Final Project: the Food + Design Experience

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For our final food assignment, I was paired with Kallie McBride. We were told to create an awesome experience for the user that will be tasting our food in a final event. When we first started to think of what food we would make, we took a look at the event itself. We knew that people would be taking small bites of things and walking around, so we wanted our food to be self-contained, and using as little utelsils and waste as possible. We came up with a list of potential food containers:

  • wonton/spring roll wrappers
  • lettuce
  • tortilla
  • pita
  • chips
  • vegetables
  • celery
  • apple
  • orange peel
  • peppers
  • potato skins
  • (way to use skins for one item and the potatoes for another!)
  • pastry
  • crust
  • bread
  • crostini
  • on a stick
  • eggs

In one of our trial runs, we cored out an apple to see how good of a vessel it could be.
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Although it could work, we figured that the guest wouldn't want to waste time trying to eat the rest of the apple, so we threw that idea out. We also tried making a vegetable stock on this first trial run day, but thought that the food vessel had to be thicker and more sturdy to accommodate the soup.

We decided that we would like to further pursue the ideas of a wonton wrapper, a cored out pepper, and potato skins.

We then had the opportunity to sketch out some story boards that entail the user interacting with our table. Our first idea included the user coming up to a bingo ball roller and drawing a colored ball. If the user chose 1 color, they would have to eat one of our options, and if they chose the other color, they would eat the other option.

The other storyboard we created gave the user the opportunity to choose which food item they would like to try, but this created a problem because we wouldn't know how much food to make for each option. We ruled out this option.

The feedback we received on these ideas included the fact that the user may want to try both food items, or they might have certain dietary restrictions (like being a vegetarian, lactose intolerant, etc.).

So we began thinking more about the bingo ball roller and how that could relate to the experience. Kallie and I thought about a possible game show idea, or possibly making the guest roll the balls and "win" a food item. When brainstorming with Barry and Art, we thought about how the guest would want to try all of the options we had. Kallie and I already decided that we wanted the food vessels to include a fried wanton wrapper and potato skin, so we thought that these could be made into different cultural food items. We all came up with the idea that we could have an "around the world" or theme to include these items, and a couple more.

Kallie and I thought of a list of different cultural food items to possibly try:


  • The South

  • BBQ pulled pork

  • Apple Slaw

  • Wonton Cup


  • Italian

  • Pasta (Rigatoni, ravioli, shell, or other fillable pasta) - use wonton wrapper again

  • sauce and cheese (maybe mushrooms or something?)

  • pizza in a noodle


  • Greek

  • lettuce wrap - use wonton again - pita slice

  • tzatziki sauce

  • pulled pork

  • olives


  • Egg

  • play on deviled egg

  • mix something in with filling


  • Mexican

  • twist on a quesadilla

  • lime, black bean, cheese, rice


  • Minnesotan

  • Spicy tator-tot hotdish

  • different flavor


  • England

  • rice curry

  • bangers and mash

  • baked beans

  • chicken tikka


  • Ireland

  • soda bread

  • potatoes


  • German

  • schinitzel

  • sauce

  • pigs in a blanket


  • Spanish

  • paella

  • rice


  • Korean

  • bulgogi

  • kalbi

  • bibimbap

  • dumpling

  • mandoo

  • sweet potato crust


  • Japanese

  • sushi

  • sashimi


  • Antarctica

  • ice disk

  • lemon/mint/lavender, etc

  • simple syrup?

Thinking about what groceries we should buy, we tried to think of ways to use a lot of the ingredients multiple times in different dishes, in order to use up what we had. While at the store, Kallie thought that we should commit to a few ideas and choose foods that were more U.S. based.

We settled on buying pulled pork, coleslaw, apples, eggs, imitation crab, mini sweet peppers, potatoes, wonton wrappers, tomato paste, and mayonnaise.
On our practice day we created 5 dishes that could be possible contenders in our final event. Here are our first initial ideas:

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Our overall concept was to put a spin on different American staples like deviled eggs, fried potatoes, and bbq pork.

We first started with the ice cubes. We mixed hot water with fresh squeezed lemons, chopped mint leaves, and sugar. We then poured the mixture to the top into ice cube molds.

