Monday, July 13, 2015

Fig Season is Here~Spiced Figs

Spiced figs in powdered sugar. 

I love fig season.  My fig tree doesn't produce much, but the good things if you know someone with a fig tree they are usually thrilled to share.  My friends is loaded and I have taken at least 8 gallons of figs and still you cannot tell.  

A few years ago I was in California doing an in home party.  The hostess treated me with the most wonderful fig I had ever eaten.  My mouth watered for ever thinking about them.  The Process was long, so I never did them until Thermador put a steam oven in my kitchen.  I did the figs,  they are not a good as Marsha's, but they are good and I make them every year now.  It still is a little work, and this time I tried my regular oven out to see just how they would work.  It was good.  Steam is still better, but the figs are amazing.  They are spiced figs.  The recipe is below.   The pictures just show the process.  If you can get figs, it is worth the time and effort it takes to make these.  Really not much hands on time.   Most of the time is cooking and drying.   




  I pick the figs and wash them really well.   This is a three gallon bucket.  Picking them can be sticky and maybe gloves are a good idea.  They get sticky and the white sap can irritate the skin.


This is the spicy syrup that I pour over them to cook them.  It sweetens the figs and adds spice to them.


After the figs are washed I place them in a deep baking pan.  You want a deep one because of all the moisture in them.


 I pour the sauce over the figs.  About 4 cups for each pan.




















 These are the figs after I have cooked them for 4 hours in a 220 degree oven.  They are flavorful and moist.


I remove them from the sauce and place them on a pan.  The next step is to dehydrate in a 140 degree oven or dehydrator.  This goes on for about 12 hours or until they are dryer.  Not totally dry, just dryer.

















Save the syrup.  You can use it  for jam or cook it down for an amazing syrup.



This is what they look like after 12 hours.  Still moist, but not juicy.  The next step is to flatten them and toss them in sugar.














Tossed in sugar.  I flatten them in the sugar with my thumb.   I then place them on parchment layered and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  They keep for months and I think just get better and better.


Most good things in life take time and a little effort.  But it is always worth it.  I love food and the never ending adventure it can be.  Enjoy your adventure.  Chef Brad~America's Grain Guy



Spiced Figs

2 to 3 gallons fresh cleaned figs,  cut steam off.
5 cups sugar, honey, or agave or all three mixed.
3 cups water
1 large vanilla bean,  cut
1 tablespoon fennel or anise seed. whole
Star anise,  whole, chopped coarsely
6 Cardamon pods, chopped coarsely
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon Ground Star Anise
10 drops citrus oil
(You can use whatever spices you want, some don't like the licorice taste, so use something you like,  I change it around from pepper corns to nutmeg, be creative).

Place all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to boil.  Place over figs in large deep pans.  Place in over and cook at 210 degrees for 4 to 6 hours.  Remove and place in large bowl, figs and liquid.  Let cool overnight or longer.  It just gets more flavor.  Remove from liquid and place figs on large flat pans and dehydrate for 12 or more hours.  You want moist, but not juicy.  Enjoy.  Chef Brad

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Third Sunday Dinner Report June 2015

     Summer time and the living is easy,  I love summer, but having said that Arizona is hot and 5:00 in the afternoon it is at it's hottest, so dinner is hard and hot and my group has gotten so big that we don't fit into the house any more.  So for June and July we have adapted to the heat and changed it up.  There is a lesson hear.  Be flexible,  being flexible allows for growth and lifts the stress.  Last summer we decided to do the same thing and it was wonderful.  So now we have a new tradition,  we do a Summer Ice Cream and Cookie Social.  Perfect and we start at 7:00,  it's still hot out side, but my yard is almost all shaded.  And this summer we added a musical performance.  
    
     Who does not love Cookies, Ice Cream and some great music.  Perfect for hot summer Sundays.  I had a great time and so did everyone else.  Actually this third Sunday was Fathers day, so I expected a smaller group.  It was great,  I believe in being consistent, so I still move on no matter what is the day.  

      Oh, I had a phone call from the Mission President's Wife and she had a large, extra large bag of potatoes, it was so thoughtful of her, so I decided that French Fries was in line for the day.  And it was great,  everyone loves Ice Cream and French Fries.  The funny thing was all the memories that came up from everyone there around eating ice cream and French Fries.  My favorite Ice Cream place years ago was Swensons, we would go there and eat fries and Ice Cream,  it was heavenly.  Funny how the simplest things can bring up such sweet memories.  

