Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby’s First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free)

A letter to my niece, Remi June, to be opened on her 18th birthday:

Dear Remi June,

They say “you can’t choose your family,” but I was lucky in that I chose yours. I fell for a handsome Urban Farmer with a big heart, deep convictions and one of the best laughs I have ever heard. (I think it comes from your Pappy!) Lucky for me, he was the complete package because he came with a family I adored- your family.

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

I entered the Pattison story shortly after your big brother did, but I was there for your entire journey. From the moment you were announced, the love and pride beamed in everyone’s eyes. You Remi June, were well loved before the start.

From the beginning, your parents shaped their entire lives around your health and well being, but they’re also the type to look out for the health and well being of complete strangers. They’re good people. Don’t forget that. As you venture into the world on your own, to forge your own path, you have a support system with the strength of the steel that built this rusty city.

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Above all Remi June, I would encourage you to make your own mistakes.

Many will try to spare you from failures and heartbreaks, and though these lows will hurt, the ability to scoop ourselves up tests who we really are and in the end, usually provides us with a path better than we ever could have imagined. Nonetheless, what kind of “adult” would I be if I didn’t offer you a few of the lessons I learned the hard way?

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Don’t be afraid to quit. Change directions.

Too much of life is spent in pursuit of pleasing some elusive panel of judges. Life is full of “shoulds” and justifications for choices that don’t please our hearts, whether they be the job that looks good on paper or finishing a degree we don’t really want, or committing to a partner who isn’t the best fit. Never stop asking your heart what it wants, and don’t be ashamed to follow it. You only have one wild ride on this life coaster.

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Past paths are not wasted. We glean from the journey.

When your heart tells you to redirect, do not fret about the miles behind you. Life has a funny way of collecting valuable souvenirs from all our routes, tokens that become so useful when we find ourselves following our internal compasses.

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

You are every bit as capable as a man.

Right now, women are angry and stepping into the light. We thought your very first president would be a female, a beacon of a narrowing gap, but we were wrong. In this misstep, we realized that we owe more to our foremothers who fought so hard to bridge so many gaps, and we owe more to the future generations who deserve better.

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

From the start, I watched people treat you like a girl. Pink appeared. Tones changed when speaking to you, and there was a gentler approach to you, but you, little tiny you, displayed a quickness, a curious spirit, an early grasp of words. You exhibited an innate strength, a resoluteness, a voice. Don’t forget that these qualities are in you. You deserve the education, career and life you want.

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

See the good. Fight for the good.

As I am writing this, we are entering a very uncertain time- a new president who has enabled a resurgence of hate and fear. It’s all too easy to retreat, to feel buried in the mire, but I look to people like your father and your uncle, people who cling to what is right, fight for it and work every single day to make the world a better place for your generation and beyond. I am learning to stand stronger because of their influence and to take more responsibility.

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

The big, loud protests are noble and good, but adding positivity to the everyday is just as admirable. Be kind. Be grateful, and be of service. You were born into a healthy, loving home. Never forget the advantages you were given, but stand against the disadvantages. The road is yours Remi June, and I can’t wait to watch where you drive!

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

I hope you’re reading this after a big ol’ slice of birthday cake (and I hope I made it!) because above all, your 18th year is cause for celebration. It was my honor and pleasure to make your very first birthday cake and watch you seize the day.

Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby's First Birthday (Sugar Free & Gluten Free) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Love,

P.S: Take your vitamins. I’m pretty sure your dad would want me to say that. And thank your mom because this was a pretty special idea. She’s a giver, and she has a way of making everyone feel special!


Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby’s First Birthday
(Refined Sugar Free & Gluten Free)

yield: 9 x 13 pan

About this Recipe: Sweetened with pure maple syrup and made from coconut flour, this light, spongy cake is easy for young tummies to digest and won’t send them on a sugar crash. For whipping the egg whites, be sure your mixing bowl is clean, the egg whites are at room temperature and avoid any yolk spilling into the mixture. The recipe yields a 9 x 13 cake, but I used a 5-inch biscuit cutter to create the round layers for this layered version (and snacked on the rest). The frosting was colored with India Tree natural dyes.

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Homemade Grain-Free Dog Treats for Julep’s 3rd Birthday

Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.
-Anatole France

Introducing-Julep

Remember this wee little bean? 

Baby Julep

It feels like a mere minute ago that I was introducing my budding kitchen assistant, and yet, my fur baby is now a whopping three years old (still just as cute as ever though)! 

Rhubarb Season by With The Grains 21

In yoga they teach you how to push and stretch your lungs, inching closer and closer to breathing at full capacity. Bonding with a dog is a similar exercise for the heart- all my love for this gentle, faithful, happy creature fills my heart so as to burst the very seams. And that love for her somehow trained my heart to love even more and taught me to feel an empathy for dogs in general (i.e.: most dog videos can make me sob in a matter of seconds).  

Julep and Quelcy

We’ve been through a lot in these three short years- an aggressive dog attack I thought would surely end her, an injured paw that melted my heart, a near brush with rush-hour traffic- all these incidents enforcing how important it is to cherish this playful, sweet, snuggly creature for every precious moment I have her. 

