Fresh, fast and frugal!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Fresh Caught Salmon and Herb Infused Pasta!

Sound good??? It is good and easy to make.

Fresh caught salmon can be purchased reasonably in most grocer in the frozen section. I bought a six piece bag of fillets for under $4.00. The best way to prepare is to begin with thawed or fresh (not frozen) salmon fillets soaked in fresh squeezed lemon juice. Let your fish rest in the lemon juice for 30 min. Once that time has passed, melt in your covered skillet, 3 tbs of olive oil and 1 tbs of coconut oil on med heat. Add to those oils, fresh dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano along with a dash of red pepper flakes, garlic powder. De-vein your fish and lay in the hot seasoned oils. Turn your fillets over a few times, letting them sizzle and brown. After about 10 min. add 1/3 cup of heavy cream. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 6-8 min.

Prepare a side dish. In this case, I boiled herb infused pasta. Once tender, drained and ladled onto a low lipped serving plate. Top with your salmon and sauce. Garnish! I love to squeeze on a bit more fresh lemon and include some rocket (Arugula) or parsley on the side.

~Tutti a Tavola!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Want to be a Brainy Gourmet? Want to be Fast and Frugal?

If you think you can't be an at home 'in your own kitchen' brainy gourmet, you are misleading yourself. If you think you can't be fast and frugal about, you are misleading yourself. Yes, you can be!

Check out the blogs and side bars on this page for information that promises you can be all of the above. Also, check out the Brainy Gourmet webpage for more information and brainy food archives and products.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Farm Style Chicken and Dumplings ~ Comfort Food

When I think about living on the farm this time of year, I think of hot steaming comfort food.This dish can be done in one single skillet and in no time at all. You need to have chicken pieces: legs, thighs, or breasts with skin on. You can do all legs, or all thighs or all breasts or a mix. Take from your pantry: one onion, chicken stock, flour, heavy cream, milk and one egg.

Begin by browning one chopped onion in 3 tbs of olive oil and the same of coconut oil in your covered skillet on med heat. Once the onion is browned on the edges, add your chicken pieces. Season using generously: rosemary, mint and oregano along with a dash of red pepper flakes and a dash of garlic powder. Cook the chicken on med heat until all sides have browned nicely.

Next, you will need to add 1 cup of chicken stock. Cover and let simmer for 30 min. on low heat. Near the end of this timed simmer, prepare your dumplings. Mix 2 cups of milk with 1 and 1/2 cups of flour (use gluten free if you are on such a diet) 1 tsp of baking powder, and one egg.  I suggest you eye ball the consistency of the dumpling dough, it should be sticky but not thick, so go slowly with the flour.

Just before you drop in your dumplings, add 1/4 cup of heavy cream to the chicken bubbling in the skillet. You may also want to add a bit more chicken stock if you see that it has reduced too much. The dumplings will need plenty of liquid to cook in.

Turn up the heat to med high and drop in your dumplings, cover and let them grow up into clouds of yummy.

Test them to make sure that they are completely cooked through, they should appear light and fluffy not gooey. If the are cooked through, then ladle all that goodness onto a large serving plate.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Savory Lamb with Mushroom infused Tagliatelle and Fresh Grated Zucchini

Lamb is eaten in many countries; Italy as well. It is a very flavorful meat and easy to cook. Believe me! This year the Brainy Gourmet is on a crusade to make every meal fast and frugal and thus every reader into a fast and frugal food gourmet.

Yesterday's meal was the beginning, though I can tell you that most of the Brainy Gourmet meals have been made within a time frame of 35 min or less. This year, I am bound and determined to reduce that time frame by 10 min. The time on the Tuna Alfredo was within that new time frame.

Being fast and frugal does not mean you cut down on quality. You just learn how to cook faster and better and for less money. This evening's dish is savory lamb ($5.75 for two luscious patties fresh ground) with mushroom infused tagliatelle ($1.99 used only half the bag) topped with fresh grated zucchini (.58 cents).  This dinner was for two people, so add it up and divide by 2 ... round it off leaving $3.67 per person.

Start your clock and get fast and frugal. Brown your lamb patties in 3 tbs of olive oil and 2 tbs of coconut oil on med. heat. Add to the oils dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano plus some garlic powder, red pepper flakes and a dash of sea salt. Once browned on both sides, turn down your heat to low cover and cook for 20-25 min.  Occasionally, turn over the patties and press down to let the juices flow out.

