The Lo Mein Event

Hello, reader(s)!

Wow, it has sure been a while since I sat down to document a meal-gone-wrong! The truth of the matter is, I haven’t done much for exciting cooking these last few months. Since February I have had company visit twice, had the flu, had TWO sinus infections, visited my sister in Texas, and helped to plant a new church, so it’s pretty much been spaghetti and tacos every night this year!

Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. But in what world would spaghetti and tacos every day be a bad thing?

(Funny update on this: WHILE composing this particular entry, I started a new job. How’s that for a wild spring??)

All that to say, when life is crazy busy, I don’t endeavor new recipes, and when I don’t endeavor new recipes, usually nothing interesting happens. Don’t get me wrong- in my absence from blogging I’m certain there have been a few things that made me laugh, or cry, or both, but perhaps not enough to earn your time. I suppose I could write about the time that I made breakfast muffins only to leave them out and have them spoil. Or the time that I made dinner for my new pastor and dumped potatoes ALL over the kitchen. Maybe you’ll hear about those another time. But, for today, we’ll stick with my latest endeavor-

The Lo Mein Event

As ordering emergency Chinese delivery has become a frequent event in my house, I have made the discovery that my husband really likes Lo Mein, whereas I’ve always gotten fried rice. The second or third or ninth time we got Chinese, I tried some of his lo mein and discovered that I also really like it! So, in honor of trying new meals, I decided to make my own lo mein (now, you’ll note that once you have all of the ingredients, this is not an expensive meal to make; that being said, I did not currently have any hoisin sauce or oyster sauce or sesame oil on hand. I remember thinking as I spent $14 on miscellaneous sauces for this one dang meal- my husband had better like this stuff because I’m making it once a week until all fourteen (five) of these sauces are gone!)

Well, here goes nothing!

Tonight’s meal is compliments of JoCooks.com, at https://www.jocooks.com/recipes/chicken-lo-mein/

For Sauce

* 1 tbsp brown sugar packed

* 2 tbsp soy sauce low sodium

* 2 tbsp dark soy sauce

* 1 tbsp oyster sauce

* 1 tsp hoisin sauce

* 1 tsp ground black pepper

* 1 tsp sesame oil

For Chicken

* 1 lb chicken breasts skinless and boneless, cut into small pieces

* 2 tbsp soy sauce

* 1 tsp fresh ginger minced

* 3 cloves garlic minced

* 2 tbsp olive oil

For Veggies

* 2 tbsp olive oil

* 2 cups shiitake mushrooms sliced

* 1 cup Chinese cabbage shredded

* 1 cup carrots julienned

* 1 large onion chopped

Other

* 16 oz ramen noodles or any other Asian style noodles

* 3 green onions chopped

I had the forethought to cook up chicken thighs yesterday (thank you, past Katie!) so I start by getting water boiling on the stove. I make spaghetti noodles all the time, how different can this be? Once the water is heating, I set to chop up my veggies. The recipe called for Chinese cabbage, shredded carrots, and mushrooms. My hubby won’t eat mushrooms and I’m using red cabbage my Kroger clicklist didn’t give me an option for Chinese cabbage. I set to chopping the veggies into tiny pieces, all the while I’m still confused by the cabbage, I mean, did they grow it in China? Is it Chinese American cabbage? Is that politically correct? Isn’t cabbage just cabbage?

It’s while I’m deep in tonight about cabbage fairness that I realize I’ve sliced the top of my index finger, and it has begun to bleed. Geez! I wrap my hand haphazardly in a paper towel and decide to just throw everything into the blender as I shamefully holler across the house to my husband to please bring me a Bandaid, which he does, and sweetly wraps my finger for me.

The blender stops screeching and I’m suddenly aware of a low hissing sound. Ugh. You know that old adage, ‘a watched pot never boils’? Turns out, a forgotten pot boils over immediately. Especially when you’re bleeding. Thank goodness, the Lo Mein noodles are packaged into neat little bundles. I throw two bundles into the angry pot and proceed to clean up the water that had spewed everywhere.

