Fresh, fast and frugal!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Pork Medallions with Mushrooms and Dried Plums in a Creamy Mustard Sauce!

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 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 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!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Brainy Meatball Sandwich ~ Oh, Sammy!

This dish is a left over opportunity. So, if you did not eat all the meatballs from yesterday's dinner, then here is your chance to re-invent.  

You will need:
1 package or bag of sub sandwich rolls
1 Can tomato paste
4 cloves of fresh garlic
Dried rosemary
Olive Oil
Sea salt

To begin, in a skillet, pour in 3 tbs of olive oil and add your left over meatballs to warm using med. flame /heat. Take a small can of tomato past from the pantry, open and add. Using that can, fill with water and also add to the skillet. Sprinkle in some dried rosemary. Let this simmer on low heat in the skillet, covered.

Turn on the oven to F350. Slice open (pull apart) your sub sandwich rolls and butter generously both sides of the opened rolls, placing on a perforated pizza pan. Next, top the buttered rolls with peeled and diced garlic cloves. Then, lay over the garlic/buttered sub rolls slices of mozzarella cheese and sprinkle on a bit of sea salt and rosemary to top them off.

When the oven temp is at 350, put the rolls, on the pizza pan, into the oven and toast (this can also be done in a toaster oven). By the time the rolls are ready -toasted, the meatballs should be bubbling along, remove from the stove, ladle in three or four meatballs per sandwich and it is time to serve.  Shake on the Parmesan and Enjoy!

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Angel Hair Pasta in the Pancetta Tradition!

Pancetta is an Italian bacon made of pork belly meat that is salt cured and spiced with black pepper and sometimes other ...which I like very much. This dish is an angel hair pasta put together in the pancetta tradition. Which means, that instead of using pancetta a substitute was used - ground pork mixed with ground pork breakfast sausage, both purchased by the pound from the butcher.

Start with a skillet of hot olive oil, tossing in one whole chopped onion, and a couple of diced garlic gloves. Once, browned on the edges and becoming transparent, push aside and add the ground pork mixture. Brown this meat and then bring back in the onion/garlic. Sprinkle in a generous amount of dried rosemary and oregano. Next, add one small can of diced tomatoes with basil. Simmer for 20 min. while you cook the angel hair pasta.

Serve with Parmesan Cheese...

~ Tutti a Tavola! 

Brainy Frugality in a Bag ~The Art of shopping!

Its wonderful to see more and more grocery stores offering 'individual' loosely sold vegetables as well as meat and cheese products. Why is that wonderful? Because, its brainy. Buying in bulk is not really frugal.

It is much more frugal to buy only what you need for a single meal and at the same time keep only the very basics stocked up in the pantry. *See the side bar on this blog for the basic pantry list.

In this busy life, which we all seem to be leading, we have to think on our feet that means come up with an idea for dinner at the last minute either for just our self or family and friends. As an example, if you know what you have at home in the pantry, then all you may to grab is either one or two zucchini/asparagus and and a few mushrooms on your way home...

For instance, drop by the grocer and grab a zucchini, a green pepper and a few mushrooms, serve with pasta. When everyone comes to the table, it will look like you schemed dinner all day long.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

World Foods ~ Brainy Pollo alla Toscana

Tuscan garlic chicken with rosemary marinated in lemon juice and served with potatoes mashed with Parmesan cheese and garlic. 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 425F.

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, February 20, 2017

World Foods ~ Brainy Mexican Chicken or Pork with Dark Mole Sauce!

You will need either pork tenderloin or boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces or leave whole (taking longer to cook); prepare for as much as you need to serve your guests/family (1-1/4 lb). One onion, 2 cans (10 oz) of RoTel diced tomatoes with green chilies, 1/4 cup of semi-sweet morsels, 2 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and bacon if you like.  

Begin by sauteing one sweet vidalia chopped onion in olive oil on med heat. Once browned, push aside and add your pork loin or chicken (if you want to do a bacon wrap you can). Brown the meat on all sides. Then bring back the onion and set aside on low heat covered. 

In a sauce pan, drizzle a bit of olive oil, let it get hot and then add the 2 cans of tomatoes with chilies and all the above mentioned spices. You can directly add the chocolate chips morsels or pre-melt them in the microwave; but don't let them bubble, and then stir into the developing sauce. 

You can pour the sauce in with the meat (not pouring over the top) and let simmer for 15-20 min. while you prepare rice, potatoes or a salad for your side. Or, you can keep the meat separate from the sauce and when ready to serve pour the sauce onto a serving plate then lay in your meat for a lovely presentation. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

World Foods ~ Brainy Indian Butter Chicken

Indian food is spicy food and for that reason full of flavor! And, its brainy simple to make at home. If you have chicken, rice, potatoes, some root veggies, green pepper, garlic and onion... then you are half way there.

For this dish, the required spices are: butter, chicken, onion, green pepper, carrot and wild parsnips, cardamom (good substitute: combine equal amounts of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg), paprika, black pepper, garlic powder and dried herbs. You will also need one small can of tomato paste, some coconut cream which can be substituted with heavy cream adding a dash of coconut extract. 