In the meantime, boil salted water and toss in the pasta. As for the zucchini, wash and julienne grate. Once, the pasta is tender, drain and ladle onto a low lipped serving plate and drop a dollop of butter on the pasta. Take your lamb and lay them onto another serving plate. Pour out some of the savory juices over the top and garnish. Then take that skillet and quickly saute your zucchini just for one minute to absorb the lamb juices and flavor. Top your pasta with the zucchini.

~Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Feeling a Little Cabin Fever ~ Tuna Alfredo

When the snow and cold prohibit outside activity, one can feel a bit of cabin fever coming on. There is no better quick comfort food than Tuna Alfredo. This recipe is definitely for the fast and the frugal.  All you need to have on hand are these basic ingredients: one onion, heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, fettuccine pasta, butter and tuna. Almost impossible to imagine that is all you need for a delicious and inexpensive dish.

Begin by sauteing one whole onion in olive oil and coconut oil (2 tbs each).

Add to that, dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano. When the onion is browned on the edges, add one small can of albacore tune in oil, do not drain. Stir and add 3/4 of heavy cream. Grate into that now bubbling sauce about 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.

In the meantime, boil your pasta in salted water. Today, I used spinach infused noodles. Once tender, drain and put back into the pot so that you can toss in one dollop of butter, stir gently and then ladle your pasta onto a low lipped serving dish. Pour out your sauce and grate over the top additional Parmesan.

~Tutti a Tavola!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Hawaiian Pork in the Crockpot

At this time of year, in the northern Midwest, who wouldn't want to go to Hawaii for a week or two. If you can't go, then at least cook as if you were already there. This dish won't let the snow spoil your sunshine.  The best thing about crockpot cooking is that it lets you get out and enjoy the day even if just for a walk in the calm quiet woods or nearby park. If you like the snow and are more ambitious, cross country skiing is always a fun way to spend a wintry Saturday. In any case, walking or skiing or just staying in, let the crockpot do the cooking.

It was about noon when I started this dish in my skillet by searing a nice plump pork butt in olive oil and a bit of coconut oil along with chopped onion and crushed pineapple. To that I added 2-3 tbs of fresh squeezed lime juice, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp of ginger powder, 3-4 tbs of molasses, fresh dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano a dash of sea salt. Once  the bubbling liquid started to caramelize around the pork, I turned it all into the crockpot (warmed up and now 'hot' on high setting). Lastly, to the crockpot, I poured 1/2 cup lightly salted beef broth, locked down the cover, turned the setting to low and went outside to play in the snow.

Choose any side dish you like: potatoes, pierogi, rice or any vegetable.

~Tutti a Tavola!

*Depending on the weight of the pork butt, adjust your ingredients. For a larger portion/cut, use the greater amount of tbs.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Pork 'cutlet' Steak with Mushrooms

Warm food on a cold day that is simple and delicious! Pork cutlet is a cut of meat is usually quite reasonably priced; which means that you don't have to check the sale papers. Pork is the other white meat and it is good tasting. You should buy the amount of cutlets you need. I say cutlets though one should consider it a loin steak that is not pounded. Brown your meat in a skillet on med heat in 3 tbs of olive oil and the same of coconut oil. Season with dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano. Add to that fresh washed, sliced mushrooms and chopped onion can be a nice addition as well. Cover and simmer for 20 min  on low heat. Prepare your sides: vegetables or potatoes. I like julienne cut carrots and parsnips sauteed in olive oil and herbs. About 10 min. before serving, add 1/4 cup of heavy cream and a rue (2 tbs.butter and flour paste) to your meat and mushrooms which have been bubbling in a rich sauce. This will create a simply gorgeous delicious gravy.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

*homemade applesauce on the table... 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Pepper Steak with Buckwheat Groats

Ranch pepper steak with buckwheat groats... talk about fast and frugal!

For this dish you will need: 1 lb pound of round or sirloin steak, one whole onion, one green pepper and one red pepper. And, don't forget the buckwheat groats (brown rice can also be used).

To begin, saute on med heat the onion chopped and the peppers sliced in 3-4 tbs of olive oil.  Once they are tender and starting to brown on the edges, add the steak, thinly sliced.

