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My friend ALDI

Hey man, sometimes you need a month or 4 off. I was pretty busy with my old job and then a new job, so I haven’t been doing a lot of baking. Just some…

cake balls

 

very hard to do with only two hands

very hard to do with only two hands

lemon IPA bars (baking with beer yes)

baking with beer baking with beer

baking with beer baking with beer

banana bread (your basic, your standard), and croissants.

I like a challenge!

I like a challenge!

Shopping though, I have done that. Specifically at ALDI. It’s like a chill friend of mine – reliable, cheap date, but full of surprises. I kinda consider myself an ALDI pro now and spread the gospel whenever I can  – which is what I’m doing with this post.

Just as a note, I’ll admit I wrote everything above like 2 months ago (I took an even further hiatus because my computer was too old to cooperate with WordPress). Since then, I’ve become a little more sensitive to what I feel is a very high sodium content for their prepared foods. But their produce is a steal and they do carry some brand names from time to time. And, perhaps most importantly, they cater to dietary restrictions (on the cheap). I mean look at these cookies! They’re pretty much a replica of Enjoy Life’s soft-baked cookies. I can’t tell you how much they are, but it’s probably a good deal.

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whaaaa?

I DO know the price of the their soymilk. I go through a gallon of it a week, and on average, a half gallon will run you about 3.99 to $4.29 (according to Google search). But organic soymilk at ALDI is $2.29!

Oh. Oh. Another good item? This Nature’s Path Pumpkin Flax Granola.

$2.89! Woo.

This stuff is deliiiiicious.

It’s $4.39 for an 11.5oz box on the Nature’s Path website. What is it at Aldi? $2.89. Amazing!

Something I used to get at ALDI all the time was their coffee. Check this out:

"Donut Store Blend."

“Donut Store Blend.”

No joke though, it tastes exactly like Dunkin Donuts coffee, a pound bag of which costs $8.99. This stuff was………..$3.99!! MIND BLOWING. Except that I don’t think they carry this blend any more, I haven’t seen it in a while.

And just going through the receipts I saved for this blog post (meaning they’ve been on my desk since the summer), there’s some other unbelievable deals. Like a half-pint of blueberries for $1.29, a 20oz box of raisin bran for $1.79, a can of black beans for 60 cents, and so on. When I was shopping there regularly, I was spending between $50-$60 on a couple weeks worth of groceries, saving at $30 compared to if I had bought all of the same items at Mariano’s. I probably could’ve been spending even less, but those deals are so tempting that I left with stuffed cart every time.

baggage.

baggage.

Like I said above, some of their processed food is full of sodium. I wouldn’t recommend the soups, or even the bread. But produce, special-diet items, pantry items (A1 KNOCKOFF STEAK SAUCE FOR A DOLLAR), non-food essentials like paper towels and household cleaners, even fish oil capsules (!), you absolutely cannot beat the price. And that’s why I’m glad I discovered my new friend ALDI.

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writing to prove i’m not dead

Just busy!

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Lalalavender!

This post is dedicated to my most magnanimous friend James, who has actually had a hand in a lot of my blog posts over the past year or so since I met him at Hamlin dog park in Roscoe Village.

He encouraged me to make peace-offering cookies for my new neighbors when I moved and my dog was being a whiny baby.

He gave me a set of knives (no specific post associated, but I use them a lot).

He split a Groupon to Paulina Meat Market with me.

He gave me a cast-iron skillet!!

In return, I make him the victim of my vegan baking experiments, like these cookies and this bread, etc.

So when he told me that he was having trouble sleeping, I jumped at the chance to finally christen my oven and make him something that employed one of my favorite things.

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Fo’sho. I love lavender. In my soap, in my lotion, I even use a few drops of lavender oil in my humidifier. I’ve never used it in cooking before, but, as I said, I like to make James the victim of my experiments. I think I just googled “vegan lavender dessert” and found this great-looking vanilla lavender cupcake recipe from veganivore. Also props to Epic Spices up there, a tiny little spice shop in Ukie Village. The product is excellent, the right price, and the owner complimented me for my chosen flavor combo: “Now I’m not up on all my magazine subscriptions, but there must be some lavender citrus trend going on, because people keep coming in here wanting to make some lavender orange simple syrup for their next cocktail party or whatever, so good for you.”

