Coffee Cake, Eliot Spitzer and Reusing Ingredients

Hi everyone. I have been feeling a little guilty lately : I have been advising you all to store vegetables and many other items in ziploc bags. My sister, Alice , has scolded me for this. She has been hard at work creating a “green” program for her office. It is so hard not to use them, as they are so helpful in storing ingredients in the fridge, pantry and freezer. Plus, they are so luxuriously inexpensive at Costco. The temptation kills me! Not as egregious a behavior as Eliot Spitzer’s but it’s not a competition.

As we all know , however, plastic is bad for the environment so I am making a concerted effort to reuse my bags. I reuse them by washing them out, turning them inside out and drying them. I then reuse them for food or if they are a little nasty, I use them to enclose a dirty diaper, yucky food slop, or other any other slimy thing that I don’t want loose in my garbage pail. Everything in moderation-there is no need to give them up, just use them wisely and reuse them wisely.

Again, some non-cooks or novice cooks may feel we are being wasteful when we shop for ingredients and don’t end up using them. It may be easier , we feel, to just buy prepared food to avoid the waste. Let’s not be fooled! We can cook AND not be wasteful.

As an example of thrifty cooking behavior, I made my friend’s recipe that she got from her grandmother that calls for 2 cups of strong coffee. I had a huge amount of Starbucks coffee , leftover from a meeting I had in my house, and I was thrilled to not have to pour it down the drain. This cake is from a great “heirloom recipe” that makes my friend feel connected to her grandma whenever she makes it. Even I think about her grandma when I make it and I’ve never even met her! I hope you like it!
P.S. is a great website that can help you learn how to help the environment in little ways throughout your day.

Grandma’s Depression-Era Dark Coffee Cake

Pre-heat oven to 325 and grease a 9×12 baking dish

-1 box seedless raisins
-1 1/2 cups sugar
-2 cups strong black coffee
-1 1/2 level tsp salt
-4 cups sifted flour
-2 tsp baking soda
-2 tsp ground cloves
-2 tsp cinnamon
-1 cup shortening
-1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1) Put all ingredients (except flour and baking soda) into a large pot and bring to boil.
2) Remove from fire and stir in baking soda (it will foam up so this is fun for kids to help with!) Allow to cool.
3) Add sifted flour and mix well.
4) Turn out into greased and floured 9×12 baking dish. Sprinkle top with some sugar (optional).
5) Bake in pre-heated oven for 1 hour, or until toothpick comes out clean.



5 Responses

  1. The reuse of the ziplock bags also reminds me of my grandparents and the depression era also. I think besides great recipes, we could learn a lot about how to be resourceful and not wasteful from that generation… It’s got me thinking! Nice post!

  2. This recipe truly DOES make me think of my grandma! And each time my mom, sister, aunt or cousin makes it for a family occasion, we all sit around and share stories about Grandma…I love how it keeps us connected to her!

    Along the lines of being green in the kitchen, a friend mentioned that she only used the brown waxed paper bags for kids lunch sandwiches and snacks, but can’t find them in stores anymore. Has anyone seen these around lately? I’d like to start that good green habit!

  3. You should check out produce bags. I have bought them twice. Once on EBay and once through a company that sells… bags. I recently noticed they have an infomercial too. but don;t let that put you off. They are GREAT. They are perforated with tiny holes which means that produced stored in them keeps for a LONG time. Weeks sometimes. And you can use them over and over to your hearts content until they finally fall to bits.

  4. Speaking of “vintage” recipes… in Minnesota at least we have a long standing tradition of the “hot dish” (what everyone else calls casserole.) Maybe it’s because Betty Crocker, General Mills and Pillsbury are based here, but it seems like we make a lot out of combining some processed foods and some fresh. For example, the classic Tuna Noodle Hotdish which is basically Tuna, Eggnoodles and Cream of Mushroom Soup with maybe a few other things thrown in depending on the cook (milk, peas, onions, topped with crumbled potato chips…) Why just last night I resurrected an old family favorite “The Impossibly Easy Cheeseburger Pie”– a late 70’s Bisquick based recipe of which you can make countless variations including my “Greek” version in which I used beef, leftover sauteed veggies with garlic and oregano, and cottage cheese… The kids loved it. It was SO easy and the Greek creation was even better than the original (in my opinion at least)!

    Am I wrong to continue using these time-saving, semi-processed ingredients in my cooking? (i.e. condensed soups and bisquick…) I’m not crazy about some of the ingredients. It is definately what was “modeled”, and is still very much practiced, in my midwestern environment… I am wondering if any of your readers has gone so far as to make the old Ritz Cracker box recipe “Mock Apple Pie”– we used to get such a hoot out of that one!

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