Fresh, fast and frugal!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Savory Root Veggies ~ A Simple Harvest Time Side!

just sprinkle in organic garlic powder and fresh dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano...  saute in olive oil on med heat until tender and browned on edges.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pork Shoulder with Carrots and Mashed Potatoes

Nothing could be more Midwest than this dish... and I am talking Iowa, the self proclaimed pork capital of the US.  This dish can be done in crockpot or in a covered enamel cast iron cookware for the stove top.  I prefer the stove top which on low works like a crockpot. You can walk away from it in the sense you don't have to stand by the stove to watch it for more than 90 min. But, I would not recommend leaving the house; though I have mowed the back yard while cooking this way. From time to time, I have used a crockpot in the past for this dish and it is just as delicious. I like to sear the meat in a hot black skillet though before putting it in the crockpot on low for 3 hours.

Today's preparation is for the stove top. To begin, on med heat saute one whole chopped onion in 3 tbs of olive oil and coconut oil. Add fresh dried herbs, stir until the onion begins to brown on the edges. Push aside the onion, turn up the heat and sear your pork shoulder on both sides. Reduce the heat to med and reintroduce the onion. To this, pour in 1/2 cup of beef stock or veggie stock. Add half a bag of baby organic or long garden carrots (washed/peeled), cover and let simmer for 90 min on low.

Just before the ninety are up, prepare yellow gold potatoes for boiling and mashing with fresh butter and cream. The kids will come to the table without calling. And, don't forget the homemade applesauce.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Swiss French Kitchen... Chicken Breasts in Raclette Cream Sauce

Along the French Swiss border one can find a blending of culture through language and food; Swiss French is a variety of French spoken in the French-speaking area of Switzerland known as Romandy. As for food, especially cheese, one has to note the preference for cooking with Raclette. Though traditionally Swiss, this semi-hard cow's milk cheese most commonly used for melting is often used by both sides of the border.

The smell is pungent, the taste is strong and yet also buttery. It all sounds wildly European, but this cheese is great for cooking, melting and can be bought here too. This dish like many or any of the brainy gourmet's is frugal as well as delicious. I just so happen to make a raclette fondue the other night using a very good raclette bought just over the border in Wisconsin. Looking into my fridge, there was a small amount left of the raclette fondue. And, I had left over pasta as well. On the fresh side, I had crisp green asparagus and Bavarian mushrooms.

To begin, on med heat I sauteed chopped onion in olive oil and 1 tbs of fresh creamy butter sprinkled with dried herbs. I then pushed the onion aside in the skillet and on high heat seared strips of chicken breasts (skinless/boneless). I reintroduced the onion, reduced the heat and added the left over raclette along with 1 1/2 cup of heavy cream. To that... the left over pasta and another tbs of butter then covering to let simmer while I prepared the mushrooms and asparagus... washing and slicing/cutting off ends. A quick stir fry in butter until browning around the edges appeared and then poured in about 2 tbs of chicken stock, turning up the heat to high for 4 min.

 ~ Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, October 24, 2016

French Cooking is About 'the' Sauce!

In French cooking, there are two basic beginnings for sauce: those made from a base such as roux (butter/flour paste) and or sauces made with broth or stock and heavy cream added to any meat fat from sauteing, broiling or roasting. From there, you can get as creative as you like adding mustard, cheese, spices/herbs, and even dried fruits.

The most important aspect of being a good judge of sauce is learning to judge sauce in terms of color and consistency. If it appears to be burning because it is too hot, then you can expect it to be too sticky, so either add more cream or butter or stock. If it appears too liquid, take the lid off and turn up the heat, adding a pat of butter and stirring until it thickens. 

Tonight's dinner is pork or veal medallions and smoked sausage in creamy mustard sauce with sun dried tomatoes and dried plums, served with sweet potatoes halved and green beans. This is really so delicious!

Begin by sauteing on med heat chopped onion in olive oil. Then push aside the onion once the edges are brown, add a drizzle more of olive oil and sear the medallions on both sides. Next, add as many 'chunk -bite' size cuts of smoked veal sausage as you like.  To this, add 1/2 cup of sun dried tomatoes and the same of dried plums. Sprinkle in fresh dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano.

On med heat, stir and let these flavors blend before adding your heavy cream and Dijon mustard.  After 2 min, spoon in 1 tbs of mustard or more (to taste) and 3/4 cup of heavy cream. Stir while turning up the heat, let this bubble for 3-4 min. Cover and let simmer for about 15  min on low heat.

Prepare sides.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Bourbon Street Spare Ribs with Carmelized Cherry Tomatoes and Onions!

road trip...

For this dish, you will need to buy a package of boneless pork spareribs, 1-1/2 inch thick. A package of cherry tomatoes, and some bourbon or not... you can of course make this dish without it. Marinate the pork for at least one hour in a shallow dish covered with 1/4 cup of bourbon along with sea salt, garlic powder and black pepper as well as dried herb seasonings: mint, rosemary and oregano or basil.

In a heavy black iron skillet, sear your marinated pork in 4 tbs of olive oil and coconut oil. Then add some organic honey and fresh grated ginger along with a generous squeeze of lime. Cook on high for 3 min and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 6-8 min, depending on thickness of pork. Remove from heat and move the pork aside or to a serving plate and cover to retain heat. In that same black iron skillet saute onion and cherry tomatoes in a buttery olive oil combination letting them sizzle together with an extra dash of bourbon. As they near caramelizing, prepare another side... potatoes or couscous.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Chicken Cacciatore ~ Hunter's Style!

In Italian cuisine, alla cacciatora refers to a dish prepared "hunter-style" and the brainy gourmet style is with onions, tomatoes, dried plums and herbs: rosemary, mint, sage and oregano.

All you need for this delicious dish is a large skillet with lid, chicken thighs with bone in and skin on, one whole onion, one can of diced red tomatoes, dried plums and dried herbs. This dish can be done on the stove or in the oven; using a glass baking dish or a covered skillet. If you decide for the oven, follow a similar procedure for cooking in the skillet, turn the oven to 400f. Roast uncovered.

Begin by sauteing chopped onion on med heat in olive oil, about 4 tbs and be generous.  Next, move the onion off to one side of the skillet and add your chicken thighs skin side down; brown on high heat. Bring back the onion and sprinkle as much of the dried herbs as you want over the top of the chicken.

Reduce heat adding, bringing back the onion into the mix of things and pour in 1/4 cup of chicken stock and one can of diced red tomatoes. Let this simmer for 40 min on med/low heat, stirring occasionally.

For a side, prepare a wild rice risotto rice or pasta ... even mashed potatoes.

Near the end of the 40 min, toss in as many dried plums as you like and olives but not necessary. Cover and let sit with no heat for as long as it takes to set the table. And, don't forget to put out the Parmesan cheese, please...

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Risotto like Grandma's!

Risotto is a delicious side dish to chicken, pork or fish. All you have to do is boil rice (1 cup) in 2 cups of chicken stock, a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt to get it cooking on medium heat.

Once the rice is tender having absorbed most of the stock, drop in a pat of butter and pour in one small can of diced tomatoes or dice up fresh if you prefer. Lastly, add to that Parmesan cheese. Let this set on the stove covered for 6-8 min on low/warm.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Spice up the night with Stir Fry!

Imagine anywhere you want to be with this dish...which is incredibly delicious and incredibly inexpensive.

You will need a boneless pork loin, fresh green zucchini, jarred roasted red peppers, jarred sun dried tomatoes, and orange /ginger wok sauce. Start by boiling salted water for the linguine pasta. Slice your pork loin in medallion size chunks. Take your covered skillet and drizzle in 3 tbs of olive oil, to that add fresh dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano along with garlic powder, red pepper flakes and just a pinch of salt.

Brown your pork on med heat (6- 8 min); once glistening and nearly cooked through remove from the skillet and set aside. In the same skillet, toss in julienne sliced fresh washed green zucchini and one whole roasted red pepper and a few sun dried tomatoes (2-3). Turn up the heat to high and sear your veggies. To that add 1/2 cup of ginger orange sauce, return the pork to the same skillet with veggies and simmer for 15-18 min on low heat.

In the meantime, you should be checking your pasta. Once it is tender, drain and ladle onto a low lipped serving plate. Pour out your pork medallions and zucchini with peppers. Squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice and serve. A bottle of soy sauce on the table is a good idea.

~Tutti a Tavola!

Friday, October 14, 2016

TGIF ~ Thank God It's Friday... but what's for dinner?

If you could go to Rome for your Friday night 'eat out'; which would you order?

Eggplant Parmesan...

Or, Chicken with Penne in Creamy tomato sauce...

Or a Creamy Fettuccine Alfredo...

And, the cheese... as much as you like!

~ Tutti a Tavola!

*All dishes can be found on the Brainy Gourmet Webpage in Brainy Archives -!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Good Ole Home Cookin ~ Chicken and Dumplings!

What's with the pic? It is what it is... simple! You don't need a fancy kitchen for good ole home cooking; i.e. chicken and dumplings. You just need a skillet and hot stove!

Start with thawed skin on, bone in chicken thighs. On high heat, sear the skin side down in olive oil and fresh dried herbs along with a splash of garlic powder, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Turn the thighs over and let the underside brown a bit too. Then cover for 4 min on med heat. Next, add 1/2 cup of chicken stock, cover again and let simmer for 24-30 min on low heat. The best side vegetable for this dish are fresh tender green beans, steamed or boiled until tender.

As for the dumpling mixture: 2 cups of flour, 1/2 tsp of baking soda and 1 tsp baking powder, a pinch of salt, 1/2 cup of cold milk, 1/4 cup of cold buttermilk, add one egg and beat. If you think it is either too creamy or too stiff, add more flour or add a tbs or two vinegar diluted with cold water.

It should look like this -

To this add a sprinkle of dried herbs. Remove the chicken from the skillet, leaving all liquid. Turn up the heat until the liquid like gravy becomes a rolling boil and then drop in your dumpling mixture (a serving spoonful at a time). As they puff and cook, they will absorb the liquid which is good but if they start to stick to the skillet, add a dollop of butter and drop or two of cold water. When they have fluffed up nicely, put the chicken thighs back, cover with the heat off.

Prepare the table!

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Fall is a time of harvest ~ What to do with Squash?

Spaghetti squash, acorn sqaush, and butternut squash...

All of the above are considered winter squash because they can last throughout the winter if stored properly in a root or cold storage cellar. All of them can be baked or microwaved whole, spooned out (removing seeds) and mixed with honey, brown sugar and butter or ...just use butter and sprinkle of fresh dried herbs.

If you have been intrigued by a yellow oblong squash called Spaghetti Squash and wonder why it has that name its because the inside resembles strands of spaghetti pasta when cooked. This squash has a very bland taste whereas the other 'winter' squashes have a sweeter and nuttier taste.

Hence, for that reason, if you decide to try a spaghetti squash recipe, keep in mind the very plain/bland watery taste and texture. The best way to cook this spaghetti sqaush is baked with plenty of spice, olive oil, garlic and cheese.You can get as creative as you like with this squash because ... its a blank slate so to speak. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pork Medallions with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Mushrooms and Dried Plums!

You can sear, saute, grill and even broil meat or veggies and get good taste; but for a really incredible taste that will wow'em... you need a good sauce that will knock their socks off.  Is it difficult to do? No, not at all. The best basic sauce is always a combination of rich meat juices, butter and cream.

