Sweet Potato Reuben Sandwiches (Vegetarian w/ Vegan Option)

2.6 miles is what separates every conceivable expensive, organic product from my kitchen. If my beloved red Vibe were unable to traverse those 2.6 miles, there’s a flight of steep city steps that nearly extends from my curb to a busway, which offers one of the few direct, convenient routes in our public transit system. Since I hate waiting for transportation, I have also walked those 2.6 miles, but it makes returning with a significant stock of groceries a challenge. All that is to say, my path to healthy food is nearly a yellow brick road, and that’s a luxury. 

Sweet Potato Reuben (Vegetarian w/ Vegan Option) // www.WIthTheGrains.com

A car and a mere 2.6 miles means we can run to the store when the kibble is but dust at the bottom of the bin. We can make dinner decisions well into the evening. We can be cooking dinner, discover we forgot something and still go to the store. We are fortunate, but others are not so lucky, nor do they have such easy access to wholesome foods. 

Sweet Potato Reuben (Vegetarian w/ Vegan Option) // www.WIthTheGrains.com

When the Urban Farmer began his search for land, he sought the obvious factors for optimal growth (south facing, drainage, etc), but he also targeted communities he thought would benefit from an urban farm. The farm’s namesake neighborhood, Hazelwood, had a prime location and a need for fresh, healthy food. The neighborhood fit the “food desert” classification, but that’s changing due to several agricultural initiatives and thanks to one woman with a vision. 

Sweet Potato Reuben (Vegetarian w/ Vegan Option) // www.WIthTheGrains.com

Dianne Schenk turned what could have been lofty thesis research on food deserts into a very tangible, seasonal fruit & vegetable stand in a food desert. Then she turned that stand into a year-round brick-and-mortar. Today, she runs Dylamato’s Market, and at long last, the neighbors have easy access to fresh, healthy, affordable food, including the sweet potatoes you see here, in my retake on the classic reuben. It’s not a grocery store, but it is a means to fresh food versus processed or canned goods, and it’s a hard-earned step in the right direction. Here’s to you Dianne!

Quelcy Signature

P.S: That giant ass can of beer paired with the reuben? My fella, the Urban Farmer, designed that label for the fine folks at Round About Brewery. You’ll need a beer that size to keep up with this hearty sandwich!

Sweet Potato Reuben Sandwiches (Vegetarian)

About This Recipe: This isn’t a precise recipe, just a guide for an easy vegetarian reuben. Thousand Island Dressing is the traditional condiment for a reuben, but I broke the rules and mixed homemade ketchup and an organic mayo to create an easy, similar tasting sauce. If I’m not making my own mayo,  I recommend Sir Kensington’s Mayonnaise because it’s GMO free and uses a healthy oil (sunflower). If not using a homemade ketchup, be sure to use an organic variety to avoid corn syrup and excess sugar. The sandwich shown does not feature cheese, but I love a cheesy version. For a vegan option, use a non-gmo vegenaise

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Bánh Mì Style Deviled Eggs

We drove through the streets of Philly with the immediacy of a getaway car. We were not, however, escaping. We were on the hunt for a very specific purveyor of bánh mì

Bánh Mì Deviled Eggs // www.WithTheGrains.com

Some people cook big batches of food on Sunday (like this grain bowl). Others, like my longtime friend Heather, buy enough banh mì to ruin the structural integrity of a plastic bag. At the time, I didn’t get it, but I enjoyed listening to my friend’s Vietnamese pronunciation of the sandwich interrupt her otherwise perfect English. It could have been the influence of her love for the food itself, but the words “bánh” and ” mì”  seemed cheerier, nearly an octave higher than her normal chatter, as they rolled off her salivating tongue. With a car full o’ bánh mì, we returned to the normally scheduled activities of my weekend visit. 

Bánh Mì Deviled Eggs // www.WithTheGrains.com

Even though I shared the seat with that bag full of Vietnam’s classic sandwiches, I didn’t bother to sample one, not a single bite (not that Heather would have shared). If me of today met that version of me, I’d be soooo condescending. “You’re not even going to try that?” Then again, the me of today might plow through niceties, ignore the past me’s shock at time travel, dive into that busted bag of sandwiches and try to be cute through a full mouth “#sorrynotsorry.”

