The Real Food Journal

Try a Sweet Potato and Corn Scone for Whole Grains Month

Vegan Sweet Potato Scones with Corn

Sweet Potato Scones Studded with Sweet Corn

Fall, and Whole Grains Month, Come Too Soon

These last weeks of summer, the sweet corn tastes like candy, and I’m buying it at the market every week, as if it could keep Fall at bay. There are still watermelons and raspberries and corn, dangit, so it’s still summer, even if the squashes and sweet potatoes are singing their own siren songs. To make the most of this great produce, may I suggest that you make Sweet Potato and Corn Scones, and celebrate Whole Grains Month?

These scones are easy, fast, and have just enough novelty to excite your jaded palate. Yes, sweet corn in a sweet scone is delicious, and the kernels have a chewy sweetness that harmonizes with the sweet potato.

They are also a lesson in whole grain flavor balancing. It’s always been my rule, when working with whole wheat, balance it with assertive flavors that aren’t lost to the whole grains strong flavors.

I used Baker’s Field Flour and Bread’s All-purpose soft white wheat flour, which is a tender, pale whole wheat flour comparable to a whole wheat pastry flour. I added some buckwheat flour for a nutty flavor and a hint of spice.

Sweet Potato and Sweet Corn Scones

Scones are an Easy Quickbread, Perfect for Fall

The corn needs no preparation other than cutting it from the cob, as the time in the oven is all the cooking it needs. I used melted coconut oil, for the plant-based crowd, but if you are a butter lover, grass-fed butter would work, too.

Of course, Whole Grains Month is the time to assess your whole grain consumption and see whether you are reaching that recommended 3 servings per day. I would hope that you are exceeding that, because whole grains are the staff of life.

Whether you are an omnivorous eater or a vegan, or any variation in between, whole grains will make a positive impact on your health. They’re great at reducing your carbon footprint, too, especially if you buy local. If your palate is accustomed to white flour foods, it make take a little adjustment, but with the right whole grain foods, you’ll be craving that crunch in no time.

The nearly effortless switch to whole grain crackers or breakfast cereals makes a difference. There are so many good breads and pastas these days, just buy a few and try them out.

Get into whole grains, and your body will thank you!


Sweet Potato and Corn Scones

At the end of summer, fresh sweet potatoes and corn combine in harmony in a sweet scone.

Course Breakfast
Calories 8 kcal
Author Robin Asbell


  • 2 1/2 cups soft white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mashed sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil or margarine
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 ears sweet corn cut from the cob
  • 2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar for sprinkling


  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. In a large bowl, combine whole wheat pastry flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the sweet potato, melted coconut oil, milk and cider vinegar. Stir into the dry ingredients until almost mixed, then add the corn and mix. Lightly flour the counter and scrape the dough out onto the flour. Form a disk of dough, then pat to about an inch thick. Use a bench knife or chefs knife to divide in 8 wedges. Sprinkle with Turbinado and transfer the scones to a baking sheet.

  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden and firm. Transfer the scones to a rack with a spatula. Cool completely.






Savor Summer with an Easy Plum Cake with Neat Eggs

Rainbow Plum Cake with Neat Egg Substitute

A Fruity Snack Cake for Any Time of Day

Trying Out a Whole Food Egg Substitute

As a recipe developer, I’ve always got a list of recipes to create. Every recipe is like a little chemistry experiment, which has to work physically, as well as taste good. I’ve been lucky enough to write nine cookbooks, all while writing recipes for magazine articles, websites, and private clients. I cook, I bake, we eat, and I start all over again.

Recently, I’ve been on a run of savory recipe work, and found myself gazing at pictures of desserts with lust in my heart. So when a package of Neat Egg egg substitute arrived on my stoop, I knew I had to make a vegan cake. With whole grain flour, of course.

The Neat Egg is right up my alley, since it’s made from nothing but chia seeds and chickpea flour. Whole, nutritious food, not a bunch of starch or refined stuff. I’ve always been partial to ground flax and chia for vegan baking. Both seeds, when ground to release starches and fiber, can be mixed with liquid to form a thick gel. That gelling quality helps trap air and create structure in baked goods the way that eggs do.

Laura Lapp, Creator of Neat Foods

I spoke to Laura Lapp, the founder and creator of Neat Foods, about her nifty Neat egg subsitute and the line of meatless meats she has created, and it’s sold by Atlantic Natural Foods.

Lapp is a lifelong vegetarian who was raising two daughters as omnivores, when the two girls decided to go veg, too. ” My girls were 4 and 7 and saw something on TV and decided to go vegetarian. I was so used to making them spaghetti and meatballs or tacos that for a while we just ate pasta with tomato sauce because I didn’t know what to do for protein.” said Lapp.

