Fallen Chocolate Peppermint Cake with Whipped Topping (Gluten Free)

I hung my head in disgust and shame despite the fresh baked smell of chocolate and peppermint. Every attempt to salvage the ugliness before me had failed. The expensive, pink artisanal marshmallows looked like melted mozzarella- good on a pizza, bad on a brownie, and the chocolate drizzle was more like a chocolate drench, muddying the already mystifying marshmallows.

Fallen Chocolate Peppermint Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

The last feeble attempt- all natural sprinkles, as green as the many dollars needed to buy them, merely sank into the chocolate puddles. So alas, I left the warm brownies on the table, wrapped a bottle of wine and off we went to the Christmas Eve festivities. Failure has a way of kicking its boots around the kitchen every now and then. 

Fallen Chocolate Peppermint Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

This cake, however, was the redemption- a recipe seemingly designed to fail! How many times have I returned to the cooling rack in despair to see a sunken cake intended for layered glory. This chocolate cake recipe replies, “well, if there’s a chance it’s going to fall, why not just let it fall in the first place?” In general, this attitude might be a tad defeatist, but if you need an upswing, this might be the glass-half-full cake.

Fallen Chocolate Peppermint Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

Fallen Chocolate Peppermint Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

Fallen Chocolate Peppermint Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

So nestle into those p.j.’s, ignore the cake on the cooling rack, and let those rich, chocolate layers just sink into crackly goodness. This was my sweet, chocolate redemption that turned Christmas Eve failure into Christmas Day success. The many happy mouths, with chocolate and jam still sticking to their lips, said this was my best cake to date!

Go out and fail!

Flourless Fallen Chocolate Peppermint Cake with Whipped Neufchâtel Topping
Adapted from Bon Appetit

About this Recipe: Cake can be made 1 day ahead. Cover in pan and store airtight at room temperature. The original recipe calls for a 9-inch springform pan. To make the layered version, I used a 6 and 7-inch pan. The 6-inch cake will require less baking time (~25-30 minutes), so keep an eye on it as it bakes.

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A Whole Grain Apple Cider Layer Cake Forest (Gluten Free)

The truck inched around the tight bend of the parking garage. It seemed to have swallowed several other trucks in the process, making each maneuver hinge on the impossible. Valets attempted to corral drivers who wouldn’t be able to handle parking lots on a slow day.

A Whole Grain Apple Cider Layer Cake Forest (Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Once inside the grocery store, darting from one aisle to the other felt like a video game with constant obstacles- a rogue cart, an unaware shopper, an oblivious person fixated on a recipe printout while the employees did their best to maintain.

‘Tis the season!

A Whole Grain Apple Cider Layer Cake Forest (Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Yet within that chaos, a man in a Santa hat played “Away in A Manger” on his violin. He wasn’t a member of the city’s symphony or a student from the local university’s esteemed music program. It was simple and heartfelt. The song could be heard throughout the jams of people, carts and kids grabbing at everything while their parents did their best to survive. A few shoppers took the time to sit in the cafe and really listen, tucking tips into the simple plastic cup on the table.

A Whole Grain Apple Cider Layer Cake Forest (Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Up a level on the parking garage and on to the wine store, where human bodies nearly outnumbered the inventory. A dreaded sound emerged- that of falling, clanking glass. The cashier froze in anticipation of an even worse sound- shattering glass, but miraculously, the bottles survived fully intact. Her fellow coworkers burst into a round of applause, shouting, “It’s a Christmas Miracle!” Customers joined in the celebratory cheers.

A Whole Grain Apple Cider Layer Cake Forest (Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

All this is to say, maybe the Christmas spirit really does exist? In any case, here’s to finding the joys among the stresses, and may that sentiment continue into the New Year. 

Merry Christmas Eve!

Whole Grain Apple Cider Layer Cake (Gluten Free)
adapted from Brooklyn Homemaker
Servings: 12 to 20

About this Recipe: Classic holiday spices combine and a hint of whiskey combine in a moist apple cake with a dark chocolate frosting. It’s gluten free to please a holiday crowd. This cake was part of my “Wrap Party” story, so I went really festive on the garnishes, but the cake stands on its own if you’re not feeling so ornate.

