Roasted Beet Chocolate Cupcakes with Raw Cacao (Vegan)

Oh that stupid, stupid, moment! 

Being one step ahead of my fingers, my brain began to shout, “ABORT! ABORT!” but my dopey digits continued to run the all-too-thin wad of paper towel over a very brand new knife blade. The brain cursed the finger, as both processed the immediate flow of blood.

SHIT! 

Roasted Beet Chocolate Cupcakes with Raw Cacao (Vegan) // www.WithTheGrains.com
Roasted beet puree.

For a brief instant, there was no pain. I wadded paper towel around my now gory finger, and for one blissful moment of denial, the cut was out of sight and out of mind. However, the paper towel quickly failed to belie the wound. I shall stop here with knife-on-flesh details, lest you become as ghostly white and nauseous as I later did.

Roasted Beet Chocolate Cupcakes with Raw Cacao (Vegan) // www.WithTheGrains.com

There’s nothing like an injury, even something as minuscule as a paper cut or a sore muscle, to cause one to appreciate loss- the loss of feeling, mobility, independence. I am fully aware my ridiculous, gauzed mummy finger is hardly anything on the scale of loss, but it did make me pause and think just how lucky I am. 

Roasted Beet Chocolate Cupcakes with Raw Cacao (Vegan) // www.WithTheGrains.com

My one stupid moment could have caused major, lasting damage. Or worse, what if I were so unfortunate as to need surgery at this moment in my life? Learning to type with 9 fingers and avoid shaking hands is hardly a setback, but nonetheless, my bloody finger pointed to all I had been taking for granted. 

Roasted Beet Chocolate Cupcakes with Raw Cacao (Vegan) // www.WithTheGrains.com

But alas, we humans, or at least yours truly, all too frequently take too much for granted, never appreciating the tip of the finger until it’s hacked. And THIS, is where my bloody finger becomes relevant to cupcakes. There is a connection!

Roasted Beet Chocolate Cupcakes with Raw Cacao (Vegan) // www.WithTheGrains.com

As the Creative Director for the 10th Annual CMU International Film Festival, I found myself passionately working day and night to bring together countless details. The film festival fulfills me in so many ways, but being the marathon that it is, it also requires me to shut off several other elements of my life. For months, I skipped holidays, barely made birthdays and tethered myself to my desk. 

Roasted Beet Chocolate Cupcakes with Raw Cacao (Vegan) // www.WithTheGrains.com

For the most part, the intensity only amplified me, but as we neared the third week, burn out loomed, and what I found missing the most was my oven and this blog. With The Grains has always been such an extension of me. To ignore this corner, my corner, of the web left me throbbing as much as my finger after the knife wound. I had taken this space and the comforts of baking for granted, so I carved out time I didn’t have but needed.

Roasted Beet Chocolate Cupcakes with Raw Cacao (Vegan) // www.WithTheGrains.com

I measured, I whisked, I pureed, and I truly appreciated the simple joys of transforming ingredients into a sweet moment to savor. I appreciated how much I appreciate baking and sharing, both physically and digitally. As a person whose passions and interests are often sporadic (a multipotentialite if you will), the longevity of this space comforted me even more. It took feeling completely cut off from baking and blogging to realize how integral they are to my wellbeing.

Roasted Beet Chocolate Cupcakes with Raw Cacao (Vegan) // www.WithTheGrains.com

Maybe you feel similarly, so here’s to the calming side of baking and the comforting corners we create for ourselves!

Quelcy Signature

Roasted Beet Chocolate Cupcakes w/ Raw Cacao
adapted from Minimalist Baker
Yield: ~20 cupcakes

About this recipe: Rich, chocolatey, vegan cupcakes with pureed roasted beets and a dusting of raw cacao for a healthier sweet indulgence. Beet haters (those crazies!) won’t even know there is a root veggie lurking in their dessert!
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Self-Filled Mint Brownie Bars / Mint Chocolate & Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

Most nights I harbor a little guilt for our dinnertime tv habit. I was raised at the dinner table. We conversed. We listened. We passed plates. Now, we pass judgment on the Underwoods while trying to understand Doug Stamper’s self loathing.

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Yet, as I balanced my dinner plate in one hand and pressed the projector power button with the other, a feeling of gratitude defeated the guilt. It was a time-pausing feeling, similar to déjà vu, but unlike déjà vu, this feeling of “been here before” was very identifiable.

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Night after night, one of us carries out the plates or the wine glasses, and the other hits the power button. As I turned on the projector, our guilty habit filled me with comfort. This was our routine, our normal, our guilty habit (well, I may be alone in the guilt factor). Powering the projector made me realize just how intertwined we had become, how comforting normal can be. Some might cast self judgment and bemoan, “oh god, we’re getting so old,” but if age is what snaps us into the little moments worth appreciating, then let’s be old souls with a few routines!

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Or, better yet, let’s have the chocolate snap us into the moment! Chocolate and cheesecake swirls take me back to elementary school, when my mom would ask me what I wanted to bring to school for my birthday. Year after year, my answer was the same- self-filled cupcakes!

