Brainy Gourmet

Brainy Gourmet
The Doctor is into Delicious!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Time to Ring in the New Year with Family and Food

Happy New Year!

If you are hosting a New Year's Eve party (supper or dinner), you should first and foremost consider your guests. Whether family or friends or a combination, be considerate of their diets. All too often I find that finger food at parties combines meat and veggies together and thus non meat eaters cannot eat and those on restricted diets when meat is prohibited also suffer. For me, certain veggies cause intestinal problems especially in their raw state. It is a good idea to prepare something for everyone on your guest list. I also recommend labeling food in a 'fancy creative' way to let guests know what is before them. If you are serving only finger food, provide means for guests to take bites without having to touch other bites that other guests would like to taste. I saw on a blog the idea of putting cheese chunks into mason jars... looks nice but crammed into such jars will cause the cheese chunks (soft as most are) to be pushed down as one after another guests tries to retrieve a chunk of cheese causing fingers to touch the chunks as they become more and more packed down and thus difficult to get out of the jars.  I have been at parties when the food did not fit the kind of and amount of alcohol. If you plan to serve drinks with high alcohol content, then serve fatty food which will keep your guests sober. I have been to parties when the food was dips and chips and cookies. If you have adults coming for food, don't treat them like kids/teenagers. Serve food that shows your respect for their life and their being in your life. Serve food that is hot/warm and full of flavor. Personally, I am more the savory gourmet than sweet. Set an inviting table. I have been to parties where chairs to sit on were scarce. Better to crowd people around the table then to have them milling about and dropping food for your pet or staining the carpet. What is really important though is not to worry about the dog/cat or carpet. When you invite family and friends over to share a table, you are saying that you want to spend time with them... you are getting together to share life/food. This is what the party is about. It is not a time to show off your new furniture or carpet or television or whatever. Its about life, food and togetherness! Food shared is for social cohesiveness, friendships and family bonding. If you don't have the room, then keep the guest list limited or have an open house so that guests can come at different times to enjoy your company at the table.
I recommend the 3 course Polish Dinner from this blog dated Nov. 18th. You can change up the soup to suit your main course. Serving in courses keeps people around the table longer. If a 3 course dinner is not something you imagine doing, then consider having Greek Fish (check past post) for New Years. This is a dish I just love to serve and eat because it is tasty and good for non red/white meat eaters and vegetarians.If you plan on a buffet with more finger food that's ok, just remember the above suggestions. I would include half sub sandwiches (hot or cold) using a diversity of meats/cheeses to choose from and put out a rich mayonnaise sauce with a tang of mustard in it and an olive oil / balsamic vinegar dressing on the table for those who like to dress up their sub. 
Blessings to you in 2015 from the Brainy Gourmet!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Fresh Lime and Blackened Peppered Alaskan Salmon

Price per serving for two: $2.40


You will need to buy one package of fresh frozen Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon. I bought a six piece package at Aldi for 3.99. If you don't have in the fridge, one lime. I bought one at my local fresh grocer for .49 cents. And, if you don't already have potatoes in the pantry, get some. I happen to have a 2 lb. bag of yellow gold in the pantry for which I paid $1.89.  This bag has provided 3 meals so far and will provide at least 3 more. In this way, I can figure in about .31 cents each meal.

Take from the pantry:
Sea Salt
Olive Oil
Fresh Butter
Coconut Oil
Black Pepper
Garlic Powder
Dried Herb Seasonings
* rosemary, mint and thyme or oregano

The salmon should be thawed and sitting in a marinate of fresh squeezed lime juice, sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder and dried herb seasoning. Before cooking, remove the dark line of meat from each piece. This part has a strong bitter taste. Take out your favorite skillet. By now, you know mine... deep and covered. Melt 3 tbs of coconut oil and the same of olive oil and one pat of fresh 'salted' butter.  Once the oils have spit at you, lay in your salmon and cover. Let the fillets cook covered for a while. In that time, prepare halved potatoes in a drizzle of olive oil in a glass dish to be microwaved. Back to the salmon which should be ready to turn over. Do that, and cover again for an additional 2 min; and, then uncover turning up the flame til the edges blacken... just the edges. When the microwave beeps, the potatoes are done and the fillets as well. For garnish, just add more fresh lime slices/wedges. To zing up the potatoes, you can drizzle on some of the pan oils from the salmon and I always like to include on the table a small dish of fresh sour cream. I recommend as a brainy gourmet that every kitchen have fresh sour cream, heavy cream, and salted butter as wonders can be done with these items at any moments notice using just about any fresh food product.
A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, when slightly chilled, pairs well with fish...not figured into the price per serving.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Give us this Day our Daily Bread - Food Accessibility in America

