Ladies and gentleman,
Oh, hello there!
I’m feeling the need to cover my face out of embarrassment as I sit down to type up this blog (it’s really hard…I’m going to start using both hands to type now) because I haven’t published a blog post since OCTOBER!
Now granted, you may remember that a few months back, I mentioned starting a new job that completely turned my schedule upside down and I really don’t cook traditional dinners much anymore. I know it’s a little unfair that I’m still using this as an excuse, especially because I’ve been at my “new” job for over a year now, but sometimes there’s just nothing to report! Even when there is, I’m really bad about putting it all into words before the sadness and hilarity of it all slips away from me.
Another blunder I’ll admit to- what was I THINKING trying to post one blog a week? If I had set a realistic goal for myself, like once a month, perhaps, maybe I wouldn’t have completely fallen off of the internet the last several months. Maybe I can commit to one blog a month. What do you think? Yeah?
Well, let’s get started then!
The last few times I’ve have something go really wrong in the kitchen (wrong-er than is normal for me, that is) I’ve had the presence of mind to scribble a few notes down to remind me of just how the disaster unfolded when the time came to put it on paper. (Side note: I love that I use words like “scribble” and “paper” when it fact, neither of those things play ANY part in blogging) so I’ve got a few to start with. So for today, let’s go with–
He is risen, the rolls have not .
No, no, that’s entirely too sacrilegious (ducks and looks for lightning) let’s try again. (Besides, the rolls did rise, that wasn’t the problem, but now I’m getting ahead of the story).
Jesus is alive, so pass the pork.
Ehhhhhh….still too much? Okay, how about–
The Easter with all the Carbs
It’s Easter Sunday in the Valencia house and due to personal reasons, we had made the decision NOT to serve on a ministry team this year (which, for me, is all kinds of weird. I don’t think I’ve ever simply attended a church service on easter, I’ve always been serving or teaching or singing or something, probably starting from the year I was in the womb) so after attending the late service like a couple of creasters (Creaster: noun, one who attends church only on Christmas and Easter) I decided to make us a good old fashioned easter dinner. In past years, I’ve picked up a half pre-cooked ham, and, in past years, we’ve ended eating ham for 9 days and then STILL throwing away a very large portion of it. So this year, I picked up a little….I’m not even sure, eighth of a ham. I also picked up potatoes for scalloped potatoes and rolls. And just in case that’s not enough carbs, Danny’s requested stuffing (because what’s a holiday meal without stuffing?).
The only thing I made here that has a specific recipe for is the scalloped potatoes, everything else just required heating up. I’d made this version of scalloped potatoes before and it is SO good, so I’ll include the recipe for you.
Cheese Scalloped Potatoes, by way of plainchicken.com
2lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (Yeah, we definitely did not thinly-enough-slice them)
3 cups heavy whipping cream (I only had a pint, so I only used 2 cups, and a little milk)
1 tbsp dried parsley (does anyone ever actually add this?)
2 cloves garlic, minced (I buy the pre-minced stuff, cuz I’m lazy/brilliant)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup mozzarella (I used cheddar-jack blend because I prefer cheddar on potatoes
(Oooooooookay, per usual, looking back at my list of modifications, it’s already clear why this potentially didn’t go well, but you never see these things in the moment. Plus theres a curse.)
Preheat oven to 400.
I realize that the rolls are supposed to cook at 375 and I have no idea what the ham should really be cooking at, so I figure 400 is probably good for everything as long as I watch it.
(Did I mention there’s a curse?)
Layer potatoes in prepared pan
I asked Danny to chop up the potatoes, and in hindsight I’m realizing that it’s entirely my fault that I didnt tell him how small to chop them. I suppose they should have been more thinly sliced, but danny chopped them into perfect little cubes and I was certain that they’d cook up just fine. Right?
(Sigh. I can’t even blame the curse here, can I.)
Stir together heavy cream, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Pour over potatoes.
Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Top with cheese and bake until golden brown and bubbly. The ham is supposed to bake at ten minutes per pound and it’s maybe 2.5lbs, so that should work out great.
I set the first ten minute timer and go to prepare the rolls (which, of course, means seeking out my husband and making him open the scary jack-in-the-box tube of dough). As I lay the uncooked dough on the pan, I have a sudden realization.
We have NO veggies to go with this meal.
Normally I get green beans, or asparagus, or at the very least a side salad, but somehow it slipped my mind. The ten minute timer goes off, I stir the potatoes and then I scour my freezer, surely we have some frozen green beans in here.
