{Award-Winning} Spicy Chicken Fiesta & A $250 Gift Card GIVEAWAY!

Welcome to a new week! A weekend with almost no set plans sure can be refreshing and I’m ready to rock this week. 
Like I told you on Friday, I participated in Food Lion’s Frugal Cook-Off and was the co-winner of the competition. My partner Valerie and I created a spicy Mexican meal consisting of seasoned and lightly sauteed chicken breasts with a yogurt sauce, simple rice and red beans, and a vegetable saute of corn, onion and bell pepper. 
Without further ado, here are the recipes for our meal…(hint: you have to scroll all the way to the bottom for the giveaway!)
{Award-Winning} Spicy Chicken Fiesta

Created exclusively for Food Lion’s Frugal Cook-Off Charleston 2014

Makes 4 large servings
Cost of meal: (not including chicken and spices) $12.98

For the Spicy Chicken Breasts
1 pound chicken breast
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons pepper
2 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon, additional lemon slices for serving if desired
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped scallions 

Add olive oil to a large skillet and heat on stovetop over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, add seasonings to a small or medium bowl and stir to combine. One at a time lay chicken breasts in the bowl to coat evenly with the seasonings. Flip to coat both sides. When oil in skillet is hot, add all chicken breasts in the skillet in an even layer. Cook about 6-8 minutes on medium heat. Turn over and continue cooking another 6-8 minutes or until cooked through. Lightly squeeze half of the lemon over top of the chicken breasts. 

Remove chicken from heat and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle each piece of chicken with about 1/4 cup shredded cheese. Place in oven heated to 300 degrees for 2-4 minutes or until cheese just starts to melt. Remove from oven and serve overtop of rice and beans, along with spicy Greek yogurt (recipes below). Garnish each piece of chicken with about 2 tablespoons of the chopped scallions. 

For the Rice and Beans
3 cups dry white rice
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoon cayenne pepper

Prepare rice on stovetop according to package directions. When almost finished cooking, add kidney beans and seasonings to the pan. Stir well. Cook on low for another 5-6 minutes, until heated through. Remove from heat and serve. 

For the Vegetable Sauté
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 10-ounce bag frozen corn kernels 
1 medium yellow onion, sliced and roughly chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, sliced and roughly chopped
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Add olive oil to a large skillet and place on stovetop over medium heat. Once hot, add all ingredients and stir to combine. Stir occasionally while letting cook for 8-10 minutes or until vegetables become tender and start turning brown. Remove from heat and serve. 

For the Spicy Greek Yogurt Sauce
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Stir well to combine. Serve alongside or on top of Spicy Chicken Breasts. 
*Optional: serve the meal with chopped romaine and a lemon wedge for garnish


Food Lion was so generous and awarded me with two $250 gift cards! One for me and one for YOU! I very much wanted to put this to the best use. I was thinking for a long time how I could give this gift card to someone who truly needed it. However, I wanted to do something nice for you as well. I ultimately came up with a compromise and decided to do a regular giveaway for you, then pay if forward with the other card. After going through the check-out line with groceries for Greg and I, I handed the card to the person in line behind us so she could use the balance for herself. 

Whoever wins, I hope you will consider doing the same, or using the card in a way that will impact others. However, it is completely up to you how you use it.

Enter the giveaway by doing the actions below: 

**Giveaway ends Sunday, March 2nd at 12:00am**Winner will be announced Monday, March 3rd**

Food Lion Frugal Cook-Off Charleston

This week I was given the honor of participating in Food Lion’s Frugal Cook-Off here in Charleston. Myself along with seven other local bloggers gathered at Charleston Cooks! downtown to cook a meal for four with a randomly assigned partner, using a randomly assigned meat, and only $15 (fake) dollars to shop for our ingredients. We had 45 minutes to cook, but who’s counting. Ha!

