Roasted Chestnut Stuffing (Vegetarian)

“How do you feel about chestnuts?” I asked Jill, who was coming for dinner in a few days.

“Like…I like them roasting over an open fire? I actually have no idea!”

Though we sing about chestnuts roasting every year, and the lyrics help put us in that holiday spirit, how many of us actually eat these hearty nuts?

Roasted Chestnut Stuffing (Vegetarian) //

If my friend Jill, who samples an array of precise recipes daily at America’s Test Kitchen, cooks constantly, travels extensively and meets world class chefs as part of her job…if she had never eaten a chestnut, it’s safe to say very few people are eating these nuts. This begs the question, why do we sing nostalgically about this nut but not eat it?

Roasted Chestnut Stuffing (Vegetarian) //

The short answer is blight. Once upon a time, chestnut trees blanketed the east coast of the United States, covering some 200 million acres. Frost resistant and reliable, the tree was a major source of income for many a rural community, both as a source of food for livestock and as a timber source. However, in the first half of the twentieth century, blight, imported through Asian Chestnut Trees, devastated the eastern woodlands. If this feels like a dismal tale from the annals of food history, it is, BUT there’s a glimmer of hope too!

Roasted Chestnut Stuffing (Vegetarian) //

Fortunately, there are organizations and people working to restore the chestnut’s mighty presence. These history lessons are also valuable as more and more of us seek to improve the local food economy. If we spend more time examining our food and its sources, we can better mediate our local agricultural systems. For now, chestnuts cost a pretty penny in grocery stores, and their availability is limited (I hope you can still acquire some as I am sharing this in January!), but hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, every east coast grocery store will offer a regular bin of local chestnuts. Maybe I’ll even be gathering them at Hazelwood Urban Farms!

Here’s to chestnuts roasting on lots of open fires!

Quelcy Signature

Roasted Chestnut Stuffing/Dressing
Recipe adapted from Sift magazine
Yield: 10 servings

About This Recipe: Vegetarians and carnivores can unite on this classic side dish thanks to chestnuts’ meaty flavor! For a more nutrient rich approach, I used a combination of Whole Wheat Sourdough and Mt. Athos Fire Bread (a local favorite- sub any dense, grainy bread). This recipe calls for baking the bread cubes to dry them, but you can also cube and save bread as it starts to harden to avoid wasting a loaf. To simplify the recipe, you can use pre-cooked chestnuts (like these), but roasting draws a lot of flavor. If you have more than 1 1/2 cups chestnuts after roasting and shelling, add them to the stuffing. That quantity is flexible. 



Mulled Wine Compote

This post is sponsored by Market Street Grocery, but all opinions are my own! Thanks for supporting the brands that support With The Grains!


Mulled Wine and a Holiday Spread //

Beneath my permed hair and  80s-inspired poof of bangs, my eyes were wide with horror! My elementary school teacher had just reported a staggering statistic about how much food waste ended up in landfills. My miniature, environmentalist heart could hardly take it. Today, the statistic is even more staggering at 33 million TONS of food each year (source).

Mulled Wine and a Holiday Spread //

I’m not perfect, and mold still claims more of my refrigerator’s contents than I would like to admit, but thanks to the Urban Farmer, most of our scraps become compost and contribute to the soil remediation process on the farm. I know composting isn’t a possibility for a lot of urban dwellers, but this girl can dream of the day my city will take action to mitigate food waste (many cities already do!). In the meantime, I am constantly seeking ways to waste less such as this win-win idea for wasting less food this holiday season.

Mulled Wine Compote //

The first part of this resourceful idea requires wine drinking- specifically Mulled Wine drinking. As I mentioned in my recipe post, Mulled Wine is the perfect drink to serve this time of year. It fills the home with a welcoming aroma, it’s easy to serve to a group, it’s a sipper, and it warms your spirit! However, after the last mug of mulled wine has been poured, the crockpot usually still holds a substantial portion of fruit. I couldn’t bear to toss all the wine and spice-infused fruit, so this Mulled Wine Compote was born!

