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....

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Super Swiss Chard

There's a lot of talk about so-called "Superfoods", and many of them are probably things you're already eating, like blueberries, salmon, oats, yogurt, and spinach, but there are so many more that may not be as easy to cook or pair with other foods to enjoy in a recipe.

Dark, leafy greens are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals. One of my favorite leafy green vegetables are Swiss Chard. Swiss Chard is a beautifully colored vegetable that sometimes has bright orange, yellow and magenta stems, which are edible. The bright colors of the stems make for a gorgeous palate for serving the greens steamed, sauteed or in soup. Swss Chard is a great source of Vitamins C, K and A, as well as Magnesium, fiber, Folate and Biotin.

There is a lot of talk about how we should eat dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt in order to get the calcium we need, but did you know that dark, green leafy vegetables are a better source of calcium than diary?! In just one cup of Swiss Chard, there is a whopping 101 mg of the calcium your body needs in order to keep your bones strong. Unlike dairy, eating Chard will give you the dietary fiber your body needs to keep your heart and digestive system operating at peak performance.

When cooking Chard, like other vegetables, it is essential to avoid over-cooking them, which will kill their nutrients and vitamins. Keep the colors bright, once the bright colors of your veggies fade as a result of cooking them too long, the vitamins are all but obliterated. While steaming and sauteeing Chard is a great way to enjoy it as a side dish, I also love the recipe below because it's a different way to prepare them when you're looking for a change of pace. I also like this recipe because all of the other vegetables make for a filling, colorful soup that's quick and easy to prepare. Enjoy!

Hearty Vegetable Soup with Swiss Chard and Sausage

3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 large onions, peeled and diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium zucchini, sliced into half-moons
1 bunch Swiss Chard, washed thoroughly and leaves torn. Save the stems.
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 can canelinni beans, drained
1 lb. Italian Sausage with fennel (can be pork or turkey). Squeeze the sausage out of the skin and discard the skin.
Matt's Mix seasoning, as needed (or salt and pepper)
Canola oil or pure olive oil, as needed


Add a small amount of oil to the bottom of a large stock pot and brown the sausage. Once the sausage is browned, remove it from the pot and set aside. Take the onions and saute them in the pot until nicely caramelized. If more oil is needed in order to keep them from burning and sticking to the bottom of the pot, add a small amount of oil. Saute the garlic with the onions.

Once the onions are nicely browned, add about one cup of stock to the pot and stir vigorously and scratch the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release the nicely browned bits from the bottom. Add the carrots and the rest of the stock. Simmer for about ten minutes and meanwhile, slice the Swiss Chard stems into half moons (like celery). Set aside.

Add the zucchini and the Chard stems to the soup pot and simmer for about 5 more minutes. Add the sausage back to the pot and add the beans. Stir everything together. Add some seasoning and adjust to taste. Add the Chard leaves last and stir just to wilt them. Serve.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Winter Wonderland White Chocolate Brownies

It's a beautiful morning out there! Chilly, especially judging by how mild the temps have been all winter, but pretty nonetheless! It's a nice day for staying in and baking. Inspired by the pretty scene outside my window, the glistening white snow makes me think about white chocolate brownies.

When making these brownies, it is very important that you use the best quality white chocolate that you can afford. It's important to note that white chocolate coating chocolate will not work in this recipe because it isn't pure white chocolate, and there are other ingredients in the coating chocolate that will cause the recipe to fail.

This batch of brownies makes a half sheet pan (some call this a jelly roll pan). It's a shallow, rectangular, metal baking pan that's about an inch deep. Spray the pan lightly with pan spray, then line the pan with parchment paper. This recipe freezes well after baked, so if you decide to freeze them, simply wrap them very tightly and freeze for up to one month.

White Chocolate Brownies
1 c. granulated sugar
8 oz. butter (two sticks)
1/4 oz. salt
4 whole eggs
1 1/2 Tb pure vanilla extract
1 lbs. white chocolate, melted
9.5 oz. bread flour
3/4 c. pistachios
8 oz. white chocolate, chopped fine


Using a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar and salt together with a paddle attachment. Gradually add the eggs. Scrape between each addition.Add the vanilla.

