“Energy and Persistence Conquer All Things”

I don’t think that Benjamin Franklin was referring to a Chopped Challenge, but let me tell you, that’s what this event and this particular basket took – energy and persistence.

Our final dessert round began after an epic clean-up of this mess.

It was late, it was dark (thus some of the not so great pictures), it was New Year’s Day…but persevere we must! That, and you better believe the kids weren’t letting us off that easy. They wanted their dessert! So on to the dessert basket offered up to us by Kay, the always inspiring, artistic genius at Pure Complex. Her basket of Oranges, Red Miso Paste, Kettle Chips and Cottage Cheese won by a landslide victory (Kay your family all came through!). And we thought the last basket challenged us! 

We’ll start with Mike’s dessert for the evening. While his dessert was Chopped, I again have to give him high marks for creativity – even if it didn’t quite work out as planned. Mike based his dessert off of the little pink pretzels (raspberry yogurt covered pretzels) that Miss A snacks on from Whole Foods, a Soft Pretzel with Miso Frosting.

Now here’s another place where I have to give Mike serious credit – he got a stinkin’ dough to rise in 40 minutes. I bow down. (I’m still on a bread baking hiatus.) He mixed together quick rise yeast, flour, butter and cottage cheese to form a dough which he then let rise for 40 minutes. Once risen, he tore off pieces of the dough, rolled them out into 18-inch logs and then formed soft pretzels.

He then went to work on his frosting by mixing 4 egg whites with 1-1/2 cups of powdered sugar. It was turning into something like whipped cream at which point he added 2 tablespoons of red miso paste and squeezed in the juice from one orange. Unfortunately his frosting was more of a liquid than he hoped, but with time a tickin’, he went ahead and basted each of the pretzels in his red miso pseudo-frosting. He then topped each with some crushed kettle chips and baked them for 30 minutes at 400F.

Now while Mike’s dish may not have worked out the way he hoped, and didn’t really taste very dessert-like, it was actually a pretty darned good soft pretzel. The kids really enjoyed them. Even Mike and I thought they weren’t all that bad. The pseudo-frosting gave them a very slight hint of sweetness and the kettle chips took the place of the salt. As for the pretzel itself, I think we’ll try making the dough recipe again sometime just without the chips, oranges and red miso frosting. 😉 Mike and I gave the pretzels 2.5 spoons. Miss A came in with 3 spoons and Mr. N a solid 4 spoon vote.

As for my dessert, I was initially going to go for the old pain perdu, but Mike called me out on that. It seems as though it’s the go-to dessert on Chopped when people have no idea what else to do. So while I still think I could have made a pretty kick butt pain perdu with these ingredients, I wasn’t about to let that challenge go unanswered. Instead, I bring you Citrus Cottage Cheesecake.

I started by crushing the kettle chips as best I could.

Next I combined the crushed kettle chips with a bit of semolina flour I found in the pantry. I then used a bit of melted butter to make the flour and chips a little easier to press into the bottom of the baking dish for the crust.

I then got to work on the cheesecake. First I used my immersion blender to puree the cottage cheese. I don’t mind the taste of cottage cheese, but I’m not a big fan of the texture and I didn’t think the lumps would work well in the cake. I then beat together some eggs and sugar in the stand mixer. Once creamed, I incorporated the cottage cheese, some plain Greek yogurt, a bit of salt and flour, and a teaspoon of vanilla. Then I used the oranges and tossed in some zest and juice.

Once the oranges were incorporated I folded in a few egg whites until just combined and poured the batter over the kettle chip crust.

I baked the cheesecake for 30 minutes at 350F at which point the cake had set. I set it aside to cool and then prepared a miso caramel sauce. For this I dissolved a tablespoon of the red miso paste in water. Then I dissolved some sugar in corn syrup and butter. Once the sugar had dissolved I stirred in the red miso paste mixture as well as a touch of vanilla. I removed the syrup from the heat and stirred in the crème fraiche.

I served the cheesecake warm and topped it with the miso caramel and I have to admit I was completely shocked that this actually worked.

