My Unique Celebration

Have you ever seen the show Chopped? It's one of Kyle's and my favorite shows to watch together. It inspires us to be creative and is more than just zoning out to watch a TV show. We talk about what we would do with the basket ingredients and sometimes even attempt to replicate what the contestants make on the show. Well back in 2019, my brilliant husband (although he was only my fiancé at the time) put together the most fantastic and unique birthday celebration for me. He created a Chopped challenge! He invited three of our friends over to serve as judges and created baskets with unique ingredients for me to prepare.

Most people hear this and think something like " WANT to cook for your birthday?" Weird, right? But I totally do! Cooking like this gets me out of the rut of cooking the same 5 things every week and forces my brain to get out of it's own way and think more creatively. In the first challenge, I did an entrée and dessert and I truthfully still think about that dessert - cinnamon rolls cooked in a waffle maker with candied nuts, a berry and grape compote, toasted coconut, and a white chocolate sauce. Seriously, it was divine.

Chopped Round 2

This year Kyle did it again! A few of our friends came over during Jude's nap and I got to be creative with some challenging ingredients. This time around I did an appetizer and and entrée because Kyle made my birthday dessert - a lemon meringue pie! Here's what this lunatic put together for me haha...

Appetizer Basket:

  • Kielbasa
  • Banana chips
  • Dill pickles
  • A loaf of French bread

Kyle was cruel. Jk. But seriously this was tough. The obvious choice was to go the hot dog route, but one of the judging criteria is creativity, so I had to think outside the box. I crisped up the kielbasa in a pan while I tried to figure out what I was going to do. Eventually I had a little inspiration! I popped the bread in the oven with a few seasonings to make some croutons, drained the brine from the pickles to make a dressing, and tossed the banana chips in the food processor for a nice crunchy topping. Tossed everything onto a bed of arugula et voilà - a weird as heck salad that ended up being surprisingly good enough that we all forgot to take pictures of it until the very end!

Entrée Basket:

  • Canned stewed tomatoes (something they ate a lot on deployment, so compete transformation was a MUST)
  • Pitted dates
  • Pork meatballs with seasoning and mozzarella cheese
  • Sea salt crackers

This one was a little less challenging for me. I immediately new I wanted to redo the meatballs into burger patties. I mixed them with some ground chicken and got them cooking. Then I threw the stewed tomatoes and dates into a blender with apple cider vinegar and a few spices to make a sauce. Then I used the crackers to make a breading for some crispy fried onion straws. I had hoped to do actual burgers, but our pantry was lacking, so we ended up with some open-faced sandwiches. They ended up being a weird riff on chicken parm, but they were good enough that one of the judges asked for a second helping, so I think I did alright!

All in all, not my best work, but I had a lot of fun and the food ended up being pretty delicious, so I'll take the win!