Back in the early 80's, or maybe it was in the mid 90's ??, (that part of my life is a total blur because I usually worked 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 the sexy salad that met all my needs while eating it between jobs, over the sink, stripped off a freak show uniform and switched to my next one, ridiculous HIDEOUS and uncomfortable uniform that was supposed to "help people identify with us from the public when they needed help". Yes, they could NOT miss us. When wearing my tame version of a HAZMAT suit, I'm sure I was scared to be killed by many kids who were just looking for the toy.
This salad got me through many, many months of feeling that life had somehow forgotten me and that I must have placed the wrong address on the return label. I didn't even have my own car to drive and neither went, paid for a bus ride or happened to be lucky and caught a ride with a friend in the same boat. But the one thing I could trust, especially in the heat of the summer was this cool, tasty salad. round I loved it.
Then, as if my pathetic life could not possibly get any worse, my grocery store stopped wearing it. Yep. I had so little that I just couldn't believe it. One stupid silly things that would make me smile were gone now? !! It dumped me like a low summer swing and didn't even say goodbye ?! It couldn't be !! I missed that salad !! I was heartbroken and pursued every store in town to try to find my love, but it was nowhere to be found. I was told the company stopped making it.
What?? WHY?!! What had I done wrong? Not cooked the noodles enough? Forgot to tear the "dots" on top of the box that I never used and didn't even know what they were for anyway? I thought about writing them, but I'm sure I probably already had at least one restraining order from the stock in Aisle 3 and didn't want to have to give up my modest tips over a box salad for bail. 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 do today! I no longer eat it over the sink in a faux HAZMAT suit wearing a plastic nameplate that spelled my name wrong, and neither scars young children for life, but enjoying it just as much, smiling a secret little smile to myself this summer love, captured my heart forever.
I hope this recipe also gives you great memories back and creates new ones for those who have never had it. You can even take it a few steps further if your heart can handle it, adding 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 hope you try this and enjoy it as much as we do! It is SO very light and tastes wonderful. Have a fabulous week and enjoy the upcoming holidays! (And don't forget to print the recipe and store it in the shoebox of memories under your bed! It's a keeper!) 😉
RETRO HOME MADE “SHELL SALAD” with RANCH, BACON, CARROTS & BABY PEAS
1 cup heavy mayonnaise
1 (1 oz.) Package Hidden Valley Ranch Dip Mix
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 cup of Hormel Real Bacon Bits, the fine kind and not large pieces
4 sweet baby carrots, shredded, (or one very small carrot)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 cups of uncooked medium-sized shell pasta, Barilla works well for this
In medium bowl, mix the first 5 ingredients well. Fold in frozen peas. Except for melting.
Boil the pasta according to the instructions, drain, rinse with cold water and empty again. Separate shells stuck together. Fold in the blend mixture until evenly coated. Chill. Or even serve a little heated.