Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Day: First we remember and then we eat!

5/25/11 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

First we remember then we eat dinner

This weekend is Memorial Day, a federal holiday designated to honor those who have died while serving in the U.S. Military. Every year for well over a decade, I have been reminding readers of the solemnity of this day that began as a day of mourning and remembrance after the Civil War.

In fact, if you’ve been reading my columns for a while, you know that every year I whine about the changes that the years have wrought in respect for our military casualties. Over the decades, the Memorial Day atmosphere has changed into a mindless party spirit instead of a memorial to the veterans who fought and died for our country.

We can change that. This coming Monday at 3 p.m. is a National Moment of Remembrance. We are invited to stop whatever we are doing to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all — you and me. A moment of reverence and remembering that ‘freedom is not free,’ will set the tone for the day and be an example for those around us. Please join me in doing so.

Then we can eat! Although technically, Memorial Day falls in the spring calendar, it also starts off the summer barbecue season. All around the nation, grillers are dusting cobwebs off barbecues and getting them ready for burgers and dogs.

Every family has their favorite outdoor meal menu but just in case it rains (we do live in Oregon!) — I’m offering a menu that you can cook in the house and still get that great barbecue taste.

I got my barbecue brisket recipe from a friend in the early 1970s. It’s always a hit when I serve it. Add some corn on the cob with herb butter, a colorful green salad with creamy cilantro dressing plus your other favorite side dishes and you’ve got a great meal. Enjoy!

Barbecue Beef Brisket

6-pound beef brisket
3 tablespoons liquid smoke
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon celery salt
¼-cup Worcestershire sauce
Black pepper to taste

Place brisket in a large glass bowl or baking pan. Sprinkle brisket with liquid smoke, garlic powder, onion and celery salt. Cover with plastic wrap and then foil; place in refrigerator and allow to stand overnight.

The next day sprinkle meat with Worcestershire sauce and pepper; place in baking pan or slow cooker. If cooking in the oven, cover with foil (or lid) and bake 5 hours at 275-degrees F. Uncover and bake 1-hour longer with barbecue sauce (recipe follows).

If cooking in a crock-pot, cook all day and finish off in the oven or brown on a barbecue grill. May also be cooked in a covered barbecue grill on low heat for 5 hours.

Brisket Barbecue Sauce

1 cup catsup or tomato sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup water
1 onion, finely minced
¼ cup vinegar
¼ cup margarine

Combine ingredients in saucepan and simmer 15 minutes. Use for basting meat and serve on the side.

This makes a large amount of sauce. Put leftovers in a glass container and refrigerate. It will keep several days.

Italian Bread Salad

1 loaf crusty bread, day-old
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup cucumber, peeled, sliced and seeded
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
3 cups salads greens, torn
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)

Pull apart or chop the bread into bite-size pieces. Try using a really crusty, even day old, artisan or Italian- type bread. They come in great flavors-basil, garlic, etc, and sometimes are marked down the next day.

Combine the bread, cucumbers, red onions and garlic in a large salad bowl. Add the tomatoes at the table. This is nice with a simple Italian dressing or vinaigrette. You can also throw in sprigs of fresh herbs such as oregano, thyme or basil.

Colorful Mixed Salad

3 to 5 cups assorted salad greens
1/2 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small cucumber, julienne thinly
2 large carrots, shredded
1 can black olives, drained

Mix together the torn lettuce, peppers and cucumber. Distribute the mixture among salad plates. Top with shredded carrots and olives. Serve the dressing on the side. Serves 4-6

Note: Try the Creamy Lime-Cilantro Dressing recipe that follows or your favorite Ranch or Thousand Island.

Creamy Lime-Cilantro Dressing
Recipe by

1 pack (1oz) Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix (regular or buttermilk, and ignore directions on the packet)
1 cup mayo
1/2 C milk (or buttermilk depending on which packet you buy)
1 lime, juiced
1 — 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 C roughly chopped cilantro
1/4 C green salsa
Dash hot sauce

Place milk, mayonnaise and ranch mix in a blender with lime juice. Add garlic, cilantro and green salsa. Blend well. Taste and add hot sauce if you like. Refrigerate several hours to allow flavors to blend.

Corn on Cob with herb butter

1 cup butter
1/4 cup fresh basil, dill, parsley, rosemary or tarragon
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Soften unsalted butter to room temperature and blend all ingredients together in electric mixer, 1-2 minutes. Roll the butter into logs with wax paper or press into molds to create other shapes. Refrigerate.

Corn of Cob with lemon chive butter

1 cup butter
2 tablespoons fresh minced chives or more to taste
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Prepare as above.

Note: Butter can be made in advance or frozen up to three weeks. Wrap tightly in double layers of plastic wrap and freezer bags because butter absorbs other flavors and odors.

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.

