Roasted Carrot Cheesecake (Gluten Free)

April 2015

This cake makes me think of the proper white fences, bright green grasses and rose crowns of the Kentucky Derby. Much like the horses fighting to be the fastest, my mind has been racing lately. My eyes have been bigger than my stomach when it comes to piling ambitions on my to-do lists and then I chide myself for falling short of my expectations. In reality, I find myself closer to certain goals than I have ever been, but it’s all too easy to miss the individual markers when sprinting in circles.

Roasted Carrot Cheesecake by With The Grains 04

These are the times when adages will advise the overwhelmed, the anxious, the uninspired and the rushing masses to stop and smell the roses. However, recently I have found more relief in watching the creatures surrounding the roses- the bees.

Roasted Carrot Cheesecake  // www.WithTheGrains.com

The ceremony may have paled in comparison to the processions of real royalty, but watching The Urban Farmer release his Queen Bee felt momentous nonetheless. He had sequestered her from her subjects, allowing them time to accept her and her role. Cloaked in a mesh veil and long sleeves, The Urban Farmer opened the hives and released her from her special chamber. Her new kingdom accepted her, and all was well.

Roasted Carrot Cheesecake  // www.WithTheGrains.com

The worker bees feasted on sugar water and continued about their business, buzzing and crowding the door to their new home. Steadily, bees entered and exited the pencil-eraser-sized opening in the wooden box. Some ventured into the woods, while others returned, their legs fat and laden with yellow pollen. Sitting amongst a swarm of bees requires a certain stillness, but I found, they also inspire a certain stillness. Their buzzing patterns were mesmerizing and noticeably calming.

Roasted Carrot Cheesecake  // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer recently joked, “I didn’t become a farmer because I like people.” Whether farming, beekeeping, tapping maple trees or butchering a hog, these time honored traditions require just that- time and honor. We rushed and rushed to mechanize and streamline, but perhaps like energy, the rush can neither be created nor destroyed, simply transferred. After all our advancements, it seems all the rush went straight to our minds. While I’m not so deep in affectation as to shun all of our modern conveniences, I am grateful to have found this farmer who lends his peacefulness to my galloping thoughts. You can’t rush a bee, you can’t rush a seed, and you surely can’t rush a cheesecake. Nor should you rush eating it.

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Bon Appétit!
-Quelcy

p.s: Learn more about beekeeping in this post.

Roasted Carrot Cheesecake with Gluten Free Ginger Oat Crust

About This Recipe: Roasting enhances the natural sweetness of carrots, which inspired me to feature carrots in a dessert. Start with this Roasted Carrot Recipe, and then use a food processor to puree. The combination of spices yields a flavor very similar to a pumpkin cheesecake. Play with the spice combination if you want to emphasize the carrot flavor profile more.

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Flourless Dark Chocolate Torte with Roasted Carrot Buttercream

April 2015

The movement of the spoon filled his eyes with wonder, and his mouth opened as wide as possible. Mashed beets surrounded his precious lips like a first attempt at applying lipstick in a moving vehicle. His chubby fingers curled and tightened, and the bright green of a prematurely cut avocado squeezed through the opening of his tiny fist. The enterprising dog waited under the table patiently, hoping for fallen splatters of purée. “Now you’re just playing,” she scolded in jest, pushing the plate beyond his stubby reach.

Flourless Dark Chocolate Torte with Roasted Carrot Buttercream // www.WithTheGrains.com

When I first met The Urban Farmer’s future farmhand, aka his nephew, he was a mere string bean tucked in a pod, living off milk alone. Now he’s a chubby, little, army-crawling sweetpea eating yams, avocados, spinach, pears, apples, beets and even caviar on a very special occasion! Think about that leap, from liquid to colors, textures, and tastes. No wonder we approach food playfully when we are young!

Flourless Dark Chocolate Torte with Roasted Carrot Buttercream // www.WithTheGrains.com

Food is exciting, but eventually, even the most supportive mama has to intervene. Her desire to wear a shirt without spit-up stains or Gerber greens surpasses the amusement of a baby discovering his hands and how they clumsily wrap around this thing called a spoon. On our epic journey from milk to solid foods, there comes a point when the all-knowing adults reprimand, “don’t play with your food.”