At this time, go ahead and sprinkle on organic garlic powder and fresh dried herbs: rosemary, mint, oregano; next pour in about 1/4 cup of beef stock and 1-2 tbs of steak sauce (number of tbs added determines strength of taste) before simmering on the stove covered for 30 min. on low heat.

Boil in the bag buckwheat groats (if you can find) or cook them stove top style as you would brown rice. When fully cooked, drain and ladle into a serving dish and top with steak and peppers.

~Tutti a Tavola!

*Buckwheat groats, what are they? Buckwheat is not wheat, nor is it related to wheat. Like many of the other so-called "whole grains," buckwheat is not technically a grain nor a cereal. So where does it come from? Buckwheat is derived from the seeds of a flowering plant. Several other foods typically thought of as whole grains, including quinoa, are actually seeds and not grains as well. And yes, it is gluten-free! Check out this website for more info -

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Pork Loin with Creamy Mustard Sauce

On a Sunday cold evening, who wouldn't like to have a stove top roasted pork loin with onions, sun dried tomatoes and carrots topped with a creamy mustard sauce. You will need to buy a small to medium sized pork loin (depending on number of guests), one whole onion, a few sun dried tomatoes, and carrots. You should have on hand (in your pantry stock or fridge) heavy cream and Dijon mustard.

To begin, generously coat the bottom of your covered stock pot with olive oil, turn the heat to med. add chopped onion and dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano. Stir, cover and prepare whole baby carrots to be added next, use as many as you like. Then, take your loin and lay it in over the onion and carrots. top with a couple of sun dried tomatoes, sprinkle in some organic garlic powder and sea salt, add 1 tbs of vodka and 1/4 cup of beef stock, cover and let simmer for 40-45 min on low heat.

Microwave some yellow gold potatoes or any vegetable as a side dish. As for the sauce, take a small creamer and pour in 1/4 cup of heavy cream, a tsp of olive oil and 2 tbs of Dijon mustard, stir and microwave until bubbly.

Serve on a large plate and garnish.

~Tutti a Tavola!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Firenza ~ Fire Roasted Tomato Creamy Vodka Sauce with Penne

It is easy cooking Italian. Why/How? Because, Italian cooks are not uptight. They go with the flow by making use of whatever they have on hand using whatever to go with what they have in their basic stocked pantry. On the right margin of this blog, you will find the basic pantry items and including an extended version. Believe me, you can do a lot with the basic items. A good Fettuccine Alfredo only needs to have these basic items: butter, heavy cream, pasta, and cheese. Of course, some herbs along with salt and pepper would be wise to have on hand but those four basic items will still make a great simple dish.

Tonight, I made a delicious simple pasta dish. It may sound complex or elegant but it is simple... simply elegant. How? Start with chopped onion sauteed in olive oil and some coconut oil (med heat), add to that ground pork or veal if you prefer it could even be ground turkey for that matter. Once you have broken down the meat stirring repeatedly in the sauteing onion, you can add dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano. Add 2 small cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes (you can do it yourself by chopping/dicing up two plump Italian tomoates and roasting the tomato flesh in an iron skillet until they blacken).

Now, the moment to add 2 tbs of vodka. Turn up the heat and let it sizzle. Reduce the heat to low and add 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Cover and let simmer on low heat while the penne boils. Once the pasta is tender, drain and ladle onto a low lipped serving plate. Pour out your sauce over the pasta, shave some parmesan cheese to top and serve.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Cajun Winter ~ Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

It's winter but when the sun shines, you can't help but feel anxious about spring. With January nearly half gone, February is just around the corner and that means its Mardi Gras time. When I think New Orleans, I think jambalaya. Being Italian and Polish puts me quite a distance from Arcadian, but that doesn't mean the Brainy Gourmet can't cook like one or you for that matter.

Jambalaya is a simple dish. It can be whipped up in 35 min.  For this dish you will need, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, smoked sausage (buy meat according to number of guests/family), one onion, green and red pepper, dry white wine, chicken stock and a whole bunch of good ole hot stuff as in seasonings.

In a large covered skillet, pour in 5 tbs of olive oil, add to that chopped one whole onion and your red/green peppers (if you have on hand only green peppers then use them, you don't have to be strict). Give this onion and pepper a good stir fry on high heat. Reduce heat to med, and add 1/2 cup of chicken stock and 1/4 cup of white 'dry' wine. Cover and let simmer on med. heat while you dice up your chicken and sausage. Once you've done your dicing, add the pieces of chicken and sausage.