Five minutes later, I dump the pot into the colander, and grunt when I see that the noodles are clumped together in one solid chunk. Whatever.

By this point I’m pretty much over this meal, so I quickly mix the thirty (five) different sauces together and impatiently throw the noodles, veggies, sauces, and chicken into the wok, and use my cooking scissors to chop green onion right into the pan. I mix it all up, plop a few scoops into bowls, and put them on the table. That’s when the craziest part happens:

This. Is. DELICIOUS! Danny high fives me and gets himself a second helping.

Best compliment ever!

Observations for next time:

It was a little sweet, so I need to identify which of the 75 (five) sauces was sweet and use less

Stir noodles constantly and watch them like a hawk

START with the blender instead of the knife

——————–Katie

Cat Fried Rice (not really)

It’s a Friday night, and we are in the mood for some Chinese food! Given the recent events of the pot roast tragedies, I decide to give our local Chinese joint the night off and try to make something of my own. I mean, how hard can it be to make a little fried rice?

Bahahaha. I crack myself up.

I find a recipe with good reviews on Pinterest, from GimmeSomeOven.com (cute name, right?) I prepare my ingredients, minus the egg (I’m allergic) and the oyster sauce (seriously? Oyster sauce? I was willing to buy a bottle of sesame sauce to try this recipe out but I’m not buying that stuff. Sorry.)

I throw two cups of rice into my rice cooker (after nearly spilling it all over the kitchen….the Kroger bags of rice have the ziplock slider on the side of the bag….who’s idiot idea was that???) Next, I get out my wok- yes! I have a wok! I attempted to make a different fried rice recipe in my basic frying pan a year or so ago, and I think about 87% of it ended up on my stove top. I’m not even sure the remaining 13% was edible, but I wasn’t blogging back then so I guess we’ll never know (it probably wasn’t) and prepare my work space. Per usual, I don’t read through the entire recipe until I’ve already started pulling everything out, and it’s at this point that I realize I’m supposed to start with cold rice.

Hmmmm. This could be a problem. The rice is almost done cooking, but it’ll be a long time before it’ll be even remotely chilly, even if I stick it in the fridge. This is when I get a brilliant idea- I’ll put it outside! Nashville had been having a frightful cold snap, and the evening temperatures might just do the trick. The cooker clicks off, and I pull the bowl out and set it out on my back porch.

While the rice cools outside, I begin cooking up the chicken thighs in my cast iron skillet. This portion of prep is fairly straight forward and uneventful. Until, that is, my husband mentions that he hasn’t seen the cat in a while, and he’s right. The cat had been winding between my feet, asking for his dinner, and now he’s nowhere to be seen. After quickly scanning the house, we come to the conclusion that the cat had gotten out while I was setting the rice out. That’ll teach me to use nature in my cooking!

Fast forward twenty minutes. I return to my half cooked chicken that I cast aside when I left the kitchen and begin to slowly reheat the pan. I’m out of breath, because I’ve just scoured the entire neighborhood (the good news is, we found the cat, but I’m finding the irony in that I’m cooking Chinese food and starting to understand why they eat cats in China….). I finish browning the chicken, which is understandably sad and dry, and set it aside.

I heat my wok and slowly add in the veggies, soy sauce, and (semi-cooled) rice. I turn it over and over in the wok, still managing to get at least one serving’s worth onto the stove top. I stir, and I wait. Is this stuff actually supposed to fry? How do I know when it’s sufficient fried? I add the chicken back in, toss in the chopped green onion, and call it a meal. We serve up bowls full and plop down to watch Netflix as I realize I forgot to add the sesame oil.

Whatever.

Observations for next time:

Cook and cook the rice ahead of time

Don’t open the back door while cooking

Use sesame oil. Or don’t. I didn’t really miss it.

