My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off

My award-winning chili is an in-depth recipe, to say the least, but go big or go home, right? The slow-cook style of this yields chunks of beef that will fall off your fork, so get the cornbread, cheddar and cilantro ready. 

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

Whose would be declared the award-winning chili?

It was time for the Pattison Family’s Third Annual Chili Cook Off, a festivity that started as a way to commemorate Mama Pattison’s birthday and her noteworthy chili (but then she veered from her classic recipe and ended up losing what should have been a shoo-in). For the first two years, I took an impartial backseat. I doled out the chilis, made sure the competitive clan didn’t cheat, tallied the stats and announced the winners and the loser (it always seems to be the Rustbelt Farmer… poor guy). BUT this year, I decided enough was enough, and I entered the ring!

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

Cups ready to be filled with competition chili samples for the judges. 

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

Fun Fact #1: I’m SUPER competitive.

This little tidbit might not be apparent in my writing, but spend five minutes with me, and I’m sure you’ll get the drift. Play Taboo or Clue with me, and you’ll definitely get the drift! I’m also super into food, so food + competition is a recipe for “stay the f*$k out of my way!” I took my self-declared competition entry all too seriously. I began researching the roots of chili, regional varieties, what technically makes chili chili while revisiting more classic French techniques behind peasant foods like my favorite boeuf bourguignon. Then I spent way too much money on ingredients and created a long recipe which I expect none of you will actually make, but I will nonetheless immortalize it here.

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

Fun Fact #2: We take this competition pretty seriously.

The chili is served anonymously by someone who isn’t competing, so there’s no bias. We tally points so there’s an overall winner and categoric winners: flavor, texture, etc. The debates get as heated as the chili because there’s a coveted spoon to be earned. I did argue for adding a “Most Improved” award because I will hand it to the Rustbelt Farmer. After two years of throwing almost every ingredient from our pantry into a pot, burning all those ingredients until the scent of scorching tomatoes and spices reminded him of the pot on the stovetop, and then landing himself in last place (rightfully so), he really upped his game this year. Though, I will say, he did have a stellar role model in yours truly. 

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

Fun Fact #3: I’m not that into chili. 

More often than not, chili feels like eating gruel- just spoonful after spoonful of a hot spice blend masking any and all subtleties. It starts to feel like work to eat it, like I simply have to shovel spoonfuls of spice into my mouth for sustenance. So as I dove into my recipe, my main goal was nuance. I wanted layers of spices and flavors, so eating wouldn’t feel like a chore that results in stomach rumblings and regret.

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

Likes avocados. Doesn’t understand all the chili fuss.

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

and lastly…

The Not-So-Fun Fact: I didn’t win!

AND THAT’S OUTRAGEOUS! The beef was so tender, it fell off the fork. The lentils and split peas were crisp and added a crunch. The dark chocolate added a subtle bitter contrast to the spices. Split peas really threw this crowd, so I did walk away with “Most Unique” chili, which is cool and all, but it’s not first place. 

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

Reigning Chili Cook Off Champion and recipient of the trophy spoon

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

Her face says it all, “we demand a recount!”

THEY WEREN’T READY FOR THIS!!!

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

I know in my heart it really was award-winning chili

However, since you readers probably have a more discerning palate when it comes to chili, I will share with you my painstaking, should-have-been, award-winning chili, and I will even give a little kudos to my fellow, which I only do when deserved. This year, I fully admit, he got jipped! (But in past years, he definitely deserved to lose!)

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

The tenderness of the beef is what should have sealed the deal for this award-winning chili.

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

Next year, I’m throwing two jars of salsa and a chicken in a crockpot and calling it done. So here you have it… quite possibly the only chili recipe you’ll ever find on this blog. Where do you stand? Are you pro chili? Do you have any award-winning chili secrets?

Cheers,


Quelcy’s Award-Winning Chili

About this Recipe: This recipe is in-depth to say the least, but it actually made me like chili a little more. I relied heavily on this guide from the New York Times, as well as techniques used in my Boeuf Bourguignon. The recipe calls for both fresh toasted whole cumin and coriander, as well as the ground varieties you probably have in your pantry. Fresh toasting and grinding of the whole spices yields such a rich aroma while cooking. I prepared the split peas and lentils separately to maintain an extra crunch and add more texture. I highly recommend a trip to the co-op bulk bins to gather spices for this recipe, and freezing some mason jars because this recipe makes one big batch of chili. 

[Read more…]

Côtes de Provence: Cheers to the Weekend

While traveling this winter, I browsed a lot of drink menus, and after a lot of “I guesses” and “sure’s,” I came to a realization: I’ve been living off Bota Box wine for too long, and I forget which wine I really like.

