Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Aldi Reviews: Pizzelle

  • 40 cookies
  • Crisper and thinner than the ones we made last year.
  • Possibly a little less anise flavor, but it was still prominent.
  • Nice size and shape, and great packaging to keep them intact and fresh. (Wrapped in 4 separate packages.)
  • Only $2.79 (I'm pretty sure that's less than I paid for the bottle of anise extract last year.)
  • Definite two thumbs-up!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sausage With Tangy Caraway Cabbage

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pound kielbasa, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 16-ounce bag coleslaw mix (or equivalent cabbage)
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
kosher salt and black pepper
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
bread and whole-grain mustard, for serving

  • Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the kielbasa and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  • Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet and reduce heat to medium. Add the onion and cook, tossing occasionally, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Add the coleslaw mix, caraway seeds, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper and cook, tossing frequently, 2 minutes more.
  • Stir in the wine and vinegar. Nestle the kielbasa in the vegetables. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and wine has nearly evaporated, 5 to 6 minutes.
  • Stir in the parsley. Serve with the bread and mustard, if desired.
  • Everyone really liked this. I'll definitely make it again!
  • I only used 1/2 cup of wine (but more would've been fine)
  • I needed to buy caraway seeds and found a couple options at Cub: the little plastic jar, 0.9 ounces for $5.33 OR 2 ounces for $1.53 in the bulk spice packaging. Crazy!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cheddar Chicken



  1. Heat oven to 350° F. In a bowl, combine the crackers, cheese, garlic, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  2. Dip the chicken in the butter, then in the cracker mixture, pressing gently to help the crackers adhere. Place the chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  3. Sprinkle any remaining cracker mixture on the chicken and drizzle with any remaining butter. Bake until the chicken is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

  • I used powdered garlic (thought it would blend better).
  • I won't add salt next time. There's enough in the cheddar and crackers.
  • It was yummy and looked pretty much like the photo.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pumpkin Mousse Cheescake

1 c gingersnap crumbs
3 tbls sugar
1/4 c butter, melted

3 - 8 ounce pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 c sugar
1 c canned pumpkin
3 tbls flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
4 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 c vanilla or white chips
1 tbls shortening

Combine crust ingredients. Press into a 9 inch springform pan and bake at 325 for 10 minutes. Cool a little. (NB, I always set my springform on a baking sheet in case it gets leaky.)

Beat filling ingredients until smooth. Pour into crust.

Bake at 325 for 45-50 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool and refrigerate.

For glaze, melt ingredients and spread over cooled cake top.

NOTES: The original recipe is from Taste of Home Baking (2007). My changes are more spice and gingersnaps instead of graham crackers.
I made this for two gatherings in a row - it was delish!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Zuppa Toscana

1 bunch Kale, cut into bite-sized pieces
12 whole Red Potatos, cubed
1 whole Onion, Chopped
1-1/2 pound Italian Sausage
1/2 pound diced bacon
1 tsp. garlic
1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (more To Taste)
2 cups Chicken Broth (1 15 ounce can)
2 cups Milk
4 cups Half-and-half
Fresh Or Dried Oregano
Black Pepper To Taste

Preparation Instructions
  • Prepare the kale and set it aside.
  • In a medium pot. boil sliced potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and set aside.
  • In a large pot, crumble and brown the Italian sausage with the bacon and onion. Drain as much as the fat as you can. Stir in the red pepper flakes, garlic, oregano, chicken broth, milk, and half-and-half. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Give it a taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Add the potatoes, a splash of heavy cream for richness, then stir in the kale. Simmer an additional 10-15 minutes, then serve.
We had this soup at Olive Garden and it was fantastic! This recipe is a combination of my memories of the event combined with these two recipes. (Mostly the Pioneer Woman version but with less kale, more bacon and garlic.)

I did thicken it a little with cornstarch before adding the potatoes, but that's probably just my preference.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fusilli With Spinach, Ricotta, and Raisins

Inspired by Jen's account of pasta with golden raisins, I went off searching for recipes. This was awesome, and the whole thing (including thawing spinach) only took as long as cooking the pasta.
  • 12 ounces fusilli pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 10-ounce box box frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed of excess moisture
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (1/3 cup)
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup whole or part-skim ricotta
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Cook the pasta according to the package directions and drain and return to the pot.
Add the olive oil, spinach, scallions, raisins, basil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Toss to combine.
Fold in the ricotta, balsamic vinegar, Parmesan, and pine nuts.

Notes: I was working with what I had, and subbed a healthy splash (for one serving) of cream for the ricotta, and cashews for the pignoli. I also forgot to drain the spinach, and it didn't seem to hurt anything. I used a kitchen scissor to slice the basil and scallions right into the bowl, which saved on effort and dishes. A seriously simple Friday meal!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pumpkin Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon freshly-grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
optional: 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier, rum or brandy
3/4 cup pumpkin puree

In a medium saucepan mix the milk, cream, granulated sugar, ginger, ground cinnamon, cinnamon stick, nutmeg, and salt; warm until the edges begin to bubble and foam. Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl and gradually whisk in about half of the warm spiced milk mixture, stirring constantly. Scrape the warmed yolks back in to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Immediately pour the mixture through a strainer. Mix in the brown sugar, then chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.

