A Last Summer Hurrah: A Picnic at Lake Erie w/ a Vegan Zucchini Banh Mi & a Vietnamese Zoodle Salad

The creeping vine has begun to reveal a bright, blazing red. The blankets linger on the couch in the darkness of the mornings, tossed aside after cuddling in the evening’s chill. Soups and ciders have begun to be appealing again, and the bed has doubled with the thickness of comforters and quilts. It’s fall, but my mind keeps wandering back to the day I played hooky and soaked up the last bit of summer. 

A Last Summer Hurrah at Lake Erie // www.WithTheGrains.com

When I think back to that day of lounging aimlessly on the shores of Lake Erie, my skin feels warmer. The intense sunlight renders my skin golden, and I brace myself for the stark contrast of the water, an instant chill surmounted only by a quick submersion. 

A Last Summer Hurrah at Lake Erie // www.WithTheGrains.com

They say “when it rains, it pours,” but in my freelance world lately, “when it rains, it tsunamis” feels more accurate. The beginning of September was the equivalent of hiking to a cliff and seeing a vast, new territory of hurdles and challenges in the distance. As I stared into an overwhelming work load, I did a rare thing- I retreated. I took a day off, and I’ve been trying to channel a bit of that blessed hooky day ever since. 

A Last Summer Hurrah at Lake Erie // www.WithTheGrains.com

Lake Erie had shamefully been unchecked on my summer bucket list for more than one season. Finally, with fall and work looming, I recruited my partner in bucket list adventures for a day of soft sand, intense sun, a picnic lunch, sneaky whiskey and the type of water antics that leave you coughing and snorting and feeling like a child who just plunged off the diving board. 

A Last Summer Hurrah at Lake Erie // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Last Summer Hurrah at Lake Erie // www.WithTheGrains.com

The picnic menu, like the day itself, was another attempt to soak up the end of summer and put a dent in the pile of harvested zucchinis. 

A Last Summer Hurrah at Lake Erie // www.WithTheGrains.com

When I finally returned to that precipice, to face the looming projects and more intense work load on the horizon, I tried to embrace the work with gratitude. Though not always successful and definitely guilty of an ugly meltdown, I tried to enjoy the pouring rain of projects. In case I forgot and let my mind slip into stress/frenzy mode, I attached a sticky note reminder near my desk. “Commit to creating joyfully, not stressfully,” wise words from the ever strategic Marie Forleo.

A Last Summer Hurrah at Lake Erie // www.WithTheGrains.com

It’d be great if my life included A LOT more beachy days with best friends and wholesome picnics, and part of me will strive for more of those, but more importantly, I’m striving to take that beach day’s in-the-moment-happy vibe with me in my work. I like what I do, and even if I’d like a little more space between projects, I’m still grateful for the spike. 

A Last Summer Hurrah at Lake Erie // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Last Summer Hurrah at Lake Erie // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Last Summer Hurrah at Lake Erie // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Last Summer Hurrah at Lake Erie // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Last Summer Hurrah at Lake Erie // www.WithTheGrains.com

Here’s to sharing summer recipes well into fall, to holding on tightly to hooky days, to picnics with friends and to creating joyfully because it really could be so much worse. 

Happy trails!

Quelcy Signature 


Vietnamese Zoodle Salad with Fragrant Herbs & Peanuts & Zucchini Bánh Mì

About These Recipes: Ideal for that end of summer zucchini pile, these recipes are loose and easily adaptable. Omit the fish sauce in the Zoodle Salad and a vegan mayo in the sandwich for a vegan picnic spread. 

(more…)

0 Comments

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

(more…)

1 Comment

Lentil Sloppy Joes (Vegan)

Full disclaimer: I am not a sleep specialist (in fact, I’m about as far away from a sleep specialist as one can be), but I venture to claim there are three main types of exhaustion: the good, the bad and the ugly. 

Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes // www.WithTheGrains.com

The ugly is the deep, bone-numbing exhaustion of sadness, when sleep is a necessity and an escape from reality. Being awake means facing the puffy eyes of sorrow and the horrible waves of realization that the nightmare is real. Bad exhaustion is the run-of-the-mill result of irresponsible bedtime habits, the consequences of a night too thoroughly enjoyed, or giving too much of yourself for someone else’s cause, i.e.: “yeah, I’m going to need you to come in this weekend.”

Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes // www.WithTheGrains.com

The good type of exhaustion comes from giving of yourself in a fulfilling way- giving life to an idea that had lodged in the brain long past checkout hours, volunteering for a good cause, making art, etc. Lately, I’ve been exhausted in the good way. I have given my all to projects of the heart while juggling the bill-paying sorts of projects, and I feel proud of that (albeit slightly guilty for neglecting this here blog a tad). 

Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes // www.WithTheGrains.com

To extend this classification game even further, I argue the same categories describe vegan food. The ugly- I’m looking at you tofurkey! The bad- the general array of over processed products masquerading as processed meats- why fake bologna, why? Seitan plus liquid smoke in NO way equals bacon! NO THANK YOU! The good? Legume and vegetable heavy dishes that leave you in a similar state of disbelief as when you discovered some standard looking white person was Canadian. They fool us every time!

Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes // www.WithTheGrains.com

These sloppy joes are the good kind of vegan. They’re healthier than the originals yet still fill you with all the comforts of childhood. After all, slap enough ketchup on something, and it’s sure to rekindle some element of childhood, right? (I’m fairly certain Heinz invented sloppy joes. They’re really just ketchup carriers.) Even though they pack a meaty taste, they don’t feel like imposters in the way fake bacon does, so dig in meat eaters and vegans alike. Then, get some sleep!

Quelcy Signature


Lentil Sloppy Joes (Vegan)
Adapted from truRoots

About This Recipe: Lentils pack enough meaty flavor to make these sloppy joes taste like the real thing. Be sure to use an organic ketchup to avoid corn syrup and excess sugar. This is a good way to use some of those last peppers from the garden.

(more…)

0 Comments

Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Bacon, Mushrooms & Kale (Gluten Free)

What this recipe is not:

Cauliflower Crust Pizza (Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

  1. A tool for teaching an ESL student the culinary significance and the translation of the word “pizza.” It is not that.
  2. A pizza to offer to someone who is *legitimately gluten free but who has tasted pizza at its most glutinous, doughiest, finest. It is not that. (*legitimately gluten free, not one of those, “oh, I”m off the gluten now” types who clearly still has muffin crumbs on his or her lips from breakfast. You can offer this as pizza to them).
  3. A new contender to go into the ring with Chicago and New York. It is not that.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza (Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

What this recipe is:

Cauliflower Crust Pizza (Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

  1. An interesting way to eat more cauliflower. It is that.
  2. Practically a corn-free polenta. It is that.
  3. A recipe you can make on a weeknight and feel really proud of the effort you invested in your dinnertime. It is that.
  4. Good. It is really good. But it’s hardly a pizza. 
  5. A vehicle for bacon. It is that. Unless you’re gluten free and vegan. Then, don’t even get me started. 

So if you’re still on board with this cauliflower [non]pizza, proceed. The recipe awaits!

Bon Appétit!

Quelcy Signature


Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Bacon, Mushrooms and Kale
serves:
2-3

About This Recipe: Though closer in consistency to a thicker polenta, this cauliflower “crust” is a good way to eat your favorite pizza toppings while eating more cauliflower. It’s gluten free, so it’s a safe bet for feeding a crowd. By changing the slice size or shape, you could alter this to be a crowd-pleasing appetizer.  

(more…)

0 Comments

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.  

(more…)

4 Comments

A Farm Workday with Strawberry Peach Crisp (Gluten Free)

Starting an episode of The Chef’s Table on Netflix somehow initiates a chemical reaction which bonds my molecules to those of the couch (#science). I become glued to the cushions, obsessively committed to consuming as many episodes as I can before my eyes become heavy, the whiskey drinks kick in, and I fall asleep in some unattractive, gangly pose and then have to will every fiber of my being to go to my actual bed. The show inspires me, to say the least.

