Category Archives: Brunch

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

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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Butternut Squash Polenta w/ Stewed Fruit & Whipped Mascarpone for a Wintry Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

Butternut Squash Polenta w/ Stewed Fruit & Whipped Mascarpone for a Wintry Brunch

As I entered the tunnel, a notoriously congested snag in an already flawed transportation system, her voice interjected. “Hello, it’s me. I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet.”

Butternut Squash Polenta w/ Stewed Fruit & Whipped Mascarpone for a Wintry Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

By now, you can surely finish each and every word that follows, but in that tunnel, her greeting hit me for the first time. She sang directly to me, as if I had somehow landed the private concert of a lifetime! Adele’s booming voice seemed to fill the cavernous, concrete  tunnel, as if it were an amphitheater echoing all the raw emotion of her lyrics.

Butternut Squash Polenta w/ Stewed Fruit & Whipped Mascarpone for a Wintry Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

I, like all the other listeners who kept her at the top of the charts for a record-breaking stint, hung on her every word, on repeat. She’s relatable. She’s passionate. She’s emotional. All of these explanations and reviews attribute to her repeatability, but it wasn’t until I heard a review on NPR (?) that the weight of her lyrics fully made sense. I’m paraphrasing, but he so eloquently distilled her album, “In a world that talks at us, Adele wants to have a conversation.” (Bonus points if you can find me this review. It escapes me now!)

Butternut Squash Polenta w/ Stewed Fruit & Whipped Mascarpone for a Wintry Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

Conversation- that act of listening, exchanging, growing, thinking and relating- is missing from so much of our lives now. We may have more opportunity than ever to keep tabs on each other, but how often do we listen and relate to one another? How often do we listen to those in need instead of judging them through fear?

Wintry Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

Roasted apples, beets and cranberries are a sweet and healthy brunch side. Mix leftovers with arugula, pumpkin seeds and blue cheese for a unique salad.

This need for conversation, for tangibility, is also what led me to the beautiful, image-laden pages of Sift Magazine. It’s one of those magazines I page through while waiting in line at the checkout, debating whether or not to splurge. However, unlike many of its grocery store counterparts, Sift feels like a conversation. Unencumbered by ads, its beautiful pages beg to be collected. Each recipe is poised and ready for all the handwritten edits of ingredient substitutions and baking experiments.

Wintry Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

My apron’s off to the forces behind the magazine (the employee-owned King Arthur Flour), who always seem to encapsulate the most earnest intentions and elevate the act of baking, such as this Holiday Issue introduction:

Flour, butter, sugar, and yeast are humble ingredients with great power: They from the alphabet of a family’s baking history and culture. This time of year finds experienced and neophyte bakers alike moving toward the kitchen, with the desire to continue their families’ traditions or invent new ones. Whether the food memory is of warm sweet rolls, an elaborate loaf, or a treasured holiday cookie, the act of mixing and kneading forms a connection with those who have gone before. When you live, breathe, and bake, you honor the gifts they’ve handed down while you create enduring memories, and exquisite meals, for those who follow. 

Wintry Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

Champagne + Sparkling Cranberry Pomegranate Juice + Orange Peels + Fresh Rosemary

It’s not enough to simply page through the enticing recipes, especially when splurging on a magazine, so I promised myself to put the pages to use!

Butternut Squash Polenta w/ Stewed Fruit & Whipped Mascarpone for a Wintry Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

Inspired by song and page, I made a conscious decision to return to our dining room table more this holiday, to catch up with old friends, to welcome new friends and simply eat dinner without staring at a screen. As I prepared these meals, I thought about how quickly and effortlessly my grandmother and mother made hosting appear, how happily they hid the stressful time management elements and planning behind a welcoming smile. I thought about the legacy my grandmother left behind- the most generous, helping hands and the most famous koláče this side of the Czech Republic.