Food Accessibility in America used to be the same as in Europe... the idea of grocery stores in every neighborhood serving the community. It was common here in the US before big box stores and urban sprawl.  In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the age of the independent mom-and-pop stores appeared widely and conveniently. As residents moved into neighborhoods segregated by class and ethnicity and into the suburbs created by the new means of transportation, small family-run stores sprang up to meet their needs. These new groceries, meat markets, vegetable stands, and bakeries typically reflected the ethnic demographics of the neighborhood—  Polish neighborhoods were served by Polish grocers, Jewish neighborhoods by Jewish grocers. Stores often carried ethnic foods that were hard to find elsewhere and conducted business in the native language of their customers. Workers followed this pattern as well. The bakers' union had separate locals for it German, Bohemian, Scandinavian, Polish, and English members, while the meat cutters had separate German, Bohemian, Jewish, and African American locals.
Thousands of small neighborhood stores dotted Chicago's urban landscape until the 1950s. Families rarely owned any sort of refrigeration besides an icebox, so housewives shopped for food almost daily. This put a premium on convenience; the store had to be within walking distance of home. By 1914, some 7,400 groceries, 1,800 meat markets, and several hundred fruit and vegetable stands served the city. Except for those stores located where streetcar lines crossed, proprietors could expect only a few hundred regular customers. To protect themselves from the fierce competition that characterized their industry, Chicago's retail food store owners formed many associations over the years. Since the industry was notorious for its long hours, these associations often agitated for early closing and Sunday closing rules. As early as 1855, retailers formed an Early Closing Association to give themselves time off in the evening. The Chicago Grocer and Butcher Clerks Protective Association joined with the Retail Grocers and Butchers Association in 1900 to pressure employers who refused to join the Sunday closing crusade, but their successes were short-lived until union contracts introduced in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s effectively set the hours of operation for the industry. The rise of chain store companies in the years after World War I seriously challenged the dominance of the independent grocers. http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/554.html
I think it is sad that we have fewer local grocery stores and more big box stores. It is more difficult to get to food because of this lack of local grocery stores in America's neighborhoods. While I lived in Europe, I treated the local stores, there were many in my block, as my additional storage: my extended pantry, my extra fridge space. In fact, I lived without a refrigerator for one year and never missed it. Why/How? Because, I was able to buy fresh daily, come home, cook it and eat it.  I know that in many of America's cities such local stores still exist but it becomes more and more difficult for smaller entrepreneurs to remain in business and especially to keep up with inflation and property taxes and insurances deemed necessary in this litigation culture. Costs for the little guy are passed down directly to the customer; whereas, with big box stores, such costs are easily managed and or absorbed in the greater nationwide infrastructure.
 What will be the future of food accessibility in America? Will we see a restoration of small local grocery stores? Will big box stores create smaller stores located within neighborhoods? Will residential neighborhoods be able to communally raise/grow their own food as in collective agro-biz? I would like to have chickens and a cow in my large back yard for milk and eggs and to share any abundance. Shouldn't we as individuals be able to do that? Point being, with the many discussions today about food deserts, why can't individuals be more proactive in providing food for themselves and others in their communities? If they cannot be proactive, then the bigger question is why not?
Give us this day our daily bread...

Monday, December 22, 2014

Food is For Celebration!

Food is for Celebration


This holiday season consider this "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscious; for, the earth is the Lord's and everything in it." 1 COR 10:23-26

Food is more than survival. With it we make friends, court lovers, and count our blessings ~ anonymous.  

I was just reading this and thought, exactly right. Of course, our body needs food to function, but food has another function. As you read in the article by Gina Citoli, food has been used for celebration, rituals, traditional events, as well as for comfort as in when someone passes and family/friends bring food to the home of those grieving. We share food at weddings, at baptisms, at holidays, and birthdays and graduations. As posted a while back, eating is social. Since we eat food = food is social; at least it should be because when eat together, we share life. There was an old saying that the act of forgiving is bringing someone back to the table. That is what people want, those who have done wrong and seek forgiveness, they want to come back to the table. The table is the surface for social interaction, togetherness. This Holiday Season, think of your table in this way and celebrate Life!

The Ritual and Celebration of Food!

Throughout the ages, food has been a part of human celebrations, life passages and holidays. We seasonally rejoice in different foods each time of the year and there have been entire festivities dedicated to each harvest.

~ by Gina Citoli

We are beginning to return to time-honored celebrations of food and harvest. There are more communal pot lucks with different kinds of foods as themes, but for the most part, our meals are rushed and eaten in front of the TV or computer just to fill our stomachs and we dedicate very little attention to honoring the food we are ingesting.
As this is the last part in the series of Conscious Eating articles, I would like to share some ways food is being celebrated with rituals from around the world, and then offer some thoughts on creating your own personal rituals to enhance your relationship with food.
There are many types of foods that are celebrated culturally and spiritually, from tea to corn. Contemplate these and then create your own food rituals that fit your life. Remember that when you put attention and focus on the shopping or harvest, preparation, serving and eating of your food, you are making it conscious and removing it from reaction and habit.
Let’s start with tea. The British have built their lives around “high tea” time in the afternoon, and the Japanese tea ceremony, also called the “Way of Tea,” is a sacred Japanese cultural activity and involves the ceremonial preparation and serving of matcha, a powdered green tea. Zen Buddhism was a foremost influence in creating the tea ceremony.
The native people of the world have rituals and use sacred foods and herbs for healing, journeying and enjoying such as the “Green Corn Ceremony.” This is a religious and social event celebrated by many Native Americans of the Eastern and southeastern tribes. The Green Corn Ceremony occurs in late summer and corresponds to ripening of the corn crops and the ritual includes dancing, feasting, fasting and religious observations.
Then there are the Italian rituals. The “Sunday visit” is one of the most popular. The intention is to spend time with family and friends while consuming espresso or wine and tons of food. I have memories of this while growing up with my father’s family on the East Coast. We would pack up and go to Aunt Mary’s house and — oh my! The food and people kept coming and going all day. They had vineyards in the backyard and broke out wine and music and would do the tarantella, an Italian folk dance, late into the evening!
The Norwegians have made an art form of Lefse making. Its goal is lefse, a thin, round pieces with not too much flour. Eating lefse and lutefisk is a tradition that Norwegian-Americans continue and is popular around the winter holidays.
One of my favorites is “The Slow Food Movement,” which unites the pleasure of food with responsibility, sustainability and harmony with nature.
We spend so much of our day planning, preparing, eating and cleaning up from the ritual of eating food. There are many ways to consciously incorporate these acts into our daily life in a way that will make the process more enjoyable, meaningful and memorable. Here are some ideas on creating your own food and cooking rituals:
  • Make a ritual of the actual preparation of your food. Focus on the food. Sing over it or pray over it. Send it love and gratitude.
  • Create a celebration around the first spring harvest of berries, greens, apples, etc. Dance and have a bonfire and enjoy!
  • Create a solitary ritual of contemplation of your food and gratitude, affirming that you live in a world of plenty and envision abundance for all.
  • Make a meal for your family or friends just because you love them. Make it beautiful sensual, aromatic and full of texture and color.
Remember, food is our life force and something to be consciously honored and appreciated. Taking a slower, more conscious approach to eating will give more meaning, inspiration and can have a profound effect on your life!
Source:  The Ritual and Celebration of Food by Gina Citoli retrieved from: http://www.edgemagazine.net/2011/04/the-ritual-celebration-of-food/

Friday, December 19, 2014

Soup as a First Course and Quiche as Second

Price per serving for two: $2.56

Soup is a first course in many cultures. When I lived in Europe, soup was part of the everyday dinner and holidays as well.  Today, I am using left over stock from the pork butt. I have some extra wide egg noodles in the pantry; a medium size bag I bought three months ago and finally just down to the last of it. Remember, I don't buy in bulk. Being frugal and being brainy about it means that it is better to buy more often what you need for the day rather than buy huge amounts just because it was a good deal. I always catch a good price on something any day of the week at my local grocer or ALDI.What I had to buy today was a one pound package of ground turkey. I planned on turkey meatballs to add to the stock. What about the quiche? All you need are eggs and cheese from the fridge, heavy cream from the fridge and pie crust... which I happen to have also in the fridge.