Nope. Never in my life have I felt like such a stereotypical American. Not a single vegetable in my house (although in my defense, I grocery shop on Mondays). Well, I guess we’ll just eat ALLLLLLLL the carbs today. (I’m pausing to decide if I should make a last supper joke here, Jesus took the bread and all that…..nope, nope. I can’t do it). The timer goes off, I pop the rolls into the oven and stir the potatoes. I set another ten minute timer.
The stuffing comes together fast, and I set it aside. The timer goes off. Even having only cooked the rolls for 10 minutes, having cooked at 400 has made the rolls a bit more than golden. I pull them out, set them aside, and throw some cheese on the potatoes. Man they smell good. Thank goodness for potatoes for always being there for us!
The ham, which I glazed with concentrated apple juice and spicy mustard, probably cooked longer than it needed to and is looking a little shriveled, so I pull it out too, I fluff the stuffing, and survey the goods:
-One semi shriveled ham
-Rolls with an excellent tan
-Some seriously good smelling potatoes
-Good old stuffing from a box
It’s sunny with a high of 74° today, so Danny and I cart everything out to the patio, bless the mess, and dig in. And over the sound of crunchy potatoes, Danny tells me everything is delicious.
I sure do love that man.
Observations for next time:
-Buy some dang vegetables
-Bake things at the appropriate temperatures
-For the love of all things, follow the actual recipe
This dreadful installment is brought to you by Halloween, the scariest day of the year! Ha! Let’s be real. Every day is the scariest day of the year in my kitchen.
The task was simple. Make a spooky treat for my community group Halloween party. No big deal! I found some cute Pinterest ideas that looked so simple even I couldn’t mess them up, and moved boldly forward.
(Spoiler alert- I mess these up).
Here is what we are going for –
So cute, right?
Originally, I had planned to make homemade peanut butter thumbprint cookies. I’ve never made them before, but they look pretty simple. However, while meandering through the aisles of Walmart looking for all of the specific ingredients needed, I had come to my senses. I would use break and bake cookies, and then decorate them myself. So that’ll be a peice of cake. I start out feeling equally optimistic about the brownies, I usually do fine with box mixes! And since I’m doing break and bake cookies, this is going to be quick and easy.
<Insert witches cackle here>
I’m making a double batch of brownies, so per the box instructions, I mix both bags of brownie mix with eggs, oil, and water (per the recipe, doubled). I’m using 2 8×8 glass pans, which I coat with butter and dust with flour in hopes that I can slide the whole brownie out without cutting them.
I pop the brownies in the oven and set the timer. The box says 36-41 minutes for this size pan. I wonder if that changes when making two pans, so I make a mental note that they might need a little longer. Meanwhile, I break apart my sugar cookie dough. I line my cookie sheets with foil (less clean up, right?) and voila. Man, I’m so smart for getting break and bake!
<Insert looming scary music here>
Fast forward 40 minutes. I test the brownies with a toothpick, and it comes out gooey.
10 more minutes.
10 MORE minutes.
These brownies have now been in the oven almost 70 minutes, and I’m beginning to smell burnt edges. I really hope they’re done, because I’m taking them out.
I want to let the brownies get nice and cool so they’ll come out smoothly, so i aside them aside for a while. I put the cookies in the oven for 11 minutes, according to the instructions.
After 10 minutes, I check them just to be on the safe side! I open the oven, and find that the cookies are bubbling liquid in the middle and burning on the bottom.
<Insert psycho theme music here>
My heart sinks. What is happening?! Wait. Is this because of the foil?
Well, damn it.
I don’t have another shot at these, so I franctically pull the cookie sheet out and try to remove them so I can finish baking them without the foil, but they won’t move without breaking. Think fast, Katie!
I pull out a second cookie sheet and line it with foil, put it upside down over the cookies, and flip the whole thing. Once they’re upside down, I flip them back on to the first cookie sheet, sans foil. They break a little. A few have holes in them.
I give them 5 more minutes, and pull them out.
Yeah, I can’t use these.
At this point, I decide to get out of the house. I’m going to have to buy store bought sugar cookies (at least my brownies will be cute) and I promised myself I’d get out and vote today. When I come back, the brownies will be cool and I can decorate them. No big deal.
Fast forward two hours and one local election precinct later, I return to the kitchen. The brownies have cooled, so I carefully cut around the edges of the brownie pan and turn it over, anticipating one beautiful brownie to come sliding out.
