Homemade Facial Toner w/ @Tradmedicinals Lavender Chamomile Tea

With my t-shirt outstretched, I collected the basil the Urban Farmer clipped from the plants below me. The smell of the broad, shiny green leaves was intoxicating. A craving for a refreshing lemon-basil sorbet hit me, while I simultaneously wondered how I could drench myself in the scent. Beyond recipe inspiration, the farm has me thinking about the healing and restorative powers of these plants. I’m increasingly interested in how I can treat myself with the very ingredients I’ve weeded and watered, in combination with simple staples. How do I build my own natural apothecary?

Homemade Facial Toner with Lavender Chamomile Tea // www.WithTheGrains.com

Much like heathifying a traditional cake recipe, my goals are to strip away excess ingredients, explore the blank-canvas attributes of a concoction, and in the end, simply feel good about what I’m putting in and on my body. As one who routinely falls asleep on the couch, then raises like some sort of mummy to brush teeth and saunter to bed, I can’t brag about a nightly beauty ritual. Maybe one day I’ll overcome my bedtime resistance, but in the meantime, a facial toner was a great, get-my-toes-wet way to begin exploring DIY apothecary.

Homemade Facial Toner with Lavender Chamomile Tea // www.WithTheGrains.com

The more I learn about Apple Cider Vinegar, the base ingredient for this toner, the more amazed I am, and the more I realize how those bright and shiny, shop shelves, with countless varieties of designed packaging, have steered us away from the basic and the simple. Even the organic shelves leave me wondering, what’s truly essential?

Homemade Facial Toner with Lavender Chamomile Tea // www.WithTheGrains.com

Calm, calm is essential, so I brewed a cup of Chamomile Lavender tea to use in the toner instead of water. The advantage of making this concoction is savoring the benefits of each step. Sip some tea, breathe deeply and inhale the calming vapors, while contemplating the tea’s challenging little message. Traditional Medicinals’ tea collection parallels the lessons and the experiences of the farm, proving how vast and robust plant power is.

Homemade Facial Toner with Lavender Chamomile Tea // www.WithTheGrains.com

I made this toner when the basil was still in its infancy, so I infused my elixir with rosemary, but the aromatic basil has me captivated. Once I devise how to cloak myself in its scent, I’ll report back. For now, give your face a natural tingle and take control of your skincare!

Single-Grain

Happy Experimenting!
-Quelcy

Homemade Facial Toner with Lavender Chamomile Tea
adapted from Tasty Yummies

About This Recipe: Apple Cider Vinegar, in all its potency, is powerful, so play with the strength of the tea and the essential oil to combat the vinegar’s strong scent.  I used 2 tea bags in my initial batch, but I’ll probably use 6-7 next time. The ratio of ACV to filtered water is 1:1, but you can experiment here too and determine what works best for your complexion. I recommend following with coconut oil as a moisturizer.

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Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce & Thoughts for my Dad

From the greeting cards to the gift ideas, Father’s Day tends to err on the side of grilling, golfing, and “man of the family” stereotypes. Perhaps one day, fathers will commonly receive bouquets and mothers will be equally associated with the grill, but in the case of this Father’s Day, I allowed myself to dip into classic gender divides. After all, as a child of the 80s, it was my dad at the grill, and those summer bbq’s are some of my fondest childhood memories. I shared this Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce locally, as gifts for the Urban Farmer’s father and brother, while miles separated me from my own dad.  Though editorial calendars would shame me for a delayed holiday reference, this is real life, and in real life, sometimes you acknowledge birthdays, holidays and worse yet, true feelings, late.

Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce // www.WithTheGrains.com

As the “blessing child” [ie: an “oops baby”], I arrived on this earth significantly later than my siblings, keeping the nest occupied long past its warranty. As a little girl, the age gap was just a number. I had extra attention, more people to read to me and inspire a love of language, more people to take me on adventures and treat me to donuts! As I grew up, the age gap became isolating at times. I felt caught between alliances with my siblings and parents, wanting to defend each. By the time I was in high school, my sisters were settling down and starting families. My parents were grandparents!

