Fresh, fast and frugal!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Slow Roasted Italian Chicken...

As the title suggests, slow roasted 'Italian' rosemary infused chicken with tiny potatoes is absolutely delicious and easy to make. To begin, you will need chicken thighs with the bone in and skin on (provides flavor). You will need green pepper, sun dried tomatoes, and tiny colorful potatoes as well as one fresh lemon.

Before roasting, marinate the chicken thighs in fresh squeezed lemon juice, garlic powder and sea salt along with dried herbs: rosemary mixed with oregano and mint and a hint of lavender. Drizzle over the top some olive oil as well. Let that stand for 30-40 min. Preheat your oven to 400f. When the temp is achieved, pop in the chicken.

While the chicken begins to sizzle in the roasting process, chop up one green pepper and prepare sun dried tomatoes by reconstituting them in boiling water.  Wash as many tiny potatoes as you need. Then take out the chicken and try to fit in cut up green pepper, the potatoes and sun dried tomatoes in and around the chicken thighs.

Let this roast in the oven for about 60-90 min (1 hr and half) turning down the heat to 325. The key is the very hot oven to start with. In the meantime, prepare green beans or asparagus as an additional side.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Pierogi with Pork Cutlets and Asparagus...

What could be simpler than hot hearty food served at a Tatra Mt. Lodge?

Pierogi are filled dumplings of Central European origin. They are made by wrapping unleavened dough around a savory or sweet filling and cooking in boiling water, or pan-frying. This pierogi version is pan fried in the same skillet as the pork cutlets.

For this dish you will need: pork cutlets (as many per person), deli fresh or homemade potato filled pierogi (3-4 per person), and fresh green asparagus. The best thing about this dish is that it can be done in the same skillet including the asparagus.

To begin, fry the cutlets in olive oil and seasoning. Once browned, the meat just turning white, add 1/4 cup of beef stock. Toss in the thin green asparagus tips, first to blanch with the cutlets (covered) and then to sear brown as a finish uncovered.

Next, remove the cutlets and asparagus to add the pierogi along with a bit more olive oil and a shake of paprika... fry on high heat for about 3 minutes. Lastly, add another 1/4 cup of beef stock, cover to simmer no more than 4 and a half minutes.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Brainy Zimbabwean 'Dovi' Chicken...

Its not often the brainy gourmet takes a far off food direction other than from her Italian heritage. This recipe was given to me by a neighbor whose family originated from Africa. It is called Dovi Chicken which is thick peanut butter stew made with chicken. It is really delicious and easy to make.

You will need: 6-8 chicken breast strips, boneless/skinless along with one green pepper, one whole onion, a package of frozen or fresh spinach, one can of diced tomatoes or 3-4 fresh,  'you stir' creamy organic peanut butter, garlic, cayenne pepper (but not necessary) and dried herbs: mint/ parsley. It is best to use only butter and coconut oil to cook in but olive oil is good too.

Using one skillet, begin by melting half a stick of butter and 1 tbs of coconut oil on med heat. Add one whole chopped onion and one whole washed green pepper. Saute until browned on edges. Push the onion and green pepper aside and lay in the chicken strips. Move the skillet so that the chicken is directly over the flame ...not the onion and peppers. If you need more oil, drizzle some coconut or olive oil over the top. Brown the chicken on both sides until the meat is completely white inside brown on top.

Next, add half a package of frozen spinach 'drained' (or two handfuls of fresh leaves chopped) and then add six tablespoons of creamy 'stirred' peanut butter. Move the onion and green pepper back in stirring with the chicken, spinach and peanut butter. Next, pour in an opened can of diced tomatoes or diced fresh. Sprinkle in your seasonings: 1 tsp of garlic powder and dried herbs plus a pinch of salt. The cayenne pepper is optional. Stir again and let this mixture simmer for about 20 min on low heat.

In the meantime, prepare white rice as a side dish. You can use lentils/or white beans 'soaked, drained and cooked' or boiled buckwheat groats.

