A Desert-Inspired Lemon Ginger Turmeric Layer Cake

Bake and Bakery.

The words are mere letters apart, but off paper, the words may as well have a Grand-Canyon-sized expanse between them. To own and manage a bakery and bake professionally is more akin to running a manufacturing facility than it is to casually grabbing a mixing bowl and satisfying a craving. There’s an economy to repetition, to consistency and precision. Without judgement for those who pursue the bakery route as a means of sharing their creations with the world (with immense gratitude in fact!), I can say hands down, I do not want my own bakery. 

Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake with Grapefruit Frosting & A Living Succulent // www.WithTheGrains.com

As a home baker, I can be wildly impractical, intensely specific to my eaters and astronomically over budget (what budget?!?). I can choose my recipients. I can have a furry dog running around the kitchen and assign her the title of “Baking Assistant.” I can bake a recipe and never repeat it. I can serve a cake with a living plant planted within the lemony crumbs. I know my place in the baking world, and I revel in it. 

Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake with Grapefruit Frosting & A Living Succulent // www.WithTheGrains.com

Since I’m not a bakery, commissions are not part of my baking practice, but every once in a while, the right person comes along, who respects my non-commercial kitchen, adores the four-legged assistant and embraces my need for creative freedom. When that person comes along, I break the rules. 

Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake with Grapefruit Frosting & A Living Succulent // www.WithTheGrains.com

Heather is one of the people for whom I break the rules. A huge supporter of my work, she ever so sweetly asked me last year if she could commission a birthday cake. When she requested the cake capture the flapper era instead of requesting a flavor, I agreed to bake her birthday cake, and the result was one of my favorites so far! 

Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake with Grapefruit Frosting & A Living Succulent // www.WithTheGrains.com

This May, Heather once again asked me if I would be able to bake her a birthday cake. “What’s the theme?” was my reply! She said she was feeling inspired by Native American patterns and artwork, and my brain began storming. 

Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake with Grapefruit Frosting & A Living Succulent // www.WithTheGrains.com

The most I have experienced Native American culture was when I took a life-changing summer class called “Earth Works & Sacred Sites.” For 2+ very intense weeks, a small group of us road tripped through Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. We hiked National and State Parks and explored earth art installations like Spiral Jetty and the Lightning Field. We explored historical Native American remnants like Mesa Verde and stood in awe of sacred structures. 

Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake with Grapefruit Frosting & A Living Succulent // www.WithTheGrains.com

My personal ties to Native American culture are steeped in the deserts of the American Southwest, where sands change from bright golds to brick reds with the passing of miles, where I napped in a rock carved by a waterfall, where I soaked up the dry heat like a happy lizard. 

Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake with Grapefruit Frosting & A Living Succulent // www.WithTheGrains.com

The desert was my inspiration for this cake, whose base was cornmeal, a nod to the Native American civilizations that venerated the vegetable/grain (unlike our modern day agricultural system). The internet is full of ideas for fondant succulents, but I’m morally opposed to fondant, as it seems like an “edible” play dough. Instead, I juiced a grapefruit to flavor the frosting, and then saved the grapefruit rind as a planter for a living succulent. In this way, the cake was a gift that kept on giving. 

Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake with Grapefruit Frosting & A Living Succulent // www.WithTheGrains.com

Even the cake’s serving plate was a planter base, so Heather could find use for it in her plant collection after the last morsel of cake had disappeared. 

Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake with Grapefruit Frosting & A Living Succulent // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’m no bakery. I don’t churn out birthday cakes or daily batches of cookies, but for the right person, I am inclined to take on thematic birthday cake challenges.

Happy Birthday Heather! 

Cheers,

Quelcy Signature


Desert Inspired Lemon, Ginger & Turmeric Cornmeal Layer Cake 
with Grapefruit Frosting & A Succulent Planter

About This Recipe: Forget fondant, and give the gift of a real succulent garnish with this desert inspired cake. By saving a grapefruit half, the succulent can be potted without having dirt contaminate the cake. 

