Category Archives: Main Course

Gluten Free Pumpkin & Kale Lasagna for a Fall Gathering //

Pumpkin & Kale Lasagna for a Fall Gathering (Gluten Free)

“It’s ok, they might have guns but we have flowers,” the father explained to his son, as the young boy tried to wrap his mind around the violence that had consumed his city.

Flowers and candles. Flowers to fight fears and candles to remember the fallen. The father and son’s poetic exchange, captured on camera, went viral because the world needed flowers and light during such a dark tunnel.

Gluten Free Pumpkin & Kale Lasagna for a Fall Gathering //

Paris struck a chord with so many because so many of us have experienced the capitol’s charms. However, instead of token post cards or cinematic moments, we francophiles found ourselves retracing our past adventures through unimaginable, horrific news footage. Vicariously, we felt the threats so many feel daily, and as best we could, we conveyed our fears, our sympathies, and our allegiance to the beloved city.

Gluten Free Pumpkin & Kale Lasagna for a Fall Gathering //

It was easy to feel for Paris. In my own case, I spent six months wandering the city’s streets, immersing myself in the language and daily life. I debated the best baguette while reading Émile Zola. I documented my routes on a worn map while trying to emulate slang expressions. I sipped coffees while admiring the perfection of the street fashion. As cliche as it was, I felt like I belonged there, like I had found my city. Though I departed, bidding farewell as an accordion player serenaded the canal, I guarded that connection.

Gluten Free Pumpkin & Kale Lasagna for a Fall Gathering //

I have not read Arabic literature in Beirut. I have not dined with locals in Bamako. I have not sat in a cafe and admired the rich textiles and traditions of Nigerian cities. I may not have a personal history with these places, but that doesn’t mean I should close my heart to them. I have not given the victims in these cities the sympathies they deserve. I admittedly have furthered the desperation felt in those nations by not cherishing their living, but it’s a wrong I want to right.

Gluten Free Pumpkin & Kale Lasagna for a Fall Gathering //

I recently sat in the audience for a screening of the film (T)error (which I can’t recommend enough!). At the end of the film, a Muslim woman, in the traditional hijab, addressed the director. “Thank you for making this film. Thank you for sparking a dialogue. I love Allah. I am a Muslim, but those attackers are not Muslim. They do not represent me.” She expressed the fear she feels when her eight children leave home after, hearing a man on the news say he wanted to shoot the next Muslim he saw. “I am human, and I bleed just like you.”

Gluten Free Pumpkin & Kale Lasagna for a Fall Gathering //

Several audience members made their way to the woman as the crowd dispersed. “Thank you for your comments,” they said one by one, touching her gently on the shoulder or leaning in close to her. Like the flowers and candles in France, this woman’s bravery was beauty in the face of fear. Her vulnerability turned fear into power.

Gluten Free Pumpkin & Kale Lasagna for a Fall Gathering //

Thankfully, I haven’t experienced a terrorist attack firsthand, and I hope I never do. I wish no one ever would, but certain evils are prevailing. It may be easier for me to believe in flowers and candles from my safe distance, but how else can we advance positively? I choose to believe in beauty and empathy wholeheartedly, and I will pay more attention to the attacks the media slights.

Gluten Free Pumpkin & Kale Lasagna for a Fall Gathering //

If my time in France taught me one thing, it was to appreciate quality– quality of time, quality of friends, quality of wine and the quality of a good meal shared. France taught me to slow down, to savor, to debate, to exchange and to defend time honored traditions. These luxuries are not universal, and especially in America, we ought to acknowledge and share our great fortunes.

Gluten Free Pumpkin & Kale Lasagna for a Fall Gathering //

As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches for those of us in the United States, it’s an apt time to remember how America formed, how generosity and gratitude gathered around a table and celebrated differences. As Thanksgiving draws near, I hope flowers and candles, beauty and empathy will prevail! I hope that our common fears will unite us and not tear us apart.

This is a recipe for sharing. It serves many, so extend the warmth of your oven to those close to you. I shared this lasagna with close friends who inspire me. Each fights, in his or her own way, for a better world. Each of these friends chooses beauty and empathy, and I’m grateful for it.

