5.29.2015

In The ALDI Test Kitchen


Happy Friday y'all! Today is a very happy Friday because I finally get to share with you all the details of my trip to the ALDI Test Kitchen! And by details, I mean a gazillion pictures so I hope your eyeballs are ready for this!

First off, let's start with the fact that the city of Geneva is just gorgeous. Flowers blooming everywhere, the cutest little shops and boutiques, lovely hiking trails by the Fox River, just all around the perfect getaway. And the hotel that was so graciously provided for me was also nothing short of perfection. I had a beautiful view overlooking the river, not to mention a beautiful room, complete with a whirlpool tub and a fireplace. Oh, and the best part? Fresh baked cookies and milk brought up to my room, compliments of the hotel's nightly turndown service. Yeah, I'll definitely be coming back to this place.


So anyway, after settling in to my hotel room, me and eleven other bloggers got on a bus and headed to Batavia, Illinois, home of the ALDI Headquarters. We were greeted by Liz, who led us to the first portion of the event which was the "Switch & Save" test.




Basically, a select number of products were up against each other, one being the leading national brand and the other ALDI brand, and our job was to taste both and choose the one we liked better. Sounds simple, right? Well, it wasn't!


There were a few instances where I could pick a clear winner (and it ended up being ALDI), but for the most part, there wasn't a clear favorite. This is a testament of just how well ALDI measures up to the national leading brand.


Thanks to ALDI, they conduct blind taste testing to get ALDI products as close in quality as the national brand, so we're not missing out on any flavor. But we are saving ourselves some money since ALDI products cost up to 50% less* or more!


For example, the ALDI Nature's Nectar Premium Orange Juice which was a clear winner for me is 36% cheaper than the leading national brand. And the ALDI Clancy's Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips which I found to be extremely similar to the leading national brand are 67% cheaper...67%!! That's a lot of savings! Football season is right around the corner so you know I'm going to be stocking up.


After the Switch & Save test, we checked out the new gluten-free line, liveGfree, and some new products/top picks from their organic line, SimplyNature. I forgot to snap a picture of them but the liveGfree Snickerdoodle Soft Baked Cookies are seriously one of the greatest gluten-free cookies I have ever tasted. Unbelievably chewy and packed with flavor! I did my fair share of "sampling" with those.


Another product I really enjoyed were the Simply-Nature Fruit Squeezies Multi-Fruit and Apple! Yes, I am a kid at heart. These were another surreal product. So delicious, and they're made with no preservatives or artificial colors! My nephews are going to love these for sure.


Moving on, of course, I find out that ALDI carries organic almond butter after I've been buying non-organic for outrageous prices. Do you guys see that label? It says $4.99 for 12oz.!


Proof that you can buy organic on a budget, so don't let anyone tell you otherwise! I can tell you firsthand that my family and I have recently started eating all organic and ALDI has been a lifesaver. We are super content with ALDI products and their great prices!


The next segment of our event was a presentation by Registered Dietician Tara Gidus and accountant-turned-chef Brigitte Nguyen, two of the sweetest ladies you'll ever have the pleasure of meeting! They took turns speaking to us about how to eat for energy and Brigitte even prepared some amazing recipes for us that corresponded to the presentation.


A few key points I learned:


  • Eat a little bit of everything, but not a lot of anything!
  • You should have 30 grams of protein for breakfast, studies show that on average, women only eat about 12 grams!
  • Excess protein turns into fat, so don't overdo it!
  • Eat light and eat often!
  • Don't go longer than 4 hours without eating a protein-rich meal or snack!
  • The best sources of healthy fats are avocados, nuts, fatty fish, olive oil, and seeds to name a few.
  • Snacks are not intended to fill you up, they are just a bridge so keep them between 100-200 calories. Examples include, carrots, hummus, Greek yogurt, and berries, etc.
  • Carbs are good for you! Well, the fiber-rich ones are because they improve blood sugar control and lasting energy.
  • The best sources of fiber-rich carbs are brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat breads, quinoa, corn, and beans!
  • It is super important to stay hydrated! Most of the time you think you are hungry, but you're actually thirsty.
  • If you want to know if you're well hydrated, check the color of your urine! 


As contradicting as this may be to my line of work, I am a super picky eater. But let me tell you, I ate everything Brigitte made and I fell in love with it! Chicken and sweet potato patties (good protein)? I was all over it. Tuna salad veggie cups (healthy fats)? Could not get enough. Cottage ranch dip (low-glycemic snack)? Perfection. Tuscan shrimp with white beans & quinoa (fiber-rich carbs)? I don't even like seafood but I wanted MORE. Tropical chia pudding (hydration station)? Music to my taste buds.


After all that great food, we were led to a room where our own personal chefs awaited us. Dun dun dun! It was time for the building a better salad challenge! Just to make sure we were listening, we were challenged to build a salad that included all the important points Tara had discussed in the presentation. The ALDI Test Kitchen-chefs were ready to slice and squeeze whatever we needed them to!


We got to thinking right away and I mean, right away because this was a timed challenge! No pressure, right? Yeah, we were all pretty much freaking out.

Ally of Sweet and Savory Eats

Heather of The Healthy Hen

Kristen of A Mind "Full" Mom

Jen of Yummy Healthy Easy

Gina of Running to the Kitchen and Maggie of In Mama Maggie's Kitchen
Since I'm not a huge salad eater, I went with what I do eat plenty of and that is, fruit! My idea was to make a fruit salad, which is entirely perfect for hydration. But I needed to include some healthy fats as well, so I threw in some walnuts and almonds, and also some raisins for extra fiber. It turned out pretty darn good and I won most creative salad!


Here's a picture of all of us with our salads! That's me in the coral, all the way to the right ;-)


After the challenge, we were ready to grub! The ALDI chefs prepared an amazing dinner for us, and it started off with these appetizers! From top to bottom, Savory Shrimp Salad Romaine Bites, Roasted Vegetable and Provolone Sandwiches, and Lemon Fruit Bruschetta! The Roasted Vegetable and Provolone Sandwiches were phenomenal! I had like ten.




We also had a selection of smoothies and wines. Obviously, I don't drink so I can't say much about the wines, however, the Pineapple Mint Jalapeno smoothie and the Blueberry Coconut Avocado Smoothie were both super refreshing! I really liked the spice of the jalapeno smoothie.





For the main entree, we had Chicken Primavera, Marinated Steak with Snap Pea Apple Slaw, Veggie Ribbons, and Cauliflower Couscous!



And if that wasn't enough, they brought out dessert! I was too stuffed to take any pictures so just try your best to imagine bite-sized Dark Chocolate Cups with Avocado Mousse. This girl right here doesn't even like avocados and I probably would have ate the entire plate if they left me alone with it. True story. Also on our dessert menu were gluten-free vanilla cupcakes that were frosted with a strawberry swiss meringue buttercream. I didn't taste them but since we were provided with all the recipes, I will definitely be testing them out in my own kitchen :-)

Clare of Fitting It All In

And that about sums up my visit to the ALDI headquarters! I had a blast socializing with other food bloggers, learning so many new things, and of course, sampling all the great products! It was an eye-opening experience and I'm super glad to have been able to attend with such a wonderful group of women!

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by ALDI, however, all opinions, as always, are 100% my own.

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