Whisk in the vanilla, liquor (if using), and pumpkin puree. Press the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

FIg Cinnamon Preserves

3 lbs fresh figs, the riper the better
2-1/4 cups sugar
1-1/2 cup water
3 tbsp lemon juice
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon

Stem and quarter the figs.  Combine the water and sugar in a small kettle and heat until the sugar dissolves.  Add the lemon juice, cinnamon and figs; simmer for 45 minutes stirring occasionally and breaking up the figs.  Fill sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Process in boiling water for 10 minutes.

Makes ~3 pints.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

German Pancakes

6 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp melted butter

Blend eggs, milk, flour, and salt until smooth.  Pour the melted butter into a 9x13 pan and add the batter.  Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.  Serve with Buttermilk Syrup.

Source: Donna Shogren

Buttermilk Syrup

1-1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp corn syrup
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla

In a saucepan combine the first five ingredients and boil for 7 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.

Keeps well in a jar in the fridge.

Source: Donna Shogren

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Peanut Butter Brownies

This is becoming my go-to way of dressing up plain brownies. Adapted from this recipe, I just add the peanut butter filling to a 9 x 13 batch of brownies. A couple notes: 1) Making the PB filling as written gives you brownies that are at least half PB. If you don't want that much, use scant measurements or half it. 2) These seem to keep better than regular brownies, no doubt due to all the extra fat. They'd probably mail well.

Peanut butter mixture:
  • ½ cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1½ cups creamy peanut butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Mix brownies as directed, pour into prepared pan.
  2. Mix all peanut butter filling ingredients, then spoon it out on top of brownie batter.
  3. Using a knife or spoon (or finger if you want, I guess), swirl them together.
  4. Bake as directed on brownie mix.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ski Country Pasta

I have no idea where the name comes from, but I found the basic recipe here, and made a few changes.

1/2 c. sliced almonds
1/2 lb. sliced bacon
2 chicken breasts, cubed
4 c. penne pasta (or something else of similar size)
2-4 cloves garlic
7-8 oz. fresh spinach, chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
5 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
Splash of white wine
1 c. grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 c. fresh chopped basil

1. Toast almonds over medium heat for about 4 minutes. Set aside.

Cook bacon and chicken until done, and remove from pan and crumble bacon. Save bacon fat.

3. Cook pasta al dente (until it's done) in salted water.

4. Discard all but 6 Tbsp. bacon fat. Heat remaining bacon fat, and add garlic and chopped spinach. Stir over medium heat until tender (about a minute).

5. Whisk mustard, vinegar, and wine together in large bowl, and then mix in drained pasta, cheese, cooked spinach mixture, bacon, and basil. Serve warm, topped with toasted almonds.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Twix Bars

But so much more decadent than that.  Shortbread, vanilla bean caramel, bittersweet chocolate and grey sea salt all combined to make one of the most perfect and praised treats I've ever made.

Now I tweaked this rather significantly from Annie's Eats, most notably by replacing the caramel recipe entirely with a half batch of the caramel that I make at Christmas, after discovering that the original didn't work too well.  

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter

1/2 lb. butter
1 lb. brown sugar
8 oz corn syrup
1 cans sweetened condensed milk

2 tbsp rum(optional)
1/2 tbsp vanilla paste
1/2 tsp salt

8 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 stick butter

To make the shortbread layer, preheat the oven to 325° F.  Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.  In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir with a fork to blend, and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well blended, about 1-2 minutes.  With the mixer on low speed blend in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and press in an even layer over the bottom of the pan.  Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.

In a large kettle melt butter, stir in brown sugar, rum and salt. Gradually add corn syrup and milk, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat until it reaches firm ball stage(245 to 250). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.  Pour over the crust and allow to cool until firm.

Melt the chocolate and butter together, stir until smooth.  Spread over the caramel and sprinkle lightly with sea salt.

Use the parchment to lift the bar out of the pan; cut into 1-inch squares. Store in the refrigerator.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cinnamon Apple Pork Chops

Source: Taste of Home online

These were super easy, used one pan, and passed the Johnny test.

  • 4 boneless pork loin chops
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 medium tart apples, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans


  • In a large skillet over medium heat, cook pork chops in 1 tablespoon butter for 4-5 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 160° (I couldn't find my meat thermometer, so I just cooked them until they were done in the middle). Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  • Remove chops and keep warm. Add the apples, pecans, brown sugar mixture and remaining butter to the pan; cook and stir until apples are tender. Serve with chops.
  • Yield: 4 servings.

