I’ve been talking a lot about cooking in the last few posts – specifically, finding new recipes and frantically Googling “what is a kohlrabi and how tf do you cook it” and “what do I do with ten bajillion turnips.”
Sometimes, not only do I manage not to poison the hubs and myself, but I make something that is actually…good. I’ve had pretty decent luck with my experiments, and I usually find myself pleasantly surprised by my culinary victories. (My catch phrase when serving a new recipe is “I hope this doesn’t suck.” Under-promise and over-deliver, right?)
This week, however…we are not talking about those recipes. <cue serious music>
Some days in the kitchen are like when you’re wearing the PERFECT outfit and your tights go ahead and pull this BS:
And while I haven’t cut myself
deeply enough to require stitches yet, there have been some mishaps beyond the standard “slice up jalapenos and then go take out your contact lenses.” Each stovetop misfire is an opportunity to learn something (like, wear gloves when cutting murder peppers, dumb@$$.) So, in the spirit of limiting the potential future suffering for those who boldly forge into the gastronomic jungle, I share with you Kate’s Cooking Calamities.
First up – Rhubarb. Fun fact: Did you know that rhubarb is technically a vegetable? And that while you can eat the stalks, most of the rest of the plant will actually try to kill you?
Yet, if you grew up pretty much anywhere in the Northeast or Midwest, and had a grandmother and/or were required to attend church potluck suppers, you have probably eaten rhubarb in some form. Specifically, dessert form. Rhubarb is sometimes called “pie plant”, largely because if you don’t drown it in sugar and hide it inside a crust, it is really, really hard to eat. (Try a raw piece sometime. I double-dog dare you. Please share the TikTok link so we can all enjoy it.)
I grew up in PA and have a fond recollection of rhubarb. Crisps, cobblers, ice cream toppers…. My former mother-in-law made the absolute BEST strawberry rhubarb pie on the planet. She had a knack for crusts that I could never replicate. Probably because crusts have butter, which freaks me out, so I never tried. But I did enjoy eating it. So one day, I stumbled upon a bunch of rhubarb stalks at the farmers market, and happily bought it, not realizing that most rhubarb recipes really only use 2-3 stalks of the stuff. And since I can’t waste food….ugh, now what?
I headed off to Google to see how I could creatively consume these hot-pink pucker sticks. Searches included:
- how to cook a metric f*ckton of rhubarb
- recipes using truckload of rhubarb
- help too much rhubarb rip what have i done
- rhubarb wreath pinterest
- is it illegal to leave rhubarb in mailbox for annoying neighbor
- platform lug sole sandals skulls (hey, I needed shoes too)
I did find this recipe for rhubarb cake, which appealed to me because 1) it uses Greek yogurt instead of oil and 2) it uses a POUND of rhubarb (which makes a giant-a$$ cake, but) 3) this recipe could be halved pretty easily for when I’m not feeding teenagers. I baked it (with gluten-free flour; skip the topping, you don’t need it) and it was delicious…but only used about a third (!!) of what I’d purchased.
Finding myself with an abundance of rhubarb on hand, I considered its tart bite and wondered if I could use it in place of lemon somewhere. Like…on fish, maybe? I continued to comb through the interwebs and finally found (probably on page 334 of my search, which in retrospect should have been a sign) this recipe for rhubarb salsa.
Yeah. Rhubarb salsa for fish. Once again proving that hope triumphs over common sense.
One thing I discovered is that rhubarb, when cooked, has some similarity to okra in its ability to become kind of gelatinous. (As I look at that link now…even the picture looks kind of…gloppy? There was definitive denial in my desperation, for sure.) The hubs politely took a couple of bites, and then scraped it off to the side. (What a trooper.) Since that time, I’ve had some mild success with putting just a stalk or two of rhubarb into a stir-fry with a citrus-y base, but have yet to find a savory application that isn’t destined for the garbage disposal. But if any of y’all have any ideas…It’s been a few years since I tried this recipe, and since I can no longer still taste it when I think about it, I’m mostly open to trying again.
And then there were the sardines.
Most of us can’t even say the word “sardine” without making a face. I’m pretty sure that the word is derived from an ancient Greek term meaning “gross sadness from the sea.” But last fall, when the hubs decided he was now vegan, I was “gifted” with several tins of these very fishy little …treasures. (?)
Why did the hubs decide to go vegan? It was my fault, really. I like to watch documentaries on food and diet, and he happened to watch The Game Changers with me. Less than two hours later, he was 100% sold, and went off to the store to buy plant-derived cheese and Beyond Burgers, and I was asked to finish off the frozen shrimp and chicken. It was largely a win for me, save the eight tins of sardines now before me. I couldn’t even bring myself to donate them to a food shelf – I mean, no one really WANTS sardines, right?
I tried really hard to find some way to eat these beady-eyed bits of bait. And, in this recipe for Mediterranean Lemon Caper Pasta, they weren’t too bad. Honestly, it tasted a bit like a bougie tuna casserole. (If you make it, note that you don’t need that much oil – I mean…yikes on bikes, FIVE tablespoons?!) Two cans down, six (oof) to go.
