Fresh, fast and frugal!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Rosemary, mint and oregano... my Favorite Herbs!

Long time readers know that my favorite herbs are: rosemary, mint and oregano. Also, sage is included into that mix and sage tea is very good. The reason for those being my favorite is the blended taste of sweet and savory they provide that is beyond complimentary. These herbs are very easy to grow. And because I grow them myself, I have quality assurance. 

Yes, herbs are relatively hardy and easy to grow and you don't need acres. 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 24-48 hours, they are dry. 

For drying herbs at home, use your oven. 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 between 90-100 is preferred giving the long sprigs between 24-48 hours. You don't need to keep your oven turned on. Just pre-heat at 250 and then turn the oven off. Wait until the temp drops down a bit before placing your herbs on a perforated pizza pan and then sliding them in.

In a variety of combinations, these herbs are great for any meat, fish, vegetable or pasta dish. And, best of all, as they dry in your oven... it's a kind of aromatherapy for brain cells!

*Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is the best aromatherapy in the kitchen. This evergreen herb native to the Mediterranean. It is used as a culinary condiment, to make bodily perfumes, and for its potential health benefits.

One of the Best Pantry Items you can have...

Did you know that onions add flavor to just about anything and everything you can cook? Yes, onions can make you cry but they are very nutritious. According to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, one raw, medium-sized onion contains 60 calories, 1 gram of protein, 200 milligrams of potassium and 11.9 milligrams of vitamin C.

They are also rich in vitamins B-6, B-1 and folate. Eating 1/2 cup of raw onions daily helps raise your good cholesterol levels and may improve circulation, reduce high blood pressure and prevent blood clots. But, then you better have some gum or breath freshener readily available.

Red onions are great to eat raw and you probably have many times on a salad or sandwich. White and yellow are used mostly for cooking; white are sweeter and milder than yellow. And yes, some people won't cook with onion because they just don't want to cry over it.

When you cut an onion to cook, handle it properly so that you won't end up crying. How? Firstly, keep in mind that you always want to keep the root intact. Why? The top of the onion (called the bloom) is harmless, but the bottom of an onion contains sulfur. So, again, you want to keep that root intact as much as possible while handling: peeling and cutting.

*Sources ~

Monday, October 30, 2017

What's in your Grocery Bag?

What should be in your grocery bag? Basics! What are they? Firstly, let it be known that when the Brainy Gourmet went online over three years ago it was always with the sincere intention to provide information that was useful and lasting. Information that a lot people just didn't/don't seem to know - basic food stuffs and what to do with them; not all, but a lot is a lot.

As a sociologist by higher education, I make observations every time I am shopping and I don't see people buying basics. They tend to buy frozen, packaged, or canned food items. A few well intended shoppers do try to buy healthy but that ends up being only perishables such as: fruits, vegetables and meat or fish.

The problem with those kinds of perishable items is that if not used on that day of purchase or within a few days, they will perish and back to the store you go. That's not brainy because its not frugal. Every frugal 'brainy' gourmet should have his/her pantry stocked with basic food stuffs at all times.

Why? Because, out of a few basic items, any brainy home cook can whip up a meal that is fresh, full of flavor and is frugal. To learn more about those basics, check the side margin of this blog for the basic pantry list or go to the Brainy Gourmet webpage and click on Brainy Tips.

*Flour is not included in the basic pantry list nor in the extended list; which means that most brainy meals are made gluten free. Rarely is flour used to thicken a brainy sauce or gravy.  Also, note, if you are on a gluten free diet, use gluten free products.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Don't know what to make for dinner, just make it will Brainy!

An Italian cafe right at home!

So, why not order a plate of good ole Spaghetti and Meatballs...

or any of the dishes using the wonderful Pappadrelle noodle: Braised Chicken and Mushroom using Pappadrelle, Creamy Chicken and Red Pepper with Pappadrelle, Chicken Cacciatore with Dried Plums on Pappadrelle or make it simple with tomatoes, capers and asparagus... or just plain soup.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

*All dishes above can be found on the right margin in the Blog Archive!
 Or go to ~ and click Brainy Archives.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Lamb or Pork or Veal in Creamy Paprika and Pepper Sauce with Oven Roasted Squash...

For this dish you will need: whichever meat listed above you prefer or have on hand. The loin of any of these are best to use because loin can be bought skinless, boneless and usually with very little fat if any. You will also need: heavy cream, ground paprika, garlic powder, jarred roasted red peppers, along with about 3 young zucchini squash, a few sun dried tomatoes and dried plums. 