Mulled Wine Compote //

I call this “Grandmother-style kitchen work.” There’s no precise recipe. Just throw that flavorful fruit into the food processor or blender, and whirl away! For a hint of sweetness and creaminess, I added a heaping spoonful or two of Creamed Honey. This liquid gold is like creamy caramel (you can learn more about creamed honey here). Bedillion Honey Farm’s version is still raw, so it maintains the goodness of pollen, propolis and enzymes pasteurized honeys lose, and it’s creamed with cinnamon for an extra touch of spice in the compote.

Mulled Wine Compote //

I also added another spoonful or two of Chinese Five Spice to intensify the fall notes.

Mulled Wine Compote //

My leftover crock of fruit made about 2 quarts of Mulled Wine Compote, which I divided into jam jars to give as gifts and serve at future gatherings.

Mulled Wine Compote //

Mulled Wine Compote //

The compote makes a great accent on a cheeseboard, so for very little effort, you’ll be prepared for a few small, holiday gatherings. The tart compote pairs well with the slight sweetness of these Carr’s Whole Wheat Crackers or a dense, fruit & nut bread. It would also be delicious on pancakes or French toast if you’re hosting a holiday brunch.

Mulled Wine Compote //

Drink warmly, waste less and enjoy more!

Happy Holidays!

Mulled Wine Compote

To make mulled wine compote, reserve whatever wine is left from a batch of mulled wine (recipe below), and set it aside. Use a food processor or blender to puree the wine-infused fruit remnants of mulled wine (but remove the cinnamon sticks first). Add honey and more Chinese Five Spice to taste. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. It also freezes well.



Slow Roasted Tomato, Garlic & Herb Sauce

March 2015

Dumpsters and dinner. Have you ever associated these words together?

Perhaps it was the lure of the neo-hippy boys on bicycles, with dirty tans and ripped Carharts (I was still “finding myself” after all). Perhaps it was the notion of sustainability. Whatever my motivation, for one very brief, very, very brief period, I dabbled in dumpster-diving. Was I swan diving into heaps of trash? No. Was I following friends to known dumpster jackpots and reaping the produce rewards? Yes. We would find pounds and pounds of edible produce, all tossed aside because it lacked a certain symmetry or monochromatic hue. These “bastard” fruits and vegetables were deemed unsellable and chucked. We were confronting society’s waste, and seeing that much squandered food really sucked.

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One particular scavenge really stands out in my memory. A friend and I were having an urban picnic at an old produce terminal during the off hours. While strolling to find the best view of downtown, we happened upon huge cases of rejected produce. With a vehicle at our disposal, we each rescued enough produce to populate a sizable vegetable stand. At first acquisition, this produce felt too good to be true, but once home, the reality settled, and the quantity was a looming burden.

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On one hand, we could afford to experiment culinarily. That pillage led to my first experience roasting peppers. On the other hand, the food seemed endless. Consuming it all required spending money on other ingredients, but how could we even consider wasting the wasted and continue such a vicious cycle? We were supposed to be making the world more sustainable but at what cost to our personal health codes? It was one first-world philosophical dilemma after another, calling into question many of my personal food values. I hate the idea of food waste, but I also place a high premium on my own health and sourcing organic foods. Where do I draw the line?

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I recently tweezered, spritzed, primped and prodded chopped vegetables and fruits for a commercial photoshoot (one of my day jobs). To ensure the most beautiful “heroes” for each shot, the company arrived with a stack of boxes taller and wider than many of me. At the end of the shoot, they thanked us for our work and said, “enjoy the vegetables.” Many trips to the car later, I had a backseat and trunk full of produce, and I remembered my ol’ dumpster diving days. Is this the produce I would normally buy for myself? Probably not. Could I waste it? No. I was even more determined this time to use as much of this produce as possible. It was time to be creative, rev the juicer, fire up the oven and take advantage of cooking methods I might not usually employ. Case in point: roasted tomato sauce.

