Friday, July 30, 2010

Aldi Challenge: Turkey Tenderloin and Roasted Cauliflower

I was a bit unsure about the second Aldi meal, a turkey tenderloin with roasted cauliflower.  The cauliflower was basic enough, grocery store cauliflower is after all grocery store cauliflower, it is all the same sort of hearty factory farmed stuff, so that was fine.  It was the turkey tenderloin that worried me.  Especially because the leftovers were going to be added to a salad the next day.  My main concern was that it was premarinated, don't get me wrong, unless I am in a control freak/want to make a feast all on my own type of mood, premarinated meat can be really tasty.  It was the flavor of the marinade, rotisserie, which I had always thought was more a method of cooking than a flavoring, but we gave it a shot.  Let's just say that was not the best idea.  The meat itself was tender, but the marinade left a bit to be desired, it was kind of spicy and salty and rather strong when eating the meat by itself.  I would definitely recommend using it as an ingredient in something instead of as the star of the meal.  

The turkey was easy, just toss it on the grill and cook it until it's not pink anymore.

As for the cauliflower, core it and remove any little leafy bits that you wouldn't want to eat.  Now, you could cut off the florets and go that route, but I wouldn't recommend it.  I like to cut the cauliflower into slices, being sure to scoop up all the little bits and cutting any of the larger slices into more manageable chunks.  Put it all in a bowl and toss with enough olive oil to coat it lightly and salt and pepper.

Put the cauliflower on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast in a 400 degree oven until it is golden and tender.  Drizzle with balsamic vinegar before serving and snag all the little crispy pieces for yourself, they are the best part.

Roasted Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower
about a tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
balsamic vinegar to taste

Core and trim the leafy bits off the cauliflower.  Slice into about inch thick pieces, cutting the larger slices in half.  Scoop up all the cauliflower, including the little bits that fell off during the cutting, and place in a large bowl.  Toss with enough olive oil to coat and a good sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Put in a single layer on a cookie sheet and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes or until golden and tender.  Drizzle with balsamic vinegar before serving, or set the vinegar out and let everyone add it themselves.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Aldi Challenge: Fresh Tomato Pasta

The Aldi Challenge began with a bang, or at least a very tasty meal. It probably didn't hurt that I started off with one of my very favorite summer dishes, a very simple, very fresh tomato sauce, and it is a Nigella recipe and you know how I love her. This sauce is not very difficult, although skinning and seeding and chopping the tomatoes can take a bit of time, it is worth it. Also, it gets better the longer it sits, so you can make it ahead of time and then when you are ready to eat all you have to do is boil the pasta and toss it all together. The Aldi tomatoes were not bad, just like any grocery store ones, if you aren't constrained by a challenge I would recommend getting some juicy, flavorful farmers market ones.

Start with about five good sized tomatoes.  Put them in a big bowl and pour boiling water over them so as to make them easier to peel.
After a few minutes in the boiling water bath, carefully pull them out and skin them.  The skins should come off easily.  Next deseed them, I find it easiest to slice them in half horizontally and scoop them out with my fingers.

Take the seedless and skinless tomatoes and chop them up, tossing them in a bowl as you go.  Add about a 1/4 cup of olive oil, about a tablespoon of sugar, a good grind of fresh black pepper and sprinkle of salt and a garlic clove that you have smashed with the side of your knife (by the way, everything except the garlic was not from Aldi, we already had it, you probably do too).  Mash it all about with a fork.  You want to make it a bit saucy.  Then wait, at least half and hour.

When you are ready to put your pasta (from Aldi) on to boil, cube a ball of fresh mozzarella (from Aldi), if you so desire, and toss it with the tomatoes.  I quite like the melty cheese in this, but you could skip it if you really wanted.

Once the pasta has cooked, drain it and return it to the pot.  Toss the tomato mixture with the pasta, with some fresh torn basil if you have any on hand (we have some in our herb garden and when I remember that it exists I toss it in with all kinds of pasta dishes).  Put the lid back on the pot and let it all hang out for a few minutes in order to let the cheese melt.