The cupcake recipe I followed to a tee (save for the almond milk, I used vanilla soy). Apparently the original recipe is from the famous Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and it’s a good one. Very moist.

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and fluffy!

 

The frosting recipe I had a little more trouble with because the directions are to steep 1/4 cup lavender flowers in 2 tablespoons of water. That seemed, like… impossible. I did the reverse.

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Except then the resulting lavender water probably wasn’t as concentrated as it was meant to be, so I ended up adding more of it to the frosting mixture to really get the lavender scent, which threw the whole consistency off and I ended up having to dump a load of cornstarch in so that it would set.

I mean “vanilla lavender cupcake” just sounds pretty, doesn’t it? I didn’t want it to end up being another sloppycake mess.

sloppycakes

amateur hour

 

The cornstarch did the trick though, and with some red and blue food coloring, the result was possibly the most photogenic thing I’ve ever made.

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The original recipe also calls for agave syrup drizzled on top so the lavender flower buds stick, but I just used a toothpick to gently push them into the frosting. Then I put the cupcakes in the fridge for additional setting.

I personally felt like I could taste the massive load of cornstarch in the frosting, but it was still pretty good, and James enjoyed them 🙂 . And since I still have a good amount of lavender left, I could probably try my hand at the frosting again at some point…

 

Or maybe just save it for a craft cocktail.

lavender martini, anyone?

lavender martini, anyone?

 

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‘Hood Cooking – Gnocchi and Vegan Hash

When I first moved to Roscoe Village, I shopped at the Jewel on Western Ave. because I was used to the layout. I quickly noticed that the store was totally dead, while the Mariano’s parking lot was a madhouse. So the next time I went shopping I went to Mariano’s and discovered how absolutely amazing it was- like a combination of Dominick’s (RIP) and Whole Foods with prices cheaper than Jewel. Mariano’s has a huge selection of alternative diet stuff, like Earth Balance buttery sticks, soy yogurt and pudding, and egg replacer, all things I’d normally have to go to Whole Foods for.

Actually I probably don’t need to say anything about Mariano’s because everyone who’s been there knows it’s the best. Seriously, start taking note in conversations, any time anyone brings up buying food, it’s probably a minute max before someone brings up their love for Mariano’s. Like Godwin’s Law of grocery shopping. The Mariano Rule.

Anyway, from then on I pretty much shopped there exclusively. I went to the Trader Joe’s on Lincoln if I wanted random snacks like Cat Cookies or these addictive lentil potato twist crisps, but the serious shopping was Mariano’s only.

Sadly, I don’t really live within walking distance of Mariano’s anymore. But there’s lots of different places to shop in and around Avondale, so while there is a Jewel close by, I’ve taken this opportunity to expand my horizons and spread my money and whatnot. And since I’ve really started cooking in my new apartment, I wanted to introduce this “Hood Cooking” series to highlight the various markets at which I’ve been shopping.

 The Dish: Whole Wheat Gnocchi with Chicken and Mushrooms

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This was the first dish I made for work lunches in the new kitchen.

The Ingredients

  • The whole wheat gnocchi is vegan and it’s from ALDI. And it was $1.50 for the package. A thousand wins.
  • I’m cheating with the chicken, it’s from Mariano’s. I never thawed and cooked it before I moved, and right before my parents were about to leave me alone in my new home on move-in day I suddenly remembered I had 5 frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts in the freezer at the old apartment and they had to be retrieved immediately.
  • Yellow pepper, also from ALDI. At $2.99 for a package of three peppers that was the most expensive thing I bought when I went there the first time (And I know how much it was because I took a picture of the receipt so I could brag about my savings to people).
  • Portobello mushrooms, from Joong Boo market! That place, like ALDI, will probably get a post of its own at some point. It’s a fun little Korean mart. Lots of kimchi.
  • …so the sauce is a mixture of salsa from Target and Hoisin sauce (chicken marinade) from Joong Boo. That sounds gross, but it really wasn’t that bad for making pasta and suddenly realizing you have no sauce.

 The Second Dish: Vegan Hash

I owe my magnanimous friend James a shoutout here because I obviously love using my cast iron, and these dishes would not be possible with him.

