Friday, April 24, 2015

Two birds, one pot...

After a long bout of tummy troubles, the family is back on track, which means, I have to start really cooking again.  Once again I utilized the one pot method this week.  What can I say, I'm a creature of habit.
Wednesday night I decided to make a dish I call "Sausage Al Forno."  Basically it is sausage, cut into small slices mixed with a whole bunch of veggies.  For this time, I used these veggies.
Mise En Place
All items used for the meal, except for the butter and the garlic (which I buy in bulk) were purchased at Aldi.  I used the Kirkwood Turkey Jalapeno sausage, which was $2.49 per package.  Here's the recipe:
1 small zucchini
1/2 can (32 oz) diced tomatoes
6 - 8 large mushrooms, sliced thin
1 large tbsp. minced garlic
1 1/2 green pepper, diced
1 1/2 tbsp. butter
3-4 Kirwood Turkey Jalapeno sausage, cut into 1 inch thick pieces
1 small onion, diced (not picture)
1 1/2 cup chicken broth (not pictured)
In a large pan, heat butter.  Add garlic, simmer till fragrant.  Add onions.  Cook till translucent.  Add peppers, mushrooms and zucchini.  Cook for approximately 3 minutes before adding tomatoes.  Add sausage and chicken broth.  Simmer until veggies are tender.  Serve over pasta or quinoa.  Top with Priano parmesan cheese.  



On Thursday, I felt a stir fry coming on because at work, they were serving chicken lo mein.  (I work at an elementary school cafeteria)

In my freezer, I had some ham steak, purchased at Aldi's.  I also had some canned mushrooms and canned peas (not from Aldi's, but canned mushrooms and peas are sold there) as well as some Soy Vay Island Teriyaki marinade.  Quinoa served as the "grain" or rice in this dish.  Here's how it works:


2 ham steaks, diced
1 can peas
1 small can mushrooms
1 small onion, diced
1 tbsp. garlic
1 cup quinoa (prepared to package directions)
1 tbsp butter
Soy Vay Island Teriyaki marinade


In a large wok, heat 1 tbsp. butter.  Add garlic, heat till fragrant.  Add mushrooms and peas, with juices.  Add diced ham and 1/2 bottle of Soy Vay marinade.  Add water if needed.  Simmer on medium for about 30 minutes.  Serve over quinoa. 

(It was so good, I couldn't wait to take a picture.  Om nom nom nom)
The marinade is a bit of a splurge, costing approximately $5.49 per bottle at Lowe's of all places.  But it is worth the cost.  I use the bottle for at least two, sometimes even 3 meals, so the cost evens out.  Other items, except quinoa were or can be purchased at Aldi for minimal cost.  For approximately $6.50, I could purchase everything, minus the quinoa.  The meal served 4, with enough leftovers for 2.  Minimal cost maximum flavor. 
I would like to see Aldi carry a quinoa-only product.  They sell a quinoa brown rice mix, but I don't like to eat grain, so this doesn't work for me. 
Make sure to come back later this week to get some product reviews, more recipes and more fun stuff.  Follow me on twitter @camp3082

Raindrops and Savings

So this is what lovely Mother Nature has in store for me for the next week...

Isn't she a peach? Well, April Showers and all. 

When I went looking for my youngest child's rain boots, I noticed they had slashes in them.  Don't know how they got there, but they would NOT work for rain.  Also, my daughter came to me complaining her boots - a hand-me-down from a cousin of mine, were too tight. 

Luckily, this week on special, Aldi was selling kids rain boots.  Yeah, I know what you are thinking, cause I was thinking the same thing.  "Doesn't Aldi just sell food?"  Well my good friends and readers, they do not.  They sell a variety of different items.  Just check out their weekly circular here.

So on my shopping trip, I picked up two pair of boots.  The selection was small, and there seemed to only be one size in both boys and girls, but fortunately, that is the size I needed. 

(DH is a volunteer firefighter, so it is a requirement to purchase items that are emblazoned with firefighter logos.  Plus, they look cute on my kiddo)
The boots are roomy so the kiddos will grow into them.  They seem pretty sturdy, but we'll see how long they last on the Smith Children's feet.  For the price I paid ($9.99 plus tax) even if we get only one season out of them, it was worth it.  Rain boots in regular retail stores or online START at $12 or more.  I realize you get more of a selection, but we are simple folk and look for utility and value, which these boots seem to provide.
Plus my daughter looks super cute in hers....

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Review of Maxx Labs liquid Vitamin D3 drops with Vitamin K and Magnesium

Occasionally, I receive products, through various sources, that I am asked to try and give my honest opinion.  This post refers to one of those products.

