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.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fantastic Five Layer Bars

It is time for another Saturday Chef Confession: I hate the heat. As much as I enjoy being free of coats and boats, and bright, colorful days, summer is my least favorite season. It is hot, humid and sticky, which leaves me grumpy, uncomfortable, and lazy. Don’t get me started on my fear of bathing suits and short shorts. I don’t want to turn on the stove to make scrambled eggs, let alone braise brisket that’s dangerously close to third-degree freezer burns.

This summer has been nothing but rolling heat waves and choking humidity. And I’m miserable.

I had to throw together a quick dessert for a work party.  I was sick of boxed brownies mixes and we didn’t have a freezer to store ice cream or popsicles until party time. I also had a taste in my head, an amalgam of salty and sweet, rich and crunchy.

So I found a great recipe for Five Layer Bars. It seemed impossible to serve a dessert bar with no flour or eggs, but it all worked because of the wonders of heat. Yes, the heat that I despise thickened the sweetened condensed milk and it bounded the bar together. It reduced the chips to melty, gooey morsels and intensified the crunch and salt of the pecans.

Maybe the heat isn't so bad after all. 


Five Layer Bars

Recipe by Paula Deen

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 cup butterscotch chips

1 cup shredded coconut

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 jar Five Layer Bar Mix

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Press evenly in a buttered glass 13 x 9 baking dish. Sprinkle pecans, butterscotch and chocolate chips and coconut over graham cracker crust. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over the layers. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a light golden brown.

Allow to cool almost completely and cut into bars.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Beverly's Milestone Mac & Cheese

It’s hard to plan anything with family, be it birthday, bar mitzfahs or baby showers. It is especially hard with a family that is as big as mine (I have 22 aunts and uncles). My grandmother turned seventy-five last month, and she proclaimed that she wanted “fabulous” party to mark the milestone. To this blogger that meant something that rivaled Oscar night or at the very least, a girls’ night out ala Carrie Bradshaw and friends.

To my grandmother, however, that meant family, friends and good food.

The party came together effortlessly. The menu was planned. The cake was ordered. Somehow, I was in charge of preparing a dinner worthy of Beverly’s seventy-fifth. It was a terrifying feat and exhilarating challenge. And I felt a little like a cheftestant on “Top Chef.”

We kept the food simple, which meant there was very little margin of error. The classics—roast chicken, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes—can be the hardest to master. While family trickled in from across town or across the country, I was in my element in the kitchen.

It turned out to be a party for many milestones. I was no longer Damita’s youngest girl or relegated to the kid’s table, I was one of the women I had watched my entire life, in the kitchen hugging the babies and stirring the sauce. I celebrated a quiet milestone of my own.

And there, in my grandmother’s kitchen in Indiana, I perfected my recipe for macaroni and cheese. It isn’t over-baked or dry. It is luscious, creamy, simple. Most importantly, worthy of Beverly’s birthday.



4 tablespoons butter plus 1 to 2 tablespoons for pasta

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 cups of milk, warmed



1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup grated sharp or extra sharp cheddar plus more for topping

1 cup grated mild cheddar plus more for topping

1 cup grated parmesan or Italian blend cheese plus more for topping

1 lb box of elbow macaroni, cooked al dente

Pre-heat over to 375 degrees.

Fill a large pot with water over high heat. When water boils, salt generously, and cook pasta according to directions, but leave it a bit more al dente.

Melt butter in another large pot over medium heat. Add flour and whisk to combine to make a roux. Let cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Slowly whisk in milk warmed in the microwave until it is combined and smooth. Season again with salt, pepper and a conservative pinch of cayenne. You want the spice to add bite and not heat, so start with an 1/8th a teaspoon and add needed.

Let mixture cook, whisking often, until it boils. It should be thick and creamy. Remove from heat. Add 1 cup of all three cheeses. Whisk to combine. The heat from the sauce will melt the cheese. Season to taste. Add more cheese if needed.

When pasta is done, drain and pour into a buttered 13 by 9 inch pan or large casserole dish. Season with salt and pepper. Dot with butter, add any leftover cheese if you wish. Stir. Add cheese sauce to pasta. It is better to have more cheese sauce, because the pasta will absorb some of the sauce.  Stir until sauce is incorporated.

Top with an extra 1/3 cup of the three cheeses. Season with pepper.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is melted.


Chef’s Note: This recipe can be made with whatever cheese you have on hand. I generally use a sharp block cheese, a mild cheese and another to balance out the flavors.  It's great fun finding the balance of flavors you love.  Don’t believe those celebrity chefs. You do not need to buy expensive cheeses for a good macaroni and cheese.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I am a guest-blogger again!

Hi, everyone!

I have once again had the extreme pleasure of guest-blogging for Foodies Like Us! 

If you're interested in a yummy, decadent Potato, Portabella and Parmesan Gratin, please check out my entry at their website. 

And be polite, and leave a comment! 



Please check back here tomorrow for a new Saturday Chef entry!