Côtes de Provence: Cheers to the Weekend // www.WithTheGrains.com

Hecht & Bannier’s 2016 Côtes de Provence

Bota Box (and other boxed wines) have their places, but there’s something to be said for truly appreciating a glass of wine. I made a resolution to come home and drink more intentionally, so from time to time, I may share a pretty shot of wine. I may share a few little notes about what I liked about the wine. And I will probably buy these bottles because of the artwork and packaging because:

  1. I am a designer
  2. I am not [yet] a wine snob.  
Côtes de Provence: Cheers to the Weekend

I admit I was drawn to this glass bottle stopper on Hecht & Bannier’s 2016 Côtes de Provence

So to get some sipping started, here’s a crazy glass cork situation from Hecht & Bannier’s 2016 Côtes de Provence AOC.

What they say [so dreamily]: “We focused our selections on the cooler parts of the upper Provence vineyards where the oak and olive tree forests protect the vines planted in the clay-limestone soils and, in some ways, seem to nourish them. The higher altitudes also allow a full maturity without excessive sugars (and therefore alcoholic degree in the finished wines). It has a “minerality redolent of fennel, anise and purple flowers. We love just sipping this wine out on our garden in Aix-en-Provence. Grab a glass with some friends and taste with a fougasse, some anchovies and even some Salonenque olives.”

What I say: Even though the ground is still covered in snow, these sips make me think of grilled peach desserts or bright red, juicy grapefruits on sunny mornings. It’s smooth, not too sweet, and I too would like to sip a glass of this in a garden in Aix-en-Provence. 

What are you drinking these days? Happy weekend! 

Santé!

 

Green Detox Smoothies & Their Benefits

Whether you’re still in the grips of St. Patrick’s Day hangovers, or you just want to start your morning in a healthy way, these green detox smoothies will steer you right. 

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

If there’s a holiday that truly brings out my kill-joy judginess, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, or more specifically, St. Patrick’s Day in Pittsburgh (because it may be completely civilized in other parts of the world?). On the rare occasion when I have left home on this green-spirited holiday, my expression took on an active bitch face. “It’s noon. How are you people this drunk already? ARE YOU EVEN IRISH?”

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

So it was, I was gearing up to judge all St. Patrick’s Day partakers, including the Rustbelt Farmer and his brother. But you know what they say, pride cometh before the fall, and fall I did! I was a mere two drinks into my [dehydrated] Friday night, ie: St. Patrick’s Day Eve, when I totally and completely biffed it. I’m not even sure what happened. Did I just step on my own sweatpants?

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Either way, I fell like a toddler, two bruised knees and all. My empty jam jar went flying three feet in front of me, smacking dramatically into the closet door, then spinning in place. I lay there, stunned, embarrassed, and relieved I was not in public. Then, I broke into a fit of hysterical laughter. 

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Rustbelt Farmer looked at me with momentary concern before his laughter hit a high-pitched, lack-of-air squeal. Needless to say, I’m not currently in a place to judge those who may still be suffering from a very intense holiday celebration. I too may need the power of these Green Detox Smoothies. In the least, I may still need an ice pack. 

Behold the power of the Green Detox Smoothies

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Health Benefits of Green Detox Smoothies:

Apples: You know what they say… “an apple a day keeps the hangover at bay.” They don’t say that, but extra fiber and antioxidants can’t hurt your cause.

Spinach: These leafy greens work overtime to protect those eyes of yours. Spinach also helps to detoxify the body and support liver function (unlike your weekend) by preventing bacterial overgrowth in the gut. Remember when dancing the Irish jig on a beer-drenched bar seemed like a good idea? Spinach also helps to reduce inflammation. 😉 

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Lemons: Skip the brightly colored sports drinks, and squeeze a lemon instead. Lemon juice makes these Green Detox Smoothies a natural electrolyte replenisher and big vitamin C booster.

Hemp Hearts: Add a subtle nutty flavor and a creamy texture, and they’re a natural appetite suppressant. (I also like to sprinkle them on my whole grain fried chicken.)

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Raw Protein & Greens: If you really want to push the detox factor and replenish nutrients, you can add some extra protein and greens in the form of a powder. Just be careful to avoid any hidden sweeteners or mysterious ingredients. I used Garden of Life’s Raw Protein & Greens powder

Coconut Water: Another natural electrolyte, which helps to reduce fatigue, stress and help maintain muscle relaxation.

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Then, put all those healthy, replenishing ingredients together, blend, sip, and recover! [Or, repeat as necessary.]