Quelcy Signature

Pumpkin & Kale Lasagna (Gluten Free)

About this Recipe: Perfect for serving a group, this lasagna tastes like the best of fall! In the spirit of simpler preparations around the holidays, I used an organic canned pumpkin puree instead of roasting my own. The hearty green layer is a quick kale pesto. Use the leftovers wherever you would use a traditional basil pesto. Brown rice noodles make for more flavor, and they make this a gluten-free, crowd-pleasing option. Serve it with Wigle Whiskey’s Walkabout (whiskey + pressed apple cider).

Continue reading

Building a Grain Bowl //

Tips for Building A Grain Bowl

When pangs of hunger interrupt a busy schedule and combine with apathy, a barren refrigerator and a dash or two of laziness, an Amy’s pizza is usually my salvation. (Thank God for that family and their organic pizzas!) However, a better solution is to nip that trifecta in the bud, and one of my best preventative measures is to stock my refrigerator with all the components necessary to make a Grain Bowl.

Rice Bowl by With The Grains

My Tips & Tricks for Grain Bowls

The beauty of the grain bowl is how easily a healthy meal comes together. By prepping big batches of the main components, you can make several wholesome, delicious meals with minimal effort (especially if you need to pack a lunch for work/school). Changing the combinations based on what’s available helps avoid boredom and prevent that long apathetic stare into the refrigerator. It’s also easy to make vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options. Below are my general starting points for each component.


The Grain
I used brown rice for this bowl, but I shuffle through a variety of grains like quinoa, farro and wild rice. If you use barley, you can save the liquid and make Lemon & Honey Barley Water. While the grain is in the final stages of steaming, I’ll add a hearty scoop of flax seeds for extra flavor and nutrients.

Building a Grain Bowl //

I like to include steamed broccoli and cauliflower. I keep these fairly simple.

Building a Grain Bowl //

This bowl features a mix of roasted sweet potatoes, parsnips and Brussels sprouts. Rainbow carrots and beets also work well. For the roasted veggies, I start with coconut oil, then splash them with Apple Cider Vinegar, a LOT of minced fresh ginger, a dusting of turmeric, and a black pepper. The result is a really healthy, flavorful roasted mix.

Building a Grain Bowl //

There are so many conflicting nutrition guides, so between raw, roasted and steamed in one bowl, I figure I’m bound to reap some benefits! For raw, I top the bowl with bright green avocados and pomegranate seeds. I also like fresh green peas or edamame. Pickled veggies are also a great option for flavor and crispness, especially in the winter.

Building a Grain Bowl //

My staples are wild-caught smoked salmon and hard-boiled eggs, or sometimes a sunny-side-up egg. I also add goat cheese crumbles from time to time.

Building a Grain Bowl //

The bowl packs so many flavors, a topping is hardly necessary, but I like to add just a drizzle of Raw Coconut Aminos or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. You can experiment with ginger dressings or honey mustard dressings too.

Building a Grain Bowl //

Voila! Go forth and grain!




Greens and Beans //

Farm Greens & Beans

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

Greens and Beans //

“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 //

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 //

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!


Here’s to hearty greens!

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.

Continue reading

Brown Rice Pasta with Fried Green Tomatoes //

Brown Rice Pasta w/ Garden Vegetable Beef Sauce & Fried Green Tomatoes

“You know what I call this?” the Urban Farmer said while proudly photographing the rickety wooden crate full of fresh-picked vegetables. “A case of the Mondays,” he said beaming with pun pride.

Brown Rice Pasta with Fried Green Tomatoes //

He chose another caption for his photo, not wanting to offend those stuck in Monday drudgery. I have often hesitated on sharing a pure joy lest it be regarded as boastful, so I understood his reserve. I’m not sure if this stems from deep-rooted American values or a Christian upbringing or both, but hiding happiness is RIDICULOUS, no?

Brown Rice Pasta with Fried Green Tomatoes //

I may be riding the emotional highs of listening to a lot of Elizabeth Gilbert wisdom, but who wouldn’t be happy watching that barefoot boy celebrate his dream farm on a weekly basis? Truth be told, Mondays with the Urban Famer were so far from the Mondays I once knew. On Mondays, man, woman and dog piled into the red truck, picked vegetables in the sun and then delivered them to the supporters who made this year’s farm efforts possible. Why would we hide that happiness from imagined miserable people?

