Torrents of Spring

Torrents of Spring – a comical little story by Hemingway if you like satires and are familiar with the writing style of his generation. It’s also a rather fitting description of our life.

Hello! It has been quite some time since our Chopped Challenge. As you may have noticed, we are on a bit of a hiatus here at Eat, Play, Love; however, before we continue the self-imposed pause on our journey, I wanted to share the winning recipes from our big day, a few updates and a teaser.

You may remember, our appetizer basket required the use of rice flour, macadamia nuts, Parmesan cheese and spinach. Miss A and I made a roasted garlic macadamia nut hummus with spinach and macadamia pesto served with rice flour fry bread. While it was delicious it was no match for Mike and Mr. N’s hand-made rice flour pierogi filled with potato and bison meat and served with a butter macadamia nut sauce. pierogi

Print the recipe here: Pierogis

Then we had a meatless basket which challenged us to combine cauliflower, kale, apricots and chili. Miss A and I opted for a slow cooker recipe since we had to jet out mid-event to the birthday party on that cold, snowy day (doesn’t seem fair that months later we’re still waking up to snow!). The strategy paid off in the end when our chili nachos won the round against Mr. N and Mike’s fried vegetable spring rolls with chili apricot sauce. The funny thing is, that I much preferred the boys’ dish. In fact I prefer their take on spring rolls to those I’ve had in restaurants. But the majority rules, and the chili was a hit with the boys who ate leftovers for the rest of the week! chili nachos

Print the recipe here: Chili Nachos

Last, but definitely not least, was our dessert round. This is often the toughest round and typically where Mike’s teams have lost in the past. Dessert is his weakness. It was much the same this year since Miss A and I brought out the berry semi-freddo using the basket ingredients of puff pastry, oreos, peppermint schnapps and cream cheese. It was the clear victor over Mike and Mr. N’s oreo crusted, mint-infused cheesecake. berry semi-freddo

Print the recipe: Berry Semi-Freddo

Thank you again for participating in and following along with our annual Chopped Challenge. It’s one of our favorite things to do as a family each year. Speaking of family, we’re all doing well. Thank you to those of you that have reached out. We are all alive and well, just busy, busy, busy. The kids’ schedules and a few trips and adventures on the horizon have turned our lives a bit upside down once again. We’ve had to reprioritize some things and sadly blogging had to take a back seat.

Miss A is rolling along in first grade and still loving every minute of gymnastics. She and Mike also found time to hit the daddy-daughter dance again this year (notice all those missing teeth!). IMG_4479

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As for Mr. N, well, he’s found himself in another play in the city! He auditioned last month and rehearsals are now underway. He’s the only child in the play and has about 100 lines! It is an original screenplay about the Oklahoma City bombing, which was now 20 years ago! He’s very excited, as are we.play practice

Well, that’s all for now folks. I have to run get Miss A’s dinner made before gymnastics. We miss you all and want you know we’re still silently lurking in the blog world. We hope to be back sometime over the summer, at which point we might have some news about our next big adventure. Until then, cheers!

Chopped Challenge 2015 – A Live Blogging Event

9:19 a.m. CST
Well, the big day has finally arrived. Blizzard

While most of America recognizes today as Super Bowl Sunday, in our house it’s more commonly known as Chopped Challenge Day. As you can see by the pictures, it’s also our first big winter storm of 2015. Burrrr

Certainly we’re no strangers to this kind of weather and typically when it falls on a weekend, we’ll hunker down and get cozy. Any other Chopped Challenge day and this would be perfect. But this year, we’ve got some extra challenges coming our way. snow snow snow

The match-ups were drawn by number and the girls are once again pitted against the boys. Mike and Mr. N’s team, Team Ninjago is facing the reigning, three-time champion Kristy and her partner for this year, Miss A. The girls’ team, otherwise known as, Team Miyagi is feeling rather confident this year, perhaps too confident? Team Miyagi

Meanwhile, Team Ninjago is down a man. Mr. N had a birthday party sleepover (where we’re guessing there was little sleep involved) last night and won’t return until mid-day. Will ChefDad be able to carry his team to victory? Will Mr. N’s sleepless night spell trouble for the boys? team ninjago

Only time will tell, but Team Miyagi has challenges of its own to face as well. Miss A also has a birthday party to attend today, taking both her and mom out of play for a good 2 to 3 hours! How will the girls manage to overcome that hurdle? Especially when it means shoveling is likely involved. snow day

No matter. The show must go on. This is Chopped Challenge Day after all. Will Kristy maintain her Championship title? Will the boys take advantage of their underdog status and lull Team Miyagi into complacency? We’ll find out as Chopped Challenge 2015 officially begins.

