Blackened Tilapia with Lemony Creama Sauce

The other week I had the honor of participating in the Food Lion Frugal Cookoff.

Food Lion Frugal Cook-off Raleigh, NC

The Food Lion Frugal Cookoff is a casual cooking contest where local bloggers compete to make the most creative, delicious and frugal meal. Each team is given a specific protein and a limited budget with which to shop from a selection of Food Lion items. The teams are timed and given 10 minutes to prepare the meal plan and 45 minutes to execute and present their dish.

frugal cook off
food lion cook off

I was originally paired with a local blogger whom I’d never met but was excited to meet and cook with however, one of her children became ill at the last minute and she was unable to attend. Therefore, they paired me with a local Food Lion store manager that enjoys cooking.

The protein our team was assigned was tilapia. I immediately knew I wanted to do something tex-mex/cuban however I was limited in my ingredient selection so I had to get a little creative. (I mean I didn’t have any cumin or limes… what was I to do?)

I decided to make Blackened Tilapia topped with a lemony creama, Cilantro Rice and Black Beans. The best part is that the total meal cost was only $11.08.

I knew that Joe would approve of my dish so I felt confident in my menu selection. However, I was pretty overwhelmed by the commercial kitchen at the hosting restaurant, Driftwood Southern Kitchen. Thankfully the owner/chef was there to guide us through the kitchen as we cooked so no one was injured or burned down the building. It was also a little challenging navigating the busy kitchen with my 30 week pregnant belly but I didn’t knock anything or anyone over! Hooray.

cook off prep
food lion cook off raleigh

I let my partner take care of prepping and cooking the tilapia since he claimed to cook fish on a regular basis. I think he did an awesome job because the tilapia was delicious. I took over cooking the rice and beans.

Unfortunately, we didn’t win the competition but it was a lot of fun and I would be proud to serve this dish to my family. The other competitors dishes were all amazing and I was seriously intimidated by some of their culinary skills. The Food Lion Frugal Cook-Off was a blast even though I felt totally unequipped to participate in such a event but I think I held my own pretty well.

Here are our recipes!

Blackened Tilapia with lemony crema sauce with black beans and cilantro rice

Blackened Tilapia


  • 2 Tilapia filets
  • vegetable oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • cayenne pepper


Season both sides of the tilapia with salt, pepper and cayenne (to taste). Heat vegetable oil in a sauce pan. Cook tilapia on one side and flip once the fish releases from the pan. (fish will stick unless it’s cooked and ready to be turned) Cook the 2nd side until cooked.

Lemony Creama Sauce


  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon (I’d also suggest adding juice from 1/2 lime)
  • Salt to taste
  • Cilantro to garnish


Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Cilantro Rice


  • Long Grain White Rice
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon (use lime if available)
  • salt to taste


Cook rice according to directions on package. Add chopped cilantro and juice from lemon (or lime). Salt to taste.

Black Beans


  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • salt and pepper


Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion and green peppers in oil until tender. Add black beans and cook until heated through. Season with salt and pepper.

Food Lion Frugal Cook-Off 2014

The featured products, information, and giveaway have been provided by Food Lion.


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