About The Saturday Chef

Midwest, United States
I am NOT a professional chef. I am what I affectionately dub a Saturday Chef—a weekend warrior of the culinary variety, fortified by the education I have gleaned from two high school cooking classes, the Food Network and my own gastronomical experiments. While I’m not ashamed to spend all day making bagels by hand, and proudly call myself a foodie, I’m not a food snob. I enjoy an Extra Value Meal as much as the next girl. My culinary escapades are still relegated to the weekends, but my love for cooking is stronger than ever, galvanized by more successes than failures, and the beautiful fact that the more I cook, the more people there are to feed. So please stay tuned for fun recipes, inevitable disasters and hopefully, a lot of good food.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Very Belated Foodie Christmas: Glittering Lemon Sandwich Cookies and Raisin Almond Granola

Time clearly is an ever-evolving thing. It drags. It flies by. It can be lost. It seemed ludicrous that people were preparing for Christmas before Halloween. Then time bended and flat out disappeared and suddenly, Christmas was four days away. I had gifts to buy, prepare and wrap. Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to prepare the amazing blogging extravaganza I had planned for The Saturday Chef’s first Christmas. *sigh* After a snow/ice/rain storm was forecasted as a Christmas disaster, and ended up being completely lackluster, I literally spent Christmas Day in the kitchen, making cookies, braising meats, dipping Oreo truffles, and making granola because our cancelled Christmas plans were suddenly back on.

So, um, here are the next two recipes for Saturday Chef’s First Annual Very Foodie Christmas! Better late than never.

I made these delightful little gems for my grandmother, who is unabashedly obsessed with cookies. They are easy to make and will amaze anyone who is lucky enough to receive them. I must confess I’m a little OCD, so I was painstakingly careful not to get any of the pink sugar on the green cookies and green on the pink. It was a little time-consuming, but worth it in the end.

This recipe was adapted from Shelley Wiseman’s recipe in Gourmet magazine, 2008. I am not a big fan of lemon zest, so I removed it from both the cookies and the frosting. The cookies are much more versatile without it, and I can’t wait to create more fillings to put on them.


For cookies:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Colored sanding sugars

For filling:
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened

Equipment: a heavy-duty sealable bag

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together flour, cornstarch, and salt.
Beat together butter and confectioners sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. At low speed, mix in flour mixture just until a soft dough forms.
Put sanding sugars in different bowls. Roll a rounded teaspoon of dough into a bowl and drop into colored sugar. I used a small round bowl, and swirled the cookie balls in it. It not only keeps the shape of the cookies, but ensures that they are evenly coated in sugar. Transfer to baking sheet and space about an inch apart.
Bake until tops are slightly cracked but still pale (bottoms will be pale golden), 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer cookies on parchment to a rack to cool completely.
Form and bake more cookies on second baking sheet. I used a different sheet for each sugar color.

Make filling and sandwich cookies:
Beat together all filling ingredients in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until combined well. Transfer to sealable bag and snip off a corner.
Turn over half of cookies and pipe about 1/2 teaspoon filling on flat side of each. Sandwich with remaining cookies, pressing gently.

*Note: I made these cookies exactly the way the recipe dictated, and they were fantastic. When I make these again (probably on New Year's Eve), however, I will not make them as sandwich cookies because they are hard to eat, and let's face it: they kind of look like little tushies. I plan to simply pipe the filling on the flat side of the cookies, and place frosting-side up so it can set. They will not only be easier to eat, but this will save a lot of time. And you can eat twice as many!

Raisin Almond Granola: The Perfect Stocking Stuffer

My father likes odd food. He loves everything from canned sardines to quinoa. I saw Alton Brown make some granola bars on “Good Eats” and was surprised by how easy it was. I decided to do the same with an Ina Garten recipe and put it in my dad’s stocking for Christmas a few years ago with wonderful results.

He liked it more than the sweater I bought him.


4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups sliced or slivered almonds
1 1/2 cups raisins and/or dried cranberries*
½ cup of wheat germ (optional)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Toss the oats, wheat germ and nuts together in a large bowl. Pour the vegetable oil and honey over the mixture. Add the cinnamon, and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats and nuts are coated. If it looks a bit too dry, add a bit more honey.
Pour onto two sheet pans so the granola will bake evenly. Do not pack it on the pan. Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns an even golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove the granola from the oven, and add the raisins immediately. Stir to incorporate. If you like a bit more sweetness to your granola, stir in a sprinkle of brown sugar after it has cooled.
Store the cooled granola in an airtight container. If you're giving it as a gift, pour into a festive tin and place a bow ontop. Perfect present, and no wrapping!

This can be eaten alone as a snack or with milk for breakfast. It's healthy and very filling.

