What I loved about my experience at the ALDI Test Kitchen is how much we focused on enhancing the experience of dining together rather than pulling out all the stops to concoct some crazy Food Network feast. Instead, Chef Brigitte Nguyen focused on how we can keep costs and food prep time down while offering interesting dishes your diners will love.
Her first tip – your guests arrive hungry. Don’t leave them that way. Start with a charcuterie tray featuring 3-5 cheeses, two meats and a sweet offering, such as dried fruit or a fig jam. An unexpected items to add to the mix or a salad is oven-roasted grapes. Just drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast until the first one bursts, then add to the fixings for a unique sweet to set off the savory. Also, rumor has it the cheese boards will be a special-buy item at ALDI on Dec. 16. Check their website for other special buys - it's updated on Wednesdays.
For ease of use and hosting, she suggested a wine bar featuring an assortment of ALDI offerings, which include award-winning reds, whites and sparkling offerings, which can easily be paired with seasonal fruits and juices for festive-looking wine-based cocktails.
Going beyond the basics bites, a great appetizer to welcome your crew to your is a pea “pesto” crostini, which can be made mostly in advanced and on the cheap. It had great flavor and was beautiful as well. Another option are mini celery gratins, which was a clever way to use a common ingredient that’s always available inexpensively.
One of my favorite ideas, recipe wise, was a twice-baked butternut squash. Because ALDI prices their produce by the item, rather than the pound, this is a cost-effective holiday option that gives each of your attendees a personalized option.
Another awesome idea – don’t bother with dessert. Everyone is stuffed, if you did your job, and eating pie or cake is just because they have to. Instead, buy an assortment of Specially Selected cookies, chocolates and nuts, and arrange them on a three-tiered cake stand. You can even purchase small bags so people can take home their dessert for later. I loved that idea because even though I always have room for dessert, I know most have better self-control than I.
That said, the white chocolate cranberry blondies as well as the peanut butter granola bites were an amazing finish to our mock holiday dinner.
Another idea I loved at our ALDI Friendsgiving was a hot chocolate bar. Pair it with a bottle of cream liquor from ALDI and you’d have quite the nightcap.
Thank you to ALDI for a wonderful experience. Check out all ALDI's wonderfully inventive and inexpensive recipes, and follow me on Instagram for more delicious photos.