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, May 27, 2011

Blueberry Crumb Cake

When I was fifteen, I used to listen to my parents’ old comedy tapes.  Yes, the NSYNC and Christina Aguilera obsession would come years later as I was a late-bloomer in every regard.  On my favorite tape, Bill Cosby famously boasted about the nutritious benefits of chocolate cake for breakfast (EGGS!!!  MILK!!!!  WHEAT!!!), and I have taken it to heart as wisdom and truth.  If a decadent, gooey chocolate cake is satisfactory for breakfast, then certainly a Blueberry Crumb Cake has to be even better, because it has fruit!  FRUIT!
Like a lot of my favorite recipes, I made this cake on a whim.  My mom needed a dessert for a party at work and didn’t remember until the last minute.  I went through the cabinets and found I had all of the ingredients to make this cake, and it was in the oven twenty minutes later (I cannot make a decent layer cake from scratch to save my life, so if I can make this and share it with you all, you can do it too!).
My mom later told me that the cake was gone in less than fifteen minutes after she sat it out.  After I had a decent slice, I understood why.  The cake is lightly sweet; the streusel is spicy and sweet and the blueberries provide a sharp tang.  It’s the perfect contrast of taste, and it’s surprisingly light, making it perfect for breakfast or dessert, if you must to be traditional.

Blueberry Crumb Cake
Ina Garten

For the streusel:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

For the cake:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (3/4 stick)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2/3 cup sour cream (full or reduced-fat)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fresh blueberries
Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan. 

For the streusel:
Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside. 

For the cake:
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Fold in the blueberries and stir with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out with a knife. With your fingers, crumble the topping evenly over the batter. (NOTE:  You probably won’t use all of the streusel topping.  I’ve made this cake a few times, and always had a little left over.  It does taste delicious, so feel free to use it all for an extra-crumby cake).  Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely and serve sprinkled with confectioners' sugar.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Saturday Chef's Easy Marshmallow Pops

When I was little and bored, my dad and sister and I would play the taste-test game.  We would close our eyes and try to guess the item of food we were given.  Looking back, I think it was just a way for my parents to get more fruit and veggies in our systems, but back then it was wholesome family fun.  (At least until my dad gave me vinegar and we retaliated with liquid soap.  Needless to say that was the end of the taste-test game). 
I think that’s where I learned that playing with your food could be fun.  Thus one day when it was raining and hailing in late April, and my niece was visiting, I decided it was time to play with chocolate and marshmallows and whatever toppings I could find.  Marshmallow Pops are just now starting their fifteen minutes of culinary fame, and I see why.  They are delicious, easy and fun to make, and did I mention they are delicious.  The combinations of toppings are endless and they are perfect for entertaining.   
Going to a friend’s baby shower?  Use pink or blue sprinkles.  Have a boyfriend who loves S’Mores?  Use graham crack crumbs.  Want something fabulous and unique?  Try chopped bacon if you’re nasty!  

                                                       28 marshmallows and 28 lollipop sticks. 

                                                               Ready for a chocolate bath. 

                                                                Yes, I went there, and it was delicious!

Marshmallow Pops
12 ounces milk chocolate
25 to 30 large marshmallows
chopped, toasted nuts
toasted coconut
graham cracker crumbs
bacon, cooked and chopped
Special Equipment:
25 to 30 lollipop sticks or popsicle sticks
Wax Paper

Push sticks into marshmallows.  Line a baking sheet with wax paper.  To toast coconut or chopped nuts, toss lightly in a skillet over medium heat.  Remove from heat and skillet when coconut is a light brown and/or when nuts darken slightly and are fragrant, about 3 to 5 minutes.
You will need to make a double-boiler.  Find a medium sized pot and heat-proof bowl.  Make sure you can set the bowl just inside of the pot.  There should be room between the bottom of the bowl and the bottom of the pot. 
Add some water in a pot and simmer it over low heat.  Place chocolate in a heat-proof bowl.  When water simmers, place bowl of chocolate inside the pot, making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the pot.  Stir chocolate frequently.
When chocolate is melted, remove from heat.  Submerge marshmallows in chocolate.  If necessary, use a spoon to coat the entire marshmallow.  Holding by the stick, remove the marshmallow, shaking gently to remove excess chocolate.  Immediately coat with desired toppings.  Place stick-side up onto baking sheet lined with wax paper.  When all marshmallows are coated, place in the fridge to harden chocolate.  Serve!  
NOTE:  I generally keep my chocolate over the pot of water so it will stay warm for longer.  If it cools and becomes too thick for dipping, simply place make-shift double boiler over low heat to re-melt chocolate. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Saturday Chef's Turkey Black Bean Chili

