For the month of March, my video challenge is to “beat March madness” with weekly family fun nights. The only requirements–they have to happen at home and be focused “in the round”, not facing a screen. Easy, right? Our typical family fun night is home made pizza and a movie. But kids movies can not hold my husband’s attention, so he starts to wander and I can always find something to busy myself with and next thing you know, we are not family focused at all. So we’ve set out to try a few new things. Our first attempt was the Mystery Pot Family Cook Off.
The concept is similar to the Food Network show Chopped, where each chef is given a mystery basket of ingredients that they have to make into an appetizer, entree or dessert. I didn’t have a “mystery basket”, so we did a mystery pot instead. We also didn’t chop anyone! So we teamed up. Zain and Sam would pick four ingredients to give to Mir and I to make into an entree and while we cooked they were going to play a game, and then Mir and I would select four ingredients to give to them to make dessert while Mir and I played. We started talking about the preparations on Monday and my husband had reservations from the start. He really thought ordering out was much safer. Needless to say, I do all of the cooking and have left him ill prepared for this cook off!
So on Saturday, I had my ingredients prepped and ready for them, but they were not prepared at all. They left at 5 on Saturday evening to shop at Whole Foods. They needed to buy 4 ingredients, just 4, and they took an hour and a half to return! So while they were gone, we set the scene…I mean the table!
I really wasn’t scared to see what they brought us to cook–I was actually pretty excited. The suspense was killing me. So they set up the mystery pot and let me take a peek.
Oy vey! They bought 2 pounds of uncut and unpeeled shrimp (cruel), 1 pound of calamari, 1 whole coconut and a container of bulk black beans! Seriously. I’m supposed to cook this in 30 minutes!?!? I was pretty sure it was going to take that long to open that coconut. The funny/sad part is–I hate coconut. There are very few foods that I do not like, but that is one of them. Not to mention Sam can’t eat beans. But apparently Sam let Zain wander the store for 90 minutes to pick whatever his heart desired. Watching an episode of Chopped the night before, probably worked against me there!
The good news is with many giant whacks of my kitchen hammer, I was able to get the coconut open, but I’ve never worked with raw coconut before, so I really didn’t know what to do with it. So I took the shell off and processed the rest up (what Sam hadn’t already stolen) in the food processor and then put it in the oven at high heat to toast it. It was right about then that Mir lost interest in the kitchen and then went to watch Sam and Zain play a mean game of Quirkle. I took the coconut and used it for the breading for the calamari to make a coconut calamari in our air fryer. I dredged it in cashew meal, then in egg, and then in gluten free breadcrumbs, toasted coconut, and garlic salt. At the same time I was simmering the beans–really–30 minutes for dry beans! And then I had to peel the shrimp. I didn’t get them all peeled, but enough to saute in some coconut oil, red pepper flakes and then I added some of the coconut water. In the end, I had to take black beans from a can in the cupboard, and process them smooth with more of the coconut flakes and coconut water. I then rounded it out with some green beans since they went with two proteins and no veggies. It took more like 45 minutes, but I was pleasantly surprised knowing where I started!
It’s now getting late, and Sam had wanted to work on dessert while I was doing dinner, but we have a “one butt” kitchen and that was not going to be feasible. So as much as he wanted to put it off until the next day, Sam and Zain headed into the kitchen to see what was in store for them.
I was INCREDIBLY kind in comparison. I had made a gluten free pie crust, and then coconut milk ice cream, agave and strawberries. But you would have thought I’d just handed him a raw coconut! Zain got right to work on the strawberries.
While Sam tried to make sense out of the pie crust. I will have to say that I had to help–or I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to make sure that everyone still had fun and wouldn’t cancel future family fun nights!
So while they “slaved” in the kitchen, Mir and I played a few games of Candy Land! Yippee! I had been taking photos throughout the evening on my phone and had posted a few on Facebook as a play by play of how it was all going, but during Candy Land Mir said, “Can we play for real, without your phone?!” Totally called out and absolutely merited. Family fun is for the moment! I won’t make that mistake again!
On Chopped you are scored on creativity, presentation and taste. All things considered, I thought their dessert was tasty, but a transformation of ingredients it was not! They did crumbled baked pie crust, drizzled with agave, served with strawberries and ice cream. Mir ate the ice cream. I also love their use of paper plates that they dug out from the murky bottom of a cabinet to save on dishes. Since by now, we’d used almost every dish in the house.
In the end, it was a late night, but every one had a sense of accomplishment and it was definitely focused inward and at home!