First let me tell you how lucky I was to be paired with the ever-so talented Valerie, blogger at LiveFit Journey. Although I had never read her blog before, I looked it up first thing upon getting home that night and was instantly even more inspired than when I was cooking in the kitchen with her. Not only is she extremely fit, she shares her workouts and clean eating tips on her blog, and she has started her own non-profit to fight childhood obesity called Generation Healthy Kids. So amazing! When Valerie said she is originally from Ohio just like me, I knew it was fate.

The other bloggers and I spent the first part of the evening mingling and getting to know each other. It’s always so nice to connect in person with people you normally only get to “see” online. The networking alone could have lasted the whole night. But there was cooking to do!

Each team stepped up to the front of the kitchen one at a time to select their meat. The plates were covered, so we didn’t know what we were choosing. Valerie and I were the last to choose and somehow, by the grace of God, revealed a plate of chicken breasts. The other options were tilapia, pork, and ground turkey. I feel most comfortable cooking with chicken by far, so to say I was relieved is an understatement.

The “pantry” was stocked with produce and Food Lion products including the “My Essentials” brand, one of the many private labels Food Lion carries. I have hardly ever shopped at Food Lion, so I was impressed with the quality of produce and store brand products they offer.

Valerie and I quickly decided on a Mexican theme dish. Tacos wouldn’t work because we didn’t have tortillas available. Instead, we lightly sautéed the chicken breasts after seasoning with a variety of spices and served it over rice and beans. For another side dish, we made a veggie saute with corn, bell pepper and onion. Valerie had the idea to create a healthier “sour cream” with spices stirred into Greek yogurt. #loveitsomuch

After the fastest 45 minutes of my life, we managed to plate a complete, colorful, balanced meal to present to the judges. I seriously felt like I was on Chopped, adding the food and garnishes to the plates while the last few seconds ticked away on the clock.

Everyone’s dishes looked very tasty, especially considering I had worked up a giant appetite from the fast-paced competition. The other meals were Greek Turkey Meatballs, Herb Crusted Pork Chops, and Crispy Greek Tilapia. (I will link up to the recipes when their available.)

The three judges rated each dish on presentation, taste, and most bang-for-your-buck. Then the winners were announced…

Hey, that’s me!

Yup, Valerie and I won!!!!! I may or may not have been on a winner’s high for the next hour…or two. My inner-competitiveness, which doesn’t come out too often, was thrilled and honored to be a part of this competition in the first place. To be part of the winning pair was a great feeling. As much fun as the cooking competition was, the other bloggers and the Food Lion team are really what made the night so wonderful.

Next week I will share the winning recipes with you, along with more pictures and a unique giveaway opportunity.

In the meantime click here to view the teaser video to see us in action. Don’t laugh 🙂

Finally, please take some time to check out these blogs by my fellow competitors! They are all Charlestonians and blog about everything from food and family to crafts and fitness.

Fried Green Pickles by Megan

Charleston Treasures by Lisa

LiveFit Journey by Valerie

Local Goodness by Jessica

Queen of the Food Age by Sydney

The Perks by Katie

Recent Somethings by Shelby

Thank you to Food Lion for the opportunity to be a part of this night, and for all of the goodies including Food Lion gift cards and a grocery bag full of cooking essentials and treats!


Chicken Fajita Chowder

For someone like myself who lives and breathes by lists and schedules, the past week or two have felt very scattered. I can’t seem to get in a solid routine, but somehow I’m managing just fine. Turns out maybe an unorganized life is good for the soul every now and then.

My blog posting has been off for a couple of days and I’m quickly trying to play catch-up. I feel like I say that all the time, but…real life beats internet life when it’s all said and done. Hashtag sorry I’m not sorry.

My mom and step-dad were in town this past weekend, and I had the day off of work Monday for Presidents’ Day. My days are still thrown off from the long weekend, and with a few after-work events this week, it’s not about to slow down.

One of these events is a cook-off hosted by Food Lion tonight. This experience will be completely new to me and I’m fairly anxious about the whole idea of it. I’m trying not to think or worry too much right now and go with the flow of things when I arrive. I’ll be posting more about that after the competition though. Pray for my cooking skills and knowledge to shine as much as possible!

