Chopped – Family Watching and Cooking Fun


My kids don’t watch much TV.  However they heard about the show “Chopped” and they are obsessed!  My husband and I had watched a few times and found it interesting but a spin on Top Chef, which we’d been watching for years.  Thanks goodness for DVR’s -so we can tape have a variety of episodes and skip thru commercials (no crazy wants and saves time).  So not does my family like to watch but they decided they wanted to have their own “Chopped” competition.  OK…why not?!


In case you haven’t seen it the premise of the show is to give chef contestants a mystery basket of ingredients which they have to make an appetizer, main dish and dessert in 20 minutes per round.  Each round/course someone doesn’t make the cut and is eliminated or “chopped” from participating in the next round by a panel of judges (restauranteurs, chefs, cookbook authors).  They are judged on taste, creativity and presentation.  My 6 year old always says “What’s presentation again?”  The mystery ingredients are sometimes quite tough as they can be very unrelated or even unknown to the contestants.  Would you know what to do with pig’s snout?   How do you incorporate yummy tarantulas into a main dish?   Or how would you use a jalapeno pepper in a dessert?    I think what’s appealing to the show is watching the creativity but also having a winner at the end of the episode.  There’s no waiting to watch the next week (as Top Chef) to see who’s eliminated next.


So back to our own competition.  The first time my husband and I chose the ingredients hard boiled eggs, gel cups (vegan “jello”), lettuce and fruit.  We kind of acted as producers, host (Ted Allen in the show) and judges.  We weren’t really anticipating what the kids would make and that we would have to eat it.  Both kids made sandwiches.  However my son put the gel cups in with eggs, while my daughter mixed the gel cup with the fruit.  They both got fancy with presentation as my son swirled salsa on the plate and my daughter sprinkled fresh herbs on her sandwich.  They were both creative and worked hard on presentation, but my daughter was victorious.  We did our judges table and told them what we liked and didn’t like about their dishes and then sent them out of the room (like a commercial break) to reveal who would be chopped.  We used a wok lid to hide the dish and do the pomp and circumstance of the show.  It was fine until my son started to cry.

my daughter’s dish
my son’s dish
(points taken away for dish on single plate)
Waiting for the verdict
Waiting for the verdict


Now unlike the show there is no staff to clean up the kitchen and prepare for the next round.  That was where my husband and I did most of the behind the scenes  work.  So we did another course another day.  This was the dessert round.  The ingredients were vanilla ice cream, strawberries and wasabi.  Both kids went to the kitchen machinery.  Unfortunately the blender was on the blink, so my son go to the food processor.  They both made kind of a shake, but my son got more creative with adding other pantry ingredients and a variety of berries.  Plus his was smoother given the use of the processor while my daughter’s was of course more lumpy.  My husband and I were glad my son out performed this time as we had a whole discussion about not caring who won and that they were both working hard. (and we wouldn’t be able to continue to play if people took it too seriously and personally).  This time my son won, but all were happy to finish eating and sharing the dishes (eating not the washing).


chocolate, strawberries, ice cream, wasabi

my daughter’s chunky dessert
my son’s dessert


Funny thing is we’ve talked about “chopped” with other families and friends and seems we were late to the party.  Some other families had been doing this since last summer.  If we’d only known.  We’ll have to see what’s in store for the next episode of our home based “chopped”.





Peas and Thank You – New Family Meatless Cookbook Review and Give Away

Sarah Matheny, author of the popular blog, Peas and Thank You has written a new cookbook, Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love, after changing her family’s diet to one without meat products.  She has an easy and witty style about her writing and this book is peppered with food photos as well as her little “peas” (aka girls) enjoying her recipes.  This book has stories, tips and recipes from a mainstream family that takes on a not-so mainstream diet.


This book is a good one for those looking to make a diet switch and eat less animal products, as well as someone just looking for new meatless ideas.  I know I am.  Sarah has recipes from morning to night.  There are fruit smoothies for breakfast, sandwiches and salads (Hugh Jass Salad is just for mom) for lunch and hot meals (curry, jambalaya) for dinner.  Plus a few retooled desserts without the use of dairy (carrot cupakes).


