Thursday, May 30, 2013

Working in the Soil Purifies the Soul

     I love gardening and container gardening is really a great way to go.  It has changed the way I garden and my love for gardening.  From tall boxes to the drawers from a kitchen remodel,  I love putting things in containers to create my garden.  It's a lot of fun and container gardening cuts down on weed pulling.  These tall containers offer shade and water for the containers on the bottom.  When I water the top it flows down to the bottom containers.  It is a great way to garden.

         I put containers all over.  It makes it fun and exciting.  I even put buckets in the ground with holes drilled in the bottom.  The one in the picture is empty now, but soon it will be filled with tall sunflowers.  The one in the middle is a box I found at Baker's Nursery in Phoenix.  It was cheaper than  building myself, and it should last for a few seasons.

     These are my tomato plants in a raised bed.  I also mixed in peppers and squash.  When we cut down trees I use the chunks of wood for places to sit in my garden.  These are heirloom tomatoes.  I love them and if one falls down it reseeds and next season I get tomato plants coming up.  Keep in mind some plants do better planted next to each other than others.

     I have found that a gardens beauty is in the eyes of the gardener.  I love my garden, to me it is a work of art.  I have my way of gardening that is not like most peoples.  I tend to not have any order or direction in my garden.  It drives some people crazy, but I have found that gardening is each persons expression of themselves.  There really are not a lot of rules, only a love of gardening and a joy for working in the soil.  For me gardening is my escape from the cares of the world and I find joy in just putting things in the garden and letting them grow.

      This is one of my favorite areas in my garden.  I love to sit here and read and enjoy the morning.  Mornings in Arizona are the best.  Even in the summer it is amazing early.  It gets so hot here and in the  morning it seems greener and cooler.  I had an old wheel barrel that no longer worked so I filled it with soil and planted nasturtiums,  I love nasturtiums,  they reseed well and are totally edible.  The flowers are peppery and sweet.  The leaves can be used in salads.  Behind the nasturtiums are grape vines and banana trees.

     This is ugly, I know, but it won't be for long.  This was an old bathtub that weighs hundreds of pounds.  I could not throw it away when we did a remodel.  So I placed it in the yard.  Yes there is a mirror behind it.  This is the start of my "Fairy" garden for my grandchildren.   The mirror attracts fairies, they are really vain so I am told.  It will be wonderful when it is done.  I will post pictures as it comes along.

    More container gardens filled with tomatoes and cucumbers.  This year is the first year my potato plants have grown so much.   This year when I planted them I placed fertilizer in the bottom of the whole before I planted them.  It was a special one for tomatoes.   It seems to have worked.  Already I have eaten more tomatoes than the past few years.

     I covered my garden last year and it seems to have made a huge difference.  Arizona sun gets so strong and container plants suffer in the heat.  The cover works really well,  it protects them from the hot afternoon sun.

     Gardening is a work in progress.   It takes years and years of constant fun and tending.  Working in the soil really does purify the soul.  It makes me happy and the harvest blesses the lives of many.  From the herbs to the fruits and vegetables it is wonderful way to share and make friends.  Gardening can be as simple as a couple of pots on the back porch or containers in the backyard.  Whatever the case maybe or wherever you are in life, take time to do a little soul purifying.   Chef Brad~America's Grain Guy

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Whole Grain Crackers, Tasty, Easy, and Good for You.

Fresh Baked Whole Grain Crackers
     I am a cracker eater.  I love crunchy things and I have loved crackers forever.  I think it started when I was a child and we ate lots of crackers, primarily Saltine crackers.  I remember eating crackers with sherbet when I was sick and my favorite was crackers with tomato soup.  I think crackers are a comfort food.  Another one of my favorites was  crackers with cool aid, something I have not had for years, but I still eat crackers with juice.  

     The down side of crackers is that most are made with white flour and really are not that good for you.  Especially when you have an addiction to them.  And gluten free crackers usually are made with equally not nutritious ingredients.  

     Making crackers is easy and once you make them you will discover a whole new world of crackers.  The amazing thing is with a simple formula you can do so much.  The crackers in the picture are from the same recipe, just different ingredients. I change out the flours and grains and end up with some really great crackers.  

       Mixing the dough in the bosch mixer makes it easy and fast.  Actually everything in the bosch mixer is fast and easy.

     The dough should be mixed well, but not sticky.  Wrap the dough for a half hour or more in plastic wrap.

      These are the flours I use.  I love wheat Montana flour.  You can see the three different crackers doughs made from the three different flours.  And all Wheat Montana Flours are chemical free and perfect.