Its Fabulous...

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Brainy Chunky Beef Chili Con Carne...

Rancher's style...

For this dish you will need: beef stew meat, one purple onion, one red pepper, one med. can of diced tomatoes (or 2 fresh chopped) and one med. can of black beans. Make sure you also have on hand: chili powder, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, cinnamon and dried herbs. Marinate the beef in balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and sea salt one hour prior to cooking.

In a deep stock pot, saute chopped onion in olive oil and long with the red pepper. Push aside and sear the beef, bring back in the onion and pepper. Cover with 1 cup of beef stock and the one can of diced tomato. Stir and then add the one can of 'drained' black beans and or red kidney beans if you prefer.

Sprinkle in chili powder, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, a pinch of cinnamon (go easy) and dried herbs: rosemary, oregano and mint. I like to sweeten this stew with either a little organic brown sugar or black strap molasses.

For a side dish, mashed potato pancakes fried in bacon drippings.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Brainy Chicken Chili Soup....

Whenever there is the last two cups of chicken stock in the fridge ... there is the call for chicken chili soup. And it suffices when chili con carne is being called for but the chicken stock has to get to used up. Besides that, you don't have any ground beef but left over chicken you have.

As usual, when making any soup... do not add a mess of ingredients: pasta, rice, carrots, corn, peas, potatoes, and or cauliflower etc. Keep it simple. You are making a soup not a stew or porridge. And that rule, applies here too.

Take the stock and add one large can of diced tomatoes. Shred left over chicken breasts into the pot as well along with 2 med. cans of northern white beans (drained). Add whatever amount of hot sauce or chili powder and or red pepper flakes as you want and let it simmer.

Serve topped with chopped fresh cilantro, parsley or fresh spinach if you prefer. You may also want to grate cheese on top.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Lamb with Ravioli Stuffed with Truffles...

Eating lamb in Italy goes back thousands of years. The lamb (“agnello,” in Italian) is an important symbol in Christianity. The image of the lamb appears in some of the most treasured Renaissance masterpiece paintings. The symbol of a lamb is represented in thousands of ecclesiastical images, as well as secular emblems, seals and flags all over the world. 

Do Italians eat lamb any other time or day of the week? Of course, they do. But, lamb is traditionally prepared at Easter. For this dish you will need: as ground lamb (3/4 per pound per guest). 

You want the 'patti' to be plump not flattened so 3/4 lb is a good amount to use. First, make your patties. Then season a skillet with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and herbs and start frying. 

Once browned on both sides, reduce the heat and pour in 1/4 cup of beef stock. Let them simmer while you prepare the ravioli. I was lucky to find fresh made truffled stuffed ravioli at the deli counter; but, if you don't just buy whatever they have or look in the frozen section for more variety.

Boil the ravioli in salted water until tender, then drain and ladle onto a low lipped serving plate. Set under your stoves heat lamp or warming tray while you make the sauce. Remove the lamb patties from the skillet (also to the warming tray) and use the rich liquid in the skillet to make a delicious sauce. Adding tbs of butter to the liquid and 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Once it bubbles, pour the sauce over the ravioli (adding some grated parmesan) and serve along with the lamb.

~ Tutti a Tavola 

Brainy Eggplant Parmesan... A Skillet Delish!

Delicious is just an Italian bistro away...

Eggplant parmesan doesn't have to be difficult or done in the can do this dish on the stove in the skillet. One large eggplant is all you need along with some bread crumbs, tomato sauce and grated parmesan cheese.

Begin by soaking (washed and semi-peeled) sliced eggplant in a milk bath. Pat down both sides on a plate of seasoned bread crumbs (seasoned with dried herbs). Then gently pan fry in olive oil until browned on both sides. You will be surprised how quickly the eggplant soaks up the olive oil, so you may need to drizzle in some extra as you see it begin to disappear in the pan/skillet while the eggplant sizzles.

