Saturday, February 27, 2010

And the winners are . . .

Tonight I post the results of and wrap up the dinner challenge (although I will probably make the chicken I missed Wednesday tomorrow and post about it). Deep breath, here goes!

The top four dinners, with 5 thumbs up each, are:
Asian Black Bean Soup (Becky McCollaum)
Peanut Noodles (Anne Curry)
Korean Short Ribs (Becky McCollaum)
Chicken Posole (Melissa Yoder)

Which means Becky, Anne, and Melissa are our winners!

Just to give you an idea of how we judged, I only took dinner recipes (not dessert) into consideration, but those who submitted dessert recipes that got 5 thumbs up won anyway. No, Max doesn't really give a literal thumbs up, I based his vote on how well he ate and whether he fussed about eating it--and if he nodded when I asked if he liked it. If there was only one thumbs up on the meal, it just may have been his. I think he only gave one or two "thumbs medium" during the whole challenge. If I "fudged" the voting, I clearly stated it when I posted about it, but none of the winning dinners were fudged.

Here's is what our winners will receive:

I hand-picked this cookbook with certain criteria in mind. It may not be the slickest, fanciest one out there, but here is what I like about it: I learned to really love the crock pot this month. It can really make your life easier, but it also can produce delicious (not just blob-like) food. I thought it might be nice to pay tribute to that. It has real life recipes, made from ingredients you can pronounce (and probably already buy), and they are mostly dishes that are familiar but interesting. Everyone needs easy recipes to fall back on, and that's why I really like the section of 4-ingredient recipes: because they are so simple but can produce great results. There are pictures of the recipes (okay, not all the recipes, I was a bit disappointed when I realized that, there are with most), so you can get an idea of what it should come out like. This helps me tremendously. It also is spiral bound, so it will lay flat on your counter as you refer to it. But most of all, it was something I would buy for myself. I hope you like it, winners!

To wrap up the dinner challenge, here are some things I came away with:
  • Looking at the winning recipes, it's obvious our preference for Asian food. I love that because I feel it's a reflection on Adam and his influence on our dining choices. I think he really just likes Chinese food, but he also served a mission in the Philippines and I think that affects it, too. I feel like he's doing a good job to pass a bit of culture on to our children.
  • I already mentioned this, but the crock pot can be a great tool. It's been fun to really learn how to use it.
  • I have become much more confident in trusting my instincts when cooking. It's really important to follow a recipe, but it's also important to know when it isn't going to work, or how to make it better or tailor it to fit your family. This is something I generally suck at, but by the end, I was getting it down. "Oh, that's way too much onion (or garlic, or chili powder) for us." Or, "this definitely should have a bit more of this or that."
  • My kids can, and will, eat new things. And particularly vegetables. We have much less whining than we used to (with the exeption of one night where Isaiah sat at the table for 2 hours), and my kids are beginning to choose healthy foods. Katie was floored to learn that chips aren't healthy, but it is no surprise to her what is: things that don't taste greasy, and brightly colored fruits and vegetables.
  • It was so fun to teach the kids about new cultures. This was a totally unexpected side effect of this whole thing. I was looking things up to tell them about, and even printed a picture of the palace in Thailand so they could get an idea of what it looked like there. It became second nature for one of the kids to run for the map so we could show them where our dinner that night came from.
  • I really have much more of an idea how much preparation it takes to eat something new every night, and appreciate having familiar recipes handy that I can make from what's already in the pantry and fridge. However, having a plan does take the guesswork out of what we are cooking and eating every night. It's good to have a plan.
  • Most of all, I'm so grateful for you contributing your favorites, and subjecting yourselves to being judged. I'm also very grateful for my family for putting up with my neurotic need to try new things. I have such wonderful people in my life, and I'm very grateful.

Lastly, here is what I'll be adding to my recipe box, things that we will continue to make and why:

  • Of course, all four of our winning dinners. Everyone liked them! I may try the ribs in the crock pot next time. And of course there may be some tweaking going on with all the recipes, but that's part of making them your own.
  • Crock Pot Thai Curry It was so amazing how the vegetables kind of "melted" into the sauce and made it tasty without being all "vegetable-y." It had a great unique flavor and was much more interesting than our usual stir-fry.
  • Crispy Orange Chicken Skillet I won't use the sauce from this recipe, but I will use the breading, and the almond rice pilaf recipe I linked to in the post. We have orange chicken a lot, and love the Panda Express Orange Chicken sauce.
  • We all loooooved the Refried Black Beans and Spanish Rice Melissa submitted. They are new staples for our Mexican meals. I'm actually planning on buying a case of black beans to add to our food storage because of our experiences this month!
  • Cafe Rio Pork Salad Okay, maybe this is unfair to actually share, but I have to say it: this was my favorite dinner to eat of the whole month. I could have had fourths if there had been any left (I did have seconds and thirds). It was also hands-down the most labor-intensive to make, so I won't be making it often. But I will be making it!
  • Baked Chicken Chimichangas and Sweet Potato Burritos I probably won't be making either of these recipes as they are. However, through these recipes I learned an awesome new trick that my family does like: brushing the tortillas with olive oil before baking. They make the tortillas so crispy and good! I will use this for burritos in the future.
  • Pizza Margherita I probably won't make this one exactly as is, either, but probably with tomato sauce instead of tomatoes. However, I am actually planning to try this dough with a make-it-yourself personal pizza bar in the near future. I think it will be fun for the kids to pick out their own toppings and make them exactly the way they like.
  • Swedish Meatballs Really enjoyed the flavor of these meatballs.
  • Sloppy Joes Isaiah begged me to make this again, so I'll tweak the sauce a bit and try it again.
  • Farmer's Market Chili If our ward (congregation) has another chili cookoff this year, I may bring this recipe. It is really tasty and would stand out among the others.
  • Fried Chicken with Herbs, Creamy Tex-Mex Corn with Lime, and Cheddar Biscuits I will file the chicken and biscuit recipes because they were awesome, and as I mentioned yesterday, I'll consider seasoning corn similarly (but without the sauce) again.

Thank you all for reading and playing along! And winners, your prize will be in the mail!


Becky said...

Thank you, Rachel! You've been amazing this month! It's been so exciting to see you make it through all those recipes. I might try it, but I don't have anyone to cook for really, which takes all the fun out of it!
Also, just so you know, for the Cafe Rio Pork salad: I've made it lots in the past & you can use DIET Coke (I do every time). Also, you don't have to blend the pork sauce in the blender 1st, just mix with a whisk in the crock-pot before adding the pork (that saves on some clean-up, too).
Congratulations on making it through the month! As a present to yourself, you should go out to dinner every night this week! hehe ;)

The Yoder's Four said...

WOOO-HOOOO!!!!! I am so lucky I came across that posole recipe (and the beans and rice ones, for that matter). You are not the only person who has tried it from my blog and loved it. It is thoroughly New Mexican, so there's some more culture for ya.

Thanks in advance for the cookbook! I'm so excited!