Fudgesicles by With The Grains 05

Avocado Fudgesicles & @Boydandblair Semifreddo (Vegan)

Avocado Fudgesicles & @Boydandblair Semifreddo (Vegan) // www.WithTheGrains.com

“You can do anything for 20 seconds,” he shouts while leaping up and down like a frog. His springiness is comical, but his ‘give your all’ approach triggers the reserves inside the three people leaping in front of him. I watch this video, over and over again, while I sit and twist my spine. It’s all part of my new chiropractic routine, but that physical trainer’s message started to echo in my head long after I left the doctor’s office.

Avocado Fudgesicles & @Boydandblair Semifreddo (Vegan) // www.WithTheGrains.com

As I write this, I’m snuggled in a flannel and sipping a hot coffee, but my skin is still bronzed, and the forecast insists there will be days of sweaty inactivity. However, these flagship fall temperatures lead to a lot of universal grumblings, “where did summer goooooo?” the protesters wine. “Ugh…. I’m not ready,” they say while wilting into a pile of defeat (myself sadly included). This is the moment, like that last 20 seconds of grueling physical exercise, when we have to dig deep, commit and eek out every last drop of summer we can!

Avocado Fudgesicles & @Boydandblair Semifreddo (Vegan) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Summoning our last summer reserve might mean grilling more hamburgers, finally kayaking on the river, sleeping under a blanket of stars, taking a hike, or quite simply allowing more tan lines to form. It might mean the drive-in movie theater, a picnic on a sunny hillside, a last pencil-dive into the deep end or an impulse sunglasses purchase. Whatever it means for you, when you dig deep and truly try to appreciate this last leg of summer, I hope your plan includes popsicles.

Avocado Fudgesicles & @Boydandblair Semifreddo (Vegan) // www.WithTheGrains.com

In my zeal for homemade, healthified fudgesicles, I went a little overboard, overshooting the capacity of my popsicle molds. Since you can’t have too many fudgesicles, only not enough fudgesicle molds, experimentation mode commenced. Like a middle-aged lunching lady, I grabbed for the vodka bottle. The result is what happens when a Vegan Fudgesicle gets a little sloshy, but in a crowd-pleasing sort of way, not a “miss, we need you to leave” sort of way.

Avocado Fudgesicles & @Boydandblair Semifreddo (Vegan) // www.WithTheGrains.com

As the season begins to turn, let’s all commit to dig a little deeper and relish what’s left of summer. Let’s also agree to stretch our fudgesicle “batter” a little further.

Single-Grain

Here’s to Summer!
-Quelcy

Avocado Fudgesicles & Boyd & Blair Vodka Semifreddo (Vegan)

About This Recipe: I’ve separated the kid-friendly, non-boozy and the after-hours, boozy version into two recipes below for ease of making smaller batches. Essentially, the vodka version is the same, but poured into a loaf pan. You could pour the mixture into popsicle molds as well. I recommend Boyd & Blair Vodka. Not only is it made from high-quality ingredients, but it adds a sweet notes of vanilla. Plus, the vodka keeps the mixture just shy of frozen, resulting in a more spoonable, frozen treat!

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Beet & Beef Burgers w/ Blue Cheese and Roasted Peach & Mint Salsa

Large, umbrella-like lights filled the space where waitstaff would normally scurry, the cords creating their fair share of death traps. Cooking wine filled glasses that would normally contain a fine vintage. An eclectic group of “friends” and “family” gathered around a reclaimed-wood table and awaited instruction on how to hold their forks, glasses and napkins “naturally.”

Roasted Peach Salsa by With The Grains 01

The photographer and camera dangled precariously above the table. Meanwhile, I tweezered and plucked at the plates, fluffing, spritzing and making them ready for their moment in the spotlight. It was the makings of a restaurant ad.

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That restaurant featured in the ad is one of my favorites. The chef, long before “local” was the trendy buzz word to list on a menu, sourced as locally as possible. Yet his octogenarian clientele showed more appreciation for the granite floors and decadent details passed down from restaurant past. The goal of the ad was to outstretch arms and welcome everyone to the restaurant, everyone including kids.

