Fresh, fast and frugal!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Spaghetti Alla Annina

In the northern Italian regions, spaghetti is most always served with meat which is often minced, chopped or ground and shaped into meatballs. Sometimes, sauteed vegetables are added to the meat simmering in a shallow liquid stock to enhance flavor. The meats used are varied and may include separately or in mixtures of beef, chicken, pork, duck, goose, lamb, or veal. Then to the meat is added wine, or heavy cream or crushed tomato to make the final spaghetti sauce. If you used fresh tomatoes, they are typically limited in quantity relative to the meat.

For today's spaghetti sauce, I used ground veal which I bought for just under 4 dollars per pound. I like to make meatballs so I take the ground veal and add 1/2 cup of dry bread crumbs, Italian seasonings, sea salt and some garlic powder. I also put in 1/4 cup of heavy cream. After mixing, I form into nice large balls.

Before cooking the meatballs, I saute in olive oil and coconut oil chopped onion and even from time to time some parsnip or red/green pepper until golden brown on all edges. Then I lay in my meatballs, brown on both sides and then add  1/4 cup stock, cover and let simmer for 8 min.

To this, I add crushed tomatoes or if I have a fresh batch out of the garden, I will use fresh, with skin off.

Now, of course, you should be boiling some water in a large stock pot with a few pinches of salt to cook your spaghetti pasta. Once the noodles are tender, drain and top with sauce and grated parmesan. 

Ahhh mama mia so good!

price per serving for two: $2.50

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cream of Cilantro Chicken

Price per serving for two: $3.46

You will need to buy two large chicken breast, boneless and skinless. I like to slice them into thinner 'steak' like servings. From a package of two, I cut six of these chicken breast steaks. As for sides, a mix of pearl sized couscous and buckwheat groats cooked in rich chicken stock along with fresh veggies: a mix of zucchini and red pepper. Make sure you have fresh cilantro (now if you don't like the taste of cilantro just use fresh Italian parsley or even mint).

Take your covered skillet and melt in 3 tbs of coconut oil and the same of olive oil on low heat. Add to these oils sea salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and garlic powder and dried herbs. Turn up to med. heat. Once the oils and seasonings spit back, lay in your chicken breast steaks. Brown on both sides. Then, pour in 1/3 cup of heavy cream. Let this simmer for 10 min.

In the meantime, slice or dice your veggies and in a separate skillet melt in 2 tbs of butter and 1 tbs of olive oil on med. heat. Toss in your veggies and brown, then turn down the heat to low and let them sizzle slowly.

As for the couscous and buckwheat groats, boil in 4 cups of chicken stock til they have plumped and absorbed all stock.

Back to the chicken, sprinkle into the skillet with your chicken, in its lovely sauce, finely chopped cilantro or parsley or mint; whichever you prefer.

That's all and what a delicious satisfying dinner.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Ground Veal Patties with Sun Dried Tomato Mayonaise

Price per serving for two: $2.35

You will need to buy one pound of ground veal and dry bread crumbs if you don't have in the pantry. As for the sauce, this is a delicious homemade mayonnaise with mashed sun dried tomatoes. For that you will need to have: 2 egg yolks and one whole egg at room temperature, 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice,1 tsp Dijon-style mustard,1/2 teaspoon salt and a big pinch freshly-ground white pepper plus, about 2 cups of either vegetable oil or olive oil. 

All of that goes into your blender (except the oil) for about 10-15 seconds and or until nicely creamy.  Now, with the blender running, ever so slowly add the oil, even a drip at a time to get the consistency right. I like to scoop out the meat of a few sun dried tomatoes and put that in last just folding in without the blender. 

Take your ground veal and shape into patties. Pat them in plain dry bread crumbs. In a covered skillet, melt in 3 tbs of coconut oil and the same of olive oil. Add your seasonings. I prefer garlic powder, red pepper flakes, sea salt along with some ground white and black pepper plus dried mint, rosemary and oregano. 

Once your skillet and seasonings are sizzling, lay in your patties. I like to sprinkle on some additional dried herbs. Brown on both sides and then cover and simmer for 12 min. on low heat, turning them over from time to time. 

Prepare you side, my sweetie loves meat and potatoes, so I am preparing some creamy golden yellows. For quick results, just wash, pierce and microwave on 5-6 min. 

Set the table, put out your mayo and serve - a quick simple yet incredibly tasty dinner. 

*a buttered crusty sourdough muffin works instead of traditional bread rolls.

