Pickle Brined Fried Chicken // www.WithTheGrains.com

Pickle Brined Fried Chicken with Whole-Grain Batter

You’re settling into a long-ass flight to Australia. At best, your plan is to watch a few in-flight movies and catch some of those awkward, unfulfilling, neck-craning zzz’s. However, the one truth you hold is that you’ll be disconnected from the world for the next 14+ hours- no wifi, no mindless phone scrolling, no email catch-up sessions. BUT THEN…

Pickle Brined Fried Chicken // www.WithTheGrains.com

Then, the the pilot announces, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are happy to announce we can now offer you wifi access during the flight.” The crowd goes WILD! The seatbelt light flashes, the flight attendants deliver another unappreciated performance, and then… the wifi fails. Suddenly, something no-one had mere minutes ago ushers in a widespread feeling of devastation. 

Pickle Brined Fried Chicken // www.WithTheGrains.com

I stole that anecdote from Tony Robbins because firstly, I have yet to make that flight to Australia (but oh how I long for that journey!), and secondly, because I can’t stop thinking about why he referenced that anecdote (watch his interview here). The name of the game here is “expectations.” They ruin us. We expect too much, and any shortcomings propel us into disappointment.

However, if we approached situations… or life in general with appreciation, the mere reframing can change everything. This does not mean expect nothing and give up. In the interview, Robinson also says we should hold ourselves to higher standards and demand more form ourselves. “Expect Less. Appreciate More. Hold Myself Accountable.” New mantras, left and right!

Pickle Brined Fried Chicken // www.WithTheGrains.com

On the outside, this fried chicken looks like a normal batch of fried chicken, but beneath that crispy, whole-grain crust is the flavor of pickles! It’s an unexpected bonus to this recipe. Keep that pickle brine a secret, and the lack of expectations will lead to extra appreciation from your dinner guests (unless your guests don’t like pickles, in which case, haters gonna hate, and why are you friends in the first place?). The bonus bonus is you can use leftover liquid from store-bought [organic] pickles to make this recipe, so it’s a case of Waste Not, Want Not

Bon Appétit! 

Quelcy Signature

Pickle Brined Fried Chicken with Whole Grain Batter
Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit 
Servings: 6

About This Recipe: Inspired by a sandwich I ate here, this fried chicken has a crunchy, whole grain, batter and a pickle flavor in every bite. As a way to conserve more, I used leftover liquid from a jar of store-bought, organic pickles, but you can also experiment making your own brine. Serve with my Whole Grain Zucchini Cornbread. Plus, it’s fried in a healthier oil, so dig in!

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Introducing "Harvest & Gather" // www.WithTheGrains.com

Introducing… Harvest & Gather, A Dinner Series

I was the girl who was supposed to move, had my dad on the way to pick me up and drive me to Philly, but then, I was the girl who threw such a good going-away party I convinced myself to stay. He was the guy who was wandering the nation in a VW van. He was visiting Pittsburgh, and he wasn’t supposed to stay, but he just didn’t leave. 

Introducing "Harvest & Gather" // www.WithTheGrains.com

I like to think this city pulled us together, that something larger than both of us knew we’d be better together, more balanced together. He takes bold risks, prefers dirt to desks, and shrugs his shoulders at rules, but he also has sky-high ambitions, a selfless attitude and believes farms can save us. I like to feel in control, like to make rules and plan, plan, plan. I’ll obsess over work for others but often put my own nagging dreams on a back burner…that is, until he nudges me. 

Introducing "Harvest & Gather" // www.WithTheGrains.com

For so long, this idea has been stewing. Even the name existed before. “Harvest & Gather,” but the name was wrong before. I used it preemptively, on the wrong partnership. It was meant to be us, describes our passions perfectly. He fills our home with garlic harvests and dreams of dipping his paws in honey like Pooh Bear. I collect plates and dream of farm tables, but both of us care about land, farms and farmers. We care about the real conversations surrounding these topics, and I care about that conversation being wrapped in beauty. Not enough is wrapped in beauty lately. 

Introducing "Harvest & Gather" // www.WithTheGrains.com

So it is, with lots of nudging from the Urban Farmer, we have united around an ampersand. “Harvest & Gather” is anew, and I hope you’ll join us, hope you’ll support our mission and hope you’ll spread the word on our behalf. 

