Tag Archives: Holiday

The First Brunch in 2013!

January 2013


There’s still so much of 2012 that has yet to sink in! I styled my first wedding, and I made my first wedding cake for very dear friends (pictures still to come)! I played with chocolate for four days which transformed into this catalog. There were brunches with the best of friends, travels for new ideas and inspiration and many a moment shared with my special one. This past year was a good one, but I have a clearer direction and a new zeal for a new year! May the fruits of 2012 and the lessons learned become the raised glasses and toasts of 2013!

First Brunch Beverages

I was so privileged this year to make a big journey right before the holidays (more on that soon!!). The very distanced time away relaxed my mind and invigorated my spirit, a perfect combination for reflection. The goals unfurled from there. Goals or resolutions, whatever you may call them, this year I am all about them! I’m not talking the generic, “lose weight” types of New Year’s resolutions which are abandoned long before February 1st. I’m talking focused, outlined goals, with defined actions, which will push me from all angles- health & wellbeing, relationships, education, creativity and so on.

First Mimosas

In 2013, I will be a more positive and grateful person who draws and paints and wraps her brain around subjunctive verb forms while leafing through Spanish and French dictionaries. I will continue to educate myself. I will have a portfolio. I will tell the people who matter to me why they matter to me! I will tell those who have inspired me how they have inspired me. I will make mistakes along the way, but I will practice discipline to overcome my fears of failure. I will continue on this route I have mapped, and that my friends, is quite an exciting prospect!

Whipped Cream for Coffee

Homemade whipped cream + French Pressed Coffee =

Whipped Cream Plus Coffee

Poor girl’s cappuccino? A fancy girl’s cappuccino!

First Brunch 2013 is Served


Much like the transition I am hoping to see from 2012 to 2013, New Year’s Eve dinner was good, but New Year’s Day Brunch was even better! Our New Year’s Eve menu featured roasted salmon and bacon sliders, with avocado and blue cheese, served with roasted sweet potato fries, steamed artichokes, salad and red wine. The leftover salmon and avocado transformed into a delicious egg scramble the following year. (Donut recipes to come in subsequent posts).

First Brunch Plate

Here’s to a brand new year of beautiful brunches and positive changes! What are your resolutions?

p.s: This is a great collection of creative resolutions.
p.p.s: Here are some more positive words for shaping a brand new year!

Happy New Year’s Eve To Everyone!

December 31, 2012

I’m sure cashiers and retailers will hear this hundreds of times today, “where did 2012 go? It went by sooo fast!” It may seem trite, but yet, here I am repeating the same small talk because it’s sooo true. I still need to acknowledge life’s pace, step back and give 2012 the proper reflection it deserves. I still need to form my thoughts for 2013 into actionable plans. Somewhere between the reflections and resolutions, there is this: a mocktail! “But it’s New Year’s Eve!” you say, “Why a “mocktail?”

Serve Your Mocktails

This is a mocktail post because we who use our hearts and hands to nourish those we love need to remember those who commit to keeping our nearest and dearest safe! These cherished ones deserve more than water or soda. They deserve some attention too! This is a mocktail post because this drink puts my mind and spirit back on an Indian journey (more on that to come). This is a mocktail post because the start of a great cocktail should be a great mocktail! Those staying put or being chauffeured around the town can add whiskey or gin or the spirit of their choice, but here’s wishing a happy and healthy New Year’s Eve to EVERYONE!

Lemon Ginger Soda w/ Basil & Mint

Lemons and Ginger

To reiterate, I am very much of the Grandmother School of Thought when it comes to food & drink preparation, so this “recipe” is all about your taste, your guests’ tastes and approximations. As such, you will need…

Lemons (I used 3 lemons for 4 of us, so go crazy depending on your party list)
*Ginger Simple Syrup (recipe follows)
Seltzer Water
Fresh Basil
Fresh mint

Ginger and Sucre

*Ginger Simple Syrup

Makes about 1 1/4 cups


1 cup raw sugar
1 cup water
1 thick piece of gnarly, fresh ginger, peeled and sliced


Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add ginger; bring to a simmer.

Remove from heat, and let steep 30 minutes.