——-Katie

The Pot Roast Tragedies

This week’s blog post is brought to you in part by New China on Nashville Highway.

Hi friends!

Thanks so much for continuing to follow my sad stories. I hope they’ve made you laugh!

So, here’s something you might not know about me- I’m such a sucker for happy endings. Fairy Tales, Hallmark movies, that moment at the end of the RomCom when the music swells and everything comes together…it makes my heart happy and my eyes misty. So I feel inclined to give you a fair warning right now-

This story does not have a happy ending.

It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon, and I’m preparing to settle in for a Sunday nap. Per my usual ritual, I had planned a crock pot meal for today so that I can be as lazy as I please and have dinner ready for me when I wake up. This particular Sunday, I’m fresh off of 5 hours of serving at the church following a sleepover with some dear friends (yes, I have occasional sleepovers with my grown up, married/mom friends, and it is SO good for the soul….not as good for the sleeping habits), so I’m running on about 3 hours of sleep and about 6 cups of coffee.

I pull the roast out of the fridge and season it. I had picked up this particular cut of meat last week to prepare for Sunday dinner, but we ended up going on an impromptu date night in Nashville! My husband and I are such suburb-dwelling home bodies that it’s rare for us to get into the big city, so I was more than happy to wrap up my roast tightly in plastic wrap and freeze it for next week. Because meat works that way. Right?

Wrong.

Back to today. Fortunately I’d had the presence of mind to pull the roast out on Thursday, so it was completely defrosted (I really don’t think I’d feel good about microwaving a roast like I do with chicken in a pinch). Now usually, when I make a roast, I do some good prep work. I sear the meat in my cast iron along with the onions and then deglaze the pan with wine and add all of the smoky goodness into the crock pot before adding the beef broth, but remember how I only got 3 hours of sleep? Yeah, I’m not doing all that today. I chop the carrots, onion, and potatoes, season the meat with salt and pepper, and dump it all into the pot with beef broth, water, and a little fresh rosemary and thyme. I put the lid on, set dial on low, and hit the hay. Easy peasy. That’s the beautiful thing about pot roast, right?

Wrong. Enter the Pinehurst Curse.

I really, really don’t know how to explain this, but after 5ish hours on low, the potatoes are crunchy, the veggies are firm, and the beef is….leather. Rawhide. Cooked through completely, but 100% tough and even more tasteless. I cut off a chunk and try to shred it with a fork, and the fork bends.

We order Chinese food. The end!

Observations for next time:

Don’t have a curse?

——–Katie

Editor’s Note:

(Still me. I’m the editor.)

I know what you’re thinking. Yes, you, reading this post and coming up with reasons and preparing to give me advice; “Well, you probably used a bad cut of meat. Maybe it wasn’t really thawed all the way through. Maybe you should’ve put it on high.” And it’s okay, I don’t blame you for troubleshooting as you read! However, I’m editing this post because just yesterday I made a roast again. But this time, it was not frozen, I seared the meat, and cooked it on high. Last time must’ve been a fluke, this time dinner will be delicious!

Wrong. We ordered Chinese food. Again.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Sloppy Joes Aren’t Healthy

Who doesn’t love sloppy joes? They are tangy and messy and just all around comfort food. We love sloppy joes, but I just can’t bring myself to serve Manwich in my house. It’s convenient, but that’s because it’s loaded with MSG and high fructose corn syrup. Plus, I’ve discovered that when I make it myself, I can pass it off as being semi healthy.

You all know how well things usually go when I make meals myself, but here we go.

Tonight’s recipe is from Allrecipes.com.

As my #goals blogger/chef/redhead, The Pioneer Woman, would say: Here’s our cast of characters:

Lean ground beef

Chopped onion

Chopped green bell pepper

Garlic powder

Yellow mustard

Ketchup

Brown sugar

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Okay, so maybe ketchup and brown sugar aren’t the healthiest, but I do use organic ketchup, and real sugar > fake sugar.

