Posts Tagged ‘kitchen karma’

Years ago – when I was old enough to know better, but still prone to stupid mistakes – my parents left me at home with a friend while they participated in a progressive dinner. They were hosting the main course, so they’d be back eventually, and my only instructions were not to touch the pot roast that was cooking upstairs.

No problem.

Cara and I were downstairs watching a movie when we got hungry and decided to make ramen. To this day, I’m not sure why I didn’t just pause the movie, go upstairs, and make the soup. But then again, hindsight is 20/20.

I decided to boil water in the downstairs microwave, which was situated so that I could still see the TV.

The next thing I knew there was a fire in the microwave.

You see, the “still prone to stupid mistakes” part of me didn’t think about the fact that I had used a metal pot – with a plastic handle – to boil the water.

It was the handle that caught on fire and was slowly burning up, blackening the formerly white microwave and stinking up the entire downstairs.

I grabbed the first thing I could find – a ladle – and tried to fill it up with water to toss on the flames. Cara, the calmer of the two of us, pointed out that the bowl (next to the ladle) would hold more water.

Good point.

We safely extinguished the fire and nervously waited for my parents to get home. Even if I could have hidden the microwave, there was no hiding the smell.

I remember wondering just how mad my parents would be, and what they’d say when they walked through the door.

First words from Mama:

Whatever happened, that better not be the pot roast.

I thought there’d be more, but they had company coming, so my microwave-shenanigans weren’t fully addressed that night.

Fast forward a few weeks to Christmas morning, opening our stockings.

My mom has always been an expert stocking stuffer. She manages to find the perfect mix of fun doodads and incredibly useful things that you didn’t know you needed until you open them. But always smaller, lighter things (and each individually wrapped, to make it more fun).

My stocking that year, however, was fully weighed down in the toe and as I made my way through the rest I was both excited and curious.

The last thing I pulled out – the heavy thing – was probably about seven inches tall and cylindrical. And I couldn’t even begin to guess as to what it was.

I certainly wasn’t expecting the huge can of heavy duty microwave cleaner. Though maybe I should have been.

I imagine that my mom must have been smirking as I pulled off the wrapping, but I don’t remember that for a fact.

I do know that, given the damage I did to the microwave, and the smell that permeated the house for at least a week, I was lucky that the cleaner wasn’t the only thing in my stocking that year.

And no, I haven’t boiled water in the microwave since.

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The last time I tried to make latkes I followed the recipe perfectly and yet, my pancakes fell apart. They were tasty, just not pretty.

My mother told me (in the absolute nicest way possible), that I was probably just too WASPy to be able to make good ones, but JUS assured me that that wasn’t the case. Regardless, I put my latke attempts on the back burner, so to speak, and only now, four years later, did I give it another go. But this time, I was thrilled with the results.

It’s already going better than last time, because these latkes are actually keeping their shape!

And look at that golden brown! It’s exactly how Cooking Light told me it should be!

Keeping them nice and warm, as well as letting those paper towels soak up all the excess oil. And, even seeing how much extra there was, I still think I should have used more. The latkes browned much better the more olive oil was in the pan.

When I tried to buy challah for Rosh Hashanah (to go with the matzo ball soup), it was all sold out. So of course I snatched it up this time. My next shiksa kitchen trial, though, will be to make it myself. Fingers crossed!

Final result: a delicious Hanukkah dinner of latkes, applesauce, brussels sprouts, and challah.

Score one for the WASP.

Happy Hanukkah!

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Every time I move I say that I never want to move again, and this past weekend was no exception. We’ve agreed that should we change apartments again, we will be hiring movers. And now it’s in writing, just in case one of us forgets.

Overall, though, everything went well. The big pieces are in and the rearranging has begun. The dust we’ve kicked up has been fighting back with a vengeance (I was sneezing and sniffly pretty non-stop yesterday), but things are slowly settling into place. And I love this part. The organizing, combining, and turning this apartment into our home.

That’s not to say, however, that the move is completely done.