Pour syrup through a fine sieve into an airtight container. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

Ginger Syrup

Resolve to be more resourceful! Instead of just discarding the ginger, as many recipes would suggest, I challenge you to find new ways of using it. My mom is planning to use the ginger remains in her morning smoothie. You could also use its final flavors in a stir fry or add a little spike of flavor to your morning espresso. Leave me a note if you have more ideas!

Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice

Add Fresh Lemon Juice

Salted Rims and Garnishes

A recent trip in a warm land taught me how refreshing a little bit of salt and citrus can be. I suggest dipping your cocktail glasses in lemon juice and then in salt. You could do the same with extra raw sugar for a sweeter version.

Get Sloshy

To Each His or Her Own Ratios…

Some like it tart, some like it sweet, some just won’t like it. Such is life, but the basic guideline for this is…

1 part fresh, pulpy lemon juice + 1 part seltzer water + ginger syrup to taste + Basil & Mint galore!

If you have all your mixolgoy tools with you (I did not, as I was concocting in my mom’s kitchen), I’d suggest muddling extra basil and mint in each glass for more flavor.

Final Mocktails

Happy New Year’s Eve!

ps: If you live in the Pittsburgh area, the face from the bilboards has lots of info on cabs, designated drivers and smart party hosting, including some coupons and freebies, so venture to the Edgar Snyder Facebook page for more details.

Merry Christmas To All and To All Chocolate Cake!

December 2012

Wouldn’t it be convenient if all family disconnects and misunderstandings could be resolved in the time it takes a television family to reach the moral of the episode? Factoring in commercial breaks, the route from the heartbreaking to the heartwarming moments would be a mere twenty minutes. But life is not a conveniently timed sitcom, and despite emulating her dance moves, I am no Stephanie Tanner.

Cake and Fixings

The longer route very well may be the difficult route and the route dampened by tears, but it may also be the route that leads to growth and change. Sometimes the bitter tears of sadness give way to the sweeter tears of happiness. If that transformation lasted only twenty minutes, would we cherish the change in the same way? Would long awaited words have the same treasured ring?

Snowy Whipped Cream

The holidays can be difficult. We do not choose our families, but we can choose to fight with them or fight for them. This holiday was bittersweet for me. I shed many tears of sorrow before feeling inklings of hope and seeing glimmers of change in all of us. While the sadness swirled inside me, I swirled chocolate into a rich liquid. I separated eggs and watched with wonder as the clear, viscous egg whites began to form snowy mountain peaks. I listened for the popping of cranberries. I whipped cream until it too formed beautiful snowy trails around the chilled mixer blades. While all my emotions stirred, I stirred a batter to share with the ones I sought to love in a more meaningful way.

Christmas Cake Slices

Much like taking the long routes for growth and change, taking the long route in baking delivers a more treasured reward. There isn’t a fast track to opening someone’s guarded heart, nor is there a fast track to a dessert prepared by heart and hand. Should you be crying with sadness or crying for joy, I hope the layers of this dessert, each lovingly prepared, will remind you of this- the journey may be long, but the dedication will make the culminating bite all the richer, all the sweeter and all the more satisfying! Merry Christmas to all and to all chocolate cake!

Christmas Night

Flourless Chocolate Sunken Souffle Cake
With Cranberry-Orange Compote & Whipped Cream & Toasted Coconut


8 Tablespoons coconut oil
12 oz dark chocolate (68 – 72%), chopped
1 1/4 cup raw sugar
6 large local/free-range eggs, separated
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh orange zest
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Grease one 9-inch round springform pan with coconut oil.

Combine the chocolate and coconut oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until melted.

Remove from heat and set aside to let cool briefly.

Whisk together the egg yolks.

Once the chocolate mixture is about room temperature or just barely warm, gradually pour the egg yolks into the chocolate mixture, whisking continuously.

Stir in 3/4 cup sugar, the orange zest, ground cinnamon and salt.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form.

Add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and continue to whip just until stiff peaks form. Do not overmix or lose your sense of wonder when watching the peaks form.

Stir a third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Then, fold in the remainder of the egg whites just until there are no more visible streaks. Be careful not to overmix.