In keeping with the healthier trend, I’m using ground turkey instead of beef today. I start the skillet warming, and I smile as I open the package, remembering that I got this turkey for half price because it’s was approaching its ‘sell by’ date. Bargains are my favorite.

I dump the ground turkey into the skillet and walk away to retrieve the green pepper and onion. I’m using my favorite cheat- frozen, chopped white onions from Kroger- so I only have to chop the pepper.

I turn back to stir the turkey, and find that the bottom is completely STUCK to the pan. I usually make this recipe with beef, and I’ve forgotten to spray the pan. Now I’ll admit, since I consider ground beef and ground turkey to be pretty much interchangeable, this is not the first time I’ve made this mistake. I can usually remedy it by mixing a little oil while scraping the pan.

This doesn’t work.

Scrambling, I reach for the packaging that the meat came in. Did I accidentally buy chicken? No, it is indeed turkey; It’s extra LEAN turkey. No wonder this stuff made it to the manager’s special shelf. Who needs EXTRA lean turkey? I scrape away as it continues to glue to the bottom of the pan and turn a very sad shade of white.

Moving on.

I add my chopped onions to the pan and turn to chop my bell pepper. Dicing peppers has been an easier task since my sweet cousin Rebecca showed me a neat trick at a family gathering a few years back (Here’s looking at you, Bec!), but alas, that doesn’t keep me from nearly slicing my thumb off as I quickly dice away. I take a minute to thank God for giving us fingernails. I toss the peppers in with the mixture, add the ingredients to make the sauce, and let simmer for 20 minutes as instructed while I toast some potato buns (I always eat the burnt ones, because I’m a good wife.)

We sit down to eat, and I’m able to pass off the fact that the bell peppers are still crunchy (after 20 minutes simmering!!!) as something about giving it “a little extra texture”. He smiles and thanks me. He’s a champ.

Observations for next time:

-Sugar is sugar. Stop pretending this meal is healthy.

-Add lots of oil when using turkey, so that the meat won’t stick and the peppers will soften.

-Heck, if you’re gonna make it, just get regular beef. It’s not healthy anyway.

-Chop a little slower. No, a lot slower.

————Katie

Snow Day En Flambé

Last week, we had a good old fashioned snow day here in middle Tennessee. While it’s not uncommon to get ice storms here, beautiful, fluffy snow falls are few and far between! My husband and I both had the day off, so we made the most of it. We watched movies and went sledding and the whole nine! What fun it was!

On to dinner.

I’m not one to run out and buy bread and milk when they’re calling for a light snow, but it did throw me a little bit that the biggest snow in two years happened on my regular shopping day. Maybe I should have braved the supermarket with the rest of the county, but it’s too late now. My meal plan for the week ran out yesterday, and I’m on my own.

I did a quick inventory of what I had on hand, and decided to go with meatloaf and baked potatoes. I was pretty sure I had enough of what I needed, although it there were enough variances that I probably wasn’t going to be able to follow a single recipe. I rarely do this, but snowy times call for desperate measures. It’s time to WING IT!

I use my hands mix the ground beef with diced onion (oh it’s COLD!) and I didn’t have any bell pepper, so this is just going to have to go without. I mix in the small amount of breadcrumbs that I have, and add milk and applesauce (in leiu of egg, I have an allergy, more on that another time) until the consistency seems right. I decide to make it up in muffin tins, since it should cut the baking time down by about half. Since I would only be baking the meatloaf for about 30 minutes, I pop the potatoes into the microwave for 4 minutes while the oven preheats.

I round the meatloaf into balls and drop them into the muffin tin, and once the oven has preheated, I roll the hot potatoes in oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and throw everything in the oven and start working on the sauce. This sauce is made of ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar, and it’s incredible. Seriously, it’s one of the few things I love whipping up because I know I can’t mess up.

