My daughter-in-law Kelly is one of my favorite people on this earth. Although she moves fast to get things done, she is never pushy or aggressive about it. She just has a nice lighthearted way of moving things along when they seem stuck in the mud. And fast though she goes at moving things along, she is patient and funny when it’s most needed.
I can’t even count how many times her gentle and fun way of doing things saved the day during my move. When I was packing my clothes, I was convinced they would never fit in the closet space at the new place, and thought I had to take them all off the hangers and roll them up. As I began this task, I started to get overwhelmed. But Kelly showed me the trick of cutting a hole in a big garbage bag, and containing several things on hangers in it. That way the clothes don’t have to be packed and don’t get dirty in transit. “I’ve moved a lot,” she said. “And you can just take them off the hangers there if you need to.”
Boy was I glad I took her suggestion. When I actually began to fill my new closets, I realized most everything on the hangers would fit. And with all the custom built in cubbies and drawers and the ingenious shoe rack, there is even room to spare. So I saved myself a lot of redoing by taking Kelly’s helpful hint.
Once we were over there and trying to set everything up, another small hitch nearly froze me like a bunny in headlights. If I am a bit of a clotheshorse, I am also a bit of an, er, well, spice-horse. Even though I cleared out a whole compost pot full of old ones, I still have many spices that smell good and that feel like an essential part of my kitchen. I tried unsuccessfully about 4 times to come up with a scheme for fitting them in the cupboards located conveniently near the stove. The low point was when the spice turntable I’ve had longer than Mike has been alive finally broke. There were boxes of spices and no way to make them accessible. Why this, after the hoops of the rezone and many other more monumental obstacles I navigated with grace under fire, was the thing that nearly undid me is one of those mysteries of the exhausting maelstrom of a big move.
But Kelly had an idea. “Do you have a big basket?” she asked. “We just need to contain everything that doesn’t fit in the cupboard for now where you can see it.” Suddenly, I knew just the one, a large shallow one with a sturdy handle that had been spirited out to the studio. For many years I’ve dried herbs in it.
I have long used baskets as a way of organizing myself. When I was just a teenager, I redid my own room, painting the walls and all the furniture myself. At that time, my art teacher’s sister, who was an interior decorator, suggested it, and I’ve been playing with baskets to contain my life ever since. So when Kelly reminded me of this strategy, it was like remembering the comfort of an old friend. Thanks to her kind ingenuity, I felt like myself again: playful and even a little festive in the middle of the chaos.
Mike valiantly drove to the mall before they closed to find a replacement for the spice turn table. We all thought it was lovely until we realized it was just ever so slightly too wide to fit in the cupboard. But that didn’t deter him. He got on that smart phone of his and ordered me this stainless steel beauty, which arrived a couple of days ago:
So now, thanks to each of them, I have both high tech and more traditional ways to access the spices that I love in my new kitchen. I have plenty of room for both, and oodles of time to decide where everything will finally end up.
Kelly is not only an expert at creative moving strategies when the pressure is on, she is a very creative and talented vegan cook. So I want to share with you one of her specialties in regular rotation at their own house back in Portland, which we ate here with gusto out on my new deck. Moving is hungry work!
I warn you. These quesadillas are simple enough to put together, but addictive. And they are healthy. Since Kelly made a big batch of filling, I ate them every night for a few nights running after they left. In fact I was so committed to eating them I have only one photo of a partially eaten one to share here. The combinations you could use are endless, but here I’d like to give you Kelly’s classic version, and her ingenious way of baking them. It’s almost a south of the border style panini.
Kelly’s Vegan and Gluten-Free Baked Quesadillas
Kelly is not a measuring kind of cook, so use your best judgment about amounts.
The black beans:
Add one can of beans, one chopped jalapeno, smoked paprika, lime juice and a little vinegar (any kind) and garlic powder. Mash together in a pot or skillet, partially smashing the beans.
About a cup of mushrooms, half a purple onion, a little coconut aminos. Saute together in a small pot until mushrooms and onions are tender.
Cooked sweet potato
greens (any kind)
Preheat oven to moderate heat, about 375
Place corn tortillas on an cookie sheet lined with baking parchment. Spread sweet cooked sweet potato on each tortilla. Add chopped greens. Top with mushrooms, and black beans, spread on top of the sweet potato and greens. Place another corn tortilla on top. Place in the oven, then put a second cookies sheet on top of the quesadillas, to keep them flat. Bake until the tortillas get crispy, maybe 20 minutes. Remove from oven, remove top cookie sheet, and lift quesadillas onto plates with a wide spatula. Serve with salad and salsa and avocado, if desired.
The variations on this can be endless. Use any kind of beans that suit your fancy. If you don’t like or don’t have mushrooms, add your favorite salsa or cilantro. Or cook up some tomatillos. If you have them, chop up fresh garlic scapes for or with the greens (I had some from my share of a CSA I’m sharing with friends and they were a fabulous addition). Or saute the mushrooms in barbecue sauce. It’s up to you. The genius of this is in using the sweet potato as the “cheese” and the second cookie sheet on top to keep the baked quesadilla flat. And I personally think black beans and sweet potato are meant for each other.
Notes: I’m being purposefully vague about oven temperature and time because my new oven is not very exact at telling me how hot it is, so I’ve been winging it. And so did Kelly. But it’s safe to say this works very well in the 350-375 range and that it probably takes between 20 and 30 minutes. If you fill the quesadillas too full, some of it will spill out around the edges. This can create a little sticking to the top cookie sheet, so I avoided that problem by folding the baking parchment over the top, then putting the second cookie sheet on top of that. Practice makes perfect. And this is oh so delicious practice.
Mike likes to laugh at how I jump at the chance to introduce Kelly as my daughter-in-law. It’s true; I’m shamelessly over the moon to claim her as a relative. I didn’t have any girls of my own. But now there’s someone in my life who is perfect for my son, who is beautiful, smart, talented, creative, resourceful, funny, loving, patient, and kind. Who makes me fabulous healthy tasty low fat vegan food whenever I’m with them. Who shares Mike’s and my love of the absurd and quirky. And who’s happy to have my old Barbies, including my grandmother’s rather bizarre handmade Roman Catholic nun outfit for “nun” other than Barbie herself, which Mike nicknamed, appropriately, “Nunie.”
Who wouldn’t want to proclaim that great loving good fortune and shared silliness from the rooftops?