The Great Meatball Casserole Spillage of 2015

You know how certain workplaces have signs that read This department has worked ____ days without injury? Sometimes I think my blog needs a sign that reads This cook has cooked ____ meals without failure beyond repair.

For the record, if I did have such a thing on my blog, the count would currently be 0.

Saturday night, I spent an hour preparing an Upside Down Meatball Casserole recipe. I was extra proud of myself because it was the first time I’d ever cooked meatballs in a skillet on the stovetop. I’ve always only baked them in the oven because I’m terrified of hot oil, and I avoid cooking in more than a tablespoon of oil at all costs. But I cooked nearly 30 meatballs in a quarter cup of oil and they were just GORGEOUS.

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Once the meatballs were done, I assembled the rest of the casserole. It looked and smelled delicious; I was stoked! All I had left to do was pop it into the oven for half an hour. I set the timer for 18 minutes so I could check on it. As it baked, the most heavenly scent filled the kitchen and the living room.

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When the timer went off, I slipped on a potholder and slowly pulled the casserole dish out of the oven. It was clear right away that the biscuits weren’t yet done. As I made to place the dish back on the rack, it began to wobble in my grip…

Quick sidebar: recently I came across this picture on the interwebs, and I simply shook my head and thought, “Wow. I tend to make mistakes in the kitchen, but at least I’m not that bad.”

So, the casserole dish full of meatballs, sauce, cheese, and raw dough, was wobbling in my hand. Yes, I had taken it out of the oven one-handed. That’s not important. (Okay, it’s extremely important. I’m never removing something from the oven one-handed again.) I’m sure you know where this is going.

Once gravity took over, there was just no stopping it.

It felt as if I were watching it in slow motion. The dish hit the oven rack and half of the casserole slid out over the edge and splattered against the bottom of the oven. It sizzled like ten pounds of bacon. I grabbed the dish and placed it on the stovetop and shouted, “Babe! Babe! Babe! Babe! Babe!” to my husband, who was only about twenty feet away from me. He took a leap and landed beside me, and so did the dog, because the sauce and the cheese were dripping out on to the floor.

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Initially I was in shock, unable to react. After snapping some photos as proof, I leaned back against the counter and buried my head in my hands while my husband used a barbecue spatula to scrape up what he could of the mess. When he was done, I studied the remains in the casserole dish and finally broke into tears. Not because I’d ruined dinner—hell, I’ve done that so many times I’m desensitized to the feeling—but because I’d spent so much time and everything had been going so well, and I’m sure it would have been one of the best things I’ve made in a long time if it weren’t for my dropping the dish.

This is what a shattered dream looks like.

This is what a shattered dream looks like.

Even the dog is giving me that "I can't believe you did that" look.

Even the dog is giving me that “I can’t believe you did that” look.

Luckily my husband gives great hugs and he offered his reassurances that “shit happens, and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad cook,” and then he treated the family to burgers at Red Robin.

It won’t be right away, but I will attempt this meal again. First I have to clean the oven. And also, to whomever was the victim of the pizza incident in the photo above: I’m sorry for ever feeling sorry for you. It turns out I have similar mad skills.

A Sampling of Pet Owner Ideology

Being a pet owner is…

Seeing a cat or dog hair slowly float into your food, making a move to catch it before it lands, and thinking:  Screw it.  There are probably fifty more already in my food.  And then taking a bite and moving on.

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Image source: http://wttf.org

Last Tree Standing

This was our Christmas tree two years ago:

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We had put it up a couple of days prior and we were rightfully nervous about it from the start. Reasons included:

  • Our cat Winston had tried his damnedest to conquer the tree the previous year. Anti-chew spray, tin foil around the base, and citrus scent—all touted to keep cats away from Christmas trees—did nothing. Zilch. Nada.
  • Our other cat, Orville, was still a kitten, and quite the playful one at that.
  • It was our first Christmas with two cats. ‘Nuff said.

The third night or so after we put up the tree, I awoke in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. From the hallway, I saw a giant shadow in the middle of the living room floor and immediately had a bad feeling. I took a detour to check it out and sure enough, the tree was lying on its side with ornaments scattered in every direction.

F*%#ing cats.

But I love them to death.

We learned the next morning that the artificial tree was actually busted. In two places. Sadly, it was broken enough that we had to trash it. Last year we moved into a new house just before Christmas and without an existing tree, we decided not to even bother. It was the Bah-Humbuggiest Christmas we’ve ever had.

