Fresh, fast and frugal!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Good Food Combinations... The Eyes Have it!

Good food combinations just look good on the plate, as in right. The taste buds can just sense good flavor using the eyes.

Our vision, what comes in through our eyes, provides a lot of information if we just take notice of it: color and texture offer a lot to our sense of taste. Always go with basics on the plate: meat/starch/carb and vegetable and your palate will appreciate it.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Food Combinations ~ What works? Play Fast and Frugal...

The Brainy Gourmet is about enjoying life, having fun in the kitchen. Food combinations are important and so is their arrangement on the plate; including on your kids' plate. Some don't like when certain foods touch each other. Its not odd to have such preferences. In fact, that is what good food combinations are all about. Some things just don't go together. 

Not too far back, the Brainy Gourmet blogged about food waste in America. Largely, that stems from putting too much on the plate and trying to satisfy every food group on the plate at every meal. You don't have to do that.  In fact, some foods just don't go together even though alone (by themselves) they are very good to eat. 

For instance, we want to have a green vegetable during our meal. If that vegetable has a certain texture or smell that does not work with the other food staples on the plate then don't let them share the same plate. Certainly, don't let fruits share the plate with any main course... who wants watermelon juice in the mashed potatoes, right? 

The Brainy Gourmet has always advocated to prepare and consume a simple home-cooked meal: meat/starch or carb with side vegetable; which can be served off side (in/on a separate bowl/plate). Fruit is best eaten after dinner or as a snack during the day. Some eat fruit for breakfast and that is okay. 

Food combinations... eat what you like but don't put too much of what you like on the same plate. Again, the basic plate is - meat with a starch/carb and a vegetable side. The Brainy Gourmet Card Game is a great teaching tool for this. Check the side margin of this blog and buy it as a gift!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Pork Loin with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Dried Plums...

This dish is a no brainer, which I have said many times before. But, its true and its truly delicious. You and your family will think you/they went out... like to Italy.

This dish can be done in the skillet or in the oven in a glass baking dish. You will need: one pound lean pork loin (boneless) along with a jar of sun dried tomatoes and a package of dried plums. Recommended sides can be baked potato and green beans.

To begin, turn on the oven to 350F. Then, take a glass baking dish, drizzle in olive oil and lay in the pork loin. Sprinkle with dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano with a dash of garlic powder and pinch of sea salt. When the oven is up to temp, put the loin into the oven uncovered.

Let this roast for about 25 min. Next, add to the pork loin as many sun dried tomatoes and dried plums as you like, toss in a few pats of butter and 1/4 of heavy cream. Finish in the oven on 325F uncovered for another 25 - 35 minutes more. Prepare your sides.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Chicken Picata ~ Let me Count the Brainy Ways...

Looking back over the years, I have made chicken picata a number of times and each time a little different from the other and yet each with its own amazing flavor. So, tonight was no different in that respect but different in that I made it for the first time in the oven. And, you know what? I think I will make it this way from now on.

Do as you would for chicken picata in the skillet only using a glass baking dish. Begin by marinating as many chicken breasts (skinless/boneless) as you will need per person, in fresh squeezed lemon juice, a generous drizzle of olive oil and fresh dried herbs: rosemary, mint, and oregano. Set aside for 30 min. Pre-heat your oven to 400F. Once up to temp, slide in the chicken.

As soon as the breasts brown on top and the juices are bubbling around them, toss in some capers, a few slices of lemon (thin) and a few pats of butter in and around the breasts. Reduce the heat to 350, and slide them back into the oven for 10 min. After that time, pour in 1/4 cup of heavy cream and the same of buttermilk.

Shake some grated parmesan cheese over the top and back in the oven on 325 while you prepare the sides: angel hair pasta and a green vegetable. Ladle tender pasta onto a serving plate and top with the chicken picata. Put out some extra parm and enjoy.

~ Tutti a Tavola

A Starch-Based Diet is a Nutritional Regimen... that fuels your body!

Hurrah for the simple Potato!

What if I told you that potentially staying healthy and eating right is not as difficult as they may often seem? That you could possibly drastically improve your health and give your body the nutrients it needs while still consuming a number of your favorite foods.

Even though it may sound like a TV ad you’ve heard a million times before, this time there is no gimmick or set of easy payments that you need to make. This time there is fact, and the facts show that the potential key to a healthy life is a starch-based diet.

