Fresh, fast and frugal!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Stir Fry Asian Pork with Orange Ginger Sauce

Not only should food taste good but it should look good too. Color is key. You can have a few basic ingredients, toss in a fresh green or red pepper or sun dried peppers/tomatoes and wow... a what a splash. Asian food is fast, simple and colorful.

For this dish all you need is cubed pork, green pepper, onion, sun dried tomatoes or red pepper, a bottle of orange ginger sauce and rice. Begin by sauteing chopped onion and green pepper on medium heat in coconut oil. Next, add the cubed pork, a dash of garlic powder, chili powder and some lime or lemon zest, along with a pinch of finely grated ginger and about 3 tbs of the above mentioned sauce.

Boil white rice as your side and get ready to experience the taste of an Asian cafe at home.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Beets ~ A Brainy Treat!

3 Reasons to eat beets!

1. Red beets have been proven to be a source rich in essential vitamins like vitamin C. Vitamin C is widely known as a potent combatant against the common cold. Vitamin C also guards against nasty diseases like scurvy, which will occur if you are vitamin C deficient. Scurvy manifests itself physically through spongy gums, spots on your skin, and even bleeding from your mucous membranes.

2. Red beets are a rich source of betaine which is vital to good cardiovascular health. Betaine's purpose is to lessen your body’s concentration of homocysteine, a substance which is hurtful to your blood vessels in the sense that it can contribute to peripheral vascular disease, stroke and heart disease.

3. Red beets can be made into beetroot juice which has been actually shown to reduce high blood pressure, a godsend for people with hypertension and those looking to avoid cardiovascular dilemmas.


This weekend, try making a shredded beet root salad. First shred cooled (washed/peeled/cooked til tender yet firm) beet roots (as many as you like) and then drench in an organic virgin olive oil, a little sprinkle of balsamic vinegar and some chopped green parsley, serve...a super healthy side dish to any meal. 

For a brainy quick borscht (beet root soup) just boil some fresh washed/peeled and diced beets in beef stock.

~ That's being brainy.  

Brainy Home Cooking in Family Life!

Most home cooks are good cooks at home. That is probably true because they love cooking at home and have a sense of basic know how. But even if you don't love cooking because you think you lack that basic sense yet still would like 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, April 19, 2017

Eating in... try veal for a taste of Italy!

Eating in... try veal it is not as expensive as you might think. It is often sold ground and in the form of cutlets. Veal is very tender. It cooks quickly and has a wonderful flavor.

Most veal comes from young male calves of dairy breeds because these are considered a surplus to the industry's requirements. Veal has been an important ingredient in Italian and French cuisine from ancient times. Stop by your butcher or meat counter at the local grocer and buy a package of veal.

To begin, prepare a liquid coating of egg and milk whisked together in a bowl. Take a plate and cover with dried bread crumbs, adding dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano and some basil. The procedure is thus: bath the cutlets in the liquid coating and then gently pressed into the bread crumbs (both sides).

Before you start to cook the veal shaped into cutlets, prepare either a side of boiled potatoes to be mashed or polenta (see brainy archives for polenta recipe). Next, take a skillet and drizzle in olive oil and a dollop of fresh creamy butter. Once it starts to melt and bubble, lay in the cutlets, adding a bit more olive oil as needed to keep them from burning.

On med heat, brown both sides and then cover for 6-8 min. on low heat. Uncover and add fresh homemade tomato sauce which I happened to make just the other day about 1 and a half cup. Cover again for 4 min. and then uncover to lay over the top large slices of mozzarella cheese. Cover again to melt the cheese.

Get ready to serve! Placing the cutlets on a serving plate and leave the potatoes (hand mashed) or polenta in the pot ...home-style!

 *extra side- buttery pan fried yellow squash with rosemary...

~ Tutti a Tavola! ...Feast as if you are abroad!

* the same cutlets can used used to make Veal Scallopini with Capers!
Check past blog from 2016...

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

After A Holiday Dinner ~ Detox with Soup!

A soup detox after a holiday meal is a brainy idea because its healthy for your system so the experts say. I for one as the Brainy Gourmet agree with experts because I know too that a homemade soup is a good detox based on my own experience. And, if you did cook Easter dinner at home, there is likely a ham bone or turkey wing that you can use for the stock. If not, then make a fresh stock as you like using bouillon.

The key to a refreshing detox soup is in the combination of veggies and spices. Usually, a detox soup is not one that cannot morph into something new as it is essentially a one or two day deal, having a special purpose. As you have read my previous blog posts, I strongly recommend making soups that can and do morph. Which means you start with a stock and over the week or next five days that stock becomes a variety of soups.

