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.
March 16, 2013 at 9:54 am
How long do you bake it? I must have missed that.
March 16, 2013 at 9:57 am
Oop! You scared me! I had to look but I found it. It’s in the paragraph below the definition of “casserole.” About an hour or until all of the water is absorbed. If all of the water is absorbed and it still looks dry and the grains aren’t fully expanded, add more water and throw it back in the oven for 20 more minutes or so.
September 15, 2013 at 6:56 pm
Jackie, this was at the beginning of the post:
“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?”
September 15, 2013 at 6:57 pm
Ooops, just saw Patricia’s reply!
March 16, 2013 at 10:10 am
I was going to make this but I just can’t get past that whole oven thing! Haha! Kidding. I’m going to try this! Thanks!
March 16, 2013 at 10:12 am
You are quite welcome! Please note that a messy oven is not required for the success of a grain bake. 🙂
March 16, 2013 at 10:25 am
Darnit! You just took away my out as I have no cooking skills!
March 16, 2013 at 10:19 am
Thanks for the recipe. I look forward to making it.
March 16, 2013 at 10:21 am
You are very welcome! Good luck with your Gran Bake, Jackie.
March 16, 2013 at 11:24 am
please don’t push gran in the oven 🙂
March 16, 2013 at 11:35 am
Just an odd-ball hit here! This is also great for dogs. I make a birdy bread I made for my birds for years, and ALWAYS feed it to the dogs, too.
March 16, 2013 at 12:04 pm
Quick Question: (and please forgive me for my “parrot cuisine cooking novice-ness.” I have having an absolute ball cooking for my parrots and want to get it right. I’m sure, as I become more experienced at all this, my cooking and baking confidence will rise (ha) and I won’t need to ask such questions that may seem so obvious to most.
When you are adding the beans, rice, quinoa, and other “dry” ingredients that us humans need to cook before eating (and let’s include sweet potatoes, too), do you cook them before you add them to the pre-baked grain bake, or do you add them dry, and then have them all cook in the oven for an hour or so while they absorb the water? (I’ve not cooked beans before – gasp, I know – and I’m thinking you prepare the beans the same way as you do in your beanie cuisine, allowing them to soak and such, tho maybe you don’t cook them beforehand(?) and instead let the beans cook during the baking process of the grain bake?)
As always, I am grateful for your parrot cuisine inspiration. I have seen others talk about what they’re making for their parrots, tho for some reason, the way you present (write about, and offer videos and pictures for enticement and excitement, yes EXCITEMENT! – and yes, presentation is SOOO important! – your parrot GOT CHOP style has clicked with me. YAY!! : )
March 16, 2013 at 12:12 pm
Carol, I don’t cook any of the grains, and the lentils can go in right out of the package as well. For the other beans such as garbanzos, pintos, kidney beans etc, please soak those for 6 to 8 hours, drain and rinse and then boil for 15 minutes before adding to the bake. Other than that, everything else can go in without cooking.
March 16, 2013 at 12:17 pm
Terrific! Thank you! : )
March 16, 2013 at 1:59 pm
I am really excited about the grain bake. I’m thinking that this may simplify my cooking routine for my birds (I hope). Can you use canned beans? I make a boiled/simmered grains for my birds now but they haven’t been eating it with as much gusto so I’m going to try the grain bake and alternate them. Thanks again for the recipe. Jean Feakes
March 16, 2013 at 2:13 pm
Sure you can use canned beans Jean, Just make sure they are sodium free.
March 16, 2013 at 4:16 pm
Funny, i just made 2 giant lasagne pans of this, not knowing it was also a “thing”. I posted pics on facebook & called it “chop-inspired bird bread” i call everything that gets baked into a solidishy thing “bird bread”.
March 17, 2013 at 5:37 pm
Can ewe imagin what duh ‘freezer’ wooks like!!!
March 17, 2013 at 8:33 pm
Weird question- how long does it stay good frozen for? I only have a green cheeked conure, and I don’t want to make a TON of it if it doesn’t last long. Thanks!
March 17, 2013 at 10:24 pm
My birds used to have a shelf in the freezer then 2 now I’m the one with a little tiny space for myself. But I have to find more room for this one.
March 18, 2013 at 8:20 am
I’m going to give this a go, but also not a confident cook (have very limited cooking abilities :P, I’m in NZ, so could you tell me what Lentils are, are they the split peas, green peas, red peas etc (normally dried in a soup mix?) I am sorry for such a stupid question.
March 18, 2013 at 7:17 pm
Welcome Donna! Glad to see you here! To answer your question, lentils are a quick-cooking bean. Here is more information about them: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=52
They’re very nutritious and are a wonderful addition to a parrot’s diet. They also cook very quickly, about 15 minutes, so they are very easy to work with!
March 19, 2013 at 11:44 am
We use a mixture of cinnamon, turmeric and cayenne pepper on all the food at the sanctuary. It helped a lot on some of the older arthritic birds (they either held their wings up more and in the case of one she actually started to move and she climbs again!) At home I often just add a salt-free curry powder.
March 23, 2013 at 7:22 pm
made it today and all my happy beaks loved it!!