The Ingredients

  • The taters are from Target, which is where my dad took me shopping for sustenance after the movers left. I always like to keep a sack of potatoes around, although these ones were kinda ehh.
  • Onions are from Mariano’s, so cheating again. Yes, I packed onions in a moving box. Probably the same box in which I packed the canola oil. Worth it.
  • The beans are from ALDI and they were 60 cents a can. That’s the cheapest I’ve ever seen beans anywhere.
  • The extra-firm tofu is from Joong Boo market, and it’s the local Phoenix Bean brand, which I love. I discovered them at a farmer’s market where they were doling out samples, and they’ve just got a really good product.
  • River Valley Kitchens Cherry Bomb hot sauce, from the Logan Square indoor market. Love this stuff. I don’t want to say it’s better than sriracha, but it’s close. Anyway, River Valley Kitchens are the mushroom people at most farmer’s markets in the city. They also have a storefront in Ravenswood… I kept meaning to go there but it didn’t happen before the move. So I’m glad to see they are Logan Square market participants! I went to the indoor market for the first time today, and while it was pretty small, it’s still a fun thing to do on a nice Sunday. The outdoor market opens on May 18th, so I’m looking forward to taking Tibs for a stroll over there and checking out the expanded offerings.

 

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New ‘Hood, New Kitchen, New Post!

Hi folks, I’m back from my annual 3-4 month Blogger MIA period. I’ve definitely been making foodstuffs since my last post-

I’ve just felt that none of it was particularly noteworthy… plus coming home to a chilly apartment every night was not conducive to baking and blogging, more sitting on my couch, binging on soynut butter and Archer episodes on Netflix. But all that is about to change, because Tibs and I have MOVED! Woo!

I mean don’t get me wrong, my last apartment was habitable, but not really insulated, and not even that inviting. Plus there was that whole weirdness with the kitchen, which I mentioned in my first baking post in that apartment. I will explain in photo below.

Old kitchen

Old kitchen

New kitchen!

New kitchen! Sink in logical area! (fridge off to the left)

 

It is going to be so much easier to cook and bake with this layout, I’m so psyched. Actually I already did utilize the kitchen once, to make soup. How awesome to just be able to dump the dishes in the sink right there instead of carry them around the corner. The fact that the dishwasher isn’t directly under the sink is also nice. AND there’s a garbage disposal. And, granite, espresso cabinets, etc…

Additionally, since I’m not returning from work to straight burrow myself under 5 blankets, I plan on blogging more in general. In particular, I went to Aldi for the first time this weekend and it’s the new truth for me, so expect a post on that wonderful place. Anyway, see that beer on the counter? That’s in honor of my new kitchen and lots more Anaphylactic Gourmet updates. Cheers!

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Fall To-Do List

This may become an annual thing – fall is THE season for baking, but I’ve been so busy, I can only list out the things that I will bake and subsequently blog about. So, like last year, I have to make a post about projects on the horizon.

Pornbread – Of course. This is such a great, easy recipe. I just have to find some good jam to go with it.

Pumpkin cranberry cookies – I make these somewhat annually too. I discovered the recipe off of VegWeb when I was in college and needed to make cookies for a bake sale. Sub dried cranberries for raisins, and you got your perfect fall cookie.

Apple cider donut cookies – More fall-y flavors. I’ve never tried this recipe before, but it looks awesome.

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Utilize this almost full, but entirely flat bottle of Pipeworks’ Orange Truffle Abduction in something – Undrinkable 😦 But not useless! It would definitely be good in muffins, or maybe even scones… But I don’t know if the beer you bake with has to be carbonated. I could also use it as a sauce for pork chops, I guess.

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Steak ‘n Eggs

As far as making things for other people goes, I’ve always been much more of a baker than a cook… this is also perhaps because I dated a chef for the last 3 years and let him handle that realm.

Since that ended, though, I’ve been meaning to try my hand at cooking things that would typical of something you would make for other people, even if they aren’t things I eat on a regular basis, say, steak. Never tried cooking a big piece of cow by myself before, and I’ve always had this sense that properly cooking a steak was some sort of life skill.