Friday, April 24, 2015

California 'Sunshine Delight' Chicken

Price per serving for two: $ 2.25

You will need to buy a package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. If you don't have on hand, onion, raisins and rice noodles, then pick some up. As always, keep a well stocked but simple pantry. To begin, brown chopped onion in 3 tbs of olive oil and coconut oil. Once they have caramelized, lay in your chicken thighs. Season with a good shake of sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder and along with dried rosemary and mint.
Cover and let simmer for 12 min. Then add 2 tbs of chicken stock and a generous handful of tender golden California raisins along with 1 tbs of organic honey.

In a stock pot, boil water with a pinch of salt. This is to cook your rice noodles. Once they are tender, drain and pour onto a large serving platter. Top with your chicken and golden raisin sauce.

As Delicious as Sunshine!


Eating Raw is Not Always Best

Eating raw is not always best. A message I have blogged and now the message appears to be recognized. I have to smile as it amazes me that good old mom's advice (Brainy Gourmet advice) is not taken seriously until a food expert as in nutritionist from some institution says so. Institutions are formalized information groups of people who have come up through certain ranks and declared experts. I myself have such accreditation. I am an expert myself having a PhD in Sociology and Social Psychology. I smile about the hierarchy that exists in my faculty as hierarchies exist in all social groups. I mean if you haven't been educated at the right schools and wrote your dissertation on what the top profs are saying, you might as well give up.

I am smiling though and keep on. Especially since a landmark study published in 2002 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry first showed that a powerful antioxidant called lycopene is released from tomatoes when they’re cooked agrees with what I already knew just listening to my nonna - Italian for grandmother.

The study found that heating tomatoes at 190.4 degrees for 30 minutes boosted levels of absorbable lycopene by 35 percent. Lycopene has been shown to help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and macular degeneration, a degenerative eye disease. In addition, a study published in The British Journal of Nutrition found that folks following a long-term raw-food diet had low levels of lycopene.

Let's consider that 2002 was more than twelve years ago. Interesting is that the rage is eating raw veggies on our plates and in our smoothies. Didn't anybody read that 2002 study? I have blogged a number of times that eating raw is not always the best. People are surprised. How do you know?  Being brainy about food sometimes means listening to your mom and or grandmother who have been cooking and serving food long than some newbie experts.

In my own experiences eating, I cannot digest many raw veggies. In fact, they are like poison to my body. I blogged not long ago about Dr. Kellogg who started the Battle Creek Michigan Sanitarium back in the 1870s who invented "Granola". He also came up with Corn Flakes cereal. Why? Because, he was an advocate that man is not a rabbit and should eat pre-digested foods, cooked/baked foods and not raw.

Now that information was given to us over a century ago. How did doctors and the nutritionists of today miss that? My own battles with food have been from inability to digest certain vegetables and especially in their raw state. It took a long time to realize that I cannot eat them; after all, everyone around me was saying that raw was better. Even I did not pay attention to Dr. Kellogg... enough. I have always been a fan of granola and grape nut cereal; which was developed because of Dr. Kellogg by C.W. Post.

So, let us return to the advice of good old fashioned experts ~ like the Brainy Gourmet!
Cook before you eat!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Easy Skillet Tarragon Chicken

Price per serving for two: $ 1.87

You will need to buy one whole chicken and or a package of a cut up fryer. Being brainy, I bought a whole chicken on sale for .95 cents per pound. I paid 3.75 for the whole bird. I bought the whole chicken so I could get a good stock to have for the rest of the week. I just love having chicken stock on hand for other soups and sauces.

Boil your chicken and even cut up pieces in a stock pot of salted water with added chicken bouillon. Add chopped onion and whole baby carrots if you like since they can be easily removed from the stock. You always want a clean savory stock so never put in anything that you can't take out.  Once you have a good stock, remover the chicken and cool it down. When it is cool enough to handle, cut up into traditional pieces, thighs, legs and breasts. Of course, if you bought pieces then you won't have to do this.

In a covered skillet, melt in 4 tbs of olive oil and season your oil with dried herbs, including tarragon. To this I add a dash more of salt (sea salt) along with a generous dash of ground red paprika and some black pepper. Then I lay in my pieces and sear them on all sides, cover for 5 min on low. Now, I add 1/3 cup of heavy cream and cover again for another 10 min on low.

That's it! Add to this any side you like or even a wilted spinach salad

Monday, April 20, 2015

Simple Food ~ Simple Pleasure


So, simple and so so tasty. I learned to make this dish while I was in eastern Europe. Pierogi is a basic filled dumpling made from flour and generally contains a potato/cheese filling. You can boil or fry them.

To begin, you will need to buy a package of potato/cheese pierogi unless are make your own from scratch. For those who just want to be brainy simple, buy the frozen or fresh made at the deli counter.

