Thursday, February 24, 2011

Like it or not, the (generations) they are a-changin'!

2/23/11 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Like it or not, the times they are a-changin’!

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.
Bob Dylan

I usually don’t pay much attention to talk about the so-called generation gap. I mean, what’s to talk about? As Dylan says, the old road is aging and a new one is at hand. It’s all part of life’s cycle. Of course there’s a generation gap. The question is: How big is the gap?

In 2009 the Pew Research Center released a study that found Americans of different ages to be increasingly at odds over social and technological issues. People aged 18 to 29 reported disagreeing about lifestyle, views on family, relationships and dating. Those in the middle group pointed to a difference in manners, while older people cited differences in a sense of entitlement.

This year’s 53rd Grammy Awards certainly highlighted some of those differences. It was billed as a night to bridge the gap from young and old. The huge crowd responded to the performers and the musical extravaganza with enthusiasm. But to me, the entire event was a study in excess, arrogance and self-promotion.

As an “older” viewer, very little was appealing to me. There was more skin than classic clothing on display. There was more noise and less musical talent than one would expect from such an event. Some performers were more crass than classy. i.e. Cee Lo’s “F --- You.” And who could forget Lady Gaga performing “Born This Way” after arriving on stage in a pearlescent egg carried like royalty. She emerged wearing a flesh-colored skirt and bra a la Madonna. A sensational conversation piece to be sure.

Neither my husband nor I found the show entertaining so we resumed channel surfing. In this instance, we didn’t think this was entertainment. It was more like a gap in a great cultural divide.

The next day, I was still reeling from the Grammy production when radio host Dan Patrick interviewed Charlie Sheen. Charlie stars as a hedonistic bachelor in the comedy “Two and a Half Men” and evidently he lives a similar lifestyle off-stage. He keeps the tabloids busy with his escapades that allegedly involve drugs, drinking, prostitutes, porn actresses and arrests for domestic violence.

As a fan of Sheen’s earlier shows, I hoped in the interview that he would say he was turning his life around. Instead he bluntly intimated that he has no intention of changing his lifestyle. “I was sober five years … and was just bored out of my tree,” he said. “Crack cocaine is bad but not for everyone. I say stay off the crack … unless you can manage it socially.”

Those of my generation would say that public figures (whatever their industry) should act and speak responsibly. Sheen is not alone in his brazenness. We constantly see evidence of moral and financial irresponsibility displayed by our elected officials. Is this just another indication of the generation gap? Or is it something deeper?

The Pew Research Center study also addressed the subject of religion. It seems that religion is a far bigger part of the lives of older adults. Two-thirds of older adults (65+) said religion is very important to them and becoming more important over the course of their lives.
In contrast, only 44% of young adults (18-29) found religion important and about 50% of adults in the 30-49-age bracket found it important.

This gap doesn’t surprise me. After all, everyone knows that youngsters think they’re immortal. Nothing bad will happen to them. Or so they think. Older adults have experienced loss. They know that a spiritual side is essential to cope.

Technology was revealed to be another area of differences between the generations. Younger people have always embraced technology. At the time of Pew study about 75-percent of computer savvy adults aged 18- 30 went online daily compared with 40-percent of people 65-74 vs only about 16-percent for those 75 and older. (Some of us might contest those figures!)

The age gap really widened over cell phones and text messaging. Only about 6-percent of those 65 and older used a cell phone for most or all of their calls; 11-percent of those sent or received text messages. A whopping 64-percent of adults under 30 use cell phones daily and 87-percent of them text.

And here’s an FYI for the pollsters: There’s a reason why many of us don’t use our cell phones as our primary telephone. It’s a matter of manners. We prefer to keep our private conversations private. Unlike the lady I encountered talking about ‘personal issues’ while doing her ‘business' in a public restroom. I wanted to flush her phone!

And that brings us to morality, work ethic and manners. Across the board there seems to be a general set of moral values for each age group but tolerance is greater among younger people on cultural issues such as gay marriage and interracial relationships.

On a lighter note, Americans also disagree on when old age begins. People under 30 believe it begins at 60 while those 65 and older push it up to 74. But almost everyone agrees that they want to live to 89 years of age. Finally, we have something to agree on in which there is no generation gap!

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

Eat like a president!

2/16/11 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Eat like a president!

There are many stories and myths about presidential eating habits. White House cuisine has inspired countless books and discussions about the diversity of the formal dinners served to visiting dignitaries. From the beginning, the public has been fascinated by what the president particularly serves at state and other official dinners.

