Aldi’s…My Latest Finds

Okay, I confess to loving cheese curls, baked ones… bag marked gluten free and totally addictive in the cheesy crunch of these treats. But this post is not about them.  It is focused on treats you can buy for cheap at Aldi’s. These are products new to me. Just forget I mentioned cheese curls…for now!

aldi's

green pea crisps

Ever eat Green Pea Crisps by Simply Nature? Never tried them until recently, you can find these interesting snack crisps at Aldi’s… This is a baked whole pea pod with less fat than potato chips; about 120 calories for a one ounce serving.  They are very tasty, irresistible in their fluffy powdery crunch. Labeled gluten free, baked instead of fried and free of a lot of additives.  The coating is rice flour, baked with any of three vegetable oils.  I had even almost half the bag before I realized they had the note “Processed in a facility that uses, milk, wheat and soy.”  Whoops! Now that was a big downer.  I hadn’t gotten ill, it was my second time of eating them with no issues so I did keep and finish them another day.  Not sure I will buy again, a bit chancy in my opinion. I wish they would not use wheat in the same facility.  Probably not safe for those of us with celiac because even a crumb of gluten (wheat, rye or barley) is enough to make a celiac really ill.

I also bought some Aldi’s Gluten Free Mini Pretzels.  They were rather hard and crunchy; fairly similar to other gf mini pretzels.  Cheaper but not better tasting.

mini pretzelsfiesta lime crisps

In the liveGfree food line available only at Aldi’s a stand out is their black bean and rice flour fiesta lime crackers.  They are spicy and crisp.  We tried them with a goat cheese spread I made with fresh herbs.  Amazing combination: the spread is basically plain goat cheese made smooth by adding a tbsp. of organic yogurt and flavored by a tbsp. of minced fresh herbs like oregano, garlic chives and thyme or rosemary.  Also ate some with extra sharp cheddar cheese and tomato jam; wonderful combo.  I have been enjoying their sea salt multi seed gf crackers for a while now; they are lightly salted and perfectly flavored.  Go with cheese or dips and are priced to please.  Why spend $4 bucks on crackers when you can go to Aldi’s and get these for less than half of that?multi seed crackers

Saved the best for last: Aldi’s Hazelnut Dark Chocolate bars, big, crunchy, delish and only $2.  A must buy if you like dark chocolate, made in Germany and marked gf.

hazelnut chcolatehazelnut chcolate

So, yes…get to Aldi’s; great prices, interesting and tasty gluten free products.  Just take a shopping bag or two with you; bags are extra!

Why This Blog….

Let me provide some minor clarifications for those who had questions about me and my blog.  Yes, I have celiac disease, diagnosed 2.5 years ago but probably sick for 3 years before; getting worse until the docs started seriously looking for a cause.  And yes, I had it as a kid; why I always had a tummy ache, couldn’t get to sleep, couldn’t gain any wait, thin as a rail and very anxious.  Bunch of other symptoms we won’t mention here for brevity’s sake. Illness disappeared by age 18 (no one could figure that one out back then) and did not return until serious stress about 5 years ago. This is not that uncommon with childhood celiac.

I do have one person in my family who has celiac, rest claim not.  I have my doubts. It does run in families.  I wish they would all get tested.

I never ever post recipes that I haven’t made myself.  Most recipes are versions of ones I have found in cookbooks or on line say at foodnetwork.com.  I seldom make a recipe exactly as it originally is.  I am a collector of cookbooks but I have gotten rid of a lot of baking ones.  They made me sad.  I have several new gf ones I am fond of.

I eat lots of vegetables and fruits: adore them but not fond of creamed corn, stewed tomatoes or succotash. Love potatoes, pasta and some beans. I do eat some sort of meat protein most days but completely enjoy a well crafted vegetarian entree.  I am not fond of raw proteins.  Nope. Nor organ meats or wild critters like rabbit or snake.  Not tried alligator yet.  Love elk, or deer and accept all donations of excess frozen venison. And yes, I love baking pies and muffins….made some apple muffins last night!

apple muffins veggie mix 006

Love cooking, love sharing food, love sharing recipes, that’s me.  Enjoy writing an awful lot; gives me a real rush to share my own posts.  I do this for that joyful moment when I push the publish button.  I hope I help educate those without celiac and give food/meal ideas to those who cook for someone with celiac.  Cooking should be fun as well as creative.  Substituting stuff for things you don’t have is okay! Being celiac is a challenge, not a death sentence.  I eat great and feel fantastic and I think that shows in many areas of my life.   My motto is Cook, Eat, Love and Write.  I cook so you have something great to eat!