This year, we’re back in the full swing of Christmas decorating. The lights are up outside, faux pine garlands are strewn about, and our gorgeous new tree has been up for FIVE days!

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Five days might not seem like much and it’s still too early to assume it’ll still be standing on Christmas morning. Although our kitten is now a mature adult cat with little interest in the tree, we do have a puppy this time around.

When we purchased the tree, the nice cashier at Home Depot asked if we wanted the two-year replacement warranty for $18. She explained that if something were to happen to the tree over the next two years, if Home Depot can’t fix it, they’ll replace it. My husband and I shot each other a sly glance and asked her, “Does it cover dogs?” She guessed it doesn’t, so we passed. But so far (I repeat, so far) Samantha has left it alone.

Winston, on the other hand, thinks it’s a salad bar.

Other than awaking to a few ornaments (shatterproof, I might add) that have been knocked off during the night, the tree has been safe and sound. I’m not ready to let my guard down quite yet, but I’m not horribly pessimistic.

Samantha was quite baffled by the Christmas decorating process. But she does make quite the fashion statement with bubble wrap.

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I'm watching you two...

I’m watching you two…

 

 

Plan B

In my house, there is always a Plan B for dinner. More often than not, Plan B consists of burrito bowls from Chipotle.

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We utilize Plan B more often than it really should be in one’s household. Whether I cook something that resembles sewage, or I fill up the crockpot in the morning and forget to plug it in, it’s not exactly “rare” that the husband and I end up at Chipotle.

Today it was made clear that I don’t even have to begin preparing food in order to ruin dinner. Not one dish was dirtied and not one burner was turned on, but we had to resort to Plan B.

Honestly, I kind of blame the dog. Let me back up a bit.

This morning, despite it being a depressing 18 degrees outside, Samantha was insistent on running around outside with the four-foot-long stick she recently found on a walk. Upon returning inside, she bolted around the house, ping-ponging off the walls like she’d just chugged a case of Red Bull. In the midst of her burst of energy, I noticed some splotches of red on the kitchen floor.

I called out Samantha’s name, suspicious she was bleeding from one of her paws. She came flying into the kitchen at full speed, running in circles as I begged her to calm down. At last, she stopped long enough for me to confirm she’d managed to cut one of the pads on her foot.

And that’s when I noticed that my kitchen looked like a murder scene. There were bloody paw prints everywhere. To my horror, I realized the blood trailed deep into the living room as well.

At this point I had roughly ten minutes before I had to leave from work in order to make it to a very important early-morning meeting. So I prioritized and dealt with cleaning the wound and helping the dog, and decided to worry about cleaning up the kitchen floor on my lunch break.

On my lunch break, I spent twenty stinking minutes cleaning dog blood off the kitchen floor and spots I’d missed on the carpet, and spraying down Samantha’s kennel blanket with stain remover before throwing it in the washing machine. TWENTY MINUTES. And this is what caused us to resort to Plan B for dinner.

Okay, maybe you’re wondering how I can blame this on the dog. Let me explain.

When I first arrived home on my lunch break, I remembered the chicken for tonight’s dinner still felt like it wasn’t completely thawed on the inside—although the outside layer was squishy as ever. I removed it from the fridge and set it on the counter, thinking half an hour in room temperature might speed along the process. Well, I had no idea just how much cleaning up I had to do, and by the time I was finished I was once again in a rush to get back to work.

At 4:45, as I wrapped up my tasks at work, a horrible thought came over me. I texted my husband.

Me: Did I leave the chicken on the counter?
Husband: Yup.
Me: Crap. Will you put it back in the fridge?
Me: [A minute later] Is it even still cold?
Husband: Nope.
Me: Craaaaaaap.
Husband: [Sends cartoon image of a smiling turd]

The chicken was completely warm and had been for who-knows-how-long. It had been sitting on the kitchen counter for five hours. Like I said, I didn’t even start cooking and I still managed to ruin dinner. But if it hadn’t been for the dog blood, I bet it wouldn’t have happened.

My husband might argue that last part. But he’s not here to prove me wrong, so I’m still blaming it on the dog.

Samantha’s Last Carrot

Over the years, I’ve learned a few lessons about having pets. A few examples:

  1. If it looks too high for the cat to reach it…it’s not.
  2. Being 65 pounds does not stop a dog from sitting in your lap.
  3. Bugs aren’t nearly as fun to eat as they are to kill.
  4. Scratching the wall next to the litter box is somehow necessary to burying poop.
  5. If you give your cats wet food even once, you will be committed to giving it to them every day for as long as they live…or else.

