At every gathering I host, I like to add at least one little detail that will get guests to say, "oh girl, oh no you didn't!" Infused butters will elicit that remark. They're that 2.0 moment, the little cherry on top of the sundae, and best of all, you'll likely have enough leftover to continue spreading all that flavor on subsequent pancakes, morning toast or quick breads long after the party dust has settled.
Vegan gravy may seem like an oxymoron, but this mushroom version will appease vegans, vegetarians and carnivores alike, which is why I also recommend it if you want to follow my lead and throw a Biscuit Buffet Brunch. If biscuits feel intimidating, pair this gravy with a whole grain or gluten free pasta or mashed potatoes. The possibilities abound!
A letter to my niece, Remi June, to be opened on her 18th birthday:
Dear Remi June,
They say “you can’t choose your family,” but I was lucky in that I chose yours. I fell for a handsome Urban Farmer with a big heart, deep convictions and one of the best laughs I have ever heard. (I think it comes from your Pappy!) Lucky for me, he was the complete package because he came with a family I adored- your family.
I entered the Pattison story shortly after your big brother did, but I was there for your entire journey. From the moment you were announced, the love and pride beamed in everyone’s eyes. You Remi June, were well loved before the start.
From the beginning, your parents shaped their entire lives around your health and well being, but they’re also the type to look out for the health and well being of complete strangers. They’re good people. Don’t forget that. As you venture into the world on your own, to forge your own path, you have a support system with the strength of the steel that built this rusty city.
Above all Remi June, I would encourage you to make your own mistakes.
Many will try to spare you from failures and heartbreaks, and though these lows will hurt, the ability to scoop ourselves up tests who we really are and in the end, usually provides us with a path better than we ever could have imagined. Nonetheless, what kind of “adult” would I be if I didn’t offer you a few of the lessons I learned the hard way?
Don’t be afraid to quit. Change directions.
Too much of life is spent in pursuit of pleasing some elusive panel of judges. Life is full of “shoulds” and justifications for choices that don’t please our hearts, whether they be the job that looks good on paper or finishing a degree we don’t really want, or committing to a partner who isn’t the best fit. Never stop asking your heart what it wants, and don’t be ashamed to follow it. You only have one wild ride on this life coaster.
Past paths are not wasted. We glean from the journey.
When your heart tells you to redirect, do not fret about the miles behind you. Life has a funny way of collecting valuable souvenirs from all our routes, tokens that become so useful when we find ourselves following our internal compasses.
You are every bit as capable as a man.
Right now, women are angry and stepping into the light. We thought your very first president would be a female, a beacon of a narrowing gap, but we were wrong. In this misstep, we realized that we owe more to our foremothers who fought so hard to bridge so many gaps, and we owe more to the future generations who deserve better.
From the start, I watched people treat you like a girl. Pink appeared. Tones changed when speaking to you, and there was a gentler approach to you, but you, little tiny you, displayed a quickness, a curious spirit, an early grasp of words. You exhibited an innate strength, a resoluteness, a voice. Don’t forget that these qualities are in you. You deserve the education, career and life you want.
See the good. Fight for the good.
As I am writing this, we are entering a very uncertain time- a new president who has enabled a resurgence of hate and fear. It’s all too easy to retreat, to feel buried in the mire, but I look to people like your father and your uncle, people who cling to what is right, fight for it and work every single day to make the world a better place for your generation and beyond. I am learning to stand stronger because of their influence and to take more responsibility.
The big, loud protests are noble and good, but adding positivity to the everyday is just as admirable. Be kind. Be grateful, and be of service. You were born into a healthy, loving home. Never forget the advantages you were given, but stand against the disadvantages. The road is yours Remi June, and I can’t wait to watch where you drive!
I hope you’re reading this after a big ol’ slice of birthday cake (and I hope I made it!) because above all, your 18th year is cause for celebration. It was my honor and pleasure to make your very first birthday cake and watch you seize the day.
P.S: Take your vitamins. I’m pretty sure your dad would want me to say that. And thank your mom because this was a pretty special idea. She’s a giver, and she has a way of making everyone feel special!
