Aldi—it’s the newest little grocery store around. Do you have one nearby? (TL:DR version: Aldi’s is a great place to grocery shop with great prices.)
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
We’re halfway through the first month of 2023. BF corrected me on my earlier statement that he has no resolutions, he does. He’s already got one of them checked off, although the process isn’t complete yet. Long story there. Two others are a little farther off, but reachable.
I didn’t make any “resolutions,” but I would like to start getting up early in the morning again. I’ve been able to do that with BF’s work schedule since he returned to work after vacation, but he’ll be back on his usual day/night alternate rotation soon. When he goes back to sleep, so do I. So. . .we’ll see how it goes.
The “New” Aldi In Our Area
A few days ago, we received a card in the mail letting us know that there is a new Aldi store that’s actually less than an hour from us—just north in Mississippi. No kidding. Because we’re so close to the state border, it’s closer than Baton Rouge or New Orleans. The announcement included a $5 coupon off a $30 purchase, which I happily accepted. So, I made my plans and drove north.
I know this sounds a bit odd, going to another state to grocery shop, but people in the smaller northeastern states do cross-border trips all the time. Remember that in Houston you can drive 100 miles in a day and never leave the city. You can drive for days and never leave the state. So going to Mississippi to visit the newest and closest Aldi store isn’t a big deal. Even if BF thinks it’s a bit bonkers. (Bonus: the sales tax is also 3% less than in Louisiana.)
HEB is a long drive from here, but I’d happily go as far as Beaumont to get to one. (I’m not sure about the ones in Vidor and Orange, I’ve never been.) But because the Mississippi border is just 30 minutes away, McComb isn’t the hour-drive to get to the Slidell Aldi location. Might as well go to Baton Rouge if I’m going to drive that far, because Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Joann’s, Bed, Bath and Beyond, and Cost Plus World Market are also there, too. (Just not all in the same place.)
Admittedly, I wasn’t impressed with Aldi when I went to the one in Friendswood in 2014. It was on the way home from LK’s place, but I didn’t find it to be a better option. Reminded me of a convenience store, really. Lots of boxed mixes, junk food, and a little fresh food.
A well-known male celebrity from the UK is a big fan of Aldi, too. He lives in Palm Springs with his partner and has many times touted Aldi’s food and its greatness. He even did a video in his local Aldi, and it wasn’t a paid promotion–he was just a fan. That Aldi was nothing like the one I visited. After my original experience in Friendswood, I just never went back. I’m not naming him here because I later found him to be quite foul. Therefore, I don’t want his name in the blog or ranking for his name, either.
However, our friend Beverly loves Aldi and told me that they’ve upped their offerings in the fresh food area. Beverly and her husband drive to an Aldi about once a month or so to stock up on staples. Aunt Ruth loves her local Aldi as well. So, I decided to revisit Aldi’s and see what I might be missing. Beverly was right!
The Trip to McComb
It was a lovely day for a drive. It was cool, and sunny, with no traffic. Until I got there.
I drove myself because BF was working. I guess he was glad because he didn’t want to go anyway. He’d rather watch shows about Bigfoot and that weird guy who lived among the bears and became bear food. (I really need to repossess my little Roku.)
Two things to know about going to Aldi: bring a quarter to unlock your cart and bring your own shopping bags. These are two of the ways Aldi keeps costs down and passes along the savings. (New Orleans readers may remember The Real Superstore from back in the late 80’s introducing the “quarter for the basket” trend from Europe.) Stores are accepting reusable shopping bags again, so wash them and take them with you when you shop, especially at Aldi.
But because I wanted to make the grand opening (and I did!) they were not requiring shoppers to use a quarter to unlock the carts. I made it in time to see the grand opening but not to get a picture. The local newspaper, the McComb Enterprise Journal, was also on hand to record the opening. You can read the nice article here, and the picture of the ribbon cutting is available here.
And when people returned the baskets, they offered them to other shoppers rather than fuss about the quarter. Remember, I was in Mississippi. Everyone was nice and as crowded as the place was, they were all happy to be there.
The first 100 shoppers—designated by numbered cards—received a “swag bag.” That is, an Aldi shopping bag that contained some bagel chips and a quarter holder. They gave me a shopping bag on the way in, but it only had a cute little quarter holder (no complaints from me):
I was going to buy a bag anyway, but it was nice to be gifted one.
On the way out, someone gave me two more, and those will be gifted to others.
And if you lose that quarter holder, you can actually buy them on Amazon, no kidding.
While waiting for the opening, I spoke with a lady who said that not much happens in McComb. Nice place to go if you don’t want to be found, am I right? She laughed. We saw the Mayor and a few of his people go in and walk out with a swag bag, but I don’t think he did any shopping.
As it turns out, our friend MY went to college in McComb, no kidding. She’s going to rustle up her gang and pay them a visit.
Once we got inside, it was a madhouse.
Again, everyone was polite and nice, and no one caused any problems.
Another customer asked me a question about something. Suddenly she began telling me about something she makes in the air fryer, “while you make your chicken and biscuits.” I held back my “keto-mostly” self as I listened to her description. She was also nice, so I just smiled and agreed, then thanked her because I couldn’t follow everything. I still don’t know what she was telling me to make, honestly. I guess I looked like I needed to know.
