A blog about "nothing"!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Goble, goble?!?!

One of my favorite websites when I want a good laugh is Cakewrecks.  The website focuses primarily on cakes that have glaring issues--sometimes spelling issues, others with imagery that has problems and a variety of other hilarious screw ups.  I actually had to quit reading it on a regular basis because I would get to laughing so hard, I could hardly breathe.  They do sometimes have some awesome cakes on there too, but the basic idea is a good laugh at cake disasters.  Thus the name.
 
I've seen a few poorly done cakes, but nothing worthy of the website until recently.  My husband and I were at a nearby mall last weekend, minding our own business, when all of a sudden he started laughing.  When I asked him what was so funny, he told me.  I had to go back and check it out for myself.  And of course, I took a picture:
 
 
Wow.  Not only is that one sad looking turkey, but seriously, goble goble?????  Thanksgiving is a HUGE deal in the United States and at an early age we are exposed to Thanksgiving culture, learning about pilgrims, their interactions with the Native Americans and that first dinner of thanks.  And turkeys--they are almost as American at this time of year as apple pie.  Ben Franklin wanted to make it the national bird.  As kids we are all taught that the sound that a turkey makes is "gobble, gobble".   I guess this place that shall remain unnamed, that makes those giant cookies you can use as dessert, doesn't require it's employees to have a basic knowledge of spelling.  Yowsa.
 
Needless to say, this has been a source of much laughter in our house, my husband and I have said "goble, goble!" to each other many times since last weekend.  I can't help but wonder if anyone actually bought the giant cookie! 
 
So, in this week of thanks, from our home to yours:
GOBLE, GOBLE!!!  And Happy Thanksgiving too!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

One of my favorite things to make in a slow cooker

I've owned a slow cooker since I got married, and I've used it to cook a lot of different things.  For years I mostly used it to make sauerkraut with hot dogs, always for the new year.  Then I decided to venture out into some other recipes, most things have been hits, I can only think of one true miss.  A couple of years ago I came across something that I wish I'd discovered ages ago.

I mentioned in my post about Aldi's that they sell very good fresh chickens.  They aren't really big, usually somewhere between 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 pounds.  These fit very well into my medium sized slow cooker which is a 5 quart oval shaped one.  And talk about super easy!  Plus with just two of us, we can get 3 - 4 different meals from just that one chicken.  Doesn't get any better than that!

It's really very easy to do, I'm going to explain it here.  You can also do this with a frozen chicken, just make sure it's thawed completely first.  I start out by putting some cut up onions and celery in the bottom of the crock pot, usually a small onion cut into fairly large pieces and a stalk or two of celery is all you need.  If you have some carrots around, cut one of those into a couple of pieces and add it.  Remove the chicken from the package, make sure you check to see if there is anything stuffed inside.  Once in a while you may find a little package containing the giblets.  I usually just toss that out, not a fan.  Place the chicken in the crock pot on top of the vegetables, then season liberally with seasoned salt and Mrs. Dash in your favorite flavor.  (If Mrs. Dash isn't available where you are, use pepper, oregano, basil, rosemary and a bit of garlic salt, or any combination of some of your favorite spices)

Now is the trickest part--how long to cook?!  If you have one of the newer slow cookers, you will probably only need to cook it about 6 hours on the low setting.  If yours is older, 8 - 10 hours on low.  Why the difference?  Because "someone" (I suspect in the legal department) decided that slow cookers cooked at too low of a temperature to be safe.  So they jacked up the temperatures on them.  This annoys me to no end because A)when have you ever heard of someone getting sick from something cooked in a slow cooker  B)it screws up a lot of recipes that people have been using for years, and lastly C)it defeats the idea for the working person to throw their meal in their crockpot, go to work and come home to a yummy meal.  If you tried that with some of the recipes I have now, you'd come home to burnt offerings or worse yet, your house burnt to the ground.  As William Shakespeare said "kill all the lawyers!"  In this case, I couldn't agree more.

