Fresh, fast and frugal!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Happy 4th of July ~ Celebrate with Hot Dogs!

Did you know that there is such a thing as Hot Dog Day and it is an international event? In the USA it’s primarily the industry partners that participate in promoting it, whereas in other countries around the world it may be historical organizations celebrating the role it played in their history.

And, did you know that the Frankfurter was named for the Germany city of Frankfurt, where it was said to originate? Well now you do! There’s even multiple varieties of Hot Dogs! The original hot dogs came in a natural casing, which in case you didn’t know were made from the small intestines of sheep. Intestines were regularly used for making all kinds of sausages, hotdogs included!

The most famous hot dogs in history were served at a picnic, right here in the Hudson Valley, on June 11, 1939. What made them famous was not their culinary excellence. It was their diplomatic significance. These hot dogs helped save the Western world from the Nazis.

The world-renowned hot dogs were dished up at a party in Hyde Park hosted by President Franklin Delano and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Their guests included a well-known British family, the Windsors (King George VI and Queen Elizabeth "Queen Mother").

The royal couple had never before sampled frankfurters, and found them, at first, confounding. “How do you eat this?” the queen whispered to her host. Ignoring Roosevelt’s advice, she decided to use a knife and fork; her husband, however, consumed his the American way on a bun. So, grill em and eat em... Happy Fourth of July!

~ Sources:;

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Brainy Italian Chicken Cacciatore!

Cooking 'cacciatore' means cooking 'hunter style'. In Italian cuisine, alla cacciatora refers to a dish that has been prepared "hunter-style" and that means with onions, tomatoes, red peppers, green olives,and herbs not to mention if you dried fruits like plums.

For this dish, you will need to buy six (or enough for each dinner guest) chicken thighs with the bone in and skin on. A richer flavor will develop by having the bone in and skin; in fact, necessary for this dish to be truly authentic 'hunter style'.

Begin by searing the chicken thighs skin side down in olive oil on high heat either in a skillet or even in the oven on 400F (use a glass baking dish if you prefer to oven roast). Turn over the thighs and brown the under side as well.

When it comes to cacciatore, the basic recipe (tomatoes, chicken stock, dried herbs and dried plums) is always the best; however, you can add whatever you like to the mix (red or green pepper, onion, black olives)... except for broccoli. Certainly, whether you roast in the oven or simmer in the skillet, make sure you have fresh whole tomatoes to add or quality canned stewed tomatoes.

Turn down the heat to med. (oven to 325). Add to the skillet or baking dish, the tomatoes, chicken stock and herbs: rosemary, oregano and mint along with garlic powder and red pepper flakes for zing but not necessary.  Cover and simmer for 40 min (oven time too) while you prepare a side.

Use a wide egg noodle pasta, or linguine or even mashed potatoes as your side. Once the pasta is tender, drain, rinse and then ladle onto a low lipped serving plater. Top with the chicken cacciatore.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Fresh Dried Herbs ~ Made at Home!

Long time readers know that my favorite herbs are: rosemary, mint and oregano. Its the blended taste of savory and sweet that is beyond delicious. These herbs are very easy to grow. In fact, you can grow them in pots on your deck/patio or in your kitchen window. Just clip fresh (don't wash), lay them on a perforated pizza pan and within 12-24 hours or less, they are completely dry and ready to use as a frugal flavor enhancer. 

The temperature of the oven should be around 80 degrees, a good temperature for slow drying the delicate leaves of mint and oregano. As for the rosemary, a bit higher temp of 100 is preferred giving the sprigs between 24-48 hours. It is possible to quicken the process. Turn the oven to 350 and when it has reached that temperature, turn it off and place the herbs inside. In no time at all, they will dry.

I prefer a slow dry than a quick fast dry as the leaves don't brown; thus, retaining their color better.

In a variety of combinations, these herbs are great for any meat, fish, vegetable or pasta dish. The next best thing is that your kitchen will smell like a brainy gourmet is at work.

*Rosemary is known for its health benefits... its even an aromatherapy for the brain!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Swiss Steak ~ Meat and Potatoes...

Is Swiss steak from Switzerland? Well, particular information could not be found if it is or is not. But, if you type in Swiss steak on the internet just about everybody and their brother has a recipe for it. Most make it like mom or grandma used to.

You will need either top sirloin steak or a nice round steak. Marinate the meat in balsamic vinegar, garlic powder and meat tenderizer (tsp of each front and back) for about 1 hour prior to cooking.

When you are ready to start cooking, chop one onion and saute in olive oil until brown, push the onion to the side and add your meat (cut into med. size medallions). Brown the meat pieces on both sides and then cover with 1/4 cup of beef bouillon. Let is simmer for 8 min on low heat. Lastly, add 1 small can of tomato paste adding water to dilute the paste.