It probably won’t be crowded like that every day.
There’s a deli area right when you walk into the place, on the left:
I saw the words “cauliflower pizza” and it was all over:
Lunch! No wheat in the crust or anything, so that was first since BF was working late the next day. Then tortillas, including some marked “keto” for our next Taco Tuesday adventure:
Plus a nice selection of cookies and pastries. Lots of snacks on the right side:
And more snacks!
Against the back wall are bacon and other meats:
I’m going to go ahead and admit that we needed a bag of onions:
Right next to them were little roasty potatoes, aka, Triston’s potatoes:
I forgot the tortilla chips, but these didn’t last long:
This quinoa meal will absolutely horrify BF if he ever finds it because he wants to know what it’s doing in his house:
Aunt Ruth and Aunt Kathy are laughing as they read this because they’ve met BF and they know I’m right. But it was so weird I was compelled to get one. I haven’t tried it just yet.
I’m not going to disclose how much I spent. . .let’s just say I got some things we needed, as well as some extra things, plus something for dinner. This definitely won’t be my last trip to McComb, that’s for sure—especially with a Starbucks, Hobby Lobby and Walmart in the same spot. It’s an enclosed mall called Uptown McComb, but I didn’t realize that until I was leaving. Next time.
How Was The Pizza?
Regular readers know I’m a fan of Caulipower pizzas, and get them occasionally. So far, nothing beats Caulipower, and I’ve tried a couple of them that Walmart has available. (I may try the new Walmart brand one day soon.) So this caught my eye, although they only had Veggie available. That’s OK, too.
The Aldi’s pizza isn’t frozen—remember, it came from the deli section as you walk in the front door. (There’s only one way in and out, and that’s a thing with Aldi, too.) The crust is rather “floppy,” because it’s a “grab and go” thing. So you want to be extra careful sliding it onto the oven rack.
At $7.99, it rivals Caulipower and is also larger.
All you do is preheat the oven to 400 degrees and put it directly on the oven rack. I had to use the big oven because it’s too big for the countertop oven, but it was chilly so that was fine. In about 16 minutes, you have pizza:
I think I should have left it in the oven a bit longer because the crust wasn’t as crispy as I anticipated.
The toppings were all cooked, of course, and it was quite tasty. Just don’t want to burn the pizza.
No complaints here, it tastes pretty good, and it’s big enough to have a leftover half for the next day.
I like to have both the regular and cauliflower pizzas in the freezer for us, but of course, we tend to go through them quickly. These pizzas from Aldi can be frozen, apparently, because it has directions for cooking from frozen. So, my next Aldi trip may involve getting more of these for the freezer, plus a couple of the non-cauliflower ones for BF.
Sweets For Your Sweet
I did manage to get a few things for BF. He loves chocolate as I do, so:
These were just too cute to pass up:
These cookies from Germany look just like the Krakus cookies from Poland that I used to buy at Phoenicia Foods in Houston in several flavors:
I hope they taste as good, too. If so, BF will love them. And for myself, chocolate and raspberry are together again:
I didn’t eat it all at once, honest. And it was only one. I passed on the chocolate truffles, because, well, I can get into trouble with those.
Aldi has an aisle full of sweet treats and other non-food gifts like candles and pajamas for Valentine’s Day.
So there’s something for nearly everyone, including yourself.
Unlike Trader Joe’s, Aldi’s has an entire center aisle of non-food items:
There you’ll find all manner of things, like these cute things for your kitchen or coffee bar:
Coffee pots and cups are also available, as well as their own espresso maker:
Aldi Finds are lots of different things, including rugs and small pieces of furniture. Presumably, you must assemble them just like anything from IKEA. But maybe it was because I was in a hurry that I didn’t see any of those, or maybe the store didn’t have them. I wanted to look at a storage ottoman from the app, but that may be coming next week. Gives me an excuse to go back, doesn’t it?
Well, this was just what I wanted:
And magically, it made its way into the cart. Guess what? It takes a range of vacuum seal bags. Those vacuum freezer bags and replacement gaskets are easily available on Amazon. I’ll check our local Walmart for availability too. I sealed up the pork chops and the ground turkey I bought at Aldi, and they’re already in the big freezer. More vacuum seal freezing and a blog post on this one soon.
We’ve been talking about getting a vacuum food sealer for some time, but they are kind of pricey, so we waited. After reading this article by Jill Nystul on One Good Thing By Jillee, I told BF that we should consider getting one to start making our food last a bit longer.
You can find a huge selection of them on Amazon. In fact, Dash has a brand new model of its own. When I brought up the subject, BF just nodded his head “OK” and that was the end of the discussion, although we have talked about it since. Even though this was a rushed trip during a busy time, I saw it and was glad to see it was $30.
Not Just A. . . .
BF’s favorite comment about Trader Joe’s is, “it’s just a grocery store.” He just doesn’t get excited about that sort of thing. Between TJ’s and Whole Foods, there were too many guys wearing man buns and skinny jeans for his military buzz-cut comfort level. He never lets me forget about “ManBun/SkinnyJeans.” In this store, there were none of those, as MY tells me that it’s mostly country folks. Everyone was happy about the new Aldi, that’s for sure.