Recently I was approached by a representative from Maxx Labs to test out their liquid vitamin D3 with Vitamin K and Magnesium product.  It comes in the form of drops, in a 1 oz dropper bottle, with 900 doses of 2000 IU per drop.  I received the product, free of charge, from Amazon and wrote the following review (located here):

I was offered a free sample of this product in exchange for an honest review.

The idea of taking my vitamin D in a drop was a good one. I live in an area with very little sunshine in the winter so I've developed a deficiency. I don't enjoy taking the big pills, so this was something I was interested to try.

I received the package quickly. The label was very hard to read because it was so small. It was a bit nerve wracking trying to figure out how much to take, since the instructions were difficult to read.

I put two drops I a glass of water - my doctor recommends at least 4000 units of D so I thought two would work. Though it says 1 drop is a serving, it does not caution me not to use more than one drop. The drop changed the taste of the water as well as the viscosity. The water seemed to have an oil on the surface. That oiliness was still in the cup when I filled it up again.

I found no information saying not to mix the drops with any other liquid, but perhaps this is the case.

I was messy in getting the drop so the bottle became very oily.
I don't see myself using this product on a daily basis. It's not right for me, though it might work for others    

Wanna test out cool products?  Check out these sites:


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Fit and Tasty...

Every once in a while I crave a good German meal.  I guess because I'm about 51% German heritage that makes sense. 

So this week I decided to make a nice kielbasa with sauerkraut meal.  Reminds me of my mother's mother. 

Luckily, I found a nice turkey kielbasa at Aldi's on my shopping trip.

It was German week, so there were all kinds of German products on sale.  Including a big jar of sauerkraut.  I paired my German specialties with some spinach that I sautéed in chicken broth, and some baby carrots, all of which were purchased at Aldi's. 

Here's the finished product. 

I was skeptical about the taste of the kielbasa because I had never tried the Fit & Active brand before.  But it looked good, smelled good and even tasted good after I cooked it in the sauerkraut.  Normally, when I buy heat and eat foods, I get bombarded with salt, but this product was definitely not overly salty.  It had a crisp bite to the meat and it wasn't too dry or too wet.  I was impressed with this product and will definitely purchase it again. 
Here's the cost breakdown for the meal:
Total Cost                              My Meal Cost
Kielbasa  $ 2.39                     $0.60
Sauerkraut  $1.69                   $0.22
Spinach       $1.79                   $0.90
Chicken Broth $0.49               $0.25
Carrots        $0.49                  $0.10
TOTALS:  $6.85                     $2.07
I cooked the meal intending to feed 4 of my 5 family members. (I have an Autistic son who only eats chicken nuggets, pizza, eggs and a few other things, so I generally don't factor him into my count for meals)  Unfortunately, that night 3 of the four of us who were going to eat were sick.  So I had the meal alone, giving myself a little bit extra, and saving about half for leftovers.  Numbers are approximate, but again, for $6.85 I could conceivably feed a family of 4 a meal that consisted of a healthy protein and 3 vegetables. 
I've also found a new, less expensive version of a product a normally buy that has less of the processed meat taste.   It's a win win in my book.
Stay tuned!  I've got more recipes, more product reviews and more tips for shopping at Aldi's coming up. 
You can find me at twitter, @camp3082 and on facebook, Toni Smith.  Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Aldi Challenge, First Recipe....

Yesterday I was hungry but didn't want to make a big mess.  Such is my life, being the messy chef that I am....

*Note to Self...copyright and pitch the show "The Messy Chef" to Food Network

Cue the one pot meals.  I love these kinds of meals.  Everything in one pot means less dishes that need to be cleaned and put away. 

I checked my fridge and my haul from Aldi's, and I found some ground beef and some beautiful looking green peppers.  I knew that I had some frozen peas, some onion, some pasta sauce and some quinoa (again, I could have purchased these at Aldi's but I didn't want to be wasteful).


The choice was obvious....


So here's what I did

Approximately 1 lb ground beef (I used 80/20)
1 cup frozen peas
1 small onion chopped
2 medium green peppers, sliced in halves
2 cups pasta sauce
11/2 cup quinoa
1 tbsp. butter
4 slices provolone cheese (optional)


1.  Cook quinoa according to package directions.  Set aside

2. Heat butter in a sauce pan.  Add onions and cook until translucent. 
3. Add ground beef and brown until done.  Drain off excess grease (optional)
4. Add pasta sauce and peas.  Simmer for approximately 10 minutes, stirring mixture.

5.  Combine quinoa and meat mixture.  Mix thoroughly.
6.  Spoon mixture into green peppers halves.  Transfer to a baking dish.  Add enough water to cover
     the bottoms of the peppers.
7.  Cook on 375 for approximately 45 minutes or until pepper is tender. 
8.  Add optional cheese to tops of peppers 10 minutes before removing from the oven.

