Roasted Corn Summer Salad

Few ingredients inspire a love-hate relationship in me the way corn does. As a Nebraska-born girl, I feel a certain ingrained allegiance to corn- its sweetness, its bright, golden hue, its utilitarian cob, the accoutrements (corn-contoured butter dispensers, prongs, etc) and the way biting into an ear of corn makes summer just feel like summer. As a sustainability advocate, I resent the way corn came to dominate the landscape, reduce crop varieties, deplete soil minerals and become a secret, sugary ingredient in just about everything! In the spirit of summer and positive reinforcement though, this is an ode to my love of corn.

South American Inspired Picnic by With The Grains 09

Roasting intensifies the corn’s innate sweetness. Paired with juicy grape tomatoes, spicy radishes, creamy avocados, hot peppers fresh from my honey’s fields, tangy feta and more, this salad captures the bold colors and fresh flavors of summer. It’s an easy salad to contribute to a summer bbq or cookout. In my case, it was part of my South American Inspired Picnic to celebrate my one year anniversary with the Urban Farmer. As a picnic food, pair this salad with plantain or corn chips for utensil-free eating.

South American Inspired Picnic by With The Grains 03

This salad isn’t meant to be dogmatic. Start with the roasted corn, trust your palate and follow your cravings. You can easily make it vegan, and if you have leftovers, add them to an omelette at breakfast to enjoy corn at every meal possible. It is summer after all, and this is when corn deserves a chance to shine!

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Bon Appétit!
-Quelcy

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A South American Inspired Picnic at the Allegheny Observatory

I had very concrete plans to spend my 30th birthday sipping flat whites and beholding the beauty of the Sydney Opera House. However, life happened, and plans changed unexpectedly. Though I still long to venture to the land down under, I have a feeling that trip will happen serendipitously, in a way that will exceed all my plans and dreams. In one of our early conversations, the Urban Farmer told me how he had envisioned renting a jeep for his 30th and driving it through South America, with his surfboard in tow. Like me (and luckily for me!), his life steered in a very different course.

Happy Anniversary by With The Grains 02

As his big 3-0, his Dirty Thirty, rolled around, he found himself rooted, literally, to this steel city. He had buried his travel dreams behind catalogs of seeds and under mounds of compost, but the visions of Chilean beaches were not lost on me. Though I couldn’t give him his South American surf excursion, I channeled his former wanderlust into a series of surprise experiences.

Happy Anniversary by With The Grains 01

Bundled with a vintage Mexican blanket (because his journey would have begun with a long drive through Mexico) was this illustrated card of Rio de Janeiro and the Save-The-Date details (and some private, lovey dovey stuff, from which I will spare you). This was my way to say I’m truly grateful life steered him onto a new course because that course included me! He’s been my Urban Farmer for one year now, and this was my anniversary gift to him. To the fella who makes me a better person and fills my days with laughter, dirt, dancing and wine-induced snooze fests, I can’t say enough how happy you make me!

South American Inspired Picnic by With The Grains 08

Had the Urban Farmer rented that jeep and journeyed to all those beaches, he would have spent countless night blanketed by the stars, so Experience Número Uno was all about star gazing. Experience Número Uno was a surprise South American Inspired Picnic and a tour of the Allegheny Observatory, a giant telescope perched atop a lovely Pittsburgh hilltop.

South American Inspired Picnic by With The Grains 05

The Menu: A South American Inspired Picnic

Mango, Pineapple & Basil Fruit Salad
Roasted Corn, Avocado & Feta Salad with Corn Chips
Ceviche & Roasted Plantain Chips
Mexican Brownies with Mole Bitters
White Wine Sangria with Fresh Peaches, Basil & Nasturtium (I used a Trapiche Pinot Grigio from Argentina, for thematic effect)
Coconut Water (though I wish we could have jammed straws into fresh Brazilian coconuts…alas)

South American Inspired Picnic by With The Grains 06

Pro tip for my friends in the very prudent state of Pennsylvania: Paper bags are too cliche. Make your libations look rustic and pretty, and it won’t look like you’re illegally drinking in public.