She looked at the meat analogs on the market, and didn’t like what she saw. “I got scared off by the chemicals, it was like feeding fruit loops to my kids, except it was a veggie burger.” So she started working with beans and nuts to develop some good subs for the meatballs and taco meat she had been feeding her girls.

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

“Kids are the worst critics,” said Lapp, but after many attempts, she got the thumbs up. “My daughter said, ‘It’s not meat, it’s neat.’ and that became the name of my company.”

The Neat Egg came along later, and now she has a whole line of baking mixes ready to launch. “It’s my new baby. We have a black bean brownie, a cowgirl cookie with pistachios and cherries, all keeping with the idea that Neat is clean. No extra additives, just real food. They are all soy-free, gluten-free and vegan, too.”

The Neat Egg is a convenient way to bake without eggs, since the seeds are already finely ground and blended with chickpea flour for a bit of that aquafaba magic. It’s an easy egg substitute you keep in the pantry.

Click here to read more about Neat Eggs

Rainbow Plum Cake with Neat Egg Subtitute

When the Plums are in Season

For this cake, I picked up four kinds of plums and pluots at my Coop. Ranging from the dappled green of the “Flavor Grenade” pluot to a deep black plum, they were perfect for displaying on top of a cake. I am lucky to have access to Bakers Field Flour and Bread’s soft white whole wheat flour, but you can use whole wheat pastry flour. If you’re baking for a tough crowd, you can always use half unbleached flour, for a lighter cake.

Putting fresh fruit and a sprinkle of crunchy sugar on top of the cake is just as appealing as frosting, but much better for you.

Keep an eye out for Neat Foods products wherever you live, because “It’s not meat, It’s Neat!”


Rainbow Plum Cake

Colorful sliced plums tile across the top of this easy cake. It only take a few minutes to make, and is 100 % whole grain. If you want to use part white flour, sub in half a cup.

Course Dessert
Servings 8
Author Robin Asbell


  • 4 medium plums and pluots different colors
  • 1 1/2 cups soft white whole wheat flour or pastry
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • 2 tablespoons Neat Egg or ground chia
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar


  1. Slice the plums, keeping each color in its own little pile.

    Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly oil an 8 inch square baking pan. In a large bowl, mix the flour, soda, cinnamon and salt. In a medium bowl, combine the milk, neat egg, vanilla, and 1 tbs lemon and whisk to mix. Pour over the flour mixture and stir just to combine.

  2. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums in slightly overlapping rows on top of the batter. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of white sugar, then bake for 1 hour. Take out when until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with no wet batter clinging to it. Cool the cake on a rack. Eat warm, or wrap tightly and refrigerate for up to a week.







September is Whole Grains Month, Enter Your Fave Charity to Win Free Food!

September is Whole Grains Month, and time to make a resolution to add a few more servings of whole grains to your life. As you know, it’s always whole grains month around here, so I have plenty of helpful recipes and tips to get you started.

I promise, this will be fun, if you try my Naked Barley Chocolate Chip Cookies, or my Kale Bowl with Quinoa and Spicy Dressing. Grilled Collard Rolls Filled with Quinoa and Avocado are to die for, really.

A Great Whole Grain Giveaway

Nominate your favorite food charity to win cases and cases of whole grain goodies! Just click here and tell the WGC how your fave charity helps address food insecurity.

Your local food shelf, a great soup kitchen, or anybody doing something creative to get real food into the hands of people who need it deserves to be entered to win.

I love this idea, for many reasons. The first being that folks who are in need will get food that really nourishes them. Whole grains are the cornerstone of health, and people who are living with the stress of food insecurity deserve to have food that supports better health. There is plenty of evidence that poverty is linked with a host of health problems, and whole grains are good for many of them.

Another reason to love this giveaway is that it may just help someone start a new, healthy habit for the long-haul. The food bank that gives away cases of tasty whole grains isn’t just nourishing families for a day, it’s showing people that whole grain foods are tastier than they may have thought. Too many people still believe that white bread and pasta are the only kinds they like, and that bias crosses all income levels. Maybe some tasty whole grain foods will change hearts and minds for the better.

Are You Eating 3 Servings a Day?

Statistically speaking, you probably aren’t. Whole grain consumption is no where near where it really should be. Maybe you’re like me, exceeding the mark on a daily basis. Congratulations. If not, consider trying a few ideas from the Whole Grains Council:

Post this list of “baby-steps” on your fridge, and try as many as possible this month:

  • I’ll buy three different loaves of whole-grain bread and taste all of them to see which one we like best.
  • I’ll serve bulgur or brown rice instead of potatoes with dinner one night this month.
  • I’ll look for the Whole Grain Stamp every time I shop.
  • I’ll try a new breakfast cereal with at least 16 grams of whole grain per serving.
  • I’ll buy some whole-wheat pasta and try it.
  • I’ll visit the health food store or a major grocery and look at all the different grains in bins.
  • I’ll make my favorite whole grain recipe for a friend.
  • On the weekend, I’ll try cooking a pot of steel-cut oatmeal.
  • I’ll make pizza for the kids with whole wheat pita as the crust.
  • I’ll make our favorite cookies with whole wheat flour next time instead of white.
  • I’ll serve hamburgers with whole wheat buns this week.
  • I’ll try all of the WGC’s Dozen Easy Family Whole Grain Recipes.