Introducing "Harvest & Gather" // www.WithTheGrains.com

Simply put, Harvest & Gather will be a series of farm dinners. There are more and more farm dinners on the summer lineups these days, and these dinners have their place. I’m grateful for the scenic tables and the way these events have begun to point the conversation toward local, toward the workload, toward the labor of love it takes to plant seeds and tend to them. 

Introducing "Harvest & Gather" // www.WithTheGrains.com

However, what we offer will be different. We’re moving the farm dinners away from the farm, inviting guests to overlooked spaces with transformation potential. We’re calling attention to the aged bones of our city, to the storied layers and the past, through design, food and storytelling. My sentiments for architecture preservation run parallel to my sentiments for farms. There are lessons in bricks and in seeds that we risk losing. 

Introducing "Harvest & Gather" // www.WithTheGrains.com

The underlying theme of the Harvest & Gather series is the idea of transformation. First, we partner with chefs who have transformed the Pittsburgh food scene through their focus on local agriculture. Second, we find venues that are typically unavailable to diners and transform them, through design, into a one-night-only experience, often breathing new life into forgotten spaces. Lastly, the series as a whole narrates the process and reasoning behind transforming blighted, abandoned lots into Hazelwood Urban Farms

Introducing "Harvest & Gather" // www.WithTheGrains.com

Each dinner will narrate a different chapter in the farm’s story: Dirt, Seeds, Pollinators… and so on. We’re partnering with chefs who will find inspiration in compost, in saving seeds, in the impressive organizational behaviors of bees. These thematic explorations result in a deeper, more meaningful connection to the source of our food, and those who transform it. We are reconnecting guests to their yards, their kitchens and their neighbors, one gathering at a time.

Introducing "Harvest & Gather" // www.WithTheGrains.com

And these dinners come at what some might call a hefty price because we need to start paying for quality food and for creative services. I’m not just inviting guests to a dinner, we’re inviting guests to invest in an experience. Just as he pours his heart and soul into the soil, I’ll pour my heart and soul into each theme. The themes may repeat, but the dinners will never be the same. 

Introducing "Harvest & Gather" // www.WithTheGrains.com

Our first dinner is soon! “Dirt: The Foundation.” We’ll start at the beginning, with remediation and health. We’ll share the story of the Urban Farmer’s reconnection to his food, the sources of his inspiration. I’ll share the wild paths my imagination takes when I step into our venue…which will remain secret until the purchase of a ticket

Introducing "Harvest & Gather" // www.WithTheGrains.com

Our first chef, Kevin Sousa, is one who blazed many trails of his own. He put restaurants in questionable neighborhoods. He prioritized design and altered what fine dining looked like in our city. Then he set his sights on food with more meaning, even more accessibility. He’s been humble and gracious in our scheming and truly understands our mission. 

Introducing "Harvest & Gather" // www.WithTheGrains.com

What it boils down to:

Hyper-local, urban ingredients + design + talented chefs

Introducing "Harvest & Gather" // www.WithTheGrains.com

Introducing "Harvest & Gather" // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’ll continue to use With The Grains as my outlet for everything it is, but we also hope you’ll join us on this new venture too, whether from afar, or up close as an attendee

See you soon!

Quelcy Signature

p.s: Special thanks to our photographer for this series, Tom O’Connor

 

Whole Grain Zucchini Cornbread by With The Grains // www.WithTheGrains.com

Whole Grain, Browned Butter, Zucchini Cornbread

Glasses with varying levels of optimism/pessimism litter the surfaces of our apartment, creating a steady morning routine of retrieval. The many water glasses form trails of our attempts to beat the heat, a sip here, melted ice there, a refill, a new glass… until the sink is full, and the cycle repeats. Meanwhile, our little fur-baby leaves pockets of heat on the floor, as she shifts from cool tile, to hallway darkness, to that slight office breeze. Poor little one. It’s hot. It’s humid. It’s summer, and I love it, but none of our apartment situation really makes me scream, “let’s baaaake!” 

Whole Grain Zucchini Cornbread by With The Grains // www.WithTheGrains.com

So for the most part, the oven finds itself on a summer vacation, its energies reserved for quick bursts of pizza-making on busy nights or warming weekend pancakes. However, when it comes to celebrating two years with the love of my life, I brave the heat. On these sorts of summer occasions, the oven and I really set to work! 