Take from the pantry list:
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
Red Pepper Flakes
Plain Bread Crumbs
Dried Herb Seasoning

Take the stock from the fridge and start warming it up on the stove. While that started, you can make your meatballs. You will need to mix in a glass bowl, 1/2 cup of plain bread crumbs, 1 tsp of salt and the same of black pepper. You can use as much dried herb seasoning as you like and I like a lot. Form this mixture into balls, not too big or too small. Turn up the flame on the stock so that it boils. Once it does, drop in your meatballs. Now, start another covered stock pot for boiling your noodles.

Turn down the flame on the meatballs in the pork butt stock and get going on the quiche. Turn your oven on to about F400. While the oven heats up, take a glass bowl and crack in six large eggs. To that add 1 cup of heavy cream. Then add some shredded cheese, I have some left over from the nachos supreme, about 1 cup. Add your seasonings, 1 tsp of salt and black pepper and 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes. Blend all of this with a wisk and then take a hand mixer to froth it up a bit.
Grab a glass pie dish, unwrap a single pie crust, which I also happen to have left over from Thanksgiving, it is still good. I grease the dish with coconut oil and lay in the crust. Then I pour the egg mixture in and top with Parmesan cheese. If the oven is ready, pop it in, turning down the heat to F375.
Your soup should be ready, drain the egg noodles and spoon them into bowls. Then ladle in the stock with the turkey meatballs. Serve this while the quiche bakes. What is great about courses, it draws out dinner time and that is good since eating is social and the more we share food together, the more we share our lives together.



* a simple quiche can always become more; add mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and even top with arugula when you serve.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Right Fats and The Incredible Edible Egg

Good Brain Food 

Don't Fear the Fat, Eat The Right Fats

What about the incredible edible egg?  Eggs are good for you as they have choline (fat like B vitamin) and so are other fats...the right fats. I read today, that the health of your brain depends not only on how much (or little) fat you eat but on what kind it is. Intellectual performance requires the specific type of fat found most commonly in fish, known as omega-3 fatty acids. Even diets that adhere to commonly recommended levels of fats, but the wrong kind, can undermine intelligence. What makes this finding awkward is that certain oils widely touted as healthy for the heart are especially troublesome for the mind.
Omega-3s are known to be particularly crucial constituents of the outer membrane of brain cells. It is through the fat-rich cell membrane that all nerve signals must pass. In addition, as learning and memory forge new connections between nerve cells, new membranes must be formed to sheathe them. All brain cell membranes continuously need to refresh themselves with a new supply of fatty acids. A growing amount of research suggests that the omega-3s are best suited for optimal brain function.
While consuming too much fat overall and too much saturated fat, many North Americans fail to consume enough omega-3s. And the polyunsaturated oils widely recommended as healthful for the heart and widely used in cooking, frying and prepared food—corn, safflower and sunflower oils—have almost no omega-3s. Instead they are loaded with omega-6s. You need a proper balance of omega-6s and omega-3s.
It's possible to boost alertness, memory and stress resistance by supplying food components that are precursors of important brain neurotransmitters. One of them is choline, the fat-like B vitamin found in eggs. Studies show that choline supplementation enhances memory and reaction time in animals, especially aging animals. It also enhances memory in people. Choline supplementation also minimizes fatigue. In one study, choline given during a 20-mile run improved running time by a significant amount.
 http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200310/what-is-good-brain-food

Eggs need to be an important part of anyone's diet. 
One great way to indulge in the incredible edible egg is to make quiche.
Which I will make tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Homecooked Hearty Pork Butt Makes a Great Soup Stock

Price per serving for two is: $3.20

 

You will need to buy one pork butt. I just found a really nice one for $6.42, Farmland Brand.  If you ran out of onion, better buy some. I still have three in the pantry. As a side, I am going to use left over pierogi from yesterday. If you don't have any, then just boil some potatoes.

Take from your pantry list:
Onion
Sea Salt
Beef Bouillon
Black Pepper Corn
Dried Herb Seasoning

This will take about 3 hrs. to cook or even all day on the stove is best as it fills the house the with great aroma. Your neighbors will stop by and ask what's cookin. So simply and so hearty, so deliciously juicy!  If you have not guessed, I like juicy food, juicy everything including spaghetti or farfalle with red sauce. I also like meat and potatoes juicy. Here is the best way to experience juiciness. All you need to do is take a large cast iron covered stock pot and fill with water. Place on the stove/burner and add one whole onion, 1 tbs of Sea Salt and tsp of black pepper corn. I let this get up to a boil and then sit in the pork butt. I add the dried herb seasoning mix *rosemary, mint and oregano. The last to go in is a large dollop of beef bouillon.  I buy the natural like homemade refrigerator brand, it just tastes better. If you don't have any, you can add what my grandma used to do, a few bones left over that still contained marrow, and any left over beef for additional flavor, now that's being frugal.  Basically, that's it. All you have to do is monitor the  pork butt/soup stock from time to time within that 3 hr. period. What happens in there is magic.
Just before serving time, toss in the left over pierogi or potatoes (pre cooked on the stove).
Pork butt is a super tasty cut of meat and the fat that has makes it juicy.


A Stone Age Diet - Considering Dr. Loren Cordain's Paleo-Diet

A Stone Age diet is the one and only diet that ideally fits our genetic makeup writes Loren Cordain, an evolutionary nutritionist at Colorado State University, in his book: The Paleo Diet: Lost Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You were Designed to Eat.  What does that mean? According to Cordain we should eat plenty of lean mean and fish, which I am all for. In fact, I would love to do as she does here. However, these days there would be fishing license requirements, considering costs and limits on catch, probably not as frugal today as it was then; and where would I hang my catch to dry/smoke? When most people can't even hang laundry in the yard.

Back to Cordain, the professor says that we really should not eat dairy products,beans or cereal grains because they are foods introduced into our diet after the invention of cooking and agriculture. Paleo-diet advocates like Cordain say that we we should stick to the foods our hunter-gatherer ancestors once ate, we can avoid the disease of civilization, such as heart disease, high  blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and even acne. Meat has played a starring role in the evolution of the human dies. And humans are still evolving. The discussion is that we should also pay attention to that evolution in context of life styles and exercise. In our evolution, we have adapted and meat is considered not so necessary by some and yet again, we hear from scholars such as Cordain that meat and even a good 'bit' of fat (as you could read in a previous post of mine ~ "Don't Fear the Fat???") and or marrow is good for us regarding brain cell growth, evolution and throughout life's bodily changes, meat has vital nutrition. What is agreed on by most is that being human isn't our taste for meat but our ability to adapt to many habitats and to create many healthy diets in any place. *Taken from the article "The Evolution of Diet" by Ann Gibbons: in National Geographic Sept. 2014
The problem with living the Paleo Diet is that not everyone is able to, or allowed to. There are so many restrictions that most people today in this 21st century can no longer and or are not allowed to adapt to his/her environment and to feed him/herself or family.  In many places, you can even raise chickens without a permit or half acre. What is happening to our evolution?  Are we becoming more and more reliant on machines/manufacturing, and fast food eateries. Perhaps, we could answer Yes. Thankfully, many people are rethinking their diet, their ability to raise food and even to hunt and fish for it. Would that mean a retreat to survival of the fittest? Only greedy people can answer that question.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Butterfly Chops in Carmelized Pineapple with Lemon Garlic and Mint/Thyme

Price per serving for two: $2.08

You will need to buy boneless butterfly pork chops. I found a nice package of two of the Farmland brand for just $2.79. I bought a can of chunk pineapple on sale for .89 cents and a lemon for .49.

Take from the pantry list:
Coconut Oil
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Butter
Garlic
Red Pepper Flakes
Dried mint and thyme

Take out your covered skillet. Add 3 tbs of coconut oil and the same of olive oil. Peel and slice two cloves of fresh garlic, wash and slice your lemon (using 4-5 med slices with rind on). Turn on the flame to med and toss in the garlic and lemon. Open your canned pineapple (you can use fresh when in season).  Toss in as many chunks as you would like and add some of the juice.  Let that mixture bubble up before adding the chops. Once it has, lay in the butterfly chops.Season the top of the chops with sea salt, red pepper flakes and some dried mint and thyme. I like to cook them through in this way first, takes about 15 mins, depending on the thickness. After fifteen min. or so, move the chops over and move garlic and lemon to one side. Turn up the flame to high and sear the pork a bit on both sides, 2 min. The garlic and lemon will sizzle a bit too, which is ok. Remove the chops from skillet (placing them on a serving platter) and then add a bit more pineapple juice. I also add tbs of butter and then turn the flame to super high to get this mixture caramelizing. Once it has, turn off the flame and pour this delicious sauce over the chops.

*You can serve this dish with a crispy crunchy onion and fennel salad drizzled with olive oil, topped with raisins and shaved Parmesan cheese on a bed of any green leaf for color.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Roast Chicken Challege ~ Create a 'Stock' that becomes- Cream of Chicken and Rice Soup

Price per serving for two: $1.50

You won't need to buy anything. If you have been keeping up with the pantry list (replacing inventory) and if you were able to get stock from yesterday's roast chicken challenge.  I did and in fact, it is one of the most savory stocks I have ever made. All you need is rice and heavy cream. The cost of today's soup has been divided among ingredients which were already on hand.


I just cooked as much rice as I needed, warmed up the stock, added a few chunks of left over roast chicken and presto, dinner in 18 min.

Heavy Cream in the Fridge, why is it so valuable to the brainy gourmet???


Having heavy cream in the fridge is an absolute must. It is incredibly valuable because of its many uses. That is why it is so frugal for the brainy gourmet at your house.

My number one use is for sauces/gravies. I also like to add it to soups and cold coffee. You can whip it up and instantly have a desert topping. You can use it for baking, for pancakes, for crepes, for hot cereal and even added to cottage cheese as a quick fix when the 'cottage' gets a bit curdy as in dry not moldy.

One pint lasts me a week for all the above uses and at a cost of $1.89 it is brainy; whether, you are making a new meal or having left overs, its frugal way to stretch any budget. Though I use heavy cream in my cooking, I stretch out one pint over several days; which means that I am not drinking a pint a day or using that much in every dish/meal I cook. The amount of calories and fat from using heavy cream are thus stretched out in every dish/meal. Read my blog on "Don't Fear the Fat". Every human brain needs a certain amount of fat everyday to be brainy. And for the creamiest scrambled eggs, use heavy cream.
For inspiration watch Chef Rene Orduna cook with heavy cream on youtube!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Roasted Chicken Challenge - 25 turned 50 min.

Price per serving for two: $3.00 

You will need to buy one whole chicken. I bought a nice plump one for 5.11 which is the highest I have paid. If you don't have lemon, then you will need to buy one as well as garlic and thyme, package of fresh but sprigs is about $1.89.

Take from your pantry list:
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Butter
Garlic
Onion
Paprkia
Red Pepper Flakes

The idea was to challenge a recent youtube cooking video which showed how to roast chicken in just 45 min. How? The fastest and easiest way to roast chicken either in the oven or on the grill is to spatchcock the chicken which simply means to take out the backbone flip over the chicken and press down on the breast to flatten out the chicken. Since, I like being brainy, I wanted to get the most from my chicken; not only this evenings meal but a basic chicken stock out of it as well. I decided to boil it for 15 mins and then roast it on F400 for 25 min; hence, roasted chicken in 25 min.  Now, I did suppose that my 1963 gas wall over would be less than efficient as it is but nevertheless, I like a challenge.

