Category Archives: Brunch

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.

Chicken and Waffle Brunch by With The Grains-03

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!

Chicken and Waffle Brunch by With The Grains-08

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.

Chicken and Waffle Brunch by With The Grains-07

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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Baked Almond French Toast with Lemon Curd & Rhubarb Compote

August 2014

“Verily, the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.” Kahlil Gibran

I wrote down these words in the midst of a to-do list. I nearly buried them, but in leafing through the little book, they stopped me in my tracks once more. In order not to lose them again, I wrote them on their own page, bigger, harder to miss…

“VERILY, THE LUST FOR COMFORT MURDERS THE PASSION OF THE SOUL, AND THEN WALKS GRINNING IN THE FUNERAL.”

Cocktails and Syrup

Comfort is that steady paycheck I once had, the one that afforded travels and frequent dinner outings. However, that comfort came at the price of dreading each and every day and the mind-numbing tasks ahead of me. It came at the cost of supporting others’ passion while I struggled to determine my own. Then life intervened, uprooted my path, and I went with it.

Brunch on the Deck

I took a very deep-dive plunge into uncertainty. I chose the gamble of pursuing beauty, and in doing so, I stress, I frenzy, I freak. I also brainstorm, ideate, debate and create. Somewhere in between stress and satisfaction is the ideal sort of comfort, the earned comfort, the much needed, Sunday-brunch-on-a-deck-with-good-friends sort of comfort.

Baked Rhubarb French Toast

These Sunday brunch comforts include:

Muddled mint tipsiness.
The scent and taste of bacon.
The happiness of my pup when she scores a piece of said bacon.
Kitschy pinks and turquoises.
Helping a friend embrace his sweet tooth.
The emphatic praises from my friend as she takes her first bite.
LAYERED French toast.
Feasting, Feasting, Feasting!

Whipped Cream

Final French Toast with Whipped Cream

Baked French Toast with Lemon Curd & Rhubarb Compote

Ingredients

6 slices of stale country wheat bread + 6 stale brioche hot dog buns

Lemon Curd
Rhubarb Compote

3 cups plain coconut milk
3 large, organic eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
50 mL Disaronno Liqueur (amaretto)
1-3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup, to taste

sliced almonds

Directions

Generously grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with unsalted butter or coconut oil.

Arrange bread in a tightly packed layer in the pan. Use chunks from an extra piece to fill any gaps.

Spread an even layer of lemon curd over the bread, followed by an even layer of rhubarb compote.

Arrange remaining bread in a top layer, using smaller chunks to fill in any gaps. Sprinkle with slivered almonds.

Whisk milk, eggs, sugar, salt, Disaronno and maple syrup. Pour the mixture over the bread layers, being sure it seeps into the top.

Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight in order for the bread to absorb the liquid.

Bake at 425 for 30-40 minutes, until puffed and golden.

Cut into generous squares and serve with maple syrup (optional, this French toast is good on its own) and homemade whipped cream.

Single-Grain

Rum Whipped Cream

Ingredients

1 cup organic whipping cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup

2 Tablespoons spiced rum

Directions

Chill the cream in a mixing bowl in the freezer until the cream just starts to freeze. Remove from the freezer. Add the vanilla and maple syrup.

Use a mixer, on medium speed, to beat until peaks begin to form.

Add the rum, and continue to mix until combined. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Single-Grain

Here’s to the Necessary Comforts & Passions!
-Quelcy

Birthday Pancakes at the Annual Maple Syrup Festival

April 2014

There is a wooded place that brings me great joy.

Wooded Spot

This elation does not stem from communion with nature or the serenity of the woods. No, my joy stems from the activity stirring in this woodland once a year: the Annual Maple Syrup Festival!

Mullet Love

The festival provides yellow school bus transportation from parking to the site. You might find mullet love along the way!

This year marked my 4th time experiencing the wonder of this festival! Why do I mark my calendar months in advance? What makes pancakes and syrup so much more special in a barn, in the woods? Why do I wake up early on a Sunday to beat the lines?

Words may fail to fully convey the answers, but I keep attempting to articulate the merits anyway…

Best Friends Bus Ride

My crew for this year’s festival rivaled my zeal! Sandra (middle) drove all the way from DC to join us, and Nina (right), who attended as a child, was the girl who introduced us to this magic in the first place. Plus we had Erin and Pam along for the ride. They were newbies, and we were about to show them something unforgettable.

Amurica

The flag and the Civil War reenactments should offer a pretty clear frame of reference, but lest you forget, this festival takes place in America!

Is it worth waiting in line for pancakes? Is it worth waiting in line for an hour? If that line is at the Maple Syrup Festival, then yes, indubitably!

Tickets and Souvenirs

Should you want to commemorate the festival, there are plenty of XXL tshirts, as well as maple syrup and locally milled flours available for purchase. I stuck to buckwheat, wheat & cornmeal in lieu of a new shirt-dress.

Beyond maple syrup and pancakes (which are incentives in and of themselves), the festival features a field of vendors and attendees, ie: my people-watching happy place! Here are just a few of the wonders that transpired around the line and made the long wait pass in the blink of an eye…

Families with matching mohawks
Plenty of “real tree” ensembles
A baby goat
“Arts” & “Crafts”
What we called “narrative sweaters” (fleeces featuring wolves, or eagles, etc)
A face tattoo or two
A jean jacket with a wolf patch (You know she didn’t buy it that way!)
Kitsch and lots of it!
What I presumed to be a Shania Twain cover band
Boy scouts looking like German youth (it’s weird. This aspect is never not weird)
A random regal couple- were they wayward Europeans?!? How did they get there?
A ridiculously attractive Civil War soldier (ALL of us agreed, and our tastes are different to say the least)

Maple Syrup Arrival

OJ and Flapjack Flipping

It’s not every day Boy Scouts and troop leaders make breakfast for you!