Cool as a Cucumber Summer Soup!

Summer, time of ice cream, Popsicle, tomato sandwiches, salads and cucumber soup!  Really, cucumber soup on a hot summer day is cool on your palate and fairly healthy. And we have had a lot of hot days of late so you are due for a refreshing cool soup. It is also a perfect use for three cukes straight from your overburdened cucumber vines.  Or three cucumbers from a produce stand.  The fresh the cuke the better your soup will be.

This recipe came out of a magazine a decade ago, one of my sisters made it once for me and I got the recipe then.  I have made raw cucumber soups and they are nice but this is my favorite cucumber soup.  If you don’t like dill leave it out. I have done that; it is more delicate and you can then really taste the hint of lemon in the soup.  Once I made it with vegetable broth for a vegetarian and it was excellent that way too.

cucumber soup

Cucumber Soup

Take 3 medium cukes, peel them, cut in half at the middle point and then in half again from the stem to end so they are like short cucumber canoes. Then scoop out most or all of the seeds.  Shred the cuke canoes into a big bowl using the biggest hole size on your shredder.  Drain in a strainer but save the juice to add to the soup along the way.

Cut up one small onion; 1/3 cup or so.

Cut up 3 scallions

Melt 2 tbsp of butter and a tbsp olive oil in a large heavy bottomed sauce pan.  Add the onion, cook 1-2 minutes and then add the shredded cuke.  Cook 5 min, add the scallions, stir, then add chicken broth to cover; 2.5 to 3 cups.

Add ½ cup dry white wine, the reserved cuke juice and the zest of ½ a lemon (1 tsp).  Sometimes if I don’t have an open bottle of white wine I use vermouth; it works well in a pinch.

Heat until nearly boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 20-25 minutes.  Let cool at least 30 minutes and puree.  You can use an immersion blender, a regular blender or a food processor.  The boat motor blender (immersion) is much more fun and easier.  I like to leave a bit of it unblended so it isn’t really smooth like a true cream soup.  Add 1 cup sour cream and 1 tsp sea salt, whisk well.  I use light sour cream; Daisy is my favorite brand.   Add 1-2 tbsp chopped fresh dill.  Stir well.  Chill 4 to 6 hours.

I often chill the bowls if it is a hot day and so ice cold soup goes into equally cold bowls.  You can garnish with a dill frond or not. Or a small dollop of sour cream can be pleasant.

The photo above is from a past family dinner party.  It makes a big jar; enough to serve 6-8 people.

Chilled cucumber soup; it’s a great starter to a meal on a hot summer evening or for a light lunch pair it with a salad or some grilled fish.  Yumm!

Originally published July 2014.

Legal Sea Foods….Another Lovely Meal (and GF)

My favorite restaurant to eat out at is Legal Sea Foods.  I try to always make it there when I am in Boston visiting family.  This July’s vacation was no different.  I was looking forward to the great service and even greater seafood and their menu has a number of gluten free items.

legal sea foods

We were seated promptly and ordered a bottle of delightful white wine.  The server was knowledgeable and selections were made.  For starters we three shared a dozen oysters on a bed of ice; made up from three different varieties.  They came with two sauces: a champagne vinaigrette and the traditional horseradish cocktail sauce.  I had several, they were small and succulent and I tried both sauces.  Loved them; should say I am only in the last couple of years learning to like raw oysters. I like the really small fat ones; easier for me to swallow.

oysters

Then we shared an order of deep fried calamari.  Gluten free of course! It came with a large dish of tarter sauce and was very tasty; the three of us ate most of it, my sister and her hubby are not celiac although my sister often eats gluten free.  I had a pair of gf tasty muffins which disappeared quickly.  Elaine ate half of a muffin and declared it quite good.

calimari

Then our entrees showed up; all at once and in the arms of our young server.  My sister, being quick on the uptake, queried her; normally gluten free items are delivered by a separate server, usually a manager. The server’s pretty face fell and she admitted she had forgotten to put my entrée in as gluten free.  So I had to wait while they remade my meal. Our server was very apologetic. All their staff is very friendly and helpful as to eating gluten free.

My meal was pretty tasty when it showed up ten minutes later; a surf and turf consisting of a 6 ounce fillet mignon, four sautéed scallops and four shrimps.  The beef was utter perfection, had a sauce on it that really added to the flavor and my scallops were delish!  The shrimps were kinda dried out.  I did eat some of them but not with much delight.   This was the first time they messed up my order in like 4 or 5 visits there and the first time any seafood was even a bit less than perfect.  Every place is allowed a few glitches; don’t let that stop you from heading to Legals.