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The child “actor/model” [ie: the art director’s son] was an astute nine-year-old with a palate for fine dining and artisan fermentation. Together, the nine-year-old and I stared at the shelves of house-made pickles in awe. The budding food critic extolled the virtues of that pickle wall and the restaurant’s menu. Being a loyal fan of the menu’s “fancy burger,” I asked for his review.

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“Oh, I haven’t had their burger. It’s good?” he asked sincerely.

“Yeah, it’s one of my favorites in the city, and they rotate the toppings quite a bit,” I responded as if speaking to any foodie in my peer group.

His eyes lit up, and he had an epiphany, “Oooh, I know! What if instead of the ham in the hamburger, you used peaches?”

“Like, peaches in the burger, or grilled on top?”

“Yeah, in it. Instead of the ham.”

“I’m into it,” I said.

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Despite eating a smoked blue fish pâté, pickled scapes and picking at a tartare, the kid had a ways to go in his understanding of hamburgers. However, he was onto something with his peach idea. I really was into it.

Beet Burgers by With The Grains 05

Hamburgers are practically a food group in my own personal pyramid. My stacks of ingredients never make it to the light of day, when photographing and recipe sharing come into play, but for this burger combo, I exercised forethought and willpower. I veered from the petite foodie’s idea of replacing “ham” with peaches. Instead, I opted to stretch the meat further by adding a coarse beet puree or beat meal because although I believe in eating meat from humanely-raised animals, I may still be guilty of eating too much meat.

Roasted Peach Salsa by With The Grains 03

The peaches still came into play, but in the form of a roasted peach and mint salsa topping, making this burger the main course in my Mint Themed Dinner on the Farm. Paired with blue cheese for a salty, creamy contrast, I dare say even the nine-year-old would be impressed!

Beet Burgers by With The Grains 01

I might still toy with the miniature foodie’s ham/hamburger idea. I laugh now, but who knows? That kid could be the next Dan Barber or Peter Meehan. He may be onto something huge!

Single-Grain

Cheers,
Quelcy

p.s: Blue or Bleu? You decide.

Beet & Beef Burgers w/ Blue Cheese and Roasted Peach & Mint Salsa

About This Recipe: Adding beets to your burgers is a way to stretch the meat, eat more seasonal produce, and add a subtle sweetness. The texture is a little closer to a sloppy joe than a beef patty, so use foil when grilling to avoid any loss, or experiment with adding a binder such as eggs and breadcrumbs.

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Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad

The cashier withdrew the receipt he had been pushing towards me. He skimmed it with a puzzled look on his face, searching for an error. “I guess it’s right. I just didn’t expect your order to cost that much money.”

“Consider it my super power,” I responded, grinning through the sinking feeling.

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

As I pulled into the driveway, the neighbor boy dangled from a tree, his summer tan nearly camouflaged by the bark of the shady branches. “Where did you go?” he pried.

“To the grocery store,” I responded in the general direction of the tree.

“That’s all you got?” he asked in disbelief.

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Debby Downer from the adjacent house probably judged me silently behind a curtain, as I schlepped my “meager” quantity of groceries to my third floor abode. Fortunately, the dog was eager to encounter beef cubes and minty sticks, so she put up little protest to my apparent failure.

I get it! I spend a lot of money on food.

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

However, with hormones, GMOs, pesticides and God knows what else being injected in our food, it’s hard not to spend excess money on what should be the simple act of eating and feeding those we love. Thus, I justify these expenses as health insurance or better yet, preventative care.

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Fortunately, this summer’s ingredients have been boosted by the Urban Farmer’s efforts. Contrary to popular belief, we haven’t been swimming in vegetables, with the majority of the harvest making its way to the CSA members. However, late July and August have been kind to us, especially on the juicy tomato front!

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Flowering okra attracted a bee.

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer and I recently hosted friends on the farm, and that Mint Themed Dinner on the Farm was the first time I had to do very little shopping to prepare a meal for a gathering. Not only was it refreshing to celebrate the farm as a beautiful piece of land with a spectacular view of the downtown skyline, but it was refreshing to celebrate all the farm has produced recently like these exquisite beets…

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Each slice into the beets revealed a different fuchsia intensity and pattern worth painterly strokes, but most importantly, roasting revealed a tender, flavorful bite, complemented by smoky sea salt and subtly sweet coconut oil.

