Brainy Gourmet

Brainy Gourmet
The Doctor is into Delicious!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Its the most wonderful time of the year ~ to bake cookies!

Most of my readers know that I am not a 'baker' by nature but I can be brainy about bread and a variety of drop cookies. Stack up any way you like this drop cookie at a time!

A drop cookie is just a ball of cookie dough you drop on a cookie sheet. I don't use any particular recipe per say because I know what makes a good drop cookie: a stick of butter, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, one egg and 1-1/2 cup of flour adding to that 1 tsp of baking soda, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp of salt. That is the basic mix. 

To that basic mix, you can add all kinds of tasty things: any kind of nut, or slivered almonds, raisins, or dried cranberries, oatmeal or grated coconut; and, of course any kind of mini chocolate or butterscotch morsel. 

*Advice on the use of oatmeal and or grated coconut...use only 1/4 cup of either (not both together) otherwise the dough will likely become too dry. The consistency of the dough has to be just right, not too sticky and not too dry. 

*Note - more flour than sugar will produce a cake like drop cookie; more butter/sugar will produce a crispy flat drop cookie.

I also have a favorite molasses recipe that I enjoy making this time of year.
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder 
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Put one stick of soft butter in a glass bowl. Add: sugar, molasses, egg, and stir; then mix in all dry ingredients including flour and mix it up. 
  3. Check for consistency of dough. It can't be too sticky or dry and that depends on the quality of molasses; so, you may need to add either an additional tablespoon of flour and 1 tbs. of water.
  4. Using a 2-inch ice cream scoop, scoop dough onto baking sheet, 2 1/2 inches apart. Refrigerate 20 minutes. *Note - if the dough sticks like glue to the scoop, add more flour.
Finally, roll dough balls in granulated sugar and return to baking sheets. Transfer to oven and bake until surfaces crack slightly, about 18 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Baked Cheese for Christmas ~ Brie, soup and bread... a Brainy Gift

How to begin this wonderful exotic French/Italian combination? Start with soup, its a no brainer. Yes, I do say that often; but, that's because it is. The pork butt stock you still have from a few days ago is just waiting to become something new.

As I said, keep the stock clear as it can morph into amazing soups. For a Minestrone, just boil any tortellini pasta on the side, saute some zucchini or green beans and tomato together in olive oil, add Italian sausage if you want; and, when all is done, add to bowls and pour hot stock over the top into individual serving bowls along with the cooked pasta... simple as that.

As for the baked Brie, follow the pictures...

Bake on 375 for as long as it takes to see a brown top and oozing cheese. For a little bit different take, before wrapping and baking, slice the Brie in half and insert sun dried tomatoes or olives or spinach, put the two halves back together like a sandwich wrap with the croissant dough and bake.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Homemade Soup ~ Be Brainy About it...

Soup, takes you home...

The Brainy Gourmet has never strayed from frugality. Most meals are cooked based on what is in the fridge or pantry on any given day and what can be used over again.  Soup is one of those food stuffs that just keeps on giving. If you prepare a stock whether from meat/poultry or vegetables, it can and will become a number of different soups throughout the week.

A cut of meat that I learned to like and to use for soup stock is pork butt; specifically, the 'picnic/pork' shoulder which I think has been unfairly named. This cut of pork is absolutely perfect for soup and what comes after. If you buy a large enough shoulder, you can also enjoy pulled pork sandwiches the next day.

To begin your soup, saute onion in olive oil. Push the onion aside and sear the pork butt on both sides. Cover with water and add any vegetable you like; keeping in mind that if you want to create a variety of soups throughout the week those veggies should be drained off and served/used separately.

As you have read on previous blogs, do not add macaroni, rice or potatoes to the stock. They can be cooked on the side and added to individual bowls as your soup stock morphs into many different brainy delicious soups.

From this cut of pork, you will be surprised to see a dark rich stock...

From this rich stock, you can create whatever soup you like... just be brainy about it!

*Serve your soup with either toasted bread or a grilled cheese sandwich. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Iowa Pork Cutlets with Creamy Mashed Potatoes and Applesauce...

There is nothing that compares to homemade applesauce; a jar of pure sunshine this time of year. And, what could be better than to serve it with farm fresh Iowa pork 'boneless chops' pounded down into tender juicy cutlets, pan fried with mounds of creamy mashed potatoes on the side.