    Now we have some great new memories of Ice Cream, French Fries, and some really great music. 
The music was really the highlight.  We have a very gifted singer, Melissa Solomon,  who sings in the Arizona Opera perform for us.  And Nathan Botts, a very gifted musician played the key board for her.  It was fabulous.  Can't wait until next month.   

     Here is the months reviews in pictures,  enjoy the adventure.  



All set up to make fries.  


I love kitchen Gadgets,  this one is my favorite.  It chops, slices, and so much more. 




French Fries do better if you soak them in salt water first.  And it keeps them from turning brown.  It also allows you to be ahead of the came.  This is a three gallon bucket.  Filled up.




Fry Central.  I do it out side.  My camp burner and dutch oven work great.  It keeps the mess out side and the heat out side with all the heat.  The huge BTU burner also gets the oil really hot.
Thrifty Ice Cream is the best.  Chocolate Mist Chip and Strawberry Cheese Cake.  

Everyone enjoys the outside.


I love this family.  It has been a great thing to watch this family grow and become part of our  community.
I think we all need to feel part of something. 


Just kicking back.





I love our neighbors.  All of them.  This family has become a great part of our neighborhood.
Good neighbors are great.  

Brothers, great men, thank you for your friendship. 

This dear woman is from Sweden,  and her daughter is our Opera Singer.

Dear sweet women.  Neighbors and dear friends.


Don't Know if this works or not, but I tried to capture this on film.  


Nothing like a backyard concert.  




This young girl loves to sing.  She performed for us after the program.  Next month she is on the program.  Her mother ran home to get her when she heard we were having a concert.














Third Sunday Dinner's can be what ever you want them to be.   From dinner to ice cream and French Fries, and concerts.  Let your imagination and needs create your Tradition.  I love my tradition and I love the memories I have made over the past few years.  Enjoy your adventure,  I am loving mine.  Chef Brad~America's Grain Guy

Monday, June 15, 2015

Third Sunday Dinner Report~May and June 2015



Time goes so fast and here we are in June getting ready for another Third Sunday Dinner and I have not even posted for April and May.  Please forgive me.  It has been a couple of crazy months, a whole other story coming soon called "The Gluten Free Scandal".   Any way here it is, late but full of fun and food.  Enjoy and thank your for reading.  

April and May are great months for eating out.  In fact this May we had record cool weather in Arizona.  It was amazing.  

In April we did a tostada bar.  Beans are cheap and tortillas are even cheaper.  So that is what we did.  It was so much fun.  We fried hundreds of tortillas and ate two roaster pans full of beans.  I also baked wheat free whole grain white chocolate basil brownies.  Wow, I had forgotten how good they are.  No food left over and lots of happy memories.

In May, sorry no pictures, we did pasta and fresh baked rosemary flat bread in the outdoor pizza oven.  I showed the boys what to do and I left.  May was really fun,  we had some special guest come and it happened to fall on my birthday.  What a great way to spend my birthday.   It was so fun.  So we had the Mesa Mission President and his darling wife come to dinner.  They are amazing and everyone loved meeting them and feeling of their great spirits.  President and Sister Jenkins enjoyed the evening and I think we enjoyed them more.  What great people to give up three years of their lives to serve the Lord and all the young men and women they preside over.  What a huge responsibility and how amazing they took time out to come to dinner.  It was great.   

We also has Marvin Goldstien and Vanessa Joy show up and give up a quick mini concert.  It was magical and so much fun.  I love Marvin and Vanessa.  We will be doing a class together at BYU Education Week in August.  This will be our third year of teaching together.  They are so talented and so willing to share what they do with others.  I adore them both and felt honored to have them in my home again.  

June and July we change it up a little.  We do a Cookie and Ice Cream Social later in the evening.   It's so hot and my house will not accommodate all the people that come inside so we have to do it out.  At seven o'clock it is somewhat cooler and the Ice Cream helps make it feel even cooler.  It will be great.  We are adding a Back Yard concert to the event to make it funner.  

Enjoy the pictures and I hope you are having success in doing Third Sunday Like Events in your home.  Remember the power that comes when we open up our hearts and homes to others.  This is where true Christian Fellowship can really happen.   Enjoy your journey and adventures in life.  
Chef Brad~America's Grain Guy


Now that's a pot of beans.  Actually we did two of these and there were not leftovers.  I did blend them to turn them into
re fried beans.  Beans are cheap and oh so healthy for you.  



Pans of Basil Brownies.  I love these.  I make them and cut them into inch squares.  I pile them up on platters and everyone enjoys them.