South American Inspired Picnic by With The Grains 07

Alas, much like my postponed Australia trip, there were elements beyond my control, specifically, the haziness of the sky. Though we weren’t able to use the giant telescope, it was still inspiring to stand at the base of such an impressive instrument and to know it was made so long ago!

Allegheny Observatory by With The Grains 02

For all you history and astronomy buffs out there, here are the details:

The observatory was founded on February 15, 1859, in the city of Allegheny, Pennsylvania (incorporated into the city of Pittsburgh in 1907) by a group of wealthy industrialists calling themselves the Allegheny Telescope Association. The observatory’s initial purpose was for general public education as opposed to research, but by 1867 the revenues derived from this had receded. The facility was then donated to the Western University of Pennsylvania, today known as the University of Pittsburgh. [source]

Allegheny Observatory by With The Grains 05

The 30″ Thaw telescope is the primary instrument of the Allegheny Observatory. It took ten years to build and was finished in 1914. It is the third largest refractor in the United States and was constructed by the Brashear Co. It has a lens made from two glass disks cast by the Shott Co. of Germany. The original lens was designed by Professor Charles Hastings to be used with photographic plates which were sensitive to blue and ultraviolet light. The Thaw telescopes’ primary mission has been to study the distance to nearby stars. The parallax program is responsible for the collection of over 110,000 photographic plates in the Allegheny collection. Information gathered from the Thaw observations have helped set the distance scale of the universe. [source]

Allegheny Observatory by With The Grains 04

We’ll have to return for a proper look at the night sky, but listening to our tour guide, a perfect cross between Noah Levenstein and Michael Scott, was something special nonetheless. Plus, I’ll take any excuse for another picnic!

Stay tuned for recipes from this picnic!

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Besos,
Quelcy

ps: If you want to take a tour of the Allegheny Observatory, i.e.: the GIGANTIC telescope, here’s the info.

A Memorial + What To Do with Farmer’s Market Fruit Baskets

A friend of mine recently pointed out that 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, the Bible verse often quoted at weddings, most accurately describes the love of a dog:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Flowers and Fruit by With The Grains 02

Her observation was especially poignant, since my close friends had just bade farewell to their 14-year-old, 4-legged, best friend. Baloo was one of the first dogs my pup Julep ever met. She was like her wise, old, protective Grandma. She hovered maternally the first time we went to the dog park. She snapped gently when my little one’s play went too far. She shared bones and burger bites. More than that, she was the dog who stood by my friend through cancer, through lost jobs and looming life questions. She was the dog who approved the appearance of the redheaded man in their lives. There is no greater approval than that of a woman’s dog.

Flowers and Fruit by With The Grains 03

I never fully understood the bond between human and animal until I found my pup soulmate. These creatures teach us so much about loyalty, love, patience and the simplest pleasures in life. My Julep is my spirit guide. If I’m testy and impatient with her, I know something is wrong in my world. Knowing how much I love Julep, I could only sympathize with Dana and Chris at the tremendous loss of such a gentle creature. Wanting to commemorate Baloo’s life, I couldn’t imagine giving them a bouquet which would fade and die in a few short days.

Flowers and Fruit by With The Grains 01

Instead, I sent them bright and cheery little flowers to plant in memory of the fluffy lady we all loved. If you have a furry best friend, squeeze him or her tight, and if you need to send a token of cheer, consider repurposing those market fruit baskets as little bearers of joy. The world always needs more joy!

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Quelcy

Something Simple: Peanut Butter, Strawberry & Honey Toast

I could offer you lamb roasts, or rich cakes with dark chocolate ganache, cheesy layered vegetable dishes or pies galore, but it’s summer here, and sometimes in summer, all you want is simplicity. You want to eat the cherry tomatoes before you leave the farmer’s market. You want to sit poolside as long as possible. You want lemonade and rosé to constitute the majority of your “hydration.”

Strawberry Toast by With The Grains

Simplicity is definitely not my strong suit, but I can offer you this winning toast combination. It’s like peanut butter & jelly for breakfast, but the strawberry slices are fresher, juicier and better for you!

All you need is:

Sprouted Grain Bread
Organic Peanut Butter
Fresh Strawberries
Local Honey (or creamed honey!)

et Voila!

