Sunday, December 16, 2007

Why Organic?

I find myself pondering this question more and more as I read books like The Omnivore's Dilemma and Real Food and Twinkies, Deconstructed. Meat, milk and eggs is easy, I'll gladly pay more for raw milk from grass fed cows, eggs from pastured chickens and meat that isn't jacked up on antibiotics, hormones or feeds that those animals were never designed to eat. I love my Wheat Montana flour, and not just because of my natural affinity for the state, and am totally sold on organic ketchup because it's the only kind that I can find that's not so syrupy sweet that it would work better on a waffle than a waffle fry. But the more that I read, the more that I ponder organic produce. I really like the idea of no pesticides or chemical fertilizers on my food, but is industrial organic stuff really any better? For now I think I'll use my organic dollar a little higher up the food chain and pay the big bucks for real meat, milk, eggs and dairy products. I do find it ironic that our sweeping love of all things whole and organic came just as the farmers market is closed for the winter, sensibly as there is snow and ice everywhere and obviously nothing growing, but I can't wait for it to open this spring and find out what we can eat that's local and in season. I do find it rather interesting that this desire to get back to real food brings us into contact with so many people whose politics are so far flung from ours as to be other worldly feeling, it does kinda make us smile that wry smile when we wonder if the health food store people realize that they are being invaded by right wing nutjobs :)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Let Them Eat Cake

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See the Clifford cake, well of course you don't, because Clifford is in the trash, with his pink icing. Well the story goes like this, I decided that since we were trying to do all this healthy stuff that I would make a cake from scratch to avoid the hydrogenated fats and dried eggs and such, of course I made an executive decision to use whole wheat pastry flour. Yes, I know I'm insane. Well, the cake was okay, not excellent, not real good, but edible. Then I decided to make icing with just the butter that I had in the house, so I tried Swiss Meringue Buttercream, hmmmmm, after all the work that I did on it, um, we don't like this kind of icing at all. Of course I tasted it after I tried to dye it red, well that turned out pink. So at 11pm last night I threw the whole mess in the trash and down the sink, decided that it was more important that cake was good than healthy, after all who needs healthy cake and went to the store for cake mix and shortening to make regular buttercream with, lol, as you can tell I got a little carried away with the icing, oh well that can be scraped off a little if need be.

So here's the recipes, all of them are Nancy's, they are all delicious and yet another testimony to the love and cooking expertise of this wonderful woman.

Nancy's Cake Recipe

1 box cake mix, any flavor - this time I used dark chocolate
1 package instant pudding mix, any flavor - this time I used chocolate
4 whole eggs
2/3 cup oil
1 cup water or other liquid - this time I used 1/2 evaporated milk, 1/2 water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Bake in a 9x13" or other cake pan. Time will vary depending on the pan and liquid chosen.

When she was alive this cake recipe was her secret that she shared with her beloved daughter and daughter-in-laws, I was/am thrilled to be among that group. Now that she lives in heaven with Jesus I wanted to share it because since she's not here to make one for you, you should make it for yourself and think of the most wonderful Grandma you've ever met and that would be Nancy, or Omi, as the kids called her. My favorite combination of this cake that Nancy made was yellow cake, vanilla pudding and water; a 4 layered cake with raspberry jelly between the top two and bottom two layers and Vienna Cream in the middle layer with buttercream frosting over all. I have made tons of different combinations of this cake, aside from chocolate our favorite combinations have been lemon cake with lemon pudding and lemon juice; orange cake with lemon pudding and pineapple juice with one package of orange/pineapple koolaid mixed in the dry ingredients; and raspberry cake with chocolate pudding and milk. One of my favorite things to do with this cake is to separate the eggs, beat the egg whites until stiff, prepare the rest of the cake mix as per usual, then fold the egg whites into the prepared mix. This makes the cake about half again as high when done, and very light textured yet just as rich. I especially like to do this with a citrus flavored bundt cake.

Vienna Cake Filling

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 cups milk
1 egg yolk
1/2 pound butter
1 cup powdered sugar

Put 2 cups of milk in the top of double boiler with yolk of 1 egg. Bring water to a slow boil. Add sugar and cornstarch. Stir constantly until thickened. Place a piece of waxed paper over pudding and place in refrigerator to cool. When pudding is cool, cream 1/2 pound butter in electric mixer. Add 1 cup powdered sugar and blend in pudding.

This recipe is from Clara's Bakery, Clara is Nancy's mom and evidently quite the baker, although it's hard for me to imagine anyone who was better than Nancy. When totally pressed for time I have cheated with this recipe and made instant vanilla pudding and then blended that with the butter and powdered sugar, it's passable, even good, unless you've ever tasted it made right and then of course it's just a quickie and cheap flavored imitation.