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Oven Dehydrated Citrus for Holiday Decorating

Oven Dehydrated Citrus for Holiday Decorating // www.WithTheGrains.com

My dad had a penchant for infomercials. We had miracle mops that you never had to touch with your hands, all of our silver was pristine, and he could wax our cars to a mirror-like shine. Then came the big guns- the Ronco dehydrator with extra trays for maximum output. Our small kitchen became a virtual beef jerky factory. The scent of liquid smoke and hickory lay heavy in the air. It wasn’t a bad thing, just a tad overwhelming.

Oven Dehydrated Citrus for Holiday Decorating // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Ronco dehydrator is one apparatus you will not find in my kitchen, so when I had an itch to craft a natural element for this holiday season, I had to find an alternative method. It turns out, as one might expect, an oven, a cooling rack and a sheet pan can do the same trick.

The key ingredient is time- about 6-12 hours, so pop those slices in the oven before bed, and you’ll awake to a refreshing citrus scent in the morning. The landscape will be a winter wonderland, birds will somehow be singing, the kitchen will sparkle, and peace treaties will teeter on the horizon. It’s amazing what a warm oven and a little citrus on a winter morning can do!

Oven Dehydrated Citrus for Holiday Decorating // www.WithTheGrains.com

Then, start crafting!

Oven Dehydrated Citrus for Holiday Decorating // www.WithTheGrains.com

Oven Dehydrated Citrus for Holiday Decorating // www.WithTheGrains.com

My main motivation for these organic ornaments was the purchase of “Fronds Ferdinand,” our new Norfolk Pine, but I’ll also be sharing some other ideas for dried citrus, so stay tuned and good luck with holiday stresses.


How To Dry Citrus Slices in the Oven
Adapted from LiveStrong.com

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Whole Grain Pumpkin Gingerbread Bars with Pumpkin Streusel

Whole Grain Pumpkin Gingerbread Bars with Pumpkin Streusel // www.WithTheGrains.com

The weeping willow has shed so many of her tears, blanketing all but a tiny, undulating trail of sidewalk for my pup and me. Our routine walk has taken us past all her emotions- from full and boastful to drooping sorrow. Half cloaked and half unveiled, her in-between state reflects the season- not quite fall, not quite winter, all over gray with a tinge of the somber. 

Whole Grain Pumpkin Gingerbread Bars with Pumpkin Streusel // www.WithTheGrains.com

If only the willow knew of sunny pumpkins and gourds, with their brilliant orange colors and comforting flavors. Or maybe she does, and the descent of her leaves is more like a sweeping embrace than an ugly cry.

Whole Grain Pumpkin Gingerbread Bars with Pumpkin Streusel // www.WithTheGrains.com

Whole Grain Pumpkin Gingerbread Bars with Pumpkin Streusel // www.WithTheGrains.com

Like the scantily clad willow tree, these bars mark the transition of Thanksgiving to winter holiday baking. Pumpkin bar meets a gingerbread crust with a snowfall of pumpkin streusel and a garland of molasses. Though the willow may be submitting to the coming of the cold season, the fiery red trees seem to defy it, so channel them if you need a little warmth in these gray months. Or bake these, and serve with hot tea.

Bon Appétit!

Quelcy Signature


Whole Grain Pumpkin Bars with Gingerbread Crust & Pumpkin Streusel
Yield: 9×13 pan/about 24 bars

About this Recipe: Pumpkin + Spice on a gingery crust. The molasses drizzle made eaters think the streusel had raisins, so if you’re not a raisin fan, skip the drizzle. I used turmeric in the filling for color and nutrients.