Brown Rice Pasta with Fried Green Tomatoes //

Today is the last of these CSA Mondays for this season. There will still be farm work to do- bulbs to plant, invasive trees to cut, flowers varieties to select- but the CSA routine concludes today, just as the foggy, gray, frosty mornings are blanketing the fields. It feels more special than sad, more celebratory than conclusive. This was the beginning, and so much is in store! There is still so much room for expansion, so many lessons to teach, so many lessons to learn, and best of all, there will be so many new dishes to eat!

Brown Rice Pasta with Fried Green Tomatoes //

The farm calmed my Mondays, calmed my spirit and inspired new kitchen experiments. Monday after Monday, I combed the fruitful tomato vines in search of the bright reds, burgundies and yellows. Despite the challenging weather, the vines persisted with an inspiring abundance. However, the frost brought a new color spectrum- the greens!

I knew fried green tomatoes from the movie title and perhaps the occasional menu item, but I’d never eaten them or made them. I’m sharing Monday happiness with you in the form of these fried green tomatoes. The recipe is loose, like cooking with my mom and her mother before her. Both women knew to follow their instincts, adding a pinch or heap here and there, so allow your traditions and whims to transform this recipe accordingly.


Happy Monday!

Continue reading

A Mint Themed Dinner on the Farm //

A Mint Themed Menu Recap

“One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

Mint Themed Menu //

In the middle of August, we gathered to celebrate the farmers, the fields and the bounty! As autumn enters gracefully, let us cling to the little bits of summer we can, perhaps all year long. Here’s the menu recap:

A Mint Themed Dinner on the Farm

Grilled Eggplant, Onions & Potatoes with Mint Pesto
Cucumber, Tomato, Roasted Beet & Mint Salad with Greek Yogurt
Grilled Beet & Beef Burgers with Roasted Peach & Mint Salsa and Bleu Cheese
Zucchini & Beet Bundt Cake with a Mint Vodka Glaze




Beet & Beef Burgers w/ Blue Cheese and Roasted Peach & Mint Salsa

Large, umbrella-like lights filled the space where waitstaff would normally scurry, the cords creating their fair share of death traps. Cooking wine filled glasses that would normally contain a fine vintage. An eclectic group of “friends” and “family” gathered around a reclaimed-wood table and awaited instruction on how to hold their forks, glasses and napkins “naturally.”

Roasted Peach Salsa by With The Grains 01

The photographer and camera dangled precariously above the table. Meanwhile, I tweezered and plucked at the plates, fluffing, spritzing and making them ready for their moment in the spotlight. It was the makings of a restaurant ad.

Roasted Peach Salsa by With The Grains 02

That restaurant featured in the ad is one of my favorites. The chef, long before “local” was the trendy buzz word to list on a menu, sourced as locally as possible. Yet his octogenarian clientele showed more appreciation for the granite floors and decadent details passed down from restaurant past. The goal of the ad was to outstretch arms and welcome everyone to the restaurant, everyone including kids.

Beet Burgers by With The Grains 06

The child “actor/model” [ie: the art director’s son] was an astute nine-year-old with a palate for fine dining and artisan fermentation. Together, the nine-year-old and I stared at the shelves of house-made pickles in awe. The budding food critic extolled the virtues of that pickle wall and the restaurant’s menu. Being a loyal fan of the menu’s “fancy burger,” I asked for his review.

Beet Burgers by With The Grains 07

“Oh, I haven’t had their burger. It’s good?” he asked sincerely.

“Yeah, it’s one of my favorites in the city, and they rotate the toppings quite a bit,” I responded as if speaking to any foodie in my peer group.

His eyes lit up, and he had an epiphany, “Oooh, I know! What if instead of the ham in the hamburger, you used peaches?”

“Like, peaches in the burger, or grilled on top?”

“Yeah, in it. Instead of the ham.”

“I’m into it,” I said.

Beet Burgers by With The Grains 04

Despite eating a smoked blue fish pâté, pickled scapes and picking at a tartare, the kid had a ways to go in his understanding of hamburgers. However, he was onto something with his peach idea. I really was into it.