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We then started the deviled eggs. We wanted to make deviled eggs, but with a New England seafood twist, so we took the yolks out of the hard boiled eggs and make a crab mixture to put in them instead. We thought that cocktail sauce goes with crab, so we made a sauce out of tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and sugar.

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We tried making 2 different fillings with the cocktail sauce we made: one with the boiled egg yolks and one without. We liked the taste of the egg without the yolks. We then took the crab and homemade cocktail mixture and put them in the hard boiled eggs.

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We then started to work on the pulled pork. We decided that fried wonton wrappers would work best for the pork, because they were hard enough to support the pork. We started pulling the pork apart and thought about what to add to the bbq sauce.

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We thought that the bbq sauce could be sweeter, and added fresh red apple juice and sugar to the mix.

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We then started to work on the slaw that would go on top. We thought that bringing in more apples in the coleslaw would accentuate the pork more, so we chopped up the apples we used in the sauce and added it to the slaw veggie mix.

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The next step was making the dressing for the apple slaw. We made two different mixes: once with mayo, apple cider vinegar, salt, sugar, and pepper, and one with dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, salt, sugar, and pepper.

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We decided that we liked the taste of both, but thought that mixing them together would be even better.

The next food item was the mini sweet peppers with fried potatoes and cheese on top. We originally thought that we could stuff the peppers with the potatoes, but thought that this would be way too much to eat for the guest. We baked a potato so we could use the insides for the pepper, and the skin for the other pulled pork dish. While frying the potatoes to put on top of the pepper, the pieces weren't staying together as well as we thought. We also thought that the potatoes needed to stick to the piece of pepper better, so we made a quick aioli out of the mayo we had to act as a sticking agent.

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Our next dish was the fried potato skins. We took the skin from the potato that we baked and wanted to make a zesty mixture out of our pulled pork and tomato paste that we already had. We also mixed in some egg yolks from the hard boiled eggs, some dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.

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Kallie and I then presented the 5 dishes to the judges. Our critique on our practice run included:


  • Making the ice cubes smaller and less bitter.

  • The cocktail sauce mixed with crab in the eggs was way too extreme.

  • Liked the pulled pork with the apple slaw (highlight of the dishes).

  • Make the slaw and apple pieces smaller, to make it less awkward to eat.

  • The mayo on the pepper with the potato wasn't working.

  • The tomato, pork, yolk mixture was too weird.

  • Finally, PRESENTATION is key here, so make the dishes look prettier.

After this initial practice run, we had to think of ways to make the dishes better. After thinking about how we could improve, we came up with new ideas to implement.

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Making the inside of the deviled eggs without the tomato paste would make it less harsh tasting. Our new idea included mixing the crab with the egg yolk, mayo, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and a little bit of another seasoning.

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We tried out 2 different fillings: one with Sriracha sauce and one with curry. We liked the taste of the Sriracha better, and thought that we could use the homemade cocktail sauce as a decorative touch.

We thought that we could use the dishes with the fried potato insides and skins and take them into a different direction by combining the elements of both. Kallie and I decided to use the insides of the potatoes to make mashed potatoes with garlic instead of frying them, frying the potato skins, and mixing in the sweet peppers with the mashed potatoes. We also cut the potato skins into circles using a cutter, so the presentation would be a lot nicer.

After the practice run, we prepped our new ideas the night before the event for 3 hours. We used the yolks from the hard boiled eggs and mixed it with the crab for our new filling.

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This tasted and looked so much better than our original idea.

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That night, we also strained the lemon pulp better for the ice cubes and added a little more sugar to make it less bitter. We began to think of our concept for the experience more, and still liked the idea of the "corny game show host." We thought about our food concept, being different American dishes with a spin, and settled on the idea of a food tour across America. We finally came up with the idea that Kallie and I would be "tour guides" on "4 Bites across America." We thought that the experience would be interacting with the guests as if we were on a bus tour, and playing up the "cheesiness" of it all. We would talk the guests through all of the stops on the 4 Bite Tour and also tell them about the dishes and where they came from geographically.