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Lemon Blueberry Quinoa Waffles

Horrible grocery store General Tso’s chicken.
An unearthed stone boob (most likely a relic from an ancient South American society).
Assorted architectural tools and a wooden acoustic speaker. 

What do these three items have in common?

Lemon Blueberry Quinoa Waffles // www.WithTheGrains.com

They are all things my friends and I have stolen! Shhhh…. don’t tell our parents, border control or my graduating class. Each of us had our reasons. Arguably, only one of us really deserved the object of her crime. (Can you tell I’m a moral relativist?) Each of us “learned our lessons,” and each of the stories of our stolen conquests emerged while we stuffed our mouths with Lemon Blueberry Quinoa Waffles and heavy pours of Vermont Maple Syrup!

Sweet, sweet confessions!

Lemon Blueberry Quinoa Waffles // www.WithTheGrains.com

The addition of a Goodwill waffle iron has sweetened my life just like that Vermont maple syrup! As much as I love obsessing over the details for an elaborate brunch, there’s something so sacred about being able to walk to a dear friend’s house with batter, my waffle maker, my best girl and the Urban Farmer

Lemon Blueberry Quinoa Waffles // www.WithTheGrains.com

If I could, I’d lock the morning in a time capsule- bacon sizzling in the oven, pups playing like crazy in the yard, an espresso machine steaming, grabbing whatever plate is on top of the stack in the cupboard, filling said plate entirely too full, and making significant progress on that mason jar of syrup from Vermont. It’s when the guiltiest of stories emerge and all other responsibilities can simply fade to a very distant background.

Waffles are magic, and waffles with an ancient grain? They must surely channel some historical wisdom that conjures the best of stories. I hope you enjoy these waffles with friends worthy of your sweetest, guiltiest confessions!

Quelcy Signature


Lemon Blueberry Quinoa Waffles
Yield: 10-12 Belgian style waffles

About this Recipe: This recipe is extra incentive to cook yourself a big batch of quinoa for the week and save one cup for a weekend waffle indulgence. Or, if you have leftover of my Lemon Blueberry Breakfast Quinoa, add a cup of that to the batter. The grain blends into the batter, adding protein without adding texture. 

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Gluten Free Lemon Bars

People ask me if I am from Pittsburgh? No, I moved here. Then I left. Then I returned. It was cheap, and my stuff was here, and it was no fairy tale. I returned to Pittsburgh for two major life tracks that both fell through. They fell hard, like coins falling through ripped jeans and clanking on the pavement.

Gluten Free Lemon Bars // www.WithTheGrains.com

It was a sour moment. Yet, I don’t think I shed a single tear (I’m all about regrouping). Turns out, those plans clanked to the sidewalk for a reason. The universe had something way sweeter in store for me (mainly, the Urban Farmer and a lil’ lass with punkin’ seeds for eyebrows). Sweet, sour, beautiful on the surface, then sticky, sludgy and messy, and yet, so damn good! That’s life, and that’s lemon bars! 

Gluten Free Lemon Bars // www.WithTheGrains.com

Gluten Free Lemon Bars // www.WithTheGrains.com

Gluten Free Lemon Bars // www.WithTheGrains.com

So when life hands you life, make lemon bars! 

Cheers,

Quelcy Signature


Gluten Free Lemon Bars
yield: 24 bars & a sticky mess

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Lemon Blueberry Breakfast Quinoa (Vegan & Gluten Free)

If I were to spill uncooked quinoa all over my kitchen, there’d be a trusty sidekick to lick it up, or, it would go unnoticed, blending into the dirt tracks left from those rare occasions when the Urban Farmer actually wears shoes. However, when I had a few quinoa casualties while styling on a video set, the tiny grains stood out from the impeccable, showroom-esque kitchen like a streaker at a baseball game. The eye went right to them! Yet, it seemed impossible to clean up all the minuscule grains. That’s when I realized, quinoa is like hippy glitter. 

Lemon Blueberry Breakfast Quinoa // www.WithTheGrains.com

That comparison led me to question- what is glitter anyway? I realized I had taken this sparkle bombardment material for granted my whole life. Of course there is a glimmering product that exists to make first graders feel like artists and somehow lasts for eternity. Why wouldn’t there be? 

