When I parted ways with Top Ramen, its questionably long list of ingredients and its chemical mix of "flavor," I parted ways with this beloved salad, left with only the memories of mom's dinner party menus (dramatic, I know). But when I discovered a Millet Brown Rice Ramen, a light shone from the heavens! I could reunite with a healthier version of the the Ramen Noodle Salad I knew and loved, and now, you can too.
Vegan gravy may seem like an oxymoron, but this mushroom version will appease vegans, vegetarians and carnivores alike, which is why I also recommend it if you want to follow my lead and throw a Biscuit Buffet Brunch. If biscuits feel intimidating, pair this gravy with a whole grain or gluten free pasta or mashed potatoes. The possibilities abound!
The simplicity of these no-bake treats makes them an easy, sweet indulgence for a weekend away from a full kitchen arsenal. The simplicity also makes them a healthy option for those times when the ol' sweet tooth is calling. They're a near instant gratification without the guilt, and they're not a far cry from those raw cookie dough bites stolen when Mom wasn't looking.
Harmony- it's something I have been think about a lot lately. I wish I were preoccupied with harmony musically, but rather, I think about harmony in the sense of differences working together to create something richer, something stronger. I believe there is a sweet spot, a harmonious juncture where nature and modernity could coexist, like the harmony of a sweet and salty sprinkling on a dessert, this dessert- a Vegan Chocolate Tart with Salted Oat Crust.
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.