*Note: I used Sunmaid’s raisin and craisin mixture. It has red raisins, golden raisins and dried cranberries, and adds wonderful favor to the granola.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Very Foodie Christmas: Kira's Awesome Chocolate Toffee Pretzels

A Very Foodie Christmas

Let's face it. Every year, Christmas has become increasingly materialized. Stores have started preparing for the holiday before the autumn leaves even fall. It is all about the gifts, gifts, gifts, and not about counting one’s blessing and being around family. But even though I’m aware of it, even I get caught up in the scramble for stuff. Just twenty minutes ago, I was upset because I couldn't afford to buy my niece a $50 video game (Really, $50?! After you pay $400 for the gaming system?!! How is that legal?!!!!!).

But I love giving gifts, sometimes more than receiving them. During an agonizing time of unemployment, when I didn't have money for big-shiny-WOW gifts, I made them: chocolate-covered pretzels, granola, truffles, fancy cookies, even skin-softening scrubs. I learned that homemade gifts can be more heartwarming that store-bought, especially in this climate. And that giving homemade cookies to your cookie-loving grandmother will actually elicit cheers of joy. Thus, I will be posting some wonderful ideas for the rapidly approaching holiday or any festive occasion.

On Deck: Kira's Awesome Chocolate Toffee Pretzels

I'm going to warn you now: this recipe is hard. To prepare the following dish, it takes a culinary fortitude I'm not sure a lot of you have. It is something I think even Julia Child or an Iron Chef couldn't master. Wait, come back! I'm kidding, just kidding! With the holidays looming like a tidal wave, no one has time for complicated, involved recipes. People need quick, easy ones they can whip up the night before a work holiday party with the kids or in a few hours before heading to a realitve's house. This is it. It's a bit messy, but that is half the fun, especially when melted chocolate is involved!

These little gems are not an entirely original idea, but they are ingenius, fun, and a wonderful addition to any holiday-themed menu. I started making these last year for a christmas party with my writer's group. They went over so well that I get requests to make them, and the guests actually squabble over the leftovers at the end of the evening. Make a batch of these, add a plastic bag and a festive ribbon and you have yourself a wonderful holiday gift for family, friends and co-workers.



1 Bag Salted Pretzel Rods
2 12oz Bags of Milk Chocolate Chips
2 Bags of Toffee Bits
Parchment Paper

Pour the toffee bits into a shallow pie plate or dish.
Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a double-boiler (or a pot of simmering water with a metal bowl on top), add the chocolate chips. Stir with a stapula until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat.
Dip pretzels in the chocolate, covering them about two-thirds of the way. Holding the pretzel by the end, and shake off the excess chocolate. Immediately transfer the pretzel to the shallow dish and turn and cover with the toffee. Place onto the parchment paper. Repeat.
If chocolate becomes stiff, reheat the water and return chocolate to a double-boiler.
Note: I usually start with one bag of chocolate and one bag of toffee and melt more as I need it.
When all pretzels are coated, place in the freezer until the chocolate is complete set. Serve within two to four days.
You will probably have some gooey, chocolatey morsels of toffee left over. Oh, the horror!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Saturday Chef Original: Quick Breakfast Hash


When I was a child, I was a meat-and-potatoes-girl. While my friends and cousins clamored for Happy Meals and fish sticks, my favorite meal was Mary's Kitchen Corned Beef Hash, green beans and toast with grape jelly. Obviously, it was a rare treat as canned corned beef hash is an eventual heart attack in a can, but it was worth it. The foodie in me hates to admit that it still is.

Unfortunately, now it is harder to eat my beloved hash without bouts of panicked guilt and chest pains that are probably more hypochondria than physiology; thus I created a recipe that is a scrumptious substitute and thankfully anxiety-free.

This recipes is extremely versatile. I have made it with both ground turkey and ground veal. Although, since I’m sure most of you still have twelve pounds of turkey in the fridge, you probably want to try the veal.


1 lb. ground turkey or veal
1/3 to 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
Olive Oil
1 to 1 ½ pounds baby red potatoes, cubed
Parsley (optional)
Seasoning Salt, Pepper

Cube red potatoes in small, uniform pieces rinse thoroughly in cold water. Place in pot cover slightly with water. Add pot to heat and boil.

Chop onions. In a separate skillet over medium high heat, sauté onions in a drizzle of olive oil for about 2 minutes. Add ground meat, and use wooden spoon to stir and break apart. Season as you wish. Add a handful of fresh parsley or parsley flakes for color. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Remove from heat.

Boil potatoes until slightly soft, about 4-6 minutes. Drain thoroughly. Pour potatoes in the largest skillet you have, and add a bit more oil. Season with seasoning salt and pepper. Cook for two minutes.

