Grain Bake: So Easy, You’ll Wonder Why You Even Asked
March 16, 2013 by Patricia Sund
You’ve been asking me how to make a Grain Bake. And I haven’t answered you. Here is why: It’s like asking someone how to put toothpaste onto a toothbrush. It’s easy to do, but it’s difficult to explain. It’s always the easiest things that are the most difficult to write about. Philosophers have gone for years thinking about answers to the simplest questions. And while I am certainly not a philosopher, I do have the entire “Grain Bake” thing down.
Dried raisins, cherries, fresh blueberries and canned pumpkin went into this one.
Why is it hard to explain? Because it’s like answering the questions, “How do you make a casserole?” Well, what kind of casserole do you want to make? See? Not that easy… Better I explain what a Grain Bake is and then try and explain how to make one. A Grain bake is a casserole of sorts. Or, if you are from Minnesota, you would call it Hot Dish. Often brought to Potluck suppers, these dishes were quite popular in the 60’s and became a staple in the “Less work for Mother” movement in food. While not exactly “Haute cuisine” they are pretty tasty. However, I have to add that things got pretty weird once people discovered that adding a can of cream of mushroom soup to an oven-proof bowl full of any assorted conglomeration of stuff could be considered dinner.
Here is the definition:
1. (Cookery) a covered dish of earthenware, glass, etc., in which food is cooked and served
2. (Cookery) any food cooked and served in such a dish chicken casserole
(Cookery) to cook or be cooked in a casserole
[from French, from Old French casse ladle, pan for dripping, from Old Provençal cassa, from Late Latin cattia dipper, from Greek kuathion, diminutive of kuathos cup]
Essentially, it’s a deep oven-proof well-greased dish you fill about halfway up with a mixture of grains, beans, fruit and other healthy stuff for your flock, cover it over with water, put a lid on it and bake it in the oven at about 350 degrees for about an hour until the water is absorbed. Okay, so what do you put in it? Good question. How about this stuff?
You can use barley, spelt, mung beans, lentils, whole wheat pasta, wild and brown rice, quinoa, coconut, dried fruit, fresh fruit, canned pumpkin, fresh pumpkin or squash, coconut, cooked dried beans, cinnamon, amaranth, buckwheat, oatmeal, Bob’s Red Mill Five Grain, sweet potato, chia seed, flax seed…well, you get the idea. Simply anything that is good for your bird.
This is what it looks like at the beginning. You’re just putting stuff in there. Now keep adding stuff:
See? More stuff. I think I began with spelt and then threw in a wild rice blend.
Okay, here’s some more stuff going in. I think that’s barley.
Here is where I added coconut and cinnamon. I used to layer it. Now I don’t. Mixing it all together makes the grain bake more even and it seems to cook more evenly as a result. It also obviously yields a more consistent product.
Here I threw in some mung beans. Crappy photo, I know but I was shooting on the fly and just wanted to finish the assembly.
Quinoa is always good. It’s a nice addition. Enough said.
I like to use cinnamon in my grain bakes. I don’t know why; I think it’s because I put oatmeal and grains in it and it just seems to go with it. This is more of a sweet concoction as opposed to savory, although I’m going to try and work on something that isn’t sweet and employs vegetables.
Here I threw some whole wheat pasta shells in there. I don’t use pasta much anymore. I don’t know why exactly. Probably because I’m messing around with trying out other stuff.
Here is where I covered the whole mess with water. I poked around a bit to make sure the water got into every nook and cranny.
Here is Mr. Grain Bake in the oven with the lid off so you can see it. Don’t look at my oven.
Here’s one where I used fresh cut-up apples and fresh cranberries with coconut. By the way, remember to fill the casserole dish only about half way to two thirds of the way up. This stuff swells as it absorbs the water.
Same casserole in the oven with the lid on baking away. Stop staring at my oven.
This one was dried cranberries and walnuts. I think Nan and I ate this one. It was delicious, thanks for asking. And yes the Greys got some too…
This one I did in a lasagna pan. It was drier in texture and had the consistency of a meatloaf. It was okay, just not one of my best efforts. Avert eyes away from my oven.
Hmm. Well, I know it has lentils in it. I think this one was the last one I made before last night’s grain bake. I know the Greys really liked this one. I still have some of this left in the freezer. So there you have it.
That’s how to make a Grain Bake. Let’s see what Kris Porter comes up with when she riffs on this idea! (I know she will!) I hope that clears up any questions you might have about it. If you have any questions let me know. And I’ll answer them if I have an answer them. Oh and by the by, you bag it and store it exactly the same way you store Chop.
Let the good times roll! I think I will now take all of my extra time I saved myself making this Grain Bake and clean my oven. Or not.