     Another flour you can add to crackers is Almond flour.  Honeyville farms has a great one.  I love it all kinds of things not just crackers.


       You can see the nuts in the crackers and all the different seeds.  I love flax seed and chia.  They made great textures in crackers.

Whole grain crackers.  

Whole Grain Crackers

2 cups Fresh Ground Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 cup whole grains, or seeds,  sesame, poppy, amaranth, teff, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, etc
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup buttermilk or greek yogurt

Combine all dry ingredient together in mixer,  add butter and cut in with with wire whips. Add buttermilk or yogurt and until the dough holds together.  If the dough is to stiff add a small amount of water to the dough.  When adding yogurt I usually add a little bit more water.  Mix for a couple of minutes. Let rest for 30  minutes to one hour.  

Roll out the dough and prick with a fork.  Sprinkle with salt or herbs of choice.   Cut into squares and with a spatula place on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in a 350 Degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes using convection mode.  

Let cool,  Store in an airtight container.

Crackers are great and can be a healthy snack if made with great whole grains and wholesome ingredients.  I love crackers and love making them and I love sharing what I make with others.  I hope your cracker experience is as good as mine.  Chef Brad~America's Grain Guy

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Meat Loaf, Never Better

Whole Grain Cashew Smoked  Meatloaf

Ready to Smoke
     I love meatloaf,  it is the ultimate comfort food.  Hot with mashed potatoes, it is amazing.  But I have to say the reason I make three large meatloaves at a time is that I love cold meatloaf sandwiches.  With mayo on a good bread,  there is not a better sandwich.

     I also love adding grains to my meatloaf.  From quinoa's to oatmeal, adding grains, ups the nutrition and it really adds to the flavor and texture of the meatloaf.

     I had never smoked a meatloaf before, but reading about it online and having tried smoked meatloaf like meats before, I was really excited to try one in the smoker.

     Just for the record, I adore my smoker.  It is my newest best friend.  There are a lot of smokers on the market and I have been eyeing them for a long time.  I finally decided to buy one at the end of last year and I love it.  The one I decided to buy was the Traegar Texas Smoker.  It works on wood pellets and has a built in thermostat for easy control.  Of course I had to buy the big one and I am so glad I did.  I have used it and used it so much.  I love It.
I have smoked  everything you can imagine on this smoker.  I have even used it as a BBQ grill and I have to say it makes the most wonderful burgers I have ever eaten and steaks are even better.  A few weeks ago I tried placing pizza stones on it for baking pizzas,  it was amazing.  High heat and the pizza's baked perfectly.  So as always I try to optimize my purchases.  If I bought it just for smoking it would be worth it, but since it does everything, it is really worth every penny spent.

Traegar Texas Smoker

     Oh, just to mention,  I bought it at Costco on a road show.  It was a great deal.  The best price I have found.  Make sure if you buy one to get one with the thermostat,  Everyone I have talked to that does not have one with a thermostat regrets it.  Ok, back to the meatloaf.

Topped with Ketchup,  Might as well smoke some pork at the same time.

I love smoking,  I have to be careful who I say that to. 

     I am not a ketchup person.  But meatloaf has to have ketchup on it.  In it and on it.  Meatloaf without ketchup is like a pie without a crust,  bread without butter,  Iced tea without ice,  it just does not work.

     Something in the baking process changes the flavor of Ketchup.  It caramelizes to perfection.  Just the perfect sweetness to the savory of the meatloaf.

     Meatloaf can be made ahead and frozen for future use.  When I am making it I like to do a lot.  Get it  done and prepared for future use.  The best way is to smoke it and freeze it.  It is a quick meal out of the freezer.

Smoking meatloaf makes it better,  It takes sometime, but it is worth it. 
The Recipe
Smoked Meatloaf
This does make a large batch,  perfect for freezing and using later. 

6 lbs. ground beef
4 cups grains, if using quinoa cook it first, if using oats no need to cook it first.
This recipe has steel cut oats
4 cups cracker crumbs
2 cups cashews, chopped
12 eggs, well beaten
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 large yellow onions, chopped finely
6  to 8 garlic cloves chopped
half bunch fresh parsley, chopped
bunch fresh oregano, chopped or 3 to 4 tablespoons Tuscan Sunset, Penzeys
2 tablespoons each salt and pepper

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix really well.  Form into loaves and either freeze or place in cooking pan and top with ketchup for baking.  Bake for one hour at 350 degrees  or smoke for 4 to 5 hours on smoke or low temp.   Make sure internal temperature is at 180 degrees before removing from the smoker. Let rest before slicing.  

