Strawberry Rhubarb Simple Syrup & Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

“Why don’t you order me a decaf, and I’ll get us a table?” Her question was more of a directive, as she scanned the room of laptops to find the ideal spot. The sun was still shining, but it was clear they had already dined and were on their post-dinner treat. Date night! 

Strawberry Rhubarb Simple Syrup & Strawberry Rhubarb Compote // www.WithTheGrains.com
Ingredients for Strawberry Rhubarb Simple Syrup & Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

His large frame sauntered to the counter, with as much side-to-side motion as forward progress, and he followed her instructions. One decaf cappuccino coming right up- a modest indulgence for a weeknight romance. As the steamers steamed, they sat together and did that act we so rarely do these days- they conversed, he in his blazer, and she in her formal turtleneck.  The coffee order arrived on the counter, and the woman, whose jawline had long since eroded, emerged creakily from her place on the equally stiff, wooden church pew.

Strawberry Rhubarb Simple Syrup & Strawberry Rhubarb Compote // www.WithTheGrains.com

She retrieved the mug and saucer with great care, the viscosity threatening to rupture with every small jostling. The distance between her and her love seemed to lengthen with every minuscule movement. She held the saucer with one hand, and the other palm outstretched, hovering over the cappuccino design as if her fingers held magical powers. Her eyebrows raised, as if to say “ta da,” and she began a little balancing waltz.

Strawberry Rhubarb Simple Syrup & Strawberry Rhubarb Compote // www.WithTheGrains.com

She matched each shimmy forward with a little short-and-stout-teapot motion. Her eyes glanced at her husband, whose large frame commanded the trendy black metal chair on which he sat. The entire world had changed around them- wifi, latte art, email, twitter, OkCupid, GMOs, wars, president after president- and through it all, they still managed to look to each other, as if they were as young and in love as the day they first sipped after-dinner coffees together. 

Strawberry Rhubarb Simple Syrup & Strawberry Rhubarb Compote // www.WithTheGrains.com
Strawberry Rhubarb Simple Syrup & Strawberry Rhubarb Compote- a way to waste less and enjoy more

“You know you are a ballerina,” he said in response to her waltz. In a room full of laptops, he only saw her. As she arrived at the table without spillage, she was exactly that- a young, lovely, graceful ballerina. From my corner of email and wifi and Instagram hearts and general nonsense, I melted, I completely MELTED! It was a fleeting, precious little glimpse, a cinematic romance masked by wrinkles. The truest sweetness is often buried beneath the overlooked, the outliers. 

Rhubarb may be the stalky mystery the neighbors mistake for a weed growing at the edge of their garage, but it’s the stalky growth my mom taught me to appreciate and savor for its surprise sweetness. With this recipe, it’s even easier to take advantage of rhubarb’s spring emergence.  

Here’s to the romantics and hidden sweetness!


Strawberry Rhubarb Simple Syrup & Compote

yield: Makes about 16 ounces

About This Recipe: The simmered fruit leftover from infusing the simple syrup makes a sweet, tart compote, perfect for waffles or mixing into a parfait. You’ll waste less and enjoy more!

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Whole Grain Blood Orange & Rose Water Layer Cake

Whole Grain Blood Orange Rose Water Cake // www.WIthTheGrains.com

There is a vulnerability to spring I hadn’t noticed until walking through the spindly branches and brown brush of my neighborhood. Winter had protected those same trees and littered ground like long hair protects an insecure girl, basking the earth in a security blanket of snow and a wash of grays. We do not scrutinize winter. We hide from it.

Whole Grain Blood Orange Rose Water Cake // www.WIthTheGrains.com

Spring, however, emerges to watchful eyes, like a debut role performed to an audience of critics. People pour into the streets in prematurely short sleeves with exposed legs and toes, demanding warmth, a gentle breeze, greens and blooms.  

Whole Grain Blood Orange Rose Water Cake // www.WIthTheGrains.com

Meanwhile, seeds and seedlings leave farmers and gardeners guessing- will they or won’t they? Will they spring back from the freak snow? Will they be on schedule for transplanting? Will they emerge at all?  

Whole Grain Blood Orange Rose Water Cake // www.WIthTheGrains.com

Yet somehow, the early buds prove resilient. The greens and pinks emerge, and if given a little time, they paint the most fabulous landscape. From barren to beautiful, the transition to full-force spring is a process worth observing, worth noting, worth taking to heart.

Whole Grain Blood Orange Rose Water Cake // www.WIthTheGrains.com

There are plenty of ugly moments and doubts en route to a masterpiece. Once those painterly strokes of genius appear, they are but brief and fleeting, so we better appreciate the messes and spindly branches along the way. 

Whole Grain Blood Orange Rose Water Cake // www.WIthTheGrains.com

Like the season, I feel myself reemerging. I just wrapped a major project, a labor of love that consumed my early mornings and late nights and nearly every minute in between. I had to remind myself all along to enjoy the process. That process, like the spring blossoms, can pass so quickly leaving me to question whether the tree ever had blooms or if I had dreamt it. 

Whole Grain Blood Orange Rose Water Cake // www.WIthTheGrains.com

This cake tastes like walking in the newness of spring, when fresh scents hit you, but you can’t quite locate the tiny buds emitting the perfume. The floral notes of the rose feel cleansing and purifying, like splashing your face with water.