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Farm Scenes + Roasted Beet, Cucumber, Mint & Heirloom Tomato Salad // www.WithTheGrains.com

Beets, cucumbers, tomatoes and mint- all from the farm- became one colorful, healthy, flavorful, juicy salad to celebrate the farmers, the fruits of their labors and the height of summer. There were very few groceries, and there was no one critiquing my food-buying habits. It was a win-win scenario. Harvest or hop to the farmers’ market, and snag these beauties while the season allows.

Single-Grain

-Quelcy

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Mint Pesto by With The Grains 01

Farm Fresh Mint Pesto (Vegan & Gluten Free)

I’m not one of those foodies who spends hours in front of The Food Network. My only bond with cooking shows was during my nannying stint in Paris, when I watched to learn more French and inspire my menus. The tv personalities solidified my understanding of the words butter, cream, more butter and more cream. Yet, like a foreigner attempting to swear in a second language, I pretend I have enough understanding to reference the Iron Chef in social settings.

Farm Fresh Mint Pesto (Vegan & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

What [I think] I know is there is a secret ingredient, and several talented chefs must scramble to highlight that ingredient in an out-of-this-world way. My understanding of the rules and personalities stops there, but I do mentally play my own version of this challenge from time to time. In Iron Quelcy (if you will)I select an ingredient to feature in a menu, incorporating that ingredient into each element of the meal, from the cocktails, to the main course, to the dessert. The challenge is for the ingredient to be a common thread through the meal, not an overwhelming, blanketing flavor that in the end feels like eating one big bowl of mush.

Farm Fresh Mint Pesto (Vegan & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

For our most recent dinner on the farm, the star ingredient was mint, which grows rampantly in these parts. Most often associated with sweet leanings, the true brainstorm was using mint in savory ways. First up: Mint Pesto! Akin to a traditional basil pesto, this minty version has kicks of lemon and garlic contrasted by the sweet, cooling mint associations. It pairs well with grilled vegetables (we used eggplant, onions & zucchini), as a crostini spread, or wherever you would typically apply pesto. Give it a whirl, and stay tuned for more results of my self-imposed mint challenge.

Single-Grain

-Quelcy

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A Mint Themed Dinner on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Mint Themed Dinner on the Farm

“What do you do?”

I used to dread this question. I wasn’t fulfilled with how I was spending 40+ hours of my week, nor was I really sure how I would rather be spending 40+ hours of my week. Like a neon sign unplugged after closing time, I wanted to turn off my title, not explain it. Once I dove (head first!) into more creative roles, my title became more complicated, but that whole work-life divide became pleasantly fuzzier.

A Mint Themed Dinner on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

I no longer dreaded the “what do you do?” portion of the conversation, nor did I find myself living for the weekends. I don’t have hump days, and in these summer months, I actually really like Mondays. On Mondays, we harvest and deliver the food for the Urban Farmer’s CSA’s. I can’t say I have my creative, freelancing world completely figured out, but in the very least, I’m pursuing what inspires me. In doing so, I also spend a lot of time with my fella, my dog and a fair bit of sunshine.

A Mint Themed Dinner on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

Wendell Berry, the poet/farmer/writer/activist/academic, observed this “what do you do?” and Monday dread ever so astutely in his book, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food:

“We can say without exaggeration that the present national ambition of the United States is unemployment. People live for quitting time, for weekends, for vacations, and for retirement; moreover, this ambition seems to be classless, as true in the executive suites as on the assembly lines. One works not because the work is necessary, valuable, useful to a desirable end, or because one loves to do it, but only to be able to quit- a condition that a saner time would regard as infernal, a condemnation. This is explained, of course, by the dullness of the work, by the loss of responsibility for, or credit for, or knowledge of the thing made. What can be the status of the working small farmer in a nation whose mottos is a sigh of relief: ‘Thank God It’s Friday’?”

A Mint Themed Dinner on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer once told a group of agriculture enthusiasts, “[Farming] is a lot of work, but I’m fortunate to love the work.” Long after the chairs and people shuffled away, his earnest words lingered in my ear. To see a man live his values, to be a solution to a growing problem, to take pride in his work, to enjoy it, all of it, is rare. I felt immensely privileged to have front row seats to his endeavor, and in watching and participating, I’ve been exposed to a slew of men and women on similarly inspiring paths.

