Fresh, fast and frugal!

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Chicken with Brainy Almond Mole Sauce...served with rice!

For this dish you will need to buy a package of skinless chicken thighs, butter, onion, chicken stock, salsa sauce, garlic powder, red pepper flakes (or crush your own red chiles), dark cocoa, dried herbs, almond extract, sugar, coconut oil, olive oil, sea salt, cinnamon and rice. 

Take out a covered skillet. Turn on the flame to medium high and add 4 tbs of coconut oil and the same of olive oil. Add chopped onion to brown. Once browned, push aside and lay in the chicken thighs. Next, sprinkle in seasonings to taste - sea salt, red pepper flakes, garlic powder and dried herb seasonings: a mix blend of rosemary, mint and oregano.

Let this sizzle away browning the chicken. Turn the flame to med/low, splash in some rich chicken stock and cook the chicken until it is finished... completely cooked through.

In a separate smaller skillet you will make the mole sauce. Add 2 tbs of butter and 4 tbs of olive oil. Stir this on a low flame. Add half a tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp cocoa and the same of almond extract. Keep stirring, add 2 tbs of sugar or less if you need to cut back on your sugar intake; keep in mind that the cocoa and cinnamon tend to be bitter so the sugar acts as a counter to balance flavor.

Start a small stock pot of water and chicken stock to cook the rice. Add a pinch of salt. Once it boils, add the rice, keep stirring and keep stirring your mole sauce.

After about 10-12 min. Check the rice for tenderness and be ready to drain. Return the rice to the pot it was cooked in and add a pat of butter along with about 1/2 cup of any Salsa sauce. Cover and let sit while you get ready to serve... a few slices of fresh juicy lime on the table is a nice touch.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Boneless Iowa Pork Chops seved with a twist...

Meals that take you home...

A brainy meal is always about 20 minutes away. Tonight, try tender Iowa pork chops (preferably boneless) in pan fried in honey sesame oil marinated in a sweet and savory fig infused balsamic vinegar. Suggested sides: baked/boiled potato, green salad or other vegetable; top with a squeeze of fresh lemon/lime along with a couple of mint leaves and serve with a glass of Pinot Grigio.

To begin: marinate the chops in the fig balsamic vinegar for no more than 8 min. then saute the chops in 1 tbs of coconut oil (organic) and of 3 tbs honey flavored sesame oil (you can make your own using sesame oil infused with honey) in a large uncovered skillet on med-high heat, browning on both sides up to 10 min. To that, sprinkle in some red pepper flakes, garlic powder (organic), sea salt and dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano (fresh dried).

Turn down the heat to low and cover for the next 2-3 min and or until the meat is pinkish with more white showing and tender. You can remove a chop, cut into it and check. If blood runs, return the chops to the skillet but for no more than 2-3 min. Check again, you want the meat to be white with a hint of pink juices.

Place your chops on a serving plate and drizzle over the top the velvety golden liquid from the skillet. Prepare your sides and set the table.

~Tutti a Tavola! 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Polenta is northern Italian creamy goodness...

Want something truly different for dinner on cold winter evening? Try creamy cornmeal polenta served with mild Italian or even Polish sausage. Whichever you prefer, remember that quality sausage makes a difference; it must be lean and meaty. You should try to buy fresh at the deli counter rather than pre-packaged corporate brands.

You will need to have: olive oil, one onion, yellow cornmeal, chicken stock, Parmesan and butter.

Polenta -
2 tbs of olive oil
one whole onion chopped
2-4 cups of chicken stock
2 cups of yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan
4 tbs of butter or 1/2 stick

Heat oven to 350F. On the stove, saute your onion in the olive oil in a deep oven safe pot until browned on all edges; then, add your stock (use 2 for thicker) and 5 cups of water. Heat to boiling on high and slowly whisk in the cornmeal. Then cover and bake for 45-50 min.with an occasional stir - about every 10 min. Remove from the oven, add the butter and Parmesan for one last stir, then let it set covered.


Spoon the creamy polenta onto a plate, making a kind of thick pancake. Let is sit for a min or two. Then top with a sausage and a lite creamy tomato sauce. Or just serve and eat the sausage with the polenta alone... perhaps with only a pat of butter or cheese on the side.

 ~ Tutti a Tavola!  

Monday, February 17, 2020

Ravioli ~ Pillows of Italian Love...

Ravioli have been called the 'pillows' of Italian love. The hill country of Italy illustrates that nicely.

For this dish, you will need to buy or make spinach or cheese filled ravioli. The Brainy Gourmet is about being fast and frugal so there is no problem stopping off at the supermarket to grab a few ravioli on the way home found in either the fresh or frozen section.

What to do? Boil water (salted) to cook the ravioli in. When the water rolls into a boil, add the ravioli. Now, if you want another side to accompany the ravioli then it should be made prior to boiling the pasta pillows because, it does not take more than 8 min to have tender ravioli.

Asparagus is a lovely side to make. Take a skillet, pour in some olive oil and add seasonings: red pepper flakes, garlic powder, rosemary, mint and oregano or basil. On med heat, stir fry a generous handful of medium length cut fresh washed young asparagus.

Once they start to sear, remove from heat and skillet (setting aside). Then, in the same skillet pour in one small can of either roasted or plain diced tomatoes. Let them sizzle away on moderately high heat for 5-6 min. At this time, the ravioli should be tender and ready to be drained.

Ladle the ravioli onto a low lipped serving plate, top with tomato sauce and lay the asparagus along the side.

Another delicious way to serve ravioli is with Italian sausage simmered on the side in a little olive oil and beef stock. And, another even more exceptional accompaniment to ravioli is Italian stewed chicken; using thighs (boneless/skinless) oven stewed in a creamy tomato sauce with green and black olives.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Dinner's Ready and Waiting for You...

