Fresh, fast and frugal!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Buttery Blackened Salmon with Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus!

In my earlier blogs, I listed the ingredients and provided prices to show the low cost of 'brainy' cooking at home. To be more contemporary, I stopped doing that and just wrote out what I used and how it was cooked. But, today, just because this is so inexpensive yet so elegant and delicious, I am going to tell you what it cost.

A package of two large fresh caught Atlantic salmon fillets cost 7.75; that means for two people the cost was 3.87. Roasted potatoes for two people (six rustic cut skin on potatoes) cost only .90 cents. Half a package of fresh green asparagus cost 1.50 cents. Do the math and you will see that this dinner cost less than 6 dollars per person. There is no restaurant in America where you can get this dinner for that price. Cooking at home is Brainy delicious and frugal!!!!

Of course, I did buy a 2 lb bag of potatoes @ 2.49 and using only about 6 out of that bag was figured somewhere around the amount given above. The full package of asparagus cost 3.00; hence, half used gave us 1.50. I did not include the cost of the white wine which was six dollars for the bottle and we each had one glass so about 1.00 dollar there per person. A squeeze of fresh lime @ .25 cents and half stick of butter is another .50 cents. We are still not over eight dollars per person.

 ... food like art

You will need to buy two salmon fillets; unless you want to feed the family. Then you may want to buy an entire side fillet at the cost of 15.00 divide that by 4 and you have 3.75. Begin by roasting as many rustic cut potatoes as you need in the oven on 375. Use a cookie sheet drizzled with olive oil, garlic powder and rosemary. Top the potatoes with Himalayan pink salt (or any kosher salt or sea salt) and bake for 35 min. As the end of that time approaches, sear on high heat the fillets in olive oil and spices: garlic powder, red pepper flakes, Himalayan pink salt and black pepper.

Once seared to blackened, you can turn down the heat and add 2 pats of butter and let simmer while you prepare the asparagus. Next, wash and cut the asparagus, push aside the salmon and add the spears. The potatoes should be finishing up, ladle onto a serving plate, lay on the salmon fillets. Take a quick minute now to blacken the asparagus.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Bacon Does it Better.... Angel Hair Carbonara!!!

This bacon dish always reminds me of that little cafe by the bicycle path along the Appian way....

Start a pot of boiling 'salted' water to cook a package of angel hair pasta or just cook as much as you need. Fry up some of that delicious bacon you bought earlier in the day; once slightly crispy, drain and dice.

Remember, angel hair pasta cooks fast, so be ready. Have 2 eggs and 2 pats of butter on hand. You will have to work fast as soon as you drain the pasta. After you drain the pasta, return the angel hair to the pot you boiled it in. Next, crack in the 2 eggs and toss in the 2 pats of butter and stir. Pour out onto a serving plate, top with the bacon and fresh chopped chive and put on the Parmesan cheese.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Only Bacon Does it Better, Makes Me Feel Sad for the Rest....

Yes, really great bacon is a must when it comes to creating the best ever stack of buttermilk cakes...

Fry your bacon, drain the grease but save some to fry the cakes in; about 2-3 tbs. To make buttermilk pancakes and in this case 'fry' cakes, you can use any pancake mix. The key is NOT using egg and no oil in the mix. You want to use the same of amounts of buttermilk and cold water about 1/2 cup each to 1-2 cups of pancake mix. Watch for bubbles to appear as you stir using an egg whisk. Fry the cakes in the reserve bacon grease. Make sure the reserve you put back into the skillet is clear and without blackened bits in it. 

Stack em up and decorate!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Meatloaf that tastes like Prime Rib... Really?

The secret to really juicy delicious meatloaf that tastes like prime rib is using quality ground beef. Yes, you can make a very good meatloaf from turkey, veal and even pork; but, using excellent quality ground beef (sirloin i.e.) makes meatloaf into prime rib.

