Fresh, fast and frugal!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Signoria 'Firenze' ~ Spicy Chicken Penne

Price per serving for two: $ 2.78

You will need to buy chicken breasts, boneless and skinless. If you don't have in your pantry stock, green pepper and onion, canned diced tomatoes (1 med. can), tomato paste (one small can) along with fresh made or boxed penne pasta, then you better get to the market.  Take a large stock pot and fill with water and a few pinches of salt. Once the boil rolls, add your pasta and stir. Meanwhile, in a covered skillet, on med heat saute chopped green pepper and onion in 4-5 tbs of olive oil until the edges get nicely browned. Once browned, remove from the skillet and set aside. Now, on the same heat add to the skillet, another 3 tbs of olive oil and the same of coconut oil along with your spices: red pepper flakes, garlic powder, sea salt, black pepper and dried herb seasonings * rosemary, mint and oregano - fresh ground is best. Turn up the heat  and when the oils and spices start to spit, add your diced chicken breast meat.

Brown the meat til you see it getting white, yet remaining juicy. Reintroduce your green pepper and onion, stir and reduce heat. Open your diced tomatoes and tomato paste and continue to stir. Take from the frig your heavy cream and add 1/4 cup and continue stirring. Turn off the heat and cover.

The pasta should be tender and ready to drain. Once you do that, pour the pasta back into the stock pot and add your spicy chicken sauce and stir. Now, you are ready to pour this mixture onto a large platter. Make sure you have plenty of grated parmesan on the table.

Everyone to the table ~ tutti a tavola!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Traverse City Cherry Topped Chops

Price per serving for two: $3.00

Pick yourself up a nice package of boneless butterfly pork chops and a half of a pound of cherries.  As a side all you need are a few yellow gold potatoes. Let's get started. In your covered skillet, melt in 3 tbs of coconut oil and the same of olive oil. I also add a pat of butter. On high to medium heat, your oils will start to melt and spit; quickly, add your seasonings: red pepper flakes, sea salt, black pepper, some ground coriander plus garlic powder and fresh dried herbs such as rosemary, mint and oregano. Lay in your chops and let them sizzle on both sides. After each side is browned, add 1/4 cup of Moscato (sweet white wine) and reduce the heat and cover for 6-8 min.

In the meantime, wash as many cherries as you want to use and remove the stems and stones. Now, you can remove the chops and let them rest on the side. In the same skillet with all the flavorful juices, add your cherries and turn up the heat to get them to caramelize. I also stir in 1 tsp of honey and you can also add chopped onion if you like, they add super extra flavor. Top your chops with this luscious fruity condiment.

Cook your sides, potatoes if you like and get ready for a delicious meal.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Marinated Iowa Pork Chops

Price per serving for two: $2.58

Who doesn't love a juicy pork chop with applesauce. I like to buy the boneless butterfly chops. With this dish, all you need is applesauce and or a couple of baked or microwaved potatoes. The pork chops should be marinated in the morning in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, red pepper flakes and garlic powder. Even if you aren't into marinating, the most important part of a juicy outcome is that the chop is at room temperature when you begin cooking. Which means that it should be setting out for at least 15 min. before you start. This way, the meat gets a chance to rest and thus ready to release its flavor and liquids.

Take out your favorite covered skillet and melt in 3 tbs of olive oil and the same of coconut oil. There is no need to season as the marinating did that. Sizzle away on both sides and then let the chops simmer covered for no more than 8 min. depending on the thickness of the chops. As you near that time, turn off the heat and keep the chops covered for 2 min. In this time, prepare your applesauce and I have to say that there is nothing like Granny Smith chunky homemade if you have. Take out a serving platter and remove the chops; let them rest another 2 min. In the remaining juices in the skillet, you can heat up your applesauce as a topping - finale!

Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Romantic 'Roma' Tomato Soup

There is no other word for it... because this soup brings people together. The cost is hardly worth mentioning but you can be sure, the brainy gourmet keeps the cost frugal. All you need is either a whole chicken or some thighs, even wings or legs will do. Because, what you want is a chicken stock to start with. I like to saute onion in olive oil until the edges are brown and add this to the stock which is already bubbling away. You should also add some fresh herbs, salt and black pepper corns. Be sure to let this simmer on the stove for about 45 min. I like to make sure that the chicken does its duty; so, cook the stock until the chicken meat nearly falls off the bone. In this way, you know that the meat is incredibly tender and juicy and the stock is full of flavor. Now, you can add either fresh peeled and crushed Roma tomatoes, about six if large or two small cans of tomato paste. The absolute secret ingredient is a few dashes of balsamic vinegar.