Meanwhile, I was a blank slate with an intense need to see the world and carve my identity. I forged a path that took me to various continents, and seeing life through these different lenses changed me dramatically. I returned home a little different each time, a little less relatable. For parents who had literally taken horse-drawn carriages to one-room, country schoolhouses, the divide between our experiences was immense. I tried to remember this, tried to see the world through their eyes, but impatience and fierce independence often convinced me just to distance myself.

Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce // www.WithTheGrains.com

The baby of the family never fully shakes that “baby” role. If I grew up, it meant everyone else was aging too, so it was easier to continue to think of me as young, naive, misguided, weird, in a phase, etc. It was easier just to dismiss my differing opinions, stances I had worked so hard to carve for myself. The woman I had become confused my father more than anyone. Little QT never argued so much. She never objected to his beliefs. It hurt, so we both closed up, and I fled emotionally, until I one day realized, I too was ignoring the passing of time. I risked never saying or hearing the needed words because I was bottling them deep inside me under a stubborn lock. A friend encouraged me to be honest, to seek the exchange I wanted. In one grueling, vulnerable exchange, my father and I bridged generations, mended wounds and slowly moved forward.

Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce // www.WithTheGrains.com

He had wanted me to be tough, to stand on my own two feet, not to need him. He achieved his goal but at the cost of the encouragement a daughter needs every now and then. Had we never confronted our wounds, we both may have let too much time pass and fill with regret. Instead, we were able to sit in a cafe, and I saw and heard what I had so desperately wanted to hear- he loved me and was proud of me. It seemed so simple, but it was everything. For my part, I owed him respect he feared had vanished.

Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce // www.WithTheGrains.com

I wouldn’t be me without my dad. I wouldn’t have big dreams, a head full of ideas and an intense grammar fixation. I wouldn’t respect the farmers, growers and animal tenders without seeing his struggles and his passion. I wouldn’t see neighbors as part of my community if it weren’t for him, or see complete strangers as people who just need a laugh. I wouldn’t believe in the power of people to change if I hadn’t watched him change so dramatically though the years. He coached me to stand alone, but I’m grateful he’s still there wanting to support me.

Ignore clocks, calendars and prescribed days. Ignore your stubborn side because we babies of the family do age, and time does pass. Listen to that friend who tells you to say what’s on your heart. Celebrate a stereotype if it means celebrating your dad. Fire up the grill, and give flowers to your mom. My dad and I are in different states, and we still differ in so many ways, but I like to think we’ll be eating bbq burgers together soon. Part of me, will forever be his little girl.

Single-Grain

-Little QT

Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce

About This Recipe: This is a nuanced bbq sauce, with so many flavors emerging with each bite! Smear it on burgers, or dip sweet potato fries in it. You’ll be tempted to eat it with a spoon! This recipe is intended to make several portions for the sake of gift giving. Reduce it if you’re just making sauce for a bbq, or freeze leftovers. To make it vegan and gluten-free, be sure to buy organic Worcestershire and Liquid Smoke, and double check the labels. I might make this again without Worcestershire, since so many of its ingredients are already part of the sauce. I added the bourbon at the last minute, to retain as much flavor as possible. The residual heat from the sauce should cook out the majority of the alcohol content. I used Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon for an extra special touch!

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Hazelwood Urban Farms CSA Recipe: Radish, Chard & Leafy Greens Pesto (Vegan)

Like a dancer rehearsing tirelessly for a performance, the Urban Farmer has worked and worked for this day. Excitement, jitters, second guesses, strokes of confidence and last minute preparations culminate in today’s performance. Today the Urban Farmer delivers his very first CSA!

Radish-Pesto-by-With-The-Grains

A CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) is the consumer’s way to invest in a farm. It’s a way to support principled farming practices with dollars and cents. It’s a way to share in the highs and lows, the bounties and the dry spells. It’s a means to understanding the seasons, the gambles and if all goes well, it’s a way to understand one of the best gifts of locally grown food: fresh, intense flavor!

Radish Pesto // www.WithTheGrains.com

Much like an Iron Chef challenge, a CSA arrives weekly with surprise ingredients. If your glass is half empty, the lack of choice and control will be a burden. What am I going to do with kohlrabi?! If your glass is half full, the array is a creative challenge and just the motivation you need to break with culinary monotony. Hopefully, you’re the latter.

