GangUp Challenge Results are IN!

As promised, today is the day.  The day I showcase the results of the ‘Cooking Challenge’ that I threw out 10 days ago…. And boy, did the 10 days flew by fast.  Doesn’t help that there was a holiday (Canadian) shoved in the middle of it to make it that much more harried for us in the Great White North. 


Here we are and let me just say, I am thrilled with the results.  There are some extremely talented ‘Home Chefs’ out there that were not at all intimidated by the list of ingredients.  This round was one of less challenging ones as I like to break a new crowd in gently, no sense scaring the aprons off them in the first try. 

To recap, here are the ingredients that were to be utilized: 

Beef, Pumpkin, Barley, Sage, Beef Stock, Tomatoes, Turnip, Potatoes, Olive Oil (or Canola) and Red Wine. 

For a quick review of the rules, see the original post here

Now when I used to showcase this event on another site, I would display each Chef’s creations in the order of when they were received.  So, therefore, will follow that tradition as it is only fair.  I will be last, is it saving the best for last? or leaving the worst for last?  you can be the judge. 

So to start us off, here is the daughter of a very good friend of mine.  Please give a warm welcome to Suzannah.  She is also a regular participant in past challenges and is quite the accomplished chef at such a young age.  She lives on the U.S. West Coast in what conceivably can be weather as dreary as jolly ‘ol England, so no surprise with her results, it is something to look forward to at the end of a damp, cold day….

She also took advantage of her crockpot and let it do the ‘work’ for her.  All she had to do was be creative with the ingredients. 

“This time around was obviously no “Chopped” competition, all of the ingredients are pretty coherent. No marshmallow cream or Lucky Charms to throw me for a loop. The set up was there for me to make some kind of Beef Barley Stew, but I wanted to try and come up with something slightly different. I had to work all day today so I decided to call upon my crock pot to get the job done for me. I omitted the barley and added butter. And my final product was…

“12 Hour Beef & Turnip Roast with Pumpkin Mashed Potatoes”

You’ll notice the bread in the background. No I didn’t bake that out of barley and potatoes. Call me a cheater, but I just thought bread would be a nice addition to the meal. Here is how I made it:

Around 6 o’clock this morning I put most of it together before I went to work. First thing I did was get out a pan and sear all of the sides of my roast in olive oil. I ended up using a chuck cross rib roast (or something to that effect) Normally I coat the roast in flour before doing this but flour wasn’t one of my ingredients. This makes a crust on the meat and seals in all of its juices…from what I hear. Then I stuck it in the crock pot and added 3 C of water, 2 t beef stock, half a can of diced tomatoes, about 3/4 C red wine, salt, pepper, and sage. I set it to cook on low and went to work.

When I got home I started my potatoes. Just peel them, dice them up and boil them in a pot of salt water. When They were fork tender I drained them, added a can of pure pumpkin (not the huge can, just the normal size one) and a half a stick of butter. Then used my mixer to whip them up. These actually turned out as good as I had hoped they would. I’m glad I thought to do this, because I’d like to make them again. Around an an hour and a half before serving I added the turnips to the crock pot. I’ve never cooked with turnips before, and frankly I didn’t know how to handle them or what they even taste like. I peeled them and used my mandolin to slice them up thinly and threw them in the pot. They also came out as good as I had hoped…kind of had a carrot taste to them. My mom came over for dinner at 6 and I put it all together on the plate. I was pleasantly surprised with how well everything turned out. If this meal isn’t the epitome of Fall on a plate then I don’t know what is. My mom will serve hers tomorrow night and hopefully it isn’t exactly the same as mine. Otherwise that will pretty much nullify all the creativity that I thought was using.” 

I must say, I am drooling over the tenderness of that beef Suzannah…. Excellent job as usual and many, many thanks for participating again, it is always a pleasure to have you join in! 


Next up is a gal pal who has also been a past contributor and is never one to shy away from a challenge…even if it does end in somewhat of a disaster. 

Please welcome Linda and her kool, kitchen kreation: 

“Chaos Stew with Barley Pumpkin Crisps”

Looks smashing doesn’t it? But I will let her detail how she came to create this dish and what she had to say about it – let’s just say I am still giggling from when she first sent this to me…. And trust me, you have to read it to the very end….