Once you have finished browning the long slices, remove from the skillet and set aside. Clean the skillet with a moistened paper towel and return to the stove top. Add your tomato sauce, from the jar is fine as long as its your favorite. Lay in your browned eggplant slices. Let them simmer for about 20-25 min on med heat. Then as a finale, generously top with shaved Parmesan cheese and simmer for another 15 min.

Prepare a bucatini pasta or salad as a side to this stove top lusciousness ...

~Tutti a Tavola!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Brainy Eggplant Lasagna...Simply Delish!

Did you know that the name "eggplant" was given to the fruit by Europeans sometime in the mid-18th century; originating in Naples? The size and shape of the fruit was similar to those of goose eggs. At the time, the eggplant was more white and yellow than today's purple-skinned fruit, leading to an even closer comparison of the eggplant to an egg.

For this eggplant dish you will need: at least two large ripe eggplant, one purple onion, bread crumbs, canned crushed tomatoes, mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

To begin, chop onion and saute in skillet until browned, then remove and set aside. Next, wash and slice the eggplant length wise. Simmer in shallow amount of soup stock (chicken or beef) in the same skillet used for the onion. Likely, you won't get all the slices in at once so just do three or four at a time. Doing this, softens the eggplant and cuts down baking time in the oven.

Layer in a glass baking dish in this order: olive oil to coat the dish, eggplant slices, olive oil drizzle, sprinkle of bread crumbs, spoon of tomato sauce to each slice, grated cheese and dash of dried herbs (rosemary, mint and oregano). Put only one layer of onion... just before top layer.

Top off with sauce and grated cheese... bake on 375 until bubbling

 ~ Tutti a Tavola!

 Online source ~

Monday, March 11, 2019

Mediterranean Chicken at Home is a Vacation in Itself!

Who wouldn't want to look out from a balcony to see a Mediterranean sunset this time of year? Did you know that Mediterranean coastline and its cuisine is not just for Italians to enjoy. Many European countries (France, Spain, Greece) and north Africa have a border with that sea. And, thus there are delicious menus on every coast.

On past posts, for this dish, I advised you to have: skin on/bone in chicken thighs, black olives, roasted red peppers, diced tomatoes, onion and spinach tagliatelle or fettuccine 'wide egg noodle' pasta. However, I do like to change things up from time to time. Instead of the skillet version, the oven was used. Also, no onion, no peppers and no tomatoes. Say what?

Yes, this time you are getting the basic oven baked version. Sometimes, you have to be brainy when you don't have all the ingredients. Tonight, I used sun dried tomatoes and dried plums which some might argue is more a 'hunter style' or cacciatore...and, well it could be, except that Kalamata olives were included.

To get started, generously coat a glass baking dish with olive oil. Lay in the chicken thighs skin side down. Then, sprinkle over the top: garlic powder, paprika, dried onion, thyme, sage and rosemary. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

Then rotate, adding to the dish: 1/3 cup of chicken stock and 1/4 cup of red pepper juices (had a jar which was nearly used up and that was enough) along with the olives, plums and sun dried tomatoes. Turn on the convection switch if you have one and let the chicken crisp up while you prepare the pasta. Once the pasta is tender, drain and ladle onto a serving plate topping with chicken, all goodies and the rich sauce.


~ Tutti a Tavola!

Let a Little Sunshine in... Italian Style!

Spring is approaching ...time to get out and get some sun!

For this sunny dish, you will need to buy boneless skinless chicken breast strips, a jar of capers, one lemon, angel hair pasta, one onion, heavy cream and Parmesan cheese.

To begin, saute one whole chopped onion in olive oil, adding to that 2 tbs of butter. Prior to that, freshen your chicken breast strips in a rinse of fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Add the chicken strips to the skillet, having pushed the onion to one side of the skillet. Brown the strips on med. heat (adding an extra drizzle of olive oil) and then bring back in the onion.

