Mint Juleps get a lot of hype come Derby time in May, but the combination merits a longer summertime run, especially when mint is rampant. It’s an icy, refreshing flavor made for grilled pairings, days by the pool, a beachy nightcap, or simply a sipper while watching the fireflies.
Don't let Thanksgiving leftovers go to waste, especially the cranberry sauce. Turn that leftover cranberry sauce into cocktails and cake garnishes, and let the festivities continue!
If only it were possible to have conversations with myself, both past and future, without the burden of mental illness. When people utter the word “cool” in a sentence with my name (not a brag, more of a statement of disbelief), I wish I could bring young Quelcy into the fold, with her cumbersome backpack and pre-algebra stresses and general obsessive bookishness. “Hey you, LOOK! Someday, somehow, this will all pay off.” Similarly, I’d summon that Quelcy who worked a job she grew to abhor.
That Quelcy found a solace and creative outlet in baking, in trying new recipes and techniques, all while tinkering with a new camera. That Quelcy would walk into my dining room, judging the updates with her eyes (as always), and say, “Oh, you’ve paired down the collections a bit. Good for us, but why aren’t you hosting a brunch today?”
Current me would justify past Quelcy’s poignant observation. I’ve managed to steer myself to this magical overlap, where people pay me to play with food and flowers and gatherings, but somewhere in that process of leaving the job I hated, and fuzzing the line between work and play, I forgot to slate days to bake just for me or to host friends in my home just for fun. In short, I forgot that weekends even existed.
I was due for a reminder, so I treated myself to one of those expensive recipe compilation magazines, those textured pages just dripping with sweetness set against dark fabrics, etched slate and cold, crisp marble. Then I sank into my couch, nestled under the warmest of plaid blankets and made a weekend plan. In the simplest of approaches, I began with the first page, which just happened to boast many of my favorite flavors paired together: chocolate, pecan, bourbon and pie crust.
As winter finally made herself known, and the darkness set in oh so early, I sequestered myself, by my own freewill, in my kitchen, where I embraced the full process of baking and playing with food… simply because that’s what I really love to do, and I needed the reminder.
Even if you don’t play with food and flowers and gatherings for a living, the holiday season can taint baking and cooking with a hint of stress. Dinners and holiday parties put schedules and deadlines on creative outlets, and in the process, they can suck some of the joy from kitchen escapes.
Maybe there’s a future iteration of me, who could join current me and past me in the dining room, and hopefully tell us both that she figures it out, she finds more ways to balance paying bills with feeding our souls (after all, she will be the older, wiser one). In the meantime, I’m letting my inner crazy attempt to steer me toward more balance and simpler baking joys, and I hope you find the same outlets during the crazy of the holidays.
Here’s to [some semblance of] sanity!
Whole Grain Chocolate Pecan Tart with Bourbon Whipped Crème Fraîche
Adapted from Bon Appétit
About this Recipe: By reducing the sugar in the crust, using raw cane sugar, maple instead of processed sugar and corn syrup, and an extra dark chocolate, my adapted version allows you to enjoy the winning trifecta that is pecan, chocolate and bourbon without that “I feel my teeth rotting” sensation. In my zeal, I accidentally skipped adding chopped pecans to the filling, but I left that part in the instructions, so do as Bon Appétit says and not as I do. I was also a little over zealous with the chocolate (as per my usual). The Bourbon Crème Fraîche has a thick and fluffy texture, almost like a non-melting ice cream- win win!
From the greeting cards to the gift ideas, Father’s Day tends to err on the side of grilling, golfing, and “man of the family” stereotypes. Perhaps one day, fathers will commonly receive bouquets and mothers will be equally associated with the grill, but in the case of this Father’s Day, I allowed myself to dip into classic gender divides. After all, as a child of the 80s, it was my dad at the grill, and those summer bbq’s are some of my fondest childhood memories. I shared this Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce locally, as gifts for the Urban Farmer’s father and brother, while miles separated me from my own dad. Though editorial calendars would shame me for a delayed holiday reference, this is real life, and in real life, sometimes you acknowledge birthdays, holidays and worse yet, true feelings, late.
As the “blessing child” [ie: an “oops baby”], I arrived on this earth significantly later than my siblings, keeping the nest occupied long past its warranty. As a little girl, the age gap was just a number. I had extra attention, more people to read to me and inspire a love of language, more people to take me on adventures and treat me to donuts! As I grew up, the age gap became isolating at times. I felt caught between alliances with my siblings and parents, wanting to defend each. By the time I was in high school, my sisters were settling down and starting families. My parents were grandparents!
Meanwhile, I was a blank slate with an intense need to see the world and carve my identity. I forged a path that took me to various continents, and seeing life through these different lenses changed me dramatically. I returned home a little different each time, a little less relatable. For parents who had literally taken horse-drawn carriages to one-room, country schoolhouses, the divide between our experiences was immense. I tried to remember this, tried to see the world through their eyes, but impatience and fierce independence often convinced me just to distance myself.
The baby of the family never fully shakes that “baby” role. If I grew up, it meant everyone else was aging too, so it was easier to continue to think of me as young, naive, misguided, weird, in a phase, etc. It was easier just to dismiss my differing opinions, stances I had worked so hard to carve for myself. The woman I had become confused my father more than anyone. Little QT never argued so much. She never objected to his beliefs. It hurt, so we both closed up, and I fled emotionally, until I one day realized, I too was ignoring the passing of time. I risked never saying or hearing the needed words because I was bottling them deep inside me under a stubborn lock. A friend encouraged me to be honest, to seek the exchange I wanted. In one grueling, vulnerable exchange, my father and I bridged generations, mended wounds and slowly moved forward.
He had wanted me to be tough, to stand on my own two feet, not to need him. He achieved his goal but at the cost of the encouragement a daughter needs every now and then. Had we never confronted our wounds, we both may have let too much time pass and fill with regret. Instead, we were able to sit in a cafe, and I saw and heard what I had so desperately wanted to hear- he loved me and was proud of me. It seemed so simple, but it was everything. For my part, I owed him respect he feared had vanished.
I wouldn’t be me without my dad. I wouldn’t have big dreams, a head full of ideas and an intense grammar fixation. I wouldn’t respect the farmers, growers and animal tenders without seeing his struggles and his passion. I wouldn’t see neighbors as part of my community if it weren’t for him, or see complete strangers as people who just need a laugh. I wouldn’t believe in the power of people to change if I hadn’t watched him change so dramatically though the years. He coached me to stand alone, but I’m grateful he’s still there wanting to support me.
Ignore clocks, calendars and prescribed days. Ignore your stubborn side because we babies of the family do age, and time does pass. Listen to that friend who tells you to say what’s on your heart. Celebrate a stereotype if it means celebrating your dad. Fire up the grill, and give flowers to your mom. My dad and I are in different states, and we still differ in so many ways, but I like to think we’ll be eating bbq burgers together soon. Part of me, will forever be his little girl.
Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce
About This Recipe: This is a nuanced bbq sauce, with so many flavors emerging with each bite! Smear it on burgers, or dip sweet potato fries in it. You’ll be tempted to eat it with a spoon! This recipe is intended to make several portions for the sake of gift giving. Reduce it if you’re just making sauce for a bbq, or freeze leftovers. To make it vegan and gluten-free, be sure to buy organic Worcestershire and Liquid Smoke, and double check the labels. I might make this again without Worcestershire, since so many of its ingredients are already part of the sauce. I added the bourbon at the last minute, to retain as much flavor as possible. The residual heat from the sauce should cook out the majority of the alcohol content. I used Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon for an extra special touch!