Celebrating A French Tradition: Galette Des Rois

January 2015

Rare, rare, rare is the occasion on which you will come to my dining room to eat a dessert I have not baked. However, when it comes to the French Galette Des Rois (King Cake) tradition, I defer to trusted Frenchies, and in the case of Pittsburgh, I defer to La Gourmandine. This cake is a seasonal specialty, so I wanted to share my enthusiasm and adopted tradition with friends.

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I first learned of the Galette Des Rois when I was studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence. Good luck sprawled before me, a golden crown glimmered atop my head, and I claimed my prize! This good fortune happened to coincide with my birthday, so the crown seemed all the more destined, but after the first bite, the true destiny seemed to be the cake. It was love! Beautifully scored puff pastry flakes reveal a moist almond center. It’s the almond croissant of cakes, and I love almond croissants so much, I’d trade family members for them, if the circumstances demanded it.

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Tradition holds that this highly anticipated cake is “to draw the kings” to the Epiphany. A figurine, la fève is hidden in the cake and the person who finds the trinket in his or her slice becomes king for the day and will have to offer the next cake. Originally, la fève was literally a bean (fève), but it was replaced in 1870 by a variety of figurines out of porcelain.

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To ensure the fève, and more importantly, the crownis received at random, it’s tradition to have the youngest person hide under the table and distribute the cake slices indiscriminately. The Urban Farmer was the youngest member of our dessert gathering. Luckily for this cradle-robber, he’s also a good sport, and he indulged my cake games.

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La Gourmandine does not bake their trinkets in the cake to prevent unsuspecting patrons from choking, so step one was for all of us to leave the room while he sliced the cake and hid the toy. Then he crawled under the table, and together with Rachel’s assistance, he assigned the cake slices. Do you spy his descent in the photo above?

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And the big winner was… Dane! The crown fit so naturally atop her head, she forgot it was there as the conversation ensued. Fortunately, my jealousy subsided with my first bite.

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With satiated sweet teeth, a BIG bottle of bubbly and Bess’ signature popcorn, we continued to enjoy the snowy January evening and each other’s company. Meanwhile, little Julep protested under the table. As the true youngest, she clearly had been jipped of her rightful role. She comforted herself by snagging fallen flakes of buttery crust.

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Though epiphany has passed, you might still be able to snag a Galette Des Rois at your trusted French bakery. If not, treat yourself to an almond croissant or two, mark your calendars for next year, and adopt this tradition for yourself! By this time next year, Julep will surely be wearing a golden crown, and hopefully you will too!


Bon Appétit!

Instagram Lately: It’s Cold Outside, But The Kitchen is Warm

January 2015

“Crazy Legs” is the technical term for the moment when my dog Julep’s back legs accelerate faster than her front legs, propelling her into a seated sprint if you can imagine such a feat. On these fluffy, white January mornings, Julep is prone to crazy legs. She bounds to the yard, digs her nose in the snow, emerges looking like a coke addict and then frolics and herds imaginary flocks with gusto. It’s really hard to resent the snow when watching such a joyful dog.

Winter Outside by With The Grains

This past week January donned a cloak of white, and Julep, the Urban Farmer and I had plenty of opportunity to bundle up and play in the snow like fools. The snow-laden trees were like fantastical creatures from a movie, as we wandered through the neighborhood with the happy pup. After exerting her energy and ours, we hid inside, where the oven was warm, and the baked goods were a plenty.  We nestled and watched The Grand Budapest Hotel, which seemed to mirror our own snowy mountain scenes and puff pastries. A girl gets to be lazy, play in the snow and watch afternoon movies when it’s her birthday after all.

Warm Inside by With The Grains

The best of these warm bites by far were the waffles the Urban Farmer made me for my birthday! While I lounged in bed, he splattered batter and pressed coffee. There were balsamic cherries and homemade whipped cream for the toppings!

As the snow continues to fall in your parts of the woods, don’t be too hard on January. Play in the snow, delight in a dog, and eat something homemade like these Chocolate Glazed Donuts!


May Your Kitchens Be Warm!

p.s: You can follow more of my Instagram adventures here.