Try One of my Whole Grain Recipes

Click Here to go to a list of some of my easiest whole grain favorites. From Salads and Main Courses to Bars and Cookies, there are some whole grain recipes here to win you over.

  • Rhubarb shines in chewy, crunchy bars made with rolled barley and sliced almonds

    Rhubarb shines in chewy, crunchy bars made with rolled barley and sliced almonds

    Kamut and Chickpea Naan with Banana Chutney

    Kamut and Chickpea Naan with Banana Chutney

    Take a big bite of bao

    Happy Whole Grains Month. It’s one celebration that your body will appreciate!








Kale, The Gift That Keeps on Giving, and Kale Pesto Tartines

Kale Pesto Tartines

Kale Pesto On Good Bread with Great Tomatoes

Around this time of the summer, the zucchini cartoons start appearing in the paper. Gardeners are creeping around in the dark of night, unloading zucchini on unsuspecting neighbors. My question for everyone trying to unload their zucchini is, have you ever grown kale?

Kale Just Keeps On Giving

Trust me, kale cranks out the harvest at a speed that puts zucchini to shame. Pick some, it grows back overnight. As summer goes on, the central stem turns into a trunk, topped with sprouting leaves. By fall, it looks like a cruciferous palm tree, and it will keep waving at you as the days get shorter. It’s actually sweeter after a frost.

Leave it there, and the sturdy leaves will peep out of a snowbank til Spring. Zucchini doesn’t do that.

Juices, Smoothies, and Grilling with Kale

I hardly need to tell you how nutritious kale is. Just the word has become a cultural signifier. If a character in a movie eats kale, they are either a California-lean yoga girl or a baby boomer hippie type. The kind of people who suffer through bad tasting but virtuous meals eat kale.

Not me, I never eat anything I don’t enjoy. The Tuscan kale growing so prolifically in my garden is sweet and tender, especially the small, young leaves at the top. And I don’t just munch on plain kale.

It pays to have a plan for your kale. I planted it so that I could make juice and smoothies with it, as well as add it to other dishes. I can power through a big pile of it in a green juice. I’ve got some recipes here to put your kale to good use.

Kale Recipes:

Lemony Pesto Kale Salad

Ingredients for Lemony Pesto Kale Salad

Pesto Kale Salad

Green Juice

Green Juice!

Cleansing Green Juice

Kale and Almond Salad

Jamaican Rundown Greens

Jamaican Rundown Greens

 Jamaican Rundown Greens

Panini Grilled Kale and Veggies

Use That Panini Grill to Press and Sear Tofu and Veggies

Grilled Kale and Tofu in the Panini Press

Grilling Kale

Grill that kale!

Grilled Kale

Make Easy Kale Tartines

Garden Kale Pesto Tartines

My Garden is in Sync for a Great Meal


Today I am hungry and in a hurry, so I’m making a crowd pleaser out of all the goodies in my garden. Fresh basil, tomatoes and kale, all on a piece of toast. Good toast is essential; I used Baker’s Field Flour and Bread’s lovely locally grown, ground and fermented whole grain bread. Look for a naturally leavened whole grain bread wherever you live, and all your meals will be better. I did boil some water for blanching the kale, but otherwise, no cooking. The kale is pretty incognito in the pesto, with a large quantity of fresh basil and some creamy pine nuts to balance out the flavor.

Of course, you could add some parmesan to the pesto, or shave Asiago over the tartines. It’s got plenty of richness from the olive oil and pine nuts, so you might not need cheese as much as you think you do.

You don’t have to be a yogi or a hippie, just eat that kale. Cultural stereotypes were made to be broken.



Kale Pesto and Tomato Tartine

Servings 2


  • 6 small Tuscan Kale leaves about 1 cup, packed
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves packed
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled
  • 5 tablespoons pine nuts divided
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large slices of whole grain bread
  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes or several small ones
  • red pepper flakes


  1. Put a quart of water in a pot and salt it generously, use it to blanch the kale. Strip the stems and drop it in boiling water for a minute, drain, rinse with cold water, and squeeze out until dry.

  2. Put the kale, basil, garlic and 3 tablespoons pine nuts in the processor bowl and process. Scrape down and process until finely minced. Gradually add olive oil, scraping and pureeing until smooth. Add salt and process. Scrape out into a small bowl. If not serving right away, cover the surface with olive oil and cover tightly.

  3. Toast the bread, spread with pesto, then top with tomatoes. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and remaining pine nuts.