In all seriousness, Trader Joe’s is the grocery store, while Aldi’s is groceries and more. Both stores focus primarily on their own private brands with some national brands alongside. Aldi also carries a selection of limited-time goods from small stuff to all manner of things. Most of it is seasonal, and they don’t last long before they’re replaced with something new.
They Didn’t Forget The Furbabies
Aldi also carries pet food and supplies:
Some apparel, kitchen items, and even fitness things:
All in that aisle for Aldi Finds.
Great Stuff In Store
Like Trader Joe’s, Aldi also has devout fans. This article from The Kitchn talks about a bag of frozen vegetables that the author says to get at least one more since they’re “ready to roast.” They have carrot and sweet potato and a Mediterranean blend with yellow and red bell peppers, zucchini, red onion, and cherry tomatoes. Before you ask, no, BF won’t eat this because of the zucchini.
Because Aldi was so busy, I didn’t really get a good look at the freezer section. But what I did recognize immediately was the Texas Tamales!
And they were $2.50 less than Rouses. The bad news is that they only had pork tamales, no beef.
What Aldi’s isn’t is a salvage or overstock place like Dirt Cheap (the top retailer of major brand returns, they say) or Ollie’s Bargain Center (“Good stuff cheap—up to 70% off the fancy stores!”) Aldi sells fresh and first-quality product for less than other grocery stores.
These tea bags are a good example of what that means. Chances are the two different brands are from the same producer with different labeling.
Aldi’s was $2.19, and Winn-Dixie’s is about $2.69. Sometimes Winn-Dixie puts them on sale, two for $4, or buy two and get one free. Next trip to Aldi’s I might buy a couple of extra boxes.
An Aldi Fan Story From Down Under
Although Aldi is growing in the US, this Germany-based company is not just in the States. This blog by Australian copywriter Pauline Longdon describes her and her partner Rae’s adventure getting themselves a couple of Stand-Up Paddleboards, or SUP. If you’re not familiar with them (and I’m not either), you can get an idea of what they look like from what’s available on Amazon. (There’s a bit of language and self-deprecating humor involved, too.) Note: I’m friends with Pauline and Rae on Facebook but have not yet met them in person like other copywriters I know who have.
Admittedly, I know little to nothing about stand-up paddleboarding, and Pauline’s blog is also written primarily for writers. But the story is interesting enough that I wanted to link to it here, because it involves Aldi, and researching a purchase. If you have a few minutes, click over to Pauline’s website, and read the story in her words. Pauline kindly gave me permission to link to her blog, so she knows why you’re there.
Why Shop At Aldi?
It’s a little like going to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or even the Rouses in Hammond—they have what you want or need. They’re not as big as a Rouses, Winn-Dixie, or HEB, but they’re a good basic grocery store with, well, basics. Eggs are the notable exception since they’re currently as expensive as controlled substances. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.) But Aldi’s prices are good on their store brands, with their store brand offerings being considerably less expensive. So far we’ve noticed no difference in quality, either.
For example, this jar of Aldi’s store brand Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce was $1.95.
By comparison, the one we usually buy, Classico Tomato & Basil, runs $3.79, and sometimes $3.00 on sale at Winn-Dixie.
Used it for dinner and BF gave a thumbs-up. Unlike Winn-Dixie, Aldi doesn’t have a rewards program. Their prices are what they offer, no reward points are needed. So there’s that.
I’d like to go back to Aldi occasionally and stock up on canned and jarred foods, frozen things, and other foods to stash and keep on hand. We’re planning a pantry reboot soon to utilize the wasted space (thank you, Pinterest!) Once we have that completed and the pantry cleared and sorted, it’ll be easier to keep track of what we have and need. Stocking up on basics at Aldi will help keep our pantry full for less.
In a quick chat with Rafael, he says has an Aldi store about two miles away from his home with Carmen. He said they have some nice European products, which he prefers because they “tend to make cleaner stuff.” Agreed—and he has access to more of that kind of thing than we do.
I mentioned to the very harried manager in a red shirt that this new Aldi is an option if we need to travel north again for a supply run. During the two weeks our area was running on generators, we traveled north first to Brookshire and then McComb, Mississippi, to get food, fuel, and other supplies. That Aldi is close but probably would have been filled with people like us getting food and things. It’s an option, and it’s literally right off the freeway. You can see it before you get to the exit because it’s on the furthest corner of the mall. (That’s one of Aldi’s trademarks when they look for real estate.) Even if there was a closer store, it’s good to know Aldi’s is in McComb if we need it one day.
Besides, it’s nice to get away occasionally and do something different, isn’t it?
Third Fastest Growing Grocery In the US
That’s right, they are. And much as I like HEB and Trader Joe’s, Aldi is a nice place to shop, too.
I did write the company to tell them about the fun grand opening and request a store in Hammond. Someone wrote back and said they were always looking for new sites that fit their criteria. Hopefully, Hammond will fit, and they will build one. Southeastern Louisiana University is there, so there’s bound to be enough interest. I think that’s why Trader Joe’s is so close to LSU.
You can find more on Aldi’s website, and they even have an app you can download. Look for a store near you at their Store Finder, and sign up for their emails too.