This recipe is no different from any other 'Brainy' recipe using ground turkey/veal/pork. The key then as now has always been never to use egg in the mix and also to never add oatmeal or crushed soda crackers; and, certainly the most important is to never add anything that takes away from the name - meatloaf!

For the best turnout, use a combination of bread crumbs, heavy cream, garlic powder, a pinch of sea salt, 1 tbs of Worcestershire sauce, beef stock and fresh dried herbs.

Turn the oven on to 350. Then, in a metal or glass bowl mix by hand 1 pound of quality ground beef with 3/4 cup of bread crumbs (home grated) 1/2 cup of heavy cream, 1 tsp of garlic powder and then add the Worcestershire sauce along with a pinch of salt and dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano. Mix it up and form into a loaf size.

Drizzle a bit of olive oil onto a glass baking dish, and lay in the meatloaf. When the oven is ready, pop it in; for an extra zing top with a few slices of roasted red pepper. After about 20 min, take the meatloaf from the oven and pour in 1/4 cup beef stock, toss in a few sun dried tomatoes for even more amazing flavor. Return to the oven and bake for another 20-30 min. Check the meatloaf with a meat thermometer; if it says med.rare as for steak or prime rib, its ready.

As for a side, prepare mashed or baked cheesy potatoes along with a salad and you've got dinner!

~Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Brainy Gourmet Thai Style Ginger Orange Chicken!

You will need as many chicken thighs (skin on and bone in) as per number of guests; along with dried plums, root veggies (carrots/parsnips), zucchini, honey, ginger, one orange and one onion.

To begin, take a large skillet, drizzle in olive oil and a little coconut oil and sear on high heat the chicken thighs skin side down. Next, remove the thighs (set aside) and add to the same skillet one chopped onion, 1 tbs of honey, 2 tsp of peeled grated ginger, and the same of washed grated orange skin (you can substitute using 1/4 cup of Thai Ginger/Orange sauce). Drizzle in some olive oil if needed, given the honey may get sticky. Toss in as many dried plums as you like, some dried crushed mint, and a splash of chicken stock around the thighs; then cover and let simmer for about 35 min.

In this time, peel and grate one whole carrot and one whole parsnip, then julienne.  Do the same with one small young zucchini (leaving peel/skin on). Stir fry until golden brown in coconut oil. Set aside, and prepare either a wide noodle pasta or linguine or even rice.

*For zesty Thai topping, offer thin bands of deep fried onion with a squeeze of fresh lime...

~ Tutti a Tavola

Monday, March 20, 2017

Medallions in a Rich Creamy Mustard Sauce with Capers and Sun Dried Tomatoes!

Dreaming of a lakeside sunset dinner....

Italian cooking is full of sunshine and this dish certainly has it. I have made this a dish a number of times using dried plums but another favorite way of mine is to use sun dried tomatoes and capers. This is so quick and easy to make that it can literally be done in about 30 min. including the preparation of any side(s).

For this dish, you will need: pork or veal tenderloin, sun dried tomatoes, heavy cream, Dijon mustard, and capers. Get started by drizzling olive oil in a hot skillet and then lay in your tenderloin cut into medallions. Sear on both sides. Reduce heat to medium and add half a package of sun dried tomatoes (one nice handful) and nearly the same of capers. Pour in 1/2 cup of heavy cream, 1 and 1 half tbs of mustard and a generous sprinkle of dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano.  Stir and let simmer o low heat covered while you prepare any side you like.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Fettuccine Alfredo ~ To Rome with Love...

Fettuccine Alfredo with tuna if you please. Roman style ??? only because I acquired this recipe there.

Some may go yuck, but this dish is so deliciously awesome and brainy inexpensive that if those at the table tonight don't like it ... then they shouldn't get desert - Sicilian Pistachio Gelato.

You will need two cans of tuna in oil (if you prefer, use fresh tuna steaks, broken apart). One onion, heavy cream, sour cream, fettuccine pasta, and Parmesan cheese. Begin by sauteing one whole chopped onion in olive oil on med. heat until you see brown edges. To that add the two cans of tuna, undrained. Stir while it bubbles along.