“My vision was three pretty mounds of “mash”: purple, orange, and white with red specks, surrounded by a moat of thick beef barley stew with homemade crackers, but it will remain only a vision. My unfamiliarity with turnips and barley proved to be my downfall and is the excuse I’m using for the chaos I created 🙂  I’m going to see if the Cardinals and squirrels like the crackers. Thanks for the challenge. It was fun and we didn’t starve, that counts as a success around here 🙂

Barley Pumpkin Crisps
1/2 cup barley
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin puree
1T olive oil
2T water
1/4 tsp rubbed sage
1/2 Tbl pepitas (pumpkin seeds-toasted, hulled, and chopped)
kosher salt

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Grind barley in food processor until you realize that doesn’t work (about 5 min).  Dump barley into coffee grinder and grind on finest setting until you give up and decide its “good enough” (another 5 min). Pour barley back into food processor with pumpkin, water, oil, sage, and a pinch of salt. Process until well blended, and let sit for a couple of hours in hopes that the barley will soften through absorption (uh-uh). With a silicone spatula, spread a heaped Tbl of mixture into 1.5 x 3 inch rectangles (very thin).  Top with the seeds and lightly press them in.  Sprinkle with kosher salt to taste. Bake for 12 min or until crisp but not burned.  Makes 9.

Chaos Stew:
1/2 cup red wine
3 cups beef stock
1 cup water
1 small turnip, diced
3 med red potatoes, cubed
1 cup cubed roasted pumpkin
2 Tbl ground pearled barley
2 Tbl whole pearled barley
1 small tomato, seeded and chopped
1/4 tsp rubbed sage

In a heavy pot, simmer wine over med heat until reduced by half. Add water and turnips, simmer until turnips are tender, about 10 min. Remove turnips and set aside. Add stock and barley and simmer, covered, until barley is cooked, about 30.  Meanwhile, toss cubed pumpkin in a small amount of oil and the sage. Cook potatoes in microwave safe dish for about 6 min or until fork tender.  Whip potatoes with immersion blender, set aside and keep warm. Puree turnips with a little more wine, just enough to make them purple. They wouldn’t smooth out past a dice/mince texture so I added the tomato, pureed until blended. When barley is cooked and stew is thick, add shredded beef, tomato/turnip mixture, pumpkin, salt & pepper to taste. Simmer until heated through, about 10 min.  Place a mound of potatoes in center of soup bowl and surround with the stew. Serve with barley crisps, but be careful not to crack a tooth….” 

Linda… I applaud you, and seriously, you deserve ‘A’ for effort, no wait, a big-a$$ gold star blazing across a banner like the one Miss Universe wears with these words….”I shall fear no ingredient!” 

Thanks for making my day, and I am sure many others 🙂 


Now, let me introduce to you a fellow Canuckian, from one of the wide open, Western Provinces, who is nothing short of a walking encyclopedia on ‘How to Live in the Country’.  Please welcome Tina and her christened creation (which by the way looks mighty purdy in its pumpkin crock)… 

“Snowday Stone Stew”

Again, I feel the need to let her detail how she came up with her dish, and yes, she is forgiven for subbing one extra ingredient, but that is only because she lives in the boonies and pretty much lives off of deer and moose meat. 

“OMG, Deb, what have you done? I looked over the list for the gang up and thought to myself–oh yeah, no problem, simple stew HA!  Just as I was ready to get going, I was jolted to a halt, no flour to dredge my meat?  No onions and garlic for added flavour? Pumpkin? My guys will eat camouflaged pumpkin in muffins and quick breads, they LOVE pumpkin pie but as soon as I try to add pumpkin to a savory dish, they give me a sideways glance over their plates. Also, I have not bought beef in years, we eat deer and moose, so I knew I was already making a sub with the meat. I know you are a very forgiving gal and I knew you would overlook this sub (well maybe?). Now what do I do? 

Well, I was ready to sit down with the barley, in the form of a barley sandwich (in a frosted mug) and throw my stone in the pot hoping for inspiration, but then it hit me. I have left over garlic mashed potatoes from our turkey dinner, that will work to add flavour and it will also thicken my stew and my canned tomatoes have onion, woila!  I had about 1/4 cup of barley left over from making soup, I crushed that in the coffee grinder and it came out flour like-sort of. I could have ran to the store to buy more, but did I mention-it is snowing and I was not leaving the warm wood stove. This led to the name….. 

