If you follow me on social media, you probably saw that last night was my big cooking debut (or you might remember it from this confession when I mentioned that I'd been asked to participate in a cooking competition and had - literally - never cooked a single thing without a recipe in my life).
Anyway, last night was the Food Lion Frugal Cook-off Event in Roanoke. I'm still in complete wonder as to how the nice marketing person from Charlotte found my name and thought to include me in this competition. Basically, her initial email said something like "as a busy working mom, surely you know a thing or two about putting a meal on the table in a hurry" at which, I rolled on the floor laughing in hysterics because - no joke - I do not know a single THING about cooking, much less two.
The truth is, cooking is NOT one of my favorite things (it probably doesn't even rank up there in the top 200); and, based on my previous experiences, I think it's fair to say that the feeling is mutual. I will choose Chickfila, Chipotle, or, heck, even K&W Cafeteria over cooking dinner any night of the week.
Now, do I cook? Yes, sometimes. When I have to.
Mostly because Jeff doesn't think it is healthy or financially wise to eat Chickfila, Chipotle, or K&W every night. But, it is 100% NOT an exaggeration when I say that I literally NEVER make anything without following a recipe. No joke, I look up instructions online for the most basic of tasks like steaming broccoli, scrambling eggs, or baking potatoes every.single.time. I also make the world's biggest mess, take forever, and - about 80% of the time - the food isn't even all that good. (Lest you think I'm being over-dramatic, I would like to draw your attention to this photo of a meal I actually delivered to a friend who had a baby about a year ago. I don't think you really need any further proof.) Cooking is not my thing. #thankgoodnessforfamily #andcrockpots
Given all of the above, my natural inclination would have been to turn down the invitation to participate in a cook-off, but five things encouraged me to give it a try:
1. My friend Heather would be there.
2. I wanted to meet other local bloggers.
3. There would be free food and drinks.
4. I got a $100 Food Lion gift card just for participating.
5. I would be assigned a partner.
Basically, I started praying for my unknown partner immediately (mostly that he/she would be a very kind soul with strong cooking skills and exceptional patience) and hoped the marketing people wouldn't figure out what a horrible mistake they had made. ;)
And, well, what do you know?!? My prayers were answered!
I knew I was in trouble when I showed up at Fork in the City last night and the announcer started the evening off by explaining that each of the eight competitors had been chosen because we "are already sharing great recipes and ideas for frugal cooking on our blogs." Um....
Thankfully, I started feeling a little better when my mom and her best friend showed up to be my fan club (thanks Mom & Peg), Heather presented me with my very own customized apron, and I met my awesome partner, Angie from Big Bear's Wife (which is, I might add, a very legitimate cooking blog)!!! There seemed to be a good chance that, at the very least, I wouldn't get kicked out.
The competition was set up almost like Iron Chef (I think, I've never actually watched it). We were divided into four teams of two, and we had to randomly choose a cut of beef from a covered table. (It is not a lie when I say that I couldn't even have named four different cuts of beef.) Then, we had ten minutes to plan our meal using only that cut of meat plus the Food Lion ingredients and fresh produce provided. We were given an additional ten minutes to "shop" for our groceries which had to total less than $15 (not including the beef) before we were set free to cook. Once the official time began, we had 45 minutes to race around the industrial kitchen and prepare a main dish plus two sides for five people. (We were supposed to pretend that our best friend had just called and said she would be in town in 45 minutes, and we had to get dinner on the table for she and her family. This would never happen in my life... All my friends know I don't really cook, and we keep the pizza place on speed dial.)
Angie totally took control (THANK GOODNESS because I would probably still be trying to turn on the gas stove and open the salt and pepper shakers) and decided to make stir fried beef (that's the cut we were given), brown butter pasta, and sauteed spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms.
I'll spare you all the details of the cooking process, but know this... I pretty much had to make NO decisions. I did what Angie told me (which is exactly how I wanted it), and - despite needing help and requiring affirmation after every single move I made - I DID contribute (a little). I seasoned and cooked the beef. I tore the stems off of spinach leaves. I stirred pasta and added cheese. I cut green onions and placed them on our finished plates. I also sampled each one of our dishes (I'm kind-of an expert at that); and, I have to say, our meal was pretty darn delicious.
At the time limit, we had our plates professionally photographed and we presented them to the judges for a taste. We also proudly reported that our total meal (again, not including the beef) had come in at just $13.76 and used six of the Food Lion My Essentials ingredients. Our servings were, by far, the biggest, and we still had enough to make two or more plates. Look, they don't call Angie's husband 'Big Bear' for nothing! (Actually, I've never seen the man. #yougetthepoint)
In the end, the competition was fierce (Angie and I were both sweating and giggling like fools); but, WE WON!! I know!?!?! I was just as surprised as you are!
Here's our winning dish:
And us with our trophies:
I have to admit, I felt a little bit like a fraud when we won. Me? I need Pinterest to help me make a grilled cheese. BUT, mostly, I was just really really proud that I didn't completely ruin the competition for Angie; because, let's be honest, she would have won no matter who her partner was. I got super duper lucky.
I also got a sweet trophy, $250.00 to spend at Food Lion, a bag of groceries, and a chance to cook on live television on November 15th at our local station.
Yes, you read that right. I'll be on TV on November 15th... Cooking! (Cue the roaring laughter.)
Here's one more pic of us being all celebrity-ish. Please note my face in this one... That is totally how I felt:
When I got home last night, Jeff and Sam were waiting up to celebrate with me... Jeff's comment was "You have the funniest life." I can't argue with that. #heisproud #neveradullmoment
I will be giving away the other $250.00 gift card*, sharing our recipe, and posting the video that was made last night in the next few weeks; so, stay tuned!
Until then, I'll be making brown butter macaroni and stir fried beef for dinner every single night...
Now, go check out Angie's blog and congratulate her for winning despite the odds!! :)
Also, while you're at it, check out the other awesome Roanoke-area bloggers and competitors from last night:
Heather from Desperately Seeking Sanity
Raki from Outside the Box Mom (She blogs all about being a working mom y'all!)
Alicia from Fun Reviews and Giveaways
Paula from Virginia Sweetpea
Amanda from Casseruola Dolce Della Vita
*Rather than running another give away, I'd really like to give the grocery money to someone who really needs it. If you, or someone you know, could benefit from some extra money for food around the holidays, PLEASE email me!! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
P.S. This event was really well run and, honest to goodness, SUPER fun. If you get the opportunity to participate in something like this in your area - TAKE IT (cooking skills NOT required)!
P.S.S. If you live in Roanoke, you can actually order this meal at Fork in the City for the next week. #Irecommendthehotdogsinstead
P.S.S.S. Great new Working Mom post will be up tomorrow!