Smoked Bratwurst from Aldi’s: Yummy!

 

A day too late for a Memorial Day barbeque, but I’ve been busy and somehow this blog has become a lower priority this May because I am utterly consumed with work, gardening and especially tired due to recovering from my knee replacement surgery. Not writing to share excuses but there they are, regrettably valid.  I’m writing today to share a tasty meat product I found at Aldi’s: smoked bratwurst.smoked bratwurstThey taste so great after you grill them a bit; get those grill marks going and they burst just a bit on the sides, perfect!   We had ours with gf hot dog rolls by Schar; okay but seemed bready to me as I tend to want a thinner bun. I am so over eating a lot of bread these days but a roll to put my wurst in seemed appropriate.  For condiments we had an unusual combination but it worked; spicy whole grain brown mustard, finely chopped Vidalia onion and horseradish from a just opened bottle.  Lots of zing going on and it matches well with the flavor of these brats.

To me they taste like the best hot dogs ever. I had a Nathan’s hot dog the other week and while it was decent; these brats were so much tastier. They are fairly cheap; about $3 for five of these fat brats.  The package even says gf on it; no guessing involved. Great flavor, easy to fry up and super pricing: awesome choice for a bbq.  They are vacuum packed which keeps them very fresh until you are ready to fry these chubby wursts up for a hungry group of friends at your next barbeque. Enjoy!

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Gluten Free Chips to Munch

If you follow my blog you might notice I haven’t posted many baked goods in the past month. As I mentioned the other week, I had my right knee replacement surgery the first week of March. Due to that I haven’t been able to do much cooking and even less baking.  Just not able to stand around or work hard at anything other than my recovery which is going pretty well these days. I use a cane but in my house I often just walk all on my own. I’ve had lots of company, mostly siblings who came to help me out and to visit our mom who I normally spend time with each week.  This worked out great and now I am on my own.  While they were here people bought a number of things new to me and so I have been doing some product reviews.  Here are two more, both triangular chips and both organic.  In the interest of honesty I should say that throughout my recovery I have been actively seeking not to eat these sort of treats; too fattening/salty/addictive.  I didn’t buy them but I sure couldn’t help myself to try more than a few of each chip.

pink himalayan chipsI love tortilla chips and was excited when my brother bought a bag of Pink Himalayan Salt Red Rice & Quinoa Tortilla Chips by Lundberg in Ca. Everyone likes them but me and my beef is the salt. I guess my salt cutting back regimen for the past year or so is having a serious effect as I found these chips to be way too salty for my tastes.  No one else felt that way; they were noshed on with joy by several of my visitors so get a bag and test them out! Non GMO, gluten free and whole grain…purchased at Giant Food Stores.

popcorners chips

The other snack item I want to share with you are Popcorners, Crispy & Crunchy Popped Corn Chips, by BFY Brands in Liberty NY.  Darn it, but I just love them! No preservatives, no trans fats, not fried, doubled pressed for extra crunch.  I got the variety with some cheddar for flavoring. Thin, crisp but not hard and lightly cheesy: I could eat the whole bag in a day but I have restrained myself so far. These also came from Giant and I love that they have 7 ounces, the other ones were 5.5 so I got another ounce and a half plus they were a bit cheaper so double score on these triangular treats.

More and more tasty gluten free snacks are popping up out there in regular grocery stores; but do read the packaging carefully if you have allergies or want to limit sodium or other sorts of intake. Best not to eat the whole bag at one munching! Enjoy.

Udi’s GF Blueberry Muffins

I have a tiny confession to make; I seldom buy store made baked goods.  I just don’t.  As an accomplished home baker I tend to not be willing to spend a lot of cash on something that I fear will be substandard. These past three and a half weeks have been spent recovering from a total knee replacement which I really needed.  Unable to cook until the last week or so, and just not having any appetite, I haven’t been tempted by much, until a dear friend brought a package of four fat Udi’s GF blueberry muffins as a get well gift. I put them in the freezer as they were still mostly frozen and I wasn’t hungry at that moment.  A day later I thawed one and shared it with my sister who is visiting to help me out; it was kinda large I thought for me with my shrunken appetite.  We warmed it a tad in the microwave and shared our impressions.

udi blueberry muffins

The actual muffins look even better than they do in this photograph!