For something a bit more upscale, get creative. For this dish, you begin by searing and then sauteing, the meat or veggie of choice (if a vegetarian) and in this case - pork loin cut as medallions, in olive oil and coconut oil, 3 tbs each in a large skillet on high and then switch to med. heat. Next, add chopped onion, mushrooms, dried herbs and you can include dried fruits such as dried plums and or also including sun dried tomatoes. Stir and reduce heat to low and simmer for 25 min. Then at the end, add 1 tbs of butter, the same of Dijon mustard and 1/2 cup of heavy cream, stirring on low heat for another 4 min. Finally, turn off the heat, cover and let rest while you prepare a side of potatoes or barley groats.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Brainy Good Advice!

Most home cooks are good home cooks and that is because they love cooking and have basic know how. But if you don't love cooking because you think you lack basic know how and still have to cook at home there is a simple solution. Don't make it hard on yourself. Most people don't like to cook at home because they think that means special ingredients and/or expensive ingredients, recipes to follow as well as not having the time, effort and money to be a good home cook.

The Brainy Gourmet offers this brainy advice... 1st make it simple and that means keep a basic pantry and learn what you can do with that much making it taste good. Its almost a no brainier when you think about it. Check the side bar for the basic pantry list. You will see items like cheese, potatoes, heavy cream and eggs. Combine these and you will have a wonderful casserole.

Cook a whole chicken and make three to four different kinds of soup throughout the week. You can even use the stock for a wide variety of other meals which need a sauce, a broth or liquid to keep veggies from burning and remaining firm enough to grab all the flavor in a stir fry.

So, get cooking and enjoy home cooked food!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Brainy Jambalaya or Turkey Gumbo... Really?

Jambalaya is actually a no brainer to make at home... rice, spices, one onion, several cubes of Italian sausage (squeezed out from the casing or bought in bulk) and cooked frozen shrimp 'thawed'. Turkey Gumbo to that or instead of is also uncomplicated...ground turkey, onions, one can of diced tomatoes and frozen okra or use zucchini. 

This is a jambalaya kids will eat since the heavy duty hotness comes from the bottle you put on the table when you serve. Both can be served with a side of rice. To begin, on med heat. saute one chopped onion in 3 tbs of olive oil and the same of coconut oil. Add to that your cubed or 'ball shaped' chunks of Italian sausage and continue to saute, browning the sausage on all sides. Next, add 1/4 cup of chicken stock and your favorite spices. I highly recommend a shake of garlic powder, red pepper flakes and chili powder, also dried herbs as much as you like: rosemary, mint and oregano.

Have your shrimp thawed and rinsed and ready to toss in during the last few minutes. Cook the rice as you normally wood in salted boiling water. Drain and ladle onto a low lipped serving plate. Top with jambalaya and serve! Put out the Tabasco for the daring.

If you opted for Gumbo, then saute ground turkey shaped as meatballs in coconut oil and olive oil... same amounts as for the jambalaya. Add 1 cup of chicken stock, chopped onion, diced tomatoes and okra. The better spice here is rosemary and  mint. Let this simmer on low for 30-40 min. Serve on top of rice.

~Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Brainy Hainan Chicken

Hainan is a large tropic like island off China's southern coast having ten major cities. Hainan cuisine is said to be lite with mild seasonings. Chicken is free ranged, cooked in a variety of ways as it is much enjoyed and served with rice. Though, you can serve with rice noodles or linguine pasta if you have.

The key to this dish involves immersing one whole chicken in almost boiling hot water until soft and tender, all pieces then peeled off laid in lemon juice, crushed garlic, ginger and salt as part of creating the sauce.  Note, using a whole chicken would also give you a stock. However, to be quicker about it, not using a whole chicken, you can use skinless, boneless chicken thighs. Each piece is brushed with lemon juice, crushed garlic, ginger, and salt.

To begin, on med. heat saute one whole chopped onion in coconut oil. Next, add your chicken thighs, browning on both sides. Add to that, chopped sweet red pepper and diced pineapple.  Simmer on low heat for 35 min. Prepare your noodles.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

*For a little more zing... put out a halved lemon, some soy sauce or teriyaki sauce.