Bánh Mì Deviled Eggs // www.WithTheGrains.com

Me of today constantly craves my neighborhood cafe’s vegan version, teared up (i.e.: sobbed/choked) eating Pittsburgh’s famous one (those jalapeños will get you!), and in the interim, is constantly trying to channel the magic of pickled vegetables and spicy mayos

Bánh Mì Deviled Eggs // www.WithTheGrains.com

In so many ways beyond adopting bánh mì habitsI have changed since that sandwich excursion. Yet, had you asked me then, I probably would have said I had hit some sort of stride, pushed myself, expanded myself and grown into me. My current self might eagerly say the same, but that’s just setting the groundwork for 40-year-old me to look back lovingly and laugh, “Oh you! You have no idea what is in store!” 

Bánh Mì Deviled Eggs // www.WithTheGrains.com

Beyond food preferences changes and the willingness to dive into “exotic” samplings, it seems we humans are constantly evolving more than we admit. It’s an idea worth dissecting, especially when you consider how easy it is to write off humans based on past transgressions or current associations. We attach labels like “ex con,” “Republican,” or “Democrat” (said with equal levels of disgust depending on who is speaking). 

Bánh Mì Deviled Eggs // www.WithTheGrains.com

This notion of fixed personalities is not only unforgiving, but it’s flawed. It’s a notion that stuck with me after listening to a recent episode of the podcast Invisibilia. In “The Personality Myth,” the co-hosts follow an inmate with a horrific record as he plans a TEDx conference in a prison. He speaks eloquently and poetically about feeling different, a new man down to his very DNA, all with a proper deference for the heinous acts he committed. 

Bánh Mì Deviled Eggs // www.WithTheGrains.com

If a little thing like a pickled Vietnamese sandwich can shape so many aspects of my life, it’s worth talking about how second chances, good faith and human decency might have grand powers for bigger changes. We live in ugly times in need of beauty and connection, so hard boil some eggs, pickle some vegetables and put little delicate dill flowers on those eggs! 

Bánh Mì Deviled Eggs // www.WithTheGrains.com

Then maybe take a real risk and reach out to a neighbor in need, or speak out on behalf of someone who needs a voice, or try to pay off some of society’s debts through good ol’ acts of kindness. In my case, I made these for the one I love the most, to celebrate how we have spent two years growing and changing together

Quelcy Signature

Bánh Mì Style Deviled Eggs

About This Recipe: Banh Mì actually refers to the bread used in the namesake sandwich, but these eggs borrow the pickled vegetables for a twist on deviled eggs. If you want a spicier/hotter pickle, keep the jalapeño seeds in the mix. For a more mild flavor (i.e.: a no-tears eating experience), skip or reduce the number of seeds in the mix. The pickle recipe yields more than you’ll need for the eggs, but I like to have the pickles on hand for toppings on sandwiches and grain bowls.  

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Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day

They call it a “fat letter,” and I’ll never forget the day I received mine.

Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

After a guidance counselor told me about Carnegie Mellon University, I fell hard- that weak in the knees, hearts in the eyes, wish-it-to-be-so sort of way. Being that my confidence was just as weak as my knees, I doubted the school would feel the same about me. As I gripped the overstuffed letter in my shaky hands, my first thought was “why would they make the rejection so thick?”

Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

After fighting the nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach and finally daring to break the adhesive seal, my eyes skimmed frantically and landed on “congratulations.” So many emotions pulsed through my body, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Overcome with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment like never before, my body rocked back and forth like a person in the midst of a psychotic episode.

Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

A few months later, I packed my parents car to the brim and began one of the most challenging chapters of my life! All my preconceived notions were broken and rebuilt, in a way that taught me to think for myself, to trust my instincts and to learn the importance of quitting frequently and redirecting quickly (still learning this!). On campus, I finally found peers who made sense- people who were work obsessed dorks with creative sides. After all, the school’s motto is “My heart is in the work.” Though there were still students whose brainpower could crush me, acceptance to this place empowered me.

Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

When I say attending Carnegie Mellon was the hardest challenge I’ve faced, it’s no understatement. Days and nights bled together in periods of sleepless, intense work leading to that moment when I had to stand in front of accomplished critics and defend my thought process. The well traveled route from home to studio was often a blur of stressful to-do lists running through my head, but every now and then, something would jar me from my crazed mental state. One of those distractions was Pi Day!

Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

Pi = 3.141592… March 14 = 3-14, therefore, Pi Day = March 14

Welcome to the nerd holiday known as Pi Day! On this day, math enthusiasts (is this the originator?!?) would chalk the never-ending number all over campus. The combination of the nerd enthusiasm and the element of tradition made this day comforting to me, a day on which I could rely despite all the uncontrollable, non-constants in my life. It was a celebration of CMU in all its quirkiness, and I looked forward to it every year!

Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

After graduating, I still looked forward to the holiday, and in the meantime, I found myself drawn to baking. Pi Day became Pi(e) Day, which eventually became a new obsession in its own way.

Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

In 2010, my friend Erin Pischke (also a CMU grad!) and I created The QT Pi(e) Project. On “Pi(e) Day,” March 14, 2010 (3/14/10), The QT Pi(e) Project used bicycles to deliver 31 pies (314 would have killed us), made from all local ingredients, to Pittsburgh homes with 314 addresses. Each pie arrived in a custom-made recipe box, with recipe cards explaining the project and the benefits to buying and eating local foods.

Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

The QT Pi(e) Project was a grant funded endeavor, which gave me a confidence boost to put more of my ideas into motion and into the world, and the foundation of that idea was Pi Day at Carnegie Mellon. Life had come full circle! (see what I did there?)

Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

When the good folks behind Carnegie Mellon’s website contacted me this year and asked if I’d like to share a recipe on the school’s website for Pi(e) Day, I was OVER THE MOON! In dorky pun terms, this recognition felt like being nominated for an Academy Award! Be the face of Pi(e) for 2016? OF COURSE OF COURSE OF COURSE I wanted to make that pie!

Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

This Scottish Inspired Savory Meat Pie with Black Lava Salty Scotty Dogs is the edible ode to my alma mater, the place that made me appreciate Pi and in more ways than not, shaped me into who I am today. I still can’t fathom how the world expects 18-year-olds to make informed decisions about the rest of their lives, but at least I chose a rewarding place to figure out how little I knew about myself and the world.

Happy Pi(e) Day ya nerds!

Quelcy Signature

p.s: If you’re wondering why Scottish, you’re clearly not a Tartan. If you take a stroll on campus in the spring, you’re likely to encounter a Scotty dog or two, a bagpipe band in kilts and a fair bit of Tartan plaid. The Scottish roots run deep via Andrew Carnegie.

A Scottish Inspired Savory Pie for Pi(e) Day 2016

About This Recipe: This pie is a labor of love, which is why it is fitting for Pi(e) Day celebrations! It consists of a savory, whole grain pie crust, filled with a slow-cooked Scottish stew and a variation on traditional Scottish mushy peas. Make the Scottish Beef Stew first, and while the stew is slow cooking, prepare the crust, then Mushy Peas & Potatoes while the crusts chill. The stew and mushy peas recipes yield more than necessary for one pie, but I like to make the larger quantities and freeze the excess to make future weeknight meals a lot easier. Alternately, you could halve the stew recipe, or better yet, double the crust recipe and make two savory pies!  

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Creamy Chestnut & Mushroom Soup (Vegetarian)

With the phrases “winter weather watch” and “storm advisory” hanging heavy in the air, the grocery stores teeter on the brink of milk, egg and bread depletion. Though I’d advocate for a fair fight for the last crusty loaf, I have this creamy, vegetarian, snowstorm survival idea to offer you: Chestnut Mushroom Soup!