Whole Grain Zucchini Cornbread by With The Grains // www.WithTheGrains.com

I don’t just bake, I commit. I turn on a long playlist, I grate, beat, pour, dance, scurry… and “glisten.” I commit because two years is special and because it’s that time of year when zucchinis demand acceptance and creativity because, like the heat, they are part of summer. 

Whole Grain Zucchini Cornbread by With The Grains // www.WithTheGrains.com

Like so many avoided activities, once I start, I just keep going, and bread leads to pie, but that’s another story. My Southern-Inspired Menu called for cornbread, but the season called for zucchini. This bread is both. It’s hearty enough to pair with fried chicken and deviled eggs but sweet enough to slather with butter and honey for breakfast.  

Whole Grain Zucchini Cornbread by With The Grains // www.WithTheGrains.com

Whole Grain Zucchini Cornbread by With The Grains // www.WithTheGrains.com

Whole Grain Zucchini Cornbread by With The Grains // www.WithTheGrains.com

Whole Grain Zucchini Cornbread by With The Grains // www.WithTheGrains.com

Here’s to summer baking!

Quelcy Signature


Whole Grain Browned Butter Zucchini Cornbread
Adapted from Bon Appétit

About this Recipe: Serve this warm with extra butter and honey. Compliments savory dishes or makes a wholesome breakfast. Can be made one day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature or in the refrigerator if you’re apartment, like mine, is hot.

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A Southern-Inspired Menu for our Anniversary Meal

“I knew you must be special,” she said, “because he told me he had a new ‘lady-friend.'” I beamed back at her, like an idiot, imagining the Urban Farmer telling his mama about me. Then I gushed on and on about our first encounters, the butterflies, the impatience, the will in my heart for the universe to make our paths cross because if there’s anyone who understands how special a man he is, it’s his mother. 

A Southern Inspired Menu // www.WithTheGrains.com

Two years! Two years ago we held hands for the first time, as the sky erupted with fireworks (the 4th of July makes for a dramatic anniversary!), and I won his heart with a deep-dish cherry pie. Since then, he told me “I’ve seen you really come into your own,” and I have, but it’s because of him. He makes me a better me. He nudges me toward bolder, braver steps. The many loose threads of my life feel quilted together with him, and we’re forging forward, together, stitching our passions together in more ways than one. 

But first, we celebrated, and it doesn’t take long waltzing around this corner of the web to realize I celebrate love and friendship through food, so we ate well. Cherry pie is becoming a tradition, but each year with a new twist.

My Southern-Inspired Anniversary Menu

Pickle-Brined Whole Grain Fried Chicken
Bánh Mì Deviled Eggs
Whole Grain Zucchini Cornbread
Balsamic Cherry Pie w/ a Whole Grain Basil Flower Crust 

Stay tuned for the recipe posts!  

Cheers,

Quelcy Signature

 

BLM_Letterhead

Hazelwood Urban Farms Season 2 | An Essay

“Hold fast that which is good.”

I used to recite this every Sunday. It was the highly anticipated signal that the sermon had ended. It was the signal that it was time to join my friends for Sunday school, where the seating arrangements were comfier and the lessons more laid back. However, with each passing Sunday, I liked less and less of what I heard. I questioned more, traveled more, saw more, and I eventually left the church. 

Spring at Hazelwood Urban Farms 01

I didn’t like the prayer requests to “defeat ISIS” instead of praying for peace (as if God wanted to choose which side’s body count should be less). I didn’t like my prospects as a female, hinging on that fuzzy line between “you’re not lesser, but the man is the head of the household.” And God forbid that man be attracted to another man! Then he’ll be the death of the family institution!

Spring at Hazelwood Urban Farms 02

I didn’t like the blasé attitude toward environmentalism, as if God would just keep cleaning up our messes (a sentiment better expressed by Louis C.K). I didn’t like the church anymore, didn’t believe in the doctrine anymore, couldn’t stomach the hypocrisy, so I left. I was taught morals didn’t exist beyond the church, but I somehow managed to continue, to live a life rooted in empathy and arguably, a strong moral compass.