The caramel sauce, only my second attempt at making caramel, was delicious. I even licked the spoon clean and that’s not something I would normally do with caramel. Mike took one bite of his cheesecake and said, “Oh, I’m in trouble.” It was good. The oranges really gave this a citrus punch, and while the cheesecake was pretty rich in and of itself, the caramel and the salty crust helped to tone it down a bit.

Mike and I were both big fans – especially when it was fresh and warm. (It wasn’t quite as good once we had refrigerated it which helped with those New Year’s resolutions.) The cheesecake earned 3 spoons from both of us. The cake part was really very good, but I think we both prefer a more traditional cheesecake crust. Mr. N wasn’t a big fan and only gave it 1 spoon. He’s a big cheesecake lover, but only if it’s from one of his favorite Italian restaurants. Miss A, however, did enjoy her cheesecake and gave it 3 spoons as well.

So while this wasn’t our most successful recipe round, it certainly was the round that challenged our creativity and cooking skills the most. It’s not easy to whip up desserts on the fly when you have no idea what you’re making. I mean ask us to make a banana bread, a pie, or a cookie…no problem. We’ve got recipes for that and several we even know by heart; cottage cheese, oranges, chips and miso paste…well, let’s just say we’re proud of our dishes, we even enjoyed them, but I don’t see us making them exactly the same way again. 😉 Thank you Kay for a challenging, fun and wild dessert basket.

And thanks to everyone for participating and following along in Mike’s birthday Chopped Challenge. It was a lot of fun for us and we know we’ll be doing it again. It may even become our New Year’s Day tradition. Can’t you just see Mr. N and Miss A out cooking us someday – and it’s probably not even that far off!

Have a great rest of the weekend and we’ll be back Monday as we embark on a new international adventure.

And to print our recipes (if you dare):

Mike’s Chopped Dessert (pseudo-frosting omitted): Soft Pretzels

Kristy’s Champion Dessert: Citrus Cottage Cheesecake

42 thoughts on ““Energy and Persistence Conquer All Things”

  1. Caroline says:

    I seriously can’t get over how creative you both were! Brilliant idea to use the kettle chips for the crust, and to blend the cottage cheese to get rid of the chunky texture. This sounds fantastic and bravo to Kay for the unique ingredient list!!


  2. Just A Smidgen says:

    I shouldn’t tell you what I thought when I saw the photo of your kitchen… woah! You could have used some sous chefs or a kitchen clean-up crew;) I can sure tell the pots and pans were flying in your kitchen.. judging by the different dishes that the two of you prepared there should be hundreds of dishes for sure! I would be afraid to try even one version of one part of this meal.. and look at what you two have done! I can just imagine what it will be like when your kids can join in on the fun! Bravo.. excellent desserts with ingredients that would have stumped me!!


  3. Courtney says:

    I am even impressed you went on after cleaning the kitchen. I don’t think I could’ve done it. And i have to say your and Mike’s creativity blows me out of the water. Way to go finishing it up!


    • Kristy says:

      We were tempted not to go on, but the kids really wanted dessert. It was very cute how excited they both were about this event. They even still talk about it a week later. 😉


  4. Charles says:

    Challenged your creativity… yeah, and then some, I’ll say! This is my favourite round – never in a million years would I have thought to make a cheesecake crust out of crushed kettle-chips. I love the creativity 😀 Great recipes – and Chef Dad’s pretzels look great too – too bad he got chopped!


    • Kristy says:

      Thanks Charles! The pretzels were great too. The only reason they got docked was that they weren’t really dessert-like, but we’re going to make the dough again for sure! 🙂


  5. Eva kitcheninspirations.wordpress.com says:

    I take my hat off to you both, very creative use of the ingredients. Each round you guys surprised and delighted me. It was a great read! The caramel miso sauce sounds wonderful, I may have to ‘steal’ that idea – I adore salty and sweet combos. Kudos to you both. I still think you should have let Mike win since it was his birthday challenge 😉


  6. Geni - Sweet and Crumby says:

    Congratulations on such a successful Chopped date night! These dessert ideas are fantastic and your cheesecake looks amazing. I would have never, in a million years, come up with that and yet it looks totally perfect with all of those wacky ingredients.


