Disclosure: This post is sponsored by FoodLion as part of the #FrugalCookOff. All opinions are my own. Read my full disclosure policy here.
The Food Lion Frugal Cookoff is all about teaching busy families how to prepare healthy and cheap easy meals, like these healthy fish tacos, using everyday ingredients.
A few months ago, I had the the honor of participating in the North Carolina Food Lion Frugal Cookoff at the Southern Women’s Show in Charlotte in an Iron Chef-style competition with other bloggers from the region. My teammates were Jen from Peanut Butter Runner and K. Elizabeth from YUMMommy.
Talk about intense. The two teams had 15 minutes to shop for ingredients, $15 to spend and just 30 minutes to prepare cheap easy meals for a family of four, including a main dish and two sides.
Kinda sounds like a typical weeknight, huh?
But we had to do it in front of an audience, while being interviewed by an emcee and with the knowledge that a panel of judges, including Food Lion executives and the Charlotte Observer’s food editor, would be critiquing our cheap easy meals for flavor, frugality presentation and adherence to the challenge rules.
(I was just hoping we wouldn’t give them food poisoning!)
Spoiler alert: my team won with our healthy, Tex-Mex inspired fish tacos, spicy Mexican potatoes and black bean and corn salad.
I’ll be sharing the winning recipes today — and frankly I should have done it sooner. Chalk it up to being one of those busy, tired, overwhelmed working moms!
But I think you’ll forgive my procrastination when you hear that I have an awesome giveaway sponsored by Food Lion. And the timing couldn’t be more perfect, as most of us are in an eat-healthy, save-money mindset after the holiday binge!
Be sure to enter the giveaway below for your chance to win a $250 Food Lion Gift Card. That will buy a lot of groceries!
Before the Frugal CookOff began, my teammates and I did a little menu planning and brainstorming.
We knew that we’d be cooking with one of four different proteins — chicken breasts, tilapia fillets, ground turkey or boneless pork chops — but we didn’t know which one until the day of the event.
And we had no clue what we’d find in the Food Lion pantry.
K. Elizabeth made the selection for us, and we lucked into the tilapia filets. (The other team chose the boneless pork shops in the blind drawing.)
Then it was off to the pantry, calculators in hand, to select the rest of the ingredients for our cheap easy meals. We had just 15 minutes to shop and formulate our plan before we headed into the kitchen.
We decided to divide and conquer, with each team member in charge of a different dish.
I made the Mexican potatoes, while K. Elizabeth mixed up the black bean and corn salad and Jen cooked the fish tacos.
Can I just say how hard it is to dice potatoes using unfamiliar knives in front of an audience with a clock ticking down?
And I really felt the heat in the kitchen as I was waiting for those potatoes to get tender!
Food Lion had a chef on hand to provide both teams some coaching, and she proved invaluable.
Not only did she give us insights into the quirks of our kitchen arena, but she also helped us think through menu choices to save time. She talked us out of serving rice with our fish tacos, knowing that 30 minutes wasn’t enough time to boil the water and cook the rice completely.
She saved us, for sure!
Because we were racing the clock to get everything cooked, plated and garnished in 30 minutes.
But we did it, deliciously!
And the judges agreed!
We took home the winner’s trophy, but more importantly, it was an amazing experience. I met some great bloggers, including the ladies on the other team: Kate from My Mommy Brain, Jenny from The Melrose Family and Kelly from The Best Crowe’s Nest. (Be sure to check out their recipes.)
And I definitely stepped outside my comfort zone cooking onstage at The Southern Women’s Show and later sharing our award-winning recipe on a Charlotte morning show.
All those times I pretended I had a cooking show in my own kitchen did not prepare me for the this!
One of us dropped a piece of fish on the host’s high heels. It wasn’t me, and it all happened off camera, so viewers didn’t see it. But I got a little flummoxed because I was talking at the exact moment it happened!
That’s live TV for you.
And here’s the funny thing about being a “celebrity chef,” if only for a few days.
Except for a few sample bites to test the seasoning, we didn’t get to eat these pretty plated meals! That joy went to the judges and the TV station hosts and crew.
But that’s OK, because these recipes are easy to make at home!
- 3 large russet potatoes, diced
- 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil, enough to coat the pan
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 teaspoon chili powder
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
- 2-3 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes and sauté for 5 minutes, covered.
- Remove lid and season potatoes generously with salt.
- Add paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes and continue sautéing until potatoes are tender and slightly crisp., about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent potatoes from burning.
- During the last minute of cooking, add garlic and sauté. Season with salt, as needed. Remove from heat and stir in fresh parsley.
- 1 can black beans, drained
- 1 can yellow corn, drained
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- ¼ cup green onion, sliced thinly
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
- Juice of one lemon
- Dash of cumin
- Salt to taste
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.
- FOR THE SPICE MIX
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- FOR THE TACOS
- 4 Food Lion frozen tilapia fillets, thawed
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 head romaine lettuce
- sour cream
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Combine all seasoning ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine.
- Pat fish dry and sprinkle with a generous coat of spice mixture, rubbing it in to distribute evenly on each side.
- Pre-heat a large non-stick skillet with olive oil over medium-high heat and add tilapia.
- Saute fish for 3-4 minute per side, or until firm and flaky.
- Remove from heat and gently flake fish.
- To assemble tacos, place tilapia inside a large washed romaine lettuce leaf and top with salsa, sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese.
Be sure to enter for your chance to win a $250 gift certificate to Food Lion. The more steps you complete below, the more entries you will receive. Good luck!