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....

Friday, October 21, 2011

Superb Squash

The fall harvest brings so many delectable foods to our tables, from apples and pears to pumpkins and other squashes. Many people love the flavor of squash, but are somewhat intimidated (even afraid) to prepare it.

Wobbly, roly-poly, and hard to control, squashes can pose not only a culinary conundrum due to how to cook it, but more importantly, how to cut it! Squashes can be enjoyed safely when you outfit yourself with a SHARP knife, a large cutting board (with a non-skid mat underneath), and a large sturdy spoon or ice cream scoop.

Do not underestimate the importance of having a very sharp knife. You may have heard that a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp knife - it isn't an old wives tale - it is absolutely true!

To cut a hard squash, take your knife and make a small slice off the bottom in order to give you a flat surface to work with. Once you've stabilized the squash by giving it a flat side, cut the squash in half and use a spoon or scoop to remove the seeds and membrane. At this point, follow the directions given in your recipe (some recipes will call for the skin to be removed, some will use the squashes with the skin intact).

Roasted squash is one of my favorite fall dishes. I really love to use butternut squash, acorn squash, and spaghetti squash. You may have had a creamy butternut squash soup, or roasted acorn squash, garnished with maple syrup, cinnamon or butter, but you may have not ever had the chance to enjoy a subtly spiced spaghetti squash. One of my favorite recipes is a roasted spaghetti squash that has been spiced with warm, earthy spices. If you like spice and heat, feel free to add more spices to taste. Enjoy!

Spaghetti Squash with Moroccan Spices

1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) spaghetti squash

1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Make a small slice on the side of the squash. Use this as the "flat spot" to stabilize the squash for safe cutting. Cut the squash in half, lengthwise. Remove and discard the seeds. Roast the halves in a 400 degree oven until golden brown and tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of the squash.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over moderately high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute. Stir in spices and salt and remove from heat.

Working over a bowl, scrape squash flesh with a fork, loosening and separating strands as you remove it from skin. Toss with spiced butter and cilantro. Season to taste with sea salt.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Healthy Indulgence

Fall is in full swing, and the tempting aromas of comfort food fill the house as many of us head to the kitchen to make our favorite recipes. As we approach the holidays (they really are just around the corner), parties and get-together's give us ample avenues to pack on the pounds. With the kids back to school, and a hectic holiday schedule, there's less time for the gym. If you plan ahead and add a few tricks to your arsenal, January doesn't have to be a waistline wake-up call, if you head into the holidays with a plan.

Many dietitians, doctors, and gurus agree - the key to maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle is to set a reasonable framework wherein you can enjoy things in moderation, instead of depriving yourself until your willpower gives way to the fatigue of resisting all of your favorite seasonal foods.

One of the most important ways to fend off the "fat pants" is to make sure you eat foods high in fiber, protein, and packed with nutrients. A good strategy is to stock the fridge and pantry with some of your favorite seasonal, healthier foods like cashews, whole grain crackers, apples, pears, sharp cheeses (lots of flavor, so you tend to be satisfied with a smaller portion), chicken breasts, pre-cut vegetables (a no-excuse way to get the veggies into the rotation), etc.

In addition to those, consider another healthy treat - sushi. Sushi is a terrific combination of protein, carbohydrate, and vegetables. It's light, low calorie (avoid the tempura fried, and mayo-garnished types if you're going to be indulging elsewhere during the day), fresh, and filling. Be sure to get your sushi from a reputable source, where you know that the rolls are made fresh daily, and the highest quality ingredients are used. Some places carry sushi rolls prepared with brown rice, which is an even better way to enjoy this healthy snack or light meal.

Using these foods as snacks during the day is a great way to fight hunger, so that you don't over-do it at your next meal. Adopting this strategy will not only help you to avoid the holiday pounds, but also increase your energy all day, all year.

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