Saturday, April 14, 2012

April Daring Cooks' Challenge - Create Your Own Recipe!

Things are a little hectic around here. Between birthdays and parties, active toddlers and busy big kids, and to take advantage of any warm weather that peeks through the clouds and chill, well, it's been hectic.

So when the April Daring Cooks' Challenge was announced, I had really high hopes.

Our April 2012 Daring Cooks hosts were David & Karen from Twenty-Fingered Cooking. They presented us with a very daring and unique challenge of forming our own recipes by using a set list of ingredients!

I mean, how different and interesting is that? They gave us three lists, each containing three ingredients, and we each had to create a meal using (at least) one ingredient from each list.

The lists were as follows:
  • List 1: Parsnips, Eggplant (aubergine), Cauliflower
  • List 2: Balsamic Vinegar, Goat Cheese, Chipotle peppers
  • List 3: Maple Syrup, Instant Coffee, Bananas

The possibilities are interesting, sometime weird, and completely endless. 

My first idea hit me almost immediately, so I got started right away.

The combination of balsamic and vinegar and maple syrup sounded delicious to me, so I immediately thought to create a marinade for some pork chops using just that. I used a 2:1 ratio of maple syrup to balsamic vinegar. 

And, seeing as this is pork, I chose to tie it all together with apple cider. Mix everything up right in the measuring cup with a bit of garlic powder...

...and pour over some pork chops in the crock pot.

Meanwhile, I still needed to tackle an ingredient from list 1 - the list of vegetables. And then it hit me - mashed cauliflower. I have heard of mashed cauliflower being a good substitute for mashed potatoes, and mashed potatoes go so well with pork chops, so why not give the cauliflower version a try here??

I simple boiled a head of cauliflower until it was tender, drained the water, then hit it with the immersion blender until it was nice and smooth!

Before serving the pork chops, I removed them from the crock pot, basted them in some more of my maple-balsamic mixture and put them under the broiler for just a minute.

The results?


As a side, I made sweet potato fries that I seasoned to complement the pork - with a drizzle of maple syrup and balsamic vinegar! The taste was subtle, but worked really well.

I had full well intended to try other combinations, but the month completely got away from me. But I love playing with different ingredients and flavor combinations, so I look forward to trying my hand at some new recipes really soon.

To see the other creative recipes cooked up in the Daring Kitchen this month, check them out here.

Maple-Balsamic Pork Chops with Mashed Cauliflower
(my very own recipe!)

5 pork chops
1 cup apple cider
1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) balsamic vinegar + 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup + 1/4 maple syrup
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 medium head cauliflower

In a small bowl (or a measuring cup), combine the cider, 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup maple syrup and garlic powder.
Place pork chops in stoneware of your slow cooker and pour the cider mixture over them.
Cook on low heat for about 6 hours.

To make mashed cauliflower, cut the cauliflower into florets, off of the center stem, and boil or steam until it is very tender. Mash the cauliflower with immersion blender (or potato masher) until smooth and creamy. You can add salt and pepper to taste if you choose.

Prior to serving the pork chops, combine the remaining 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar and 1/4 cup maple syrup in a small bowl. Remove the chops from the slow cooker and place them onto a baking sheet or into a roasting pan. Baste the cooked chops with the vinegar/maple mixture and broil the chops for a minute or two.

Serve the pork over the mashed cauliflower and enjoy!


  1. Great idea & excellent job! Mashed cauliflower is a treat, isn't it?

  2. Sounds delicious, Shelley! I love the idea of dark, sticky pork chops and cauliflower mash. I've some leftover cauli in the fridge .. I'm tempted to go and mash it now!

  3. Nice job! I did something with pork and cauliflower too but went a very different direction-that was the fun part of the challenge.

  4. Oh, deliciousness! I want to eat this right now! :)

  5. Great job on this challenge Shelly, I really wanted to try caulifower mash, it sounds like a great companion to any meal

  6. Sounds delicious. I made cauliflower mash, too!

  7. The maple balsamic porkchops sound and look delicious!

  8. Those pork chops look really great! I love seeing all the different things people have come up with on this challenge.

  9. Looks beautiful. I LOVE cauliflower mash - delicious!

  10. Wow - what a fun month. I would have loved to do that.
    Your meal sounds beautiful. I would like to think I would have come up with a similar combination. Lovely looking meal - yum!

  11. OMG, Shelley, such a great meal. The maple - balsamic pork chops look so succulent, and the cauliflower mash and sweet potato fries (LOVE sweet potato fries) are the perfect accoutrement. I can't wait to get back into the DB challenges, miss them!

  12. I have a pork roast thawing in the fridge. I am so using your marinade on it.}:P


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