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Whole Grain Pumpkin Crepes with Cranberry Sauce, Walnuts & Spiked Pumpkin Spice Whipped Cream

Whole Grain Pumpkin Crepes with Cranberry Sauce, Walnuts & Pumpkin Spice Whipped Cream // www.WithTheGrains.com

He pushed his hands against the table, and his chair slid backward, as if the growing space between him and the table would somehow create more room in his stomach. “I guess it didn’t help that we started the day with champagne,” he said, explaining the slowed pace of his Thanksgiving consumption.

“Why did you have champagne?” his older brother asked.

“Because we don’t have kids.” 

Ohhhhhhhhhh, snap!

“We should drink champagne more,” he said to me, and I couldn’t have agreed more.

Whole Grain Pumpkin Crepes with Cranberry Sauce, Walnuts & Pumpkin Spice Whipped Cream // www.WithTheGrains.com

Yeah, we are that Uncle and Aunt- the childless kind who can still relish simple luxuries like sleeping in and toasting champagne for breakfast… if you call “noon” breakfast, and on Thanksgiving, we do! (The Urban Farmer is also the kind of uncle who believes someone has to torture the youngins, a role he fills diligently.)

Whole Grain Pumpkin Crepes with Cranberry Sauce, Walnuts & Pumpkin Spice Whipped Cream // www.WithTheGrains.com

Our Thanksgiving morning was a very intentionally slow morning that eased into a brunch just for us… with champagne. Being that 2016 has kept me on my toes, when a sanctioned day-off hits me, I am all too happy to kick up my feet.

Whole Grain Pumpkin Crepes with Cranberry Sauce, Walnuts & Pumpkin Spice Whipped Cream // www.WithTheGrains.com

As the sort of basket case that leans toward the side of “do, do, do, make, make, make, go, go, go… stress, stress, stress,” doing nothing is not my best skill. The Urban Farmer, however, has a very healthy attitude toward “couch days.” During the season of gratitude, I found myself truly relishing those times when man, pup and I can nestle into nothing.

Whole Grain Pumpkin Crepes with Cranberry Sauce, Walnuts & Pumpkin Spice Whipped Cream // www.WithTheGrains.com

I try to push the bounds of my gratitude, to see beyond the obvious. Yes, I am grateful for the roof over my head, for creative work, for a family who loves me and an admirable partner, but I’m also grateful for hot showers at my fancy, for growing up routinely celebrating my birthday with parties, for having real options for my education even if money was tight. But sometimes, it’s really soul-warming just to sit on a couch, sip champagne, watch a creepy show and relish that guy who thinks I’m special, all while snuggling the furry bundle of love who holds no grudges and wants to please us all the time. Those little nothing moments are in fact everything moments.

Whole Grain Pumpkin Crepes with Cranberry Sauce, Walnuts & Pumpkin Spice Whipped Cream // www.WithTheGrains.com

So we relished the morning and its lack of responsibilities. I played with flowers to gift his grandmother, and we brunched in our pajamas. Then I gladly sat at a table for which I had to do zero work. I ate way too much, then refilled my plate because gravy overrides reason.

Whole Grain Pumpkin Crepes with Cranberry Sauce, Walnuts & Pumpkin Spice Whipped Cream // www.WithTheGrains.com

Then there was round two- another side of the family, more plates, more refills, still no responsibilities and in the end, a game of name-that-hummed-tune and charades that made my face hurt from laughing so hard. Have a grown man do a t-Rex impression and then hum “Ring My Bell” while you try to guess what on earth he could possibly be channeling. It makes for a night to remember!

Whole Grain Pumpkin Crepes with Cranberry Sauce, Walnuts & Pumpkin Spice Whipped Cream // www.WithTheGrains.com 

Whole Grain Pumpkin Crepes with Cranberry Sauce, Walnuts & Pumpkin Spice Whipped Cream // www.WithTheGrains.com

Thanksgiving put me into such a mellow state. Between that lingering food coma and the subsequent gray rainy days, I’m having a hard time bouncing back in full force. These crepes are not only a good way to use leftover stores from Thanksgiving (extra cans of pumpkin and cranberries?), but they offer a way to indulge in a weekend morning and extend that Thanksgiving laziness feeling. Eat brunch in your pajamas. Watch a creepy show. Cuddle your significant other and/or furry companion(s), and be grateful for the nothingness of it all.