Personally, I always wonder what the president and his family are eating when no one else is around. Certainly they must get tired of haute cuisine and hunger for a PBJ sandwich once in awhile. So I checked it out and sure enough, our presidents don’t always tuck into caviar. Sometimes they enjoy their own version of comfort food.

President Ulysses Grant liked cucumbers soaked in vinegar for breakfast. One of the Roosevelt’s liked scrambled eggs, codfish balls, fried liver and seafood but seldom ate dessert. Richard Nixon was fond of cottage cheese smothered in ketchup. Jimmy Carter loved grits baked with cheese at a breakfast. Jan. 2009, all five presidents (past, present and future) attended a pre-inaugural a la carte luncheon for Barrack Obama. Incumbent George Bush (43) enjoyed a grilled cheese sandwich. No word on what the guest of honor ate.

When my children were growing up, I celebrated holidays with special meals. On President George Washington’s birthday I always baked a cherry pie to honor him for telling the truth when he disobeyed his father and cut down a cherry tree as a child. Today we know that story probably isn’t true but it’s still a good reason to eat cherry pie.

Following are some presidential preferences recipes that I have gleaned from several sources. One source is “Obama Foodarama,” a food blog begun when Michelle Obama geared up to plant a White House vegetable garden and launched her “Let’s Move” initiative.

It seems only fitting to start today’s recipes off with some vegetables from our current president’s garden — a green salad and a vegetable dip. Next we’ll check out a version of New England Clam Chowder that John F. Kennedy was reported to enjoy paired with corn muffins. We’ll follow that with a Ronald Reagan macaroni and cheese recipe that I clipped out of the L.A. Times in 1988. And finally, a super simple cherry parfait in honor of good old George Washington. Enjoy!

Biggest Loser White House Salad

1 head of fresh lettuce, washed, dried, cut into bite size pieces
1 cucumber peeled, and cut into bite sized pieces
2 fresh tomatoes, washed and cut into bite size pieces
¼ red onion, peeled and cut as thinly as possible
1 bunch fresh basil, washed and chopped into big pieces
4 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions in large mixing bowl. In sealable container, combine oil, lemon juice, honey and salt and pepper. Cover container and shake vigorously. Add dressing to salad and serve immediately.

Yogurt Vegetable Dip
Adapted from White House kitchen

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
1 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
½ cup finely diced onion
Salt to taste

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic with the yogurt and mix well. Stir in the cucumber and onion. Chill for at least an hour, overnight if desired. Serve with cherry tomatoes and cut-up raw vegetables like broccoli or fennel.

Simple Clam Chowder

4 bacon slices, diced
2 cups chopped onion
1-1/4 cups chopped celery
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 (6-1/2 ounce) cans chopped clams, un-drained
5 cups diced peeled baking potato (about 1 pound)
4 (8-ounce) bottles clam juice
1 bay leaf
3 cups fat-free milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2-1/4 ounces)

Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and set aside; reserve 2 teaspoons drippings in pan. Add onion, celery, salt, thyme, and garlic to drippings in pan; cook and stir 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Drain clams, reserving liquid. Add clam liquid, potato, clam juice, and bay leaf to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until potato is tender. Discard bay leaf.

Combine flour with 1 cup milk, stirring with a whisk until smooth; add remaining 2 cups milk mixing well. Add milk and flour mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 12 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Add clams; cook 2 minutes. Sprinkle with bacon.

President Reagan’s Favorite Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from Los Angeles Times, Mar. 3, 1988

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
1 teaspoon butter
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3 cups sharp American cheese, grated (set aside 1 cup)
1 cup milk (use more if needed)

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Butter 8-inch round or square casserole

Bring water to boil with dash of salt in large pan. Cook macaroni until tender and drain thoroughly. Return to pan. Stir in butter and egg. Mix mustard and salt with 1 tablespoon hot water. Add to milk. Mix 2 cups cheese with macaroni. Pour into buttered casserole. Add milk and sprinkle with reserved cheese.

Bake 45 min. or until custard is set and top is crusty. Serves 4

Cherry Parfait

1 can light cherry pie filling
1 quart light vanilla ice cream
Light whipped cream in a spray can
8 tablespoons nuts, toasted or candied
Shaved chocolate

In tall serving glasses alternate pie filling with ice cream two times, finishing with pie filling. Top with a squirt of whipped cream, sprinkle with nuts and shaved chocolate to serve.