A Mint Themed Dinner on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

Back when the farm rows were freshly formed, and the seeds were still emerging in the hoop house, a group gathered to lend a hand. This particular group, meets regularly to share their efforts and help each other in their respective urban agriculture endeavors. Everyone smiled. Everyone made an effort. Everyone cooperated, took instruction and shared their insights without ego or vanity. It was beautiful!

A Mint Themed Dinner on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

As that volunteer evening progressed, the farm transformed with progress, and I could see a fulfillment in the Urban Farmer’s eyes like I had never seen. As I interacted with all these kind souls, the ones with dirt under their nails and tan lines on their arms, I felt a new sense of community and a motivation to think beyond my own life questions, career insecurities and your typical cocktail of early thirties anxieties. It was on this powerful evening I met Hanna.

A Mint Themed Dinner on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

Hanna Mosca, like the Urban Farmer, doesn’t just work for a paycheck. She works to be part of a solution to the growing problems in our food system. She works to teach kids and adults the importance and the fulfillment of working with our hands, of digging in the dirt and of eating what we grow. She is the Garden Program Director for the YMCA, which means she oversees garden and education programs at four different YMCA’s in Pittsburgh- also a lot of work! I will dive into her role in more detail in a future post (because her work merits a dedicated post!), but for now, suffice it to say, Hanna also takes a lot of pride in her work.

A Mint Themed Dinner on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

It’s very fitting that both Hanna and the Urban Farmer found Sig Figs whose appreciation for food, earnest food, borders on obsession. Hanna’s boyfriend Drew is a food writer, cocktail connoisseur and a farm volunteer. For years, the two of us have been paralleling each other in social and work circles. With so many overlaps and shared interests, it was high time for all of us to celebrate the season and the fruits of the farmers’ labors. It was time to gather together, to dine and to enjoy each other’s company.

A Mint Themed Dinner on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

As the last hose droplets hit the crops, we switched gears to grilling the harvest, toasting cocktails, gathering around a fire as the hot day transitioned to a cool night and simply enjoying the farm. It wouldn’t have been a Quelcy gathering without a theme, so this summer/farm/farmer/food celebration’s menu was an ode to mint!

A Mint Themed Dinner on the Farm

Grilled Eggplant, Onions & Potatoes with Mint Pesto
Cucumber, Tomato, Roasted Beet & Mint Salad with Greek Yogurt
Grilled Beet & Beef Burgers with Roasted Peach & Mint Salsa and Bleu Cheese
Zucchini & Beet Bundt Cake with a Mint Vodka Glaze

Ginger Pear Tea with Lemons & Mint Syrup (and a splash of bourbon)
Mojitos (disguised as Campari) à la Drew

plus a bonus Panzanella because now is the time to celebrate tomatoes!!!

A Mint Themed Dinner on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

We weren’t escaping our work. We were celebrating it, one deliciously minty sip and bite at a time. Stay tuned for recipes from this mint menu and for more on inspiring food growers, movers and shakers.

Single-Grain

Quelcy

PGH Vintage Grand Prix by With The Grains 07

Egg Salad Sandwiches for a Picnic at a Vintage Car Show

Egg Salad Sandwiches for a Picnic at a Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

In addition to the many hats he wears- farmer, beekeeper, graphic designer, photographer, environmentalistthe Urban Farmer also wears a kilt from time to time. Marching and playing the bass drum in the Balmoral Pipe & Drum band is one of the very few activities that motivates my soil-loving fella to wear shoes. These kilt & shoe gigs have made for many a unique weekend adventure to cathedrals, parades, historical festivals, a “Tartan Day” and most recently to the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix.

Egg Salad Sandwiches for a Picnic at a Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix is an annual car show and races right through the winding roads of Schenley Park, one of the city’s valuable green assets. In architecture school, we learned to use perspective and contour lines to translate our drawing professor’s slides (slides!) of Grand Prix automobiles to paper. Aside from the many sketches and hearing the yearly rumble of cars in race mode, I never really explored this massive gathering of car enthusiasts. However, bagpipe performances, vintage cars, and a sunny day in Schenley Park all called for a picnic, so I packed a farm-influenced egg salad, and to the car show I went!