Ladies and gentleman the games begin now. The votes are in and despite the creativity of all the baskets, the winners were clear. With a runaway victory, the Appetizer Basket for this year is….Appetizer Basket

Rice flour, Macadamia Nuts, Parmesan Cheese and Spinach! What will our teams come up with this year? Stay tuned. We’ll be back and adding to this post, live throughout the day.

11:30 a.m. CST
We’re about an hour and a half into the event now. Let’s see where things stand. crunch time

Uh oh boys. Looks like the girls are all business now. Can’t you just see that drive in their eyes! Not to worry, ChefDad appears to have things under control – maybe not the kitchen counters, but certainly the food. Those look like some nice round cuts of dough. Rice flour and spinach perhaps? dough making

After the first set of dishes was washed, the girls entered the cooking arena. But wait, is that berry residue in the food processor? mixing it up

What is Team Miyagi up to? They look like they’re having too much fun, and don’t they know this is the appetizer round? Let’s hope their complacency hasn’t gotten the best of them. kitchen fun

While the girls laugh it up, ChefDad is all business. Potatoes and some kind of ground meat….any guesses what he’s going for yet? Interesting. meat and potatoes

Phew! Looks like the girls aren’t only working on the sweet stuff. They’ve got some garlic and oil going in the oven. Hmmm. Things are getting heated up around here! garlic roasting

We’ll check back in with our contestants again soon. Hopefully Mr. N will have returned to the mix by then!

12:32 p.m. CST

Last we checked, Team Miyagi was putting some garlic into the oven. However, there’s no garlic in sight now. Instead the girls have whipped up some cream. Is this part of their strategy? Dessert first? whipped cream

Strategy or not, Team Ninjago is working at full capacity now that Mr. N has returned. Mr. N returns

Good thing as it appears ChefDad experienced a setback with his dough while away. dough redo

We can’t be certain, but we thought we may have heard some sniggering from the other corner of the kitchen. Fortunately, Mr. N seems to have ChefDad back under control. team ninjago

And while the boys are still working away on the appetizer round. It looks like Team Miyagi has kicked off our main course basket. If we’re not mistaken, they haven’t even started their appetizer basket. This team appears to have just run amok!

So what was the winning main course basket for 2015? Again, another runaway winner…Chili, Kale, Apricots and Cauliflower! Main Course Basket

Looks like the girls are well underway with this one. chili fixins

Could they be taking the chili suggestion literally? Well, one thing is for certain. The Bewitching Kitchen seems to have given the girls a leg up with their cauliflower. It seems like they’ve turned it into cauli-rice. Cauli-rice

But wait, where’s Miss A? Miss A there is no sabotaging the other team. Get back to your corner! sabotage

Now the girls have some veggies in the mix. Carrots, kale, onion and celery. Could this be going where we think it’s going? veggies

While the girls prepare to head out for a few hours, the boys are still hard at work on the appetizer round. Hopefully they can use this uninterrupted kitchen time to their advantage. boys team

Oh wait! It looks like the girls are too. Is that a slow cooker set to low? slow cookin'

Now that’s clever. They’ll still be cookin’ while they’re out playing! Good strategy ladies. Now let’s see what the boys can do with the kitchen. Surely it won’t look this clean when the girls return. clean kitchen

UPDATE: 2:24 PM.

Well, Team Miyagi is off working on their crane technique or something. Impressive that they ventured off into this blizzard, but it appears that there’s more danger at the birthday party than on the roads.
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Nice timing on the picture. Hope she made it into the foam pit.
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Yup. She’s OK!
Meanwhile, Team Ninjago is changing things up a bit too. They’re done with our appetizer (well, all but the finishing touches), and Team Miyagi hasn’t even started, but somehow the girls are pretty much done with dessert and the main course. They’re hard to explain. Superb Owl Sunday is all about making adjustments, though, and Team Ninjago audibled into their dessert preparation too. Sly move.
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What could Team Ninjago possibly be doing now?
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In the meantime, stay safe, Team Miyagi! This picture says it all: “We love you, but you’re going down.”
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5:00 p.m. CST

