Monday, January 7, 2013

Cool Stuff from Chef's Planet

I'm having lunch with my friend Carolyn tomorrow. Carolyn volunteered many, many hours last summer for my Pitchfork Pie Stand. She would come over on Thursday evenings and we would weigh and roll out pie dough, slice lemons (not her favorite job, especially picking out all those seeds, but she did it anyway), cut strips of fabric to make pie box ribbons, and so forth. Our work was aided, occasionally, by a glass of wine or a slice of pie, and always by animated conversation. I last saw her in early November when she brought over a homemade chocolate pudding pie -- her mother's recipe -- to share on her way to shop for groceries in Ottumwa.
I needed to make a trip to the store myself, so we ate the pie, jumped in the car, and drove the twenty-some minutes to town together. We ended up at Aldi (my insistence, of course) and coincidentally it was the very week Aldi had pie baking accessories in stock. (Aldi offers weekly specials and the baking supplies are only sold once a year, just before Thanksgiving.)

We perused the inventory: rolling pins, pastry scrapers, rubber spatulas, mixing bowls, pie plates, lattice cutters, silicone baking mats and oven liners. All great stuff for bargain prices.

I didn't need anything since my kitchen is well-stocked and I have given everyone I know these Aldi pie accessories for Christmas presents for the past several years, but Carolyn bought pie plates (2 for 5 bucks!) and an oven liner (one of the most essential items a pie maker can own). She wanted to buy a silicone baking mat but I insisted that I had a whole box of them at home -- swag from a company called Chef's Planet -- and that I would give her one from my inventory.

The problem was, I hadn't opened the box. Until today. Until I knew I was going to see Carolyn and wanted to make good on my promise.

There were no silicone baking mats in the box. The package had arrived sometime in July or August. I was in full-on hyper pie stand mode and I didn't even have the capacity to open a box of free pie stuff. Sheesh.
I had already received a box of Chef's Planet oven liners. I had been expecting that shipment and was waiting for it, thanks to the generous offer from one of the company's regional sales reps. I go through oven liners quickly. I use them religiously, keeping several clean ones on hand, and swapping them out mid-cycle during my baking marathons to keep the smoke from boiled over pie filling at bay. Besides not wanting to set off deafening fire alarms or create panic among our local emergency crews that I'm burning down the famous American Gothic House, I also don't care much for the resulting burning sensation in my eyes and lungs.

Enter oven liners. Genius.

I will say here too in an unapologetic plug and enthusiastic thumbs up for Chef's Planet that their oven liners cost twice as much as Aldi's but they are twice as good. The material is thicker and lasts longer. Well worth paying the extra few dollars.

But silicone baking mats? I don't remember what made me think that was what was in that second box of Chef's Planet swag. I just know I didn't think I needed any at the time. So the box got sent to the pie stand storage room in the basement. And there it has stayed. In the dark. Unopened. For several months.

Imagine my surprise today when I discovered the box was filled with my other must-have pie tool: pastry scrapers. (Chef's Planet calls them "Prep Taxi Food Scoops.") Oh, I was really mad at myself. I have really needed a few extra of these this past month! I could have been using them for my pie classes!

There was more in the box. There was a nifty colander measuring cup. Pretty clever. It will be useful when making berry pies next summer. And last but not least -- no, not silicone baking mats, but something like them. Some kind of hybrid sheet that works as an oven liner on one side and non-stick rolling mat on the other. Chef's Planet calls it a Multipurpose Nonstick Kitchen Mat.

So all this to say, I stumbled upon a win-win today. I opened the box and didn't find what I was expecting. I found something even better. And because there were two Multipurpose Nonstick Kitchen Mats in the box I have one to give to Carolyn when I see her tomorrow. I also accomplished one tiny step toward the goal of cleaning out my storage room. There's one less bulky cardboard container taking up space. And next time I get something -- swag or whatever --  no matter how busy I am or what I think is inside, I will open the box as soon as it arrives. It could be a good surprise.

22 comments:

Maryanne Eagleson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maryanne Eagleson said...

I live through your posts vicariously as you bless the world with your gifts of pies & pie baking. I have to admit, I wish I could jump into your RV with you, bring my guitar & sing along the way. Music & pies are two of my favorite things and feel they both bring healing. I will follow you no matter where you go because your story is moving and inspiring. Thanks for keep us "posted" on facebook and your blog. Sincerely, Maryanna Eagleson

Jennifer H. said...

While I've never found a treasure trove of unopened baking supplies, I certainly understand having that feeling - kinda like when you find $20 in the pocket of last year's winter coat! Loved your book, love your blog, and loved, loved, loved seeing all of your posts about your good-will trip to CT. Thanks so much for sharing what you do! Taking one of your pie classes is officially on my bucket list!

Carolyn said...

I hadn't heard of baking mats, but will have to try one. Love unexpected surprises and all you do with pie.

Professor P said...

I desperately need oven liners--what a great idea!

Lin said...

Reading your book at the moment and treasuring it. I can relate as I have been married for 32 years to a wonderful German with many of your spouses work habits and values. And his favorite dessert is pie! Strawberry rhubarb is a favorite. We live in Kirksville Mo and road tripped to Eldon this summer for the first time. It was a weekday so missed you pie stand! Will have to put it on our schedule for next time and would love to do a pie baking class. Am so thankful for your with with an for Newton CT. They need all the pie and love we can give them. ANd they need most not to be forgotten. Regards from LIN

Carol E. said...

