Brainy Gourmet

Brainy Gourmet
The Doctor is into Delicious!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Italian Sausage in Marinara over Penne!


Italian food stirs the imagination...

This dish is so awesomely delicious that you can imagine never eating anything else for the rest of your life. The key is in the sausage. Quality Italian sausage is best bought from the local deli or butcher and it should be meaty... not overly seasoned; no fennel. The other key aspect regarding the sausage is that the casing used is also quality casing; you don't want it to be rubbery or chewy.

Besides really good Italian sausage, you will need: black olives, one med. red pepper (roasted) one large onion, and penne pasta.  To get started, saute the onion and pepper 'chopped' in olive oil until browned on the edges. Have your sausage cut into bite sized chunks or crumbled. Add to the skillet with the onion and pepper pushing them aside while you brown the sausage.

Bring back in the onion and pepper covering the sausage while you open a can of crushed Red Gold tomatoes unless of course you have either fresh garden tomatoes to use and one handful of black olives. Generously, sprinkle in dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano. Stir and cover, let this simmer on med heat while you prepare the pasta; simmering the sauce for a good 25 min.


Add the penne pasta to salted boiling water. Once tender, drain and ladle onto a serving plate and or bowl. Pour out the hot bubbly Italian sausage sauce onto the pasta and serve.



Put on the Parmesan... ~ Tutti a Tavola!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dumplings are a World Food!

Dumplings are simple, filling and frugal... no wonder you can find them everywhere either as mounds of fluff, globs of gooey goodness or as a lazy pierogi, or gnocchi...


For light fluffy dumplings, all one has to do is follow the recipe on a box of Bisquick or make one's own by using 1 cup of any pancake mix to 1/2 cup of regular flour, buttermilk and one egg.  If you want to have them more fluffy, skip the egg; and less fluffy, add more regular flour and another egg.


As for the ole fashioned little stones, the kind that stick to your ribs, here is the recipe: dumpling mixture: 2 cups of flour, 1/2 tsp of baking soda and 1 tsp baking powder, a pinch of salt, 1/2 cup of cold milk, 1/4 cup of cold buttermilk, add one egg and beat. Since its consistency that you are after, you may find that your dough is either too creamy or too stiff. If too creamy, then add more flour. If its too thick, dilute with cold water, slowly... even drip by drip!

The dough should look like this for fluffy - it should follow the spoon or whisk up as you pull away...and, for thicker or solid dumplings, the dough should break away rather than follow the whisk/spoon. Lastly, the key to good dumplings is to drop the dough into a boiling stew of beef or chicken, cover and let them cook.

Ask your grandmother or neighbor.... everybody has a dumpling recipe somewhere!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

World Foods ~ Beet Root Soup from Poland!


Yes, that is the Palace of Culture where I defended my PhD. While in eastern Europe, I learned how to cook frugally and to make and to eat beet root soup. Which, is very good on a fall or winter evening; hearty and full of flavor that comes from fresh beet root cooked in beef hock with bone in for creating a rich beef stock.

Begin by starting a stock from the beef hock or by pulling any stock for that matter out of the fridge or pantry - 4/5cups. To that, add one whole onion chopped which was firstly sauteed in butter and olive oil or beef fat as that would be the traditional means for cooking the onion.

Once the onion is browned on the edges, add to the stock. Next, drop in a pinch of salt along with dried herbs: rosemary and mint. 

Lastly, wash and peel two large fresh beet root and cut into chunks or even shredded to be added  directly to the beef hock stock with onion.  Cover and simmer for 2 hours on low heat. Serve along with a rolled pancake filled with hot ground meat and a side of blood sausage.



* a richer flavor will come through if you prepare the stock the day before...

~Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tomato infused Tagliatelle with Creamy Alfredo Sauce and Scalloped Parsnhips


Simple Alfredo, with root veggies... of course! It was my grandfather who showed me how to find parsnips in the wild. They have a nutty flavor when sauteed.

For this dish, you will need: boneless, skinless chicken breasts, one whole onion, tomato infused Fettuccine or Tagliatelle pasta, heavy cream, sour cream, Parmesan cheese and, 2 parsnips.

To begin, saute on med. heat one chopped onion, boneless thin sliced chicken breasts strips in 4-5 tbs olive oil, 2 tbs butter, and seasonings: garlic powder (organic), sea salt, and fresh dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano.*You can crumble up already cooked chicken breasts instead of the uncooked chicken strips; that is, if you have some left over from yesterday's roast chicken i.e.