Egg Salad Sandwiches for a Picnic at a Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Strolling through but a small section of the Grand Prix, I gained a new appreciation for these car enthusiasts. I once discounted this annual event as a pompous waste of resources and a flashy display of expensive collections. While I still see elements of excess (i.e.: semi trucks, with more amenities than my apartment, for carting car collections?), I also came to see the celebration of design, quality, old values and the idea of building something to last.

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

I had to quell the judgmental idealist inside me, acknowledge the charitable underpinnings of the event and simply indulge the side of me who believes in nostalgia, tradition and bringing people together. I also indulged the side of me who really just wants to cruise around town in a vintage, red beamer. After all, I am the owner of this beauty, who awaits some much needed love and care this winter (i.e.: when the Urban Farmer puts on his “mechanic” hat).

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

I hadn’t the slightest understanding of the racing rules or categories, but the people and car watching enthralled me. Plus, I may have discovered my spirit animal in this real-life Luigi. Consider this a glimpse of my future, white overalls and all!

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

The engine of this forest green car (above) might be impeccable. It might trace its roots to a pastural English village. I have no idea. I was simply blown away by the leather detail on the spare tire!

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

I went for the bagpipes, the sunshine and the park picnic, but as it turns out, I’m really a sucker for a red, vintage set of wheels. Whether you’re browsing beamers, a flea market, or simply a park on a sunny day, try this egg salad for your next picnic. You’ll revel in some sandwich nostalgia made healthier and more vibrant by farm-fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Single-Grain

Bon Voyage!
-Quelcy

Farm Fresh Egg Salad Sandwiches

About this Recipe: Greek yogurt, dijon and local eggs come together with accents of local celery and sweet peppers. You don’t need to measure anything. Just trust your tastebuds and your eyes to achieve the right flavor, color and texture. Using local celery makes a big difference in flavor, and be sure to include the greens. Pick a flavorful mix of greens for the sandwich such as mustard greens, which add a pleasantly bitter accent, much like a hint of wasabi. For a little sweetness, add a slathering of organic relish to the bread.

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Wine-ing, Dining & Unwinding: Our Staycation at Choderwood

We could have been in Bali. We could have been in Thailand. We could have been in Peru. We could have been anywhere, and that suited me just fine. However, we were in Pittsburgh, hidden from all the familiar sites, soaking up the river views like we never had before. Though we were minutes from home, everything I brought with us was inspired by a trip that existed in the Urban Farmer’s head.

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Before visions of farming fully took over his head space, the Urban Farmer had planned to celebrate his big 3-0 jeeping, surfing and beach bumming from California to Chile. Fortunately for me and for this city, he chose Pennsylvanian soil, instead of white sand, between his toes. To celebrate the travels that will come in due time, and to celebrate our one year of shared time, we escaped to Choderwood. There, the greenery and big expanse of sky encapsulated us, and our minds were free to wander wherever they chose.

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Themes, narratives, and stories fill my head. They guide my menus, my decor, my designs, even my outfits. I forget that not everyone thinks this way, not everyone picks a bottle of wine based on what they would pick if they were in Argentina’s wine country. If you too find yourself arranging bouquets of lavender to transport you to Provence, or hovering over a pot of paneer to try to imagine how a spice market might smell in Mumbai, then the themes guiding our staycation might seem second nature, even intuitive.

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These menus were not my most intricate, and there were no recipes, but should you want to channel some South American dreams of your own, maybe you too will grab a bottle of Malbec and head to a scenic view. Maybe you’ll browse the wine store with confidence as you judge the bottles by their labels alone. Take these ideas as far as you want, and if you’re not the visual, imaginative, theme-driven type (and that’s ok indeed!), maybe you’ll gain a faint glimmer of understanding of what it’s like inside the theme party that is my head.

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These concepts and narratives are jumping off points, and when it comes to unplugging, they’re not meant to be complicated. Ultimately, all the wine-ing, dining and unwinding felt (and should feel) a little like this tune

With your feet on the air and your head on the ground
Try this trick and spin it, yeah
Your head will collapse
But there’s nothing in it
And you’ll ask yourself

Where is my mind? 

