2nd Annual Chopped Challenge

Have you seen the show Chopped on Food Network? 4 Basket ingredients 20 minutes to create a clever and delicious dish. Last Valentine’s Day, my husband and I decided to put our creativity and cooking skills to the test by making an entrée and dessert in true Chopped fashion. We bought each other 4 mystery ingredients and allowed 60 minutes cooking time, since we are amateurs after all.  We had some laughs, some decent tasting food, some not so good, but most importantly a lot of fun. So began a new tradition of our Valentine’s Day Chopped Challenge. A few things were learned from the first. #1 Don’t buy ingredients you don’t want to eat yourself. #2 Have an idea of what you want to make and adapt the mystery ingredients to that dish. #3 You clean your own dishes, so don’t make a big old mess in the kitchen. #4 Have one person do dinner and the other do dessert, then swap for the second day, oh yeah this is a two day event!

Day #1 Dinner:

My husband’s ingredients: Beef liver, Dover Sole, Golden Beets, Caramelized Onion Dip. How I chose his ingredients: one item prepared, I wanted to try liver I hear the amazing health and nutritional benefits, I love beets and haven’t had them in awhile same with the fish. I was looking for Halibut, but I couldn’t find any.  I found a package of frozen sole at Trader Joe’s and thought in the spirit of Valentine’s Day sole for my soul mate. His creation: liver and dover sole jambalaya with cauliflower rice and a golden beet salad with caramelized onion balsamic dressing.

Day #1: Dessert

My ingredients: microwave kettle corn, cream cheese, sweet and sour sauce, Asian pears. I knew I wanted to make a cake with cream cheese frosting so it worked out that, that was one of my ingredients. For the cake I blended up the kettle corn into a flour in my Vitamix, added butter, a little bit of Swerve sugar, AP flour, baking powder, egg, vanilla and presto Kettle corn cupcakes. For the filling I sautéed the Asian pear with brown sugar and butter until soft and flambeed with some dark rum. The trickiest ingredient of course the sweet and sour sauce. I combined about 1-2 tbsp (just enough to know it was there but not over powering) with a few blueberries and strawberries and pureed them in the Vitamix then strained out any seeds to make a sweet and sour berry drizzle for the top of my cupcakes.

Day #2: Dinner

My ingredients: Bratwurst, Chorizo, Collard Greens, Chayote Squash. This dish was by far the best of the competition. My husband even suggested I make this on a regular basis, of course with a healthier protein option. Collard enchiladas with roasted chayote, chorizo, and bratwurst filling. A schmear of roasted garlic, tomato and chorizo salsa inside and out. Topped with chayote and avocado sauce and feta cheese. How to make this fab dish: in a covered pan add collard greens with stems trimmed and 1/2 chicken broth to get some steam going, season with garlic, pepper, chili powder. Cover and cook until tender, only takes about 5 minutes. Removed greens from pan and place on a plate to cool in the fridge. On a baking sheet add 2 chayote squash chopped, 1 cup cherry tomatoes and 4 cloves of garlic drizzled with avocado oil, seasoned with chili powder, salt, pepper and cumin, roast for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. For the filling, saute 2 bratwurst removed from casing, and 1/3 package of chorizo (in reality I would use a cleaner protein choice, grass fed ground beef, turkey or venison) add 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1/2 red bell pepper, 4 mushrooms, 2 cloves garlic. The chorizo has a lot of seasoning so not much is needed but I added juice from 1/2 lime, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. After the veggies were done roasting I added 1/4 of the squash to the filling and the rest to my Vitamix with 1 avocado, 1 clove garlic, 1/4 tsp oregano, salt and pepper, blend until smooth. I figured I needed to reinvent the meat a little bit more, so I added some rendered chorizo to the tomatoes, roasted garlic and lime juice in the Vitamix to make the salsa. Assembly take a collard leaf smear with tomato salsa, add filling, roll, place in baking dish, repeat (I fit 5 in an 9×9 pan) top with tomato salsa, chayote avocado sauce, top with feta and broil for 5 minutes (if all ingredients are warm) or bake until heated through.

Day #2 Dessert:

My husband’s ingredients: sour cream, bananas, mixed nut butter, mini frozen custard cakes. How I chose the ingredients: sour cream is versatile in desserts you can add it to cakes, fillings, ice cream etc. TJ mixed nut butter is one of my faves, but it’s expensive and doesn’t last long in our house. The mini cakes could be reinvented in a bread pudding or blended to make a cookie, cake, or dough, giving lots of options. Lastly bananas, I can’t remember the last time I ate a banana and thought of the “nice” cream people make using frozen bananas. My husband’s creation nut butter and mini cake cookies with banana, mini cake and sour cream ice cream.

Creating new traditions or continuing with ones from the past is what makes each family special. Here are a some photos of my meals from last year. My husband definitely did a better job choosing ingredients this year. Beef ribs, very tricky to make well in 1 hour, overly sweet dessert items and a failed attempt at custard.

We live, we learn, and we have FUN! What are some of your traditions? Need a fresh idea? Incite a Chopped Challenge with your spouse or loved one and post of photo of your ingredients and finished dish below.

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