Flourless Dark Chocolate Torte with Roasted Carrot Buttercream // www.WithTheGrains.com

I may not have a beet-stained face or squish avocado through my fist, but there is a sense of play I find in baking. A cake is like a blank page, and nature has given us so many ways to color. Why cheat and resort to artificial dyes and sugars? Just looking at a baby’s dinner, I saw so many inspirational hues. His “dessert” was spoonfuls of avocado, which led me to thinking, what other vegetables can we eat for dessert? Sure, there’s carrot cake, but what about carrot frosting?

Now we are playing with our food!

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Happy Playing!
-Quelcy

Flourless Chocolate Cardamom Torte with Roasted Carrot Cream Cheese Frosting

About This Recipe: Whipping egg whites into stiff peaks for the cake will take a long time, (i.e.: the length of a classic Bob Dylan folk anthem), but don’t lose heart. Fluffy egg whites make all the difference in this torte. The frosting starts by roasting carrots (follow this recipe but stick to the orange, red & yellow carrots for color purposes). Then simply puree the roasted carrots until smooth. For the frosting application, I used a #32 pastry tip. Have some piping fun, or simply spread with an offset spatula.

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Whole Wheat Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Rosemary Syrup & Candied Lemons

Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.

In 1997, John Silveira wrote the above as a joke classified ad to fill space in a tiny publication, for which he worked, called Backwoods Home Magazine. The ad was the inspiration for the indie film Safety Not Guaranteed, and though I liked the movie in an emotional rom-com way, Silveira’s side of the story, told recently on Reply Allwas more thought provoking.

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Response letters poured into the PO Box Silveira listed in the ad. Some letters were comical, some poked fun, but most were filled with regret, such as a woman who wrote from prison wanting to undo her part in the murder of her husband. Silveira, like most of us would be in this situation, was ill-equipped to deal with the fragile emotions flooding his mail. He felt remorse for the false sense of hope he had inspired in so many, which brings me to why his side of the story is far more thought provoking. Why did no one wish to travel back in time and relive a positive milestone?

Whole Wheat Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Rosemary Syrup and Candied Lemons // www. WithTheGrains.com

I’m not sure what my first reaction would be if someone offered me the chance to go back in time. I’d like to think I’d request my dad’s surprise 50th birthday, dancing until dawn in Buenos Aires, or the first time I glimpsed the Urban Farmer. I like to think I live my life without regrets, but do I live my life with enough contentment and celebration?

Whole Wheat Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Rosemary Syrup & Candied Lemons

Not having regrets doesn’t automatically mean contentment. We can’t go back in time and undo mistakes, undo hurts, undo losses, but we can fill our moments, savor our time and cherish those around us. I bake to share, to embrace a moment, to forge friendships and memories. Flour, eggs, butter and other fanciful concoctions merge magically into flavorful layers. We bite these celebratory cakes slowly from the fork, savoring the flavors as they hit our tastebuds- lemon? rosemary? what else do I taste? We use these cakes as our guides through our memories. “Oh yeah, that’s when you made me the bunny cake!”

Whole Wheat Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Rosemary Syrup and Candied Lemons // www. WithTheGrains.com

We can’t go back, so we try to relive. A recipe becomes a celebration, and then we return to that recipe for nostalgia. We bake it for the next birthday or anniversary. In that way, traditions form and combat the uncontrollable passage of time ever so sweetly. This cake was for the Urban Farmer’s grandmother as she celebrated another year with a growing family.

What would you do? Would you travel back in time to redo or relive?

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Happy Baking!
-Quelcy

Whole Wheat Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Rosemary Syrup & Candied Lemons

About This Recipe: Tart and herbal, this is a cake for early spring. Start by infusing simple syrup with fresh lemon slices and fresh rosemary. This process candies the lemons for the garnish and flavors the syrup. After the cake is removed from the oven, the simple syrup is added and seeps into the nooks and crannies of the cake, adding a citrus & herb accent to each bite. The same simple syrup is used to sweeten the whipped cream layer. Garnish with bright cheery fruit such as raspberries for the final touch.

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Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cashew Cookies

March 2015

There are times that call for impressively stacked cakes with fluffy frostings, meticulous preparation methods and elaborate settings. There are other times that call for something more spontaneous, something simple and sweet to cap off a night and satisfy a craving.

