In 1997, online shopping ramped up and fueled the e-commerce phenomenon. Ebay was merely at its embryonic stages. The concept of being able to buy something while sitting at home in your pajamas was so exciting, that consumers simply perpetuated the phenomenon. They bought more pajamas...online. My roommate, Rosa, and I were freshman at the dorms at The University of Texas in Austin. (Rosa spent many hours of her life on the phone with telemarketers explaining that she is Asian, not Hispanic.) One night, Rosa and I set aside our Engineering textbooks and spent 2 hours registering for free stuff online. Freebies.com or something like that. And then we were so exhausted from typing in our address one million times (no text field recognition at that time), that we ordered a giant Papa John's pizza and we inhaled the entire thing and then passed out for 4 hours.
For the following month, Rosa and I frequented the mailboxes, and mind you, we rarely saw anyone else there, except for the student working behind the counter. We got many pseudo-surprises in the mail: a personalized stamp, Jelly Belly jellybeans, a "The Lord is our Savior" coloring book... This would have been an appropriate time in our life to add masking tape to the bridge of our eyeglasses, but these dork milestones were critical in adapting to the Mechanical Engineering mold. Rosa is going to read this post and either 1) kill me or 2) comment with "that day was soooooooooo fun!!!!"
Now in 2011, when you come home and see a package in your mailbox or a bulky envelope at your door, or a little note that says your package is at the leasing office, it has to add a little spring to your step. You don't have to admit it to anyone, but you know it. Inside your thinking "Eeeeee!" The part you don't want to admit is that you already know what it is because you ordered it online approximately 8-10 business days ago. It could be your findings in the Old Navy scavenger clearance, it could be an extra charger for your phone, it could be a replacement part from the manufacturer for a kitchen appliance. Yet, still, "Eeeeee!"
When I received a teeny weeny box at my door step last month, I couldn't pinpoint what it was. From Austin? Hmm. 3M is in austin...did I register for free post-its? no...can't be that. My sister lives in Austin. Did I leave something there? Did she scout an underwear clearance? No...too heavy for underwear, unless it's woven with cast iron underwire....
I opened the package and it was the cutest little mason jar of JAM! Rio Star Grapefruit Marmalade. It was neatly decorated with a little raffia and a tag that read "This is jar 1 of 12! You will receive one jar per month." And need I say "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"?
Confituras of Austin* makes delicious jam with quality ingredients. For someone who doesn't have a sweet tooth, I was eating jam right out of the jar. If you can't commit for a year, no worries. Many men in New York share that problem. You can buy singles or smaller gift packs. I just received my second jar of Strawberry Balsamic Black Pepper preserves and I used the entire jar to make Streusel Bars from The Joy of Cooking cookbook. I leave you with this recipe and wish you many many happy "Eeeeee"-commerce days ahead.
Whatever-Jam-You-Have Streusel Bars
adapted from The Joy of Cooking Raspberry Streusel Bars
(makes 20 two-inch square bars)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup cold salted butter (1-1/2 sticks)
3 Tablespoons milk
1 tsp. almond extract
1 c. seedless raspberry preserves or jam (from Confituras!)
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cold butter (1 stick)
1/4 c. blanched almonds, chopped
2/3 c. rolled oats
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons milk
Directions for Crust:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 13x9-inch baking pan.
2. In a food processor, using the "dough blade", combine 2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp. salt, and pulse in butter (cut into 1 Tablespoon pieces) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the milk and almond extract to the food processor, and pulse until they begin to hold together. It will still be pretty crumbly. Don't expect a "dough" look at this point.
3. Firmly press this coarse crumble mixture into the greased pan to form a smooth, even layer. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Bake the chilled dough in the center of the oven until barely firm in the center, 12-15 minutes. Spread jam evenly over the hot crust.
Directions for streusel topping:
4. To prepare the streusel, combine 1-3/4 cup flour, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, and the 1/4 tsp cinnamon in a food processor. Sprinkle butter pieces over the top. Pulse (using dough blade again) until the mixture is well-blended. Turn out into a medium bowl.
5. Using a fork, stir almonds or walnuts into the mixture. Once combined, stir in rolled oats. In a small bowl, beat lightly together the egg and remaining milk. Stir into the flour mixture until streusel is moistened and forms small clumps. Sprinkle streusel evenly over the raspberry preserves, breaking up any large clumps.
6. Bake until the streusel is nicely browned and the jam is bubbly, 25-30 minutes. Remove the pan to a rack and cool completely. Cut into bars.
*This post was not sponsored by Confituras.