Twin Cities Live and Cub Foods $20 Chef Challenge

A few times a year, Twin Cities Live asks their favorite chefs to compete against each other in a food challenge.  I’ve participated in their Mother’s Day ChallengeCream of Mushroom Soup Challenge and the Minnesota State Fair Food on a Stick Challenge.  I was the runner up in both the Mother’s Day and Soup contest and won the Food on a Stick challenge.  The prize for these contests is a golden whisk, a small piece of wood with a whisk that has been sprayed glittery gold!  
Stephanie March, Food Critic, Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine and Judge of the Chef Challenge
This week’s contest was sponsored by Cub Foods and the chefs were told to come up with as much food as they could for $20 and were judged by Stephanie March (food critic for Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine) on taste, creativity and quantity.   Chefs were also allowed to use common pantry ingredients for free like flour, sugar, oil, butter, cinnamon, salt and pepper.  The prize for the winner-the golden whisk and $100 in groceries from Cub! 
I immediately thought back to the meals my mom used to make when she was trying to save money: breakfast for dinner, kielbasa and goulash.  I put my creative spin on three traditional comfort foods and came up with Brown Sugar Rubbed Pork with Peaches and Cream Waffles, Kielbasa and Apple Sauerkraut with Pumpkin Drop Biscuits and Pumpkin Pie Goulash Cupcakes.
The grand total for all my meals…$19.99


I was actually surprised by all the meals I could create for $20.  I made 29 meals for about 68 cents a meal (I spent $19.99).   With some thoughtful planning and flexibility, it is really possible to make fun foods that both foodies and your family will love.  

All the yummy food I made for $19.99
Below are some tips I think are helpful for budget meal planning as well as the recipes for all the meals I created.  And the contest? Spoiler Alert: I came home with the golden whisk, gift certificate but above all, made my budget conscious mom very proud!
Click here to watch the September 15, 2011 segment when I competed in the Cub Foods $20 Chef Challenge:
Click here to watch the results of the contest:
Here are a few tips for budget meal planning:

·        Check which items are on sale that week before you plan your meals.  Use those items as a center point of your meals (pork chops, turkey, kielbasa, etc).

·        Look for products that can be used in multiple ways (baking mix, fruit or canned items like pumpkin pie mix)

·        Buy only what you need.  If you only need a small amount of something (eggs, milk, oil, etc) buy the smallest container.

·        Use bulk bins.  I was able to get enough pumpkin seeds (pepitas) from the bulk bin for my cupcakes for only a few cents.  A regular package would have blown my budget. Next to the bulk bins at Cub are packaged spices that sell for about a $1-a steal when you need a spice you don’t have (in the baking aisle they can run upwards of $4 a jar).

·        Buy items that already have seasoning such as the pumpkin pie mix (already contains brown sugar and spices) and the sauerkraut (sweetened and contained caraway seeds).

·        When buying produce you don’t need to stick to their packaging.  A good example of this are my apples.  The apples were in paper bags but you weren’t required to buy the whole bag and the price of the apples by the pound were the lowest in these bags.  This is also true with items like cherries and grapes (they are usually in 3 lb bags) but you can take as much or as little as you want.

·        Finally, take your time, compare prices and be flexible with your meal ideas based on the deals you find.  I left my daughter at home with my husband during my shopping trip, which allowed me to take my time and not make rash decisions because of the time and my daughter’s temperament. 

Good luck stretching your food dollar and let me know the meals you love to make to save money!

Brown Sugar Rubbed Pork with Peaches and Cream Waffles

For the Waffles:


2 cups Biscuit and Baking Mix

1 1/3 cup Milk

2 TB Oil

1 Egg

1 tsp Cinnamon

Directions: Preheat greased waffle iron.  Mix all ingredients and pour onto iron by ¼ cup spoonfuls. Makes 10 waffles

For the Pork:


1.14 lb Boneless Pork Sirloin Chops

¼ cup Brown Sugar

1 tsp Cinnamon

Directions: Preheat oven to 375.  Rub pork chops with brown sugar and cinnamon.  Wrap in tin foil and cook in a roasting pan for 30 minutes.  Once cooked, slice pork into thin strips.

For the Peaches and Cream Sauce:


1 large Peach

½ tsp Cinnamon

¼ cup Brown Sugar

½ cup Butter

½ cup Water

1 cup Milk

Directions: In a small pan over medium heat, combine all ingredients except milk.  Bring mixture to a boil and allow to thicken.  Drizzle peach mixture and milk over waffles.

Serving: Top each waffle with peaches and cream mixture, top with pork.

Makes 10 portions (1 portion for a meal)

Kielbasa and Apple Sauerkraut with Pumpkin Drop Biscuits

For the Pumpkin Drop Biscuits:


2 ¼ cups Biscuit and Baking Mix

2/3 cup Milk

¼ cup Pumpkin Pie Mix

2 TB Brown Sugar

1/3 tsp Cinnamon

Directions: Preheat oven to 450.  Combine all ingredients and drop by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 8 minutes.

Makes 14 Biscuits

For the Apple Sauerkraut:


2 small apples

14 ounce can Sweet Sauerkraut with Caraway Seeds

1 tsp Cinnamon

¼ cup Brown Sugar

Directions: Cut apple into thin strips.  Mix apples, sauerkraut, cinnamon and brown sugar.

For the Kielbasa


14 ounce Turkey Kielbasa

Directions: Preheat greased grill.   Cut kielbasa in half and divide into four pieces. Cook kielbasa until grill marks appear.

Serving: Top each biscuit or cut in half for a sandwich, top with apple sauerkraut and then divide kielbasa amongst biscuits.

Makes 14 portions (2 portions for a meal)

Pumpkin Pie Goulash Cupcakes


1 lb box Elbow Macaroni

1 TB Oil

1 lb Ground Turkey

½ tsp Salt

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp Cinnamon

1 ½ cups Pumpkin Pie mix

½ cup Milk

2 TB Butter

¼ cup Brown Sugar

1/8 cup Biscuit and Baking Mix

48 Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas)


Preheat oven to 375.

Boil pasta for 7 minutes and set aside.

In a large stockpot, add oil and once heated, add turkey, salt, pepper and cinnamon.  Once turkey is cooked, add pumpkin pie mix and milk.  Add pasta and stir to combine.

In a small bowl, crumble butter, brown sugar and baking mix. Set aside.

Scoop goulash mixture into 2 muffin trays with cupcake liners.  Top each cupcake with a pinch of the butter crumble.

Bake cupcakes for 10 minutes.  Top with Pepitas.

Makes 24 (2 portions for a meal)

3 thoughts on “Twin Cities Live and Cub Foods $20 Chef Challenge

  1. Those tips are so great — we use them weekly in our house!

    These recipes are great & perfect for fall. Thanks for including the links I enjoyed watching them! Congratulations.

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