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.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Old-Fashioned Strawberry Preserves

If you’re a graduate of the Class of 2000 (give or take a few years), you probably grew up watching, loving and quoting “Friends.” While I never got The Rachel haircut, I was a huge fan of the show. I still record re-runs even though I know almost all the episodes by heart. Don’t judge me.

One of my favorite episodes is “The One With the Jam.” In this season 3 episode, Monica had just broken up with Richard and was flailing to make the break-up mean something. So she decided to start a business selling jars of jam (and eventually have a baby). Joey ate the jam right out of the jaw with a spoon or mounded on scones. It made for great comic relief, but always left me confused as my favorite Welch’s Grape Jelly never tasted good enough to eat from the jar.

And then one day, organic strawberries were on sale at my grocery store and I bought several pints. They were a little over-ripe, so I decided to make preserves. The recipe was easy enough. I quickly realized why Joey devoured them so readily. Homemade preserves taste like the idea of a strawberry—sweet and fresh and a little tart. It is nothing like the jar of Smuckers at the grocery store. It’s luscious and fruity and gooey. I instantly started putting it on or any anything I could think of—biscuits, plain yogurt, ice cream and my favorite, grilled cheese with turkey and provolone. Sounds weird, but it’s divine.

If you have a free hour, take advantage of the spring harvest and cook up some old-fashioned preserves while you watch your favorite episodes of “Friends.”

Fresh berries.

After a quick mash, it's on the way to juicy preserves.

Old-Fashioned Strawberry Preserves
Adapted from recipe at http://www.epicurious.com/

3 1-pint baskets fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered*

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Place strawberries in heavy large saucepan and mash coarsely. Cook strawberries over medium heat until beginning to thicken, stirring frequently, about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add 2 cups sugar and stir until dissolved. Increase heat to medium and boil gently until mixture thickens and mounds on spoon, stirring frequently, about 24 to 30 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat. Cool.  Preserves will last for at least 10 days. Refrigerate in airtight container.

Makes about 3 cups. 

*NOTE: I like to quarter the strawberries because it makes smoother, juicier preserves, but it is not necessary.  You can hull them and mash them directly in the pot.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

I have another confession to make, and this one is actually juicy:

I killed the Easter Bunny.

At least I did for my eight-year-old niece, who loved the holiday so much she had adorable habit of wearing fluffy rabbit ear headbands everywhere starting March 1st. A few days after Easter last year, I mentioned shopping for a shirt she got in her Easter basket to my mother, not noticing my niece playing on the floor. Being the little genius that she is, she realized that there was no such thing as the Easter Bunny and was very upset.  I mady my munchkin cry.  I'm the worst auntie ever! 

Since then I make sure not to bring up Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy within a 100-mile radius of any child for fear of breaking more little hearts, and I send my munchkin little presents for the smaller holidays. Not because she needs it, simply because I feel guilty for killing the Easter Bunny!  And it's really fun.

For Valentine’s Day, I sent her a package of homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. In a red box covered in glitter stickers. What eight-year-old wouldn’t want that?

These aren’t the store-bought chocolate peanut butter cups. They’re so much better. It’s a mouthful of smooth chocolate-peanut-buttery goodness and few things can top that. You can also use any type of chocolate you like, including bittersweet or even dark.

Growing up is hard, but luckily there is homemade candy to make it that much easier on the parents, aunties and the kids.

Think making them is hard?   These candies can be made in a few easy steps: 

Create the chocolate shell for the bottom and sides.


Pipe in peanut butter filling.


Spoon on chocolate to cover and freeze to set.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
Adapted recipe by Martha Stewart 

2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter preferably all natural

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 pound semisweet or milk chocolate

36 1 3/8-inch paper candy cups


Combine sugar, peanut butter, and butter in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-low speed until combined. Transfer mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip, and set aside.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water. Keep melted chocolate over hot water near work area. Use the back of a small measuring spoon to coat insides of the paper candy cups with the melted chocolate, making sure to cover the bottom and sides in a thin layer of chocolate. NOTE: I used the round back of a ¼ teaspoon to spoon in the chocolate and spread it evenly around the cups.

Transfer cups to a rimmed baking sheet or muffin tins (which will keep the cups from sliding around). Transfer to freezer until set, about 10 minutes.

Remove cold chocolate cups from the freezer. Pipe peanut butter filling into each cup until three-quarters full. Spoon melted chocolate into each cup to cover. Return to the freezer until set, 15 to 25 minutes. The candies may be served right away, or kept tightly sealed in the fridge or freezer. Eat cold or at room temperature.