Okay, so your chicken is done and you're scratching your head--now what?  Here's what I do with mine.  I get a large baking pan/dish out, and carefully lift the chicken out with some tongs.  Don't be surprised if it falls apart a bit, cooking in the slow cooker does cook it thoroughly.  I then cut some of the meat away and we eat that the first night with some sides--potatoes, a veggie, onion rings, whatever.  What to do with the rest?  First thing I do is drain the juices through a strainer into a storage container and stick it in the refrigerator, tossing the veggies.  After it has been in the refrigerator for a while, the grease will separate and rise to the top, as well as harden.  You can then pop that off and into the trash, leaving you some wonderful, low fat chicken broth!  The rest of the chicken I pull apart into small pieces and with that I can make several different things:

Chicken gravy with chicken chunks over biscuits (using the wonderful broth I just described!)
Chicken Tacos
Chicken Quesadillas
Chicken Soup (also using the broth)
Chicken chunks on a tossed salad
Chicken salad
 
Yummy!!!
Those are our personal favorites.  I love the fact that these chickens cost about $5 and I can get such a variety of meals this way.  Other than the bones and the skin, there is very little waste.  And it's sooooooooo yummy!  A little tip I will give you is to refrigerate the cooked chicken overnight before pulling it apart, it comes apart much easier that way.  The nice part about this too is that the broth as well as the chicken you have pulled apart can all be frozen if you don't want to use it right away.  I almost always have a container of chicken broth in my freezer for something further down the line. 

Slow cookers are a wonderful tool that I think every cook should have and learn to use.  It's a great appliance for making a home cooked meal on those days when you don't want to be in the kitchen for an extended period of time.  I use mine quite a bit during the summer months, it's a nice way to cook a dinner without adding heat to the kitchen.  Plus I can be off doing other things, most recipes don't require much attention once you have the ingredients together. 

Do you have a slow cooker?  And what is one of your favorite things to make in it if you do?  I already shared my spaghetti sauce recipe and I'll be sharing more of my crock pot favorites in the months to come. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Aldi...

Do you shop at Aldi?  If you don't, why not???  I do understand that there are still areas in the US where Aldi doesn't have stores, and let me just say, I feel bad for those people.  But if you live near one, and you don't shop there, you really should.
 
Not familiar with Aldi?  It is a grocery store chain that is classified as a "deep discount" chain, originally started in Germany, but now with locations around Europe, the US and Australia.  Aldi's basic idea is that they carry primarily their own brand instead of numerous name brands, reducing square footage which in turn, reduces expenses and overhead.  Their prices are significantly lower than most grocery stores and when they do have name brand merchandise, it is generally at a discount price as well.
 
I first discovered Aldi about 16 years ago.  They had stores popping up here and there in our area, and I wasn't at all familiar with them, I assumed (quite wrongly) that it was just another regular grocery store chain.  It wasn't until part of my photography club met up at the home of one of our members that had recently relocated.  Aldi was close to his new home and he was telling us all about it and how much money he was saving.  I decided it was worth checking out. 
 
I started out by buying 10 items we used a lot of.  Don't ask me what they were exactly, I do remember buying a can of corn.  My thinking was that 10 items wouldn't break the bank and I could try a variety of items in different categories.  I was very impressed with what I bought and the next time I went, I bought more different items.  As the months progressed, we had tried just about everything we would use regularly, and for the most part, everything was good.  The only thing I ever remember being so bad that I wouldn't buy it again was a spaghetti sauce.  At the time, they had two different ones, this was the cheaper of the two.  Luckily we'd only bought one jar, it wasn't good at all and they no longer sell it, so I guess we weren't alone in thinking it didn't taste good!  I've since bought it there (under another label) and it is good, I used to use it all the time when I made lasagna.  Now that I make my own, it's no longer something I purchased in a jar.
 