Like Picasso, I go through periods where I am obsessed with one ingredient.  I’ll put it in everything, much to the annoyance of anyone who frequently eats my food.  
DISCLAIMER: Before I continue, please don’t think that I’m saying that I cook like Picasso painted.  I’m not delusional.  Okay, back to the blog.
I just want to explore the possibilities of new ingredients, broaden my culinary horizons.  And I do so with every new vegetable or spice I experiment with.  
Picasso had his blue period; I had my black bean period. 
I discovered the magic beans years ago and put them in everything from salads to soups to shrimp nachos.  A few months ago, I found a recipe for slow-cooker black bean chili while trolling my favorite foodie sites.  It had tons of great reviews and seemed pretty simple, so I decided to make an attempt.  It was an unmitigated disaster.  I’m not one to cry over bad chili, but I was tempted, mainly because I acted against my better judgment and didn’t rinse the beans.  The recipe said not to.  Epic mistake, and I knew better.  Saturday Chef Rule #8: Trust your instincts!  Listen to that voice inside your head. 
I loved the idea of black bean chili with ground turkey, and the flavors were there, so I did a major overall.  I traded the slow cooker for my trusty Dutch oven.  I rinsed each can of black beans so thoroughly they lightened in color.  I added more vegetables.  After a lot of tweaking and dozens of cans of black beans, I finally got a chili I love.  It’s flavorful, but not overly spicy.  It’s mild enough that my eight-year-old niece will gobble up two bowls of it.  In fact, it was her idea to garnish it with cheddar cheese, a future foodie, that one.  This is a tight, delicious, smooth chili, thanks to the black beans and ground turkey (another obsession of mine).  It’s perfect on its own or you can put it on nachos or a hot dog or anything you want. 
So start your black bean period, and try out this chili for Cinco de Mayo or, ya know, Tuesday. 

Turkey Black Bean Chili

1 lb. ground turkey (85/15 mix)
1 yellow onion, minced
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups of bell peppers, red, yellow, orange, green, chopped*
1 teaspoon dried basil (or 5 to 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped)
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
3 15oz cans of black beans, thoroughly rinsed
1 14oz can of diced tomatoes and juice
3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
½ tablespoon chili powder
1 ½ teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, divided
Salt, pepper

Add ground turkey to hot, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Season lightly with seasoning salt or salt and pepper.  Cook until, stirring often, until turkey is nearly cooked through.  Place in bowl and set aside. 
In the same pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  When hot, add minced onions.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Sautee onions until they are just beginning to turn golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Add bell peppers and minced garlic.  Cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the can of diced tomatoes and juices, and tomato paste.  Stir and cook until tomatoes are heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the well-rinsed black beans, cooked ground turkey and enough  broth to just cover the mixture, about 3 cups.  Stir to combine.  Season with chili powder, dried oregano, dried basil, salt and pepper.
Stir to combine and cook until chili begins to boil.  Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.  Reduce heat to low.  Simmer partially covered for 30 minutes.  I just crack the lid a little bit to let steam escape, and the flavors concentrate.
After 30 minutes, stir, taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  Simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Chili should be tightening up.  Taste once more and add remaining tablespoon of vinegar and cook for 10 more minutes, uncovered.  Plate and garnish with sour cream or cheddar cheese.  Enjoy! 
*Vegetarian option:  Use vegetable broth instead of chicken and add one can of rinsed chick peas instead of turkey.