My family made the homestyle chocolate chips cookies with sea salt, the thai veggie burgers and the homestyle spaghetti sauce.  While the cookies were good, I did notice they were missing something…butter.  But good to have a vegan recipe for such a popular treat.  Also the veggie burgers were good, but needed some sauce to lend moisture.  Luckily Sarah has a versatile almond ginger recipes that did the trick for me.  The spaghetti sauce was rich and easy (see below).  We used it on pasta as well as sauce for homemade pizza.


Pros: good variety of meatless dishes, some simple and quick, fun writing style, good photos, nutritional info on each recipe, pea points on each recipe give helpful hints

Cons: some dishes require special ingredients (tempeh, non dairy cream cheese) that may be hard for some to find, some recipes are time consuming and need many ingredients

Give Away!

If you would like a chance to win a copy of Sarah’s new cookbook, Peas and Thank You, please send a comment on this post, with the name of your family’s favorite meatless recipe.  One winner will be chosen at random on Thurs. November 10, 2011 and notified via email.


Homestyle Spaghetti Sauce, pg. 142 from Peas and Thank You

It’s almost as easy as opening a jar, both with the added joy, if you wish, of letting it simmer for hours, rubbing garlic behind your ears, smearing a few splatters on your apron and bringing your thumb and teo fingers together to emphasize, “Now attsa some tasty sauce!”  You’d be right.

2 14.5 ounce cans organic diced tomatoes

1 6 ounce can tomato paste

1/3 cup onion, diced

1/2 cup fresh basil

2 teaspoons oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a high speed blender ot food porcessor and blend until smooth.  Pour sauce into a large saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occassionally.



Kitchen Confessions – Cookbook Contest

So there are a few things regarding cooking, eating and the kitchen (and beyond) that I’m not always proud of.  We all have these things right?  Nothing crazy, just things we’d rather not share with our kids, spouses and friends.  But here goes.  I have to tell someone.

1. When my kids aren’t looking I take a lick of batter.  I do share the spoon/beater with the kids if there are no eggs in the batter.  But I tell them it’s not safe if it has egg.  The message is correct, but I risk it for myself.

2. I forget to set or listen for timers.  My biggest mistakes in the kitchen are because I’ve overcooked something.

3. I used to eat Taco Bell breakfast burritos frequently.  Mind you this was 20 years ago.  I also ate Pop-Tarts as a kid.

4.  I’ve told my family a particular food was gone and I actually hid the very last of it for myself.  Specifically with a homemade chocolate sauce.

5.  I am secretly screaming inside when my kids are served (and eat) a birthday cake from Safeway.

6. I do not have a slow cooker.

7. I do not like raw oysters.

8. I am not fond of paper plates, plastic utensils and paper napkins (especially if you invite me for dinner).

9. I’ve turned off a burner with my toes.  I know other moms have done this while holding and/or nursing a baby.  Fess up.

11. I don’t like to be “out-ordered”.  This is when you go out to eat and your dining companion’s meal is better than yours.

12. I eat many lunches standing up by myself in the kitchen, bewteen pick-ups, while checking phone messages, searching cookbooks, and making to do lists.

13. I often cook to get out of doing something else, like cleaning.

14. I put rosemary salt on just about everything.

15. I don’t always sift, when instructed to.

So let’s have our first contest here.  I’d love to see if anyone else does some of these things and any other confessions they’d like to share.  These should be G rated please.  The top 3 answers will receive a copy of one of the new Idiot books (and no I didn’t call you one): Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Local, Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Baking and Complete Idiot’s Guide to Easy Freezer Meals.  Simply blog a confession or agree with one of mine.  I’ll choose the top 3 funniest and most honest.  Winners will be contacted via email for their addresses (and must respond within 72 hours, or I’ll make a new pick).  Must be in the continental US and blog here between Friday June 17th and Friday July 8th.