Creamy Chestnut & Mushroom Soup (Vegetarian) // www.WithTheGrains.com

In a world of titles and categories, I lump myself with the “conscientious omnivores,” but chestnuts could nearly sway me to the vegetarian crowd. Spoonful after warm spoonful, the roasted chestnuts could easily fool you into believing meat lurked in this creamy soup.

Creamy Chestnut & Mushroom Soup (Vegetarian) // www.WithTheGrains.com

So hit the grocery store, fight for the last crusty loaf of bread, and while the milk and eggs create a diversion, scrounge that lingering holiday offering of chestnuts. Then, cozy into the weekend with a big batch of hearty, vegetarian soup.

Creamy Chestnut & Mushroom Soup (Vegetarian) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Bon Appétit!

Quelcy Signature

Chestnut Mushroom Soup (Vegetarian)
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
makes 12 servings

About This Recipe: The process of roasting and shelling chestnuts can be a bit tedious, but the end result is worth the experience! Hearty and meaty, this vegetarian soup pairs well with buttery brie on dense, whole grain bread. For a vegan option, use coconut oil for the sautéing, and garnish with a whipped coconut cream. 

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Farm Greens & Beans

“Hi, I’d like to place an order for pick up, please.”

Greens and Beans // www.WithTheGrains.com

“Ok, what would you like?”

“Greens and Beans, please.”

Laughter and confusion ensued, as if I had just ordered a dirty joke with all the delivery prowess of Amy Schumer.

“Ohhhhh, you mean ‘Beans & Greens.'”

Isn’t that what I said?

I failed to see the hilarity in my word order reversal, but then again, I’m an outsider, a foreigner, a newbie when it comes to BEANS & Greens. This dish was not a tradition in my family. It was not a weekly staple. We didn’t debate which grandmother’s secret recipe was better, or whether an aunt used enough garlic. No, this is a staple I am adopting from my current city, from Pittsburgh.

Greens and Beans // www.WithTheGrains.com

This rusty, steel town probably adopted this staple from its Italian immigrants, but I can’t say for certain. The only research I have conducted is the occasional sampling at the small Italian bakery/cafe. It’s the one next to the espresso bar, where the old Italian men while away the day with caffeinated banter in broken English and broken Italian, depending on their generation. Like their changing language, recipes arrive on new shores and change, or in my case, they arrive in my kitchen, and I stubbornly cling to my word order- Greens and Beans!

Greens and Beans // www.WithTheGrains.com

As the Urban Farmer began preparing the farm for fall and frost, it was time to admit defeat on certain groundhog-nibbled vegetables and dig up their rows. The cauliflower and broccoli failed to grow beyond small, geometric clusters, but the plants’ leaves were dark, green, broad and impressive. As I uprooted the plants, the frugal, midwesterner in me brainstormed how to salvage the greens. So it was, dear Pittsburghers and Italians, I came to make Farm Greens & Beans, and we ate bacony, garlicky, parmesan accented greens for a week like happy peasants!

Single-Grain

Here’s to hearty greens!
-Quelcy

Farm Greens & Beans

About This Recipe: If you want a more precise Greens & Beans recipe, try this. My version is loose and easily adaptable. The main intention of this recipe is to take advantage of farm greens such as cauliflower leaves. If you’re not a farmer or gardener, you can still adapt this recipe and use the beet greens or turnip greens available in grocery stores with a combination of kale or collards. Either way, it’s a method to use the whole vegetable and not just a root. The quantity of greens is imprecise but easy to navigate. I wanted to make a large pot, so we used 3-4 hearty bunches, and filled a dutch oven with greens.

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Egg Salad Sandwiches for a Picnic at a Vintage Car Show

Egg Salad Sandwiches for a Picnic at a Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

In addition to the many hats he wears- farmer, beekeeper, graphic designer, photographer, environmentalistthe Urban Farmer also wears a kilt from time to time. Marching and playing the bass drum in the Balmoral Pipe & Drum band is one of the very few activities that motivates my soil-loving fella to wear shoes. These kilt & shoe gigs have made for many a unique weekend adventure to cathedrals, parades, historical festivals, a “Tartan Day” and most recently to the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix.