For those times, there are these cookies!

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cashew Cookies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Cookies can be sweet, round reminders to appreciate the simplest of pleasures. When I need to refocus on these little joys, I find it’s worth putting pen to paper, making a list and reminding myself to be grateful and content.

Slow down. Calm down. Inhale. Exhale. Bake. Share. Repeat.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cashew Cookies // www.WithTheGrains.com

From pen to paper, from paper to web, from frenzies to thoughtful focus, these are the joys I jotted down recently:

Puppy sighs.
Grape hyacinths and the first scents of spring.
The faded ink of aged journal entries.
The many places a camera can take you.
Discovering humility in the midsts of great talent. 
Observing and appreciating the growth of a friendship through so many phases of life.
Loving someone so much, my heart bursts at the seams!
Staying up too late petting Julep because she curled next to me in the most precious wheel, and no matter how much I snuggle her, it’s never enough.
Baking my roundest, softest, gooiest cookies to date!

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cashew Cookies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Dogs and cookies. Cookies and dogs. This may be my new mantra for savoring the simple things in life!

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Here’s to the chocolatey, gooey, round reminders!
-Quelcy

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cashew Cookies

About this Recipe: Made with Bob’s Red Mill organic whole wheat pastry flour, these cookies are so soft and chewy with big bites of cashews. I recommend a high quality, dark chocolate chip such as Guittard, which I recommend for their use of all natural, non-gmo ingredients. For the cashews, either chop them coarsely, or simply use your fingers to break them in half.

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A Whole Wheat Roasted Beet Birthday Cake for @TheSeamRipper

March 2015

For a substantial period of my life, I had my mom photograph my daily outfit before “ootd” was a quotidian acronym. More specifically, I had my mom take a film photograph of my daily ensembles. This tells you two things: 1) My mom obviously loved me and supported my creative whims- enough to pay for film processing, and 2) I obviously cared a lot about clothing (I did have three significantly older sisters who loved to style me from day one, so this fascination was inevitable). Without latching onto the industry or specific names, fashion has always captivated me.

Vanilla Almond Cake with Roasted Beet Frosting by WithTheGrains.com

In middle school, I would write down my outfits on my homework agenda as a way to avoid repetition. In high school, I designed my prom dresses, which my mom patiently sewed while enduring my designer outbursts and tantrums [I’m sorry mom!]. College was a sea of inspiration. Surrounded by artistic nerds, I explored a wide variety of looks. Whilst in the throes of post-graduation, looming life questions, I even considered applying to FIT. Instead, I fled to France to iron a toddler’s pajamas and to gain a new appreciation for all-black ensembles, quality versus quantity, and form-flattering silhouettes. In one form or another though, fashion was always there.

Vanilla Almond Cake with Roasted Beet Frosting by WithTheGrains.com

Recently, a tattered page fell from one of my old notebooks. On it, I had transcribed a quote from the film Bill Cunningham New York about the namesake trailblazing, street-fashion photographer. In the film, he said,

“The wider world perceives fashion as a frivolity that should be done away with in the face of social upheavals and problems that are enormous. The point is, in fact, fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life. I don’t think you could do away with it. It’d be like doing away with civilization.”

Vanilla Almond Cake with Roasted Beet Frosting by WithTheGrains.com

If we let it, a love of fashion can feel petty or vain, but Cunningham distilled a humanity from our outer layers. Arguably, he was praising beauty- in all its wild forms. It’s why his photography is so compelling. His shutter is not constrained to trends, rules or condescension. He captures the bold, the unique, the simple details a million others might miss in their rush. He weaves themes and stories in the passing of commuters and daily lives.

Vanilla Almond Cake with Roasted Beet Frosting by WithTheGrains.com

As the season shifts to spring breezes, and rays of warm sunshine return, I find myself re-inspired by my own outer construct. Winter was often a helpless heaping of layers in an attempt to stay almost warm, but like the blossoming bulbs, I am ready to reinvent myself. I am ready to emerge from winter’s dark palette and wear bright hues and bold new patterns. I am ready for new looks and a new version of myself. As Cunningham said recently, “You can put fashion down and say it doesn’t mean anything, but it does because each morning when you get dressed, when you go out, it just lifts your spirits.” By extension, one could say the same about many design based fields. These spirit-lifting details drive so much of what I do- from interiors, to events, to food, these elements of style have meaning and significance. Beautiful details have the potential to inspire stories and smiles and memories.

