22 April 2008

Memo: The Trucks Move Both Ways Through the Intertubes

This was in my inbox when I came home from work:
Hello Lynn – I am writing to you today because I recently read on your blog posting that you were disappointed with a gift order that you received from us. In reviewing the order history, I can see that we certainly did experience some problems getting your monthly gift clubs out to you in the expected time frame. I really do apologize for our errors and I can assure you that is not our normal ordering process.

I am glad to hear that you are a fan of King Arthur Flour / Baker’s Catalogue and enjoy our products. As a way of apology for the troubles you experienced with your order, I am sending you a gift certificate for $25.00 to use in a future order. I appreciate your patience and hope that you will give us the opportunity to serve you in the future. We look forward to hearing from you.
D00dz, someone reads this blog! Or, at least, read one entry. I am ever so chuffed and must go lie down before I am overcome by ego.

20 April 2008

A Tasty Mouthful of Apathy

Tomorrow begins my third week of overtime and, sad to say, cooking has dropped to the very bottom of my priority list. I have been eating a lot of convenience foods like canned low sodium soup, prepared sandwiches, and pasta/vegetable combinations which involve me nuking random pasta packet and random frozen vegetable medley1, mixing them together, and then portioning them out into bowls to take to work along with gelatin cups, pudding cups, and bags of Quaker Oatmeal Squares. This is not the way I want to be eating or living and (hopefully) will not have to much longer.

Heaven only knows what The Husband has been eating. Indeed, I’m quite sure the cats are the only ones getting regular nutritious meals.

They hate that.

I did make a pasta salad based on a recipe I found squirreled away in my Giant File of Random Pieces of Paper I Don't Know What to do With and Dare Not Throw Out for Fear They Are Important. It was not a great pasta salad, but neither was it a terrible one -- if it were possible for my mouth to shrug, it would certainly shrug at the taste-memory of this dish.
Sweet & Sour Ham Salad

6 oz uncooked orzo
16 oz frozen stir fry vegetables (the kind with baby corn, broccoli, peppers, etc)
1 cups cubed cooked ham
3/4 cup sweet and sour sauce

Empty vegetable blend into a colander. Cook pasta as directed. Pour hot pasta over frozen vegetables and allow to drain until vegetables are thawed. Toss pasta/vegetable combination in a large bowl with chopped ham and sauce.
While the recipe didn’t indicate whether I was to eat this cold or at room temperature, I found I preferred it on the warmish side. It wasn't bad cold, but was better warm -- and that is not saying much.

I have made up a batch of gelatin cups to take to work for the coming week -- every time I throw an empty snack cup into the recycling bin, I think to myself how easy and cheap it would be to make my own.

And it is. I just made up a box of sugar-free orange gelatin as directed on the box (substituting citrus Fresca for the cold water) and divided it up among little storage cups I had already partially filled with canned pears.

Now, if I start making my own rice pudding and yoghurt cups as well ... my kitchen will be quite the economical little snack factory.


1 Not that these combinations haven't been tasty. Osem "Chinese Style Rice & Noodles with Vegetables" mixed with Green Giant "Simply Steam" Asparagus was nothing to sneeze at. Osem "Israeli Toasted Couscous & Vegetables" mixed with Green Giant "Simply Steam" broccoli and carrots was also pretty good. I'm sure I'll end up combining the last packet of Osem "Chinese Style Rice & Noodles with Vegetables" with Green Giant "No Sauce Spinach" later this week and will eat that with relish, too.

06 April 2008

Pat-a-cake, Pat-a-cake, Baker's Man

The Husband signed me up for King Arthur Flour's "Mix ’n' Magic Baking Club" back in November as a rather sweet and well intentioned birthday present. He knew I like to bake, but don't really have time (or don't think I have time, anyway) for scratch baking. He knew I don't have a problem with mixes, but I like high quality products and, while I use Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines in a pinch, I am a little put off by their ingredients. He also knew that I've bought many things from King Arthur Flour before and that the is Baker's Catalog my favoritest food porn ever (even though it is getting awfully Williams-Sonoma-y for me).

So ... "Mix ’n' Magic Baking Club" seemed like a great gift idea! And it was a great idea. The implementation, alas, has not been so great. My first box did not arrive in time for my birthday in the first week of November, but rather the the first week of December. I could have lived with that except that the box was was, alas, full of things I could have used for Thanksgiving. While I used the sage roll mix for Christmas, the pie crust mix will have to wait until rhubarb season, and I still don't know what to do with the red and green Christmas sprinkles (keep them for next year, I guess). December's box (full of cookie things) arrived well after I had finished my Christmas baking (because I could not wait for the box any longer). January's box was also very late, but that didn't matter as it was soup and (really delicious) popover mixes. February's late arrival was very irksome, however, as it arrived well after Mardi Gras, but included all the ingredients for a King Cake! When will I make it? It won't keep until next February! Maybe I will make it for work and try to pass it off as a Spring Cake? March arrived almost on top of February's as the late shipping snafu was finally fixed (The Husband had King Arthur Flour's Customer Service number programmed into our phone by this point) and it was promised my boxes would all arrive at the beginning of the month from then on. So, yes, my last box arrived earlier this week and is full of delicious chocolate yumminess.

Alas, my cupboards overflow with KAF mixes. If the boxes had arrived early in the month (or not all at once as in the case of February-March), then more of the seasonal mixes would have been used up by now. I would have made pie and cookies and the bloody King Cake for the appropriate holidays and been done with them. What would remain would be things I could make for any occasion (or when I could find someone who would eat them with me -- there are more than a number of mixes which aren't The Husband's idea of yummy).

We've enjoyed eating the mixes I have made up so far, but I think I would have been just as happy with a 175USD gift card. Then, I could have visited the website once a month and ordered whatever my little heart (and tummy) desired. I'm not even sure there's much of a savings between purchasing all the items separately or as a month's offering. And it's not as if the "Mix 'n' Magic Baking Club" monthly offerings are particularly nicely packaged. They come in a regular KAF shipping box with brown packing paper and, occasionally, a recipe card or printout of the box's contents. Also, there were items I would like to make again, but which aren't for sale on the website or in the catalog! Some months really felt like someone was just clearing off the shelves and tossed whatever was left into my box (but then I was getting my boxes at the end of the month and, maybe, that is the truth of the matter).

Anyway, while I still love King Arthur Flour's products and will certainly continue to keep the porntastic Baker's Catalog next to my bed, I do not recommend the "Mix 'n' Magic Baking Club." If you love a baker, give your baker a KAF gift card.

(Now I need to go lie down and listen to Tori Amos's In the Pink, because "Baker Baker" will not leave my head).

03 April 2008

Louis Louie ...

We had another shindig at work this week and I brought shrimp pasta salad, because I've had a powerful hankering for shrimp, lately. I wanted to bring my mother's shrimp pasta salad, but she has lost the recipe card and can't recall but the most basics of the dish (pasta, shrimp, shredded lettuce, mayonnaise, a specific kind of dressing, and somethingsomethingsomething).

Even though I couldn't have my mom's salad, my craving for shrimp was still strong and insistent. I looked through many cookbooks and recipe sites until I settled on "Shrimp Louie Pasta Salad" over on Recipezaar. I liked the idea of the lemon tang and the kick of horseradish working with the sweet flavors of mayonnaise and shrimp. Also, it looked dead easy and used many ingredients already found in my kitchen.

I had to make a few alterations to this recipe to suit my time and tastes, but my final product still kept to the spirit of the recipe if not the letter:
    I did make the dressing and chop all the vegetables two days ahead as that was more convenient for me. I stored the sauce in the big bowl I intended to serve the salad in, but kept the veggies stored in a seperate storage bowl so they wouldn't get soggy.
    I used "hot" horseradish, but "regular" cocktail sauce because I was making this for a mixed group and not for me (if it were for me, I would have used spicy cocktail sauce and more horseradish).
    I used Hellmann's light mayonnaise and Wishbone light ranch dressing.
    I used both the green and white portions of the green/spring onions, because that's my preference and the recipe didn't specify either way.
    I used quartered grape tomatoes, because that's what I had on hand.
The night before the party, I de-tailed the thawed small shrimp while the pasta cooked. Then I drained and rinsed the pasta shells while they were still just a wee bit chewy and tossed them, still warm, with the dressing and other ingredients (including a generous shake of powdered garlic and large handful of dried parsley). Because the pasta was still a little warm, it seemed to soak up the sauce pretty well and I ended up with a pasta salad that was creamy, but not drippy.

Would I make this shrimp pasta salad again? Definitely.

I'm guessing this salad is called "Shrimp Louie" as a nod of the head to "Crab Louis." The dressing is rather similar, after all. The dressing for "Crab Louis" usually calls for mayonnaise, cream, chili sauce, green pepper, green onion, salt and lemon juice (some recipes also add horseradish or Worcestershire sauce).