Today, however, its detox soup which requires certain veggies and spices to be blended into an inspiring and reinvigorating cleanse. For this, I prefer to use leek instead of onion, celery stalk, wild parsnip, young carrot, cloves of garlic, fresh spinach leaves or beet root tops and fresh diced tomatoes. Spices used are: kosher salt, fresh ginger, dried mint, white pepper and coriander. Use about one tsp of each, spicing it up as you go if you prefer a stronger taste when it comes to pepper, ginger and mint.

ReFresh Yourself!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

An Idea for Easter Brunch... Stuffed Chicken Breasts!

Having a brunch can be a challenge since you want food that can be served buffet which means that the food should be able to stay warm at a side table while guests serve themselves. Mostly, you want your guests to enjoy something that is delicious, colorful and filling. One idea is to serve stuffed chicken breasts which can be made ahead of guest arrival time and be kept warm in the oven.

You will need as many chicken breasts as you have guests, fresh baby spinach leaves, onion, cream cheese, mozzarella cheese and grated parmesan. To begin, chop one large or two small onions, wash the spinach and saute these two items together in olive oil until the leaves are wilted and the onion starts to brown on the edges. Remove from skillet and in the same skillet, add a drizzle more of olive oil and lay in your whole chicken breasts (palm size/uncut). Sprinkle on garlic powder, salt and paprika as well as a dash of rosemary. Sear on both sides on high heat and then cover for 5 min on low.

Remove the breasts from the skillet and set aside to cool. Now, preheat your oven to 375. In a bowl, combine the onion and spinach with about 3 heaping tbs of cream cheese and 1/2 to 3/4 cup of grated mozzarella cheese and a pinch of salt. Depending on the number of breasts you are preparing, you may need to double up on the filling.

Taking the cooled chicken breasts to hand, slit each one to fill with the spinach/onion and cheese mixture. Grab a glass baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and lay in each stuffed breast sprinkling each one with grated parmesan cheese. Bake for about 35 min uncovered depending on how many and the size of the breasts, you may need to go longer on the time.  Once completely cooked, you can keep them in the oven until the guests arrive, you should cover with foil and turn the oven to warm.

*Blessed is the name of the Lord!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Simple Easter Tradition You May Want to Make this Sunday!

Easter Doughnuts...

In Spain, one Easter tradition is to make 'Rosquillas de Anis'; doughnuts, baked or fried. What is so special about these doughnuts? The recipe calls for fermented flour infused with rosemary and for the doughnuts to be later soaked with anise liqueur which tastes a bit bitter to me and if I am not mistaken anise is used to make licorice flavored candy.

If you are not a fan of that taste and or have an allergy to anise, then just use lemon extract or almond. I for one am quite sensitive to anise and I do not like licorice candy.

Nonetheless, doughnuts as an Easter treat are delicious made anyway you like them. To make just plain ole baked doughnuts use this recipe. When I bake, unless its chocolate chip cookies, I use a recipe unlike when I create brainy gourmet meals. I am just not a master baker.

1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter
1/4 cup of honey
1/ and 1/2 cup of flour
1/4 cup of sugar
1 and 1/2 tsp of baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup of milk
1 large egg
1 tsp of any flavored extract

Preheat your oven to 350. Grease a doughnut baking pan.  Combine the above ingredients and spoon into the doughnut rings. Bake for about 9-11 minutes or when doughnuts are springy to the touch.  Glaze just after taking them out with: 5 cups of confectioners sugar and 1/3 cup water along with any food coloring you like... or not. You can also drizzle over the top fresh squeezed lemon juice.

*Again, the traditional Rosquillas de Anis uses a fermented flour infused with rosemary and soaked in anise liqueur after baking. Check for that recipe online.

Monday, April 10, 2017

What is the Brainy Gourmet Really About?

If you think this blog is like any other food blog, then you haven't been a follower for long. The Brainy Gourmet was started as a food ministry which means it was to be about and is about eating delicious tasty food and cooking that food in the most frugal way possible. That equals - frugality. If you never heard of that word or never practiced frugality, then you are now being introduced.

Frugality is the practice of being frugal which means reducing expenditures and the sparing of limited resources.  It is the simple art of being thrifty. And, now you wonder what for, right? For the purpose of getting the most out of your money spent, or value for your money spent.

Think of it as a means to get ahead in life... Yes, eating well and feeling good about the value of food for the money spent is getting ahead. The braininess is in this... why make a whole pot of just one kind of soup that you have to face as in look at and eat for the next five days???