What it feels like sometimes

You see, I underestimated just how much stuff I have. Particularly kitchen stuff. I still have about 4-5 boxes (not all of them big, mind you) of glasses, mixing bowls, pots, and pans to go over to the new place. But that’s also not including my cookie/baking sheets, muffin tins, and pie plates (all of which I do actually use, so I can’t justify tossing) or the kitchen goodies that I’ve already brought over – namely my crock pot.

Thanks to Cla’s influence, though, I’m feeling far more comfortable letting go of things. I’ve already posted three such things on Craigslist, and my donation bags continue to grow. It’s kind of liberating, actually.

I’ll continue the packing tonight while enjoying a glass of wine with another girlfriend, who will hopefully want to take some of these items off my hands. But, even if she doesn’t, I no longer feel quite as guilty about getting rid of them.

And that’s a HUGE step for me.

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When I emailed the boyfriend the other day and asked if he wanted to do something “Rosh Hashanah-y” for dinner last night, he immediately suggested matzo ball soup. I was game, of course, but I’d never made the soup before. Actually, come to think of it, I’d never actually had matzo ball soup before, either. So I did a little research.

Full disclosure: I did not make this soup from scratch. I looked at a few recipes, and due to both time constraints, and a fear of ruining dinner, I opted to save the completely homemade version for another day. But I didn’t want to buy the pre-made soup, either. That felt like cheating. Enter the Matzo Ball & Soup mix. They walked me through, step by step, and I even got to roll my own balls!

But the real test was what the boyfriend, a matzo ball soup connoisseur, if you will, would think.

“Made by a shiksa? There’s no way this could be good!”

“Ah, what the hell. I’ll try anything once!”

Pleasantly surprised!

“Oh, you didn’t want yours, did you? This is all for me, yes?”

Final verdict: delicious, if only a little on the salty side. But if anything, that’s just more incentive for me to try a recipe from scratch next time. And check something else off my list.

Happy Friday!

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I’m usually much more of a New Year’s Resolutions girl, but I hear that quarter-life crises are slightly less daunting if you have some sort of plan. So, in honor of turning the big 2-5 today (why, yes, I am shamelessly blogging about my birthday, on my birthday), I’ve come up with a little list of things that I hope to accomplish before June 11, 2011.

And I fully expect you to hold me accountable. Please and thank you.

So, in the year of 25, in no particular order, I want to…

1) …volunteer somewhere in DC, preferably with kids. Any suggestions (and/or company) are more than welcome.

2) …hit a home run during softball.

3) …run a race with an average pace that’s under 10 minutes, something I haven’t been able to do since I hurt my hip in December.

4) …finish all the books I’ve started, that I got halfway through and left for something else. There are about 6-7 right now.

5) …finish my first year of grad school, which really should take care of itself, but you never know.

6) …go skydiving.

7) …get a bike and become comfortable riding in the street. Because I find that terrifying.

8 ) …learn how to change a tire. And other car maintenance tricks necessities.

9) …get a new tattoo (or two).

10) …start taking Chinese again. Or at least brushing up on what I’ve already learned. I should be able to say more than, “This is my mom, dad, and little brother,” “I love you,” and, “I don’t know.”

11) …ride a motorcycle.

12) …run the Marine Corps Marathon faster than I did the National Marathon. So, something under 4:58:57.

13) …be more outgoing. Whether that means attending more blogger happy hours, emailing a bloggy crush, or just generally introducing myself to new people – this is a hard one for me.

14) …prove to my boss that I do deserve a promotion – even before I complete my MA.

15) …finally go hiking out at Great Falls.

16) …make a more concerted effort to visit friends who live in New York. It should be so easy, and yet I think I’ve visited once in about 3 years. I’m a bad friend.

17) …go on a road trip. Destination negotiable.

18) …get more comfortable cooking from scratch and experimenting in the kitchen.

19) …learn how to play pool better – or, at the very least, learn how to break so that the balls actually move.

