Fresh, fast and frugal!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Farfalle in a Roasted Red Tomato and Onion sauce with Fresh Cabbage Slaw

Price per serving for two: $ 3.15

You will need to buy 1 pound of ground pork and1pound of ground breakfast sausage - from the deli/meat counter- not a packaged brand.  When I buy these two amounts of ground meat, I mix them together (giving me 2 lbs.) and use half for this recipe and half for two weekend breakfast meals. Or, you can freeze the other portion for another time. I have yet not made my juicy fresh creamy cabbage slaw for this blog. You will need to buy one whole head of green (some call it white) cabbage. A few carrots or just two med. if you buy in singles. Fresh green parsley, one lemon and a bottle of creamy Sriracha sauce. And, of course if you don't have on hand in your pantry: farfalle pasta, 1 small can (14.5oz)  roasted diced red tomatoes or two fresh, and parmesan cheese.

Take one whole onion and chop as well as one large clove of garlic. In a covered skillet, drizzle in 3 tbs of olive oil, turn the flame to med. and add your onion and garlic. Saute til edges are brown. Add your ground meat ~ 1 pound of the mixture saving the other pound. I also had a few slices of left over bacon that I diced and added. My nonna would do that, whatever was leftover and she thought could be added so as not to waste, she just put it in. Stir, breaking up the ground meat. Now add your can of roasted diced tomatoes and stir, cover and simmer for 20 min. If you like it extra juicy, you may want to add another can of tomatoes. And, don't forget any amount of dried herb seasoning *rosemary, mint, oregano or basil.

Start the water to boil your pasta in. Once its rolling, add the farfalle, stirring occasionally. Take this time to halve your head of cabbage, shred/grate into a glass bowl, do the same with at least two med. sized carrots or one large. Chop finely your fresh parsley and add that as well. Drizzle olive oil over the top, squeeze in the juice of one small lemon, sprinkle in 1/2 tsp. sea salt, and finally add 3-4 tbs of creamy Sriracha sauce and for me there is never enough. I keep it on the table in case I want more. Stir your salad and set aside.

When the pasta is finished, drain and pour the farfalle onto a large low lipped serving dish. Pour over the top your juicy roasted red tomato sauce and grate some fresh parmesan.  Gather everyone to the table, say the blessing and get busy eating.

Juicy food is good food!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Monte Cristo a 'brainy' French Sandwich...

If you haven't heard of the Monte Cristo, then you are being introduced. In the world of sandwiches, its one of the best out of sheer simplicity and taste.

The traditional Monte Cristo is a ham or turkey sandwich that is battered and fried. For a light crispy batter, add 12 ounces of beer, 1 cup club soda water and 1 tbs baking powder to 1 cup cornstarch and 2 cups flour. Of course, you can use your own batter recipe.

Make your sandwich like you would normally (plenty of meat and cheese)... do not put fresh tomato or greens on or into the sandwich at this point since you will be frying in hot oil.  Unless, you are using a counter top sandwich grill/press.  However, I recommend any extra toppings: greens or tomatoes to be put out on the side and they will be more appealing... crisp and fresh.

In a large skillet, heat a light variety cooking oil (1inch deep). Batter up your sandwiches, and fry, turning then over to get both sides.  Once brown on both sides, transfer the sandwiches to a warm oven and keep going til you have as many as you need.

These simple sandwiches can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner with soup. To jazz them up, just  drizzle either a savory or sweet oil/dressing (i.e.Raspberry Chipotle) over the top and around the plate edges, toss on a sprig of fresh green ~ Exceptionnelle!

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Bread, Butter and a Bowl of Soup

What is a simple meal?

