There's no real specifics to these oven baked Thanksgiving Quesadillas. After the more intense Thanksgiving kitchen endeavors, these are all about ease. Follow your current cravings. Swap a sharp cheddar for the camembert. Throw on some shredded turkey or chopped bacon for a meatier take. Roast salted kale for a crunchier contrast. There are so many possibilities!
Thousand Island Dressing is one of those sauces I associate with a Kraft bottle, a long list of mysterious ingredients, a name that indicates nothing about its long list of mysterious ingredients and an unnatural sweetness, but homemade is another story.
Next up: Lunch from my Cabin Menu for Two. Little did I know how fitting this recipe would be for our stay at the Beaverdam Cabin. Founders James “Jimmie” Stoughton and his sister, Louise Maust, were known for their delectable chicken salad sandwiches and angel food cake.
The creeping vine has begun to reveal a bright, blazing red. The blankets linger on the couch in the darkness of the mornings, tossed aside after cuddling in the evening’s chill. Soups and ciders have begun to be appealing again, and the bed has doubled with the thickness of comforters and quilts. It’s fall, but my mind keeps wandering back to the day I played hooky and soaked up the last bit of summer.
When I think back to that day of lounging aimlessly on the shores of Lake Erie, my skin feels warmer. The intense sunlight renders my skin golden, and I brace myself for the stark contrast of the water, an instant chill surmounted only by a quick submersion.
They say “when it rains, it pours,” but in my freelance world lately, “when it rains, it tsunamis” feels more accurate. The beginning of September was the equivalent of hiking to a cliff and seeing a vast, new territory of hurdles and challenges in the distance. As I stared into an overwhelming work load, I did a rare thing- I retreated. I took a day off, and I’ve been trying to channel a bit of that blessed hooky day ever since.
Lake Erie had shamefully been unchecked on my summer bucket list for more than one season. Finally, with fall and work looming, I recruited my partner in bucket list adventures for a day of soft sand, intense sun, a picnic lunch, sneaky whiskey and the type of water antics that leave you coughing and snorting and feeling like a child who just plunged off the diving board.
The picnic menu, like the day itself, was another attempt to soak up the end of summer and put a dent in the pile of harvested zucchinis.
When I finally returned to that precipice, to face the looming projects and more intense work load on the horizon, I tried to embrace the work with gratitude. Though not always successful and definitely guilty of an ugly meltdown, I tried to enjoy the pouring rain of projects. In case I forgot and let my mind slip into stress/frenzy mode, I attached a sticky note reminder near my desk. “Commit to creating joyfully, not stressfully,” wise words from the ever strategic Marie Forleo.
It’d be great if my life included A LOT more beachy days with best friends and wholesome picnics, and part of me will strive for more of those, but more importantly, I’m striving to take that beach day’s in-the-moment-happy vibe with me in my work. I like what I do, and even if I’d like a little more space between projects, I’m still grateful for the spike.
Here’s to sharing summer recipes well into fall, to holding on tightly to hooky days, to picnics with friends and to creating joyfully because it really could be so much worse.
Vietnamese Zoodle Salad with Fragrant Herbs & Peanuts & Zucchini Bánh Mì
About These Recipes: Ideal for that end of summer zucchini pile, these recipes are loose and easily adaptable. Omit the fish sauce in the Zoodle Salad and a vegan mayo in the sandwich for a vegan picnic spread.
2.6 miles is what separates every conceivable expensive, organic product from my kitchen. If my beloved red Vibe were unable to traverse those 2.6 miles, there’s a flight of steep city steps that nearly extends from my curb to a busway, which offers one of the few direct, convenient routes in our public transit system. Since I hate waiting for transportation, I have also walked those 2.6 miles, but it makes returning with a significant stock of groceries a challenge. All that is to say, my path to healthy food is nearly a yellow brick road, and that’s a luxury.
A car and a mere 2.6 miles means we can run to the store when the kibble is but dust at the bottom of the bin. We can make dinner decisions well into the evening. We can be cooking dinner, discover we forgot something and still go to the store. We are fortunate, but others are not so lucky, nor do they have such easy access to wholesome foods.
When the Urban Farmer began his search for land, he sought the obvious factors for optimal growth (south facing, drainage, etc), but he also targeted communities he thought would benefit from an urban farm. The farm’s namesake neighborhood, Hazelwood, had a prime location and a need for fresh, healthy food. The neighborhood fit the “food desert” classification, but that’s changing due to several agricultural initiatives and thanks to one woman with a vision.
Dianne Schenk turned what could have been lofty thesis research on food deserts into a very tangible, seasonal fruit & vegetable stand in a food desert. Then she turned that stand into a year-round brick-and-mortar. Today, she runs Dylamato’s Market, and at long last, the neighbors have easy access to fresh, healthy, affordable food, including the sweet potatoes you see here, in my retake on the classic reuben. It’s not a grocery store, but it is a means to fresh food versus processed or canned goods, and it’s a hard-earned step in the right direction. Here’s to you Dianne!
P.S: That giant ass can of beer paired with the reuben? My fella, the Urban Farmer, designed that label for the fine folks at Round About Brewery. You’ll need a beer that size to keep up with this hearty sandwich!
