Whole Grain, Browned Butter, Zucchini Cornbread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s to summer baking!

Quelcy Signature


Whole Grain Browned Butter Zucchini Cornbread
Adapted from Bon Appétit

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

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Roasted Chestnut Stuffing (Vegetarian)

“How do you feel about chestnuts?” I asked Jill, who was coming for dinner in a few days.

“Like…I like them roasting over an open fire? I actually have no idea!”

Though we sing about chestnuts roasting every year, and the lyrics help put us in that holiday spirit, how many of us actually eat these hearty nuts?

Roasted Chestnut Stuffing (Vegetarian) // www.WithTheGrains.com

If my friend Jill, who samples an array of precise recipes daily at America’s Test Kitchen, cooks constantly, travels extensively and meets world class chefs as part of her job…if she had never eaten a chestnut, it’s safe to say very few people are eating these nuts. This begs the question, why do we sing nostalgically about this nut but not eat it?

Roasted Chestnut Stuffing (Vegetarian) // www.WithTheGrains.com

The short answer is blight. Once upon a time, chestnut trees blanketed the east coast of the United States, covering some 200 million acres. Frost resistant and reliable, the tree was a major source of income for many a rural community, both as a source of food for livestock and as a timber source. However, in the first half of the twentieth century, blight, imported through Asian Chestnut Trees, devastated the eastern woodlands. If this feels like a dismal tale from the annals of food history, it is, BUT there’s a glimmer of hope too!

Roasted Chestnut Stuffing (Vegetarian) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Fortunately, there are organizations and people working to restore the chestnut’s mighty presence. These history lessons are also valuable as more and more of us seek to improve the local food economy. If we spend more time examining our food and its sources, we can better mediate our local agricultural systems. For now, chestnuts cost a pretty penny in grocery stores, and their availability is limited (I hope you can still acquire some as I am sharing this in January!), but hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, every east coast grocery store will offer a regular bin of local chestnuts. Maybe I’ll even be gathering them at Hazelwood Urban Farms!

Here’s to chestnuts roasting on lots of open fires!

Quelcy Signature

Roasted Chestnut Stuffing/Dressing
Recipe adapted from Sift magazine
Yield: 10 servings

About This Recipe: Vegetarians and carnivores can unite on this classic side dish thanks to chestnuts’ meaty flavor! For a more nutrient rich approach, I used a combination of Whole Wheat Sourdough and Mt. Athos Fire Bread (a local favorite- sub any dense, grainy bread). This recipe calls for baking the bread cubes to dry them, but you can also cube and save bread as it starts to harden to avoid wasting a loaf. To simplify the recipe, you can use pre-cooked chestnuts (like these), but roasting draws a lot of flavor. If you have more than 1 1/2 cups chestnuts after roasting and shelling, add them to the stuffing. That quantity is flexible. 

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Whole Wheat Apricot-Almond Coffee Cake

Can you come down with a case of the comparisons?

Whole Wheat Apricot Almond Coffee Cake Ring // www.WithTheGrains.com

As sniffles and sneezes are to the common cold, the comparisons flare up with equally telling warning signs- frowning while scrolling through social media, looking at a particular photo with a self-deprecating sense of awe, searching Amazon for better lenses, hovering motionless over the keyboard without a single word to type. The triggers of this nasty ailment are sneaky. They can even be ever so sweetly rolled in a coffee cake ring like this one.

Whole Wheat Apricot Almond Coffee Cake Ring // www.WithTheGrains.com

After flipping through my new favorite magazine, I sourced the featured ingredient list, kneaded with care, rolled gently, patiently waited and then looked with disgust at the denser rings and apricot oozes that emerged from the oven. I knew I had made some ingredient changes that would explain such a density, but still, all I could think was, “whhhhhhhhhy?” As a commercial food stylist, one might expect me to have a certain immunity from the real-life-vs.-magazine discrepancies. Yet there I was, coffee cake in one hand, magazine in the other, lamenting dough imperfections like some sort of voluntary martyr.

Whole Wheat Apricot Almond Coffee Cake Ring // www.WithTheGrains.com

I almost hid these imperfections. I almost refrained from picking up the camera. Then I sat down to breakfast with my friend, who is attempting to say “thank you” instead of “I’m sorry” and not sound like a snarky bitch in the process. “Thank you for bearing with my baking experiments,” I said, taking the theory for a test spin. (It’s not as easy of an adjustment as you’d think!) Then, my wonderfully creative, animated friend took her first bite.

Whole Wheat Apricot Almond Coffee Cake Ring // www.WithTheGrains.com

Her face continued to react like a grand finale of fireworks- one enthusiastic expression right after the next, praising the glaze, then the filling, then ceasing to speak so as to savor the bite. My variations, for all their visual imperfections, tasted really good. They deserved to be relished, dense crumbs and all.

Whole Wheat Apricot Almond Coffee Cake Ring // www.WithTheGrains.com

I do not dredge up these muddy waters of perfectionist tantrums as a way to fish for compliments, merely to remind myself of their pitfalls. These crumbs litter the trails to my kitchen, and collectively, each morsel accounts for the life I am living. Am I taking risks? Am I growing? Am I sharing, exchanging, conversing and savoring life? Or am I stressing and sweating the small stuff?

