What did this week’s Pantry Kitchen Challenge accomplish?

We helped some of you get rid of, among other things, 5-year-old frozen duck fat and corn tortillas, 4-year-old chicken sausage, 3-year-old jam and sliced Fuji apples. And I’m hoping we also got one of you to toss the frozen 2-year-old salmon carcass that you say you have only as crab bait. (Glad you deemed that inedible for this challenge, Kevin Rochlin.) But nonetheless, here at The Seattle Times Pantry Kitchen headquarters, we will sleep better at night this week knowing we performed true public service journalism by getting you all to make actual edible food with things that at least one of you saw the need to doctor with lemon juice so as to “mask the freezer burn.” LOL.

This was a fun one to judge. Since the wild card ingredient — “the oldest edible thing in the back of your freezer” was so variable, we adhered to the principle of “was the item transformed in a creative way?” throughout the judging process.

And now, the result of this challenge involving freezer remnants, lemon, cauliflower and hot dogs:

The fruitcake vegan roast from Toni Hudson was crowned the winner because we were particularly impressed by how Hudson took old, frozen fruitcake and transformed it into this very festive-looking entree. In second place: Steve Venard and Cathy Martin, whose ballpark banh mi caught our attention because of the care they took to creatively play each of the four ingredients (hot dog pâté, anyone?), including the back-of-the-freezer chuck roast. Picking the third place winner proved tough. Kevin Rochlin’s lemon tortilla cake with hot dog caramel filling juuuust beat out Laurie Kenneth’s savory jalapeño honey chicken sausage “corn dog” cupcake with lemon cauliflower mashed frosting. Those hot dog roses might have tipped the scale.

Here are the top 12 submissions! Thanks for playing. See below for details on Round 5.

Season 2, Round 5: The “Thanksgiving Leftovers” Challenge

You all knew this was coming, right? In honor of Thanksgiving, we’re gonna help you get creative with your leftovers! And that’s the wild card rule for this round: Whatever you make has to incorporate: 1) Whichever protein you had at your Thanksgiving dinner (for most of you, this will likely be turkey …) and 2) One other leftover component from your Thanksgiving feast. Good luck, have fun, and we hope your brilliance inspires others!


Ingredients: (there are only three required ingredients this time, in addition to the two wild card ingredients)

  • Tea … in leaf or bag form
  • Jelly/jam
  • Carrots


  • You have to use all three prescribed ingredients. You can use as many additional ingredients as you desire.
  • Wild card rule for Round 4: You have to incorporate into your dish two components of leftovers from your Thanksgiving dinner — the protein and one other item of your choice. Be as creative as possible.
  • Deadline: Create a dish, tell us how successful you were and email photos (JPEG files!), your recipe and a description of your dish to food editor Stefanie Loh (sloh@seattletimes.com) by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 29. We’re giving you an extra couple of days to allow you to incorporate your post-Thanksgiving leftovers!
  • Judging will be based on creativity, how well you incorporated the ingredients, presentation and adherence to the wild card rule. We’ll select several of the most interesting submissions to be published in a future edition of The Mix.


Pantry Kitchen Challenge Season 2 Round 4 Best Reader Submissions

To download a PDF of recipes from this round, click here.

Fruitcake vegan roast

Freezer ingredient: Fruitcake

“I have a very small freezer, so I tend to cycle through my food pretty regularly … but way in the back, I found a treasure! Fruitcake! I make a dark molasses fruitcake almost every year … it’s not the ‘doorstop, pass it off to your neighbors’ kind of fruitcake … it’s actually good. I promise. This one has been in my freezer for about a year and a half or more. I decided to dice it up and add it to a mixture of herbs, sauteed onion, wild rice and roasted riced cauliflower. I tossed in pine nuts, and ‘maple bacon-ed’ vegan hot dogs and lemon zest to brighten up the flavor. Pack all that in a tender squash and top with a lemony cauliflower butter sauce. It makes a great vegan holiday entree. I’m pretty sure it’ll be on my Christmas menu this year.”

Toni Hudson

Ballpark bahn mi

Freezer ingredient: Chuck roast

“Our oldest freezer item was a chuck roast, but what to do with two proteins? We looked at the elements of a hot dog — salty, fatty and fairly smooth in consistency. Where could we go with that? Magnifying these elements, we pureed the hot dogs with more fat (butter) and more salt (capers) to create a smooth hot dog ‘pâté.’ This became the inspiration for our bahn mi sandwich. ‘Pâté’ on the bottom of a pillowy roll topped with layers of roasted meat and pickled vegetables makes a delicious meal. We took it up a notch with lemon and cauliflower. Lemon juice was used to make a homemade mayonnaise (oh yum!), but we wanted to highlight lemons even more. We thinly sliced lemons and cooked them confit (in olive oil), taking a hint from one of our favorite appetizers. Combining that with the cauliflower that we pickled with some jalapeños, along with other crunchy vegetables, and topped with cilantro, we had ourselves a delicious and beautiful ballpark bahn mi sandwich. It was so good, we made it again the next night.”