So, when this Groupon for Paulina Meat Market appeared in my inbox, I figure the opportunity had presented itself. I went with a friend last weekend, and picked up a decent-sized New York strip and a flat iron.

I broiled the strip, and that was pretty fun because I’ve never used the broiler function in an oven before. The first time I took it out, it was underdone, so I put it back in – probably for just a bit too long, since it ended up a little too medium for my liking. But, as it was my first time broiling anything, I was pleased with the result anyway.

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YEAH giant-ass food porn.

And yeah I instagrammed that shit all over my social media, I was so proud of myself. That sautee to the side was fantastic too – just garlic sauteed kale with mushrooms and onions, finished with balsamic vinegar. I’ll be making that again soon.

The flat top wasn’t as thick, so I cooked it on my grill pan. That came out perfectly, since I was able to employ the pokey method of testing for doneness… it’s supposed to feel like the area between your thumb and your forefinger or something? Cilantro lime brown rice with yellow pepper and black beans was my side for that, and I had some fancy leftovers for lunch all week. 🙂

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So, hurrah, steak. I can now make steak for people. What’s weird is that I sometimes get the inclination to learn how to make things that I’m allergic to, like eggs. I don’t know why. That seems ludicrous. I hope to have kids without allergies – that’s the dream, so maybe I’m thinking I would cook eggs for them? But I’ve heard they’re really easy to make, so that’s something I’ll leave for my future husband to make.

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I Met Travis Schaffner

This weekend has been so incredibly excellent – I caught up with old friends, had a proper beach day, and enjoyed a wonderful 4th of July, during which I watched one of my best guy friends propose to his girlfriend. But the part that actually relates to this blog is that I FINALLY MET TRAVIS SCHAFFNER AND TOLD HIM HOW COOL I THOUGHT HE WAS.

Eff yeah. I wanted to write about him a while ago and now I will.

Anyway, if you don’t know, Travis owns The Wormhole Coffee in Wicker Park, which is a cafe/shrine to the 80s-early 90s. It’s got a Back to the Future replica Delorean, a Nintendo system in the back (complete with Duck Hunt) and Gremlins toys and Goonies posters and is constantly overrun with hipsters. At some point when I first moved to Bucktown, I think I stopped in for the throwback vibe and discovered that, in addition to soy lattes, they also peddle vegan doughnuts (really superior ones at that)! Bam, go-to cafe. I holed up on the couch by the window dozens of times to study during the MPH years.

At some point when I was there, I remember asking the barista to make sure the steamer for my latte was wiped off due to the milk allergy. “Oh don’t worry, we have a dedicated steamer for non-dairy drinks.” Oh? That’s nice! “Yeah, our owner, Travis, is really allergic to milk too.”

orly

I mean when I think coffee shop, I think copious amounts of milk frothing everywhere. Not the first business I’d consider for someone with a dairy allergy.

But, how awesome. And yeah, why not take that dairy allergy and open up a cafe where people with similar restrictions can enjoy some good coffee and a doughnut? After I found that out, The Wormhole kinda reached beloved status for me, as did Fritz Pastry, where the vegan doughnuts and other offerings (pop-tarts!) are made (Fritz had different owners at one point, but Travis bought the place in 2011 – more on that in this RedEye article). I’d actually never been to Fritz, but I told myself I would go there someday and see where these magical doughnuts came from and maybe even meet the man himself. Maybe I’d even interview him for a blog post or something.

But I never really had the time or motivation to hike over there when I was in Bucktown and Wormhole was so much closer. Cut to now, when I live in Roscoe Village and Fritz is a very easy bike ride from my apartment. And last Saturday morning, I was craving something sweet after my bootcamp workout, and figured I’d go to Fritz on my way home.

So I go in and stroll up to the counter all, “I need something that’s vegan and nut-free.” Barista’s all like, “Okay, well there’s these doughnuts over here, and these muffins are all okay for you, and then there’s these cupcakes… oh and these scones here are vegan and nut-free too.” Ahhhhh! I was so overwhelmed I just went with a doughnut (cranberry-orange variety. for vitamins).