In the meantime, prepare a stock pot of salted water to boil the pasta. Returning to the tuna Alfredo sauce, add 1/4 cup of heavy cream and the same of sour cream. Stir until well blended. Finally, add dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano. Let the sauce simmer covered on low heat until the pasta is ready to serve.

When the pasta is tender, drain, rinse and pour onto serving platter. Ladle the sauce over the top, sprinkle with Parmesan and serve.

* alternative version is to omit tuna and add roasted shaved parsnips providing a nutty flavor....

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Set the Table and Bring them Around!

Whether you are feeding family or friends, set the table and set the table every night if you can. It does not have to be creative or fancy or expensively dressed. It just has to show you care about your family and or friends. Too many food blogs show a quick meal to fix where everyone gathers around a pot and digs in with a corn chip or the catch is you can eat on the run.

Sure there can and will be an evening/night like that, people today have busy lives. But, if you are busy working for someone else or busy working for this or that, you can and should find the time to be a little busy for your family and or friends.

A set table really says you care about what your nearest and dearest eat, and what you expect them to think about and how to behave. A set table suggests civility, calmness and peace.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Eating Good is Living Good ~ Italian Food a Feast for the Eyes!

There is something sunny about Italian cooking, you can just see it with your own eyes and taste it!
In that sense, eating Italian is an experience in the art of being alive! Italian cooking is food for the eyes and a feast for the mouth!

Pasta dishes are prevalent and there are many varieties of pasta, as well as sauces and meats served with pasta. The key really is fresh! All too often, I hear people say that Italian food is slow food thinking that means it takes hours or days to cook it. Wrong, the slow is in the enjoying of it.

Choose your pasta and then make a good sauce in only 20- 30 minutes; pasta cooks in less than that.

This dish is one of those that takes only minutes. Start with diced bacon (smoked /sugar cured) along with chopped onion and garlic sauteed in olive oil. Push aside when browned and add chicken breast strips. Brown those and then bring back in the bacon bits/onion and garlic. Add one small can of diced tomatoes and sprinkle in dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano.

Boil pasta on the side, fry some grated zucchini in butter to garnish and tutti a tavola... which means - Everyone to the table!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Spaghetti Factory, really? ~ Homemade Is Always Better!

For the best spaghetti bolognese, you will need to buy a small package of ground pork or veal, I hardly ever use beef.

Take from your pantry:
1 large can of Red Gold (crushed) tomatoes
1 Clove of garlic and 1 whole Onion
*Dried Herb Seasoning
  rosemary, mint and oregano and olive oil

Get a large stock pot of water with a pinch of salt boiling to cook the spaghetti pasta in. Then take out your covered skillet, on med flame add 3-4 tbs of olive oil. Add to that, chopped onion and the garlic. Stir until browned on the edges and semi-transparent. Next, break up the ground pork/veal and crumble into the same skillet having pushed aside the onion /garlic. Brown the ground meat, bring back the onion/garlic, cover and simmer for 3-4 min. on low.

Finally, add the crushed tomato, stir, cover and let simmer for 20 min on low heat while you cook the pasta. When the noodles are tender, drain, gently wash with lukewarm water and quickly spill them out onto a serving platter. Pour out the sauce and shake on the Parmesan cheese.

Gather everyone to the table, say a blessing and enjoy~ 'Abbondanze'!

Bolognese sauce is an Italian meat-based sauce for pasta which originates from Bologna, a city in Northern Italy. A thick, full-bodied meat sauce that's a staple of northern Italy's Bologna. The term alla Bolognese (in French, à la Bolognese) on a menu designates a pasta or other dish sauced with ragù, which is a meat based sauce. The words for Italian ragù and French ragout (though for entirely different dishes) are both derived from the verb ragoûter, which means "to stimulate the appetite."It tends to be served on thick pasta, as larger pasta shapes hold meat much better than finer pastas such as capellini. Variations on the sauce outside of Italy often include much more tomato and vegetable ingredients, which change the flavor profile considerably.  This history of the Italian Bolognese sauce was retrieved from

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Pork Tenderloin in a Teriyaki Sauce!