Spring at Hazelwood Urban Farms 03

I left the church, but those many Sundays spent reciting that benediction seared those words in my brain. Lately, they have reemerged, but for the first time, the simple beauty of those words is hitting me. “Hold fast that which is good.” It’s because so much isn’t good right now. The mornings bring dark clouds of horrific news. If it’s not a mass murder, it’s a targeted racial one. Facebook brings me to tears as I realize racism is alive and well, and not just in some distant media story, but within my circle of acquaintances, past friends or just beyond my city’s limits. I could cut the ties and block these realities, but then I risk not facing the full extent of the problem.  

Spring at Hazelwood Urban Farms 10

I may not believe in the church or religion (and if you do, that’s ok), but here’s what I do believe:

I believe all lives matter, but right now, that statement isn’t enough because the news shows us otherwise. I believe we, especially as white people, frankly need to cut our shit. We don’t need a campaign that includes us. We are not in jeopardy. We need to value black lives more because we never have. We need to hold ourselves accountable, acknowledge the false assumptions we make, address the ignorance from other white people when we hear it and take every opportunity to educate ourselves. I’m guilty of false assumptions and saying the wrong thing, but I’ve also opened myself to correction. 

Spring at Hazelwood Urban Farms 06

In the meantime, we need to cling desperately to what’s good because it feels so precarious these days. “Hold fast that which is good. Hold fast that which is good. Hold fast that which is good.” I play it over and over in my head, like a broken record. We must cling to whatever small advances we can, lest the weight of it all become too burdensome. (I highly recommend this video in which Marianne Williamson explains how even if we have everything we need, our sadness is still justified because the world is just so heavy right now). 

Spring at Hazelwood Urban Farms 04

The environment, like current race relations, is messy, daunting and heartbreaking, but the work toward good has to begin somewhere and grow- one beehive becomes three, one acre will become six, one set of hands will become many, and one table can nourish in so many ways. Hold fast that which is good. 

Spring at Hazelwood Urban Farms 05

My “good” is the farm, the Urban Farmer, the way a field of vegetables can quiet the world and release the imagination, the way our little dog waits just beyond the beehives, to stay close to us.  

Spring at Hazelwood Urban Farms 09

My good is beauty, is the way words can conjure images, the way the smell of fry oil can transport me to South Dakota, the way flowers can brighten a day, the way design can turn walls and floors into home, and a conversation can turn strangers into neighbors.

Spring at Hazelwood Urban Farms 08

I am holding ever faster to those “good’s” because I believe, as Dostoyevsky said, “The world will be saved by beauty.” I will not deny the privileges my skin color has afforded me. I will not turn a blind eye to what is ugly right now, but I will do my best to put more beauty into the world. 

Spring at Hazelwood Urban Farms 11

Freed from all the other tangled human interpretations of good and bad, the core of the verse really is quite beautiful in its simplicity:

Go forth into the world in peace;
be of good courage;
hold fast that which is good;
render to no one evil for evil;
strengthen the fainthearted;
support the weak;
help the afflicted;
honor all men;
and in this way, love and serve the Lord….

1 Thessalonians 5:13-22

Sincerely,

Quelcy Signature

BLM_Letterhead

 

Gluten Free Strawberry & Nectarine Crisp & A Farm Workday // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Farm Workday with Strawberry Peach Crisp (Gluten Free)

Starting an episode of The Chef’s Table on Netflix somehow initiates a chemical reaction which bonds my molecules to those of the couch (#science). I become glued to the cushions, obsessively committed to consuming as many episodes as I can before my eyes become heavy, the whiskey drinks kick in, and I fall asleep in some unattractive, gangly pose and then have to will every fiber of my being to go to my actual bed. The show inspires me, to say the least.

Gluten Free Strawberry & Nectarine Crisp & A Farm Workday // www.WithTheGrains.com

Aside from the dance of the camera, the insane food creations, the remote jet-setting possibilities, and the heartfelt personal stories, what drew me most in season two was the idea of the “nudge.” A few chefs mentioned a moment when they were hitting their stride, and a voice of reason would say “you’re almost there, but you need _________.” In the case of the self-taught Ana Roš, a food critic friend told her she was getting good, but she’d be great once she started to pull from and appreciate her Slovenian roots. 