20) …run a race in a new state. I’ve run in Massachusetts, New York (if you count bandit races), Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC (I know, I know – not a state), and Virginia. Maybe it’s time to explore something other than the East Coast.

21) …get an iPhone. My plan is up in February, so either Verizon better come out with something that lets me play Words with Friends, or I’m switching to AT&T.

22) …find a church in DC that I’m comfortable going to. It was such a big part of my life growing up, but I haven’t found one that I love down here.

23) …watch JB get married/be in my first wedding!

24) …rent a car. Just because I can.

25) …participate in an underwear run. I mean, I do run to look better naked, after all.

And because you always have to have that extra special bonus one for good luck:

26) …meet a Phillies player! I realize that this isn’t so much of a 25-goal, as it is a life dream, but that’s why it’s the bonus. Because it would just be icing on the cake.


I’m sure you’ll hear more about these as they either get checked off or I realize, what the hell was I thinking? But either way, it should be an interesting year.

Happy Friday!

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One of my favorite parts about the holidays is the baking. For both Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’m responsible for making the desserts, which consist of pumpkin pie, pecan pie, (sometimes) apple pie, and egg custard pie (my favorite). I’ll also occasionally venture into the cookie arena, and join my mom in making two Christmas staples: shortbread (naturally), and lace cookies.

Last year around this time, I thought I’d bring a little Christmas cheer to my then-roommate, and make my mom’s lace cookies. Being ever so health conscious at that point, I thought that perhaps I could substitute a cup of Splenda for the cup of sugar listed in the recipe. I attribute that poor decision to my eventual failure. From the looks of them, the “cookies” were just stubbornly refusing to cook at all. I had blobs of warm oatmeal-y dough. Dammit.

All in all, my kitchen karma last year was not stellar. I had another mishap while making monkey bread, post the lace cookie debacle. Part of the recipe involves cutting up biscuit dough, coating it, and layering it in a bundt pan. I went step by step, filling the pan to the top – forgetting the simple fact that when the biscuits baked, they would expand, and I had left them nowhere to go but up and out. Smiling to myself, and thinking how tasty this monkey bread would be, I sat down on the couch to watch TV while it baked. After a bit, I started to hear a slight *pop* sound. Then the popping became more frequent. And then, something didn’t smell quite right. I strolled back into the kitchen, still fairly oblivious, until I saw that there was a small fire in my oven!

Honestly, I don’t even remember putting the fire out – it might have just felt bad for me and put itself out. I do, however, remember seeing little bits of dough all over the bottom (and sides) of the oven, and the smell of burnt sugar filling the air. And, at that point, I wondered when and how my baking skills had deteriorated so thoroughly that I couldn’t even remember to account for expansion.

This year, I’ve been taking the baking slowly. I’ve had success on a few occasions with the Best Ever Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins, and decided that I would risk the lace cookies again. After all, they’re a holiday tradition. (Not the monkey bread, though. Not yet.) And this time…success!! I used real sugar and real butter and have come to the conclusion that holiday treats just don’t have to be healthy.

In any case, I doubt you’d have as difficult a time with them as I did, and these cookies are delicious and well worth it – and a great addition to any dessert spread:

Lace Cookies

1 cup quick oats

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. flour, plus 1 tsp.

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1 egg

1/2 cup butter (melted)

1 tsp. vanilla (give or take – I love vanilla, so I’m pretty liberal with it)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix dry ingredients together. Beat egg well and add to dry mixture. Pour in melted butter and blend. Add vanilla. Drop 1/4 tsp. of batter on pan lined with aluminum foil. Bake for approximately 6 minutes. (Note: bake until slightly brown around the edges. My oven took closer to 10 minutes.) After baking, leave cookies on foil until cool.

This picture doesn't nearly do them justice. (And, why yes, that's my advent calendar and sort-of creche in the background. And you can bet that if I could have a tree, I would.)

This picture doesn't nearly do them justice. (Why yes, that's my advent calendar and sort-of creche in the background. And you can bet that if I could have a tree, I would. And you'd be seeing a picture.)

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