Beet Burgers by With The Grains 05

Hamburgers are practically a food group in my own personal pyramid. My stacks of ingredients never make it to the light of day, when photographing and recipe sharing come into play, but for this burger combo, I exercised forethought and willpower. I veered from the petite foodie’s idea of replacing “ham” with peaches. Instead, I opted to stretch the meat further by adding a coarse beet puree or beat meal because although I believe in eating meat from humanely-raised animals, I may still be guilty of eating too much meat.

Roasted Peach Salsa by With The Grains 03

The peaches still came into play, but in the form of a roasted peach and mint salsa topping, making this burger the main course in my Mint Themed Dinner on the Farm. Paired with blue cheese for a salty, creamy contrast, I dare say even the nine-year-old would be impressed!

Beet Burgers by With The Grains 01

I might still toy with the miniature foodie’s ham/hamburger idea. I laugh now, but who knows? That kid could be the next Dan Barber or Peter Meehan. He may be onto something huge!



p.s: Blue or Bleu? You decide.

Beet & Beef Burgers w/ Blue Cheese and Roasted Peach & Mint Salsa

About This Recipe: Adding beets to your burgers is a way to stretch the meat, eat more seasonal produce, and add a subtle sweetness. The texture is a little closer to a sloppy joe than a beef patty, so use foil when grilling to avoid any loss, or experiment with adding a binder such as eggs and breadcrumbs.

Continue reading

Wine-ing, Dining & Unwinding: Our Staycation at Choderwood

We could have been in Bali. We could have been in Thailand. We could have been in Peru. We could have been anywhere, and that suited me just fine. However, we were in Pittsburgh, hidden from all the familiar sites, soaking up the river views like we never had before. Though we were minutes from home, everything I brought with us was inspired by a trip that existed in the Urban Farmer’s head.

Choderwood by Quelcy 15

Before visions of farming fully took over his head space, the Urban Farmer had planned to celebrate his big 3-0 jeeping, surfing and beach bumming from California to Chile. Fortunately for me and for this city, he chose Pennsylvanian soil, instead of white sand, between his toes. To celebrate the travels that will come in due time, and to celebrate our one year of shared time, we escaped to Choderwood. There, the greenery and big expanse of sky encapsulated us, and our minds were free to wander wherever they chose.

Choderwood by Quelcy 56

Themes, narratives, and stories fill my head. They guide my menus, my decor, my designs, even my outfits. I forget that not everyone thinks this way, not everyone picks a bottle of wine based on what they would pick if they were in Argentina’s wine country. If you too find yourself arranging bouquets of lavender to transport you to Provence, or hovering over a pot of paneer to try to imagine how a spice market might smell in Mumbai, then the themes guiding our staycation might seem second nature, even intuitive.

Choderwood by Quelcy 49

These menus were not my most intricate, and there were no recipes, but should you want to channel some South American dreams of your own, maybe you too will grab a bottle of Malbec and head to a scenic view. Maybe you’ll browse the wine store with confidence as you judge the bottles by their labels alone. Take these ideas as far as you want, and if you’re not the visual, imaginative, theme-driven type (and that’s ok indeed!), maybe you’ll gain a faint glimmer of understanding of what it’s like inside the theme party that is my head.

Choderwood by Quelcy 59

These concepts and narratives are jumping off points, and when it comes to unplugging, they’re not meant to be complicated. Ultimately, all the wine-ing, dining and unwinding felt (and should feel) a little like this tune

With your feet on the air and your head on the ground
Try this trick and spin it, yeah
Your head will collapse
But there’s nothing in it
And you’ll ask yourself

Where is my mind? 

Choderwood by Quelcy 60

Way out in the water
See it swimmin’

I was swimmin’ in the Caribbean
Animals were hiding behind the rocks
Except the little fish
But they told me, he swears
Tryin’ to talk to me, to me, to me.

Choderwood by Quelcy 48

The Urban Farmer found his spirit animal in this black cat, who kneaded his legs and nestled against him. I, however, found him mocking me sarcastically.

