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

The Pinehurst Curse

Hello, friends!

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.

—Katie