Fresh, fast and frugal!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Brainy Dinner by the beach...

Tuna steaks are great grilled or seared in the skillet with a creamy dill and chive sauce to top!

For this dish you will need: as many tuna steaks as guests, heavy cream, butter, fresh dill sprigs, chive and rosemary. To begin, dress your skillet with several drops or more of olive oil or coconut oil depending on your dietary choices. If you are going to sear up to 6-8 steaks, use a bit more oil and a very large skillet.

Once the steaks are seared on both sides, turn down the heat and add 1/4 cup of heavy cream if you like or just 2-3 tbs of butter... either or its your choice. Add your herbs and let simmer uncovered while you prepare a side dish which can be anything you prefer: pasta, a fresh green salad or stir fried vegetables.*Note, do not let the steaks get dried out as uncovering will reduce juices. You can always remove from heat, set aside as you prepare your sides.

Put fresh lime or lemon halves on the table, a good squeeze over the tuna adds zest and zing.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Tuscan Garlic Chicken with Rosemary...

Tuscan garlic chicken with rosemary marinated in lemon juice and served with potatoes mashed with Parmesan cheese and garlic. You will need to buy: a package of chicken thighs with the bone in and skin on. Fresh garlic, one lemon, fresh rosemary sprigs or use dried, yellow gold potatoes (six or seven med. size) and Parmesan cheese.

To begin, marinate the chicken thighs in a glass baking dish using the juice of one lemon, toss over the top 3-4 peeled and diced garlic cloves, drizzle on some olive oil and lay on your rosemary sprigs or sprinkle generously dried rosemary. Heat your oven to 425F.

After 12-15 min. of marinating time, place the chicken in the oven and roast for about 30-40 min uncovered. Check to see if the skin is crisping and if yes, turn over the thighs, return to the oven for 5 min. After five minutes or so turn the thighs back over and consider adding a few fresh washed red cherry tomatoes and a handful of kalamata olives.

Return to the oven covered, reduce heat to 350F and let roast for another 15 -20 min. Take this time now to prepare the potatoes. Wash, peel and halve, the potatoes. Add to boiling salted water and cover. When tender, drain and mash using 3 tbs of butter, the same of sour cream, a dash of olive oil, Parmesan cheese, 1/4 tsp of minced garlic and 1 tsp of dried herbs - Italian blend. 

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Pork Loin Medallions in Mustard Sauce...

Oh the Taste, so Regal, so French, so Versailles....

Pork loin cut into medallions in mustard sauce with sun dried tomatoes and dried plums... so yummy. And, tonight's dinner is served with a few left overs. For this dish, you will need: 1 lb of boneless lean pork loin, onion, Dijon mustard, heavy cream, sun dried tomatoes and dried plums - prunes.

To begin, saute one chopped onion in olive oil until browned. Push aside in the skillet and sear the loin which you cut into one inch thick medallions. Once seared, bring back the onion, shake some garlic powder over them, a couple of mills 'grinds' of sea salt and as much dried herbs: rosemary, oregano and mint as you like.

Next, drop in several sun dried tomatoes (jarred is best) and as many dried plums. Then pour in 1/2 cup of heavy cream and 3 tbs of Dijon mustard or more depending on your preference. Let simmer while you prepare sides. As I said, this evening we will eat left overs along with the medallions in mustard sauce and a few sliced steamed buttered zucchini.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Brainy Creamy Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo...

Late summertime blues.... cook up a batch of creamy chicken alfredo served on fettuccine pasta and escape to Italia where everyone is on vacation!

For this dish you will need: boneless, skinless chicken breasts, fettuccine pasta, heavy cream, onion, and parmesean cheese. There are two great sides to serve along with this dish: a mixed green salad and fresh green asparagus.

To begin, saute chopped onion in olive oil until browned on the edges. Push the browned onion aside and in the same skillet, sear the chicken breasts (cut into strips) shaking some garlic powder over the top and tossing in a pinch of sea salt. Next, add fresh dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano and a bit of basil.  To that, pour in 1 cup of heavy cream and 1/2 cup of grated parmesean cheese.

While the sauce bubbles away on low heat uncovered, you can boil the pasta and prepare either a salad or the asparagus or both. Once the pasta is tender, drain and rinse. Ladle the fettuccine onto a low lipped serving plate pouring out all the delicious sauce and chicken over the pasta. Lastly, top with grated parmesan cheese and call everyone to the table - Tutti a Tavola!

So so good and there is plenty - Abbondanza!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Brainy Gourmet's Jambagumbo...

Yes, you read it right, 'jambagumbo'. And, its just as you imagine, jambalaya and gumbo combined.  But, one might just think of it as a really juicy jambalaya. Its not only juicy but its hot and spicy as well.

For this dish you will need: wild rice, long grain rice, onion, tomatoes, Italian sausage and shrimp. To begin, saute one chopped onion and two cloves of garlic in olive oil. Once browned, push aside and add 1lb of bulk Italian sausage (sweet/mild or hot depends on what you like). When the sausage is brown, bring the onion/garlic back in and stir.