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Detox Green Smoothies

Yield: 16 oz

Ingredients

1 cup chopped spinach
1 cup coconut water
1/2  lemon, juiced
half a cucumber, sliced
1 small apple, cored and chopped
1 Tablespoon hemp seeds, plus more for garnish
1 Tablespoon super greens protein powder (optional)
4 ice cubes

Directions

Combine the spinach, coconut water and lemon juice in a blender and mix until liquid. Add the remaining ingredients, except the ice cubes, and blend until smooth. Add ice cubes and blend to desired consistency. Garnish with hemp seeds and serve.

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Cheers,

 

How To Eat An Elephant…

… one bite at a time. I hate that expression because I love elephants, but the sentiment rings true in my life right now. 

Raspberry Rose Doughnut // www.WithTheGrains.com

A gold flecked Raspberry Rose Doughnut from Relish Co.

A “wintry mix” of freezing rain and sleet hit the coffee shop’s sandwich board, slowly erasing the “Think Spring” floral illustration. It has been a manic March, a confusion of seasons, and I’m not sure how I have landed here. Not how I landed at the coffee shop. That part was clear. I wanted coffee, the specialty doughnut (#treatyourself), and to nestle into the cozy corner of my living room with said uppers.

Spring Onion Quiche // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Rustbelt Farmer made this for me! He welcomed me home from my February travels with a sunny bouquet and an onion quiche. If ever he spoke my love language..!

No, the unclear part is March. How have I landed in March? Months seemed to have evaporated, and I’ve let weeks slip through my fingertips, neglecting this blog, which by extension, means neglecting myself. With The Grains has always felt like an appendage, like a well worn, coffee-stained journal. Lately, it has felt like the journal had been lost to the tumbleweeds under the bed, a fur and dust buried memory. RIP.

Spring Onion Quiche // www.WithTheGrains.com

At its core, With The Grains serves as a barometer of my “me” time. I don’t write for SEO (as the spam emails feel the need to reiterate for me on the regular). I don’t shoot these photos for a weekly Instagram quota. Instead, the blog is a creative outlet that holds me accountable. Am I expressing myself? Am I sharing time with others? Am I releasing the thoughts and stories in my head? Are there thoughts and stories in my head? Or, am I suffering from a full plate, a crowded mind, and a serious case of overwhelm?

Spring Hyacinth // www.WithTheGrains.com

Is there a greater reminder to pause and breathe than a fragrant hyacinth?

Much of my winter was spent traveling as part of the Eat Your Feelings book tour. It was a refreshing blur of West Coast cities, sunshine, and that blue-gray Pacific mist, which I have yet to mentally unpack. The hiatus concentrated all my energy into traveling and postponed the thoughts, goals and looming questions that normally gurgle around New Year’s Eve.

Spring Hyacinth // www.WithTheGrains.com

But in the midst of this manic March, those sentiments have emerged in full force. Where do I want to take my career? Where do I see myself in 3-5 years? Can I bake good gluten free bread? Do I need to eliminate shampoo from my life? And in the most typical Quelcy fashion, can I do all of these things at once? Very simply, no. No, I can’t change and accomplish everything overnight, but damn if I don’t constantly try to prove I can.  

Julep // www.WithTheGrains.com

Julep, my zen guru.

This is all to say [mostly to myself], I’m here, I’m human, and sometimes I just need to shed a few tears, release the overwhelm, buy myself my favorite flower and walk my dog because if this blog is my “me time” barometer, Julep is my zen guru. There’s more to come, more recipes to share, but it may take a little while. 

What about you? How do you remind yourself Rome wasn’t built in a day while still stubbornly trying to build Rome in a day?  

Cheers,

Healthy Mocha Milkshakes featuring Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee (Vegan)

Whipped coconut cream, dark chocolate and Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee make for healthy mocha milkshakes that tastes like a diner throwback in the best possible way. Note: This post is not sponsored by Scotty P’s. This post simply reveals just how obsessive I can be.

Healthy Mocha Milkshakes featuring Scotty P's Big Mug Coffee // www.WithTheGrains.com

You knew him as Luke Danes, but Scotty P. has a real life interest in coffee

A fellow freelancer told me she refers to tv characters as “coworkers,” since she plays them in the background while she works. By this logic, I have [shamefully] edited photos while camped in Dr. Fuller’s waiting room (#TeamMatt) and sent invoices over cosmos with Carrie and the girls (#TeamAiden). However, when it comes to my Gilmore Girls rabbit hole this winter (#TeamJess), “stage one clinger” is probably more accurate than “coworker.” (Dang, the world is really divided over fictional men, huh?)

But can you blame me?

Healthy Mocha Milkshakes featuring Scotty P's Big Mug Coffee // www.WithTheGrains.com

Whipped coconut cream is the base of these Healthy Mocha Milkshakes

Sure, you can blame me.

