Native Chopped, Part 1

I support a charity organization in Denver called Denver Indian Health and Family Services. They provide a ton of physical and mental health services to Native American families in the Denver metro area, and have done so since the 1970s. Recently Brooke forwarded me an email from their email list that caught my eye. It was announcing a contest called “Native Chopped”.

I don’t watch much TV, but learned there is a program called Chopped that is an “American reality-based cooking television game show series”. Contestants are given some mystery ingredients and they prepare a few dishes using those ingredients. Judges then choose which dishes they like the most.

From the email announcements, the Native Chopped would do something similar. But the mystery ingredients would specifically be native foods. I was curious and – long story short – they signed me up!

Due to the pandemic, the competition would not happen live and in person. Instead, contestants would attend a Zoom meeting to learn the basic rules, and what the mystery ingredients were. Then, we could all go pick up a “pantry box” of the mystery ingredients plus several others things that might go with them. We’d have several days to prepare our dishes at home, and then submit photos and – optionally – videos. Then there would be another Zoom meeting that would be open to the public where the contestants would talk about their dishes and show the photos to the viewers. During that broadcast, we’d learn what dishes the judges picked.

The two mystery ingredients, we learned, were going to be the following:

  • corn pinole from Ramona Farms near Phoenix
  • honey from the Séka Hills in California

Obviously, I knew what honey is, but I never heard of pinole, so I had to look it up. It’s a type of finely ground corn meal made from toasted corn.

Brooke picked up the pantry box for me on Friday, and it was full of good things! Look at all this stuff. The two mystery ingredients are on the far left in this photo.

Anyhow, I’m sure you’re interested in what I made for the contest, so let me tell you. I spent quite a bit of time experimenting in the kitchen with various ways to cook the ingredients we got, especially the pinole since it was totally new to me. I ended up making these three dishes for the contest:

  • White corn pancakes with blueberry honey compote
  • Chicken strips
  • Chocolate power bread

We were only supposed to make two dishes, but the pancakes were easy so I’m submitting that one, too. Now, on to the recipes…

White Corn Pancakes with Blueberry Compote



  • 2 cups Tocabe White Corn Pancake Mix
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk

Blueberry Compote Topping

  • fresh blueberries
  • Séka Hills Honey


Beat egg and almond milk. Pour into dry pancake mix, and stir. Cook on a hot griddle and flip them when they bubble.

While the pancakes are cooking, heat the blueberries with a little water in a pan. When the berries start to burst and the juice comes out, add honey to taste and continue to stir for a few minutes.

Take pancakes off the griddle and top with the blueberry compote. Here’s what it looks like:

white corn pancakes with blueberry honey compote
one delicious bite on my fork

Savory Pinole Chicken Strips



  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T Tocabe Bison Dry Rub
  • 1 cup Ramona Farms Pinole
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 T Seka Hills Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Dipping Sauce

  • 1/4 cup dijon mustard
  • 2 T Seka Hills Honey


Beat eggs in a large bowl, and add everything else except the chicken. Mix into a batter with a spoon or fork. Let the batter rest 30 minutes.

Heat up some cooking oil to 350 degrees in a deep pan for frying. Cut chicken into strips. Batter the chicken strips and cook in oil until center temperature is 165 degrees.

While the chicken cooks, mix the mustard and honey to make the dipping sauce. Warm it a little before serving, just a few seconds in the microwave.

my honey mustard
chicken breasts ready to be cut into strips
this is the batter I made from the pinole
the finished product – it tastes better than it looks

Chocolate Power Bread


  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup cacao powder (not cocoa)
  • 2 T Seka Hills Honey
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup Ramona Farms Pinole
  • 1 cup water


Mix everything together in food processor, then let rest for an hour. Spread the dough out evenly on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. It should be much thinner than cake – more like a giant cookie.

Remove from oven and let it cool an hour. Cut into small squares or triangles or whatever you like.

Optionally, you can spread on a little peanut butter or a mix of peanut butter powder with almond milk (less fat option).

here’s what it looked like before baking
and here is the chocolate power bread after baking
cut into pieces
it’s even yummier with peanut butter on top

So those are all my entries for the Native Chopped cooking contest. The public presentation is live on Zoom Thursday night, January 27, from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.

Want to see how my food stacks up in the competition? Tune in! Here are instructions for how you can RSVP to join the broadcast:

There may be a recording of the show later. I’m honestly not sure. I’ll make another blog post after the event.

Categorized as Recipe


  1. Just your kind of competition. Can’t wait for the results. Very interested in what the other contestants come up with.

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