Choderwood Pool Antiques

Choderwood by Quelcy 46

Choderwood by Quelcy 39

Choderwood by Quelcy 17

Choderwood by Quelcy 42

Choderwood by Quelcy 14

Choderwood by Quelcy 13

Choderwood by Quelcy 41

Choderwood by Quelcy 03

Choderwood by Quelcy 33

Choderwood by Quelcy 32

Choderwood by Quelcy 31

Choderwood by Quelcy 28

Afternoon Snack Menu:

Tortilla chips, guacamole & salsa
mango lemonade
snap peas
Guajillo Chili Chocolate Mexicano by Taza

Taza Chocolate

A snack of chips and salsa is surely not the most creative menu I have put together, but I imagined how the Urban Farmer would have worked his way through Mexico, adding spice and heat to everything he ate. In between chili chocolate bites, he would have had his fill of the sweet juicy mangos. Once he ate those mangos and avocados, nothing else would ever compare.

Choderwood by Quelcy 30

Choderwood by Quelcy 62

Dinner was an equally simple interpretation- sprouted grain quesadillas with quinoa, corn, grilled chicken, salsa, avocados, a dollop of Greek yogurt and repeated glasses of Argentine wine. The theme was never meant to be an intensive culinary exploreation. With such a changing, dramatic backdrop, simplicity was key.

Choderwood Wine Dinner

Choderwood by Quelcy 65

Choderwood by Quelcy 70

Choderwood by Quelcy 61

Choderwood by Quelcy 66

Without phones, projectors or computers, we reveled in the sun vanishing behind an ominous gray sky while playing Twenty Questions. We reveled in a very drastic change of pace that gave way to a morning of peachy tones rendering a brand new scene.

Choderwood by Quelcy 72

Impressionist painters would have chased this scene with chaotic brush strokes, but we watched it slowly and blissfully, enjoying the wholesome breakfast that magically appeared at our dock in true B&B fashion.

Choderwood by Quelcy 73

Choderwood by Quelcy 74

Choderwood by Quelcy 75

Choderwood by Quelcy 22

Whether we were in Pittsburgh or pretending to be far, far away, whether we were crafting narratives or watching our mind float away with the waves, we were able to enjoy every minute. Time stood still, and we were able to disconnect all the stressful thoughts and just enjoy a river, many trees, fruity notes and spicy bites.



CSA Recipe: Roasted Crookneck Squash with Lamb, Yogurt & Dill

There’s so much to learn about these foods we eat: what they look like as seeds, how they first sprout through the ground, how their leaves change during their infancy, how they put so much energy into a beautiful bloom and then attempt to spread their seeds. Carrot seeds are tiny and iridescent. Okra leaves boast dark, burgundy veins and patterns. Rainbow chard just keeps on giving. Cilantro flowers could fill a bouquet subtly, much like baby’s breath, while squash blossoms would sing dramatically but for a fleeting moment.

Hazelwood Urban Farms in July

I’ve only just begun to understand the connections between flowers and the foods we eat, how we often have to sacrifice the alluring blooms in order to arrive at the food on our plates. The Urban Farmer plucked the first crepe-paper-like squash blossoms to conserve the plant’s energy for food production. As the broad, leafy greens emerged like a tropical forest cover, the female blooms grew again and gave way to the crookneck squashes. Those first signs of yellow and green meant the flood gates had been released. Summer squashes are in full swing, and there’s no looking back!

Sunset at Hazelwood Urban Farms

The Urban Farmer’s CSA recipients have received three weeks of crookneck squashes. If you frequent your local farmer’s market, you too have probably begun to see squashes and zucchinis, growing larger by the week. Once these gourds start, they don’t seem to stop, so it’s time to be creative, lest we be bored by the bounty.

Crookneck Squash Recipe by With The Grains 01

I like to imagine eating these squash boats by the glassy blue Mediterranean Sea, where the adjacent cliffs are speckled with the white, building-block homes, where old grandmas prepare traditional meals for hours. These squash boats are merely an interpretation of that distant cuisine, a way to savor the fragrant dill, its flowers and dollops of thick, tangy Greek yogurt.

Crookneck Squash Recipe by With The Grains 02

For this dish to taste its best, be sure to find local celery, local dill and local squashes (or zucchinis). Once you take a bite of crisp, locally grown celery, the store-bought version seems like eating a rice cake when you could be feasting on a pastry! The celery greens not only make a fanciful garnish, but they add a lot of flavor too. Chop them up and mix them into each bite. Take advantage of the here and now of squashes, herbs and stalky greens. Let your mind wander to the seaside, to summer breezes, to the bluest blues above the mountains and to the glassy waves washing onto your toes.


Bon voyage & Bon Appétit!