    Meatloaf is just an example of how we can add grains the foods we eat making them healthier and tastier.  I think both taste and nutrition are equal in importance.  If it does not taste good we won't eat it and it is not somewhat healthy we should not eat it.  We should not take away our comfort foods, we should add to them.  Adding grains to the foods we eat is easy and it is an easy fix in upping the nutrition in our diets.   Enjoy the adventure,  Chef Brad~America's Grain Guy.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Whole Grain Pancakes are Amazing.

Pancakes topped with almonds and cinnamon sugar.  
     I love pancakes.  I adore them with all my heart,  But not those white flour garbage ones that the world seems to love.  I love whole grain pancakes, not whole wheat, but whole grain made with all types of grains.  Pancakes are the best way to start the day.  Filled with fiber and protein they are or can be so good for you.   I am careful to not top them with cheap store bought maple syrup.   That ruins a perfectly great pancake.   I love to use pure maple syrup, or my first choice is the Xagave brand agave.  It is half the price of pure maple syrup and ohh so good.  I also have found that pure coconut oil is a great replacement for butter.  So much better for you and you get the advantage of the good fat in your diet.

Egg stuffed pancake.

      This is my latest creation.  I leave the batter a little thinner and make a extra large pancake and fill it with a couple of fried eggs, fried in coconut oil.  It is an amazing way to eat pancakes.  If I am filling daring I add a couple slices of bacon on the inside.  That is a real treat that I don't do often.

      I cook my pancakes of a cast iron griddle.  This one that  I love is a lodge pizza pan.  Pure cast iron, made for baking pizza , it comes seasoned and ready to use.  I have to confess I have never used it for pizza.  I have used it for everything else from tortillas to pancakes, it is the perfect griddle.  I love how round it is.  Fits perfectly on my cook top.  What's up with the long griddles, that never seem to heat up right.  I love this one.

      Different ingredients cause pancakes to cook differently.  Same griddle, same heat, totally differently look.   I change the grain and liquid often. From buttermilk to almond or rice milk.  I add different flavorings also, from vanilla to orange.  Depending on how I fill.  We can eat pancakes everyday and never fill like we are eating the same thing.   I have a covered pancake batter bowl that I use and just add to it each day.  It has sourdough starter in it and I just keep adding more to it.   Pancake batter keeps well in the frig.  It does not look great, but just whisk it up and it looks great again.
I love fried eggs on pancakes.  It does not get any better.  

I saw this on Pintress.  I had to try it.  Oh my.  I did change the pancake recipe to whole grain.  

Cinnamon Swirl Whole Grain Pancakes
      Pancake are a great way to start the day.  Throw out the white flour and start using whole grains.  Any whole grain works.  Spelt happens to be one of my favorite. WonderFlour is perfect in every way for pancakes.  And make sure you are using Rumfords Baking Powder.  It is really the best.

Buttermilk Whole Grain Pancakes/waffles
2 cups WonderFlour or any whole grain flour
4 eggs
2 tablespoons Oil
2.5 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons Xagave
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 teaspoons Rumford’s Baking Powder

Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl except baking powder.  Whisk well.  Add baking powder and quickly whisk again.  Do not mix again.  Cook on hot griddle.

For a thinner pancake add more liquid, for a thicker pancake make the dough thicker by adding more flour.   I have found that I like both kinds for different reasons.  

Enjoy your pancake adventure.  Pancakes are a great way to start the day and I have even ended  the day with pancakes.  Filled with nutrition and flavor pancakes are good any meal.  Have a great day.  Chef Brad~America's Grain Guy

Nothing like a few spoons of nutilla to take the pancake over the edge.  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Real Fusion Grain Cooking at it's Best

         I love salads and I love adding grains to salads,  just a small amount can make a salad really great.  I love mixing textures, tastes, and ingredients.  It is fun and the taste experience is great.  Food is the ultimate adventure.  It never ends and never gets boring.  The types of different foods is limitless.  That is why I love food.  I learn something new everyday and I have been cooking for years.  It never gets boring.  Just when I think I am in control, BAM, I find something new.  I love it.  In this blog I have decided to add recipes.  Three different ones to tempt and excite you.
 Enjoy.  Chef Brad~America's Grain Guy
Red Quinoa Pear Salad

Red Quinoa Pear Salad

3 pears, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups strawberry slices, fresh
2 cups fresh pineapple, chunked
1 cup golden raisins
2 cups cooked chilled red quinoa
Leaf lettuce 

Place all ingredients in a bowl and toss with dressing


1/2 cup Xagave
1/2 cup Cold Pressed Oil
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
Rigatoni Potato Olive Grain Salad

Rigatoni Potato Olive Grain Salad

2 lb. stuffed rigatoni noodles or raviolis, cooked and chilled
1 lb. roasted small fingerling potatoes, chilled,  or roasted red potatoes, chilled
1 cup olive tapenade 
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Toss all in a large bowl and enjoy.  Simple yet amazing.