Radish Pesto // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer could eat radishes (and just about anything from the ground) like grapes, but for many of us, the spicy, bitter and crisp radish is more perplexing. These bright red beauties emerge with a bouquet of greens, which we often overlook, tossing them into compost piles without a second thought. With so many radishes emerging from the field, my creative challenge was to harness more potential from these French Breakfast varieties: enter pesto!

Radish Pesto // www.WithTheGrains.com

In true S.A.T style, when I say “pesto,” your immediate association is probably basil, and the word nerd in me wondered, why is this? Is it a rule? Are pesto and basil inextricably linked?

Radish Pesto // www.WithTheGrains.com

In an intense research effort, I consulted Wikipedia, and I found my excuse to break with basil traditions:

The name [pesto] is the contracted past participle of the Genoese word pestâ (Italian: pestare), which means to pound, to crush, in reference to the original method of preparation, with marble mortar and wooden pestle. The ingredients in a traditionally made pesto are ground with a circular motion of the pestle in the mortar. This same Latin root through Old French also gave rise to the English word pestle.

Radish Pesto // www.WithTheGrains.com

I respect European traditions enough not to assign names sacrilegiously, but Wikipedia permitted me to extend the idea of “pesto” to the ingredients of the very first CSA and fulfill my radish challenge. Whether you’re receiving the Urban Farmer’s very first CSA or a fresh bunch from another farmer, here’s to new ways of using the freshest, local offerings.

Single-Grain

Bon Appétit!
-Quelcy

Radish, Chard & Leafy Greens Pesto

About this Recipe: Crunchy and garlicky, use this farm-fresh pesto wherever you would use the traditional basil version. The chard and large, leafy greens yield far more than their basil equivalents. Whether I used broccoli or cauliflower greens will be determined soon, when more of the vegetable protrudes from the ground. You can use turnip greens, kale or more chard as a substitute if need be. The main objective is just to use as much of the vegetables as possible. I left the texture of my pesto rather coarse, preferring to add more oil based on the application. The thicker consistency works well for these chèvre, back pepper and radish crostini. I skipped the cheese, preferring to add cheese with the application as well. The result is a vegan-friendly pesto with lots of healthy raw nutrients!

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Hazelwood Urban Farms: Know Your Veggies, A Farm Inspired Quiz

Whether it be knowing the proper pronunciation of French delicacies, or extolling “Third Wave” coffee preparations, being a self-proclaimed “foodie” entails a degree of snobbery. I’m guilty as charged. I take  an unreasonable level of pride in my ability to walk through a produce section and identify fruits and vegetables, a talent steeped in the humble beginnings of a high-school, grocery-store, cashiering position. Yet as the saying goes, pride cometh before the fall, and in my case, I ate dirt in the cabbage patch.

Do You Know Your Veggies? // www.WithTheGrains.com

Know Your Veggies, Image One

In an effort to promote the Urban Farmer’s labor of love, I lend a hand on the social media front every now and then. Noting the beauty of the growing kale, I posted a picture to Instagram and then continued to weed and mulch. As we prepared a salad later that night, the Urban Farmer ever so gently told me he had to remove my post. I instantly panicked in that way perfectionists do, waiting to hear what grave faux-pas I had committed. “You wrote ‘kale,’ but you took a picture of cabbage.” So much for grocery store accolades. When it comes to the field, I’m a very humbled newbie.

Do You Know Your Veggies? // www.WithTheGrains.com

Know Your Veggies, Image Two

In the spirit of my ignorance, I thought we’d play a little game and learn together because perhaps, like me, your knowledge of fruits and vegetables prior to their Whole Foods displays is insufficient. Here we go! Hum your own jingle (does it sound vaguely like Jeopardy?), put pencil (more forgiving) to paper, scroll through this post, don’t cheat, and identify these veggies! Answers at the bottom. Bonus points for identifying the weeds too! Hint: one of them is linked to lucid dreaming!

