Mulled Wine For Holiday Gatherings

This post is sponsored by Market Street Grocery, but all opinions are my own! Thanks for supporting the brands that support With The Grains!

 

Mulled Wine and a Holiday Spread by With The Grains 01

The Christmas ornaments decked the halls at a comedic scale, as if plucked from the set of Honey I Shrunk The Kids. Greens and lights and velvety ribbons seemed to swathe the entire city. The iconic ferris wheel glimmered with extra holiday spirit.

Mulled Wine and a Holiday Spread // www.WithTheGrains.com

From their pop-up village of log cabins, Germans shared their merriment through juicy bratwursts and donuty sweets swirling on skewers to golden perfection. Some of the merrymakers kept warm by whipping around the ice rink to holiday carols. Others, like myself, turned to the warm cups of mulled wine. London knows how to celebrate the holidays!

Mulled Wine and a Holiday Spread // www.WithTheGrains.com

Having journeyed to London from conservative Pennsylvania, where public displays of wine drinking only happen in conjunction with communion, I gazed at each sidewalk wine vendor like a child beholding a candy shop. I relished each cup of mulled wine as if it were my last. With a warm cup of mulled wine in my clutches, my hands warmed, my spirit warmed, and I felt inspired to roam the vibrant city long into the wintry night.

Mulled Wine and a Holiday Spread // www.WithTheGrains.com

Though the street-vending of mulled wine is still a ways away (at least for us in Pennsylvania), this warm indulgence is perfect for stateside holiday gatherings. Mulled wine is easy to make, easy to serve, and the heat and spices make this a sipper. Since guests can serve themselves, it’s the perfect drink to offer with a wine and cheese style spread. Below are some of my favorite Market Street Grocery picks for hosting a small holiday gathering.

Mulled Wine and a Holiday Spread // www.WithTheGrains.com

My love for baguettes is deep, but when it comes to a holiday party spread, I like to pick a heartier, more flavorful bread like this Raisin Walnut loaf from Allegro Hearth Bakery. The sweet accent of the raisins pairs perfectly with the creamy texture and sweet-tangy balance of Humbolt Fog cheese and fresh fruit. Additionally, the delicate, edible ash layer adds more visual interest than a simple brie or goat cheese would.

Mulled Wine and a Holiday Spread // www.WithTheGrains.com

Balance the sweeter notes of the fruit, cheese and wine with an olive selection. The colorful Divina Organic Greek Olive Mix includes a little olive leaf, a small detail which makes for an impressive presentation.

Mulled Wine and a Holiday Spread // www.WithTheGrains.com

Incorporating fresh fruits into a loose garland is a functional way to decorate your table, and if the festivities continue long into the night, you can always cut up the fruit and replenish the cheese.

Mulled Wine and a Holiday Spread // www.WithTheGrains.com

For those who do not drink, I like to offer Pellegrino Sparkling Water or carbonated juices, and I keep gluten-free crackers on hand just in case. For all gatherings, but especially for holiday gatherings, I want all my guests to feel included and partake in the festivities.

Mulled Wine and a Holiday Spread // www.WithTheGrains.com

Even after guests have finished their mulled wine and the party has concluded, you’re likely to have plenty of wine and spice-infused fruit still filling your crockpot. One of the secret ingredients in this Mulled Wine recipe is Chinese Five Spice, a fragrant combination of anise, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and ginger, so don’t let that flavorful fruit go to waste! Stay tuned, and I’ll share a recipe for leftover mulled fruit and spreading even more holiday cheer.

Single-Grain

Happy Gatherings!
-Quelcy

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A Farewell to Summer and A Recipe for Homemade Ketchup

“You in?” he yelled while already launching me forward.

“And this is how it ends,” I thought. “Death by homemade zip line!”

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

As the very questionable swing rocketed forward, I gripped fiercely and managed to scooch my bum into the very key area- the seat! The smile on my face shifted abruptly to an expression of pure panic as I beelined for the very solid tree directly in front of me. “Does this thing stoppppp?!?” I wanted to yell, but before I could form words, the swing yanked me backward in one jarring, whiplash-inducing motion.