You can serve with cream or without, rice or pasta or just with croutons and a sprinkle of parmesan.

Tutti a Tavola!
Tutti a tavola!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Russian Pierogi With Pork Cutlet

Price per serving for two: 3.36

You will need to buy a package of pork cutlets, as many as you need. A package of frozen pierogi; unless you can do homemade.  People who lived rurally ate what they produced on the farm and they ate food that was what we call in English "stick to your ribs". Meat and potatoes were meals that offered the fuel farmers needed to maintain stamina required for working long hours of heavy and intensive labor.

The cutlets cook very quickly and all you need is a skillet with some olive oil and coconut oil; plus your favorite seasonings. In a separate oiled  pan, add chopped onion to saute along with some fresh farm smoked bacon. In the meantime, boil water with a pinch of salt to cook your pierogi.  Everything comes together at just about the same time which is nearly less than 20 min. This is an excellent stick to your ribs meal that is quick, easy and inexpensive.

Ladle your tender pierogi into a low lipped serving platter and top with onion and bacon. Set out the cutlets separately with a sprig of fresh parsley.

I like to put sour cream and applesauce on the table.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Lake Como's Sea Bass Delizioso

Price per serving for two: $2.25

You will need to go to your local fish monger or fish counter at your local grocer and buy a nice sea bass. If you don't like bass, any white fish will work. The side can be pine nut risotto or perhaps a salad. Pine nuts tend to be expensive so you can substitute with chopped walnuts.

Whatever fish you use, it has to be firm and fresh. I saute the bass fillets in olive oil and coconut oil and a bit of creamy butter; as you know, I add my seasoning is sea salt, red pepper flakes, crushed coriander, garlic powder and dried rosemary to the oils and then add my meat or fish in the case.

Once the fillets have browned on both sides on med heat, add a few drops of dry vermouth and turn the heat to high to let the alcohol sizzle out/ Then 1/4 cup of heavy cream, cover and simmer on low so you start your risotto. Boil rice in salted water. When tender, drain and add a dollop of butter and 3 tbs of mashed sun dried tomatoes and stir in some grated parmesan, top with nuts

A squeeze of fresh lemon and you are ready to serve ~ Bellissimo!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Budapest Hotel Chicken Paprika

You will need to buy a package of chicken thighs, skin on and bone in. Of course, crispy fresh red or orange pepper. As a side, whatever you like. I prefer potatoes or roasted cauliflower. But you could use pasta or rice or just serve a tossed green salad.

In a deep stove top enamel lidded pot, melt in 3 tbs of olive oil and the same of coconut oil. Add your first seasonings: garlic powder, sea salt, black pepper and a very generous amount of good quality paprika. In my opinion, it is wise and even frugal to buy good quality spices. Speaking from experience, some big box store brands taste like colored sawdust. Good spices, as in the past, are expensive. Try growing your own herbs in a kitchen garden and be amazed at the wonderful taste and aroma.

To begin, first wash and slice one whole  fresh red or dark orange pepper and quick stir fry in olive oil along with fresh dried herbs such as rosemary, mint and oregano. Next, move aside the peppers and lay in your chicken thighs browning on all sides on med heat. Once, browned, add 2 tbs of chicken stock, cover and simmer for 20 min on low heat. To finish off, add either 1/4 cup of heavy cream or sour cream or plain yogurt which I prefer for this dish.
Boil water with a pinch of salt, for your chosen side: potatoes, pasta or rice. Once tender, drain and ladle onto a low lipped serving platter. Place your chicken around the side dish you prepared and ladle the sauce over the top, garnish with chopped green onion top or parsely.

~Tutti a Tavola!

cena di gala
cena di gala
cena di gala

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Asiago Broil with Mushrooms and Apricots in Schnaps

Price per serving for two: $3.57

Hard to believe that such a luscious meal could cost so little. The secret is being brainy at the meat counter. For this dish, you can buy a simple and yet quality cut of beef - chuck eye steak which cost less than five dollars per steak. You will also need to buy champion mushrooms, onion and fresh apricots. As for the  Apricot Schnaps maybe you have some in the pantry from last Christmas. This dish can be made without the Schnaps, substituting with organic honey.

Marinate your steaks in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic cloves, red pepper flakes and sea salt over night.  Though this is a 'broil' you can also do this recipe in a hot black iron skillet.

