Today’s guest post if by Michelle Burke. Check out her hilarious account at her family’s attempt at having Chopped night.
I love food. I love eating it. I love cooking it. I love looking at it.
When I was little all my favorite books had food in them. There was one about a doll who lived in a frozen food store. Another was about two baby bears who drove a pie truck. Then my all time favorite Sam Who Never Forgets was about an Elephant who cries when the zookeeper forgets to feed her. Me and that elephant were soul sisters.
My love of food has led to a slight addiction to cooking shows. I watch them all. Top Chef, Kitchen Nightmares, Hell’s Kitchen you name it I watch it. My all time favorite however is Chopped. The contestants are given a basketful of ingredients and have to make a gourmet dish out of like gummy bears, beef tongue, quinoa, kale, and five-spice powder. Kind of like Wednesday nights at my house.
No matter how hard I try I can never get our weekly food budget to stretch all the way to Wednesday or pay day eve. Now I can read all the sound advice in the world about budgeting. You can tell me a million times to plan ahead, make a menu, buy staples, blah blah. At the end of the week I will still will end up with a can of corn, a box of pasta roni, with no butter or milk, and ground turkey.
Because life happens. As much as you tell your husband that you were planning on making sloppy joes on Friday and meatless Spaghetti on Sunday. Wires get crossed and on his night to cook he makes Spaghetti with the sloppy joe meat. Then you make sandwiches with the buns for lunch and on Wednesday all you have is can of sauce with no meat or buns.
So my boys have come to refer to Wednesdays as our chopped night. The first Wednesday Chopped night happened I came home from work the boys were ravenous.
“What’s for dinner?” They asked as a gazed into our bare cupboards. We had a box of cous cous, a can of cream of mushroom soup, and two chicken breasts for four people.
“Cous cous casserole,” I told them pulling things out of cabinets.
“What’s that,” Cody asked
“I don’t know but we are going to find out,” I told him pulling the George Foreman grill out.
“If you are cooking it how do you not know what it is?” asked Cody.
“ You know that show chopped?” I asked.
“The one where they have to make dinner out of gummi bears and steak?” he responded.
“Yes! That is what we are doing. Playing chopped. These are our ingredients, cous cous, cream of mushroom soup, a can of peas, and grilled chicken. You must make an entrée using all of these ingredients.” I said talking into a spoon imitating the host Ted Allen.
“Okay… That sounds weird,” responded Cody.
“It will be delicious! You will see,” I said.
“Yeah Cody, Mommy is the best cook,” says Colton, who is my own personal cheerleader. That is their dynamic. Cody is all skepticism and Colton is all optimism.
“If it is not good can we call you a filthy wanker and throw the trash can?” Cody asks.
“No because that is Hell’s Kitchen. But I will tell you what.. if I under cook the chicken you can throw it on the floor and yell it’s raw!” I responded.
“I hope you under cook the chicken,” he laughs.
“I won’t the George Foreman is extremely accurate,” I say as I fill a pot with hot water. I made the couscous. When it was finished a cut up the chicken breasts and mixed it all together covered it with cheese and baked it. Once it was cooked I spooned globs of it on their plates. It looked like the gruel from the movie Oliver! They looked at it disdainfully poking it with their spoons.
“What are the green things?” Cody asks.
“Peas, peas are good,” I said.
“What are the grey things?” He asks giving it another poke.
“Mushrooms from the soup,” I responded.
“What are the white things?” he asked.
“Cubes of chicken and before you can ask the yellow stuff is cous cous. Just take a bite and stop complaining. There are starving children who would love to have this meal presented to them,” I said.
“I think it is good,” Colton says as he takes another bite. I can tell by the look in his eyes he thinks it is anything put good. He is just eating the cheese off and shoveling the rest around on his plate. Cullen took one look at it and shakes his head. Then gets up and grabs the bread off the counter and brandishes it at me.
“The peanut, the peanut butter jelly,” he tells me.
“No , no peanut butter and jelly this is yummy. Eat your chicken out.” I tell him trying to get him to take a bite of food. He clamps his mouth shut and shakes his head.
“Look momma eat. It is good!” I say taking a bite of freezer burnt tasting chicken. In all the arguing about dinner I had not had a chance to eat my own meal. Sometime I feel like the mom from The Christmas Story, I don’t think I have had a hot meal since 2006. The dinner was awful it was a Chopped fail.
“Anyone else want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?” I ask and they all shake their heads in agreement. I made them all sandwiches and dinner was eaten in peace.
“Don’t worry mom, most of the time your food is yummy,” Colton tells me as we do the dishes together scraping the rest of my culinary disaster in the trash. “When you make fried chicken Gordon Ramsay would tell you to run his restaurant.”
“What would he tell me today?” I ask him. He turns pink.
“He would call you a cow and throw a trash can,” he says.
“Yeah he would,” I tell him laughing.
So our first Chopped night was not a success. But we have had some very successful Chopped nights. One successful dish was with a barbecue chicken that was asked for again. It did however teach me a few lessons.
- If you find bonus chicken in the fridge be leery of it.
- You can learn from your mistakes
- Even if dinner was not a success we still had fun cooking it together.
- If all else fails you can never go wrong with peanut butter and jelly.