Make sure to add the water slowly, judging the consistency in terms of thickness for the gravy you prefer. Toss in a pinch of salt along with some dried herbs: rosemary, mint, oregano and sage and simmer for 1 hour on low heat.

In the meantime, peel and boil as many potatoes as you will need to feed the family/guests. As for aside, sauteed mushrooms with asparagus.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Sugar is still the Culprit!

Though often said, its worthy repeating... Sugar is still the Culprit.

Many food blogs promote recipes that have added sugar in the recipe. They add sugar directly, and or they add sugared foods: even canned soups have unwanted sugars. One should also be aware of salad toppings and dressings that are sugary including some versions of Italian house dressings.

The Brainy Gourmet has always advocated using the natural flavor in food to create that desired taste of balanced sweet and savory. So, if you like your food sweeter than savory, use the natural sweetness in vegetables; without adding sugar!

Did you know that potatoes are a starchy type of vegetable, they contain starch carbohydrates. Yes, they have a high glycemic index but they don't spike as a direct sugar and or high sugar vegetables like sweet potatoes; hence the prefix name 'sweet'. Potatoes are a starch and as such eventually convert into glucose and that means that the burn of such sugar in potatoes actually uses sugar to burn in the digestion process. So, that is a good process.

Again, potatoes also have naturally occurring sugar, but it converts to glucose in a different manner than does pasta, or cake, candy and pie or even carrots and bananas. A medium-sized, 4-ounce potato has about 2 grams of natural sugar, a type of simple carbohydrate. Your system uses glucose to fuel every cell, so having carbohydrates in your diet is important.

That is why, there is nothing wrong with good ole meat and potatoes for dinner!

There's no added sugar there.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Cooking and Cleaning with Lemons ~ Citrus Limon!

Lemons were first cultivated in Europe around Genoa Italy in the mid-fifteenth century. The lemon is a yellow citrus fruit with a juicy acidic pulp, a sour flavor, a white inner pith, and an aromatic rid. Lemons appear to have been used originally for their antiseptic properties and as ornamental trees.

Today, lemons are considered on of the most important ingredients in many cuisines. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice on just about anything is an excellent salt substitute.

The lemon also has plenty of kitchen uses as an all purpose cleaner, deodorizer, vegetable wash, dish-washing and laundry boost, stain remover and not to mention pot scrubber, t-shirt whitener and fabric softener. There are also numerous personal uses: sore throat soother, bad breath fighter, hair highlighter, constipation combatant, age spot antidote, nail brighter and chewing gum remover.

So, if you are serving fish and like a squeeze of lemon, remember all the other uses and recipes like chicken picata that have lemon as an essential ingredient. And, a slice on a cup of tea or glass of ice tea is invigorating to say the least!

Fresh Caught Atlantic Salmon!

Oven roasted potatoes and wild caught salmon fillets for dinner... to begin, prior to searing your fillets, turn on the oven to 375. Wash and quarter yellow gold potatoes to be roasted in the oven, doused with olive oil and dried herbs. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice is a great substitute for salt. Roast as many potatoes as you need for about 45-50 min. As the end of that time approaches, take a skillet and on high heat sear the fillets in olive oil and spices: garlic powder, red pepper flakes and some lemon or lime juice.

 ... food like art

Once seared to blackened, you can turn down the heat and add 2 pats of butter and let simmer while you prepare the asparagus.Wash and cut the asparagus, remove the salmon and in that same skillet add the spears also to be blackened. The potatoes should be finishing up, ladle onto a serving plate, lay on the salmon fillets.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Pork with Mole Negro Sauce

Take a trip down to ole Mexico....

A recipe by the book - you will need to buy: 1 boneless pork loin, chipotles in adobo, (3 tbsp. adobo sauce reserved) olive oil, apple cider vinegar, ancho chile powder, oregano, honey and garlic cloves. For the mole sauce, you will need to buy: 1 large tomatillo, stemmed, rinsed, and quartered, 1 small tomato, cored and halved, 1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped, olive oil, dried pasilla chiles, half a banana, peanuts and or sesame seeds, raisins, chocolate, oregano, and cinnamon. 

To begin, marinate the pork. In a blender, purée the chipotles with their reserved sauce, oil, vinegar, chile powder, oregano, honey, and garlic until smooth and season with salt and pepper. Put pork into a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag and pour sauce over pork. Refrigerate overnight.
To make the mole: Heat oven to broil and position a rack 10" from the heating element. Toss tomatillos, tomatoes, and onions with 2 tbsp. oil in a bowl and transfer to an aluminum foil–lined baking sheet; broil, turning once with tongs, until soft and well browned, about 15 minutes. Transfer charred vegetables to a large bowl; set aside. Heat oven to 400˚. Transfer chiles to the aluminum foil–lined baking sheet and toast, turning once, until dark and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer toasted chiles to large bowl and cover with 3 cups boiling water; set aside to let soften for 15 minutes. Drain chiles, reserving 1⁄2 cup soaking liquid; set aside.