Aldi Tropical Fruit Salad

I only buy this product occasionally because it's typically pretty overpriced for canned fruit, but the Aldi version was a good alternative for a much more reasonable price. Light syrup and nice pieces of fruit.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


(From my recipe box)

1/2 c butter
1/2 c shortening
1 1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 c flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp soda
1/4 tsp salt

  • Mix butter, shortening, sugar, and eggs.
  • Blend in flour, cr. of tartar, soda, and salt. Shape into balls.
  • Mix 2 tbls sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon together and roll the balls in this.
  • Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tropical Sherbet

1 c sugar
1 c orange juice
1 c pineapple juice
1 ripe banana
1 T lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c milk

Combine all ingredients except milk in blender and blend until sugar is dissolved and banana is pureed. Add milk and chill in refrigerator if necessary, then freeze in ice cream maker.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Plank Grilled Salmon

Based on this, but with ingredients I had in my fridge. I used prepared honey mustard instead of the Dijon/brown sugar combo recommended. It was really good.

1 cedar plank (6 by 14 inches)
2 salmon fillets (1 1/2 pounds total)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons brown sugar
Soak cedar plank in salted water for 2 hours, then drain. Remove skin from salmon fillet. Remove any remaining bones. Rinse the salmon under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Generously season the salmon with salt and pepper on both sides. Lay the salmon (on what was skin-side down) on the cedar plank and carefully spread the mustard over the top and sides. Place the brown sugar in a bowl and crumble between your fingers, then sprinkle over the mustard.

Set grill for indirect grilling and heat to medium-high. Place the cedar plank in the center of the hot grate, away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook until cooked through, around 20 to 30 minutes. The internal temperature should read 135 degrees F. Transfer the salmon and plank to a platter and serve right off the plank.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Aldi Wins

  • Fig Newtons (99c for a 14oz package) - better texture than usual, and packaged in two smaller trays, so it should keep fresh longer.
  • Mineral water ($2.29 for a 12 pack) - Only one flavor (lime), but good

Monday, August 1, 2011

Aldi Kidney Beans

There are more beans in a can compared to Cub's brand (15.25 ounces vs. 15). They were the same quality and cheaper.

Aldi Mentos

Exactly like real Mentos, but four packages were only $0.99. We weren't able to see if they work for this because (1) we didn't have any diet Coke and (2) we ate all the candies before we could get some. Very good quality and a great value.

Rustic Peach Pie

From some magazine in the dentist's office.
Maybe Real Simple.

Good and Easy.
Like a pie but smaller.
And no effort was needed to make it look cute.

Cucumber Chicken

1 1/2 cucumbers
6 chicken breasts
3 scallions (or green onions)
3 tbls oil
2 lemons
salt, pepper, paprika to taste

Peel cucumbers, cut into quarters lengthwise and remove seeds. Then cube. Blanch them in boiling salted water for 3 minutes and rinse in cold water. Cut onions and cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and saute in the oil until cooked. Add lemon juice and 1/4 cup water. Bring to boil and add spices to taste. Put in cucumbers and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Serve with rice.

I changes the proportions to be more cucumber and less chicken heavy. I used a regular onion instead of green and I only had one lemon, so I added some lemon pepper in addition. In general, this recipe could use more color, but maybe if I hadn't messed with it so much it would be better. (Hello green onion and paprika!)

It tastes good and is a great way to use up garden cucumbers.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Spicy Black Bean and Sour Cream Enchiladas

2 cans Black Beans, Drained (15 Oz Each)
2 cloves Garlic, Minced
½ cups Chopped Onion, Divided
½ whole Lime, Juice And Zest
1 teaspoon Cumin
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 teaspoon Chili Powder
½ teaspoons Cinnamon
½ cups Sour Cream
1 cup Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese, Divided
1 can Green Enchilada Sauce (16 Oz)
1 can Mild Green Chilies (small, 4 Oz Can)
1 package Small Corn Tortillas (10 To 12 Tortillas Per Package)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine black beans, garlic and about half the chopped onions.
  • Next, add the lime (juice and zest), cumin, onion powder, chili powder, cinnamon, sour cream and about one third of the shredded cheese to the mixture. Combine well.
  • Spoon the filling into the corn tortillas (one at a time) and roll them by hand. Try to get them as tight as you can and then place them in a baking dish, seam side down.
  • Pour the green enchilada sauce on top so that it coats each tortilla.
  • Top with the remaining cheese, onions, and here is where you’ll add the super spice! I topped mine with a handful of the pickled jalapeno slices but if you’d prefer milder spice, use the mild green chilies listed in the ingredients list instead. Add as much as you want to suite your taste. This is your meal so make it however you like.
  • Bake in a 9 by 13 inch baking dish (or anything you have that’s long and rectangular) for 15 to 20 minutes until cheese is melted and tortilla edges look crispy and brown.
  • The flavors in the filling were great! I loved the lime and cinnamon together.
  • I didn't use a couple ingredients from the original recipe (cilantro and jalapenos). See the original recipe if you want to know where to put them.
  • Corn tortillas are annoying. Even though we warmed them a little in the microwave, they tended to crack when rolling. Great flavor, but if I wanted this dish to look better, I'd go for flour tortillas.
  • Be sure to drain the beans well. The sour cream tends to make it a little runny as it is.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Canning Cherries

Cherries are only $1.98/lb this week, so the time is right to try canning some! I've never done it before, but it was very easy. I started with 13 1/2 pounds of these:

Subtracted this:
(And with the help of this, it really didn't take long at all.)

