I was gearing up to judge all St. Patrick's Day partakers, including the Rustbelt Farmer and his brother. But you know what they say, pride cometh before the fall, and fall I did! I was a mere two drinks into my [dehydrated] Friday night, ie: St. Patrick's Day Eve, when I totally and completely biffed it. I'm not even sure what happened. Did I just step on my own sweatpants? Needless to say, I'm not currently in a place to judge those who may still be suffering from a very intense holiday celebration. I too may need the power of these Green Detox Smoothies. In the least, I may still need an ice pack.
Fall as a kid is bittersweet, but fall as an adult is cozy, comforting and full of choices- should I drink spiked hot apple cider and watch Netflix, or should I drink red wine and watch Amazon Prime (#LiveItUp)? Celebrate fall with this Gluten Free Zucchini Spice Cake with Apple Butter Buttercream, Apple Cider Reduction & Spiced Apple Rosettes.
A snapshot of my working life (because I don’t do snapchat):
Quelcy parks nefariously (after circling the block to avoid a fire truck and a police car in the illegal parking zone…suspicious, to say the least!), then walks briskly to the park’s edge, where the most brilliantly colored maple trees hang low enough to reach from the slope of the hill. She proceeds to cut the low-hanging branches quickly, with a feigned authority in case anyone is watching (which they definitely do in this neighborhood. The old people don’t have anything better to do besides watch the younger generation of crazies). She then squats, like a hungry peasant child, and brushes the fallen leaves into a trash bag as if they are food scraps from the delicatessen. She returns to her car with a sizable bundle of foliage and a trash bag of leaf debris.
How was your day?
So “why” is probably the question you have after reading that. Oh you know, just your average day in the life of a frugal, “nature-inspired” stylist en route to styling a wedding vow renewal ceremony in a building with enough chipped paint and industrial surfaces to make my eyes glaze over happily. In other words, “I was really feeling fall.”
When I told the Urban Farmer I had to scavenge leaves for the shoot, he said, “you should take the neighbor’s leaves. Their color is so beautiful.” He said it without pause, without having to rack his mind for the beauty of fall. I had almost missed those leaves, their deep burgundy color fading to my periphery. I loved him so much in that moment, when I saw how thoughtfully he approached nature, taking the time to catalog the wild brush strokes of the season, even the ones in the more understated, moody tones.
While my own approach to channeling the season may be a little over the top, maybe even a little illegal (or in the least, frowned upon), his was so pure, so poetic- it’s fall, take in the colors on the path you walk daily. There’s a deep beauty in the simplicity of the everyday. This cake is a little like the neighbor’s leaves. It’s not too complicated, but it’s a way to enjoy fall to the fullest.
Whole Grain Apple Chai Cake
About this Recipe: It’s the time of year for tea and spices, and this cake has both! The real beauty comes from the apple design, so express yourself. Experiment with varying apple peel colors too.
The person I am right before embarking on a trip is not a person of whom I am proud. This version of Quelcy is frenzied, snippy and probably in need of a happiness project. This version of Quelcy loses her sense of priorities and time management. She thinks it’s an appropriate time to mop a floor or reorganize a shelf. Yet, she doesn’t seem to think it’s an appropriate time to select her outfits and put them in a travel bag.
This Thanksgiving, The Urban Farmer, Julep and I hit the road for a very long drive to the snowy midwest. True to form, that pre-trip Quelcy reared her ugly head, trying to squeeze too much into too little time and naturally, leaving packing for the last minute. In her fits and frenzies, this version of Quelcy thought the best plan for the abundant fruit bowl was a late night baking session.
This may have been pre-trip Quelcy’s only redeeming quality. In the storm before the calm, apples, pears and Chinese five spice combined into a whole grain treat. She packed the maple and spice scents into the car, and off they went. Somewhere between Pittsburgh and Ohio, my saner self re-emerged, appreciative of the treat we’d be able to savor throughout the long journey.
Once settled into our snowy retreat of an Air BnB, the warm crisp was wholesome enough to savor for breakfast with big mugs of slow sipping coffee. If this time of year brings you a fair share of stress, skip pie crust entirely, and try this wholesome crisp. If you’re attending dinner party after dinner party, this is easy to whip up last minute and share, or escape the frenzy and savor it with someone special.
p.s: My personalized pie plate was a gift from Personal Creations. If you want to be sure your pie plate doesn’t get confused with another dessert plate at a holiday party, you can use Personal Creations to add your name. If you’re the more obsessive type, like yours truly, you can even use your pie plate to broadcast your dedication to whole grains.
p.p.s: Stay tuned for posts about my Midwest adventures!
Before Siri, before GPS, before smart phones and even before flip phones, our adventure began with an idea and a map. Yet, like so many adventures with my oldest sister, these adventures often went awry. Our idea had been to picnic at a nearby lake, flanked by fiery trees blazing with autumn’s robust palette. There was one snag- our horrible sense of direction.
Yet, like so many routed plans gone awry, our failure to navigate led to something far more endearing- the discovery of an old church/schoolhouse and a playground covered in fall’s leaves. It wasn’t the new sort of playground, with bright, shiny plastics and padding at every possible fall. It was the death-trap sort with metal, concrete and chain links, a remnant of the old schoolhouse. I was still a child at the time, and the monkey bars made me forget the abandoned lake goals.
The ground was a lake of its own- with thick piles of fallen leaves. Every footstep was accompanied by a swooshing noise and a feeling reminiscent of walking through sand. These leaves swirled and gathered by the graves of the church’s old cemetery. The neat rows were now wonky, and time had chipped away at the crisp stone. We were surrounded by stories, and in the absence of other human beings, the whole place seemed to exist just for us.
We eventually discovered the lake, with its blue waters and sailboats gently floating on the horizon, but by then, our interest had shifted. We returned again and again to the schoolhouse. It became our “secret place.” Our other sisters pestered and pried, trying to disclose the location, but my lips were sealed, as if protecting a key to a magical kingdom.
The serendipity of the discovery of our secret place made it all the more special. The quiet of that park and the way the leaves would blanket the earth came to epitomize fall. Even though distance and the years now separate me from that secret place, I still travel back there in my mind with each autumn’s passing. This cake, like my secret place, is an ode to embracing fall.