friends and neighbors — the millions and millions of grassroots working men and women who have physically worked to build our nation into what it is today and continue to do so.

Of course, strictly speaking, there are no national holidays. There are holidays legally designated by the United States Congress for federal employees and the District of Colombia. However, each state must designate a federal or its own holidays through the legislative process or by executive order.

I remember a lot about other holidays but not much about Labor Day. So I looked up its history and was surprised to discover that Labor Day was established by Oregon in 1887 before it became a so-called national holiday. I was also reminded that this tribute to American workers was an ugly, hard fought battle.

The movement for a national Labor Day and better treatment for workers first began in other countries, Canada, established its holiday in the 1870s. Here in America, a Labor Day holiday was first celebrated on September 5, 1882, when New York City workers took an unpaid day off. In a demonstration and picnic planned by the Central Labor Union they marched around Union Square in support of a workingmen’s holiday.

At that time, as you may remember, the Industrial Revolution was gaining steam. Millions of workers were trapped in dirty, dangerous jobs. They worked six days a week, 10-16 hours a day, at poverty wages. Employers resisted shorter days and a living wage. No wonder workers sought union advocates to champion their cause.

In 1886 a rally was held at Haymarket Square to explain the concept of the 8-hour day. Police suddenly marched against the peaceful assembly, someone threw a bomb, the police opened fire, and many of their own men and unarmed civilians were killed. Hysteria and arrests followed. The cause seemed lost.

Eventually, it took a strike by the Pullman American Railroad Union to get a reluctant President Grover Cleveland to declare Labor Day a national holiday in 1894.

We don’t often hear the word ‘Pullman’ anymore but back in the day when railroad travel was king, so was Pullman. George Pullman was president of his railroad sleeping car company. Pullman, Illinois, was a company town founded by him in 1880. The town he designed and built was meant to stand as a utopian workers’ community; to be insulated from the moral and political seductions of nearby Chicago.

Its residents all worked for the Pullman company, their paychecks were drawn from the Pullman bank and their rent (set by Pullman), deducted automatically from their weekly paychecks. Everything operated smoothly and successfully for more than a decade.

A dozen years later, there was a nationwide depression. Orders for railroad sleeping cars declined and Mr. Pullman was forced to lay off hundreds of his employees. Those who remained had their wages cut and paychecks barely covered their rent (which remained consistent).

So, one day the employees walked out, realistically demanding lower rents and higher pay. The American Railroad Union representative rallied to the cause of the striking workers as tension escalated. But across the nation, non-union railroad workers boycotted trains carrying Pullman cars. Mobs of non-union workers joined in rioting, pillaging and burning railroad cars.

The strike had unexpectedly turned nasty and quickly became a national issue. So President Grover Cleveland, not wanting to interrupt mail trains or face the wrath of nervous railroad executives declared the strike a federal crime and deployed 12,000 troops to break it up. U.S. Marshalls near Chicago killed two protestors and the sheer strength of numbers and firepower overcame the strikers.

As a result, the strike was declared over, the union representative went to jail and the union disbanded. The Pullman employees signed an agreement not to re-unionize and most other industrial workers’ unions were stamped out. But just for a time.

However, the country wasn’t happy with the harsh methods used by Cleveland and it became clear that if he were going to win the upcoming election (he lost) that he would have to appease the nation’s workers. Immediately, a Labor Day legislation was rushed through both houses of Congress and put on President Cleveland’s desk. He signed it just six days after the bloody Pullman strike was broken.

A September Labor Day was established that In 1898, union leader Samuel Gompers called “the day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed … and they lay down their tools of labor for a holiday …”

All that bad history seems to be forgotten in this civilized time of minimum wages, civil rights, equal pay for women and laws against child labor. But let’s not forget that in 1887 Oregon was a forerunner in showing respect for the common laborer. Makes you kinda proud, doesn’t it?

This Labor Day, as we bid farewell to summer, let us also take a moment to pay tribute to the American worker. Where would this country be without those who long ago, with only primitive tools blasted rock to build bridges, risked life and limb to construct dams, skyscrapers, railroad lines and roads? What would we do today without the plumbers, the electricians, the home-builders or even those who grow our food? We are in their debt. I salute you all!

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