Try Sweet Corn Sambal with Krupuk, for an Indonesian-Flavored Summer Dip

Indonesian Corn Sambal with Krupuk

Nosh on Indonesian Corn Sambal and Krupuk Before Dinner

There’s a point in the summer when fruits and vegetables are at peak, and the challenge is to fully appreciate this moment when melons taste like melons, tomatoes really taste like tomatoes, and sweet corn sends you into a Proustian reverie. The food practically falls onto the plate, already perfect.  Take this easy Indonesian Sweet Corn Sambal.

Several years ago, in Amsterdam, I fell hard for Indonesian food. In Minneapolis, we didn’t have an Indonesian restaurant scene, but Amsterdam did. Indonesia was a Dutch colony from 1800 to 1949, and these restaurants are the delicious remains of a darker past.

Discovering Sambal

At the start of every meal, we’d be given some insanely crispy krupuk chips and spicy sambal for dipping, the same way you get bread in an American restaurant, or salsa and chips at a Mexican place. I came home looking for krupuk and sambal, and added some Indonesian flavors to my pantry.

Once you tire of boiling ears of sweet corn, you must try it Indonesian-style. I’m not pretending that it is authentic, just tasty. Sambal is the salsa of Indonesia, and Krupuk can make a great chip for dipping. I picked up some Sambal Bajak, Ketjap Manis, and Garlic Krupuk, and just wanted to have them play with my locally grown corn, jalapenos, shallots, and tomatoes.

Sambal and The Origins of Ketchup

Sambal Bajak is a chile paste with shallots, sugar, and candlenuts, and often has shrimp paste, so check your label. You can always use another chili sauce, if you don’t have it.

Ketjap Manis is a soy sauce flavored with deeply caramelized sugar and molasses, giving it a slightly bitter sweetness. It’s the forgotten progenitor of America’s favorite condiment, ketchup, if you can believe it. Ketjap Manis was one of many fermented, sweet and sour condiments of the time, probably a descendant of Roman Garum, the stinky fish sauce of the Roman empire.  The umami-rich sauce made the trek from Malaysian Islands to the Colonies with traders, who used it to jazz up their boring porridge based meals. Of course, the Colonists had to make a version with what they had on hand, and the first Americanized version of ketchup was born. In the 1700’s, American ketchup was made with just about anything, from mushrooms to anchovies, and the tomato version didn’t make the scene until much later.

Indonesian Corn Sambal with Krupuk

Indonesian Corn Sambal with Krupuk

The Global Melting Pot

Foods evolve and change, and ketchup is a perfect example of how people change something to fit their environment and tastes. Americans dropped the soy sauce, kept the sugar, and added spices and more sugar. Indonesian immigrants moved to the Netherlands and opened restaurants, where they serve “rijstaffel,” created just to please the Dutch. I put corn in Sambal.

Work with What’s In Season

Like the Americans who created ketchup, you work with what is at hand. This sweet corn is like candy, it’s so sweet and crisp. To give it some Indonesian flair, I chopped a couple of jalapenos and added garlic, ginger, and lime zest. A quick saute in a hot pan, and my sambal was ready for dipping.

I bought pre-fried krupuk, but you can also buy the uncooked chips and fry them yourself. They are quite a show, as the little pressed pieces of starch hit the hot oil and puff up to four times their size. If you just serve it with corn chips, it will still be delicious.

Enjoy the best of summer in a sambal. It’s a fresh alternative to salsa, and a great way to enjoy sweet corn.

Indonesian Corn Sambal

Indonesian Sweet Corn Sambal with Krupuk

This is a fast appetizer, or side dish to go with an Indonesian meal. If you don't have sambal, use another hot sauce, and sub for ketjap manis with soy sauce with a little molasses.

Servings 4
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 cup minced red shallots
  • 2 large jalapenos seeded and minced
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger minced
  • 2 ears sweet corn cut off the cob
  • 1 teaspoon ketjap manis
  • 2 teaspoon sambal bajak to taste
  • krupuk


  1. Prep all the vegetables. Place a large saute pan over medium high heat, and drizzle in the canola oil. Add the shallots, jalapenos, garlic and ginger and stir until the shallots are lightly browned and soft. Add the corn and stir until the corn is softened slightly.

  2. Stir in the ketjap manis and sambal bajak and cook for a minute, then taste, add more hot stuff if you want more heat. Serve warm with krupuk.




Beautiful Buckwheat, Brazil Nuts, and a Great Breakfast

Buckwheat Soak with Brazil Nuts and Fruit

Buckwheat Soak with Brazil Nuts and Fruit

Have you ever had two separate experiences, and as they percolated in your mind, the combination inspired something else entirely? That’s exactly what happened to me at last month’s Grain Gathering, and my inspiration was buckwheat.

Buckwheat is Beautiful

As I wrote last week, at the Grain Gathering I toured an experimental grain field, planted with plots of wheat, buckwheat, and barley. Along with the dramatic purple barley, paradigm shifting perennial wheat, and heritage grains, were these gorgeous flowers.

Bhutanese Buckwheat at WSU

Beautiful Bhutanese Buckwheat in Bloom

I thought I knew what buckwheat looked like, but it turns out, I didn’t. Those lovely pink flowers will mature into perfect little three sided pyramid-shaped seeds, each wrapped in a black, papery hull. Unlike wheat and barley, whose seeds line up evenly along a central stem, these hang in little clusters, and must be harder to harvest because of it.

The Buckwheat that I was admiring turns out to be a variety from Bhutan, which is one of 120 buckwheats from 19 countries, all grown there for breeding diversity. Dr Steven Jones was giving the tour, but he made sure to give a shout out to the women behind the buckwheat. “Bethany Econopouly and Kim Binczewski are doing the work on buckwheat. Bethany is looking at flavor, color, and early maturity.” Econopouloly is a PhD student at WSU studying with Jones, and Binczewski is the lab manager, among her many jobs.

Buckwheat has long been on my list of grains that should rise again. Buckwheat thrives in poor soil and cold climates, needs no nitrogen fertilizers, and matures quickly, allowing farmers to plant a crop after harvesting another, for a fast turnaround before winter sets in. In the early 1900’s US farmers planted a million acres of buckwheat, but now only 50,000. It’s still big in Russia, where toasted buckwheat kasha is a traditional dish.

We would do well to start filling in between crops with buckwheat, if only for the honey. ” Buckwheat is great for the soil, the bees and us.” said Jones. Those pretty flowers attract honeybees, who make a deeply flavorful honey from the pollen. I recommend trying it drizzled over your breakfast!

The Pancake Grain

Chances are, you’ve only had buckwheat in pancakes. I love buckwheat cakes, too, but there is so much more to buckwheat. Those perfect little pyramids have a nutty, mildly minerally flavor, and a nuttiness that really comes out when toasted or baked.Unlike some whole grain groats, the bran layer softens quite a bit in cooking, and the grain can become soft and sticky, if you want it to.

But that brings me back to the two events that came together as one. You see, after my jaunt to the buckwheat field, I came back to the Bread Lab to attend some seminars. One I stopped into for a few moments was about making Muesli. The man behind the Mock Mill, Wolfgang Mock, was leading a group in making muesli from freshly flaked whole oats.

Wolfgang Mock Makes Muesli at the Grain Gathering

Mr Mock Makes Muesli

As he demonstrated his recipe, Mock began to extol the health benefits of one of his favorite add-ins, the Brazil nut. “One a day gives you all the selenium you need, ” he said, with infectious enthusiasm. ” If your selenium is low, they tell you to take supplements, but the supplements are made from Brazil nuts. Just eat the nuts!”

So as all these events percolated in my mind this week, I was seized by a desire to make muesli with buckwheat and Brazil nuts. Both buckwheat and Brazil nuts are anti-inflammatory foods, chock full of antioxidants and good fat. Brazil nuts are a recommended post-workout food, because of this.

But even more intriguing, they both taste nutty and sweet, and are good raw. So I made an easy overnight soak of the buckwheat, mixed with soy milk and a little water. It softened the grain enough to make it easy enough to chew, but still entertainingly crunchy. You could certainly add other stuff to your soak, from frozen berries to pomegranate juice, or chia seeds and cinnamon.

The one thing to know is that the milk will be thickened and a little stringy-looking, but it didn’t bother me a bit. If you want a smoother porridge, just buzz it for a few seconds in the blender.

So here’s to a rebirth of buckwheat in the popular consciousness.

Buckwheat Soak with Brazil Nuts and Fruit

Overnight Buckwheat Soak with Brazil Nuts and Fruit

Try the amazing flavor and texture of buckwheat in this easy overnight soak, and it may just take away some of that post-exercise soreness, as a bonus.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings 3
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 cup raw buckwheat groats
  • 3/4 cup vanilla soymilk or other milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 Brazil nuts coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium plums
  • 2 medium nectarines


  1. In a storage tub, mix the buckwheat, milk, water and salt. Refrigerate, tightly covered, overnight.

  2. Serve topped with chopped Brazil nuts and fruit. If desired, drizzle with buckwheat honey or other sweetener.






Cross-Pollinating Ideas at the Grain Gathering

Tibetan Purple Barley Salad with Blueberries from the Grain Gathering

Tibetan Purple Barley and Blueberry Salad for a Picnic

Some people take time off at the end of July to visit a white sand beach.

But there’s no barley at the beach.

Instead, at 3;45 am, I found myself driving in darkness, about an hour North of Seattle, navigating country roads to get to an experimental grain field before dawn. There, as the light spilled over the silhouettes of purple mountains in the distance, I met with 38 like-minded people to follow a visionary through a field.

Steven Jones at the Grain Gathering

Steve Jones with Buckwheat, Barley and Wheat in the Skagit Valley

Of course, there was more to my trip than that. I was there to spend three days learning about grains, bread, local economies, farm policy, and of course, stuffing myself with swoon-worthy whole grain breads, pastries, and more at the Grain Gathering.

(scroll all the way down for pictures of just a few things I ate…)

Three Days of All-Grains, All the Time

The Grain Gathering is hosted by the Bread Lab, which is the brainchild of Dr Steven Jones. Jones is the visionary who lead the pre-dawn tour of the fields, and the head plant geneticist at Washington State University. He’s also a leader in the effort to improve the taste, hardiness, and sustainability of wheat and other grains. The Bread Lab is the place where the people who breed the grains, the people who grow them, and the people who bake and cook with them come together, to learn from each other.

And it took a visionary to make that happen.

If you wonder what a bread lab is, it’s basically a bakery with a whole bunch of specialized equipment that is used to analyze the flours and doughs on a chemical level. Big bread manufacturers do this, but in this lab, it’s all about guiding the breeding of grain toward a flour or flake that artisan bakers can make into something with great texture and flavor. The kind of  flavor that makes converts out of white bread lovers, without commodity wheat flour, or enzymes, or chemical additives, just  grain.

Local grain communities have been sprouting across the country, thanks in part to the model started around the Bread Lab. Before this new movement took hold, none of these groups talked to each other, and wheat breeding was all about yield. Growers grew and bakers baked, but wheat kept moving forward with everybody in a separate little bubble.

Which brings us to the Grain Gathering. Since 2011, this annual event has drawn bakers, growers, millers, chefs, cereal chemists, malters, and a bunch of other folks interested in the cross-pollination of grainy information to a beautiful spot in the Skagit Valley.

And there’s beer. It’s made from barley. Tasting beer is serious business, even if it looked like a bunch of people having a good time.

Think Globally, Act Locally

Steve Jones and his grad students maintain the experimental grain fields we toured, where a colorful patchwork of grain plots stretch toward the skyline, each square holding a piece of genetic diversity. There are ancient varieties, grown to study and use for breeding, as well as newer crosses, all carefully tended by the students who will analyze them, conduct tasting panels, and collect all the information necessary to bring better grains to the world.

Jones is passionate about the need to develop grains specific to a region, that will thrive in the conditions there without chemicals or intervention. The end goal is creating local grain economies, in which locally grown grains can be milled, malted, and made into their end products, is a way to keep money in the hands of the farmers and artisans.

And it’s happening, as the sharing and cross-pollination of these ideas helps to sprout local grain economies across the US and Canada, and eventually, the World.

WSU Experimental Grain Fields at the Grain Gathering

The Waving Wheat, Sure Smells Sweet

Because the Grain Gathering is all about learning more about grains from all levels, from the field to the end product, there is a big emphasis on baking. Classes on pastry and bread formulation and baking are on the schedule alongside seminars on milling, noodlemaking, tasting, malting, brewing, farm policy, and more.

Grain Gathering

Andrew Ross leads a panel where we taste breads he made with different varieties of barley from OSU

Among the many presentations at the gathering, we had a Sensory Evaluation of barley breads, crackers, cooked grain, and roasted barley tea. Another visionary, Andrew Ross, a cereal chemist and grain breeder who runs a Bread Lab at Oregon State, is also working on improving barley and finding ways to use it. He and WSU PhD student Brigid Meints shared barley info, and we all sniffed, savored, and rated the barley based foods.

It was a scientific way of quantifying our subjective opinions, and it was fascinating.

Barley Sensory Panel at the Grain Gathering

Mystery Barleys and Biscuits to Taste and Rate

Because I was invited to present at the Grain Gathering this year, the cross-pollination included a few of my ideas.I knew that a crew of world-class bakers would be there, teaching and sharing their knowledge, so I put together a menu of desserts that you make on the stove top that feature the uniquely beautiful and flavorful barleys grown in the Camas Valley.

Purple Tibetan Barley Plants at the Grain Gathering 2017

Purple Tibetan Barley in the Field

I’ve already posted one of the recipes that made the cut for my demonstration at the Grain Gathering, the Barley Pudding. Playing around with the barley from the Bread Lab lead to Rhubarb Barley Bars, Barley Chocolate Chip Cookies, Barley- Raspberry Muffins, and a Purple Barley Smoothie Bowl.

So, as I slowly digest all the information and experiences of the Grain Gathering, I give you another purple barley recipe. I needed a salad to take to National Night Out, and I wanted to make something beautiful that all my neighbors would try. Blueberries seemed like a good companion to my barley, and the fact that both are colored by the purple antioxidant pigment anthocyanin didn’t hurt. Crisp, peppery radishes give it a pop of red and some kick, and parsley and mint a cooling, herbal flavor.

