Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week + Farm Crush Friday + RECIPE: Butter Pecan Cheesecake

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Have you ever had this experience where you are finally beginning to feel like you’re a responsible adult and you’ve got your shit together and you’re actually finding some confidence about your own little place in this world…. and then you fall flat on your face? Figuratively, this has happened to me several times throughout my young life. This week, however, was the very first time it’s happened literally. Yes, I literally fell flat on my face. I was high on life, feeling on top of the world, running with the pups in Madison on my lunch hour and then I tripped over nothing, only to land on my chin. Ouch.

There’s nothing like falling down unexpectedly in a very public place to make you fall off your high horse or take the wind out of your sails or pop your happiness bubble. Chose your metaphor. Either way, it was completely demoralizing. I’d say it was almost as humiliating as driving a truck into the ditch in the middle of the day when there is no ice on the roads after easily surviving through five very snowy Wisconsin winters, which also happened to me this week. I had to trek through the snow and the mud in my Birkenstocks to the neighboring farmer’s house. Yes, I was less than a mile from my home. No, I don’t know what happened. I’m just glad I didn’t hit the telephone pole as I skidded through the slush in my poor Ford Ranger. P.S. Yes, mom, always wear appropriate footwear. I know, I know.

As if I need to tell you, this is not my week. Not by a long shot. And that’s neglecting to mention the “blocked cat” scare that led to trying to collect a urine sample at home from the always feisty Luka who refused to cooperate and just used the tortoise’s cage as his new litter box instead. Or the exploding computer charger. Or the $200 ticket I received this morning when I passed an old man going 40 in a no passing zone, which I know after the ditch incident makes me sound totally reckless but I’m actually not. I never pass people. Ever. It makes me too nervous. Maybe four times a year I pass someone. And today I somehow neglected to see the no passing yellow line since I had perfect visibility for miles and there was the state trooper waiting in what can only be described as a “passing trap”. Oh yeah, he was out to get me.

“Have a better day,” he said handing me the $200 citation. Thanks. Because that needed to be said. I’m obviously going to try and have a better day.

We all have weeks like this and there’s nothing you can do about it except cry and sulk a little and call your husband repeatedly in the middle of his workday. You’ve just got to sob it out, tell yourself you are still happy and absolutely still in control of your life (despite current appearances) and then spend an entire Friday afternoon inventing desserts for your awesome little brother’s 18th birthday party while listening to farming podcasts.

Which brings me to two very spectacular parts of this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week: the new Farmer to Farmer podcast by Chris Blanchard and a picture perfect, sweet and salty, totally indulgent Butter Pecan Cheesecake! One of these is my current farm crush (hint: it’s not the cheesecake).

I’ve been waiting for a good farming podcast for what feels like a lifetime!! I love to learn and get inspired by other farmers, but until a month ago I couldn’t find a podcast that fit the bill. Books, documentaries, newspaper articles, yes, yes, yes. But I wanted something I could listen to en route to work, on walks with the dogs, in the field! There was the occasional episode on some other podcast that touched on my style of agriculture but these were far and few between.

Enter Chris Blanchard: CSA vegetable farmer, super smart farming consultant, and public speaking wizard. He started a podcast called Farmer to Farmer in early March and I don’t know why I waited so long to listen to it! It’s literally just Chirs and another farmer sitting down for an hour to talk about all different aspects of the farming biz. And even cooler, Chris is from the Midwest and knows a lot of the same farmers and entrepreneurial super stars that I know and he’s interviewing them. My favorite podcast so far was about a woman who lives less than 30 miles from my house. She talked about a group that I am a part of! Yes, Lisa, I’m talking about you!

Thank goodness for farm crushes and cheesecake to help me make it through.
Hope you all are having a better week than me, but even if you’re not, don’t worry! It’s Friday!!!!

All the love in all the world,
-Leek

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BUTTER PECAN CHEESECAKE

Makes 1 perfect and beautiful 9-inch cheesecake
Takes 1 hour, 30 minutes + chilling

Filling:
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3-8 ounce packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
Crust:
1 3/4 cup ground graham crackers
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Heat a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Add pecans and toast slightly until browned and fragrant, 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter and salt immediately. Toss until pecans are coated and butter is melted. Set aside to cool completely. The pecans will absorb the butter as they cool.
Prepare the crust by combining graham crackers, butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl. These ingredients will not come together like a dough but just be sure they are well combined and there are no chunks of brown sugar. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch spring form pan. It will be annoying, just be patient. Press gently, moving up the sides slowly. Place crust in the fridge to chill while preparing the filling. This will help the crust come together and hold strong.
Beat the cream cheese and brown sugar together in a large mixing bowl with the whisk attachment. Start on low until combined, scrape down the whisk, sides and bottom of the bowl and whisk on medium for about a minute until smooth. Add vanilla and whisk again on medium until combined, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on low until well combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom between egg additions. Fold in the now-cooled buttered pecans.
Remove your crust from the fridge. Fill it with filling and bake atop a cookie sheet for 1 hour or until browned on top, puffed and cracked on the sides. It should not jiggle too much when carefully shaken. This took 1 hour and 5 minutes in my oven.
Allow to cool for half an hour and then run a knife around the side of the pan to loose crust. Release pan sides and move to platter. Chill for at least 6 hours.

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