Once the onion and chicken breasts are fully cooked and a little crispy brown on the edges, add 1/2 cup of heavy cream, and one dollop of sour cream as well as a generous sprinkle of Parmesan or use 1/2 cup of fresh grated. Cover and let simmer on low heat while you prepare the parsnips and pasta.

As for the parsnips, wash and then peel away (using a potato peeler) the skin until you see a nice white root. Next, shave the parsnips with the peeler into thin scallops; then in a separate smaller skillet brown in a drizzle of olive oil and a pat of butter until just slightly tender.

Set, the parsnip shavings aside and start the water for the pasta, once it boils, add a pinch of salt and then the pasta, stirring occasionally.When the pasta is tender, drain and ladle onto a low lipped serving platter. Pour out your creamy chicken Alfredo sauce, top with the sauteed parsnip shavings and call everyone to dinner...and don't forget the Parmesan!




~ Tutti a Tavola!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Cooking in Stressful Times ~ Will Give You Energy and Sense of Purpose!

If you are facing stressful times (or displaced by recent events) then cooking for yourself can help you overcome stress and uncertainty. How? Cooking helps you feel like you have more control of not only your caloric intake but also your general health, as explained by Clay Routledge, Ph.D. of Psychology Today.

And, even if you are not facing stressful times, cooking at home saves money, its healthier... how? Once you begin to cook for yourself you will make better food choices and thus you will use healthy ingredients at home. Soon, you will start to feel better; mentally and physically. 

Routledge describes a greater sense of purpose and energy that people feel once they take control of their diets. Ultimately, when it comes to cooking for yourself, just have fun with it ...that's always been the Brainy Gourmet's advice. You're the product of your habits and that's what life is. So, be Brainy about it!

The best "Brainy Gourmet" way to get cooking, to relieve stress and get healthy, is to fill a large pot of water, drop in a few pieces of chicken, (or whole), one onion, a couple of carrots and a dash of salt and you have ~ Chicken soup that can feed up to ten people!



Source ~ http://elitedaily.com/life/culture/benefits-of-cooking/1110808/


*If you are among those fairing well and considering helping displaced persons wherever they are, pass on this helpful and meaningful information. You will give them more than just a meal for one night! Along with the information above, you might share a bag of groceries so that they can get cooking.

Friday, September 15, 2017

TGIF ~ From Rome with Love!


If you could go to Rome for your Friday night 'eat out'; which would you order?

Eggplant Parmesan...

















Or, Chicken with Penne in Creamy tomato sauce...



Or a Creamy Fettuccine Alfredo...


And, the cheese... as much as you like!

~ Tutti a Tavola!





*All dishes can be found on the Brainy Gourmet Webpage in Brainy Archives - www.brainygourmet.com!
 





Thursday, September 14, 2017

Being Brainy with Raclette ~ A Visit to the French Swiss Border!




Along the French Swiss border, one can clearly notice the local preference for cooking with Raclette. Though traditionally Swiss, this semi-hard cow's milk cheese is most commonly used for cooking and or melting on both sides of the border and definitely not for slicing .

The smell is pungent, the taste is strong and yet also buttery. It all sounds wildly European. That is why this cheese is great for cooking. Looking into my fridge, there was a small amount left of the Raclette fondue. And, I had left over pasta and cooked chicken breasts as well. On the fresh side, there was a package of crisp green asparagus and some lovely Bavarian mushrooms.

To begin, on med heat I sauteed chopped onion in olive oil and 1 tbs of fresh creamy butter sprinkled with dried herbs. I then pushed the onion aside in the skillet and on high heat seared strips of chicken breasts (skinless/boneless). I reintroduced the onion, reduced the heat and added the left over Raclette along with 1 1/2 cup of heavy cream.

To that... the left over pasta and another tbs of butter then covering to let simmer while I prepared the mushrooms and asparagus... washing and slicing/cutting off ends. A quick stir fry in butter until browning around the edges appeared and then poured in about 2 tbs of chicken stock, turning up the heat to high for 4 min.



 ~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Good ole Home Cooking ~ Chicken and Dumplings!




What's with the pic? It is what it is... simple! You don't need a fancy kitchen for good ole home cooking; i.e. chicken and dumplings. You just need a skillet and hot stove!

Start with thawed out or fresh bought 'skin on, bone in' chicken thighs. On high heat, sear the skin side down in olive oil and fresh dried herbs along with a splash of garlic powder, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Turn the thighs over and let the underside brown a bit too. Then cover for 4 min on med heat. Next, add 1/2 cup of chicken stock, cover again and let simmer for 24-30 min on low heat.