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With grocery aisle shelves of sauces galore, buying a jar has an easy appeal, but the flavor and added smoky flavor of this homemade version has its advantages. Maybe you rescue the rejected tomatoes from a produce terminal. Maybe you garden and you make this sauce when you have an abundance of fresh, juicy, summer tomatoes. Maybe you try to salvage what you can from winter’s sad stock, but I hope you strike a balance of nourishing yourself and wasting less. It’s a balance I’m constantly seeking.


Bon Appétit!

Roasted Tomato, Garlic & Herb Sauce

About this Recipe: Roasting is a great way to concentrate flavor and preserve produce. Surely this sauce would benefit from summer’s freshest tomatoes, but at this point in the year, I saw this as a means to draw out the otherwise lacking flavor in winter tomatoes. The resulting sauce is thick, chunky and rich in flavor. It works well as a pizza or pasta sauce, added to a soup, or spread on a sandwich. The recipe is loose, so you can tweak the ingredients and quantities to what you have and to your flavor preferences. My quantities yielded a large jar with some extras.



What To Make With Almond Milk Pulp: Chocolate Covered Almond Treats

March 2015

If I were Catholic, I’m not, but if I were Catholic, I have this nagging guilt I would attempt to assuage through confession. The dialogue would transpire as follows:

Priest: In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been never since my last confession.

Priest: Proceed my child.

Homemade Almond Milk by With The Grains
The remains of making homemade almond milk: chopped almonds, dates and vanilla bean.

Penitent/Me: Father, what I did was so reprehensible, so inconceivable, I shudder to say it out loud to another human being. My sin happened about a month or two ago. With glazes and preparation methods whirling in my head, I removed two salmon filets from the freezer to thaw. By nightfall, they were ready to be savored, but the Urban Farmer had already eaten, so I saved them. The next night, the bright, orange and coral fish filled my vision every time I opened the refrigerator. “I must cook those soon,” I thought to myself, but for one reason after another, day after day, the fish never made it to our dinner plates. One week later, I held the fish package in my hand and evaluated how willing I was to risk food poisoning- not very. I had to throw away the fish. I had to throw away the salmon! The wastefulness haunts me to this day, father [voice screeching by this point. Some tears forming].

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Priest: I see. You must say an Act of Contrition [that came straight from my Google search to this “priest’s” monologue], and you must find ways to make amends [is that a Catholic thing?].

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Salmon. Of all the foods to squander, salmon! Images flashed in my head of starving children, over-fished waterways, questionable fish farming practices and the price tag on the fish itself. The guilt ran deep, but I tried to channel this negligence into something more productive, something more chocolaty!

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This brings me to a brand new category I am introducing here on my blog, “Waste Not, Want Not.” Though this series of blog posts will never undo the fish I have wasted, it will challenge me, and hopefully inspire you, to waste less and enjoy more.

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I recently shared a recipe for homemade Vanilla Bean Almond Milk, which I recommend for its simplicity and purity. The potential downside to this process is the remaining almond pulp. There’s nothing wrong with this almond mixture, but using it instead of pitching it does require a little creativity. Being the chocolate lover I am, I combined the remaining almond meal with almond butter and a touch of pure maple syrup, then dunked the combination in dark chocolate. These chocolate balls are difficult to name, but they’re rewarding to eat.

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Chocolate Covered Almond Treats

About This Recipe: Landing somewhere between a peanut butter cup and a buckeye, this recipe starts with the leftovers of making Homemade Vanilla Bean Almond Milk. Mixing the chopped almonds with organic almond butter and just a touch of maple syrup yields a high protein, healthy treat that’s low in sugar. Use a high quality chocolate to keep this treat as wholesome as possible. I recently started using Guittard’s Extra Dark Chocolate Chips because they are 63% cacao, all natural, GMO-free, and they use sunflower lecithin instead of soy. They are the best chips I have found to date.


Bless me friends, for I have tried to make amends!