To get started, I took a med cast iron stock pot and filled it with hot water for the chicken, putting in one whole onion saving a few sections for the skillet which I would roast the chicken in.  I added a pinch of salt as well. I then spatchcocked the chicken so that it will lay more flat and cook faster. Remember, being brainy means making the most of what you have. Not only do I want roast chicken out this but also stock for the week. So, I took the spatchcocked chicken and put it into the boiling water for 15 min.


After the 15 min. were up, I took out the chicken from the stock and put the back of the chicken (removed earlier) into the stock to cook longer for a richer stock that will last all week. The chicken then went into my prepared black cast iron skillet. First, I covered the bottom of the skillet with 4 tbs of olive oil, then I added sliced lemon , the onion sections I saved 'held back' from the stock, a half clove of peeled and sliced garlic. I laid the chicken down and rubbed in 2tbs of butter, 1 tbs of sea salt, 1 tsp of paprika, 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes or more if you like it spicy. Then I placed in about 6 sprigs of fresh thyme and put the skillet in the oven for 25 min on F400. 
Well, I said the old Caloric did what she could but after 25 min. the temperature of the chicken was only 160. I needed to get at least 185. So, back in she went for another 15 min. I checked the temp again and only had hit 180. So I closed the door for another 5 min and that did the trick. I had also put in a few stuffing meatballs. I had left over breakfast sausage and bread croutons from Thanksgiving, so a quick mix together along with some dried herb seasonings and I had a perfect side, which in fact produced a really rich gravy.
Though I was not able to roast my chicken in 45 min. It turned out delicious and I was still brainy about it, got stock for a week!
* next time, I will use a cookie sheet and not the cast iron skillet. I think that the heavy skillet in my Caloric took too long to heat up and get the chicken cooking. It was cooked through and delicious! Just not in 45 min.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

This Weekend Challenge and How Pears are Good for You

This weekend will be a ready steady cook weekend. I will roast chicken and make stock in 25 min.  Subscribe to receive today so you don't miss a thing. 

 

* tip of the day - Did you know a few slices for fresh pear can subdue heartburn?


Fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as juices made from them, are often referred to as live foods because they contain active enzymes. Enzymes are found in higher amounts in raw foods because they are extremely sensitive to heat and are destroyed during cooking and pasteurization.
There are two major types of enzymes:synthetases and hydrolases.
Hydrolases are also known as digestive enzymes. These enzymes have shown in scientific studies to exert a wide variety of beneficial effects including assistance in digestion.
Pears
Pears are an excellent source of water soluble fibers, including pectin. In fact, pears are actually higher in pectin than apples. This makes them quite useful in helping to lower cholesterol levels and in toning the intestines. Toning the intestinal muscles improves their ability to push your digested foods through your gastrointestinal tract. Since their skin provides some of their fiber and higher levels of nutrients, it is best not to peel the fruit, but to eat the entire pear.
 http://www.whole-food-supplements-guide.com/foods-that-ease-heartburn.html

Quick Draw Brainy Nachos Supreme

price per serving for two: $3.45

You will need to buy 1 pound of ground turkey. I bought a pound at my local grocer, paying $2.45. You will need to buy sour cream $1.89. A bag of your favorite Corn Chips. I bought restaurant style at ALDI for $1.69. If you don't have on hand, one onion and one green pepper. Today, I bought red paprika and chili powder both of which were not on the original pantry list, paying $2.89 for each. I just so happen to have grated cheese but if you don't have ...buy that too - a mix of Cheddar and Colby, I have paid no more than $3 dollars for a med sized bag. You also can buy your favorite salsa or make your own. It is easy. Just take either fresh tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes. Put into a blender, add green pepper, onion, and pineapple. I am not a fan of cilantro so, I use fresh Italian parsley. A pinch of salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice. Blend til your have a slushy consistency. If don't have salsa and need to buy then I recommend the ALDI brand - simply nature  'organic' mild which usually is about $1.99
 As you know, when I cook, I base the cost per serving on ingredients that are a one time use as the others I use over and over which makes it difficult to calculate into each recipe. All in all, it is best to figure the cost of the one time use items and add on an estimate for the others based on use over a period of time. All the ingredients here, except the ground turkey (a one time use), will be used over and over again throughout the week or even months ahead (spices) and some will be used just another day or two, i.e. chips and salsa. As I see it, the additional usage gives the products an added value.

Take from the pantry list:
Coconut Oil
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Red pepper flakes
Red Paprika
Chili powder

First, chop finely your onion and green pepper. In your covered skillet, melt 3 tbs of coconut oil and olive oil.
Add the onion and pepper. Cook until both onion and green pepper are transparent. Then add your ground turkey. Stir breaking up any chunks of ground turkey meat. Then cover and let simmer for 15 min. While the ground meat cooks, prepare to dress up your nachos. You can begin by melting a lot of cheese on top of your large plate of corn chips, either in the microwave or oven. I like to use the oven since that way the chips don't get mushy or chewy. Which, sometimes happens during microwave cooking/heating up. At least in mine which is a few years old.  Check your meat, add 1/2 tsp of sea salt, 1 tsp red pepper flakes and the same of red paprika and chili powder.  I had some onion powder I wanted to use up so that went in to, about 1tsp. Stir and cover turning off the heat.
Grab your chips in the large low lipped bowl with the melted cheese on top. Pour out over the top some of the meat mixture, enough to almost cover all the chips/cheese. Then put a huge dollop of sour cream on top, some additional grated cheese and a sprig of mint. That's it. I put the salsa on the table to use individually.

Ooh la la!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What Can You Do with A Tomato with So Many Varieties???

The best eating tomato is usually the one you just picked out of the garden. 