I pull the meatloaf out after 25 minutes, dollop the sauce on top and return it to the oven. I notice that the potatoes have nearly withered away to nothing, so I decide they’re probably done and I pull them out to cool. The meatloaf needs about 10 minutes more, and since I like to clean as I go, I begin tidying up the kitchen. Until I hear my husband hollering behind me.

THE OVEN IS ON FIRE.

Now friends, you’ll remember that I started a fire in my friend’s oven on New Year’s Eve, which is really what inspired me to finally start writing this blog. That fire was comprised of one, very cute little flame. THIS fire was not cute. This is the kind of fire you want roaring in your fireplace on Christmas Eve. This is the kind of fire that makes you want to roast marshmallows and sing camp songs. And it’s in my oven.

My husband and I scatter to find baking soda. After scouring the kitchen, pantry, and laundry room, we determined we were out! Fortunately, the fire went out on it’s own after whatever was burning burned up (apparently ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar makes a very flammable combination when it spills). I pullthe meatloaf out, open the back door of the house to release the smoke (also letting in a draft of unbelievablly cold winter air), and defeatedly hang up my apron.

However, as always, my sweet husband plated up the food and blessed it, because he’s the best. And here’s the funny thing:

It all turned out to be delicious!

Observations for next time:

Go out for bread and milk with all the rest of the crazies.

Don’t cook potatoes so long.

Line bottom shelf of oven with foil to catch super flammable sauces.

Buy more baking soda!

——Katie

The Shepherd’s Pie Disaster

Tonight’s meal is Shepherd’s Pie, compliments of cincyshopper.com by way of Pinterest.

I didn’t figure I’d end up blogging this one, because I pulled the recipe from my “Tried it and liked it” board on Pinterest, and usually if I’ve cooked something before it goes pretty smoothly the second time around. Well, it would appear that my pinning finger got a little trigger happy somewhere along the line, because I most definitely had NOT made this particular recipe before. I know this because it requires you to make a roux, and I’ve made a roux exactly one other time in my life. I don’t even remember what recipe it was for, but I do remember that I had to Google it.

I digress.

I work in the beauty industry, and my husband teaches fifth grade. On Wednesday nights I work in the evenings, so I like to have something ready for my husband to eat when he gets home after work. Now, my husband is perfectly capable of cooking himself a meal, but given that he works 40+ hours a week enriching young minds and I work 30 hours a week making people look pretty, I take it upon myself to prepare meals ahead of time so that he can relax at the end of the day. So I’m always looking for meals that I can bake ahead of time or dump in the crock pot before I leave for work around 1. Shepherd’s pie sounded like a great way to go!

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and add ground beef, onion and garlic.

I’m making this in my cast iron skillet, which I LOVE. I can make the whole thing in this pan, and then throw it in the oven. Once I get the beef browning, I grab a bag of frozen, chopped onion out of the freezer (another AMAZING investment- I’ll seriously never chop an onion again- look for it in your local Kroger store for $1 a bag) and add the onion and garlic. The beef takes longer to brown than it should, and I begin to wonder if there’s something up with this particular burner. It would definitely explain why the green beans I cooked yesterday were still crunchy after 10 minutes of sautéing.

While I’m cooking the beef mixture, I chop up a large potato and get it boiling. It seems like when I have made shepherd’s pie in the past (again, not this recipe), I’ve ended up too with much (many?) mashed potatoes, so I decided to cook up just one to get a better potato:everything else ratio. (Spoiler alert- I should have used two potatoes.)

Once the beef has cooked through, I pour the beef/onion/garlic mix into a mixing bowl and use the cast iron to make the roux (both of my skillets are in the dishwasher from last night’s one-pan-chicken fiasco).

In another skillet or pan, melt putter and add flour. Cook roux for two minutes.

Heh heh heh, “putter”. Typos are fun.