Lemon Lavender Coconut Cake for a Baby’s First Birthday
(Refined Sugar Free & Gluten Free)
yield: 9 x 13 pan
About this Recipe: Sweetened with pure maple syrup and made from coconut flour, this light, spongy cake is easy for young tummies to digest and won’t send them on a sugar crash. For whipping the egg whites, be sure your mixing bowl is clean, the egg whites are at room temperature and avoid any yolk spilling into the mixture. The recipe yields a 9 x 13 cake, but I used a 5-inch biscuit cutter to create the round layers for this layered version (and snacked on the rest). The frosting was colored with India Tree natural dyes.
If only it were possible to have conversations with myself, both past and future, without the burden of mental illness. When people utter the word “cool” in a sentence with my name (not a brag, more of a statement of disbelief), I wish I could bring young Quelcy into the fold, with her cumbersome backpack and pre-algebra stresses and general obsessive bookishness. “Hey you, LOOK! Someday, somehow, this will all pay off.” Similarly, I’d summon that Quelcy who worked a job she grew to abhor.
That Quelcy found a solace and creative outlet in baking, in trying new recipes and techniques, all while tinkering with a new camera. That Quelcy would walk into my dining room, judging the updates with her eyes (as always), and say, “Oh, you’ve paired down the collections a bit. Good for us, but why aren’t you hosting a brunch today?”
Current me would justify past Quelcy’s poignant observation. I’ve managed to steer myself to this magical overlap, where people pay me to play with food and flowers and gatherings, but somewhere in that process of leaving the job I hated, and fuzzing the line between work and play, I forgot to slate days to bake just for me or to host friends in my home just for fun. In short, I forgot that weekends even existed.
I was due for a reminder, so I treated myself to one of those expensive recipe compilation magazines, those textured pages just dripping with sweetness set against dark fabrics, etched slate and cold, crisp marble. Then I sank into my couch, nestled under the warmest of plaid blankets and made a weekend plan. In the simplest of approaches, I began with the first page, which just happened to boast many of my favorite flavors paired together: chocolate, pecan, bourbon and pie crust.
As winter finally made herself known, and the darkness set in oh so early, I sequestered myself, by my own freewill, in my kitchen, where I embraced the full process of baking and playing with food… simply because that’s what I really love to do, and I needed the reminder.
Even if you don’t play with food and flowers and gatherings for a living, the holiday season can taint baking and cooking with a hint of stress. Dinners and holiday parties put schedules and deadlines on creative outlets, and in the process, they can suck some of the joy from kitchen escapes.
Maybe there’s a future iteration of me, who could join current me and past me in the dining room, and hopefully tell us both that she figures it out, she finds more ways to balance paying bills with feeding our souls (after all, she will be the older, wiser one). In the meantime, I’m letting my inner crazy attempt to steer me toward more balance and simpler baking joys, and I hope you find the same outlets during the crazy of the holidays.
Here’s to [some semblance of] sanity!
Whole Grain Chocolate Pecan Tart with Bourbon Whipped Crème Fraîche
Adapted from Bon Appétit
About this Recipe: By reducing the sugar in the crust, using raw cane sugar, maple instead of processed sugar and corn syrup, and an extra dark chocolate, my adapted version allows you to enjoy the winning trifecta that is pecan, chocolate and bourbon without that “I feel my teeth rotting” sensation. In my zeal, I accidentally skipped adding chopped pecans to the filling, but I left that part in the instructions, so do as Bon Appétit says and not as I do. I was also a little over zealous with the chocolate (as per my usual). The Bourbon Crème Fraîche has a thick and fluffy texture, almost like a non-melting ice cream- win win!
He pushed his hands against the table, and his chair slid backward, as if the growing space between him and the table would somehow create more room in his stomach. “I guess it didn’t help that we started the day with champagne,” he said, explaining the slowed pace of his Thanksgiving consumption.
“Why did you have champagne?” his older brother asked.
“Because we don’t have kids.”
“We should drink champagne more,” he said to me, and I couldn’t have agreed more.
Yeah, we are that Uncle and Aunt- the childless kind who can still relish simple luxuries like sleeping in and toasting champagne for breakfast… if you call “noon” breakfast, and on Thanksgiving, we do! (The Urban Farmer is also the kind of uncle who believes someone has to torture the youngins, a role he fills diligently.)
Our Thanksgiving morning was a very intentionally slow morning that eased into a brunch just for us… with champagne. Being that 2016 has kept me on my toes, when a sanctioned day-off hits me, I am all too happy to kick up my feet.