A starch-based diet is a nutritional regimen that fuels your body through 70% starch, 10% fruits and 20% vegetables while cutting out meats, dairy and certain oils. Currently spearheaded by Dr. John McDougall, starch-based diets date as far back as the Neanderthals; with other evidence showing it’s existence throughout even the Aztec and Mayan civilizations.

The one thing each of these civilizations held in common is that they were all lean, fit and healthy which is the polar opposite to the typical individual of the modern day western world.

Not only does that menu probably effectively tantalize your taste buds but it also does something that I’ve often found other diets lacked: it has the ability to actually make you feel fully satisfied.  In my own experience of them, both potatoes and legumes have always been amongst the most filling food items I’ve ever consumed, even more so than most of the meats I used to eat.

So not only does this diet allow you to continue to enjoy delicious foods it also satisfies the expanded hunger requirements our previous dietary choices have programmed us to feel we need. By having this feature it allows for an even easier transition to both beginning the diet and also later adjusting to a more appropriate consumption quantity.

 *Source ~ The above shared text can be found at this link.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Potato Pierogi with Lean Iowa Cut Pork chops...

Its not yet Spring, so meat and potatoes... easy, filling and satisfying!

In my travels, (*see youtube ~ 'travel abroad'), you hear me describe frugality and how I learned what that means to different people while living and cooking abroad. Pierogi, i.e. are  frugal; because, they are a simple food, easy to prepare, they fill you up, satisfying your hunger, giving you plenty of energy to run on. Along with a few pierogi on your plate, a pork cutlet and side of apple/cabbage salad...

Here in the Midwest, we too have our frugal specialties and Iowa is known for its pork. Idaho potatoes and Wisconsin dairy. Those three basic: meat, potatoes and milk or cream can make a meal in a pinch that will feed your family.

For this dish you will need: one package (12 potato pierogi), a package (6 per) of Iowa cut pork chops with bone in but doesn't have to be. If you buy bone in, you will find the price per package to be lower than boneless... so if you don't want to pay more for the same quality of meat then buy bone in and cut it out yourself.

If you want another vegetable side, you can buy a jar of apple/cabbage salad (very Polish) and or cook your favorite veggie. Applesauce is also a great compliment to this meal; homemade is always best.

Flash fry the chops in a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil and seasonings: sea salt, garlic powder, red pepper flakes and dried herbs. Reduce the heat in the skillet while you boil the pierogi in salted water until they roll  up to the top of the pot. Once the pieorgi pop to the top of the rolling boil, ladle them out and set aside for a second or two.

Remove the chops from the skillet placing them onto a serving plate and quick fry the pieorgi in the same skillet allowing them to absorb all the meat juice flavors. Place them on the same large plate as the chops, garnish and serve with sour cream and apple/cabbage salad.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Keeping Stock...Its Always Brainy!

Leaner cooking and eating can and should begin with stock. Besides being a simply yet brainy source of nutrition, having stock around, keeping stock, allows you to create various soups, sauces and even gravies.

Here is a list of some of the best basic stocks. Most stock starts simply by boiling any meat product with a pinch of salt/pepper, one onion/leek and stalk of celery/carrot. Any, those added vegetable items can be easily drained off and served on the side.

In this way, you are left with a clear/clean stock which can become or assist in making other delicious soups/meals.

Beef Stock:
4 quarts of water
1 Beef Shank
1 large bone (hock)
1 large onion
3 tbs of salt
1 bay leaf

Chicken Stock:
4 quarts of water
1 whole chicken or thigh/wing pieces
1 large onion and one stalk of celery/leek
3 tbs of salt along with a pinch of black pepepr

Veal Stock:
4 quarts of water
2 lbs of cracked veal bone
1 lb of veal shank in chunks
1 large onion and one celery stalk
1 bay leaf with salt and pepper to taste

* You can also add a clove of garlic and or dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano or just parsley. Carrots are often added to stocks to create a sweeter flavor but are not necessary.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Leaner Cuisine in the New Year...

Thai at home...the Brainy Gourmet way!

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

Grab a covered skillet and on medium heat 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, 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 of its 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 the heat to high and let this mixture start to sizzle and bubble. Take the pre-cut pork (1 inch thick medallions), add a drop more of oil if needed, to sear on both sides, having pushed aside the peppers.

Cover and let cook for 12 min, on low flame/heat.  In the meantime, boil water, adding a pinch of salt, to cook the rice noodles. Keep an eye on the pork medallions and peppers, occasionally stirring.

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

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Italian Meatball Sandwich with Plenty of Red Sauce...