That may save money but it is not really being frugal. Where is the creativity, the excitement you get from a new creation and the happiness you bring to your family when they see a new kind of soup on the table prior to the main course?

That is the kind of frugality I have been talking about and talked about on previous blogs. Being frugal means being creative so that no one knows (including your family) that you are being thrifty for their benefit... for their financial future.

That's my point and what the Brainy Gourmet has always been about. I have shown on this blog how to start with a stock (meat/vegetable) and get up to four kinds of soup from it throughout the week or 5 day period.

I have demonstrated how to buy certain basic foods that can morph into all kinds of meals and no one would dare call any of them left overs because they would not even know that you changed last night's chicken cacciatore into today's risotto.

Take a look at the basic pantry list on the side margin and start being creatively frugal with those items; i.e. potatoes, cream, bread crumbs and cheese becomes an amazing au gratin. Then check out the expanded pantry list. You can also find the basic list on the Brainy Gourmet Webpage, clicking on Brainy Tips.

So, get cooking the frugal brainy way!!!  "She provides food for her family" Proverbs 31:15.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Brainy Lasagna ~ What a Dish!

Who doesn't like lasagna, right?

Its as simple as pie to make. Maybe even simpler... if you use ready to bake noodles. You will need: lasagna pasta, baby spinach leaves, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, soup stock, tomato sauce and or diced tomatoes.

To begin, heat your oven to 425. While it heats up, prepare the lasagna. Either use ready to bake noodles or ordinary precook. Lasagna is all about the layers. Its best to start the layering by putting down a layer of lasagna noodles 'dry or precooked' into a glass baking dish drizzled with olive oil. Cover each noodle with a spoonful of soup stock.

Next, add the meat (or not) of your choice; cooked and crumbled in. Pour over this, tomato sauce (or diced tomatoes), then a layer of grated mozzarella cheese topped with a sprinkle of dried herbs. Repeat this reserving the middle layer for the baby spinach leaves and ricotta cheese.

Put another layer of noodles, stock and sauce, top with mozzarella cheese (a few slices of whole tomato looks nice) and more dried herbs: rosemary, mint/basil and oregano.

Bake in the oven uncovered for at least 60 min keeping an eye on things. After 30 min. or so, add Parmesan cheese.  Let it cook until bubbling over.  Let cool before serving; and, have extra sauce on the side to spoon on or around the lasagna.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

*if making vegetarian, omit the meat and just use spinach leaves in all layers.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Late Evening Snack or a Simple Frugal Supper!

Soup, bread and olive oil... 

I think Italians were likely the first to make simplicity and frugality go hand in hand! A bowl of soup, a hearty slice of dense bread and olive oil.  What could be better except for some Parmesan Cheese, right?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Sun Dried Tomatoes and Olives, Bring Flavor and Color to any Brainy Meal!

Sun dried tomatoes are really full of sun... you can actually taste it. That is why, they are not just to be used as salad toppings or slipped into a sub sandwich. Put them into any veggie or meat dish and you will be amazed. The same can be said about sun ripened olives.

Tuck a couple of olives and sun dried tomatoes to any dish and enjoy!

 ~ Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Spontaneous Italian Cooking ~ Fresh, Flavorful and Frugal!

Good wine does need time but Italian cooking does not...

Good Italian cooking certainly requires some time and effort but it does not have to be an all day process. Really, all cooking can and should be spontaneous, fresh and full of flavor. This Italian dish is just that.

All you need is a tender flank steak cut into strips and marinated with a meat tenderizer. As for the rest of the ingredients, stop off and pick up some asparagus, a package of dried sun tomatoes and probably you have in your kitchen pantry a box of linguine pasta.

Start the water to boil for the pasta. Then, stir fry on high/med heat washed asparagus spears in 2 tbs of olive oil and coconut oil, sprinkling in some garlic powder, red pepper flakes and dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano. Push the asparagus aside and lay in the flank steak strips, searing for 2-3 min on high heat. Toss in half of the package of sun dried tomatoes and stir blending the asparagus, steak and tomatoes. Drizzle on some red Marsala wine or Worcestershire sauce even a low sodium soy sauce and 2 tbs of beef stock for a clean flash finish.

When the pasta is tender, drain, rinse and ladle onto a low lipped serving plate topping top with the steak, sun dried tomatoes and asparagus stir fry.

~ Tutti a Tavola! ...a bottle of olive oil and nutty sweet balsamic vinegar on the table is a must!