Fresh, fast and frugal!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Yesterday's Tomato Soup ~ Today's Minestrone!

...what's waiting for you?

Yes, its been a soup week... and for a purpose which was to demonstrate that from one pot of chicken stock, at least three different kinds of soup can evolve. Yesterday, we made tomato soup and today we are making Minestrone. Begin by taking the left over tomato soup from the fridge and reintroducing any vegges or pasta that you had strained off left over from the chicken broth, including any left over chicken.

If there is just a tad of tomato soup left over, you can add one small can of diced tomatoes and 1 cup of chicken stock that is if you were able to hold any back from the original stock product. If not, a cube of bouillon in 1 cup of water will do, adding it to the improvised Minestrone.

For a little extra zing, I happen to have half of a whole zucchini in the crisper and diced that up, pan fried it in olive oil and then added it to the evolving soup ...soon to be Minestrone. This sounds a bit strange today for most home cooks but my great-grandma Nona would cook like this. She was very frugal... she had seven mouths to feed besides herself and her husband.

Put some grated Parmesan cheese and toasted Italian bread on the table and get ready to eat what's been waiting for you!

~ Tutti a Tavola

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Yesterday's Chicken Stock ~ Today's Tomato Soup!

What can be done with chicken stock? Rather what can't be done...what's waiting for you?

If you followed the brainy gourmet advice and kept only the stock in the purest form possible then yesterday's chicken soup can become today's tomato soup. Why do I say chicken soup when we are talking about and working with stock?

I say it because the original stock became chicken soup by adding carrots and onion, leaving out any pasta or rice which can be added to individual bowls. But, even if you do or did... let's say by accident or by choice added the pasta... you can always strain it out along with any vegetables to regain your stock which should now be called a broth.

Regardless, if you have chicken stock or a strained chicken broth, you should add one small can of tomato paste and cook for 20 min on med heat until you have a red rich tomato soup. Pasta or rice can be cooked on the side and added to individual bowls. Another side which my sweetie loves to have with tomato soup is a gooey grilled cheese sandwich. Now that's not only frugal but brainy delicious!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Reminding Ourselves What Can be Done with Chicken Stock...

The Brainy Gourmet is about frugality and good food. Being frugal means getting the most out of something. The number one food in my opinion that you can get the most from is chicken stock. So, what can you get from chicken stock?

1- Chicken Soup
2- Tomato Soup
3- Minestrone Soup
4- Cream of Broccoli
5- Cream of Asparagus
6- Cream of Butternut Squash

Not only soups...

Chicken stock can be used for all kinds of cooking: Italian, Chinese, Mexican, French and many more. How/Why? It is a flavor builder and liquid provider to any cooking. The key to changing things up using stock is not to add 10 different ingredients. Stock can become any soup at any time if you keep it stock.

So, put a chicken in a pot and get cooking!

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Best of the Brainy Gourmet

Forget going into the city... stay home and cook!

And even more...

Here are some of my Favorites!

Farfalle with Red Sauce
Chicken Marsala
Chicken Picata
Lemony Greek Fish
Spaghetti Bolognse
Spaghetti with Meatballs
Greek Mediterranean Chicken
Salomon with Fettuccine Alfredo
Pork Medallions with Butternut Squash

Go to the Brainy Gourmet Webpage and click on Brainy Archives to find your favorites!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Brainy Gourmet's Hearty Beef Stew!

Another favorite comfort food besides mashed potatoes with Swiss steak is Beef stew. It is so simple and yet so full of flavor... one that takes you home. This is the kind of meal that you can do in the crockpot or on the stove in a heavy lidded pot. The basic ingredients are: 1 lb. of cubed sirloin or round steak, baby carrots, onion, green pepper and fresh or canned tomatoes. For best results, tenderize the beef for one hr. before cooking.

To begin, with the lid off, saute one whole onion and green pepper on med heat in olive oil. Then, add your cubed beef, stir drizzling in over the top balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, no more than 1 and 1/2 half tsp each. After the meat is nicely browned, give a generous shake of fresh dried herbs: rosemary, mint, oregano and sage. Dice 2 red ripe tomatoes or use one med. can of diced tomatoes and pour it in. Add half a bag of baby carrots and cover.

Let this mixture cook on med heat for 10 min stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and let simmer on low for 45 min. If needed, add a tbs or two of water to keep the liquid content for cooking the carrots. This stew will not produce a thick pasty sauce; unless, you add flour. As mentioned in a recent post, flour is not necessary for sauce, gravy yes. However, if you are cutting back on gluten and or carbs in general, then don't bother with flour. The sauce without 'flour' is delicious!

Prepare boiled yellow gold potatoes for your side!

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Delicious Greek Mediterranean Chicken ~ The Secret!