Egg Salad Sandwiches for a Picnic at a Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix is an annual car show and races right through the winding roads of Schenley Park, one of the city’s valuable green assets. In architecture school, we learned to use perspective and contour lines to translate our drawing professor’s slides (slides!) of Grand Prix automobiles to paper. Aside from the many sketches and hearing the yearly rumble of cars in race mode, I never really explored this massive gathering of car enthusiasts. However, bagpipe performances, vintage cars, and a sunny day in Schenley Park all called for a picnic, so I packed a farm-influenced egg salad, and to the car show I went!

Egg Salad Sandwiches for a Picnic at a Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Strolling through but a small section of the Grand Prix, I gained a new appreciation for these car enthusiasts. I once discounted this annual event as a pompous waste of resources and a flashy display of expensive collections. While I still see elements of excess (i.e.: semi trucks, with more amenities than my apartment, for carting car collections?), I also came to see the celebration of design, quality, old values and the idea of building something to last.

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

I had to quell the judgmental idealist inside me, acknowledge the charitable underpinnings of the event and simply indulge the side of me who believes in nostalgia, tradition and bringing people together. I also indulged the side of me who really just wants to cruise around town in a vintage, red beamer. After all, I am the owner of this beauty, who awaits some much needed love and care this winter (i.e.: when the Urban Farmer puts on his “mechanic” hat).

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

I hadn’t the slightest understanding of the racing rules or categories, but the people and car watching enthralled me. Plus, I may have discovered my spirit animal in this real-life Luigi. Consider this a glimpse of my future, white overalls and all!

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

The engine of this forest green car (above) might be impeccable. It might trace its roots to a pastural English village. I have no idea. I was simply blown away by the leather detail on the spare tire!

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

I went for the bagpipes, the sunshine and the park picnic, but as it turns out, I’m really a sucker for a red, vintage set of wheels. Whether you’re browsing beamers, a flea market, or simply a park on a sunny day, try this egg salad for your next picnic. You’ll revel in some sandwich nostalgia made healthier and more vibrant by farm-fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Single-Grain

Bon Voyage!
-Quelcy

Farm Fresh Egg Salad Sandwiches

About this Recipe: Greek yogurt, dijon and local eggs come together with accents of local celery and sweet peppers. You don’t need to measure anything. Just trust your tastebuds and your eyes to achieve the right flavor, color and texture. Using local celery makes a big difference in flavor, and be sure to include the greens. Pick a flavorful mix of greens for the sandwich such as mustard greens, which add a pleasantly bitter accent, much like a hint of wasabi. For a little sweetness, add a slathering of organic relish to the bread.

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Open-Faced Bánh Mì Sandwich with Avocado Oil Mayonnaise

If life imitates art, some of my life is starting to imitate Groundhog Day. I sit at the same table, at the same coffeeshop, writing, editing photos, trying not to hunch my neck and shoulders into Quasimodo-esque subluxations, while listening to the baristas’ same rotation of old country classics and modern grunge. Sometimes, routines can be comforting. Sometimes, routines can be lazy. Sometimes, routines can be spicy, pickled and delicious!

Bánh Mi Toast with Avocado Oil Mayonnaise // www.WithTheGrains.com

I could eat a variation of a bánh mì sandwich every day, and with the quantity of vegetables the Urban Farmer is poised to harvest and pickle, we very well may be eating bánh mì sandwiches every day!

Bánh Mì Toast with Avocado Oil Mayonnaise // www.WithTheGrains.com

A bánh mì is a traditional Vietnamese sandwich, an edible relic of French influences on bold Vietnamese flavors. As much as I may follow certain routines and respect history, I’m also one to break rules and toy with traditions. To change up my original interpretation, I replaced the very namesake bread with a hearty olive slice, added jalapeños to the pickle mix and experimented with an avocado oil mayonnaise.

Bánh Mì Toast with Avocado Oil Mayonnaise // www.WithTheGrains.com

If you’re feeling a little routine, or need a change of pace, spice up your life a bit, and take a gamble on this jalapeño-laced sandwich. If all else fails, go do something wild to your hair!

Single-Grain

Change it up!
-Quelcy

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