SAN ANTONIO – The H-E-B Culinary Center was abuzz with activity recently as six teams of participants in the grocery chain’s annual Slim Down Showdown competed to create the tastiest and most healthful meal from a box of mystery ingredients.
The 12-week contest attempts to teach the 30 participants – 15 H-E-B customers and 15 employees -how to eat healthfully and exercise right.
At the conclusion, two $10,000 grand prizes and a pair of $5,000 Healthy Hero prizes will be awarded based on a combination of pounds lost, participation and community engagement.
At this year’s competition, participants split into teams, each headed by an H-E-B chef, and each team had an hour and a half to plan and cook a complete meal using only what was in the box.
For many, being in a high-tech kitchen under the tutelage of a professional chef seemed both terrifying and exhilarating.
Stirring pots of boiling water, tossing ingredients in a large wok and, as always, chopping, chopping, chopping, they often appeared entranced, like school kids concentrating on an important science project.
Daniel Rangel, a customer from Pharr, described himself as not really a cook, adding that he “sticks mostly to the basics: chicken, rice … cereal.”
Meat should be at room temperature before it’s cooked; when chopping shallots, leave the heel uncut so it doesn’t fall apart; and add lemon juice to a too-salty dish to trick your taste buds into ignoring the salt.
Montemarano added that diabetes runs in her family, and she hopes to use the knowledge she gains to teach her father to eat better, too.
After about two hours (the team cooking risotto started late, so everyone had to wait), teams presented their dishes to a panel of judges.
Because apparently public speaking also is part of the contest, each team picked a member or two to describe their dish.
[…] the winning dish was a grilled chicken breast with beet greens pesto, roasted beet salad with blood orange cider vinaigrette and coconut bamboo rice.
The winning team received nothing but bragging rights, but everyone was a winner because, once all the sound, fury and chopping were done, they all enjoyed a tasty buffet made up of the healthful dishes created by the six teams.
Chicken with Beet Pesto, Passion Fruit and Beet Leaf Salad, Lemon Grass-infused Bamboo Rice and Padrón Peppers
Butterfly chicken breasts and set aside.
Zest the limes and garlic cloves into a bowl.
Scoop out seeds of the passion fruit and set aside.
Top with sliced beets, passion fruit and Blood Orange Gastrique (recipe follows).
2 cups apple cider vinegar
Add all ingredients to blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (not the one in the oven) and spray it with cooking spray.
Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over eggplant and coat evenly.
Season eggplant as desired with salt, pepper, garlic powder, thyme, onion powder and sweet dried basil.
Coat with 1 tablespoon olive oil, lemon zest and white pepper to taste.