The secret to really great Greek Mediterranean chicken is not only the olives in the sauce but in the way you cook the chicken. To begin: use bone in, skin on chicken thighs. Pan fry in a large skillet as many thighs as you need skin side down on high heat in olive oil with garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and fresh dried herbs: rosemary, oregano, sage and mint. Once the skin side is nicely browned, turn over and reduce heat to med.; cover for 5-6 min, adding a bit more olive oil if needed.

Move the chicken aside or remove temporarily while you add one whole chopped onion and one whole chopped roasted red pepper. Brown together, then add one med. can of diced tomatoes or fresh about 2 cups along with either 1-2 cups of diced zucchini or eggplant. Bring the chicken back in and for extra flavor, toss in fresh sprig of rosemary. Cover and let simmer for about 35 min on low heat.

In the meantime, prepare spinach infused Tagliatelle or Fettuccine pasta.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Brainy Gourmet ~ A Ministry of Food and Flavor!

If you don't know it already, the Brainy Gourmet is a ministry of food and family. Which means... its about being frugal and brainy in the kitchen for your family. In this way, by serving your family, you serve God. You demonstrate His love with your actions... preparing a meal and gathering around the table.

You don't have to be a 5 star chef to be frugal and brainy in the kitchen. You just have to be in love with God, and your family. Why in love with God first? Because, He is the Creator of all things seen and unseen (COL 1:16). He holds all things together (COL 1:17). In Him, we live, breathe and have our being (Acts 17:28).

You don't have to be wealthy either. The most basic of foods can be made into a 'gourmet' meal. There is a basic pantry list on the right margin of this blog from which one can begin to be frugal and brainy. Alongside of this blog is the Brainy Gourmet Webpage where you can find additional meal archives and Brainy Tips.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Chicken Fried Steak with Yellow Squash

A little southern hospitality never hurt anyone...

There always a first time for everything in the kitchen when it comes to the variety of meals you can prepare; and the Brainy Gourmet is no exception. Yes, the Brainy Gourmet is making chicken fried steak for the first time ever! But, what's there to be afraid of? I have heard that most worry is over  the outside coating with regards to it being cooked to crispy or not.

Making this for the first time, I was more concerned about the taste of the steak being tender and delicious than the crispiness of the outside coating. You can look at this as a dilemma which is similar to ordering fried chicken: crispy or original. Original recipe is more of a traditional pan fried and not so crispy; which is what I prefer.

As I said, I wanted the steak to have an exceptional tenderness and taste. To begin, choose either flank, sirloin or round steak and generously sprinkled meat tenderizer and garlic powder on each piece and let them sit 2 hrs before frying. Preparing to fry: whisk in a shallow bowl one egg in 3 tbs of balsamic vinegar, adding 1 tbs of dried herbs. Use a plate for the flour coating, add to that a pinch of salt and black pepper, mixing it up with a fork.

Pour enough oil (one inch high) into your skillet. Turn up the heat to prepare to pan fry. Take one palm sized medallion of pounded round steak, dip into the egg mixture and then coat with flour -salt and black pepper. When the oil is hot, lay in your coated first steak. Continue, until you have all pieces in the skillet. Since, the oil is extremely, don't walk away for a minute. 

Once the frying is nearly done, test to make sure the meat is just pink inside; if yes, you can set aside the steak on a paper towel in a warmer or oven on low heat in order to prepare to a side dish.

Since I wanted to serve yellow squash, I just fried in the same skillet (wiped out with paper towel) dropping in a dollop of butter. You can also serve with mashed potatoes, which should be prepared just prior to frying and kept warm in a covered 'oven safe' dish in the oven on low heat.

If you want gravy on that as many southern folk do, then take some saved bacon grease to melt into the skillet and add a mixture of milk and flour to make a creamy white gravy.

 ~ Tutti a Tavola!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Kotlety... A Simple Polish Dinner ~ Smacznego!

Kotlety are Polish patties. Not hamburgers but could be used as such. They are ground meat patties coated with bread crumbs and pan fried, at least that is how I had them when living in eastern Europe for nearly 12 years. For this dish, I prefer to use a mixture of ground turkey and pork, though you could use veal.

To begin, mix in a stainless steel mixing bowl about 1 pound of ground turkey and half pound of ground pork. To that add dried herbs: rosemary, mint, oregano and sage if you like the taste. Also, add garlic powder and a pinch of salt. I also like to add one egg which allows the patties to retain shape and for the bread crumbs to cling better. Pan fry in olive oil until nicely browned on both sides, then add 1/4 cup of water to simmer allowing a rich liquid to develop.

Sides are usually: mashed potatoes, coleslaw, a beet root salad mixed with red cabbage/cranberries or diced apple and nuts along with homemade applesauce.

~ Smacznego!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

What's in a Marsala?


A basic Marsala sauce should use olive oil, butter, mushrooms, Marsala wine, beef/chicken stock and garlic. To that, you can introduce meat, dried fruits, and or sun dried tomatoes. Marsala sauce goes best with pasta - Tagliatelle or Linguine. If you are cooking for the kids, or guests that prefer non-alcoholic ingredients, the wine can be omitted with little taste difference.