So here’s to a relatively simple, healthy breakfast, followed by a sunny day of pool lounging. Just remember to wait 20 minutes before you swim. 😉

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Cheers,
Quelcy

 

 

The Urban Farmer’s Dirty Thirty | Part II: Beet Upside Down Cake

“I’m baking this for Nina. She ate a lot of canned beets in grad school,” I lied.

Gluten Free Beet Upside Down Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

Nina did (does?) eat a lot of canned beets in grad school, but the part about the cakes being a belated way for us to celebrate our respective birthdays? That part was a straight “fib.” I peeled, sliced, whisked, cracked, beat, folded and baked these cakes right under the Urban Farmer’s nose.

Gluten Free Beet Upside Down Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

I packed up all the accoutrements in plain sight, promised to save him a slice and elaborated, “we’re maybe going to the park. I’m going to take Julep.” Out the door I went, in my farm clothes, with his birthday cakes in tow. I was on my way to set up his Dirty Thirty surprise party!

Gluten Free Beet Upside Down Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

In many ways, he should never trust me ever again. For at least a month, I “fibbed” and schemed, but in the end, I made him his own cake, inspired by his love of beets, roots and plants emerging from the dirt. Cake erases most conspiracies.

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Cheers,
Quelcy

Gluten-Free Beet Upside Down Cake

About This Recipe: Don’t be alarmed by the lack of butter or oil in this recipe. The larger quantity of eggs yields a moist, spongey cake with sweet bites of beet and beet juices on top. Pair a slice with homemade whipped cream or organic vanilla bean ice cream. The cake also makes a great breakfast indulgence, since it’s not overly sweet.

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The Urban Farmer’s Dirty Thirty: Part I

There are people in this world who do not enjoy birthdays. Try though I might, I do not understand these folks. I LOVE birthdays, weddings, anniversaries… all those celebrations meant to make you and your love feel special. June 12th was the Urban Farmer’s birthday, the big 3-0! He was so busy with seeds, weeds and critters, he incorrectly argued with me which day of the week his birthday was. Though we celebrated his birthday with brunch, themed gifts and his dinner requests, it was completely low key. I didn’t even bake a birthday cake (peach tarts do not count!), and in the book of Quelcy, if I don’t bother to make you a birthday cake, you should start to suspect something is amiss. I may as well declare my indifference to you. Something was amiss however… major scheming!

Custom Illustration for a Dirty Thirty Surprise Party // www.WithTheGrains.com

I have never seen the Urban Farmer’s eyes light up as much as they did when a group of volunteers came to the farm to get their hands dirty on his behalf. Since he wouldn’t be able to leave the farm for his birthday, the next logical step was to bring everyone to the farm. He is one of the most selfless and least materialistic people I know. Having his friends and family give their time and labor would make his heart soar, so the idea of the Dirty Thirty- a truly dirty thirty- was born!

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

His family and I schemed and plotted secretly. I nearly had an anxiety attack when I sent the Facebook invite. Would he see it somehow? Could Facebook please stop suggesting I invite him!!! Flood warnings and a 100% chance of rain bested our first surprise attempt, and we had to postpone. Meanwhile, he tried to understand the mysterious appearance of a porta potty on the farm, not once, but twice. I bit my tongue and held back laughter as he hypothesized the reappearance of the porta potty was surely evidence of drug trafficking.

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

After downplaying his birthday, fibbing and sneaking around, the sunny surprise day arrived, and we got him good…!

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

The poor guy’s first reaction was to throw his truck in reverse and escape the angry mob who surely had arrived to shut down his farm. Luckily, his brother was in the truck, patted him on the back and through laughter said, “Happy Birthday, man!” He emerged to hear the bagpipes blasting “happy birthday” and see an eclectic mix of friends and family ready to dig their hands in the dirt.

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

Friends, family, farmers, novices… everyone got to work, and the farm never looked so good!

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

Uncle Bob, the meanest weed-wacker I ever did meet!