By the end of the afternoon, I ended up with nineteen of these:
I used this recipe with the extra light syrup.

  1. Syrup (I needed 2 batches): heat 1 cup sugar with 4 1/2 cups water.
  2. Pack cherries into jars.
  3. Pour hot syrup over.
  4. Seal jars.
  5. Process in boiling water bath for 25 minutes.

Gratin of White Asparagus

  • 4 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 15 white asparagus spears
  • small bunch of lemon thyme, leaves only
  • generous 3/4 cup crème fraîche
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup fresh white bread crumbs
  • 3 1/2 ounces Parmesan, freshly grated
  • 2 tbsp minced curly parsley
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Brush a gratin dish with a little of the melted butter.

Trim the asparagus, slice the spears in half lengthwise, and lay them in the buttered gratin dish. Sprinkle with most of the lemon thyme leaves, saving a few for garnish.

Now put the crème fraîche and mustard into a heavy pan and place over medium heat. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer, then turn down the heat slightly and let bubble to reduce by about a quarter. Season the reduced mixture with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, put the bread crumbs in a bowl, add the Parmesan, parsley, and some pepper, and toss with your fingers to combine.

Pour the mustardy crème fraîche over the asparagus, then scatter the crumb mixture on top, distributing it evenly. Drizzle over the rest of the melted butter. Bake the gratin on the middle shelf of the oven until the top is crisp and golden and the cream bubbles up around the sides of the dish, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining thyme leaves and serve.

Notes: I substituted sour cream and skipped the reduction step. I made this in the morning, and then reheated it for dinner by placing it in the oven, turning it to 200, and then turning it off once it was heated and letting it sit until dinner time.

Lemon and Herb Crockpot roasted chicken

  • one thawed and skinned whole chicken
  • one head of garlic
  • 2 lemons
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh rosemary
Skin the chicken; rub it inside and out with a bunch of salt and pepper. Peel garlic and place whole cloves into the cavity. Slice the lemon arrange, along with rosemary on the bird. Do not add water. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Notes: I left the skin on, as mine was frozen when it went in, and only used one (rather thinly-sliced) lemon. This was super yummy, and didn't involve my oven. Win-win.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Chicken Cutlets

In the "unbelievably easy" category.

  • Cut a plump chicken breast in half lengthwise (see photo)
  • Dredge each piece in flour
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper (I used Montreal Chicken seasoning)
  • Add a little olive oil to a skillet and cook pieces 2-3 minutes on each side.
Source: Real Simple's daily recipe email.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


4 garlic cloves, minced and then mashed
2 15-oz cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
2/3 cup of tahini (roasted, not raw)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Pine nuts (toasted) and parsley (chopped) for garnish

  • In a food processor, combine the mashed garlic, garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, 1/2 cup water, and olive oil. Process until smooth. Add salt, starting at a half a teaspoon, to taste.
  • Spoon into serving dish and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley.
  • Serve with crackers, raw dip vegetables such as carrots or celery, or with pita bread. You can cut the pita bread into thin triangles, brush with olive oil and toast for 10 minutes in a 400°F oven to make pita chips with which to serve the hummus.
  • Makes about 3 cups.
NOTES: I didn't have tahini or pine nuts, but I did toast about 1/3 cup of sesame seeds and puree them in. It definitely changes the flavor, so less (or none) would also work well.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Aldi pure fat and sugar cookies

Yum. That is all.

Better strawberry flavor than the other ones we've gotten.
0% Trans Fat (practically health food!)

Thai Chicken Skewers

¼ smooth peanut butter
2 Tbsp. chopped onion
2Tbsp. chopped parsley (fresh)
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 ½ tsp. soy sauce
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
½ tsp. ground coriander
1 pound boneless skinless chicken tenderloins
Wooden skewers

Combine all ingredients, except chicken, in medium bowl. Add chicken, toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate 6 to 8 hours overnight. Put chicken on skewers. Broil, grill or bake. Bake 350 for 20-30 minutes.

NOTES: I doubled the recipe but still only used 1 teaspoon of Tabasco sauce for this crowd. I did not have coriander, so just ignored it, and I misread the recipe and used tablespoons for the soy sauce measure instead of teaspoons. Despite all of these adjustments, they were very good!

I grilled them, but Sheila baked them for core group last month. Both were tasty and moist. If you bake them, you might want to save yourself a nasty clean-up mess by covering your baking sheet with foil.

Source: Sheila Bauer

Monday, June 27, 2011

Aldi peaches

Following up on a conversation with Gianna (in which she mentioned purchasing peaches for TWENTY-NINE CENTS PER POUND), and Therese's post, just previous, on homemade peach ice cream, Nick and I had to check out our local Aldi in the hopes of getting some kind of similar deal.

Alas, we're not close enough to peach country to score that kind of deal, but they were $0.39 cents each, and that sounded pretty good. Just out of curiosity, I weighed them when I got home and discovered my six peaches came out to 2.25 pounds and I paid $2.34 which comes out to $1.04/lb. which is quite a bit less than a comparable product at Cub.*

Granted, the Cub product was bigger and riper (and smelled like a shadowy version of something I hope to encounter in heaven someday), but for close to half price, I'm a fan.

I also got blueberries for $1.29/pint again. And that's just amazing.

I did notice that the coffee creamer I purchased for $1.49 at the Hwy. 65 Aldi was $2.19 at the one by Riverdale. I wonder if that's typical?

*Yes, I did take a photo of a price sign at Cub. Fortunately, it's almost impossible to embarrass my kids. ;-)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Honey-Peach Ice Cream


Also pictured: Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Cookie Thins

Makes about 1 quart

4 Large Ripe Peaches (about 2 pounds)
1/4 c. Honey
1 c. Whole Milk
1 c. Heavy Cream
3 large egg yolks
1/2 c. Sugar
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

To peel and pit the peaches: Fill a large pot with enough water to cover your peaches. Bring the water to a boil. Using a paring knife, lightly score the bottom of each peach with an X. Then add the peaches to the boiling water for 45 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peaches to a bowl of ice water for 30 seconds. Remove the skin with your fingers or a paring knife. Cut along the seam of each peach to the pit, running your knife all the way around the fruit. Twist each half in opposite directions to free one half from the pit. Remove the pit with your fingers or the knife.

Coarsely chop half the peaches into 1/2-inch chunks, and toss them into a small saucepan. Add honey, and bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the peaches are soft but not mushy, about 10 minutes. Puree the mixture using a blender, food processor or immersion blender. Set aside.

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk and cream to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar together. Still whisking, drizzle in about one third of the hot liquid – this will temper the eggs so they don’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remaining liquid. Pour the custard back into the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring without stopping, until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon. The custard should reach at least 170 degrees F, but no more than 180 degrees F, on an instant-read thermometer. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, and pour the custard into a 2-quart glass measuring cup or clean heatproof bowl. Stir in the vanilla and peach puree.

Refrigerate the custard until chilled before churning it into ice cream.

Scrape the chilled custard into the bowl of an ice cream maker, and churn according to manufacturer’s directions. While the ice cream is churning, finely dice the remaining 2 peaches, then, just before the ice cream is thickened and ready, add the peaches and churn to blend. Pack the ice cream into a container and freeze it for at least 2 hours, until it is firm enough to scoop.

Notes: Until just now, I didn't notice that you were only supposed to puree half the peaches. Which is just as well, because Brian isn't a fan of peach chunks in his ice cream.

I used 5 peaches, which cam to about 1 lb, 10 oz. It's quite yummy, but I think I'll try it again at some point with the full 2 lbs., to weigh it more towards the peaches than the cream.

Rhu-berry Crisp

1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c butter, melted
1 c brown sugar
1 c rolled oats
1 tsp cinnamon

Blend flour, brown sugar, oats and cinnamon. Stir in butter until mixture is crumbly. Pat half into a greased 9-inch square pan.

2 c sliced strawberries
3 c sliced rhubarb
1 c sugar
3 tbls cornstarch

Mix fruit, sugar, and cornstarch. Spread over crust. Sprinkle with a few drops of lemon juice, if desired. Sprinkle with the remaining crust mixture and bake at 325 for about 1 hour. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

NOTES: I used blueberries instead of strawberries. Very good!

This is in the church cookbook, page 309, but it says to use 1 1/2 cups margarine in the crust. It must be a typo. I used 1/2 c butter and it was good. Update your cookbooks, ladies.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Machine Shed's Baked Potato Soup

How could I never have posted this before? It's Nick's favorite food in the world!

2 1/2 lb. baby red potatoes (quartered)
1/2 lb. raw bacon, diced
1 jumbo yellow onion, diced
1/4 bunch celery, diced
1 quart water
2 ounces chicken soup base
1 quart milk
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 sticks margarine (butter is the obvious substitute here)
1 1/2 c flour
1 c whipping cream (or half and half)
1/4 bunch chopped parsley
  1. Boil potatoes in water for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large, heavy pot, saute bacon, onions, and celery over medium heat until celery is tender. Drain bacon grease and return stuff to the pot.
  3. Add milk, 1 qt. water, chicken base, salt and pepper. Heat over med. heat until very hot, but do not boil.
  4. In a heavy saucepan, melt butter and add flour, making a roux. Mix well and allow to bubble, stirring for 1 minute. While constantly stiffing the soup, add the roux slowly. Continue to stir until thick and creamy.
  5. Stir in potatoes, parsley and cream.
  6. Serve hot. Garnish with shredded Colby, fried bacon bits, chopped green onions, or all three.
NOTES: I quite often do not have cream and have just substituted another cup of milk instead. It kinda balances all that butter and bacon anyway.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sausage Orzo for Two

1/2 lb orzo
1/2 lb chicken sausage links in your favorite savory flavor
1/4 cup grated romano cheese
1/4 cup caesar vinaigrette dressing(or greek dressing)

Boil and lightly salt a large pot of water; add the orzo and sausage and boil until both are cooked through; drain. Slice sausage links diagonally into bite-sized pieces; stir sausage, orzo, cheese and dressing together.

