The Cook Once Academy is our signature membership course where I teach all of my secrets on how to save time and money in the kitchen while getting delicious, healthy dinners on the table with ease. Enrollment is always open – I’d love to have you in the community! Learn more about Cook Once Academy here.

Each month, Cook Once Academy members have the opportunity to participate in a themed monthly challenge. To participate, we ask that they submit a 3-5 minute video of themselves cooking an original recipe that fits within the theme and guidelines for the month. We then grade the submitted videos, and then the community takes a vote on the finalists to determine the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners. 2nd and 3rd place winners receive a gift card to Thrive Market, and the Grand Prize winner is treated to an all-expenses paid trip to the Cook Once Retreat in San Antonio, TX (at our FF HQ) next Spring.

January Grand Prize Winner: Kelly

  • Theme: shredded chicken
  • Winning dish: Philly Chicken Cheesesteak Quesadillas



  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 2 small (or 1 large) onions, cut into thin strips
  • garlic powder, to taste
  • sea salt, to taste
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 (8-inch) tortillas
  • 6 slices of cheese (Kelly used havarti, but any cheese you like will work!)
  • 1 cup cooked and shredded chicken
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1/3 teaspoon sriracha, plus more to taste


  1. Add the butter to a pan over medium-high heat. Once melted, add the green bell pepper and onion to the pan, season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and saute for 5-7 minutes, until soft.
  2. Start assembling the quesadilla by laying it flat on a surface. Then, cut a slice from the center of the tortilla straight down to the bottom.
  3. Add a slice of cheese in the bottom left quarter of the tortilla.
  4. Add a small amount of shredded chicken to the top left quarter of the tortilla.
  5. Add sauteed peppers and onions to the right half of the tortilla (both the top and bottom right quarters).
  6. Sprinkle all of the fillings with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  7. To fold the tortilla, fold the cheese quarter up to meet the chicken, then fold the chicken and cheese to the right (over the peppers and onions), and then fold the three sections down over the remaining peppers and onions. This makes a clockwise fold so that the final product is a quarter of the tortilla’s original size.
  8. Place the folded quesadilla in the same skillet that the peppers and onions cooked in, adding more butter of needed, and cook until both sides are golden brown (2 minutes or so per side).
  9. While the quesadilla is cooking, prepare the sriracha dipping sauce by whisking together the mayo and sriracha, adding more sriracha until your desired level of spiciness is reached.
  10. Serve the quesadilla alongside the dip and enjoy!

Note: a little filling goes a long way, so be careful not to overstuff them!

February Grand Prize Winner: Ellen

  • Theme: slow cooker soup or chili
  • Winning dish: Buffalo Chicken Dip-Inspired Chili



  • 1 pound chicken breast
  • 1 white onion, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup hot sauce, divided
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 ounces cream cheese


  1. Place the chicken breast in the slow cooker, followed by the white onion, green pepper, celery, corn, and diced tomatoes.
  2. Pour the chicken broth over everything, followed by 1/2 cup of the hot sauce, and the coconut milk.
  3. Sprinkle the ranch spice mix (garlic powder, onion powder, dried dill, cumin, salt) over everything, along with the juice of one lemon.
  4. Cook on low for 5 hours.
  5. After the 5 hours is up, add the pinto beans, cream cheese, and the remaining hot sauce to taste.
  6. Cook on low for an additional 1 hour.
  7. Stir to mix the melted cream cheese into the chili.
  8. Garnish with green onions and shredded cheddar cheese if desired, and serve!

March Grand Prize Winner: Erin

  • Theme: ground beef
  • Winning dish: Ground Beef + Veggie Samosas-Inspired



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch dice
  • 8 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ¼ yellow onion
  • ¼ head of cauliflower, diced
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1-4 tbsp Thai red curry paste (to taste)
  • ½ cup peas, fresh or frozen
  • ¼ cup parsley
  • 1 egg


For the Dough:

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the flour and salt. With your hands, toss the butter and cream cheese in the flour mixture until each piece is lightly coated.
  2. With paddle, beat on low speed until the dough forms a loose mass around the paddle.
  3. Gently pat the dough into a 1-inch thick rectangle on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours, before rolling. You can refrigerate the dough for up to 1 day or freeze it for up to 3 months.
  4. After dough has chilled, roll out to about ⅛-¼ inch thick. Cut into 4-6 inch rounds, depending on what size biscuit/cookie cutter or glass you have.

For the Filling:

  1. Brown the meat over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. When you’re about hallway there, add the onion. Break up the meat as it cooks.
  2. Once all the meat has browned and the onion has softened, add the cauliflower, coriander, cardamom, garlic, and Thai red curry paste. Mix the spices in then taste and add more of anything to your liking.
  3. Once the cauliflower has softened, add the peas to warm. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley.

To Assemble:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk the egg with 1 tbsp water and set aside.
  2. Fill each pastry disk with 2-4 tbsp filling, depending on the size of your disks. You’ll want to leave enough room around the edge to seal. Brush the outer edge of the dough with the egg wash and fold in half. Pinch the edges closed and/or use a fork to crimp.
  3. Brush the tops with remaining egg wash and pierce with a fork to allow steam to escape. Place samosas on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  4. I don’t remember how long these cooked, but check them at 15 minutes and add more time until they’re lightly browned and crispy.
  5. Remove from oven and serve with desired dipping sauce. I used sweet and spicy chili sauce and hot honey. Enjoy!

April Grand Prize Winner: Linda

  • Theme: bold flavors
  • Winning dish: BBQ Pumpkin and Butter Bean Soup with Crispy BBQ Chickpeas



  • 1-2 tbsp BBQ spice mix: 1/4 cup paprika, 1 tbsp chili powder, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp sea salt, 2 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp dried oregano leaves, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 kg (about 2.2 lbs) pumpkin, peeled and cubed
  • 2-4 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 can butter beans
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • vegetable stock, as needed
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • salt and pepper, to taste


For the Soup:

  1. Peel and then cut the pumpkin into chunks.
  2. Drizzle with oil and 1-2 tbsp of the BBQ mix (depending on the level of spice desired)
  3. Add to a tray with the peeled garlic and the chopped up onion (can be large chunks)
  4. Roast in the oven for 15 min (200°C // 392°F)
  5. After 15 min, add in the drained butterbeans, stir in, bake for a further 10-15 min or until the pumpkin is soft
  6. Tip the pumpkin, onion, garlic and butter beans along with the coconut milk into a blender or use a stick blender
  7. Blend until smooth. Add in S&P to taste, and thin out with vegetable stock as needed to desired consistency

For the Chickpeas:

  1. Drain the chickpeas and dry them gently
  2. On a tray, mix the chickpeas with 1 tbsp oil and 1-2 tbsp of the BBQ spice mix
  3. Roast in the oven at 200°C (392°F) for 15 min, stir, then leave in the hot oven for up to 30 min to further dry out (can turn the oven off) – they might pop in the oven a bit!
  4. When ready to serve, top a bowl of the soup with some chickpeas, any garnish (coriander is lovely) and a drizzle of coconut milk.

About the Author

Brandi Schilhab

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