Next, add 3/4 to 1 cup of heavy cream, dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano and half a jar of capers, cover and simmer for 8 min.  Near the end of those eight minutes, slice half a fresh 'washed' lemon, laying in the slices on top of the chicken to cook covered on low heat for about 2-3 minutes.

Don't forget to prepare the angel hair pasta (very thin pasta) by cooking in salted boiling water until tender. Once, tender, drain the pasta and ladle the pasta onto a low lipped serving plate. When the 'Picata' is finished, top the pasta with the rich creamy lemony chicken sauce; grate Parmesan cheese on top and serve.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Australian Lamb Chops with Blackened Onions in Molasses...

Want an incredible 'meat' treat? Try this for a quick, frugal dinner menu: Australian lamb chops with blackened onions/garlic and molasses. Yes, you read it right, molasses. And, the health benefits from molasses will definitely amaze  you (Check the Brainy Facebook Page for Molasses post).

For this dish you will need: as many lamb chops as per person at the dinner table. Molasses, onion, garlic, sherry and Worcestershire sauce. As a garnish, and while searing the chops, use a few fresh sprigs of rosemary.

The side dish for this meat delight was au gratin potatoes. Now, to get started, marinate the chops in Worcestershire sauce. Then move on to the potatoes; wash, peel and slice thin to be layered in a glass baking dish drizzled with olive oil and dried herbs.

Once you have layered the potato slices to the brim of the dish, pour over the top 1/2 cup of chicken stock, 1/2 cup of milk and smooth over the top 4 tbs of mayonnaise. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and a pinch of salt. Bake at 375 until bubbling. Prior to serving, grate Swiss and smoked Gouda over the top, let crisp on top.

When the au gratin is nearly finished, chop one onion and 2 gloves of garlic. In a medium sz. skillet, saute in olive oil and a bit of sherry, and 1 tbs of molasses. Cook until caramelized. Push aside in the skillet and lay in the chops to sear on all sides.

Once seared, top with a quick pour of sherry to each chop. Bring back the sauteed onion and garlic and pour in 1/4 cup of soup stock (beef/turkey). Turn up the heat until it roars and then reduce the heat to cover while you make a leafy green salad.

The flavor is absolutely delicious!

You will think you are eating out in the Wolgan Valley...

 ~ Tutti a Tavola

Eating is Social ~ Food is more than just Food!

Eating is social and food is more than just food. Why? Because, food is what we eat to keep going 'socially'. It is unfortunate that we eat less and less socially as in with other people and even less with our own family and friends as the fast paced popular culture takes over our lives.

Yes, eating in restaurants is social but we need to eat with people we know as in those who are familiar to us such as family or friends; because it is the intimate social engagement that we benefit from: body and mind.

Yes, food is a life giving substance that is central to our health; but, what we eat, how we eat, and with whom eat and where is very important as well. That is why, it is constantly being discussed, debated and politicized. Most of the time, we’re eating the wrong things or too much, or not enough, and on the run. Which is contrary to our attempts to become a healthier society.

We need to engage each other in food preparation and in serving it to those we love with whom we share our lives and our problems with daily. In sum, eating social. It is about sharing our lives with those we love and in this way, we are under less stress and can enjoy a meal taken in togetherness. 

"Look ~ Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends." Rev. 3:20

*Source ~

Friday, March 1, 2019

Its Friday Night... why not Salmon?

Salmon has to be one of the best sources of Omega 3. Its very easy to prepare and to cook. To firm up the meat prior to frying, baking or grilling, let the salmon rest in a shallow glass dish of pure fresh squeezed lemon juice.

When it comes to cooking salmon, you can bake in the oven, blackened on the grill or fry in the skillet. If you prefer to fry in the skillet, begin by searing the fillets on both sides in olive oil and butter (not to much butter as it tends to burns). Once seared, turn down the heat and add 2 pats of butter and let simmer while you prepare sides of your choice. For a blackened finish in the skillet just turn up the heat letting the skin side down get black and crispy.

~ Tutti a Tavola!