Sweet Potato Reuben Sandwiches (Vegetarian)
About This Recipe: This isn’t a precise recipe, just a guide for an easy vegetarian reuben. Thousand Island Dressing is the traditional condiment for a reuben, but I broke the rules and mixed homemade ketchup and an organic mayo to create an easy, similar tasting sauce. If I’m not making my own mayo, I recommend Sir Kensington’s Mayonnaise because it’s GMO free and uses a healthy oil (sunflower). If not using a homemade ketchup, be sure to use an organic variety to avoid corn syrup and excess sugar. The sandwich shown does not feature cheese, but I love a cheesy version. For a vegan option, use a non-gmo vegenaise.
Full disclaimer: I am not a sleep specialist (in fact, I’m about as far away from a sleep specialist as one can be), but I venture to claim there are three main types of exhaustion: the good, the bad and the ugly.
The ugly is the deep, bone-numbing exhaustion of sadness, when sleep is a necessity and an escape from reality. Being awake means facing the puffy eyes of sorrow and the horrible waves of realization that the nightmare is real. Bad exhaustion is the run-of-the-mill result of irresponsible bedtime habits, the consequences of a night too thoroughly enjoyed, or giving too much of yourself for someone else’s cause, i.e.: “yeah, I’m going to need you to come in this weekend.”
The good type of exhaustion comes from giving of yourself in a fulfilling way- giving life to an idea that had lodged in the brain long past checkout hours, volunteering for a good cause, making art, etc. Lately, I’ve been exhausted in the good way. I have given my all to projects of the heart while juggling the bill-paying sorts of projects, and I feel proud of that (albeit slightly guilty for neglecting this here blog a tad).
To extend this classification game even further, I argue the same categories describe vegan food. The ugly- I’m looking at you tofurkey! The bad- the general array of over processed products masquerading as processed meats- why fake bologna, why? Seitan plus liquid smoke in NO way equals bacon! NO THANK YOU! The good? Legume and vegetable heavy dishes that leave you in a similar state of disbelief as when you discovered some standard looking white person was Canadian. They fool us every time!
These sloppy joes are the good kind of vegan. They’re healthier than the originals yet still fill you with all the comforts of childhood. After all, slap enough ketchup on something, and it’s sure to rekindle some element of childhood, right? (I’m fairly certain Heinz invented sloppy joes. They’re really just ketchup carriers.) Even though they pack a meaty taste, they don’t feel like imposters in the way fake bacon does, so dig in meat eaters and vegans alike. Then, get some sleep!
Lentil Sloppy Joes (Vegan)
Adapted from truRoots
About This Recipe: Lentils pack enough meaty flavor to make these sloppy joes taste like the real thing. Be sure to use an organic ketchup to avoid corn syrup and excess sugar. This is a good way to use some of those last peppers from the garden.
In addition to the many hats he wears- farmer, beekeeper, graphic designer, photographer, environmentalist– the Urban Farmer also wears a kilt from time to time. Marching and playing the bass drum in the Balmoral Pipe & Drum band is one of the very few activities that motivates my soil-loving fella to wear shoes. These kilt & shoe gigs have made for many a unique weekend adventure to cathedrals, parades, historical festivals, a “Tartan Day” and most recently to the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix.
The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix is an annual car show and races right through the winding roads of Schenley Park, one of the city’s valuable green assets. In architecture school, we learned to use perspective and contour lines to translate our drawing professor’s slides (slides!) of Grand Prix automobiles to paper. Aside from the many sketches and hearing the yearly rumble of cars in race mode, I never really explored this massive gathering of car enthusiasts. However, bagpipe performances, vintage cars, and a sunny day in Schenley Park all called for a picnic, so I packed a farm-influenced egg salad, and to the car show I went!
Strolling through but a small section of the Grand Prix, I gained a new appreciation for these car enthusiasts. I once discounted this annual event as a pompous waste of resources and a flashy display of expensive collections. While I still see elements of excess (i.e.: semi trucks, with more amenities than my apartment, for carting car collections?), I also came to see the celebration of design, quality, old values and the idea of building something to last.
I had to quell the judgmental idealist inside me, acknowledge the charitable underpinnings of the event and simply indulge the side of me who believes in nostalgia, tradition and bringing people together. I also indulged the side of me who really just wants to cruise around town in a vintage, red beamer. After all, I am the owner of this beauty, who awaits some much needed love and care this winter (i.e.: when the Urban Farmer puts on his “mechanic” hat).
I hadn’t the slightest understanding of the racing rules or categories, but the people and car watching enthralled me. Plus, I may have discovered my spirit animal in this real-life Luigi. Consider this a glimpse of my future, white overalls and all!
The engine of this forest green car (above) might be impeccable. It might trace its roots to a pastural English village. I have no idea. I was simply blown away by the leather detail on the spare tire!
I went for the bagpipes, the sunshine and the park picnic, but as it turns out, I’m really a sucker for a red, vintage set of wheels. Whether you’re browsing beamers, a flea market, or simply a park on a sunny day, try this egg salad for your next picnic. You’ll revel in some sandwich nostalgia made healthier and more vibrant by farm-fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Farm Fresh Egg Salad Sandwiches
About this Recipe: Greek yogurt, dijon and local eggs come together with accents of local celery and sweet peppers. You don’t need to measure anything. Just trust your tastebuds and your eyes to achieve the right flavor, color and texture. Using local celery makes a big difference in flavor, and be sure to include the greens. Pick a flavorful mix of greens for the sandwich such as mustard greens, which add a pleasantly bitter accent, much like a hint of wasabi. For a little sweetness, add a slathering of organic relish to the bread.