Do You Know Your Veggies? // www.WithTheGrains.com

Know Your Veggies, Image Three

Do You Know Your Veggies? // www.WithTheGrains.com

Know Your Veggies, Image Four

Do You Know Your Veggies? // www.WithTheGrains.com

Know Your Veggies, Image Five

Do You Know Your Veggies? // www.WithTheGrains.com

Know Your Veggies, Image Six

Do You Know Your Veggies? // www.WithTheGrains.com

Know Your Veggies, Image Seven

Do You Know Your Veggies? // www.WithTheGrains.com

Know Your Veggies, Image Eight

Do You Know Your Veggies? // www.WithTheGrains.com

Know Your Veggies, Image Nine

I don’t trust you cheaters, so the answers are after the jump.

Single-Grain

Thanks for playing!
-Quelcy

Hazelwood Urban Farms is the labor of love of my lovethe Urban Farmer. His goal is to bring fresh food to vacant lots in a food desert. My goal is to share his story and find the perfect recipes for his crops. You can follow the farm on Facebook and Instagram, where I may occasionally mis-label vegetables in their infancy.

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Spicy Fried Chicken Fit for a Farmer (The Urban Farmer’s Birthday!)

365+ days ago, I walked into the empty coffeeshop, like so many other days, and I took my place at the counter. On this particular day, the barista ignored me while she toiled laboriously on a green smoothie. I shifted weight from foot to foot, pretended to look at the art on the walls, scanned the perimeter in case I had missed some detail. She continued to blend, I repeated my routine, and the wait grew ever more ridiculous. Finally, a customer emerged from the back room to retrieve the damn smoothie. As I realized who he was, the room suspended in slow motion, but the monarchs fluttered sporadically inside my stomach, and my cheeks surely reddened. Suddenly, that smoothie was my favorite drink on earth. That smoothie was for the Urban Farmer.

Gifts for an Urban Farmer // www.WithTheGrains.com

At that point, we’d only met briefly, but everything my matchmaking friend told me about him made me weak in the knees. This was a serendipitous encounter, while she plotted a significant setup. “Be entertaining. Be charming,” I thought while probably questioning what I was wearing and if my hair and the humidity were collaborating to betray me. I wanted to abandon my laptop and stare into his tan, smoothie-drinking face.

Gifts for an Urban Farmer // www.WithTheGrains.com

As I pretended to focus on my work, the reason I had come to sit in that coffeeshop, I asked if he knew the date. “I do because it’s my birthday. It’s the 12th.” “Happy Birthday!” I exclaimed with too much enthusiasm while etching this date in my mind for the future. On that note, he had to pitch his smoothie cup and depart to meet his dad for beers. His dad. Even that made me swoon.I was left in the coffeeshop, head and heart a happy mess, pretending to regroup and focus with a big, dopey grin stretched on my face from ear to ear.

Gifts for an Urban Farmer // www.WithTheGrains.com

That was a year ago. The coffeeshop cut smoothies from their menu, since they take a ridiculous amount of time to make. However, the monarchs in my stomach, the blushing cheeks, and the dopey grin stretched from ear to ear? Those all still exist! In the year since that chance encounter, our matchmaker friend worked her magic, and lucky, lucky me was able to join this man as he made the transformation from dreamer, to planner, to hands-in-the-soil, legit farmer. It’s a story, it seems, that was destined, little dog and all. Now to get that pony!

Gifts for an Urban Farmer // www.WithTheGrains.com

We brunched, we farmed, and when it came time to eat something special for his birthday dinner, he requested fried chicken, mashed potatoes and whiskey drinks. There was a camera-shy peach tart with notes of whiskey, reminding me some desserts are meant only to be enjoyed with someone special and not blogged. Sorry friends, but I’m sure there’ll be more peach desserts to come, and I hope there will be many more birthdays to come!

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Happy 30th to my Urban Farmer!
-Quelcy

p.s: On a birthday & aging note, I recommend reading this little tale about growing old. It’s best when read while eating Chipotle, but it’s worth reading even without a burrito.

Spicy Fried Chicken fit for a Farmer

About This Recipe: Choose a local, pasture-raised chicken as a farmer-approved foundation for this recipe. The cornmeal crust was golden, crispy and spicy. Since I was using Butt Pucker sauce (from this spicy themed gift), which has visible pepper seeds, I only added a few Tablespoons to the egg mixture. If you’re using a milder sauce, or you really want the heat, add up to a cup. Fry without the guilt by choosing a healthier oil such as organic, non-GMO safflower. It’s the fastest way to a farmer’s heart. It’s helpful to use a fry thermometer to avoid over-heating the oil. The Urban Farmer recommends eating this chicken with a drizzle of Honeysuckle Infused Maple Syrup.

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Gluten Free Pancakes with Honeysuckle Infused Butter & Maple Syrup

Nature is not a procrastinator’s enabler. She moves ever forward, reminding us, we are on her time. We must nurture tiny seeds before the last frost. We must water before the intense heat of the afternoon. We must harvest in due time and then rake leaves over garden beds, blanketing them for the coming cold. She moves in cycles, and we too must move with her, lest our flower beds lay flowerless and our tomato trellises stand tall and barren. Nature is not a procrastinator’s enabler.

Pancakes with Honeysuckle Infused Butter & Maple Syrup  // www.WithTheGrains.com

Last year, I took that notion for granted. Day in, day out, little Julep and I passed bushes brimming with honeysuckle. Their yellows were eye-catching, and their fragrance was intoxicating. Yet, every day, I thought, “Oh, I have to remember to pick these tomorrow.” Finally, “tomorrow” became a sad collection of shriveled flowers, the last exasperated efforts of photosynthesis. I was too late.

Pancakes with Honeysuckle Infused Butter & Maple Syrup  // www.WithTheGrains.com

I vowed not to be so reckless with Mother Nature’s schedule the next year, this year, and I waited expectantly. The Urban Farmer and I stood in his field, digging, weeding, planting, just like the other days of digging, weeding, planting, except on this particular day, there was an incredible smell in the air- sweet and floral. Like a word poised on the tip of the tongue, the fragrance was familiar but still hidden in a hillside of indeterminate green. It wasn’t until walking the same old Julep route, I realized what we had been smelling- honeysuckle in bloom!

Pancakes with Honeysuckle Infused Butter & Maple Syrup  // www.WithTheGrains.com

We walked uphill, under a washed-out, turquoise bridge, turned the bend, and the fragrance greeted us once more. Into the bag of farmers market strawberries and sweet, sweet peaches, we dropped petal after petal. True to my vow, we picked, brainstormed and experimented, and this was the first pass. Much like the first efforts at planting, there are lessons learned and plenty of room for reworking, but as far as turning over procrastination leaves, it was a very good, sweet, honey-laced place to start.

Pancakes with Honeysuckle Infused Butter & Maple Syrup  // www.WithTheGrains.com

If the honeybees and maple trees decided to share the burden of sweetening our breakfasts and teas, if the dairy cow decided to snack from the branches teasing her with sweet smells… these were the magical unions in my head. These were my attempts to harness a wild flower’s aroma.

Honeysuckle Brunch by With The Grains 05

The results were mild but intriguing. They left the tongue and the brain questioning the hints of honey in maple syrup and the faint floral notes in a spread of butter melting down a stack of hotcakes.

Pancakes with Honeysuckle Infused Butter & Maple Syrup  // www.WithTheGrains.com

Pancakes with Honeysuckle Infused Butter & Maple Syrup  // www.WithTheGrains.com

Pancakes with Honeysuckle Infused Butter & Maple Syrup  // www.WithTheGrains.com

Pancakes with Honeysuckle Infused Butter & Maple Syrup  // www.WithTheGrains.com

Pancakes with Honeysuckle Infused Butter & Maple Syrup  // www.WithTheGrains.com

Pancakes with Honeysuckle Infused Butter & Maple Syrup  // www.WithTheGrains.com

I made good on the promise I made to myself and to those blossoming branches at the top of the hill, just beyond the patinaed dome of the beautiful cathedral. There’s still time to experiment further, though not much time. These flowers, the seasons, Mother Nature in general, is a schedule to be embraced without delay. We’ve been spoiled and desensitized by transports of produce and aisles of peaked produce, but the here and the now is trying to harness the scent in the air into our breakfast. How will you use these little yellow gifts?

