Anyone that knows me knows that I LOVE to cook. I think about it constantly. I scour cookbooks, websites and magazines for recipes all the time. I watch shows like “Chopped” on the Food Network and try to imagine what it would be like to be a contestant. Well recently I got to put my culinary skills to the test.
A few weeks ago I participated in the First Annual Food Lion Frugal Cook off, an event organized by the Salisbury, NC based grocery store chain. They invited influential bloggers from the area and I was lucky enough to be asked to represent Charlotte Smarty Pants.
I had no idea what to expect, no way to prepare. I knew that I would be put on the spot to cook from a set list of ingredients they had on hand. How fun, I mean we do this all the time, right? We get home from running our kids to every different afterschool activity only to find that we have exactly 4 minutes to put dinner together from a fridge full of random ingredients. You would be amazed at what I can do with just rice.
The event was held uptown at a very cool fitness studio called Flex and Fit, which has a demonstration kitchen. Sometimes I feel like I want to have one of these in my house, is that weird? We got to have a drink and mingle with some fellow bloggers around town. It was fun, but don’t kid yourself, I was totally eyeing my competition.
We then had a presentation from an executive from Food Lion about their store brand products called “My Essentials”. These are the staples you use all the time like rice, pasta, canned soup, peanut butter and even tuna fish. They are very economically priced and the quality is great. The president of Food Lion, Cathy Green Burns, was even there. You know the lady that talks to you in the Food Lion commercials. She was one of the five judges. She was super friendly and ready to EAT!
We were quickly split into four teams of three and given the challenge to make dinner for four people for under $15 using My Essentials brand products and fresh produce and meat from the fridge. The catch was it had to consist of a meat and two side dishes, so my go-to soup ideas were thrown out the window.
We had 15 minutes to decide on a menu and shop in the mock pantry and 30 minutes to cook. I was lucky enough to be paired with Katie from Charlotte Mom Favorites and Kelly from Foodie Fresh who were wonderful. We decided on a meal of Pan-Seared Curry chicken with an Asian peanut dipping sauce, veggie stir-fried rice and teriyaki-glazed carrots that we roasted in the oven.
We all worked great together. We got to work chopping and prepping all while cameramen and women were taking pictures and video taping the giant mess we were making. The most challenging part was sharing the one four-burner cooktop and oven with the rest of the teams. We each only had one burner and partial use of the oven. We started microwaving things, adjusting recipes, and trying to time the meal to be done in the allotted 30 minutes. At stake was of course the title of “The Frugal cook off Champion” but also (2) $250 Food Lion gift cards, one for us and one to give away to you, our readers. Such pressure, that is a ton of money and with how low the prices are there you can really stock up.
Our team was finished first and was able to present the panel of 5 judges with our meal. Whew, they seemed to love it. One judge said he never ate carrots because he didn’t like them but he cleaned his plate. Now we just had to sit back and watch as each of the other teams presented their dishes. Theirs looked great; most were of an Italian theme.
Well guess what Smarties. WE WON!!! They loved our dish the most! So that means that one of you lucky readers has the chance to win the other $250 gift card. This could really come in handy for the upcoming holidays.
How can YOU win the $250 gift card from Food Lion?
1) Leave a comment below with your favorite go to frugal gourmet recipe!!
2) “Like” this post on facebook (just under my pic in upper left corner:-)
3) The fine print – Winner must live in the Greater Charlotte area. We’ll pick our winner at 5p on Sunday, 10/14. Dish it, Smarties!