You will need to buy a pork tenderloin. Also, buy at least two large crisp green peppers and red peppers along with rice noodles. And, don't forget the teriyaki sauce.

Take a covered skillet and melt in 3 tbs of olive oil and the same of coconut oil on low heat, set off to the side or remove from heat; wash and cut up your peppers so that they are ready to go. Set the peppers aside and cut your pork tenderloin into med. thick slices.

Return your skillet to the heat set on high and lay in the pork and stir quickly browning the pork on all sides, at the same time shake in some red pepper flakes, garlic and onion powder, turn down the heat and add the peppers. For this dish to be tasty and crispy, the pepper need not cook to long... its a stir fry so, continue stirring while you splash on the teriyaki sauce last ... a quick generous flash in the pan.

In the meantime, you should have started a stock pot of water with a pinch of salt to cook the rice noodles in. When the water is rolling, add the noodles. As soon as they are tender, drain the noodles, and ladle them onto a serving platter finishing by pouring out your pork teriyaki over the top.
Simple as that, amazing!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Boneless Pork Chops with Honey Sesame Oil

Meals that take you home...

A brainy meal is a 20 minute meal and that is 'brainy gourmet'. Try boneless pork chops in honey sesame oil. As for sides: baked/boiled potato, homemade applesauce, a squeeze of fresh lemon/lime along with a couple of mint leaves and a glass of Pinot Grigio.

Saute your chops in 3 tbs of coconut oil (organic) and the same of honey flavored sesame oil (you can make your own using sesame oil infused with honey) in a large uncovered skillet on med-high heat, browning on both sides up to 10 min. To that, sprinkle in some red pepper flakes, garlic powder (organic), sea salt and dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano (fresh dried). Turn down the heat to low and cover for the next 10 min and or until the meat is pinkish with more white showing and tender. You can remove a chop, cut into it and check. If blood runs, return it to the skillet but for no more than 2-3 min. Check again, you want the meat to be white with a hint of pink juices.

Place your chops on a serving plate and drizzle over the top the velvety golden liquid from the skillet. Prepare your sides and set the table.

~Tutti a Tavola! 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Chicken and Dumplings ~ Down on the Farm!

For this dish, I like to use chicken thighs with the skin on and bone in. However, you may prefer boneless/skinless. The skin on makes a better sauce and having the bone in gives more flavor to the dish. A package of six should be enough for the family.

Take from your pantry:
Sea Salt
Olive Oil
Coconut Oil
Garlic cloves
Red pepper Flakes
Dried Herb Seasonings -
* rosemary, oregano, basil and even mint

Light and fluffy dumplings are quite simple; just use 1 cup of pancake mix, adding 1/4 cup unbleached flour and 1/2 tsp baking powder. To that add 3/4 cup of buttermilk, slowing stirring until you get a pasty sticky consistency. Let that sit off to the side while you prepare the chicken.

Use a deep covered stove top pot. Melt in 2 tbs of butter and 4 tbs of olive oil.  Add one large chopped onion and my sprinkle in dried herb seasonings: rosemary, mint and oregano. Stir until the onion becomes somewhat transparent.

Move the onion to the side and lay in the chicken thighs, skin side down. Brown and then turn over to brown the other side. Bring the onion back in to cover the chicken, pour over the top 1 cup of chicken stock and cover to simmer for 20 min. on med.

After, that amount of time, add 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Spoon in the 'dumpling' mix and cover. If you think a bit more stock is needed, then add. Simmer for 10 min on med heat. This steams the dumplings high and mighty as my mom would say.

Call everyone round and give thanks!