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Way out in the water
See it swimmin’

I was swimmin’ in the Caribbean
Animals were hiding behind the rocks
Except the little fish
But they told me, he swears
Tryin’ to talk to me, to me, to me.

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The Urban Farmer found his spirit animal in this black cat, who kneaded his legs and nestled against him. I, however, found him mocking me sarcastically.

Choderwood Pool Antiques

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Afternoon Snack Menu:

Tortilla chips, guacamole & salsa
mango lemonade
snap peas
Guajillo Chili Chocolate Mexicano by Taza

Taza Chocolate

A snack of chips and salsa is surely not the most creative menu I have put together, but I imagined how the Urban Farmer would have worked his way through Mexico, adding spice and heat to everything he ate. In between chili chocolate bites, he would have had his fill of the sweet juicy mangos. Once he ate those mangos and avocados, nothing else would ever compare.

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Choderwood by Quelcy 62

Dinner was an equally simple interpretation- sprouted grain quesadillas with quinoa, corn, grilled chicken, salsa, avocados, a dollop of Greek yogurt and repeated glasses of Argentine wine. The theme was never meant to be an intensive culinary exploreation. With such a changing, dramatic backdrop, simplicity was key.

Choderwood Wine Dinner

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Without phones, projectors or computers, we reveled in the sun vanishing behind an ominous gray sky while playing Twenty Questions. We reveled in a very drastic change of pace that gave way to a morning of peachy tones rendering a brand new scene.

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Impressionist painters would have chased this scene with chaotic brush strokes, but we watched it slowly and blissfully, enjoying the wholesome breakfast that magically appeared at our dock in true B&B fashion.

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Whether we were in Pittsburgh or pretending to be far, far away, whether we were crafting narratives or watching our mind float away with the waves, we were able to enjoy every minute. Time stood still, and we were able to disconnect all the stressful thoughts and just enjoy a river, many trees, fruity notes and spicy bites.

Single-Grain

-Quelcy

Garden Salsa by With The Grains 02

Roasted & Raw Summer Salsa with Farm Fresh Ingredients

There’s a lot of time to think when watering an acre of organic heirloom vegetables. I took a few turns with the hose while the farmer was busy with bees and helping other green thumbs and good hearts. I tried to embrace the effects of the sunshine, forming some sort of mental reserve for the gray winter months ahead, but mostly, my mind just wandered wildly… until I reached the tomatoes. The tomatoes transfixed me.

Roasted & Raw Heirloom Tomato Salsa // www. WithTheGrains.com

If the color green had a smell, it would be the smell of water hitting tomatoes on the vine. As the water arched from the hose and rainbows formed in the mist, that aroma conjured a nostalgic mix of the purest, happiest moments of summers past. BLT’s eaten on the porch swing, my parents in the garden and dinners featuring simple plates of tomato slices were all alive in that scent. That moment was the tip of the tomato iceberg. They were still growing, still sweetening, still changing colors, but shortly thereafter, the tomatoes poured into our kitchen!

Roasted & Raw Heirloom Tomato Salsa // www. WithTheGrains.com

In the height of tomato season, I feel wrong bringing heat to a tomato (or rather, the juicy, sweet, fresh tomatoes never make it to heat, since I eat them like candy). Those reservations, however, change abruptly when staring at wooden crate after wooden crate of tomatoes- 75 lbs of tomatoes to be exact!

Roasted & Raw Heirloom Tomato Salsa // www. WithTheGrains.com

This salsa is a perfect marriage of raw and roasted, where nutrients and flavors mix in each symbiotic scoop of the tortilla chip. The skillet of farm-fresh vegetables intensifies in flavor after roasting, then adds thick, flavorful chunks to a raw tomato puree. If only the American political system could find the unity this salsa achieves!

Roasted & Raw Heirloom Tomato Salsa // www. WithTheGrains.com

Like my mind while watering, this recipe is fluid, and it’s easily changed based on the seasonal offerings. If your garden or farmer’s market is brimming with scallions and red peppers, throw those in the skillet. Peppers are the next flavorful flood, with the Urban Farmer’s rainbow growing richer by the day, so perhaps your version will feature even more chunks of blistered peppers.