To my utter delight and surprise, the roux mixes perfectly and, after adding the milk, the gravy thickens up beautifully. Things like this don’t happen to me. Last time we had biscuits and gravy for brinner (any other brinner fans in the house??), I ended up calling it biscuits and spicy milk, because after 30 minutes of stirring on various heat settings, the gravy never thickened. Physics breaks when I’m behind the stove.

I mix the beef and veggies into the gravy, and it looks and smells amazing! Now for the final step- topping with mashed potatoes. I had since drained and mashed the potato with butter and milk and let it cool. Now on this particular recipe, the writer had used a frosting-piping-thing (do those have a technical term?) to pipe the potatoes onto the pie in fluffy little peaks. I was super excited about this, because I happen to have a frosting-piping-thing! I scoop the potatoes in to the bag, apply the star tip, and begin piping my little potato mountains. They look beautiful, but I realize immediately that I have not made nearly enough potatoes! I frantically set the piping bag (piping bag! Is that what it’s called??) down and scrape out the pan to get every last ounce of potatoes out. I pick up the piping bag, and potatoes fly everywhere.

I’d set the piping bag on the hot burner. The bag is melting.

I scramble to collect all the potatoes clumps off of the stove and back into the pan, and, despite my better judgement and shoving aside thoughts of carcinagous plastic in my food, proceed to then haphazardly scatter them across the top of the pie. So much for pretty little potato peaks.

Fiascos aside, it didn’t look half bad after baking, and my husband confirmed via text just a few minutes ago that it tastes great. We’ll count it as a win!

RIP, piping bag.

Observations for next time:

Make more potatoes.

Buy a new piping bag.

Pay more attention to potentially hot surfaces.

—–Katie

The Two Pan One Pan Chicken

Tonight, I’m making one pan balsamic chicken and veggies, compliments of Cookingclassy.com by way of Pinterest. I’m ALL about anything with the words “one pan” in the title….even though I ended up using 2 (spoiler alert!) plus, I looooooove me some balsamic vinegar, so I was super excited to try this dish!

Here we go! 4:40pm

One Pan Balsamic Chicken and Veggies

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 13 minutes

I buy all of my chicken breasts at a local whole-foods type place, because about once a month they run a crazy sale and you can buy value packs of chicken breasts for like, $1.77/lb (heck yeah!). I had stocked up last week so they were all in the freezer, but fortunately I had had the presence of mind to pull two breasts out last night and put them in the fridge. Thank you, yesterday Katie!

Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste, then place chicken evenly in skillet. Cook about 6 ­ 7 minutes, rotating once halfway through cooking, until chicken has cooked through.

Wait. These are still frozen solid, ice crystals and all. What?

The first thing that you should know about me here is that things like this are -very- commonplace in my kitchen. Now granted, there are some problems with my cooking that are 100% my fault, and I’m well aware of that, but the chicken not thawing isn’t one of those things. Chicken in the fridge should thaw. Enter the Pinehurst Curse.

Before moving forward with my immediate and typical fail safe decision to order pizza, I remember- this is why God invented the microwave. Pop the chicken in, set it on a defrost cycle, and we’re back in business. (And I know God didn’t -actually- invent the microwave, but I don’t know off hand who did, so I just give God the credit. I mean, He basically did, right? Physics and electricity and stuff. Right?)

While the chicken is speed-thawing (By the way, turns out it was some dude named Percy Spencer. Thank you, Percy, for the microwave), I go ahead and make the sauce for the chicken.

In a mixing bowl whisk together salad dressing, balsamic vinegar, honey and red pepper flakes, set aside.

Combine and mix. Easy. I’m not sure why the italian dressing it coming out so clumpy….is that normal? I add a little water just in case, and the consistency looks right.

Next comes balsamic, yummmm, such a wonderful scent!

Then honey. 1.5 tablespoons. Turns out I’m practically out of honey, so I just add whatever I can get out of the bottle. It’s a little more than one tablespoon.

1/8 teaspoon Red pepper flakes. Wait, 1/8 teaspoon? What the heck kind of measurement is that? Whatever. Shake shake shake. Done!

