A burned thumb, smoke alarm, and a broken blind

And now, welcome to my adventures in apartment cookery. This is the beginning of what is shaping up to be an interesting start to my life living alone and to my first year living alone in my own apartment.

I’m prefacing this story thusly: The first time that I cooked a true meal in my apartment was last week. Although it’s my first experience using an electric stove, all proceeded with little incident. The rice was well cooked and didn’t stick to the bottom of the dutch oven, the chicken wings that I made were cooked through and browned well after a shot under the broiler, and the Sriracha glaze… let me tell you. The Sriracha glaze was perfect. The most I had to worry about was cleaning the sheet tray used to bake the wings, and wiping the glaze off the refrigerator that had splatter while it was being made.

This time, however, was altogether different. I wonder if it went down like this because I was tired… but let me tell you. It was the perfect apartment cookery disaster. Luckily, there was no fire and the food didn’t burn, but let’s recount this incident, shall we?

  • the rice ended up sticking to the bottom of the dutch oven. Not the biggest deal, but it’s annoying.
  • While trying to check on the chicken, I burned my thumb WHILE USING OVEN MITTS, and dropped the tray! Thankfully, the chicken stayed on. In fact, it stayed on a little too well as I had forgotten to oil the tray so it wouldn’t stick as much.
  • I go to make the sauce… and bullocks! I’ve forgotten the soy sauce at my mom’s house. Part of me wanted to go get it, but I stayed. I thought I could recover it… ha! I should’ve gotten the soy sauce.
  • the fire alarm goes off. I frantically drop all that is in my hands, and try desperately to shut it off, as I am cooking at almost 10pm on a Wednesday. In a caveman-like rage, I rip it from the wall and leave it dangling mercilessly.
  • I try to check on the chicken, and it goes off again! I don’t know what I did this time, but it goes off completely. I run to the sliding door that goes to the balcony (which really took all of 3 steps), fight the blinds, and open the door completely. Blessed silence.

In the aftermath of the incident, my thumb is under cool running water to try to stop the tingling sensation. A pot holder is somehow on the floor next to the door, where the fire alarm is located. The spatula that I used for the chicken was tossed onto a pile of something on the floor, and yet another pot holder was in the middle of my bedroom/living room. Although the food didn’t burn, that sauce that I mentioned earlier looked more like a chunky tomato sauce than the glaze I made last week… and it didn’t get on all of the pieces of chicken!

Admitting defeat, I take my plate of food and sit on the floor on my “picnic blanket”. It was then that I noticed something long and white lying across the floor. In my frenzy, I had knocked off one of the long blinds. *sigh* Why me?

I sit and try to eat with my non-dominant hand since the thumb that I burned is, of course, on the dominant hand. I’ve stuck it into a measuring cup with ice water as I eat, hoping that it will stop tingling. I hate that sensation.

Maybe one day, I’ll be a capable adult. Or have the sense to get a frozen pizza next time…

Cooking Fails

Well, let’s start the year with some cooking fails, shall we?

I know when I usually talk about the things that I cook, I’m usually talking about something delicious that I’ve made in the past, or I’m referring to a particularly delicious  meal. However, let’s just go on with some things that I’ve flubbed up, since that seems to be the theme of my week in cooking. It’s sad, but true. Even the best cooks mess it up sometimes.

Let’s start with the yogurt made with plant-based milk.

I have a yogurt maker that I haven’t used for a while, and I’ve been long toying with the idea of making a yogurt with coconut milk. The idea came to me at Trader Joe’s one day quite some time ago when I saw the cans of coconut milk on display. Well, when I paid a visit to Mom’s Organic Market in Bryn Mawr, I saw that they had yogurt starter culture, which I was unable to find at the natural/organic market closer to my house. I was very excited to see this! After having a morning that was particularly bad, I felt that a food experiment was in order. I grabbed some starter culture, and the requisite amount of milk.

I didn’t attempt to make the yogurt until Tuesday or Wednesday, however. I heated up the milk, waited until it cooled to the right temperature, then put in the starter culture. After I had felt that it adequately dissolved, it was distributed into the glass jars and placed in the yogurt maker overnight.

When I woke up in the morning and checked the yogurt maker, what I discovered was a far cry from the yogurt I expected. What greeted me looked more like the inside of a snow globe. “Maybe it needs more time”, I thought to myself. I set 6 more hours on the yogurt maker, and went to work. I came home, and it still didn’t turn out. I ended up wasting 5 c. of coconut milk and a package of starter culture. I think I know what happened and how to fix it next time, but it was still most disappointing.

Let’s also make mention of the unenjoyable grilled cheese from last night, and the hot chocolate that made me choke this morning. The only bit of encouragement I got was that my whipped cream game has improved.  I made whipped cream for the hot chocolate, and it was much sweeter and more firm compared to the last time I made it. Powdered sugar is much better for whipped cream than the granulated. Just a suggestion.

Although I had a couple of fails, I’m in no way fazed by this. I think my first mistake was trying to do at least 2 of these things while I was tired and incapable of thinking clearly. I think just not having worked with these things was also part of the problem. Whatever the reason, here’s hoping that this will not mean that I’ve lost my touch in any way, and will define my forays in the kitchen for the remainder of the year.