Vanilla Almond Cake with Roasted Beet Frosting by WithTheGrains.com

This cake was a birthday cake for a fashion maven, also known as The Seam Ripper. Rachel is a new friend of mine, and she is the type of woman you like instantly. She is smart, witty, comical, driven, and she believes beauty and style exist in all shapes and sizes. She also loves beets, so this cake was all about beauty and beets. Here’s to spring! Here’s to fashion and beauty and details! Here’s to cake!

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Bon Appétit, You Beauties!
-Quelcy

Whole Wheat Vanilla Almond Cake with Roasted Beet Frosting

About This Recipe: I used an organic lemon extract in this spongey cake recipe, which was slightly overpowered by the almond extract. I recommend using fresh zest if you want to enhance the lemon flavor. Since I don’t have an arsenal of cake pans, I used one 7-inch springform pan to make a very tall cake, and then cut layers from that. If you have multiples, bake individual layers, but you’ll have to adjust baking times accordingly. For an extra special touch, I garnished this cake with dried roses with special instructions not to eat them. You could use an edible fresh flower, berries or whatever inspires you!

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Roasted Beet Layer Cake with Coconut Beet Frosting & Red Currants

March 2015

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” -Jim Rohn

The Urban Farmer’s brother shared this quote with a vast room full of people. His goal was for them to reclaim their lives through health and nutrition. His motives were personal, his words eloquent, and his intentions honest. He used the quote to encourage his audience to align with others on the same nutrition track- a safety in numbers/accountability approach. I sat in the audience, considering some significant ties I had recently cut, and that quote resonated with me deeply. As it turns out, there’s a scientific/psychological truth to this idea of changing in response to our sphere of influence.

Roasted Beet Layer Cake with Beet Frosting & Red Currants // www.WithTheGrains.com

I discovered this link while listening to an episode of Invisibilia entitled Entanglement (lately, I am a voracious podcast listener, and I highly recommend the series). The story starts by describing an episode of Candid Camera. A man enters an elevator alone. Two people join him and face the wrong direction. The original man looks puzzled, but continues to face the door. Then a third person joins the elevator and also rotates away from the door. This is the final straw that causes the original man to follow suit. This is called Conformity, and it’s when your mother might interject, “if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?”

However, as the hosts of Invisibilia described, “whether you want to or not, all day long, you are engaged in a kind of synchronized dance with the people with whom you come in contact.” Psychologists call this intense and rapid mimicry Contagion. We subconsciously imitate activities like breathing patterns, blinking rates, tones, fidgeting, etc. Animals do this as well. We are wired this way, primitively, but what’s really intriguing is how we take on each other’s emotions too. Psychologists call this Emotional Contagion. Our faces leak our emotions- fear, grief, shame, joy, etc- all transferred through tiny micro expressions. My mind returned to the Jim Rohn quote, and the Emotional Contagion theory added a whole new level to surrounding oneself with truly positive, uplifting people.

Roasted Beet Layer Cake with Beet Frosting & Red Currants // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’m fortunate. The Urban Farmer and his people are good people. They love and support each other. They’re warm and welcoming. They care deeply for those around them. They’re the type of people you want to count amongst your five, to surround you, to influence you. Thus, when it came time for the Urban Farmer’s mama to celebrate another year of life, I wanted her celebration to be sweet, rosy and wholesome. This cake was for her.

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Here’s to the Positive Influences!
-Quelcy

Roasted Beet Layer Cake with Coconut Beet Frosting & Red Currants
(Gluten-free, Grain-free)

About This Recipe: My main goal for this cake was to create a dessert with a very low sugar content and to use coconut flour effectively (I had a major coconut flour FAIL recently). The combination of almond flour, coconut flour and arrowroot (crucial for a gluten-free recipe) yields a very light and spongey cake. The roasted beet adds a light sweetness. The whipped topping is naturally pink from a roasted beet puree making this cake a beautifully wholesome dessert!

