Dried Chilies Horizontal

So what is this thing “Dueling Duleys?”Only the best game ever [rip-off of a TV show]! If you’ve ever seen the show “Chopped” on Food Network, many of the ideas for our little couples date-night game will look familiar. We have, however, given it our own creative spins, and conveniently eliminated the eliminating.


The Object:

To create a main dish that is tasty, creative, nice looking, and won’t kill anyone – using all four Secret Ingredients.

Game Set-up – Collecting the Secret Ingredients

There are 4 secret ingredient categories:

  • Protein (drawn)
  • Fruit/Vegetable (drawn)
  • Flavor/Herb/Spice/Seasoning/Sauce (picked)
  • Prepackaged/Processed (picked)


Grilled Chilies and Tomatillos

First, the picked ingredients:
We start with a coin flip to decide who will bring a flavor/herb/spice/seasoning/sauce ingredient and who will bring a prepackaged/processed ingredient. These two categories were decided in order to bring variety, creativity, and randomness to the game. As you can imagine the options are endless for each of these categories so a pre-written list drawn randomly from a hat just doesn’t fill our need for a truly random and sometimes crazy ingredient combination. Instead it is left open and each spouse is in charge of picking one item for their category. The idea is to find something you may want to creatively cook with or explore, but will also be challenging to the opponent. Just remember, if you make it too challenging for them than you may face the same trouble!

A few days before our ‘battle’ we begin perusing the isles (and city) scouting for just the right ingredient to make the game interesting. It is possible that our two items might end up being similar just by chance; something like grape jelly and grape juice, or Peanut Butter and Peanut Sauce, but it’s really unlikely. And even so, what else is added to the dish outside of the secret ingredients is completely up to each cook, so variety will never really be an issue.

Here are some examples of items that might be picked for each of these categories:

Flavor/Herb/Spice/Seasoning/Sauce Ingredients:

  • Thai Chili Sauce
  • Fresh Dill Weed
  • Rose Water
  • Mexican Oregano
  • Horseradish Root
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Mountain Dew
  • Orange Juice
  • Tamarind
  • Saffron
  • Dried Soup Mix
  • Oyster Sauce
  • A Vinegar/Vinaigrette
  • Chocolate Milk

Prepackaged/Processed Ingredients:

  • Rice Noodles
  • Canned Nuts
  • Nacho Cheese
  • Sushi Rice
  • Semolina Flour
  • French Baguette
  • Grape Jelly
  • Triscuits
  • Mango Salsa
  • Almond Butter
  • Mixed Dried Fruit
  • Pastry Dough
  • Falafel Mix

A couple guidelines for picking ingredients:
Excluded from the options for the processed/prepackaged category are any canned fruits or vegetables that may by chance be drawn from the fruit/vegetable list. (See the bottom of this page.) The same would go for a precooked canned bean. However, canned chili is acceptable because of the many ingredients it contains. Similarly I feel that hummus or garbanzo flour is acceptable for a processed choice since whole garbanzo beans, had it happened to be the protein drawn at the same time, could still reasonably be used in a dish with it. As with Enchilada Sauce as a ‘flavor’, even though red chilies may be drawn as the fruit/vegetable.

Now something like Falafel and a Dried Soup Mix can fall under the ‘flavor’ category because of their high seasoning content but they are also a ‘packaged ingredient.’ It might be smart to look for an option in which the seasoning and the starch can be separated and still be used as the secret ingredient. For instance, someone could choose roman noodle seasoning for a ‘flavor’ without the requirement of the noodles, or vice-verse for the packaged/processed item.

Lastly, you might want to make a ‘house rule’ about how many of the ingredients in a packaged item are required in order for it to be truly ‘included’ it in the dish. We ran into this issue one time when Vanessa picked a blueberry crumble mix that included a cake mix, canned blueberries, and crumble. Were we required to use them all?


This all sounds way more complicated than it really is. Simply put, if needed, our jury of two can decide together if it’s going to work or not. Either way, it will be interesting trying to make all the ingredients work together in the end…. and THAT is the whole point.

Suggestions for places to look for interesting ingredients:

  • Local Market
  • Health Food Store
  • International Market
  • Local Grocery Store
  • Warehouse Whole Sale
  • Pet Store
  • Local Bakery
  • Butcher Shop
  • Tea and Spice Shop
  • Raid Your Neighbor’s Cupboard


Dried and Ground Chilies

Now the Drawn Ingredients:
Once our privately selected items have been purchased we bring them secretly together (perhaps even at the store) and draw for the other 2 categories; Protein and Fruit/Vegetable. (These are listed at the bottom of the page for your convenience, should you wish to also play this game.) The idea of bringing the chosen ingredients first is to create the most randomness possible among the 4 secret ingredients. If we know what kind of meat we were going to work with SURELY that would affect how we pick a flavor or packaged ingredient. Together we purchase the last two ingredients.

Note: the fruit/vegetables drawn should be purchased fresh unless listed as canned or frozen. Only when they are out of season will a canned or frozen option be exchanged.

Now that all four secret ingredients are known, what happens next is completely up to each cook.

Personal Preparations:

You’ll see a section in each posting of our ‘duels’ where we talk individually about why we chose our personal secret ingredient, and how we want to approach and meld all the revealed ingredients. We will have the opportunity to shop for needed supplies for our dish that may not be on-hand in our kitchen.