Well damn it!!
Okay, what can I do with this mess?? I scrape the gooey centers out and put them in a mixing bowl. Here we go. I can do this.
Attempt #2: I remember someone once telling me that you can make truffles out of cake that doesn’t come out, I bet it will work with brownies too! I’ll make them look like eyeballs! Yes, this will be so cute! I mix in a little cream cheese frosting (leftover from my husband’s birthday cake last week) to give them texture and roll them into truffles.
This doesn’t work. This doesn’t work at all. This is a sticky gooey MESS! It’s not going to set into truffles. Unless…..
Attempt 3: I have a brick of melting chocolate in my pantry. I bet if I melt it down, dip the truffles in melting chocolate, and put them in the freezer, I can make chocolate covered brownie bites! Yes! I’ll make them look like eyeballs! This will be so cute!
This doesn’t work.
My husband arrives home about now, and finds me all but crying over my mixing bowl full of chocolate goo. My cookies were a failure, and my brownies were a failure. This isn’t the first time he’s found me like this, and as usual, he’s kind and patient and compassionate. He offers to finish my sugar cookie spiders while I vent and cry about my bad day. He also suggests we try baking up the brownie truffle mix one more time to see if it’ll set.
It doesn’t set. There are no brownies. The end.
Still me. I’m the editor.
In the end, Danny did an amazing job with the spider cookies, so much so I referred to him as Spider-Man (see what I did there???) I brought the not-brownies to the party, and my friend came up with a brilliant idea- BROWNIE DIP! We served it with nilla- wafers and tricked everyone into thinking this treat was intentional.
I do love happy endings.
The first day of fall!
It may still be 95° in Tennessee, but I decided today that I would summon cool weather upon us by baking up a storm of fall inspired things! A few weeks back, I had made a loaf of pumpkin bread on a whim with an easy Pinterest recipe, and it turned out awesome, so I decided to spread my love of fall and bake some for my neighbors!
Now, I use the word “bread” very loosely, and I think you’ll see why when you read the following recipe, which comes by way of geniuskitchen.com:
Pumpkin Bread- No egg, dairy, or nuts
3 cups flour
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Yes, you read that correctly, THREE
POINT FIVE CUPS OF SUGAR! When I
made this last week, I halved the sugar
and it was plenty sweet, so I’ll do that
again today. Since I’m making a double
batch, I pull out my largest mixing bowl
(it’s purple) and begin to combine my dry
As I’m mixing, my husband calls to me from the other room and asks, while I’m already covered in flour and sugar, could I also maybe bake a cake for his game of Dungeons and Dragons? After all, today is the two year anniversary of this campaign, so there really should be cake, right? Naturally I say yes, because I’m that awesome.
Except we have no eggs. And I really had no business saying yes. I don’t make cakes. Who do I think I am, Jessica Chicago?*
I dig out the recipe for my grandmother’s applesauce cake, knowing it has no eggs (because she was allergic, like me). I’ve made this before, it’s simply and yummy and goes well with my fall mood. I speed- read through the ingredients, and realize it’s virtually the same thing I’m already making (with applesauce instead of pumpkin, but actually has LESS sugar, ha!) so I pull out my green mixing bowl, knowing full well there’s a very good chance I’m going to get these mixed up.
Purple for pumpkin, green for apple. I say it out loud 3 times. Purple for pumpkin, green for apple.
The pumpkin “bread” batter comes out beautifully, and I divide it into 4 loaf pans. It needs to bake for 60 minutes, and the cake only needs 45, so I have 15 minutes to get the cake ready to put in the oven.
I mix the flour and sugar, and as I try to cream the butter with the applesauce, I realize that you cannot, in fact, cream butter into applesauce. I had speed-read the recipe and it turns out, the butter was supposed to be creamed with the sugar, not the applesauce. I beat the mixture rapidly with a fork, and they join together about as beautifully as oil and water.
Once I get the liquid mixture semi-homogenized, I mixed it into the flour and sugar. I use every muscle in my arm to crank the wooden spoon and around, and slowly, it begins to mix together. Except, this mixture doesn’t even slightly resemble cake mix. It looks more like mud, and it’s incredibly sticky. Apparently, the order in which you combine the ingredients is -kind of- crucial in baking.