From there, we thought that since our deviled egg had crab in it, it could be the New England stop on the tour. The bbq pulled pork could be from the south, so we picked Louisiana to represent that stop. The mashed potatoes on a fried potato skin would obviously have to be Idaho, and lastly, we thought that the tour would end with the mint ice cube, so the guest could cleanse their palette and suck on a refreshing cube before their next stop. This last stop would be "Mint-a-sota."

For the final event, we chopped the green apples and coleslaw mix into much smaller pieces for the pulled pork.

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We also made a huge improvement with the deviled eggs, piping our new mixture in and decorating with cocktail sauce dots.

final eggs.jpg

We scooped the potato filling out for the mashed potatoes...

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and fried the potato skins after cutting them with a circle cutter.

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I designed a brand new ingredient list for the guests, since we made so many changes (and improvements).

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I also designed Kallie and I name tags, so we could be the guests' "tour guides" through the 4 bites. I then designed a map that show where the food comes from and that would also act as a clean place mat for each of the guests. Here is the final product!

final map.jpg

-4 Bites Across America: created by Madeline Wallman and Kallie McBride

Thanksgiving Invention

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For this assignment, we were instructed to create an invention that could be used at Thanksgiving dinner. This invention was to be made out of wood and hand crafted at the wood shop in Rapson Hall.
The first step that I took in this process was to "research" Thanksgiving. Because I've experienced Thanksgiving dinner countless times, I took my observations from the past into mind.

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I took into account the different vessels that are used, the food being served, the drinks being poured, the volume of people sitting at the table, and the quantity of dishes that are placed on the table.

The next step was to brainstorm a bunch of ideas. Some of these ideas were clearly unfeasible, but I wanted to get as many ideas as I could down on paper.

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After looking at my brainstorms and processing my research, I thought about the issue that was at hand. I concluded that the main problem at the Thanksgiving dinner table was that there were too many plates on the table, and that the surface was too crowded. Taking this problem into account, I transformed some of my brainstorms to make a solution and sketched some prototypes.

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I liked the idea of a riser that could be placed over or above a glass that would be able to hold a small bread or dessert plate. This would help solve the problem of limited table space, as the plate would be tiered over the glass space. I sketched out some more possible prototypes with a circle top, but ultimately thought that a rounded square top would give the plate more surface space to rest on. Aesthetically, I also liked the look of the rounded square better.
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The design would be a 5" by 5" rounded square with 3 support legs that were 7" tall. I didn't want the legs to be too tall, so that guests could see each other from across the table. I wanted 3 support legs instead of 4 so that a water or cocktail glass could easily be placed underneath the riser. I would also attach two 2.5" support pieces to the underside of the top piece, between the 3 legs.
After I settled on a design, I went to Rockler to buy some wood. I knew that I needed a hardwood, and looked around the shop for a good piece of lumber. I found some cherry, which I have always loved the color of, and bought some mineral oil for the finish of my invention.
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I used a band saw to cut out my initial pieces, including the 5"x5" top and the 3 support legs. I then used a belt sander to round the edges of the square out, as well as the edges of the legs.

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I realized that I sanded a little too much off of the edge of one of the legs, and cut out a new one. Not wanting the defective rounded leg to go to waste, I cut the 2.5" support pieces out of this piece. I did my final edge and touch up sanding, and then used the chop saw on the bottom of the 3 legs to make sure that they were flat.

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After I had cut and thoroughly sanded all of the pieces, I measured a 1/2" border on the underside of the top piece, and drew squares where I wanted the legs to be placed. I scored those measured squares, as well as the tops of the legs, with a file to make sure that the wood glue would adhere the pieces properly.

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After attaching the pieces with glue, I let my riser set for a while and then rubbed mineral oil all over the wood. I was happy when the pale cherry wood turned into a beautiful warm color.

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After the oil had absorbed, I tested my invention at home. I placed a small plate on the top piece with a bagel on it, and the water glass fit perfectly underneath it. The piece only tipped over when the plate was placed close to the edge of the top, but it was overall very sturdy. I thought that a candle or other decorative item could be placed on the top as another idea. I am extremely happy with how my riser tuned out, and I will be sure to introduce it to the Thanksgiving dinner table this year.