Karen is not gluten free but she has happily enjoyed my gf baked goods over the past four years, even agreeing that some of my baked items are better gf than they ever were! Russian teacake cookies, for one, which get snarfed up very quickly by company.  Well, the muffin was quite tasty, great texture, not crumbly or gluey which are common failures.  Karen liked it too and was impressed by the flavor and the texture. It was sweet but not overly so and the blueberry flavor was just right; strong but not over the top.  I detected a hint of lemon in the muffin which made me like it even more. The top had a light sugary crust which was a treat too. This sure was a lot of deliciousness in the shape of a muffin and I was pleasantly surprised as, sometimes gf baked stuff can be pretty gnarly.  I liked knowing that someone who doesn’t need to eat gf enjoyed it too so you can serve this to your non gf family/friends without any fear.

A bonus is that they are dairy, soy and nut free if you need to avoid those food categories this is a great breakfast for snack choice.  One muffin has 270 calories which is quite a bit but I tend to eat half for a morning snack and the other half later on in the day so it counts for two snacks in my world.

So, if you like blueberries this muffin is a treat and I wholeheartedly recommend them. I make my own blueberry muffins which are darn tasty if I may brag a bit but if you aren’t a baker, these are an excellent choice. Buy a package and get your yummy on!

Krusteaz GF Cornbread Mix

Folks think cornbread is naturally gluten free.  Not so, many recipes use a blend of all purpose flour and cornmeal and then there is the cross contamination of many flours that one thinks should always be gluten free.  I have made a pretty tasty gf cornbread from scratch using a recipe by Annalise Roberts from her best seller: Gluten-Free Baking Classics, Second Edition. gluten free baking classicsThe recipe was a simple dump and stir and bake with very good results. I used King Arthur’s basic gf flour mix.

 

The other day my sister made some tasty scratch beef chili with beans and she made cornbread using a Krusteaz Gf honey cornbread mix.  Add an egg, some vegetable oil and a cup of milk, stir and pour into a pan. Yes, that was a lot easier than the scratch cornbread I made. It tasted quite decent that night. But the day after the bread had become heavy, almost sodden and the texture turned to mud after a couple of chews in my mouth. Yuck! So, this mix is very convenient, tastes fine just after you bake it but leftovers…not very appetizing. krusteaz cornbread mix

My homemade cornbread kept a couple of days with fine flavor and texture.  Everyone talks about how gf bread doesn’t keep but even regular cornbread has a short shelf life.  The mix is a great time saver and perfect if you aren’t into gf baking technique or don’t have the desire to make scratch.  Just don’t expect it to stay tasty for any great length of time.

Snacky Treats Recently Taste Tested

I love it when friends give me new gf products to try.  This week I am sharing two treats that were gifts and three snacks I bought myself.  First up: Tate’s Bake Shop Gf Chocolate chip cookies.  They are 7 oz in a waxed paper bag and in two plastic bags in a plastic tray inside.  I found them to be large, thin, crisp and somewhat addictive.  For those of us who adore chocolate chip cookies, anyway! I believe they came from Giant Grocery Store. I give these cookies a 4.5 on my zero to five scale.  Leaving room for homemade cookies; mine are a 5; see my blog post on chocolate chipperscrunchy-rice-sticks

tates-cookies

 

 

 

 

Second item is Crunchy Rice Sticks; round columns; 3.2 ounces and 8 sticks to a bag.  Fairly bland but not bad at all has rice syrup to hold it together and render them faintly sweet; the sticks are about an inch in diameter and five inches in length.  Great crunch and low calories: 50 to a stick!  I think they came from Giant.

Next up: Cashew Brittle from Aldi’s.  Not my favorite.  Way too sweet for me and not that much cashew in them.  Still, if you like cashews and sweets this might be up your alley.  Made by Crazy Candy Company.  7 ounce bag.

skinny-pop

Popcorn aisle: Skinny Pop Dusted Dark Chocolate Popcorn.  Non GMO, GF, 43 calories per cup.  I believe I found this at Giant Foods. Decent tasting if slightly drab: I have been spoiled by the drizzled with chocolate popcorn I found at Aldi’s this fall.  Now that was freaking amazing!  Can’t find it at present; hopeful it will return to the stores very soon.  There is a drizzled with chocolate and white sugar topped popcorn at Giant but it was a very small bag for nearly $4.  Crazy price for that itty bitty bag.  Time to research and product test my own homemade drizzled popcorn!

 

Final product: Veggie & Flaxseed Corn Tortilla Chips.  They were pretty decent; 10 oz bag purchased at Aldi’s; store brand chips.  Organic and in several colors and flavors although they tasty pretty much alike.  Good with a dollop of hummus.  Salsa works too.  Only thing is, I re-read the label and they are manufactured in a facility that also uses wheat products.  Rethinking this one….bummer.veggie-chips

 

I don’t recommend eating gf snacks all day long but some of these are fairly healthy and not that expensive.  We all enjoy a bit of a treat.  Enjoy!

Instant Pot Revolution!

