A Plentiful Pot of Roasted Tomato & Root Vegetable Soup

March 2015

A plentiful pot of soup is like a return to your childhood home after many months or years away. Every ingredient, like every quilt, stuffed animal or lingering teen heart-throb poster, tells a story and stirs nostalgia. This soup stirred a few tales.

Red Pepper Soup by With The Grains

First, there were friends gathered around our dining room table. The Urban Farmer and I shared our roasted chicken, vegetables, and hearty bread. They shared their heartwarming tales of transforming travels in Peru. That chicken became stock, and that stock became a base for this soup.

There was a long photoshoot. It began with meticulously styled, petite portions of chopped vegetables. It ended with a back seat and a trunk FULL of produce. Those excesses became a warm oven of slow roasting tomatoes, a house that smelled of Italy, and finally, a robust red sauce. That red sauce stirred the cravings for comforting tomato soup.

There was a Valentine’s Day break from reclusive hibernation and a bundled excursion to the butcher shop. The return adventure was a blinding blanket of white, a determined dog with a backpack full of bacon, and a very chilling walk on quiet, empty streets. Two honey-cardamom lattes and a chess game later, we were warm enough to think clearly. That bacon belonged in our soup!

Those tales simmered, bubbled and blended into something new.

Red Pepper Soup by With The Grains

With one hand on the old, familiar doorknob and the other hovering near the light switch, you hesitate. You breathe in the familiar smell. You hear the distant laughter, complaints and squabbles. You see the homework struggles, the sleepovers, the trophies and toys. Once back in the present moment, your hovering hand flips the light switch, pulls the door knob and closes the door on that childhood chapter. Similarly, each ingredient’s tale hovered, but new moments emerged as well, ready to be recalled with the next bowl of piping hot soup. This is why I slow cook.


Go Stir Some Stories!

Roasted Tomato & Vegetable Soup

About This Recipe: From the homemade stock to the slow roasted tomato sauce, this soup is a journey and a labor for the love of cooking. The result is a hearty vegetable soup that takes advantage of winter’s lingering root vegetables and warms the last chill in the air. Use whatever lingering root vegetables you have. Use a vegetable stock and skip the bacon if you want to avoid meat. Substitute a favorite pasta sauce instead of making your own. Be creative, experiment, and enjoy!

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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.

Roasted Tomatoes by With The Grains 01

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.

Roasted Tomatoes by With The Grains 02

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?

Roasted Tomatoes by With The Grains 04

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.

Roasted Tomatoes by With The Grains 03

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.

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Homemade Chicken Stock (or Vegetable Stock)

March 2015

This might be the first time I’ve looked at the calendar with dismay thinking winter will soon be over. The Urban Farmer and I have embraced hibernation so well this winter, I’m not quite ready to emerge from our reclusive grizzly bear state. Granted, we live in a city that continues to nestle under a deep blanket of white through March, so winter’s exit is not as imminent as the calendar might lead us to believe. In the spirit of gratefulness for the here and now, I’m going to share a few soup posts before the sun kisses my bare shoulders (once it does, I’m sure I’ll be singing the sun’s praises from the rooftop), but first, let’s discuss a soup fundamental- stock.

Stock by With The Grains

On one particularly wintry weekend, the Urban Farmer and I trekked, through a white-out, to the butcher shop. We bought a local chicken, which the little one carried in her backpack and earned her adventure dog spots. One roast later, we were left with the carcass and visions of soup. I knew this chicken carcass could find new life in the form of stock, but unlike my mother and grandmother who surely made stock without a second thought, I wasn’t 100% sure how that transformation occurred. I consulted a trusty cookbook just in case. I figured if I had some doubts, I might be able to help a few of you move past your own hesitations and adopt this process. There are several benefits to making stock yourself.

Benefits of Homemade Stock 

1. Making stock from the ends of vegetables and the remnants of your roasts means you’ll eke out more utility from your purchases. Waste not, want not, remember?

2. You’ll trust the integrity of your stock, knowing you’ve used the best local and organic ingredients. Avoid the extras a tetra pack has to include for shelf life.

3. Flavor! Making your own stock yields more flavor, and you can tweak according to your preferences.

How To Make Homemade Stock

For this version, I filled my crockpot with the carcass from a roasted chicken, which still had an herb bundle inside it. I happened to have a lot of veggies leftover from a photoshoot, so I added LOTS of chopped celery, scallions, and green peppers, as well as a dash of dried herbs, salt and pepper. If you’re not swimming in vegetables, you can store the ends of carrots, onions, beet greens, etc in the freezer as you cook them for other dishes. Once your freezer stash is sufficient, add those to your crockpot or a large pot on the stovetop. Cover with water. For the crockpot method, I let the mixture slow cook for the day, then strained and stored the liquid. For the stovetop method, bring ingredients and water to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes or so. If you’re not using your stock immediately, you can freeze it in small portions, making it easier to thaw and use on a recipe by recipe basis.

For a vegetarian version, skip the meat and simmer a variety of vegetables.

