Cinderella & the Food Lion Frugal Cook Off
Sometimes, I jokingly compare myself to Cinderella when I describe my day-to-day life to others. You know, what I’m talking about– the endless cleaning, cooking, watching/playing with your kids, and when it’s time time to go to the ball, you are just too tired. Unfortunately, I don’t have a fairy godmother in my back pocket or a ball to attend for that matter, but I was recently invited to Food Lion’s Frugal Cook Off to compete in a cooking contest and blog about my experience.
Unsure as what to wear, I met with Star Stylist Kelli DelSorbo
of Stella & Dot. I sent her a few pictures of outfit ideas, and she helped me choose one for the event plus she provided me with a stunning silver necklace, stacked bracelets and simple silver stud earrings to complete my look. I had a dress and jewelry; I was ready for the ball
Cook Off. I left my sick husband home with the boys munching their cereal and watching Paw Patrol. They were content, so I made my escape to the carriage
The magical evening continued as I arrived at the Food Lion Frugal Cook Off held at the Driftwood Southern Kitchen
in Lafayette Village in Raleigh. The restaurant aptly named for its open kitchen that flowed effortlessly into the bar and dining area only separated by a half wall. While I stood in the doorway of the restaurant taking in the rustic surroundings and the floating globe light fixtures suspended from the ceiling, I was given my apron for the event. It wasn’t any old smock, but a refreshing light green apron embroidered with my name, Rachel Withers
and my blog name, Fit Triangle Mom
. It was then that I realized that this wasn’t a dream or fairy-tale, but an awesome opportunity to cook something healthy, fresh and frugal. I met my teammate Kelley
, and the planning began.
We examined the cart filled with Food Lion’s My Essential
Brands of canned goods, cheeses, yogurt, and chicken broth. Adjacent to the cart was several wooden baskets containing fresh produce– cucumbers, peppers, lemons, onions, leafy greens and squash. Each item was priced because the goal of the contest was to spend less than $15 on our meal. Kelley and I had been planning meal ideas based on four undisclosed proteins (ground turkey, tilapia, pork chops and chicken) that would be available to us and would be revealed 10 minutes prior to the contest. Side dishes would be limited based on the availability of the ingredients, but now we had a better idea of what to prepare. We were also given staple pantry items of spices, oils and sauces that wouldn’t count against our meal cost.
After a brief tour of the kitchen- stoves, utensils, oven and sink, our protein was revealed– Chicken! Then the planning begin. The half wall dividing the kitchen and the bar became our station. Kelley and I glanced through our notes and decided on Lemon Chicken. We could purchase all the ingredients and have enough for sides. We chose an easy Black Bean, Corn and Salsa salad and a cucumber and onion medley for our sides. I was blessed with a wonderful teammate and talented chef. Kelley had the know-how to quickly prepare the sides while adding to the presentation factor. I was in charge of the chicken. I moved into action washing, cutting and pounding the chicken while all around us friends, family, Food Lion execs and PR consultants were taking pictures, asking questions, and keeping us informed of our time limit.
My friend Heidi
and cousin Alexandra cheered and encouraged us while we prepared the meal. Time was ticking, and I needed to put the chicken on the skillet. Kelley prepared the additional ingredients for the chicken while I secured a burner on the stove. There were teams on every burner and rice boiling under my arm, as I quickly added the chicken to the skillet. It sizzled and popped, and I adjusted the temperature. I was not familiar working with a gas stove, but loved it’s efficient heating. While waiting for the chicken to cook, I helped Kelley open cans and drain vegetables.
Presentation was another component of the contest. Driftwood Southern Kitchen had a nice variety of plates, cups, bowls, saucers, and mini cast iron skillets available for serving the meals. I wanted something that complimented our meal, so I asked one of the restaurant staff for his expert advice, and I decided on the flat wooden slab with a mini cast iron pan. It gave it a rustic look so we named the meal- Rustic Lemon Chicken with Black Bean & Corn Fiesta Salad and a Cucumber Onion Medley. The total cost for the meal was $9.09 ( not including the cost of the protein and staple items). We came under our $15 budget plus we prepared a healthy meal choice.
Once we were finished cooking and preparing our meal for the judges, our dish took center stage. Each team took turns having their meal photographed. It was like the Red Carpet for Food. Bulbs were flashing, and the judges were asking What’s in this?How much did it cost?How long did it take? Then the waiting began…
The judges carefully sampled each team’s meal judging them on taste, presentation, cost and originality. And the winners are? Everyone huddled around. Kelley and I crossed our fingers. Malise
. Our names weren’t called, but our fellow bloggers were named the winners. I felt like we were all winners. Food Lion gave all contestants gift cards and a thermal tote bag filled with Food Lion brand products. They also provided a $100 gift card for one of my blog readers (enter below).
I may have lost my glass slipper trophy, but the magic lingered as I talked with the other contestants and my friends. Someone asked me Why I became a blogger? I told them it allowed me to pursue my love of writing and share the stories of my community with readers while having the flexibility of being a stay-at-home-mom. Then I realized, my life might not be a fairy tale, but I was living a dream that came true.