This is shaping up to be quite the showdown ladies and gents, and it’s looking like a long night for our teams. The three hour delay for Team Miyagi has really thrown off the timing of the event. The boys kept busy while the girls were away – chopping veggies, chefdad

taking selfies…selfie

They’re feeling rather confident, and perhaps they should with this dessert prep already underway:twists

crumpled oreos

But Team Miyagi didn’t waste any time upon their return. With Miss A a bit jumpy and Kristy’s knuckles a bit whiter after braving the mean, unpaved streets, the girls got right to work. hummus making

Looks like they’re putting that roasted garlic to work with a bit of chickpeas and macadamia nuts. In other words, their appetizer is finally underway! (As is this snow storm!) snowstorm

Within a few minutes of being home, it looks like Team Miyagi already has an appetizer ready to go. Hummus? macadamia hummus

But wait, where’s the girls’ spinach, parmesan and rice flour? Oh…here’s the spinach and parmesan. Looks like a fancy hummus with pesto. hummus and pesto

Now that’s a clever appetizer; although we don’t yet know what it’s pitted against. Team Ninjago has kept their appetizer hidden since earlier today while they’re hard at work on the main course. veggies and shrimp

spring rolls

Meanwhile, the girls are finally putting the rice flour to use. It looks like some kind of dough. rice flour dough

It is and it’s heading to the fry pan! Fry bread maybe? fry bread

Whatever it is, it sure looks tasty! What’s up next for our marathoners? Looks like Kristy and ChefDad have busted out the wine. They’re in for a long night for sure! wine time

At least no one has to venture back out in this mess. snow day

We’ll be back soon, but with the fading light the pictures may be less than ideal. On a positive note, we had light past 5 p.m. today! Spring is on the way. Right?!

5:37 p.m. CST

This just in – We have the Appetizer Round results!

The dishes put forth were:

A roasted garlic macadamia nut hummus with spinach and macadamia pesto served with rice flour fry bread.hummus and fry bread

And a hand-made rice flour pierogi filled with potato and bison meat and served with a butter macadamia nut sauce.pierogi

And the winner is….

Team Ninjago with their pierogi!

The spoon breakdown was as follows: Team Ninjago (Pierogi) – ChefDad (3), Mr. N (3), Kristy (3) and Miss A (4)

Team Miyagi (Hummus) – ChefDad (3), Mr. N (2), Kristy (3) and Miss A (3)

It was a close one, but it looks like the boys have won the first round. Kristy and Miss A certainly can’t be feeling complacent now. We’ll just have to see how their chili stacks up to the boys Asian rolls.

6:47 p.m. CST

Main course preparations are underway. Looks like the girls are using their chili to plate some nachos. What a great dish for game day! It smells fantastic too. nachos

queso fresco

And what is Team Ninjago up to? Looks like they went for some fried veggie spring rolls. veggie spring rolls

Wait! What’s this? The results are already in? So what did the Main Course Basket turn up this year?

Well, Team Ninjago brought Fried Vegetable Spring Rolls with Chili Apricot Sauce to the table. Main Course Spring Roll

And Team Miyagi whipped up some Chili Nachos. Chili Nachos

The winner is….

Chili Nachos! Things are certainly interesting now. It’s all up to the dessert round, but first how did the dishes rank with the spoons?

Team Ninjago (Spring Rolls) – ChefDad (2), Mr. N (2), Kristy (3-1/2), and Miss A (1)

Team Miyagi (Chili Nachos) – ChefDad (4), Mr. N (3), Kristy (2), and Miss A (2)

It’s heating up in here for sure. Who’s going to take home the title? It’s anyone’s game. We’ll have to see what dessert has in store for our chefs. The winning Dessert Basket this year (by a long shot) – Oreos, Peppermint Schnapps, Puff Pastry and Cream Cheese.

Stay tuned…we’ll be back with the 2015 Chopped Challenge Champion!!!!

8:29 p.m. CST

Just over 11 hours later and Chopped Challenge 2015 is winding to an end. The girls’ team busted out the puff pastry and the pie weights to create some little puff cups. Puff pastry

puff cups

Then Miss A whipped up some fresh whipped cream. What could they be making? And what happened to all those desserts from earlier in the day? whipping cream

Well folks, we knew this would be a stiff competition, but we had no idea that both Team Ninjago and Team Miyagi would each bring two desserts to the table. Looks like both of these teams want the win.