  Nothing quit like fried corn tortillas.  I love them and they make great tostadas.  I cannot buy the ones already done.  They are expensive and taste off.  















Add caption
     

     I keep thinking the great things the youth learn each month when they volunteer to come and help me.  Actually they do most of the work.  I love them and their willingness to serve the help out.  No complaints, no problems, just happy faces and fun.  I love the youth.




















This young lady comes early every month and pulls it all together for me.  She adds all the last minute touches and is always happy and willing to do whatever,  even if it is something she has never done before.  Amazing how willing the youth are to serve.












Happy Faces make it a great day. 

All the food spread out.  It went so fast I almost didn't get a picture.  

I love the young couples that come.  Life can be hard when you are just starting out.
Being with others that love you can sure make a difference.  

More happy eaters.  

I love the Mormon Missionaries.   You dont' have to be Mormon to appreciate the dedication and
devotion of these young men.  Giving up two years of their lives to serve others.  Thank you boys for all you do.

I really enjoy getting to know my neighbors.

This sweet family just joined the Church.  


When I think of the great things that are in store for them I just smile and
thank the Lord for opportunity to know them and maybe in some small way
help them find greater joy and happiness in their journey.

One of my best friends.  This man is amazingly talented in so many ways.  I love him.

So fun to see everyone enjoying the day.

Marvin is goofy and so much fun.  Vanessa classes up the act.


This man and his darling wife have been good friend for 25 years.  We have been
in the same neighborhood for that long.  He is our current Bishop and I adore them in every way.
I feel honored when he comes to dinner.  He is so busy.


Thank you President and Sister Jenkins for honoring us by coming to dinner.
We could all feel the love you have and the joy you feel in serving the Lord.

Thank you both for such sweet memories.  I will treasure the memory of your
happy birthday song to me.  Love you both.  



Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Are You Ready ~ The Chef Brad Challenge


Perfect nutrition,  green beans caramelized with nuts and pomogrante seeds


   This is my challenge. Thirty days no sugar, no dairy, no processed food at all.  What can you eat? Fruits and vegetables, nuts, meats in moderation, and whole grains.  What are whole grains?  Fresh ground flours,  whole grain rices, like red, brown, and black.  Whole grains cooked up and eaten with out processing them.  Follow me in this blog and I will teach you just how you can do it.  Start with the cleanse and go into the thirty days.  It will change your life.  




Ok,  Are you ready for the adventure.  Weight loss is a hard thing.  But if you do it right it can be a great blessing to you and if you adopt the things learned it can be a lifetime blessing for you.

      Saying that, I love food.  It's what life is all about.  All my life I have eaten what ever I have wanted, whenever I wanted. Needless to say,  I paid the price.  I ended up over 275 lbs.  My ideal weight should be 220.  That is over 55 lbs.  That is a lot of weight to be carrying.  In addition to not feeling good most of the time,  the health risk of being overweight is horrible.  From heart risk to diabetes, the list goes on and on.  Being over weight is not a good thing.

     For me it is all about how I feel.  When I am over weight, I feel bloated and uncomfortable in all areas of life.  It effects everything I do and how I act.  I have learned that feeling great is far better then the taste of foods.  I still love to eat, and it is still work to keep in shape and I am far from where I want to be, but I am over 50 lbs. lighter and I have developed some great skills that keep me in line.  I have kept off the majority of the weight, but it does involve work and effort.

Here are a few facts that have helped me.
1.  I cleanse regularly.
2.  I exercise often.
3.  I avoid processed foods.
4.  I only eat Sugar in moderation.
5. I eat a lot High fiber grains
6.  Good fats are a part of my diet.
7.  I enjoy the foods I do eat.

     So the Cleanse.  A few times a year I do a cleanse.  I love the lemon, cayenne pepper cleanse.  For me it is a jump start to staying on track.  When I do the cleanse it breaks my bad habits and gets me back on track and the side benefit is I drop a few unwanted pounds.  I feel great after and it motivates me to work harder and stay on track.  I love it.   This is the cleanse.   Oh did I tell you,  this is all you eat or drink for as many days as you can.  I go from 4 to 10 days.  I go as far as my body will let me.  I listen to my body and I do what it tells me.  Some times I go longer and other times it is short.

1 cup lemon juice
1 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (or more if you can handle it)
1/3 cup chia seeds
Water to a gallon

Mix all the ingredients in a gallon jug.  I take the jug with me and drink when ever I am thirsty or hungry.  Actually I am not hungry when I do this.  It is actually amazing.  I love it,  I love the way I feel and I love how it works.  I try to drink a gallon each day.  Do what you can.  It is an amazing cleaner of your entire body.  It works and for me it is the perfect way to start any program for weight loss and a healthy life style.  The Cleanse is so important,  it helps break bad habits.

     Exercise.  Exercise is an important part of life and feeling good.  It is different for everyone.  I am not going to tell you to run, jump, or swim.  Do what you love and enjoy.  The important thing is you do something.  Exercise is good for every part of the body.  It is essential to well being of both body and spirit.  From the heart to every part of your body you will feel the benefits of a regular exercise routine.   I have found that when you exercise you can eat more of the foods you enjoy, (in moderation), and life is just better when we discipline ourselves to exercise.  Exercising 3 or less times a week maintains health. 4 or more times a week improves fitness.  And it is important to get the heart rate up.  Go slow to start and build as you can.

     Avoid Processed Foods. At all cost you should avoid processed food.  They are the ban of bad health.  They cause excessive weight gain and every other health problem you can think of.  From the chemicals in the food to the poor quality of ingredients it wrecks havoc on the body.  I would say that almost all healthy issues today can be traced to our devotion to processed foods.  All good foods can be enjoyed  more when they are prepared from quality ingredients from scratch.  There is so much more food to be enjoyed then what we find in a supermarket or fast food chain restaurants.  Processed food is of no value to your body if you are wanting a stronger body stay away from processed foods at all cost.

     Sugar in Moderation.  Sugar is a leading cause of weight gain and health problems.  If you are addicted to sugar, you should not have any at all for at least 30 days,  it will break your addiction.  We  develop bad habits and it has to be dealt with like any other addiction.  Absolutly no sugar for at least 30 days or more.  It works.  After the thirty days develop a habit of eating sugar in moderation.  Like maybe once a week or so.  There are great alternatives to sugar that will fix your need.  Fresh fruits are a great source of sweet that the body likes.   Processed foods are packed with sugar, so that is just another good reason to stay away from the processed foods.

     High Fiber Grains.  Ok, lets face the facts.  There is a lot of stuff out there that tells you grains are bad.  Paleo is the big fad today that preaches just that.  They stay away from any grain.  I have read all about Paleo and have discovered usually when they refer to grains, it is a processed grain they are talking about.  I have done the research and have discovered that whole grains are good.  They actually promote weight loss and are so good for the body.   Processed foods are not good.  When they take anything and process it,  the value leaves.  Even whole grains when over processed loss value and nutrition.  Whole grains are packed with nutrition and are amazing for the body in every way.  The only reason that it would not work is if you have allergies to certain grains.  If you don't have allergies get into the whole grain movement.  It really will change your life.

     Good Fats.  There is such a thing as good fats.  Our bodies need the good fats.  Coconut oil, good olive oils, good nut oils, flax oil, and even good animal fat in moderation is good.  Our fat free society has made us afraid of fats and in the process we have taken all fat out of our diets.  Our bodies need good fats to be healthy and actually when we get the good fats we need the body gets rid of the bad fats.  Fiber and Good Fat are key in having a good healthy body.

      Enjoy the Foods You Eat.    The biggest part of life is to enjoy the foods we do eat.  Especially when the foods we eat that are healthy.  Foods that are prepared from scratch, with fresh quality ingredients are meant to enjoyed.  Guilt is not a good thing.  If you are filled with quilt, you are eating the wrong foods.   You should be happy with the foods you eat and our bodies handle the foods we eat better when we truly enjoy them.  Part of giving thanks when eating a meal is enjoying the foods we just gave thanks for.  Food is a major part of life and I believe that there is a spiritual side of foods.  We destroy that part when we eat processed garbage foods.

Getting Fit,  Staying Fit and enjoying life is a process that takes effort and work.  It is worth the effort, no matter where we are in the process, we really can enjoy life more  when we put effort into staying healthy.  Our bodies are amazing in how quickly they respond to what we do to them.  It works both ways,  when we do bad things we are affected and when we do good things we are affected.  We just have to choose which one we want, good effects or bad effects.  I choose good.  Even if it takes a lot of work and effort,  I enjoy the results when I make good choices.  Any time we make a good choice, we reap a good reward.

Over the next few weeks follow my blog for wonderful recipes that will inspire you and teach you how to eat healthy.  

Enjoy the adventure and please let me know how it goes for you.  Any questions email me at chef@chefbrad.com.

Chef Brad