Dear Oxo,

Thank you so much for sending me a new basket for my salad spinner. This is my 3rd Oxo salad spinner, the first one having been thrown away after rusting, the second one rusting again after just a few months, and the third one you sent me free. I hope you’ve fixed the issues now on rusting, but even with it I’m still a happy customer. I’ve tried different kinds of salad spinners and yours is definitely the best. Not to mention I am more than just impressed with your exceptional customer service! Thank you!

Dear Wild Oats,

Are your frozen organic wild blueberries really ALL wild blueberries? Or is it a mix? The only wild blueberries I’ve eaten are the really small ones; your package says “wild blueberries” but they’re a mix of large and small. Just wondering. Because if they’re not, maybe you should call them 50% wild blueberries instead.

Dear MaraNatha,

Please don’t put too much adhesive on your labels. I’m talking about your (very expensive, but worth it especially for people with peanut allergies) almond butter. You see, I keep almost every kind of jar I get, for re-use. Right now I’m thinking of getting 10 jars or so out of storage to use them for organizing my kids’ art supplies. But by putting so much adhesive on your jars, it makes it difficult for moms like me to take the labels AND the adhesive off. Even an hour of soaking in hot water didn’t help. Unless, of course, you could tell me that the adhesive you use is more environment-friendly compared to other companies’, in which case adhere away.

Oh, and while I’m at it, we love your almond butter, especially in this super-easy pasta dish that I made (recipe below). But I was surprised at its grittiness. Years ago, I tried making almond butter using my trusty and powerful food processor, but I was disappointed with how gritty it was and never tried again. I looked at owning a Vita Mix, but even though it’s less expensive than the Olde Tyme Mill (only worth it if you’ll eat nut butters for breakfast, lunch and dinner ’til the day you die, or okay, if you’re starting a nut butter business), I still decided against it as I already have several machines and didn’t want to get another one JUST for nut butters…. anyway, getting back to the point. I’m not sure $16 is right for a jar of nut butter, especially since I can make gritty nut butter in my f.p. anyway. And I never would have thought that gritty = “creamy”. But enough complaints from me. My family loves the pasta dish, so I’m willing to look past those brown things that get stuck in our teeth.

Dear Tinkyada,

May I say your brown rice pasta idea is just BRILLIANT! We have now tried every Tinkyada version of our favorite pastas and ALL of them turn out perfectly. We don’t miss wheat pasta at all. AND, we are so pleased that you use whole grain! Right? I mean, it does say BROWN rice. I’m just wondering why the fiber content is just equal to most kids’ cereals — 2 grams. Maybe you could increase it to 4, or at least 3? PLEASE??? For some people, that may be what it would take to remove Metamucil from their lives (not that we already take it, but you know, we are getting old, and Metamucil may not be too far away in our future). {Shudder}

Dear Kettle Chips,

What happened to you? We used to LOVE your chips!! Especially the salt and vinegar one! That one was THE Best, even though we still think the salt-and-vinegar concept was started by Filipinos, we who dip everything in salt-and-vinegar-and-often-lots-of-garlic, but I digress… What happened to your chips? Yesterday I opened up the bag of Lightly Salted Chips that my hubby brought home from their out-of-town trip… no idea how a teen, an almost-teen and a 40+ year old guy could not have finished 2 potato chip bags in a 12-hr-total trip, but I digress again…. ANYHOO. I was shocked! It was greasy, and GREASY was a word I would not have used to describe your chips before. They were also way too salty to be called “Lightly Salted”. I should have kept the bag so I could look at the sodium content, but hubby has thrown it away. I don’t think my taste buds are that impaired yet, though. Oh, AND! AND! The chips! Some of them were more burned than golden, and too many teeny-tiny bits that remind me of the Jack and Jill Potato Chips of my childhood. I remember the pleasure of opening up my first ever bag of Kettle Chips several years ago — those chips were huge! And long, and evenly cut, and really really yummy. I was thinking up of giving up Kettles just a couple of weeks ago, because I saw some organic ones I wanted to try…. and now I guess this is goodbye.

Oh! I almost forgot: the ALLERGY-FREE (Wheatless, Eggless, Dairyless) Pasta Dish that my family loved:

1 1/2 pounds Tinkyada pasta (your choice, we used their spirals)
1 medium bunch broccoli, broken/cut up into florets
1/2 jar Maranatha almond butter (or make your own)
1/3 cup tamari (make sure it says “wheat free”!)
a couple of tablespoons chili oil (I used my homemade stash, for which you can find a lot of recipes for online — a favorite is China Moon Cookbook’s Ma La Oil)
a couple of tablespoons sugar, optional
a swirl or so of sesame oil, optional
toasted sesame seeds

Boil pasta according to package directions. I like using the energy-saving directions (boil 1-2 minutes, stir-stir-stir, cover for 10-20 minutes (depending on which variety of pasta), drain, rinse). Steam broccoli — if you have a steamer insert for your pasta pot — great, just use that while the pasta is cooking; otherwise, steam in a separate pot — to desired tenderness (I like 7-8 minutes). While pasta is cooking, whisk almond butter, tamari, chili oil, sugar, and sesame oil in a bowl large enough for all the pasta. Add enough pasta water to make a creamy sauce. When pasta is done, toss BROCCOLI first in the almond-butter-tamari sauce. This will coat the broccoli completely and make it irresistible to picky youngsters!! Then add the drained-and-rinsed pasta and toss, toss, toss gently until nice and creamy all over. Sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds over all (ooh! an idea! you can also use toasted BLACK sesame seeds for added panache!). Serve immediately.

If you are a first-time Tinkyada user, DO NOT forget to rinse the pasta. Though it does cool the pasta and you might not like that, it really is essential in keeping the texture nice and al dente and durum-pasta-like.