Roasted Crookneck Squash with Quinoa, Lamb & Greek Yogurt

About This Recipe: Spelled out, this recipe looks complicated, but let the above images be your guide. Now is the time when squash flows, so take advantage and tweak this recipe several different ways. Use a zucchini instead of squash, or brown rice instead of quinoa. The idea is flexible. I used lamb because I was dreaming of Greek food, but you could use ground beef or chicken or even a seafood option.

Continue reading

Spicy Fried Chicken Fit for a Farmer (The Urban Farmer’s Birthday!)

365+ days ago, I walked into the empty coffeeshop, like so many other days, and I took my place at the counter. On this particular day, the barista ignored me while she toiled laboriously on a green smoothie. I shifted weight from foot to foot, pretended to look at the art on the walls, scanned the perimeter in case I had missed some detail. She continued to blend, I repeated my routine, and the wait grew ever more ridiculous. Finally, a customer emerged from the back room to retrieve the damn smoothie. As I realized who he was, the room suspended in slow motion, but the monarchs fluttered sporadically inside my stomach, and my cheeks surely reddened. Suddenly, that smoothie was my favorite drink on earth. That smoothie was for the Urban Farmer.

Gifts for an Urban Farmer //

At that point, we’d only met briefly, but everything my matchmaking friend told me about him made me weak in the knees. This was a serendipitous encounter, while she plotted a significant setup. “Be entertaining. Be charming,” I thought while probably questioning what I was wearing and if my hair and the humidity were collaborating to betray me. I wanted to abandon my laptop and stare into his tan, smoothie-drinking face.

Gifts for an Urban Farmer //

As I pretended to focus on my work, the reason I had come to sit in that coffeeshop, I asked if he knew the date. “I do because it’s my birthday. It’s the 12th.” “Happy Birthday!” I exclaimed with too much enthusiasm while etching this date in my mind for the future. On that note, he had to pitch his smoothie cup and depart to meet his dad for beers. His dad. Even that sentimental detail made me swoon. I was left in the coffeeshop, head and heart a happy mess, pretending to regroup and focus, with a big, dopey grin stretched on my face from ear to ear.

Gifts for an Urban Farmer //

That was a year ago. The coffeeshop cut smoothies from their menu, since they take a ridiculous amount of time to make. However, the monarchs in my stomach, the blushing cheeks, and the dopey grin stretched from ear to ear? Those all still exist! In the year since that chance encounter, our matchmaker friend worked her magic, and lucky, lucky me was able to join this man as he made the transformation from dreamer, to planner, to hands-in-the-soil, legit farmer. It’s a story, it seems, that was destined, little dog and all. Now to get that pony!

Gifts for an Urban Farmer //

We brunched, we farmed, and when it came time to eat something special for his birthday dinner, he requested fried chicken, mashed potatoes and whiskey drinks. There was a camera-shy peach tart with notes of whiskey, reminding me some desserts are meant only to be enjoyed with someone special and not blogged. Sorry friends, but I’m sure there’ll be more peach desserts to come, and I hope there will be many more birthdays to come!


Happy 30th to my Urban Farmer!

p.s: On a birthday & aging note, I recommend reading this little tale about growing old. It’s best when read while eating Chipotle, but it’s worth reading even without a burrito.

Spicy Fried Chicken fit for a Farmer

About This Recipe: Choose a local, pasture-raised chicken as a farmer-approved foundation for this recipe. The cornmeal crust was golden, crispy and spicy. Since I was using Butt Pucker sauce (from this spicy themed gift), which has visible pepper seeds, I only added a few Tablespoons to the egg mixture. If you’re using a milder sauce, or you really want the heat, add up to a cup. Fry without the guilt by choosing a healthier oil such as organic, non-GMO safflower. It’s the fastest way to a farmer’s heart. It’s helpful to use a fry thermometer to avoid over-heating the oil. The Urban Farmer recommends eating this chicken with a drizzle of Honeysuckle Infused Maple Syrup.

Continue reading

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 //

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 //

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 //

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.


Collard Spring Rolls with Roasted Purple Sweet Potatoes //

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 //

Collard Spring Rolls with Roasted Purple Sweet Potatoes //

Collard Spring Rolls with Roasted Purple Sweet Potatoes //

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 //

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


Bon Appétit!

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.

Continue reading