To begin, chop one whole onion and saute in olive oil and coconut oil until caramelized in medium non stick fry pan. To that, add sliced champion mushrooms and a dollop of butter. Next, wash and pit about eight apricots. Halve them and set aside. After pushing aside the onion and mushrooms, you can lay in the apricots. Pour a little apricot schnaps on or use organic honey. Singe the apricots on both sides and then move the onion and mushrooms on top, covering again to simmer for 5 min.

Take the black iron skillet hot from the oven, and flash fry your steaks for 3 min on all sides and then cover for 5 min on high and another 3-4 min on low. The aroma from the sizzling juices produced by the steaks will sweep you away. Top with the mushrooms, onions and apricots. The Asiago part comes in when you put out the cheese and bread.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Stroganoff ~ With Sausage Meatballs Alla Vodka

Price per serving for two: $ 2. 25

You will need to buy a package of Italian sausage without casing.  Also, stroganoff or even penne pasta, champion mushrooms, sun dried tomato pesto and vodka. Of course, this last item can be omitted.

To begin. saute formed balls of with bulk Italian or Andouille sausage in a skillet of olive oil, about 3 tbs. Once browned, I add sliced champion mushrooms and stir together on med. heat. As the mushrooms cook, you can add 1/4 cup of sun dried tomato pesto or 4-5 tbs. Stir until the mix of sausage, mushrooms with pesto is bubbly. Then add 2 tbs of vodka, stirring and lastly, 1/3 cup of heavy cream. Finally, add a sprinkling of rosemary, basil and oregano. Cover and simmer on low heat for 8 min.
Boil enough water with a pinch of salt for as much pasta as you need. As it begins to roll, add your pasta.
When it is tender, drain and ladle into a large low lipped serving platter and pour on your sauce. Garnish with fresh parsley sprigs and put some grated parmesan on the table.

Like my Nonna used to say, Tutti tavola!

Dinner’s ready! (Everyone to the table!)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Bourbon Street Boneless Pork SpareRibs

Price per serving for two: $2.95

You will need to buy a package of boneless pork spareribs. A package of cherry tomatoes, and some bourbon or whiskey if you prefer. I like to marinate my pork for at least one hour in a shallow dish with the bottom covered with bourbon along with sea salt, garlic powder and black pepper as well as dried herb seasonings * mint, rosemary and oregano or basil. The side will be baked potato along with sauteed onion and cherry tomatoes in a buttery olive oil and bourbon sear. Using the poured off bourbon from the pork.

In a covered skillet, sear your marinated pork in olive oil and coconut oil, the usual combination (if you have been following my blogs). Then add some honey and fresh grated ginger along with a squeeze of lime. Cook on high for 3 min and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 min. After then ten, add in a 1/4 cup of heavy cream.  You should also have your chopped onion in butter and olive oil sizzling until the edges are browned, then add your washed cherry tomatoes and keep sizzling on high for 8 min. Bake or microwave two golden yellow potatoes in the meantime.

Well, ring the bell and hand out the beads cause its the best post Mardi gras dish you will ever eat.

Eat Local ~ Eat Wise... be Brainy!

Eating local means eating only those foods which are available in your locality. It means eating foods that are grown locally and sold locally. It means eating in seasonal fruits and vegetables. It means that you can't always get or have what you want when you want it. You see, we can talk about carbon emissions and how people should cut back on driving but the bigger problem concerning driving that we should be talking about is the trucking in, shipping in, flying in of fruits and vegetables that are at every supermarket and local grocer that are not in season nor ever grown locally.

Being brainy is being frugal about local eating and that can mean sacrifice. We can't always expect to have what we want; we can expect to have good food though. Good food comes in many forms and from many different sources. Good food practices are what the brainy gourmet is about. Check out the website

In my imagination, I see everyone able to have a garden in their backyard, a few chickens too. We are building up to that but it takes time and money. Years ago, when my children were young, I tried to buy local milk, eggs and butter. But, I could not find anyone who would see it to me. Producers belonged to co-ops and or sold only in bulk. Fortunately, you can buy farm fresh eggs at a few local farms but that is about it. Most the problem stems from corporations that control local markets, they say that since they pay large taxes, they don't want and won't allow competition.

I lived in Poland and there you can buy eggs and cheese from local producers set up just outside big box corporate stores. At least you can five years ago. I hope that has not changed. There are more open air year round farmers markets there too with products grown by local people. Sadly, most such markets here offer products that are not locally produced.

Point being, if you can grow it, then do it. If you can buy local, then do it.