Wooohoo! One more time!

Welcome to the Kunkle Family Reunion, Quelcy!

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Kunkles, the Urban Farmer’s family through his mother’s side, are titans of tradition! The family reunion I attended could have been any of the family reunions from the last 50 years. The faces may have aged, and new little Kunkle offshoots may have arrived, but the campsite was the same. The games and challenges were the same, and the spirit of good ol’ family fun was the same.

Knox at Kunkle Reunion

That family fun didn’t include technology either. I didn’t see kids scrolling on phones. I didn’t see iPads or movies. I saw rackets, gloves, tree swings, dogs and kids splashing in the creek, and middle-aged men competing against children with the seriousness of Olympic athletes. In a word, it was comforting.

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

The reunion was especially comforting because beyond the Kunkle family compound, “progress” threatens the beautiful hills, meadows, mountains and streams. Where families once hiked and swam freely, toxins and carcinogens now bar them from their own land. The promises of natural gas proved too good to be true, and the landscape of Western Pennsylvania is changing rapidly. In the name of “progress” so much has already been lost in our region (see these firsthand accounts if you don’t believe me).

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

But these external threats and unraveling traditions made the Kunkle Family Reunion all the more special. Real people. Real connections. Real traditions preserved and passed to the next generation of Reunion Presidents, Vice Presidents and Treasurers. Like a grandmother’s beloved recipe baked by her granddaughter, these ritual handoffs deserve to be celebrated. So, without further ado, I bring you this glimpse into the past, and why it stuck with me.

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

The legendary Kunkle Reunion Base Race kicked off the events of the day. The competitive nature of this event quickly became apparent when the historical scoreboards came into sight. The discolored boards of the 80s marked the key year when the bases were moved, lest any performance be judged unfairly by the distance differential. It was also worth noting that Mike Shoop’s slowest time was the result of a knee injury, not a lack of athletic ability.

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

Julep and I watched with pride, awe and maybe even a heart flutter or two as the Urban Farmer dug deep and delivered the overall winning base race score of 9.3 seconds, a far cry from his score of 39.1 seconds in 1986!

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

“Quelcy Kogel to the plate,” the man in suspenders announced. “Oh no…no, no…no,” I objected, but all eyes were on me. I had come merely to watch, but the Urban Farmer had thrown my hat in the ring. He had entered my name without my knowing!

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

My palms were sweaty, my heart was racing, and off I went! Every competitive nerve in my body was tingling.

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

I fell short of my main squeeze, so don’t be surprised if you sporadically find me running bases in the off season. Next year, I’ll be prepared, but I sincerely hope the official time-keeping uniform never changes!

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

Young and old kept the tradition alive, and after such exerting work, it was time for swimming in the creek, which first requires jumping from a rope swing (and requires leaving cameras safely on dry land).

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

As happily overwhelmed as I was, my Julep was overwhelmed in a way that gave us all quite a scare. Between the other dogs, the commotion, the anxiety of watching her papa tethered to another human and teetering in a three-legged race, the poor little one overdid it. As the Urban Farmer and I held her close and tried to decipher what exactly was causing her to drool, pant and tremble excessively, so many family members came to our side.

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

Family members who I barely knew rallied to offer any help they could. Closer family members overlooked dog drool and wet fur to help us ice down and comfort our poor dehydrated fur baby. They showed such sincere concern for our Julep, and I’ll never forget it.

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

I had come simply to observe and relish the Kunkles’ traditions, but in the end, I felt so connected to the Urban Farmer’s family. As our Julep rehydrated, refueled and showed signs of her normal self, the rest of the reunion adjourned to the campfire for silly songs,  s’mores and the rest of the evening’s time-tested agenda. Though we left early, the day left me with a lasting impression.