Gluten Free Strawberry & Nectarine Crisp & A Farm Workday // www.WithTheGrains.com

The friend’s words stuck with her, and she began to explore her region, visiting cheesemongers in the early morning, when the green mountains were still misty. She began to fish from the crystal blue waters of the Soca River. She began to cherish and preserve her culture through her own creative updates and twists. She set out to be a diplomat, wound up as a chef, and arguably, through hard work, fierce dedication and a little nudge, she became a diplomat for Slovenia nonetheless. 

Gluten Free Strawberry & Nectarine Crisp & A Farm Workday // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’m going to go on a limb here to break that cautionary writing guideline about avoiding the use of “all, none, every, never, etc” to say that all of us need a little nudge sometimes, even those arrogant bastards who were born with enough confidence to try anything and put their names on everything. Even those types need nudges toward greatness sometimes, or I’m just projecting that need because I need a nudge every now and then. 

Gluten Free Strawberry & Nectarine Crisp & A Farm Workday // www.WithTheGrains.com

At any given moment, I have a back burner stewing with ideas for shops, bakeries, retreats, art, workshops, products, illustrations, etc. Whether it’s fear, distraction, not enough hours in the day or a lack of funding, a lot of these ideas just continue to simmer. Sometimes the ideas themselves nudge me, nagging at me, lodging in my head like strikers rallying for their right to exist.   

Gluten Free Strawberry & Nectarine Crisp & A Farm Workday // www.WithTheGrains.com

But other times, a lot of times, it’s this guy… The Urban Farmer.

Gluten Free Strawberry & Nectarine Crisp & A Farm Workday // www.WithTheGrains.com

Beets, barefoot, beer-drinking… all the B’s to describe The Urban Farmer in a nutshell

He’s braver and bolder than I am. He’s willing to tackle anything, committed to figuring it out along the way, even if he has never tackled it before. When I hem and haw with the typical doubts and insecurities of a perfectionist, he is my nudge. “Nah, just do it,” he’ll say, and more importantly, he really believes I can just do it. 

Gluten Free Strawberry & Nectarine Crisp & A Farm Workday // www.WithTheGrains.com

Nudge and support, nudge and support. It’s an important combination, so rare to find in a partner, and day by day, we’re becoming partners in more ways than one, scheming and brainstorming and creating together. I’m so excited for what’s in store, even if I’m not yet ready to broadcast those ideas to the far reaches of the internet. 

Gluten Free Strawberry & Nectarine Crisp & A Farm Workday // www.WithTheGrains.com

Yet, even the boldest, bravest nudger occasionally needs a nudge himself, so when the Urban Farmer turned the big ol’ 3-1 this year, we gathered to weed, to mulch, to compost, to dig and to dine. We gathered to nudge him along, to encourage his efforts, trying as those farming efforts can be. And my gift for him?

Gluten Free Strawberry & Nectarine Crisp & A Farm Workday // www.WithTheGrains.com

A peach tree. I gave him a peach tree because a tree is an investment, a living, growing symbol that I believe in his vision, his labors and perhaps the biggest testament to my faith in him- I believe he’ll overcome city bureaucracies and get his name on the land, and one day, his farm will grow and grow and all of it will officially be his. On that day, I’ll make this crisp with farm-fresh peaches and muddle even more of those peaches into whiskey drinks, and I’ll raise a glass to him, my constant nudger and supporter! 

Here’s to the Urban Farmer, the birthday boy! And here’s to many, MANY more birthdays by his side!

Quelcy Signature


Strawberry Peach Crisp (Gluten Free)

About this Recipe: A great way to feed a group at the last minute, this crisp takes advantage of gluten-free muesli to add extra fruit, nuts and seeds to the crisp layer. Alternately, you could use gluten-free oats. Serve with homemade whipped cream or an all natural vanilla bean ice cream if you’re near a fridge/freezer, but for farm/outdoor gatherings, this crowd-pleaser dessert is sweet enough on its own. 

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Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

Peach Whiskey Spelt Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches

Several years ago, I stood in awe, taking in the brand newness of Wigle Whiskey in its infancy. “Try this!” the owner said, as he stood in front of the shimmering new copper still.  I dipped my finger under the slow drip and eagerly plunged my finger into my mouth, expecting that caramel-like, oak-aged flavor.

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

The wrongness of my false assumption hit me immediately. I tried to regain the composure I had surely lost.  Today, that clear liquid has character, a deep amber color and the oak notes that tickle the nose and throat with a little heat. Today it is whiskey, but then, it tasted like I had licked a raw grain like a popsicleWhiskey takes time, so much time and care.