— Steve Venard and Cathy Martin

Lemon tortilla cake with hot dog caramel filling

Freezer ingredient: Corn tortillas

“The oldest edible item in the freezer is a 4-to-5-year-old giant package of corn tortillas from Costco that we still use when we forget to buy tortillas. (There are also some 1-to-2-year-old salmon carcasses for use as crab bait, but I decided that they did not count as edible.) My goal was to produce a lemony, corn-forward cake with a filling and topping akin to maple or brown sugar bacon buttercream. The cake is a combination of two types of cake: a lemon polenta cake, and a cauliflower cake where the vegetable adds moisture and nutrition. I was able to produce the moist large crumb cake I was aiming to bake. To imitate bacon for my topping, I chopped the hot dogs very fine and browned them to a light crunch with brown sugar before adding them to hot caramel sauce. To pull it all together, I added hot dog roses and piping around the cake. Probably because I accidentally bought chicken hot dogs and because a hot dog really isn’t bacon, the topping was not as successful as the cake. It tasted like a cross between bacon and hot dogs. All told, a solid cake. Hot dogs will not, however, continue on the dessert rotation.”


Kevin Rochlin

Savory jalapeño honey chicken sausage “corn dog” cupcake with lemon cauliflower mashed frosting

Freezer ingredient: Chicken sausage, 2016

“I’m guessing I am not alone in that I actually purged my freezer during the COVID stay-home mandate. I wasn’t sure what I’d find that was very old in my freezer, but apparently I missed the Isernio’s chicken sausage from January 2016 when I cleaned the freezer out in the spring. OK, sausage and hot dogs? … What I ended up making was a jalapeño honey chicken sausage ‘corn dog’ cupcake with lemon cauliflower mashed frosting. I took the casing off the chicken sausage and cooked/crumbled it. I then made a gluten-free (because I am) cornbread batter with sauteed jalapeños and honey. I then mixed the crumbled sausage into the batter and spooned them into the muffin cups. I sliced a generous piece of Snake River Farms frankfurters and pushed one into the middle of each muffin to bake.  While those baked, I steamed a head of cauliflower and processed it with sauteed garlic, butter, lemon juice, green onion, Parmesan, Beecher’s Flagship cheese and salt and pepper. When everything was cooled, I used the cauliflower mash to ‘frost’ the cupcake. After the mashed frosting set, I broiled the top like a meringue. I topped the result with green onion and lemon zest. Lo and behold, savory and delicious!!”

Laurie Kenneth

Cauliflower-stuffed hot dog Wellingtons

Freezer ingredient: Sliced Fuji apples, 2017

“I thought of roasting the cauliflower with lemon and garlic, and pureeing that to use as a spread on puff pastry, like beef Wellington, only with hot dogs. And then use the apples to make a dipping sauce. But when I went to the store for the ingredients, fresh chanterelles called out to me. So I made the spread out of chanterelles and apples mashed together, with a little lemon to mask the freezer burn. Instead of pureeing the roasted cauliflower, I cut the roasted florets small enough to stuff into hot dog halves and then wrapped the stuffed hot dogs in puff pastry that had been spread with the apple/chanterelle mixture. I hardly ever eat hot dogs and I’d forgotten how salty they are. They pretty much overpowered everything. Apples and chanterelles go together pretty well, though. If I had to do this over, I think I would use these same ingredients to stuff some type of winter squash, which could stand up to the strong saltiness of the hot dogs.”

— Roxanne Kenison

The Hot Dog Gambit

Freezer ingredient: Duck fat, 2015

“Putting this dish together was more difficult than any of the previous challenges. Why? Because the ingredients were so complementary, and the wild card challenge (the oldest thing in my freezer) was not something weird like leftover asparagus vinaigrette or chicken liver with olive oil, but a gallon bag of duck fat from a duck extravaganza I created about five years ago. … I had the hardest time trying to come up with something unique. It was days of discussion with family, each idea triggered something new. … I finally settled on a terrine. Then the challenge was how to combine the ingredients into something both tasty and visually interesting. I remembered buying this rice cube in an airport shopping area on a trip years ago because I thought it was cute. It was in the far reaches of a cabinet and lo and behold: The Hot Dog Gambit. (Well, not really a chessboard but hey, it’s edible!) This was really a family affair.”