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. Read her weekly columns 
in the Cottage Grove Sentinel.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

President's Day Trivia

2/9/11 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

President’s Day is coming up! The third Monday in February we Americans celebrate the 44 men who have served as presidents of the United States over the past 234 years. Beginning in 1789 with George Washington, right through the 21st century and our current president Barrack Obama, it’s been a fascinating ride.

But wait a minute. Let’s back up. Our country was established in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence. Who was governing the colonies between then and George in1789? I had forgotten, so I looked it up.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Continental Congress (with elected presidents) was the body of delegates who spoke for the colony-states during the period of 1774-89. During the Revolution, under the Articles of Confederation, the presidents of that body played a large part in developing our colonies into a nation.

Therefore there was no United States of America until after the Revolutionary War was fought and independence from England was won. Depending on who’s counting, there were 7-14 pre-USA presidents beginning with Peyton Randolph, a Virginian revolutionary, Henry Middleton and John Hancock (signer of the Declaration of Independence).

George Washington was the first president under the Constitution of the United States. Setting aside his obvious reputation as a four-star general; commander-in-chief of the American Revolutionary Forces; founder and first president of our country, he was an interesting guy. Check out these bits of trivia about him:

*•He was born into a wealthy, well-connected plantation family.
•He was home-schooled and great things were expected of him.
•He began his career as a soldier fighting for the British.
•He delivered the shortest 2nd inaugural address ever — 135 words.
•He was the only founding father to free his slaves.
•He was the only president who did not live in Washington D.C.
•As a farmer he introduced mules to America.
•He grew marijuana on his farm but mainly for its industrial value.
•Cutting down a cherry tree was a myth to show his honesty.
•At the time of his inauguration he only had one tooth in his mouth.
•His ill-fitting dentures were ivory not wooden.
•His favorite six white horse’s teeth were brushed daily.
•He left no direct descendants.

Abraham Lincoln is perhaps one of our most beloved presidents. On Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009, there were many celebrations of his 200th birthday. Not many presidents are remembered on the bicentennial of their birth! But, as you know, Lincoln was special. His life and example continue to touch hearts today.

Lincoln was the polar opposite of Washington. From his humble beginnings, no one could have predicted the important place that he would have in history. He was born in a log cabin in extreme poverty; lost his mother at age nine, had a terrible home life and minimal education. He was highly ambitious and known as Honest Abe

Ultimately, Lincoln guided the U.S. through the Civil War, signed the Emancipation Proclamation and delivered his famous Gettysburg address. Before that, he had a checkered career. He was postmaster of the New Salem, Illinois post office. He worked as a surveyor and fought as a captain in the Blackhawk War. He became a lawyer in the manner of that era by reading law books, observing court procedures and taking an oath to support the government.

He ran for several political offices and lost. Finally he won and served eight years in the Illinois legislature. Later he earned a national reputation for his debates on slavery against Stephen A. Douglas, candidate for U.S. Senator. In 1860 he won the Republican nomination for president and then the presidency.

Lincoln’s assassination at the age of 56 made him the first American president to die in this manner. James A. Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy would be killed in a similar manner. Two other presidents were injured in attempted assassinations: former President Theodore Roosevelt and then President Ronald Reagan.

Being president is serious business but there are many humorous stories about presidents and their opponents. Two of my favorite anecdotes supposedly revolve around the losing end of presidential elections: Lincoln’s famous stovepipe hat and a Nixon comment.

Abraham Lincoln arrived at his presidential inauguration rostrum holding, in addition to a copy of his speech, his trademark black stovepipe hat and cane. When, after laying down the cane, he was dismayed to find no room for his hat, Senator Stephen Douglas (his chief electoral opponent) dutifully came forward and took it from him. “If I can’t be president,” Douglas remarked as Lincoln sat down, “I can at least hold his hat.”

Shortly after JFK’s inaugural address, Richard Nixon (his Republican opponent) generously told Ted Sorenson (Kennedy’s aide) that there were certain things in the address that he himself would like to have said. “Do you mean the part about ‘Ask not what your country can do for you’…?” Sorenson asked. “No,” Nixon replied, “the part beginning ‘I do solemnly swear’…

And finally, this quip by President Ronald Reagan, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday this month, was heard by many of us.

Despite concern over Ronald Reagan’s age (69) when he ran for the presidency in 1980, he won by a wide margin, becoming the oldest president ever elected. Four years later, during a televised debate with Walter Mondale in the next election, Reagan was asked whether he was too old to serve another term. “I’m not going to inject the issue of age into this campaign,” he astutely replied. “I am not going to exploit, for political gain, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

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

Teens tackle hunger at Souper Bowl of Caring

2/2/11 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

This Sunday millions of football fans are going to be tuned in to Super Bowl XLV to watch the championship competition between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers. The winners of this 45th annual edition of knocking, blocking and tackling will receive super size paychecks, rings, a team trophy and (of course) bragging rights.