The simplest meal I know of is fresh bread, with a dollop of sweet cream butter and a bowl of soup. Bread and butter are simple basics and a great side to go with a hot bowl of chicken soup or any soup.  Bread is an ancient food but many people don't realize that butter is too. It goes back thousands of years to the times when man first started to domesticate animals. The earliest butter would have been from sheep or goat's milk. It was and is made by churning fresh or fermented cream of milk. It is used as a spread and it is used in cooking other foods. Butter is rich in Vitamin A, E and K as well as D and being a source of selenium.  Check for yourself and discover the health benefits of butter.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Baked Chicken Thighs in Pineapple Garlic and Onions

Price per serving for two: $2.36

You will need to buy a package of skinless chicken thighs, a small can of crushed pineapple and one lemon if you don't have on hand. Also, I will be using rice noodles and happen to have a half box in the pantry. Garlic and onions are always in stock as well as olive oil, coconut oil, honey, organic cane sugar, and seasonings.

Take a large glass baking dish and drizzle in generously olive oil. Then chop a whole large onion and 4 cloves of garlic; dump into your dish. Place your chicken thighs on top of the onion and garlic. Pour out the entire can of crushed pineapple on top of the chicken. I then sprinkle in sea salt, red pepper flakes, and dried herb seasonings (as much as you like).

Now, I take 1 tbs of coconut oil into my palms. I rub the chicken and mix at the same time all ingredients. Put this covered with foil into a F350 degree oven for 30 min.  After this time, open the oven and check while stirring it up. At this time, I drizzle in some organic honey and then a few sprinkles of organic can sugar. Return to the oven and bake on F400 for 10 min.

While that is browning and crisping, cook your noodles in boiling water.  Once tender, drain and pour out onto a low lipped serving dish. Take from the oven your chicken and spoon onto noodles, I then squeeze  a fresh icy cold lemon (you can also use lime) over the top of the entire dish. Finish with parsley and serve.


The side is a panache of butternut squash...

~ Good food should come from your heart, it does not go into your heart. Mark 7:14-20

Tilapia ~ Fish is Simply Good

Eating two servings of fish each week promotes heart health and adds variety to your diet. Tilapia is a flaky, white-meat fish that crisps nicely over the high heat of a grill. Grilled tilapia is low in fat and rich in beneficial nutrients. 
*Source ~

Now, I have heard the controversy about Tilapia as being a fatty fish. The National Institute of Health funded a study which looked at the favorable omega-3 fatty acid content and unfavorable omega-6 contents of commonly eaten fish and found that while catfish and tilapia contain both, they contain a high amount of unfavorable omega-6 fat.

They report that a 3-ounce portion of catfish or tilapia contains 67 and 134 milligrams respectively of the bad fat (the same amount of 80 percent lean hamburger contains 34 milligrams, and bacon 191 milligrams).
Does this mean you should give them up? No! It has been stated that the logic of judging fatty fish by the amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fat contents is flawed. Governmental and professional organizations haven't used such a ratio for years.

* Source ~

I am going to keep eating fish. Any food eaten in moderation is always best...
Price per serving for two: $2.00

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Brainy Homemade Pizza

Pizza is everybody's all American...

Of course, its all about the dough. But, then dough is not as difficult as you think. The trick is to get the right consistency and not to handle it too much. All you need is yeast, flour, salt, oil and cold water ~ to get the crispy effect. I mix 2 and half - 3  (go easy with flour, adding as you go) cups of flour with one package of active yeast (diluted in warm water); then, I add 1 tsp of salt (no sugar) and 2 tbs of olive oil. Mix this using a fork to get a pebble texture (you may need more oil, if pebbles don't appear) and then add your icy cold water a little at a time as you go ... At this point, I dive into mixing by using my hands/fingers to mix feeling my way toward the right consistency which is sticky but not too sticky. If you can get it off your hands and fingers just by rubbing, you are in the right place with the dough.  Let it rise in a warm oven for two hours, then take it out and spread onto a well greased pizza pan. From there, add your toppings. Being brainy as in frugal means that this one has mac and cheese 'leftover' on one side and bacon/pineapple/green pepper on the other side. Pop in the oven and bake til bubbly and crispy.

Yum Big Time!

Steak and Eggs for a Brainy Breakfast

A brainy breakfast is full of flavor...

Steak and eggs, one of my favorite; easy and full of flavor.