As the sort of basket case that leans toward the side of “do, do, do, make, make, make, go, go, go… stress, stress, stress,” doing nothing is not my best skill. The Urban Farmer, however, has a very healthy attitude toward “couch days.” During the season of gratitude, I found myself truly relishing those times when man, pup and I can nestle into nothing.
I try to push the bounds of my gratitude, to see beyond the obvious. Yes, I am grateful for the roof over my head, for creative work, for a family who loves me and an admirable partner, but I’m also grateful for hot showers at my fancy, for growing up routinely celebrating my birthday with parties, for having real options for my education even if money was tight. But sometimes, it’s really soul-warming just to sit on a couch, sip champagne, watch a creepy show and relish that guy who thinks I’m special, all while snuggling the furry bundle of love who holds no grudges and wants to please us all the time. Those little nothing moments are in fact everything moments.
So we relished the morning and its lack of responsibilities. I played with flowers to gift his grandmother, and we brunched in our pajamas. Then I gladly sat at a table for which I had to do zero work. I ate way too much, then refilled my plate because gravy overrides reason.
Then there was round two- another side of the family, more plates, more refills, still no responsibilities and in the end, a game of name-that-hummed-tune and charades that made my face hurt from laughing so hard. Have a grown man do a t-Rex impression and then hum “Ring My Bell” while you try to guess what on earth he could possibly be channeling. It makes for a night to remember!
Thanksgiving put me into such a mellow state. Between that lingering food coma and the subsequent gray rainy days, I’m having a hard time bouncing back in full force. These crepes are not only a good way to use leftover stores from Thanksgiving (extra cans of pumpkin and cranberries?), but they offer a way to indulge in a weekend morning and extend that Thanksgiving laziness feeling. Eat brunch in your pajamas. Watch a creepy show. Cuddle your significant other and/or furry companion(s), and be grateful for the nothingness of it all.
Pumpkin Crepes with Cranberry Sauce, Walnuts & Pumpkin Whipped Cream
Adapted from Carlsbad Cravings
About this Recipe: Holiday shopping surely left an extra scoop of pumpkin puree or a stockpile of cans of cranberries, so use them up in one seasonal inspired brunch. Add a dollop of the whipped cream to your coffee, and serve the whole brunch with a bottle of bubbly! It’s not pictured, but I also recommend a healthy slathering of Nocciolata on these crepes. Chocolate-hazelnut, pumpkin and cranberries are a seasonal match made in heaven.
I made this cake for two sweethearts, their love and youth as effortlessly balanced as her hand in his. Her champagne colored dress, a rare standout in the sea of white, sparkled and shined in contrast to his stately navy. They circled and swayed as the record player spun with just the right crackles and scratches. “Hold me close and hold me fast, the magic spell you cast. This is la vie en rose.”
The piano keys flickered with the candlelight, the brassy trumpet and raspy voice slowed time, and I felt purely at ease, for a moment, the high we makers chase was firmly in my grasp. Romance has that effect on me.
Inspired by young love, by their song, this is the Cake en Rose, or Le Gâteau en Rose, if you will.
“When you press me to your heart
I’m in a world apart
A world where roses bloom
And when you speak, angels sing from above
Everyday words seem to turn into love songs
Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be la vie en rose.”
To all you hopeless romantics out there!
p.s: Eventually, you’ll be able to see all the wedding details I created for Les and Brittni on my portfolio site, so stay tuned.
Rose Water Chocolate Chunk Layer Cake with Rose Water Frosting & Rose Macarons
About this Recipe: Because I wanted a smaller layer cake, I baked a 9×13 pan and used a 5” biscuit cutter to create the round layers. Alternately, you could use 3 6×2-inch round springform pans. Split them in halves horizontally if you want even more layers. The cake layers are separated by thin spreads of red currant jam. Overall, the cake is light, floral, and fruity with bites of dark chocolate and a hint of fall flavors. (more…)
I felt as though I had found fall.
There she was! Peeking through the tall, green trees, her flames blazed against the bright, blue sky. I was far away from the city (as evidenced by the changes in political fervor), where the trees were still clinging to their youthful summer glow. My little red car, packed to the brim with Nordic sweaters, enamel plates and a menu fit for a cabin weekend, zipped along the winding roads to a shoot location. Yet at that moment, I inched along the road, leaning into my steering wheel and staring as high into my windshield as I could. There was fall!