Heat 3⁄4 cup oil in a 3-qt. high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add plantains (or bananas) and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, 2 minutes. Add peanuts and sesame seeds and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, 3 minutes. Add the raisins, the tomatillo mixture, and the chiles with the reserved soaking liquid, along with the chicken broth, dark chocolate, oregano, canela, and bread; bring the mixture to a boil and remove from heat. Working in batches, purée the chile mixture in a blender to make a smooth mole.

Heat remaining oil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add mole and cook, whisking frequently, until it thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and piloncillo; set mole aside and keep warm.

*There is a brainy way to make this dish without using so many exotic ingredients. Marinate the pork in lime juice, honey and Worcestershire sauce, sprinkling in some oregano. As for the mole sauce, you can use chopped onion, chicken broth, honey, cinnamon, dark chocolate and canned tomatillo with bread crumbs on the end for a smooth blend. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Brainy Thai Pork with Rice Noodles!

Free to be Thai at home...the Brainy Gourmet way!

You will need to buy one pound packaged pork tenderloin. One box of rice noodles and one red and green fresh crisp bell pepper. 

Grab your covered skillet and on a low flame melt in 3 tbs of coconut or peanut oil.  Slice up the red and green pepper tossing them up into the skillet. To this, add a seasoning mix of sea salt, ground coriander powder, and red pepper flakes, and a pinch of ground ginger. GO easy on these  seasoning as this dish also calls for teriyaki sauce which has plenty of flavor on it own (use rice vinegar and brown sugar to substitute the teriyaki).

Let this mixture cook for about 8 min. Then, add to the skillet, 3-4 tbs of teriyaki sauce and one tsp of roasted red chili paste. Next, turn up your flame to high and let this mixture start to sizzle and bubble. Now, take your pork tenderloin and slice into 1 inch medallions.

Press down on the medallion side as you place them in the skillet having moved over your peppers. Cover and let cook for 12 min, on med. flame/heat.  In the meantime, boil water, adding a pinch of salt, to cook your rice noodles. Keep an eye on the pork medallions and peppers, stirring occasionally.

Once the noodles are tender, drain and pour into a low lipped white serving dish. Then, pour out your medallions and peppers. You can garnish as you like using fresh parsley or cilantro.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Thai Cooking The Brainy Gourmet Way!

Thai cooking is full of flavor and its frugal too. For this simple Thai dish, you will need to buy boneless chicken thighs, one small can of coconut milk, fresh ginger and garlic, sesame and coconut oil, fresh grated coconut or packaged and soy sauce along with either homemade or store bought Thai chili ginger garlic sauce. As for a side, julienne zucchini, green pepper, onion and sweet potato which you will stir fry in sesame oil with red pepper flakes and garlic powder.

To begin, take a large covered skillet and on high heat melt in 4 tbs of coconut oil and 1 tsp of sesame oil. Once, the oils spit at you, lay in your thighs. As they start to fry whisk in a dash of 1 tsp of red pepper flakes, 1 tbs of fresh grated ginger, garlic and crushed dried mint.

As the first side of the thighs sizzle and brown, you can also generously coat the top side with fresh grated coconut or even dry packaged. Turn down the heat to med. and cover for 5 min. after that time, turn over the thighs to cook the coconut topped side. Next, turn up the heat for 2 min, give the skillet a good shake and then cover again, turning the heat back to med.  After 5-6 min. add 1/2 cup of coconut milk. Cover and simmer on low for 15 min. While you prepare your side.

This side is a basic stir fry of veggies: zucchini, green pepper and onion along with a few shavings of sweet potato for color. So...take out another skillet, melt in 3 tbs of sesame oil and 1 tbs of coconut oil. Toss the veggies in when the oils are hot! Sprinkle in some red pepper flakes, garlic powder and stir can also add 2 eggs for a heavier and or heartier stir fry; especially if you are not serving rice. Put out either soy sauce or chili sauce!

*Look for more delicious Thai dishes on upcoming posts....

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Foie de Veau a la Lyonnaise ~ French Veal Liver and Onions!

Never before on the Brainy Gourmet... Liver and Onions!

Its not because I don't like liver and onions or because my family doesn't like them... its because there hasn't been quality calves liver at the grocer and I mean calves liver, not pork. Yes, it matters and though it may sound somehow improper... calves liver is from veal, young beef. And, the French would agree it makes the best "Foie de Veau a la Lyonnaise".