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

For once in his life, the Urban Farmer was able to drink beer and kick up his feet while the farm transformed before his eyes. Hillsides covered in a thick forest of weeds re-emerged with potential for planting, paths widened, and the vegetables had more room to breathe. After all that work, there was plenty to celebrate, plenty to eat and plenty to drink!

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

There was also a very lucky Julep, who snagged a fallen sausage. It was a happy day for all!

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

And finally… there was a birthday cake!

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

Because cake is how I show I care, this farm-inspired, Beet Upside Down Cake was all for him, for the one I love!

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

There were extra cakes for everyone else because I do care about them too.

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

He also received his late Grandfather’s birdhouse and that creepin’ squirrel. When he was younger, he salvaged it from someone’s trash and snuck into his mom’s decor. Imagine her shock when she finally discovered it! Now the wide-eyed, weirdo lives in our home.

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer with his Grandmother and Father.

Here’s to his Dirty Thirty, to all the Urban Farmer has accomplished and all that’s in store, to his great big heart and the ways he makes us all better humans. I hope he felt special because he truly is, and everyone deserves to feel special when their birthday rolls around. Here’s to all the friends and family members too! The farm is sparkling like never before!

Check out the Beet Upside Down Cake recipe in Part II!

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Cheers,
Quelcy

CSA Recipe: Roasted Crookneck Squash with Lamb, Yogurt & Dill

There’s so much to learn about these foods we eat: what they look like as seeds, how they first sprout through the ground, how their leaves change during their infancy, how they put so much energy into a beautiful bloom and then attempt to spread their seeds. Carrot seeds are tiny and iridescent. Okra leaves boast dark, burgundy veins and patterns. Rainbow chard just keeps on giving. Cilantro flowers could fill a bouquet subtly, much like baby’s breath, while squash blossoms would sing dramatically but for a fleeting moment.

Hazelwood Urban Farms in July

I’ve only just begun to understand the connections between flowers and the foods we eat, how we often have to sacrifice the alluring blooms in order to arrive at the food on our plates. The Urban Farmer plucked the first crepe-paper-like squash blossoms to conserve the plant’s energy for food production. As the broad, leafy greens emerged like a tropical forest cover, the female blooms grew again and gave way to the crookneck squashes. Those first signs of yellow and green meant the flood gates had been released. Summer squashes are in full swing, and there’s no looking back!

Sunset at Hazelwood Urban Farms

The Urban Farmer’s CSA recipients have received three weeks of crookneck squashes. If you frequent your local farmer’s market, you too have probably begun to see squashes and zucchinis, growing larger by the week. Once these gourds start, they don’t seem to stop, so it’s time to be creative, lest we be bored by the bounty.

Crookneck Squash Recipe by With The Grains 01

I like to imagine eating these squash boats by the glassy blue Mediterranean Sea, where the adjacent cliffs are speckled with the white, building-block homes, where old grandmas prepare traditional meals for hours. These squash boats are merely an interpretation of that distant cuisine, a way to savor the fragrant dill, its flowers and dollops of thick, tangy Greek yogurt.

Crookneck Squash Recipe by With The Grains 02

For this dish to taste its best, be sure to find local celery, local dill and local squashes (or zucchinis). Once you take a bite of crisp, locally grown celery, the store-bought version seems like eating a rice cake when you could be feasting on a pastry! The celery greens not only make a fanciful garnish, but they add a lot of flavor too. Chop them up and mix them into each bite. Take advantage of the here and now of squashes, herbs and stalky greens. Let your mind wander to the seaside, to summer breezes, to the bluest blues above the mountains and to the glassy waves washing onto your toes.

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Bon voyage & Bon Appétit!
-Quelcy

Roasted Crookneck Squash with Quinoa, Lamb & Greek Yogurt

About This Recipe: Spelled out, this recipe looks complicated, but let the above images be your guide. Now is the time when squash flows, so take advantage and tweak this recipe several different ways. Use a zucchini instead of squash, or brown rice instead of quinoa. The idea is flexible. I used lamb because I was dreaming of Greek food, but you could use ground beef or chicken or even a seafood option.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies

Ideas hatch in my brain, leaving a chaotic scattering of shells. Long after I should be asleep, I stare at the dimly lit, bedroom ceiling and walls, with the orangish, city light filtering through the curtains. My racing mind schemes and plots- picnics, party ideas, flower garden dreams, how to acquire an historical home without a huge life’s savings, etc, etc, ETC! Some of these ideas are fleeting, and they fade into the dimly lit night, but others… Others are BIG! They burn with such an intensity, until the neurons fire signals to my heart, and before long, my whole being is set on an idea.

