Donut o’ the Month for @Jojotastic: Roasted Beet & Rosewater

February 2015

Fun fact about me: I’m pretty weird.

Some have politely called me “different” or “unique,” but when it comes to dancing around the kitchen like a crazy person, “weird” is probably the most appropriate word. Luckily, I have the Urban Farmer to add lyrics to my songs and moves to my dancing. You say “enabler,” I say “cohort.”

Roasted Beet Donuts by With The Grains 01

When frying donuts, there are timed increments (submerge, wait, flip, wait, remove, repeat). With so many donuts to fry, these increments collectively form a significant period of standing around and waiting. I might fill this period of time with dancing or making up songs about my dog, which I sometimes let slip in public. When it comes to making roasted beet donuts, I may dance and sing this song, pun very much intended!

Roasted Beet Donuts by With The Grains 04

This installment of my kitchen dancing antics and my Donut o’ the Month series for Jojotastic was inspired by lingering Valentine’s sentiments. This holiday, filled with its fair share of clichés, makes me think of rosy hues, roses by the dozen, and red hearts filled with assorted mystery chocolates. Since last month’s donut featured chocolate, I focused on pink tones and roses. Not one for dyes, I channeled the hues and pun power of the beet, which made a most lovely and surprising bright pink crumb au naturel.

Roasted Beet Donuts by With The Grains 02

As for the Valentine’s Day rose cliché, I’ve tiptoed in the realm of rosewater treats, and I thought a rosewater element thematically appropriate. Tastefully, I was a bit skeptical, but the faint floral note is addictively delicious! One bite, and you too will be singing and dancing in your kitchen. We got the beet, we got the beet, go eat the beet….yeaaaah!

Roasted Beet Donuts by With The Grains 03

Roasted Red Beet Donuts with Rosewater Glaze (Gluten Free)

About This Recipe: Since the name of this blog is With The Grains, grains being plural, one of my recent goals is to explore a wider variety of flours. For this recipe, I chose Bob’s Red Mill’s Organic Brown Rice Flour, which makes this bright pink donut one for the gluten-free friends. However, all donut lovers will be happy to know, the crumb was still light and fluffy, so there’s no texture or taste sacrifices. Plus, the brown rice flour packs a lot of nutritional benefits, as do the beets!

Brown rice flour is high in protein, iron, fiber and vitamin B. It’s rich in manganese, which helps in the proper development of bones and cartilage. One serving of brown rice flour supplies more than 20 percent of the recommended amount of magnesium, phosphorus and copper, as well as 11 percent of potassium and more than 100 percent of manganese.

All that from a donut!


Go eat the beet!



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Buckwheat Monkey Bread To Start A New Year

January 2015

Buckwheat Monkey Bread //
Buckwheat Monkey Bread for a New Year’s celebration

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.

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 //
Hearty yet sweet & gooey Buckwheat Monkey Bread

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 Buckwheat Monkey Bread was made my way- the grainy way!



Whole Wheat Chocolate Gingerbread Layer Cake

December 2014

It had been too long, and he had missed making music, so the Urban Farmer strummed his guitar at the dining room table, where I worked on something far less poetic. His fingers and his voice learned their way through the latest Billy Bragg song. My Farmer’s smoother voice joined the deeper, raspier words of the recording. He played and repeated, played and repeated, but the poignant lyrics merited the repetition:

Deep down in the underground, atoms spinning round and round. Scientists monitor readings. Searching for the Holy Grail, the particle or at least the tale of the one who gives the universe its meaning. But what if there’s nothing, no big answer to find? What if we’re just passing through time?

Whole Wheat Chocolate Gingerbread Layer Cake //

Aside from a stint of piano lessons and a brief spell in the middle school orchestra, the only music these hands play is on Spotify. I’ve always been fascinated by words, writing and literature. Guiding a thought from mind to paper in a compelling way is challenging enough. These minds, who combine thought-provoking concepts with pleasing rhythms, harmonies and all the finer details of music making that escape me, these brilliant minds leave me awed and inspired like a child watching a magic routine for the very first time. A lack of technical understanding and raw talent might explain why many attribute these music maker’s talents to a higher power. Magic. God. Gumption. Who knows? It all leaves me pleasantly transfixed and inspired.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Gingerbread Layer Cake //

Music may not be my conduit for expression, but the baking and sharing of food is one of the ways I translate the stories in my head into something real. Some people regard baking as I regard music. It seems magical, daunting, impossible, the equivalent of a chemistry experiment, or maybe even divinely inspired. There is a lot of magic to this process of transforming disparate pantry items into inspired layers of wholesome decadence, but at a fundamental level, music and baking stem from a willingness to try.

Time and technique are required for full mastery, but to start, if you can reach the pedals or read the directions, you can make the layer cake. Whereas early tinkering might make for unpleasant melodies, a baking mistake here and there can still yield deliciousness. I may never find my voice through song, or strings, or keys. However, sharing these sentiments, these food inspired stories, and these images is the way I share my voice, and this tale tastes of chocolate, gingerbread and the most memorable moments of the holidays.



Chocolate Cranberry Upside Down Cake w/ @WigleWhiskey

December 2014

There’s a middle-aged man in my neighborhood who lives alone. If you’re familiar with Pittsburgh vernacular, he’s what one would call a yinzer. He might be missing a tooth or more, has a smoker’s cough, and his fashion relies heavily on jerseys. His house is a large vestige of the 80s, complete with drop-ceiling tiles and surely some wood paneling. He lives simply, fueled by beer, sports, porch sitting and banter with the equally yinzer neighbors. When I walk up the hill, he greets me, applauds my dog training and pets little Julep on the head. It’s an endearing exchange to watch. Her tail wags rapidly, he smiles and calls me honey in a not-so-skeezy way.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake //

I haven’t seen this man since winter put a wedge in porch sitting, but as I walked by his house recently, I was stopped in my tracks. Rainbow icicle lights draped over the large picture window on the otherwise barren porch. I paused to take in the blinking lights, trying to imagine what went through his head in planning the decor. I spend countless hours poring over design blogs, styled shoots, Pinterest boards, magazines and more. I earn money by making scenes come to life before a camera. Yet, a few blocks away, my home was lacking any holiday cheer- a fault of time and a stressed schedule. Without any plans for guests, I hadn’t made a point to decorate for myself, but my neighbor, with his drop ceiling in place, had adorned his porch with rainbow lights.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake //

My observation did not emerge from a place of competition or condescension. His Christmas lights fascinated me. I think a lot about beauty and design, about how beauty is so often pegged as a superficial fixation. However, these little touches can really brighten a day, for both the person who decorates and the person who sees it. We each have our specific styles, our obsessions, and a certain level of indifference when it comes to design elements, but we also have some very human quality that causes us to seek beauty and adornment. This is why I believe in making and sharing beautiful food.

There’s a creative and fulfilling challenge for me in developing the recipes and the plating, and hopefully, there’s an experience for the recipients. Hopefully, we walk away having shared something- a brighter moment, a laugh, or a silence as we enjoy what just passed from fork to mouth. It may be a while before I feel adult enough or childish enough to buy and decorate my own Christmas tree, but I will be decorating cakes for the holidays, and thanks to my neighbor, I was inspired to add a little fresh greenery, candles and holiday cheer here and there.


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