Any Italian knows that ya just make your meatballs, and simmer in red sauce... right? I could taste this in my dreams...

For this dish, use whatever ground meat you prefer to use. For this batch, ground turkey was used. Mix 1lb of ground turkey with 1/4 cup of heavy cream, 1/3 cup of dry bread crumbs, some garlic powder, a shake of parmesan cheese, a pinch of salt and dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano. Shape into meatballs and set aside.
Saute one purple onion along with 1/2 of a green pepper and 1/2 of a red pepper in olive oil. Toss in the meatballs after the onion and pepper have browned. Then let the meatballs brown a little on each side. Next, pour in 3-4 tbs of beef stock, cover and let simmer on med. high heat for about 4-5 min. Open a medium size can of crushed tomatoes and pour that in over the top of the meatballs.

Let simmer for 35-40 min on low heat. If you want toasted bread rolls, heat the oven to 350F,  drizzle each opened 'face up' roll with olive oil, lay in some mozzarella cheese and pop in the oven until the cheese melts, then ladle in the meatballs and sauce and serve.

His and hers...

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Beef Stroganoff with Blackened Asparagus

Beef Stroganoff is on the menu... so luscious, so creamy rich and romantically delicious you might think you are at some far off European bistro... serve with fresh green crisp asparagus - blackened.

For this dish you will need: quality cuts of beef (stew meat or thick sirloin cut into chunks), one medium onion, dark brown Bavarian mushrooms, beef stock, heavy cream and wide egg noodle pasta - Tagliatelle.

To begin, marinate the beef in balsamic vinegar and pink Himalayan salt for 30-40 min. When that time is nearly finished, in a large skillet saute the onion in olive oil until dark brown on the edges. Remove from skillet and in the same skillet, brown the mushrooms, adding 3 tbs of butter. Once the mushrooms are darker and tender, remove from the skillet putting them aside with the onion and sear the beef in chunks (drained) in the same skillet, adding a drizzle of olive oil.

Bring back into the skillet the onion and mushrooms, pour in about 3 tbs of beef stock, a half shot of either white wine or vodka, stirring on high heat. Then turning down the heat, add the heavy cream about 1/2 cup, cover and let simmer while you prepare the pasta and asparagus. Boil the pasta in a large pot of salted water until tender, drain and ladle onto a low lipped plater. The asparagus should be flash stir fried in olive oil, then cover to simmer on medium high adding 1 tbs of beef stock.

 Serve all together, start the music and pour the wine...

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Alla Cacciatora ~ 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!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Roman Style Pork Steak with Spaghetti Napoli Puttanesca....

Pigs are grown throughout Italy. It is the one meat that is found in all the regions of the country. One can find good pork on many menus no matter which Italian town you visit. And, Italians like a tasty pasta as a side served with their pork. 

A common recipe in Naples and Southern Italy is a richer version of spaghetti al pomodoro called  puttanesca which can include capers but not necessarily. What is necessary are: beef stock, dried herbs, black olives, purple onion, fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, pork sausage and good prosciutto all of which give the dish its unique, savory taste.

You will need: as many pork steaks per guest. Spaghetti pasta, beef stock, black olives, stewed or whole tomatoes, one purple onion, tomato paste, pork sausage (mild breakfast) and prosciutto. To begin, marinate 'pounded' pork steaks in balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, sea salt and dried herbs. 

Next, start sauteing silvered purple onion in olive oil along with diced prosciutto and crumbled pork sausage. When all are browned on the edges, add either four med. size (peeled) tomatoes or one small can of stewed tomatoes. Stir and then add 1/2 cup of beef stock. Add dried herbs: rosemary, mint, oregano, and about 4 tbs of tomato paste and the black olives (half jar) or leave out and use when serving.  Let this simmer while you prepare the pork steaks and pasta. 

Sear the pork steaks in olive oil using the liquids from the marinate. Once seared, place in a glass baking dish and stick in the oven (250F) while the pasta cooks in boiling salted water. When tender, drain and ladle into the skillet with the Napoli meat sauce. Top with parsley and serve with pork steaks. 

 Put out the olives and parmesan cheese...
~ Tutti a Tavola!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Wintry Weekend Breakfast...

Even when you aren't on vacation or can't get out cause you've been snowed in... just imagine sitting on a terrace with views of the Alps... what would you order for breakfast?

French toast using day old French bread rolls soaked in egg/buttermilk wash fried in safflower oil, smothered in fresh creamy butter and Vermont maple syrup... Above that, baked brie with homemade raspberry jam. Below, good ole steak and eggs and bacon cakes stacked!