Gluten Free Strawberry & Nectarine Crisp & A Farm Workday // www.WithTheGrains.com

Aside from the dance of the camera, the insane food creations, the remote jet-setting possibilities, and the heartfelt personal stories, what drew me most in season two was the idea of the “nudge.” A few chefs mentioned a moment when they were hitting their stride, and a voice of reason would say “you’re almost there, but you need _________.” In the case of the self-taught Ana Roš, a food critic friend told her she was getting good, but she’d be great once she started to pull from and appreciate her Slovenian roots. 

Gluten Free Strawberry & Nectarine Crisp & A Farm Workday // www.WithTheGrains.com

The friend’s words stuck with her, and she began to explore her region, visiting cheesemongers in the early morning, when the green mountains were still misty. She began to fish from the crystal blue waters of the Soca River. She began to cherish and preserve her culture through her own creative updates and twists. She set out to be a diplomat, wound up as a chef, and arguably, through hard work, fierce dedication and a little nudge, she became a diplomat for Slovenia nonetheless. 

Gluten Free Strawberry & Nectarine Crisp & A Farm Workday // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’m going to go on a limb here to break that cautionary writing guideline about avoiding the use of “all, none, every, never, etc” to say that all of us need a little nudge sometimes, even those arrogant bastards who were born with enough confidence to try anything and put their names on everything. Even those types need nudges toward greatness sometimes, or I’m just projecting that need because I need a nudge every now and then. 

Gluten Free Strawberry & Nectarine Crisp & A Farm Workday // www.WithTheGrains.com

At any given moment, I have a back burner stewing with ideas for shops, bakeries, retreats, art, workshops, products, illustrations, etc. Whether it’s fear, distraction, not enough hours in the day or a lack of funding, a lot of these ideas just continue to simmer. Sometimes the ideas themselves nudge me, nagging at me, lodging in my head like strikers rallying for their right to exist.   

Gluten Free Strawberry & Nectarine Crisp & A Farm Workday // www.WithTheGrains.com

But other times, a lot of times, it’s this guy… The Urban Farmer.

Gluten Free Strawberry & Nectarine Crisp & A Farm Workday // www.WithTheGrains.com
Beets, barefoot, beer-drinking… all the B’s to describe The Urban Farmer in a nutshell

He’s braver and bolder than I am. He’s willing to tackle anything, committed to figuring it out along the way, even if he has never tackled it before. When I hem and haw with the typical doubts and insecurities of a perfectionist, he is my nudge. “Nah, just do it,” he’ll say, and more importantly, he really believes I can just do it. 

Gluten Free Strawberry & Nectarine Crisp & A Farm Workday // www.WithTheGrains.com

Nudge and support, nudge and support. It’s an important combination, so rare to find in a partner, and day by day, we’re becoming partners in more ways than one, scheming and brainstorming and creating together. I’m so excited for what’s in store, even if I’m not yet ready to broadcast those ideas to the far reaches of the internet. 

Gluten Free Strawberry & Nectarine Crisp & A Farm Workday // www.WithTheGrains.com

Yet, even the boldest, bravest nudger occasionally needs a nudge himself, so when the Urban Farmer turned the big ol’ 3-1 this year, we gathered to weed, to mulch, to compost, to dig and to dine. We gathered to nudge him along, to encourage his efforts, trying as those farming efforts can be. And my gift for him?

Gluten Free Strawberry & Nectarine Crisp & A Farm Workday // www.WithTheGrains.com

A peach tree. I gave him a peach tree because a tree is an investment, a living, growing symbol that I believe in his vision, his labors and perhaps the biggest testament to my faith in him- I believe he’ll overcome city bureaucracies and get his name on the land, and one day, his farm will grow and grow and all of it will officially be his. On that day, I’ll make this crisp with farm-fresh peaches and muddle even more of those peaches into whiskey drinks, and I’ll raise a glass to him, my constant nudger and supporter! 

