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In their kitchens, cannabis is on the menu 

click to enlarge A budding crowd of cannabis edibles makers — including Rachel Leavy, pictured with a cannabis infused mocktail — have developed a world of creative menu items. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • A budding crowd of cannabis edibles makers — including Rachel Leavy, pictured with a cannabis infused mocktail — have developed a world of creative menu items.
Edibles have come a long way since the humble and often wildly unpredictable pot brownie. We’re talking cannabis teas, THC-infused honey, custom edibles with ingredient lists that make a jaded foodie salivate, and even salads made using parts of the plant. In states where cannabis is legal, dispensaries and entrepreneurs make good money selling this stuff.

But in New York for the time being, unless you are a medical marijuana patient, the simplest legal way to get edibles or THC-infused foods is to make them yourself. The state made weed legal last year but is still working and getting the licensing framework in place.

If you’re looking for direction, there are self-styled cannabis chefs in the region who are refining their recipes to create THC-infused versions of just about any food imaginable and who are willing to share their knowhow.

click to enlarge Registered dietician and hemp farmer Emily Kyle's website (emilykylenutrition.com) offers infused recipes and cannabis education. - PHOTO BY CASSI V PHOTOGRAPHY
  • PHOTO BY CASSI V PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Registered dietician and hemp farmer Emily Kyle's website (emilykylenutrition.com) offers infused recipes and cannabis education.
Among them are registered dietician Emily Kyle and her chef husband Phil Kyle, who co-founded the Ember Woodfire Grill in Livonia. Emily provides nutritional expertise and education, while Phil takes the lead in developing the couple’s cannabis recipes.

“There’s really strict regulations on what medical and recreational dispensaries can sell as edibles, and it’s very limited right now — pretty much the gummies and chocolates that you see,” Emily Kyle said. “Cannabis can be used for so many more culinary purposes.”

Yes, baked goods and candies are still on the table, but how about a bowl of fruit, granola, and yogurt drizzled with THC-infused honey, or a spring salad with a strawberry-weed vinaigrette? In the mood for something savory? Try a plate of roasted vegetables in a cannabis-and-herb butter dressing, dress tacos with cannabis guacamole, or toss linguine with a pot pesto.

If you’re green to incorporating weed into your food, the Kyles’ website (emilykylenutrition.com) includes a recipe page with menu items for every mood and occasion, as well as step-by-step instructions for making THC tinctures, full-extract cannabis oil, cannabutter, and THC-infused honey. For those who savor that weed flavor, there’s a salad that includes cannabis leaves in the greens.

Kyle, 31, said she was working as a registered dietitian at Highland Hospital when she realized that she was more interested in exploring the ways people are using cannabis for their health.

“I had always been a cannabis consumer myself, but I had always really hidden it from any type of professional work,” she said.

Rochester resident Alicia Ainsworth, 49, has been battling cancer for five years, and said that cannabis edibles have allowed her to live life as closely to normal as possible.

click to enlarge Edibles maker Rachel Leavy pours an infused vinaigrette dressing over a spring salad. Leavy also creates edibles that help friends with everything from chronic pain to side effects from cancer treatments. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • Edibles maker Rachel Leavy pours an infused vinaigrette dressing over a spring salad. Leavy also creates edibles that help friends with everything from chronic pain to side effects from cancer treatments.
In 2017 she was diagnosed with stage three signet ring cell carcinoma (SRCC), a rare and highly malignant cancer that metastasizes quickly. The cancer spread through her body and went into remission, but returned as a stage 4 illness. She subsequently had surgeries to remove organs, and is currently undergoing chemotherapy.

Ainsworth said that her list of ailments includes nausea, anxiety, depression, pain, and a lack of appetite. To combat them she’s been getting help from 33-year-old edibles maker Rachel Leavy.

With Leavy, she co-created what she calls “goji globes,” a nutritious energy snack made with oats, coconut, goji berries, walnuts, and THC-infused honey.

“It's hard to find foods that I can eat because surgery affected my GI system so dramatically,” Ainsworth said. “But I could have one of those for a day and feel like my pain levels were at a minimum. My mood was in a perfect place.”

Leavy, who is nonbinary, creates edibles that are used by many people for pain relief and other ailments, and hopes to translate their edibles hobby into a legal business eventually. They are also the owner of houseplant company Pott’d.

Describing Leavy’s affinity for cooking with cannabis as a hobby is an understatement. They create THC- and CBD-infused foods from pizzelles to bacon, salad dressings, chocolates, mocktails made with infused hibiscus syrup…you name it.

click to enlarge Rachel Leavy's custom cocktail, Out Like a Lion, features THC-infused hibiscus simple syrup. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • Rachel Leavy's custom cocktail, Out Like a Lion, features THC-infused hibiscus simple syrup.
Leavy dreams of hosting entire cannabis brunches with friends, with some menu items infused with THC and others without, so that there’s a balance for people with all different tolerance levels.

