Our assigned ingredient for this month's 5 Star Makeover was Junk Food! We were to take our typical or favorite snacks and use them to create a gourmet meal. For this purpose, I decided to make an elegant appetizer with components that are familiar to most people - a savory churros with an accompanying gazpacho dip.
As much as I lean towards healthy eating nowadays, I won't try to deny my terrible past, eating habit-wise. During my younger days especially as a financially-struggling student, junk food featured prominently in my diet. The processed stuff, the colorful and radioactive stuff, they have probably passed through my body at least once. Only since I started growing older have I been more aware and careful of the things I put into my mouth.
My junk food days are far from over, but there are less and less of them that I crave for nowadays. When I do have them, they're usually the sweet things (oh, the bane of a diabetes gene-carrier) or else, the really salty, cheesy, crunchy things. That's why it was fairly easy for me to decide what to use in this makeover - Cheddar Jalapeño Cheetos and Chocolate Chips More cookies. These are my snacks of choice especially on those down- and PMS-ey days. But not every month, of course :).
I opted to incorporate the rich cheese flavor and spiciness of the Cheetos in churros so I made bite-sized ones using the 'flour' from ground Cheetos. What I didn't anticipate was how much oil was contained in the Cheetos, most probably from the processed cheese. Using a traditional churros recipe, I added toasted cumin to the ground Cheetos and omitted the sugar and salt (there may be enough salt in Cheetos to sustain your dietary requirements for a long while, anyway). I substituted some of the all-purpose flour with the oily Cheetos flour, and reduced the butter by half. And then the phone rang, and things started to go slightly downhill from there.
While my friend and I nattered on the phone, the choux-like dough started firming up in the pan. Again, I blame the cheese in the Cheetos. By the time I hung up, the dough was the consistency of overexposed playdoh and became pretty hard to pipe into long churros strips without it breaking off into short pieces. Churros bites it was destined to be, then! The oiliness of the dough also meant that the churros would distintegrate in hot oil, so I froze them for 30 minutes on the tray and simply baked them in the oven. Instantly, they became healthier - at least that was my happy thought.
For the gazpacho dip, I blended together soft, ripe black plums, red cabbage strips, cucumber, garlic, fresh basil with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. In traditional gazpachos, bread was often added to the liquid before blending to add texture to the cold soup. Instead of bread, for my dip I crumbled several Chips More cookies into the fruit and vegetable mixture and blended it further until it smoothed out. The sweet and savory lilac dip perfectly balanced out the cheesy, spiced heat of the Cheetos churros. For a while, I completely forgot these even contained junk food!