Add the melted white chocolate and scrape well. Add the flour gradually. Scrape well between each addition, being sure to get to the bottom of the mixing bowl. Add the white chocolate pieces and the pistachios. Mix well.

Fill the prepared pan and bake at 325 until set (check with a toothpick). Cool completely before cutting.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Awesome Avocados

Avocados are a delicious way to add color and texture to your recipes. While most people may use avocados only for guacamole or sliced on a sandwich, there are lots of other ways to incorporate them into your recipe rotation.

When selecting an avocado, the skin color alone will not be the only indication of ripeness. Select an avocado that is firm to the touch but gives to gentle pressure. Avoid selecting avocados that have dark blemishes over soft fruit. (Yes! Avocados are a fruit!) If there are not any ripe avocados on the shelves of your fruit market, simply select the ones you like and take them home to ripen. Avocados ripen nicely if placed in a brown paper bag, which has been closed tightly, and left for 2-3 days. To accelerate ripening, add a banana to the bag and close. The ethylene gas released by the banana will help the avocado to ripen faster.

One of my favorite ways to use avocados is to make an avocado and mango "salsa." It's really more like pico de gallo in texture, but it makes a delicious dip or garnish for grilled chicken and fish - or even flank steak. If you cannot find ripe mangoes, ripen them the same way you are ripening the avocados, in the brown paper bag.

Mango & Avocado Salsa

1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice
1 medium ripe mango, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
4 large fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, use as needed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (or Matt's Mix)
Combine all of the ingredients together and allow to "marinate" for at least 30 minutes. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Serve cold or at room temperature.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup

When I opened the door this morning, I noticed the damp and chilly weather, but couldn't help but think that it feels like spring, instead of the dead-center of January! I, like many, will choose to enjoy this mild weather while it lasts. The weather report is calling for some snow this afternoon, so we know a warm-front isn't on the way. What better meal to serve tonight than a comforting bowl of tomato soup?

One of my favorite recipes for tomato soup includes roasted fennel, which gives the soup a warm and rustic flavor. The caramelized tomatoes and fennel add a bit of sweetness and depth, bringing out the natural sugars of both of these ingredients. What I like most about this soup is that it has a flavor unlike any other tomato soup recipe I've tried. Many times, I avoid ordering tomato soup because it tastes like marinara sauce, but without the pasta. If you prefer tomato soup to taste like tomato soup, rather than spaghetti sauce, this is the perfect recipe for you!

Roasted Tomato & Fennel Soup

2 pints grape tomatoes, washed
1 head of fennel, fronds removed
3 small shallots, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
As needed, pure olive oil or canola oil
1/4 cup dry white wine

3 - 4 cups of chicken broth or vegetable broth
1/2 cup of heavy cream (optional)
As needed, Matt's Mix or salt & pepper


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the fennel in half, lengthwise, then julienne each half. Toss the fennel and grape tomatoes in some oil (just enough to coat) and place them on a baking sheet that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle with Matt's Mix or salt & pepper. Roast for about 25 minutes until nicely browned.

Meanwhile, saute the shallots and garlic in a medium-large soup pot over high heat, until browned in a small amount of oil (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan to keep the shallots and garlic from sticking and burning). Turn the heat down and carefully add in the wine. Allow it to evaporate, and then turn the heat off. Set aside to cool.

When the tomatoes and fennel are nicely caramelized, remove them from the oven and set aside to cool slightly. In a food processor, blend the garlic, shallots, fennel and tomatoes until smooth. Add a small amount of chicken broth and process again. Take this mixture and place it back into the soup pot you used to saute the shallots. Add the rest of the chicken broth. Heat through. Add the cream, if using and adjust the seasonings to suit your tastes. Serve with crusty bread or croutons. Enjoy!

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