Homemade Grain-Free Dog Treats // www.WithTheGrains.com

As that Anatole fella said, Julep truly did awaken a part of my soul. She showed me a simplicity to life- friendship and play go a long way in bringing contentment to a day. Work hard, play hard and nap harder. She made me a better neighbor and taught me to expect the best from people. I’ve also watched her brighten the days of so many folks around us. 

Homemade Grain-Free Dog Treats // www.WithTheGrains.com

I showed my love and gratitude for my birthday girl as I often do, through baking. Whether baking for human birthdays or four-legged birthdays, I am always concerned about the quality of ingredients and if they are appropriate for the birthday boy or girl. Accordingly, this recipe is simple and completely pronounceable. 

Homemade Grain-Free Dog Treats // www.WithTheGrains.com

Reading the list of ingredients on dog foods and treats is just as confusing (if not more?) as navigating our human nutrition labels these days. With so many companies just trying to make a buck off our love for our four-legged pals, this homemade gesture goes a long way in treating our pets without unwanted fillers. Plus, you can eat them too!

Homemade Grain-Free Dog Treats // www.WithTheGrains.com

Homemade Grain-Free Dog Treats // www.WithTheGrains.com

Homemade Grain-Free Dog Treats // www.WithTheGrains.com

Since sharing is caring, Julep shared her birthday bones with her new best friend- Lucy Lu. After Julep’s attack, she became very aggressive toward other dogs. When our very close friend brought home this curly new addition (an Aussie Doodle), we were hoping for a bond. 

Homemade Grain-Free Dog Treats // www.WithTheGrains.com

Words can’t even express how happy I was to see them connect when we first introduced them. The framily bond continues to grow even stronger and is helping to rehabilitate Julep. There goes that heart bursting again!

Homemade Grain-Free Dog Treats // www.WithTheGrains.com
Well behaved ladies waiting for their treats.
Homemade Grain-Free Dog Treats // www.WithTheGrains.com
These homemade birthday bones are nose-licking good!

♥♥♥ Happy 3rd Birthday to Julep, my not-so little one!  ♥♥♥

Quelcy Signature

p.s: I would be remiss not to mention how The Urban Farmer adopted Julep as his own and how he added a whole new level of happiness to her sheepdog heart. Working as his farm “assistant” has made her the happiest lass on the planet!

p.p.s: As much as I love my dog and want others to feel that same joy, Julep is a BIG responsibility. Think very carefully before adding a dog to your life, especially a high-energy, intelligent sheepdog! Too many of them end up at shelters by no fault of their own. 

Coconut Flour Bacon Dog Treats
Adapted from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen
Yield: ~50 cookies using this cookie cutter

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A Baby’s First Birthday Cake: Gluten-Free, Coconut, Banana & Maple Cake

June 2015

When I first began baking in earnest, it was to appease my own sweet tooth with more wholesome ingredients, but I quickly learned, eating desserts alone is selfish and usually wasteful. I began to share my efforts, and the rewards returned tenfold. There’s something magical in the way butter and sugar, flour and eggs, come together into morsels, layers and tiers, how they solidify occasions, brighten days, widen eyes and close mouths in blissful, savory silence. I’ve had the immense privilege of baking a wedding cake for dear friends, baking a birthday cake to send a lady back in time, and most recently, to bake a little one’s very first cake in his lifetime- his very first baked good ever! As a baker, this was perhaps one of my most exciting assignments to date!

A Baby's First Birthday Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

I wish I could remember my first cake experience, how puzzling this new, solid food would be, how it would feel between a minimal set of teeth. As a cake maker, maybe I place too much importance on this “first,” but collectively, maybe we aren’t placing enough importance on a baby’s first cake or young children’s diets in general. It’s all too easy to be lost in a sea of chemically-colored birthday cakes and let that first bite propel him or her to a sugary crash, giving an all new meaning to “it’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.”

A Baby's First Birthday Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

Baby Knox is the Urban Farmer’s nephew, and he’s a lucky little dude. His parents have prioritized his health even before day one. His dad, Dr. Alex, is on a mission to make our notoriously greasy, overweight city a lot healthier. After witnessing his grandfather, and then his father, in hospital beds, he realized he needed to make changes, so his future children would never experience that fear and helplessness. He and his wife Jena own and operate City of Bridges Chiropractic, where they use nutrition and proper spinal care to make major changes in people’s lives. I’ve heard Alex speak publicly, and I’ve met his patients, and the results of his work are truly inspiring!

A Baby's First Birthday Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

Whereas being healthy for his kids was once just a driving idea for Dr. Alex, today it’s a blue-eyed reality. I’ve had the privilege of watching Knox change from a sleeping bundle to a big personality, and as a non-blood relative, I can tell you, he is objectively cute!

A Baby's First Birthday Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

Most recently, this kid has come to LOVE food! Remove an empty plate from his tray, and he’ll throw his head back in utter despair, longing for more bites to savor. So vast is his appetite, Jena has yet to discover his limit. Plate after plate, it’s comforting to observe Knox’s diet and trust everything is helping him grow bigger, stronger and healthier.