Add meat mixture and a bit more oil, pressing down with the back of wooden spoon to brown. After 2 minutes, stir. Repeat process 2 or 3 more times or until meat is done and a slight crust develops. Season to taste.

Serve with over-easy egg and toast.

*Note: It is always better to have more potatoes than hash. The potatoes will degrade when they are soft. It also tastes even better the next day.

Coming Soon: A Very Foodie Christmas; Edible Gift Ideas for Your Foodie Friends!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Do-Able Chocolate Eclairs: A Saturday Chef Show-Stopper


When I go to the grocery store, I almost always pick up one pristine, fantastic éclair from the bakery. I feel that this pastry alone could solve all the worlds problems—the war, the recession, global-warming, even the swine flu. With most foods I love, I had to find out how difficult it was to make at home. Surprisingly, the dough is not hard to make at all. It’s a classic pastry dough with a variety of applications and can be made with simple ingredients that we all have in our fridges and pantries—flour, water, eggs, butter. The pastry cream and icing, however, can not only be time-consuming to make, but also incredibly fattening.

Last month I had to plan a dessert party at work, and I wanted a show-stopper. So with a little culinary ingenuity and some help from a couple supermarket staples, I came up with an easy way to make eclairs that will impress your co-workers or guests--no heavy cream needed.

1 cup water
1 stick butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add water and heat until boiling. Add flour and stir until mixture forms a smooth ball. Remove from heat and let cool before adding the eggs, one a time. Dough should be sticky.

Drop tablespoons of dough onto a greased cookie sheet. Note: Most chef use a pastry bag and pipe dough onto the cookie sheet, but this works just as well.

Bake in oven for about 30 minutes until light brown. Set aside to let cool.

1 3.4oz box Instant French Vanilla Pudding
6 ounces of Cool Whip

Prepare filling according to instructions. Once pudding has thickened, add Cool Whip and mix to combine.

When pastries have cooled, slice puffs open lengthwise, but not completely through. Spoon in filling.

1 can Milk Chocolate Frosting

Microwave frosting until warm and running. Drizzle chocolate frosting all over filled pastries.
Eat immediately or chill and serve within 12 hours.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Turkey Meatball Soup: A Collaborative Recipe

In my first post, I mentioned that I learned how to cook from Rachel Ray and Giada de Laurentiis, celebrity chefs on The Food Network. One of the first things I made was Turkey Meatball and Tortelini Soup. It was a hearty meal and a bowl and something I could make to order in less than 20 minutes. It was a Giada recipe, but Rachel taught me that cooking is an inspired collaboration. Ingredients work together to make colorful flavors. And sometimes, recipes can be tweaked and swapped with others to create a wonderful meal.

Since I started this blog, I have been hit by so many food memories that I want to share, and suddenly, I wanted that soup, but didn't want to add the pasta because it absorbs the broth. I mixed a recipe for Rachel Ray's Mini Meatball Soup with from one from Gourmet Magazine found at epicurious.com, and tweaked it for my cooking style: added leeks when I didn't have enough onions; used fresh ground turkey to make meatballs instead of store-bought ones; mixed open containers of chicken and vegetable broth in the fridge; called my sister for advice when I didn't want to sautee the meatballs (she suggested broiling). Little did I know, I was stumbling on perfection, in soup form.


1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/3 cup large onion, chopped
1/2 cup leeks, sliced (pale green, white parts only)
2 cups baby carrots, sliced in thin, lengthwise strips
6 cups of low sodium chicken and/or vegetable broth
1 pound ground turkey
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 egg
1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 14 oz can White Beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 block frozen spinach or 5 oz of washed fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese

Chop and slice all vegetables. Place a large dutch oven over medium-high heat and add olive oil. When oil is hot, add onions and leeks, and sautée until you can smell onions, about 2 minutes. Add carrots and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add broth, season, reduce heat to medium-low and cover.

Position oven rack to the second highest position in oven. Turn on broiler.

In a separate bowl, combine ground turkey, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, seasoning salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly with hands. Meatball mixture should be wet and loose. Form into small balls, about an 1-inch in diameter or smaller, if you wish, and place on a greased cooking sheet. Broil until lightly browned, 3-5 minutes depending on your oven. This step is just add color and keep the meatballs from falling apart in the soup. They will still be mostly raw.

Broth will eventually boil while you mix and form the meatballs, and the vegetables should be somewhat soft. Stir occasionally. Add in meatballs to broth, cover and simmer until meatballs are done, about 7-10 minutes. Add white beans and spinach. When both are heated through, add parmesan cheese, season for taste, remove from heat.