Snowday Stone Stew…… 

So the chunk of deer meat was cut up into small pieces, dusted very lightly with the barley type flour. Put that in a heated skillet with some oil to brown it. Removed the deer from the pan and tossed it into the slow cooker. Added some homemade chokecherry wine (hubby made a couple summers ago) to the pan with some deer broth I found in the freezer from the last roast I did in the slow cooker.  Cooked this up to get all the crunchy bits off the bottom, added some chunked up fresh tomatoes and a jar of my canned tomatoes.  I also added some pepper, and chopped fresh sage that I brought in from the flower garden just before it started to snow.  Tossed this all on top of the meat and let it cook on low for 4 hours.  Then I added some chopped turnip, the cooked potatoes and let it simmer some more. Now I knew I wanted to add a dash of vinegar to make the meat fork tender so I had to use the pumpkin or break the rules. Looking back at your other blog, the gourd tea lights hit me and I decided to serve this (for photo op only) in a pumpkin…. Done!” 

Well done missy!  I am glad I was able to exercise your brain in this latest round and I had complete faith in you that you would come up with something – you always do!  So…what’s the verdict? Did they eat/like it? 🙂 


Here we have another gal from the U.S West Coast and she is also a past participant (along with her husband who occasionally joins in, but apparently he missed the memo on this one).  Please give a warm welcome to Candice and her Happy Anniversary Special (Best wishes to you and hubs, but next time, make him take you out to dinner)… 

“Braised Beef with Barley”

“I subtracted the pumpkin and added carrots. Otherwise all ingredients plus S&P were used and nothing else.   

Braised Beef and Barley 

4-5 lb Seven Bone Roast

1 1/2 lbs each: Potatoes, Carrots and Turnips, peeled and chopped all the same size

1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed thoroughly

1 lb very ripe tomatoes smushed up 

4 cups beef stock

1 cup red wine

1/4 cup Olive Oil 

Pinch (less than 1/8 tsp) sage 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place 1/4 cup Olive Oil in a Dutch Oven and heat until sizzlin’ hot. Sear salt and peppered roast on both sides; about 3-5 minutes each side. Remove roast to platter and cover.  

Drain any remaining olive oil from DO into large bowl along with chopped vegetables and stir to coat. Add more Olive Oil if necessary. Salt and Pepper, then place veggies on a shallow pan and roast in oven 20-30 minutes til aldente’ turning once during roasting.  

Pour Red Wine into Dutch Oven and heat to just a boil, scraping fond from bottom of pan.  Add 2 cups beef stock, tomatoes and Barley. Bring to a hard boil for 1 minute.  Return roast to Dutch Oven and reduce heat to a gentle boil (or hard simmer). The liquid should not cover the roast, but rather come up to just the bottom half or less of the meat. Cover and cook for 30 minutes. Uncover and cook for another 30-45 minutes until meet is tender. Could take up to an hour.   Remove veggies from oven when aldente’. Set aside 1 cup and cool slightly.   Add the 1 cup cooled veggies plus 1 cup beef stock to blender and blend thoroughly for thickening.  Pour into Dutch Oven, add remaining veggies, 1 more cup of beef stock (if needed) and cook until done. 5 -10 minutes more. 

Remove to platter and serve. I let mine cool completely and then sliced. You can use any roast you like. I’m just very fond of the Seven Bone Roast. AND, I got it on sale. Can’t beat that.  

This will be a “Two-Fer” dish for us…. Which I love! I will cook up more barley in beef stock and with what ever meat and veggies I have left, I will will make Beef Barley and Vegetable Soup.  

Thanks so much Deb for resurrecting the “Gang Up Challenge.” I’ve truly missed creating recipes. My creative soul has been satisfied.” 

Candice, I sincerely appreciate you joining in again, maybe your husband can join in next time?  It is nice to hear that people actual ‘like’ being challenged in the kitchen! 


While still hanging around the West Coast, here is Anne, mom of Suzannah above, who I must say, always, ALWAYS steps up to the plate in these challenges (and apparently knows French!) 