Gingerbread Granola

January 2015

Good friends of mine just returned from a transforming three weeks in Peru (my cold toes are reaping the rewards of souvenir alpaca slippers!!!). They departed on New Year’s day, so their living room exists in a preserved holiday state. Rather than rush to take down their expired Christmas tree and decorations, the Urban Farmer and I are pushing for Christmas, Part Deux! In the spirit of expired holiday celebrations, I bring you this Gingerbread Granola recipe!


Apparently when it comes to extending the Christmas spirit long into January, my inner 8-year-old stylist emerges, but this granola deserves its place in your breakfast rotation long after the limelight has faded on gingerbread men and other holiday treats.


If you typically eat your granola plain (?) or with yogurt, I recommend serving this recipe with the organic milk of your choice (cow, almond, etc). The lingering spices yield a chai-like drink at the end. You may even want to add more milk than necessary so as to savor those last flavorful sips.


Bon Appétit!

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Rustic Root Vegetable Pie with Blue Cheese & Herbs

January 2015

Every other Saturday, the Urban Farmer bursts through the kitchen door in his decades-old Woolrich coat and snowy boots, and he raises a green bag into the air triumphantly. This prized green bag contains his CSA allotment (Community Supported Agriculture), and aside from supporting our region’s farmers, these bags of veggies have pushed us to cook more and to cook more creatively.

With The Grains Veggie Pie 01

Each CSA share is like a cooking show challenge. Beets, turnips, celeriac…go! For this specific green bag, the Urban Farmer really had pie on his mind. As I began to muse, he interjected my visions of beet slice rosettes atop sweetly spiced squash, “No, I want to make a savory pie.” Before he had finished verbalizing his pie goals, he had already begun peeling and chopping, so we dove into his savory plan in that fluid style of cooking- a sprinkle of this, a dash of that, a slice, a chop and a vague recipe underpinning.

With The Grains Veggie Pie 02

Recipe Notes: This recipe is very loose, and you can adapt it based on your winter vegetable bounty and personal preferences. We began with a large baking stone’s worth of roasted vegetables and had more than we needed for the pie, but that excess makes for easy, healthy dinners later in the week. I’ve been reading about sneaking vodka into pie crusts as way to combat the gluten formation that risks a tough crust. Rather than Vodka, I used a few Tablespoons of Art in the Age’s Sage liquor, hoping to avoid gluten and reap the benefits of the herb flavors. You can also experiment with the cheese, herbs and proteins. This would be delicious with salty shavings of pecorino, and next time, we’ll probably add a spicy sausage to the filling. Be inspired, get creative and go crazy!


Bon Appétit!

p.s: We’re looking forward to this time next year when we’ll be making rustic root veggie pies from the fruits of the Urban Farmer’s labor. He’ll be farming his own land this spring!

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Donut o’ the Month for Jojotastic: Chocolate Glazed Whole Wheat Donut

January 2015

The alarm sounds, and it’s a terrible, dreaded screech. It’s early and dark, and the days until summer vacation seem too endless to count. Spelling words and fraction rules whirl in my brain. Showered, dressed, and permed hair beginning to poof in that special 80s/90s way, I take my designated seat at the head of the table. I’m in elementary school, and this is my routine, but everything in my young world halts when mom brings me a donut for breakfast! Chocolate iced without any filling. This is my FAVORITE donut, and everyone in my family knows it. My sisters work at the local grocery store, and they spoil me with this donut all too often, especially around my birthday time.


Since January is my birthday month (yes, I said month. I’m one of those birthday gluttons), I had to make my childhood favorite for my Donut o’ the Month series on the blog, Jojotastic. However, I had to make my favorite donut in a more wholesome way.

With The Grains // Donut o' the Month- Chocolate Glazed Whole Wheat Donut

When I reflect on just how many donuts I ate as a child, I cringe a little at the thought of all the refined sugars, unpronounceable preservatives and unhealthy ingredients. Made from whole wheat pastry flour and fried in organic, non-gmo Safflower oil, this donut recipe offered me a trip down memory lane with much more peace of mind. My recipe calls for quite a bit of yeast, which does hit your palate with each bite, but the flavor hits in a way I like, especially since the yeast yields a fluffy crumb. I hope you break your morning routine with this delicious donut and take a trip down memory lane as well.


Bon Appetit!