Makes 2-3 servings

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fresh cookies

It worked! Last time I made cookie dough I immediately put half of it in the freezer and only baked a reasonable number of cookies for three people. I just pulled it out (maybe 4-6 weeks later) and it baked up just like new.

Not only are we not tempted to overeat, but we get fresh cookies twice with only one mess.

(And if anyone knows of a good product to clean aluminum pans, looks like I could use it.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Aldi Classic Blend Tea

Every summer, I buy a big box of inexpensive tea (usually Lipton) for making sun tea. This year, I decided to try Aldi's brand. On the plus side, the tags aren't part of the envelope, so it takes about half as long to unpackage them, as you don't have to mess with those inadequate perforations. I did think the flavor was a bit weaker (or just a tad off somehow), but that wasn't noticeable at all once you added lemon. All in all, a win.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Iced Coffee

Subtitle: Liquid Love

Jen and I have been refrigerating the leftover coffee each morning for later in the day, but just drinking it cold seemed inadequate. Pouring it over ice diluted it too much, so we tried making coffee ice cubes. This works, but it's kind of messy and needed a dedicated ice cube tray and (obviously) freezer space.

Enter Pioneer Woman. Her timely post offered another option that involves making a quantity of concentrate that's ready at our command. Nice.

Iced Coffee Concentrate
1 pound Ground Coffee (good, Rich Roast)
8 quarts Cold Water
Half-and-half (healthy Splash Per Serving)
Sweetened Condensed Milk (2-3 Tablespoons Per Serving)
Note: Can Use Skim Milk, 2% Milk, Whole Milk, Sugar, Artificial Sweeteners, Syrups...adapt To Your Liking!

In a large container, mix ground coffee with water. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature eight hours or overnight.
Line a fine mesh strainer with cheesecloth and set over a pitcher or other container. Pour coffee/water mixture through the strainer, allowing all liquid to run through. Discard grounds.
Place coffee liquid in the fridge and allow to cool. Use as needed.

To make iced coffee, pack a glass full of ice cubes. Fill glass 2/3 full with coffee liquid. Add healthy splash of half-and-half. Add 2-3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk (can use plain sugar instead) and stir to combine. Taste and adjust half-and-half and/or sweetened condensed milk as needed.

NOTES: I made a batch using 1/2 lb coffee and 1 gallon of water. It seems less bitter than our other method using previously heated coffee. Jen gives it two thumbs-up! I let this batch steep overnight and I'd recommend stirring it one or two times during the process. Even though I made sure all the grounds were wet initially, after a few hours I saw there were definite layers forming in my container. When I opened it, I found there were a lot of grounds floating on top. After this stirring, they sank to the bottom and, I assume, gave up more of their coffee goodness.

Go to the original post for all the nice pictures.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tomato, Provolone, and Fresh Basil Pizza

I adore fresh basil and was thrilled to find this pot full at Trader Joe's for only $3.99! I gave it a couple weeks to acclimate to its new home before I traumatized it by plucking off bunches of leaves, but yesterday was the day! We needed Friday food and the Provolone I just got at Costco (2 lbs. sliced/$6.99) had a yummy looking recipe on the back.

Homemade pizza crust (thanks, KitchenAid!)
3 Tbsp. olive oil (or less)
Provolone cheese
Parmesan cheese
Roma tomatoes, sliced
salt and pepper
Fresh basil leaves

Spray pizza pan and spread dough out evenly. Brush unbaked crust with olive oil; top with freshly ground pepper, sliced provolone, tomatoes, basil and finally, grated Parmesan. Perfect.

Bake at 425 for 10 minutes or until done.

Aldi Coffee Creamer

Yuk, yuk, 1000 times yuk! In all fairness, I think something may be wrong with this particular container. The 2nd ingredient listed is sugar and it's not sweet at all. (Just a nasty fake "dairy" flavor.) I'll probably return it and try again. Good news? It was only $1.49/quart.

On the other hand, I also got a sugar-free hazelnut flavored one that was quite good. $1.99/qt.

Cocoa Raisin-Nut Brownies Bars

1/2 c (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c flour
1/3 c cocoa powder
1/2 c chocolate chips
1/2 c coarsely chopped nuts
1/2 c raisins (or golden raisins)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt

Heat oven to 350. Grease 8-inch square baking pan.

In a small mixer bowl, beat butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, stir together other ingredients. Add to butter mixture, stirring until well blended.

Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake 30-35 minutes or until bars just begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool; cut into bars. Sift powdered sugar over the top if desired.

Double for baking in a cake pan.

NOTE: Excellent!

Source: Hershey's Homemade (1991)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Baked Pork Chops and Rice

6 pork chops
1 1/2 c. uncooked rice
1 can cream of celery soup
14 ounces water
1 tsp. Worchestershire Sauce
Brown pork chops in skillet then place pork chops in casserole dish with rice. Whisk soup, water, and Worch. sauce together and pour over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serves 6.