Quelcy Signature


Pumpkin Crepes with Cranberry Sauce, Walnuts & Pumpkin Whipped Cream
Adapted from Carlsbad Cravings

About this Recipe: Holiday shopping surely left an extra scoop of pumpkin puree or a stockpile of cans of cranberries, so use them up in one seasonal inspired brunch. Add a dollop of the whipped cream to your coffee, and serve the whole brunch with a bottle of bubbly! It’s not pictured, but I also recommend a healthy slathering of Nocciolata on these crepes. Chocolate-hazelnut, pumpkin and cranberries are a seasonal match made in heaven.

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What To Make With Leftover Stuffing: Stuffing Latkes with Salmon, Crème Fraîche & Capers

I closed Instagram. Instagram with its beauty and inspiration and mindless scrolling. Instead, I finally braced myself for the news- those stories I had been keeping safely at my periphery, understanding the gist but not digesting the magnitude. Oh the painful symbolism of oppressed natives while the rest of us feasted on plump turkeys and ate gluttonously on potatoes and cranberries and buttered rolls and enough pies to populate a corner bakery. I was complicit. I wanted to be cocooned in the warmth and comfort of my holiday, but I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling.

What To Make With Leftover Stuffing: Stuffing Latkes with Salmon, Crème Fraîche & Capers // www.WithTheGrains.com

Then I shared a meal with one of my friends who feels closer to me than most blood relatives, a friend who has more fight in her than many brave lifetimes combined. There was a tinge of cynicism to her, the final burn at the end of a long, oiled rope. She’d been fighting and fighting against so many of the same issues facing the “water protectors” at Standing Rock, except her fight was in our backyard, and no one listened. 

What To Make With Leftover Stuffing: Stuffing Latkes with Salmon, Crème Fraîche & Capers // www.WithTheGrains.com

On the surface, this corner of the web seems like just a space for food, for recipes, for entertaining, but my interest in food has always been more than the way ingredients come together. Food is a basic right. It’s a unifier, a language, a way to commune, to learn, to share, but water, water is even more. It’s fundamental, a life source. But they are all in jeopardy, suffering attacks from every angle, usually from those who will be the last to suffer the losses. 

What To Make With Leftover Stuffing: Stuffing Latkes with Salmon, Crème Fraîche & Capers // www.WithTheGrains.com

This plate is about leftovers. I wish the narrative it inspired was cheerier, was about continuing the warm, cozy cocoon of Thanksgiving, but the thing is, the threads of that cocoon are tenuous. This story is one of picking up the pieces, of salvaging the more admirable bits and not wasting them. We, who have so much, need not waste. We need not waste our food, our riches, our power, all for the ability to oppress. We must pick up smaller pieces and build more, create sustainability. 

What To Make With Leftover Stuffing: Stuffing Latkes with Salmon, Crème Fraîche & Capers // www.WithTheGrains.com

If I were the biblical sort, I’d reread of the symbols promised to signal the end times. If I were in a poetic mood, I might turn to Victorian fears of good versus evil because these days can feel so blindingly hopeless, and yet, I have to believe in some lingering optimism, that the remnants will create something completely new and promising. When we face restraints and limits, our true creativity and possibilities must rise.

Make stuffing into latkes. Then take a stand on not just the news-glorified protests, but take a stand on those issues that creep to the edges of your backyard. Admittedly, I’m still figuring out where to direct my attentions, but in the meantime, I’ll be donating to those who are braver than me, to those who stand up for me even without knowing my name.

Here’s to remnants becoming inspiration.

Quelcy Signature 


Stuffing Latkes with Salmon, Crème Fraîche & Capers

About this Recipe: Perfect for serving brunch after a big holiday gathering. Mix in leftover mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes for variations on the leftovers theme, using 1 egg for every 2 cups leftovers. 

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