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Cranberry Eggnog Cheesecake with a Whole Wheat Brownie Crust

January 2015

Famed by fall and our interpretation of the first Thanksgiving (Native Americans most likely were not making relishes and chutneys in 1621), the cranberry holds an esteemed position in the realm of berries. Yet, for all its revered, bold, scarlet beauty, it’s not the easiest berry to eat. It’s tart. It has a strange texture. It’s not the type of berry you just pop into your mouth by the handfull, but sugared cranberries…sugared cranberries are magical! A quick plunge in a gently warmed mixture of sugar and water, and the cranberry transforms. It’s firm but not stalky like its original texture. It’s just the right mix of sweet, tart, firm and juicy. Like a sip of something strong, the cranberry’s little plunge takes the edge off.

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As I marveled (truly marveled!) at the magic of this transforming process, I thought a lot about one of my best friends. Sandra is analytical, admirable, smart, sincere and the best sort of sassy. When I’m at my worst, she has the ability to empathize, to add reason and logic to my situation, helping me to sweeten the more sour moments of life. She knows my best and worst qualities and holds me accountable to my potential, never dwelling on my mistakes or faults. I wish we could share these heaps of sugared cranberries together (along with endless cups of tea and a bottle or two of wine), but for now, the phone is our unifier.

Eggnog Cranberry Cheesecake

If you’re lucky enough to share your city with your best friend, share this cheesecake as well. The written recipe may look a little daunting, but the end result is worth the multiple components. This cheesecake combines some of winter’s finest flavors- eggnog with hints of Wigle Whiskey’s Landlocked Spiced (made from local honey & similar to a rum). The sweet, juicy, sugared cranberries add just the right tart contrast to the rich, brownie crust, making for quite the layering of flavors in every bite!

Cranberry Eggnog Cheesecake w/ a Whole Wheat Brownie Crust & Sugared Cranberries
featuring hints of Wigle Whiskey’s Landlocked Spiced

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Whole Wheat Chocolate Matcha Bundt Cake w/ Matcha Buttercream

January 2014

When is quitting the right thing to do?

Society screams and shouts, “Winners never quit, and quitters never win,” but that advice, though well intentioned, is misguided. Life, and ultimately success, requires quitting every now and then, so how do you know if you’re seeking an out because the situation is actually wrong or because it’s too difficult? I’ve grappled with this question before, but it especially plagued me as the year came to a close.


Fortunately, it’s 2015, and the internet can be as much of a guru as a pious monk on a pristine mountaintop. Through the powers of the web, I stumbled upon The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When To Quit (and When To Stick) by Seth Godin. True to its title, this little book was short in length but powerful in message. I walked away with probing tools to help me answer my daunting question:

Am I willing to try to be the very best in the world? If I’m settling for mediocrity, something is wrong.
Am I panicking? Panicking is not the time to quit.

Who am I trying to influence? If I’m trying to influence one person, persistence has its limits.
What sort of measurable progress am I making?
Am I quitting before I have begun? The time to define quitting circumstances is at the outset of the endeavor, not at mile 7 of the marathon when fatigue and boredom set in.

Matcha Wreath Cake by With The Grains

Simple as some of the book was, reading these parameters gave me direction and reassurance and removed the pressure of the more Quitting = Failing philosophies. This topic of perseverance is especially relevant as we enter the more trying months of winter. The luster of the holidays has dulled, and the bone-chilling cold has descended. There are never enough warm layers, and leaving the corner nook of the couch requires more discipline than should be expected of one day. To the challenges of winter, I say extend and cling to the little joys of late December- a warm oven, festive decor, and the gatherings that warm the home. Keep your door clad in fragrant greens and your table decorated with deliciousness. Play in the snow. Do not panic. Do not give up.


Chocolate Matcha Bundt Cake with Matcha Peppermint Buttercream & Sugared Cranberries

This bundt cake is a colorful swirl of matcha cake and chocolate cake, topped with a Matcha Peppermint Buttercream and the sweet, tart burst of sugared cranberries. The matcha adds an earthy note to the cake, and one of my guests likened the flavor to a hint of rye flour. Matcha is a finely milled or fine powder green tea and is available at Asian grocers or online. Supposedly, the health benefits of matcha tea exceed those of green tea because when you drink matcha, you ingest the whole leaf, not just the brewed water, so go forth and eat this whole grain cake without guilt.

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