My Aetna "Healthy Food Fight" Cookoff: Round 2!

Healthy Food Fight!! ...May the healthiest cook win.

My Healthy Food Fight Cook-off and Mushroom Festival Adventure - with lots of photos ahead...

A few weeks ago I heard about the "Healthy Food Fight" recipe/cookoff contest sponsored by Aetna and Food Network. The contest will visit ten cities across the USA this fall.

Each city hosts a live cookoff event between the Round 2 contestants. To get to round 2 your recipe must receive a high 'healthiness' score as judged by CIA Chefs (Culinary Institute of America). 48 Round Two contestants compete in each city.

The winner of each regional Round 2 cookoff will be flown to Los Angeles to compete in the finals this November, with host/Iron Chef/Foodie-Superstar Bobby Flay. Chefs Cat Cora, Sara Moulton and Sunny Anderson will also show up in select cities along the way. The winner in LA will be crowned the Healthiest Cook in America!

..sounded like fun. So I entered. :)

I Made it to Round Two! Last week I received a phone call from Aetna informing me that my recipe for Almond-Coco Quinoa Risotto with Spicy Saffron Mushroom Gravy had made it into the Round Two cookoff - to take place that upcoming weekend at the Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square Pennsylvania.

Was I in for a whirlwind weekend...

Cookoff Story time!...

Kennett Square Mushroom Festival. I was excited when I found out the event was taking place at a *mushroom* festival - since I love mushrooms!

When the HFF Truck rolls into town, you'll know it!..

The journey begins...

"Wanna go to Pennsylvania this weekend??" I BBMed my husband on my BlackBerry.

"???" He responded.

I explained the situation and he warmed up to the idea of a very last minute day trip to the Philly region very quickly. Luckily, he loves mushrooms too. But really, we had no idea what to expect from our upcoming adventure.

Saturday Morning. We hopped into a cab at around 11am. I was scheduled to cook in the 4pm-6pm time slot so I had to be at the Aetna cookoff area no later that 3:30pm.

Amtrak Train at Penn Station. 12pm-1:30pm we journeyed to Wilmington Delaware where we quickly picked up our rental car and headed out over the river and through the woods to the Kennett Square Mushroom Festival.

Change of Scenery. Penn Station had been bustling with hundreds of people darting left and right with bags, cell phones, laptops and Starbucks. High energy.

Then just a few train stops away we were in mild-quiet Wilmington. I think there were about 30 people total at the Delaware Amtrak station. The word 'Ghost Town' comes to mind. We are not in NYC anymore Toto.

We picked up our rental car.
No line at the window. Around 2pm we were well on our way to the festival. However we got a little lost. A few loops around the train station and we were finally back on track. The drive to Kennett Square was beautiful. Lots of rolling grass pastures, streams, horse stables, fluttering forest butterflies and shady tree forests.

Mushroom in the Sky:

3pm We arrived at the designated Mushroom Festival parking lot and trekked up a hill to the festival. A beautiful hot yellow sun rolled in the blue sky and a brisk fall breeze wafted every so often. Gorgeous day for a cookoff! I was really excited to start cooking my dish.

Sunny day for a Mushroom Festival and Healthy Food Fight!..

We roamed around the Mushroom Festival a bit. It was packed with people, but it still had that small town feel. Which was a nice change from the usual chaotically crowded NYC summer street fairs.

My favorite part of the festival (though I did not walk the entire line of it) was the Mushroom Exhibit tent. Inside they had educational displays all about mushrooms and a nice variety of exotic shrooms on display as well. Eve some i had never seen!

Mushroom Exhibit:

Mushrooms on Display:

Like the PINK Oyster Mushrooms...

330pm We headed over to the Aetna Cookoff area. Lots of friendly people buzzing around. This was my first outdoor cookoff - and I was a bit nervous about the conditions. But in the end I loved cooking outdoors!

The "HFF" event staff was awesome! They had a fun MC interviewing the contestants as they cooked and a nice little audience began to form to watch us cook and ask questions about our dishes. I loved telling everyone about my Quinoa Risotto. Many folks had never even heard of Quinoa or Nutritional Yeast (also in my dish) so I was excited to share some info with them.

Here are a lot of the During-Cookoff Photos my husband took:

Learning how to use the special electro-magnetic stove:

Waiting to start cooking!...

Chatting with the judges:

Chatting with the super cool MC (luved him!)!

A watched pot never boils!...

Me in "competitive mode":

Plating. I wish I had brought my own plating dish (as most of the other contestants did) but oh well. I used a simple white plate provided by Aetna and it was simple and lovely.


Judges Table:

Meeting Katie from Food Network's NFNS! Love her!..


I LOVED this cookoff because when my dish was ready, I plated it, served it, smiled for the judges and was on my way! Since this recipe is so simple - I was literally out of there in about an hour. We actually caught the 6pm train home. Wow!

I still do not know the winner of the PA cookoff - but no matter what I had a lot of fun and I am thrilled to have been able to participate in Round 2 of such a wonderful National event. Good luck to all the upcoming contestants. May the healthiest cook win.

...oh but one thing I was told "the judges ate every last bite" - that made me very happy. :)

You can see my recipe here: Quinoa Risotto with Spicy Saffron Mushroom Gravy.

And if you want to buy one of my Zen Out Mushroom Tees visit my zazzle store.
Visit the Healthy Food Fight website to learn more:

Plating my Quinoa Risotto - yay!

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