Immediately pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top of the cake is dry, but do not let the cake crack. Remove the cake from the oven. The middle should still be a bit underbaked, but the cake will continue to set as it cools.

Place the cake on a wire cooling rack and let cool completely before unmolding.

Cranberry-Orange Compote


1 Tablespoon orange zest
12 oz fresh cranberries
1 cup local wildflower honey
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Combine zest, cranberries, honey, juice, and vanilla in a medium saucepan.

Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cranberries have burst and sauce has thickened, 5–10 minutes.

Serve the sauce warm over the cake.

Whipped Cream


1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 teaspoon vanilla
Swirls of honey and maple syrup to taste


User a mixer to beat the cream. As it starts to thicken, add the vanilla, honey and maple syrup. Continue to mix until soft peaks form. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Putting It All Together
Last but not least… toast up some shredded coconut. Slice a piece of the cake, top with a spoonful of the warm cranberry-orange compote and a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of toasted coconut! Serve with a glass of this egg nog and a cinnamon stick stirrer for a flavorful measure!

Kindle the Fire & Sip Some ‘Nog! Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2012

Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart. -Washington Irving

Merry Xmas Egg nog

…and a season for sharing eggnog with your nearest and dearest in front of an Amish fireplace. Since you’re sharing the ‘nog with your nearest and dearest, why not make it yourself? This version is lightened by the use of 2% milk, which spurred the following post-sip review, “I don’t typically like egg nog, but this is really good! It doesn’t taste like you’re drinking pancake batter!” As they taught us on Reading Rainbow, you don’t have to take my word for it…

Homemade Eggnog
yield: 6-7 cups

4 free-range/local eggs, separated
1/3 cup raw sugar
1 pint organic 2% milk
1 cup organic heavy cream
*Christmas spirits


In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color.

Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved.

Add the milk and cream and stir to combine.

Add the cinnamon and nutmeg to taste.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat to soft peaks.

Whisk the egg whites into the mixture.

Chill and serve.

*If you’re serving to adults, then I suggest taking this route to add the Christmas spirit to your festivities.

Happy Holidays from With The Grains!

Happy Red, White & Blueberry!

July 4th, 2012

This Fourth of July, I’m not responsible for a thing except documenting my special one’s pyro side as he choreographs his spectacle, swimming in a creek, swaying in a hammock and riding through the forest on a zippy scooter.  However, there’s always room for a biteful of thematic eating.

Hopefully the grill sends pleasant aromas your way, and the sun shines on your holiday!


Happy Mother’s Day: An Ode To The Mothers in My Life!

May 2012

When I try to gauge, just for the sake of gauging, whether or not I could take that giant leap toward motherhood, I ask myself, “would I give up that last bit of bright cherry pie or mint chocolate chip ice cream or mashed potatoes with a pool of rich gravy?”  I ask that question because of a childhood moment, when my mom gave me the last of her mashed potatoes (which I probably drowned in gravy).  From the naive perspective of little me, that sacrifice was HUGE!

I couldn’t imagine giving up my last mashed potatoes.  No way!  Years later, I know this was merely a snowflake on the iceberg of sacrifices my mother made for me.  The question of “would I give up my mashed potatoes?” may seem too simple.  However, it’s really a question of “would I devote myself to motherhood the way my mom did?”  Of all the roles I may one day have, the role of mother is the one I will take the most seriously, and it’s because I am so fortunate to have a mother who gave herself 100% to her children!

There are so many questions I have for Regina the woman.  There are so many aspects and stories from her life I do not know, but as her daughter, I know her well.  Regina the mother is the most patient listening ear.  She is the most generous and thoughtful person. She makes everyone feel special on their birthdays.  She trusted and supported me to make decisions for myself, only wanting what was best for me, never wanting to control me.

For that freedom, I am immensely grateful… ever more grateful by the day when I hear friends tell of the ways their mothers imposed their choices.  My mother is creative and humble. Her strength has been tested, but I have never seen her cower.  Her petite frame cannot hide her fortitude.  As her daughter, there are not enough words in the world or languages in which to say them, but I humbly offer my graciousness on this day devoted to mothers like her!  Happy Mother’s Day Mom!  