I got this amazing kitchen appliance: the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker 6 in 1, six quart size.  It has functions for sautéing, steaming, making rice, porridge, stewing, slow cooking and yes; pressure cooking.  Now, when I was a kid, my mom had a pressure cooker. She used it mostly for canning tomatoes and I remember being told to never ever touch it while in use.  I was terrified of that pressure top thingy; if touched, clouds of boiling hot steam poured out.  Any time I thought of getting a pressure cooker, those memories would come back and it was “nope” to a pressure cooker.  This past year a lovely friend of mine, Jenn, got an Instant Pot and she was always talking about it on facebook.  I asked and got her response of “This thing is wonderful and I use it all the time.”  She is a vegetarian and is totally in to legumes and grains.  Not gluten free like me but she eats very healthy and that IP (as folks call it) seemed to be her best friend in the kitchen.  On Black Friday, the 6 qt Instant Pot went on sale on Amazon 47% off.  I ordered one during my lunch break and it came the following Monday!  Kinda intimidating with all the directions, but I dove in and did the required water pressure test, no issues so next I made my favorite chicken paprikash in it in slow cooker mode.  For this setting, I did get the glass cover that allows one to see the food cooking inside; not for use under pressure but great for sautéing or slow cooking.  It turned out perfectly.  And so it began.  My love affair with my IP….

instant-pot

I made amazing coq au vin; chicken thighs braised in red wine to you! It was done faster than the mashed potatoes I was making in the traditional stove top fashion. The sauté feature is wonderful; the chicken goes in to get a browning, comes out, the onions go in and cook a bit; then garlic and after a minute back goes chicken as well as wine, broth, herbs and the lid is tightened and the manual feature set for the desired minutes.  It takes a few minutes to come to pressure and then my IP beeps and starts the pressure cooking and the count down to zero.  I let it naturally release (read: turn it off and let it stand ten minutes untouched) and then I pushed the pressure valve to release with a kitchen towel over it for any serious steam.  It released for 2-3 minutes and then I added the pan full of sautéed mushroom slices and my luscious and tender chicken with mushrooms and wine was ready to serve.  To recap the time: it took about 5-6 minutes to come to pressure and the time at pressure was like 15 minutes.  That’s a fast way to make excellent dishes. I like it better than a slow cooker; my veggies taste fresher and the meat is cooked better without being over cooked.

instant-pot-controls

Then, I made two different kinds of meat broth; chicken and pork; done in about 30 minutes for chicken and 60 for the pork.  Which is far less than half the usual time for making broth. I love being able to load it with the broth ingredients and start the cycle and walk away to do other stuff.

The other day I made some amazing dulce de leche caramel sauce; so delish and creamy and one ingredient: sweetened condensed milk.  You pour it into canning jars and pressure cook it for 14 minutes. I did two batches of that for gifting.

I expect to make soup in it often; made some cauliflower potato soup last week; so easy.  One item I had that is very helpful is my immersion blender; great for pureed hot soups. I call it the boat motor!

instant-pot-with-soup

Making soup!

So, next time someone starts talking about an IP you will know what they mean.  And maybe you will start thinking about getting one.  It will change how you cook, for the better.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Freshly baked chocolate chocolate chip cookies for dessert and snacks.  What is not to like?  Especially if they are gluten free and thus safe for me to eat.  Doublely good if they are totally yummy.  Triple great if they are a simple mix you can stir together in a few minutes and drop onto cookie sheets in ball shapes that spread into perfect round tasty chocolate treats that look like you bought them at a bakery. And: they freeze well, important if you can’t eat them in a couple of days…. Did I say chocolate? And chocolate chips?  I did!

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This picture is actually of cookies I had frozen; I couldn’t find the shot I swore I had taken of them freshly baked; so I was reduced to this pile of cold, yet still yummy, cookies!

Where can you get these delights? Aldi’s of course, and for $4 for the box which made nearly 30 cookies. Good deal.  I bought them about 3 months ago and then made them up for a special birthday party I was going to the other weekend.  It was way too hot to spend hours concocting cookies from scratch.  But I wanted something totally delish for everyone who was there.  And they were.  Simply scrumpers! Some folks could hardly believe they were gluten free.  People seem to have gotten the idea that all gluten free baked goods are mediocre or worse.  I am here to tell you that such is not the case.  In fact, some of my scratch gf versions of classic cookies are actually better gluten free! Like Russian teacakes, aka Mexican wedding cookies.  They are incredible gf.  Don’t get me wrong, there are still a number of cookies I haven’t been able to figure out gf but I will be trying…..

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So if you need a chocolate cookie fix, by all means, bake up a batch of these dark flavorful treats.  No one will believe they are gf but you!