A Farewell to Summer // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer, like his family’s reunion, borrows from the past in an effort to preserve tradition. He worked tirelessly this year, through rainy spells, dry spells and rampant groundhog spells to stay true to his farming convictions. He believes in tighter ties to our food, and more connections with the makers and growers. He believes in a self-sustaining local system, and he won’t stop until he achieves it.

Homemade Ketchup Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

As the autumn settles upon his farm, the tomato vines have given one last burst of bright red fruits. Like base races, old truck rides and creek swims, summer tomatoes are worth preserving.

Homemade Ketchup Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

In an effort to truly preserve the flavors and the spirit of summer, I returned to America’s classic condiment- ketchup!

Homemade Ketchup Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

As a Pittsburgh resident, it may be blasphemy to offer an alternative to the beloved Heinz 57, but I find it blasphemous to masquerade high fructose corn syrup as an American tradition (though sadly, it is becoming an American tradition).

Homemade Ketchup Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

This homemade ketchup won’t boast the exact ruby redness or perfectly smooth texture of store-bought counterparts, but each dollop of this condiment will impress. Make your own ketchup, and every winter burger or oven roasted french fry will become more satisfying and take you back to summer grilling and tomato harvesting in the heat. There’s something to be said for preservation!

Single-Grain

Here’s to traditions, memories and delicious condiments!
-Quelcy

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Whole Wheat Lemon Mint Olive Oil Cake (Vegan) for a Farm Cookout

“Farming is a strange combination of forced patience and instant gratification,” is how local farmer Tara Rockacy explained her endeavor, and she would know! The lady has been moving and hustling, expanding, growing and evolving with each season, from CSAs to goats emerging from new barns to mingle with the city’s top chefs. The “forced patience” aspect reminded me how a farm must work in tune with the season and the elements. Unlike a business startup, there can’t be a complete change of direction mid-season. There can’t be a last-minute decision to focus on flowers because that’s what the market wants. That decision has to be planned and put in motion long before the competitive scrambling to catch a bridal bouquet. That’s why a bloom, at long last, is so instantly gratifying.

A Farm Cookout // www.WithTheGrains.com
Photo by Christopher Sprowls.

Nonetheless, my dreamer, imaginative, event designer, stylist side gets swept away with the farm’s full potential, until a brief reality check finds me ensnared in visions of long tables, farm-fresh bouquets, wedding vows amidst the basil, banjo nights, yoga by the hoop house, drawing classes with edible still lifes, herbalism workshops, etc, etc, etc. The “forced patience” is remembering the main goal for this season: to repair the soil, grow food and feed people. Everything else will come in its due time. Due time means starting small: one picnic table, four friends, and one enjoyable evening of just being on the farm.

A Farm Cookout // www.WithTheGrains.com
Photo by Christopher Sprowls.

“This is the first time I’ve had people on the farm and haven’t put them to work,” the Urban Farmer joked, and though the work is rewarding, just sitting, laughing and eating sausages was a welcomed change of pace.

A Farm Cookout // www.WithTheGrains.com
Photo by Christopher Sprowls.

Starting small, or simply starting, can be such a hurdle, so this cookout was a much needed reminder for me to slow down, enjoy this season, and take advantage of the here and now. I should probably plaster that reminder all over my apartment: Start small, start small, start small!

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Photo by Christopher Sprowls.

Bricks that once clad homes on these vacant lots, were born again as a our fire pit, where we grilled sausage and smoky potato wedges with herbs. The Urban Farmer picked the salad straight from the ground- a flavorful mix with bitter, citrusy notes and crunch- a far cry from the plastic container of greens in the produce aisle. The watermelon was juicy, the cocktail was refreshing, the view of the city was stunning, and dessert was just the right mix of sweet and tart.

A Farm Cookout // www.WithTheGrains.com
Photo by Christopher Sprowls.

While my head will probably always spin with ideas and grand dreams, I’ll take plenty more of these small, first steps and remember to appreciate patience, albeit forced, and cherish the ensuing moments of instant gratification!