According to the "Veggie Gardener" the best is "Brandywine"... go figure. On the Veggie site, you can find a list of the top ten for slicing up and eating on the spot, on a sandwich, a burger or in a salad. http://www.veggiegardener.com/best-tomatoes-for-slicing/

The best tomato for a fresh tomato sauce is the Italian plum tomato. I have used a recipe similar to the one  posted by the Food Network.  I heartily recommend you give it a try because it is simply delicious and all added ingredients you have on the pantry list as posted on the Brainy Gourmet.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/fresh-plum-tomato-sauce-recipe.html
Ingredients

10 to 12 fresh plum tomatoes (approximately 2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
4 ounces extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional extra-virgin olive oil, optional
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Pinch crushed red pepper
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt
Freshly chopped parsley leaves

Directions

Peel tomatoes by scoring the skin of each tomato with a sharp knife (do not cut too deep). Then, place scored tomatoes into a pot of boiling water and boil for approximately 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Remove tomatoes and plunge into cold water. Peel and dice tomatoes and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan. When hot, add garlic and crushed red pepper. Saute until garlic turns slightly golden. Add chopped onion and saute an additional 2 1/2 minutes.

Add chopped plum tomatoes and cook approximately 5 minutes. Add salt to taste. Add chopped parsley and extra virgin olive oil if desired, just before using.

As a child growing up frugal, my mother made Tuscan Tomato Bread Soup. Sounds so 'gourmet' doesn't it. Well, its day old bread, could even be a few days old, a little left over chicken stock with over ripe tomatoes and butter. You start with the tomatoes, simmer or til they have cooked down, add a pinch of salt some dried herb seasoning and lastly stir in your bread . Pour into bowls and top with a generous pat of butter and sprinkle some Parmesan. Delicious! 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Chicken with Almond Mole and Spanish Rice

Price per serving for two:  counting only the chicken purchase this time $ 1.88

Unbelievable taste at a very low cost - Chicken with Almond Mole!
You will need to buy a package of skinless chicken thighs. I bought a generous package with 8 thighs for just $3.77. The cost of this dish is so low because, besides the chicken, I already have everything I need on hand.  As you have noticed, I do not calculate into every dish all costs incurred. Not that they don't matter or I do math in a strange way. The problem is this, I buy a can of cocoa, over a years time, I use less than half as it is a strong flavor. I have other items in the pantry that I buy infrequently and it is difficult to calculate the cost in every dish since I use a dash of this and that. What I can tell you is this, it takes about one hundred dollars to stock a pantry as I have listed on this blog. Some things, like pasta and rice, tea and coffee are replaced more often and that cost is figured in on the meals prepared. Most businesses, have a start up investment, your pantry is set up in this way. The cost of replacement inventory must be figured in only when items need to be replaced.  Since, I use many of my basics in various ways, stocks and left overs, it is not possible to get an accurate cost per meal. I usually just provide you with the items (not on the pantry list) that need to be purchased for the meal and take the rest from inventory.

It is amazing that I have everything I need for this dish, aside of the chicken thighs.

Take from the pantry list:

Butter
An Onion
One lime
Heavy Cream
Salsa Sauce
Garlic Powder
Red Pepper Flakes
Bitter or 100% Dark Cocoa
Dried Herb Seasonings
*rosemary, mint and oregano

Almond Extract
Coconut Sugar
Coconut OilCinnamon 
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Rice

Take out your covered skillet. Turn on the flame to low and add 4 tbs of coconut oil and the same of Olive Oil. Add seasonings to taste - sea salt, red pepper flakes, garlic powder and dried herb seasonings. I like this dish to be full of flavor. Turn the flame up to high and let the oils mix and spit. Once they do, add the chicken thighs. Let them sizzle on both sides for 5 min. Then turn your flame to med. Chop an onion and add to the chicken. Now, for the mole. In a separate smaller skillet, add 2 tbs of butter and 2 tbs of olive oil. Stir this on a low flame. Add half a tsp of cinnamon and the same of almond extract. Keep stirring, add 2 tbs of coconut sugar or less if you need to cut back on sugar. Coconut sugar is made from the coconut and not as sweet as cane sugar. I buy this once a year in the organic section. I don't pay more than 5$ for a small box... and it lasts for one year. Now, it is time to check on the chicken, looks good. So, get a small stock pot of water going for the rice. Add a pinch of salt. Once it boils, add the rice, keep stirring and keep stirring your 'mole'. In Mexico, they use a lot more spices. I would love to make it from the long list but since I am frugal, I have to make it from the short list.
For me, the key is the lime as a finish. This makes a cocoa based mole taste scrumptious. The rice should be ready to drain. Do that and put the rice back into the stock pot it was cooked in- no flame. Then add 1/2 cup of any Salsa sauce you have in the fridge, and pour off some of the rich buttery sauce that the chicken thighs have produced, and cover. Set the table, take out our serving platters/ or bowls and get ready to eat. I like to put the thighs on a platter and pour over the creamy buttery onion sauce. Then around the sides, I pour the mole and sprinkle some sesame seeds. Since my sweetie is so hungry, I have little time to garnish, a few sprigs of fresh mint would have looked nice.
I did not have the time to put out the lemon and lime on the plate but it would have been a nice touch. But, nonetheless, I put out a dish on the side. Squeeze some fresh citrus over the top, preferably lime, and zing! What a wonderful taste combination.

For Weight Loss - Meat and Potatoes???

If you can't afford to buy those expensive frozen 'diet' dinners, don't give up on your diet and don't panic. To lose weight, eat Meat and Potatoes -really ??? 

 "Many people still think that because potatoes have a high glycemic index they will induce cravings and weight gain, but research shows this isn’t the case," says Joy Dubost, PhD, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In fact, potatoes ranked number one on the famous satiety index, which was published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1995. During the low-carb years, they fell out of favor, but lately there’s been a renewed interest in studying their effect on diet and weight loss. After all, even though a potato is carb-heavy, it is a vegetable—one medium spud contains 168 calories with 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. Some experts argue that they are particularly satisfying because of they contain resistant starch—complex starch molecules that we can’t digest."

People in Poland eat meat and potatoes everyday and Poles do not have a national problem with obesity. When I was first back in the US, I told Americans  this and they did not believe me. They still thought that in order to lose weight they had to eat raw veggies and drink smoothies. Wrong.