Its probably one of the most Paleo minded dishes you can serve. In this recipe, use fresh herbs added to the eggs for extra flavor. If you’re trying to lose weight then when choosing your steaks, go for the leanest cuts that you can find. Look for sirloin, tenderloin, filet mignon or flank steak; these cuts have lower fat content than others.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Brainy Bacon Wraps

Bacon ~ to be or not to be good for me????

Bacon is not a health food; but it can be eaten in moderation and in this way...eaten in a healthy fashion.
For sure, bacon is one of my favorite savory foods and an excellent item to mix with anything sweet. If you haven't tried bacon, pineapple, shrimp wraps, then please do.

If you are on a budget, you can buy as many slices of bacon from your local deli and pieces of shrimp from the fish counter as you need. In this way, you are only spending what you can afford to. A can of pineapple is no more than one dollar. Of course, fresh pineapple are great to use if in season. Cooked in the oven is always the best way to do these wraps. Take a strip of bacon, wrap your shrimp (out of shell) and slice of pineapple, continue to you have made as many as you need. Lay them on an oven baking sheet and bake at F400 or broil til brown and crispy.

If you are in a hurry, these wraps can made in a skillet on the stove. Largely, you will have the same effect but more grease will be present during the cooking as it will concentrate in the smaller space of the skillet.

* Source ~

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Spaghetti with Meatballs in a Creamy Vodka Sauce

Price per serving for two: $ 2.60

Yesterday, I mentioned that there may be a situation where you can't go to the grocery store to get what you want let alone need. As the brainy gourmet, I recommend building a basic stocked pantry which you can find in brainy archives.

Today, I making spaghetti and meatballs in a creamy vodka sauce. I will start by using the left over Swedish meatballs which I made yesterday. They are even better today as they have had time to intensely gather  all the flavors from the creamy white sauce based on beef stock. To do this spaghetti dish, all you have to do is heat up the left over meatballs, add a small can of crushed tomatoes and 2 tbs. of vodka.  Let this simmer on the stove for 30 min. I like to add to extra Italian seasoning - my own dried herb seasoning which is a mixture of rosemary, mint and oregano and I also like to add some fresh grated Asiago cheese.

The only thing left to do is boil water for the pasta. Like my nonna would say - Buon Appetito!

How to Choose A Brainy Good Wine

Good Wine is easy to discern


I often read articles about choosing a good wine and find that most people including those that wrote the article have no clue how to choose a good wine. Read the label to find out where it was produced and bottled and what year.
A true bargain wine hunter will always deconstruct a wine label. It helps you to decide whether a bottle of wine on a sale shelf is worthy of a purchase. The more you know about a wine, the better chance you have of getting your money’s worth and much more.

The very first thing I want to know is who made the wine. For domestic wine, turn to the back label on the bottle. If it says “Produced and Bottle by” it means that by law 75% or more of the wine in that bottle must be made by the producer listed. If the wine bottle says “Made and Bottled” it means at least 10% of the wine is made by the winery or company listed. If the bottle indicates “Vinted and Bottled” it means the winery on the label may have had little to do with the making of this wine.

*Source ~

There are a number of good wineries in the Midwest and including down in Arkansas.  Check out Brainy Gourmet on Pinterest and take the Brainy Wine and Cheese Tour.

Swedish Meatballs and Scalloped Potatoes

Price per serving for two: $3.15

You will need to buy one pound of ground turkey and the same of ground pork. These ground meats are tasty and lean and inexpensive. If you don't have in your pantry: beef stock, heavy cream, potatoes and butter, then go to the store. That is relatively easy to do.

Consider though that going to the store in a pinch could become a problem given the current political and economic climate.  This is basically why the brainy gourmet is here for you today; to teach you how to be frugal ~ wise with food and money.

Today's dinner is going to capitalize on some left over beef stock in the fridge. Let's begin. Mix your ground meats as you would for meatloaf (follow a previous meatloaf post of mine). Get your stock boiling and drop in your meatballs. Once they are bobbing up to the top and no longer pink, add your heavy cream - 1/2 cup. Let this simmer for 25- 30 min.