*Go to Brainy Archives or check the right margin of this blog for pictured breakfast recipes...

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Italian Goulash with Meatballs and Sausage on a bed of Linguine...

Good Food goes with good wine....

For this dish you will need: ground veal and mild Italian sausage (no fennel) and you will need fresh garden tomatoes and green/red peppers. Blanch about 6 whole tomatoes and remove the skin or 1 large can of whole tomatoes.

Wash and cut up 4-5 peppers. Chop one whole onion and saute together with the peppers in olive oil. Once browned, add the whole skinless tomatoes to the onion and peppers. Simmer this for 3 hours until you have a delicious liquid... sauce.

Prepare meatballs: mix ground 1 lb ground veal with 1/2 cup of bread crumbs, 1/4 cup of heavy cream, 1 tbs of grated parmesan cheese along with dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano, a dash of garlic powder and a pinch of salt.

Drop the meatballs into the tomatoes/pepper sauce (add some chicken stock if you need more liquid) which should be at a rolling boil. In the meantime, grill or pan fry 2 links of Italian sausage cut into chunks along with one diced tomato until slightly blackened. Boil the linguine in salted water. Once tender, drain and rinse.

Serve the drained linguine on large plates or even bowls, top with the meatball tomato and pepper sauce and add a few sausage chunks/blackened tomatoes. Top with fresh grated parmesan cheese.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Roasted Pork Shoulder with Mashed Potatoes ~ American vs. Italian Style....

More winter time comfort food...

Roasted pork shoulder with mashed potatoes... the American version vs. Italian!

There is not a huge difference between the two versions. One version is served with gravy and a side of green beans and the other with red pesto and grated parmesean along with roasted celery root and Brussel sprouts. Its not that Brussel sprouts are more Italian than green beans, it just turns out that I like them more than other family members.

Let's get started. You will need: one medium size pork shoulder, yellow gold potatoes (two small per person), a vegetable side, celery root, red pesto and grate parmesan.  Season the pork butt at least 2 hrs prior to roasting. Use a combination of dried herbs: rosemary, mint, oregano, and sage, one clove of diced garlic (or garlic powder), coriander, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and sea salt. In a glass baking dish, drizzle the pork with olive oil, rub in the seasoning.

Roast in the oven, first on 400f until it starts to spit (15 min), then turn down the temp to 350 and roast for about 2 hrs. For the last hour, turn the oven to 325 and toss in some peel and cubed celery root. Pour in 1/4 cup of chicken stock, cover and finish off the last hour. In the meantime, prepare mashed potatoes and a green vegetable side.

When serving, top the mashed potatoes with either gravy (made from drippings of the roast) or with red pesto and grated Parmesan. One can even mash the celery root into the mashed potatoes and or serve separate.

 * Tutti a Tavola!

Winter Time and Comfort Foods ~ Go Hand in Hand!

Winter time ... comfort food.

This dish can be done in one single skillet and in no time at all. You need to have chicken pieces: legs, thighs, or breasts with skin on. You can do all legs, or all thighs or all breasts or a mix. Take from your pantry: one onion, chicken stock, flour, heavy cream, milk and one egg.

Begin by browning one chopped onion in olive oil and a little butter in your covered skillet on med heat. Once the onion is browned on the edges, add your chicken pieces. Season using generously: rosemary, mint and oregano along with a dash of red pepper flakes and a dash of garlic powder. Cook the chicken on med heat until all sides have browned nicely.

Next, you will need to add 1 cup of chicken stock. Cover and let simmer for 30 min. on low heat. Near the end of this timed simmer, prepare your dumplings. Mix 2 cups of milk with 1 and 1/2 cups of flour (use gluten free if you are on such a diet) 1 tsp of baking powder, and one egg.  I suggest you eye ball the consistency of the dumpling dough, it should be sticky but not thick, so go slowly with the flour.

Just before you drop in your dumplings, add 1/4 cup of heavy cream to the chicken bubbling in the skillet. You may also want to add a bit more chicken stock if you see that it has reduced too much. The dumplings will need plenty of liquid to cook in.

Turn up the heat to med high and drop in your dumplings, cover and let them grow up into clouds of yummy.

Test them to make sure that they are completely cooked through, they should appear light and fluffy not gooey. If the are cooked through, then ladle all that goodness onto a large serving plate.

~ Tutti a Tavola!