Team Ninjago brought the Puff Pastry Twists Filled with an Oreo and Cream Cheese Mint Frosting, Dipped in German Chocolate and sprinkled with Sea Salt. And they made an Oreo Crusted Mint Infused Cheesecake! Whew! Dessert twist and cake

And Team Miyagi presented a Raspberry Tart with Mint Cream Filling, raspberry tart

along with a Semifreddo Puff Pastry Sundae. Semifreddo Sundae

Now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The crowning of the 2015 Chopped Challenge! And the winner is….

Team Miyagi

Team Miyagi!!!! Kristy remains reigning champ for another year! Sorry boys…better luck next year. losers

So what tipped the scales in the girls favor? It was Miss A’s Semifreddo. She had ice cream on her brain the moment the winning baskets were announced. Good thing she did too, or the results may have swung the other direction. semifreddo sundae

The breakdown was as follows:

Team Ninjago (Puff Twists): ChefDad (3), Mr. N (3), Kristy (2), Miss A (2)
Team Ninjago (Cheesecake): ChefDad (2), Mr. N (4), Kristy (1), Miss A (2)

Team Miyagi (Tart): ChefDad (2), Mr. N (2), Kristy (1), Miss A (2)
Team Miyagi (Semifreddo): ChefDad (4), Mr. N (4), Kristy (4), Miss A (4)

The Semifreddo even takes the coveted all 4-spoon rating! Now that’s a first for Chopped Challenge!

Congratulations to Team Miyagi. It was a hard fought battle and another marathon event. celebration

But perhaps we shouldn’t celebrate just yet….There’s still the clean-up (or should I say the 10th clean-up of the day!)!
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Thank you all for following along with us today! We had another great year filled with fun, laughter, some good old fashioned trash talking and each other. Thank you for being a part of our memories. Long live Chopped Challenge!

(And looks like the kids get to sleep in tomorrow – snow day! Too bad mom and dad still have to work. Booo!)

It’s Time to Vote….Chopped Challenge 2015

Sure we hardly have time to blog let alone cook these days, but we’re not about to miss our annual Chopped Challenge live blogging event! It seems it has become a sacred family tradition. As Mike and I were trying to figure out how to logistically pull it off this year, the kids became quite adamant that it still happen on Super Bowl Sunday (Sunday, February 1st). It appears the kids take this just as seriously as we do, and why not, it’s always a ton of fun.

Remember this mess from 2012:dirty dishes

Or this delicious winner from 2012 (Chiptole Grilled Lobster over Stir Fried Buckwheat Noodles):chopped main course

We kicked things up a notch in 2013 with homemade pasta versus lentil burgers. The homemade pasta won the prize, but the lentil burgers have been made many times since. Black Beluga Lentil Burgers with Muffaletta Olive Salad

beluga lentil and artichoke pasta

And last year, well the competition got stiff. Chopped Challenge Teams 2014Arghboozing

The kids favorite dish from last year – Toasted Apple and Bacon Tortellini. fried tortellini

So are you ready for this year’s cooking challenge? Below we’ll have three polls – one for appetizers, one for the main course, and one for dessert. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the format, we base this off of the Food Network’s “Chopped” series. The premise is simple, contestants must use the ingredients in the basket (no matter how crazy they seem) to create a dish. There are three rounds (appetizer, main course, and dessert). The winning dish of each round is selected based on taste, presentation and creativity.

Well, below you’ll find three basket options for each round. This year we’re pulling from the baskets that didn’t make the cut in the past three years. Some of the baskets are clearly more kind than others; though we won’t name names. We’re excited about them all and look forward to the challenge. So, please select one basket (hitting “vote” on each poll – total of three) for each of the three rounds. The winners will then be announced in our live cook-off event on Sunday, February 1st, as Mike and I will go head-to-head to see what we can cook-up (will Mike be able to knock me off the winner’s circle this year?). Mr. N and Miss A will again serve as sous chefs, though teams have yet to be picked.

So without further ado…vote early and often! Voting remains open until Friday, January 30th. And make sure to stay tuned for the live blogging event and subsequent recipes. We can’t wait to see what you drop in our baskets this year!

For the Appetizer Basket we selected the non-winning baskets from 2013.

The Main Course options were taken from the non-winning baskets from 2014.

And the Dessert Basket comes to us from our very first year’s non-winning baskets in 2012.

Thanks for voting and we’ll be back, live (all day) on Sunday, February 1st for Chopped Challenge 2015!!!!