Next add 2 cups of diced tomatoes (or use one small can of diced tomatoes) and 1/2 cup of beef stock. Then add your spices and add only as much as you like in terms of heat: red pepper flakes, paprika, cayenne pepper, a pinch of salt and dried sweet basil.

Let simmer while you cook the rice: a blend of wild rice and long grain. Start the wild rice first, 1/2 cup boiled in 1 and 1/2 cup of beef stock. When it becomes slightly tender, add 1/2 cup of long grain rice add water to replace any lost liquid. Boil together until fully tender. Then drain and add to the sausage sauce.

To finish, take a package of frozen pre-cooked 'large' shrimp, thawed and rinsed, de-tail and add to the pot. Lastly, let this mixture gather flavor on low heat for about 20 minutes.

Set the table and get ready to jambagumbo!  And, don't forget a bottle of Louisiana hot sauce...

*Where is the gumbo in this? Its really just a soupy jambalaya... but surely you can serve fried okra as a side or crunch some over the top.

The Best of the Best Comfort Foods ~ Swiss Steak!

Nothing brings me back to the idea of a country home kitchen more than the delicious taste of Swiss steak with a heaping side of mashed potatoes.

For this dish, you will need a large round steak, one whole onion, one small can of tomato paste and fresh dried herbs. Its as simple as that; and of course - yellow gold potatoes (2 per person is my ratio when making mashed).

To begin, marinate the steak in balsamic vinegar, two dashes of A1 steak sauce and a couple of good shakes of meat tenderizer. After 1-2 hours, begin cooking by sauteing one whole onion chopped in olive oil on med heat. While the onion begins to brown on the edges, cut up the round steak into palm size medallions or even strips.

Push the onions aside and lay in the steak, turn up the heat to high to sear the meat on both sides. Next, turn down the heat to med. and bring back the onion adding 1 cup of water and all of the contents of the one small can of tomatoes paste. Give it a good stir and add your dried herbs: rosemary, mint, oregano and sage.

Let this simmer on the stove on low heat for 30-40 min. Prepare potatoes (wash and peel) cut into halves and boil in salted water until tender. Once the potatoes pass the fork test, drain and mash with butter and milk until creamy.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Its That Blueberry Time of Year....

Depending on your location/region, blueberry picking is either over or midway through. So, you may either be picking or freezing them or picking some at your local grocer/farmer's market.

In that case, who can't help but think blueberry muffins or pancakes, right?  The flavor is amazing and you know too that blueberries are good for you in many ways.

Long before Fats Domino was crooning about "Blueberry Hill," Native Americans used the potent fruit to treat coughs. These tiny little gems do indeed pack a potent punch. They rank the highest of any fruit for antioxidants (those free-radical-fighting powerhouses), and one cup delivers 14% of the recommended daily dose of fiber and nearly a quarter of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.

For today, try baking some blueberry muffins for when the kids come home from school. What a nice way to say welcome home and back to school. Put one in their lunch!  Even if you are not a baker, just be brainy and make em blueberry pancakes to start their day... and or first day back!

The Brainy Gourmet and the Brainy Baker recommend this mix while using fresh clean juicy blueberries and farm fresh eggs.

*Source ~

*And, special thanks to the Brainy Baker for sharing her ideas - look forward to hearing more from her on this blog.

Why the Brainy Gourmet is about taking stock....

When looking online/youtube, you can and will find a variety of foodie blogs and some of them are original having 'real' home cooks at the helm while most others are corporate PR put out to drive other market agendas.

Why or how is the Brainy Gourmet different?  Its a food ministry that values frugality and flavor.  The Brainy Gourmet shares tips and real life cooking experiences that introduce and encourage frugality and flavor both of which can had from basic food items thereby stretching your food budget dollar without taking anything away from enjoying a satisfying meal at home.

Frugality is about taking stock in what your taste buds prefer and what you should and can have on hand in the pantry. Its about making a soup stock and turning it into five different soups by the end of the week or using it as a base for sauces or stews. Frugality is about keeping a simple pantry stocked with items that can make any dinner into a gourmet meal.

For instance, at the beginning of the week, buy a piece of meat or a whole chicken.  Take out a stock pot, fill with water and put in your meat. If you are a vegetarian, then use the veggies of your choice.

When the meat/chicken is fully cooked, lift out the meat and you will have stock. The meat can be reserved for other dishes during the week or used the same day for dinner.

In this way, stock can become any soup any day of the week. Stock adds needed flavor and liquid to just about anything else you cook including stir fry. It can also be used to make a sauce or gravy. Now, that's frugality!

Check out the webpage and click on archives - Get Brainy, Be Frugal!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Tender Juicy Pork Loin...Eat like a King!

In all my cooking years, I have met very few people that know what to do with a pork loin. They know chops, bone in or butterfly, they know pork roast, they know bacon, they know ham... but a loin???