I once looked into the old eyes of a devoted sheepdog, and the love inside me welled beyond belief.  I wanted to make the world a better place for that dog.  At that moment, I tried to imagine the insurmountable feeling of love from mother to child, and it brought tears to my eyes.  It may be the passage of time or the effects of biology, but that love amazes, inspires and humbles me more and more!  I am one of the lucky ones.  My mother changed the world by investing in my family.  I am convinced we all need to honor and reinstate the importance of that role if we are to make major positive changes.

Recently, I found inspiration in Drew Dudley’s TEDx Toronto talk on Everyday Leadership (it’s a short video, give it a watch!).  Dudley offers, “we celebrate birthdays where are all have to do is not die for 365 days, and yet we let people who have made our lives better walk around without knowing it.”  In that vein, there are other mothers who have made a difference in my life, and they deserve to know it too!         

To my own sisters, I applaud you!

This past Christmas, Tosha creatively foiled her children with joke presents- boxes filled with heavy, noisy items to keep them guessing.  The kids grumbled a bit as we all laughed, but that creativity was really special.  I know years from now, her kids will gather around a Christmas tree and recall the time they opened boxes of erasers or toys they already owned.  That same Christmas, my niece gave my sister coupons for hugs.  While hugging my sister, my niece said, “I made a lot of the coupons, but I don’t really care if you use them.  I’ll hug you for free!”  My heart welled with love and pride for my sister, and I blinked away the tears.  Tosha, your devotion to your children is palpable, and I deeply respect you for it!

To Tonya, I am filled with awe and respect.  I have admired your perseverance in a male dominated field and your examples of female independence. I have also watched with awe as you devoted your life to your daughter.  The results may speak for themselves, but it bears saying anyway.  You’ve raised a smart, thoughtful, polite daughter who has the entire world ahead of her!

To my oldest sister, you showed me so much of the world when I was little.  You fostered my grammar obsessions with your speech lessons.  You introduced me to the theater and art museums and secret gardens.  My childhood was a richer place because of our magical adventures, and I am grateful for it!

To the “village,” you indeed helped raise me!  I am grateful to those neighbors who treated me like one of their own, even caring for me when I was sick.

To the mommas-to-be who faithfully attend Bikram Yoga classes as their bodies change in miraculous ways, you are truly inspiring!  How can I doubt my own physical potential when you exemplify such fierce focus?!?

To my dear friend Rumbi, I have felt mothered by your wisdom on many occasions.  You are an old soul housed in a beautiful, youthful glow.  Your strength is unfathomable, and there no words to fully describe the unfettered dedication to your twin boys (can we all just pause to imagine the energy required for twin boys?!?!).  You inspire me!

To the mother of my special one, thank you!  A smart, thoughtful, sensitive, optimistic man set on saving the world?!?  Those men are few and far between, and I owe you many a thanks for bringing such a man into the world!  Beyond raising such a gent, you welcomed me so sincerely into your home, and for that, I am truly grateful.

To My Mother and the Mothers in My Life,

I wish I could gather us all at a beautiful, rustic, wooden table, topped with dainty delicacies and gingery muffins.  We would toast teacups to your sacrifice, devotion and love!  For now, please accept my most humble gratitude for the lifelong role you all have exemplified.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Most Sincerely,

Quelcy Trenae Kogel

Ginger, Pear, White Chocolate Muffins
Makes 18 muffins


2 cups finely ground chestnut flour
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

4 eggs (local/free-range)
1/2 cup organic unsalted butter, browned
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon organic almond extract
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger

3 organic pears (2 overripe, 1 ripe), cut into chunks

1 cup chopped organic white chocolate
1 cup slivered almonds
Candied Ginger


Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.

Whip the eggs in a mixing bowl and then add the remaining wet ingredients.

Combine wet and dry mixes until well incorporated (the batter will be really thick).

Stir in the overripe pears (the batter will thin as the pears mush with stirring).

Gently mix in the firmer pear chunks, the white chocolate and 1/2 cup of the slivered almonds.