A Baby's First Birthday Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

As Knox’s first birthday loomed around the corner, the question of cake arose. Birthdays are celebratory times, deserving of treats and festivities, but does a birthday justify feeding a tiny digestive system new, unhealthy ingredients for the sake of smashing a cake in a photo? No, which is why Alex and Jena asked me if I would make Knox’s FIRST EVER BIRTHDAY CAKE. I was honored, and I of course said yes to such a momentous cake request.

A Baby's First Birthday Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

A baby turning one deserves his or her own cake, so my first thought was a towering layer cake, to which the Urban Farmer laughed and joked, “yeah, his own little ‘Fort Knox.'” The idea was born, and that’s how this little gluten-free, maple-sweetened cake came to be a tiny castle with turrets and a special flag for the birthday boy.

A Baby's First Birthday Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

Watching his chubby fingers fill his cheeks with cake was a pretty memorable moment. Like a king, he lifted his cake bites triumphantly and regarded his camera-wielding subjects with seriousness. He liked it, he really liked it! It’s moments just like these when I am reminded it’s better to bake for others.

A Baby's First Birthday Cake // www.WithTheGrains.com

This Fort Knox Cake was a variation on a recipe from Rubies & Radishes, who elaborates why the ingredients in this cake are more fitting for a baby’s introduction to baked goods. If you have a special little one in your life, or even a special older one with dietary sensitivities, preheat your oven and start baking. You have a cake to make!

Single-Grain

Three Cheers for Knox!
-Quelcy

Coconut Flour Maple Banana Cake with Maple Buttercream & Strawberry Sauce

About This Recipe: This recipe bakes a 9-inch layer cake, and it calls for a LOT of eggs. This is not a typo. Coconut flour requires a lot of moisture, which the eggs provide in this cake. If you want to create the Fort Cake I feature, pour the batter in a parchment-lined 9×13 glass baking dish, bake for 40-50 minutes, and use a biscuit cutter to create the circular layers. Cut the turrets from the remaining edges of cake after using the biscuit cutter. Since this buttercream is mostly butter, it can be difficult to work with in hot, humid kitchens (i.e.: my third-floor apartment in spring). Chill in the freezer in between icing layers.

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Roasted Beet Layer Cake with Coconut Beet Frosting & Red Currants

March 2015

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” -Jim Rohn

The Urban Farmer’s brother shared this quote with a vast room full of people. His goal was for them to reclaim their lives through health and nutrition. His motives were personal, his words eloquent, and his intentions honest. He used the quote to encourage his audience to align with others on the same nutrition track- a safety in numbers/accountability approach. I sat in the audience, considering some significant ties I had recently cut, and that quote resonated with me deeply. As it turns out, there’s a scientific/psychological truth to this idea of changing in response to our sphere of influence.

Roasted Beet Layer Cake with Beet Frosting & Red Currants // www.WithTheGrains.com

I discovered this link while listening to an episode of Invisibilia entitled Entanglement (lately, I am a voracious podcast listener, and I highly recommend the series). The story starts by describing an episode of Candid Camera. A man enters an elevator alone. Two people join him and face the wrong direction. The original man looks puzzled, but continues to face the door. Then a third person joins the elevator and also rotates away from the door. This is the final straw that causes the original man to follow suit. This is called Conformity, and it’s when your mother might interject, “if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?”

However, as the hosts of Invisibilia described, “whether you want to or not, all day long, you are engaged in a kind of synchronized dance with the people with whom you come in contact.” Psychologists call this intense and rapid mimicry Contagion. We subconsciously imitate activities like breathing patterns, blinking rates, tones, fidgeting, etc. Animals do this as well. We are wired this way, primitively, but what’s really intriguing is how we take on each other’s emotions too. Psychologists call this Emotional Contagion. Our faces leak our emotions- fear, grief, shame, joy, etc- all transferred through tiny micro expressions. My mind returned to the Jim Rohn quote, and the Emotional Contagion theory added a whole new level to surrounding oneself with truly positive, uplifting people.

Roasted Beet Layer Cake with Beet Frosting & Red Currants // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’m fortunate. The Urban Farmer and his people are good people. They love and support each other. They’re warm and welcoming. They care deeply for those around them. They’re the type of people you want to count amongst your five, to surround you, to influence you. Thus, when it came time for the Urban Farmer’s mama to celebrate another year of life, I wanted her celebration to be sweet, rosy and wholesome. This cake was for her.

Single-Grain

Here’s to the Positive Influences!
-Quelcy

Roasted Beet Layer Cake with Coconut Beet Frosting & Red Currants
(Gluten-free, Grain-free)

About This Recipe: My main goal for this cake was to create a dessert with a very low sugar content and to use coconut flour effectively (I had a major coconut flour FAIL recently). The combination of almond flour, coconut flour and arrowroot (crucial for a gluten-free recipe) yields a very light and spongey cake. The roasted beet adds a light sweetness. The whipped topping is naturally pink from a roasted beet puree making this cake a beautifully wholesome dessert!

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