Cut the loin into thick medallions. Sprinkle sea salt on each and brown the medallions in olive oil in a skillet on high heat. Once browned turn down the heat and add as many diced roasted red peppers as you like. Stir while adding 1/2 cup of heavy cream and 1 tsp of paprika, garlic powder and fresh dried parsley. Simmer while you prepare oven roasted zucchini with sun dried tomatoes and dried plums.

For the zucchini, wash, peel a little of the skin off, slice and lay in a glass baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with dried herbs. Bake in the oven on 400f for about 30 min. Toss in the sun dried tomatoes and plums on the end of that time for another 10 min.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Wow'em with Baked Brie and Jam!

You will need: as many rounds of Brie as guests. One tube of croissant dough will cover 2 brie. If you are going to prepare 4, you will need 2 tubes. Its pretty simple, just follow the pictures: remove the brie from their containers, open the dough tube, wrap and bake at 350 until brown and puffy.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Chicken Florentine with Whipped Potatoes Parmesan...

For this dish you will need: boneless, skinless chicken breasts (per person), yellow gold potatoes (2 per person), sun dried tomatoes, cream cheese, mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese. To begin, drizzle olive oil into a glass baking dish and sprinkle the bottom of the dish with garlic powder and dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano. 

Lay in the breasts and again drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle over the top of the chicken a bit of garlic powder, dried herbs and a pinch of sea salt to each individual breast. Bake at 400 Fahrenheit for about 25 min, then turn each breast over to the other side, spread each breast with 1 tbs of cream cheese and lay on a slice of mozzarella cheese; lastly, top with a sun dried tomato (one per each) and sprinkle of herbs.  

Return to the oven and bake until bubbling and golden brown. In the meantime, boil the potatoes, when tender, drain and mash with butter and cream until nearly a whipped consistency. Add parmesan cheese over the top when serving and a handful of crushed of fresh dried parsley.

~ Tutti a Tavola

Blessings ~ New Readers and Long Time Readers of the Brainy Gourmet...

To those new and even long time readers, if it has not been made clear... this blog is a Food Ministry! What does that mean?

It simply and lovingly means that this blog has been and continues to be a source of fresh, fast, frugal information that believes in and demonstrates God's provision which sustains our life with blessings: love, joy and peace.

This blog offers simple brainy advice which is all about cooking at home; firstly, by introducing the use of basic food items and then extending on those basic food items into extraordinary satisfying meals full of flavor.

Think of the Brainy Gourmet Blog as a go to source that inspires you to be a Brainy Gourmet; enjoying and sharing in the promise of blessings.

May Peace be with you and at your table!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Fettuccine Alfredo ~ Every Which Way Possible!

How many ways can you make Fettuccine Alfredo? Well, let me count the ways...

I can count several but there are for sure all kinds of regional styles and a few that just about everyone knows: traditional which is just with a creamy white sauce and parmesan cheese; and to this traditional style some chefs like to add chicken.

Then there is Roman style with tuna which happens to be my favorite. And, Mediterranean Style as in  'Frutti Di Mare" which is pretty fishy: with either shrimp, or squid, or scallops and Roman style fits in there too; after all, Rome has access to the sea.

For any reader of this blog that is just getting started as a brainy gourmet, stick with the traditional but it's not too difficult to add some sautéed chicken breasts (cut into chunks). The traditional sauce is basic: butter, heavy cream, (sour cream - but not necessary) and Parmesan cheese.

If you want to thicken the sauce that requires a bit of flour added to melted butter to create a roux 'paste' which you then add the heavy cream to.

I have made Roman Style a number of times on this blog. To begin, you make the traditional white sauce adding tuna (in oil); when serving, put out fresh lemon to squeeze on top and extra Parmesan cheese of course.

All in all, any Fettuccine Alfredo can be a dish all by itself or served as a side with grilled fish or roasted chicken.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Fill the Tank with Food that Satisfies ~ Food Myths Busted...

...among those busted is that gluten free products are really very good for you.

“One of the biggest issues in recent years is people trading in cookies and pasta for gluten-free options thinking they're doing themselves a huge favor,” says Isabel Smith, R.D., a New York City-based celebrity dietitian and fitness expert. “In many cases, gluten-free products contain way more garbage than the gluten-containing ones do.”

And you’re certainly not saving in the price department, either. “Gluten-free products are often much more expensive and usually also higher in calories, sugar and fat,” says Elizabeth Shaw, R.D.N., a San Diego-based dietitian.

So, why not eat food that fills the tank and really satisfies like homemade chicken and dumplings ...

* Brainy Source ~
* All dishes can be found on the left margin or in Brainy Archives!

From Tuscany with Love ~ Pappardelle in Tomato Sauce with Green Olives!

