Friday, October 24, 2014

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 SUV.



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 and Christie . 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.





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39 Comments:

At October 24, 2014 at 9:19 PM , Blogger Ann Y. said...

Nice presentation!

 
At October 25, 2014 at 11:01 AM , Blogger Rachel Withers said...

Thank you, Ann. It was a team effort, and I learned a lot about food presentations.

 
At October 26, 2014 at 11:14 AM , Blogger Leigh Powell Hines said...

Great job.

 
At October 27, 2014 at 12:19 PM , Blogger Rachel Withers said...

Thanks, Leigh.

 
At October 27, 2014 at 12:50 PM , Blogger megan tilley said...

I look to make sure it is clean! Then I look for sales and if you are allowed to use coupons as well!

 
At October 27, 2014 at 1:09 PM , Blogger Rachel Withers said...

Megan, Those are important attributes for a grocery store. Cleanliness is a stickler for me. Thanks for commenting.

 
At October 27, 2014 at 1:26 PM , Blogger latanya t said...

Cleanliness, brands that I like to eat from, and aisle space

 
At October 27, 2014 at 2:42 PM , Blogger Rachel Withers said...

Latanya, I agree brand names and aisle space are important.Thanks for commenting.

 
At October 27, 2014 at 4:04 PM , Blogger Tricia Devries said...

Things free of high fructose corn syrup!

 
At October 27, 2014 at 5:07 PM , Blogger Rachel Withers said...

Tricia, That's a good one. I like that you're thinking healthy. Thanks for commenting.

 
At October 28, 2014 at 10:48 AM , Blogger Melanie @ bear rabbit bear said...

Fresh produce that actually looks fresh! Food Lion usually does a good job at this.

 
At October 28, 2014 at 11:01 AM , Blogger Rachel Withers said...

Melanie, fresh produce is a must. I like that Food Lion uses a lot of NC farms. Thanks for commenting.

 
At October 28, 2014 at 9:35 PM , Blogger Mami2jcn said...

I look for nice looking produce!

 
At October 29, 2014 at 10:10 AM , Blogger kellyr78 said...

I look for a good selection, fresh food and good prices.

 
At October 29, 2014 at 8:37 PM , Blogger steve weber said...

they have to have amazing prices, good selection and a huge liquor department.

 
At October 30, 2014 at 9:41 AM , Blogger Jessica Aycock said...

How FUN!! I agree, beautiful presentation!
At the grocery store, I'm always looking for low prices & fresh produce

 
At October 30, 2014 at 9:43 AM , Blogger LeeAnn Taylor said...

Clean, well organized, and a good selection of organic/natural foods.

 
At October 30, 2014 at 1:44 PM , Blogger Rachel Withers said...

We eat a lot of fruits and veggies, so produce is important for our family too. Thanks for commenting.

 
At October 30, 2014 at 1:52 PM , Blogger Rachel Withers said...

Price is an important criteria. Thank you for commenting.

 
At October 30, 2014 at 1:54 PM , Blogger Rachel Withers said...

Too bad grocery stores in NC don't sell liquor; it's regulated and sold in state owned stores (ABC). However, NC Food Lion's have a great prices and selection.

 
At October 30, 2014 at 1:56 PM , Blogger Rachel Withers said...

Jessica, It was such a fun experience. Fresh produce and prices is a popular factor when choosing a grocery store. Thanks for commenting.

 
At October 30, 2014 at 1:58 PM , Blogger Rachel Withers said...

LeeAnn, Cleanliness is a must for me. Food Lion is actually implementing a larger organic/natural food section.

 
At October 30, 2014 at 7:31 PM , Blogger lil_lady_dz said...

I look for organization, easy to find items, clean store, friendly workers, and product availability in a grocery store.

 
At October 30, 2014 at 8:09 PM , Blogger Betsy Barnes said...

I look for a clean, well lit grocery store. I also look for friendly staff that smiles and really is there to help me find things. The store should have a good layout, easy navigating, this would help my hubby too! :)

 
At October 30, 2014 at 9:27 PM , Blogger Tina said...

i look for Cleanliness.

 
At October 31, 2014 at 11:47 AM , Blogger Rachel Withers said...

Lots of good stuff for a grocery store to offer. Friendly workers is a plus. Thanks for commenting.

 
At October 31, 2014 at 11:49 AM , Blogger Rachel Withers said...

Betsy, I like that you're looking out for your hubby. A good layout is key. Nobody likes walking up and down every aisle. Thanks for commenting.

 
At October 31, 2014 at 11:51 AM , Blogger Rachel Withers said...

Tina, I agree cleanliness is important. Thanks for commenting.

 
At October 31, 2014 at 11:59 AM , Blogger Amanda Sakovitz said...

I look for quality, layout and great prices!

 
At October 31, 2014 at 1:25 PM , Blogger Rachel Withers said...

Amanda, quality products is important. I like how Food Lion offers a good mix of quality Food Lion brand and national brand products. Thanks for commenting.

 
At October 31, 2014 at 8:26 PM , Blogger Thomas Murphy said...

I look for a big selection and good prices.

rounder9834 @yahoo.com

 
At October 31, 2014 at 11:58 PM , Blogger Ellen said...

Quality foods and cleanliness

 
At November 1, 2014 at 8:50 AM , Blogger Rachel Withers said...

Food Lion has amazing low prices. Thanks for commenting.

 
At November 1, 2014 at 8:51 AM , Blogger Rachel Withers said...

Ellen, those are important factors that a grocery store must have. Thanks for commenting.

 
At November 5, 2014 at 10:54 PM , Blogger Carolina Mama said...

This was SO fun! Great to be there together. Loved your dishes.

 
At November 6, 2014 at 2:26 PM , Blogger Rachel Withers said...

Thank you. I wish we got to sample everyone's dishes. I hope to do something like this again soon.

 
At November 7, 2014 at 3:56 PM , Blogger sonyamorris (Sonya Morris) said...

I like how concentrated you look while cutting the chicken! I can tell you were working hard! I love shopping at Food Lion, they have the best meat market and the friendliest employees. I am also glad to see them offering a section with organic foods now. sonyadmorris@gmail.com

 
At November 8, 2014 at 10:25 PM , Blogger Rachel Withers said...

I was determined to do a good job during the cook off, but I was glad that I enjoyed myself too. I love the expanded organic food section. Thanks for commenting.

 
At November 10, 2014 at 8:37 PM , Blogger Bobbi said...

It looks like fun! Love the recipe ideas.

 

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