This recipe gave me a TON of leftover mixture.  I froze half of what remained for another night.  The rest I gave to my kids, who do not enjoy eating peppers.  They chose to top their mixture with "Chinese cheese" which to the layman is grated parmesan in a shaker. 

It was super tasty and super filling.  Cost wise, here is the breakdown:

Ground Beef: $4.35 (but more like$2.20 because I had leftovers)
Green Peppers: 66 cents
Peas:  50 cents for a can (based off prices at Aldi)
Pasta Sauce: $1.50 (based off prices at Aldi)
Onion: 50 cents (based off prices at Aldi)

*The quinoa I used I could not find at my store.  I will have to look for it again on my next trip.  I paid approximately $10 for a 2 lb bag, of which I used approximately 1 cup, bringing my cost to roughly $2 for the quinoa.

That brings my grand total for this meal to $9.51, leaving off the provolone cheese (which I don't have a price for), which I will divide in half, since I have leftovers.  The total cost is $4.75.  That fed two hungry adults, and two not so hungry kiddos. 

WOW!  I can't believe how little it cost to make so much!  As you can see, one pepper half is enough for me.  My husband ate 2, and we had one half leftover.  The meal is full of vegetables (I count 4 different vegetables, which includes the tomato sauce), protein and vitamins and minerals.  It's quick and easy, and involves minimal dishes. 

Let me know what you think of the recipe! 

TOMORROW NIGHT:  Turkey kielbasa, sauerkraut and sautéed spinach, all purchased at Aldi

Monday, April 13, 2015

April is Aldi Month...

A few weeks (could it be months?) ago, I said that I would take on the challenge of shopping exclusively at Aldi for my families groceries.  Well ladies and gents, week one of that challenge has begun!

This Saturday, I spent a quick trip shopping at my local Aldi store, located in Plattsburgh, NY.  And by quick I mean run through the aisles with my ASD son in the cart hoping to get everything I needed.  Well, I did.  Almost.  The few things I left off the list I picked up today, bringing my grand total of shopping to just under $120.  For a family of five.  For a week. 

Now, I wanted to be as authentic as possible, so I bought things that I would need for the week even though they were already in my pantry; things such as cereal, some canned goods and other items.  I did NOT buy condiments (ketchup, mustard, mayo) because those things have a shelf life and I didn't want to open a new container when I had one at home.  Same goes for some of the vegetables I already have in my crisper (Brussels sprouts for dinner tonight!)  Some items I could not purchase at Aldi, like the meal replacement shakes my husband and I enjoy for breakfast or the particular brand of yogurt I enjoy.  Those items I picked up at my usual place.  Just a caveat to my methods, friends.

What I DID buy is listed on my receipt:

But if you don't have magnifying spectacles, he's the rundown:

     - 1 package of 16 ground beef hamburgers
     - 1 package of turkey kielbasa
     - 1 package of chicken breasts (3 breasts in pack)
     - 1 package of 80/20 ground beef (approximately 2.25 lbs)
     - 1 pack of turkey sausages
     - 1 16" cheese pizza
     - 1 package roast beef
     - 1 package shredded cheese
     - 1 package frozen chicken nuggets
     - 1 container Parmesan cheese

Fresh Vegetables/fruit
     - 6 bananas
     - 1 package mushrooms
     - 1 bag baby carrots
     - 1 package of green peppers (3 in pack)
     - 2 packages of zucchini (3 in each)
     - 1 package cucumbers (3 in pack)
     - 1 bag fresh spinach
     - 1 bag spring mix salad
     - 1 medium sized seedless watermelon
Canned Goods/Dried Goods
     - 1 can corn
     - 1 jar sauerkraut
     - 1 can tropical fruit salad
     - 1 can sliced beets
     - 1 bag dried lentils
     - 2 cans black beans
     - 1 package whole grain spaghetti
     - 2 cans chicken broth
     - 1 large can organic diced tomatoes

I was also able to purchase snack items for my children (to go in their lunches as well as eat at home) and myself and my husband.  Also, I purchased what I call go-along items for my meals: hamburger buns, taco seasoning.  Round the order out with a bottle of juice and that's what we got for our $120.

I was surprised that I spent that much money, but I had never purchased meats at Aldi before, so that is probably where most of my money went. 

It would have helped me to get to know the store before shopping, as I missed some of my essentials the first time around (couldn't find the tomatoes or chicken broth on the first go).

I would be open to switching brands of items I use (like the yogurt and shakes) as long as it was cost effective, which is really the basis behind this whole "challenge" (if you want to call it that).

I'm excited to see what I can do with these vittles this week.  I will post pictures and recipes for each dinner meal I make, complete with what I used. has an AMAZING box of recipes.  I found a yummy zucchini roll up recipe online that I can't wait to try out. 

Wish  me luck friends!  Stay tuned for more!