Mr. N in the Driver’s Seat

This is the last installment for Chopped Challenge 2014. I wish our dessert round was more inspired this year, after all Charles gave us a great basket to work with! Dessert Basket 2014

Sadly, however, after a long nine hours of cooking our creativity (and quite frankly motivation) was lacking. Don’t worry Charles, we’ve decided next year’s Chopped Challenge twist will be that the dessert round goes first. I know the kids won’t complain! So what to do with quinoa, chocolate, mango and Grand Marnier? Well, Mr. N suggested no bake cookies – they are easy, they are good and it should work. He also knows it’s the only way his mom will eat chocolate and figured it was a sure-fire way to win. conspiracy

So that’s what team Cleavers opted to do. We subbed the quinoa for oatmeal, the vanilla for Grand Marnier and added bits of dried, chopped mango in our regular recipe. The result was interesting. It certainly had the flavor of no bake cookies, but not quite the texture. Mr. N and Miss A both loved them and gave them a 4 spoon rating – the same as the regular recipe. Mike and I gave them 3 spoons each; although in retrospect they were more like 2 spoons. I didn’t eat them again. no bake cookies

I really didn’t even think it necessary to share the recipe, but the kids were insistent. They loved the quinoa cookies. They save well in the freezer and I saw Miss A sneak one out just yesterday. I guess this is one way to get her to eat some quinoa! Team Number Won was actually going to make no bake cookies too (a first in the Chopped competition to have both teams thinking along the same lines), but ultimately they opted for a no bake-inspired granola bar. The result didn’t quite go over as well, only garnering 2 spoons from all but Mike.

Long story short, stick with the regular recipe (unless you’re trying to get your kids to eat quinoa). The recipe provided here is our regular recipe passed down for several generations on my dad’s side of the family. It’s been a favorite for years and soothed many a broken hearts during the high school/teenage years. At the kids request we did include the quinoa option in the recipe for anyone interested.

Print this recipe: No Bake Cookies

Before we sign off for the week, I figured we’d share a few pics from President’s Day this week. Unfortunately Mike had to work, but the kids and I had a fabulous day at the Arboretum. Since it had warmed up into the 20’s (F), we thought we should try to take advantage of some of the snow and try our hand at cross-country skiing. The kids did great for their first time. skiing

We were out for an hour and half (although we only got about 1/4 mile). Mr. N had a rough start, but quickly got the hang of it and had a lot of fun. Miss A had a difficult time staying upright. She remained determined and optimistic for a good while, but then collapsed in a heap flailing her skiis about, becoming quite contorted yelling, “I’m useless! I’m just useless! Don’t talk to me!” It was quite the dramatic scene. cross country ski

That was the end of our skiing adventure. Fortunately she calmed down after we warmed up and ate some lunch. We then decided to take a drive through the park and photo the snowy scene. We were in the midst of a solid blizzard. snowstorm

Each of the kids had a camera as we drove around. We’d occasionally stop the car and hop out for photos. snowy day

The kids were all giggles and we were having a lovely time. We found this particularly pretty spot and paused to play in the snow a bit (the park was virtually empty but for us). snowy forest

The kids had fun rolling around and catching snowflakes on their tongues. happy day

Then it was time to get moving – only we couldn’t move. I should have known this would happen. My car (which I loathe beyond words) is not the best in snowy, icy or wet weather. I shifted forward, shifted backward, but we were not moving. Not one bit. I tried again – nothing. I was beginning to think we might have to call the visitor’s center and request assistance, but I wasn’t quite ready to do that yet. I sat for a moment to think. We didn’t have any kitty litter in the trunk, there were no other cars/people in the vicinity…Then I hopped out of the car, opened the backseat and told Mr. N to hop in the driver’s seat. His eyes widened and he looked at me like I was crazy (and perhaps I was). He was a bit hesitant, but I explained he just needed to sit there, push the pedal with his foot and hold the wheel straight while I pushed the car. This he found quite amusing. snow play

So with Mr. N at the wheel, I stood with the driver’s door open for leverage and pushed with all my might. I rocked the car back and forth, back and forth. Miss A in the meanwhile was squealing with delight. “Wheee! This is like a ride!”

Mr. N was trying to play it cool and be all serious, but you could see the devious little twinkle in his eye. He was relishing this moment. After about five minutes of rocking, pushing, pausing, pushing we started to move. I quickly popped Mr. N to the passenger seat and took control. At first we were going back and forth sideways (maybe six inches either way). I didn’t even realize it was possible for the car to move this way. Then finally we began to slowly roll forward. Success!

