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.
Nice timing on the picture. Hope she made it into the foam pit.
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.
What could Team Ninjago possibly be doing now?
In the meantime, stay safe, Team Miyagi! This picture says it all: “We love you, but you’re going down.”

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!)!


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!!!!

Super Sunday Chopped Challenge

We are pleased to announce a one-day extension on voting! We were able to rearrange our schedule this weekend so that we can have our Chopped Challenge on Super Sunday (which is what we prefer!). That gives us all day to cook, cook, cook…and then clean up. ;)

That being said, we’ll begin our shopping on Saturday, so if you haven’t had the chance to vote yet, now’s your time. We have one tight race and one clear runaway…Still it’s anyone’s game.

Last Year’s Teams:

Team Domi-Nation

Team Girls

We can’t wait to see what you come up with for us. We’ll see you all on Sunday!

Warming Up to a New Year and An Invitation

Happy New Year! We hope you all enjoyed the holiday season and are enjoying a fabulous start to the New Year. Since our area is under an uncharacteristic deep freeze, we thought it fitting to bring you this warming stew recipe to enjoy during these colder months. We also have some fun planned for a future post, so make sure to keep reading to find out how you can play along!

buttercup squash

Now this particular recipe is also for our dear friend Sally at Bewitching Kitchen who mentioned she loves chickpeas. Sally has followed our blog for nearly three years now and was our first non-family/friend commenter. So since she holds a special place in our hearts, I’m going to do a little bragging on her behalf. Check out this post to get a glimpse into why we love Sally and why her blog is on our list of faves. Congrats Sally!

Someone spied a bird out the window!

Someone spied a bird out the window!

Now, this recipe for Amazon Bean and Squash Stew (adapted from Eating Well) is also one of our faves because it’s very filling, flavorful and it’s vegan. I haven’t shared this on the blog yet, but last September, Mike and I undertook a three-week vegan cleanse. The results were fabulous – we slept better, felt better and found a ton of ways to get creative with beans, lentils, nuts, spices and all sorts of foods that were relatively new to us. As a result, we’ve completely altered our eating habits and lifestyle (in fact Mike has lost 45 pounds and is the healthiest he’s been since I’ve known him!). While we’re not vegan 100% of the time, we do eat vegan more often than not. Now that’s not to say we would turn down a fabulous seafood dinner, bacon jam, a good piece of meat, or a delicious dessert, but on an average day we’re choosing plants. In other words, there’s no hardcore rules and the blog will still feature a mixture of international recipes of all types, but this particular stew is one we can enjoy any day of the week.


So the stew starts out simple enough – roast the squash with a bit of olive oil and sea salt. We’ve used an assortment of winter squash including buttercup and acorn, and they’ve all worked well. We also typically roast the squash on the weekend, store it and whip the stew up on a weeknight. When you’re ready to make the stew, heat the olive oil, drop in some garlic (Sally – you can omit the garlic), carrots and diced onion, and saute until the veggies are tender.

making stew

Next we add a bit of veggie stock and water, the roasted squash, a tomato and a boat load of seasonings including salt, pepper, red pepper, turmeric, oregano and cumin. We bring the stew to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes. Next we transfer batches of the stew to the blender to puree and then return it to the pot.

squash soup

Finally we add cooked wild rice, fresh spinach and chickpeas to the pot, mix it together and cook it for another 10 minutes, or until the spinach wilts and the beans are heated through.

filling ingredients

We serve the stew with tortilla chips and lime wedges. It makes enough for dinner for four with leftovers (or two servings each if like Mr. N you want seconds). The stew is hearty and flavorful.

amazon squash stew

It’s a 4 spoon dish for Mr. N and I, 3 spoons for Mike and 2 spoons for Miss A. It isn’t her favorite dish in the world, but she will eat her share – especially if the chips are involved. In fact, we’ll all eat our share and have on several occasions now.

Chickpea stew

Print this recipe: Amazon Squash and Bean Stew

bean and squash stew

Okay, now for a little fun. This month is our three-year blogging anniversary. While we don’t post as often as we did in year one or two, we’re still making many new international dishes and exploring different cultures. It’s an adventure we all love for the food we get to try, the time together in the kitchen and for all the friends we’ve made. So, like last year, we’re going to have our annual Chopped Challenge to celebrate. For those of you that aren’t familiar with our Chopped Challenge, you can find year one here and two here. We’ve had several successful recipes – some have even stuck around. You can see all the results on our recipes page.

Appetizer Basket

So how does this work? Well, we ask for mystery basket ingredients from twelve readers which are then put up to vote in a blog poll. Our readers vote on a basket for three categories – appetizer, main course and dessert. The baskets with the most votes in each category will be our mystery ingredients. Then on Super Bowl Sunday (February 2, 2014), Mike and I go head-to-head in an all day cooking challenge. The kids serve as both sous chefs and judges, a task they take very seriously.

winning basket

This year we’ve asked our top six commenters and five new commenters to provide us with basket ingredients. Now,that leaves one opening and we’d like to make this open by special invitation. We know there are many silent blog readers and occasional commenters out there, and we want to make sure you’re included as well. So, if you would like to name ingredients for an appetizer basket we’d love to include your choices in the poll. Just shoot us an email at or leave a comment with four ingredients to include in our appetizer basket poll. They can be as wild or as traditional as you want to be, as long as they can be relatively easy to source. All ingredients received by 1/15/14 will be put into a draw and one participant will be selected.

Dessert basket

We look forward to your submissions and are excited for a new challenge. Albeit not so excited about the mess that always results. ;) Messy, messy, messy

Happy New Year all! Stay tuned for the upcoming interactive blogging fun. We’ll put our ingredient baskets up to vote sometime after the 17th of this month, after which our challenge lies in your hands! Until then, enjoy the stew and stay warm. Cheers!

Just Desserts – The Dessert Basket

Today is the last post from our Chopped Challenge 2013. And what better way to celebrate and spread some cheer than with desserts. I hope you’ve enjoyed following along as much as we enjoyed the event. I have to say this last round was just as delicious as the rest and was by far the kids’ favorite. Our ingredients for the dessert basket came to us from Dawn at First Look, Then Cook – Mangoes, Pretzels, Bacon and Agave Nectar. Dessert basket Continue reading

Jumping Beans – Main Course Basket

Last week we talked about difficult choices. Well, apparently our main course basket from our Chopped Challenge was full of difficult choices because the winning basket which was contributed by Kelly at Inspired Edibles and included pistachios, smoked paprika, artichoke hearts and black beluga lentils only won by one vote. basket 2 Continue reading