My “day job(s)” have taken me farther and wider this season, to that cabin in the woods, to a magical old building with chipping paint, where I tossed a scavenged collection of branches and leaves, to the beach with a rosé dipped sunset. Each time, I tried to slow down enough to enjoy at least one little moment, in which I removed my head from the time checks and just inhaled the landscape, the season and the little journeys. It’s not easy, especially when the darkness begins to cloak the creaky trees, sending my imagination wildly into scenes from Stranger Things, but I tried then too.
It’s a time of year when we turn to spices, and pumpkins, and lattes that pretend to include both, in order to be in this season, to savor it slowly in the first hints of crisp fall air, but arguably, we should turn to honey.
Those mystifying, inspiring honey bees, who we as a society have taken for granted enough to push them to the verge of endangerment, are masters in capturing the essence of the season. From the same plot of land, their routines yield honeys so incomprehensibly different. This fall’s honey, is thicker, the sweetness intensifying as it rolls across the tongue ever so slowly, as if to say, savor the lingering golden light, the warmth and the bold colors.
No matter the season, nothing puts me quite in the moment like the combination of sweet and savory, so these Honey Sage drenched Biscuits are just that- sweet, savory odes to fall.
If you’re feeling particularly neighborly or generous, make extra Honey Sage Syrup and give the gift of fall to someone dear. When the biscuits are but mere crumbs, add the syrup to your evening bourbon drink with a fresh sage leaf garnish and really sink into the early sunset.
Whole Grain Apple Butter Parmesan Biscuits
Yield: ~ 12 biscuits
About this Recipe: Sweet enough to eat with breakfast or tea, savory enough to pair with roasted root vegetables and meats or warm butternut squash soups.
2.6 miles is what separates every conceivable expensive, organic product from my kitchen. If my beloved red Vibe were unable to traverse those 2.6 miles, there’s a flight of steep city steps that nearly extends from my curb to a busway, which offers one of the few direct, convenient routes in our public transit system. Since I hate waiting for transportation, I have also walked those 2.6 miles, but it makes returning with a significant stock of groceries a challenge. All that is to say, my path to healthy food is nearly a yellow brick road, and that’s a luxury.
A car and a mere 2.6 miles means we can run to the store when the kibble is but dust at the bottom of the bin. We can make dinner decisions well into the evening. We can be cooking dinner, discover we forgot something and still go to the store. We are fortunate, but others are not so lucky, nor do they have such easy access to wholesome foods.
When the Urban Farmer began his search for land, he sought the obvious factors for optimal growth (south facing, drainage, etc), but he also targeted communities he thought would benefit from an urban farm. The farm’s namesake neighborhood, Hazelwood, had a prime location and a need for fresh, healthy food. The neighborhood fit the “food desert” classification, but that’s changing due to several agricultural initiatives and thanks to one woman with a vision.
Dianne Schenk turned what could have been lofty thesis research on food deserts into a very tangible, seasonal fruit & vegetable stand in a food desert. Then she turned that stand into a year-round brick-and-mortar. Today, she runs Dylamato’s Market, and at long last, the neighbors have easy access to fresh, healthy, affordable food, including the sweet potatoes you see here, in my retake on the classic reuben. It’s not a grocery store, but it is a means to fresh food versus processed or canned goods, and it’s a hard-earned step in the right direction. Here’s to you Dianne!
P.S: That giant ass can of beer paired with the reuben? My fella, the Urban Farmer, designed that label for the fine folks at Round About Brewery. You’ll need a beer that size to keep up with this hearty sandwich!
Sweet Potato Reuben Sandwiches (Vegetarian)
About This Recipe: This isn’t a precise recipe, just a guide for an easy vegetarian reuben. Thousand Island Dressing is the traditional condiment for a reuben, but I broke the rules and mixed homemade ketchup and an organic mayo to create an easy, similar tasting sauce. If I’m not making my own mayo, I recommend Sir Kensington’s Mayonnaise because it’s GMO free and uses a healthy oil (sunflower). If not using a homemade ketchup, be sure to use an organic variety to avoid corn syrup and excess sugar. The sandwich shown does not feature cheese, but I love a cheesy version. For a vegan option, use a non-gmo vegenaise.