Dr. Pierce Barn still in jeopardy

5/18/11 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Dr. Pierce Barn still in jeopardy

Oh, we got trouble right here in River City
With a capital ‘T’ and that rhymes with ‘P’
And that stands for ‘Pierce’
We surely got trouble right here …
Right here in Cottage Grove

My apologies to Meredith Wilson who belted out the above tune (albeit a different version) as he portrayed a con man convincing a small town to deal with a problem they didn’t have.

Cottage Grove on the other hand, has a real problem. Because our beloved Dr. Pierce Barn is going to go away — torn down, sold to a collector or otherwise disposed of — because the current property owner no longer wishes to bear the responsibility of caring for it and no one else has stepped up to the plate to purchase it.

Needless to say, everyone involved is in an uproar. When I say ‘everyone,’ I mean EVERYONE! The owner, the Historical Society, business owners, the city and thousands of us residents who cherish Cottage Grove’s rich historical past.

History loving visitors who come to Cottage Grove will be appalled if Dr. Pierce’s Barn isn’t here to welcome them. Fast Food Row is a poor substitute for a painted Pierce Barn. It is an iconic piece of advertising art and it will certainly be missed.

A few weeks ago I received an email from some folks in Salem (strangers to me) who wanted to know what was happening to the Chambers Railroad Bridge. The couple comes to town periodically to admire our murals, our covered bridges, do a little shopping and eat at Big Stuff Barbecue. They are particularly partial to Dr. Pierce’s Barn. I assured them the bridge was coming back but I wasn’t sure about the barn.

The 1912 Dr. Pierce Barn is the most prominent of Cottage Grove’s advertising murals. The weathered old barn welcomes residents and visitors as they drop down over the bridge to hwy 99N into town. It is a fitting vintage entrance to our historical city.

Dr. Pierce’s Barn was the first barn in the country to be nominated for, accepted by and listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. The acceptance of Dr. Pierce’s advertising signage set a precedent for the future. That makes Cottage Grove a trendsetting, All-American city and we need to keep up our reputation — not tear it down.

The current situation has been played out in the news and talked about all over not just locally but the county and the state. Last month the owner of the barn appeared before the Cottage Grove Historic Landmarks Commission and applied for a permit to demolish it. A stay of 90 days was recommended and another 210 days are available if other criteria are not met.

It’s an all-around sad situation. The owner doesn’t want the barn on his property; he wants to sell it. The Historical Society wants the barn but they don’t have the money to purchase it. The city of Cottage Grove doesn’t want to buy it because “they have no need for it” (according to the Register Guard newspaper).

So, we’re at an impasse. The owner has thrown down the gauntlet. The problem can no longer be ignored. Something must be done to bring all parties together and stop the demolition of this famous structure. We need a solution but the solution is going to cost money. And make no mistake; money is at the root of the barn’s problems.

So let’s look at a few options for raising money to preserve a legacy.

One possible source of funds is the Historic Preservation League of Oregon. The Historical Society approached them and they are considering whether to add the barn to its inaugural list of endangered sites and delve into solutions for the problems it has at its current location. That decision will be made this month.

Another option would be for the Historical Society to write a grant to purchase the property. I don’t know how feasible that process would be but it could be investigated.

Twenty years ago the barn was restored through a community fundraising effort. Perhaps that needs to be looked at. But a financial campaign to either dismantle and move the barn or purchase it and the property would be very expensive:

1. First, to move the barn to another location, an affordable and suitable property would have to be found. Then, $30,000 paid to the owner plus a similar amount for property and moving fees.

2. To purchase the land where it is currently located, the barn and the property in front of it would cost $90,000, an amount that the owner says is the assessed value. Property access would have to be negotiated and unless it is purchased by a non-profit the property taxes would be in the area of $1500 a year.

So, what do you think? Do you have any ideas on how to save the barn? Or, do you care? Let’s get a dialog going. Send me your thoughts in an email; give me a call, or write a letter to the editor.

By the way, the Cottage Grove Historical Society is hoping for a good turnout tonight, Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. The City’s Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on Historic Demolition Permit (HA 9-10) concerning the Dr. Pierce Barn.

Both oral and written statements may be submitted whether you are opposed to or in favor of the demolition. Written statements submitted by mail must arrive prior to 5:00 p.m. on May 18 at: Community Development Department, City Hall, 400 Main Street.

One final thought: I wonder if it would help inspire cooperation and chase trouble out of town if Meredith Wilson’s 76 trombones paraded down the street during the meeting …

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

Let's eat cake!

5/11/11 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Let’s eat cake!

There’s something about the month of May that brings out the cake-eater in me. Other months of the year I may crave cobblers, pies, cookies or puddings but this month I’m longing for cake.

