Chopped at Home

I love watching Chopped not only for the food factor, but the competition aspect! I’m not always in the mood to be told how to make something on another cooking show. Plus, that 10-second countdown at the end of each round? Eeeek! It’s also fun to see where the chefs have come from and I love some of the judges.

My sis and I play chopped sometimes. It brings us back to the days of Ready-Set-Cook from ‘95. Ready Set Cook had studio audience members bring mystery ingredients to cook along side the chef.

On Chopped, there are 3 rounds: appetizer (20-minutes); entree (30-minutes); dessert (20-minutes).  Each round includes a basket of mystery ingredients which need to be included (in any amount) in the meal with any of the pantry items. We don’t always make 3 courses and we definitely don’t have a time limit.

chopped_em_290_200

My ingredients:

Cannellini Beans
Zucchini
Israeli Couscous
Whole Peeled Tomatoes

chopped_liz_290_200

Sis’ Ingredents:

Leeks
Thin Cut Pork Chops
Spam

Our Meal:

Pork chops in mustard sauce
Couscous with spam and leeks
White bean, leeks, zucchini, and tomato hash

Directions:

Chop the leeks and bathe or salad-spin the dirt/sand out of them.
chopped_leeks_290_200
Mix dijon mustard, chopped garlic, salt and pepper together and spread onto the pork chops while a grill pan is heating.
chopped_pork_290_200
Drain tomato and bean cans before dropping into a skillet. Add leeks, chopped zucchini and season generously with salt, pepper, and italian seasoning.
chopped_hash_290_200Finely chop spam and pan fry as if it were bacon.
Start cooking the couscous while adding spam and leeks. This will take about 5 minutes so set the pork chops on to grill.

The spam was totally the curve ball here. I have to say, it’s not as weird when sliced into small strips and fried until crispy. Sis and I eat our share of pork so we went with it.

The pork chops were good! I think our sauce had a nice not overpowering flavor. It was a good quick fix that will come in handy sometime in the future.
chopped_porkdone_290_200
I loved the hash. It also provided a good vehicle for leeks 2 ways. It was fresh and a nice medley.

We toasted the couscous before adding the liquid for a more nutty flavor. Spam was the salt factor and dropped leeks in as well.
chopped_plate_290_200
Overall, I think our meal would have scored well…it did by our critique! Sis’ idea for leeks 2 ways was a good one…it tied everything together. I ate the leftover veggie hash for lunch and it was still good. I probably wouldn’t have given much credit to canned tomatoes but it was a great variation from my usual sides.

In the past we’ve made ratatouille stuffed, pita chip crusted pork tenderloin with green beans and no-bake chocolate marshmallow cookies.

I highly recommend you try this game sometime! It’s a good challenge to use something you have on hand or to try something new…spam?

I have several of birthday meals to post soon (Figs, Amrheins, and the Mac & Cheese Taste-Off) so stay tuned!

Not-Your-Average-Sandwich

Mr. J and I had lunch with my parents at their house and were lucky enough to join while they recreated a restaurant favorite. They ride bikes on a trail in Bristol, Rhode Island and pass an unassuming sub shop called Ricotti’s. One sandwich has captivated them. Our lunch was a recreation at home.
sand_eat_290_200
Turkey, bacon, cranberry, tomatoes, and melty cheese are the highlights in this. Mum made one big sandwich and we all dug in.

Ingredients

oversized loaf of white bread, uncut
turkey breast, cut in thick slices
3 slices bacon
3 slices cheddar
jellied cranberry sauce
1 tomato sliced
lettuce

Directions

Hollow out the bread by slicing off the top and scooping out some inner bread.
Layer slices of turkey, cheddar, and bacon.
sand_bacon_290_200
Replace the top and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes just to melt the cheese and warm everything through.
After removing from the heat, layer tomato and lettuce before replacing the bread top.
sand_ready_290_200
Slice and enjoy!

They were right, it was a really good flavor combo. Mum thought baking it mid-way through layering the fillings was key. This meant the sandwich was warm and melty but still had the crisp lettuce and juicy tomatoes.

I liked the cranberry but since I love tart cranberries so much, I would have liked whole-berry cranberry sauce. Mum and Dad like a marinated turkey breast that they had for dinner and used some leftovers for this lunch!

Everyone liked it…definitely a crowd pleaser. It was a fun lunch and Mum even whipped up dessert. Stay tuned for that!

I Hate to Bake (well, hate is a strong word)

Allow me to introduce you to the  I Hate To Cook Book by Peg Brackenand an easy chocolate cake!Anyone can make this cake…even a non-baker like me! I grew up with homemade cakes, cookies of all varieties, cream cheese frosting, trifle, yogurt coffee cake, and a different dessert all the time. Mum is the best non-professional baker I’ve ever met but I rely on her for my treats and I don’t bake much.

She makes a mean Milky Way cake. I don’t love fruit desserts so I lean towards something with chocolate or caramel or nuts…why not all three?!

choc.cake_piece
Our family doesn’t deviate from our favorites. Birthday cake is ALWAYS chocolate ring of coconut fudge cake. Nobody will choose anything different. I was at my parents house for lunch and Mum whipped up a cake to go with it. It’s one we made way-back-when and it’s like a wild card…play it when nobody is expecting it.

Ingredients

1 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
3 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cocoa
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 cup water

Directions

choc.cake_ingredients_290_200
Assemble dry ingredients in a 9 x 9 pan and stir to combine.
choc.cake_flour_290_200
Add wet ingredients and stir well.
choc.cake_mixed_290_200
Bake at 350 for 20 – 30 minutes.
choc.cake_frosted_290_200
(It’s a bit tricky to remove from pan.  Don’t be in a hurry.  If you are in a hurry, serve it directly from pan.)

It is fluffy and actually tastes like chocolate. I hate cheap brown cakes…they’re not chocolate! I inherited an intense love for chocolate from both of my parents. Dad loves something chocolate after certain meals.

All desserts are welcome in my world, especially to help me celebrate my birthday on Thursday! Stay tuned for my Birthday Mac & Cheese Taste-Off!