Fresh, fast and frugal!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Beef Burgundy with Garden Carrots, Asparagus and Potatoes...

Beef bourguignon or known as "Beef Burgundy", is a beef stew braised in red wine, often red Burgundy, along with beef stock, generally flavored with carrots, onions, garlic, pearl onions, and mushrooms. Its a traditional countryside but elegant French dish.

The simplest recipe... if you need one is an old Julia Child recipe. She referred to it as the best beef dish ever concocted by man. And, it just so happens to be the one I cook with memorized years ago and simple enough that anyone who loves to cook could come up with it.

3/4 lb boneless beef sirloin steak, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon pepper 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
1 cup sliced mushrooms 

You can cook the beef and mushrooms in a skillet on the stove while you roast in a glass dish in the oven some garden fresh carrots, asparagus and tiny new potatoes.  

Sear the beef cubes in olive oil, add the salt and pepper and dried herbs of your liking... I recommend rosemary, mint, oregano and thyme. Add to that, 1/3 cup of beef stock and 1/4 cup of red wine. You may wish to add a little more of either stock or wine depending on your preferences.  

Personally, I like to cook the mushrooms off side in another skillet in butter and cream with a dash of red wine and dried herbs; same as above. Lastly, adding them to the beef just before serving.  

~ Tutti a Tavola!

*As for desert... a crepe Suzette is the perfect end to a delicious meal. If you want to be Brainy frugal about it you can use leftover pancakes fried in butter with splash of brandy. Serve on a plate with heavy cream and homemade raspberry jam or halved ripe red plums or cherries. 

Friday, September 27, 2019

What makes a 'Brainy' Good Omelette?

Good ole eggs... that's what.

Why are eggs good at all? According to, eggs are loaded with high-quality proteins, vitamins, minerals, good fats and various trace nutrients. ... Only 77 calories, with 5 grams of fat and 6 grams of protein with all 9 essential amino acids. Rich in iron, phosphorus, selenium and vitamins A, B12, B2 and B5.

Wondering how to make the perfect omelet? There is more than one way of making omelets. Many different ingredients can be used for the fillings and the possibilities are endless.

Use one or more of your favorite foods. Some classic omelet fillings include shredded Cheddar or Gruyere cheese, sour cream, diced ham, crisp bacon, sautéed mushrooms, bell peppers or tomatoes, caramelized onions, fresh herbs, even tasty leftovers from last night’s dinner.

Feeling elegant? Combine broccoli, Brie and toasted almonds. In a south-of-the-border mood? Try corn, salsa, chorizo and jalapeño cheese ~ taken from: the incredible edible egg ~ [].

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Pad Thai Meatballs with Stir Fried Zucchini...

Asian food is full of flavor and easy to prepare if you stick to a good stir fry!

For this dish you will need: 1lb ground meat (pork/turkey/veal), one purple 'sweet' onion, one green pepper and two young zucchini. Also, bread crumbs, dried herbs, lemon juice, buttermilk and jarred or bottled original Pad Thai sauce.

You can make your own 'original' Pad Thai sauce using these ingredients: 1 cup Tamarind paste (substitute using mashed dried plums with vinegar /lemon juice), ¼ cup Water, ¼ cup Fish sauce (substitute using oil from canned tuna/mackerel or sardines), 1 Tbsp Soy sauce, preferably low sodium, and ⅓ cup Brown sugar.

To begin, saute chopped onion and green pepper in 3 tbs olive oil and 2 tbs coconut oil. Once browned, set aside while you mix up ingredients for the meatballs. In a bowl, combine ground meat with 1 cup of bread crumbs, 1/2 cup of buttermilk and dried herbs: lavender, mint and basil with a pinch of sea salt. The mixture should be pasty.

Roll balls of the meat mixture in more bread crumbs and then squeeze fresh lemon juice on each meatball. In the same skillet as the onion and pepper were browned, gently fry the meatballs adding a 1 tsp more of coconut oil. When fully cooked, remove and in the same skillet stir fry strips of zucchini.

Allow the zucchini to singe on the edges. Remove from skillet, bring back to the skillet the onion, green pepper and meatballs. Add the Pad Thai sauce and let simmer while you prepare spinach infused pasta or use whatever pasta you prefer and or rice noodles.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Tagliatelle Pasta with Creamy Sauce and Scalloped Parsnips...

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!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Black Bean Meatloaf with Black Bean Gravy...

The last time I made this Tex Mex 'family' cuisine, black bean meatloaf, I served it with french fries and a savory gravy. Today, I made a creamy thick black bean gravy to top off mashed potatoes.

For this dish you will need: ground beef and or ground lamb (mix them if you like), one med.can of black beans, bread crumbs, dried herbs, Worcestershire (in the mix) and hot sauce(on the table) and potatoes as a side dish.

To begin, heat the oven to 350f. While it warms up to temp, mix 1 lb of ground beef with half the can of black beans (drained). Add to that 1/2 cup of dried bread crumbs, 2 -3 tbs of Worcestershire sauce, dried herbs to taste, a dash of garlic powder and sea salt. Mix and form into a football sized meatloaf. Place in a glass baking drizzled with olive oil and set in pre-heated (350f) oven with convection on.

If you like, add to the meatloaf baking dish small red potatoes and young carrots or sauteed spinach; be creative. Today, I am serving with a little of both. So, while the meatloaf bakes, wash, peel and boil as many red potatoes as you would like mashed.

Check the meatloaf from time to time, gently drip over the top of the meatloaf Worcestershire sauce and pour in 1/4/ cup of warmed beef stock to the glass dish with the meatloaf to start the gravy process. Pop back in the oven. When the loaf is crisp on top and the carrots and potatoes tender, if you included them, its time to serve. Mash the potatoes with milk and butter and prepare the table.