To begin, saute on med heat chopped onion, garlic and sliced mushrooms and dried herbs in olive oil until browned on the edges. If you are adding meat (chicken, veal or even pork) now is the time. Push aside the onion, garlic and mushroom and add a drizzle more of olive oil to flash fry the meat (in cubes or strips) using a higher heat. Then, reintroduce the onion, garlic and mushroom, pour in 1/3 cup of beef or chicken stock and 3 tbs of Marsala wine; if you choose to do so. I also like to add about 4 tbs of heavy cream and or a dollop of butter though not necessary.

Let this simmer while you prepare the pasta. Returning to the Marsala, it is at this time you can add dried fruits (prunes are best) and sun dried tomatoes. Cover and let rest on low heat while you drain the pasta and prepare to serve.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Brainy Golden Curry Anyone?

Can anyone cook a good curry? Absolutely! The key ingredient is simply - curry.

There are a few more necessary ingredients but necessarily... the key ingredient is curry. The brainy gourmet also likes to add a bit of coriander, turmeric, garlic powder and dried herbs: rosemary/lavender, mint, oregano and some red pepper flakes.

To begin, you will need to saute, on med heat, in a mix of melted coconut oil and butter, one glove of garlic, one whole onion and one green pepper, washed and chopped. Once the garlic, onion and green pepper have begun to brown on the edges, add 1 lb skinless, boneless cubed chicken breast.

As the meat cooks, prepare to 1 cup of add heavy cream, and 1/4 cup of sour cream. Let this mixture of garlic, onion, green pepper, chicken breast and 2 kinds of cream bubble a bit on high heat before adding your spices: 2 tsp of curry powder, 1 tsp of coriander, 1 tsp of turmeric, 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes (or more depending on your preference of 'hot'). For a 'redder' color and hotter taste you can add 1 tsp of 'red' hot chili sauce. In past times, I have left that out due to some family member's taste buds and squeezed lemon juice over the top as well as dried grated coconut and cilantro.

Lastly, let this mixture simmer on low heat for about 20 min.  Prepare rice as a side and serve.

 Anyone want to step out for curry?
Why not stay home and make it your own!

  ~ Tutti a Tavola!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Best Comfort Food ~ Swiss Steak!

 Thinking of home...

Nothing brings me back home more than the delicious taste of Swiss steak with a heaping side of mashed potatoes. You will need a large round steak, one whole onion, one small can of tomato paste and fresh dried herbs. Its as simple as that; and of course - yellow gold potatoes (2 per person is my ratio when making mashed).

First things first, marinate the steak in balsamic vinegar, two dashes of A1 steak sauce and a couple of good shakes of meat tenderizer. After 1-2 hours, begin cooking by sauteing one whole onion chopped in olive oil on med heat. While the onion begins to brown on the edges, cut up the round steak into palm size medallions or even strips.  Push the onions aside and lay in the steak, turn up the heat to high to sear the meat on both sides. Next, turn down the heat to med. and bring back the onion adding 1 cup of water and all of the contents of the one small can of tomatoes paste. Give it a good stir and add your dried herbs: rosemary, mint, oregano and sage.

Let this simmer on the stove on low heat for 30-40 min. Prepare potatoes (wash and peel) cut into halves and boil in salted water until tender. Once the potatoes pass the fork test, drain and mash with butter and milk until creamy.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

What does the angry Italian want for dinner?

Arrabbiata sauce, or sugo all'arrabbiata in Italian is a spicy sauce for pasta made from garlic, tomatoes, and red chili peppers cooked in olive oil. "Arrabbiata" literally means "angry" in Italian; the name of the sauce refers to the spiciness of the chili peppers. And, you know, it's not too much trouble to make an Italian a little angry. But, its certainly easier to make them happy with this sauce. Italian or not, your family and or friends will love this spicy sauce on their pasta - penne is preferred but any pasta will do.

The Brainy Gourmet likes to add fresh garden eggplant and also ground meat but its not necessary. The key ingredient or secret to this sauce is the spiciness that comes from the chili peppers which can be fresh or dried and chopped finely (using only half a pepper unless you want to get really angry; and of course you don't) or you can use 1/2 tsp of chili powder and even more if you are bold.

To begin, chop one whole onion, a clove of garlic and saute in olive oil. Then chop a few red ripe tomatoes or use diced canned tomatoes and add once the onion is singed on the edges and the garlic too. At this time, if you want to add either or ... or both eggplant and browned ground meat you can. For a more liquid sauce, I pour in about 1 cup of fresh tomato juice. Don't forget the dried herbs: rosemary, mint, and oregano. 

Let the sauce simmer while you boil salted water for the pasta and get ready to eat.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

*Parmesan on top!