Aldi is a fantastic place to buy staple items like flour, sugar, etc.  A friend of mine for whom money was no object always went to Aldi to buy baking supplies for doing all of her holiday cookie and pie making.  Since I do the bulk of my cooking from scratch, I regularly stock up on basic items.  Their spices are good, we've gotten so we prefer a lot of their condiments and pickles, and their cheeses are terrific, always consistent in taste and quality.  We live in a state where dairy prices are highly regulated and Aldi is the one place we can get these items at the best price.
 
Items we aren't fond of:  butter (it doesn't melt well), bread (not as fresh as my hubby likes) cereal (tastes fine, but the boxes are puny).
 
Items I highly recommend:  all of the dairy items (except butter), tea mixes, tortilla chips, rice chips, storage bags, frozen thin green beans.
 
Everything else I have bought there has been good to very good.  Produce overall is very good, but I will warn you, it does tend to go bad rather quickly.  I'm not sure if it's because of how it's stored, or some other reason.  If you are cooking for a large family this is probably not going to be an issue, but with just two of us, sometimes I end up throwing things out before I can use them up.  Price depending, this still might not be a deal breaker though.  You just have to know what these items are selling for at the competition in your area.
 
Meat was something that was just okay for a long time at Aldi, but in recent years, some of the stores have added an actual meat counter instead of selling everything frozen.  I regularly buy pork chops and/or loins, ground beef and chicken this way, and I have absolutely no complaints, many times it's better than what I'd been buying at local grocery stores.  I started out buying frozen whole chickens there a couple of years ago and just in the past year they have gone to selling fresh chickens, they are fantastic. 
 
Aldi has a few interesting "quirks" that help them keep prices lower.  You have to insert a quarter to get your shopping cart, but you do get that back when you return it. This eliminates the need to pay someone to regularly retrieve carts from the parking areas and cars are less likely to get damaged.  You have to pay for the grocery bags, but they welcome you to bring your own.  This is probably one of my favorite things about Aldi (besides saving money) because I have a real problem with the number of bags thrown out and/or wasted.  In the US they don't take credit cards or checks, but you can use a debit card.  Cash is always welcome.
 
Another thing that I love about Aldi is the fact that the store is smaller.  Since they aren't carrying 5 varieties of the same item, they need significantly less floor space.  It makes shopping far less stressful and I can be in and out in no time. 
 
The drawback is that Aldi doesn't carry everything.  If you are cooking something that needs an unusual ingredient, you are probably going to have to make a stop at a bigger grocery store.  I've gotten in the habit of going to Aldi first, then filling in at another grocery store with the items I couldn't get there.  I still buy the bulk of my groceries at Aldi though. 
 
So how much money do you save?  Depending on where you live and the prices at the competition, the savings can be anywhere from 30% - 50% off.  About a year after I started shopping at Aldi's on a regular basis, I had no choice one day but to stop and pick up a few things at another store (it was a Sunday and at that time, Aldi stores in the US weren't open on Sundays).  I was floored to see how much money I had been wasting for all of those years by shopping at a larger store. 
 
Now, I will tell you about one caveat with shopping at Aldi:  quality changes.  In order to get the good prices that they can pass on to consumers, Aldi buys their products from a variety of manufacturers.  I'm sure it's probably on a contract basis.  The problem with that is when the contract runs out, they may continue selling an item, but it's now being made by a different company.  This can cause anything from a minor change in taste to a huge change.  The good part though is everything Aldi sells is covered by a "Double Guarantee":  "If, for any reason, you are not 100 percent satisfied with any product, we will offer a Double Guarantee where we will gladly replace the product AND refund your money."  How can you beat that? 
 
Get that shopping list ready!  Give Aldi a try!  Even if you do it the way I did by starting out with a handful of items, I think you will be pleased.  And that's all I have to say about it, I'm getting ready to head out the door to Aldi myself. 
www.aldi.com