Lemon Blueberry Breakfast Quinoa // www.WithTheGrains.com

For every rathole of curiosity, there is a google search waiting with answers. So my friends, let me tell you, glitter has been around for a long damn time- it’s older than quinoa- an ancient grain! Way back in the period of 40,000 to 200 B.C, ancient  civilizations were using flakes of the mineral mica in cave paintings for their sparkly, light-catching quality. Fast forward to New Jersey in 1934, when machinist Henry Ruschmann invented a way to grind up plastics to make large quantities of glitter. He founded Meadowbrook Inventions, still a major supplier of the substance. Its slogan: “Our glitter covers the world.” (They forgot to add “whether you want it to or not.”

Lemon Blueberry Breakfast Quinoa // www.WithTheGrains.com

I guess we humans (and cats) are inherently suckers for glimmering objects, and I’m a sucker for grains. Glitter and quinoa have both stood the test of time, so make yourself a big bowl of this Lemon Blueberry Breakfast Quinoa, and dive into your own early morning internet ratholes. Tell me what curiosities you discover. 

Cheers,

Quelcy Signature

p.s: This is not a sponsored post, but I did work as a stylist for a truRoots video shoot, which is what inspired me to share this recipe. You can see more of my professional styling work here

Lemon Blueberry Breakfast Quinoa (Vegan & Gluten Free)

Recipe adapted from truRoots | yield: 2 servings

About this Recipe: Cooking the quinoa in vanilla almond milk yields a rich vanilla flavor to every bite. Avoid a vanilla almond milk with a high sugar content, since maple is the main sweetener. Serve warm or cold. Works well as a topping for Greek yogurt also. Trust your tastebuds on the maple syrup, lemon zest and blueberries. The quantities below are just starting points. I like to make a large batch of this, so I have an easy, healthy breakfast option all ready for me.

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Whole Grain Chocolate Cupcakes with a Fudge Mint Cookie Crunch for @BevBirthdays

For a brief stint of diligence, I had a gratitude journal. Daily, I would jot down three elements of my life for which I was grateful. Unfortunately, I fell into a rather lazy rotation of bullet points: my apartment, heat, employment, a roof over my head, etc. Of all the things I recorded, I never once thought to write “I am grateful to have had birthday parties to celebrate my place in this world.” 

Whole Grain Chocolate Cupcakes with a Fudge Mint Cookie Crunch // www.WithTheGrains.com

I never thought to write down “birthday parties” in my gratitude journal because these were celebrations I had taken for granted. Of course I had birthday parties. I had a BIG family who relished my existence, and even when times were tight, we had the resources for my favorite flavors of cakes and thematic decor. My older sisters channeled their creativity to make thrilling scavenger hunts and party games that stick out in my memory to this day! It should have been obvious, but I discovered recently just how blessed I had been/am on the birthday front.

Whole Grain Chocolate Cupcakes with a Fudge Mint Cookie Crunch & a Naturally Dyed Mint Buttercream Frosting // www.WithTheGrains.com

It was this article that set me straight (and probably made me all misty-eyed too). In it I learned about Megan Yunn, who founded Beverly’s Birthdays. In 2011, Megan was volunteering at a local after-school program and helping 12-year-old Beverly with her homework. Discovering that Beverly never had a birthday party nagged at Megan and then eventually inspired her to start the organization that now provides birthday celebrations for homeless kids in the Pittsburgh region. 

Whole Grain Chocolate Cupcakes with a Fudge Mint Cookie Crunch & a Naturally Dyed Mint Buttercream Frosting // www.WithTheGrains.com

Imagine the effects of these parties! Reading through a few of the organization’s blog posts had me in tears. One child asked to keep a clean disposable birthday plate because he wanted to cherish the birthday party. He washed it and reused it. Another child just wanted her own bottled water- not even a fancy bottle of water, just one bottle. Another mother walked her three children to the party after a stressful day of doctor’s visits (to which she also walked) because she knew how important the celebration would be to her kids.  