The loin is the best cut and the best loin is boneless with just a little fat on one side. You can spit (1lb to 1lb and half) the loin down the middle and use those pieces cut into medallions for two different meals which you have already seen and read about on the Brainy Gourmet blog. But, for this dish, use the entire loin. Whenever, I make this dish, I relish in the thought of a royal medieval buffet.

To begin, heat the oven to 375 (to be reduced later on to 350). Take the loin and poke holes all around. Shake sea salt on all sides and lay it down into a glass dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, top with generously with dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano.

Let it rest like that for about 15 min., while the oven heats up. Cover the loin with foil and pop in the oven at 375 for about 15-18 min. After that time, pour in 3/4 cup of beef stock, and 1/2 cup of teriyaki sauce. Add to that, a few handfuls of dried plums and sun dried tomatoes (from the jar is ok). Remove the foil cover and return to the oven at 350 until the meat thermometer tells you its down, just slightly pink inside, mostly white meat.

Serve with potatoes, green beans and or a salad.

Home Cooking ~ Its Brainy Good Part 2

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.

A lot of people these days stay 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.

Home Cooking ~ Its Brainy Good!

If you and or your family are facing stressful events, then cooking for yourself and them can help  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 ~

*If you are among those fairing well these days, then consider helping others to cook at home; wherever they are, pass on this helpful and meaningful information. Sharing the Brainy Gourmet blog, 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 at home.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Summertime and Campfire Cookin...

Could you cook over an open fire?


My family and I have frequently cooked outside in the backyard using only a wood-fire 'campfire'. We especially like to cook breakfast over an open fire. There is something exciting and comforting when you can  cook successfully outdoors.

For apple 'fritter' dumplings, just use prepared 'store bought' biscuit/bread dough, un-fold from the container and hand fill or knead in peeled precooked apple chunks and then deep fry in hot oil over an open fire. Be sure to use a deep cast iron kettle and be extra careful as in cautious!

Do not toss the fritters in the oil as they will splash out the hot oil on you and the fire which could cause a serious burn to the cook and anyone standing near and cause the fire to roar out of control. Make a note, this could happen on stove top cooking as well so gently ladle in the fritters.

As soon as you see them bobble up to the top, turn them over to brown the other side. Once cooked, take them from the oil using a proper slotted ladle (metal or wood) as this drains off the oil; then place your fritters on a paper towel lined basket, sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Yesterday's Goulash, Today's Chicken Cacciatore!

That's right, yesterday's zucchini goulash is going to be today's chicken cacciatore ~ Hunter Style! How? Read on...

Firstly, cacciatore means "hunter" in Italian. In cuisine, alla cacciatora refers to a meal prepared "hunter-style" with onions, herbs, usually tomatoes, often bell peppers, and sometimes wine. Cacciatore is popularly made with braised chicken. Now, since we will use yesterday's goulash, all there is really to do is braise/brown the chicken.

For this dish you will need: as many chicken thighs (skin on/bone in) per guest you intend to have at the table. You will need a half cup of either dark or green olives and of course, yesterday's ready made goulash.

To begin, brown the chicken skin side down in a skillet of olive oil, med/high heat. Once it is browned, let simmer covered on med/low heat while you heat up the goulash. Next, lay in the thighs (placing them in the goulash), add the olives, cover and then cover to let simmer until the potatoes are cooked and finished out mashed.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Summertime Goulash... Its not just Hungarian!

Goulash is a stew or soup filled with meat and vegetables. So, you decide which. You can do either meat or vegetables or or both. When I was growing up, my mother always made her delicious summertime goulash using zucchini, green or red pepper, red or purple onion and fresh garden tomatoes. 

For this dish you will need: 3 or 4 medium size zucchini, one green or red pepper, red or purple onion and about 6 medium size tomatoes (you can cheat and use a large can of diced tomatoes). 

To begin, saute chopped onion and pepper in olive oil. Wash and dice the zucchini to add to the pot and of course the tomatoes as well as fresh dried herbs: rosemary, mint, basil and oregano. 

Let this simmer for about 50 min. During that time, if it looks like it lacks liquid, add a bit of beef or chicken stock; and, for thicker consistency just drop in 1 tbs of tomato paste.

Serve with a green salad and bread...

~ Tutti a Tavola!

The Brainy Gourmet Shares ~ Brainy Guy Food!

The Brainy Guy likes food gooey and fried. So either a deep fried whole onion or rings and a pulled pork sandwich made at home is just as good as any or better than any stonehouse/roadhouse menu. Guys are visual and so for them its enough to look at a youtube video and just do it.

Cactus 'Bloomin' Onion ~ I never did this myself but watched the video with the brainy guy and here is what it looked like.

For a really great pulled pork, its got to be gooey and juicy at the same time. That is why, the quality of the meat (pork butt), tender and juicy; it should speak for itself when you taste it. Even then, I have no problem with a bottle of Kentucky Bourbon barbecue sauce as a great topper... to put it simply ~ over the top yum!

FYI ~ Still Prefer and Love Eatin at Home! It's always cheaper and you are not rushed. I think that is why most Brainy Guy food is just ~ slow foodin.