Time to make the scalloped potatoes. Peel and slice as many yellow potatoes as you need. I prefer yellow potatoes as they are denser than red, at least in my experiences. Take a glass baking dish and drizzle in some olive oil. Lay in your potato slices, mix in 1/2  cup of sour cream and pour over the top 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Cover and bake in the oven on F375 for 30 min. After that time, your meatballs will be done. Remove them from the heat and let rest. Meanwhile, take the potatoes out and cover them with shredded cheddar, then put them back into the over uncovered for another 10 min.

That's it. Set the table and feel blessed to have good hot food to share with family and friends.

*the best is yet to come when left over Swedish meatballs morph into an amazing vodka sauce for pasta.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sauerkraut and Kielbasa ~ How Brainy

Sauerkraut offers a spectrum of health benefits...

Mainstream health experts began to pay renewed attention to sauerkraut after a study published in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2002. Finnish researchers reported that in laboratory studies,a substance produced by fermented cabbage, isothiocyanates, helped prevent the growth of cancer.

Learn more:

Before extolling all the health benefits that are found in sauerkraut, let me begin this post by reminding you that being the Brainy Gourmet is not about being a 'gourmet' as in a food artist. The Brainy Gourmet is about being frugal and wise about food; not just about food design and display.

Of course, the presentation of food is important; especially when it comes to serving simple food as it can be made to look even glamorous which can and does give an extra sense of appreciation to those that we are cooking for ~ family and friends.

A jar of homemade sauerkraut or store bought and a few links of kielbasa is a simple meal with simple health benefits.  What is so good about sauerkraut?

Sauerkraut delivers some solid health benefits, including providing fiber and a significant amount of vitamins C and K. It also boosts your energy and immune system with iron. In spite of the positives, you should limit the amount you eat. Since it’s fermented with salt, sauerkraut is high in sodium. One cup contains 39 percent of your recommended daily intake. You can cut sodium in half by buying low-sodium brands.s cabbage ferments to produce sauerkraut, it produces a diverse population of live bacteria. These probiotics replenish the good bacteria in your gut and help inhibit the growth of bad bacteria. They may also boost your immune system, synthesize B vitamins and relieve diarrhea caused by taking antibiotics. However, heat kills live bacteria. If you cook it or buy pasteurized sauerkraut, you won't benefit from probiotics. Look for fresh sauerkraut or brands that add live bacteria back to the product after pasteurization.

Source:  and also check out *

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Kefir ~ Its Brainy Good for You

Kefir is a product made by fermenting milk.

The first time I ever had kefir was in Poland. There and here, people are using kefir for poor digestion (I do), upset stomach, lactose intolerance, diarrhea following treatment with antibiotics and high cholesterol. How does it work? Kefir contains actively growing bacteria and yeast. Their effect on milk results in production of enzymes and chemicals that affect the way food is digested. Here in the US, it is difficult to find kefir in its 'plain' state, rather it has added fruits which means hidden sugar. I recommend staying away from any dairy product that has added sugar and that includes most flavored yoghurt. Kefir and yoghurt are best when taken in their 'plain' state - no added anything for taste. If you recall, I have posted on the hidden culprit 'sugar'. It is in just about everything on the shelf. So, try to stay away from hidden sugars, at least so you can eat good bread with some Kefir cheese.

Other Names:

Fermented Dairy Product, Fermented Milk, Fromage Kéfir, Kéfir, Kefir Cheese, Kefir Grains, Kefir Yogurt, Lait Fermenté, Produit Laitier Fermenté.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cupcakes ~ Its All in the Presentation

Guest blogger ~ My Mom

Cupcakes have become so fashionable.  I have decided to surprise my sweetie with a really nice sweetie treat ~ a candlelight cupcake dinner. Since, it is all in the presentation, I will be preparing as appetizers:  a flaming goat cheese cupcake with bite size deep friend zucchini and onion cupcakes. The main course will be cheeseburger cupcakes with ketchup and mustard frosting topped with a sesame seed cupcake bun.