Pappardelle are large, very broad, flat pasta noodles, similar to wide fettuccine. The name derives from the verb "pappare", to gobble up.This type of pasta originates from the region of Tuscany.

Cook the pasta first in salted boiling water until tender; drain and rinse. Then, set aside while you prepare the sauce. Saute one chopped onion in olive oil in a large skillet. Next, add crushed tomatoes (1 large can) or about several fresh tomatoes from the garden: washed, peeled and crushed.

To that initial sauce, add whatever fresh dried herbs you have: rosemary, mint and oregano are my favorite but you can also add marjoram. Select some large green pitted olives to also add. Introduce the pasta into the sauce and simmer for about 15 minutes on low heat.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

* This dish was prepared by guest blogger ~ Marek B.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Harvest Time ~ Stuffed Pork Loin with Sun Dried Tomatoes, a Side of Root Veggies and String Beans Blackened!

The title or name of this dish says it all!

Basically, all you need to whip this up in about 45 min is a 1 lb boneless pork loin, cream cheese, a few dried plums, champignon mushrooms, one onion, one carrot, one parsnip, a package of fresh string beans and sun dried tomatoes.

To begin: open the pork loin (cut down the middle and gently spread open) to lay out flat until you have a fillet (do not pound). Season with Himalayan sea salt, garlic powder and dried herbs. Sear the loin on all sides in a skillet of olive oil. Once you have done that, remove the seared loin and set it aside to rest.

Next, chop one onion and half pound of champignon mushrooms, stir fry in the same skillet that you seared the loin in adding a bit more olive oil and a dollop of butter. Once browned, push aside in the skillet and remove from the heat.

Turn your attention back to the loin, smear the open face side of the loin with cream cheese and lay in as many sun dried tomatoes as you can fit. Fold it over and lay it into the skillet with the onion and mushrooms (you can tie the loin with string). Let this simmer while you prepare the root veggies and fresh green string beans.

Wash the beans and cut off stem tops if needed. Peel the carrot and parsnip, then julienne slice.  In an other skillet, add olive oil, 2 dollops (tbs) of butter and a sprinkle of sea salt. Stir fry the veggies until just tender and slightly blackened. As the pork is nearly finished, toss in several dried plums. Serve on a low lipped plate, pouring out the rich liquid with mushrooms and plums.

~ Tutti a Tavola!
Call everyone to the table.

Blood Sausage ~ Boudin Noir with Applesauce!

Blood sausage is also known as Boudin noir. It is  a dark-hued blood sausage, containing pork, pig blood, and other ingredients. Reading online, you will learn that there are variants of Boudin: blanc and noir. Both are very popular in French, Belgian, Cajun and Catalan cuisine. In Britain, blood sausage 'Boudin noir' is called "black pudding", probably introduced after the Norman invasion.

Blood sausage originates from a peasant table which means it was a frugal way to make the most of an available inexpensive or even 'thrown out' yet potential food source.  Many European cultures including Poles love to eat blood sausage and have made it for the very reason above. It is really good, full of flavor and contains buckwheat or barley groats. Some eat it for breakfast and some just eat it any time of the day.

This weekend, it was prepared for breakfast along with pancakes/crepes and hot applesauce with cream. Check your local deli for Boudin and try it. It is simple to cook... just fry in butter or lard or olive oil. It cooks up fast and satisfies fast!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Have a Brainy Weekend!

Check out what's been cookin... everything with Pork that you could possibly think of!

*Check past posts for ingredient/preparation/cooking information...

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Butter Chicken or Murgh Makhani ~ Brainy Gourmet Style!

Eat at home as if you just stepped out for dinner....

This dish is a favorite in the Brainy Gourmet kitchen. Why? Because it is so simple and delicious. Basically, all you will need are: skinless/boneless chicken breasts, onion, garlic, heavy cream/plain yogurt, tomato paste, a couple of tasty spices such as cumin, coriander and paprika and also some dried herbs like mint and rosemary.

Melt on med heat in a deep skillet 2 tbs of olive oil and 1/2 stick of butter. Next, saute in the oil and butter whole one chopped onion and one glove garlic until browned, then add cubed chicken breast meat, continue to cook on med heat.

To this add 1 cup of heavy cream, 1/4 cup of yogurt, one small can of tomato paste and your spices/herbs (using as much as you like; recommending 1 tsp of each). Cover and let simmer on low (30-40min) while you prepare sides. My family likes to eat this with potatoes and or buckwheat groats. You can also serve as a side a hearty dark green winter squash which is really nice baked and then mix with mashed potatoes... one way to get the kids to eat a good for them vegetable medley.