Not-Ruined Potatoes and the Barf of the Week

If you’ve read my past blog posts, you’re probably more than familiar with my disturbing ability to ruin potatoes.  POTATOES, of all things.  If you’re a new reader, let me tell you:  I usually couldn’t cook potatoes if my life depended on it.  I’ve always claimed I must be cursed, as I could dice a potato into half-inch cubes and bake it at 400 degrees for five hours and it would still be raw.

No matter how badly I ruin a recipe for potatoes, a certain amount of time always passes before I try again.  Things never get any better.  I truly deserve an award for perseverance, if nothing else.

Recently I found a recipe that instructed to dice the potatoes, place them in a bowl with a small amount of water, and heat them in the microwave for 6-8 minutes.  I’m one of those weird people who uses a microwave only as a last resort–call it a paranoia thing.  If anything classifies as a last resort, it’s cooking potatoes in the microwave because no other method works for me.

To my surprise, the potatoes did cook in the microwave–but they were a wee bit overcooked and slightly crumbling into a diced potato-mashed potato hybrid.

Tonight, I made a salsa chicken recipe I’ve cooked a few times.  Usually I make a side of rice or salad to go with it, but tonight I stepped outside of my comfort zone.  I not only decided to tackle microwaved potatoes again, but I didn’t have any kind of a recipe.  I was wingin’ it.

I diced the potatoes and placed them in a bowl with a little bit of water and a tiny chunk of butter.  I checked them every few minutes until they were perfectly done and then I tossed them into a preheated grill pan.  I sprinkled them with salt, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and BBQ seasoning, and tossed them until they just barely began to brown on the outside.

Pretty sexy, huh?

Pretty sexy, huh?

Not only was my husband impressed that the potatoes couldn’t have been more perfectly cooked, but he complimented me on how good they were several times as we ate.  Score one for my ego!

So, with the success story out of the way, it’s occurred to me that while the end result of cooking is often delicious and beautiful food, there are plenty of aspects of cooking that are truly barf-worthy.  Therefore, each week I will post a “Barf of the Week” picture to share how disgusted I am by some of the things we have to deal with in the kitchen.

This week’s Barf of the Week:  Congealed bacon grease!  EWWWW!

It smelled worse than it looked.

It smelled worse than it looked.

Thanksgiving Success!

I have never truly contributed to Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house.  It’s not to say I don’t offer.  Every year it’s the same drill:  I ask my mom what I can do to help and am assigned chopping the celery, opening the cans of olives, and setting the table.  Anything to keep me away from the actual cooking.  It doesn’t bother me; this arrangement has always been a necessity because of my notoriety for ruining anything that touches the stove.

This year I tossed out my usual offer to help, but several weeks ahead of time.  My parents were hosting between two and four additional guests and I didn’t want my mom to be overwhelmed.  To my surprise, she said, “Sure, you can be in charge of the rolls.”

Now I should be honest:  my mom kind of thought I would just buy some rolls at the grocery store.  At first, I kind of thought I would just buy some rolls at the grocery store.  But damn it, I’ve worked hard on my cooking skills and a surge of confidence came over me.  I was going to make the Thanksgiving rolls.  From scratch.

Of course, I always have to have a Plan B.  Just like Plan B for ruined dinner is a trip to Chipotle for burrito bowls, Plan B for Thanksgiving was a trip to the grocery store to buy some bakery rolls.  For this reason, I made my rolls on Wednesday so I would still have time to hit the store that night if all else failed.

Before I continue, look at this picture of the rolls we had for Thanksgiving.  You’ll have to keep reading to find out if they are Plan A or Plan B.

IMG_0528Tuesday, 7 p.m.  First things first, put on my trusty apron.  I rarely wear it but I was working with flour and…well, let’s just say I’ve learned my lesson.

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I mixed all of the ingredients, got in a mini-arm-workout stirring what felt like 50 pounds of wet flour, and stuck the dough in the fridge to chill overnight.

Wednesday, 1 p.m.  Punched the dough down as instructed.  (No one warned me baking was such a violent activity.)  Divided it in two and honestly couldn’t imagine each half turning into twelve glorious and perfect rolls.

IMG_05211:30 p.m.  Rolled a total of 23 little balls and took the puppy for a long walk for the 45 minutes I needed to give the dough to rise.

2:30 p.m.  Took the first half of the rolls out of the oven.  They…were…PERFECT!  Tried not to squeal.  Squealed anyway.  Stuck in the second tray while the first twelve cooled on a wire rack.

I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I make adorable little rolls.

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There were seven people at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving dinner, and I brought 23 rolls.  By the time we cleaned up from our giant feast, only three rolls remained.  If that’s not success, I don’t know what is!

I’m really pleased I didn’t ruin the first Thanksgiving item I’ve ever cooked.  This year rolls, next year THE TURKEY!  Bwahahahahaha!