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Assignment 3

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For this assignment, we were all told to make the same dish- a honey spice cake. But, the goal of this project was to create a plating of the cake that is visually appealing and incorporates elements of graphic design.

To start, I began to make a mind map that would make possible ingredient combinations. I noticed that I had 2 different paths going for the cake, with both vegetable and fruit dishes.

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I decided that I would try out these different vegetable and fruit combinations, with beets, carrots, apricots, oranges, and pomegranates catching my eye. I made a list of some combos that would go well together, and ultimately chose 2 that I would implement in the kitchen.

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Although I was excited to try a roasted peach recipe, when I went to my local grocery store, I realized that neither peaches nor apricots were in season at the moment. I did see that pears were a featured fall fruit though, and picked up a couple of interesting red pears. After that, I tweaked my ideas and refined them a little, thinking of different garnishes that would compliment the main ingredient.

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I then brainstormed some ideas for plating, being inspired by our lecture on graphic design and the macaroni and architecture segment. I thought of possibly creating a dark chocolate garnish that looked like a spoon, emulating the utensil macaroni that I saw in class.

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When we experimented in lab, I chose to go with my pear idea to see how well my thoughts would come out physically. I started by roasting the red pears in the oven with honey drizzled on them.

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I then broke apart my pomegranate and thought of ways to cut my honey spice cake, based off of my sketches.

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I melted some dark chocolate in a double boiler for some garnishes and made rosemary infused whipped cream (that I definitely whipped for too long).

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I then did a (very) rough plating to test out some of my ideas, and to also rule some out. First of all, I knew that for my final plating, I shouldn't have too much on the plate. I also figured out what the perfect amount of beating time was for my whipped cream. I also took away that I would have to work on fine-tuning the aesthetic components of my plating, and to work on those skills.

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I then decided to work on my carrot idea. I cut up some carrots that were of the same width that would be for the top of my cake, and I also chopped some various slices that I would hope to dehydrate and make into carrot strips.

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In order to dehydrate my carrots, I pureed them in my food processor after they came out of the oven and added more honey and cream. I poured the puree onto parchment paper and put the tray into the oven on the lowest setting.

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As I waited for my carrot puree to dehydrate, I took the honey baked carrots I made and started playing around with plating options. I added a drizzle of honey and reduced balsamic vinegar, but the reduction didn't look the least bit appetizing on the plate, especially after the cake absorbed a good deal of it.

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After waiting for what seemed like all night, I took my carrot puree out of the oven and nothing had really happened to it at all. I didn't want to waste the puree, so I thought that I could add some more color to my plate and make the puree into a frosting.

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Adding cream and honey to the puree, I mixed it up and tried it on a different plating, which I liked much better. I tried to make my dark chocolate garnish look really unstructured, so I chopped it into sharp chunks for the top.

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I also wanted to somehow incorporate the bright orange peels from the carrot, so I attempted to make a tasteful bunch of peels on the plate.

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It occurred to me later that I might be able to make some kind of bird's nest-looking structure out of carrot peels using a shot glass as a mold. I put the mold in the freezer and took it out about an hour later. I really liked the result, and decided to go with the carrot peel idea.

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I thought about it, and wanted to go with the carrot dish route because of the bright pop of orange it gives to the plate. After all of my trials, I made a final list of the components in my complete dish. I thought about how I wanted all of the elements to flow and took into account my previous sketches to make a circle shaped drizzle of honey around the plate.

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& the final product!

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Assignment 2

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For our second assignment, we are to create a one-bite hors d'oeuvre using an ingredient that is currently in season here in Minnesota. One of my favorite fall vegetables is butternut squash, so I knew that it would be the emphasis of my dish. I started out with a mind map to try to bounce some flavors off of each other and get my thought process down on paper.

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With squash in the center, I thought about how I could make squash, a rich, nutty food, sweeter with different combinations of sweet and savory ingredients. I also considered interesting texture combinations using different items. I chose the 3-5 ingredients that would create the best harmony of flavors in just one spoonful. My dish will feature a combination of: Squash, cherries, leeks, and almonds. Additionally, I want to add brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and sage to enhance the flavors of my ingredients.