Knowing where your food comes from gives you a whole new understanding of it, at the most basic level.

If you want to try the beautiful barley I used in this recipe, order it here. It’s gorgeous stuff.

I hope you’ll seek out some whole, naked barley, or any grain that’s been grown in your area. I’m lucky to be able to buy local barley in bulk at my Coop, and if you look around you might find locally grown grains where you are, too. We can support that local grain economy, and keep a farmer in business, while enjoying a tasty dish.

Think globally, act locally is more than a slogan, it really works. We can watch that come to fruition with grains, thanks to people like Steve Jones, and the many players at the Grain Gathering.

Tibetan Purple Barley from Camas Valley WA

Tibetan Purple Barley and Blueberry Salad with Radishes and Mint

Beautiful Purple Barley is a delicious, filling grain to use in one bowl salad meals. For a main course, throw in a handful of walnuts or a crumble of goat cheese.

Servings 6
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 cup Tibetan Purple Barley or other hull-less barley
  • 1 rib celery chopped
  • 2 medium scallions chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh spearmint chopped
  • 3 large red radishes diced
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries washed and dried
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons local honey
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • mint for garnish


  1. Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a 1 quart pot. Add the barley and return to the boil, then turn to low. Cover tightly and simmer for 55-60 minutes. The barley should be tender but chewy. Drain and let cool.

  2. Prep the veggies and berries and put in a large bowl. Add the cooled barley.

  3. In a cup, combine the cider vinegar, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper. Whisk with a fork.

  4. Pour the dressing over the salad and serve, garnished with more mint.

Whole Grain Food Porn from the Grain Gathering

Grain Gathering Pastries

The Crumble on Top is Made from Buckwheat Flour


Grain Gathering

100% Whole Wheat Croissants by Jeff Yankellow and Dawn Woodward

Grain Gathering Pastries

Savory Pastries with Cheese

Grain Gathering Pastries

A Puddle of Custard, Dappled with Berries

Grain Gathering

Josey Baker, Cracked, Sprouted and Ground Grains Seminar, and Many Samples to Taste

The Grain Gathering

Paella Works made a Vegetarian Paella





















Purple Barley Flour Muffins with Raspberries (and Aquafaba!)

Heirloom Barley Flour and Aquafaba for a Fantastic Muffin

Heirloom Tibetan Purple Barley makes a Beautiful Muffin

If barley seems to be the star of my blog these days, there’s a reason. I’m visiting the barley and wheat fields of the Pacific North West this week, to expand my whole grain horizons. For us grain nerds, Washington and Oregon are a mecca of great grains and flours, in large part because of the agriculture programs at Oregon State and Washington State Universities.

I’ll be at Washington State U attending and presenting at the Grain Gathering, a unique brain trust of grain breeders, growers, millers, bakers, chemists, ag economists, food politics people, and anyone else who is interested in whole grains. If you’re into learning more about baking or any part of the bigger picture of whole grains, you might want to attend next year, if you can get one of the limited number of tickets.

There are hands on baking classes,field tours, talks, and lots of tasting of breads and baked goods, whole grain foods, and the main thing most people consume made from barley: beer.

Tibetan Purple Barley

This week I’ve been sampling the beautiful heirloom Tibetan barley grown in Camas County Oregon. This particular grain is “Purple Karma Barley,” named with a nod to the Tibetan Buddhists. These ancient barleys are revered by the Tibetans, who have to keep themselves warm and energized in a bitterly cold, mountainous environment. You can try out the Tibetan way of eating barley with Tsampa, which I wrote about previously.

This time out, I wanted to grind the whole barley into flour, and see how it performed in a muffin bound with aquafaba in place of eggs. I did add a little bit of wheat flour, just to give it a little gluten to hold it together. The resulting muffin has a lovely texture, full of little bubbles. The barley muffins are moist and tender, without a hint of the coarseness that plagues the reputation of whole grain foods.

Heirloom Tibetan Purple Barley Makes a Beautiful Muffin

Heirloom Tibetan Purple Barley Makes a Beautiful Muffin

Aquafaba-The Magic of Bean Juice

If you haven’t tried aquafaba yet, it’s time to give it a go. You don’t have to be a vegan to want to save money and resources by baking with the water leftover from cooking chickpeas. I always drain my chickpeas and freeze the leftover liquid until I feel like baking, and that’s what I used for these tasty muffins.

To make the liquids that come from a can of beans a little more powerful, I did boil them down a bit to concentrate the starches and proteins that do the work of eggs. Then, I whipped them into a frothy mix in the Vitamix, and drizzled in oil to make an emulsion. Then the other liquids went in, and it all melded into a creamy blend.

Once I stirred it into the purple flour, it was clear that it was going to be beautiful. I folded in some delicate, just picked raspberries and lemon zest, and baked them.