I set the sticky mess aside and contemplate starting over, but I’ve used up all the applesauce. In my pantry there is a box of spice cake mix, but again, I have no eggs. I’m allergic to eggs and my go to trick is to replace the eggs with……applesauce.
Sigh. I should’ve started with the box mix. Who do I think I am, Jessica Chicago?*
I return to the batter and mix it sheepishly as I grab my phone and call my sister, Jessica*, the baker. Surely, she can turn this around. But there’s no answer, I’m on my own here.
Mixing slowly, I add one tablespoon of water at a time until the mixture becomes semi-pourable, and that’s going to have to do. My husband asked for a cake, he didn’t specify “delicious” or even “edible”. It was supposed to fill two 8” rounds, but it barely fills one. Whatever. Into the oven it goes.
After the hour is up, I pull it all out of the oven. I put the cake into the fridge and walk the warm bread to my neighbor’s houses. I’m a hot mess when I get back, because “fall” in Tennessee is just a day on the calendar, and I had found myself cursing the whole endeavor under my breath as I’d sweat my way around the block.
I slap some canned cream cheese frosting onto the cake-thing and call it a day. As I clean up and rotate my sore mixing wrists, I remember something.
I have an electric hand mixer.
I’ve just made four loaves of pumpkin bread and an applesauce spice cake and it never occurred to my non-domesticated brain to pull out my hand mixer.
I hate fall.
(Note: In the end, the cake was a little dense and thin but overall still fairly tasty. As for the pumpkin bread, I never tried it myself, but one of my neighbors texted me later and thanked me, and said Lily liked it more than everyone else. I can’t remember for the life of me if Lily was the baby or the dog. I’m choosing to believe she’s the baby.)
Observations for next time:
Shop Kroger’s bakery
Be Jessica Chicago*
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/
* 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
* 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
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 2 cups shiitake mushrooms sliced
* 1 cup Chinese cabbage shredded
* 1 cup carrots julienned
* 1 large onion chopped
* 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
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.
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.
My name is Katie, and I can’t cook.
I’ve been intending for a while to start a blog about my cooking misadventures, and I probably would have continued to put it off, had it not been for New Years Eve 2017. Yes, that fateful final night of the year, when I set my friend’s oven on fire while attempting to make buffalo chicken pinwheels. An unwilling New Years Resolution, you might call it. (I’m so very grateful for a friend who was standing nearby and knew to throw baking soda on the fire. I’m sure that knowledge was in my head somewhere, from home ec or cooking with grandma, but who remembers those things when there are flames coming out of the oven?!) Either way, when you set your friend’s oven on fire while trying to heat a simple appetizer, there just might be a serious problem with your cooking style.
Enter: The Pinehurst Curse.
I’ve long lamented to friends and family in the past that I simply cannot cook, and I believe most of them have assumed that I’m exaggerating. The first person to actually believe me when I would mourn my culinary tales was my sister, Jessica, because she has had the opportunity many times to see it in action. It was her idea to call it The Pinehurst Curse, because it was while I was living in my first apartment on Pinehurst Drive that we discovered something; Katie. Can’t. Cook. It’s not just that I burn the occasional casserole or overcook the pasta, it’s something else entirely.
I don’t know how else to phrase this, but, physics BREAKS when I cook. Water doesn’t boil. Cheese doesn’t melt. Meat doesn’t thaw. Buffalo chicken pin wheels catch fire all of their own accord. It’s not that I’m terrible at following recipes or that I don’t try hard enough, it’s that simple laws of nature fail to occur when I am behind the stove.
Don’t get me wrong. We eat. Every single day. Fortunately, the Good Lord has blessed me with a husband who graciously eats everything I put in front of him and doesn’t even get weirded out to find me crying into my apron (okay, that one might have taken a few months of adjustment). In spite of myself, I manage to prepare meals for myself and my husband and they are almost always edible (I can count 3 times in 3 years that we have scraped our plates into the trash and called Papa Johns- not a bad overall score) but you would not BELIEVE the fiascos I encounter while preparing said meals.
Hence, the blog. There have to be others, right? Those of you who will resonate with me when the alfredo sauce comes out stringy because, beyond all odds, the mozzarella chose not to melt over heat, and when the onions are still crunchy after 10 minutes of lightly sauteeing. You’re out there, aren’t you? Join me here, where I’ll post weekly installments of my misadventures in the kitchen, and other unfortunate domestic happenings.
We’ll laugh. We’ll cry.
We’ll just try to get something edible on the table.