Buttercream Icing

1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk

Cream butter and shortening with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep icing covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container this icing can be stored for 2 weeks, but needs to be rewhipped before using.

For the chocolate icing I added 2/3 cup of cocoa and enough more milk to make it the right consistency, I lost count but I think it was upwards of 6 total tablespoons. This recipe makes a lot of icing, I had forgotten that and doubled it tonight and I could have frosted the cake that I made, and several other cakes too by the time it was all said and done.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


2 pounds small curd cottage cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
graham crackers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line greased jelly roll pan with whole graham crackers as completely as possible breaking some to fit in the holes.

Pour liquid off of cottage cheese and process the cheese in a food processor until it is no longer lumpy looking. Add vanilla, flour, eggs, sugar and evaporated milk and process until well mixed.

Pour over graham crackers and sprinkle top with a liberal amount of cinnamon.

Bake for 1 1/2 hours.

My mom found this recipe looking for a way to make what my Grandma called Cottage Cheese Cheesecake, according to Grandma this was exactly the right recipe, just like hers. We always make this very thin and cut it in squares, kinda like thin bar cookies.

Nancy's Cheesecake

2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 ounces butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar

Filling & Topping:
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons vanilla
32 ounces sour cream
24 ounces cream cheese, cubed
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons sugar

Crust: Mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter and 2 tablespoons sugar. Press into bottom and sides of a springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Beat 1 cup sugar and 3 teaspoons vanilla into beaten eggs. Add pieces of cream cheese, a little at a time. Beat mixture 15 minutes at high speed of an electric mixer. Fold in 16 ounces of sour cream. Pour mixture into crust and bake 35 to 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Topping: Mix 16 ounces sour cream with remaining vanilla and sugar. Place on top of cooled cheesecake and put into a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Refrigerate cake for at least 8 hours before serving.

This is the very first not-Sara Lee cheesecake that I ever tasted, and after this one I've never even wanted to taste another 'box' cheesecake, yuck. This cheesecake is delicious, I've made many other cheesecakes from different recipes and always come back to this one for the most special occasions, it's different than those other recipes in a good good way and besides the memories that go with it are better! Nancy is Mark's mom, and cooking with her was one of my absolute favorite parts of being part of the Hass family. Just about any morning that we were at her house I could find her in her housecoat, hair all awry, hanging out in the kitchen in the morning drinking coffee and cooking for the ones she loved. There was never a dull moment cooking with her and it's time that I always treasured. I never make this cheesecake without remembering how much fun I had cooking with Nancy.

Variations: Nancy never played with this recipe, and her family treasured it just as it is. I, however, tend to play with everything and so did experiment some. Nancy and I talked about these, and she even got to taste a few of them and liked them, but I will tell you that nothing beats the original recipe. For Pumpkin Cheesecake substitute 1 can pumpkin puree for sour cream in filing with required pumpkin pie spices times three, just as if making pumpkin pie. For Lemon/Almond Cheesecake substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract for the 3 tablespoons of vanilla.

Monday, December 10, 2007

What's in a Name

I thought a long time about the name of this blog, after all the other one is all about John, or mostly about John and this one is more about me, cooking, food, being a mom, and all those kinds of things. I started off by calling it "What Would Julia Do?" because I really like Julia Child's cookbooks, and poking a little fun at the WWJD crowd was entertaining, but it just didn't sum up what I wanted. Finally after more thought I came up with this name, The Long and Crunchy Road.

The road is the journey of life that all of us travel, this road is mine that I currently travel with my beloved husband, my sweet piglet boy and one silly dog, all sorts of friends, family and who knows who will be on the road ahead. It's been a long road, a darn good one, but at 41 I'm certainly not at the beginning of the road and by God's grace it's one that I'm still traveling, and more importantly still enjoying. The crunchy part cracks me up. It could be referring to the feel of my kitchen floor from time to time when the dog, son and husband occur more often than the broom, dustpan and mop. It could be referring to the two pairs of Birkies in my closet. It could be something to do with the growing amount of things in my refrigerator and cabinets that are labeled organic, whole grain, free-range, etc. It's a combination of those things and all in all its said as much seriously as it is tongue in cheek.

This blog is to give me a place to store recipes, share those things that I love, opine about things from religion to politics and everything in between that drives me crazy or that I just can't stand to not say something about. It's probably going to be crazy and eclectic but then if you've ever met me in person you'd know that it really couldn't be anything else.