No, I'm not sponsored by The Pampered Chef. I don't even sell the stuff, although it's becoming a tempting prospect to support my crippling addiction. But a few weeks back I did have a fun Pampered Chef party, which was just filled with showing off my not-so-new house, my Halloween decoration psychosis, and attempts to further indoctrinate friends and family into the Pampered Cheffery cult.
What can I say? I love the stuff. It works well, it holds up to use after use and wash after wash, and the catalogs have fun little recipes! Like the Williams-Sonoma ones, but with a little less demi-glace and slightly more weeknight realism. So, if all 16 of you are listening, I fully endorse them.
During the party, the host lady made this Mexican-style chicken lasagna in the legendary Deep-Dish Baker. Now I've heard about this thing, a piece of their Stoneware collection that was so very popular, so very coveted, that the Pampered Chef Factory couldn't keep up with production. It's the only item they've ever had to make exclusive for show hosts only, to limit orders.
(Ooo, the Pampered Chef factory. They should live up to the name and have a huge, sprawling spa upstairs where women that cook on weeknights can get pedicures and massages and canapes served by shirtless firefighters.)
I never thought I needed one. Psh, whatever. Fie to your covered baker. I have my Le Creuset.
Then, I tasted a delicious casserole made in the microwave. Which sounds absolutely disgusting. Soggy, uneven, slop. But I would never have ever guessed it didn't come straight out of the oven. Crispy, bubbling top, evenly cooked throughout.... I was hooked. I had to have one.
For the next week I collected a crazy number of orders, sent them off, and then waited. Mail order, you are a cruel mistress! Luckily we've made advancements, like getting rid of that whole 4-6 weeks stipulation. And stalker-friendly FedEx tracking numbers, that allow you to GPS navigate through the poor delivery guy's day until you KNOW he's at your doorstep.
"MALIKA!" I bellowed from inside my office, "it's ON MY DOORSTEP, RIGHT NOW!!"
Unfortunately cookery delivery does not constitute a PTO day, so I had to remain, fiddling with graphics and papers until the workday was done. Traffic was kind, and I made it home to find the boxes Matt dutifully left undisturbed on my doorstep.
It rivaled Christmas, seriously. Not only did I get to unpack my personal fix of loot, but I got to snoop into everyone else's picks as well. Cool cookbooks, fun spices, little tools I'd never thought about before. Hmmm! Notes for next time! I love sorting everyone's stuff out into bags, too. When I was 17 or 18, I was an Avon lady for like 3 months. I didn't try or succeed in selling that much, I just kind of wanted to load up on body wash for myself. I'm a really, really horrible salesperson. Anyway. For the people that did buy stuff, I put them in these pretty Avon logo-ed paper bags with ribbon and little lipstick samples and tissue paper. Presentation! I had so much fun handing them out. And then I thought, hey! I should minor in Marketing! Because it's got to be just, like, doing that kind of stuff and planning parties. But that's a whole other whale of a tangent.
A few nights later, I took out my virgin Deep Dish Baker (now living next to its cultured cousin the Le Creuset) and told Matt I was going to make a microwave casserole. "Yuck!" was his apropos response.
"No! The baker makes it taste like it's from the oven!"
Jesus. "I don't know! It just does!" I unloaded everything I could think of from the freezer - a 1/3-full bag of frozen spinach, hash browns, leftover ham, Schwan's onion and mushroom mix (the last bits not used for Beef Ghettington), a menagerie of cream soup and cheese. A good mix, a generous dose of garlic salt and pepper, and it was in.
Ooo, it looked so pretty, spinning around...
15 minutes later, the moment of truth. Using the most sanitary and scientific methods of testing, I stuck my finger in the middle of it. Still a little cool. I gave it another 5, and we were good. Still much less than it would have taken in the oven. Oh, and it looks kinda wonky because I didn't put cheese on my half. Anyway, it was hearty and homey, and certainly better than most things that evolve from forgetting to get out any chicken or anything and living somewhere that isn't at all close to a grocery store you'd actually want to shop at.
Tomorrow night we're doing the 30-minute whole roasted chicken, one of the big "talking points" for the baker. Although apparently they don't have to try very hard to sell it anymore, being limited and all. Matt doesn't believe it's possible, but I believe in the baker. We'll see if faith triumphs!