A lot of the ingredients and rules of the competition are still unknown, but if I get a chance to make this fajita chowder, you can bet I will. I would put money on this any day. 
Between the nutty brown rice, tender vegetables, chunks of chicken and crusty bread for scooping, a bowl of this will leave you, well, wanting another bowl. 
Fun fact – This was the first time I have cooked with chicken since I transitioned to a heavily plant-based diet almost two years ago. In case you’re wondering, I do still eat meat occasionally, but mostly only while eating out if the vegetarian options on a menu don’t appeal to me. I can’t handle meat in as large of portions as normally served though. It just doesn’t sit well with my stomach. A few chunks of chicken throughout these bowls was just enough. 

Chicken Fajita Chowder
(Adapted from Taste of Home, February-March 2011)

Makes about 6 servings

1/2 pound chicken
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 medium yellow onion
1 jalapeno
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup brown rice
2 cups corn kernels
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
A few strong shakes of Tabasco
1 cup enchilada sauce
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese

1. Add olive oil to a large, deep skillet on a stovetop over medium-low heat.
2. Once hot, add chicken, bell peppers, onion and jalapeno. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
3. Add vegetable broth, dry rice, corn, seasonings, hot sauce and enchilada sauce. Bring to a simmer, turn heat to low, cover and cook for about 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add about half of the shredded cheese and gently stir to incorporate. Spoon into serving bowls and top with additional shredded cheese as desired.

Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken and Rice

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

Didn’t I say I was cutting meat OUT of my diet? Yes, I did. And no, I didn’t give in so quickly. I actually made this meal several weeks ago and just realized that I never actually shared with you! 
I can see how this may seem hypocritical- sharing meat-based recipes for the rest of the world to try for themselves, while I am now limiting the amount of meat in my diet- but I AM a supporter of everything in moderation. And I am also a supporter of everyone choosing to eat what he or she feels is right for them. So, that being said, if you enjoy a big plate of chicken for dinner, go for it. And try this easy-peasy crock pot chicken recipe while you’re at it.

And throw bunches of steamed broccoli on the side for added color
Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken and Rice

Makes about 4 servings

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders
3/4 cup buffalo wing sauce
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 cup rice, cooked

1. Bake chicken in oven at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until just cooked.
2. Remove chicken from oven and add to crock pot with buffalo sauce. Cook on high for 20-30 minutes. Add cheese, flour and butter to the pot and stir until cheese is melted through.
3. Add cooked rice to the pot and continue to stir all ingredients together until well incorporated. Serve immediately.

Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad

I have been making a conscious effort to use my crock pot more frequently. Yesterday, I had the intention of making a delicious apple and cranberry chicken breast dinner. I knew it would be risky, but sounded like it had a lot of potential. I would have tried something safer, but really just wanted to use the bag of cranberries in my fridge (I have no idea why I bought them in the first place…) Everything was thrown into the pot right after lunch and cooked the rest of the day. 
Around 6pm, I started taste-testing. That’s when plans changed.
It’s not that it was bad, but the chicken really didn’t absorb much of the fruity flavors like I hoped. At that point I still wasn’t quite hungry enough for dinner anyway, so I had time to come up with Plan B. What could I do that wouldn’t put this chicken to waste?

Not too long later it hit me. Chicken salad. 
It must have been my subconscious telling me how much it missed Bull Street Gourmet’s Chicken Salad Sandwich (made with cranberries and cranberry mayo) when I chose the burger instead the other day. Using this crock pot chicken gone wrong (for its original purpose), I knew I could pull off a successful chicken salad.
I used the last of my cranberries to make a sauce that was just what I needed to bring it all together. 

