One cooking competition just wasn’t enough for this girl and since I had such a fun success with our Trees in Your Ears Pasta dish for the Kenmore cooking competition, I thought I would give another cooking competition a try, but this time with Better Homes & Gardens Magazine. Each participant was asked to select a recipe from the Better Homes & Garden Cookbook and create a dish with your own unique spin on it. It sounded like a fun challenge, but more importantly, an exciting opportunity to see the beautiful BHG Test Kitchen!
The cooking competition is built to surround the launch of the new Better Homes & Gardens Kitchen Collection line that will be available at Walmart. The company is offering an extensive product line that includes three lines of pots & pans that come in Tri-Ply Clad 18/10 Stainless Steel, Non-Stick Hard-Anodized, & Non-Stick Porcelain Enamel and will retail for $159 in the stores. Lucky for me, I was given a set to practice my cooking with for the competition and I will have ten sets to giveaway over the next few weeks leading up to the competition.
My new set hit my doorstep while I was in Wilmington, NC and I was very excited to share the set with someone else. As a blogger, I get so many great things that come my way, but the real joy is in the sharing of those items with others. When I saw this set of cookware, I immediately thought of someone very special in my life that I wanted to give it to…my friend Ed. I might be at a disadvantage by not using my set to practice with, but when I share with you the story of Ed, you will know why I was so thrilled to share them. Ed told me I could share his story with my readers today so I wanted to share that with you.
A couple of years ago, I met Ed while shopping at Aldi Supermarket. We were standing in the frozen foods section and he came over to me and asked me what the difference between chicken tenderloins and chicken breasts were. I launched into an explanation of what the chicken tenderloin was and asked him what he was using it for. When I found out it was being mixed into a manicotti, I told him to go with the chicken breast to keep his dish economical. It was then that he looked up and told me, with eyes filled with tears, that he was now the cook in his family. In his eighties, he had never cooked before in his life and now, due to the health of his wife and grown son, he was now the one who had to cook for his entire family and he had no idea how to do it. I grabbed a scrap piece of paper out of my purse and wrote down my cell phone number for Ed and told him he could call me anytime and I would help him with whatever he needed. I told him he stopped the right girl, that the livelihood of my business is built around helping people save money and get dinner on the table.
Over these past years, Ed has called me to ask for recipes or to just talk about the different challenges of cooking. He told me he hates to bother me because he knows how busy I am with my kids, but I always tell him that I am here for him whenever he needs me. Emails are exchanged and every once in awhile, his number will pop up on my phone before his trip to the grocery store. I have become friends with the cashier at Aldi and each time I am in, we chat about our updates on Ed and how he is doing.
This last week Emily and I gathered the makings of a few meals at the grocery store, a big container of donuts, and our Better Homes and Gardens Pots and Pans and loaded them in the car for Ed. I was armed with slow cooker recipes, menu planning sheets, and we came to spend the morning with Ed to help him with his cooking.
Emily sat at their kitchen table eating hundreds of donuts covered in chocolate, while I got Ed’s dinner in the slow cooker and we worked through some of the ideas I had for ways he could get dinner on the table and begin planning his trips to the store. I don’t know if we really helped or not, but we were both really proud we tried. Over and over I told Emily how special she was on the way home and what her visit did for Ed & his family. I have never been a more proud mama.
Ed told me I am his angel which makes me cry. That day he stopped me I was exhausted with a strong-willed three year-old. I had that feeling that every mother has where I felt I just couldn’t keep up with anything in my life. When Ed stopped me that day, Ed gave me a renewed purpose to my step and made me feel like I was useful again. I am just as grateful to him as he is to me.
I never win popularity vote contests so I have no anticipation of winning this one at all. I feel like I already won the day I sat at Ed’s kitchen table and could share with him something that I hope will make cooking easier for him and his family.
Without further adieu, here is my submitted dish for the cooking competition adapted from the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook! I wanted to build upon those flavors of this dish and replicate my favorite dinner from a local Italian restaurant that we love to eat at. With the simple addition of sautéed mushrooms, spinach, and sun dried tomatoes, it takes this easy dish to an elegant level with minimal effort. Of course, no dish is complete without my signature addition of lemon zest and a squirt of lemon juice to freshen and lighten the flavors. It is an inexpensive way to add a hint of freshness to every bite and brings the sauce all together beautifully!
The best part about the dish, in my opinion, is that it incorporates items that I already have in the pantry and can easily be pulled together with leftovers in the fridge. Leftover chicken, vegetables, and any type of pasta can be pulled together for a dinner that is worthy of an evening gathered with friends and family around the dinner table.
It’s up to you if you want to give away your convenience food secrets though. I promise to never tell!
Presto Pesto Pasta Con Pollo (modified from Presto Penne with Roasted Chicken)
2 Tbsp olive oil
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces bow tie pasta
1 jar of pesto sauce (8.1 ounce)
2 ½ cups rotisserie chicken, diced
½ cup sundried tomatoes, cut into thin strips
2 cups fresh baby spinach
1 lemon (zest and juice)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Finely shredded Parmesan cheese (optional) for topping
In a 4-quart Dutch oven cook pasta according to package directions. In a large sauté pan, cook mushrooms in olive oil (approximately five minutes) and season them to taste. Drain the cooked pasta, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water. In a small bowl, mix together the pesto and the ½ cup of pasta water to make a sauce. Sprinkle spinach on top of the mushrooms in the sauté pan and pour the hot pasta on top to help wilt the spinach. Add to the pasta mixture, the sundried tomatoes, rotisserie chicken, zest & juice from a lemon and pesto sauce over the pasta. Give the mixture a gentle toss to combine. Season the pasta to taste. If desired serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
Serve with a simple side of crusty bread or dress the dish up with a side of Roasted Green Beans and Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins for a meal to entertain with!
If you would like to give this dish your vote, you can vote for me daily here! A one-time registration is required to vote, but after that you just click vote once to cast a vote!