We decided it was probably time to go home, and so ended our snow day adventure. It’s one we won’t forget anytime soon. We all had a lot of fun and Mr. N was quite proud to have saved the day – modest too. “Thank you Mr. N! Without you, we still would have been stuck and had to call for help. I couldn’t have done that without you.”

“I didn’t do anything. I just sat there and pushed a pedal,” he said. But you could see the gleam in his eye and the slight uptick in the corner of his lips.

What a winter! At least we have some fun stories to share now. And even though we’re facing another week of temps below zero and in the teens, we’re getting closer to spring. We did have one day this week where we hit 45F, some snow melted and I got out for a run. Spring is on the way. I know it!long shadows

Our shadows are getting longer!!! So while we continue to wait out spring, we’re going to get back in the kitchen and start cooking recipes from around the world again. First up are Miss A’s picks for a few dishes from Poland. See you next week!

The Secret is in the Sauce

Well, another busy week is behind us and we’re about to start another one; however, and I hesitate to say this, I think I’m finding a new rhythm. We’re no less busy than we have been for the past six months, but I’ve found a bit of a flow. I mean when is the last time I posted twice in one week!

It’s hard to believe the Chopped Challenge is already several weeks ago now, especially when we’re still enjoying the fruits of our labor. (We still have two pot pies remaining in the freezer!) So speaking of those pot pies, most of you will recall, our main ingredient basket for the big day was brought to us by Vanyadhanya from Skinny Chef de Cuisine and included Garam Masala, Cashews, Pumpkin Seeds and Potatoes. Main Course Basket 2014

It was definitely a close contest between the two dishes – Garam Masala Dumplings and the Vegan Pot Pie with Garam Masala. In fact, if it wasn’t for the secret ingredient Mike had been hiding since we shopped for the event, it would have been a dead heat. Little did I realize he had that little surprise up his sleeve! So what was the thing that put Team Number One over the edge for this round? Well, let’s recap how it all got started first. Miss A and Mike began their dish by boiling the potatoes and creating a sauce using whole garam masala. boiled potatoes

They sauted some shallots and garlic in a skillet before adding two cups of water. Next they placed the garam masala inside a cheesecloth, tied it closed and placed it in the same pot to simmer for almost an hour. garam masala

Next it was time for the cashew cream – a blend of cashews (soaked in water for 12 hours) and almond milk. Cashews

Once the garam masala had simmered long enough, the cheesecloth was removed and tossed. Mike and Miss A then combined the cashew cream with the stock to make a creamy sauce. But they didn’t stop there. They also added a bit of ground garam masala and the secret ingredient – paneer (a fresh Indian cheese). This is when I knew Mr. N and I were in trouble. I LOVE paneer – and Mike certainly knew that!

As the sauce was set aside to keep warm, Team Number Won then combined their boiled potatoes, all-purpose flour and some cilantro in the food processor. making dumplings

From there they scooped out golf ball sized pieces and formed little round dumplings. The dumplings were dropped in boiling water and cooked until they floated to the top. Rolling dumplings

Next Miss A and Mike rolled the dumplings (still wet and somewhat sticky) in chickpea flour and then placed them into hot oil to deep fry. The dumplings were fried to a golden brown and then drained. Once drained, the dumplings were served immediately with the garam masala-paneer sauce. garam masala dumplings

The dish was fantastic! The flavors were so warm and comforting. It was easily a 4 spoon dish for Mike, Miss A and I. Mr. N, however, preferred the pot pie. In all honesty, Mike and I likely would have given both main course dishes 4 spoons had we enjoyed them on separate occasions, but that secret ingredient was just too good to look past, and it was a competition after all!deep fried dumpling

Print this recipe: Garam Masala Dumplings

So since the pot pie met with rave reviews from each of us as well, we thought we’d share this recipe with you all too. It’s vegan, filled with bold flavors and very comforting! Not to mention, you can make plenty to have for a meal another day.

Print this recipe: Vegan Pot Pie

Next week we’ll be back with our final entry from this year’s Chopped Challenge – the dessert round. After that we’re setting off around the world on another cooking adventure (from our own kitchen that is). Have a great week everyone!

