Lucky jambalaya and runaway quinoa

Things have been a wee bit calmer in my kitchen this past week.  One thing to be proud of:  my first “good” homemade chicken nuggets.  I’ve made chicken nuggets before, but since breading is one of my nemeses, they never turned out quite right.  The breading was always a little soggy and the chicken was always overcooked.  This time, I cranked up the heat in the oven (I’ve always done it at 350 F).  This, combined with my recent practice with breading, produced some gloriously fine chicken nuggets that weren’t overcooked and had a nice, crispy breading.

Yes, I have a victory to celebrate.  But for every success I have in the kitchen, I seem to have two setbacks.  This week’s lessons for the bad chef:

1)  Just because I’m getting better doesn’t mean I’m “good” by any means, so I need to get over myself and accept that there are still rules to abide by.
2)  When it comes to plastic bags of ingredients purchased in bulk: scoop, don’t pour.

I learned lesson #1 after my fiance and I Googled “jambalaya recipe” while standing in the middle of an aisle in the grocery store.  We were on our way home from the movie theater and I was starving and thought I’d whip up a quick jambalaya for dinner.  We picked a recipe and gathered the ingredients listed.  Mind you, I didn’t actually read the recipe–just the ingredients.  When we got home, I pulled up the recipe to discover that particular batch of jambalaya would take about two hours to make.  In a panic, I scrapped the recipe and winged the jambalaya.  I took a lot of shortcuts, all of them risky, but in the end I managed to make in half an hour what the recipe said would take two hours.  Call it luck, but it still tasted great!

Worth the risk.

Despite the fact that my jambalaya was really tasty, it was a stupid move.  First, to assume that all I need is a list of ingredients to be ready to make a meal is DUMB.  I’ve been told time and time again by other cooks that reading theentire recipe is a must before deciding to make a dish.  Second, to scrap the recipe altogether and wing it–with the few cooking skills I have–was plain cocky and something I really can’t make a habit of.

Lesson #2 came about tonight while cooking a quinoa spinach salad.  I buy quinoa in bulk because it’s much cheaper.  I had one bag that only had about a half-cup remaining, so instead of dipping in with my measuring cup, I tried pouring rest of the quinoa into the cup.  Before I could stop it, a landslide of quinoa made its way out of the gaping hole at the bag’s opening and spread like wildfire over my kitchen counters and floor.  After about five minutes of hardcore cleanup, I still found clusters of quinoa hiding out every time I turned around.  I will be finding little beads of quinoa in various places in my kitchen for years to come.  😦

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