** Editors note: this post is being fictitiously hosted by Ted Allen of the Food Network smash hit TV show Chopped. **

It’s that time again. The time when it’s every Non Chef for themselves. The time when we each have to dig deep inside with our paring knife and release the fierce competitor from within. The time to get our wild game face on and duke it out against ourselves! That’s right. IT’S FOODIE PEN PALS AND THE CHOPPED CHALLENGE TIME!!

The air is ripe with anticipation. Non Chef Joanna of Midwestern Bite won against herself last month . . . but can she do it again?

Let’s ask her. Joanna, can you do it again? Your adoring fans want to know. No, they need to know.

Well, Ted, like The Little Engine that Could once said: I think I can, I think I can, I think I can . . .

Seems you’ve been reading to your son a bit lately. Do you think Sweetey Petey will be a distraction to you, or your motivation?

Oh, my motivation. Absolutely. Unless he sees my purse. He loves my purse. In any case, I’m gonna win this for him. Mama loves you Petey!! Mama is gonna do this for you baby!!

Touching. So touching. Before we get started on the Challenge, tell me, who did you send your Foodie Pen Pals package to this month?

Well, that would be Katie Fraga of Happy Lini. She’s great! She’s out in California. I love this program so much because not only do I get to meet new people, but see new sights. I have a cousin out in California, but I’ve never been to the west coast before. Katie has some lovely pictures on her blog that really make me want to travel! She posts delightful looking eats, craft projects, Mantra Monday to kick off the week with some inspiration and even does a series she calls Artist of the Month. I’d rather she hadn’t posted about artist Bianca Green though.

Oh no, why is that?

Ted, it cost me $36 bucks!! I just had to have the typewriter print Katie featured on her blog.

It’s good she could enrich your horizons like that. Let’s move on with the challenge shall we? Who did you receive your Foodie Pen Pals package from and what did you get?

My package came from a sweet reader in Chicago named Cath! Oddly enough it arrived the same day my Bianca Green print did . . .

Aside from the nicest six page note, she sent me such a wide variety of foods I was astounded!

Local Caputo potato gnocchi and Nannina tomato basil pasta sauce! Local Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce! Local Toffee Crunch Carol’s Cookie the size of my fist! Stacy’s Pita chips in salted and also cinnamon sugar! Snyder’s chocolate dipped peanut butter pretzel sandwich cookies, Nutella to go, a lollipop, three packs of jelly beans whose profits helped needy children!

Of course I dug right in, Ted. I had to taste everything so I could start planning my Chopped meal.

I see that Joanna, but is there any food left to cook with? That cookie seems, well, it seems gone.

And the Pita chips are barely crumbs! Those pretzel sandwiches . . . one, two, three, FOUR! Do you only have four left? And just a handul of jelly beans. Joanna, Joanna, Joanna. I don’t see how you can ever win now. You’ve eaten most of the food before the competion has begun. Frankly, I’m appalled. In all my years of hosting TV and fictitious blog challenges, I’ve never seen such recklessness!

No worries. I have a plan. A small plan.

I think you’re going to need a LARGE plan to pull this off.

No, you don’t understand, I have a “small” plan. Everything will be small. Mini meals. A three course mini meal starting with a tiny appetizer, leading to a tiny main course and culminating in a trio of tiny desserts.

I must say it’s going to take a BIG Non Chef to pull off this tiny meal.

Will she make it? Will she pull it off? Now remember, folks, she has to use all the ingredients in her dish. And the competition starts in five, four, three, two, one . . . and GO!

Joanna, can you tell us what it is you’re doing here?

First up I’ll be preparing my mini appetizer, Pita Encrusted BBQ Gnocchi. I cook the gnocchi according to the package directions by submerging in salted water ’til boiling. Then I drain on a paper towel. Now I’m rolling the gnocchi in crushed up Stacey’s salted pita chips, heating some Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce over medium heat and letting the gnocchi get nice and coated. Now that it’s all sweet and sticky, I’ll dust it with some more crushed up pita and there you have it.

Pita Encrusted BBQ Gnocchi.

I must say, Joanna, I’m impressed. So impressed I’d like just a little nibble. Wow. WOW! That is surprisingly amazing. Presentation is divine, but this little gnocchi ball takes the cake for taste. You’ve come out of the saute pan strong, but you’ll have to vamp up the heat for the win. What’s next Non Chef?

Next up is the main course, Gnocchi Spaghetti BBQ Meatloaf with Breadsticks. This will need to cook for a half hour in a 350 degree oven so I need to get cracking. Seriously, Ted, can you hand me that egg? Thanks. I’m mixing 4 tablespoons grass fed ground beef, 1 large julienned basil leaf, 1 tablespoon quinoa flakes, 1 teaspoon beaten egg, ½ teaspoon Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce, 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/8 teaspoon onion powder, and a dash of celery salt and ground black pepper. The mixture gets transferred into a lined muffin pan and smoothed flat.

Top with Nannina tomato basil pasta sauce and into the oven it goes!

That half hour is going to go by quickly! Then what?

Then I cut up the remainder of the gnocchi into thin strips and arrange on the cooked meatloaf to resemble spaghetti. Sprinkle with grated parmigiano reggiano cheese, insert breadstick halves from the Nutella to go and garnish with a basil leaf. Gnocchi Spaghetti BBQ Meatloaf with Breadsticks.

You continue to astound me Joanna. I simply cannot wait for dessert!

You won’t have to! I’m making it now and it’s oh so simple. I’m cutting three peanut butter pretzel sandwich cookies in half. It’s so hot in here I chilled them in the fridge for a few minutes first while I was preparing the meatloaf.

Excellent thinking, it has been unusually warm around these parts. Go on, go on!!

Right then, to the basic Wilton frosting recipe I am adding my mix-ins! One tablespoon of frosting gets ½ teaspoon of Nutella, piped onto a pretzel sandwich bottom and lidded with a top!

A second tablespoon is incorporated with crushed Toffee Crunch cookie, piped onto a sandwich half, lidded and rolled in crushed cinnamon sugar Stacey’s pita chips.

The third pretzel sandwich has plain frosting inside and is rolled in chopped jelly bean. And we have dessert. Sweet Treat Trio of Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Sandwich Sandwiches.

Joanna, I don’t know what to say. I think you’ve done it. You’ve actually created a mini meal from your Foodie Pen Pals package. It’s delightful.  Simply delightful!

Let’s see what our judges, er judge, has to say.  The Husband, where are you?  Husband??  Folks, it looks like he’s already dug into dinner.  He’s trying to talk, but his mouth is full.  He’s rubbing his stomach and smiling and IT LOOKS LIKE A WIN!  Another win for Non Chef Joanna of Midwestern Bite.  Two months in a row she’s done it!!  But wait, there’s a question from the crowd.  The Snoops wants to know what happened to the lollipop?  Joanna, where is the lollipop?

I ate that while cooking.  A competitor needs fuel after all.

Judge, are you going to allow that?!?  He’s still eating, folks.  Geez, you’d think he’d be done by now since this meal was so small.  He’s gesturing . . . it’s a thumbs up!  The judge is accepting the lollipop answer!!  It’s official, Joanna for the win!

Stop back next month, folks, to see if she can pull off a third win against herself!

I’m fictitious Ted Allen, signing off.


P.S. If you are interested in joining Foodie Pen Pals through The Lean Green Bean, here’s the haps:


  1. Hahaha! Your challenge is hilarious! Everything you made looks amazing, and I love your commentray. Just happened to stumple upon you afterI posted my Foodie Penpals link on The Lean Green Bean blog. I love your idea of the chopped challenge.

  2. you are SO creative. this looks amazing!

  3. So creative! I am seriously amazed by these creations!

  4. Bwah ha ha, this made my morning. You are so creative!

  5. I need to start clearing off a lot of mantle space for your gigantic Foodie Pen Pal trophies you award yourself each month. Those things are massive!

  6. Carrie@familyfitnessfood.com

    Love this!! Fantastic. Gorgeous food and pictures and amazing ideas. Congrats on winning!!!

  7. What an awesome idea! I love the chopped challenge part.

  8. This is hilarious! Great write-up!! You certainly got a great box this month.

    • Yeah, Cath did a wonderful job! I NEED to find that local toffee cookie . . . she mentioned WF sells them but I don’t have one of those close by either.

  9. So creative! I really like what you created for each course. Especially the desert trio! 😀

  10. Thanks for the shout out Joanna! I love what you came up with for your chopped challenge!

  11. You are so creative! Everything actually looks edible. I’m glad you didn’t put all the ingredients into one dish.

  12. What a creative presentation!!! And some yummy treats.

  13. Fantastic box! I love gnocchi, it is so fun to be creative with!

  14. You’re adorable. That looked like a ton of fun. 🙂

  15. Love this! Such a fun and creative way to use your foodie penpal goodies! The dessert looks delish! 🙂

  16. I’m super impressed with what you made especially because of the wide range of food you received in your package.

  17. pretty awesome! love the approach you took! all of the stuff you made looks scrumptious!

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