Next, I tried something called Spicy Sardine Pasta. (Eternal optimism, party of me.) Looking back on it now, I should have seen the 2 tablespoons sugar (candied fish?!) as a big red flag…and after trying this recipe, I take back everything I said about “if you put enough sugar on it, you can eat it.”
nope nope nope <ptooey>
So let’s discuss protein powder.
While the hubs was temporarily (yeah, that lasted about four months, it was a good effort though) vegan, he had purchased some organic vegan protein powder. From Costco. So it was roughly a five
ton pound tub. Sadly, this (very expen$ive) concoction did nothing to boost his energy, muscle mass, or super powers – mostly because he hasn’t used it.
Well, hey, I bet there’s a cookie recipe or something (other than smoothies, ugh, I am o v e r smoothies being Google’s answer to freaking EVERYTHING) I can chuck this in, right? Enter the Peanut Butter Cup Protein Brownie! Oh yeah, baby…peanut butter, CHOCOLATE, and nothing I have to run to the store to source. How can this not be amazing?! It smelled terrific, and peanut butter has never let me down before.
I whisked my mixture, baked it, and then tried a bite.
It was the weirdest sensation I think I’ve ever had with food (save that time or two when I took a bite of what I thought was ice cream, but ended up being mashed potatoes.) I was going through the motions of eating, I was smelling and chewing and swallowing, but zero was happening on the taste buds.
Can a tongue fall asleep?
This tastes like….nothing.
Despite the peanut butter and cocoa, the “brownie” literally had NO FLAVOR WHATSOEVER.
Wait a second….
I was quickly reminded of this:
Fortunately, I hadn’t fallen victim to COVID. Apparently, I had baked a substance that despite all logic was totally and undeniably devoid of any taste at all. The hubs (and the braver of my stepsons) confirmed – essentially, I had baked a chocolate-scented kitchen sponge. It was honestly kind of…fascinating. I mean, what science is involved in protein powder that thoroughly neutralizes chocolate AND peanut butter? And yes, because I am physically unable to waste food, I did finish the damn thing over the next couple of days (two breakfasts of utter sadness), and promptly tossed that recipe directly into the recycle bin.
One of the things I haven’t focused on at all in cooking is the art of plating. I’m perfectly content serving up a plateful of food that gets high scores for flavor, but loses points in the beauty contest:
But this next one was a bit much, even for me. I’d been trying to recreate a recipe for Singapore Street Noodles, which is spicy, salty comfort food in a Chinese take-out box. I had a ton of ham in the freezer, because the company I worked for gifted us our choice of a ham or a turkey every Christmas (even though the owners were Jewish. Hey, I don’t judge, you do you. Besides, that ish is expensive. Merry Christmas and free ham to me.)
I started with this recipe (from Cooking Light, of course) and subbed in ham and tofu for the protein (the best street noodles, in my opinion, have a mishmosh of meats and veggies, which makes it a great vehicle for leftovers, and probably means I’m eating up what a restaurant would otherwise have to trash. Meh. Call me a raccoon and hand me the chopsticks.) I had found this beautiful purple cabbage, too, that I’d shredded.
As it cooked, I noticed that it smelled absolutely divine, but looked a little…odd.
Ah, well. It was pretty dang tasty, even if it resembled a Disney princess massacre. Poor unfortunate souls.
And that’s not the only time I was surprised by what surfaced on my soup spoon. We gotta talk about the turkey chili.
I love stews and chilis, and this recipe seemed like a good way to make a giant pot of yum. Now, before the chili purists come at me, I should clarify that I know this isn’t technically chili, even though I did throw in a can of black beans. Whatever. It looked pretty decent, and smelled terrific as the Instant Pot did its thing. The timer went off, I released the pressure, and started stirring it up.
Mmm….I can’t wait to eat thi-
Um. What is….
Something larger and heavier than anticipated was weighing down my spoon.
Tentatively, I got my utensil underneath it and slowly brought it to the surface.
I should pause here and mention that this was turkey chili – hence, I had added two pounds of ground turkey to the mix. Ground turkey is very conveniently sold in 16-ounce tubes that look like this:
And if you’re an Instant Pot fan, you know that one of the benefits to this cooking method is that you just dump everything in and walk away.
And that’s precisely what I did.
What I failed to do, however, was brown the meat ahead of time (because ain’t nobody got time for that). I just splooged in both cylinders of meat and off I went…only to be greeted by the Cracker Jack Surprise Inside of a lifetime:
Since the Instant Pot doesn’t yet have a stirring function, it had essentially poached the turkey exactly as I had added it, resulting in a perfectly cooked oblong meatwad. It’s a marvel – the shape is completely undisturbed. YOU CAN STILL SEE THE MEAT TUBE WRINKLES. I was DEAD.
And yes, I made everyone eat it. I whipped that sucker out onto a cutting board, diced it up, and stirred it back into the faux-chili. Dinner is served.
Bone apple teat!
Please tell me I’m not the only one. Share your cooking catastrophes in the comments!