Black Barley Pot Sticker Salad
Black Barley Pot Sticker Salad

3 cups cooked black barley, or pearled barley if you cannot find black
1 cup roasted peanuts
Pot Stickers,  cooked and chilled
Red Cabbage, 2 cups shredded, saving some whole leaves for garnish.

Place all in a large bowl and toss with dressing

1/4 cup Xagave
1/3 cup pure peanut oil, not the cheap kind that does not smell for taste like peanuts
1/3 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste

For more salad recipes you can go to

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fresh Baked Biscuits, Whole Grain of Course

Fresh Baked Biscuits
Flour the Board
     My Love affair with biscuits started even before I can remember.  I love biscuits.  It is really an American comfort food.  Who does not like biscuits? 

      Growing up my favorite memory was biscuits topped with butter and maple syrup.  I loved those.  So amazing.  The other favorite memory I have is when my mother would deep fry the biscuit instead of baking them on the oven. Oh my, my mouth is watering.  They were so flaky and light and crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, again topped with butter and maple syrup.  Does life get any better?

     My second mom Frankie Petersen, makes the best biscuits ever.  If fact when we visit we often request them.  I have watched her many times and mine never ever compare to hers.  I think she adds extra love to hers that only a mother can do.  They are amazing, and add her bottled jam to that and we have perfection for breakfast.   

     Years ago a dear friend of my,  Renea McCrite taught a whole group of us how to make biscuits.  Hers are amazing.  She really taught me well and I have made her biscuits over the years.  She had an amazing technic that she taught us.  When I make biscuits I think of her, my mom, and my second mom with fond feelings.  Isn't that what food is all about,  creating memories that last forever and bring tender feelings to the surface.  

     Even though biscuits are an American comfort food, to much of a good thing is not good for us. Especially when they are filled with white flour and yes, usually shortening.  Most white flour is filled with chemicals, and shortening is hydrogenated fat.  The very worst for you.  I love biscuits, but I love being healthy more than eating biscuits on a regular basis.  BLuckil there is a better way.    

      Biscuits, contrary to popular belief to not have to be made with white flour and shortening to be good. Yes we love the white flour/shortening biscuits, it is a comfort food, but I have fallen in love with a different kind of biscuit.  It's close to the same, in fact I love them.  I think the flavor is more than white flour,  the whole grain makes them almost nutty.  I enjoy eating them more because I know they are better for me.  

     Spelt biscuits are amazing.  I use butter instead of shortening and it turns out great.  I love to use the grains in baking and especially baking traditional foods we love and enjoy.  When I started making biscuits there was a learning curve to go from white flour to whole grains.  The first thing I learned was that my family did not like whole wheat biscuits.  They were dry and crumbly.  Whole wheat is amazing, but I do not enjoy it in most un yeasted baked goods.  For breads I love it, but for biscuits, never.  

     Spelt seems to work the best for biscuits.   And I have found that I love it fresh ground spelt ground on the fine setting on your home grinder or Wheat Montana's ground spelt.  Spelt is an amazing grain, and works well in most pastries.  

     I love taking the foods we love and making them as healthy as possible without compromising flavor and texture.  Biscuits are a perfect example of just how that can happen.  
Place the Dough on the Floured Board                                                                  
Roll out the dough and cut.
       One thing about biscuit dough is that you don't want to over work it.  Over working makes them tough.  After I cut the first batch I gently knead the dough again for another cutting. 

     Left over dough is great for Peach Cobbler.  Just pour a can of peaches in a pie pan,  thicken with a little spelt flour and add some butter and sugar.  Cover with the left over dough and bake in a hot oven until golden brown.  Yum

Fresh Baked Spelt Biscuits

 Potato Spelt Biscuits
These are a tender sweet biscuit that is unlike any I have ever eaten. Great with honey butter on top. 

2 cups cooked, mashed or riced,  potatoes
12 Tablespoons chilled butter
4 cups spelt flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar

In a mixer bowl with whips, add the dry ingredients and mix. Cut in butter until it’s the size of peas. Change to dough hook and add the potatoes and cream. Lightly mix all together. Take out of bowl and place on a floured surface. Roll out dough and cut biscuits. Place close together on a cookie sheet. Bake in a hot 400 degree oven until browned, about 10 to 12 minutes.