March 28, 2013 at 6:56 pm
Okay, I ran with this one and my birdies all want to say thank you very much Patricia. I just used everything i could find in my local grocery store. Three different split peas, lentils you name it, it went in. Only thing I did wrong, I made way too much. I have ten birds, but they are little guys from green cheeks to a pionus, no biggies. I’ve got ten bags in the freezer and four in fridge. Oh well, no worries cause my birds are all eating this like it was the last supper. I only find bits of dry crust in their food crocks. Love this as it really looks like something a bird should be eating. I thank you for the wonderful ideas you come up with that the rest of us benefit from.
March 28, 2013 at 6:59 pm
I’m so glad to hear this! I wish you and your flock well. It does my heart good that they liked something so healthy and good for them. Good for you! Thank you so much for your kind words.
May 8, 2013 at 10:07 pm
i couldn’t see what kind of cinnamon you are using. i heard that the one from China- the cassia tree is not healthy for us or for our birds. Only the cinnamon from Ceylon that called ” the true cinnamon tree” is healthy.
i am going to make this dish. it sound terrific. i am sure my Eclectus will love it just like he loves the chop. I am not sure my CAG will touch it. she is sure that everything new is going to kill her…lol
May 9, 2013 at 7:56 pm
Could I use sprouted seed such as safflower, fenugreek, mustard and flax? Have you tried raspberries or blackberries? I love this idea. Thanks.
May 13, 2013 at 8:40 am
Is there any reason not to add vegetables to the bake? Is it because fresh veggies are better?
May 13, 2013 at 8:59 am
By all means add vegetables to your grain bake! It’s your food, your way. Actually, I add sliced sweet potato to grain bake on occasion. Cooking sweet potato makes the nutrition more easily absorbable. You can add whatever vegetables you want. Remember, Chop and grain bake are “Concepts,” not recipes.
June 14, 2013 at 8:36 pm
I’ve got one baking in the oven right now.Three actually started as one and grew, so I added raw almonds to one, sweet potatoes to another and covered them all with unsweetened home-made applesauce and cinnamon. Tastes pretty good so far. It’s way too hot for my flock but they”ve got their eyes on me. My double yellow stands behind me like a puppy when I cook waiting for scraps to drop. She’s actually better about getting all the crumbs than our last dog. But she’s an Amazon girl. So I say no more.
October 8, 2013 at 11:09 pm
i don’t know if it stated above but what temperature do you cook it at?
October 9, 2013 at 6:16 am
I did mention it, but rather off-handedly, so I can understand why you missed it. Bake at 350 degrees, Robin.
October 12, 2013 at 6:19 pm
I have a bag of sprouted brown rice. It LOOKS like regular brown rice and I’m wondering if it is ok for the birds? Thanks for the inspiration!
October 22, 2013 at 10:31 am
It’s fine for your birds, Lisa. And you are quite welcome!
March 2, 2014 at 12:17 pm
I say that your oven is “seasoned” just like my moms cast iron skillet. I will never forget the look on her face when she walked into the kitchen and I (a 12 year old girl) held up her newly scoured, shinny clean, no more black, 30 year old skillet! I didn’t realize until I was a cook in my own kitchen what I had done. I say, love your seasoned oven and don’t worry about it! Keep feeding your babies home made lovin from your seasoned oven!
March 16, 2014 at 4:09 pm
Question for Patricia or anyone who has baked this in the 8×8 or 9×12 pans. They don’t come with lids so do all of you just use foil? Is it loosely or tightly covering the pans. Thanks gals… Etta
March 16, 2014 at 4:12 pm
Cover it tightly with foil. It will come out more like a meat loaf if your birds don’t mind that texture. The deeper the pan, the looser the texture.
March 16, 2014 at 4:21 pm
Thank you Patricia and the tip on the deeper the pan, (great tip) mine like foods that stick to their beaks causing me extra work wiping down cage bars..
March 16, 2014 at 4:22 pm
To each, his own beak!
March 25, 2014 at 4:32 pm
I’ve not made anything like this for my birds before but I’m definitely going to give it a try. My question is, once you’ve frozen it, how do you then serve it to your birds? Do you defrost it or re-heat it etc?
October 11, 2015 at 12:06 pm
I have a lot of wheat pasta that I don’t use I was trying to figure out if there is a recipe or something I can make with it for wild birds?
September 12, 2016 at 7:16 am
Make a grain bake with it, put it outside and see if birds go for it. If not, maybe squirrels would like it.
August 24, 2016 at 1:13 am
Cilantro or coriander seeds, cumin seeds, coconut, fresh or dried lemon grass and curry, for one. Thai or Mexican seasonings work great in grain bake!
Also, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, as seasoning, then add minced dried or fresh apples, cramberry, raisins, crush, dried banana or plantain..
Thank you so much for this article, Patricia Sund!
I’ve taken it and rolled with it, to the extent that I have premixed bags of basic dry grain bake ingredients that I add to when finding more grains, and then add seasonings and fruits or veggies when it’s time to cook….and, BTW, this works super in my rice cooker!!!