Whole Grain Blood Orange Rose Water Cake // www.WIthTheGrains.com

Here’s to the vulnerabilities of spring, to the process of reemerging, and as always, to the sweetness of special desserts worth sharing with special people! This one was for The Urban Farmer’s mama because she is one of the loveliest!

Quelcy Signature

Whole Grain Blood Orange & Rose Water Cake with Rose Water Frosting

About this Recipe: I used a 7-inch and a 6-inch springform pan to create two cake layers, which I then cut in halves to create more layers. Alternately, you could make 3 6×2-inch round cakes. If using fresh flowers as a garnish, be careful to protect the cake from any floral byproduct and caution eaters against eating the flowers (unless they are edible varieties of course). You can wrap the ends of stems in foil or floral tape as a cautionary measure.

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Whole Wheat Carob Apricot Cake with Chocolate Frosting & Chocolate Ganache

“What do you want to do?” they asked, peering at me expectantly across the half-consumed cocktails and artisanal small plates. With only my “fancy” burger and tallow fat fries standing between me and this interrogation, I stared at them rather blankly, wishing for more layers of protection. Oh this question again! I felt young again- in a a bad way- all the anxieties and life questions of my mid-twenties emerging from some hidden recess of my body. I thought I had killed and buried those stressors? Apparently not!

Whole Wheat Carob Apricot Cake with Chocolate Frosting & Chocolate Ganache // www.WithTheGrains.com

What I want to do is “projects.” I want to change courses and follow whims and inspirations, but try explaining that to an esteemed film critic and a dedicated film festival director as they plead with you to devote your life to filmmaking! I was flattered and confused, surprised by how much the question left me stammering and surprised by how much that bothered me. 

Whole Wheat Carob Apricot Cake with Chocolate Frosting & Chocolate Ganache // www.WithTheGrains.com

In high school, our teachers taught us to rack up the extracurriculars, earn perfect grades and contribute to humanity in some generous way. The end goal was college acceptance and eventually, a good job and happiness (probably in the form of a 2-car garage and a family). The end goals didn’t work for me, but throwing myself into various activities did! ‘What I want to do’ may never be a question I can answer succinctly but who I want to be? Maybe that’s a starting point that won’t leave me stammering. 

Whole Wheat Carob Apricot Cake with Chocolate Frosting & Chocolate Ganache // www.WithTheGrains.com

Who I want to be is someone who pays it forward, who fills the world with beauty, who leaves a footprint- not the carbon kind, but the kind people commemorate. I want to be a person who feeds and nourishes people. I want to be a person who brightens days and helps those in need, who leaves a mark on friends, on my city, and hopefully, in a broader context. How do you relay that across an adult table of whiskey and patés?

Whole Wheat Carob Apricot Cake with Chocolate Frosting & Chocolate Ganache // www.WithTheGrains.com

If SEO weren’t a thing, the title of this post would be “The Pay It Forward Cake,” but then those creeping search engines would never bring humans to me. I baked this cake and gave it away. I can’t vouch for the flavor, the richness, the fruity notes of carob or the dark bittersweet bursts of ganache, but what I can vouch for is the way my friends’ eyes lit up when I appeared at their door with a surprise layered treat. I want to be the person who sweetens days and delivers surprises, so that’s what I’m doing for the moment. 

Quelcy Signature

Whole-Wheat Carob Apricot Cake

About this Recipe: For my layers, I used a 6″, 7″ and 9″ springform pans, but you could experiment with uniform layers. I used a soured whole milk for the cake as a way to waste less, but you can substitute regular whole milk or buttermilk. It’s helpful to have a lazy Susan for assembly but not necessary. If you’re newer to cake frosting, here’s a helpful tutorial from Martha Stewart.

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Roasted Beet Hummus (Vegan)

“Put a beet on it” might be the new “Put a bird on it.” Between the bold color, the natural sweetness and the ability to endure a long winter in storage, the beet has risen in popularity from its humble beginnings as that odd pickled staple at my Czech grandmother’s table.  

Roasted Beet Hummus (Vegan) // www.WithTheGrains.com

And “Put a beet on it” I have! From waffles, to cakes, to frostings, and even donuts, I’ve worked that painterly root vegetable’s color and sweetness into every course. When it came time to make a meal to share with a vegan friend, hummus came to mind. 

Roasted Beet Hummus (Vegan) // www.WithTheGrains.com

As much as I love hummus, its color palette leaves much to be desired, so I… put a beet on it- roasted beets, tart lemon juice, a kick of garlic and the most important secret, last-minute decision- fresh ginger! The result is a bold, beautiful bowl that makes hummus more dippable and even more addicting than ever! 

Quelcy Signature

Roasted Beet Hummus
Recipe type: Vegan, Gluten Free
yield: ~1 quart

About this Recipe: My Palestinian friend taught me his mother’s time-tested secret. Even if you are using canned chickpeas, it pays to soak them in water for at least half an hour and rinse them thoroughly. This makes the chickpea much more digestible! The hummus will keep in the fridge for up to a week (if it lasts that long).

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