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, 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.