If you’re the Rustbelt Farmer, who didn’t grow up tuning into WB each week to catch the iconic mother-daughter duo in their fast-talking action, then yes, you can blame me for revisiting this show. But I, like so many of  the show’s nostalgic fans, came of age with Rory. As she made her decision to be a Bulldog, I became a Tartan (go CMU!). My workload meant I missed a lot of Rory’s college years, but Netflix and winter hibernation were the keys to a good catch up.

While a lot the show felt hokier as an adult, there were so many elements I appreciated all the more: Lorelai becoming her own boss, the strong sense of community in Stars Hollow, complicated family bonds, and most of all, the way the small town created its own fun. I love me a theme, but those Stars Hollows residents really knew how to do it up! 

Healthy Mocha Milkshakes featuring Scotty P's Big Mug Coffee // www.WithTheGrains.com

Healthy Mocha Milkshakes complete with a dark chocolate drizzle

All winter long, I was searching for other friends with whom I could gush about Stars Hollow, Dean vs. Jess, the many famous cameos, and why Luke and Lorelai never should have broken up (yes, I understand tv has to string us along, but still). AND THERE WAS NO ONE…. just crickets! Everyone had either watched Gilmore Girls ages ago, or they only wanted to talk about the newest four-part series, or they just weren’t that into it. All my gushing fell solely upon the Rustbelt Farmer’s deaf, irritated ears. That was, until I attended my niece’s birthday party!

Healthy Mocha Milkshakes featuring Scotty P's Big Mug Coffee // www.WithTheGrains.com

…and finally, finally I found comfort in a friend who was just as wrapped in a Gilmore Girls nostalgic bender as I was. She mirrored my obsession, but more importantly, she opened my eyes to the latest tidbit. Scott Patterson, ie: Luke Danes, had started his own coffee company. In real life, Scott Patterson grew up in New Jersey diners, drinking as much coffee as the Gilmore girls themselves. Over the years, he developed a passion for coffee and recently launched Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee to sell affordable coffee that resembles “the many great tastes of the Northeast.”

Being the theme-oriented gal that I am (ie: a should-be Stars Hollow resident), I ordered my own package of the breakfast blend (note: it only comes pre-ground at this point). Logically, I decided the best way to try this brew was in true Gilmore Girls fashion. That meant healthy mocha milkshakes paired with a very Luke Danes meal: a cheeseburger, sweet potato fries and steamed broccoli. It’s a diner style meal I could eat daily, but it’s also the meal Luke cooked for his daughter, April, when she announced she was going to her first boy-girl party. 

Healthy Mocha Milkshakes featuring Scotty P's Big Mug Coffee // www.WithTheGrains.com

Though I wouldn’t substitute Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee for the third-wave beans I typically buy for my morning brew, the company does do what it sets out to do: it achieves an upscale version of a diner coffee (minus the part where the pot burns for an extra eight hours). Drinking Scotty P’s coffee is just as nostalgic as binge watching Gilmore Girls all winter long. So now you know just how far I took my obsession. The only remaining question is… where you at Gilmore Girls fans?

Cheers,


Healthy Mocha Milkshakes

Recipe adapted ever so slightly from The Minimalist Baker

Yield: 2 shakes

About this Recipe: You could make a batch of cold-brew coffee to make these healthy mocha milkshakes, but I like to use any leftover black coffee from breakfast (I can never seem to finish it all), so I’m wasting less and indulging more. This recipe starts with a no-churn coconut cream “ice cream,” so you’ll want to freeze that mixture the night before. The texture will be a little denser than normal ice cream, but it makes for a creamy vegan milkshake. The whole thing is drizzled with a very nostalgic yet healthy dark chocolate “Magic Shell.” Be sure to select a vegan chocolate if vegan is a concern. This shake would also be great with a little bourbon or rum spike to it. 

[Read more…]

DIY Essential Oil Diffuser (A Trick for Air BnB’s)

This DIY Essential Oil Diffuser method is a quick, natural way to transform an Air BnB, or your own home, from stale to fresh smelling. 

DIY Essential Oil Diffuser // www.WithTheGrains.com

The making of a DIY Essential Oil Diffuser

“Back to life, back to reality” is the tune I’ll be singing with a little bit of sadness tomorrow. I’ll be packing up my suitcase for the last time, as we board a plane to Pittsburgh and conclude the West Coast leg of the Eat Your Feelings cookbook tour. With Mountain View, San Jose, Seattle, Portland, Oakhurst, Stockton, San Fran, Berkeley and Los Angeles under our belts, Lindsey and I have seen our fair share of planes, rental cars, and Air BnB’s. Some of those homes-away-from-home have been so memorable as to be downright missable (did you meet Chaos the dog?!?). Others have been …. adequate. So when one of our Air BnB’s had a certain “funk” to it, we devised this DIY Essential Oil Diffuser idea. 