In France, Lyon and the surrounding Lyonnais district have competed for centuries with Paris to be first in food. Paris is chic, sophisticated, refined; Lyon goes for hearty, accessible country cooking that is easy to love. That is why liver and onions comes out of this district.

Yes, some of you may turn up your nose but if you love French cooking, you will love "Foie de Veau a la Lyonnaise!" Liver especially calves liver is very nutritious. Liver is incredibly rich in A and B vitamins. One serving of liver and onions contains well over your daily requirement for vitamins A, B2 and B12. It contains more than half your daily vitamins B3 and B6, along with smaller but substantial doses of vitamins B1, pantothenic acid and folate.

To begin, saute one large onion and grape or cherry tomatoes in olive oil until browned on edges. Then push aside and add your calves liver. Brown uncovered and then cover (tossing in dried herbs) for the last 6-8 min to achieve a delicious rich au jus.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Brainy Stroganoff ~ Its Whatever you like it to be...

Beef "Stroganov" is not Italian. It is a Russian dish of sauteed pieces of beef served in a sauce with sour cream. The original Russian version uses lightly floured beef cubes (not strips) sautéed and a sauce of mustard and beef bouillon and finished with a small amount of sour cream: no onions and no mushrooms.

Brainy Stroganoff means keeping it fast and frugal and yet adding an unexpected tasty twist. For this dish, you can use lean flank or sirloin beef steak or even round steak. And, if beef is not to your liking or budget, then use boneless pork or chicken. To begin, use either boneless pork loin or chicken thighs if you are not using beef, one onion, a few mushrooms, wide egg noodles, slivered almonds, butter as well as heavy cream and or sour cream.

Saute onion and mushrooms in 2 tbs of olive oil and coconut oil, with a dollop of butter on med. heat until browning edges appear. Push aside in the skillet and add the pork loin cut into thin medallions or sliced into strips. Brown the meat until white. Move the onion and mushrooms back in and pour in 1/2 cup or either heavy cream or watered down sour cream. Cover and simmer on low heat for 8-10 min, while you prepare the pasta.

Boil water for the amount of egg noodles 'wide egg or linguine pasta' you will need. Once tender, drain and ladle onto a low lipped serving plate, top with your Stroganoff, garnish with slivered almonds and fresh green parsley.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

*Beef stroganoff tip - follow the same cooking procedure using steak enriching the sauce with beef bouillon. For a clear rich brown sauce, omit cream and use only beef bouillon thickened with a small amount of corn starch.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Asparagus Carbonara with Angel Hair Pasta ~ An Afternoon in Rome!

Most Italian cooks when making carbonara use only pancetta which is an Italian bacon made of pork belly meat that is salt cured and spiced with black pepper and sometimes other spices. However, you may not have access to Italian bacon. Be brainy and use your favorite bacon.

For this dish, you will need to have: bacon, onion, angel hair pasta, asparagus tips, one egg, butter and fresh baby arugula. To begin, saute diced bacon and onion in a skillet of olive oil until the bacon and onion start to crisp on the edges.

Then add several washed asparagus tips. Set aside to prepare the pasta. Once the pasta is tender, drain and quickly return to the pot in which it was boiled, add a large dollop of butter and crack in one raw egg; stir quickly until you see that the egg is cooked by the hot pasta.

Pour out the pasta onto a low lipped serving plate, top with the 'pancetta with asparagus' and serve topped with arugula and Parmesan cheese.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Asian Stir Fry ~ Cooking by Color Leads to Great Taste!

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.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Cooking with Sun Dried Tomatoes!

Sun dried tomatoes are really so 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, June 5, 2017

Veal scallopini ~ Ah, Mamma Mia!

Veal is enriched with vitamin B. This vitamin is essential for energy and healthy metabolism. Other than vitamin B, veal is a rich source of vitamin B-12, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. People who consume beef on regular basis can easily switch to a smarter and healthy choice with veal.

To begin, pound down the veal cutlets with a meat tenderizing hammer. Then, prepare a small bowl of buttermilk to dip the veal in (you can use milk with a bit of sour cream to substitute for buttermilk). Next, pat the veal with herb infused bread crumbs, sprinkle with garlic powder and saute in a blend of olive oil and butter; browning each cutlet on both sides.

Next, add diced roasted red pepper and chopped onion (optional/onion) as much as you like and half a jar of capers. Let this simmer on low heat while you prepare an angel hair pasta.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Pasta or Chicken ~ Its all Brainy Good!

Can't decide what to make for dinner... check previous posts on this blog or go to Brainy Archives at the web page and get cooking!