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Whole Wheat Cinnamon Spice Layer Cake with Chile Chocolate Sauce

March 2015

The first sensation to hit me was the smell of soil, then the warmth embraced me, and then the color consumed my vision. The color green seemed so foreign to my eyes and nearly forgotten. I had left the muddy, murky, chilly outdoors and stepped inside a greenhouse, where fat, fluffy rabbits nestled in an enviable way, and the chickens were surely squawking the latest gossip. The downy chicks, the paper-thin seedlings, the climbing kale, the pop of pepper color in the corner, all of it seemed to say, “It’s time to emerge from hibernation!” It’s amazing what a dose of plants can do to your spirits!

Cinnamon Cake by With The Grains

This cake, like an early spring wander in a greenhouse, will tease your senses and bring you to life. Cinnamon, when used more robustly, adds quite a spiciness. Top that with a spicy chocolate, and you’ll start the feel the warmth that looms just around the corner.

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Spice Up Your Spring!
-Quelcy

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Spice Layer Cake with Chile Chocolate Sauce

About This Recipe: 
This recipe has three main components- a cinnamon simple syrup, a chile chocolate sauce and the cake itself- but none of them are very difficult. For the chili chocolate sauce, I used a dried Morita chile from my local Mexican grocer. You could also try the international section at your grocery store. You could use a variety of dried chiles, just do your research to prevent unwanted heat levels (whatever your heat level preferences may be). Cinnamon itself adds quite a kick to the cake too, so this is a very flavorful, spicy combination.   

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What To Make With Almond Milk Pulp: Chocolate Covered Almond Treats

March 2015

If I were Catholic, I’m not, but if I were Catholic, I have this nagging guilt I would attempt to assuage through confession. The dialogue would transpire as follows:

Priest: In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Penitent/Me:
Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been never since my last confession.

Priest: Proceed my child.

Homemade Almond Milk by With The Grains
The remains of making homemade almond milk: chopped almonds, dates and vanilla bean.

Penitent/Me: Father, what I did was so reprehensible, so inconceivable, I shudder to say it out loud to another human being. My sin happened about a month or two ago. With glazes and preparation methods whirling in my head, I removed two salmon filets from the freezer to thaw. By nightfall, they were ready to be savored, but the Urban Farmer had already eaten, so I saved them. The next night, the bright, orange and coral fish filled my vision every time I opened the refrigerator. “I must cook those soon,” I thought to myself, but for one reason after another, day after day, the fish never made it to our dinner plates. One week later, I held the fish package in my hand and evaluated how willing I was to risk food poisoning- not very. I had to throw away the fish. I had to throw away the salmon! The wastefulness haunts me to this day, father [voice screeching by this point. Some tears forming].

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Priest: I see. You must say an Act of Contrition [that came straight from my Google search to this “priest’s” monologue], and you must find ways to make amends [is that a Catholic thing?].

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Salmon. Of all the foods to squander, salmon! Images flashed in my head of starving children, over-fished waterways, questionable fish farming practices and the price tag on the fish itself. The guilt ran deep, but I tried to channel this negligence into something more productive, something more chocolaty!

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This brings me to a brand new category I am introducing here on my blog, “Waste Not, Want Not.” Though this series of blog posts will never undo the fish I have wasted, it will challenge me, and hopefully inspire you, to waste less and enjoy more.

Chocolate Almonds by With The Grains 04

I recently shared a recipe for homemade Vanilla Bean Almond Milk, which I recommend for its simplicity and purity. The potential downside to this process is the remaining almond pulp. There’s nothing wrong with this almond mixture, but using it instead of pitching it does require a little creativity. Being the chocolate lover I am, I combined the remaining almond meal with almond butter and a touch of pure maple syrup, then dunked the combination in dark chocolate. These chocolate balls are difficult to name, but they’re rewarding to eat.

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Chocolate Covered Almond Treats

About This Recipe: Landing somewhere between a peanut butter cup and a buckeye, this recipe starts with the leftovers of making Homemade Vanilla Bean Almond Milk. Mixing the chopped almonds with organic almond butter and just a touch of maple syrup yields a high protein, healthy treat that’s low in sugar. Use a high quality chocolate to keep this treat as wholesome as possible. I recently started using Guittard’s Extra Dark Chocolate Chips because they are 63% cacao, all natural, GMO-free, and they use sunflower lecithin instead of soy. They are the best chips I have found to date.

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Bless me friends, for I have tried to make amends!
-Quelcy

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