If you haven't been following us on tumblr this summer, you might've missed that we partnered with Tumblr & Master Chef to work on a few of their at-home mystery box challenges. Essentially, they sent us boxes of mystery ingredients, and just like on the show, we had to come up with tasty, interesting meals with them.
The catch, for us at least, was that everyone else used animal-based ingredients, and instead of giving us substitutes, we had to simply omit them. (Leaving us with a lot fewer options than those that aren't vegan.) In addition, we weren't supposed to really use outside ingredients except as support for the recipe. I loved having the opportunity, though, to show vegan options for the challenges on a very meat-heavy show and business.
They were tough challenges, but they were super fun and I liked having to figure it all out. Here are the challenges we did!
The first one we did had kind of crazy ingredients, at least ones that I don't normally put together. They sent cornmeal, soy sauce, fennel, grapefruit, coconut milk, grits, lentils, and linguine. I braised the fennel in oil and grapefruit, then added it to some lentil meatballs and a coconut cream sauce, for my take on fettucine alfredo.
I loved using so much fennel in one dish, and the experience taught me that you really have to stick to your guns when choosing what direction you're going to go in. Initially I was going to make a sweet grits dessert kind of thing, but changed my mind halfway through and had to go out and get more fennel from the grocery store.
It was a mess but in the end I was very happy with the lentil meatballs and the sauce. Since posting it's gotten over 10,000 notes, our biggest post ever, so at least it was interesting enough to get people's attention!
I was completely psyched about the ingredients that came for our second challenge. There was pureed pumpkin, cherry tomatoes, fresh chickpeas, jalapeño peppers, pearl onions, canned black olives, and canned baby corn. I instantly knew what I wanted to make as soon as I pulled out all the ingredients!
I basically laid everything out on a roasting tray, drizzled with oil, and let roast until everything was blackened and soft. I pureed everything with the pumpkin and some water and a few spices, then topped it with some charred chopped corn and steamed chickpeas.
The fresh chickpeas were a revelation - if you ever have the option of trying them, don't pass them up. Steamed in the pod, they are reminiscent of edamame, but have such an amazing smell and a softer texture than the soybeans.
I was so happy with the soup I came up with - it was full of flavor, a little spicy, and looked really bright and fresh.
Again, the ingredients for our last box threw me off. They sent an onion, summer squash, corn cobs, green beans (one of my least favorite foods), and FOUR different kinds of apples. The best way to incorporate all the ingredients, in my mind, was to make a kind of pot pie, but something with a hint of sweetness and a little darker in flavor.
I added in black beans to counterbalance the sweetness of the apple, of which I used the tart granny smith, and incorporated the rest of the ingredients like you would a pot pie. The green beans were chopped down, corn shaved off its cob, onion browned, squash softened.
The final result was so good I ate three of the hand pies. (Saving one for my boyfriend, naturally.) It definitely had that fall flavor I had hoped for, and I always love hand pies - so it was a winning dish in my mind.
If I had the opportunity to do one of these challenges again I definitely would. It pushed my creativity and made me experiment with ingredients and combinations I would've otherwise never tried. Head on over to the Master Chef tumblr to see what everyone else came up with for these challenges! :)
On a timely note, I've been reading so many blogs this month because of Vegan MoFo. Here are a few of my favorites so far:
- I really love the idea of this SNAP challenge
- These cookies from Killer Bunnies look killer ;)
- This stir-fry would be a perfect weeknight meal
- I recently watched Amelie for the first time ever and loved it, so I'm so into this Amelie-inspired challenge!
- I've loved reading through this theme of Finnish coffee culture
- Snickerdoodle rice krispie treats, need I say more?
- Lavender coffee syrup from the lovely Kathy Hester
- Fork & Beans always does the cutest Vegan MoFo posts, and this year is no exception.
- Veganizing Pawnee? Girl, be my best friend please?
- I'm really interested in following Soy Division's Eat To Live journey. Plus, how have I never heard of a blog named Soy Division before...?
- Salted caramel cheesecake bites. Yes yes yes.
- I like the look of these vegan meatballs.
- Tips for breakfast on the go.
- I love that this cake reminds me so much of baking in my Easy Bake Oven as a kid.
- Beautiful french bread from scratch.
- You know I can't resist anything vegan white chocolate.
- Miso tahini cookies because I can never kick the cookie habit.
And a few links not part of Vegan MoFo but I can't help but share:
- On turning 25 - very honest and a great read. (hey Shelly!)
- Words we need to stop using to describe the act of eating - language is incredibly important, especially when talking about food.
- Is veganism an eating disorder? - I thought this was really well written and a good examination of a commonly held myth.
Okay, so I'm off to reading about 700 unread posts on my feed, see you on Monday! :)