Meanwhile, local teens from nearby churches and others around the country are going to be working on the Souper Bowl of Caring. Locally, before the football game, some teens are going to be tackling hunger by collecting cans of soup and monetary donations for the food pantry at Community Sharing.

I learned of this project and the impact it has across the nation from Tracy Durfee who works with the youth at First Presbyterian Church.

“The first ever Souper Bowl of Caring was started in 1990,” Durfee said. “A simple prayer from a single youth group began this event, ‘Lord, as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us to be mindful of those without even a bowl of soup to eat.’ Since that day, more than $60 million has been raised for local charities across the country through what is now known as the Souper Bowl of Caring.

“Through this mission, young people learn what it's like to make a positive difference in the world - as they collect food, raise money, and volunteer to work in charities that provide shelter for the homeless, food to the hungry and compassion to those in need.

“Last year our youth collected 116 cans and $178. I posted the information on Facebook and we had some people leave soup sacks at the front gate of the church! This year (in addition to collecting food) the youth plan to go to Community Sharing Feb. 4 and donate time there to work in the pantry.”

This is a great idea. Soup is a relatively inexpensive item that warms body and soul. All of us can afford to contribute a few cans of soup. Check out the sales, pick up some hearty varieties and either take them to your participating church or directly to Community Sharing.

By the way, while you’re at the market, you might also pick up a few cans of tomatoes. Almost any canned condensed soup (but not cream style) will benefit from adding the usual can of water plus a can of whole tomatoes and a dash of Italian spices.

Homemade soup is a wonderful meal for Sunday suppers. I have made a zillion variations on this first chicken soup recipe. The key to a tasty chicken soup is to first have a meal of roast chicken. Yum. Then, use the leftover chicken in the soup. The flavor and texture of the meat is fabulous. If you have a well-stocked kitchen, you can make the stock from pantry staples of onions, celery, canned broth, tomatoes, beans and corn. You just can’t go wrong

The final soup recipe in today’s column is from “100 Best Fresh Soups” a cookbook given to me by my daughter-in-law Betsy. The “Fennel & Tomato Soup with Shrimp.” It would make a great ladies luncheon dish with bread, green salad and pie for dessert!

Betty’s Company-good Chicken Soup

Saute together in saucepan:
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon oil
Add and bring to a boil:
2 cans chicken broth
1 cup water
1 cube chicken broth seasoning
1-2 carrots, shredded
2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1-2 cans pinto or chili beans, drained
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
2 teaspoons chili powder
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
1 small can diced green chilis, drained
3 cups cooked chicken or turkey, diced (add last hour of cooking)
Reserve: 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Place mixture in slow cooker and cook on low. If the broth is too thin, mix cornstarch with water; add to soup and bring to boil. Just before serving, add a dash of hot sauce.

Garnish with your choice:
Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Sour cream
Red onion, finely diced
Black olives, sliced
Fresh Cilantro, chopped
a. I double this for ‘company’ and sometimes add a can of cream of chicken soup and additional water if needed.
b. A couple of tablespoons of dry taco seasoning mix adds extra zip.

“100 Best Fresh Soups”

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, halved and sliced
2 large fennel bulbs, halved and sliced
1 small potato, diced
3-3/4 cups water
1-2/3 cups tomato juice (extra if needed)
1 bay leaf
4-1/2 ounces small shrimp, peeled
2 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
1/2 teaspoon snipped fresh dill (1 teaspoon dried is okay)
Salt and pepper
Garnish: Dill sprigs or fennel fronds

Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and fennel; cook 3-4 min., stirring occasionally until the onion is softened.

Add the potato, water, tomato juice and bay leaf with a large pinch of salt. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer about 25 min., stirring once or twice, until vegetables are soft.

Allow soup to cool slightly. Transfer to a food processor or blender and process until smooth, working in batches if necessary. (If using a food processor, strain off the cooking liquid and reserve. Puree the soup solids with enough cooking liquid to moisten them; combine with remaining liquids).

Return soup to the saucepan and add shrimp. Simmer gently about 10 min. to reheat the soup and allow it to absorb the shrimp flavor.

Stir in the tomatoes and dill. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed. Thin the soup with a little more tomato juice if desired. Ladle into warmed bowls, garnish with dill or fennel fronts and serve.

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