Whole Grain Chocolate Cupcakes with a Fudge Mint Cookie Crunch & a Naturally Dyed Mint Buttercream Frosting // www.WithTheGrains.com

All these stories reiterated how much I have taken for granted. Theme parties and baking are two of my biggest passions, so I was so long overdue to contribute. I finally signed up and baked these cupcakes for a zoo-themed party. I chose this party in particular because it took place in the very neighborhood where The Urban Farmer started his farm. The community has welcomed him with such open arms, this felt like the least I could do to give back.

Whole Grain Chocolate Cupcakes with a Fudge Mint Cookie Crunch & a Naturally Dyed Mint Buttercream Frosting // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’m not sharing these cupcakes to toot my own horn. My hope is this story will inspire you to find a similar outlet for your passions, whatever they may be. There are countless organizations that rely heavily on the work of volunteers, so whether you love knitting, power tools or cupcake making, there is probably an outlet for you. Also, these stories are worth sharing because they not only inspire us to give but to be grateful. I can’t applaud the folks at Beverly’s Birthdays enough, and I look forward to future themed baking!

Quelcy Signature

Whole Grain Chocolate Cupcakes with a Fudge Mint Cookie Crunch & Mint Buttercream Frosting

About This Recipe: These cupcakes may be green and feature traditional cookie flavors, but they are made from all natural and organic versions because playful party food can still have a wholesome spin to it. I used all-natural blue and yellow dyes (from India Tree) to create the green frosting. 

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Whole Grain Banana Turmeric Muffins Just for Mom

Last fall, the Urban Farmer and I made a Westward Wander, or what I dubbed #KyleMeetsTheKogels2015, since this was their official meet and greet. My parents toured us around their icy town in Iowa, where they had begun to settle after moving nearly one year prior. My dad pointed out the expanse of farms, the loss of the smaller family farms, the surplus of corn and of course, the donut shop. My mom’s additions to the tour included the trails where she walked with her new friends and the home of an older woman she helped with cleaning.  

Whole Grain Banana Turmeric Muffins // www.WithTheGrains.com

She mentioned that last detail so nonchalantly, so humbly. Yet that little detail speaks volumes about my mom. She is a giver, a selfless helper, a patient listener and a constant doer. She sends birthday and anniversary cards to everyone, including my dog! She sends care packages with little recipe clippings and encouraging notes, affirming that no matter my crazy pursuit, my mom believes I can not only do it, but do it well. 

Whole Grain Banana Turmeric Muffins // www.WithTheGrains.com

I could tell you there is no sweeter woman, and you might say, “that’s what everyone says about their moms,” but in my case, it may be true. After attending a church service with my parents, an older woman approached me, so pleased to meet Regina’s daughter. “Your mother has been such a blessing to this community. She has really made a difference, and we are so blessed to have her.” I bit my lip to stifle the tears my sappiness ejects against my will and thanked this woman for sharing that tidbit with me. 

Whole Grain Banana Turmeric Muffins // www.WithTheGrains.com

Having barely been in that small town for a year, my mom’s presence had already been felt and appreciated. In that moment, in that wash of gratitude, I felt so lucky to be Regina’s daughter, to have grown up with her as my example, to have the parenting bar set by her devotion and sacrifice. Unfortunately, we were nearly 1,000 miles away on Mother’s Day, but my humble mother, was just so grateful to hear my voice on the phone.  

Whole Grain Banana Turmeric Muffins // www.WithTheGrains.com

Though I couldn’t spend the day with my mom, I was lucky enough to spend it with some other inspiring moms. The Urban Farmer’s mama, grandmother and sister-in-law have always impressed me with their dedication to their families and the way they welcomed me into them. For all their sharing, they deserved a little indulgence to be savored just by them. 

Happy Belated Mother’s Day to all you moms, expecting moms and women who mother everyone around them! You may not know it yet, but you’re making a difference!

Quelcy Signature

Whole Grain Banana Turmeric Muffins

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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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