Staying Warm and Toasty

As many of you know, the Midwest has been experiencing a very cold and snowy winter. As of today we’ve had 20 days with below O degree (F) temperatures. Six more days and we’ll beat a record from sometime in the 1800’s. Frankly, that’s a record I’m not interested in beating. I don’t mind the snow, but honestly, it’s hard to enjoy it when it’s minus nine outside. Fortunately, we have managed to get our fair share of sledding in this winter which always makes us happy.

So let’s talk about something warm and toasty. Even if it’s summer in your neck of the woods, this dish would make a fun appetizer. It’s our Toasted Bacon and Apple Tortellini from Super Sunday’s Chopped Challenge. I’m going to get right down to business, as I hope to post all the winning recipes from the challenge in a timely manner.Then we can get back to cooking around the world. Thanks again to everyone that followed along that day. We had a lot of fun and have finally recovered (we didn’t want to be in the kitchen for a few days after that marathon!). So now on to the winning appetizer.

This basket came to us from our very own little sous chefs, Mr. N and Miss A. They very much thank you for their votes. They were quite excited! Mike and I on the other hand were a bit puzzled what to do with tortellini for an appetizer, but the kids had some fabulous ideas. Miss A instantly had a pasta salad in mind. Mr. N knew we had to stuff the tortellini with bacon. So that’s how we began. Appetizer Basket Ingredients 2014

For our homemade tortellini we referred to Chicago John’s tutorial on using won ton wrappers for the dough. (Glad I remembered that one!) stuffing tortellini

For the filling we added ricotta, basil, apple, bacon, an egg, Romano and salt and pepper to the food processor. We filled each won ton before carefully shaping them into tortellini. making tortellini

Mr. N really enjoyed making the tortellini. Even Miss A asked if she could make a few, which concerned Mr. N for a moment as he was suspicious of sabotage from the other team. Ultimately he let her try her hand at pasta making as well. won ton tortellini

Now came the fun part. I reminded Mr. N of the Toasted Ravioli we made a long, long time ago to represent Missouri and St. Louis. I suggested we deep fry our little tortellini to make them feel more appetizer-like. Well, one mention of the words “deep fry” and he was in complete agreement. So after cooking the tortellini we dredged them in flour, egg and panko before deep frying them to a crisp, golden brown. toasted tortellini

The only thing left was to come up with a sauce. Since we used a filling with apple and bacon, we thought a sweeter cream sauce was in order. We combined mascarpone, cashew cream and white wine in a small sauce pot before heating it over a low flame until it was blended, nice and creamy. You could easily use heavy whipping cream in place of the cashew cream, but if you’re so inspired, it was delicious. There are an abundance of cashew cream recipes out there, but we used a simple blend of raw, unsalted cashews (soaked in water), lemon juice, vegetable stock and a little bit of almond milk. Just toss it into a food processor and run until smooth and creamy. mascarpone and cashew cream sauce

So there you have it, team Cleaver’s Toasted Bacon & Apple Tortellini. It was 4 spoons for both Mr. N and Miss A, and 3 spoons from the grown-ups. While these were quite tasty, I’m not sure we’ll make them again. They are rather involved and frankly I prefer my tortellini as a main course with a nice light creamy mushroom sauce (fortunately we have a bunch saved in the freezer that didn’t make it to the frying stage). Not to mention if we’re going to deep fry, there are quite a number of foods I’d rather splurge on before these; but a winner is a winner. It was definitely a lot of fun to make and great to have both kids so active in the kitchen this year. This has become quite the “sporting event” around here this time of year!

Print this recipe: Toasted Apple and Bacon Tortellini

Now before I sign-off, I’ll give you a brief run down on the competition’s dish. After all it was completely the brainchild of our little Miss A (who recently got all dolled up for the annual daddy daughter dance). daddy daughter dance

The salad started with a bed of Romain lettuce which was topped with the cooked four-cheese tortellini, apple slices, pear slices, bacon crumbles, fresh basil and peanuts. The salad was dressed with an Asian-inspired dressing of sesame oil and ume plum vinegar. The sauce and peanuts weren’t the biggest hit, so we recommend a different choice of nut – walnut or pecan perhaps – and going with either less sesame oil, or another more subtle oil. The salad was served cold and was pretty good (but take our recommendations for adjustments into account).Tortellini Salad

Have a great week everyone! We’ll be back soon with our winning main course recipe. In the meantime, aren’t they just too cute?! If someone figures out how to stop time and keep these little ones from growing up so fast – please let me know. ;) dance night