  • The original recipe was for 4 chops and used 1 cup of rice, the can of soup and 1 cup of water.
  • It also called for beef consomme, but I had the cream soup on hand.
  • I covered it with foil to retain the moisture in the rice. Not sure if that was necessary.

Aldi Pizza Rolls

I brought Nick with this time (at lunch time) to pick up a few things for the church anniversary's hospitality and we ended up leaving with Pizza Rolls and $0.99/lb. strawberries. (Hey, one of those items fits into an actual food group!)

We both agreed that these Pizza Snacks are quite a bit better than the Totino's brand we occasionally get. The crust part was crisp and actually contained the filling as it heated. They weren't the oozy, almost-need-a-fork mess that the others are. The filling was pretty much an identical, unidentifiable bit of pizza-ish stuff, but the overall rating was better. At $2.49 for this 40 pack, I think they're a good deal, but I really don't buy the others often enough to know off hand.

Also, Holly, I discovered that they do, indeed, have cool whip but it's by the ice cream and not in the dairy section by the spray whipped cream.

And Nick had a quarter for the cart!

Chicken Chili Calzones

Weird combination, yes. I had a batch of chili that I wasn't particularly fond of, and decided to make it into something else. The result was...awesome. Make-for-guests good.

1 pkg. yeast
1 c. warm (105 to 115 degrees) water
2 1/2 to 3 c. flour
1 tbsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. oil

1 chicken breast, cubed (cooked) (could also use hamburger or something else)
~2 c. chili
~3/4 mozzarella cheese, shredded

Dissolve yeast in water. Let activate in warm place, about 5 minutes.

In large bowl, put 2 cups flour, sugar, salt and oil. Add yeast. Add additional flour until dough is stiff. Pour out onto floured bread board. Knead in additional flour until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in lightly greased bowl, cover, let rise in a place free from draft, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Divide dough into balls (it makes 4 pretty big calzones; divide into smaller sections if desired), roll into circles. Divide the filling ingredients among calzones, fold in half, and seal edges with fork.

Bake on greased cookie sheet for 15 minutes.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Coleslaw with Ramen Noodles

1 lb. bag shredded cabbage
1 bag Oriental Flavor Ramen Noodles
1/2 c sunflower seeds

3 tbsp. vinegar
2 tbsp. sugar
Salt and pepper
1/2 c. oil
Ramen seasoning packet

4 tbsp. sesame seeds

Toss together 1/2 hour before serving with 4 chopped green onions.

NOTES: An oldie, but a goodie. The toasted sesame seeds are a major flavor, so don't skip it. I toasted them in a non-stick pan, medium/high heat, no oil.

The original recipe had 1 cup of almonds toasted with the sesame seeds. I didn't have any so I substituted the sunflower seeds.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Apple Pancakes

2 cups flour
5 tsp. baking powder (yes, five)
2 tsp. salt
3 tbls. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups milk
6 tbls. oil (1/3 cup)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup chopped, unpeeled apples

Mix dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients. Fold in apples.
Makes 2 1/2 dozen 4-5" pancakes.

NOTE: I used to make this recipe all the time when the kids were younger. It was good to remember it. :-)

Source: Farm Journal Cookbook

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Aldi Triscuits

Yum! These Triscuit wannabees have about the same texture with less salt and a fairly pronounced rosemary flavor. (The first flavor to hit my tongue is also a slight sweetness.)

Very good and half the price. Two thumbs up! I wonder if they have other flavors?

Aldi Cheetos

So it looks like we only bought junk food from Aldi, but really there was fruit too!

This time, I'm reviewing Cheese Curls, which, as you can see, are already gone. It's a good thing Nick mentioned it before eating the last one, or he would've had to write for me here.

These were cheap and crunchy and had that orangy fake cheese flavor that I would expect. Real Cheetos are better, but these were fine (and less salty).

We'd buy them again.

Price Comparison: Aldi vs. Meijer

I had some spare time yesterday, so I did a direct comparison of a few items to see how Aldi compares to Meijer.

Whole Chicken
Meijer: $0.89/lb
Aldi: $0.85/lb

Chicken Breast, frozen
Meijer: $2.50/lb
Aldi: $1.83/lb

Ground Beef (90/10)
Meijer: $4.89/lb
Aldi: $3.39/lb

Ground Turkey
Meijer: $4.99/lb
Aldi: $2.49/19 oz

Meijer: $2.29/3 lb
Aldi: $1.49/ 3 lb

Meijer: $3.29/lb (I got it on sale for $2.50)
Aldi: $2.69/lb

Monday, June 6, 2011

Aldi Cornbread Crackers

Emily recommended these with chili (if I recall correctly), so when we saw them Holly grabbed a box. Fortunately, it was at the beginning of the first aisle or it wouldn't have made the can-we-carry-it cut on the no quarter/no cart day when we bought 2 watermelon and 16 pints of blueberries, among other things.

They're light and slightly sweet and have just a bit of corn meal texture. I don't think they'd stand up to dips because of the tender texture, but they would certainly support a piece of sharp cheddar and they're good on their own. We give them two thumbs up.