More To Come
In addition to the overdue posts on Rafael & Carmen’s wedding and the rest of our Houston trip, I’ve got a few more topics waiting. The vacuum food sealer is going to get its own post, because now I want to seal up everything. I just need more of the bags.
I still have no idea what we’re doing for Valentine’s Day, but hopefully, we’ll find something on the Roku we can both enjoy.
Of course, I hope to have more tasty recipes to cook up in the New Year. Because feeding BF can be, shall we say, challenging, and requires more effort.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
I’m sorry I didn’t post last week, I need to make a couple of phone calls and do a bit of updating on this site, but had other pressing matters to contend with. I’ve got a post in the can that I’m about halfway through, and it’s going to be good (I hope.) Nevertheless, I have a back-pocket recipe for you that would be good for a side dish or vegetarian dinner, as long as you have a toaster oven. (Or it’s cold enough for the big oven.)
Big paws-up to friend of the blog JK, whose mechanical intelligence solved a big problem rather quickly in the HeatCageKitchen sink. I did a lot of cooking the July 4th weekend, and unfortunately, while I was cooking, my stove-side shelf suddenly fell off the wall:
I bought it at IKEA, and it was fine for years, until last weekend, when it mysteriously fell. Between the shock of having it hit me, the crashing of the bottles, navigating a hot pot and moving it out of the way, one of the screws that holds it in place fell into the garbage disposal. Of course, I didn’t know it went into the garbage disposal until I turned it on. And then it stopped. The motor was on, but it wouldn’t move. A quick look with a flashlight confirmed it was stuck, and I didn’t have the right tools to remove it. Highly annoyed, I just kept cooking.
I mentioned it to JK this week, and because he’s a mechanic and he knows his stuff (like the GER, he’s a manly man.) He asked if I had a pair of needle-nosed pliers. I do, but they didn’t reach. He told me where to find 11″ long needle-nosed pliers. All this week, the sink has been backing up, and I’ve put my gloved hand into the off disposal to clear the little drain spot. Yesterday, in between cooking projects, I got fed up with it, went to the O’Reilly’s Auto Parts on Bay Area Boulevard and bought a pair of those infamous 11″ long needle-nosed pliers. I confirmed the screw’s location with the flashlight, reached in with the long pliers, and after a couple of misses, I pulled and heard the POP! And that was the end of that. The sink disposal is once again working properly, and I can clear out any little pieces that land down there.
Of course, I texted him and said Thank You.
Neighbor E and I went out to a fundraiser for our local library Friday night. Now, when I say we went out, well, let me explain–this wasn’t a nightclub or fancy country club. Our fabulous new HEB held a tasting event, and if the library could get 100 people to come in and sample food, get stickers for each stop, and turn them in, they would donate $1000 to the Freeman Library. I dragged him out (not literally) and a good time was had by all, plus some delicious food. I didn’t take any pictures, because it was kind of busy. But I went back on Saturday afternoon to get a few things and have lunch. I talked to one of the employees I see regularly; she told me that over 250 people showed up, so yes, the Freeman Library will get that donation. If you feed them, they will come. With delicious food they sample all the time, is it any wonder people showed up in droves?
On Saturday, I was wearing a summer dress that I finally finished. It’s a McCall’s pattern (click here if you want to see it, version D, made in a similar colored cotton.) When I was checking out, there was a lady from the pharmacy area who, I guess, was there to tell people about HEB’s in-store pharmacy. She said it was her first day at that location, and she just loved it. Well, we all do! Then, she complimented me on the dress, and also my flat Crocs, which were very comfortable. I put the straw hat back on because I was getting ready to leave, (keeps the sun out of my eyes) and she said that I was definitely “on-trend.” Nobody ever told me that before! So my day was made. I told her that I’d just finished it–surprise!–and that it was a McCall’s pattern. She couldn’t believe I MADE it. She said, “I don’t even know what that means.” I said, “well, I wouldn’t expect you to–you’re a pharmacist!” Not as many people sew these days, but I do hope it becomes a thing like grown-up coloring books.
Now, about this recipe.
Neighbor E gave me a butternut squash, mostly because he didn’t know what to do with it. (He’s also given me more potatoes!) I gave it some thought, and I knew just the thing: Quinoa Pie with Butternut Squash.
So, if you clicked on the recipe link, you’re probably wondering why the heck I would make a Thanksgiving dish during the summer. No, I’m not yet getting ready for Thanksgiving, but I did tease my former Buddhist district leaders about it. When we used to have our own local dinner, now and then during the year, I would tell them, “It’s never to early to start planning Thanksgiving!” Of course, in July, that got me some funny looks–but, see, these folks were originally from Taiwan. I forget that sometimes, not everyone gets our absurd American humor.
Since I was given the squash, I just wanted to treat it right. But as you read this post, remember that not everything in the HeatCageKitchen is perfectly symmetrical. This isn’t The Food Network! But in between cooking for the week and using it up, I think I did pretty good.
First thing I did was make my weekly breakfast quiche in the slow cooker, and then turkey thighs and a small pork roast. I had the brilliant realization that although I was preparing them differently, they could both go into the toaster oven at the same time. The thighs had some sage compound butter on them, and the pork roast had olive oil and a salt rub.
