The cook off was held at a local restaurant in Baltimore called Talara. It was a really cool place with a sweet kitchen. We had full access to the kitchen, which was pretty cool. I was a little bummed that there was no grilling involved but I can work my way around the kitchen pretty well, so I didn't fret it.
The competition worked something like this: We were broken into teams and each team had $15 to spend on ingredients. Yeah, $15! Not too much to spend. The point of the frugal cook off was to show that a pretty nice meal can be made by using all of the Food Lion store labeled products, which go by the name "My Essentials." I was pretty familiar with My Essentials since I usually end up shopping at Food Lion.
In addition to the My Essentials products such as peanut butter, pasta, rice, various sauces and cheese we also had an array of fresh produce. Everything had a price so we had to be really picky on what we could buy. One extra surprise was that each team was randomly assigned a protein. The proteins were turkey, pork, tilapia, and chicken.
We were given a very limited shopping and planning time period. We all went to work quick. Notice anything strange? Oh yes, I was the only man invited! So here I am a die hard charcoal grilling and BBQ guy in the middle of a group of girls! Well, I guess there could be worse things in life, right?
My team ended up putting together a pretty awesome dish I think. We were randomly assigned ground turkey. My first thought was to make some sort of stuffed turkey burger. However, I couldn't find anything at all to stuff it with. There were no hot peppers available and the cheese put us over budget really quickly. Laura, Dara and I decided to make a Vietnamese style dish with ground turkey seasoned with soy, teriyaki, garlic, and green onions. The turkey would be sitting in a leaf of romaine lettuce. As a side we made a rice with peanuts and sauteed zucchini. Dara whipped up a dipping sauce that was flavored with soy and teriyaki and some orange juice.
At first I was a bit skeptical because this type of dish is really not my thing. However, as we started putting it together and I saw the final plate I was really impressed. We had a few extra pieces of turkey laying around and I dunked it in the sauce. It was good!
Sadly, I have to report that my team didn't win. The winning dish was an apple and spinach stuffed pork chop. Oh well, I can't complain. I got to meet a bunch of new blogger friends and they had some great local beers on tap at the open bar they had for us. It was a great night!
To top it off Food Lion gave me a $100 Food Lion gift card to giveaway to one of my readers. All you have to do is like me on Facebook and leave me a Facebook comment. I'll randomly pick a winner and send off the gift card.
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By John Thomas
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