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I expanded on these, thinking about different combinations to try out for the best utilization of my ingredients. I narrowed the possibilities down to three, which I will try out and test to get the greatest option. I finalized how I will prepare my main ingredients: Roasting the squash in the oven, sautéing the leeks, toasting the almonds, and transforming the cherries into a gel. I know that I might have to make the cherries into a juice to make the gel component work, but we will see!

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These are all of the ingredients that I will be using to test out different preparations/combinations. The first thing that I tested was the preparation of the squash. For both ways, I peeled the butternut squash and cubed it into 1/2 inch pieces.

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For preparation #1, I baked the squash in the oven in a quarter inch of heavy cream.

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Preparation #2 was baked in the oven with just brown sugar.

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After trying both, and letting some friends try, I liked the creamy consistency of preparation #1 much better. I added some vanilla to make it even better.

Secondly, I wanted to test out different preparations of my leek and sage element of the dish. I sauteed all variations in butter but added different ingredients to each.

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Starting from the top to the bottom, and finally the bottom right:
1. Simply Leeks + sage
2. Leeks + sage + brown sugar
3. Leeks + sage + cream
4. Leeks + sage + cream + vanilla

I liked leek combination #2 the best, as I thought it gave the leeks a nice caramelized taste.

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When paired with the creamy vanilla squash, I thought it complimented both the savory and sweet elements of the dishes elements.

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So after much testing and tasting, I knew that I would be baking the squash in cream, adding vanilla, and mashing it up. I also knew that I would be sauteing my leeks in sage, butter, and brown sugar. I also decided that I would leave the almonds untoasted, as I liked the raw taste better with my dish.

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Now for my gel process, I used Door County cherry juice, because I wanted my gel to be tart. I wanted the flavor of the gel to contrast with the sweetness of the squash and leeks, so skipping the sweet cherry juice "cocktail" mixes was a must.

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My cherry gel test came out just how I wanted it to after setting in the refrigerator, and I started to look for some kind of mold to make the cherry gel in for my final product. I found some mini silicone cupcake molds, and thought those would be perfect individual sizes.

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Here's my final product:
Creamy butternut squash with vanilla, caramelized sage and brown sugar leeks, a tart cherry gel, and chopped raw almonds. I call it "The October Bite."

The Thinking Process: Assignment 1

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For our first assignment, we were told to make a new creation with either rice or orzo. I chose to make something out of orzo, simply because I love pasta. My first thought was to start making a mind map to draw out some of the concepts, flavor combinations, and ideas that I had.

I wrote down some ingredients and started to think of different cuisines I could make with orzo. Then I began to sketch out some possible dishes with S.C.A.M.P.E.R.

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As you can see, I went off of substitution and really liked a form parody idea. I would make "sushi," with my orzo acting as the rice. My original idea will be to sauté zucchini cut into long strips, along with some other vegetables, with the zucchini acting as my seaweed wrap. My orzo will have to stick together pretty well, and I thought a goat cheese mixture would help my "sushi" stick together, and a possible toothpick. My other main idea is to make a "wasabi" dipping sauce, possibly with pesto or another green vegetable. I'll see how my recipe changes when I do a trial run of the dish.

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More of my thinking process:

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This past weekend I did a test run of my orzo sushi recipe. The ingredients that I used were orzo, tomatoes, zucchini, red bell pepper, goat cheese, and olive oil, with basil and pine nuts for the pesto.

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I first cut the zucchini length-wise into strips, varied in width to see what would work the best. I then sauteed the strips.

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After that, I cooked the orzo and sauteed the peppers and tomatoes. I mixed the goat cheese into the orzo.

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When I assembled everything together, it was a little sloppy. The goat cheese didn't make the orzo stick together as well as I thought it would, and the zucchini was a little too slick from the olive oil. Also, I think I want to give the roll a little "tempura" crunch and maybe add some chopped almonds or pine nuts.

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So, for next time: less slimy, more crunch, better blended pesto.

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Last day: I think I got my recipe right, and added the right amount of crunch with the pine nut "tempura" on top. Here's the final product.

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