This is a story about the shrimp with garlic lemon butter sauce I was going to serve over angel hair pasta Monday night for dinner. It’s been a while since I’ve cooked because of this construction project. Not that my kitchen has in any way been disrupted by some wall in half of the back bedroom, but for one reason or another it’s just been easier to eat out. But things had settled down, I’d made some good progress on my work for money, and I didn’t feel like driving anywhere. I hadn’t gone to the grocery store as intended, but I had some shrimp in the freezer and thought I’d work around that. Doesn’t garlic lemon butter sauce sound like the perfect thing for shrimp? Well, I thawed the shrimp and looked up some recipes online. Found some good ones, too. It just happened to be that once I started cooking I learned that I didn’t actually have any lemon juice in the house. Or butter. How could I be out of butter? I’m never out of butter! I’m usually quite good at keeping staples around. Turns out what I thought was angel hair pasta was just spaghetti. Fortunately, I still had a really good jar of that Napa Valley sauce, so we had spaghetti with some shrimp on top. Vaguely disappointing. In my paranoia about overcooking the frozen broccoli and making it all squishy I didn’t cook it enough. There were some cold stalks. It filled our tummies and there’s still spaghetti on hand for lunches. Like the Borg, I adapted.
I finally went to the grocery store last night, but not until after dinner. I was still pretty impressed with what I found already in the cupboard, and threw together something passable that looks great on paper and hit the food groups and provided leftovers for lunches! I blame the construction project for interfering with dinner, but only indirectly. I mean, we’ve only got half of one room at the back of the house affected. The problem has been interrupted nap times, babysitting while the work is happening, and trying to hit deadlines of working for money at the same time. So it’s been a while since I turned on the oven and I think that the novelty of preparing food enhanced its actual flavor. And nothing really tasted that bad.
I’d been intending to make a turkey meatloaf for a few days now, but when I actually looked at the turkey it was just too far past its sell-by date. So I pulled out of the freezer some chicken breasts I’d forgotten were in there and a jar of Archer Farms Cocoa Chili Mole Sauce from the cupboard that I’d been seeing for several weeks but hadn’t been registering in my consciousness. Archer Farms is the Target store brand, and I got a good amount of sauce for $4 or less. It looked beautiful. I diced the chicken and simmered it in the sauce per the jar’s suggestion, and I think that was probably not enough. The food cooked and nothing burned or stuck to the pan, but it was kind of blah. Even as I was browning the chicken before adding the sauce, I was thinking about how boring unflavored chicken is yet I took no steps to alter it. I held a few pieces back in case the sauce turned off Fella and/or Filly to dinner. Those pieces were worse because all I did with them was microwave them with a little bit of water.
This is where I wanted to put a picture of the product, but I couldn’t find one readily online and I am too lazy to take a picture of an empty, rinsed jar extracted from the recycling bin in the broom closet. A Google Images Search on “Archer Farms Cocoa Chili Mole,” however, brought up a picture that I’ll included instead, to break up the page of text and add some color to this post:
Mole isn’t my favorite sauce. I thought it would be an interesting experiment to try, and it was, and it wasn’t so spicy that F&F didn’t like it. It was a beautiful color but it didn’t transcend. I think it was as good as something I could have had at one of those family Mexican restaurants where the waitresses have horizontal striped skirts and the mariachi bands play on the weekends. Perhaps if I had tasted gourmet mole somewhere I’d sing a different song about it.
I served a southwest blend of frozen vegetables that I didn’t really like. It had red kidney beans and chick peas, with flat pea pods, carrots and corn. I’d supplemented the vegetables with frozen carrot balls, and it was unremarkable. We eat frozen vegetables a lot because they don’t go bad, but the chick peas and kidney beans looked strange together. When I was at the store I stuck to the usual broccoli florets, tiny green beans, and a peas & carrots mix that makes a good Weight Watchers pot pie out of rotisserie chicken leftovers. I don’t think it was a particularly hot summer this year, and fall weather has come upon us suddenly, I think. The days are still quite warm and sunny, and it gets quite warm in the house if I don’t turn on the air (which I don’t), but the mornings and the nights are definitely damp. I see some pot pie in my future.
The biggest experiment was the cornbread. I do have corn meal, but I don’t know why. Sometimes we bread catfish in it. I love, love, love the Marie Callender’s Corn Bread Mix. It’s quite possibly the best thing I’ve ever eaten that you just add water to. It totally trumps Cups of Noodles.
You can buy big bags of this at Costco or get single-pan packets at the grocery store. It mixes really well with just a whisk and it makes a really moist pan of cornbread. I was a little surprised to learn that there is a special corporation set up now just to pimp the MC brand of cornbread and cornbread accessories, but I guess it makes sense. Marie is pretty busy running a national restaurant chain. She doesn’t have time to play door-to-door salesman at the B2B level. So don’t forget MCcornbread.com when it’s time to send executive gift baskets to your vendors and clients! And stay for the pie.
So I had all of this in my mind when I grabbed a box of cornbread mix off the shelf at Fresh & Easy. It was probably much cheaper than the single-pan packet of Marie Callender’s cornbread, and it was bigger than a box of Jiffy. It did not require only water, and I had to add milk, oil, and an egg. I mixed it with a whisk, but probably should have used a mixer, because there were dry lumps in it after I was done, but I didn’t want to wash the blades later. And for all the moist I added, the muffins weren’t noteworthy. There were little pockets of crumbly from the dry lumps that added texture. It was not off-putting, but it called attention to its mixishness. I don’t normally make cornbread mixes into muffins, so maybe that something to do with it. If I’d cooked it in a pan like I usually do, and baked it for thirty-five minutes, maybe the magic of chemistry would have enhanced it. But I didn’t have time.
That said, the mix is better than Jiffy’s, the tops were toasted nicely, and I finally figured out how to use the stand-alone muffin cups, although I still put them in the muffin pan for organization. And I guess I shouldn’t enthusiastically malign a Fresh & Easy product just because it is from Fresh & Easy and it is fashionable to do so, because of the fourteen muffins I made last night only three of them are left today. I don’t know that I’ll get it again. It just made me want to spend more money more often on the Marie Callender’s kind. I sense a Costco run in the future. I’m almost out of Diet Coke, too. Plus frozen yogurt from the food window is always a nice treat, not that I need any more nice treats for a while.
If I hadn’t been serving the noodles one way or another for a few days, I’d be a little more excited by the fact that I bought butter and lemon juice and fresh parmesan cheese. I feel obligated now to go get shrimp and white wine and angel hair pasta and stir up something fantastic, but it’s meatloaf on deck tonight. I am not going to let another two pounds of fat and protein go bad. At least we can have a fresh salad, unless the bag of greens is bad. That’s another item I always lose in the refrigerator door until it’s too late. I don’t really care. Lettuce is overrated, in any of its manifestations.