A pastry scraper is called a What? Pastry scraper, I get that. A Prep Taxi Food Scoop? I can't even fathom what that is. Therefore, I hope I win, so I can learn something.

TruDee Little said...

Loved the book and have recimmended it to several friends. I was so glad you were able to go to Newtown. You'll probably never know how much goodwill you spread to a community overcome with tragedy and grief, then being exploited by the media. I imagine some of those folks are now baking there way through the grief thanks to you.
I've related to your oven adventures, and I've been tolerating a crappy oven. I've just received a new one today. I burned a batch of spinach feta puffs intended for a family reunion yesterday and am so excited to use my new oven! Have never heard of oven liners so will have look for some before i bake a pie now.

MrsG said...

I live in Las Vegas, entertainment capital of the West. It's comforting to know that silicone is useful for many other uses than the obvious, LOL. I will check out their e-store for baking mats. My oven mat has saved my bacon many times. I enjoy your stories and live vicariously in pie-land.

Carol D said...

Wow, I didn't know what a prep taxi food scoop was until now, but it looks pretty handy. I'm going to have to get one of those measuring colanders too! I kind of like Chef's Planet--not that I need any more places to browse. Glad you're home safely, wish I could have been there.

Vicki said...

What a great feeling to open a box and find something unexpected! Love your blog and love your book. Would love to get to Eldon for a class sometime. Thanks for all the time and effort you put into Facebook and your blog.

Janet said...

You must have been crazy busy because when I get a package in the mail I have to open it ASAP!
How nice of you to share your good fortune too..
I am currently reading your book, reading your posts on FB and your blog and all due to your recent trip to CT. (which is how I found out about you).
How inspiring your are to so many. Keep up the good work!
Janet

Maryanne Eagleson said...

Hi again. I know I posted already but forgot to mention that I've been trying to make a gluten free pie crust because I am allergic to wheat. I've tried many combinations of flours that I mixed on my own. Not sure it was that successful, the pie tasted good using your recipe but the crust crumbled. May have to keep at it. I recently purchased a gluten free flour already mixed so will try that. If there are any tips, I would appreciate it. Much love Maryanna

retrorevival.biz said...

OMG, oven liners?! I nearly burned down my kitchen at Christmastime, baking cherry pies. Juices overflowed the pie and the cookie sheet on the rack below and landed on the bottom of the oven. Unnoticed of course. Next pies went in and flames errupted! Scared me silly! Yep, I need to get a few of these;)

ClaireAshworth said...

haha definitely had to click that link to find out what the food scoop looked like, but i think i would have a fabulous time using one!

Carla Burdock said...

I bought one of the oven liners at Aldes. When I baked, it stank! It burned my eyes like there was a chemical of some kind on it! Maybe I better try the other kind. Plus, I lost a shelf in the oven because it says you can't lay it on the bottom of the oven. I want to get MANY pies in my oven when I bake!!

Care said...

But can you use the liners in gas ovens where they have the holes - can you cover them or do you have to cut out holes where the holes in the oven floor are? I am so scared to use oven liners... I just put up with the spills as evidence of what a bad baker I am.

MrsG said...

Reckon I should "rent out" my empty double oven and kitchen island to someone who loves to bake lots of pies? Las Vegas people are all into cupcakes which I abhor. But pies, always! Not sure if I could make any $ down at the "farm mkt" Isn't this the way Martha Stewart got her start? :)

Maryanne Eagleson said...

Maryanna here again...so I completely missed the point about the blog...duh!I am still going to try and perfect the gluten free pastry crust but I sure could use oven liners also. My daughter baked a scrumptious cranberry apple pie for thanksgiving and it sumptuosly overflowed and created a mix of aromas - at first it smelled amazing but then it morphed into smoke and steam. The pie survived and eventually after cleaning, so did my oven, but oven liners would have done the trick. :)

Pie Girl said...

Congratulations to Lin! You are the winner of the Chef's Planet PrepTaxi Food Scoop. Please email your address. My email is beth (at) the worldneedsmorepie (dot) com.

Pie Girl said...

A little more about oven liners...
They can be cut to fit your oven (don't be afraid to get out the scissors and go for it!).
You can use in a gas oven but they should NOT cover the gas holes, so trim accordingly. Then again, they are not supposed to be placed on the bottom floor of the oven in the first place.
When you position the liner on lowest rack you won't lose the rack space as you can place the pies directly on the liner.
They will improve your life tremendously and save you from cleaning your oven. And like I said, when you get too much pie filling spilling over on it, swap with a clean liner (I keep several on hand) to get rid of the stuff that will make your kitchen fill with smoke! Also, too much smoke in the oven will turn your pie a weird brown color and it can end up tasting like smoke too -- so use the oven liner. You will be happy you did!!!!
Remember these are washable and reusable. A great investment.
XO -- Beth

Richard Wright said...

I'd have to agree... the world needs more pie! I didn't know what pies were until I went to a competition in Austin Texas for pies. The south certainly knows how to do it.