To cook, just boil in salted water until tender. Serve with lots of sour cream or if you fried them, top with a few crispy bacon pieces or crumbles and a little sour cream on the side....Jest Bardzo Smaczny!

~ Tutti a Tavola!

*In the above photo, the pierogi are served with cooked and crumbled breakfast sausage, or use ground pork.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Skillet Chicken Cacciatore

Price per serving for two: $2.49

You will need to buy a package of chicken thighs with bone in and skin on. I got a gorgeous package of six for $3.54.  To that you should have on hand or purchase, a small can 15oz. of crushed tomatoes (.89) and one onion (.49).

Take from your pantry: olive oil, coconut oil, and Parmesan cheese. Before, getting out your skillet, you will want to boil your chicken thighs in a stock pot with some salt and chicken bouillon. Why? because, you want to be frugal. This will not only give you a great stock to use for the rest of the week but also a soup as a starter for this meal and the thighs will be partially cooked to make your cacciatore go 'cook' quicker.

Once you have your stock finished, take your skillet and  melt in 3 tbs of coconut oil and the same of olive oil on med heat. Then toss in chopped onion and even garlic if you like. Get that browning before you lay in your chicken thighs skin side down. Turn up the heat to high and brown those thighs. Turning down the heat, add your crushed tomatoes and dried herb seasonings, plus garlic powder. Cover and let simmer for 20-25 min.

That's all you have to do to be called the best Mama ever!


Food as Status ~ Choose to be Brainy!

We make choices in life and those choices represent us, who and where we are and who and where we would like to be. Food choices work in the same way. Of course, we choose to eat food because our body needs it as fuel. However, nowadays, food is more than just fueling your body. It reflects your status as in social status.

People make food choices. Many of us are on a health kick and try to eat what is healthy, some eat what is tastes good and some eat only what they can afford to eat. It is all about choice and such choices reflect a person's status. Mostly, it is the amount of money that we spend on food that directs our choice. But, that applies to all choices.

As it is with food, it is with clothes, a car, a house. What we consume, represent us. It tells other people who we are and where we are socially or who want want to be. It is about informing others of our social status, our position us in society, or at least our wanna be position in society. That is why so many food blogs are not like the Brainy Gourmet which is about being frugal. Most blogs are not about frugality. They are about the 'image' what is appealing as in beauty, or what is exotic, or expensive or exclusive.

Why? Because, we as social creatures want to show ourselves to others, we socially set ourselves apart from someone else through choice as a means of conveying social status. In fact, socially setting yourself apart even through food choices and their consumption is a form of discrimination toward people who cannot afford to make a better/healthier/or exotic, exclusive choices.

The Brainy Gourmet has always been about showing all people that the best choice is a frugal choice. The Brainy Gourmet informs people on how they can have a brainy gourmet meal on very little money that is satisfying and nutritious.

Choose to be Brainy!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ginger Lime Pork Stir Fry

Price per serving for two: $3.02

You will need to buy a fresh pork tenderloin, unseasoned. The butcher shop is still the best place to shop... for good meat and at 4 per pound, its cheap than oat brain. Like to use fresh red pepper and zucchini as a colorful side in my stir fry. The base can be rice or pasta; if pasta is your choice, then you can use rice noodles or even linguine pasta. The sauce is no secret concoction. Just fresh squeezed lime juice and grated fresh ginger and honey.

Let's get cookin. Take out your covered skillet and melt in 3 tbs of coconut oil and the same of olive oil. Have washed and sliced your red pepper and zucchini. Once the oils blend and spit, add your veggies. Cover and let them sizzle on high. Now, thickly slice your pork, they should appear as nice oval medallions.
Quickly stir the veggies tossing them around in the skillet; after they have browned on the edges to a golden caramel, remove and set aside. To that same skillet, add another 3 tbs of coconut oil and lay in the medallions. Sizzle on both sides til browned. Now squeeze in your lime juice and grated ginger. I like to add some organic honey to get the medallions caramelized.Cover and simmer on low for 10 min.

In a small pot, boil water with a pinch of salt. Once it has a rolling boil, add your pasta. I like to break my linguine in half. Stir occasionally. When tender, remove from heat and drain. Pour out onto a large low lipped serving platter and lay over the top your stir fry, first the medallions and then the veggies.

Extraordinary dinner!

You can choose to put on the table, a bottle of soy sauce.

~ as always ...blessings

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Chicken and Dumplings ~ All in One

Price per serving for two: $2.43

For this dish I like to use chicken thighs with the skin on and bone in. However, you may prefer boneless and skinless. The skin on makes a better sauce and bone in gives more flavor. A package of six should be enough for the family. If your sweetie is a bit eater then for two with a piece or two left over.