“Dinner’s ready!” is the traditional cry with which Western mothers used to call their playing children indoors and grab the attention of their newspaper-reading husbands. “Dinner’s ready!” We’re about to eat, so drop what you’re doing.

The call represented the most important moment of the day, a confirmation of family life, of the caring role of the mother and the authority of the father. So it went on for many generations, in many cultures and countries. And, perhaps, in some small towns or villages or big city places it still does.

The table is a place of memory where we become aware of who we are and with whom we are. Around the table, all previous meals come together in every meal, in an endless succession of memories and associations.

The table is the place where the family gathers, the symbol of solidarity, or indeed the backdrop to family rows and childhood tragedies. At the table the eater is tamed. At the table we relive our youth through the recipes of the past, our hatred of liver, or love for roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy.

Its where we discover ourselves through others and share in the joy of life or in the sadness of those lost. There is the unsaid apology when eyes meet or the tears of loneliness that mix with the burnt cauliflower or the smell delicate sauces and smiles that offer hope ~ adapted from unknown author!

~ Tutti a Tavola is Italian for 'All to the Table'!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Brainy Baked Chicken Parmesan...

When you think of good wine, you think of good food... 

Its really so simple... just take as many boneless skinless chicken breasts are you need to serve per guest, drizzle olive oil into a glass baking dish, lay in the breasts, coat with olive oil, sprinkle on some garlic powder and dried Italian herbs and pop into the oven on 400 for 10 min or use the broiler option for 5 min.

Remove, to add diced or sliced zucchini and jarred tomato sauce. Pop back into the oven and bake for 20-25 min or until bubbling. Top with cheese, and back into the oven to brown. Serve with linguine pasta and black olives on the side...and don't forget the wine!

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Art and Taste of Mashed Potatoes...

Few people think of potatoes as a 'gourmet' food. And, not too many people know that the French love a good 'mash' of potatoes besides their French fries...

For a gourmet mash potato dish, wash, peel, quarter and boil in lightly salted water as many potatoes per person to be served using your favorite potato... preferably Yukon Gold (not a russet potato).

When they are tender, drain and rinse quickly with cold water. Return the potatoes to the pot they were boiled in and immediately add 1/2 stick of creamy butter and 1/2 cup of whole milk...begin mashing.That's just the basic. 

You can get as creative as you like using sour cream or heavy cream instead of milk and olive oil instead of butter or both. And you might also like to add grated parmesan cheese topping with dried herbs.

Your mash can be eaten alone or with any side of meat...

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Lasagna made new with Veal Marsala...

Veal is young beef and is relatively inexpensive. But, finding it can sometimes be a problem. So, even if can't find veal, you can make a brainy 'veal' Marsala using lean boneless pork loin.

To begin, cut the pork loin thin and pound flat with a meat hammer. After you have pounded the meat, marinate the 'veal' or pork for at least 12 minutes in a drizzle of sweet Marsala wine (or sweet non alcoholic cider with a touch of nutty flavored balsamic vinegar), garlic infused olive oil and a few dashes of sea salt.

While the meat marinates in the Marsala, wash and slice whatever mushrooms you can have (preferably Bavarian) to saute in butter along with a few garlic cloves and chopped onion.

Once the mushrooms, onion and garlic have browned, push them aside in the skillet and lay in the 'cutlets' of pounded, marinated veal/pork. Sprinkle on top a gentle coat of dried Italian herb bread crumbs.

Cook on high heat for 3-5 minutes and then reduce the heat bringing back in the mushrooms then dding 1/4 cup of Marsala wine and 1/4 cup of beef stock or more...bringing this skillet mixture to a bubbling richness. Finally, add fresh dried herbs: rosemary, mint, and oregano let simmer on very low heat.

Serve with any leftovers you happen to have... but the lasagna is exceptional!

~ Tutti a Tavola

Monday, February 3, 2020

Brainy Lasagna... its all how you layer it!

What's hot from the oven, bubbling and oozing with sauce and cheesy goodness?  Ah, its lasagna!

Lasagna is about layering. Take a long deep glass baking dish, drizzle with a little olive oil and start layering: noodles, sauce, cheese (grated mozzarella or buffalo style), sauce, noodles, cheese and anything that you might want to squeeze in-between: Ricotta cheese, fresh spinach leaves, precooked - crumbled pork sausage, roasted eggplant slices, and or sliced tomatoes. Bake in a hot oven for about 400 until the top is crispy brown.

*Tip~ Always precook the lasagna pasta until al dente. Do this even when using the brands that tell you its not necessary. Also, my personal preference regarding lasagna pasta is the ridged style as they seem to hold the sauce in the pasta channels. Once the noodles are ready, rinse with cold water, drain. This way you can handle the noodles when layering. 

~ Tutti a Tavola!

French Toast always was Brainy Frugal...

The earliest known recipes for French toast date back to the 4th or 5th century. The common French name is pain perdu which means ‘lost bread’ because stale or day-old bread was often used… lost bread or the new life gone out. Many cultures cook frugally including the French.

  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 8 slices day-old bread
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Beat the eggs lightly, then combine with the milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Pour into a flat-bottomed dish somewhat larger than the slices of bread. Dip the bread into the mixture on both sides, one slice at a time, stirring the mixture after each. Do not soak. Place bread on a plate and allow to stand for a few minutes.

In a medium skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Cook bread for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Add more oil for the second batch.

French toast can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner... it all depends on how you want to top it! If you make it for dinner, consider a bowl of soup or salad to make it a meal.

~ Tutti a Tavola!