ABC Cooking Challenge

Growing up, most of my friends had favorite TV shows like Full House and Step By Step. While I did love those shows, my favorite by far was Supermarket Sweep. Does that make me different? Probably, but I’m really OK with it— there is nothing to be ashamed of.

You may find it odd that 8-year-old “Chef Orky” loved a television show meant for homemakers, but it wasn’t just me. All of my siblings loved it, too. At the end of each show, the contestants run around the supermarket trying to get the most expensive grocery bill. My siblings and I would be yelling at the TV, “RUN FOR THE HAMS!!!” and “STOP WASTING YOUR TIME FILLING UP ON FRUIT!” We took this show very seriously, so you can imagine how devastated we all were when it was taken off the air.

A few years ago, Food Network came out with a similar show with a twist, Guy’s Grocery Games (AKA Triple G or GGG). Guy Fieri has his own “grocery store” and 3 contestants each episode. There’s a little bit of trivia and a whole lot of cooking. The cooking portion usually involves some sort of challenge. Sometimes it’s a budget challenge and sometimes it’s a challenge where you can only use ingredients from one aisle.

My favorite “grocery game” that they play is a letter challenge. The contestants can make a meal only using ingredients that start with the letter that Guy chooses. Wild, right?

Well, this show (and a few other Food Network shows) has inspired me. In order to challenge myself in the kitchen, I’ve decided to play a few of the games I see contestants playing in these shows. This week, I busted out my Scatergories die and gave it a roll to try Guy’s letter challenge. I rolled the letter L, which turned out to be a lot harder than one would suspect.

At first, I couldn’t even think of foods that began with L… how do they do this on the spot on TV?? I could never survive on one of these cooking shows where you need to instantly think of these things. I spent a while researching lists of “L" foods but realized I was pretty limited and would have to get really creative.

I began to make my own list… lentils, linguine, lima beans, lettuce, lime, lemon… but how could I possibly use these and do I really want to use all of these? I definitely can’t afford to be making lamb or lobster, so I went plant-based.

As I went looking for my lentils, lemons, and linguine, I also realized that low-sodium vegetable broth technically begins with L, and so does light cream cheese. These would definitely help to make a creamy sauce and flavor my lentils. The last ingredient made all the difference… a packet of leek soup mix. 

Photo credit: Alyssa Delsoldato

Photo credit: Alyssa Delsoldato


I got to work cooking my lentils in my Instant Pot with the vegetable broth and leek mix. While the timer for my lentils counted down, I began to cook my linguine. I found a spinach and chive flavored linguine from Trader Joe’s that I knew would go perfectly in this meal. When they were both finished, I added the cream cheese to the lentils and mixed them all together. It created the perfect, creamy sauce to put on top of my linguine.

The flavor from the leek packet really brought all of the ingredients together. I also squeezed half a lemon in and topped the pasta with some lemon zest. It may not have been the prettiest, but it was extremely comforting, yet summery and refreshing.

Playing this game has really allowed me to let my creative juices flow and has challenged me to create and try something new. Sometimes you get stuck in a rut in the kitchen and need to break out of your routine go-to meals. This is the perfect way to do that! I also occasionally use a random ingredient generator to play another Food Network favorite, Chopped. If you’re feeling stuck, give one of these games a shot. Pick a letter and get creative!

Leek & Lentil Linguine (serves 4)

Lentil & Leek Linguine Photo credit: Alyssa DelSoldato

Lentil & Leek Linguine
Photo credit: Alyssa DelSoldato



8 oz. Trader Joe’s Spinach & Chive Linguine (or regular linguine if you prefer!)
1 pack of Knorr Leek Recipe Mix
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2-3 oz. light cream cheese
1 lemon


*Disclaimer: When using an Instant Pot, be VERY careful. Read the directions carefully and thoroughly, and use the appliance at your own risk.

1. Rinse the lentils and put them in the instant pot with the vegetable broth and leek mix.

2. Seal the lid (make sure the valve is set to seal) and put on high pressure for 5 minutes (5 minutes keeps the lentils’ shape and doesn’t make them mushy. If you prefer softer lentils, put on high for 8-10 min).

3. Once the timer starts counting down, start boiling water for the pasta and cook the pasta according to directions. If the instant pot timer runs out, no worries, just let the pressure naturally release. If you’re in a rush, you can manually release the pressure by turning the valve and KEEPING YOUR SKIN CLEAR OF THE OPENING.

4. Drain the pasta and set aside.

5. Add the cream cheese into the lentils and mix until fully incorporated, then squeeze half a lemon into the sauce.

6. Split the linguine into four servings and top each with the lentil leek sauce. Top each plate with lemon zest. Enjoy!

What dish can you come up with using all ingredients starting with the same letter? Share yours at the bottom of the page!

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