Single-Grain

Cheers,
Quelcy

Whole Wheat Lemon Mint Olive Oil Cake & Sage Lemonade Cocktails

About These Recipes: Olive oil, lemon juice and lemon zest make this a moist, spongey cake fit for vegans and dairy-loving fools alike! Serve with homemade whipped cream, organic vanilla bean ice cream, or vegan whipped coconut cream. The cocktail is a loose recipe for a fruit-infused punch. Free of precise ratios, it’s an effective way to serve cocktails to multiple people. You’ll need a gallon jug or pitcher.

Whole Wheat Lemon Mint Olive Oil Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

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Collard Spring Rolls with Cashew Mustard for a Gluten-Free Gathering

I worked in a European-style bread bakery for a spell, which meant I had access to one loaf per day of the breads that sent immigrants clambering to the bakery door. Through thick accents, they’d order their national loaves, and I understood their passion. There was a comfort in the familiar loaves, the way the bread would perch on a plate next to traditional recipes, ready for that last swipe of the plate and lingering sauces reminiscent of distant homes.

Collard Spring Rolls with Roasted Purple Sweet Potatoes // www.WithTheGrains.com

I came to rely heavily on my bread ration, too heavily- a warm, raisin-walnut roll for breakfast, a sandwich on honey-sesame for lunch, and a slice of baguette or levain on the side of dinner. I wasn’t suffering by any means, but I realized bread was taking up a lot of space in my diet and potentially limiting my intake variety. I decided to go on a bread fast.

Collard Spring Rolls with Roasted Purple Sweet Potatoes // www.WithTheGrains.com

What started as a week, turned into two months, and in that time, my diet changed tremendously. By cutting out such a staple, I had to be more creative, be more conscious and plan ahead. Eventually, I came to incorporate bread again, but by then, I had established more creative menu planning habits.

Collard Spring Rolls with Roasted Purple Sweet Potatoes // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’m not gluten intolerant, but I can sympathize with those who are. When I invited our new friends Dylan & Amber over for dinner, Amber mentioned she had a gluten-intolerance, but if it meant needing to bring her own bread or crackers, that’d be fine. My goal in any dinner party is for everyone to enjoy the meal together, so I saw her gluten intolerance as a challenge, and much like my bread fast, the challenge led to more creative menu planning, including these Collard Spring Rolls.

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Collard Spring Rolls with Roasted Purple Sweet Potatoes // www.WithTheGrains.com

These healthy, colorful spring rolls come together as if rolling an entire garden row into one compact log! They also led me to discover purple sweet potatoes and the utility of a collard green.

Collard Spring Rolls with Roasted Purple Sweet Potatoes // www.WithTheGrains.com

Collard Spring Rolls with Roasted Purple Sweet Potatoes // www.WithTheGrains.com

Collard Spring Rolls with Roasted Purple Sweet Potatoes // www.WithTheGrains.com

The menu included the Collard Spring Rolls, a Carrot & Sweet Potato Pad Thai (of sorts) with Quinoa Noodles, a Beet & Sunchoke Purée with Edamame, and a Vegan, Gluten-Free Chocolate Dessert (more on that later).

Collard Spring Rolls with Roasted Purple Sweet Potatoes // www.WithTheGrains.com

The meal was healthy and vibrant, and it may never have come together like it did if it weren’t for a limitation.

Single-Grain

Bon Appétit!
-Quelcy

Collard Spring Rolls with Roasted Purple Sweet Potatoes & Cashew Mustard
Adapted from Reclaiming Yesterday

About This Recipe: The main component is the roasted purple sweet potato puree. I found these at Whole Foods, but if they’re nowhere to be found, regular sweet potatoes will work too. Roasting draws a lot of flavor and sweetness, making a flavorful spread for the wraps. The best way to approach this recipe is to have a lot of vegetables, and then just ad lib while building your spring roll. Add some chopped cashews or hemp seeds if you want a little more crunch. They’re great for a packed lunch or an afternoon snack. The Cashew Honey Mustard makes a tasty dip too.

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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

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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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