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

I imagine parenting to be something like the smack of wheat that hit me when I was expecting maturity. A man might look at a baby bundle of little girl and expect his daughter to carry his belief systems, not to challenge him on everything, to grow up, choose a career path, follow that path and maybe settle down. But then reality hits like a drip from a still, and it’s dreadlocks, a tattoo, a wandering spirit, what some might call a restlessness and others would call curiosity. She’s opinionated, stubborn, a dreamer and a risk taker. 

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

I imagine parenting to be something like the smack of wheat that hit me when I was expecting amber, oaky flavor. The process requires time, patience and a good deal of faith. I’m eternally grateful my parents put trust in the process, allowing me to carve my own path, supporting me along the way.  

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

My dad is not a whiskey drinker, but I am. It’s just one of our many differences. However, the spirit is symbolic of our relationship. I was the surprise smack of wheat, but he was the one who aged well, who changed the most. He opened up, made himself vulnerable and supported me fully. When people say “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” I grab a frisbee because my dad has changed more than anyone I know, and I am immensely proud of him for that.  

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’m far away and belated (as always), but this is my Father’s Day dedication to my dad. Here’s to the man who placed me in front of a bull and believed I could herd that bull where I wanted him to go. Here’s to the man who handed me big ol’ truck keys long before the state would allow. Here’s to the man who cheered for me from every sideline and from every awards ceremony and then hauled me to my dream school. 

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

Here’s to the man who reads my articles on glorified tea parties because they are my articles on glorified tea parties. But above all, here’s to the man who has wept with me when I needed him to, who shed stereotypes to be sensitive, who tells me he is proud of me and loves me. He made me tough, but he made me sensitive too.

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

This whiskey cake was for the local dads- the one who raised my Urban Farmer and the one who made that father a grandfather. It’s a cake for the way they melt around the new grand baby, the way they rally to build deck steps, the way they show up and support everything farm related. Here’s a belated ode to my dad, my local dads and to those who act like dads everyday. It’s not an easy role. It’s full of smacks to the face, and not everyone steps up to the plate, but to those who do, I salute you in the only way I know how- through cake! 

Quelcy Signature


Peach Whiskey Spelt Cake

About this Recipe: The cake batter will be very wet, but it yields a moist cake with a rich molasses flavor and a hint of whiskey. While the cakes cool, prepare the caramelized peaches, then the caramel and then the whipped cream. The recipe looks intimidating because of the many steps, but the whole cake comes together rather quickly. The alcohol in the cake bakes out, but the whipped cream will maintain the alcohol content, so this cake is not for younger eaters.

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A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Gluten Free @Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday

Grown ups have this silly habit of guessing kids’ trajectories. “Oh, he is kicking in the womb. I bet he’ll be an Olympic swimmer!” or “She loves to pull the dog’s tail. She is destined to be a veterinarian!” These projections are entertaining and optimistic, and at the root, is a wealth of good intention- a wish for a future filled with health, happiness and success. Who wouldn’t want their kid or their nephew to claim the gold in the butterfly? 

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

Watching a kid go from a sleeping, eating, crying bundle of spit-up and poop, to a blabbering, gesticulating little person with personality and taste is a fascinating journey. A birthday is a good reminder to stop the college and career planning to simply enjoy that little personality exactly where he or she is because damn, if those years don’t fly!

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer’s nephew, Knox, was a little bundle when I entered the scene. He had skinny Kermit-the-frog legs that could barely hold up baby socks, big blue eyes and a constant flock of family ready and waiting to hold him. That same family welcomed me with open arms and a new title- “Aunt Q.” They’re good people, and I fell for the whole lot of them like I fell for the Urban Farmer. They’re the best package deal a girl could ask for!

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’ve been along for the ride ever since, watching those little Kermie legs transition to an impressively swift army crawl, a teetering balancing act and now, an exaggerated run with arms swinging and chubby legs doing their best.  

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

Somehow, all those transitions have added up to two years! For two years, I’ve watched this little bundle develop a love, nay, a LOVE!!!! for food, and not the expected rotation of fruit snacks and brightly colored “fruit drinks.” This kid LOVES avocados, peas, sweet potatoes, eggs, power-green smoothies and QUINOA! He’s proof that kids will eat well if you train them well. He is happy and healthy and if you so much as try to take away his veggies, so help you, you will hear about it!