My sister’s chowder and salad was tasty; chowder gone in a flash!  My brother-in-law enjoyed his fish and chips; it smelled wonderful. Made with haddock and a very healthy serving. We shared a chocolate parfait which was delightfully light and disappeared in moments.  We were all content and quite full when we left Legals.

All in all a very nice dining experience and I thanked my sister for catching their error before I could taste my food and get ill.  Moral of story; double check to make sure your gf food comes via a separate server when you eat at Legal Sea Foods.  Legal has locations all over the mid-Atlantic; two in NJ, two near or in Philadelphia and a couple in New York State as well as two in the Boston area and others in a few more states.  Well worth a drive for the legendary seafood and safe gf food.

Chocolate Egg Cream, Frothy, Flavorful and Fun

Sometimes I want something chocolaty but I don’t want a brownie, chocolate pudding or ice cream or even a chocolate bar.  I am simply thirsty.  Those are the times I reach for my Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup.  Lickety split I can make an old school drink that is low sugar, low fat and thirst quenching; the venerable chocolate egg cream.  Funny thing is, there is no egg in it and often no cream.  I sometimes do use half and half but you can make this with any sort of milk you like, even one or two percent.  I do discourage the use of skim or non fat milk, at least a little richness is required.

The chocolate egg cream is allegedly from Brooklyn, NYC.  The New York Egg Cream is a variation of the milkshake popular back from the 1880’s which had an egg beaten in it.  The version I have replicated became popular  many decades ago, partially because it was cheaper for soda fountains to make because it had no egg.  I am not a big fan of raw eggs in my drinks so I am happy indeed that this “modern” version is sans egg.  I have been making it for many years, one of my sisters taught me how.

This is such a simple recipe; get a tall glass, squirt about 1-2 tsp. of real Hershey syrup on the bottom, no store brand substitute will do.  I know about other syrups but hey, I am in Pennsylvania so Hershey’s it is!

hersheyI never measure; just enough to cover the bottom.  Then pour in ½ inch depth of some sort of milk, your choice of richness.  Stir them together well with an ice tea spoon.

 choc drink

Add 3-6 ice cubes and fill the glass with well chilled seltzer water. Stir it again. I favor flavored seltzer, the raspberry or cranberry are particularly good for this drink as they add quite a bit of flavor and complexity to this simple little thirst quencher!  A fresh bottle makes the foamiest egg cream so I recommend you splurge and start with a new bottle for your drink preparation.

choco egg cream

Be sure to use a tall glass, it just won’t taste the same in a stubby little one!

So, next time you are longing for a refreshing low sugar soft drink but one with a subtle touch of chocolate, make a chocolate egg cream and smile because it is delicious, has no added sugar and if you use one percent milk it is pretty darn low fat.  Light, refreshing, the egg cream is a wonderful “throw back” drink you can enjoy any day of the week!

PS: I hear U-bets Chocolate Syrup from NY is the bomb in a chocolate egg cream. I have to get some 🙂

Originally posted September 2014 but I know you are thirsty so here it is again!

Aldi’s Has Lots of Gluten Free Foods!

Aldi’s has a lot of gluten free products these days.  I hear they come and go on a monthly basis.  I tried a few about a year ago and when I wrote Aldi’s to say thank you for something gluten free the response said that they couldn’t promise that these products will stick around. Well, they have.  I think this is due to all of us gf types buying them on a consistent basis.

Some of my Aldi favorites are the gluten free frozen sandwich pockets, particularly the pepperoni pizza ones.  Really flavorful and tasty, they are my go to instant work lunch when paired with a dish of fruity yogurt.  I like the southwest veggie ones but not nearly as much.

aldie's mac n cheese aldie's pizza aldie's pockets aldi's gf group

Aldi’s makes a tasty multigrain cracker, in several flavors.  My favorite is the sea salt multi-seed snack crackers; great crunch and a good flavor to match with a chunk of sharp cheddar. I had tried them the first time around and was very excited to find them again.

aldi's crackers

I like their big bars of dark chocolate; some are marked GF on the wrapping; made in Germany and good quality for the price. aldi's chocolate

The store brand gf pizza mix is decent, I made it kinda thick.  Thin it is supposed to make two small pizzas.  Worth trying again.  Ditto as to their pasta; worth trying: great prices for both items. Their chocolate snack bars are rather tasty if small; that is a yes vote!aldie's pizza

I was less impressed with the frozen chicken nuggets, gf and fully cooked. I have eaten them 2 or 3 times.  Small, lacking in texture or flavor and rather dry. I have to dip them in spicy bbq sauce to enjoy them.  I would rather make my own from fresh raw chicken and bread crumbs.

