Fresh, fast and frugal!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Inbetween the Holidays Meal

What better than soup between the holidays! As a 'brainy' frugal cook, I always begin any soup with a good rich stock because it can become any soup during the week; in fact, it can be three different kinds. I never make a 'recipe' soup. Why? Because, like my Nona, there isn't a recipe soup... in her kitchen it did not exist. Why? Because, she was frugal 'brainy' gourmet. That means she always used what she had on hand and had to use up. Yes, I know we live in a throw away culture and fear that if something is in the fridge for two or three days it must have gone bad.  Fear not! Food goes bad when you leave it on the counter for a day or two but not when covered and refrigerated.

I happen to love beef stock as much as I love chicken stock. This week, I had a taste for beef. I happen to have in my freezer some nice beef ribs and they do make good rich stock. Cooked with one whole large onion, salt and dried herbs you get quite a well flavored beef stock (5 quarts). To that stock, use only what you need for the kind of soup you want to make for that day/evening; take one quart and add tomatoes for tomato soup, or you can add mushrooms or even beet root to make 'Barszcz'. Perhaps, you have a taste for Minestrone or just a vegetable beef with rice or pasta.

For me personally, I love beef noodle, nothing else in it.

Serve with crusty Italian bread with butter and get eating.

~Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Easy Christmas Eve Menu Ideas!


 Chicken Alfredo

 Veal Scallopini or Fish

Chicken Breast in Bacon

Delicious Christmas Menus of the Past...


In 1847, the Christmas dinner table let a roasted turkey of uncommon size occupy the middle or center of the table. On the other end of the dinner table, one could find a cold boiled ham and either fricasseed chicken or a roast pork. With the turkey, mashed potatoes and turnips were served, boiled onions and dressed celery along with a salad and apple sauce nearby for the ham with fried or mashed potatoes and pickles.

Large pitchers of sweet cider were placed diagonally opposite each other on two corners of the table. For dessert, there were two very large and ornamental mince pies with one at either of the two corners both being sufficiently large enough that everyone on their end of the table might be served from it. Ice creams and jellies and jams and ripe fruits and nuts, with sweet cider and syrup water of different sorts, or wines, completed the dessert.

~ American System of Cookery, Mrs. T. J. Crowen [T.J. Crowen:New York] 1847 (p. 404-5)


In 1880, the Christmas dinner served included: clam soup, baked fish, Hollandaise sauce, roast turkey with oyster dressing and celery or oyster sauce, roast duck with onion sauce, broiled quail, chicken pie along with plum and crab-apple jelly, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, baked squash, turnips, southern cabbage, stewed carrots, canned corn, canned peas, and stewed tomatoes.

There were Graham breads and rolls, salmon salad or herring salad, Chili sauce, gooseberry catsup, mangoes, pickled cabbage, French or Spanish pickles, spiced nutmeg-melon and sweet-pickled grapes, and beets.

That is quite a list and it continues on in the desert menu: Christmas plum-pudding with sauce, charlotte-russe, cocoa-nut, mince, and peach pies, citron, pound, French loaf, white Mountain and Neapolitan cakes, lady's fingers, centennial drops, almond or hickory-nut macaroons, cocoa-nut caramels, chocolate drops and orange or pine apple ice cream, coffee, tea and Vienna chocolate."

~Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, revised and enlarged [Buckeye Publishing].

 Merry Christmas and May All God's Blessings Be Upon You!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Jambalaya ~ Lisbon Style

What to spice up your dinner? This is delicious and quick - just about 25 min.

You will need to buy chicken breast or a pork loin, boneless. Now, check your pantry; because, if you don't have on hand, then you will need to buy some long grain rice along with Kalamata olives and sweet hot cherry peppers.  For the sauce, likely you have in your fridge a jar or two of Habanero salsa - both sweet and hot.

Saute on high heat either the chicken breasts or pork loin (sliced in strips) in olive oil, coconut oil and seasonings: red pepper flakes, organic garlic powder (or fresh chopped), sea salt, and dried herbs (rosemary, mint and oregano). Once they are browned on all sides, reduce the heat to med. and add 1/2 cup of Habanero salsa sauce, along with your cherry peppers, as many as you like along with the Kalamata olives.  I also happen to have a bit left of sweet Habanero salsa with mango and added that as well. Let this medley simmer on low for 15-18 min.