After the cheese is nice and gooey, serve it up with a bit more basil on top.

Fresh Tomato Pasta from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson
about 5 medium tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, bruised
1 tablespoon sugar
salt and pepper
1 ball of fresh mozzarella, cubed
handful of fresh basil
1 pound of spaghetti

Put the tomatoes in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let sit for a few minutes.  Remove the skin and seeds from tomatoes, then roughly chop.  Place in a bowl with the olive oil, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper.  Mash it about with a fork, cover with plastic wrap and let sit out for 30 minutes to 6 hours.  When ready to eat, boil water for pasta.  Toss the mozzarella with the tomato mixture, adding most of the basil.  Cook the pasta, drain it and return it to the pot.  Add the the tomato sauce and put a lid on the pot, letting it sit until the cheese melts.  Serve, topping with the rest of the basil.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Aldi Challenge

Image from

The challenge: To do 7 days worth of grocery shopping exclusively at Aldi, making up a dinner menu for the week at the store and then recording it all here.

I discovered Aldi when I was living in Ireland, and it was not like any grocery store I had ever been to, with brands I had never heard of and it was hit or miss when you were looking for something in particular. I didn't shop there much, it was odd and there was another grocery store closer to my house, and I forgot all about the place. Then they opened one up near were I live in the US and I had to check it out, it is as strange as I remembered. It is hard to describe, it has a sort of warehouse feel, it is very affordable, they don't bag your things for you, and has a somewhat limited selection. For example, they had gorgonzola and blue cheese and fontina and fresh mozzarella but no feta. They had spaghetti, but only in 2 pound packages. After checking it out, my dad and I decided it would be a fun challenge to go one day and do our weekly shopping, except instead of planning our menu before leaving home and getting the ingredients we would base the menu on whatever we found there, however we could use spices and such that we already had at home. We shall see how well we eat this week with our bargain groceries.

The Ingredients:

We spent $85 and got all this food, stay tuned to see what it will all turn into.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Nina's Macaroons

My love of coconut goes back to the fifth grade. My teacher went on a vacation to Hawaii and brought back a coconut still in the husk, we spent all morning breaking into it and by recess we each had a chunk of fresh coconut to take out onto the playground with us. After that I would beg my dad to get coconuts at the grocery store, and if I was lucky, and they were on sale, sometimes he would give in and get me one. I also had a newfound appreciation for the macaroons that my grandmother made. This is her recipe, and the cookies are delicious, a bit golden and crispy on the outside and moist and chewy inside. It is also dead easy, there are only six ingredients, but unlike some things (such as the two ingredient cake, boxed cake mix and a can of pumpkin for example, which had the oddest texture) these cookies don't announce themselves as simple. Also, in case you haven't caught on by now, these are not the french macarons, with the meringue and the creamy filling but are rather the more american (or actually originally scottish if wikipedia is to be believed) coconutty ones. These are delicious as is, or you could dip them in chocolate, we had some icing from the smith island cake left over and dipped them in that and it was wonderful, although any chocolate ganache would do.

Cream one stick of oleo (or butter if that floats your boat, but I personally always use margarine because that is what the recipe calls for) with one cup of sugar and one egg.

Mix in the flour, coconut and almond extract.

Form the dough into balls, you may have to roll them between your palms a bit. I also like to make sure that there aren't too many long bits of shredded coconut sticking out, a few little bits turn golden, but long ones burn before the cookies are done.

Bake for 12 minutes at 350. If you want, dip them in chocolate once cool.

Nina's Macaroons
1 stick oleo (or butter)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 tsp. almond extract
3 cups shredded coconut, packed, unsweetened if you can find it, which I generally cant

Cream butter sugar and egg. Mix in the flour, almond extract and coconut. Form into walnut sized balls. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for 12 minutes at 350.