They both went in at 400F for an hour and 15 minutes, and came out delicious:
And, of course, the chef”s privilege, the roast turkey skin:
Pull it off with two forks, and let it drain and cool for a bit on paper towels. Then, enjoy the crispiest, tastiest thing you will ever experience. This works for roast chicken too, and is best with olive oil and salt/pepper or other dry spices. I introduced AC to this a while back and she was instantly a fan. Caveat: you will have to do this when the turkey or chicken comes right out of the oven. Don’t let it sit too long, or put it in the fridge; the crispness will be forever lost.
Once I got the meats cut and packaged for the fridge, I got started this tasty superfood treat.
Quinoa Pie with Butternut Squash is a good thing to have in case one of your holiday dinner guests brings a friend and says suddenly, “Oh, he/she’s vegetarian.” Oh, bleep, now what do you do? Well, if you have this already made, with a few other nice little side dishes, it won’t be a problem. But if the non-veg folks get wind of it, it might not last, so make plenty if you’re having a crowd. (It helps to ask in advance, but even then, you never know.)
Those paltry looking sage leaves are the last from the garden. I don’t know if it’s because I planted it with the oregano, or what–but the darn thing is almost gone. That is what I could salvage from what’s left; I was going to give Neighbor E a big bunch. It was thriving and over-producing not long ago. Maybe it was too much water, or the heat, but it looks like I’ll be either buying another plant or starting seeds soon. I like sage for poultry, though, despite the stinky-feet smell of the live plant.
Also, this recipe is supposed to be vegetarian, but I was just in a hurry and used chicken bullion cubes instead of vegetable stock. I’ll show you a cheat with it shortly. Note that there is real cheese in it. If you wanted to make it vegan, you’d have to use some of that god-awful fake-me-out vegan stuff, which is probably made with soy. YUCK. You ruin it, you eat it!
So let’s make it.
First, the sage–I rinsed it, pulled the stems off 18 of them, dried them and set them aside:
Then the rest were rinsed and dried for the finely chopped stuff:
Oh, and here’s an Amy tip for you: rubber anti-slip rug backing, cut into small pieces, keeps your cutting board from sliding all over the kitchen while you chop:
Chop off the ends, and it will sit upright on the cutting board while you peel it.
I actually have the vertical vegetable peeler, but for odd things like this, I prefer the horizontal bladed model:
And this is why I say nothing is symmetrical in the HeatCagekitchen. I was supposed to cut rings for the bottom of the plate, but instead, cut it sort of wrong. However, the inside is similar to spaghetti squash, and you just scrape out all the seeds and stringy parts:
And then I manufactured the rings:
Then you chop up the rest of it in little quarter-inch dice:
Top with a half-dozen sage leaves and a bit of oil, and roast. I roasted them in the toaster oven, and honestly, it all came out just fine:
Once it’s finished, just set it aside to cool. Switching gears, it’s time to get the rest of this recipe going–the quinoa part.
Now, I used chicken stock, because I don’t care if it’s vegetarian; I’m just messing around with it anyway. I don’t have any veg bullion cubes (and I don’t know if they exist) but I’ll show you a trick I learned from Nigella Lawson: just make the broth from the bullion. This recipe calls for 2 cups, so I crumbled two cubes into a measuring cup:
Added some very hot water:
Stirred it and let it melt the bullion:
And you’re there.
So, chopped onion:
Deploy the garlic doo-dad and chop it:
And finely chop the rest of the fresh sage:
First into the pot is some oil, on medium heat, to cook the chopped onion and garlic.
Rinse your quinoa well:
Then add the broth or stock to the pot, and the quinoa:
If you’re not familiar with quinoa, this is the important part: keep an eye on it. It’ll take about 15 minutes to cook and absorb all the water. If you’re not careful, it will burn on the bottom of the pot. I know, I’ve done it. What you’re looking for is for it to be just a tiny bit liquid, but all of the water absorbed:
Take it off the heat (the recipe suggests putting it into a bowl, but why dirty another dish here?) Add in the chopped sage, the 3 tablespoons of Parm cheese, and the roasted diced squash into the quinoa, along with salt and pepper, and mix well.
Now it just comes together. If you’ve ever made a Pineapple Upside-Down cake, this will make sense to you. Place the butternut squash rings at the bottom of a greased 9-inch pie plate, and put the prettier sage leaves inside them:
Now carefully add the quinoa mixture on top of the pie:
And pack it down as firmly as you can. Remember, the only binder is a small amount of Parm cheese:
This isn’t the first time I’ve made this dish, but the last couple of times, it sort of fell apart on me. Even though I packed it down, it still came apart, although not like the last time. More pressure next time around.
Now it’s time to bake it–20 minutes at 375. If you’re like me, you turned off that darn oven for a while. The countertop oven re-heats quickly, so it wasn’t a problem. Let it cool for a bit, What comes out looks like this when you invert it:
Unfortunately, the pie did not fall out of the plate like it should have. Since it’s not Thanksgiving, I don’t care. I just sliced it like any other pie and had me a slice. I also brought some to the HeatCageKitchen taste-testers, Neighbor E and Neighbor R.
So, what did it taste like? Because I used the chicken bullion and there was Parm cheese, it was a bit saltier than I expected–my bad. Next time, veg broth or something else not as salty.