Take from your pantry:
Sea Salt
Olive Oil
Coconut Oil
Garlic cloves
Red pepper Flakes
Dried Herb Seasonings
* rosemary, oregano, basil and even mint or thyme

If you want to be quick about the dumplings and you want them light and fluffy, then use your Bisquick mix or even a pancake mix. If I use the pancake mix, I add some additional flour and baking powder. To make the dough, either follow the Bisquick recipe or do as I do... take 1 cups of pancake mix and half cup of flour. To that add buttermilk, slowing stirring until you the a thick sticky consistency. Let that sit off to the side while you prepare the chicken.

As always, I reach for my favorite covered skillet. Melt in 3 tbs of coconut oil and 4 tbs of olive oil. I like to add chopped onion and my seasonings, then stir until I get some transparency in the onion.

Then I lay in my chicken thighs, skin side down first and then turn over for the other side and then back to the skin side. Now, I add some chicken stock about 1/4 cup and cover to simmer for 20 min. on med. occasionally stirring. After, that amount of time passes, add 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Spoon in the dumpling mix and cover. Simmer for 10 min on low. This steams the dumplings, high and mighty as my mom would say.

Take a look and smile! Call everyone round and give thanks!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Angus Ground Beef Stroganoff

Price per serving for two: $1.87

If you are wondering how it is that I make brainy meals for so little money it is because I am frugal. That is what this food blog ministry is about. I offer you information on how to make good food for 'pennies' as the saying goes. You have to be a smart shopper, not lured by ads or coupons. I go into a store with a list and I get what is on that list only. I look for sales on meat and buy that sale product/special. I do not buy anything that is not on sale or not reduced in price. I do not buy pre-cooked, pre-packaged food or fast food products/additives of any kind. Plus, I keep a stocked basic pantry and that helps a lot. You can do so much with just the basics (see right margin of this blog).

Ok, today you will need no more than 1 pound of ground beef. Prepare as if making your favorite meatball recipe. I like to use bread crumbs and cream along with dried herbs. In a covered skillet, melt in 3 tbs of olive oil and coconut oil. Slice mushrooms and chop onions to add the skillet. Cook until the edges are browned. Now, pour in 1/2 cup of beef or even chicken stock. Drop in your meatballs and simmer until meatballs are completely cooked. Add 1/3 cup of heavy cream. Turn heat to low or warm.

Boil wide egg noodles or you can use fettuccine noodles if you have. Once they are tender, remove and drain. Lay out the cooked noodles in a large serving platter and pour out our meatball sauce. Garnish with fresh green parsley.

Blessings to you and yours!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Brainy Chicken Picata

Price per serving for two: $2.37

You will need to buy a package of boneless chicken breasts. I am usually able to get a nice portion for under 4 dollars. Now, if you don't have on hand a good pantry stock (see on the right margin of this blog) then go to the nearest store and stock up on butter and heavy cream, including chicken stock. If you have been an avid reader, you know my basic pantry list which not surprisingly is similar to chef Eric Damidot's... butter, heavy cream, garlic, onions, fresh herbs, wines, eggs, cheeses, Yukon gold potatoes and tomatoes. Again, that is the basic list which should every pantry/fridge should have on hand as in readily available to use; it is frugal and simple. As you may have read, I have added to that basic list which I call my expanded version to include: pasta, rice, vinegars, chicken/beef stock, olive oil and coconut oil.

Take from your pantry:
Heavy cream
Chicken stock
Jarred Green Olives
Dried Herb Seasonings
Red Pepper Flakes
Fresh Garlic

Start this dish by chopping your onion and garlic. Then take your best covered skillet melt in 3 tbs of olive oil and coconut oil.  Add the chopped onion and garlic. Turn the heat to med- high. Once the edges brown lay in your boneless chicken breasts cut into wide strips. Dash in your seasonings, salt (according to your dietary allowances and or on brand of olives you will be using) and pepper flakes. Sizzle both sides of the strips on high heat; add 1/4 cup of chicken stock and cover. Allow this to cook on med. for 5min. Uncover for a moment, turn up the heat to high to let the juices intensify. Then add 1/3 cup heavy cream and as  many diced green olives as you like. However, if they are a salty brand go easy; do a taste test. Cover and simmer on low for 8-10 min.

In the meantime, start a pot of water boiling (with a pinch of salt). This will be to cook a side of brown rice mixed with buckwheat groats. I like to use the boil in the bag method and nowadays you can even get this type in the organic section of your food mart. Once tender, remove and drain.

Take a large serving platter down for the Chicken Picata and arrange. Set the table and call in the guests.