Now, I am not advocating a diet of just meat and potatoes, there are other simple foods you can add to a 'meat and potato' diet that will give you additional nutrition and fiber. For instance, pears, raspberries, eggs avocados, (.79cents at AlDI) leeks, fish and broth based soup- this is something I have posted over and over as a means to be frugal and now as a way to lose weight.  A bowl of hot oatmeal is also extra 'very' good for you. "When your mom told you to eat your oats, she was right. Just make sure they’re cooked. One recent study published in Nutrition Journal found that calorie-for-calorie, oatmeal cooked with nonfat milk was more satisfying than oat-based cold cereal with nonfat milk. Participants who ate about 220 calories of the hot kind for breakfast reported less hunger and increased fullness compared to the cereal eaters—possibly because satiety is enhanced by the higher viscosity of the beta-glucan in the cooked oatmeal. Another new study suggests that its resistant starch may boost beneficial gut bacteria, which—according to mounting evidence—keep the good mood brain chemicals flowing." I have made this a practice of mine.
 https://www.yahoo.com/health/20-filling-foods-that-help-you-lose-weight-104111362483.html

Monday, December 8, 2014

MidWest Meatloaf Monday

Price per serving for two: $3.27

What's so brainy about meatloaf? Firstly, its deliciously simple. Secondly, it does not have to be complicated, in that you only need good seasoning and the third secret... never use ground beef. Though, ground veal can be used instead of the pork.
You will need to buy  1 pound of ground turkey. I buy ground turkey for 3.69 per pound.  I had half a pound of ground pork 1.50 and just under a half of mild breakfast sausage @1.35 worth.  I mix these ground meats with one egg and 3/4 cup of plain bread crumbs and seasonings to taste. I always say when you can smell the herbs after they have been blended in, its a good mix.

Take from the pantry list:
Plain bread crumbs
Sea Salt
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Black Pepper
Red Pepper Flakes
Dried Herb seasonings
*rosemary, mint and oregano


Heat your oven to F375. Once hot, take your meat mixture and form into a football. Place in an glass dish with olive oil drizzles on the bottom. Place in the oven, cook for about 35  min. or until the juices run dark pink/tan. 

Prepare Potatoes, you can boil, or microwave. Once tender, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle dried herb seasoning and Parmesan.

As a side, you can add squash or some light greens with fruit.



Friday, December 5, 2014

Salmon in Creamy Butter Sauce with Fettuccine Alfredo and 3 Cheese Filled Roasted Poblano

When is its Friday, I like to make something really special for my sweetie. 

Price per serving for two: $4.42

You need to buy: A package of wild caught salmon.  I bought a bag with six pieces at ALDI for $3.99.  I also bought a box of tomato pink Fettuccine noodle nests $.189 and one poblano green pepper .79 cents.
You will also need to buy a small package of chunk cheddar cheese. Today, I searched the discounted bin at my local grocer and found just what I was looking for - expiration date next Tuesday. Now, don't forget, we are talking cheese, aged cheese, a food product made from mold. It can only get better. If you ever have a piece of cheese at home that has a bit of mold on the outside, cut it off. You know penicillin came from such things. The nice chunk of white cheddar I bought at the discounted cost of $2.50 (.99 of this chunk will be counted in this dish). This same piece of cheese yesterday on the shelf would have cost $5.50. I won't need much and so this chunk of cheese will be used throughout the week. I also bought one small fresh lemon for .49 cents and one parsnip for .69 cents.

Take from the pantry list:
Coconut Oil
Olive Oil
Butter
Sea Salt
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Parmesan Cheese
Heavy Cream- fridge
Mozarella Cheese -fridge
Cheddar Cheese- fridge
Dried Herb Seasoning
Red Pepper Flakes

Take from your cupboard, one large skillet with cover and one large stock pot to boil water for the Fettuccine nests. Get the water going first, add a pinch of sea salt. In the skillet, melt 3 tbs of coconut oil and the same of olive oil. In this, I quickly cook my scalloped sliced parsnips. When tender, I set aside and redress the skillet in the same manner. Before you drop in the salmon, add all seasonings to taste, except cheeses as they are not seasoning nor is the heavy cream. Once the oils start to pop or spit, lay in the salmon and cover, the flame should be turned to med. Heat your oven to F400. Slice the poblano pepper in half and remove all seeds. Over a high flame, roast the pepper till darkened. Take a glass dish and drizzle in some olive oil. Place the poblano in the dish and grate your cheeses in, as much as you like.
Return to the fish which should be ready to turn over. The water is likely boiling by now so you can add the nests, as many as you need. If the oven is up to full heat, slide in the cheese ladled open faced pepper.
Back to the fish, you can now add 1 cup of heavy cream, 3 tbs of butter and cover again turning the flame to low.  Reach over and stir your noodles. Look in on the pepper as you prepare to set the table. Wash and slice your lemon, put half into a small bowl for the table. Drain the noodles when they are al dente and turn off the flame on the salmon-fish. Take the poblano cheese filled pepper from the oven (all bubbly and brown). After I drain the noodles, I grab a large white low lipped serving dish and drizzle in some olive oil. I pour the noodles in and place on top a few long scallops of butter, top with fresh grated Parmesan. I set the salmon onto a large serving platter and pour some of the lovely white sauce onto the fish and some onto the pasta. I place the poblano along side the salmon, squeeze a bit of lemon juice and serve. In a small dish, I put the sauteed parsnip. With this dish, I recommend a Sauvignon  Blanc.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Meatball Sandwich like Mama's

Price per serving for two: $1.87

This dish is a left over opportunity. So, if you did not eat all the meatballs from Tuesday's dinner, then here is your chance to reinvent.  You only need to buy: your favorite sub rolls at your local grocer. I got a bag of six for $1.99. You will need to buy a small package of mozzarella cheese. From time to time, I stop by the open refrigerated section to check out the deals. Today, I found a small package of milky white buffalo mozzarella for $1.75. This was not on sale; it was discounted because of the near expiration date. Does that mean it was spoiled or moldy. No, not at all. It only means that manufacturers and stores are regulated to provide an expiration date. The product is quite often still good. Does that mean that every discounted product I buy at the store is going to be good. No. Nor does it mean that any product you buy at a store will be good, whether discounted, or on sale or being sold at regular price. Be a wise shopper like I am which means that you must always look over the package before you buy. Check for damage, for signs of decay... smell it, touch it, and I don't mean maul it. You can gently touch a product to determine if it is still good, even in the package and I am not advocating to unwrap any product in the store. Because, if you do, you bought it.