Single-Grain

Bon Appétit!
-Quelcy

Gluten-Free Pancakes with Honeysuckle Infused Butter & Maple Syrup

About This Recipe: Rare is the occasion you will see me recommend a pre-made mix of any sort, but it seems I have a soft spot when it comes to all natural, gluten-free, pancake mixes. I keep them on hand in case I have a gluten-free guest, but for this Monday morning treat, I went for the ease of the mix, so I could focus on my flower experiments. Rather than buying an assortment of flours, the mix does it all for you! For these round, puffy beauties, I used Pamela’s Pancake & Waffle Mix, which uses sorghum flour and has big hints of vanilla. The honeysuckle infusions are experimental and not precise in the least, so take my “research” as a start, and adjust as you see fit.

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No-Bake Cashew Chocolate Mousse Cake with Fresh Mint (Vegan & Gluten Free)

As a child of the 80s & 90s, I have vivid memories of sticking to the vinyl seats of the non-air-conditioned boat cars my parents drove. We made epic journeys, from humid Pennsylvania to the dry, great plains of Nebraska and South Dakota with the windows down and hot air blasting our permed hair across our faces. One road trip included a flat tire and a long, roadside “hang out,” while we relied on the kindness of a trucker’s CB and awaited a tow truck. The turnpike, in Nebraska, in mid-summer is a hot place to be. So is my kitchen.

No-Bake, Vegan, Chocolate Mousse Cake with Fresh Mint // www.WithTheGrains.com

In the winter, brunch and dinner parties are a necessity. The oven and bodies warm the home, but the summer is another story. I could install an a.c. unit, but a combination of shear laziness and a healthy fear of the unit plummeting, from my third-floor window onto an unsuspecting passerby, leave the magical cooling device in the box.

No-Bake, Vegan, Chocolate Mousse Cake with Fresh Mint // www.WithTheGrains.com

In an effort to entertain friends without baking them, the summer months require creativity in the form of no-bake desserts. After all, a girl should be able to have her chocolate, eat her cake, mingle and not melt into a puddle of humidity. This is the cake for summer!

Single-Grain

Stay cool!
-Quelcy

No-Bake Cashew Chocolate Mousse Cake with Fresh Mint (Vegan & Gluten Free)

About This Recipe: This recipe is easy to make, but if serving guests, be sure to leave yourself enough time to soak the cashews overnight and to allow the cake to set in the freezer. The dates add a fruity note to the crust, and the peanut-butter, banana and cashew filling is like a milkshake. Top with fresh mint for flavor, fragrance and show. This dessert is great for summer gatherings.

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A Baby’s First Birthday Cake: Gluten-Free, Coconut, Banana & Maple Cake

June 2015

When I first began baking in earnest, it was to appease my own sweet tooth with more wholesome ingredients, but I quickly learned, eating desserts alone is selfish and usually wasteful. I began to share my efforts, and the rewards returned tenfold. There’s something magical in the way butter and sugar, flour and eggs, come together into morsels, layers and tiers, how they solidify occasions, brighten days, widen eyes and close mouths in blissful, savory silence. I’ve had the immense privilege of baking a wedding cake for dear friends, baking a birthday cake to send a lady back in time, and most recently, to bake a little one’s very first cake in his lifetime- his very first baked good ever! As a baker, this was perhaps one of my most exciting assignments to date!

A Baby's First Birthday Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

I wish I could remember my first cake experience, how puzzling this new, solid food would be, how it would feel between a minimal set of teeth. As a cake maker, maybe I place too much importance on this “first,” but collectively, maybe we aren’t placing enough importance on a baby’s first cake or young children’s diets in general. It’s all too easy to be lost in a sea of chemically-colored birthday cakes and let that first bite propel him or her to a sugary crash, giving an all new meaning to “it’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.”

A Baby's First Birthday Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

Baby Knox is the Urban Farmer’s nephew, and he’s a lucky little dude. His parents have prioritized his health even before day one. His dad, Dr. Alex, is on a mission to make our notoriously greasy, overweight city a lot healthier. After witnessing his grandfather, and then his father, in hospital beds, he realized he needed to make changes, so his future children would never experience that fear and helplessness. He and his wife Jena own and operate City of Bridges Chiropractic, where they use nutrition and proper spinal care to make major changes in people’s lives. I’ve heard Alex speak publicly, and I’ve met his patients, and the results of his work are truly inspiring!

A Baby's First Birthday Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

Whereas being healthy for his kids was once just a driving idea for Dr. Alex, today it’s a blue-eyed reality. I’ve had the privilege of watching Knox change from a sleeping bundle to a big personality, and as a non-blood relative, I can tell you, he is objectively cute!