Whole Wheat Apricot Almond Coffee Cake Ring // www.WithTheGrains.com

2015, with all its wild twists, turns and internal tantrums, is coming to a close. The year may have been dense. The filling may have oozed. Yet, it was a sweet year, filled with many a firework! It’s time to savor and reflect, plan and progress. Here’s to a sweet start to 2016!

Quelcy Signature

p.s: What are your tips and strategies for keeping the evil perfectionisms at bay? If you too suffer from “the comparisons,” you might find this video inspiring. I like to watch it every now and then as a reminder to chill.

Whole Wheat Apricot-Almond Coffee Cake Ring
Adapted from King Arthur Flour/Sift Magazine
Yield: 2 coffee cakes, 32 servings

About This Recipe: Somewhere between a coffee cake and a pastry, this whole wheat version is a little denser than the original recipe but worth the added grainy goodness. Be sure to read the dried fruit labels and choose an organic, unsweetened, unsulphured apricot option. There are often unnecessary, unhealthy ingredients lurking in store-bought dried fruit. 

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Whole Wheat Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

An alarming crunching sound interrupted our late-night dinner preparations. We ran to the window, half expecting to see ruby red slippers pinned under a house. Instead, we discovered a battered and bruised car thrown into reverse. It began to zig and zag away from the parked car it had just launched a good six feet through impact. As if performing the role of a movie extra, the Urban Farmer exclaimed “He’s trying to get away!” and pointed to the ensuing action. The dog barked and jumped in a confused mix of excitement and alarm.

Whole Wheat Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

The neighbors flocked to the street immediately, like ripples in a puddle pierced by a droplet of rain. One brave soul waved his arms at the drunk driver, beseeching him to stop. Whether it was the presence of witnesses or the absence of all motor skills, the man swerved onto the sidewalk, hit a planter and a tree, and the getaway was over. Amidst a sea of obscenities and cigarette smoke, the neighbors managed to sequester the vapid and staggering man until the police arrived. Like the nosy neighbor I am, I watched the event unfurl from my third-floor window, my BLT growing colder as I pieced together the incoming evidence.

Whole Wheat Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

These neighbors of mine are far from perfect. A lot of them are loud. One is far too nosy and negative for her own good. They yell. They fight. They publicly air more grievances and dysfunction than I would ever care to display. However, I have neighbors who save treats for my dog, look out for our cat, wave to me from their cars, greet me at the local coffee spot and fill me with an unexpected sense of home and comfort. When it comes down to being neighbors, to defending another member of the block and looking out for the safety of the street, I prefer these folks to the quiet types who remain hidden behind closed doors.

Whole Wheat Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

This sentiment had been there, had been growing in me for quite some time, but it wasn’t until the accident that I began to appreciate what had been under my nose. Much like my neighbors, this chocolate bread is more than meets the eye. The lurking zucchini is easy to miss until someone or something points out the wholesome goodness waiting to surprise you.

‘Tis the time of year when zucchinis bombard us, so make this loaf and maybe make some to share with your neighbors too.

Single-Grain

Bon Appétit!
-Quelcy

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Whole Wheat Double Chocolate Banana Bread with Toasted Coconut

February 23, 2015

Happy National Banana Bread Day, or what I would like to call Regina Kogel Day! Who is Regina Kogel? Arguably, she is a champion of banana bread. Assuredly, she is my mom. When I think of today’s celebrated loaf, I think of her.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Coconut Banana Bread by With The Grains

Looking back, it seems my family was not particularly adept at consuming bananas in a timely manner because brown, squishy bananas equal banana bread, and there always seemed to be a loaf in Regina Kogel’s house. A believer in breakfast, Regina’s morning spread would frequently include a warm loaf of her freshly baked banana bread. A believer in butter, a slice of this bread was not complete until smeared with bright golden butter (though to be fair, the butter champion is my dad). In honor of my mom, and in honor of today, one of the many, weird, quirky, seemingly random food holidays, I bring you this Quelcy style recipe, i.e: if banana bread is good, chocolate banana bread must be even better! This logic has yet to fail me.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Coconut Banana Bread by With The Grains

Whole-Wheat, Double Chocolate Banana Bread with Toasted Coconut

About This Recipe: Like mom’s but more chocolaty! This loaf begins with a whole-wheat pastry flour, cocoa powder and chunks of dark chocolate chips. Topping the very rich and gooey loaf with coconut yields a toasted crunch once baked. It’s sweet enough for dessert, but it’s wholesome enough for breakfast, so have it for both!

Single-Grain

Happy National Banana Bread Day!
-Quelcy

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Buckwheat Monkey Bread To Start A New Year

January 2015

Buckwheat Monkey Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com
Buckwheat Monkey Bread for a New Year’s celebration

Rather unexpectedly, I found myself in a church on New Year’s Eve. I hadn’t come to pray or to repent, much to my family’s chagrin. I had come to hear bagpipes and drums fill the expanse of the historical church. The youngest member of the band, a boy of small stature with pursed lips and determination, puffed his comparatively small cheeks and blew into the velvety instrument.

The rest of the kilt-clad band joined him in the most beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace I have ever heard (listen to this and imagine you were there). The reverberating and syncopated instruments combined with the church’s acoustics to strike a chord deep inside me. The unsung lyrics played in my head, a vestige of a youth spent in church, and I blinked rapidly to block inexplicable tears.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see. T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear. And Grace, my fears relieved. How precious did that Grace appear. The hour I first believed. Through many dangers, toils and snares. I have already come; ‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home.

The two months leading to the moment in that pew had not been my most shining, sparkling moments. Quite the opposite. The past two months were filled with more doubt, more tears, more indecision and more insecurities than I had bottled within me in a long, long time. However, the past two months were also filled with a strong shoulder to cry on and supportive friends who proved their faith in me. Mere hours before that pew and that song, I had resolved to face my obstacles, to try harder, to give myself the benefit of the doubt, and above all, to have thicker skin and more confidence.

The song was a booming affirmation. The journey is long and enduring, but there is redemption. Whether you call that redemption Grace or Determination or Resolve, is for you to decide. I no longer subscribe to a religious practice, but I wouldn’t doubt the existence of a higher power, and this church experience reminded me of the beautiful truths and philosophies one can pull from Christianity.

Buckwheat Monkey Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com
Hearty yet sweet & gooey Buckwheat Monkey Bread

The bagpipes faded into architectural exploring, to hand holding, to grass-fed, beef hot dogs from a truck, to shivering, to staring at disorienting art, to the clanking of glasses and a kiss. The clock, or the iPhone rather, struck midnight, and there was a symbolic chance for a fresh start, for celebration, for brightness, and in an attempt to carry out a family tradition- a chance for Monkey Bread at breakfast, except this Buckwheat Monkey Bread was made my way- the grainy way!


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Spiced Apple Oat Bread & The Tale of The Urban Farmer (Invest in an Urban Farm)

November 2014

Earlier this fall, I asked the community, or Facebook as it were, to guide me to Fracking-free, local apples. Unfortunately, the natural gas industry has negated local farmers’ sacrifices to grow and harvest pure produce. To put it simply, it’s shitty. It’s really, really shitty.

Spiced Apple Oat Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

Many of my friends responded with suggestions, but one of my dearest friends responded with an entire box of local, frack-free apples to fuel my baking. If anyone would scour to source a frack-free apple, it would be my friend Dana. She has fought tirelessly to defend the environment and the people who have lost access to clean water. What she has seen is truly harrowing.

Spiced Apple Oat Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

During one of our coffee catch-ups, Dana’s anti-fracking accounts introduced (very purposefully) a new character. She had met a Pittsburgh area native who was also dedicated to protecting our natural resources and wanted to join her efforts. Being as deeply entrenched in this movement as she was, Dana sussed him out intensely. She was uninterested in another tag-along looking for a shocking story for a blog or social media. She was interested in a volunteer who would respect how difficult it had been to establish relationships with these victims, sympathize with them, and to assist her in standing up to the industry behemoths.

Spiced Apple Oat Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

After just one day on the road with her, meeting families, photographing flaming drilling rigs, and listening to her emotional breakdown, this man had impressed her beyond her expectations. She saw the selfless, giving soul of a respectful man, who wanted to save the world. She took note, and her gears began to turn.

Spiced Apple Oat Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

As Dana and I sat drinking coffee and catching up, I asked more about this man, who I had glimpsed briefly at their first meeting. As she responded, I sank dramatically in my chair. This dude couldn’t be real. Had I forgotten to lock and stow some youthful diary of mine? Had she found my naive musings of a dream man? Earth saver, photographer, wanderer, aspiring urban farmer, beekeeper, graphic designer… my eyes were glazed, and my head was spinning, but Dana’s head was on straight. She plotted and schemed, and before long, that dream fella and I were locking lips under a mulberry tree.

Swoon City. Population: Two!

Spiced Apple Oat Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’ve alluded to “the Urban Farmer” or #theurbanfarmer here and there, but in light of recent strides, I wanted to share the full story. Kyle, as most people know him, launched his Kiva campaign to fund his vision for Hazelwood Farm. I’m asking you, dear readers, to join me and help support his efforts and his dreams. His heart is huge, his vision is commendable, and when I’m too busy to notice, he secretly waters my windowsill basil and keeps it alive. He deserves a farm because he’ll use that farm to make the world a better place, one CSA share at a time. Even Julep can’t help but smile when she imagines what these abandoned urban lots could become, and she is so ready to herd something… to herd anything!

Spiced Apple Oat Bread // www.WithTheGrains.com

Here’s the deal- my generous, selfless, supportive, handsome Urban Farmer is asking the community to help him help the community. Still following me? In other words, please consider investing in his Kiva Campaign, so he can launch his farm. Any size donation-from $1-$10,000 helps. While you’re at it, support someone who has grown local, frack-free apples, and make this bread. It’s good and good for you, just like an urban farm.

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