I’m not going to bore you with the entire history of cake but suffice it to say that people have been eating cake for a very long time. According to multiple sources, cakes dating back to the 13th century and beyond were very different from what we eat today. They were sweetened with honey, leavened with yeast and bread-like in texture. Later, nuts and dried fruits were added.

By the middle of the 19th century a new era of baking began. Cake began to be more like we know it today (made with refined white four and baking powder instead of yeast). The texture lightened up. Ovens that dispensed heat evenly enabled more elaborate concoctions to be baked and longer-lasting butter cream frostings replaced the traditional but short-lived boiled frosting.

Today, of course, the sky’s the limit in the cake world. Once only available to the wealthy, cakes baked in single or multiple layers, with a choice of flavor and texture can be picked up at the supermarket. Frostings can be made of whipped cream or cream cheese and elaborately decorated for birthdays and weddings without you even turning on the oven.

But nothing beats the taste and texture of a homemade cake. Even if baking isn’t your forte and you don’t have time, you can bake a good cake. A recent edition of Kraft Foods “Food and Family” magazine reminded me that it’s easy to doctor up boxed cake mixes and turn out delectable desserts for family or guests.

Unless it’s warm out of the oven, I’m not particularly fond of pineapple upside-down cake but the Kraft people have a new twist on it that’s very tasty and easy to serve— upside down cupcakes!

Technically cheesecake is not ‘cake.’ But I found Kraft’s coconut cream cheesecake bars irresistible. I’m including it along with an old Texas Sheath/Sheet Cake, a longtime favorite of chocolate lovers.

Kraft suggests, of course, that you use their products in their recipes. But in my opinion, many brands are interchangeable so don’t worry about it. Some Kraft products are superior to others and so I have used the brand name in the recipes. And I do suggest that when using boxed cake mixes you always use Duncan Hines.

Two of today’s recipes are updated versions of old favorites and all are suitable for those occasions when it’s your turn to bring dessert to a potluck. Try one and enjoy the compliments!

Pineapple upside-down cupcakes
Kraft Foods, serves 24

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 cans (8 oz. each) pineapple tidbits in juice, drained
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
12 maraschino cherries, halved
1 cup boiling water
1 package (3 oz.) lemon flavor Jell-O
1 package yellow cake mix (2 layer size)
4 eggs
2/3 cup oil
2 teaspoons lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Mix sugar and butter in medium bowl; stir in pineapple and nuts. Place cherry half, cut-side up in center of each of 24 paper-lined muffin cups. Cover with pineapple mixture.

Add boiling water to gelatin mix; stir 2 min. until completely dissolved. Cool 10 min.

Beat remaining ingredients in large bowl with mixer until well blended. Add gelatin; mix well. Spoon over pineapple mixture in muffin cups. (Cups will be almost completely filled.

Bake 15-18 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 min; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Remove paper liners just before serving; invert onto plates.

Variation: Prepare using orange flavored gelatin and orange zest.

Layered Coconut Cream Cheesecake Bars
Kraft Foods, serves 16

84 Nilla Wafers
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 package (8 oz.) Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tub (8 oz.) Cool Whip whipped topping, thawed, divided
2 packages (3.4 oz. each) Jell-O vanilla instant pudding
2-1/2 cups cold milk
1-1/2 cups Baker’s Angel Flake coconut, toasted, divided

Reserve 24 wafers. Crush remaining wafers; mix with butter. Press onto bottom of 13X9-inch pan. Refrigerate while preparing filling.

Beat cream cheese and sugar with mixer until well blended. Whisk in 1 cup Cool Whip. Carefully spread over crust. Stand reserved wafers around edges.

Beat pudding mixes and milk with whisk in medium bowl 2 min. Stir in 1 cup Cool Whip and 3/4 cup coconut; spread over cream cheese layer. Top with remaining Cool Whip and coconut. Refrigerate 5 hours.

How to toast coconut (easy!): Spread coconut evenly in shallow pan. Bake at 350° F. 7-10 min. or until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Or spread in microwaveable pie plate. Microwave on High 3 min. or until lightly browned, stirring every minute. Watch carefully as coconut can easily burn.

‘Mrs. Elkins' Texas Sheath Cake
Huntsville Heritage Cookbook
Junior League of Huntsville AL, 1967 (p. 260)

2 cups sugar
2 cups sifted flour
1 stick margarine
1/2 cup shortening
4 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 400° F.
Grease 11X16 inch pan (jelly roll size)

Sift sugar and flour into large bowl. In saucepan, bring next 4 ingredients to rapid boil; stir into sugar and flour. Mix in other ingredients. Pour into pan. Bake 20 minutes.

Five minutes before done, make icing.

1 stick margarine
4 tablespoons cocoa
6 tablespoons milk
1 box confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans

Bring cocoa, margarine and milk to boil. Remove from heat, adding sugar and vanilla. Beat well. Add pecans and spread over hot cake while still in pan.