(Just kidding, mom.  Don’t scream.  I won’t touch the turkey until it’s carved and on my plate.)

Ooey Gooey Gruyere

I came to a stunning realization last night:  I am no longer a terrible cook.

That’s not to say I’m a “good” cook.  I feel I haven’t yet risen to that status.  But to say I suck at cooking would, at this point in time, be a pretty inaccurate statement.  Therefore, I feel I must start a new chapter of my culinary chronicles.  I have stumbled through some pretty ridiculous moments, but I’ve gained enough experience that I feel it’s time to get real about cooking.  Say hello to the two newest components of my blog:

Ingredient of the Week:  Each week, I will select one ingredient with which I have had no prior cooking experience, or that I am not familiar enough with to feel I could use it without a recipe to guide the way.

Two-Week Technique:  Every two weeks, I will select one cooking technique or method that is new or unfamiliar to me (or one that I’ve plain failed at in the past), and I will give myself two weeks to master it.  The goal will be to use the technique at least three times in a two-week period with recipes as a guide, and then to use it at least once on my own, without a recipe, to see if I’ve adequately learned the technique or method.

Having said that, this week’s Ingredient of the Week is Gruyere cheese.  I’ve been watching more of the Food Network lately and it seems like Gruyere is being used in all kinds of recipes.  Of course, I had never tasted the stuff (as obsessed as I am with cheese, it’s amazing how many cheeses I have never tried; it’s borderline ridiculous).  I went on a hunt this weekend and found some (holycowexpensive) Gruyere and used it last night when I made Giada De Laurentiis’s Baked Gruyere and Sausage Omelet.

As I grated the cheese, it was a given that I had to have a sample.  My one sample turned into two, and ten or eleven samples later I finally added the grated cheese to the whisked eggs and milk.  WOW, that stuff is GOOD!

As the omelet was baking, my parents stopped by for a few minutes.  When I took the dish out of the oven, my dad’s response was, “That looks really good!  You need to take a picture of it!”  Consider it done:

By the way, something random I learned that I should have known all along:  that stuff continues to cook after you take it out of the oven if whatever it’s in is still hot.  My mom explained this to me as I fretted over whether or not my toothpick test indicated that the omelet was too runny.  I let it sit for a few minutes and once I dished it up, the debate was over.  The eggs were the perfect consistency and the omelet was phenomenal.

Later this week, I’ll be making some Gruyere-and-ham stuffed potatoes cooked under the broiler.  Oh yeah, by the way:  my first Two-Week Technique is broiling.  Because, you know, the first time was kind of…meh.

Here’s to hoping I have more successful posts in the near future!

Creamy Pasta with Spinach and Kielbasa

Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit.  Ladies and gents, I’ve pulled it off!  I envisioned a recipe of my own creation and for the first time, it came out EXACTLY like I was hoping it would.  Ohmyfreakinggoodness, I’m beaming with pride.  I have no idea what to call it, so I’ve dubbed it “Creamy Pasta with Spinach and Kielbasa.”  Okay, if I continue down this path of creating my own recipes, the names are going to need some work.  But for now, the obvious will have to do.

Here it is.  My pride and joy.

Some of you are probably skeptical.  Pictures can be deceiving, right?  My fiance says this was delicious–yes, he used the word “delicious” in regards to my cooking.  So for any non-believers, here is the recipe.  Try it out.  I promise that it won’t make you gag.

Ingredients:
-8 oz. dry linguine
-1/2 cup chopped onion
-2 cloves minced garlic
-1 cup finely chopped fresh spinach
-13 oz. turkey kielbasa, sliced into bite-sized chunks (or kielbasa of your choice, but I recommend the turkey)
-2 tbsp. butter
-2 tbsp. flour
-1 1/2 cups whole milk
-1 tsp. Italian seasoning
-Salt and pepper
-Cooking spray

1)  Cook pasta according to package directions.

2)  Spray a large skillet with cooking spray.  On medium-high heat, saute the onion and the garlic for 2 minutes.  Add the kielbasa pieces and cook 2-3 minutes or just until they begin to darken on the outside.

3)  Add the spinach to the skillet and cook about a minute, until it begins to wilt.  Transfer the onion, garlic, kielbasa, and spinach to a bowl and reduce heat to medium.  Return the skillet to the burner.

4)  Add the butter to the skillet.  Once it has melted, add the flour and whisk until it has formed a roux.  Stir in the milk, and continue to stir until the mixture is thick and bubbly.  Add the Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.

5)  Return the onion, garlic, kielbasa, and spinach to the skillet; stir them together with the sauce.

6)  Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce.  Stir until everything is well combined.  Serve, and enjoy!

 

(Below:  random butter picture.  Because who doesn’t start drooling at the sight of sizzling, melting butter?)