— Paul Shapiro

Thankful turkey appetizer

Freezer ingredient: Pumpkin waffles, August 2020

“I get by with a little help from my friends and family. So very thankful for all of you! It’s a tie [to determine] if my Trader Joe’s pumpkin waffles or my friend Paula’s Mariners hot dogs are older. Both were used for my Thanksgiving-themed, turkey-shaped appetizer. You don’t have to tempura-batter the waffles but everything is better deep-fried, duh.”

— Vicki Schuman

Strawberry-cauliflower ice cream lemon cookie cup with chocolate-covered hot dog crumble

Freezer ingredient: Strawberries, 2018

“Maybe we’re not alone, but with COVID, we’ve stocked our freezer with Costco-sized portions of chicken, fish and meat. That stockpiling also forced us to clean out unrecognizable or freezer-burned items. The result is that we don’t have much that’s really old; however, tucked in the bottom corner of our freezer was a 2-cup bag of strawberries we’d picked in 2018. Needing a worthy challenge, strawberry-cauliflower ice cream came to mind. To meet the contest requirements, I could have used lemon juice in the ice cream (in fact it would have benefited from it) but when lemon cookie muffin cups popped into my head, I went with it. Although it sounds strange, chocolate-covered bacon is really good, a favorite of mine. Since hot dogs are distantly related to bacon, that’s how I used the lowly wiener. Also, to make something (my wife) Libby could eat, I went gluten-free on the whole thing. It’s almost vegan as well. Most of the vegan ice cream recipes I saw called for coconut oil. Finding its taste overpowering and mildly disgusting, I substituted whipping cream for the oil.”


— Jeff Abrams

Cauliflower fritti with pesto lemon vinaigrette

Freezer ingredient: Pesto

“Can’t tell you how happy I was with myself for cleaning out the freezer last month! Gone was the face cake from my daughter’s high school graduation (she’s now 24), the weird cubes of condensed milk and vegan ‘meat.’ Feeling a little sassy with my clean slate of choices, I open the freezer and spy, hiding, wedged between the ice bin and the wall of the drawer, a small green container. Thank God it’s contents were green by design. It was pesto! I could totally work with that! Hot dogs, on the other hand, I truly dislike. Another thing I don’t like is eggplant. I once heard of making eggplant into bacon by slicing it thin and adding liquid smoke. I do like bacon! I brought out the mandolin and applied the same idea to the dreaded dog. AMAZING! Honestly, try this. Brush a little liquid smoke on a thin strip of hot dog and bake it till crispy. Salty, crispy, smoky. I had the perfect topping for my cauliflower fritti with pesto lemon vinaigrette.”

— Kathy Hunt

Sweet and smoky breakfast hash with hollandaise

Freezer ingredient: Frozen apple pie

“This meal was yum! And I never ever would have thought I would say that about hot dogs … I decided to really switch my thinking this round and make breakfast as I desperately tried to come up with a use for hot dogs, other than as a hot dog. And not to mention the oldest item in my freezer was frozen apple pie. Yikes. But I did it! And it was great! The cauliflower was a great alternative for the potatoes in a traditional hash and the combination of the sweet cinnamon apples with the smoky spices gave it a great flavor profile. Not to mention that anything is amazing with a rich and lemony hollandaise sauce drizzled on top. Once again, another basket of strange ingredients has become something I would definitely cook again!” 

Sada Adams

Cauliflower hot dog “koft-quettes”

Freezer ingredients: Vegan raspberry muffins, February or March 2020

“I keep my freezers fairly cleaned out, but I did find a bag of rather homely vegan raspberry muffins that were probably 8 or 9 months old. Because of their sweetness and the sour lemon, I decided to go for a sweet-and-sour dish and East Indian cuisine came to mind. The crunchy hot dog strips supported the soft turmeric and bright cauliflower puree, but the most exciting element turned out to be the fried hot dog/cauliflower balls that were somewhere between koftas and croquettes. The muffins were so moist I had to roast the crumbs until toasty and dry. The lemon sauce pulled all the amazing tastes and textures together and my husband pronounced it delicious!”

Carrol Harris

Frozen fava fritters

Freezer ingredients: Fava beans, 2019

“These are fava beans that I put in last November 2019 and overwintered. They got harvested in June 2020 and I blanched them and popped them out of their skins to make them ready to use. I did three large bags like this at the time in 2-cup portions so they would be ready to go. This is the final bag! … I decided to make a fritter using cauliflower that was just getting ready to be harvested in my garden and added a Tofurky vegan dog to the mix as the main binder. The lemon was zested into the mix and then I also made a mint, lemon and yogurt sauce to go along. We enjoyed it!”

— Ellen Robinson