“Beef Ragout with Mashed Root Vegetables & Potato Barley Flatbread”
(or for our French Canadian friends): Râler ragout avec les légumes-racines écrasés & la galette d’orge de pomme de terre

“The only problem I had with these ingredients was being locked into either a stew or soup. My initial thought was that so many of the creations were going to be somewhat the same whereas if we could have created anything using the same ingredients,  so I let my mind wander and came up with several different ideas. … was an enjoyable and good time once again and it allowed me to let my creativity get a much needed work out. Here is what I came up with….. I used all of the ingredients and added two ingredients resulting in my two changes. They were, an onion and an egg.

Brown 2 lbs of lean sirloin cubed, in olive oil.  Season with 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp of pepper. Add 1/2 of a large onion chopped and cook till somewhat limp.  Once the beef has browned and the liquid has evaporated some, add 2 C of beef broth, 1/2 C Red wine, 1/2 tsp of ground sage, 1 qt. of chopped tomatoes (I used home canned). Cover and allow to cook on low heat for approx 2 1/2 hours. Uncover and allow to cook off some of the liquid for about 20 minutes or so. Add 1/3 C pumpkin puree, mix in well and simmer while preparing the mashed root veggies.

Caramelize the remaining chopped onion half in olive oil over low heat till it becomes a golden color and set aside. Peel a large turnip, and 4-5 medium potatoes. Cube them and bring to a boil in salted water. Once they are fork tender, mash with a good glug of olive oil, and 1/2 C reserved potato cooking water. Season with salt and pepper and add the onion back in.

As a side to serve with this, I opted for something out of the ordinary and something that would be hearty to serve with this. I wanted a bread to serve and given the ingredients I had to work with, it wasn’t looking too promising. Hmmm…what to do, what to do…..suddenly the light bulb went on and I had the aha moment! I hauled out the magic bullet and proceeded to make my own flour with the raw barley. I used about 2/3 C of raw barley and pulverized it until it was the consistency of a fine flour with a little bit of course thrown in for good measure. To this, I added about 1 1/2C cold mashed potatoes (I cooked the evening before for this idea), 1 egg and 1/2 tsp of salt. Mixed up well with my hands and divided it into 4 portions. I flattened it out, pricked it with a fork, and baked on parchment paper in a hot 450 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Removed to a rack and allowed to cool for a bit.

The Ragout was good, the bread was a pleasant surprise. I had Suzannah over for dinner and we both thought it resembled the taste of cream of wheat somewhat. Odd I know but it was really good. In the old world tradition of using a piece of bread as a scoop, we had at it.  We talked about how this might be toasted also. I’m here to report that it was delicious. Topped with a little butter and a smear of jam it was quite a nice breakfast treat.  

Thanks Deb for reviving a fun and very much missed good time in the kitchen.” 

Anne, you are welcome, and as usual, you never disappoint!  I like the idea of the bread and am going to give it a whirl myself…and it seems so far, that 3 VERY bright-thinking Chef’s thought of grinding the barley to make ‘flour’. 


Now this space here was reserved for my Irish Gal Pal, Trish…but the Lass has apparently gone AWOL….MIA…or she’s at the pub in Dublin, in which case, I am jealous.  I know she had every intention of joining in.  Next time she better be here! 


Lastly, it is yours truly.  I did enjoy making this dish very much.  Even if hubby wasn’t around to taste test it.  It might have had something to do with him not wanting or ‘liking’ pumpkin… 

“Roasted Root Veggie & French Onion Beef Soup with Pumpkin-Sage Barley Risotto”

Yes, that is a mouthful of a title, but it’s the best way to describe it….

I went in a different direction with the Barley (no…I wasn’t having it in the form of beer, although that thought did cross my mind).   I immediately thought of utilizing it as a risotto, in place of rice, and with the addition of the pumpkin and sage – it turned out fantastic!  I was seriously disappointed I didn’t make a larger pot of it. 

As for the soup, I love French Onion Soup, but all the calories from the cheese is definitely not waist friendly.  So I combined the caramelized onions to impart that silky-smooth, flavourful broth that makes up a classic French Onion Soup into the heartiness of a roasted veggie stew. 

The only changes I made to the list of ingredients were to add 2, Onion and Thyme. 

Roasted Root Veggie & French Onion Beef Soup

Thinly slice one, sweet, white onion and place in a frying pan with 2 Tbsp Olive Oil.  Cook over low heat for at least 1 hour until well caramelized, stirring often.  Remove onions to a bowl and set aside. 