“I’m not out here trying to get people messed up,” they said.


RELATED: Expectations for THC edibles vary — here’s what to watch out for


Leavy got into creating edibles a bit over a decade ago, when a friend who has since died was diagnosed with the lung disease cystic fibrosis and couldn’t smoke pot.

“She would make super strong edibles to help with her pain, and I would notice the difference in her and just think it was incredible to watch,” they said.

Leavy said that they have spent the past 10 years researching and developing products, with lots of friends willing to lend a hand. They said it has been empowering to be able to use cannabis as part of a regimen to to mitigate anxiety and pain, and that they’ve replaced their more detrimental alcohol use with mindful cannabis use.

click to enlarge Edibles maker Adriana Quinones makes her own cannabis-infused cooking oils, which she uses in her recipes. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • Edibles maker Adriana Quinones makes her own cannabis-infused cooking oils, which she uses in her recipes.
Edibles-maker Adriana Quinones, 31, said that cannabis helped keep her off opiates and probably saved her life. Growing up she struggled with severe endometriosis and was prescribed opiates to blunt the pain.

For the past few years, Quinones has been creating edibles including infused sweet treats, naan pizzas, hummus, and teas under the name D8Z Confections, and participated in many of the cannabis events in town before state regulators recently clamped down on vendors they perceived as operating under a loophole.


RELATED: City businesses ‘gifting’ weed could be deemed 'nuisances' under new bill

Quinones said her plan was to save money for the expensive permitting needed to run a legal cannabis business, and that she was making enough money to both live on and help her mother out. Now she’s working in the automotive field to replace the lost income from the cannabis events.

click to enlarge Adriana Quinones finishes a marghertia pizza with a drizzle cannabis oil. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • Adriana Quinones finishes a marghertia pizza with a drizzle cannabis oil.
For now, she keeps her company in people’s minds through an active presence on social media, education and consulting, and product giveaways.

Quinones does offer cannabis candies and baked goods, but her repertoire also includes a wide variety of savory meals.

“Because I make all of my own infused base ingredients, I can make all of the things I would normally cook to include cannabis,” Quinones said. “I make my own olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil, all the oils that I cook with I make myself. So I can make tzatziki, I can make Puerto Rican pork, I can make empanadas.”

click to enlarge On the menu of infused sweets by Adriana Quinones: Peeps cereal bars made with cannabis-infused butter and marshmallows with a blue-dyed white chocolate drizzle. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • On the menu of infused sweets by Adriana Quinones: Peeps cereal bars made with cannabis-infused butter and marshmallows with a blue-dyed white chocolate drizzle.
For a long time there has been stigma around cannabis, but when CBD hit the market in a serious way in 2018, Kyle, the dietician, said she felt like it was a safe space to dip her toes into working with cannabis and food.

“People were interested and so eager to find the information that it was just kind of a natural evolution over time,” she said. “I just kind of transitioned into a full-blown cannabis educator.”

Kyle and her husband are licensed hemp farmers and grow for personal use. Their permit allows them to legally sell products that have less than 0.3 percent THC through their web store. But their bread and butter comes from ad revenue generated through the quarter-million to half-million views per month their website receives, according to Kyle.

The Kyles’ website contains recipes as well as educational information on all things cannabis. It’s a free site, but a $10 Well With Cannabis Community membership gives members a chance to ask questions and interact with other community members. Kyle said she is primarily concerned with just sharing knowledge.

click to enlarge Edibles have expanded far beyond baked goods into all manners of foods, including this guacamole recipe by Emily and Phil Kyle. - PHOTO BY CASSI V PHOTOGRAPHY
  • PHOTO BY CASSI V PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Edibles have expanded far beyond baked goods into all manners of foods, including this guacamole recipe by Emily and Phil Kyle.
And that knowledge includes catering to every palate.

“It really comes down to personal taste and texture preference as well,” Kyle said. “When you take that into consideration, then you can decide how you want to infuse a meal. I love the taste of cannabis, so I'm okay putting just straight ground cannabis into my food.”

Her husband — not so much. So for people like him, they recommend using a tincture or oil that has minimal chlorophyll in it.

“Knowing all of these different ways that you can use cannabis," she said, "we can help you decide based on your personal preferences which option you might want to use, and give you the best experience possible.”

Others, including Leavy and Quinones, are hoping to turn their expertise into a livelihood.

Quinones envisions a business that provides consulting services and a dispensary with “spa vibes.”

“I just want to help people not be in pain,” she said.

Leavy has similar dreams, but said they’re uncertain whether they’ll be realized given the potentially high cost of a state license. Their interest is more in being helpful than in joining what they feel is an overly capitalist new system.

“I just want to do gay weed shit,” Leavy said with a laugh. “And create a safe place for me and my fellow queers.”

Rebecca Rafferty is CITY's life editor. She can be reached at becca@rochester-citynews.com.
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