The gf vegetable lasagna is edible but not particularly fresh tasting with a bland watery tomato sauce.  Nothing to compare with homemade but if you need a quick meal that you don’t have to make, it will do.

The worst tasting thing was the waffles.  They are corn based and taste strongly of corn, texture is coarse too.  Just not what I want in a waffle, very convenient though if you value that…

I heard they have ravioli; not found any yet.  I found pictures on line.  Now I got to find it in the freezer case. Nor have I eaten any bread from Aldi’s. Heard good and bad about that.  And they have small pizzas in the freezer: three items I must try soon!  I didn’t use to be a fan of Aldi’s but you can’t beat their prices and as I said above, some of their products are pretty tasty. Get thee to Aldi’s if you want gf food at reasonable choices.

Gorgeous Ginger Chicken Stir Fry

A stir fry is a great way to get veggies into you and your family.  We like lots of different vegetables. I put in broccoli for my 3 year old grandson who will eat anything with broccoli in it. Plus carrots for color and sweetness, chunks of chicken breast for a protein source and a few other choice vegetables to round out the mix.  This stir fry is made with medium wide rice noodles, the kind you put in Pad Thai.  They are low calorie and have no eggs or dairy.  The fresh ginger is crazy good for you as is the garlic and all those fresh vegetables.

Don’t be afraid to change a vegetable if you don’t like something or don’t have it on hand. My rule of thumb is to try not to have more than five main veggies in it or it will lack a cohesive flavor profile.  I used chicken but it works great with thin sliced boneless pork or beef.  I actually love it made with light tuna packed in olive oil.  Don’t like pineapple juice: use orange juice or another fresh 100 percent real fruit juice. Dislike ginger: leave it out but that will reduce the flavor punch so you might need soy sauce after all.  If you hate rice noodles it can be served over brown or white rice. That is the beauty of a stir fry; flexibility in many directions.

Don’t be frightened of the rice noodles.  They are so simple to make. Just boil up enough water to cover the noodles; pour it over them in a bowl and let stand ten minutes.  Drain and they are ready to throw into the stir fry near the end.  Simple and they add authenticity without a lot of calories.  You can find them nowadays in many grocery stores in the international food section as well as in Chinese grocery stores.

This entree goes together very fast once you chop the vegetables.  I didn’t add any soy sauce or rice vinegar.  I liked the mild clean flavor: lets the ginger and garlic shine.  Add those other things if you must! Very important: try not to overcook it – soggy is not the way you want the veggies to look or taste.  They should be just barely tender.  Makes 3-4 servings depending on your hunger.

rhubarb pie, ginger stir fry, salmon with peas 012rhubarb pie, ginger stir fry, salmon with peas 013rhubarb pie, ginger stir fry, salmon with peas 014rhubarb pie, ginger stir fry, salmon with peas 015

Ginger Chicken and Noodles

Ingredients

1 cup pad thai noodles, broken up somewhat

1 ½ cup boiling water

¾ lb chicken breast tenders (or pork in thin strips)

1-2 tbsp. mild olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled

2 celery stalks

1 large carrot

1 cup zucchini slices

2 cups broccoli florets

2 thin slices fresh ginger cut into short strips

2 garlic cloves

1 tsp cornstarch

¼ cup pineapple juice

Prep: Chop onion long way in half and then into long strips.  Cut celery into thin slanted slices, same for carrot.  Cut zucchini into ¼ inch slices  and cut into half moons. Cut broccoli stems into thin rounds and separate the florets into bite sized bits.  Peel garlic and smash in press.  Put dry noodles into a bowl, cover with the hot water and let stand ten minutes and then drain. Reserve to add near the end of the cooking.

Stir fry directions: Cut chicken into small chunks and season with salt and pepper.  Heat a mini wok (9-10 inch diameter) and add half the oil. Heat not quite to smoking hot. Add the chicken; brown lightly on both sides, remove from pan, set aside. Add rest of oil to still hot pan. Add onion and carrot slices, stir for a minute, add celery, stir 2 minutes, add broccoli stems, cook a minute, add the tops, cook a minute, add the zucchini, garlic and ginger.  Cook until tender crisp.  Add chicken back in.  Stir a minute to heat it, add the noodles, stir briefly.  Mix the cornstarch and juice; pour over the stir fry.  Mix in and cook one minute. If you need more liquid add more juice or some water. Serve hot.