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

Second only to his love of food, is his unwavering love for “pappy,” both the person, and his grandfather’s vehicle. The kid is obsessed with Jeeps (though not obsessed enough to identify the vehicles by their make… words kind of bore him, but “pappy” is a more endearing name than Jeep anyway)! 

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

So here we are, two years old, passionate for food and jeeps, or food and “pappies,” accompanied by “woof woofs” and trailed by a “sissy,” surrounded by a family who couldn’t be more in love with those cheeks or more concerned with his wellbeing. I had the extreme privilege of baking the kiddo’s birthday cake (for the second time)! I had another chance to prove that a kid can be healthy and have his cake too because birthdays are worth celebrating!

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer and his nephew. The only type of dirt he likes is edible chocolate quinoa cake dirt.

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

Those Pattison boys, am I right?!?

Kudos to these parents, Jena and Alex because not enough parents prioritize their kids the way these two do, and beyond that, they’re just selfless folks. They make one beautiful family inside and out…

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

While I’m trying hard to appreciate the here and now of Knox, Remi June and life in general, I’m secretly hoping Knox’s passion for food continues to flourish. Once he has words, we’ll have so much to talk about, and I could use an assistant!

For now, at least, we both agree, life without cake be like…

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

It was his party, after all.

Happy Birthday Lil’ Knox. Your birthday is one of my favorite cake assignments each year, and I’m grateful to be along for the ride!

Quelcy Signature

aka, “Aunt Q.”

A Jeep Themed Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake for a 2nd Birthday // www.WithTheGrains.com

“Happy Trails!” Knox’s mom added so many Jeep details to make his day extra special!

Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake (gluten-free) w/ Whipped Chocolate Coconut Frosting
Adapted from Making Thyme for Health

About this Recipe: No one will know there is quinoa in each bite until you tell them. You can make the quinoa ahead of time. The recipe yields a 9×13 rectangular cake or (2) 8-inch round layers. To create the Jeep themed cake, I doubled the recipe and baked larger sheet cakes and sculpted them together with the frosting. The larger sheet cakes bake for less time, 20-25 minutes. The coconut milk for the frosting should ideally be chilled overnight. I recommend So Delicious brand culinary milk because it has more of the cream.

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CraftsDraftsPoster

Hazelwood Urban Farms Season 2 | Spring Seedling Update

Hazelwood Urban Farms Season 2 | Spring Seedling Update // www.WithTheGrains.com

My recent lean toward the hermit side of the social butterfly spectrum leads me to believe I have it in me to be a country mouse. My one requirement, however, would be a good espresso machine because I love me a steamed milk beverage and coffee shop hang! The urban farm, should we one day be able to live on it, has the potential to be the best of both worlds- proximity to city amenities with a fair bit of green buffering. As it turns out, our proximity to coffee shops is good for more than just my snobby caffeine habits. 

Hazelwood Urban Farms Season 2 | Spring Seedling Update // www.WithTheGrains.com

Compost compost compost!

The very first step the Urban Farmer took to launch his urban farm dream was to get to work on the soil, and that means composting! If there is one idea he constantly stresses it’s that health begins in the soil! Healthy soil = healthy plants = healthy food! (He had his work cut out for him. Remember what the farm looked like way back when?) To accelerate the composting process, he reached out to several local breweries, coffee shops and restaurants and began the weekly cycle of picking up spent grains, grounds and scraps to convert into nutrient-rich compost. 

Hazelwood Urban Farms Season 2 | Spring Seedling Update // www.WithTheGrains.com

Since the beginning, the Urban Farmer estimates he has diverted 30,000 gallons of waste from landfills and converted it to compost for the crops. Imagine if there were more of him! Imagine if every city dweller with a yard or every community with a shred of green space banded together and worked on their own composting efforts! (These are the scenarios that keep us up at night.)

Hazelwood Urban Farms Season 2 | Spring Seedling Update // www.WithTheGrains.com

Julep, the urban farm dog extraordinaire!

The other lady who gets really excited about compost? ^That one there!^ In between groundhog hunts and butterfly chases, she tries to sneak some bites, so we always have to keep one eye on her. 

Hazelwood Urban Farms Season 2 | Spring Seedling Update // www.WithTheGrains.com

The first season of garlic on the farm.