For even more guidance, check out this article from the Huffington Post. If you want to be really precise about it, dig into these stock experiments.

What do you think? Doable? Ready to try it?

Stay tuned for my upcoming soup posts and my last winter hurrahs.


Happy Hibernating!



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].

Chocolate Almonds by With The Grains 05

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?].

Chocolate Almonds by With The Grains 02

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!

Chocolate Almonds by With The Grains 03

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.

Chocolate Almonds by With The Grains 04

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.

Chocolate Almonds by With The Grains 01

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!

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Homemade Vanilla Bean Almond Milk

February 2015

The motor roared, the boat rocketed up, and slammed down repeatedly, but he held the extended rope calmly, effortlessly. His single ski cut into the glassy surface, and the water sprung forth like a choreographed fountain. His lean legs bobbled ever so slightly before he jumped and defied the turbulent wake. The rope still seemed to hang loosely in his hands.

My brother made waterskiing look easy, too easy.

Homemade Almond Milk by With The Grains-01

Summer after summer I had watched Shayne glide and jump over Lake Geoffrey like a pro. I was always content just to watch, but when I was fourteen, I finally had the urge to waterski. With most of my jitters focused on a fear of water snakes, I hadn’t processed how difficult gliding over water actually is. As the life jacket awkwardly hugged my scrawny frame, I floated in the water awaiting this reality.

Homemade Almond Milk by With The Grains

Advanced beyond the use of double skis, my brother and friends had to scrounge two singles for me. The cobbled pair felt heavy and off-kilter, but the jet black boat with wild flames began to rev and roar. I gripped the rope with all my might, questioning this choice of mine. Too late. My legs and arms were pulled forward, but my core lagged. Far from impressive or graceful, I looked and felt like the boat was dragging me. Try as I might, I lost the rope and spiraled into the water. Fail.

Waterskiing was not easy, not at all.

Vanilla and Dates by With The Grains

Eventually, I learned to squat. I learned to use my quad muscles. I learned not to let the boat drag me and when to let go. Eventually, I was able to lap the lake without holding my breath anxiously, and I dare say, I even enjoyed it. I returned to Pennsylvania, my brother continued to dazzle all summer in Nebraska, and I haven’t stepped foot in a water ski ever since, but at least I tried it.

Homemade Almond Milk by With The Grains

Taking my brother’s talent for granted, I had underestimated the difficulty level of waterskiing. Other obstacles in life follow the opposite course. We put off trying certain activities because we lump them into a “complicated” category. With all the fancy packaging and ever expanding shelf of nut milks, I had long lumped Almond Milk into the Why would I make that myself? category. As it turns out, making your own version is super simple and straightforward.

Homemade Almond Milk by With The Grains-06

Homemade Vanilla Bean Almond Milk

About this Recipe: I originally set out to make almond milk because I was shocked at how many extra ingredients even the most expensive and “natural” brands contain. Making your own does require a few kitchen gadgets (food processor or blender and cheesecloth), but other than that, the process is simple and doesn’t require nearly as many almonds as one would expect. The result is a super natural almond milk without the unwanted extras. Be sure to save your almond pulp as I’ll be sharing a recipe for using it to make a wholesome chocolate treat.


Here’s to trying!

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

February 2015

Fun fact about me: I’m pretty weird.

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

Roasted Beet Donuts by With The Grains 01

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

Roasted Beet Donuts by With The Grains 04

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

Roasted Beet Donuts by With The Grains 02

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

Roasted Beet Donuts by With The Grains 03

Roasted Red Beet Donuts with Rosewater Glaze (Gluten Free)

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

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

All that from a donut!


Go eat the beet!

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Whole Wheat Double Chocolate Banana Bread with Toasted Coconut

February 23, 2015

Happy National Banana Bread Day, or what I would like to call Regina Kogel Day! Who is Regina Kogel? Arguably, she is a champion of banana bread. Assuredly, she is my mom. When I think of today’s celebrated loaf, I think of her.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Coconut Banana Bread by With The Grains

Looking back, it seems my family was not particularly adept at consuming bananas in a timely manner because brown, squishy bananas equal banana bread, and there always seemed to be a loaf in Regina Kogel’s house. A believer in breakfast, Regina’s morning spread would frequently include a warm loaf of her freshly baked banana bread. A believer in butter, a slice of this bread was not complete until smeared with bright golden butter (though to be fair, the butter champion is my dad). In honor of my mom, and in honor of today, one of the many, weird, quirky, seemingly random food holidays, I bring you this Quelcy style recipe, i.e: if banana bread is good, chocolate banana bread must be even better! This logic has yet to fail me.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Coconut Banana Bread by With The Grains

Whole-Wheat, Double Chocolate Banana Bread with Toasted Coconut

About This Recipe: Like mom’s but more chocolaty! This loaf begins with a whole-wheat pastry flour, cocoa powder and chunks of dark chocolate chips. Topping the very rich and gooey loaf with coconut yields a toasted crunch once baked. It’s sweet enough for dessert, but it’s wholesome enough for breakfast, so have it for both!


Happy National Banana Bread Day!

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