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I’m a culinary judge who shops at Aldi. Here are 12 things I recently bought and loved.

Champagne cheese; Simply Nature multigrain chipsI pick up items like Emporium Selection Champagne cheese and Simply Nature multigrain tortilla chips.

Meredith Ochs

  • As a culinary judge, I look for high-quality snacks, regional produce, and other staples at Aldi.
  • I like to buy items that contain few or no food additives, like the Specially Selected fruit spread.
  • The Emporium Selection Champagne cheese and Simply Nature salsa are worthy enough for any cook.
The Emporium Selection Champagne cheese has a unique flavor profile.Champagne cheddar at AldiThe English cheddar is made with real Champagne.

Meredith Ochs

Aldi carries a respectable range of cheeses, like bakeable brie, halloumi-style “fries,” and Gruyere from Switzerland. On this trip, I picked up a package of the Emporium Selection Champagne cheese.

The cheese had the pleasant aroma many brands of Champagne have and I could even taste the bubbly in it.

When I visited, Aldi also had Emporium Selection balsamic-onion and black-truffle cheddar. Still, I like the novelty of Champagne-infused cheddar because it reminds me how the pricey beverage pairs well with humble snacks like potato chips.

For $4.49, it’s a lively addition to any cheese plate.

Spice up cheese boards or toast with the Specially Selected fruit spreads.Specially Selected sour cherryThe Specially Selected fruit spreads are imported from Germany.

Meredith Ochs

The Specially Selected jam, a holiday item, works with cheese boards, on toast, and in baked goods. I chose the sour-cherry flavor, which was sweeter than it was tart.

I look for European-imported products since I notice they tend to be made with ingredients I can recognize. In 2015, Aldi eliminated certified synthetic colors, partially hydrogenated oils, and added MSG from its exclusive-brand food products, which includes the fruit spread.

The Specially Selected fruit spread is just $1.65 per 9-ounce jar.

The Specially Selected artisan French baguettes are great to have on hand.Specially Selected baguetteThe Specially Selected baguettes are great for toast or sandwiches.

Meredith Ochs

Aldi’s array of bread spans the better part of an aisle but the Specially Selected extra-long parbaked French baguette stands out. Give it 10 minutes in a 400-degree oven and it emerges with a crusty exterior and a doughy interior.

If I don’t feel like heating up the oven, I break the bread into halves and bake it in my countertop toaster oven.

I like the French baguettes for their versatility because you can cut them lengthwise to build sandwiches, slice them on the bias for crostini, or use them to make your own garlic bread.

Each Specially Selected baguette is $1.69.

The Specially Selected cheese crisps pack flavor and crunch.Specially Selected Asiago and cheddar-cheese crispsYou can get the cheese crisps in Asiago-and-cheddar or melting-Romano flavors.

Meredith Ochs

Layered like buttery puff pastry and baked twice to a firm, gratifying crunch, the Specially Selected Asiago-and-cheddar-cheese crisps are the ultimate nibble.

Loaded with Asiago and cheddar or Romano, they make a fine companion to a predinner cocktail or a bowl of tomato soup. The crisps are made with real flour, butter, and cheese, as well as rosemary extract, which preserves freshness.

They’re stacked in the artisan cracker section along with other tempting items. A 4 1/2-ounce box costs $3.39.

Baker’s Corner sweetened condensed milk makes velvety coffee drinks and desserts.Cans of sweetened condensed milkI make Vietnamese coffee with Baker’s Corner sweetened condensed milk.

Meredith Ochs

I keep sweetened condensed milk in the house for when I have a hankering for Vietnamese iced coffee. It’s simply milk and sugar with more than half of the liquid evaporated but it adds a creamy texture and stability to desserts like key-lime pie or tres-leches cake.

Aldi sells a few different types of sweetened condensed milk. Baker’s Corner, one of its house brands, sells a 14-ounce can for $1.79.

Once it’s opened, I transfer the leftover sweetened condensed milk into another container to keep in the fridge for up to a month.

The Pueblo Lindo dried beans are good for stocking your pantry.Dried black beans at AldiI quick soak my dried beans to rehydrate them.

Meredith Ochs

Aldi doesn’t carry a ton of dried beans but I’ll grab a bag or two of whatever I find. On this trip, I grabbed Pueblo Lindo black beans.

High in fiber and protein and free of fat and sodium, dried beans can be used in a variety of recipes. I buy the dried kind since canned beans may have added salt.

I always check dried beans for pebbles or other detritus and rinse them well. To rehydrate, I do a quick soak by bringing them to a boil, covering and taking them off the heat, letting them sit for an hour, and draining them.

Badia guajillo chili peppers are worth the extra effort in the kitchen.Dried chili peppers at AldiRecipes made with dried chilis have heat and depth.

Meredith Ochs

Dried chilis can be a lot of work to prepare with removing seeds and stems, toasting, rehydrating, blending, and straining. However, the extra prep work yields a gastronomic reward.

Mild and fruity, the Badia guajillo chilis add rich flavor, depth, and color to moles, adobos, salsas, and dishes like chili con carne. For those who want more heat, árbol chilis are also available. Just be careful not to burn them during the toasting process or they’ll turn bitter.

At $2.82, Badia’s 3-ounce bags contain enough to practice and perfect your technique.

The Simply Nature organic multigrain chips make a filling snack or side.Simply Nature's multigrain chips at AldiThe Simply Nature multigrain tortilla chips are loaded with seeds.

Meredith Ochs

The Simply Nature organic multigrain tortilla chips are great with salsa to make a filling snack or side.

The corn-flour tortilla chips are surprisingly hearty and flecked with flax and other seeds.

An 8 1/4-ounce bag of chips costs $1.99.

The Simply Nature thick and chunky salsa is loaded with vegetables.Simply Nature's thick and chunky salsaI like that the Simply Nature salsa in medium-level heat has a decent kick.

Meredith Ochs

The Simply Nature thick and chunky salsa contains visible pieces of chopped tomato, peppers, onion, and garlic. I tried the medium-level heat and much to my delight, it was hotter than I expected.

You can find a 16-ounce jar of salsa for $2.15.

The Simply Nature chia seeds are useful for vegan cooking and baking.The writer holds Simply Nature's chia seedsI like the nutty flavor of the Simple Nature chia seeds.

Meredith Ochs

I think the Simply Nature chia seeds, which are high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, are a great addition to almost any diet. When soaked in liquid for at least 20 minutes, chia seeds develop a gelatinous coating that turns them into easy puddings.

I use them to replace eggs in vegan recipes. A tablespoon of chia seeds in three tablespoons of water is equal to one egg. They also work as a binder for ground, plant-based proteins and baking recipes.

I snagged some organic Bartlett pears from Aldi’s produce section.Organic pears at AldiOrganic Bartlett pears are sweet enough to be a dessert.

Meredith Ochs

Aldi’s produce aisle is worth looking through for a regional specialty or sale. This time, I found a 2-pound sack of organic Northwest US Bartlett pears.

The pears looked like autumn in a bowl on my kitchen table as they waited to be eaten in salads or as a dessert.

A sack of pears cost $4.49.

Baby portabella mushrooms make a tasty side dish.Baby bella mushrooms at AldiI thought the baby portabella mushrooms looked good.

Meredith Ochs

I also picked up an 8-ounce box of locally grown baby portabella mushrooms.

I used the mushrooms to make one of my favorite side dishes by slicing them and stir-frying them with a dash of oil, soy sauce, and honey until the liquid reduced to a glaze.

A box of baby portabella mushrooms cost $1.49.

Click to keep reading Aldi diaries like this one.

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