My 48 Hours as Ma Ingalls

Suffering passes, while love is eternal. That’s a gift that you have received from God. Don’t waste it. — Laura Ingalls Wilder

As expected, Hurricane Sandy hit our region hard and knocked out our power for 48 hours. Compared to the devastation many people suffered, this barely registers on the misery scale. Our house and rental properties stayed dry and undamaged. None of my people were hungry or injured or died. We are truly fortunate and grateful. Please consider donating to hurricane relief here.

However (you knew there would be a “however,” right? surly you know me by now), it was still very hard, both physically and mentally. I hate that I’m such a weak whiney whiner when deprived of my creature comforts while others are facing such heartache and devastation. Not charming, I know.

I don’t know why you’re complaining. It’s 54 degrees in here. I grew up in a house colder than this. — My husband

The first day without power is never bad, especially when it’s expected. You engage in all kinds of folksy old timey fun like boardgames by flashlight and junk food by the fireplace. The kids and I played Apples to Apples. The kids and Ed played Monopoly to the bitter end. Nate and Logan played chess. We danced and told stories and drank wine and laughed. Doesn’t that sound like a wholesome rip roaring good time? It really was.

But when you wake up the next day to cold darkness and no coffee and dark coldness and no coffee and no coffee in the cold darkness, something slowly starts to crack. You know intellectually you are still one of the lucky ones, but a hot shower and a hair dryer and a light in your closet would sure feel nice right now. And then you check Facebook on your phone and see everyone around you — literally everyone you know except your very own neighborhood — has either gotten their power back by this point or never lost it in the first place. The crack deepens.

We still have not purchased a generator — partially out of frugality, partially out of stubbornness, partially out of Ed’s camping heritage. I suspect he thinks they’re for sissies, even though he’d never say that out loud. (But see above quote if you’re doubting me.) Morning two without power is a dangerous place in any relationship. You start to turn on each other. You start to question motives. You start to compare who is more miserable and has suffered the greatest (hint: the answer is me, always me).

It is in the shelter of each other that the people live. — Irish Proverb

It is at this point when friends come to the rescue. They offer showers and lodging and warm meals. You don’t want to be a burden, but when they insist a second time, you take them up on it. And that is when you know no matter what, you’ll be okay because you have good people who care enough to look out for you. You know that it doesn’t even matter if they are voting for different people in the election. They are kind and good and generous, and as long as people like this exist, the world will always be okay.

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The Pumpkin Cheesecake Before the Storm

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin. — William Shakespeare

As I mentioned with my Hurricane Irene Penne Pasta, impending severe weather makes me want to cook. The latest hype here in the Northeast is Hurricane Sandy, AKA Frankenstorm, which is currently being touted as the hurricane to end all hurricanes. My kids are terrified of missing Halloween. I am terrified of missing my Ina Garten book signing. However, I know the news media loves the panic inducing rating’s gold of a big storm, and there is a good chance this will be no big deal. When I start getting overly anxious, I try to keep that in perspective. Nevertheless, it’s hard not to get swept up in the hysteria. And when I get swept up in hysteria, I eat. And when I eat, I bake.

This recipe has been sitting in my files for a while, and it’s perfect for some hysterical baking, Frankenstorm or not. Do heed the warnings about letting it sit overnight before releasing it from the spring-form pan; time is your friend when it comes to cheesecakes. This is very rich, so a little slice goes a long way. The ginger snaps in the crust are a lovely addition, as is the sour cream topping. Perfect for Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Cheesecake from Joy of Baking, original recipe here

Crust:

1 cup (100 grams) graham cracker crumbs (or crushed Digestive Biscuits)

1/2 cup (50 grams) crushed ginger cookies, homemade or store bought

1 tablespoon (15 grams) white sugar

4-5 tablespoons (57-70 grams) melted butter

Pumpkin Cheesecake:

2/3 cup (145 grams) light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

2-8 ounce packages (450 grams) full fat cream cheese, room temperature

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup (240 ml) pure pumpkin puree (canned or homemade)

Pumpkin Cheesecake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter, or spray with a non stick spray, an 8 inch (20 cm) spring form pan.

Crust: In a medium sized bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, crushed ginger cookies, sugar, and melted butter. Press the mixture evenly onto the bottom of the prepared  pan. Bake 8-10 minutes or until set. Let cool.

In a separate bowl, stir to combine the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and salt.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), on low speed, beat the cream cheese until smooth (about 2 minutes). Gradually add the sugar mixture and beat until creamy and smooth (1 to 2 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (about 30 seconds) after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the vanilla extract and pumpkin puree.

Pour the filling over the crust and place the spring form pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Place a cake pan, filled halfway with hot water, on the bottom shelf of your oven to moisten the air. Bake the cheesecake for 30 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees C (160 degrees C) and continue to bake the cheesecake for another 10 – 20 minutes, or until the edges of the cheesecake are puffed but the center is still a little wet and jiggles when you gently shake the pan. Total baking time 40 – 60 minutes.

Meanwhile stir together 1 cup (240 ml) sour cream, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and 1/4 cup (50 grams) white sugar. Spread the topping over the warm cheesecake and return the cheesecake to the oven and bake about 8 minutes to set the topping. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Loosen the cake from the pan by running a sharp knife around the inside edge (this will help prevent the cake from cracking). Then place a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the pan so the cheesecake will cool slowly. When completely cooled, cover and refrigerate at least eight hours, preferably overnight, before serving.

Serves 10 – 12