Neighbor E feels like it could be a stuffing/dressing, served as a side dish with turkey with Thanksgiving dinner. Never thought of that, but he’s right–it would go well with turkey as well as without. Maybe serving it in muffin form to make it easier, eliminating the squash rings for decor, and pressing sage leaves on top? It’s an idea.
Neighbor R also enjoyed it, and when I told her what E said, she smiled and said, “it does kind of taste like stuffing!” Plus, she hasn’t had squash in a while so it was a nice treat for her. (JK said he doesn’t like squash at all, but I could get him to try one bite of it, if he were here.)
However you make it, or whenever, Quinoa Pie with Butternut Squash is a tasty dish for carnivores and vegetarians alike. Agreed, it’s a little more work than the things I usually make, but one taste will tell you it’s totally worth it. For a Sunday dinner, you could make it the night before and just re-heat it to serve it warm, or serve it at room temperature. And it’s a back-pocket recipe for the occasion where you need a tasty, filling vegetarian dish that won’t leave the veggies feel unloved. (I’ve uploaded the printable PDF to the Recipes Page if you’re thinking about dinner for next weekend.)
It’s summer in Texas. Heck, it’s summer everywhere–people are frying steaks and eggs on sidewalks and car hoods. They’re not in Texas, either.
Never fret–I have some nice recipes to keep you cool and comfy.
I caught Valerie Bertinelli’s cooking show last Saturday, and her good friend Faith Ford came by for lunch. Apparently, it was hot in SouCal when they filmed this episode (or they were just pretending) because Valerie didn’t want to turn on the oven. However. . .she did turn on the stove. I mean, how else do you cook lobster tails? While I’m not suggesting anyone go out and buy fresh lobster (I know I’m not, crawfish are the same thing), if you want some, many stores will steam them for you. (I think HEB does.) Valerie’s Lemon Icebox Cake was pretty fast and looked nice and cool. (It does call for Vanilla Wafers.) The episode is called Too Hot To Cook, but cook she does, albeit on the stove top–but not for very long. Want some real fresh-brewed iced tea? They make some, there’s a honey-sweetened recipe in this episode too.
Naturally, I’m up to my summer coffee making:
Now, if you’re thinking about going iced on your coffee, as always, The Coffee Detective has articles to get you started. This one explains how to make iced coffee at home, and this article has specialty cold coffee-based drinks. (Warning: Nick uses alcohol in some of these recipes.) How long does it stay in the fridge? Until I finish it. Which is going on twice a week now.
If you are in an area where it’s that hot, do you now see the wisdom of the Crock Pot? Even my mechanic friend JK is thinking seriously about making nice, cool Overnight Oatmeal after I told him about it. (I forgot to ask The E Man if he’s tried it.) Don’t be embarrassed–get one or two if you don’t have a slow cooker, and if you have a family, consider a larger waffle maker, too, for making brownies, hash browns and all that kind of thing. There is no need to turn on that oven, unless it’s a toaster oven.
Still looking for recipes for your slow cooker? Sign up at All Free Slow Cooker Recipes and get them in your inbox every day. (In addition to my favorite, Pinterest.) A searchable recipe database means you can go find what you want on a dime. Don’t heat up your kitchen in the summer, please.
I’ve already made my first batch of basil pesto for the year, which I didn’t document, because, well, I’ve done it more than once. However, the rooted basil cuttings have now been planted, and I expect a large amount of basil, and subsequently, pesto, in the near future. Last year I was lucky enough to get extra from my visit last year to the Genoa Friendship Garden, so I kind of made out like a bandit with the pesto. I have five containers in the freezer, and since we didn’t have a really cold winter in Texas, I didn’t make as much Pea & Pesto Soup as I thought. However, at some point, I’ll need to get more of those square containers I use to freeze individual batches. Earlier this year, I also broke one, darnit.
Speaking of the garden, I got more tomatoes:
Four more are behind it, and I’m watching the newly planted basil cuttings too. No more strawberries, and the jalapenos are taking their time. The lettuce, is, of course, gone now.
Anyway. . . .
Last weekend, for whatever reason, I pulled a couple of old cookbooks off the shelf and started flipping through them. I wanted to make something different, and wondered if there was anything I could make that I had on hand, or with minimal shopping. Something I hadn’t made in a while, or never tried. Turns out there was. The first recipe, Cool Lentil Salad, is a good one. Why have I never made this before?
The first book in question is Martha Stewart’s Healthy Quick Cook. Published in 1997, this book features elegant but somewhat “lighter” menus, including desserts, that are low fat. (Not all the customer reviews are positive, but that’s OK.) “Casual but sophisticated,” it says on the inside cover. Well, we know what “low fat” usually means–higher in carbs, sugar, salt, and other additives to cut the fat but make it taste good. In these recipes, most everything is made from scratch, as Martha usually does, although I admit to making just a few recipes from the book. Maybe I need to go back and read it again. This salad is made from simple ingredients, quick to make and is a nice, cool addition to a summer dinner.
I can still hear my ex-husband say to me, “You expect me to eat that??” Ah, memories. . . .