Begin by sauteing on med heat in coconut oil and butter (1/2 stick) one whole chopped onion and green pepper as well as chopped carrots and parsnips. Cube as much chicken breast as you need. Once the onion, pepper and root veggies are tender and browned, push aside in the skillet and add your chicken. Turn up the heat a bit and sear the cubes on all sides.

Reduce the heat, bring back in the onion, pepper and root veggies and begin to add your seasonings. Next, add the coconut cream and tomato paste, sprinkle in the dried herbs: mint or parsley/cilantro or lavender and oregano stir it all up, cover and simmer while you prepare a side of either potatoes or rice.

The French Know that a Great Sauce Makes Incrediblly Delicious Food!

Simply put, its a no brainer to get good taste whenever you sear, saute, grill and even broil meat or veggies. But for a really incredible taste that will wow'em... you need a good sauce that will knock their socks off.  And, best of all, it is not difficult to do. The best basic sauce is always a combination of rich meat juices, butter and heavy cream.

For this dish, you begin by searing on high heat your choice of meat or veggie in hot oil (olive or peanut); then, turn down the heat add 2-3 pats of butter and continue cooking slowly sauteing the meat or veggie of choice.

Today's brainy choice was pork loin cut into medallions. To that meat/veggie now slowly sauteing in butter add chopped onion, mushrooms, and dried herbs; you can even include dried fruits such as dried plums, apricots and or including sun dried tomatoes.

Stir and reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-25 min. Near the end, add 1 heaping tbs of French Dijon mustard and 1/2 cup of heavy cream, stirring on low heat for another 4 min. Just prior to that, prepare a side of boiled potatoes or barley groats.

*an interesting spin on this cream sauce is to substitute the mustard using organic (you stir) peanut butter.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

From Italy with Love ~ Happy Valentine's Day!

Verona is known as the quintessential lovers' town and on this day the town organizes plenty of events. You can dine on the shore of Lake Garda, run the "Romeo and Juliet" half marathon, watch the "Opera in love - Romeo and Juliet" hosted in the Chiesetta di Santa Maria in Chiavica, see what are the new trends in weddings at the Verona Sposi fair.  And, best of all... the town is decorated in red and hosts a themed market in the Piazza dei Signori.

What is the Brainy Gourmet serving on this day in keeping with Italian celebrations? Ravioli of course... little pillows of love. 

Now, if you are not into making homemade ravioli don't worry... its a chore that requires time and a skillful hand. Thankfully, there are Italian delis with plenty of ravioli to choose from and even some grocery stores that keep a nice variety in the frozen section. 

The first photo is a plate of ravioli filled with smoked Gouda and shredded chicken served with poached salmon. The second plate shows ravioli filled with mushrooms served with steamed asparagus and the last photo shows crab filled ravioli with a thick creamy tomato vodka sauce. 

When you get home today, set a pot of water to boil (with a pinch of salt), drop in your pillows of love, put together a sauce of diced tomatoes with garlic or do crushed tomatoes with cream and a drop of the 'grain'; then, you can celebrate with your Valentine!

If dinner isn't possible, fix a Valentine's day breakfast - Crepes with Fresh Fruits...see past brainy posts

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Baking Bread is Simple Brainy Art!

Best Brainy Dough Recipe

7 and 1/2 cups of flour
1 Packet of dry yeast
1 tbsp sea salt  
1 tsp of sugar
3 and 1/2 cups water (100 degree temperature)

Mix warm water (100 degree) and yeast first, then add flour, salt and sugar. 
Fold together and let rise for at least 8 hrs; can stay refrigerated for up to 18 hrs.

If you want to make a Focaccia bread, as soon as it is risen, just pull some of the dough (amount you want to use) and literally plop it down (no kneading) on an oiled pizza pan and bake at 425 for about 35-40 min or longer depending on your oven temperature, gas and electric heat bake differently. 

If you want to make a desert bread like 'Pane al Cicoccolata' then add a tbs of sugar instead of the 1 tsp and the same of cocoa powder to another portion of dough and either fold in some chocolate chips or lavishly grated dark chocolate; or you could just sprinkle bits on top. Bake for about the same amount of time on 425 turning the heat down to 375 after the first 10 mins. 

 * have some fluffy butter or mascarpone cheese ready to spread... 

Top Photo ~ Bread Art by - Kevin Davis

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Art of Brainy Cooking ~ Its Still About Color!

Skillet roasted julienne carrots and parsnips! Easy to do and so Tasty to the taste buds! All you need is a little olive oil and herbs. Wash and slice carrots and parsnips (removing tops), toss into a hot skillet with some olive oil drizzled on top, toss in some dried herbs, a pinch of salt and saute until tender.

*Painting by Angela Sullivan

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Good Food is Attractive to the Taste Buds ~ After all... Life is Art!

Brainy Gourmet cooking is about being fresh, fast and frugal. When you prepare food from fresh ingredients and you are able to do so quickly, it will be 'naturally' attractive.  Awesome, right? Yeah! Yet, there is one additional tip that you might not know which can enhance that natural attractiveness - color; after all, life is art!

Think in terms of color combinations and colors that go together i.e. red and green or yellow and purple, blue and orange. If you serve food that is colorful, it is more than attractive, its deliciously gorgeous.

*Check out Brainy Archives at the Brainy Gourmet webpage for brainy food ideas.
 Painting by Dr. efGallion