Take from the pantry list:
1 Can tomato paste
4 cloves of fresh garlic
Dried rosemary
Olive Oil
Sea salt

In a skillet, pour in 3 tbs of olive oil and add your left over meatballs; probably still with some spaghetti sauce on them and that's ok. Turn on the flame to low. Take a small can of tomato past from the pantry, open and add. Using that can, fill with water and add that much to the skillet. Let this all cook in the skillet, covered. Turn on the oven to F350 to heat up. Slice your sub rolls in half (top/bottom), butter generously on both sides of the opened rolls and lay over the top diced garlic. Now, lay on top slices of mozzarella cheese, sprinkle a bit of sea salt and rosemary. When the oven temp is right, put the rolls in and toast.
When the rolls are ready, the meatballs should be already bubbly and it is time to serve. Enjoy!


Fewer Greens and Better Digestion

Some of my blog readers ask me why is that I have so few greens. Here is the answer.


Got digestive problems? Take it easy on the veggies.

A couple weeks ago Chris Kresser wrote an article called FODMAPS: Could Common Foods be Harming Your Digestive Health? He described how certain classes of foods, known as FODMAPs, are poorly digested in certain people and can lead to gas, bloating, pain and changes in stool frequency and consistency. Studies have shown that conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are associated with FODMAP intolerance, and that a low-FODMAP diet offers relief in a substantial percentage of people with IBS.
Today I’ve got another tip for those of you with digestive issues, including IBS, constipation, diarrhea and acid reflux: eat fewer vegetables.
Vegetables (as well as some fruits) are often high in insoluble fiber. While soluble fiber can be soothing for the gut, consuming large amounts of insoluble fiber when your gut is inflamed is a little bit like rubbing a wire brush against an open wound. Ouch.
Vegetables that are high in insoluble fiber include:
  • Greens (spinach, lettuce, kale, mesclun, collards, arugula, watercress, etc.)
  • Whole peas, snow peas, snap peas, pea pods
  • Green beans
  • Kernel corn
  • Bell peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Celery
  • Onions, shallots, leeks, scallions, garlic
  • Cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
The vegetables that are high in soluble fiber, but lower in insoluble fiber (and thus tend to be safer for those with gut issues) include:
 The above veggies are: carrots and parsnips.
  • Carrots
  • Winter squash
  • Summer squash (especially peeled)
  • Starchy tubers (yams, sweet potatoes, potatoes)
  • Turnips
  • Rutabagas
  • Parsnips
  • Beets
  • Plantains
  • Taro
That is why in most of my dishes/meals, you will see more of the soluble fiber veggies. I have a problem with IBS and cutting out most of the greens has helped me a lot.  The fact is, yellow vegetables provide more health benefits than green.Spaghetti squash provides vitamin A and fiber, while yellow bell peppers contain vitamin C. The Harvard School of Public Health notes that corn and yellow summer squash hold lutein and zeaxanthin, which are pigments that fight free radicals that can damage your eyes.

Sugar is an Enemy to Health and Weight



September 16, 2014 

Salt Is Not the Enemy. Guess What Actually Ruins Your Health Instead? 

By Lynn Stuart Parramore


Just the other day I purchased a bag of roasted peanuts, sensing my mouth water in anticipation of the salty goodness. Wrong! I had accidentally bought the unsalted version. Folks, there are few things less tasty than an unsalted peanut, unless it's unsalted grits (yep, I'm southern). The reason I was subjected to such a monstrosity is that for years, the medical profession has been telling us that salt is bad and will cause high blood pressure and other health woes if we don't watch our intake.
But is that really true? A new study in the American Journal of Cardiology was conducted by Saint Luke's cardiologist James O'Keefe of the Mid-America Heart Institute and James DiNicolantonio, also of the Mid-America Heart Institute. The researchers found that sugar, not salt, is the true enemy of heart health.
'Keefe stated that "the number one demon in our diet that's making us sick and overweight and depressed and unhealthy is sugar, added sugar." The reason he gave is that sugar makes us hungry all the time and tends to boost our craving for more sweets. "If I could say one of the simple things people can radically do to improve their health is to don't eat anything with added sugar,” O'Keefe said.
So how did salt get fingered as the culprit?
Back in 2001, the National Institutes of Health published an oft-cited study called the DASH-sodium study, which found that participants who consumed less sodium than the control group ended up with lower blood pressure. That study put salt on the hit list for America's dietary guidelines. But it turns out that other studies have failed to produce the same result.
Some experts are now suggesting that cutting back on salt is actually bad for your health. They propose that your body needs sodium, and if it is deprived, the kidney secretes an enzyme called renin that can lead to hypertension. Some studies have found that low sodium levels may actually boost the chance of heart failure. In 2011, Scientific American went full-throttle with an article defending salt and suggesting that hypersensitivity to salt among some elderly individuals and African Americans has unduly cast a shadow on something that is no problem for most of us.
At the very least, it seems fair to say that the eat-less-salt argument is controversial, and that the link between salt and heart disease does not appear to be as strong as American public health officials may have believed. Unless we have some special sensitivity, we may not need to consign ourselves to the hell of unsalted peanuts.


By posting this article by Lynn Parramore, I am not advocating to increase your salt intake nor eliminate sugar. I suggest always - moderation.  However, when it comes to sugar (this time of year) I think it is very difficult to control moderation. Not the salt isn't problematic in terms of moderation, it is. However, in my opinion, it is more difficult to reduce sugar intake because of hidden sugars. Thus, it is wise and important to reduce sugar especially hidden and added sugars which are mostly found in processed foods. Hidden sugars can be easily overlooked because they are in what we consider healthy food. Such as, carrots and bananas and many other fresh fruits and veggies.  I am not saying to not eat those things, only to consider how much are you eating and to be aware of the sugar present in certain fruits and vegetables. Just take a look at the sugar in veggies chart on this website - http://nosurrenderweightloss.com/sugar-in-vegetables-chart

As we all should know, exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle.