Every summer for the past 4 years we have played our own at-home version of Iron Chef. It was about that time when my oldest son was 10 and my second was 7, and they were ready to help out more in the kitchen then just the basic ‘go get this’ and ‘measure and pour’. They both have had a huge interest in cooking for at least 3-4 years before that when I taught them how to make their very own bagel and english muffin pizzas. We’ve moved from pizza sauce to culinary battles! We have a few of our past challenges posted on my other site: FotoCuisine.com (Applesauce, Brown Sugar, POM).

We start out the summer by the boys choosing their own ingredient lists. Each one writes out what main ingredient they want their course to revolve around. We throw all the ingredients in a hat and one chooses the random “battle” ingredient at the beginning of each week. Next, they draw who will be their sous chef, me or Peter, and then draw from the last hat to choose if they’re making the appetizer or dinner course.

This year we started off with Battle Watermelon!  C, my second oldest, pulled Peter and appetizer from the hat. That left me with my oldest, A, and the dinner course.

We get a week to confer and discuss what we would like to make and that usually ends up with both of them coming up with an idea within the first 15 minutes and then some back and forth on what to add/subtract with flavors and ideas for the next 5 days. It is amazing every time to listen to their new views on tastes and how they want things to look. A is big on flavors and C is big on making food look like some other kind of food.

Peter and C made a mango watermelon pork and chicken  salad in a crustini bowl with a watermelon infused vinaigrette dressing.

First they marinated the pork and chicken in herbs and balsamic vinegar, and chopped up watermelon and mango while the ‘bowls’ were toasting.


Then they pulsed watermelon in the food processor, sauteed the pork and chicken, and chopped up more salad ingredients




We had our friends Jon and Rachael(who started their new food blog site: iphoodies.com) come over to help judge the dishes. Rachael doesn’t eat pork or beef, however. Both dishes both used pork (coincidentally) so we modified both with chicken as well, which was a nice twist to put on the boy’s plates 🙂


For A’s and my dinner course, he liked the idea of hand held, and we both like Peter’s Korean-style Chili Pork Loin Wraps, so we decided to base it on that. The idea of cooling down the spiciness with the fruit was all his idea. Genius 🙂

First we skinned and chopped all the ingredients.


Then sauteed the meat (ground pork in one pan, turkey in the other), added the veggies and then the hoisin sauce.





When served, you spoon the meat mixture into a large lettuce leaf and roll up to eat. Everyone enjoyed, especially my youngest, J!


After each course, each person had a ballot to fill out scoring 1-5 (1 the lowest) for Originality, Taste, and Appearance. After dinner we tallied up the scores.


Aaaaaaaand the winner was…… Peter and C with the appetizer. They beat us out by 2(!!!) points. But of course we all won because both courses were sooooo tasty and the kids had a blast as usual!

Mango Watermelon Salad

  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus 1 for saute
  • 4 or 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 chicken breasts or 1/2 pork tenderloin, cut into strips
  • Salt and cracked black pepper
  1. Combine all ingredients in bowl, reserving 1 tbsp olive oil. Marinade the meat for at least an hour in the fridge.
  2. Heat saute pan to medium high and add oil. When hot, add chicken or pork strips (include some of the thyme) and saute until cooked through.


  • 1/4 head iceburg lettuce, sliced into thin ribbons
  • 1 mango, skinned and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 watermelon slices, diced into 1/2 inch dice
  • Chicken or pork from above
  • Bread Bowls (see below)
  • Watermelon Vinaigrette (see below)
  1. Hollow out the bread bowls and toast in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes to make the inside a little crunchy (keep an eye out so they don’t burn!)
  2. Mix mango, watermelon, meat, and shredded lettuce and put in bowls.
  3. Pour vinaigrette over salad and serve immediately.

Watermelon Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 watermelon slice, 1 inch rough chop
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dijon vinegar
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper
  1. Pulse watermelon in food processor until mostly liquid.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until smooth. Taste — if too tangy, add some olive oil or more watermelon. If too sweet, add more vinegar. If too liquid, add more oil.

We used a basic French bread recipe. I think this one: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/French-Bread-235423. We let the dough rise once, then punched it down and made small rounds instead of long french loaves. The cooking time will be shorter. Since we’ll be removing the centers anyway, it’ll basically be done when the outside is golden and crusty.


Watermelon and Pork Wraps

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground pork
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 cups diced (1/2-inch) watermelon
  • 12 iceberg lettuce leaves
  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy, non-stick skillet over high heat. Cook and stir the garlic, ginger, and onion in the hot oil until fragrant, about 1 minute; add the ground pork to the mixture and cook until completely browned, 7 to 10 minutes. Drain any excess liquid from the skillet.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the carrot and celery to the pork mixture; cook and stir until the carrot and celery begin to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir the soy sauce and green onions into the mixture; remove the skillet from the heat and add the hoisin sauce and pine nuts. Stir the mixture until evenly mixed. Fold the watermelon into the mixture.
  3. Spoon the pork mixture into the middle of the lettuce leaves; wrap the lettuce around the filling to serve.