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Those swirls were my tradition, so when it came time to share an extra birthday treat back in January, the choice of what to make was an easy one!

Here’s to the comforts of repeated routines and recipes!

Quelcy Signature

Self-Filled Mint Brownie Bars / Mint Chocolate Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

About this Recipe: I grew up calling the cupcake equivalent of this a “self-filled cupcake,” but the bar form adds a more grown up feel and really showcases the swirls. Pure mint extract adds that coveted thin mint flavor, and sprouted spelt flour makes these a whole grain indulgence! They taste just like childhood only better for you!

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Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day

They call it a “fat letter,” and I’ll never forget the day I received mine.

Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

After a guidance counselor told me about Carnegie Mellon University, I fell hard- that weak in the knees, hearts in the eyes, wish-it-to-be-so sort of way. Being that my confidence was just as weak as my knees, I doubted the school would feel the same about me. As I gripped the overstuffed letter in my shaky hands, my first thought was “why would they make the rejection so thick?”

Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

After fighting the nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach and finally daring to break the adhesive seal, my eyes skimmed frantically and landed on “congratulations.” So many emotions pulsed through my body, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Overcome with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment like never before, my body rocked back and forth like a person in the midst of a psychotic episode.

Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

A few months later, I packed my parents car to the brim and began one of the most challenging chapters of my life! All my preconceived notions were broken and rebuilt, in a way that taught me to think for myself, to trust my instincts and to learn the importance of quitting frequently and redirecting quickly (still learning this!). On campus, I finally found peers who made sense- people who were work obsessed dorks with creative sides. After all, the school’s motto is “My heart is in the work.” Though there were still students whose brainpower could crush me, acceptance to this place empowered me.

Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

When I say attending Carnegie Mellon was the hardest challenge I’ve faced, it’s no understatement. Days and nights bled together in periods of sleepless, intense work leading to that moment when I had to stand in front of accomplished critics and defend my thought process. The well traveled route from home to studio was often a blur of stressful to-do lists running through my head, but every now and then, something would jar me from my crazed mental state. One of those distractions was Pi Day!

Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

Pi = 3.141592… March 14 = 3-14, therefore, Pi Day = March 14

Welcome to the nerd holiday known as Pi Day! On this day, math enthusiasts (is this the originator?!?) would chalk the never-ending number all over campus. The combination of the nerd enthusiasm and the element of tradition made this day comforting to me, a day on which I could rely despite all the uncontrollable, non-constants in my life. It was a celebration of CMU in all its quirkiness, and I looked forward to it every year!

Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

After graduating, I still looked forward to the holiday, and in the meantime, I found myself drawn to baking. Pi Day became Pi(e) Day, which eventually became a new obsession in its own way.

Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

In 2010, my friend Erin Pischke (also a CMU grad!) and I created The QT Pi(e) Project. On “Pi(e) Day,” March 14, 2010 (3/14/10), The QT Pi(e) Project used bicycles to deliver 31 pies (314 would have killed us), made from all local ingredients, to Pittsburgh homes with 314 addresses. Each pie arrived in a custom-made recipe box, with recipe cards explaining the project and the benefits to buying and eating local foods.

Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

The QT Pi(e) Project was a grant funded endeavor, which gave me a confidence boost to put more of my ideas into motion and into the world, and the foundation of that idea was Pi Day at Carnegie Mellon. Life had come full circle! (see what I did there?)

Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

When the good folks behind Carnegie Mellon’s website contacted me this year and asked if I’d like to share a recipe on the school’s website for Pi(e) Day, I was OVER THE MOON! In dorky pun terms, this recognition felt like being nominated for an Academy Award! Be the face of Pi(e) for 2016? OF COURSE OF COURSE OF COURSE I wanted to make that pie!

Nerd Alert! A Scottish Inspired Meat Pie for Pi(e) Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

This Scottish Inspired Savory Meat Pie with Black Lava Salty Scotty Dogs is the edible ode to my alma mater, the place that made me appreciate Pi and in more ways than not, shaped me into who I am today. I still can’t fathom how the world expects 18-year-olds to make informed decisions about the rest of their lives, but at least I chose a rewarding place to figure out how little I knew about myself and the world.

Happy Pi(e) Day ya nerds!

Quelcy Signature

p.s: If you’re wondering why Scottish, you’re clearly not a Tartan. If you take a stroll on campus in the spring, you’re likely to encounter a Scotty dog or two, a bagpipe band in kilts and a fair bit of Tartan plaid. The Scottish roots run deep via Andrew Carnegie.

A Scottish Inspired Savory Pie for Pi(e) Day 2016

About This Recipe: This pie is a labor of love, which is why it is fitting for Pi(e) Day celebrations! It consists of a savory, whole grain pie crust, filled with a slow-cooked Scottish stew and a variation on traditional Scottish mushy peas. Make the Scottish Beef Stew first, and while the stew is slow cooking, prepare the crust, then Mushy Peas & Potatoes while the crusts chill. The stew and mushy peas recipes yield more than necessary for one pie, but I like to make the larger quantities and freeze the excess to make future weeknight meals a lot easier. Alternately, you could halve the stew recipe, or better yet, double the crust recipe and make two savory pies!  

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