A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to receive a coveted (cue the schoolgirl squeal) invitation to spend the weekend at Camp Wandawega’s 5th-annual “Art Camp” thanks to my talented and generous pal Sage Reed.
Art Camp is organized by the lovely (and also colossally talented) Angela Finney. As official camp counselor, Angela invites a select group of creative folks—painters, designers, illustrators, sculptors, writers, composers, photographers, stylists, builders and musicians—to create, inspire, cook, eat, play and laugh all weekend long. Now, when I use the words “talent” and “creative” here, I’m not embellishing. These are peeps with the kind of gifts that make your jaw drop to the floor. Over. And over.
I had heard so many great things about Art Camp and its campers from Sage, and since Wandawega re-opened almost 10 years ago, I have drooled over articles, bought the book, pinned, bookmarked and sworn numerous times that “I would go to Camp Wandawega someday.” So when Sage asked me to join her, not just for a gals trip to Wandawega, but to THE Art Camp, I just had to drop everything, hop in the car and drive the 11 hours to attend with her.
Upon our arrival, my expectations were exceeded immediately. Every. Single. Detail. Of this place is considered. There are treasures everywhere you turn.
The property is lush, wild and respectfully manicured (juust the right amount to allow nature to do its thing).
Our room. Our room.
Sage signed the two of us up for Saturday morning breakfast duty—we had a great ‘ole time planning a flower-inspired menu that our all-ages-all-diets group of almost 40 folks would enjoy.
Sage was smart and started prepping her recipes before we left for camp. She did some shopping at City Farm in Chicago and, among other beauties, created a scrumptious medley of compotes—apricots, rhubarb, black apricots, lavender, rosewater, peaches, maple, oh my.
I, on the other hand, was too busy recouping from the 11-hour drive and running around her amazing place…
… taking pics and being inspired by her styling super abilities.
So, on Saturday morning at camp, I woke up pretty early and shuffled down to the adorable Wandawega prep kitchen to start my recipes.
The place was so quiet, all I could hear were birds and raindrops. Perfection.
As I baked, stirred, zested and mixed, I was buzzing about all of the sleeping campers who would wake up to a heartfelt breakfast prepared from scratch.
Sharing my food was one way I could say thank you to everyone at Art Camp.
It was quite the spread once Sage and I finally finished (Art Campers are a patient bunch), and we were delighted that campers were so happy with it all (and loading up on seconds see video here).
All weekend we were blushing to the tune of:
“That was seriously one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever eaten.”
“I felt so loved and taken care of with that breakfast.
“We should call that ‘A Princess Breakfast.’”
Of course all of YU were with me in spirit. Since I returned, I’ve been super eager to share my flower-inspired breakfast recipes with you all.
But first, I have to give a few more high fives—the entire weekend was filled with special dinners, lunches, snacks and desserts…
… prepared by beautiful people.
By the end of this special weekend, a few jokes were tossed around that Art Camp should be called “Food Camp.”
I think that’s a pretty good idea. Bravo campers, it was an extraordinary, non-stop display of excellence all around.
Now, for recipes!
Coconut Chia Pudding with Edible Flowers and Fruit Compotes
1. Prepare this recipe here—(I skipped the cashews and water and used canned Thai Coconut Milk instead)
2. For compotes, simply cook 1 cup fresh fruit, 3 tbsp pure water, sweetener of your choice to taste (honey, maple syrup, sucanat) and about 1-2 tsp of fresh herbs or other goodness over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Try some of Sage’s dreamy combinations: black apricot and lavender, maple and peach, or strawberry, rhubarb and rosewater. Serve warm or chilled.
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Homemade Brazil Nut Milk, Hazelnut Milk and Almond Milk
Campers had their pick of these three to pour over some homemade granola. Get the recipes and many more right here.
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Orange Blossom Granola with Toasted/Salted Pepitas
I made this one up on the fly using leftover salted pepitas that my new hero Karen from Roam & Home used when she prepared her stunning farm-style dinner the night before. I started with my favorite granola recipe here and changed it up a bit. I loved it best with homemade hazelnut milk—people were saying that their milk tasted like a Dreamsicle pop by the time they ate up all of their granola. Oh, I agree.
Silicone spatula or large spoon
Unbleached parchment paper
Large glass bowl
Try to buy everything organic. Here’s why.
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (salted and toasted at 350°F for 7 minutes)
1 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped
1 large navel orange
2 1/2 cups raw, rolled oats (look for truly gluten-free if you have a sensitivity)
1 tbsp organic vanilla extract (look for alcohol-free, gluten-free vanilla extract if you have a sensitivity. Or use seeds from organic vanilla bean)
1 tsp pink Himalayan or Celtic sea salt
1/2 cup + 2-3 tbsp orange blossom honey (you can substitute maple syrup or sucanat here)
Orange blossom (a.k.a. orange flower) water
1. Zest large navel oranges and then juice it. Toss juice and zest with 2-3 tbsp wild-harvested honey (or sucanat), 1 tbsp pure water and 1-3 splashes of orange blossom/flower water. Soak overnight.
2. Place zest mixture in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes to cook off some water.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Salt (a pinch or two) and toast pepitas on a parchment-lined baking sheet if you haven’t already.
4. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir well—I like to use my hands to make sure everything is evenly coated.
5. Spread mixture evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet (or two—you want 1/4″ thick granola for baking) and bake for 20-25 minutes.
6. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Enjoy with Almond Chia Yogurt, Chia Pudding, Coconut Kefir, plain as a snack or with Non-Dairy Milks.
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I’m still glowing from Art Camp over a week later. It was so nice to meet new Chicagoans after I had just moved away. And after 16 years as a designer there, finally putting some faces to names and reconnecting/connecting with folks I had seen around the design offices and in my favorite shops, really helped me calm any lingering ChiTown longing. Windy City folk simply can’t be beat.
So, I had a heck of a time trimming this novella down into one post (hey, it’s the best I could do). So if you are as inspired as I am, and want more Wandawega, be sure to check out the Art Camp Instagram feed of photos using hashtag #artcampwandawega…
Watch some vids and read more recaps at Roam & Home…
Oh, and Chicagoans, go to Sushi Dokku, founded by former owners of Sushi Wabi—they made us an incredible sushi feast, complete with veggie options.
Thank YU so much to Sage Reed for the invitation and breakfast magic, to Angela Finney for organizing such a lovely event and to Tereasa, David and Charlie for hosting us all at Camp Wandawega. It was an unforgettable weekend, and I can’t think of a better way to kick off what lies ahead for YumUniverse. Hint, hint… more on that later…
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