This Fat Foodie Loves Me Some Chopped!

Chopped (TV series)

Chopped, my favorite cooking and competition TV show. You get creativity without the bitchiness. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chopped is not only my favorite cooking show, but also the best competition on TV.  Sorry Top Chef, but Chopped gives me cool cooking techniques, lots of excitement, and culinary creativity…without the bitchiness.

I just love competition shows about the creative process. The problem with most shows is that many times the creativity takes a back seat to personalities and the infighting.

Attitude isn’t entertaining. I want ingenuity.  Watching talented chefs trying to fuse diverse (and bizarre) ingredients into a yummy dish is my kind of TV.

And Chopped delivers in spades.

With Chopped, each episode starts with 4 chefs. By the end one is crowned the winner. No overblown personalities or petty dramas. Each episode brings new chefs.  As a result, there’s no time for an egomaniac to get into a competitor’s face.

There are 3 timed rounds:

  • Appetizer (20 minutes)
  • Entrée (30 minutes)
  • Dessert  (30 minutes)

For each round, the chefs are given a mystery basket with 4 random foods picked to stump contestants. Chefs must use each item to create their dish and that’s where the fun (and creativity) begins.

You try building a Thanksgiving dinner out of giblet gravy, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin pie ice cream and a whole, raw turkey…oh and you only have 30 minutes.

What I really love about Chopped — I learn about new foods, cool cooking techniques, and how to make tasty dishes with ingredients you never would think to put together.

Last night’s episodes dealt with Thanksgiving. And I saw some awesome ideas.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup For Start of Fall

Fall's almost here? That means it's time for soup.

Fall’s almost here? That means it’s time for soup.

I’m seeing fall colors on our trees. The turning of the leaves signals the start of soup season for me.

I love making my own stews, soups and stocks. Mixing and matching my own ingredients…creating great flavors…how could you not love that?

The real beauty of home-made soups? Soup is hard to screw up. It’s very forgiving.

So what’s on tap for the weekend?  Roasted Red Pepper Soup. Yum.

Recipe Changes
Today, I’m working on converting my soup recipes from high to low carb. Most are easy to alter.  Just replacing one veggie with another.

For other recipes, I’m looking for ways to replace flour and cornstarch as thickeners. Slimy, bad tasting low carb thickeners are plentiful.  It looks like pureed vegetables and heavy cream will be my thickening staples.

But I might experiment with two options I’ve come across on the Paleo Diet forums – vegetable gum, and nut butters and meals.

  • Vegetable Gum – Gums like xanthan and guar suck out moisture and leave a gel. A little goes a long way. Too much gum and soups and sauces become gooey rather than creamy.
  • Nut Meal and Nut Butters – My friends following the Paleo Diet swear by their nuts. Nut meal doesn’t clump like flour (bonus).  However, both the meal and butters increase my carb count. So I’ll need to use caution.

I’m not sure if I’ll play with these two options just yet. Pureed veggies just seems fresher (they are!) and easier to control the carb count.


Chili Chicken & Mexican Avocado Salad Tonight

Cajun RubI love my rubs. I made a batch of chili seasoning back in February. I decided to use it as a rub on some chicken breasts. The result: spicy and tasty.

Rather than the old standbys of steamed broccoli or grilled zucchini, I decided I wanted veggies that had a little more kick. So I’m making a salad I found in a low carb recipe book. Like the chili chicken, it too looks spicy and tasty.

Chili Seasoning/Rub
Serving Size: 4
Carb Count: 0
Weight Watchers Points: 3-6 (depending on size of chicken breasts)

2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon celery salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions: Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Using your hands, rub seasoning into chicken breasts. Place into a Ziplock bag, and add 1.5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Let chicken marinate for up to 1 hour then its ready for grilling.

Mexican Avocado Salad
Serving Size: 8 1-cup servings
Carb Count: 3g
Weight Watchers Points: 3 Points

24 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 medium head iceberg lettuce cut into 1/2 inch ribbons
2 ripe Hass avocados, seeded, peeled and chopped

1. Combine tomatoes, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a medium bowl; let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Add onion, jalapeño and cilantro; toss well.
2. Arrange lettuce on a platter and top with avocado. Spoon tomato mixture on top and serve.

I’m thinking of substituting the red leaf lettuce I’m growing on my deck for the iceberg lettuce. Either way, tasty goodness on the menu tonight!