The Mystery Box Challenge


October 17, 2012 by Meg G.

Last week, Heather and I had a little Boston adventure!

View of the Charles River from our hotel room window

She had a conference in Cambridge, so I galavanted around town and sipped hot coffee in various cafés, like Flour Bakery…mmm. Try the egg sandwich. Or the Pop Tart. Or the vanilla latte. Or, really, anything.

So, on Friday night, we drove out to Brighton to cook with our friends, Oliver & Will. Since we hadn’t menu-planned, I had this wacky idea that we should wing it, food competition style. I suggested that we head to the grocery store – split up – and each return with one ingredient. We would then caucus, choose a menu, and and add a few more ingredients. Oliver and Will immediately said – like a Mystery Box! (I confess I’m not a MasterChef watcher, but I got the gist.) SO FUN, right?! Right. Here’s how it went down.

We went to Whole Foods and planned to meet up in the produce section. We gave ourselves about 3 – 5 minutes to shop.

So much squash!

So – what did we pick?!

Drum roll please….

Pumpkin, apple, yam, veggie sausage

Oliver chose some baking pumpkins.

Will went for a yam.

Heather picked up some smoked apple sage veggie “sausage”

And I rounded us out with an apple.

Looks like everyone went with a seasonal item – plus some protein!

So…we caucused…

Caucusing in the Produce Section

…and ultimately decided on a menu of pumpkin risotto, yam fries, and sausage on a bed of kale. For dessert? Some vanilla ice cream and sautéed apples with candied pepitas (pumpkin seeds). OH YEAH!

We picked up a shallot and some parmesan for the risotto, red onion and garlic for the kale, and vanilla ice cream and another (tart) apple for dessert.

Mystery Box + Supplemental Ingredients

We got back to Oliver & Will’s place and got to work!

Our bounty

Oliver got the risotto started. He began by dicing the pumpkin and saving the seeds (for dessert!).

Pumpkin Prep – Save those Seeds!


Meanwhile, Heather and I started cutting the yams into fries.

Yam Fries

And Will stemmed and chopped the kale.

Kale prep

While tending the risotto, Oliver also diced the onion and garlic for the kale. (That boy worked hard!)

Patience is the virtue of Risotto

Meanwhile, Will got the pepitas ready. We roasted them for a few minutes and then he candied them, using orange juice and brown sugar. The smells coming from the kitchen were out of this world!

Candied pepitas-yes they are cooling on the floor, because we ran out of counter space!

Then Will cooked up the kale and sausage while I seasoned the yam fries with salt, pepper, curry powder, and a smidge of cinnamon – and got them in the oven.

Veggie sausage on a bed of kale

After what felt like 30 minutes (but was more like an hour and 30) of chatting, prepping, dicing, roasting, sautéing, tasting, and laughing – we were ready to eat!

Our feast!

Aren’t you impressed? ; )

It was DELICIOUS. I was so impressed by our creativity, teamwork, and talent! (Unfortunately, I was short on humility.) But wait – there’s more! Check out that dessert!

Vanilla ice cream with sautéed apples and candied pepitas

Honestly, I haven’t had this much fun or success in the kitchen in a long time. Over the next few days, Heather and I just kept turning to each other and saying – how much fun was that?! Guys – I think we might have to make this a regular rendezvous. Next time – we host!

Sorry for the lack of recipes, but we just made it up as we went along. ; ) I hope the Mystery Box Challenge inspires you and your favorite kitchen buddy!


6 thoughts on “The Mystery Box Challenge

  1. Ryan Graf says:

    Hi Meg! Stumbled upon your blog, and love it/wish I was a better cook. I live super close to one of the Flour bakery shops… which is a bit dangerous. Glad you (and Heather) are well!

    • griffson812 says:

      Ryan! So great to hear from you. Living close to Flour sounds VERY dangerous. What I didn’t admit above is that I was there twice in the span of our three days in town. (I had to bring Heather!) And you can be a better cook. Practice makes perfect. (Better?)

  2. Steph says:

    That looks so fun! I need to find some cooking friends down here to play with. The pumpkin risotto sounds so good… I make one with butternut squash that is one of my favorite things to eat.

  3. vkhanson says:

    This looks like great fun!! I’m going to try it with a few friends. You have inspired!

    • griffson812 says:

      Yay! Thanks, Valerie! I enjoy reading about your adventures in the kitchen – I wish we lived closer so I could visit Bygone Basics! Best of luck with the Mystery Box Challenge and let us know how it turns out!

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