Aldi Reviews

This post inaugurates a new category, Aldi Reviews. Thanks to lots of tips from Molly, encouragement from Emily, and interest from Holly (not to mention the fact that I don't need to carry cash anymore to pay there), I actually shopped at Aldi twice last week.

I didn't have a quarter and forgot bags, but we found some great bargains including fresh blueberries for $1.29/pint! When I think of it from time to time, I hope to post opinions on various Aldi-specific purchases and encourage you other Bear Country Kitchen writers to do the same. I'd love to do the same with Trader Joe's, but it's too far away from me to be on my regular shopping beat and I'm way closer than you others are.

Anyway, chips. I got these at the same time as regular Sun Chips thinking we'd do a side-by-side comparison. That didn't happen, but these chips can stand up on their own merits. They're lighter than Sun Chips and, in my opinion, taste exactly like Bugles. These have a multi-grain texture, but in a nice way. I'd definitely buy them again.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lemon Blueberry Pancakes

  • 1½ cup Cake Flour
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • 1 T (heaping) Baking Powder
  • 3 T Sugar
  • 1½ cup Evaporated Milk
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1½ tsp Vanilla
  • 2 T Butter, Melted
  • Zest From 1 Lemon
  • 1 cup Blueberries
In a medium bowl, mix flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, mix evaporated milk, juice of 1 lemon (more if lemon isn’t very juicy), and lemon zest. Allow to sit for five minutes, then add egg, vanilla, and melted butter. Mix to combine.

Pour wet mixture into dry ingredients. Stir gently to combine. Splash in more evaporated milk if mixture is overly thick. Stir in blueberries. Again, check to make sure mixture isn’t overly thick.
Melt butter in heated skillet. Drop batter by 1/4 cup measures and fry pancakes on both sides until golden.

Notes: These were so good, Brian complemented me on them the next day!
I used regular milk with no problem. I also used whole wheat pastry flour instead of cake flour.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Bread

3 c sugar
1 c vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 (15 oz) can solid-pack pumpkin
3 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 c water

Mix, pour into two loaf pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 60-65 minutes.
Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool.

NOTES: This was easy and really good. All that oil helped the bread stay moist for a full week! Next time, I think I'll try substituting 1/2 cup of the oil with 1/2 c applesauce. I'll comment with the results.

Source: Taste of Home Baking Book

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Country Brunch

16 slices firm white bread
2 1/2 c cubed, cooked ham
1 lb. shredded cheddar cheese
1 lb. shredded mozzarella
6 eggs
3 c milk
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp onion powder

Trim the crust from bread and cut the slices in half. Grease a 9 x 13 pan. Layer with half the bread, half the ham, and half the cheese; repeat layers. Combine the remaining ingredients. Pour over mixture and refrigerate overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.

3 cups cornflakes
1/2 c melted butter
Combine and sprinkle over eggs. Cover loosely with foil. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
  • I'm just amazed at how well raw egg dishes work for freezer meals!
  • I divided this recipe in half and put each in one of my 11 cup Pyrex dishes.
  • I happened to have some leftover hamburger buns that fit just right for the bread requirement. I sliced each in fourths so they were about the thickness of a slice of bread and just left the crusts on. It worked just fine.
  • I didn't bother with the topping because I rarely have corn flakes, but if you wanted to do that, just freeze the egg part and then slip your zip loc of topping in the dish when it's all solid. Sprinkle it on before thawing and baking.
  • We ate one dish and I froze the other for another day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bittersweet Chocolate Soufflé with Earl Grey Custard Sauce

No Picture, because you really do have to eat it immediately.

6 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon Earl Grey tea leaves (from 3 tea bags)

1/3 cup whole milk
8 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 1/2 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 large egg yolks
5 large egg whites

For sauce:
Whisk egg yolks and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl to blend well. Combine milk, cream, tea leaves, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into egg yolk mixture; return to same saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens enough to leave path on spoon when finger is drawn across, about 8 minutes (do not boil). Immediately strain sauce into small bowl. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, at least 4 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.)

For soufflé:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter 6-cup soufflé dish; coat dish with sugar. Combine milk and 5 tablespoons sugar in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves and milk comes to simmer. Remove from heat; add both chocolates and stir until melted and smooth. Whisk in egg yolks.
Using electric mixer, beat whites in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add 3 tablespoons sugar, beating until stiff but not dry. Fold whites into warm chocolate mixture in 3 additions. Transfer mixture to prepared dish.
Bake soufflé until just set in center and top is puffed and cracked all over, about 32 minutes. Serve soufflé immediately with custard sauce.

Notes: I cut back on the sugar in the sauce, and it was still really sweet. It was also super thick straight out of the fridge (more like custard), so bringing it back to room temperature might be good. It would also probably be good with mint tea or orange zest.

When you fold, it shouldn't be completely homogeneous; mine was still marbled and had small lumps of egg whites. It sorted itself out in the oven pretty well. I made a half batch in a 5-cup pyrex dish, and that baked about 20 minutes.