Serve immediately with bread or a nice sandwich.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Braised Chicken Thighs with Artichokes and Sweet Peas

Adapted from recipe in Gourmet Magazine, January 2007 found on epicurious.com

One-pot wonders, in fall and winter especially, are my favorite things to make and eat. I’m not a big fan of soups, but cooking and then curling into a hot bowl of meat, vetables and starch is simply wonderful. This surprisingly healthy recipe was an instant favorite with my family, and will be made many, many times during the rainy fall and snowy winter.

*Recipe has been doubled
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
8 large chicken thighs with skin and bone (2 pounds total)
Black pepper
Olive oil
½ large leek, chopped (pale green and white parts only)1/3 to 1/2 large onion, chopped
1 cup dry white wine*
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained, and quartered lengthwise
1 cup frozen baby peas
Put flour in a shallow bowl and season lightly with salt and pepper. Pat chicken dry and season with salt and generously with pepper, then dredge, 1 piece at a time, in flour, shaking off excess. Transfer to plate.

Heat 2 to 3 tablespoons in the biggest skillet you have (12” or bigger) over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté chicken, skinned sides down first, turning over once, until deep golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes total. It will be easier to do this in batches as not to crowd the pan. The chicken will still be mostly raw. Transfer back to plate.

Add leeks and onions, and a little more olive oil to skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring, until vegetables start to brown, about 6 minutes. Season vegetables lightly with salt and pepper if you like. Add wine and scrape up any brown bits with a wooden spoon until wine begins to boil, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in broth, artichokes, and season a little more.

Return chicken to skillet along with any juices from plate and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover skillet and reduce heat, then simmer until chicken is tender, about 30-35 minutes. Test the chicken to make sure it is done and has reached desired tenderness. Stir in peas and simmer, covered for 5 minutes. Serve immediately with white rice.
*Note: I honestly do not drink a lot of alcohol, so I’m learning my Pinots from my Sauvingons. I only use wine for cooking, and I found that buying the 4-pack of Cavit Pinot works wonders for my cooking, at least. Also, this recipe needs little seasoning. I seasoned every layer, chicken, flour, leeks and oinions with a lighter hand, and I only used salt and pepper. The artichokes add a tart brightness to the dish.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Beginnings and Disclaimers...

A Disclaimer of Sorts: I am not a professional chef. I have never been to cooking school, unless you count standing outside the Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago after being lured there by the delectable smells. I am what I affectionately dub a Saturday Chef—a weekend warrior of the culinary variety, fortified by the education I have gleaned from two high school cooking classes, the Food Network and my own gastronomical experiments.

During the week, I’m stuck in the 9-to-5 rat race sponsored by Burger King and Popeyes and Panera. But once the weekend arrives, I have time to make elaborate meals like Braised Short Ribs with Roasted Pearl Onions, Shrimp and Black Bean Flatbreads, Hearty Chicken Chowder and even Coq au Vin.

While I’m not ashamed to spend all day making bagels by hand, and proudly call myself a foodie, I’m not a food snob. I enjoy an Extra Value Meal as much as the next girl. “Would you like fries with that?” ALWAYS!

I was raised in the Midwest, Indiana , then Wisconsin , by parents who enjoyed “simple American food,” and I ate as such until college when I discovered two things: 1) The Food Network broadcasted until 3 a.m. and 2) College fare is unhealthy, expensive and really gross. Thus, in the little galley kitchen with slanted counters and an arthritic stove, I became a Saturday Chef, buying things like rotisserie chickens and potatoes to cook on multiple meals on Saturdays and Sundays for the rest of the week. I learned a lot about quick but healthy meals from Rachel Ray and Giada De Laurentiis. I realized that “fancy food” wasn’t inaccessible to anyone as long as you had a little skill and a lot of patience from Alton Brown and Emeril Lagasse. Finally, I discovered that my father will eat my disasters—like Turkey “Brick” Meatloaf—even if I won’t.

Cooking became a new passion as much as writing was an old one. And it also made me a few friends from the dorms. At 21 years old, I hosted a few Saturday dinner parties in my apartment, showing my friends how to make lasagna, even though I’d never done it before. That is how I fell in love with cooking as well as eating.

I’m 27 now, and finally taking the advice of a good friend and starting this blog, where I will happily share some of my own recipes as well as my take on the old standards. Unfortunately, I haven’t struck it rich yet, so my culinary escapades are still relegated to the weekends, but my love for cooking is stronger than ever, galvanized by more successes than failures, and the beautiful fact that the more I cook, the more people there are to feed. So please stay turned for fun recipes, inevitable disasters and hopefully, a lot of good food.

Coming Soon:

Braised Chicken Thighs with Artichoke Hearts and Sweet Peas