     These biscuits are wonderful,  the potato makes them so tender and moist.  Maybe that is one of the secrets of using whole grains, adding potatoes.  Whole grains are amazing.  I love them and love the flavor that they give the foods I use them in.  I also love the nutrition that grains add.  White flour is over rated and over used.   Great success to you in your adventures in grains.  They can and will change your life.  Chef Brad~America's Grain Guy

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Truth about Salt.......

Salt, good or bad?

     Salt is one of the most important ingredients on earth, and has been for the history of the world. Cities have been born and died, wars fought and civilizations built all for the sake of salt.   

     Salt was has been used for currency since the beginning of time. The saying worth your weight actually refers to salt. Roman soldiers were paid in salt. Great cities were founded on salt mines. Salt has been referred to in scripture and text. It' s importance is so significant that we cannot live without it.   It is necessary to sustain human life. In fact most life forms are dependent on salt one way or another.       

     There are two types of salt, sea salt and rock salt beds. Salt beds are found all over the world and more are discovered all the time. Salt is mined from the salt mines with machines or water. From the sea, salt water is collected in huge vats and the salt is allowed to crystalize.   

     SO what is the problem with salt? It all comes from the sea or natural salt mines, so it would seem that it is great for us. Right and Wrong?  Pure salt mined from the earth or taken from the sea is perfect for the body and necessary for health and nutrition.  
      The problem with salt is what man does for with it after it is mined or evaporated. Man, for economic reasons, takes the salt and refines it. The refining process is taking the salt and extracting the minerals from the salt. Salt is full of tons of minerals, that is what makes it so good for us. They take the minerals and sell them off for lots of money and then they take the salt and kiln dry it at 1000 degrees.  It totally destroys what salt is meant to be and do for our bodies. It tastes salty, but that is all that remains. All the minerals are gone. They started adding back iodine in the 1950 because people were having problems.  

     So salt is good for you, not what man does with it. Mans salt causes all sorts of health problems.  And the bad salt is in everything. We get to much of the bad stuff.  

     How do you know if a salt is good or bad? There are a couple of ways to tell good salt from bad salt. The label is not always the best way. Labels are deceiving and can lead us astray. Some say sea salt and we assume that it is good. Most salt comes from the sea, so the label is not lying. But what they do not tell you is what they do took out of it. So here are the ways to tell.

     1~Check to see if there are a list of minerals on the back. Good salt is filled with minerals. Bad salt  will say just salt. 
     2~The color will tell a lot. Pure white salt is probably processed to death and pure white salt is devoid of minerals.
     3~Check out the source. Remember even healthy companies even use marketing to deceive the public. So just because the company says its a good one, be careful.
     4~Good salt is not dirt cheap. Bad salt is.  

Celtic Salt

This my personal favorite for health reasons. It will restore the electrolytes to your body. Better than Gatorade. It is packed with minerals. In fact about 14% is minerals. I like to add it to my bottles water to help hydrate the body. It tastes great. Celtic salt is pure sea salt. It is harvested in large ceramic pools in France. The ocean is protected all around the area. 

Real Salt

         This is my personal all purpose favorite salt. I love to use this one for baking.  This salt is mined from the earth in Redmond Utah. It is excellent and has not been altered by man. You can actually see the minerals in this salt.   love using it and feel good about it when I do. It is actually heart friendly.

Artisan Salts

     Artisan Salts are really popular right now. They come from all over the world. I love them, they are often called finishing salts. The last thing you put on the food. Some are absolutely beautiful to look and and taste great.   From lava salts in Hawaii to pink Himalayan salts, artisan salts are popping up all over. There are smoked salts and pyramid shaped salts, so many and all are wonderful.  I love collecting them and enjoy using them for the taste and color. They are perfect for finishing.  

Kosher Real Salt

     This is my most used salt. Real Kosher Salt,  kosher is the texture of the salt. It is flakey and I adore it's texture and flavor. I love other salts, but this one I buy by the 25 pound bag. It is perfect for flat breads and just finishing off dishes. I keep this one in my Chef Brad salt box. That way I have it on hand for what ever I need.

Pure Salt

      Salt is important to us, and yes I think it is one of the most important ingredients in cooking. Even a bad dish can be saved with salt. Salt is powerful. It is so important for the body, we cannot survive without it. Just like everything in life we need to be wise and make sure we are getting the right kind of salt in our diets. We cannot control everything we eat, but we can make sure the salt we add to cooking in our home is the right one. Have fun finding the right salt for you.  
Have a great day.  Chef Brad~America's Grain Guy