The Duel! – Wielding our Tools

Mushrooms, garlic, and pearl onionsUnfortunately we do not have a very large kitchen. In-fact it’s just a bare-bones apartment kitchen with a junky electric oven and range, so we’ve made the decision that one of us will cook our meal on Saturday and the other on Sunday. This will allow each the space and tools needed to cook their dish to their satisfaction, as well as some privacy. We have also decided not to impose a time limit. In order to bring a creative variety of ingredients to the game, some items – meats in particular – are better suited for long cooking sessions. Plus, in the end, we want to make dishes that actually taste good! That takes time and attention to detail. Besides, there is no money involved. I don’t want to have to work hard!

What about the Sunday person knowing already what the Saturday person has made and how they used the ingredients well/poorly? We will each have already written our intended plan for our meal on the blog (though not yet published), but really it will just come down to integrity.

A few house rules: Sauces like enchilada and spaghetti sauce should be home made, unless they were chosen as a secret ingredient. Outside of the required secret ingredients anything else that falls on any of the lists or categories can be used as the chef desires, such as another protein or vegetable.

The Winner

It’s not so much of a winner/loser thing. Though one dish may really turn out better than another we will simply be constructively critiquing each others’ and our own dishes. We will ‘judge’ on taste, creativity, and plating. Since there is no time limit there should be NO reason for missing ingredients.

So what’s the point? What do we gain? Creative expression, personal challenge, and the opportunity to eat two [hopefully] delicious meals. … and perhaps totally blow the spouse out of the water!

Prickly Pear Fruits and Nopale Leaves

Our Lists for Drawing Ingredients

Adjust it according to what you have available

The Proteins List

pork tenderloin, beef round roast, beef chuck roast, beef shoulder roast, beef chop steak, stewing beef, beef T-bone, New York strip, beef cross-cut ribs, beef filet, beef ribs, pork roast, pork chop, pork loin, country style pork ribs, pork neck bones, smoked pork hock, ground pork, ground sausage, hot Italian sausage, turkey breast, raw whole chicken, pre-roasted savory chicken, chicken breast, chicken thighs, chicken wings, Cornish game hens, duck, lamb chops, lamb roast, ground lamb, chicken gizzards, chicken livers, ham steaks, pork belly, cow/ox tail, buffalo steaks, ground buffalo, caribou roast, tripe, apple chicken sausages, corned beef, boneless pressed ham, bologna, garlic bologna, Lebanon bologna, rosemary ham, honey smoked turkey breast, head cheese, capocolla, Genoa salami, hard salami, pastrami, turkey pastrami, spicy link sausage, bratwurst, Cajun dogs, Vienna sausage, maple sausages, summer sausage, thick pepper bacon, maple smoked bacon, kielbasa, spam, pepperoni sticks, beef jerky, teriyaki beef jerky, linguica (Portuguese sausage), Spanish chorizo, Mexican chorizo, dried beef in a can, potted meat, Canadian bacon, goat

tofu, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), plain yogurt, millet, buckwheat, bulger, quinoa, black beans, lentils, garbanzo beans, fava beans, kidney beans, lima beans, white beans, mung beans, split peas, halva

Monterrey jack cheese, butterkase, baby swiss, port rind cheese, cream cheese/neufchatel, feta, fanitina, brie, asiago cheese, asadera, aged swiss, marscapone, gouda, smoked gouda, mozzarella, smoked cheddar, cheddar, romano, goat cheese, havarti, port cheese ball, munster cheese, ricotta, cotija, baby bell cheese wheels, blue/stilton/gorgonzola, provolone, pepper jack, parmesan, limburger

The Fruit/Vegetable List

kale, water cress, chard, collards, mustard greens, spinach, arugula, heirloom tomatoes, tomatillos, sweet onion, green onion, leeks, red onion, yellow potatoes, red potatoes, purple potatoes, fingerling potatoes russet/yukon gold potatoes, baker potatoes, avocado, coconut, cactus leaf, mini colored bell peppers, asparagus, edamame, pumpkin, yellow squash, white squash, turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, celery root, beets, taro root, bok choy (large or small), red cabbage, green cabbage, rainbow carrots, artichoke, green/yellow zucchini, green beans, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, crimini mushrooms, white mushrooms, portabella mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, wild [dried] mushrooms, jalapenos, anaheim peppers, red chili peppers, pablano peppers, red radish, daikon radish

strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, blue berries, cherries, dates, figs, cucumber, lychee, green grapes, red grapes, dark/purple grapes, grapples, champagne grapes, persimmons, oranges, blood oranges, tangerines, kumquat, yellow apples, red apples, green apples, peaches, papaya, pomegranate, mango, fresh pineapple, kiwi, starfruit, plums, bartlett pear, asian pears, yellow grapefruit, pink grapefruit, cantaloupe, tuscan melon, honeydew, watermelon, lady fingers, plantains, bananas

greek olives, black olives, green olives, kalamata olives, pickles, pickled asparagus, capers, hearts of palm, canned artichoke hearts, sauerkraut, grape leaf, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, canned straw mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, canned pickled beets, canned diced tomatoes – sweet onion and garlic, canned crushed tomatoes, canned diced tomatoes chili seasoned, canned diced tomatoes with jalapenos, canned creamed corn, hominy, canned vegetable mix, canned baby carrots, apple sauce, canned fruit cocktail, frozen mixed veggies, frozen spinach, frozen squash, frozen stir-fry veggie mix

*There are a few items you will not see on the lists above, due to personal taste preferences: fish, fish eggs, shell fish, sea food, sea weed, okra, and sweet potatoes. NOTE: ALL of those are on ANDREW’S personal taste preference list. He did give-in to adding dates and capers.

**In addition, due to some allergy issues for Vanessa the following items will always be used either heated or skinned: apples, plums, and almonds; And these cooked: Cherries and Peaches

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