Roasted & Raw Heirloom Tomato Salsa // www. WithTheGrains.com

Roasted & Raw Heirloom Tomato Salsa // www. WithTheGrains.com

Roasted & Raw Heirloom Tomato Salsa // www. WithTheGrains.com

Roasted & Raw Heirloom Tomato Salsa // www. WithTheGrains.com

Much like trying to soak up a reserve of sunshine, I thought this salsa might bring us bites of summer when the skies turn gray and cold, but both acts of preservation are proving to be impossible. The combination of corn chips and salsa creates a disappearing act like no other, but perhaps the vines will bestow enough bounty for a second batch.

Single-Grain

¡Buen Provecho!
-Quelcy

Roasted & Raw Garden Fresh Summer Salsa

About this Recipe: Use the images above as a guide for quantities, but feel free to make substitutions for the roasted ingredient choices. Use whatever summer vegetables are in season and abundant. Try green onions instead of yellow, or different hot peppers instead of jalapeño. 

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Peach Ceviche for a South American Inspired Summer Picnic

Much like a baby toddling on two legs for the very first time, the first steps toward a goal are often the heaviest, scariest, most daunting steps of all. However, once that toddler leaves the safety of leaning on the couch or clinging to grown-ups’ legs, that little one erupts with an unstoppable energy.

South American Inspired Picnic by With The Grains 05

My inner perfectionist is like the hesitant toddler, leaning on ideas rather than taking that first scary step towards forward movement. I’m trying to change this, to really try for what I want and risk failing instead of risking regret. I just have to decide to do something, and so many times, I pass that first hurdle only to realize it was never a hurdle at all.

South American Inspired Picnic by With The Grains 06

For so long, I lumped ceviche into the “that seems complicated” category, or the “leave it to the restaurants” category, but as my South American Inspired Picnic approached, I just decided to make ceviche. It turns out, it’s stupidly simple. The recipe practically prepares itself. Though my other ideas and dreams are not as hands-off, there is something to be said for just deciding to make something and taking that first step.

So here’s to plantain scoops of citrusy fish, with bursts of fresh, summer peaches and dreams of owning a venue, of farm events, of pickling classes, of healing gardens, chef dinners and floral crowns…. or whatever dream is keeping you clinging to a couch. Let’s all just go for it (and then remember to nudge each other along the way)!

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Here’s to the first steps!
-Quelcy

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A Staycation at Choderwood, Part II

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

I have been in Pennsylvania more than I have not been in Pennsylvania.

This realization bewilders me. I’ve never really felt like a Pennsylvanian. I feel no allegiance to Pennsylvania. I was born a midwesterner, and though we moved when I was minuscule, my family never embraced Pennsylvania as home. Philadelphia was so close to us, but we fell shy of its strong cultural influences. Instead, my upbringing was set against the cookie-cutter backdrop of suburbia.

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

When is a city your city?

From the burbs, I ventured to college in Pittsburgh, but the university was its own microcosm, a mini globe on a parcel of manicured lawns. Carnegie Mellon, unlike the city,  was very much a part of my identity. Based on time and location, you could call me a Pittsburgher, but this city has always felt more like a backdrop than a fiber of my being. Our values don’t always align. Our ambitions don’t always align, and I surely do not wave a terrible towel.

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

Yet, here I am. I may never feel or claim to be a Pittsburgher, but I’ll take its growing amenities. I’ll sip the finer coffee drinks. I’ll watch the progress, and I’ll occasionally treat myself to the finer food scenes, but ultimately, I just want to carve my own world from its grid. I want to carve a world where nooks and crannies are curated, where the earth and sky feel clean and safe, where the food is always trustworthy, where simple details help me appreciate each passing day. (See why I fell for that Urban Farmer fella?)

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

Steve and Jody Choder did exactly that! They carved out a world, Choderwood, where the city fades away, where the rootless can relish how placeless they feel, where little details await discovery. They carved out a world where the rivers are celebrated and where relaxation enraptures you in minutes. It’s blissful.

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

If you’re looking for a mental, physical and spiritual escape, follow the trail to this dock, and spend a night on this houseboat. It’s a wonderful world unto itself, one that will inspire you, should you, like me, be hoping to carve your own corner.

Single-Grain

-Quelcy