Recipe 1: Lentil Salad
Unfortunately, you do cook the lentils on the stove, but only for 10 minutes. After that, it’s just tossing everything together.
The parsley and celery came from the garden, and I really, really needed to cut the parsley. I’m forever telling LK to water the parsley plant she has out front of her house, and. . .mine is watered, but it really needed cutting too. Finally, I cut it. The re-grown celery also needed to be cut, and I took half of that off. (I’ll use the rest in something else.) The lentils. . .well, they’re in a sealed jar, OK? Next trip to Phoenicia, and I’ll re-stock. I haven’t made any lentil dishes since I made Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes earlier this year.
So I started out by boiling the rinsed lentils and garlic in salted water:
And let them simmer for 10 minutes. Meantime, I started chopping celery:
You’ll need half a cup:
When the lentils are, as the book says, “crisp-tender”, that is, cooked but not mushy with a textured bite, drain them:
Discard that garlic, then run the cold water over them:
And toss the lentils into a bowl (your serving bowl, if you like.) Finely chop that red onion (or as best as you can get it):
And add it with the chopped parsley into the bowl.
Now, I have to tell you about my recent little benefit: I was at HEB on a Saturday, and when I was walking into have lunch, I mean, get my shopping, I noticed that someone dropped a big, beautiful red bell pepper. It was just sitting there! I figured someone would go back for it, but when I left HEB, someone carefully perched it on the short concrete pylons in front of the door. So. . .it came home with me. And I said, Thank You.
I put it on the Butusdan for a few days, but noticed it was getting a tad wrinkly. Into the fridge until I figured out what to do with it, and so I tossed it into the lentil salad. The bell pepper was an addition, not part of the recipe:
Now for the dressing: It’s just 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of warm water. I whizzed that all together with the frother:
Poured it over the salad in the bowl and mixed it together:
It’s pretty darn tasty, and will complement many summer dishes perfectly.
Recipe 2: White Bean & Olive Salad
This tasty throw-together salad only appeared in the Houston Chronicle via The New York Times many years ago. It was an Everyday Food recipe, and was never in a book or on their website–despite my request to add it. Fortunately, I kept the newspaper section in my personal notebook, and have enjoyed it for many years. It’s simple, and uses just a few simple ingredients for a cool, tasty side dish.
There’s a reason I put out three kinds of mustard–because, quite frankly, I think you should have a choice. The original recipe calls for Dijon mustard. However, the first time I made it, I only had Creole Mustard, and have been using it in this recipe ever since.
I think it’s a lot more flavorful than the Dijon, but that’s just me. You could certainly try the grainier variety of Dijon, too.
Why do I have two kinds of Dijon? Because at Trader Joe’s, it’s cheap.
So, you rinse two cans of cannellinni beans, and add them to a serving bowl:
Chop (or halve) a quarter cup of Kalamata olives:
These are the olives, available in most markets:
Add them to the bowl. Now thinly slice half a small red onion (in this case, left from the Cool Lentil Salad):
Time to mix the dressing–and I used my secret weapon again.
Into a small bowl, add 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, and one tablespoon of mustard. In my case, I like the Creole mustard in this dish, but the original recipe calls for Dijon:
And out comes the Aerolatte milk frothing tool to mix and emulsify the dressing.
Note that you MUST wash it carefully by hand to get it clean. Don’t want olive oil in your frothed-up latte, do you?
Then it’s just a matter of pouring it over the salad, and mixing it up:
Voila! A tasty no-cook salad that’s quick and delicious anytime. It makes four servings, by the way:
This, too, will hold up in the fridge for a few days. If you can keep your paws out of it. It’s THAT good.
Recipe 3: Ginger Ice Milk
The third recipe, also from Martha Stewart’s Healthy Quick Cook, is Ginger Ice Milk, and takes a bit of prep work before it’s ready to eat. Remember that this book came out in the 90’s, when low-fat was still the prevailing mindset in “healthy.” It calls for 3.5 cups of “low-fat” milk–which is mostly or all sugar, if you didn’t know that. (I’m guessing it’s either skim, 1% or 2%, but it’s still more sugar than fat; whole milk is both sugar and fat.) No way am I going to put a half-cup of sugar into a pitcher of sugar. So, much like lattes and iced coffee, I made it with whole milk, and sweetened it with SomerSweet. (Yes, I still have some.)
I’m not sure whether to call this “ice milk” or “ice cream.” Whatever you call it, you’ll enjoy it in the summer heat.
Warning #1: fresh ginger has a real bite! And, you should observe sitting times and probably not leave it for 2+ hours while heading out for a bike ride. Just 45 minutes of infusion should have done it. (I forget these things.)
Warning #2: If you have an ice cream maker like mine, that requires the freezing of a component (in my case, the bowl) make sure you freeze it ahead of time as instructed. That’s in addition to making the base for the iced treat you’re freezing, and letting it chill completely. Mine from Cuisinart requires 24 hours for the bowl to freeze up properly, and I actually put it in the freezer on Wednesday. If you have one of the fancier ones with an internal compressor (that is, it’s plug-and-play like this one with no freezing beforehand, which cost more), then you don’t need to freeze ahead. One day. . .I’ll get a plug-and-play ice cream maker, or a bigger freezer so that I can keep *two* of the freezer bowls frozen at the ready and make my own ice cream a lot more often. At least I don’t have to make ice for days in advance like I did with the one I used to own.