In the meantime, boil rice as your side. Once tender, drain and ladle onto a low lipped serving plate, then pour out the sauce with meat and peppers over the rice and enjoy- Lisbon Style Jambalaya.

Tutti a Tavola!

What Makes the Brainy Gourmet Different from other Gourmets?

Looking at so many food blogs one wonders if posting as I do makes any difference. Of course, blogging is about sharing. And, online recipes are helpful. However, a brainy gourmet does not need a recipe. What, no recipe? That's right. Why? Because good food is easy to make ~ 'gourmet'. That is what's different about the Brainy Gourmet blog - the ease and joy of cooking and also the art of frugality! Being frugal is a passion for the Brainy Gourmet and can be for any home chef. Being frugal is wise and always tasty.

Frugality is about taking soup stock and making it into five different soups by the end of the week or a base for other sauces or stews. It is about keeping a simple pantry stocked with items that can make any dinner into a gourmet meal.

At the beginning of the week, buy a piece of quality meat or a whole chicken.  Take out a stock pot, fill with water half way and lay in your meat. If you are a vegetarian, then put in your veggies. Cook this stock until the meat is fully cooked; then lift out the meat and save your stock. The meat can be reserved for other dishes during the week or used the same day for dinner.

The stock can become any kind of soup you like. The key is to not add too much to the stock, no vegetables (unless you can strain them out) and no pasta or rice. Pasta or rice can be cooked on the side to be added to each bowl individually. For instance, if you decide you want tomato soup, then take some stock, add tomato paste and cook. Leave out the rice or pasta, cook it on the side as suggested. The reason for this is that this soup can become spaghetti sauce the next day. That's frugality!

Check out the webpage and click on archives - Get Brainy, Be Frugal!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Swiss Steak with Mashed Potatoes!

Who doesn't like Swiss steak with red gravy and mashed potatoes? No doubt about it, one of my favorites as a child and a favorite of my children.  Swiss steak as it is called, is made using 'round' steak. This cut of meat is not one of the best beef cuts but cook it just right and its delicious! You can do this recipe either on the stove top in a deep enamel stock pot, or in a crock pot.

I am not a typical or should I say regular crock pot cooker. But, since my daughter gave me a lovely crock pot as a gift, I have been inclined to use it when I need to. Today, I needed to. Being away from home for more than a few hours and knowing that I would come home too tired to cook even a 20 min. meal, I decided to do my Swiss steak in the crock pot.

You will need:
Nice large round steak, pounded
One small can of tomato paste
Beef stock and seasonings

Before leaving the house, I plugged in the crock pot on high setting. I quartered my onion and placed inside the crock pot. Over the top of the onion, I placed a few peeled carrots and parsnips and then poured 2 cups of beef stock in. I took out my thawed 'fresh' steak and cut it into a few large pieces. Then, I just laid it on top of the onion, carrots and parsnips now sitting in the beef stock. I generously sprinkled on top of the steak organic garlic powder, and a couple of pinches of salt along with fresh dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano. I then locked down the lid (still on high setting) and went about my business.

In a matter of hours, it was tender and aromatic. The final ingredient was to add the small can of tomato paste. This was stirred in slowly. I closed the lid again turning down the setting to low. In the meantime, I boiled potatoes. Once, tender, the potatoes were mashed. To serve, I simply placed the crock part on the table long with the potatoes.

Tutti a Tavola!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Best Brainy Meals in 20 min!

Here are some of the best brainy meals you can make in 20 minutes more or less.
Go to and click on Brainy Archives!

Chicken Picata

 Spaghetti and Meatballs

 Ginger and Lime/Lemon Chicken

Ginger Soy Chicken
 Creamy Chicken Alfredo
Mediterranean Chicken
Braised Pork
Spicy Lamb Patti

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Lamb is always delicious!

Simple lamb patties, sauteed in olive oil, coconut oil and seasonings is truly delicious. I like to prepare lamb whenever I have left overs of other sorts: potatoes, rice, stuffing, polenta or vegetables. This evening, I have left over stuffing with mushrooms, pecans and cranberries; to that, a steamed in the husk or shell, acorn squash.

I have prepared lamb patties in the past and this evening's preparation is the same as before, already mentioned above. Once they have browned on both sides on med. heat and blood starts to run from the patties, press down to release more of those savory juices, cover and let simmer for 10 min on low heat.

