The core of this recipe trio is honey. Supporting beekeeping is good for the bees, and honey is better for you than sugar. The Earl Grey flavor is subtle, so play with the tea quantities if you want a stronger bergamot flavor. These are all loose guides, so follow your palate and instincts. The Earl Grey Honey Simple Syrup really shines when paired with Prosecco or Champagne.
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 beauty of this big batch of Whole Grain Pancake Mix is it eliminates a few steps between lazy morning snoozing and syrup pools, the two key parts of a successful weekend morning. This pantry stockpile is also a great head start for brunch entertaining. I even went on "Pittsburgh Today Live" to whip up a stack.
He pushed his hands against the table, and his chair slid backward, as if the growing space between him and the table would somehow create more room in his stomach. “I guess it didn’t help that we started the day with champagne,” he said, explaining the slowed pace of his Thanksgiving consumption.
“Why did you have champagne?” his older brother asked.
“Because we don’t have kids.”
“We should drink champagne more,” he said to me, and I couldn’t have agreed more.
Yeah, we are that Uncle and Aunt- the childless kind who can still relish simple luxuries like sleeping in and toasting champagne for breakfast… if you call “noon” breakfast, and on Thanksgiving, we do! (The Urban Farmer is also the kind of uncle who believes someone has to torture the youngins, a role he fills diligently.)
Our Thanksgiving morning was a very intentionally slow morning that eased into a brunch just for us… with champagne. Being that 2016 has kept me on my toes, when a sanctioned day-off hits me, I am all too happy to kick up my feet.
As the sort of basket case that leans toward the side of “do, do, do, make, make, make, go, go, go… stress, stress, stress,” doing nothing is not my best skill. The Urban Farmer, however, has a very healthy attitude toward “couch days.” During the season of gratitude, I found myself truly relishing those times when man, pup and I can nestle into nothing.
I try to push the bounds of my gratitude, to see beyond the obvious. Yes, I am grateful for the roof over my head, for creative work, for a family who loves me and an admirable partner, but I’m also grateful for hot showers at my fancy, for growing up routinely celebrating my birthday with parties, for having real options for my education even if money was tight. But sometimes, it’s really soul-warming just to sit on a couch, sip champagne, watch a creepy show and relish that guy who thinks I’m special, all while snuggling the furry bundle of love who holds no grudges and wants to please us all the time. Those little nothing moments are in fact everything moments.
So we relished the morning and its lack of responsibilities. I played with flowers to gift his grandmother, and we brunched in our pajamas. Then I gladly sat at a table for which I had to do zero work. I ate way too much, then refilled my plate because gravy overrides reason.
Then there was round two- another side of the family, more plates, more refills, still no responsibilities and in the end, a game of name-that-hummed-tune and charades that made my face hurt from laughing so hard. Have a grown man do a t-Rex impression and then hum “Ring My Bell” while you try to guess what on earth he could possibly be channeling. It makes for a night to remember!
Thanksgiving put me into such a mellow state. Between that lingering food coma and the subsequent gray rainy days, I’m having a hard time bouncing back in full force. These crepes are not only a good way to use leftover stores from Thanksgiving (extra cans of pumpkin and cranberries?), but they offer a way to indulge in a weekend morning and extend that Thanksgiving laziness feeling. Eat brunch in your pajamas. Watch a creepy show. Cuddle your significant other and/or furry companion(s), and be grateful for the nothingness of it all.
Pumpkin Crepes with Cranberry Sauce, Walnuts & Pumpkin Whipped Cream
Adapted from Carlsbad Cravings
About this Recipe: Holiday shopping surely left an extra scoop of pumpkin puree or a stockpile of cans of cranberries, so use them up in one seasonal inspired brunch. Add a dollop of the whipped cream to your coffee, and serve the whole brunch with a bottle of bubbly! It’s not pictured, but I also recommend a healthy slathering of Nocciolata on these crepes. Chocolate-hazelnut, pumpkin and cranberries are a seasonal match made in heaven.
I felt as though I had found fall.
There she was! Peeking through the tall, green trees, her flames blazed against the bright, blue sky. I was far away from the city (as evidenced by the changes in political fervor), where the trees were still clinging to their youthful summer glow. My little red car, packed to the brim with Nordic sweaters, enamel plates and a menu fit for a cabin weekend, zipped along the winding roads to a shoot location. Yet at that moment, I inched along the road, leaning into my steering wheel and staring as high into my windshield as I could. There was fall!
My “day job(s)” have taken me farther and wider this season, to that cabin in the woods, to a magical old building with chipping paint, where I tossed a scavenged collection of branches and leaves, to the beach with a rosé dipped sunset. Each time, I tried to slow down enough to enjoy at least one little moment, in which I removed my head from the time checks and just inhaled the landscape, the season and the little journeys. It’s not easy, especially when the darkness begins to cloak the creaky trees, sending my imagination wildly into scenes from Stranger Things, but I tried then too.
It’s a time of year when we turn to spices, and pumpkins, and lattes that pretend to include both, in order to be in this season, to savor it slowly in the first hints of crisp fall air, but arguably, we should turn to honey.
Those mystifying, inspiring honey bees, who we as a society have taken for granted enough to push them to the verge of endangerment, are masters in capturing the essence of the season. From the same plot of land, their routines yield honeys so incomprehensibly different. This fall’s honey, is thicker, the sweetness intensifying as it rolls across the tongue ever so slowly, as if to say, savor the lingering golden light, the warmth and the bold colors.
No matter the season, nothing puts me quite in the moment like the combination of sweet and savory, so these Honey Sage drenched Biscuits are just that- sweet, savory odes to fall.
If you’re feeling particularly neighborly or generous, make extra Honey Sage Syrup and give the gift of fall to someone dear. When the biscuits are but mere crumbs, add the syrup to your evening bourbon drink with a fresh sage leaf garnish and really sink into the early sunset.
Whole Grain Apple Butter Parmesan Biscuits
Yield: ~ 12 biscuits
About this Recipe: Sweet enough to eat with breakfast or tea, savory enough to pair with roasted root vegetables and meats or warm butternut squash soups.
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.