Warning #3: Ginger can develop a mold on the surface if you leave it too long in the fridge. Like I did:
I only made this to use up the ginger. And, because I like making my own ice cream.
This recipe is dessert for a meal inspired by Japanese cuisine. The protein is <cough> tofu, and there is nori (flat dried seaweed) involved in a “Vegetable Handwrap.” Now, I’ve eaten burritos for quite a number of years, but even I know that it is not possible to chew through the nori wrap! (It’s like chewing aluminum foil lined with plastic wrap–it’s too stiff to make burritos.) Obviously, the rest of that menu will never happen in my kitchen, but the dessert is a good one.
So, it’s pretty simple to make: heat up 3.5 cups of milk with a half-cup of sugar (I used SomerSweet), and stir, but don’t boil:
Warm until the sugar or sweetener dissolves, and whisk occasionally to make sure it does.
While that’s happening, peel the ginger (recipe calls for a 3-inch piece, but good luck finding that to spec). I learned from Martha to scrape the peel off using a spoon. Then slice it like the red onion above:
When the sweetener has dissolved, add the fresh ginger, lower the heat and let it lightly simmer for 15 minutes. Then take it off the heat, add the grated ginger, and let it infuse for 45 minutes:
It was at this point that headed out on the bike for 90 minutes. That’s where the powerful ginger taste came from. It’s almost hot, no kidding.
After 45 minutes, remove the ginger pieces (I had to strain out the tiny bits):
Then let it cool, then chill it thoroughly. (This is why you plan ahead.)
Once it’s cool (and you’ve frozen your bowl, if need be), it’s time to make this into a sweet treat.
Now, there’s something I found unusual with this recipe. See where the milk level is? Well, start to finish took about 40 minutes (and thank heavens for earbuds, that machine is loud.) But as it churned, the mixture sort of expanded:
Now get a look at it right before I turned the machine off:
I’ve never seen that happen before. But it was time to shut it off, and I did.
Theoretically, the square glass container on the right should have been elegant sufficiency. However, I had to resort to putting the “overflow” in another container. Well, that’s OK–it’s sugar free, I’ll have it whenever I want some. (I also have some cantaloupe sorbet in a separate glass container, sitting underneath these two.
One thing I noticed is that when I put this dish in the freezer with a spoon, it didn’t freeze hard like ice cream does:
Checking the containers in the freezer, they’re not frozen hard, either. So, you’ll have to eat this quickly before it melts.
Oh, and I also ate the “crumbs” I scraped off the inside of the freezer bowl:
Delicious–but let me repeat the warning that ginger can be quite spicy, and it gives a bite to this frozen dessert. I may have left it infuse too long. But it’s SOOOO good!
Recipe 4: Quinoa, Pea & Mint Salad
The last recipe is actually on page 17 of Martha Stewart’s Dinner At Home, a book similar to the ill-received Healthy Quick Cook, but without the “healthy” connotation. Like the first book and one or two before it, the menus are arranged by season to take advantage of what’s available. They don’t call this a “healthy” cookbook, but for the most part, it is–elegant made from scratch dishes using easy to find fresh ingredients. I made this from what I had already, plus mint from the garden, and I have to say, it’s quite good. So let’s make some!
I bought that chicken stock for something else a long time ago, and I finally used it. Peas I try to keep around for Pea and Pesto Soup, so that’s only a cup. I have quinoa as well, and that’s a cup. The mint, of course, came from the garden. So, let’s make this one.
First, put the chicken stock (or broth) in the pot, then rinse the quinoa:
Heat it to boiling, cover and simmer for 10 minutes:
After 10 minutes, add the peas, fresh or frozen:
Cover and let this simmer for another 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, remove it from the heat, add salt and pepper to taste, and then 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil:
Mix well, and then add into a serving dish (which is probably cool):
Let this sit for five minutes or so to cool a bit, uncovered. Then stir in the mint. I just added the leaves whole, since they weren’t big. If you have big leaves, tear them a little or even chop a little:
Mix it up well, and serve either warm or room temperature. If you’re doing the weekly cooking thing, this will sit in the fridge all week and hold up just fine. Best to cook after the sun goes down, or if you’re the hardy type, before the sun comes up. (I used to do that.)
Now, if you’ve got grilling on your mind, the July/August issue of Hobby Farms magazine has a quick recipe for Grilled Bell Pepper and Tomato Kabobs with Herbs and Olive Oil. I haven’t tried this one, but it looks tasty and is simple. It would go well with an outdoor grilled dinner.
More farm-type recipes are available on their website. This month’s issue also includes a Letter to the Editor about foot rot in sheep. EWWWW, poor babies! If you see a sheep kneeling to graze, that means it’s in pain and needs immediate medical attention. But if you do have sheep, you’ll likely smell it, too.
What will you have that will keep your house from feeling like a HeatCageKitchen? (Go to the Recipes page for PDF files for all these tasty dishes.)
Here’s a re-blog from GF And Me, a blog dedicated to gluten-free foods with some gorgeous chocolate treats for Valentine’s Day, and probably better than mine.
Happy Valentine’s Day!