Anyway, while I was fishing out some money to pay for it, the barista goes “Hi, Travis,” so I’m all like “Wait, where’s Travis?!” and she points to the guy who has suddenly appeared next to me. So I turned to him and started babbling about my allergies and how much I loved The Wormhole and how awesome I thought it was that he owned a coffee shop even with a dairy allergy and how great it was that I could get a soy latte and a tasty doughnut, etc etc, all intents of any sort of “interview” forgotten (I’m sure he was busy anyway). But he let me shake his hand and introduce myself and he thanked me for my kind words.

No Travis, thank you! Because places like The Wormhole and Fritz exist, I can have a soy latte from somewhere other than Starbucks and not worry about any contamination, and I can have probably the best vegan doughnut in the city to boot… Oh, and Fritz also has a brunch menu with several vegan options (see post bemoaning the general lack of these) which I will come back to try in the near future. Again, you are awesome and inspiring, and I wish you the utmost success with all of your endeavors.

***

Oh and side note, another reason why I think Travis is cool is that he also seems to have a thing for classic RPGs, thus this Zelda-inspired Wormhole shirt that I have.

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power-wisdom-courage-caffeine

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Fudgy Peace Offering Cookies

So I forgot about this blog for a little while I’ve tried settling into the new apt. The dog didn’t immediately adapt well either, and had one particularly bad weekend of whining/yelping/attacking the coat rack. I was actually pretty petrified that the neighbors would complain to the landlord and I would get evicted or something nightmarish. But one of my friends suggested making all the neighbors cookies and just being upfront about the situation. So that’s what I did! I didn’t take pictures, but this recipe is pulled from the Food Allergy News Cookbook, from the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. My mom used to make these for me, but we found the original formula a little oily. So these are her modifications:

7 T cocoa powder

7 T margarine

1 1/2 T non-dairy milk, 1 1/2 T oil, 1 t baking powder, mixed together

1 cup sugar

1 t vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups flour

1 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

sugar for sprinkling

Combine cocoa and margarine, stir. Add water/oil/baking powder mixture and sugar. Add vanilla extract and stir until mixed. Add flour, baking soda and salt, and mixed until combined. Then refrigerate 30 mins. A note here, I felt like the dough wasn’t coming together enough, so I added some splashes of soymilk and ice water as needed. Of course, when I baked ’em, the cookies all flattened out into each other and I had to cut them apart. Like brownie-cookies (browkies? crownies?)

Preheat oven to 375. Shape dough into 1-inch balls, and place on cookie sheet (doesn’t need to be greased). Sprinkled extra sugar over cookies as desired and bake 8-10 minutes or until set. Remove and cool on wire racks.

We always flattened these with forks after rolling them into balls, but that might not be a good idea depending on how much extra liquid you added.

Anyway, they were definitely fudgy and delicious. Neighbors were appreciative and dog is settling down. So it’s all looking up! It definitely felt good to bake again. That’s something that’s always made me feel productive and useful, so it was like a defining THIS IS MY KITCHEN BITCHES moment.

Although I’m still getting used to the fact that the sink is like 10 feet away from the prep area and behind the fridge…

This picture has nothing t do with the recipe. It came up on a google image search for "peace offering cookies."

This picture has nothing to do with the recipe. It came up on a google image search for “peace offering cookies.”

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Chef is makin’ jam

For serious! Here’s where he got the recipe.

Ingredients

    • 1 oranges
    • 2 lbs figs, washed and quartered
    • 3 cups brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon grated ginger root
    • 1/2 vanilla pod, split
    • 1/4 cup lemon juice, bottled
    • 2 cups cranberries, fresh or 2 cups frozen cranberries, divided

Directions

  1. Zest orange and rough chop meat discard pith, place it and all the ingredients except one cup of cranberries in a heavy bottom pot over low flame.
  2. Stir to release juices it will be thick. Stirring not to burn. Juices will come and when it does raise heat to high stirring most of the time. At this time remove the vanilla bean.
  3. Using the immersion blender to puree some of the fruit leaving some chucks. Then add the other cup of cranberries.
  4. When it hits a rolling boil for 15 minutes all the time stirring.
  5. Pour into sterile jars leaving 1/2 inch head space and process 10 minutes.
  6. turn flame off and remove lid. Time 5 more minutes. Remove jars holding upright. Cool in draft free spot overnight. Label and use with in 1 year if unopened. Opened store in refrigerator.

 

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