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Saturday, May 30, 2015

The ALDI Test Kitchen: What I Learned & What I Ate

I was provided a trip to the ALDI headquarters in Batavia, IL.  All travel and accommodations were provided by ALDI.  This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are my own.

If you missed my first recap to my trip to Chicago and visiting the ALDI headquarters, stop right here!  Go back and give it a read.  I gave a full tour of a typical ALDI store, what they offer and how to make it your number #1 go-to grocery store.

Today, I'm focusing on what information I received at the ALDI Test Kitchen while on that Chicago trip.  The other lucky bloggers and I were given the royal treatment and were literally stuffed to the gills in delicious food from their Test Kitchen chefs.  Just when we thought we couldn't eat another bite, out came another tray...and we just kept reaching for another bite!

Our day started out with taste testing ALDI products vs. other national brands.  You know those commercials you see where a random guy is out on the street asking people to sample his products?  He'll have two yogurts, both with their labels covered, and he'll ask the person which one they prefer.  And almost every time the one they pick isn't the one they were expecting.  Well, we got to do this!

As we traveled around sampling, we marked down which one we preferred.  I really thought I had a few nailed.  Some were products that we as a family buy on a weekly basis – tortilla chips, granola bars, yogurt, etc.

But, of course, much to my surprise, I was that lady on the street, shocked that chose one over the other, it's hard!  What was even more neat, was that after the unveiling, they told us the price difference of the two products and the amount of money saved by purchasing the ALDI product.  Some were over a 60% savings, but most are up to 50% savings!

You know the ALDI team kept us busy, soon after test sampling, we sat down to listen to two guest speakers.

Chef Brigitte Nguyen {a hoot, that girl is!} left corporate accounting for culinary school and later found herself on two seasons of Food Network's Ultimate Recipe Showdown hosted by Guy Fieri and later winning the $50,000 grand prize in the National Chicken Council cook-off.  She now has her own show on the Cooking Channel and has hosted over 150 episodes of a weekly cooking show in her home state of Kentucky.

Brigitte taught us her techniques for eating for energy, knowing our hunger and getting those healthy fats in so we feel full longer.  What a wealth of knowledge she was!  While she made a few dishes for us to sample, she chatted along the way – giving us tips on saving time in the kitchen.  My favorite quote from her was, “You wouldn't wash just one shirt at a time – you do a whole load of laundry.  So why not prep all of your produce at once?”

Makes total sense, right?  I am really going to try and do more of that for sure!  Her favorite recipe of mine was a chicken and sweet potato sausage patty.  One that is great to double, freeze and pull out for easy breakfasts.  Stay tuned – I'll be creating my version of it soon!

Tara Gidus, MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N, also joined Brigitte and tag-teamed her healthy recipes with her wealth of nutrition knowledge.  Tara is the co-host of Emotional Mojo, a national television show, the author of Pregnancy Cooking & Nutrition for Dummies and co-author of Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies.  She is also the team dietitian for the Orlando Magic NBA team and nutrition consultant to the University of Central Florida Athletic Department.  She has appeared on various television stations and shows, radio and online publications.

Tara made is all seem so simple.  Eat good, healthy food, in small intervals every 2-3 hours.  Easy enough, right?  I know this may sound trivial, but when she told us, “snacks are NOT intended to fill you up – they should just give you 1-2 hours and tide you over until the next meal”.

Ding, ding, ding! That makes so much sense.  A snack, is exactly that, a snack.  Of course a healthy fat snack will keep you fuller, longer, but don't intend for it to keep you full forever.

After speaking and getting to know Brigitte and Tara, we quickly moved to the kitchens.  It was our turn to make something!

In a fun challenge, us bloggers, had to recreate a healthy, fun, yet unique “salad in a jar”.  An array of food was presented before us {seriously, SO much food}.  Once glancing around we were given 15 minutes to gather our ingredients, make a dressing, chop our food {with the help of a sous chef} and make it presentable for Brigitte and Tara to judge.

I went the steakhouse route – spinach, grilled chicken, bleu cheese, hardboiled egg, dried cranberries, sliced almonds, all tossed in a homemade honey mustard dressing.  The winner of the timed event won a $100 ALDI gift certificate.  Sadly, I didn't win.  But I did hear the judges say they really liked it!

Once our challenge was over, they circled us back to the banquet room for dinner.  I'm pretty sure we were all completely stuffed, but honestly the aromas of dinner cooking was enough to entice anyone to eat more.

My dinner plate consisted of grilled steak, a chicken/veggie pasta, cauliflower rice and pasta primavera.  All so, very, very good.  Dessert I took home in a to-go box {definitely a first for me, I must have been full!}.  A delicious strawberry cupcake.  Maybe I ate it the next morning before breakfast?  Don't judge.

By this time it was getting late, we were all a bit tired {and stuffed}, so we hopped on the shuttle taking us back to the hotel.  But of course, being bloggers {hello....chatty!} many of us stayed up at the bar socializing and talking blog.  You can learn so much by talking to other bloggers – programs to use, ways to increase page traffic, companies to steer clear from – the list is endless.

In the end, I made many friends for life.  I got a night away to myself.  I learned ways to help my blog.  And most importantly, I learned the back end of ALDI.  Why they are such a great store and company – how much work they put into the quality of their product and the wonderful employees behind the scenes working their tail feathers off.  I cannot say enough about how well they treated us and how much they love their customers.  Hats off to ALDI!

*Based upon a price comparison of comparable products sold at leading national retail grocery stores.

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