Don't forget the gravy... use the remaining half can of black beans, brown in a sauce pan with butter then add heavy cream along with 1/4 cup flour/water paste and some drippings from the meatloaf. Once it is creamy and bubbling, pour into a gravy boat and set it out on the table.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Plums are Yum... Brainy Cacciatore with fresh plums!

Its time for late summer fruits like plums and Italian plums are the best for cooking and drying.

For this dish you will need: boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fresh ripe Italian plums, dried herbs and a side; for instance... cheese filled ravioli.

To begin, in a glass baking dish, marinate the thighs (as many per guest) in fig infused balsamic vinegar and olive oil with a generous sprinkle of dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano.

In the same glass dish, roast the chicken in the oven on 375f with convection on (if you have that option) for about 25 min. Next, add pitted and halved fresh Italian plums along with some shallots and a glove of garlic. Pop back in the oven with reduced heat (350f) until all is bubbling.

In the meantime, boil the ravioli until tender. Put out a green salad and get ready to serve a favorite northern Italian dish.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Plums are Yum...Indeed!

In Europe, this time of year is full of flesh and I mean yummy purple plum flesh, juicy and sweet. Generally, Europeans love to cook with a variety of summer fruits and plums especially either fresh or dried. The best chicken cacciatore is made with dried plums - prunes. Check out Brainy Archives for summer fruit dishes!

Sharing a traditional Hungarian recipe...
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 1/2 cups very fine bread crumbs
  • 5 medium peeled potatoes boiled/ mashed
  • 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup cinnamon sugar
  • 12-18 Italian prune plums, washed and pitted..
In a large bowl, combine potatoes, eggs and salt. When well combined, add flour and mix until a soft dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.lace a large pot of salted water on to boil. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/3 inch.

Cut into 2-inch squares. Place a plum in the center of each square and fold in half, pressing out all air and sealing the edges. Moisten edges before crimping if necessary to seal. Carefully drop into boiling water. Repeat until all plums are in the water. Cook 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter in large skillet, add bread crumbs and brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove dumplings to a colander to drain. Place dumplings in skillet, coating with buttered crumbs. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Dinner for Two... Tuna Steak that is...

Dinner for 2... that's so nice.

Tuna steak, a dinner for two that neither of you will ever forget... as long as you get the sauce right...

Sauces have long been the central theme in European cooking, especially French. As you may know, in French cooking, traditional white sauces are one of two types: those made with hot milk added to create a white roux (such as Béchamel sauce or Mornay sauce) or sauces made with hot broth or stock added to get a more clear roux (such as Velouté sauce); or add both... a little milk or cream and broth.

Yes, from a basic roux, you can get pretty creative. For example, start with the white roux and add  grated cheese and or lemon juice, or chicken or beef stock and fresh or dried herbs. For this dish, lemon juice, cream, beef stock and fresh dill were used to make a delicate creamy sauce. 

To begin, sear your choice of tuna steak or in olive oil. Season with a dash of sea salt and garlic powder and a squeeze of lemon juice. To create the sauce, use the liquid from the pan you cooked the tuna in; adding 1/3 beef stock and 1/4 cup of heavy cream. As it reduces, cut fresh dill to toss in... the more the merrier.

Prepare your sides and then sit to eat... his and hers!

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Rustic Root Veggies with Seared Lamb Chops...

There was a time when cattle ranchers and sheep ranchers were battling for the open range... And, maybe they still do when it comes to the 'range' of the free market. Lamb is making a comeback and if you never had good lamb like a good steak you don't know what you are missing.

For this dish you will need: lamb chops per person, rustic veggies: carrots and fingerling potatoes.  To begin, marinate the lamb chops in olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder and sea salt along with a generous sprinkle of fresh dried herbs: rosemary, sage, mint and oregano.

While the chops are marinating, prepare fresh garden harvested fingerling potatoes and young fresh carrots. Scrub but do not peel either. Place in glass baking dish, douse with olive oil and herbs. Bake in 350 oven with convection on. After 40 min. check veggies for tenderness.

Place the lamb chops in the oven also in a glass baking dish. Sear on the same temp as veggies using the convection option. Reduce the heat to 325, turn off convection and let roast for 15 - 20 min. then check to see if the juices from the chops start to run and the meat is gently pink. If it looks good and the veggies are done... its time to serve and eat!

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Brainy Ranch Pepper Steak with Buckwheat Groats...

Ranch pepper steak with buckwheat groats... talk about fast and frugal!

For this dish you will need: 1 lb pound of round or sirloin steak, one whole onion, one green pepper and one red pepper. And, don't forget the buckwheat groats (brown rice can also be used).

To begin, saute on med heat the onion chopped and the peppers sliced in 3-4 tbs of olive oil.  Once they are tender and starting to brown on the edges, add the steak, thinly sliced.

At this time, go ahead and sprinkle on organic garlic powder and fresh dried herbs: rosemary, mint, oregano; next pour in about 1/4 cup of beef stock and 1-2 tbs of steak sauce (number of tbs added determines strength of taste) before simmering on the stove covered for 30 min. on low heat.

Boil in the bag buckwheat groats (if you can find) or cook them stove top style as you would brown rice. When fully cooked, drain and ladle into a serving dish and top with steak and peppers.

~Tutti a Tavola!

*Buckwheat groats, what are they? Buckwheat is not wheat, nor is it related to wheat. Like many of the other so-called "whole grains," buckwheat is not technically a grain nor a cereal. So where does it come from? Buckwheat is derived from the seeds of a flowering plant. Several other foods typically thought of as whole grains, including quinoa, are actually seeds and not grains as well. And yes, it is gluten-free! Check out this website for more info -