Prepare you sides and get ready to serve.

Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Blackened Belly Side Bacon ~ Its Beef!

For those of you who love bacon and beef, here is a recipe that will give you a great deal of delicious delight. We had this at a renown Chicagoland steakhouse and we were amazed. Though, they would not reveal the recipe, I found it. At first, one would think it is bacon, but it is not. Its actually beef!

Corned Beef Bacon
  • 1500 grams (3 pounds) beef navel
  • 75 grams (2 oz) kosher salt
  • 17 grams (4 tbs) granulated sugar
  • 4 grams (2 tbs) pink salt
  • 4 grams (2 tbs) minced garlic
  • 4 grams (2 tbs) pickling spice (includes peppercorns, mustard seed, coriander, red pepper flakes, allspice, mace, cinnamon, bay leaves, cloves and ginger)
Step one: Mix cure and rub beef navel with cure. Refrigerate in a dish which fits the navel snugly. Cover with cling-wrap. Cure for a week, flipping daily.
Step two: Rinse the navel of all of the cure and dry overnight.
Step three: Hot smoke to an internal temperature of 140 degrees.
Step four: On a rack in a sheet pan, cook the navel in an oven preheated to 450 degrees for 30 minutes.

Step five: Reduce temperature to 250 degrees and finish off with a slow cook in the oven on a sheet pan on a rack for an additional 25 - 30 minutes depending on your oven and amount of beef. Or you can blacken on the grill til it is crispy black on the outside. Prior to that, I like to drizzle on organic honey. When blackened to your liking, slice and serve hot!

*I've heard you can take a short cut and just buy a corned beef (beef belly cut), slow cook (slow cooker would work best) as you would normally for a good corned beef outcome but no veggies  and then wrap a few slices of smoked pork bacon around it and blacken it on the grill. The smoked pork bacon wrap gives it the smoked taste since this is the shortcut version.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

What's in Your Pantry?

Being brainy means you have a well stocked pantry. Mostly, you need to have on hand basic items: butter, heavy cream, olive oil, coconut oil, pasta, rice, onions, garlic and dried herbs plus salt and pepper. When cooking with these basic items, you can turn any meat or vegetable into a gourmet meal and you won't need a recipe. You need good judgement and common sense, that's being brainy. And, that's easy.  Just know what you like and don't like. Know your taste buds; most people are like you. They don't like too much salt or too  much sugar neither taste good nor are they good for you.

Take stock and get ready to cook!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Rye and Pumpernickel Breads

Rye bread is a type of bread made with various proportions of flour from rye grain. It can be light or dark in color, depending on the type of flour used and the addition of coloring agents, and is typically denser than bread made from wheat flour. It is higher in fiber than white bread and is often darker in color and stronger in flavor. Rye bread has a low glycemic index, which means it does not cause a spike in blood sugar when compared to white bread. ~

Rye flour has a lower gluten content than wheat flour, and contains a higher proportion of soluble fiber. Thus, rye bread, including pumpernickel, is a widely eaten food in Northern and Eastern Europe. Rye flour is high in gliadin but low in glutenin. It therefore has a lower gluten content than wheat flour. It also contains a higher proportion of soluble fiber. ~

My sweetie likes a good bacon and feta pump. I buy thick cut double smoked bacon to lay over a slice of dark pumpernickel, then I crumble on some feta or whatever cheese on the bacon along with sliced red onion or even dried fruits and cover with another slice of pumpernickel bread. If you like, warm it up by wrapping in wax paper to microwave for 25-30sec. or grilling ~ Yum!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

After the Holiday Meal ~ Rejuvenate!

Bone Broth

This is not new age medicine. It has been around a long time and used among those with little else to eat. I have had this broth prepared for me many times while living in eastern Europe. Meat bones made a great stock as in broth. Yes, if you haven't heard boiling a bunch of bones may not be the most sophisticated of kitchen delights; but, it might be the healthiest. Bone broth is made by simmering meat bones (beef, pork, lamb) in water for five to 10 hours depending on the meat used. Believe it or not, this boasts a cache of health benefits. Bones contain a high content of calcium, magnesium, collagen, gelatin, amino acids, and phosphorus all of which are thought to rejuvenate the gut, improve digestion, support joint tissue, bolster the immune system, preserve skin elasticity, and more.