To this mixture now bubbling in your skillet, add your seasonings: 1 tsp of sea salt, 1 tsp of black pepper, 1 tsp of red pepper flakes and the same of garlic powder, 1/2 - 1 tsp of cayenne pepper and 1/2 - 1 tsp of paprika (hotter if you want to melt snow). Stir in all seasonings until everything is a rusty amber. Cover and let simmer for 25 min.

In the meantime, prepare a side dish. I recommend rice, after all its Jambalaya. Add dry kernel rice (1-2 cups depending on # guests) to a deep stock pot of boiling water (two cups water to one of rice) with a pinch of salt.

When the rice is tender, ladle onto a low lipped serving dish, pour out your Jambalaya and garnish with fresh chopped parsley. You can also squeeze on fresh lemon or lime. Or, you can just put a half of lemon on the table along with a bottle of Louisiana hot sauce.

~Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Veal Medallions with Olives and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Good food couldn't be quicker. A veal loin can be thickly sliced into nice small medallions. You can saute them in olive oil with dried herbs and sun dried tomatoes. It takes only about 25 minutes on med to high heat. Add a 1/4 cup of heavy cream and this delicious meat dish can top any rice, groat or pasta side. I like to add the olives on the end, not cooked just straight out of the jar or deli container.

~Tutti a Tavola!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Polenta with Mushrooms and Boudain Sausage!

For something different for dinner on a cold winter evening, try creamy cornmeal polenta. A lovely and tasty accompaniment to that or any dinner is sauteed wild mushrooms and homemade sausages. Now, if you don't have wild mushrooms or homemade sausages at your local grocery or in your food cellar, don't panic. Any mushrooms at the grocery store will do and any good sausage can be found in most delis.

You will need olive oil, one onion, yellow cornmeal, chicken stock, parmesan and butter.

Polenta -
2 tbs of olive oil
one whole onion chopped
2-4 cups of chicken stock
2 cups of yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan
4 tbs of butter or 1/2 stick

Heat oven to 350F. On the stove, saute your onion in the olive oil in a deep oven safe pot until browned on all edges; then, add your stock (2 cups thicker) and 5 cups of water. Heat to boiling on high and slowly whisk in the cornmeal. Then cover and bake for 45-50 min.with an occasional stir - about every 10 min. Remove from the oven, add the butter and Parmesan for one last stir, then let it set covered.


*you can saute with the mushrooms, fresh spinach for color and vitamins.  

 ~ Tutti a Tavola!  

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Thanksgiving is over but Turkey is Always Good!

Yes, the holidays are behind us and I am sure many of you ate your fair share of turkey since Thanksgiving. But cooking and eating turkey is always a pleasure and its good for you. Especially, pastured turkey which is better than eating turkey raised in a container if you know what I mean. I won't go into detail about some producer practices but they are not the best for you nor the animal.

Turkey for dinner can be deliciously gourmet any day of the week. You can buy turkey breast, legs or thighs.
The quickest way to have turkey is to buy ground turkey and there are many organic brands as well as free range or pastured.  Being brainy and frugal, I keep a few packages of ground turkey in my freezer. I like to use the meat for hamburgers, meatballs or meatloaf. In a pinch, you can make a rich flavorful gourmet meal.

Today, I decided to make turkey meatballs with onion in a cream sauce (using as a base some left over beef au jus) a kind of turkey stroganoff.  To begin, I simply shaped 1 pound of ground turkey into equal balls (or you can break up the ground turkey) to be sauteed in 4 tbs. olive oil, 2 tbs. coconut oil and chopped onion. To that, besides laying in my meatballs, I added dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano. For this dish, I wanted a meaty taste and did not add anything to the turkey as I would when making meatballs for spaghetti. When the meatballs are cooked through, add 3/4 of heavy cream and grate in some aged Swiss cheese.

Let this simmer while boiling water to cook your side ~ mushroom infused tagliatelle pasta. When tender, drain and ladle onto a low lipped serving plate, top with meatballs and sauce.

 Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Italian Roasted Chicken with Olives and Sun Dried Tomatoes

This dish can be made with either hot cherry peppers or sun dried tomatoes. Both are delicious as both have absorbed the Italian sun and air.