As for preparing the dumpling mixture: 2 cups of flour, 1/2 tsp of baking soda and 1 tsp baking powder, a pinch of salt, 1/2 cup of cold milk, 1/4 cup of cold buttermilk, add one egg and beat. If you think it is either too creamy or too stiff, then add either more flour or add a tbs or two vinegar diluted with cold water.

It should look like this -

To this add a sprinkle of dried herbs. Remove the chicken from the skillet, leaving all liquid. Turn up the heat until the juices becomes a rolling boil and then drop in your dumpling mixture (a serving spoonful at a time). As they puff and cook, they will absorb the liquid which is good but if they start to stick to the skillet, add a dollop of butter and drop or two of cold water. When they have fluffed up nicely, put the chicken thighs back, cover with the heat off until you are ready to serve!



Prepare the table!

~ Tutti a Tavola!


Monday, September 11, 2017

Home Cooking ~ Follow up to cooking for yourself...


Cooking for yourself is money saving and nutritious. Why? As you pay more careful attention to value for your money you begin making better food selections. And, you gain in fun and added happiness through sharing food with family and friends.


Many people shy away from cooking at home because they think its all about slaving away in the kitchen, dedicated to the recipe and time and effort to this or that, etc. Its not. Cooking can be a joy as well as fast and frugal which does not mean cheap.

The Brainy Gourmet has been preaching this since the beginning. Being frugal is about value as in quality of product for your money and thus making your pantry work for you.

A chicken stock (pot of water with a chicken in it) can turn into any soup down the road of a M-F week. They key to stretching it out is that you don't add every thing you have plus the kitchen sink.

The idea is to create a rich stock that you can work with all week. From that stock you can make everything from a rich chicken soup with wide egg noodles to a creamy tomato soup with rice and  even make it into a bean and pasta filled minestrone by Friday.

In this way, you are not a slave to recipes and expensive ingredients. You need only to use your intuitive sense of taste and that comes from experience, not talking years... just a couple of tries.



The other perceived 'obstacle' to cooking at home (for yourself) is the idea that you they have to have every item from the daily food pyramid on your plate every evening; that is just not true.

You don't have to have something green, something red, something yellow... or something with carbs, something protein plus something not. You just need to have two basic foods: a meat and or fish plus a side. As for veggies, leafy or not or a fruit, have either for breakfast or lunch or the later as desert.

When you can concentrate on just two foods i.e. meat and potatoes/pasta/rice or dumplings, you will find out that home cooking is brainy fun, frugal and ... simply brainy delicious!


*Note ~ When you make a soup stock (chicken, beef or vegetable), you must keep it clean/clear by straining out the meat/vegetable. Rice, pasta or other secondary ingredients (pre-cooked) are best added to individual bowls when serving.  If you decide to turn your chicken stock into tomato soup, the same applies; remember, once tomato paste is added to the stock or stock portion, the stock will be a 'tomato' stock which can become the Friday Minestrone.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Cooking for yourself is money saving, healthy and fun...

If you are facing stressful times (displaced by recent events) then cooking for yourself can help you overcome stress and uncertainty. How? Cooking helps you feel like you have more control of not only your caloric intake but also your general health, as explained by Clay Routledge, Ph.D. of Psychology Today.

And, even if you are not facing stressful times, cooking at home saves money, its healthier... how? Once you begin to cook for yourself you will make better food choices and thus you will use healthy ingredients at home. Soon, you will start to feel better; mentally and physically. 

Routledge describes a greater sense of purpose and energy that people feel once they take control of their diets. Ultimately, when it comes to cooking for yourself, just have fun with it ...that's always been the Brainy Gourmet's advice. You're the product of your habits and that's what life is. So, be Brainy about it!


Source ~ http://elitedaily.com/life/culture/benefits-of-cooking/1110808/


*If you are considering helping displaced persons wherever they are, pass on this helpful and meaningful information. You will give them more than just a meal for one night! Along with the information above, you might share a bag of groceries so that they can get cooking.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Eggplant ~ Japanese vs. Italian Santana


Most people think that eggplant comes in one color. They think of the large classic Italian purple-eggplant. If that's you, then you will be surprised to learn that eggplant comes in other colors. In fact, there are all sorts of different eggplant varieties and some can be white and or even yellow!

On past blog posts, the Brainy Gourmet has made the more traditional dishes like eggplant Parmesan, and eggplant lasagna or roasted eggplant in garlic and olive oil with dried herbs and even some more avant-garde dishes with eggplant being diced into goulash or stew.


