Blogs > Cooking from Scratch

Chef Stacy believes that cooking from scratch and using the best ingredients are the secrets to preparing delicious and memorable meals. She has created dozens of classes for the home chef and teaches students how to master culinary techniques and recipes in just one session. Read on to see what she's dishing up for The Oakland Press today....

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

New Meat & Seafood Shop to Open in Time for Memorial Day Grilling

As a chef who's obsessed with food quality, there isn't much more that excites me than the opening of a new restaurant or shop that's dedicated to bringing exceptional products to the community. I'm incredibly fussy about ingredients and very particular about where I shop. Like anyone else, I have my preferences, and our shopping habits are shaped by changing tastes and family tradition. My mom used to pick us up from school and take us to Joe's Produce in Livonia for fruits and veggies for the week. For my patience, I was rewarded with a small bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice, which I nursed the whole way home, trying to make it last as long as I could. Mom shopped there for years and I shop there now. I'm incredibly delighted that this weekend, they'll be opening a new meat and seafood shop, something I've been craving since I bought a home of my own. Just in time for the holiday weekend, I'll be able up my proteins and other ingredients for the picnic on Monday. The store will offer a variety of locally sourced meats, such as Michigan grass-fed beef and heritage Duroc pork . In addition to the locally raised items, several other quality meat and seafood items will be featured in their state-of-the-art meat and seafood cases. Bell & Evans all natural poultry products, veal, Maple Leaf Farms duck, Angus USDA Choice beef, Piedmontese beef, prime beef, and domestically raised all natural lamb will be hand trimmed by their in-house butchery staff. Those looking for ground beef without the fillers and by-products can purchase with the confidence of knowing that beef is ground daily in their refrigerated prep rooms to ensure the highest of quality and food safety. Sausages will also be made in-house. Varieties such as chicken, pork and lamb will be made using only fresh ingredients, natural casings, and unique recipes developed by their chefs. For convenience, customers will find oven-ready entrees, sides, a small selection of groceries, charcoal, and other grilling accessories. Behind the seafood counter, shoppers will find house-made salads, dips, sauces, and spreads, as well as smoked fish, and pickled options. The main attraction is the selection of sustainable catches, as well as select ecologically friendly farm-raised options. For shellfish lovers, the shop will carry several sizes of shrimp, all chemical-free. Mussels, clams and oysters will be available as well. The Grand Opening celebration will include product demonstrations and samples. On Friday, May 25th at 12 pm, there will be a live appearance by Jay Towers of Fox 2 and 100.3 FM, who will be on hand to give away prizes like movie passes, Tiger tickets, reusable shopping totes, and more. There will also be a chance to win one of four Bell & Evans turkeys. Here's a recipe for one of my favorite side dishes to prepare for a summer picnic. I hope you'll give it a try. Maybe I'll see you at Joe's! BLT Salad 1 1/2 pounds applewood smoked bacon 2 loaves Italian Ciabatta 2 containers red cherry tomatoes 2 containers yellow super sweet cherry tomatoes 2 heads Romaine Mayonnaise Pesto (recipe below) Method: Cook bacon in oven on parchment covered sheet trays until crispy. Cut into pieces (not bacon bits). While the bacon is cooking, make the pesto. Slice bread in half lengthwise, brush with oil, season and grill. Cut into small-ish cubes. Wash tomatoes and slice in half. Chop and wash romaine. Combine about 1 cup mayonnaise with pesto. Toss all ingredients together and dress with pesto-mayo, adding more as needed. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Basil Pesto 4 cups loosely packed basil leaves, washed and dried 2 cloves garlic, smashed ¾ cup pine nuts, toasted 1 cup grated parmesan cheese (good quality) 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (or to taste) 1 – 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste ½ teaspoon white pepper, or to taste 1 to 1 ½ cups olive oil (extra virgin preferred) Method: place basil, garlic, and pine nuts into the bowl of a food processor; puree until smooth, about 20 – 30 seconds with machine running, drizzle in oil, using enough to make a loose paste add cheese and just pulse briefly to combine; taste and season with salt, pepper, and vinegar to taste cover very tightly (it is a good idea to place a layer of plastic wrap directly on top of the surface of the pesto before putting the lid on the container) store up to a week in an air-tight container

