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, March 30, 2011

Great Beginnings

You've heard it said, "breakfast is the most important meal of the day", and, in many ways, that is very true. A nutritious and balanced breakfast is a terrific way to start your day by making a great decision. Many of us are "on the go" constantly, moving from place to place, with little time to fuss over a meal - especially in the morning! Sadly, that means that many of us opt for a high-carb, high-sugar pastry, or fatty breakfast sandwich because they are convenient and quick.

One of my favorite breakfast options is yogurt with some granola and fruit. One of the reasons I enjoy this is because it is a great way to pack some macro-nutrients into my meal without a lot of effort. Combining complex carbohydrates, protein, and sugar is important because it helps to keep your insulin levels even, without the "ups and downs" that are typically associated with eating meals that are not balanced.

When selecting yogurt, there are numerous options, but not all of them are healthful. Many brands of yogurt are high in sugar and high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors & flavors and other unnatural ingredients. Did you know that a Starbucks Strawberry Yogurt Parfait boasts 300 calories and 60 grams of carbohydrates (nutritional information detailing sugar is not available on their website). Combined with a latte or other hot beverage, you might be looking at a 600 calorie breakfast (which could be half of what your daily caloric intake should be, depending on your specific needs).

However, there are many more varieties now than existed a few years ago. One of my favorite types of yogurt is known as "Greek style yogurt". Greek yogurt is packed with protein (it contains more protein than traditional yogurt), and has a thick, creamy texture. Plain varieties are delicious with a drizzle of honey, agave nectar, maple syrup - or, even plain. Plain Greek yogurt is also a great addition to dips & other dishes. There are also several types of flavored Greek style yogurt. Popular brands are "Fage" or "Chobani". Stonyfield Farm now also makes a Greek style option.

With the many options available now, it is easier than ever to enjoy a delicious and healthy option for your morning nosh.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Big Chill

Well, needless to say, I was overly enthusiastic about last week's warm weather stretch! The chill is back in the air and promises to stay through the weekend, if not longer.

Last night, I was privilaged to cook for a colleague who I consider a friend while he entertained his staff. Rick owns a very successful Ad agency and employs a BRILLIANT collection of writers, artists & web designers.

Recently, I made a short rib dish which I very much enjoyed. It was simple to prepare and had a lot of flavor. The shortribs were braised in beef stock & Founder's Porter which makes a rich & delicious broth. This kind of dish is perfect for the chilly weather, and easy to prepare on a busy or lazy weekend.

When preparing shortribs, there are a few things to keep in mind. Many times, shortribs will come in a long piece. To cut down on the cooking time, I like to cut the piece into small sections and then braise them that way. Be sure to buy the best quality meat you can afford. Mine, of course, came from Holiday Market's Meat Shoppe.

Shortribs are not naturally tender cuts of beef, so it is important to cook them low & slow. Yesterday, I started searing them at 11 am, then covered them with the beer & the broth (and mirepoix), and then into the oven. They braised for 8 hours total. Depending on the size and the quality of the meat, your braising times will vary. Be sure to cook them long enough so that they are pleasant to eat and not too tough.

Paired with some boiled Yukon Gold potatoes & Maytag blue cheese, you'll have a flavorful meal without a lot of fuss.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring has Sprung.... We Hope

What gorgeous weather! I know I don't speak for myself when I say that I am ready to break out the BBQ and move the patio furniture outside for some light, fresh dinner fare! Though I may be getting WAY ahead of myself, if you're thinking of breaking out the grill this weekend, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Give your grill a thorough cleaning - from the exterior (cobwebs, dust, dirt, etc.) to the grates, a thorough cleaning will ensure that your grill works at optimal performance for the upcoming season. Don't forget to take the time to clean the internal workings of the grill (drip pan, etc.)!

2. Go to the hardware store and buy an extra tank of propane. Working off of two tanks ensures that you never run out of gas at a critical time!

3. If you do not already have a cover for your grill, it is a good idea to invest in one. A cover protects your grill from the fickle Michigan elements, and makes it easy to keep your grill outside, instead of wheeling it in and out of the garage or shed.

Even if this beautiful weather is a false alarm, it never hurts to prime the grill for the upcoming outdoor dining season.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

French Flair

Rainy days like this remind me that Spring is just around the corner and that the winter thaw is sooner than we think (or so I hope). Crepes are traditional French fare, and as I look out my office window, I think fondly of a good friend who lives in Paris, who also adores crepes.

Tonight, one of our clients has reserved the Mirepoix classroom for a private event and has selected our French Flair menu for his guests. Crepes Suzette will be prepared and served with vanilla bean ice cream. Just as our students learned on Wednesday night, our guests tonight will see that crepes are an impressive dessert that they can prepare at home in their own kitchen.

When I was about 7, my mother had a crepe machine that resembled an electric frying pan. It was tan and had a handle, which had a cord that plugged into the outlet. She would allow the machine to heat and then ladle some crepe batter onto the surface and it made the most beautifully colored crepes which she served with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

I've lost track of where her machine is, but crepes are easily prepared in a small non-stick pan, using some melted butter.

If you'd like to recreate the recipes that will be featured at tonight's party, you can view the recipe on our Facebook page.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, March 4, 2011

It's all in the Wrist

On Wednesday night, the students in our "culinary school" class series made a selection of very beautiful and delicious desserts. Lemon curd tart, black bottom banana cream tart, chocolate souffle & creme anglaise, and a fresh fruit tart filled with vanilla bean pastry cream. Impressive as they are, each of these desserts can be easily produced at home in your own kitchen with some careful organization and the proper technique.

Many people marvel at the impressive sight of a towering souffle, but most people assume it is beyond their culinary grasp. The truth is, you, too, can make a perfect souffle if you learn the proper way to fold egg whites into the base mixture.

Folding one ingredient into another is about much more than just mixing them up. When folding, there are a few things that absolutely must be kept at the top of mind:
1. use a rubber spatula (do not use a spoon or even a rubber "spoonula")
2. you must turn the bowl as you fold
3. you must start from the center of the mixture and fold upward and then over

The reason so many particular precautions are taken into consideration when applying this mixing method is that it is essential to the texture of the finished product. Folding egg yolks or egg whites into something, rather than haphazardly mixing them up, is what keeps the air from deflating.

Mousses, chiffon cakes, sponge cakes, and souffles all require the use of eggs and egg whites as a leavener. Knocking the air out of the mixture will ensure that the final product is dense and does not rise properly.

Check out our "Mirepoix Chefs-in-Training" Facebook page for photos from our class on Wednesday. The bright colors will perk you up on a dreary & grey winter day. Spring is almost here - we tasted it on Wednesday!