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.

A mother's love

5/4/11 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

As a child, I used to think that Mother’s Day was a one-way street —a day for children to give their mother gifts to show that they loved her. When I became a mother, I fully realized that if life is all about love — then children are the sweetest gift of all.

As a mother, my love for our children was so deep and wide that all I ever needed was to be with them and share their youthful exuberance. But tangible gifts are traditional on Mother’s Day and this Sunday, families will gather to tangibly demonstrate their love. Later, everyone will realize how happy mom was just to have her brood of chicks gathered close.

When I was growing up, Mother’s Day, much like today, was about family, flowers and food. Homemade cards and dime store purchases were usually the gifts of the day. Clutching our little purses, my sister and I would walk into Woolworth’s and leave with a bottle of ‘real’ French perfume i.e. “Evening in Paris” for mother and grandmother.

Dad would also take us shopping on Sat. to buy mother and grandmother exquisite orchid corsages to wear to church. We would place our order and wait while the corsage was crafted and packed in a fancy silver box along with a gigantic faux pearl-topped pin to secure the corsage. At home it was refrigerated until the next day.

Sunday morning, we girls would get all dolled up in our frilly dresses, matching gloves and fancy hats. Mother and grandmother, of course, were also wearing corsages and Evening in Paris. The guys (young and old) wore suits and ties with spit-shined shoes and off we would go to church — the boys squabbling all the way!

After church, we went out to eat. Mother and grandmother never cooked Sunday supper on Mother’s Day. They got to choose the restaurant and there were no picnics or barbecues. It was a holiday from cooking and dish washing for the entire family.

Today, many things have changed — especially the dress code. I seldom see ladies wearing a corsage, hat or gloves at church. (Most of us wear dressy pants suits because we can’t find suitable dresses for a woman past the mini-skirt age!) A few men still wear suits and ties but most wear open neck sports shirts. And it’s not unusual to see jeans and sweatshirts on worshippers and diners of all ages.

We ladies certainly will not be spritzing on Evening in Paris ‘toilet water’ or cologne. After a long successful run in department stores for over 30 years, it completely disappeared by 1969. Chanel now owns the patent and has reformulated it but the reviews aren’t good.

Packaged in a cobalt glass perfume bottle, it debuted as ‘Soir de Paris’ in 1928 in France and in 1929 it was named ‘Evening in Paris’ to sell in the United States. According to the “Fragrance Encyclopedia” it was believed to be the most popular fragrance in the world in the 1950s. Now it can only be found on eBay!

Some Mother’s Day traditions, however, never go out of style. Hugs and kisses and the gifting of a simple homemade card are still mom’s true treasures. As the day ends, memories are tucked away with the card, to be remembered forever.

Taking mom out to dinner is still a popular treat albeit with a new twist. Now, there are opulent brunches that the whole family can enjoy. Everyone can graze the serving tables, pick out their favorite foods and go back for seconds!

Flowers are still a gift that never goes out of style. Mother used to put her orchid corsage in the refrigerator to preserve it to wear the following week. Today, I notice that the busy mothers in our family (my daughter Kathy and daughter-in-law Betsy) are always gifted with bouquets of flowers by their sons and husbands.

Now, in my retired, honorary mother status, I have added a different kind of bouquet to my wish list — a field trip to one of the many public Oregon garden sites. Maybe it’s something your mom would enjoy too. Check out my now-in-bloom location list and ask the mom in your life if she’d like to enjoy some flowers that she didn’t have to weed!

1. The Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn. Their annual, month long tulip fest ends May 8. With 18 acres of flowers, pony rides, wine tasting and a gift shop, there’s something for everyone.
2. Adelman Peony Gardens in Salem opens its doors and fields to visitors May 1 to June 15. You can buy a variety of bouquets or potted peony plants to transfer to your garden.
3. Shore Acres State Park is delightful in any season. Located SW of Coos Bay/ North Bend and Hwy 101, the 5,000 tulips are winding down but the 100s of rhododendrons and azaleas will bloom through mid-May. Later, the 600 rose bushes, 250 dahlias, annuals and other perennials will bloom.
4. Locally, the Village Green Resort ‘s garden is in bloom. Last week after dinner at the restaurant, we wandered the rock-lined paths through its peaceful gardens. A Bluebird watched us soak up serenity, punctuated with vistas of a labyrinth, lilacs, tulips, daffodils, bleeding hearts and more. A local feast for the senses.

There are many ways to show mom that you love her. But you can never go wrong with the gift of time, a big hug, a heartfelt note and a bouquet of flowers. Mom loves you anyway but any of these will be icing on the cake!

This year I will miss being with my children and grandchildren and you can be sure that I will shed a few tears. Fortunately, I have a huge memory bank of love to draw from.

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