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tricks of the Trade - Kitchen Safety

There is a little known secret that chef’s use when chopping up all of their various mise en place. In order to ensure proper safety and avoid slip sliding all over the counter top, chefs often use a clean, wet kitchen towel underneath their cutting boards. This keeps the cutting board firmly in place, making it easier to slice, dice, chop, and julienne, all without the unnecessary risk of cutting oneself. In professional kitchens, chefs of ten use large polyethylene cutting boards, not glass. It is especially important to avoid cutting boards made of glass, as they will ruin high-quality knives. Always be sure to use a sanitized cutting board, and remember to change cutting boards (or treat the cutting board with a sanitizing solution of bleach and water. Certain types of Clorox Wipes also work well) when butchering raw meats and seafood, in combination with other foods. This is to avoid the outbreak of food borne illness, such as salmonella poisoning. Finally, remember to always keep your kitchen knives sharp. It is essential to maintain a sharp edge on cutlery. Dull knives are actually more dangerous than sharp ones. If your knife is in need of sharpening, invest in a small sharpening stone (about $14) from a restaurant supply company like Restaurant Depot or GFS and some mineral oil so you can sharpen your knives at home.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tricks of the Trade - Avocados

Rich, creamy, the truffle of all produce, avocados can be tricky to eat if you don’t know how to properly prepare it.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to make a clean, smooth cut from the top of the avocado all the way down around the sides, and down to the bottom. By starting at the stem end and slicing down on each side, you will be able to easily twist the halves, opening up to the center.

To remove the pit, simply hold the pitted half in the palm of your hand, skin side down. Then, take a fork and stick it into the pit, being careful not to stab your hand. Simply twist the knife so that the pit is separated from the flesh.

Finally, take a large spoon and gently slip between the soft flesh and the skin, taking precautions not to tear and mangle the flesh.

Once the avocado is removed from the skin, it is ready to be cubed, sliced, or mashed.

Irresistable Guacamole

2 Haas avocados
1 teaspoon kosher salt or Matt's Mix
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
1 large jalapeno pepper
1 lime
Tequila, to taste

Split avocados in half. Remove the pits and scoop out the flesh into a glass or stainless steel bowl. Add the salt and garlic and mash.Chop the cilantro. Halve the jalapeno and remove the ribs and the seeds; mince. Halve the lime and squeeze the juice over the mashed avocados. Add a splash of tequila. (Be careful, you don't want too much in there!) Add the cilantro and minced jalapeno and combine thoroughly with avocados.

Taste and add more salt, lime, and/or more jalapeno if desired. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tip: To prevent the guacamole from browning while in the refrigerator, lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole and press down gently, pushing out any air between the dip and the plastic wrap. Doing so will slow down the oxidation of the avocado caused by the exposure to the oxygen in the air.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Marvelous Mushrooms

They’re the food of ancient royalty, the luxurious noshes of the Pharaohs. Mushrooms were held in such high esteem in ancient Egypt, that commoners were forbidden to eat them. In other civilizations throughout the world, many people believed that mushrooms possessed the energy to give super-human powers to those who ate them.

Today, they could be considered “super foods” because of their nutritional value. Mushrooms are one of the highest antioxidant vegetables in the world. The antioxidant L-Ergothioneine is abundant in mushrooms, and enhanced by the presence of vitamin C and selenium. Also, one Portobello mushroom has more potassium than a banana.

There are over 2,500 mushroom varieties that are grown worldwide. Porcini, Portobello, Shiitake, Crimini, Oyster, Button, the celebrated Morel, and of course, the sumptuous truffle, are just a few favorites.

Cooking with mushrooms is incredibly simple, although many people are mystified by cleaning them. The best way to clean mushrooms is to use a soft brush and gently sweep away the dirt. Since mushrooms are very much like a sponge, due to their high water content, it is not a good idea to drench them in water. Then, remove the stem and slice.