Happy New Year to me.

Never bake at 4 am!

This is a story that is outright hilarious. It’s hilarious because it’s a story about what happens when you don’t listen to the inner voice that suggests that you simply go to bed. Unless you are used to such activities at that time in the morning, I suggest leaving it to the professionals.

It all started with me asking a friend if we could meet up so we could catch up. I haven’t caught up with this friend in 10 years, and we were actually supposed to meet up before. Unfortunately, the initial plans got canceled. Because I really wanted to meet up with this friend, I contacted her on Facebook. She didn’t see my message until about Thursday to meet up Saturday, but she wasn’t busy. Hooray! We scheduled to meet at her house that afternoon.

Friday night, I was doing a favor that had me up until 3am, and even then, I barely made it! I drove home, and stepped into my house at 3:30 am. Then I remembered… oh snap! I wanted to make cinnamon rolls! The trouble with this was that these cinnamon rolls need to sit overnight, and it was already closing in on 4am!… and once the dough is made, it must rise for 2-1/2 hours! Well, there was no time to waste!

All the while, I was very drowsy, and had the nagging feeling to just go to bed. I was not trying to hear this, though. I persisted… and this is when things get bad.

I rushed towards my refrigerator as if I was chasing it down, and snatched the door open. All the ingredients were there, including one last stick of butter that had survived my sister’s cookie-making stint! And it was unsalted! Yes! I grabbed it out, and reached for the buttermilk. It had been in the fridge for about two weeks now; had it survived?

Cautiously, I opened it up. What greeted me was a nauseating foul kind of smell and a lumpy liquid. I know buttermilk smells a bit off to begin with, but this would never do. It had to make its way down the sink, and it was also chased by cold water. Now this should have been enough for me to just do a 180 and go to bed… but no. It was past 4am now, and I was at the point of no return; there is no true ability to reason with yourself after 4am when you’ve also spent the day being awake. “This won’t take long, though”, I told myself. “I can do this! I’ll just set an alarm for 2 hours!”

NEVER listen to your insane ramblings when you’re getting closer to 5 am, which is about 1-1/2 hours away from when you had awakened the previous morning.

I forged on, and found a way to make something similar to buttermilk on the Internet. This is when disaster struck.

Everything went on according to plan. I divided the eggs, tempered in the hot butter, and added my buttermilk mixture. After that, I added in the flour and started to mix… but oh crud! I forgot the yeast! Even though the dough should’ve been formed by now, I could probably add it now. I threw in the yeast and the salt, and tried to get the dough to form… but it still wasn’t forming. Maybe it needs extra flour, I thought. So I added another 1/4 cup. Still not forming! Then another went in… and another! It still was very loose!

Then I remembered… it only needed 3/4 c. buttermilk… and I had added 1 full cup! That couldn’t make that much of a difference, could it?? Maybe I can knead more flour in.

I hurriedly scattered some flour onto my countertop, and dumped the dough out. It took in the flour, but it started sticking to the surface of the counter. What was my response and, at this point, 4:30ish am rationale?? MORE FLOUR!!

At this point, there may have been somewhere close to 4 c. of flour in this dough. I decided at some point that I needed to stop putting flour in it because it could throw off the recipe or make the dough tough. I tried to pick it up and form it into a ball. If you’ve ever tried to hold a raw egg in your hand, it was something like that. The dough kept slowly flowing through my hands, and it was sticking to my hands at that! It reminded me of that old school horror flick “The Blob.”

While any moderately sane person would’ve thrown in the towel and thrown that dough in the garbage, it was quickly approaching 5am. I was neither sane nor rational; plus, I had used my last stick of butter! This dough HAD TO WORK. Beyond any rational thought at this point, I liberally oiled a bowl and put the dough inside. “Maybe it’ll be less sticky if it rises.”

This whole time, I’m still having the niggling to go to bed and 86 this cinnamon roll mission. Did I do so?

That’s right… I set my alarm to go off in 2 hours and went to sleep. I would wake up a bit before 7am to check on this dough.

After getting myself up, I discovered that the dough had expanded all right… outwardly. Not only that, it was still sticky, and on TOP of all this, it was now greasy. I don’t know if it was the 2 hours of sleep, but I was beginning to see the light. There was no way I was going to try rolling out a dough that sticky onto a table or counter. I resigned myself to late baking failure and put it in the trash. As far as what was going to happen with me bringing something to dinner, well, I’d have to consider that after at least 8 hours of sleep.

I woke up several hours later, drowsy, but feeling better. I decided to go onto Facebook to see if she had sent me the time we were to meet.

It was then that I saw this message: “I still want to meet up, but my house is in no condition to have anyone over. Why don’t we meet for coffee instead?”

I just stared at the screen, and the only thought that came to mind was “I could’ve saved my butter… and gotten some more sleep.”

Having said all of this, please learn from me: if you feel like something’s guiding you a certain way–like to your bed so that you can save yourself some time, frustration, and various ingredients, including the last bit of your butter–just listen. This is God’s way of trying to make things easier on you. As He knows, I’m the master of making things more difficult than they have to be…