Meanwhile, dice half a turnip and 2 small potatoes in a roasting pan or casserole dish, drizzle with Olive Oil and roast in a 375F oven until tender, about 35 minutes, stirring often.  Remove from oven and let cool. 

In a large stock pot, heat 2 Tbsp Olive Oil over med-heat, sear cubes of stewing beef (1/2 lb) until browned on all sides, add ½ cup red wine and scrape up the bits on the bottom.  Cook for 1 minute, add 4 cups Beef Stock, 2 diced tomatoes and ½ tsp dried Thyme.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and add the turnip, potatoes and the caramelized onions.  Add salt and pepper to taste and let simmer for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally,  to develop the flavours and allow the beef to tenderize.  

Pumpkin-Sage Barley Risotto

Roast a seeded pie pumpkin in a 425F oven for 30 minutes, remove, cool and peel skin.  Finely dice about 1 cup pumpkin and set aside. 

Heat 1 ½ cups beef stock in a small pot and keep warm.  In a medium-sized sauce pan over med-heat, heat 1 tbsp Olive Oil.  Add 2 tbsp chopped onion and sauté quickly until transparent.  Add ½ cup barley and toast for 2 minutes.  Like a classic Risotto, add the stock in half cup increments allowing the barley to absorb the liquid before adding more, stirring constantly.  This will take the better part of 30 to 40 minutes.  When the barley is cooked, add the pumpkin and 1 tbsp chopped, fresh sage and salt & pepper to taste.  Garnish with fried Sage leaves (fry sage leaves in hot oil for a minute or two until crispy, drain on paper towels). 

I loved this ‘Fall’ themed Challenge and will definitely be making more of the Barley Risotto as I have quite a bit of pumpkin left over.  It is way better for me in the shape of a side dish than a pie… 

I hope everyone that has feasted with their eyes today enjoyed the efforts of all the Chef’s who contributed (thank you Chef’s!).  Please feel free to try out any of their recipes too, after all, they worked their butts off to create them! 

Look for a new Challenge to be issued in the latter days of November, and I would dearly love to see some Newcomer’s as well, so don’t be shy!

12 thoughts on “GangUp Challenge Results are IN!

  1. WOW!!!! These are some wonderfu recipes and I must say, I would never have come up with the flavours of any of them. Just one thing about turnips, Deborah…they have a carrot taste for you….hubby says they have a cabbage taste…go figure. Congrats on the wonderful idea!

  2. Warm comfort foods you can smell from here!!! Nice job, Deb, and wonderful job done by all!! Very creative! Sure hope you find Trishie soon!! 😉

  3. Well that was a fun read and great way to wake up! I applaud all that contributed as its more intimidating than you realize sometimes, so just jumping in and having a crack at it deserves recognition. I cracked up at Linda’s adventure, she is so funny, and Happy Belated anniversary to Candice! Deb, I love the idea of the risotto and will try that. Tina, you always make me giggle, but I love how you used the pumpkin, very cute and ‘Fallish’ idea.

  4. yay….used to love reading all the gang up challenges. glad to see you’ve brought it back to life. lots of delicious recipies here. thanks for a great read deb:)

  5. What a wonderful display of food, where I felt at a loss, you all stepped up with great meals. Love it!! Deb, you are the hostess with the mostess and too cute to boot. Great job everyone and I look forwar to another challenge in Nov

    • I think you may have been pressed for time chica…next time, see if you can devote more than a millisecond to the task at hand 😀

  6. thanks for resurrecting the game. I had a lot of fun and the rest of you did a great job! I want some of those turnips that taste like carrots……and maybe a magic bullet. Hopefully my rendition serves as sufficient cya if anyone makes the mistake of trying my recipe 😀

    • Linda, as I mentioned above, you are fabulous for putting forth such great effort, even if it didn’t quite work out. You are not afraid to try and I commend that trait! 🙂 I do hope you join in next month!

  7. oh my… All the dishes look delicious! I must try making bread/cracker/crisps out of barley. We love Risotto, so I’ll be definitely making that as well. Thank you Deb for bringing back a much loved “cooking challenge.” I had a good time and look forward to the next one!

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