Stems can be cleaned and saved for soups, as well the “gills” from Portobello’s.
Mushrooms enhance pasta dishes, risotto, kebabs, burgers, roasts, soups, stuffing, rustic pizzas, appetizers, lending their distinct, warm and woodsy flavors to your recipes.

Can’t get your favorite wild mushroom? Dried mushrooms are the perfect alternative in a pinch. Simply reconstitute the dried mushrooms with boiling water or broth for 5 to 10 minutes until the mushrooms are tender. Strain off the liquid, but don’t throw it away- it’s full of flavor, and can be used in sauces, soups, dressings, and braising broths.

Mushrooms can be used in almost any preparation, and any time of the year, especially once dried mushrooms are a pantry staple. Using mushrooms will add new flavor profiles to your favorite dishes and add nutritional value as well.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Grilled Asparagus with Manchego

If you've never grilled asparagus before, it's time to give it a try! This week is going to be gorgeous, according to the forecast, so if you rolled the grill into the garage, push it back to the patio and get ready to grill up this very simple recipe!

Grilled Asparagus with Manchego

2 lbs. fresh asparagus, trimmed

2 Tb. pure olive oil

As needed, Matt's Mix or salt & pepper

2 oz. Aged Manchego, grated or shaved


Heat grill to medium-high. In a large bowl, toss the asparagus with oil and season with Matt’s Mix. Grill, turning occasionally, until just tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with the manchego and serve.

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Noodles with Chicken & Spicy Peanut Sauce

Noodles with Chicken & Peanut Sauce

1 package rice noodles
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup julienned carrots
1 English Cucumber, diced
Roasted or Rotisserie chicken, meat pulled from bones, shredded and skin removed

Peanut Sauce, as needed (recipe below)

Bring lightly salted water to a boil in a medium pot; cook noodles 3 minutes. Place cabbage in a colander and drain noodles over cabbage; immediately rinse with cold water. Drain again. Toss cabbage and noodles in a bowl.

Peanut Sauce

1 cup Peanut butter
1/2 cup Soy sauce
1/2 cup Lime juice 1/4 cup Sesame seed oil
4 Tb. Garlic, minced
2 Tb. Tobasco sauce/Sambal
2 Tb. Brown sugar
1/2 can of Coconut milk (or more as needed)

combine all in the bowl of a food processor.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Chicken Noodle Soup in a Snap

It seems like everyone has a touch of the sniffles this week, feeling somewhat under the weather. With a hectic schedule, who has time to be sick? And, worse, when busy, it's a rare person who wants to prepare a home-cooked meal when feeling run down.

This weekend, I found myself in just this same situation. With work demands, as well as a brief trip out of town, topped off with a touch of a cold, I knew that a batch of chicken noodle soup was in order, but wanted to make it quickly.

There's a secret to making the perfect batch of chicken noodle soup in a snap - a rotisserie chicken. Here's the recipe - enjoy!

Chicken Noodle in a Snap

1 rotisserie chicken
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large Spanish onions, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small heart of celery, chopped
3/4 cup white wine (I tend to use what's open in the fridge)
2 quarts chicken broth
1 small bunch of fresh sage, stems removed and leaves minced
2 - 3 cups of egg noodles
Matt's Mix or Salt & Pepper to taste
Remove the skin from the rotisserie chicken, and discard the skin. Shred the chicken off the bones and set the bones in a large stock pot, and cover with the broth. Simmer the broth and bones while you prep all of your other vegetables (about 15 - 20 minutes).
**TIP - if you routinely buy a rotisserie chicken, save the carcass in a ziplock bag and keep it in the freezer, for additional flavor boosters as needed.
Using a strainer, pour the chicken broth into another bowl and set aside. Discard the bones. Using that same stock pot, add a small amount of canola oil or pure olive oil (cover the bottom of the pot) and start to saute the onions, stirring occasionally so they do not burn.

When the onions are nicely caramelized, take the white wine and pour it into the stock pot, scraping up the caramelized bits off the bottom of the pot, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the carrots and celery. Add the stock. Simmer until the carrots are tender.

Add the egg noodles and continue to simmer until the noodles are tender. Add the minced sage and season with Matt's Mix or salt & pepper to taste. Serve.

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