Here’s to the Urban Farmer, the birthday boy! And here’s to many, MANY more birthdays by his side!

Quelcy Signature


Strawberry Peach Crisp (Gluten Free)

About this Recipe: A great way to feed a group at the last minute, this crisp takes advantage of gluten-free muesli to add extra fruit, nuts and seeds to the crisp layer. Alternately, you could use gluten-free oats. Serve with homemade whipped cream or an all natural vanilla bean ice cream if you’re near a fridge/freezer, but for farm/outdoor gatherings, this crowd-pleaser dessert is sweet enough on its own. 

(more…)

0 Comments

Peach Whiskey Spelt Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches

Several years ago, I stood in awe, taking in the brand newness of Wigle Whiskey in its infancy. “Try this!” the owner said, as he stood in front of the shimmering new copper still.  I dipped my finger under the slow drip and eagerly plunged my finger into my mouth, expecting that caramel-like, oak-aged flavor.

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

The wrongness of my false assumption hit me immediately. I tried to regain the composure I had surely lost.  Today, that clear liquid has character, a deep amber color and the oak notes that tickle the nose and throat with a little heat. Today it is whiskey, but then, it tasted like I had licked a raw grain like a popsicleWhiskey takes time, so much time and care.

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

I imagine parenting to be something like the smack of wheat that hit me when I was expecting maturity. A man might look at a baby bundle of little girl and expect his daughter to carry his belief systems, not to challenge him on everything, to grow up, choose a career path, follow that path and maybe settle down. But then reality hits like a drip from a still, and it’s dreadlocks, a tattoo, a wandering spirit, what some might call a restlessness and others would call curiosity. She’s opinionated, stubborn, a dreamer and a risk taker. 

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

I imagine parenting to be something like the smack of wheat that hit me when I was expecting amber, oaky flavor. The process requires time, patience and a good deal of faith. I’m eternally grateful my parents put trust in the process, allowing me to carve my own path, supporting me along the way.  

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

My dad is not a whiskey drinker, but I am. It’s just one of our many differences. However, the spirit is symbolic of our relationship. I was the surprise smack of wheat, but he was the one who aged well, who changed the most. He opened up, made himself vulnerable and supported me fully. When people say “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” I grab a frisbee because my dad has changed more than anyone I know, and I am immensely proud of him for that.  

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’m far away and belated (as always), but this is my Father’s Day dedication to my dad. Here’s to the man who placed me in front of a bull and believed I could herd that bull where I wanted him to go. Here’s to the man who handed me big ol’ truck keys long before the state would allow. Here’s to the man who cheered for me from every sideline and from every awards ceremony and then hauled me to my dream school. 

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

Here’s to the man who reads my articles on glorified tea parties because they are my articles on glorified tea parties. But above all, here’s to the man who has wept with me when I needed him to, who shed stereotypes to be sensitive, who tells me he is proud of me and loves me. He made me tough, but he made me sensitive too.

Spelt Peach Whiskey Cake with Smoked Sea Salt Caramel & Caramelized Peaches // www.WithTheGrains.com

This whiskey cake was for the local dads- the one who raised my Urban Farmer and the one who made that father a grandfather. It’s a cake for the way they melt around the new grand baby, the way they rally to build deck steps, the way they show up and support everything farm related. Here’s a belated ode to my dad, my local dads and to those who act like dads everyday. It’s not an easy role. It’s full of smacks to the face, and not everyone steps up to the plate, but to those who do, I salute you in the only way I know how- through cake! 

Quelcy Signature


Peach Whiskey Spelt Cake

About this Recipe: The cake batter will be very wet, but it yields a moist cake with a rich molasses flavor and a hint of whiskey. While the cakes cool, prepare the caramelized peaches, then the caramel and then the whipped cream. The recipe looks intimidating because of the many steps, but the whole cake comes together rather quickly. The alcohol in the cake bakes out, but the whipped cream will maintain the alcohol content, so this cake is not for younger eaters.

(more…)

3 Comments
Close Menu
%d bloggers like this: