Brainy Gourmet

Brainy Gourmet
The Doctor is into Delicious!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Rustic Pork Medallions with Mushrooms and Dried Plums...

This is an absolute favorite at our house. It takes me back to an unexpected winter visit in Zurich Switzerland. Probably, because of the creamy mustard sauce and also because of the distinct woody taste of the wild forest mushrooms along with dried plums; all very rustic.

You will need: one 1-1/2 lb. pork loin, one onion, 'wild/wood' mushrooms (Bavarian), dried plums, and creamy style 'horseradish' mustard or a rich Dijon and of course heavy cream. Begin by sauteing one whole chopped onion in olive oil and butter. Wash and shave the mushrooms adding them to the skillet with the onion ...once the onion has browned.

Push aside the onion and mushrooms to add the pork loin cut into a medallion size. Brown on both sides until the juices run out when you push down on each one. Bring back in the onion/mushrooms, add 1/4 lb of dried plums, mix together and pour in 1/3 cup of heavy cream and 1 and half large tbs of mustard. Cover and let simmer while you prepare the sides.

Oh yeah, a side of buttery mashed potatoes and green beans...

 ~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Its the most wonderful time of the year ~ to bake cookies!

Most of my readers know that I am not a 'baker' by nature but I can be brainy about bread and a variety of drop cookies. Stack up any way you like this drop cookie at a time!

A drop cookie is just a ball of cookie dough you drop on a cookie sheet. I don't use any particular recipe per say because I know what makes a good drop cookie: a stick of butter, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, one egg and 1-1/2 cup of flour adding to that 1 tsp of baking soda, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp of salt. That is the basic mix. 

To that basic mix, you can add all kinds of tasty things: any kind of nut, or slivered almonds, raisins, or dried cranberries, oatmeal or grated coconut; and, of course any kind of mini chocolate or butterscotch morsel. 

*Advice on the use of oatmeal and or grated coconut...use only 1/4 cup of either (not both together) otherwise the dough will likely become too dry. The consistency of the dough has to be just right, not too sticky and not too dry. 

*Note - more flour than sugar will produce a cake like drop cookie; more butter/sugar will produce a crispy flat drop cookie.

I also have a favorite molasses recipe that I enjoy making this time of year.
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder 
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Put one stick of soft butter in a glass bowl. Add: sugar, molasses, egg, and stir; then mix in all dry ingredients including flour and mix it up. 
  3. Check for consistency of dough. It can't be too sticky or dry and that depends on the quality of molasses; so, you may need to add either an additional tablespoon of flour and 1 tbs. of water.
  4. Using a 2-inch ice cream scoop, scoop dough onto baking sheet, 2 1/2 inches apart. Refrigerate 20 minutes. *Note - if the dough sticks like glue to the scoop, add more flour.
Finally, roll dough balls in granulated sugar and return to baking sheets. Transfer to oven and bake until surfaces crack slightly, about 18 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Baked Cheese for Christmas ~ Brie, soup and bread... a Brainy Gift

How to begin this wonderful exotic French/Italian combination? Start with soup, its a no brainer. Yes, I do say that often; but, that's because it is. The pork butt stock you still have from a few days ago is just waiting to become something new.

As I said, keep the stock clear as it can morph into amazing soups. For a Minestrone, just boil any tortellini pasta on the side, saute some zucchini or green beans and tomato together in olive oil, add Italian sausage if you want; and, when all is done, add to bowls and pour hot stock over the top into individual serving bowls along with the cooked pasta... simple as that.

As for the baked Brie, follow the pictures...

Bake on 375 for as long as it takes to see a brown top and oozing cheese. For a little bit different take, before wrapping and baking, slice the Brie in half and insert sun dried tomatoes or olives or spinach, put the two halves back together like a sandwich wrap with the croissant dough and bake.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Homemade Soup ~ Be Brainy About it...

Soup, takes you home...

The Brainy Gourmet has never strayed from frugality. Most meals are cooked based on what is in the fridge or pantry on any given day and what can be used over again.  Soup is one of those food stuffs that just keeps on giving. If you prepare a stock whether from meat/poultry or vegetables, it can and will become a number of different soups throughout the week.

A cut of meat that I learned to like and to use for soup stock is pork butt; specifically, the 'picnic/pork' shoulder which I think has been unfairly named. This cut of pork is absolutely perfect for soup and what comes after. If you buy a large enough shoulder, you can also enjoy pulled pork sandwiches the next day.

To begin your soup, saute onion in olive oil. Push the onion aside and sear the pork butt on both sides. Cover with water and add any vegetable you like; keeping in mind that if you want to create a variety of soups throughout the week those veggies should be drained off and served/used separately.

As you have read on previous blogs, do not add macaroni, rice or potatoes to the stock. They can be cooked on the side and added to individual bowls as your soup stock morphs into many different brainy delicious soups.

From this cut of pork, you will be surprised to see a dark rich stock...

From this rich stock, you can create whatever soup you like... just be brainy about it!

*Serve your soup with either toasted bread or a grilled cheese sandwich. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Iowa Pork Cutlets with Creamy Mashed Potatoes and Applesauce...

There is nothing that compares to homemade applesauce; a jar of pure sunshine this time of year. And, what could be better than to serve it with farm fresh Iowa pork 'boneless chops' pounded down into tender juicy cutlets, pan fried with mounds of creamy mashed potatoes on the side.

To begin, saute chopped onion in a skillet of olive oil until browned. Pound down the pork  chops into 'cutlets', then push aside the onion and lay in the pork, adding your favorite dried herbs. *Note - I prefer not to bread the cutlets, just let the meat speak for itself.

Once the meat is nearly white with just a bit of pink yet in the center, pour in 1/2 cup of heavy cream, adding a tbs of Dijon mustard (or not) and then tossing in a few sun dried tomatoes ...let simmer.

Just prior to cooking the cutlets, wash, peel and halve or quarter yellow gold potatoes to boil.  When they are tender, mash with a dollop of butter and 1/4 cup of milk.

Put out the applesauce and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Chili Without Beans on a Cold December Night...

Chilies... hot, hot and hotter

When it comes to making a pot of chili, its a no beaner at the Brainy Gourmet's. Yeah, beans... either you love em or you don't.  Chili without beans is a no brainer that's for sure. Its just so easy. And, be my guest when it comes to chili recipes because whether yours/mine, there is always somebody's and or everybody's favorite version.

But, let me just say that I like to use chopped green or red pepper, onion sauteed in olive oil, along with good quality ground beef; and, as much chili powder and red chili pepper flakes as anybody in my/your house can stand.

Once you get that all mixed up, add a small can of tomato paste and stir. If it is thicker than you like, add beef stock or even mild salsa or a little of both. Let it simmer for at least 45 min to an hour.

*Break out the grated cheese, hot sauce and crackers...

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Hungarian Medley with Roasted Vegetables and Dried Plums!

For this dish you will need to buy: either lamb, pork or veal loin to use as any of these are can be bought skinless, and boneless. You will also need: heavy cream, ground paprika, garlic powder, jarred roasted red peppers, along with about 3 young zucchini squash, a few sun dried tomatoes and dried plums. 

Cut the loin into thick medallions. Sprinkle sea salt on each and brown the medallions in olive oil in a skillet on high heat. Once browned turn down the heat and add as many diced roasted red peppers as you like. Stir while adding 1/2 cup of heavy cream and 1 tsp of paprika, garlic powder and fresh dried parsley. Simmer while you prepare oven roasted zucchini with sun dried tomatoes and dried plums.

For the zucchini, wash, peel a little of the skin off, slice and lay in a glass baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with dried herbs. Bake in the oven on 400f for about 30 min. Toss in the sun dried tomatoes and plums on the end of that time for another 10 min.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Sicilian Garlic Chicken with Rosemary!

Don't become an angry Italian... 

Well, the only time any Italian gets angry is when dinner is late to the table! And, a good Italian Momma knows what to do... "Tutti a Tavola!" Just call everyone to the table.

And, who wouldn't become filled with happiness when Momma or Pappa or Nona puts Sicilian Garlic Chicken with Rosemary on the table... marinated in lemon juice and served with potatoes mashed with Parmesan cheese and garlic.

For this dish you will need to buy: a package of chicken thighs with the bone in and skin on. Fresh garlic, one lemon, fresh rosemary sprigs or use dried, yellow gold potatoes (six or seven med. size) and Parmesan cheese.

To begin, marinate the chicken thighs in a glass baking dish using the juice of one lemon, toss over the top 3-4 peeled and diced garlic cloves, drizzle on some olive oil and lay on your rosemary sprigs or sprinkle generously dried rosemary. Heat your oven to 400F.

After 12-15 min. of marinating time, place the chicken in the oven and roast for about 30-40 min uncovered. Check to see if the skin is crisping and if yes, turn over the thighs, return to the oven for 5 min. After five minutes or so turn the thighs back over and consider adding a few fresh washed red cherry tomatoes and a handful of kalamata olives.

Return to the oven covered, reduce heat to 350F and let roast for another 15 -20 min. Take this time now to prepare the potatoes. Wash, peel and halve, the potatoes. Add to boiling salted water and cover. When tender, drain and mash using 3 tbs of butter, the same of sour cream, a dash of olive oil, Parmesan cheese, 1/4 tsp of minced garlic and 1 tsp of dried herbs - Italian blend.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Tortellini with Red Sauce...

Poles love Italian food; in fact, Polish people are sometimes referred to as the Italians of the North.  From time to time, family members send their favorite or latest recipes and want to guest blog. Today, the meal served in the Italy of the North was Tortellini with Red Sauce, a no brainer but certainly brainer delicious. That simply means that it takes minutes to prepare and to enjoy!

The choice of tortellini was fresh from the deli counter cheese filled. In Poland, tortellini is sometimes called - little ears. Because, that is what they appear to be... look like. As you boil the pasta in a large pot of salted water, prepare the red sauce.

The basic brainy red sauce is: chopped onion sauteed in olive oil until the edges are browned, pour in fresh diced tomatoes or even pureed. If you don't have fresh, use Red Gold Crushed tomatoes- one large can.  And, if you are in a hurry, just use your favorite jarred red sauce. To that, add fresh dried herbs: rosemary, oregano, basil and or marjoram or mint. Simmer until the pasta is tender and ready to be drained.

Once the tortellini is tender, drain, rinse and ladle onto a serving plate, top with the red sauce and large shavings of Parmesan cheese.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

*Guest blogger - Mark B.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Italian Goulash ~ Linguine with Sausage, Meatballs, Peppers and Tomatoes!

Anything juicy is good... using the last of this summer's tomatoes and peppers, one can't imagine making anything else!

For this dish you will need: ground veal and mild Italian sausage (no fennel) and you will need fresh garden tomatoes and green/red peppers. Blanch about 6 whole tomatoes and remove the skin. Wash and cut up 4-5 peppers. Chop one whole onion and saute together with the peppers in olive oil. Once browned, add the whole skinless tomatoes to the onion and peppers. Simmer this for 3 hours until you have a delicious liquid... sauce.

Prepare meatballs: mix ground 1 lb ground veal with 1/2 cup of bread crumbs, 1/4 cup of heavy cream, 1 tbs of grated parmesan cheese along with dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano, a dash of garlic powder and a pinch of salt.  Drop the meatballs into the tomatoes/pepper sauce which should be at a rolling boil. In the meantime, grill or pan fry 2 links of Italian sausage cut into chunks along with one diced tomato until slightly blackened. Boil the linguine in salted water. Once tender, drain and rinse.
Serve the drained linguine on large plates or even bowls, top with the meatball tomato and pepper sauce and add a few sausage chunks/blackened tomatoes. Top with fresh grated parmesan cheese.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Brainy Asian Beef with Spices on Linguine...

On linguine, of course. After all, pasta originated from Asia, right? Well, for a time it was thought that Marco Polo in 1295 brought from China the first dried pasta; but, there are Italian recipe books from twenty years earlier than that date containing references to pasta dishes. For certain, China is an ancient culture dating back thousands of years, so it's very likely that pasta existed in China and in other Asian cultures.

There is no huge difference between Italian and Chinese pasta or what we have become used to - western pasta which uses durum wheat flour and Asian pasta which uses rice flour. Is there a significant difference in taste? Some say yes and others say no.

For this dish you will need to have: ground beef or flank steak, (1lb) celery, carrots, green pepper and onion and pasta. If you use the flank steak, marinate in peanut oil, soy sauce and red pepper flakes. If you choose to use ground beef, then prepare meatballs by mixing the ground beef with several good shakes of soy sauce and steak sauce, 3 tbs of ketchup, 1/4 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup bread crumbs also a shake of garlic powder and some red pepper flakes with a pinch of salt.

Saute chopped onion and green pepper in a covered skillet. Push aside and either lay in thin strips of the flank steak or the meatballs.  Brown and bring back the onion and peppers, then cover while you prepare julienne celery and carrots. Toss in the skillet and cover while you prepare the pasta.

Before serving, add 1 tsp fresh grated ginger along with 3 tbs of teriyaki sauce to the meat. Finally, drain the tender yet firm pasta and ladle onto a low lipped serving dish, top with meat and sauce and sprinkle over the top with fresh dried parsley or cilantro.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

*Remember, being brainy in the kitchen is up to. Any brainy recipe or instruction can be altered by you to make it your own brain invention.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Still in that down time of after Thanksgiving Blues....

Thanksgiving is a big event whether you eat in or out. Getting back into the swing of cooking is always tough. So, keep it simple for awhile. Make fajitas... all you will need to buy is either beef round steak or flank steak or even pork cut into thin strips. Use green, orange or red pepper, along with fresh green asparagus plus the tortillas.

Heat up a skillet with a several drizzles of olive oil. Toss in all sliced meat and veggies. Stir fry on high heat adding a dash or two of lime juice, paprika, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes and... believe it or not - a sound dash of soy sauce. The juices from the beef will come through nicely.

Heat your tortillas over an open flame and the next thing you know... you've got dinner.

Pour on the Chili Sauce and or Salsa ~ Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Turkey Burnout or Turkey Burners?

Hard to gather up with a dinner idea after Thanksgiving... and, enough already with the leftover casseroles and deserts that became strange smoothies for breakfast, right? 

However, its not over yet at our house. The Brainy Gourmet is using the last of the turkey as soup for dinner today. Its a no brainer really, just get some chicken stock, add the last of the turkey meat diced, a couple of diced carrots, celery and Bobs your uncle. You can cream it or leave it clear.

Probably, you are already one step ahead having made soup from leftover turkey. And, maybe not. Try adding some fresh grated ginger and feel as if you have been cleansed.

Soup is good, but now, for the bigger issue on many minds... how to burn off the turkey and everything else that went with it.

The one thing the Brainy Gourmet does is dance; but, if you are more athletic, here are eight simple 'turkey burner' exercises you can do without special equipment:

1. Jog in place.
Warm up by jogging in place for 30 seconds.
2. Speed skaters.
Speed skaters are a fun way to work your whole body. From a standing position, take a big step to the right (like a side lunge). Bring your left leg behind you, and the left arm in front of you. Repeat on the opposite side and continue alternating sides for 30 seconds.
3. Mountain climbers.
From high plank position, engage your core and bring your right leg up to your right elbow. Switch and bring your left knee to your left elbow. Continue alternating sides for 30 seconds.
4. Split squat jumps.
Standing with feet shoulder width apart, jump into a lunge. Quickly jump and switch legs in mid-air. Repeat for 30 seconds.
5. Push ups.
There are lots of variations of push ups. If you can, perform this exercise with traditional push ups. But if you can’t, you could do push ups on your knees, on an incline, or even standing using a wall.
6. Crunches.
Be sure when you perform crunches you utilize your abs. Your arms and neck may try to take over doing the work. One way to avoid this is by keeping your arms at your sides or reaching in front of you (instead of behind your head).
7. Predator jacks.
Predator jacks are a variation on traditional jumping jacks. Instead of arms and legs moving out like in an X, you’ll keep your arms parallel to your chest and bring them out to your sides while simultaneously jumping into a squat. Jump back in and repeat.
8. Burpees.
Burpees are one of the best exercises you can do. Some people may not like them but they’re quick and effective — a total body workout. Do as many burpees as you can.

