Saturday, January 18, 2014

Family Cooking Competition

Over the holidays my family got together for several days of fun. These days it's rare that we're all together since we're becoming more spread out as the family gets bigger. It was iikimochi--a good feeling--to have the whole family together. Rick & Jessica came a little late and missed the picture, but not the festivities. Also missing is my sister-in-law Lorraine--other than that, we have everyone.  BIG THANKS to Wes & Connie for bringing their camera gear, posing everyone and taking this photo.

We ate and ate and ate! We also hiked, ate together at restaurants and had a family cooking competition which was a lot of fun! Before I tell you about the cooking competition, a little bit about our shabu shabu dinner.

You can have a sit-down shabu shabu dinner for 25 people--although my brothers had to stand in the kitchen--two at the island and one at the stove. I love my brothers--they're not fussy. With a big family, I've learned it's best to be adaptable--boyfriends & girlfriends are always welcome--as well as the non-RSVPers. 

Make sure you open the doors and windows because the steam will build with all those pots of boiling water going! A shabu shabu dinner uses a LOT of small dishes--I'm grateful my whole family pitches in for the clean-up so it goes fast.

On Saturday we had our 'Iron Chef'-type cooking competition. It was really fun! I'm going to tell you how we did it--if you'd like to try it, maybe you can get some ideas.

1. We decided "the kids" would cook--there were 9--and they drew numbers to make two teams. In our family, "the kids" are ages 20 to 33.
2. I wrote down a "secret ingredient" on a card, folded them up and one was drawn from a basket. Possibilities were bacon, apples, eggs, rice and potatoes--apples were chosen.
3. They had a $20 budget, but were allowed to use anything I had in my refrigerator and pantry. They asked if they could use their phones to find recipes and I said yes. We started at 11:30 AM, drawing teams-- judging began at 1 PM.


A. Make an appetizer, main dish and dessert using apples.
B. Take photos and/or video of each finished product.

On one team: Kelly, Leslie, Noah, Hannah and Paige. If you don't recognize Noah, he is Paige's boyfriend. Welcome, Noah!
I dug out some old In-N-Out hats when someone asked if I had any hairnets. Don't they look cute? The first thing my sister and her family wanted to eat when they got in to Southern California from Hawaii was an In-N-Out burger!

We don't know why, but the sound on this team's video didn't come through, so The Allman Brothers Band's song Jessica fills in.

Appetizer: Ground turkey & apple won tons with a sweet & sour apple glaze. Main dish: Ground turkey sliders with apple, pineapple rings and sauteed peppers, served with sweet potato fries. Dessert: Mini apple tarts with cinnamon apple sticky rice.

On the other team, Mitchell, Karen, Cody and Rick. That's Cody, second from the right. He lives in Hawaii, and had planned a Las Vegas vacation during the holidays and changed his plans to come home to be with us for Christmas. The whole family was SO HAPPY to have Cody here!

Below, Mitchell is smoking chicken. Karen cut up a whole chicken, brined it, put on some rub--from the Easy Oven Baked Chipotle Wings recipe that I had in my pantry. Mitchell has a new hobby of smoking meats--he's gotten pretty good at it! 

(Thanks, Dad, for handing down your smoker to me. I'm excited to try it.)

Here's Rick describing two of his team's dishes:

Appetizer: Honey glazed pizza with apple slices, goat cheese, bacon and arugula. Main Dish: Smoked chicken with roasted apple-jalapeƱo barbecue sauce. Dessert: Puff-pastry with cinnamon & apples.

4. Judging. We had 6 judges. 20 points were possible for each dish, 10 for taste, 5 for presentation and 5 for use of apples. Since my sister was visiting, I had a couple of her friends come over--as a surprise for her--to be judges. Jen and Kelly are so much fun--and they also brought a lot of food with them! Thank you! (Hmmm...I'll have to see if they're available for catering...)

5. Winners! The scores were close--the team that made the pizza, smoked chicken & puff-pastry was the winner. Margaret provided the prizes--they're coming in the mail since she forgot them at home!

I consider us all winners because we all had a lot of fun and got to taste everyone's good food. We don't get to be together often like we used to, and it was fun watching the kids work together in teams and listening to the judges critique the dishes.

The time in the kitchen was hectic and there wasn't a designated spot for photos of each finished dish, which I think I will change for future competitions. We all had so much fun & we talked about doing the competition again--this time with the kids judging the food!

Big THANKS to all that helped with the clean-up, especially Gary, who did loads of dishes without one complaint!

My family. What a FUN bunch. Gotta love 'em all!

No printable recipe.


  1. Hi Karolyn! Wow... so nice to have a big family get together like this! Unless weddings or funerals, we rarely get together as family like this in Japan anymore... it's pretty sad. But it's nice to see how closely Japanese American family stay together and enjoy holidays and meals together. I enjoyed reading your family cooking competition! :)