Most of the things I learn from and about my pets are pretty general and I often learn they apply to my friends’ and families’ animals as well. However, there are exceptions. One of them came to light last night.

My parents have a corgi named Flash. He’s adorable as all get-out but he’s always been a tad overweight. (Who am I kidding, that’s what makes him adorable!) For years, he’s been on “diet” food. At some point his vet suggested giving him carrots in lieu of treats because they’re low-calorie. It seemed a little odd, but Flash loves them.

Last night I was making a big batch of Spicy Red and Black Bean soup (mmmmmmmmmm), which called for a cup of chopped carrot (which, by the way, I have finally mastered). I had about a third of a carrot leftover and wasn’t in the mood to eat it. However, waiting at my feet in anticipation of my dropping something was my eight-month-old puppy, Samantha.

Don't trust her cuteness, it's a trap.

Don’t trust her cuteness, it’s a trap.

I recalled how much Flash loves carrots and thought it would be an easy way to dispose of my leftover carrot. Samantha’s eyes ballooned as I held out the hunk of carrot for her to take.

I immediately returned to my cooking but I could hear Samantha crunching away at her exciting orange treat. At some point it occurred to me that although several minutes had passed, the crunch crunch crunch from behind me was still going strong.  Eventually it stopped, Samantha disappeared, and I turned around.

This is what I found. ARGH!!!

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The whole time Samantha was chewing on that carrot, she didn’t swallow a single crumb of it. Needless to say, this was the first AND last carrot she’ll ever be getting. And now I have yet another pet lesson to file away.

Brat.

 

 

Pressure cooker, take two: risotto

Preface to what you’re about to read:  my bridal shower was last weekend, and my gag gift was the LARGEST pair of granny panties my eyes have ever seen.

So this is how my morning started:  I was in the bathroom, getting ready for work, when I heard my cat Orville making a ruckus in the hallway.  I poked my head out the door and caught Orville wildly running back and forth in the hallway with the granny panties in his mouth.  This continued for several moments and ended with Orville collapsing on the ground, hugging the underwear with his front paws while he kicked at them with his back legs, and finally curling up in a ball and resting his head on the panties like they were a cat-sized pillow.

It was bound to be an interesting day from the get-go.  With an interesting day comes an interesting cooking experience.

First, I tackled my second pressure cooker recipe:  rapid risotto.  I LOVE rice dishes, especially risotto, but I really despise how long rice takes to cook.  Having survived my first pressure cooking undertaking, I was a lot calmer going into my second venture.  I also learned what I did wrong in the first recipe that had caused the beans not to cook thoroughly (I turned the heat down too low when trying to maintain high pressure), with the hope that I wouldn’t have the same issue with the risotto.

While the risotto cooked, I coated some chicken breasts with a meat rub and put them in my brand new grill pan!  I’ve emphasized those words because that’s how ecstatic I felt when I purchased this grill pan a couple of nights ago.  I’ve wanted a grill pan for a really…long…time.  But don’t let the enthusiasm fool you.  My grill pan is already in the doghouse, so to speak.

I’ve been watching cooking shows (ahem…Giada) in which food is prepared on the grill pan, and it looks AMAZING.  When I purchased my grill pan earlier this week, I was beside myself with excitement as I thought about all the wondrous things my new pan would produce.  But the closer my chicken breasts came to being cooked, the more it became clear to me that the grill pan had done nothing differently than just any ol’ frying pan I could have pulled out of my kitchen cabinet.  I was even robbed of the fancy grill marks the pan should have left on my chicken.  Unless I’m missing something important, I’m almost sure I wasted my money.

Luckily, I had no issues with my risotto and it couldn’t have turned out any better.  Given that the total cook time was only about 10 minutes, I do believe the pressure cooker will be my preferred method for preparing risotto from now on!  Bonus:  this time, I didn’t flinch even once out of fear that my pressure cooker might explode.

Even though I was disappointed by the lack of pizzazz in my grill pan’s performance, the chicken was decent.  I also discovered the deliciousness of cooking broccoli in the chicken juices left over in the pan.  Mmmmmmm.

Now that I’ve done rice and beans in the pressure cooker, my next endeavor will be to cook some chicken pressure-cooker-style.  I think I can, I think I can…