(Note to self- buy honey)

By now, the chicken is pretty much not frozen anymore. Close enough. I heat olive oil in the pan, slice the chicken into appropriate sized pieces and toss the it into the pan.

The lack of sizzling when I drop the chicken into the pan makes my heart sink, because I know that when the chicken doesn’t sizzle, the pan isn’t hot enough, and the chicken will end up being dry. (Why do I know this? Because this one time, it sizzled, and the chicken was perfect. Yep, one time.) I also realize that even though I used a little less than the recommended one-and-one-fourth pound of chicken, there’s entirely too much chicken in the pan. I make a joke to my husband across the kitchen about having medium-rare chicken for dinner, and he’s not amused.

I decide that there really is too much chicken in the pan, so I pull half of it out and move it to a second pan. Again, no sizzle. While I wait for the chicken, I cut the ends off of the green beans and peel the carrots. This recipe called for “carrot straws” (I swear, they’re making this stuff up). Well it turns out I forgot to buy “carrot straws” so I figured I’d just shred up some carrots instead (spoiler alert: this doesn’t end well.)

As I’m peeling tiny shreds of carrots with my very small, flat cheese grater, I’m realizing I should probably buy an actual 4-sided cheese grater. Do they make collapsible ones? They totally should, because there is no good way to store those things. I also need to get a cheese slicer. And new beaters for my electric mixer. As the carrot gets thin and starts to bend, I think of a this joke I read earlier today about a Jedi, and……no. Stop. Maybe this is why I can’t cook.

Once the first pan of chicken is no longer pink, albeit a bit sad looking and rather dry, I set it aside and add the veggies to the pan. The recipe says to cook for about the green beans 4 minutes, or until tender.

Four minutes later, the green beans are still completely crunchy. This is an occurrence nearly every time I cook a meal. Shouldn’t food + heat = cooked food? Not for this girl. Even now, I don’t order pizza. Go me!

In another 8 minutes or so, the extraneous chicken is looking good, the green beans are, well, edible, and the carrot shreds have withered away to practically nothing. Curse you, non carrot straws!!

Add remaining dressing mixture to skillet and cook.

Wait, wait, remaining dressing? What does that mean? Ha! Apparently I did a terrible job of reading the recipe and I was supposed to put half of the dressing in while the chicken was cooking. Better late than never. I add the sauce to the pan. Oh, goodness, that balsamic smells SO good….rich and tangy and…Smokey?

It’s burning.

After removing the pan from the heat a minute, tossing and stirring like a mad woman, and not ordering a pizza, the crisis is averted.

Now for the magic moment- I go to dump all of the chicken and veggies back into the same pan (So much for one pan) and start to toss it around in the sauce, except there won’t be any tossing here, because it all -barely- fits in the pan. Did I make too much? Was I actually supposed to measure out exactly one-and-one-fourth pounds of chicken, and one-half-cup slices of grape tomatoes? Do the pros not just eyeball everything? Or perhaps, was I supposed to make this in a wok? But then wouldn’t they have had the decency to call it One Wok Balsamic Chicken and Veggies?????

Forget tossing it. I proceed to stir it in very, very small circles. But man, it smells good.

At about 5:25 I bring the pan to the table, having managed to turn 23 minutes into 45 (not even my worst time, believe it or not!) My sweet husband serves us each a portion and, as always, blesses our food and thanks God for my diligence and willingness to prepare dinner for us every night. Then he takes a bite, smiles over his crunchy green beans and enthusiastically says to me those three little words every girl wants to hear:

“It’s not terrible!”


Observations for next time:

Buy. Carrot. Straws.

Remove chicken from freezer to thaw two days ahead of time. Or maybe three days.

Throw in twice as many grape tomatoes, because those babies are pure magic after they melt into that balsamic sauce.

Read the whole recipe, slowly and thoroughly.

Delete the Papa Johns app.

—Katie