A Baby's First Birthday Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

Most recently, this kid has come to LOVE food! Remove an empty plate from his tray, and he’ll throw his head back in utter despair, longing for more bites to savor. So vast is his appetite, Jena has yet to discover his limit. Plate after plate, it’s comforting to observe Knox’s diet and trust everything is helping him grow bigger, stronger and healthier.

A Baby's First Birthday Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

As Knox’s first birthday loomed around the corner, the question of cake arose. Birthdays are celebratory times, deserving of treats and festivities, but does a birthday justify feeding a tiny digestive system new, unhealthy ingredients for the sake of smashing a cake in a photo? No, which is why Alex and Jena asked me if I would make Knox’s FIRST EVER BIRTHDAY CAKE. I was honored, and I of course said yes to such a momentous cake request.

A Baby's First Birthday Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

A baby turning one deserves his or her own cake, so my first thought was a towering layer cake, to which the Urban Farmer laughed and joked, “yeah, his own little ‘Fort Knox.'” The idea was born, and that’s how this little gluten-free, maple-sweetened cake came to be a tiny castle with turrets and a special flag for the birthday boy.

A Baby's First Birthday Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

Watching his chubby fingers fill his cheeks with cake was a pretty memorable moment. Like a king, he lifted his cake bites triumphantly and regarded his camera-wielding subjects with seriousness. He liked it, he really liked it! It’s moments just like these when I am reminded it’s better to bake for others.

A Baby's First Birthday Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

This Fort Knox Cake was a variation on a recipe from Rubies & Radishes, who elaborates why the ingredients in this cake are more fitting for a baby’s introduction to baked goods. If you have a special little one in your life, or even a special older one with dietary sensitivities, preheat your oven and start baking. You have a cake to make!

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Three Cheers for Knox!
-Quelcy

Coconut Flour Maple Banana Cake with Maple Buttercream & Strawberry Sauce

About This Recipe: This recipe bakes a 9-inch layer cake, and it calls for a LOT of eggs. This is not a typo. Coconut flour requires a lot of moisture, which the eggs provide in this cake. If you want to create the Fort Cake I feature, pour the batter in a parchment-lined 9×13 glass baking dish, bake for 40-50 minutes, and use a biscuit cutter to create the circular layers. Cut the turrets from the remaining edges of cake after using the biscuit cutter. Since this buttercream is mostly butter, it can be difficult to work with in hot, humid kitchens (i.e.: my third-floor apartment in spring). Chill in the freezer in between icing layers.

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A Flapper Inspired Red Wine & Raspberry Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Feathers

May 2015

Nostalgia and Wanderlust might be romances cut from the same cloth. Lured by the city I love and the acclaimed director on the bill, I made the effort to see Midnight in Paris in the theater. The scenes absorbed me. In an effort to recall and revel in my time in Paris, I thought of the routes between the landmarks and locations featured in the film. My mind so thoroughly journeyed to Paris, I was disoriented and disappointed to discover Pittsburgh again upon leaving the theater.

A Flapper Inspired Red Wine & Raspberry Chocolate Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

Like me, the film’s protagonist, Gil, is enthralled by Paris. He openly fantasizes about living in the Paris of his dreams- 1920s Paris, when Hemingway, Dalí, Buñuel and Man Ray shared deep thoughts over strong drinks, late into the night.

A Flapper Inspired Red Wine & Raspberry Chocolate Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

Gil’s antithesis in the film, shoots down his nostalgic daydreams, “Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present… the name for this denial is Golden Age Thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one’s living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”

A Flapper Inspired Red Wine & Raspberry Chocolate Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

Though the grass may be greener back in time (sadly, this may literally be true) and the city in the distance may appeal more, there’s something to be said for looking to the past for inspiration and guidance. If looking back in time means respecting the land, respecting each other and engaging more, then why not look to a different time? The advantage of the present is we can pull inspiration from so many pasts and cull together many a lesson learned, but only if we look.