To emphasize the community aspect and the cycle of waste-to-compost, we did something brand new this year: Seedling Sales! The first seedling sale was at Commonplace Coffee in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Coffee grounds from the shop contributed to the compost that nurtured the very seedlings we were selling. Full cycle! 

My Commonplace Drink of Choice: Lavender Vanilla Latte (their syrups are made in house)

Hazelwood Urban Farms Season 2 | Spring Seedling Update // www.WithTheGrains.com

My favorite customer was the little girl in neon seen here strolling toward the stand. She so adamantly wanted a plant of her own and ever so politely listened to the Urban Farmer ask her whether she wanted a pickling or a slicing cucumber variety. To see a child be that excited over a plant that yields a vegetable was so inspiring. Grownups always want to blame kids for their junk food habits, but if you plant the right seeds, this girl was proof that vegetables and green activities can and will prevail! 

Hazelwood Urban Farms Season 2 | Spring Seedling Update // www.WithTheGrains.com

Hazelwood Urban Farms Season 2 | Spring Seedling Update // www.WithTheGrains.com

Working hard, slinging plants.

Up Next…

Hazelwood Urban Farms Season 2 | Spring Seedling Update // www.WithTheGrains.com

Seedling Sale #2 was at Caffè D’Amore in the Lawrenceville neighborhood, another contributor to the compost heaps.

Caffè D’Amore Drink of Choice: Ancho Mocha (spice + chocolate helped fight off the chilly gray spring day)

Hazelwood Urban Farms Season 2 | Spring Seedling Update // www.WithTheGrains.com

Hazelwood Urban Farms Season 2 | Spring Seedling Update // www.WithTheGrains.com

Up Next: A Seedling Sale at East End Brewery as part of Crafts and Drafts

Hazelwood Urban Farms Season 2 | Spring Seedling Update // www.WithTheGrains.com

Crafts & Drafts Poster by Matthew Bucholtz.

The victory garden era ensemble really inspired me, as you can see:

Hazelwood Urban Farms Season 2 | Spring Seedling Update // www.WithTheGrains.com

Hazelwood Urban Farms Season 2 | Spring Seedling Update // www.WithTheGrains.com

East End Brewery Drink(s) of Choice: Chocolate Covered Cherry Stout (for indulgent sipping), and Along Came a Cider (for hanging out)

Hazelwood Urban Farms Season 2 | Spring Seedling Update // www.WithTheGrains.com

Employees of Funk // www.WithTheGrains.com

Spirited jams provided by the Employees of Funk. Nothing keeps a girl jamming at her plant stand like a funky cover of “Africa.”

Hazelwood Urban Farms Season 2 | Spring Seedling Update // www.WithTheGrains.com

Whatever didn’t sell, the Urban Farmer has tucked into the ground, and soon enough, he’ll harvest it for a local restaurant or two (a change from last year’s CSA model). Pun fully intended when I say these seedling sales were a symbol of growth. Without the initial hurdles of clearing land, planning rows and building a hoop house, the Urban Farmer was able to start his seedlings much earlier, which enabled this economic experiment. 

Hazelwood Urban Farms Season 2 | Spring Seedling Update // www.WithTheGrains.com

These humble plant stands represented progress and the community connection the Urban Farmer has always aimed to achieve. The smell of the tomato seedlings takes me back to last year’s harvest days, and I can’t wait to have sweet tomato juice dripping off my chin and fingers. 

Time to get weeding (& sipping an iced latte)!

Quelcy Signature

Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake with Grapefruit Frosting & A Living Succulent // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Lemon Recipe Roundup

To quote the good folks at Commonwealth Press:

“When life gives you lemons, eat them whole. Seriously. Just choke them all down… skin, pulp, seeds and all and don’t break eye contact. Maybe life will stop being such an asshole if you show it that you’re done f&$#king around.”

If that doesn’t work, zest and bake those suckers!

Lemon Recipe Roundup // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’ve been on a lemon track lately. In case you missed it, here are some of my recent lemon musings:

Lemon Blueberry Breakfast Quinoa (Gluten Free & Vegan)
Lemon Bars (Gluten Free)
Desert-Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Layer Cake 
Lemon Blueberry Quinoa Waffles

Go show life who’s boss!

Quelcy Signature