A Top Chef Takes Our Challenge

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Healthy Eating Program Manager Paula Reichel also contributed to this story.

On Top Chef, contestants face a series of escalating culinary challenges. They are asked to create delicious, balanced meals with limited time, or unfamiliar ingredients and on a strict budget. The families served by the Capital Area Food Bank face similar challenges daily.

Chef Spike Mendelsohn, former Top Chef contestant and Blue Jeans Ball Special Guest, is the first competitor in the food bank’s $10 Challenge. The challenge is simple: create a delicious meal for $10 or less with healthy, affordable ingredients available at the food bank.

We were wowed by Chef Spike’s POW Peanut Chicken (PDF) recipe which, at less than $2 per serving, meets the key principles of a Healthy Affordable Meal.

Be Meal Minded

This dish includes three food groups, which makes it well-balanced. The brown rice provides a filling whole grain, the corn and tomato offers a good serving of nutritious vegetables and the canned chicken and peanut sauce provide a protein punch.

Switch It Out


Click to expand instructions

No rice on hand? Switch the grain in this dish out for others that may be sitting in the cupboard. Try this with noodles!

Use Versatile Staples

Repurpose ingredients in this recipe for other meals. Corn is great for soups, salads and casseroles. Canned tomatoes make great sauce, salsa, or soup. Brown rice is a great addition to soup, meatballs, or stir fry. When corn is two for $1, stock up to use in this recipe, and apply surplus for another meal during the week.

Protein Rich

The peanut sauce and chicken give the recipe some protein punch. If chicken breasts are on sale, cooked and chopped chicken is a great way to add more protein.

Flavor It Up

Chef Spike brought out great flavors in this dish. The peanut sauce is creamy and incorporates well into all ingredients. The use of chili powder, water from the canned corn and a vinegar/sugar combo in the sauce creates a flavor explosion we’re calling the “POW” factor.

National Nutrition Month is drawing to a close, but the food bank continues transforming its ingredients into meals so that our partners can meet the challenge of hunger head-on.

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