The $8 fee covers coffee (but don’t bank on a caffeine boost from this watery java), orange juice, three sausage links (additional links are available in $.50 increments- a real bargain!), all-you-can-eat buttermilk and buckwheat pancakes plus pure maple syrup! Whole grain pancakes and real maple syrup are a fast track to my pancake-loving heart.

Birthday Pancakes

The real reason why this Maple Syrup Festival was magical? It’s tradition! My best friends and I first attended in college as some weird thing to do to escape our stresses and celebrate Sandra’s birthday.

The Real Reason

I bet if we had looked a little harder, we could have found the same boy scouts!

YEARS later, we are still close friends! Celebrating Sandra’s birthday with commemorative, syrupy goodness and a people-watching goldmine was the perfect way to usher in the big 3-0.

Maple Syrup Fest Place Setting

Epic Rat Tail

Likely the least attractive pancake pic I have ever posted, and the MOST EPIC rat tail I have ever seen! My face lit up like Christmas morning when I realized this kid was sitting behind me.

The "Sugar Shack" conveys why maple syrup costs so much money by explaining the process from tree to pancake. The aging, handmade graphics are not to be missed!

The “Sugar Shack” conveys why maple syrup costs so much money by explaining the process from tree to pancake. The aging, handmade graphics are not to be missed!

We ate until we were full, and we laughed until we cried. Much like the festival itself, I can’t fully convey what made us laugh, but when I think of the festival and those moments, I feel as happy as a kid on a merry-go-round!

hoorah

Perhaps I’ll see you at the festival next year?

Single-Grain

May Your Syrup Be Pure & Your Traditions Sweet!
-Quelcy

Instagram Lately: Whole Wheat Carrot Pancakes & Counting Beautiful Things

April 2014

Much like the crotchety, old Muppet men, my friends and I sat on the balcony of Carnegie Music Hall, leaning into the low rails grandfathered by time. Below us, a man emerged, as if from a mountain hideaway, with a well worn sweater, a cap, an unruly, graying beard and a guitar. He began to strum and sing purposefully, as if rushed to share the song’s message before the funeral dirge surrounded him. Cymbals, brass instruments, a selection of saws, a glowing plastic lamb, an oriental rug… it was Neutral Milk Hotel, and from my balcony seat, I tried to preserve the performance, the words, my friends, all the tiny pieces of my life that overlapped with the music filling that theater….all of it!

Instagram_Antiques and Easter

As I embraced the rarity of hearing the live performance, these lyrics in particular struck a chord…

What a beautiful face
I have found in this place
That is circling all round the sun
What a beautiful dream
That could flash on the screen
In a blink of an eye and be gone from me
Soft and sweet
Let me hold it close and keep it here with me

And one day we will die
And our ashes will fly from the aeroplane over the sea
But for now we are young
Let us lay in the sun
And count every beautiful thing we can see
Love to be
In the arms of all I’m keeping here with me

Instagram Lately_Easter

In the wintry months, I spoke about seeking and embracing the merits of beauty, but the gravity of Mangums’ voice and the weight of his lyrics were a wonderful reminder to slow down, lay in the sun and count every beautiful thing like curiosities in colorful hues, the slow process of preserving memories, art in a mug, the beauty of food enjoyed with friends, bowls made by hand, edible logos and blossoming baked goods.

Easter Pancakes

His were the words to remind me on some Sundays, the only goal should be to soak up the sunshine and eat pancakes. If that Sunday happens to be Easter, why not soak up the sun and eat carrot pancakes?

Note: If you’re an avid juicer, save some of the carrot pulp from your weekly juicing to make this scrumptious stack and feel better about wasting not, wanting not. If Jack LaLanne means nothing to you, go ahead and shred some whole carrots for this Easter inspired, syrupy goodness!

Whole Wheat Carrot Pancakes
makes approximately 10-12 thin pancakes

Ingredients

butter or olive oil, for griddle

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
A dash of ground cinnamon
A dash of Chinese 5 spice

1 organic egg
3 Tablespoons olive oil or melted butter
2 Tablespoons pure cane sugar
3/4 cup organic coconut milk
1 cup organic whole milk

2 cups carrot pulp from juicing (or about 6 big carrots, finely grated)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit so you can keep the pancakes warm before serving.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and five spice.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, cane sugar, coconut milk, and whole milk.

Stir in the carrot pulp, then add the wet mixture into the dry mixture all at once. Stir just until incorporated.

Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes and preheat your griddle/skillet. Add more whole milk if the mixture is too thick.

Over medium heat, melt a thick slice of butter or a Tablespoon or two of olive oil in a cast-iron skillet or griddle. Pour a scant ¼ cup batter into the hot pan, using the measuring cup to pat the batter down and out a bit. Cook, flipping once, until the pancakes are golden on both sides.

Place pancakes on an ovenproof plate and keep in the oven while you cook the remaining pancakes, adding more butter to the pan as needed.

Serve with cardamom brown butter, chopped walnuts and a healthy pour of pure maple syrup!

Single-Grain

May you count all the beautiful things you can see (and eat) & maybe Instagram them too!
-Quelcy

p.s: Easter Sundays are just made for wanderings.
p.p.s: You can find the rest of my Instagram adventures here.