December 21, 2012 in Random Thoughts
Every once in awhile, I hijack the TV from my kids because I can’t stand another second of SpongeBob SquarePants. Since I can’t watch Homeland or Grey’s Anatomy in front of them, I typically watch the Food Network channel and somehow last year, my kids and I all got addicted to Chopped.
We got so addicted we decided to have A Chopped Family Christmas.
If you’re not familiar with the show, let me explain. The wonderfully droll Ted Allen introduces four chef contestants who compete against each other in three rounds: the appetizer, the entrée, and the dessert round. A chef is eliminated by the three judges after each round, so by the time the dessert round comes along, it’s a battle between the last two chefs standing.
But there’s a twist: for every round, the chefs have to make their appetizer/entrée/dessert utilizing the 4 mystery ingredients in a wicker basket, and they don’t always fit the category they are intended for. I’ve seen canned peaches for an entrée round, pork rinds for a dessert round, and 7-Up for an appetizer round. They challenge the contestants with ingredients they have never heard of, and it’s a riot to watch them taste the odd ingredient and then want to spit it out because it tastes so bad. But they still have to make something palatable with it, and that’s where the chefs’ creativity comes to life.
Last December, my oldest son came up with the great idea to have our own version of Chopped over the Christmas holidays. Being a Chopped fan myself, I was all over this idea, but we immediately hit several snafus.
My three sons couldn’t be the contestants because they were too young to let loose in my kitchen, so they would have to be the judges. The problem is, they are extremely picky eaters and my oldest has food allergies, so what could potentially be placed in our mystery baskets was going to be limited to boxes of macaroni and cheese and goldfish crackers.
They needed an adult to go with them to do the secret shopping, and since almost every other one of my extended family members was going to be a contestant, the job fell to my dad.
My dad is a foodie of the highest degree. He has eaten, and will eat, everything. If it were up to him, he would put together a mystery basket of pimento loaf, blue cheese, Diet Coke, and a giant squid…and that would be for the dessert round.
This is fun if you’re actually on the Chopped show. This is not fun if your kids (aka the judges) won’t eat what we might make.
So we needed a mediator: someone to help branch the kids out a bit on their selections while simultaneously making sure my dad didn’t pick out anything too crazy. We sent my sister’s boyfriend/host on this pivotal errand. I was not privy to what occurred during their shopping trip, but I think I’m thankful to have stayed home.
And then our round began: me vs. my mom. Our host introduced us and the judges in the most hilarious manner ever, which was good because I was nervous! 30 minutes to create an appetizer out of four mystery ingredients in the confines of my tiny kitchen while battling for stove top space and utensils with my mother? Yikes!
When the timer went off, I opened my shopping bag with shaking hands to see what I’d have to work with. My four ingredients were: cream cheese, sunflower seeds, blueberries, and pretzels.
My first thought, inexplicably, was cheese balls. I’ve never made a cheese ball in my life, and I’d be hard pressed to say when the last time I ate one was. I’m not even sure what’s in them, except for cheese. I knew I’d have to work quickly if I wanted to bake them off a bit in the oven. (Are cheese balls baked?)
Something happens when a timer is set. There is a level of anxiety that is shot out of a cannon into your bloodstream, laced with adrenalin and endorphins, and while it gets the job done, it does not necessarily make you a pleasant person to be around. So, like a true competitive person under the gun, I mercilessly pushed my mom out of the way and lunged for the oven.
Part 2 continues here.
Congratulations to my Random Acts of Kindness recipient Rebecca! I have something for you when you return from vacation!