You will need chicken thighs with bone in and skin on... there is more flavor. If you don't have on hand, then you will need to buy sun dried tomatoes, kalamata (pitted) olives and green olives along with spinach infused wide noodle pasta.

Begin by sauteing on medium heat your chicken thighs in 4 tbs. of olive oil along with 1 tbs of coconut oil. As the thighs sear through, add dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano along with red pepper flakes and garlic powder. Next, add 1 tbs of butter along with one small jar of sun dried tomatoes (fairly drained) and generous amounts of both the dark and green olives.

Cover and cook for a good 20 min. on med heat, stirring and turning the chicken as it cooks. To finish up, add 1/4 cup of chicken stock which should become a bubbling liquid consuming the chicken. Turn down the heat to low and let the mixture cook covered for another 15 min.

In the meantime, heat water to a boiling to cook your pasta. Once tender, fully drain and ladle onto a low lipped serving dish. Check your chicken, it should begin to produce a rich sauce. Turn out the thighs and sauce on top of the pasta and serve.

Tutti a Tavola!

Worried about Your Diet ~ Good Food has been Given Us

Spices in the Bible
  • Coriander (Exodus 16:31; Numbers 11:7)
  • Cinnamon (Exodus 30:23; Revelation 18:13)
  • Cumin (Isaiah 28:25; Matthew 23:23)
  • Dill (Matthew 23:23)
  • Garlic (Numbers 11:5)
  • Mint (Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42)
  • Mustard (Matthew 13:31)
  • Salt (Ezra 6:9; Job 6:6)

Fruits and Nuts

  •  Apples (Song of Solomon 2:5)
  • Almonds (Genesis 43:11; Numbers 17:8)
  • Dates  (2 Samuel 6:19; 1 Chronicles 16:3)
  • Figs (Nehemiah 13:15; Jeremiah 24:1-3)
  • Grapes (Leviticus 19:10; Deuteronomy 23:24)
  • Melons (Numbers 11:5; Isaiah 1:8)
  • Olives (Isaiah 17:6; Micah 6:15)
  • Pistachio Nuts (Genesis 43:11)
  • Pomegranates (Numbers 20:5; Deuteronomy 8:8)
  • Raisins (Numbers 6:3; 2 Samuel 6:19)

Vegetables and Legumes
  • Beans (2 Samuel 17:28; Ezekiel 4:9)
  • Cucumbers (Numbers 11:5)
  • Gourds (2 Kings 4:39)
  • Leeks (Numbers 11:5)
  • Lentils (Genesis 25:34; 2 Samuel 17:28; Ezekiel 4:9)
  • Onions (Numbers 11:5)
  • Barley (Deuteronomy 8:8; Ezekiel 4:9)
  • Bread (Genesis 25:34; 2 Samuel 6:19; 16:1; Mark 8:14)
  • Corn (Matthew 12:1)
  • Flour (2 Samuel 17:28; 1 Kings 17:12)
  • Millet (Ezekiel 4:9)
  • Unleavened Bread (Genesis 19:3; Exodus 12:20)
  • Wheat (Ezra 6:9; Deuteronomy 8:8)
  • Matthew 15:36
  • John 21:11-13
  • Pigeon (Genesis 15:9; Leviticus 12:8)
  • Quail (Psalm 105:40)
  • Dove (Leviticus 12:8)
Animal Meats
  • Veal (Proverbs 15:17; Luke 15:23)
  • Goat (Genesis 27:9)
  • Lamb (2 Samuel 12:4)
  • Oxen (1 Kings 19:21)
  • Sheep (Deuteronomy 14:4)
  • Venison (Genesis 27:7)
  • Butter (Proverbs 30:33)
  • Cheese (2 Samuel 17:29; Job 10:10)
  • Curds (Isaiah 7:15)
  • Milk (Exodus 33:3; Job 10:10; Judges 5:25)
  • Eggs (Job 6:6; Luke 11:12)
  • Grape Juice (Numbers 6:3)
  • Honey (Exodus 33:3; Deuteronomy 8:8; Judges 14:8-9)
  • Olive Oil (Ezra 6:9; Deuteronomy 8:8)
  • Vinegar (Ruth 2:14; John 19:29)
  • Wine (Ezra 6:9; John 2:1-10)