 As for a finale... cool down by gently stretching!

* Source - Check out this article ~

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

To Brine or not to Brine your Turkey?

Being brainy in the kitchen is not just knowing 'things', its also about learning 'things'. This year, more than in the past, the thing seems to be a question ~ to brine your turkey or not.

What is brining? The basic process involves soaking meat (usually lean meats, like turkey, chicken, or pork chops) in a tub full of heavily salted water overnight. Most brines are in the range of 5 to 8% salt to water by weight. Over the course of the night, the meat absorbs some of that water. More importantly, that water stays put even after the meat is cooked. By brining meat, supposedly you can decrease the amount of total moisture loss by 30 to 40%.

That means, you should in theory, have a juicier turkey, right? To understand what's really happening, you have to look at the structure of turkey muscles. Muscles are made up of long, bundled fibers, each one housed in a tough protein sheath. As the turkey heats, the proteins that make up this sheath will contract. Just like when you squeeze a tube of toothpaste, this causes juices to be forced out of the bird. Heat them to much above 150°F (66°C) or so, and you end up with dry, stringy meat.

Salt helps mitigate this shrinkage by dissolving some of the muscle proteins (mainly myosin). The muscle fibers loosen up, allowing them to absorb more moisture, and, more importantly, they don't contract as much when they cook, ensuring that more of that moisture stays in place as the turkey cooks.
However, brining robs your bird of flavor. Think about it: Your turkey is absorbing water, and holding on to it. That means that that extra 30 to 40% savings in moisture loss doesn't really come in the form of turkey juices—it's plain old tap water. Many folks who eat brined birds have that very complaint: It's juicy, but the juice is watery.

If I have learned a thing or two it is that some brine and some don't. If you have had success brining your turkey, then don't bother with this shared information. But, if you have been disappointed with brining and exhausted by the time and effort involved doing it, then simply cook your turkey without brining and give thanks!

*Source ~

Mom's Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes!

just follow the aroma and... you're home

Choose either a large beef shoulder or chuck roast to make the best 'pot roast' ever... the secret is in the quality of meat, cooking time and mix of dried herbs.

Regardless of cooking in the oven or in a crockpot, you need to let the beef sit or rest for 15-20 min on the counter in a glass dish sprinkled with meat tenderizer. And, regardless of how you prefer to cook, you need to sear the meat on both sides in a black skillet in a bit of olive oil before roasting (in oven or crockpot).

While the beef rests, chop one whole onion and wash then dice or slice carrots. Heat up your oven or crockpot, lay in the seared beef (use a glass dish for oven roasting) covering with the onion, carrot and dried herbs: rosemary, mint, oregano and sage. If you are cooking in the crockpot, before locking down the lid, pour in 1/2 cup of beef stock; do the same for oven roasting, covering with a glass lid or foil - follow crockpot cooking time for roast beef, and for oven time aprox. 2 hrs. on 350.

In the meantime, prepare additional sides such as mashed potatoes, green beans or baked and then 'whipped' butternut squash. Take the beef from the pot and tear apart on a serving plate, lay your carrots along side and garnish.

You will have a rich liquid remaining in the crockpot or glass dish from which a delicious gravy can be made in 5 min. Pour the liquid into a pot on the stove top. Turn the heat to high and watch for the liquid to boil, then add 1/2 cup of water mixed with 1tbs of flour and stir vigorously. As it thickens, you can remove from the heat and ladle into a gravy server.

Mom's meatloaf brings em home too...

*Check the side margin of this blog for meatloaf instructions or go to Brainy Archives on the Brainy Gourmet Webpage.