DIY Essential Oil Diffuser // www.WithTheGrains.com

The making of a DIY Essential Oil Diffuser

The DIY Essential Oil Diffuser was transforming! The Air BnB went from vaguely smelling of stale cat (!) to a comforting orange grove without violating any rules or risking fire. Win win! The key is to travel with a scent you like- something versatile for home and body. We used doTerra’s On Guard essential oil (Wild Orange Peel, Clove Bud, Cinnamon Leaf, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus Leaf, and Rosemary Leaf/Flower essential oils), which is a good buddy to have on a trip for its immune boosting properties as well. It made all the difference. 

Happy Trails!


DIY Essential Oil Diffuser

Fill a saucepan with water – about halfway full. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat, and place the pan on a heat-safe surface. Add a few drops of essential oil and enjoy! Additionally, you can add fresh herbs or orange peels for added scent. You can also reheat the water a second or third time, adding more oil as needed. 

Grilled Lemon Rose Vodka Cocktails for Valentine’s Day

Sweetened with an herbal honey syrup, these Grilled Lemon Rose Vodka Cocktails are the perfect rosy drink to toast your Valentine, or simply toast yourself.

Grilled Lemon Rose Vodka Cocktails for Valentine's Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

Happy Valentine’s Day Eve!

If you follow my Instagram wanderings, you may have noticed I’ve been traveling the Pacific Northwest, styling events for my friend Lindsey’s cookbook, Eat Your Feelings (which I also styled). I’ve been soaking up the West Coast sunshine, trying to eat as much as possible, caffeinating to the brink of jitters and admiring the Crafstman Style architecture to the point of spying/stalking. The only downside to this trip is I’ll miss spending Valentine’s Day with the Rustbelt Farmer (and Julep!). 

Are you gagging?

Grilled Lemon Rose Vodka Cocktails for Valentine's Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’m unabashedly a romantic at heart, but in the interest of not grossing you out, or sending you promptly to X the tab where my blog lives, I’ll stop the “missing my boyfriend” thread right here. Instead, I’ll tell you about another hobby that has emerged on this cookbook tour: binge watching true crime shows.

Grilled Lemon Rose Vodka Cocktails for Valentine's Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’m not talking high quality productions like Manhunt or Mindhunter (though I do recommend them). I’m talking terrible, laugh-out-loud, true crime shows like Forensic Files (thanks Netflix!), a Forensic Files MARATHON (thanks random television station!), Snapped (I’m new to Oxygen, but it makes me want cable) and even the E! True Hollywood Story on Tonya Harding (#TeamTonya).

Grilled Lemon Rose Vodka Cocktails for Valentine's Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

A BIG common thread on these shows? Failed romances. 

Grilled Lemon Rose Vodka Cocktails for Valentine's Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

A few life lessons I’ve gleaned from these shows:

  1. ALWAYS be suspicious when your spouse/significant other/new love interest takes out a life insurance policy on you.
    1. Pro Tip for those considering a life of crime? Be sure to get the life insurance policy that is good for more than a commercial airline death before you commit to a crime of passion.
  2. Romances are never what they seem from the outside.
  3. Whenever the dramatic narrator voice says, “They looked like the perfect couple to all their friends, but police began to investigate..,” then you know the husband or wife was definitely involved. 
  4. I’m fairly certain they drug the victim’s friends and family members to be able to ACT IN THE RE-ENACTMENTS because that is the fodder of a lifetime of therapy. 

Grilled Lemon Rose Vodka Cocktails for Valentine's Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

So my bitter, anti-romance, cupid haters, my recommendation to you is to whip up these Grilled Lemon Rose Vodka Cocktails for Valentine’s Day, and take a deep dive into true crime and dark humor. Share these cocktails with a fellow bitter friend, or simply enjoy a few all by yourself.It’s your Valentine’s Day. Do whatever you gotta do to get to February 15th in good spirits (pun intended… not sorry)! 

Grilled Lemon Rose Vodka Cocktails for Valentine's Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

Grilling the lemon slices adds an extra special touch and an intensified natural sweetness to these Rose Vodka Cocktails. While you have the grill pan in use (or an actual grill, since I am now realizing people live in places that are warm and pleasant in the winter), grill some extra lemons for a dessert garnish.

Grilled Lemon Rose Vodka Cocktails for Valentine's Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

The honey rosemary syrup base for this drink, which also makes a satisfying mocktail, makes a great drizzle for cakes as well. I’m giving you efficient cocktail and dessert tips and anti-Valentine’s Day crime dramas… do you see how much I care for your emotional wellbeing? For more on these organic red velvet cakes, check out my post on the Healthyish Foods blog

Grilled Lemon Rose Vodka Cocktails for Valentine's Day // www.WithTheGrains.com

Stay tuned for more adventures, and enjoy tomorrow with or without romance. 