To begin, saute chopped onion in a skillet of olive oil until browned. Pound down the pork  chops into 'cutlets', then push aside the onion and lay in the pork, adding your favorite dried herbs. *Note - I prefer not to bread the cutlets, just let the meat speak for itself.

Once the meat is nearly white with just a bit of pink yet in the center, pour in 1/2 cup of heavy cream, adding a tbs of Dijon mustard (or not) and then tossing in a few sun dried tomatoes ...let simmer.

Just prior to cooking the cutlets, wash, peel and halve or quarter yellow gold potatoes to boil.  When they are tender, mash with a dollop of butter and 1/4 cup of milk.

Put out the applesauce and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Chili Without Beans on a Cold December Night...

Chilies... hot, hot and hotter

When it comes to making a pot of chili, its a no beaner at the Brainy Gourmet's. Yeah, beans... either you love em or you don't.  Chili without beans is a no brainer that's for sure. Its just so easy. And, be my guest when it comes to chili recipes because whether yours/mine, there is always somebody's and or everybody's favorite version.

But, let me just say that I like to use chopped green or red pepper, onion sauteed in olive oil, along with good quality ground beef; and, as much chili powder and red chili pepper flakes as anybody in my/your house can stand.

Once you get that all mixed up, add a small can of tomato paste and stir. If it is thicker than you like, add beef stock or even mild salsa or a little of both. Let it simmer for at least 45 min to an hour.

*Break out the grated cheese, hot sauce and crackers...

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Hungarian Medley with Roasted Vegetables and Dried Plums!

For this dish you will need to buy: either lamb, pork or veal loin to use as any of these are can be bought skinless, and boneless. You will also need: heavy cream, ground paprika, garlic powder, jarred roasted red peppers, along with about 3 young zucchini squash, a few sun dried tomatoes and dried plums. 

Cut the loin into thick medallions. Sprinkle sea salt on each and brown the medallions in olive oil in a skillet on high heat. Once browned turn down the heat and add as many diced roasted red peppers as you like. Stir while adding 1/2 cup of heavy cream and 1 tsp of paprika, garlic powder and fresh dried parsley. Simmer while you prepare oven roasted zucchini with sun dried tomatoes and dried plums.

For the zucchini, wash, peel a little of the skin off, slice and lay in a glass baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with dried herbs. Bake in the oven on 400f for about 30 min. Toss in the sun dried tomatoes and plums on the end of that time for another 10 min.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Sicilian Garlic Chicken with Rosemary!

Don't become an angry Italian... 

Well, the only time any Italian gets angry is when dinner is late to the table! And, a good Italian Momma knows what to do... "Tutti a Tavola!" Just call everyone to the table.

And, who wouldn't become filled with happiness when Momma or Pappa or Nona puts Sicilian Garlic Chicken with Rosemary on the table... marinated in lemon juice and served with potatoes mashed with Parmesan cheese and garlic.

For this dish you will need to buy: a package of chicken thighs with the bone in and skin on. Fresh garlic, one lemon, fresh rosemary sprigs or use dried, yellow gold potatoes (six or seven med. size) and Parmesan cheese.

To begin, marinate the chicken thighs in a glass baking dish using the juice of one lemon, toss over the top 3-4 peeled and diced garlic cloves, drizzle on some olive oil and lay on your rosemary sprigs or sprinkle generously dried rosemary. Heat your oven to 400F.

After 12-15 min. of marinating time, place the chicken in the oven and roast for about 30-40 min uncovered. Check to see if the skin is crisping and if yes, turn over the thighs, return to the oven for 5 min. After five minutes or so turn the thighs back over and consider adding a few fresh washed red cherry tomatoes and a handful of kalamata olives.

Return to the oven covered, reduce heat to 350F and let roast for another 15 -20 min. Take this time now to prepare the potatoes. Wash, peel and halve, the potatoes. Add to boiling salted water and cover. When tender, drain and mash using 3 tbs of butter, the same of sour cream, a dash of olive oil, Parmesan cheese, 1/4 tsp of minced garlic and 1 tsp of dried herbs - Italian blend.