Thursday, July 19, 2012

Aldi Reviews - Three Bean Salad

99 cents
Good flavor.
The texture is a little mushy, but they are cooked green beans for heaven's sake!  I'd buy it again.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Product Recommendation - Rib Rack

Dad used this to grill thick-cut pork chops tonight and it worked really well!  He set them in a baking dish and marinated in a little whiskey before grilling.  Once the charcoal was ready, seared them on the grill for one minute on each side and then stood them up (bone side down) in the rack and simply cooked with the lid on until they reached 150 (about 15 minutes).  Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Very moist and tender!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Aldi Reviews - Thin Wheat Crackers

In the interest of saving money and boycotting Nabisco, we're trying to buy more stuff at Aldi.  These both get high marks in side-by-side tests with Wheat Thins and, as expected, they're about half the price.
$1.29 for either original or reduced fat.

Shortbread Tea Tarts

Photo Credit:
J. M. Klejeski
1 cup (227 grams) (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (55 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (200 grams) all purpose flour
3 tablespoons (30 grams) cornstarch (corn flour) or rice flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

  • Lightly butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray, 36 miniature muffin tins (approximately 2 inch (5 cm) in diameter).
  • In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together (1-2 minutes) until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour, cornstarch and salt and mix just until incorporated. If the shortbread dough is too soft to roll into balls, cover and refrigerate for about 30-60 minutes.
  • Take a scant 1 tablespoon of shortbread dough (about 15 grams) and place in the center of each muffin tin. With your fingertips, press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of the individual muffin tin. Once filled, cover and place the tart pan, with the unbaked shells, in the freezer for about 15 minutes so the shortbread can become firm. (This will help to prevent the shortbread from puffing up during baking.)
  • Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven.
  • Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown. About halfway through the baking time, if the shortbread has puffed up, lightly prick the bottom of each shortbread with the tines of a fork. Once they are fully baked, remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. When completely cooled, remove the tarts from the pan. (They can be frozen.)

8 ounces cream cheese (not low fat)
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla

We used blueberries and raspberries, but kiwi, tiny strawberries, or blackberries would also be good.

The original recipe is here.  There were lots of warnings about how fragile the crusts were, but mine came out of the pans really well.  I did take care to weigh the dough (15 grams, as suggested) and when I pushed them into the mini-muffin tins, I made sure the sidewalls weren't thin at all.  The impressions I made were more bowl shaped, resulting in fairly thick bottoms and walls.  Fortunately, the shortbread was delish (!) so this wasn't a problem at all.

We piped my standard fruit pizza filling into each (rather than the sweetened condensed milk version on the original recipe), topped it with a berry, and refrigerated them until the tea party.

I made the crusts early in the week, and just filled them a few hours before serving.  It is now the day after though and they're still very good.

Apricot Wild Rice Salad

Ours basically looked the same (minus the random Christmas ornament)

Photo and recipe credit to Taste of Home


  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups uncooked wild rice
  • 2 cups finely chopped dried apricots
  • 2 cups dried cherries
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt


  • In a large saucepan, bring water and rice to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 45-50 minutes or until rice is tender. Drain if necessary. Transfer to a large bowl; cool completely.
  • Meanwhile, place apricots in a small bowl; cover with boiling water. Let stand for 5 minutes; drain. Stir the apricots, cherries and walnuts into rice. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, lemon juice, maple syrup and salt. Pour over rice mixture and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Yield: 15 servings (2/3 cup each).
  • Use a good quality olive oil, because it's a pretty major flavor.
  • We omitted the maple syrup and it was just fine.  
  • We thought that the amount this recipe was supposed to make was a little ridiculous, so we went with about 4 cups of cooked rice, a 6-oz bag of apricots, and about half on the dressing ingredients.
  • Overall a thumbs-up, and it was fun to make something a little different!

Caprese Salad

We made this for our tea party last night, which was a great option to have as part of our "light dinner."  It's easy to make, summery, fresh, delicious, and really pretty!  Nothing special--just plain mozzarella from Costco, basil from the garden, bushel boy tomatoes, and a mixture of balsamic vinegar and Italian dressing.  Mostly I just wanted to post a few photos because mom did such a nice job at making it pretty.  One thing to note is that it's best to make this at the last minute; by the end of the evening, the cheese had lost a lot of its moisture, so it was kind of just sitting in liquid in the plate.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Vodka Pie Crust

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into small bits
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes.

Originally from Cooks Illustrated

You can use all butter, which results in a crisper, firmer crust.  The butter/shortening blend makes the most tender pie crust I've ever had.

Aldi Reviews - Sunflower Seed Bread

I bought this because I was curious about the product and the possibility of using it for the Tea.  There are 7 thin slices in a package, each about 3"x 6".  It tastes really healthy (more like nuts held together with a little bread dough), and toasted really well.  It's pretty dry and firm and would probably make a good base for some kind of hors d'oeuvres, used in the same way as those little pumpernickel loaves I get in the deli section at the grocery store.  It would not be good in any kind of traditional sandwich with two slices of bread, imo.  It came in two other flavors: pumpernickel and (maybe whole wheat - can't remember for sure).

One thumbs up for super-healthy toast!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Aldi Reviews - Sweet Potato Chips

$1.99 for 7 ounces
Good flavor and very lightly salted.
The firm, crisp texture would be good with some kind of really healthy dip.  (If you have suggestions, let me know.)