Cheers friends,


Grilled Lemon Rose Vodka Cocktails

Yield: 1 cocktail (the syrup yields enough for several cocktails)

Rosemary Honey Syrup

1/2 cup local raw honey
1/2 cup water
3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary

Cocktail Ingredients

1 organic lemon, sliced
1 1/2 oz Vodka
3/4 – 1 1/2 oz rosemary honey syrup
3/4 oz tart cherry juice
1/2- 3/4oz rose water, to taste
juice from one half lemon
fresh rosemary

Simple Syrup:

In a small saucepan, combine the honey, water, and rosemary sprigs. Bring to a boil, swirling to dissolve the honey, then remove from the heat and steep for at least 5 minutes. Strain and chill until needed, up to 1 week.

For the Cocktail:

Cut a lemon into slices. Place the slices on a hot stovetop grill pan. Grill until the flesh is charred, 2-3 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Pour vodka, rosemary honey syrup, tart cherry juice, rose water and lemon juice in a glass, over ice. Stir, then top with a grilled lemon slice and a sprig of rosemary.

Enjoy!

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe

Welcome to our home! This is a recap of our Design*Sponge home tour feature, plus a table full of food and a pumpkin cake recipe because I’m here to feed you!

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

For more than a decade, I have been a loyal Design*Sponge reader. For more than a year and a half, I’ve been on the other side — a contributor. I’ve been inviting myself into people’s homes, both physically and figuratively, to bring you the stories and spaces that inspire many a Pinterest board, your dream homes, and your very real renovations. But then it came time to turn the tables and invite readers into my own home.

To have my home featured on DesignSponge was a goal and a dream I nurtured for a long time. It was one of the first blogs I followed, one of my longest relationships, if you will. It has been a constant, daily source of inspiration, both through design and through Grace Bonney’s mission to make the site a safe, embracing space. Today I’m sharing parts of the tour featured on DesignSponge, as well as some food bonuses and a pumpkin cake recipe because you come here to feast with your eyes, right? 

You can read the stories of this space in the original D*S tour, but for a bit of a different take, come on in!

Photography by Dave Bryce

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

Even though my dream kitchen would probably be dark and rustic, I let the bones of this kitchen, mainly the cabinetry and the enamel sink, inspire the design. It’s very kitschy, and I painted the cabinets and accent wall with a very 1960s vibe.

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

Welcome to my favorite room- the dining room! As much as I love styling and blogging, there’s nothing quite like cooking and baking for people. I love hosting friends and family in this room, or simply celebrating special occasions with Kyle, while Julep lurks under the table hoping for scraps. This room reflects my affinity for aged and worn surfaces and the many layers of a building. I painstakingly removed paint from the doors and fireplace tiles but purposefully left the chippy accent wall and exposed lathe.

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

I am constantly drawn to old books, but before moving into this apartment, I vowed to put the books to better use (because boy, were they heavy to move!). I had two photography books depicting French life in the city and the countryside, and those pages became the collaged mantel accent. I studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence and worked as a jeune fille au pair (a nanny) in Paris after college, so these vintage prints bring back so many pleasant French memories.

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

This is a question we ask everyone who shares their home on Design*Sponge – What do you love most about your home? We ask our home tour features to respond with an element of the handmade too, so naturally, I incorporated the table, food and dessert- pumpkin cake! 

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

What I love most about my home is…it tells my story.

I love sharing our home with friends, family, and our fur baby (see her at the head of the table?). I enjoy watching the way guests interact with my collections and the associations they make, whether it be glassware their grandmother used or a fascination with the mechanics of a typewriter.

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

For our tour, I brought together some of my closest friends to showcase our dining room at its best – when it is filled with food and friends. Kyle and Julep, obviously. Dane and I met over a love of vintage, architecture and Pittsburgh adventures. Bess and I met through a love of Western Pennsylvania vintage, and the lady cracks me up until I cry. Lindsey and I met over a LOVE [obsession] of dogs and while working on her cookbook, Eat Your Feelings, which I gush about all the time

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

Roasted squash risotto featured in Lindsey’s cookbook, Eat Your Feelings.

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

Gluten Free Chocolate Pumpkin Cake 

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

The living room gallery wall sums us up: food still lifes, beekeeping and farming scenes, dog portraits, old cameras, French cityscapes and Q’s (because you’d be surprised how frequently that letter is omitted from alphabetical merchandise!). The wooden frame highlights a Kenyan ekichilong, a small wooden stool the Turkana shepherds use for sitting and sleeping, which I purchased on a trip to rural Kenya. You’ll even find the small velour hat from my childhood Samantha doll. I parted with the doll, but I had to keep one little memento.