The Japanese eggplant is purple but it is a thinner longer teardrop than the Italian Santana variety which can get more rotund and a dark black purple color. Japanese eggplant has a clearly distinct mushroomy nutty rich flavor which makes it absolutely delicious roasted or grilled.


Its up to you to decide which is your favorite...



*Source ~ http://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/6-eggplant-varieties-to-try-article

A Dish to Pass... Be Brainy About it!


If you have ever been asked to a 'pot luck' that means you should bring a dish to pass; and, from experience you know its gotta be something you can make, something simple and something that most people will eat... like mac and cheese, baked potato and cheese casserole, baked beans, baked mostaccioli, a roasted squash medley or just some greens.

Having to bring a dish to pass can feel like a burdensome task but only when the asking party makes a certain request or says 'surprise me' and then you feel that you have to do something extraordinary. You don't have to! Any of the above mentioned can be easily, tastefully and frugally made.

And, even if someone does make a certain request, just reply that you will bring what you know you can make and can afford to make as in quite often pot luck means feeding more than just a few people. And, never volunteer more than you can afford; after all, we are asked to be cheerful givers!



~ Tutti a Tavola!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Brainy Garden Style Lasagna



What's hot from the oven, bubbling and oozing with cheesy goodness?  Ah, its lasagna!

Lasagna is about layering: sauce, noodles, cheese, sauce, noodles, cheese and anything that you might like to add in between i.e. roasted eggplant, roasted red peppers, Italian sausage, olives etc. You can top with more sauce, noodles and cheese along with a few slices of garden fresh tomatoes and herbs!


~ Tutti a Tavola!

Butter is the ultimate comfort food and its good for you... again!

The Brainy Gourmet loves butter and likes sharing information that helps us eat and live better!

Its amazing that despite its best efforts, the margarine lobby has failed to convince us that its synthetic concoctions taste anywhere near as good as butter. People eat spreads on sufferance, having been browbeaten into believing butter is bad for us. But forgoing this versatile, natural fat that graces every food it touches is a misguided penance.

Toast with a thick layer of butter is the ultimate comfort food. Without butter, there's no golden crust on your gratin dauphinois, no dreamy bearnaise sauce. Shortbread made with margarine? Gruesome. Avoid spreadable butter: it often has oil in it, which spoils the taste and consistency.

Butter is an excellent source of vitamin A, D and K, essential for the efficient absorption of calcium and phosphorus, and therefore strong bones and teeth. Vitamin K also helps protect against bone calcification. Butter is rich in short- and medium-chain fatty acids, such as conjugated linoleic acids; these have a significant anti-tumour, anti-cancer action. Butter from grass-fed cows has more CLA than those fed grain, so organic butter is a wise choice. Butter has anti-fungal properties too.

Moreover, butter contains many substances  that actually protect us from heart disease?! At the top of the list is Vitamin A, which directly and indirectly contributes to the health of the heart and cardiovascular system in general. For pregnant women, Vitamin A is essential for the proper growth and development of the baby’s heart. Butter contains also contains a substance called lecithin which assists in the processing and  metabolism of cholesterol and other fats. Butter also contains a number of healthy anti oxidants that protect against the kind of free radical which  damages arteries.

The nutritional gospel that saturated fat is unhealthy and fattening is melting away. A recent review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded: "There is no convincing evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease." A Medical Research Council survey showed that men eating butter ran half the risk of developing heart disease as those using margarine.

*Sources ~  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/jul/12/good-for-you-butter
 https://docwellness.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/butter-vs-margarine/

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Oven Roasted Open Pit Garlic Chicken with Butternut Squash!

Show me the 'Appian' way to go home...

Turn on the oven to 400, drizzle a glass baking dish with olive oil, lay in as many chicken thighs, bone in skin on, as you will need to serve. Sprinkle over the top: garlic powder, red pepper flakes and dried herbs - rosemary, mint, oregano and sage. Also, dice up 3 cloves of fresh garlic and lay on the thighs. Bake/roast for about 45 minutes or until fully cooked and crispy skin side up. For the final step, spoon over the top honey flavored open pit barbecue sauce and return to the oven for 5-6 mins.

In the meantime, microwave a whole small butternut squash until tender. Wash, peel and boil as many yellow gold potatoes as you will need. When tender, drain and mash with butter, heavy cream and sour cream until smooth.

Put it all together and put it on the table!



~ Tutti a Tavola!


*Appian way - queen of the long roads... this dish takes you back along a road you don't want to depart from