The results are a not-too-sweet muffin, with some heft without being too heavy. They are perfect with a dab of jam and a cup of tea.

I hope you’ll try purple barley, although you could make these with the equivalent weight or naked barley, or pre-ground barley flour.

Because barley is an ancient and nutritious grain, sustainable and full of flavor.

Start seeing barley, or as the hardworking barley geniuses at Oregon State’s Barleyworld say: Make #barleyalwaysgreatagain


Barley Flour Muffins with Raspberries and Aquafaba

These muffins are studded with fresh, tangy raspberries, and the purple barley flour gives them an exotic hue.

Servings 8
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 1/2 cups whole purple barley ground to make 2 cups (196 g)
  • 1/2 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup chickpea water boiled to make 1/2 cup
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 8 muffin liners
  • 2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar for topping


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line 8 muffin cups, or use the free standing liners I used in the photo, by placing them on a sheet pan. Spritz with canola oil.

  2. Grind the whole barley in the Vitamix dry grinding container, or the regular container. Secure the lid, start on low, and increase to High speed. Grind for 2 minutes. Dump out on a plate to cool.

  3. Measure the flour and put it in a large bowl. Add the brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to mix.

  4. In a cup, stir the non-dairy milk and lemon juice, reserve.

  5. In the Vitamix, place the reduced aquafaba, and blend on high for 2 minutes. The mixture will be bubbly and pale. On low speed, drizzle the oil in through the hole in the lid. Pour the non-dairy milk mixture in gradually. The final mixture will be white and creamy.

  6. Pour the contents of the blender over the dry ingredients, and stir in gently. When mixed, sprinkle over the lemon zest and raspberries and fold in just to combine.

  7. Scoop 1/2 cup measures of batter into the prepared cups and top with Turbinado sugar. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in a center muffin comes out with no wet batter attached.

  8. Cool on a rack.





Celebrate Summer with Grilled Cantaloupe Pasta Salad

Grilled Cantaloupe Pasta Salad

Grilled Cantaloupe Makes a Refreshing Summer Pasta Salad

When you think about grilling, it’s usually all about burgers, or corn on the cob, or even pizza. But have you tried grilling cantaloupe? Yes,. when the cantaloupes are heavy on the vine, fat with sweet, juicy goodness, it just happens to be grilling season. So why not grilled cantaloupe?

Like pineapple and peaches, cantaloupe is a natural for the grill. It has a firm enough texture to hold up to the heat, and plenty of sugars to caramelize on the hot grate. If you leave the slices intact, it won’t fall through the bars into the fire, the ultimate waste of a good piece of food. All you need is a little brush of oil, and you are good to go.

Grilled Cantaloupe for Salads, Pastas, or Desserts

I went savory with mine, slicing the grilled crescent moons into bite-sized pieces for a pasta salad. You can also toss it on a green salad, for an unexpected pop of juiciness and color. The grill marks will add curb appeal, as everyone wants to try the melon with a hint of smoke in their salad.

You can also make a dessert of grilled cantaloupe, with a drizzle of honey or chocolate sauce, a scoop of ice cream, or a crumble of cookie over it all.

The lush texture of the melon pairs well with tender pasta, bathed in a tangy vinaigrette. For a creamy, rich companion to the melon, I added diced avocado, to melt in your mouth like a rich cheese. A few crunchy shreds of purple cabbage add crunch and color contrast, and fresh basil gives it some Italian savor.

My garden offers up edible flowers, and I garnished this pasta with nasturtium blossoms. The orange petals complement the pale melon and green avocado, to make the pasta irresistible.

Try grilled cantaloupe, for a savory take on a favorite summer melon.

Grilled Cantaloupe makes a simple pasta salad special

Grilled Cantaloupe Pasta Salad



Grilled Cantaloupe Pasta

Grilled Cantaloupe Pasta Salad

Grill your cantaloupe to make it sweeter, and it melts in your mouth in this pasta salad. Creamy avocado and a tangy champagne vinaigrette complete a refreshing summertime meal.

Course Main Course
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1/2 medium cantaloupe sliced in thin wedges and peeled
  • canola oil for grilling
  • 8 ounces cavatappi or other curly pasta
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar or honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium avocado diced in the shell
  • 1/2 cup finely sliced red cabbage
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil slivered


  1. Put on a pot of water to cook the pasta. Preheat the grill.

  2. Cook the pasta according to package instructions, then drain and rinse. Reserve.

  3. Lightly oil the cantaloupe slices and place on the hot grill, let them sear for a minute before turning, you want nice grill marks. Once they are marked on both sides, put them on a plate and let cool. Slice into bite-sized pieces.

  4. In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil, champagne vinegar, sugar or honey, salt and pepper. Add the pasta, melon, avocado, red cabbage and basil and toss to coat.

  5. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours. The avocado will discolor if you keep it too long.







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