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

The bedroom is my maximalist self’s attempt at minimalism. My goal was to create a really calming space where I would want to unwind, or where I would want to nestle with Julep and my morning mug of coffee

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

Take A Tour of Our Home + A Pumpkin Cake Recipe // www.WithTheGrains.com

Be sure to check out the full home tour feature on Design*Sponge for more photos and all the stories of these quirky nooks and crannies. Thanks for visiting. Now go preheat that oven. There’s a pumpkin cake to make!


Gluten Free Chocolate Pumpkin Cake

About this Cake: Healthy, whole grain brown rice flour makes a rich, nutty pumpkin cake that’s gluten free- perfect for a crowd. I topped the cake with pumpkin chocolates from Trader Joe’s, which were a seasonal item, but you can dust with cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice and decorate with cinnamon sticks and sage as an alternative. 

[Read more…]

Dark Chocolate Atole {Vegan Sipping Chocolate}

Dark Chocolate Atole is a traditional Mexican drink made from cornmeal. It sounds strange, but it’ll spice up your Valentine’s Day in the coziest way. This post is sponsored by Healthyish Foods. Thanks for supporting the brands that support With The Grains. 

Dark Chocolate Atole {Vegan Sipping Chocolate} // www.WithTheGrains.com

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Are you excited? Are you stressed? Are you bitter?

Valentine’s Day gets a bad rap.  Some say it’s too Hallmarky- it’s the commercialization of love. Others cringe under the pressure to be coupled in time for this holiday. However, I’ve always embraced Valentine’s Day as a time, not to stress, but to celebrate love. That’s it.  Pure and simple (I am a romantic, obviously).

Dark Chocolate Atole {Vegan Sipping Chocolate} // www.WithTheGrains.com

Celebrating love might mean spending extra time with my significant other. It might mean treating myself to something decadent to eat or pampering myself with a massage appointment. Or, I might celebrate the love of a best friend. Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse for a ladies’ night. So pump the breaks on the stress and pressure, and embrace this holiday for what it can be: a time to be grateful for those we love, to love ourselves, and most importantly, a time to really embrace dark chocolate!

Dark Chocolate Atole {Vegan Sipping Chocolate} // www.WithTheGrains.com

Another way to reclaim Valentine’s Day? Skip the heart shaped chocolate boxes, skip the generic bouquets, avoid the lame cards, and make something yourself. Make this Valentine’s Day a dark chocolate love fest with Healthyish Richie Rich Dark Chocolate Cakes and a homemade, spicy, dark sipping chocolate called Atole (ah-toe-lay).

Dark Chocolate Atole {Vegan Sipping Chocolate} // www.WithTheGrains.com

So what is Atole (sometimes spelled atol)?

It’s a traditional Mexican drink, often consumed for breakfast or as a healthy elixir.The traditional atole is made by cooking cornmeal in water to form a thick, hot beverage, but different versions can be found all over Mexico. Flavors run the gamut from sweet to savory. The idea of drinking cornmeal was especially curious, but once I learned about Dark Chocolate Atole, known as champurrado, I knew exactly where to begin.

Dark Chocolate Atole {Vegan Sipping Chocolate} // www.WithTheGrains.com

This Dark Chocolate Atole is sweet, thick and spicy. It lands somewhere between a chocolate pudding and a European drinking chocolate, so it’s a mug you’ll sip and savor slowly. Rather than whipped cream, I topped these atole sippers with whipped coconut cream, which could be a dessert in its own right.

Dark Chocolate Atole {Vegan Sipping Chocolate} // www.WithTheGrains.com

In the spirit of our now reclaimed Valentine’s Day, I suggest sharing Richie Rich Chocolate Cakes and Dark Chocolate Atole with your significant other or your closest friends. Lately, the Rustbelt Farmer and I like to play Vertellis, a game of conversation prompts meant to bring us closer together. Dark chocolate and all the feels? Are you starting to feel the Valentine’s Day spirit yet?

Dark Chocolate Atole {Vegan Sipping Chocolate} // www.WithTheGrains.com

To make an even better dessert and drink pairing, top the Healthyish Richie Rich Chocolate Cakes or Healthyish Cocoa Brownie Cake with dollops of whipped coconut cream, and garnish with cacao nibs and a dusting of cinnamon or organic pumpkin spice mix.

Dark Chocolate Atole {Vegan Sipping Chocolate} // www.WithTheGrains.com

Dark Chocolate Atole {Vegan Sipping Chocolate} // www.WithTheGrains.com

Or, screw Valentine’s Day and give Atole a whirl just because it’s chocolate and drinking cornmeal is a curious notion. Or, make peppermint hot chocolate if you think it’s just too strange. Your pick. 

