On this week’s episode, our young Chopped Junior contestants got into the holiday swing of things with Thanksgiving-inspired mystery baskets. So with pumpkin pie spice and rainbow carrots in mind, we threw together a fun autumnal hummus that kids can enjoy as a side or main dish for lunch.
Pretty much all kids love dip. If a food can be dunked into a sauce — ketchup, honey mustard, hummus or ranch dressing – then they’re game! That’s why we were so happy to see one of the contestants on this week’s episode of Chopped Junior elevate the world of dipping condiments with two of the mystery basket ingredients: wasabi and peaches.
In our 22 years of producing and airing cooking and food television shows, we’ve amassed quite a collection of props in our vast prop room, everything from fine china to vintage utensils (there’s even a ukulele). We recently decided to dust off some of our more interesting pieces and hand them over to artist Deniz Asutay, who masterfully converted them into large-scale collages. She created 16 in all, and now our office walls are adorned with eye-catching pieces that help tell our story in a way that’s every bit as visually appealing as the food the props helped make beautiful these past two decades.
Why should adults have all the fun? Thanks to the new show Chopped Junior, kids now also have the opportunity to get their hands on some infamous mystery baskets. And we were happy to see that the ingredients are just as tricky as those in the grownups’ baskets: items like cotton candy cookies, pepperoni pizza and candied sardines!
You may have heard of Food Network Kitchen, which is housed inside the famous Chelsea Market in NYC. But what is it, exactly? Well, FNK (as we like to call ourselves) is a team of about 30 people who develop, test and edit recipes, write about and photograph food, and work as culinary producers on many of your favorite Food Network shows. From the moment we step into the kitchen/office, we are completely immersed in all things food. And it’s awesome.
The Sandwich King, Jeff Mauro, was the guest judge for this week’s episode of Rachael Ray’s Kids Cook-Off. And, of course, our contestants had to win him over with amazing sandwiches during the first round. We were so sad to see Sabrina go home with her first attempt ever at a croque monsieur sandwich — but so impressed that she took a chance! If you’re like Sabrina, and never made this classic French sandwich, then here’s a little 101.
We were so happy that none of the kids on Rachael Ray’s Kids Cook-Off were sent home this week! They all did a stellar job, especially during the immunity round when each competitor had to cook a dish with one of his or her parent’s least favorite ingredients. Juliana was stuck with sardines — her dad’s worst nightmare. She did an amazing job, lightly frying them, and completely converted him into a lover of these oily little fish.
So many of us in Food Network Kitchen love sardines — fresh or canned in olive oil. And we’re sad that they have a bad reputation, because they’re delicious, inexpensive and an excellent source of heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. And because sardines are low on the aquatic food chain, you don’t have to worry about mercury levels.
In this week’s Rachael Ray’s Kids Cook-Off immunity challenge, the remaining contestants could use only five ingredients (not counting salt) to make a sauce for a pasta dish. This is no easy task, but the kids did a great job, especially Scarlett, who won with her earthy mushroom pasta.
But there’s one secret (and free) ingredient we didn’t see in any of the dishes and that’s the pasta cooking water! Just a little of this starchy and salty water can be a real lifesaver. Cooked noodles tend to suck up a ton of sauce, leaving pasta dishes dry. A splash of this magic water can help loosen the sauce up, plus add plenty of body (thanks to the starch) and seasoning, if you salted your water (which we suggest you do). We’ve saved literally hundreds of gloopy pasta dishes in our test kitchen with pasta water — it works like a charm!
This episode of Rachael Ray’s Kids Cook-Off was amazing. YouTube’s popular food critic Daym Drops (Daymon Patterson) was a guest mentor and judge, and we also saw some really innovative dishes from the kids. Our favorite moment was when Christopher kept his cool during the waffle disaster in the elimination challenge. He had started out making a waffle-and-fried-chicken sandwich, but his batter was too thin and leaked like crazy out of the waffle iron. So in a moment of genius, he dipped slices of bread into the waffle batter and made a French toast fried chicken sandwich instead! He even won the challenge and received the highest honor of a Daym Drops’ “5 All Day.”