A Flapper Inspired Red Wine & Raspberry Chocolate Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

I was reminded to look toward the past when Heather asked me, “if you could go back to any era, which would you choose?” For her, like Gil, the answer was easy- the 1920s, when ladies dressed exquisitely, smoked and drank rebelliously, and danced into the night. When she asked me to bake her a birthday cake, her request was an unusual one, but one I really enjoyed. In lieu of a flavor preference, she threw a concept at me- “a cake with a flapper attitude would be ideal- social justice, freedom, fun, and stylish (red lips and dancing hips!).”

A Flapper Inspired Red Wine & Raspberry Chocolate Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

If Heather really could go back in time for her birthday, I imagined the parties she’d attend. I imagined her sitting at her vanity, drinking, smoking, putting on makeup and pearls, while chatting with a close friend. I imagined the excitement of selecting the perfect ensemble and the simplicity of a tiny clutch or purse with no need for bulky cell phones. She’d be dancing until her high-heeled feet ached with joy. Photographers would snap her in black and white, and she’d wait, with anticipation, to see the results. Her birthday cake emerged from these visions because cakes, like nostalgia, should inspire our imaginations and transport us!

A Flapper Inspired Red Wine & Raspberry Chocolate Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

There’s nothing wrong with a little Golden Age Thinking and romantic musings every now and then. Where did I finally decide I would go? I’ll save that for another cake and time.

Single-Grain

Here’s to Heather & Conceptual Cakes Requests!
-Quelcy

p.s: However, if I were to travel in time to the 1920s, I imagine I would look like this.

Whole Wheat Red Wine & Raspberry Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache & Chocolate Feathers

About This Recipe: Adding red wine to this whole-wheat chocolate cake was a nod to the lush side of the 1920s. It adds a subtle flavor and moistness to the crumb. This recipe bakes one 7-inch cake, which you can separate into two layers and divide with raspberry jam for a touch of rouge. If you want to make the Chocolate Feathers, follow this tutorial. I made a very reduced simple syrup to help adhere them to the cake, as well as propping them in small slits I cut in the cake’s surface. I made the top design with a paper doily and powdered sugar.

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Follow Me to Hazelwood Urban Farms

Follow me, over stepping stones, in between rows of the most intricate greens I’ve ever seen, where a dog is the happiest she has ever been, and a man digs in the dirt with his hands. Follow me there.

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From too far away, you might miss the labors, the doubts, the intense race against time and elements. From the outside, you might think, “oh how quaint,” or call it a “garden,” but it’s a farm, and he, the farmer, has mentally, emotionally and physically given that plot of land his all. Through heat, humidity, hungry critters, ticks, aching bones and lyme disease, he has given his all, but the results are worthy of a pride like no other.

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“Farming is a hard life. That’s what these rural sociologists were talking about in the start. It’s a hard life, therefore nobody ought to live it. What a remarkable conclusion. There are several steps that are left out. What causes the difficulty? Does freedom come out of it? Does family pride come with it, family coherence? Does some kind of idea of community come with it? Does some kind of idea of stewardship, of essential, irreplaceable, indispensable, stewardship, does that come with it? Do ideas of affection or love or fidelity come with it? The basic question is, how hard would you be willing to work in order to be free?” -Wendell Berry

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The Urban Farmer loves this work, the labor-intensive path to freedom, and on that path, the tomatoes have begun to take their first climb. The hoop house is carpeted with the richest greens. The leaves boast more accent colors than a box of Crayolas.

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We’ve gathered and dined on the farm, enjoying the fruits of collective labors long into the night, while crunching on the mix of bitter, tart and flavorful salad leaves.

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They’re worthy of sketchbooks and canvases, with their array of colors and tightly wrapped textures. I behold vegetables differently here, where very soon, each row will offer a snack for the plucking. He has already been plucking, like a chef fine tuning a dish long before it ever hits the table.

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It’s worth seeing all these beauties up close, to see the efforts behind them. It’s worth the close look at a farm, for later we must take a close look at our recipes, at our plates, at the table we share. Only then can we truly trust and appreciate our food.

Single-Grain

With Tan Lines & Dirty Hands,
Quelcy

Hazelwood Urban Farms is the labor of love of my love, the Urban Farmer. His goal is to bring fresh food to vacant lots in a food desert. My goal is to share his story and find the perfect recipes for his crops. You can now follow more of the farm adventures on Facebook & Instagram too.