XoXo,


Dark Chocolate Atole (Vegan Champurrado)

Ingredients

1/4 cup fine grind cornmeal (NOT cornstarch)
1/4 cup coconut sugar
2 Tablespoons raw cacao
1/8 teaspoon cayenne or dried chipotle powder (more to taste)
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 cans coconut milk, refrigerated at least 2 hours
2 cups filtered water
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I like 65-72% cacao mass), roughly chopped
4 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks

1 teaspoons organic vanilla extract

Directions

In a dry saucepan over medium heat, toast cornmeal, stirring until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from heat, and stir in the coconut sugar, raw cacao powder, cayenne and salt.

Without tipping or shaking the cans, remove the coconut milk from the refrigerator. Open the cans, and scrape the thick cream from the top of the cans, transfer to a small bowl and return to the refrigerator to chill. Pour the coconut milk liquid into the cornmeal mixture.

Return the pan to medium-high heat, and whisk in the water until fairly smooth, then add the cinnamon sticks and chocolate. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue simmering and stirring until the mixture is smooth and thickened to your liking, 10-15 more minutes. Add more cayenne or chili powder to taste.

Serve immediately, or remove from the heat and let stand until ready to serve. The drink will continue to thicken as it stands, and the flavor of the cinnamon will deepen. Thin with almond milk or water if needed.

Meanwhile, make the whipped coconut cream.

Place the chilled coconut cream in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer with the vanilla. Whip until soft peaks form, 2-3 minutes on medium-high. Taste, add more vanilla to taste

Ladle the atole into cups, top with a dollop of whipped coconut cream, and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Rosemary Honey Mocktail and Soda Alternative

Whether you’re cutting back on alcohol, trying to wean yourself off soda, or simply want to offer a non-alcoholic beverage for a dinner party or gathering, consider this sparkling Rosemary Honey Mocktail. 

Rosemary Honey Mocktail // www.WithTheGrains.com

“Do you even appreciate this weather?!?” is what I want to EXCLAIM to everyone I pass. As much as I love winter, love hibernating, love watching my Julep romp in the fluffy snow, as I stepped into the Northern California sunshine, I realized how much I love sunshine and feeling my toes! 

Rosemary Honey Mocktail // www.WithTheGrains.com

I’m currently in Northern California, supporting my friend Lindsey, aka The Food Mood Girl on the Eat Your Feelings cookbook tour. We’re basking in the ability to wear light sweaters, sunglasses (by necessity no less!), and eat outside. Meanwhile, the happy Californians walk past us, indifferent to the Vitamin D and warm breezes that abound, often bundled in fleece and parkas. I feel the need to stroll, sip cold drinks and soak up every sunny, warm moment as best I can. 

Rosemary Honey Mocktail // www.WithTheGrains.com

This sparkling Rosemary Honey Mocktail would be the perfect refreshing sipper for our current location, where there are palm fronds and a general floral fragrance in the air. But even when I’m shivering on the East Coast, I like to sip this drink as a way to make water more exciting. In the colder winter months, hydration can be such a challenge. 

Rosemary Honey Mocktail // www.WithTheGrains.com

If you’re looking to replace soda for health reasons or even to cut back on expensive organic soda options, this Rosemary Honey Mocktail is a healthy, carbonated, soda alternative (much like this sparkling honey lemonade). Raw, local honey offers a host of health benefits, and once you make the syrup concentrate, it’s easy to add a splash of carbonated water and enjoy this drink throughout the week.  

Rosemary Honey Mocktail // www.WithTheGrains.com

Rosemary Honey Mocktail // www.WithTheGrains.com

Of course, you could add your favorite spirit and turn this mocktail into a full on cocktail, but I’ll be bringing you more ideas on that front in a future post. For now, maybe we should just stick to warm thoughts, healthy drinks and refreshing sips?

Cheers,


Rosemary Honey Mocktail

About this Recipe: Rather than the typical sugar based simple syrup, this Rosemary Honey Mocktail starts with an herbal honey syrup for added nutrients and minerals in a satisfying soda-like beverage. Be sure to use a local, raw honey for the most nutritional benefits.

Ingredients

1/2 cup local raw honey
1/2 cup water
3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary
carbonated water

Garnish

fresh rosemary

Directions

In a small saucepan, combine the honey, water, and rosemary sprigs. Bring to a boil, swirling to dissolve the honey, then remove from the heat and steep for at least 5 minutes (the longer, the better). Strain and chill until needed, up to 1 week.

For the mocktail, pour 1-2 Tablespoons of honey rosemary syrup over ice, in a coupe glass. Top with sparkling water and garnish with a sprig of rosemary. 

Enjoy!