Monday, 1 April 2013

Kitchen misadventures in the name of blogging

April 1, 2013

This is no April Fool's joke.  I started writing this blog about cooking interesting things as a way of learning how to use some social media like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc.  It's worked well so far.  I'm far more comfortable writing text and adding video, audio, pictures and the like than I was a year ago.

But the core of my experiment is cooking.  As I experiment in the kitchen to provide fodder (*pun intended*) for SmartCooks, I have had the occasional mis-adventure too.  Or learning opportunity depending on whether I'm in the glass-half-full-or-empty kind of mood.

So it"s Easter weekend and April 1 April Fool's Day seems like a good day for a full confession.  For example, 

Lesson #1:  Oven Gloves Please! 

More than once I've dropped a hot glass casserole dish as I've taken it out of the hot oven sans oven mitts.  I gave an 'ouch' and then cleaned up the glass and gore from the oven door and floor.  And carried on.... 

Explaining burns on my hands and forearms is not so fun.  No one at work would ever believe I have enough time to cook.  Or be dumb enough to cook without oven gloves. 

Lesson #2:  Blackberries should remain a fruit

On weekends when I'm determined to have a life, I've been known to cook while setting my blackberry to "activate speakerphone" to take part in work teleconference calls on some issue or another.  I can accurately report that the blackberry is a great fruit, and not so good as a kitchen aide. During calls, I've forgotten to add baking soda into an apple cake and the result was a tough, flat, round blob.  I've also used baking soda instead of baking powder ... more than once ... cooking up a tasteless, very dry, thing as the result.  

Lesson #3: Cooking is stress-free, I swear 
Once in awhile, I find myself over my head in cooking-land.  Usually it happens when I grab a new recipe and forget to read the numbers of steps involved and then run out of time and end up in a warm state of anxiety.  

When this occurs, I do one of the following: 
... Take a deep breath.  Again.  Think yoga. 
... Dump the entire concoction and go for take-out.
... Take a break. 
... Vow to stop the blogging.
... Carry on and promise myself NOT to do this again.  
Until the next time.  Review Lesson #3 again.  

Lesson #4:  Hold the Spices! 

- An ambulance arrives at the ER and a woman is wheeled in unconscious.    
- The ER doc asks her friend what happened.
- The friend had just received a new shipment of spices and the two women were sniffing them.  
- Which ones, asks the doctor?
- Cumin, turmeric and a Spanish Paprika, says the friend.
- Oh well, says the doctor, obviously she is in a Korma.)

All to say, I love spices.  But I have too many of them.  I have no room for them.  We downsized to a small downtown townhouse for a reason.  So I'm constantly thinking up creative ways to store them and easily retrieve them like the picture to the right (which I tried in our place but it didn't work).  So, I've made a pact with myself to:  Hold the Spices! 

Lesson #5:  Mistakes Happen:  Burning Down the House (Well, not quite) 
Of course I've left the best/worst for last.  
One evening, I decided to make home-made pizzas, from scratch of course.  I love making pizzas with intriguing, healthy toppings.  Pizza is not bad  -- I make a vegey pizza that is equal to none.    The food bloggers all extol the Virtues of Home-Made Pizza.  

I even made my own thin-crust dough.  Husband got a BLT pizza (hold the lettuce) with lotsa mozzarella cheese and sauce. I made myself a vegey version with pesto.  

I slid both small pizzas onto the middle rack as directed. But 5 minutes later, smoke was  pouring from the oven. The BLT cheese and sauce were dripping down onto the floor of the oven. I fanned like crazy, turned the oven fan to high, opened the kitchen door and watched it cook until it was ready.  

Next morning, I decided to clean the oven using the self-clean cycle that I've used dozens of times since I bought the stove.  It's always worked like a charm.  

Not this time.  20 minutes into the 3-hour cleaning cycle, smoke was pouring yet again from the oven door.  The smoke detectors were screaming. I ran into the kitchen to see flames shooting from the oven floor out the oven door and dangerously close to the gas stove-top burners.  

I panicked.  I tried to open the oven door, which was locked.  I hit 'cancel' the self-cleaning cycle but the oven door wouldn't open.  I yelled for Husband.  I herded the cats out of the kitchen and toward the front door in case we had to escape.  I ran for the 'bag of bags' which contains the instructions for all of our appliances.  I frantically pawed through the stack looking for the instructions on how to open the locked oven door.  I finally found the brochure and buried deep within it the code to open the oven door.  

By the time I got the door unlocked the fire was out.  The 'cancel' button had already done this by lowering the temperature.  But I'm left with A MESS.  It wasn't just the oven.  The stove hood, counters, floors all had a light coating of soot.  The house reeked of smoke even after an hour of open windows and doors.  

It took a day to clean it all up.  I had to apply  Easy Off Oven Cleaner twice and scrub down the kitchen, walls, counter tops, floors and all.  By evening, the smoke smell was finally gone.  

I sat and listed all the lessons learned from this experience.  Sigh.  

So, next pizza.  737-1111? Calabria? Colonnade? Probably not.  Pan under pizza it is.    

All in the name of blogging.  SmartCooks.


  1. too the moving graphic. you never did say what happened to the oven - is it possible for self-cleaning to stop working? (this after I've just explained to my better half how to self clean the oven)

  2. I know your oven woes. We rarely have the oven on without setting off smoke alarms. Luckily no flames yet! In any case, if you'd like a homemade pizza made easy... no knead and in a pan! It isn't healthy by an means, but it tastes amazing and is brutally easy. And it's a nice alternative while our two pizza stones are sitting broken in the bottom of our oven. Think Pizza Hut, but without the commercial taste. This isn't my photo album, but it gives the recipe in a nice pictorial:

  3. BH: After hours of scrubbing with Easy-Off, I was amazed to find the oven was fine! And the self-clean worked the next time I tried it. So.... I think I was darn lucky.

    EJ: Thanks for this! I will try it. Great pix btw. Makes it look easy and do-able. Will try.