  7. sallybr says:

    I tell you one thing, with that basket, I would have simply sat down and cried. A bucket of tears. I don’t think I could come up with anything edible…

    what a fun idea this chopped challenge, I am sure it feels good to have it completed!


    • Kristy says:

      It felt great to have it completed – but it was definitely a ton of fun and we’ll for sure do it again. We seriously didn’t cook much the rest of the week. We were in definite need of a break. LOL.


  8. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles says:

    Mike, your pretzels are gorgeous! They are also very creative and, to be honest, a hint of sweetness is right up my alley so I bet this would have scored high if I were a judge ;). Kristy, I hope you will post your French toast sometime, I’d love to see your version (I don’t watch Chopped so for me this is still a novel idea!). I love the crushed chips in the crust of your dessert Kristy – and what a neat idea to work the recipe into a cheesecake… I just wish we could all sample your delights! How fun… most of all, I give you both TOP marks for your hard work… wow. The most I can do is two recipes for my blog in one day, and even that’s a stretch. Congrats on a job well done guys!! 🙂


    • Kristy says:

      You know maybe I will make that French toast. 😉 I had to laugh. I was watching Chopped as I posted this last night and one of the contestants with with pain perdu again! LOL. And I know what you mean – usually two recipes in one day is more than enough. I actually didn’t cook for the rest of the week after this – unless you count salads and sandwiches. 😉


  9. spicegirlfla says:

    I’m very impressed with both of your desserts as that basket definitely had some interestingly odd ingredients for dessert!! I’m not a fan of cottage cheese in cheesecakes, tho I do see it in many recipes. Your whipping it well to blend the curds really made this turn out delicious looking – and the topping of that sauce looks fabulous. I bow to Mike as well on taking on dough!! You both did a tremdous job! Now I would have scheduled a maid to come in for kitchen detail!!


    • Kristy says:

      I think a cleaning crew is a great idea for next year’s Chopped. LOL. I never had cottage cheese in a cake until this one, but I knew I had to puree it or I wouldn’t like it. 🙂


  10. Kay aka Babygirl says:

    Oh I LOVE the dessert options you and Mike both came up with. The pretzel looks amazing and that cheesecake.. WOW. Here are the dishes I came up with using these ingredients: Bread Pudding, a Red Miso ice cream with chip topping, and of course cookies. I forgot my mom’s possible dishes lol. My group (you know who they are :)), came up with these ingredients because we wanted it to be more like the show of course, and because some desserts have a sweet, crunchy, and salty texture usually. And we figured it would be fun :). I never imagined you guys would come up with these dishes.. AMAZING. My sister called me and told me the post was up.. and she was excited to see it lol. I just adore this blog, your family, and it has been a pleasure becoming friends with you :).


    • Kristy says:

      Oh bread pudding would have been fun! So would the ice cream. Great ideas Kay! Thanks so much for coming up with this basket (you and your group 😉 ). We had a lot of fun with it – and I’m happy that you got to be a part of the big day. I’m very happy we’ve become friends too. 🙂


  11. ChgoJohn says:

    Mr. N ” … a big cheesecake lover, but only if it’s from one of his favorite Italian restaurants. ” Such a refined palate for a young man! 🙂

    Congrats to both of you. Not only did you come up with a winning idea but you included a number of us in the fun and allowed all of us to watch the competition unfold. And, most importantly, you each made 3 incredible dishes!

    Hat’s off to you both!


    • Kristy says:

      He does have quite the refined palate…Italian is by far his favorite. A chef took him back into the kitchen at one of our favorite restaurants and had Mr. N help make his dinner. You should have seen the smile on his face!

      Thanks for following along and participating John. It was a blast!


  12. smartfoodandfit says:

    Kristy your dessert looks amazing. Kettle chips as the base of the crust, omg sounds so delicious! Mikes pretzels look like the pretzels at the mall, did he by chance ever work at Aunt Annie’s pretzels in the past? J/K I’ll check out his pretzel recipe minus pseudo-frosting!
    Oh, you should link up your citrus cottage cheesecake with the #citrus bloghop Junia put together for this month of January.


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