My accompaniment will be double mashed potato cupcakes with chive and parsley frosting and a Californian vegetable medley cupcake of broccoli and cauliflower, topped with spinach flavored cheese wiz.

For desert, I have planned stone ground coffee bean cupcakes with butter-cream and sugar frosting along with espresso chocolate cupcake flavored coffee served in a crispy fried amaretto flavored cupcake cup. After, all... he is my special cupcake.

Why do we love cupcakes?

Cupcake Craze...

Why do we love cupcakes? Speaking as a sociologist and social psychologist, I would say that it is tied to our independence doctrine ~ the pursuit of happiness. Which encourages individualism and the celebration of that. Each cupcake then represents this celebration of the individual ~ a small birthday cake we like to give to ourselves to remind us that we are exceptional, after all America is known for its exceptionalism. Is that wise, is that healthy? Mmm..., well eating them is fun and it is what we do ~ pursue happiness.
God Bless America!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

Chocolate covered cherries just as easy to do as chocolate covered strawberries

A great way to celebrate Valentine's Day with someone you love is to dip together! Just get some Baker's dipping chocolate (white or dark) and start dipping.

Mushrooms ~ The Fungus Amungus

Mushrooms have been used for thousands of years both as food and for medicinal purposes. They are often classified as a vegetable or a herb, but they are actually fungi. While there are over 14,000 mushrooms, only about 3,000 are edible, about 700 have known medicinal properties, and fewer than one percent are recognized as poisonous. However, for a novice mushroom hunter, I recommend studying with a reputable mycologist and or reading up before hunting. The structure and color of the mushroom can tell you whether or not it is good to eat.  So, if mushroom hunting seems like a interesting way to spend your weekend, get a book and spend time getting to know what to look for; picking only those that are safe eat.


Everyone can recognize the 'white button' mushrooms which are probably the most widely available in stores and come in small and large sizes. Then there are Portobello mushrooms, which are large brown mushrooms. Baby bellas, (see above) sometimes called crimini mushrooms are small brown mushrooms with a hearty flavor. Other mushrooms that may be slightly more difficult to find include shitake, porcini and oyster mushrooms.

Mushrooms are also a fat free food, which is helpful when you need to lose weight. What’s more is that mushrooms have no cholesterol and less than 1% of your daily value of sodium. Although not a lot, mushrooms also contain small amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fiber which aid in fat loss.
Mushrooms may be small but nutrition facts prove that they have plenty of vitamins and minerals. One cup of mushrooms includes vitamins C, D, B6 and B12, plus large doses of riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid. These vitamins along with minerals like calcium, iron, potassium and selenium keep you fit and in good health.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Good 'Ole Fashioned' Rye Bread Recipe

 Rye bread is better if you are watching your sugar

... consuming rye bread results in a better insulin response compared with consuming refined wheat bread.
Just a reminder that when it comes to improving health and warding off disease, its the sugar we have to be aware of.  Bread does have a glycemic index to be conscious of but so do carrots and bananas.

Good 'Ole Fashioned' Rye Bread

1 pkg active dry yeast, 1-3/4 cup warm water, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1/4 cup molasses, 2 tbs shortening "Crisco" 2 tsp salt, 2-1/2 cups rye flour, 2-/34 to 4-1/4 cups all purpose flour (use rice or buckwheat) and 2 tbs butter melted. In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in ¼ cup water. Add the brown sugar, molasses, shortening, salt and remaining water; stir well. Add rye flour; beat until smooth. Stir in all-purpose flour (gluten free or buckwheat can be substituted) to form a soft dough. 

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6/8 minutes. Place in a greased blow, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 ½ hours. Punch dough down. Shape into four round loaves. Place on greased baking sheets, gently silt the top and sides. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45-60 minutes. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown, Brush with butter ~ Yields 4 loaves.

... makes a great sandwich!