Butternut Squash Polenta w/ Stewed Fruit & Whipped Mascarpone for a Wintry Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

This recipe, though new to me, felt rooted in tradition- roasted butternut squash and cornmeal- simple, humble ingredients that combine into something colorful, sweet, spicy and warm. This recipe is perfect for sharing, since you can prepare most of it ahead of time. It’s a perfect way to feed a full holiday table and still manage to join the conversation!

Quelcy Signature

Butternut Squash & Ginger Polenta with Stewed Fruit & Mascarpone Cream
Adapted from Sift magazine (by King Arthur Flour)

About this Recipe: A perfect make-ahead treat! For ease, you can substitute a can of organic pumpkin puree for the roasted & pureed butternut squash. I added turmeric for nutrition and color. Make this vegan by using a non-dairy milk in the polenta and whipped coconut cream for the topping. Be sure to source unsulphured, dried fruits without added sugars. There are two options for final preparation of the polenta slices- baking or pan frying, depending on how many you are serving. Leftover stewed fruit makes a beautiful and flavorful accent on a wheel of brie for your next gathering.

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Honey Extraction by With The Grains 11

Extracting Honey + Pancakes w/ Honey Roasted Bananas & Cinnamon Whipped Cream

“My goal in life is to walk around like Pooh Bear, with my ‘paw’ deep in a large crock of honey, savoring the sweetness all day long.”

Extracting Honey + Pancakes w/ Honey Roasted Bananas & Cinnamon Whipped Cream // www.WithTheGrains.com

In addition to honey’s sweet appeal, the Urban Farmer’s deeper motives for becoming a beekeeper stem from his passion for the environment. When I first introduced him as a beekeeper in the  Meet a Beekeeper post, he explained his desire to defend the honey bee:

“I started to read more about the negative effects of GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) and monocultures (growing a single crop, for a long time in vast areas, which prevents a diverse, year-round diet for bees and simultaneously depletes soil nutrients). The link between bee colony collapse [bees disappearing] and GMO’s seemed so obvious. Bees are dying, and people act as if it’s a big mystery, but if you look at the flaws of the industrial agricultural system, there’s an easy solution: support local honeybees. I chose to dive in completely and become a beekeeper.”

Extracting Honey + Pancakes w/ Honey Roasted Bananas & Cinnamon Whipped Cream // www.WithTheGrains.com

Throughout his fledgling beekeeping efforts, the honey was always off limits for us. He had to reserve the liquid gold for the bees, especially as the colder months approached. However, this year his hives have been flourishing, which meant there was sweetness to be shared. This also meant he was one step closer to his Pooh Bear aspirations! The honey extraction process merited a spotlight! I still have much to learn about bees, so who better to explain this exciting process than the Urban Farmer/the Urban Beekeeper himself!

Extracting Honey + Pancakes w/ Honey Roasted Bananas & Cinnamon Whipped Cream // www.WithTheGrains.com

How do you know when it’s time to extract honey?

In our climate in Pennsylvania, we have two major “nectar flows.” This refers to mass blooms of a variety of vegetation. The first nectar flow takes place in early summer, followed by a dearth (a drop in the nectar flow), then again in the early fall when knotweed and golden rod become the major food source for our bees. Generally, beekeepers harvest any excess honey after these flows, making sure to reserve enough honey for the bees to get through the summer dearth and the long winter. During the winter, honey is their only major food source.

Extracting Honey + Pancakes w/ Honey Roasted Bananas & Cinnamon Whipped Cream // www.WithTheGrains.com

The metal bristles help remove wax and release more honey.

How is the honey extracted from the hive? 

The extraction process starts by removing the honey supers from the hive. Supers are smaller hive bodies that are placed on the top of the hive (see diagram). The bees naturally use the larger bottom hive bodies, called brood chambers, to raise their young and store pollen (and some honey too). Instinctually, bees store the honey on top of their young. When the hive has enough honey stores built in the brood chamber, they will start to store honey in the upper supers. At that point, the beekeeper can easily remove the frame of honey with out disturbing hatching eggs.

Extracting Honey + Pancakes w/ Honey Roasted Bananas & Cinnamon Whipped Cream // www.WithTheGrains.com

A stowaway!

This, however, does not make it easy to remove bees from the honey supers to transport them for extraction. Some beekeepers use a leaf blower to persuade the bees from the frames or a tried-and-true process of shaking the bees off the frames and securing them in a box as fast as possible, before the bees rush back to their frames. Either way, it’s not an easy or full-proof procedure, and you might discover some stowaways!

Extracting Honey + Pancakes w/ Honey Roasted Bananas & Cinnamon Whipped Cream // www.WithTheGrains.com

 What happens to your hives as the weather becomes colder? 

The bees slow down in the cooler weather. They forage less and then not at all in the dead of winter. The queen slows down egg laying, and the bees go into a mode of trying to heat the hive. They detach their wings and vibrate at such a frequency that they can heat the hive through the negative degrees of winter.

Extracting Honey + Pancakes w/ Honey Roasted Bananas & Cinnamon Whipped Cream // www.WithTheGrains.com

Extracting Honey + Pancakes w/ Honey Roasted Bananas & Cinnamon Whipped Cream // www.WithTheGrains.com

When is the best time to start beekeeping? How does one start beekeeping? 

The best time to start a new hive is in early Spring – March or April. Bees are becoming active at that time of year, and they begin the process of regrowing their numbers. Bee packages are available for purchase at this time. This is also the time of year when beekeepers make “splits” (splitting a bee hive into two hives), so it’s a good time to find local bees for sale. If you are interested in starting a bee hive, I highly recommend reaching out to Burgh Bees for information on where to find bees, as well as a listing of courses available through the organization. [Burgh Bees has a lot of helpful resources for non-locals too!]

Extracting Honey + Pancakes w/ Honey Roasted Bananas & Cinnamon Whipped Cream // www.WithTheGrains.com

If there’s anything I’ve learned in observing and discussing bees with the Urban Farmer, it’s that beekeeping is a fickle trade. A beekeeper can do everything right, only to discover his bees have fled the hive. Then, sadly, it’s back to the beginning. So when he discovered he could harvest honey from his hives, it was a celebratory moment with an especially sweet reward!

Extracting Honey + Pancakes w/ Honey Roasted Bananas & Cinnamon Whipped Cream // www.WithTheGrains.com

Extracting honey made me appreciate the beekeepers who harvest, store and sell large quantities of the honey. It’s sticky work for sure, and as we cranked the machine beekeepers have surely been using for centuries, we had our doubts. Were three frames worth this rigamarole? Would we salvage any honey, or would it all be stuck to the guts of the apparatus? We of little faith! When we turned the release nozzle, the honey flowed and flowed and flowed!

Extracting Honey + Pancakes w/ Honey Roasted Bananas & Cinnamon Whipped Cream // www.WithTheGrains.com

Sometimes my words and my emotions fail to convey my excitement and pride in the moment, so instead, I use my kitchen and my table. I’ve seen up close the ups and downs of tending to the little black and golden creatures. I’ve seen the stings, the swelling and the defeats. However, this pancake brunch was to celebrate the Urban Farmer’s determination, his dedication and nature’s dessert.

Whole Wheat Honey Banana Pancakes with Honey Cinnamon Whipped Cream & Roasted Bananas // www.WithTheGrains.com

Honey sweetened, whole-wheat pancakes with honey & cinnamon whipped cream and topped with honey roasted bananas – this was a pancake brunch ode to honey!

Whole Wheat Honey Banana Pancakes with Honey Cinnamon Whipped Cream & Roasted Bananas // www.WithTheGrains.com

Hopefully the bees’ remaining honey will carry them boldly through winter. Hopefully, the following spring will entice them with its nectar flow, and hopefully, this honey harvesting will become a tradition. For now though, we celebrate each spoonful we have and the progress the Urban Farmer is making on the bee front!

Single-Grain

Sweetly,
Quelcy

Whole Wheat Honey Banana Pancakes
w/ Honey Cinnamon Whipped Cream & Honey Roasted Bananas

Note: Pancakes are a great way to use local milk that has just turned, as well as bananas that are over ripened. I used a soured milk for this pancake recipe, and it yielded an extra fluffy pancake and less waste! As always though, exercise caution when using an ingredient past its peak. Alternately, you can use buttermilk. 

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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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A Cinco de Mayo Brunch w/ Huevos Rancheros “Nests”

May 2015 

Without any regard for my presence, just across the regularly traversed street, he emerged from his home, with a lawn chair and a bare chest. His gut bore the brunt of years of overeating, while his sporadically tattooed arms remained relatively thin. He set the chair on the sidewalk, one of the main sidewalks of this neighborhood, and he sank into his seat. He cinched up the ends of his nylon sport shorts so as to allow more sun exposure on his upper thighs, which also boasted random tattoos. The tan-line-threatening socks and killer 80s-style high-tops seemed to confirm the rumors of his return from jail and a lingering ankle bracelet. As he settled into his sun worshipping routine, I heard a sound I haven’t heard in ages- the spritz spritz of what I can only assume was tanning oil and not sunscreen.

A Cinco de Mayo Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

It was noon, which meant the early spring rays were shining directly on his already bronzed body. He closed his eyes and sank into the chair without a care for his appearance or what the neighbors might think. As the sun traveled through the sky, he rotated his chair, and with closed eyes, he positioned his head toward the warm rays. It was as if he had emerged from 1980, when tanning didn’t cause skin cancer, when perhaps this street was more neighborly, when he didn’t have a record. In some ways, this soon-to-be leathery, ex-con was enviable. There he was, idling away a spring afternoon, giving zero fucks about the ozone layer, his waist line, nosy neighbors, recent fashion trends or the discomfort of pedestrians in his vicinity. Maybe it was his alleged time behind bars, but this neighbor was really soaking up the spring moment.

A Cinco de Mayo Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’m not adding this man to my heroes and role models list by any means, but this indifferent sunbather did reiterate this goal: bask away an afternoon and just forget everything else! This goal is why I host Sunday brunches. No lines, no wait, no stressed service industry, no surprisingly bad menu items, no sending back an undercooked egg, no thoughts for Monday, etc. Just brunch, conversation, a thoughtful menu, and in the case of this early Cinco de Mayo celebration: a little outdoor time with some sunshine…

A Cinco de Mayo Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

…and with a cocktail that won’t cost you $14!

A Cinco de Mayo Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

When it comes to brunch cocktails, I like an elixir that uses the palate as the guide, not a complicated recipe of ratios. I infused mango nectar juice with (de-seeded) jalapeño pepper slices, pomegranate seeds, chunks of pineapple and mango and served the spicy, fruity combination with additional limes and tequila for the taking. I salted the rims of the glasses with Pink Himalayan Sea Salt for an extra colorful touch.

A Cinco de Mayo Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

Cinco de Mayo Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

Cinco de Mayo Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

Cinco de Mayo by With The Grains 07

Cinco de Mayo Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

Cinco de Mayo Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

Cinco de Mayo Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

The menu consisted of these Baked Tortilla Egg “Nests” with sour cream and guacamole (recipe below), as well as tropical fruits and a Whole Wheat Chocolate Banana Tres Leches Cake for dessert (recipe to come). There was plenty of iced coffee, and Bess kept the drinks flowing! Progressively, the tequila portioning became more pronounced, as it should on a zero-fucks Sunday brunch.

Cinco de Mayo Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

Relieved of her farming duties for the day, Julep was all about a relaxing Sunday with the ladies.

Cinco de Mayo Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

Cinco de Mayo by With The Grains 13

Cinco de Mayo Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

The right weather, and the right friends with their quick wits and sarcastic humor, made me feel a little like the bronzing neighbor. Worries and cares seemed to slip away with each sip of Mango & Tequila. The Chocolate Tres Leches Cake was just the right sweet indulgence, as we exchanged tales of awkward crushes, gossip, goals, plans, progress… all the topics you want to hit with good friends on a Sunday. Each of these creative friends is a mover and a shaker in her own right, so there’s always lots to discuss (Dane, Kelly and Bess), and I’m grateful for the ways they each support me too.

Cinco de Mayo by With The Grains 16

Inadvertently, here’s to the bronzed neighbor with the questionable past, and here’s to good friends gathering for a re-appropriated holiday, tequila cocktails, crispy tortillas and rich chocolate conclusions.

Single-Grain

Buen Provecho!
-Quelcy

p.s: If you want to create a similar celebration, the handcrafted, Nepalese garlands and pinwheels are available at Roxanne’s Dried Flowers. The vintage, industrial trays and wooden crate are available through Toll Gate Revival, a new favorite salvage & vintage purveyor of mine.

Tortilla Egg Nests/Huevos Rancheros Cups

About This Recipe: These nests combine all your favorite Huevos Rancheros flavors, but baking them makes them a perfect brunch option, since you pop them in the oven and can focus on other details. The recipe below uses a frozen, Fire-Roasted Sweet Corn from Trader Joe’s. If you can’t find that variety at your local TJ’s, you can use regular frozen corn, and roast it with the sweet potato. The idea behind these is loose and flexible. Add other taco favorites or meat for a different variety. I used a pineapple salsa for these cups, but use whatever salsa you love. There may be extras of some of the filling, as the portioning is pretty loose. Depending on your menu, plan on most guests eating two of these.

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A Purple & Green Themed Spring Brunch

April 2015

In an anthropomorphized world, Billy Buttons would be the wide-eyed boy with a dirty face, a dangling overall strap, a slingshot in his back pocket and tussled hair. His very traditional and formal mother would insist on calling him by his given name, Craspedia, but all the other children would chant and cheer, “Billy, Billy Buttons is here!”

Purple and Green Brunch by With The Grains 09

In reality, Billy Buttons are these silly, globular flowers, like lollipops or sugary gumdrops on sticks. When I saw these deep violet and chartreuse preserved billy buttons (available here), visions of a purple and green brunch filled my head. When your grocery list is “purple” and “green,” the grocery store becomes a totally different shopping experience and a challenging assignment for guests who ask what to bring.

Purple and Green Brunch by With The Grains 02

This purple and green inspired frittata took center stage with slices of heirloom rainbow carrots, asparagus spears and new-to-me purplish kale sprouts (when a kale and a brussels sprout love each other very much…). Always keep a frittata in your proverbial back pocket as a brunch host. A frittata serves a full table of friends, it’s a blank canvas for colorful and seasonal ingredients, and it’s a comforting crowd pleaser.

Purple and Green Brunch by With The Grains 10

Purple and Green Brunch by With The Grains 14

My green and purple shopping list led me to Trader Joe’s Pesto Gouda, and my old time favorite- blueberry chèvre. Pesto Gouda is a worth buying even when you’re not on a strict color mission.

Purple and Green Brunch by With The Grains 07

We toasted blackberry juice mimosas with fresh kiwi and blueberry garnishes.

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It wouldn’t be a With The Grains brunch without a little something for the sweet tooth. This gluten-free, frozen dessert was a nod to the emergence of spring and warmer temperatures, topped with homemade whipped cream and juicy blackberries, blueberries and fresh mint. With the lavender crust and frozen fruit layer, the dessert is light, floral and the perfect touch for a spring brunch.

Purple and Green Brunch by With The Grains 03

Purple and Green Brunch by With The Grains 12

Behind every styled table and fork clanking on a plate, is this pair of pumpkin seeds waiting hopefully for fallen morsels of brunch…

Purple and Green Brunch by With The Grains 16

Purple and Green Brunch by With The Grains 17

As the colors disappeared from the table, we switched to a completely different palette: neons! This brunch took place on Easter morning and transitioned to an Easter Egg Hunt! “Were there kids there?” asked the Urban Farmer’s mom. Nope, just a bunch of adults, hunting for bright, plastic eggs on a farm. More on that to come!

Purple and Green Brunch by With The Grains 18

Stay tuned for our Easter Egg Hunt adventures and the recipe for the Purple & Green themed frozen berry dessert!

Single-Grain

Here’s to Colorful Menus!
-Quelcy

p.s: If you like my fern centerpieces, check out this DIY I did for Roxanne’s Dried Flowers.

Carrot, Kale Sprout & Asparagus Frittata

About This Recipe: The vegetable component of this frittata recipe is really flexible. The portions I list below are a loose guide, as I was very fluidly creating this version while setting a table, brewing coffee and whipping cream for brunch. Roast, sauté and combine according to your cravings and what’s in season. The main ratios to mind are the egg mixture proportions. I found the Kale Sprouts at Trader Joe’s. If you can’t find them, you could easily substitute kale or brussels sprouts (cut in halves).

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A Floral Inspired Brunch feat. Lavender Lemon French Toast

April 2015

We sat picnicking in a sunny field, not far from the narrow streets, bordered by the cracking plaster of crooked old buildings. These little roads opened to the center plaza, where farmers had sold us apples as big as our heads, creamy, stinky cheeses, rustic breads laced with nuts and fruits, and a cheap bottle of wine that would keep a sommelier squawking for days. You wouldn’t recognize me in this sunny field.

Lemon Lavender Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

Close friends are often shocked when they glimpse this stage of my life. My hair was dreaded and spindled down my back. My flowing fabrics and loose garments spoke to my pseudo-hippy stage, but beyond my looks, you wouldn’t recognize me because I was still such a baby in my food journey. Those picnics in the very quaint and serene Aix-en-Provence taught me to appreciate ingredients, the effects of soil and flowers, why a name can only be applied when a strict set of standards are followed. In a word, terroir.

Lemon Lavender Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

When I glimpsed this green enamel bucket arrangement at Roxanne’s Dried Flowers, where I regularly style and photograph beautiful florals, I felt transported. I briefly returned to the narrow roads, crooked buildings, crackling plaster and bustling farmers markets of Aix-en-Provence. I returned to the centre-ville that taught me how bread, cheese, olives and wine tempt and lure me as much as an intricately prepared roast. In turn, the very provincial centerpiece inspired my brunch menu.

Lemon Lavender Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

Lemon Lavender Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

This easy side dish combines fennel, blood oranges, roasted red grapes and fennel greens with Pink Himalayan sea salt. Fennel is a staple in many provincial French recipes. Roasting the grapes adds an extra sweetness, and their shape mirrored the spherical Billy Buttons. The loose fennel greens added a color pop to match the green enamel bucket and the salal leaves.

Lemon Lavender Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

Lemon Lavender Brunch by With The Grains 11

When I set the table, I added a curly lemon peel garnish to each glass. The yellow peels picked up the yellow hues of the floral arrangement. For an inspired brunch cocktail, I invited guests to mix fresh-squeezed lemon juice, champagne, Art in the Age’s Sage Liquor and Royal Rose Lavender Lemon Simple Syrup, according to their flavor preferences. The tart lemon and sweet lavender mixed well with the herbal notes of the Sage Liquor to create a very fresh, spring drink. If you could drink in the hillsides of Provence, it might taste like this!

Lemon Lavender Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

As a token for each guest, I created simple nosegays using the same flowers as the arrangement. This carried my floral theme to the plates and made a lovely parting gesture to my guests. When it came time to fill those plates with food, my main dish was a Baked Whole Grain Lavender Infused French Toast.

Lemon Lavender Brunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

Pain Perdu, lost or wasted bread, the French call it, and aside from almond croissants, it’s one of my favorite French breakfasts. For my baked version, I served each portion with a dollop of homemade Lemon Lavender Whipped Cream and added a small sprinkling of loose lavender as a fragrant and flavorful garnish. As the morning progressed, with tart, herbal sips and sweet, syrupy, floral bites, part of me felt far, far away on a picnic in Provence.

Single-Grain

Bon Appétit!
-Quelcy

Baked Lavender Lemon French Toast with Lavender Lemon Whipped Cream

About This Recipe: Baked French Toast is best when assembled the night prior to your brunch, which makes morning preparations a lot easier. I infused cream with organic lavender, which soaks the bread overnight. The longer you infuse the lavender, the better, so start that step early. I sourced my organic lavender from a Farm-to-Table expo, but you can find it in certain specialty stores. Be sure to buy food-grade, organic lavender to avoid flowers sprayed with pesticides. When I was struggling to find lavender, I had purchased Royal Rose’s Lavender Lemon Simple Syrup, which I used in this recipe, but alternately, you can make your own.

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Roasted Beet Waffles with Sour Cherry Jam & Whipped Coconut Milk

March 2015

I feel warmer when I look at the magazine cover. It radiates with a glossy depiction of bright yellow flowers, knee-high leafy greens, a freewheeling chicken, plump carrots and a tender father-daughter gardening moment. It’s the Urban Farmer’s seed catalog, and by now, its pages are tattered, wrinkly and thoroughly perused. While he plotted how to fill his plots of land, I found myself caught up in the excitement of seed shopping. Not unlike combing through a favorite clothing company’s pages, I would interject with “oooh, will you buy that one?” However, this catalog shopping boasted a level of anticipation like no other.

Beet Waffles by With The Grains

From their exotic colors, to their wild patterns, to their poetic monikers (Silver Cloud Cannellini, Midori Giant, Kentucky Wonder, Who Gets Kissed?), each of these heirloom seeds contains a rich history and immeasurable potential. The Urban Farmer will plant and nurture these tiny seeds into fully fledged roots, fruits and vegetables. He’ll reclaim vacant land, restoring its purpose and a neighborhood’s pride, one cultivated row at a time. He’ll harvest, and he’ll nourish those who buy into this farming notion, those who will eat with confidence, knowing he has their health and wellbeing in mind every time he steps foot on that soil. His hands will callous, his heart will swell, and our cupboards will fill with new recipe inspiration,and all of this starts with pages in a seed catalog.

Beet Waffles by With The Grains

The Urban Farmer’s brunching mornings might be on hold for a spell, while he bends fence posts into hoop houses, tills and tills, plans his plots, and plants his seeds. Fortunately, we managed to savor a lazy waffle morning before the farm clock began to tick so loudly. This year, another farm’s beets inspired our brunch, but who knows how the Urban Farmer’s seeds will transform and inspire us next year?

Single-Grain

Here’s to Seeds, Soil & Stacks o’ Waffles!
-Quelcy

Roasted Beet Waffles with Sour Cherry Jam & Whipped Coconut Milk

About This Recipe: Above all, the beets add a bright, rosy hue and a faint sweetness to this waffle recipe. The cornmeal gives the waffle a bit of a crunch. The whipped coconut cream is light and fluffy, and a great non-dairy alternative to whipped cream. I recommend a slathering of Sour Cherry Jam or your favorite fruity spread.

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Fried Chicken & Butternut Squash Spelt Waffles for Brunch

February 2015

I had a lot on my proverbial plate, but my eyes were bigger than my stomach. The heaps grew, but the flavor diminished. Beautiful foods were pushed aside to cram more and more varieties. Strong flavors weakened as the dishes mixed. My favorites were buried under others’ preferences, and my craved flavors were nearly lost completely. Tried and true dishes were just off– rushed, undercooked, and full of excuses. I didn’t need anything else added to this metaphoric plate.

What I needed was a cold hard assessment.

Chicken and Waffle Brunch by With The Grains-01

January, full of New Year’s resolutions and birthday reflections brought just that- a very snowy and cold reassessment. I realized there comes a point when too much is just too much. When I snap at my dog who just wants to play, too much is too much. When my posture sinks with sadness, too much is too much. When I barely see friends, too much is too much. When my dining room table sees more laptops and paper piles than brunches and guests, too much is too much, so I made some changes, big changes (more on those to come).

Chicken and Waffle Brunch by With The Grains-04

I cleared that proverbial plate. I looked at the menu with new eyes. What’s important to me? What invigorates me? What makes me feel passionate and yields my best work? This space, my own little corner of the blogosphere (thanks for joining me here!), the Urban Farmer, my not-so-little little one, sharing meals, feeding people…all these priorities emerged through the old, mucky heaps, with all the intentional, beautiful drizzles and garnishes of a styled plate at a fancy restaurant.

Chicken and Waffle Brunch by With The Grains-02

The natural thing to do after a cold, hard reassessment is a warm, celebratory brunch with good friends, so as my proverbial plate cleared, my very real plate FILLED in the best possible way- with Spelt Waffles, Quinoa Crusted Fried Chicken, Local Grits with Maple Roasted Root Veggies & Sage, drizzles of pure maple syrup, and a few mugs of a hot coffee.

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Fried Chicken & Waffles is a mouth-watering combination, but it’s a combination I often pass because of chicken sourcing, frying oils, and a general lack of ingredient care. This brunch, however, celebrated this classic combination with love, care and collaboration.

Chicken and Waffle Brunch by With The Grains-09

I wish I could share the recipe for the fried chicken with you, but it was my friend Chris’s doing, and like many a talented cook, his kitchen process is fluid and off-the-cuff. I can give you a few hints. He started with organic, pasture-raised chicken. One of our friends is gluten free, which makes traditional breading problematic. We couldn’t flaunt fried chicken in front of her. That would just be cruel, so Chris used a Quinoa chip as a crust. Additionally, I lent Chris my bottle of organic, non-GMO Safflower oil for a guiltless fry, and the chicken had a stint in the oven for real juiciness. It was a gluten-free gamble, since he puts a lot of pride and practice in his cooking, but it was a crispy win- a win I wish I were still eating!

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The grits were another ad-libbed process. I boiled the local grits from the Urban Farmer’s CSA, and as they thickened, I added bright, golden Irish butter, pure maple syrup and maple roasted sweet potatoes and crispy sage. It was a hit- a hit without measurements or recorded times, so I recommend some grit experimenting of your own.

Chicken and Waffle Brunch by With The Grains-05

I also recommend sharing your brunch with pups for extra enjoyment. Meet Runo. No, I have not added another little companion to our family though he did trigger the part of the brain that results in hours on petfinder.com. I’m exercising [some] discipline and resistance and trying simply to relish four-legged brunch guests whenever possible.

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Chicken and Waffle Brunch by With The Grains-06

The one element of this brunch I can share accurately? The waffles! Mixed by yours truly, and flipped by my handsome fella, I recommend you add this recipe to a warm, celebratory brunch of your own! I you happen to have a gluten-free guest in your midst, I recommend this mix from Bob’s Redmill because as much as I love my grains, I’d hate to watch a friend skip waffles.

Single-Grain

Happy Brunching!
-Quelcy

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Buckwheat Monkey Bread To Start A New Year

January 2015

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.

Buckwheat Monkey Bread by With The Grains

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 by With The Grains

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 Monkey Bread was made my way- the grainy way!

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