Back in the early 80’s, or maybe it was the mid 90’s ??, (that part of my life is a total blur because I was usually working 2-3 jobs to pay the bills!!), there was a “salad” that came in a box that became my summer lover! OH, how I loved that sexy salad that fulfilled all my needs while I would eat it between jobs, over the sink, stripping down from one freak show uniform and changing into my next, ridiculously HIDEOUS and uncomfortable uniform, that was to supposed to “help people identify us from the public when they needed help”. Yes, they could not POSSIBLY miss us. Wearing my tame version of a HAZMAT suit, I’m sure I scared the crap out of many children just looking for the toy aisle.
This salad got me through many, many months of feeling like life had somehow forgotten me and that I must’ve put the wrong address on the return label. I didn’t even have my own car to drive and either walked, paid for a bus ride, or happened to get lucky and caught a ride with a friend in the same boat. But the one thing I could count on, especially in the heat of the summer, was this cool, savory salad. OMG I loved it.
Then, as if my pathetic life could not possibly get any worse, my neighborhood grocery store stopped carrying it. Yep. I had so little that I just couldn’t believe it. The ONE stupid silly thing that would make me smile was now gone?!! It dumped me like a shallow summer fling and didn’t even say good-bye?! It couldn’t be!! I MISSED that salad!! I was broken-hearted and stalked every store in town to try and find my love, but it was nowhere to be found. I was told that the company stopped making it.
What?? WHY?!! What had I done wrong? Not cooked the noodles enough? Forgot to tear off the “points” on the top of the box that I never used and didn’t even know what they were for anyways?? I thought about writing them, but I’m sure I probably already had at least one restraining order from the stock guy in Aisle 3 and didn’t want to have to give up my measly tips over a boxed salad for bail money. I had to pull myself together! I could recreate this! I could do it!
And that’s exactly what I did, too! It came out even better than the box, and I still make it today! I no longer eat it over the sink in a faux HAZMAT suit wearing a plastic name tag that spelled my name wrong, nor scar small children for life, but enjoy it just as much, smiling a secret small smile to myself about the summer love that captured my heart forever.
I hope this recipe brings back fond memories for you, too, and creates new ones for those who’ve never had it. You can even take it a few steps further, if your heart can handle it, and add bits of cheddar, chopped black olives, minced fresh red onion and julienned grilled chicken…but why mess with something that tastes just as you remember? So very few things do.
I do hope you try this and enjoy it as much as we do! It’s SO very easy and tastes wonderful. Have a fabulous week and enjoy the upcoming holiday! (And don’t forget to print out the recipe and tuck it into that shoebox of memories under your bed! It’s a keeper!) 😉
RETRO HOMEMADE “SHELL SALAD” with RANCH, BACON, CARROTS & BABY PEAS
1 cup heavy mayonnaise
1 (1 oz.) packet Hidden Valley Ranch Dip Mix
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 cup Hormel Real Bacon Bits, the fine kind and not big the pieces
4 sweet baby carrots, shredded, (or one whole small carrot)
1 cup frozen baby peas, unthawed
2 cups uncooked medium-sized shell pasta, Barilla works well for this
In medium-sized bowl, mix together first 5 ingredients well. Fold in frozen peas. Set aside to meld.
Cook pasta according to directions, drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again WELL. Separate shells that stuck inside each other. Fold into dressing mixture until evenly coated. Chill. Or even serve slightly warmed.