The result was a better-than-I-imagined sandwich. It would also be great on top of a bed of greens. 
This is not what I had in mind when I first turned on the crock pot, but I’m glad it worked out the way it did. 
The best part? It’s PINK! A pink sandwich is always a good thing.
Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad

Makes about 4 servings
For the chicken-
1 pound chicken breast
1 apple, cored and sliced
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup
For the cranberry sauce (makes more than needed for salad)-
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup fresh cranberries
For the chicken salad-
1 pound cooked chicken breast, shredded
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon mayo
1/4 cup cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons Craisins
3 tablespoons chopped pecans
1. To prepare the chicken, place all ingredients in crock pot and cook on low 4-6 hours.
2. While chicken is cooking, prepare cranberry sauce by adding water and sugar to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, add cranberries and return to boil. Turn heat to low. Let simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into a bowl and let cool at room temperature. Refrigerate until needed. 
3. When chicken is ready, remove from pot and shred breasts in a medium bowl.
4. In a small bowl, combine mayo and 1/4 cup cranberry sauce. Add mixture to shredded chicken. Add Craisins and pecans. Stir until well-combined. Cover and refrigerate to chill at least 1 hour before serving. 

Crock Pot Parmesan Chicken Pasta

So…I love chicken.

It is so versatile, healthy and just plain delicious. 
The best part about this chicken dish in particular is that it’s cooked in a crock pot. Throw it all in the pot in the morning and come home to hot and ready to eat dinner!
If you’re paranoid like me, you may spend the day at work praying your house isn’t burning down because the crock pot caught on fire. But when you get home and realize it’s perfectly safe and sound, AND the chicken looks like it does in these pictures, you may just jump for joy…literally.

The recipe calls for white wine, so I thought drinking a white wine along with the dish would compliment it well. But I love red wine too much so poured a glass of that as well. I took a sip of the white, but ended up drinking the red while Greg enjoyed the white. Fine with me. 

I really need to start using my crock pot more often. It is just too easy that I really don’t have an excuse not to.
Find the recipe for Jessica’s Crock Pot Parmesan Chicken here.  I halved the recipe and used broccoli as my vegetable of choice. It was the perfect amount for Greg and I, plus a small serving left over for lunch the next day. 
Today my chicken-loving self will have to go without chicken, or any meat for that matter, because of Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. Last year, I gave up meat altogether. It was tough, and I craved burgers more than anything. This year, I’ll be doing something different for Lent so I’ll only be a vegetarian on Fridays. That leaves six other days each week to cook some meaty recipes in the crock pot. I better get cookin’!

Crispy Chicken Fingers

Once again, we have made it to the end of the week! I’m especially excited because I have been extra busy at work and was starting to get too stressed out for my own good. But now the weekend is in sight and I have nothing but a smile on my face.

Another reason to smile? Crispy breaded chicken fingers.

Of course you can get delicious breaded chicken anywhere- Chick-Fil-A, Zaxby’s, Cane’s, etc. But I have such a hard time letting myself eat three or four chicken fingers, or a whole chicken sandwich, without thinking about how much I just ruined my efforts to eat well. Like I always say, moderation is key, but even still, just a few chicken fingers will set me back at least two-thirds of my days calories…factor in breakfast and lunch and all of a sudden I don’t have room for dessert! (Well, we know that’s not true!)
Making homemade chicken fingers lets you control exactly how much oil and bread you use with your chicken. 
Instead of greasy fries that chicken restaurant usually serve with the entree, I served my chicken fingers with about half a plateful of steamed broccoli. 
I kept these babies simple, since I didn’t have much experience breading and frying the chicken. But now that I am more comfortable doing it, I will definitely spice these fingers up to make them more flavorful in the future. 
Breaded Chicken Fingers
Makes about 3-4 servings (16-18 fingers)
1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into long, thin slices
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
1 cup panko breadcrumbs 
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-low heat.
2. Meanwhile, begin breading chicken by dipping each piece in flour, then egg, then coat in breadcrumbs. Set pieces aside until all have been coated (they will cook relatively quickly so you don’t want to be dipping/coating and have to watch the chicken at the same time! *I learned the hard way)
3. Once all chicken pieces are coated, place in even layer in skillet. Cook until browned on one side, about 2-3 minutes. Flip to opposite side and continue to fry until cooked through, about another 3-4 minutes.
4. Remove from skillet and serve immediately with ketchup (or sauce of choice: BBQ, ranch, honey, etc.)