Pour the batter into lined muffin tins.

Place a slice of candied ginger on top of each muffin. Sprinkle each top with the remaining almonds and a dash of cinnamon.

Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 F (or until golden brown).

Cool on a wire rack before removing from the muffin tin.

Serve warm with drizzles of honey, and share with the important women and mothers in your life!

Easter Dinner (Part II)

April 2012

The air was crisp, but the sky was brilliant blue!  It was the perfect Sunday afternoon for an Easter meal.

Two handsome gents arrived, and they had put a lot of effort into meticulous matching, right down to their identical socks (yes, you read it correctly- identical socks!).

Fortunately, I had set an Easter table worthy of such fastidiously fashionable fellas.

It was time to eat, but joining my table usually includes a rite of passage.  I’ll give you a hint- it rhymes with “if tile”… (please pardon my laser beam death stare!  Where did that come from?!?!)

The Easter Menu Breakdown…

Easter Ham Glaze

~2 1/2 cups Turkish apricots (all natural)
~ 1/2 cup Rum (Kraken)
1/2 cup organic orange juice concentrate
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup Bonne Maman peach preserves


Slice the dried apricots into fourths and soak in rum overnight.

Heat the apricots and rum in a saucepan over medium heat until boiling.

Reduce to a simmer and add orange juice concentrate, maple and peach preserves. Stir until well combined.

Add to black forest ham slices and bake in oven to warm the ham.

Pommes Anna
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Review

Pommes Anna


3lbs russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/16 to ⅛ inch thick
5 Tablespoons organic unsalted butter, melted
⅓ cup peanut oil
Salt and pepper
Grated pecorino romano cheese
Fresh thyme


Toss the potato slices with melted butter in a large bowl until the potatoes are evenly coated.

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees F.

Pour the oil into a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Swirl to coat the skillet bottom, and set the skillet over medium-low heat.

Begin timing, and arrange the potato slices in skillet, starting in the center to form the first layer.

Sprinkle evenly with approximately ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange the second layer of potatoes, working in the opposite direction of the first layer; sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper as in previous step.

Repeat layering potatoes and sprinkling with salt and pepper, until no slices remain.

Continue to cook over medium-low heat until 30 minutes elapse from the time you began arranging the potatoes in the skillet.

Use a 9-inch cake pan or a metal spatula to press down the potatoes firmly to compact them.

Cover the skillet, and place it in the oven.

Bake until the potatoes begin to soften, about 15 minutes.

Uncover the skillet, and continue to bake until the potatoes are tender when a paring knife is inserted in the center, and the potatoes near the edge of the skillet are browned, about 10 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, line a rimless cookie sheet or the back of a baking sheet with foil and coat it very lightly with oil.

Drain off the excess fat from the potatoes by pressing the potatoes into the skillet with the bottom of the cake pan or metal spatula while tilting the skillet to pour off the fat.

Set the foil-lined cookie sheet on top of the skillet. With hands protected by oven mitts or potholders, hold the cookie sheet in place with one hand and carefully invert the skillet and cookie sheet together.

Remove the skillet carefully.

Carefully slide the potatoes onto a platter.

Cut into wedges and serve with pecorino romano cheese and a thyme garnish.

Roasted Champagne Mangoes


1/2 cup organic brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice concentrate
3 tablespoons organic agave syrup
4 champagne mangoes, peeled, pitted, cut into long slices


1/4 cup crème fraîche or yogurt
1/3 cup natural unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped


Preheat oven to 450°.

Stir first 3 ingredients in a large bowl until sugar dissolves.

Add mango chunks; toss to coat. Let marinate, tossing occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Place mango in a cast iron skillet; reserve marinade.

Roast mangoes for 15 minutes. Turn, brush with marinade, and roast until tender and caramelized, 10–15 minutes. Drizzle remaining marinade over; let cool slightly.

Eat plain or garnish with greek yogurt and pistachios.

Sauteed Asparagus with Sesame Lime Dressing


juice from 1 honey tangerine
1 Tbs. sesame oil
1/4c low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1Tbs. black sesame seeds

You remember that cake!  I already talked about that lovely little layer cake.