Can you imagine whipping up a meal out of Cheerios, flank steak, a can of Coke, and a cup of rice? Now could you imagine your kids doing this? Believe us, it’s possible!
We recently checked in with one of our TQ teammates, Lilliana (age 9), who told us about how she teamed up with her family to play a version of the Food Network competition Chopped, the show where chefs compete against each other to create and present well-composed dishes using four mystery ingredients in each of three timed rounds. Lilliana and her family presented each other with secret ingredients they picked from their pantry and freezer. Lilliana and her mom teamed up against her dad and brother, and Lilliana was challenged to make an entrée with frozen chicken breasts and maple syrup! Undaunted, she whipped up bacon-wrapped chicken with a maple dijon sauce, and caramelized bananas for dessert!
You too can play Chopped with your pantry! Whether you are reading this during the COVID-19 pandemic and can’t go to the grocery store, or during normal times and don’t want to make a grocery run, your pantry and freezer could yield all kinds of dishes you never thought possible. Why? The difference is the game. When we play games, we make the most of the creative boundaries set by the rules of the game. When we apply this to food, we become much more willing to experiment, to think outside the box, and try new flavor combinations. Games make our brains work differently, so you and your kids will surprise yourselves with untapped capabilities!
How to Play Chopped at Home.
Playing Chopped at home gives kids (and grownups!) great practice to cook with new ingredients, spices, and even leftovers. You can add a timed element if you wish, to add to the sense of competition, but it is not necessary. Simply competing and getting creative is just a lot of fun.
1. Unlike the show, the cooks will be eating this too! Therefore, as much as you may want to give your competitors something like pickled pigs feet, this is your dinner too!
2. Be aware of food allergies and food safety with your selections. Be sure to wash all surfaces that come into contact with raw meat, and make sure grownups are supervising use of sharp utensils and heat sources.
3. Try not to rely on the internet to solve the challenge for you. If possible, only look up questions pertaining to food safety.
- Decide your teams and courses. If you have four people in your family, you could either each take a course (for a very fancy meal of appetizer, soup, entrée, and dessert, for instance), or you could team up with one team cooking an entrée and another cooking an appetizer or dessert.
- In secret, choose TWO mystery ingredients from the pantry or freezer for the opposing team.
- Present your mystery ingredients to each other, concoct a plan for using those ingredients in your course, and search through the rest of your pantry, fridge, and freezer for any additional ingredients you will need.
- CREATE! As Julia Child would say, you need the “courage of your convictions” when cooking, which means embracing new experiences and making the most of mistakes. Instead of dwelling on skills you may not have developed yet, ask questions like:
How might I flavor this?
How might I add this to something I already know how to make?
How might I use a skill I know to prepare this?
Sample Ideas to get you going…
SECRET INGREDIENTS: breakfast cereal and fresh ginger
ENTRÉE IDEA: breaded chicken breasts with a ginger cream sauce
HOW? Put cereal into a food processor along with flour, salt, and pepper, then add an egg. Coat chicken breasts and pan fry until cooked through and golden brown. Grate ginger and saute briefly in oil. Add a bit of flour to make a roux, then add small amounts of chicken stock and cream until smooth. Season to taste.
SECRET INGREDIENTS: bacon and boxed cake mix
DESSERT IDEA: Funfetti cake with caramelized bacon frosting
HOW? Prepare the cake according to the instructions, then add sprinkles to the batter before baking. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place bacon strips on top. Sprinkle with brown sugar and bake on a low setting until cooked and caramelized. Dice sugared bacon or place in a food processor, then mix into frosting.
Share your secret ingredients and what you do with them at @tastequestHQ!!!