Peanut Butter Blondies with Chocolate Chips // www.WithTheGrains.com

As an “idea person (i.e.: an obsessive person),” I’m sorely in need of a structural counterpart in my life. He or she would line up the roadmap and the checkpoints to send me on my way to the end result I want so intensely. Luckily, for all my grandiose, time-intensive, layer cakes and sky-high dreams, there are blondies. These peanut buttery blondies, with their rich simplicity, are blank canvases for creativity in their own right. Yet, from the intense craving to the first, gooey bite, the commitment is minimal, leaving this girl to obsess over Scandinavian bungalows, vintage camper renovations, ice cream socials, farm dinners….etc, etc, etc!

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Here’s to the simpler ideas!
-Quelcy

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Open-Faced Bánh Mì Sandwich with Avocado Oil Mayonnaise

If life imitates art, some of my life is starting to imitate Groundhog Day. I sit at the same table, at the same coffeeshop, writing, editing photos, trying not to hunch my neck and shoulders into Quasimodo-esque subluxations, while listening to the baristas’ same rotation of old country classics and modern grunge. Sometimes, routines can be comforting. Sometimes, routines can be lazy. Sometimes, routines can be spicy, pickled and delicious!

Bánh Mi Toast with Avocado Oil Mayonnaise // www.WithTheGrains.com

I could eat a variation of a bánh mì sandwich every day, and with the quantity of vegetables the Urban Farmer is poised to harvest and pickle, we very well may be eating bánh mì sandwiches every day!

Bánh Mì Toast with Avocado Oil Mayonnaise // www.WithTheGrains.com

A bánh mì is a traditional Vietnamese sandwich, an edible relic of French influences on bold Vietnamese flavors. As much as I may follow certain routines and respect history, I’m also one to break rules and toy with traditions. To change up my original interpretation, I replaced the very namesake bread with a hearty olive slice, added jalapeños to the pickle mix and experimented with an avocado oil mayonnaise.

Bánh Mì Toast with Avocado Oil Mayonnaise // www.WithTheGrains.com

If you’re feeling a little routine, or need a change of pace, spice up your life a bit, and take a gamble on this jalapeño-laced sandwich. If all else fails, go do something wild to your hair!

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Change it up!
-Quelcy

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Kohlrabi Greens for a Farm Fresh Juice

The commercial, food photographers, with whom I work as a food stylist, will look at the photos in this post and think I’ve lost my marbles. Combined, we are a grocery store’s pain in the ass. We nitpick and fondle every, single apple, or we unearth the only perfectly spherical orange from the bottom of the citrus pyramid. We fluff and sort through every, single leaf of arugula or cobble together our own spring mix with pops of color.

Kohlrabi Greens Juice // www.WithTheGrains.com

When we arrive at the checkout, we reluctantly pass the food items, from our gloved hands, to the cashier and plead with the bagger to cushion every item as if it were a premature newborn. The whole experience is ridiculous, to the say the least, but like a model sequestered in hair & makeup for hours, our grocery store process fulfills society’s accepted notions of beauty. The leafy greens pictured here, however, are more like the beauty you observe when your grandmother’s aged hands knead bread, or when a toddler hands you a bouquet of dandelions. They are not perfect, but they are beautiful.

Kohlrabi Greens Juice by With The Grains

They are beautiful because they represent the Urban Farmer’s constant care, his planning, his ideals, his dedication to the land and community. The greens surround the kohlrabi as it emerges from the ground like a purple spacecraft. Subjected to the hungry, tiny, menacing mouths of cabbage loopers and aphids, these leaves weren’t headed toward the cover of Bon Appétit by any means, but they were headed to the juicer, and fresh, nourishing juice first thing in the morning is a beautiful thing!

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Happy Sipping!
-Quelcy

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