Showing posts with label cooking disasters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cooking disasters. Show all posts

Thursday, July 6, 2017

RX: Calling the Cake Doctor! @LucyBurdette

LUCY BURDETTE: My one and only granddaughter Dorothea celebrated her first birthday this past week. Of course, being the first grandchild, she had two parties. I was honored to be invited to make the cake for the first one (at her other grandma's house.) Since there would be something of a crowd attending, I thought a sheet cake would work better than a two-tiered cake. My first thought was my son-in-law's favorite carrot cake, but I was talked down from that and decided to try something new.

Since this was a new recipe, I tried it the day before the party. Here is the vanilla sheet cake, all puffed up and lovely. Phew!

Here it is half an hour later when it had sunk to half it's height. I was in despair. Make a whole new cake? Sigh. I already had two others to make this week. 

Was there a way to save it? Calling the cake doctor! I decided whipped cream and strawberries from our garden and blueberries might do this job.

RX ingredients

Cup of garden fresh strawberries
2 cups organic whipping cream
Two heaping tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Blueberries for decoration

Wash and hull the strawberries and cut a handful of them in quarters. Slice the others and set aside. Whip the cream in a food processor with the quartered berries until the cream begins to thicken and the berries have given the cream a light pink color. And the sugar and vanilla and whip until stiff.

I cut my beleaguered cake in half lengthwise. Slathered whipped cream on the first half and layered the other half on top. Frosted the cake with the remaining whipped cream, and decorated with sliced berries and blueberries. I tried spelling out Dorothea's name in blueberries, but sadly it was illegible so I opted to fill the whole cake in. Bonus: this fit in nicely with the Fourth of July holiday!

I will not give you the cake recipe as I will never make this one again! I did get some funny comments from the adults: I love how homemade this looks...What's the custard layer in the middle? (failed cake!) But Dorothea didn't care at all--she was too busy coating herself in red icing from her store-bought "smash cake."

Do you have a cake disaster story that you're willing to share? And don't forget to enter our anniversary contest--details on the sidebar!

Lucy Burdette writes the Key West food critic mysteries--find them wherever books are sold! Find her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest--Instagram too...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy #Thanksgiving from Mystery Lovers Kitchen

LUCY BURDETTE: By the time you get to our blog on Thanksgiving, you are finished with cooking for the day, right? Who needs a new recipe for stuffing or cranberries or even dessert? Who needs to be reminded what she forgot to do, or wished she done for the holiday? We thought it might be fun instead to tell you some cooking disaster stories. Because believe it or not (LOL), not every dish we make comes out perfectly!

My disaster came a couple of years ago when we hosted a giant family Thanksgiving dinner. Along with the turkey and gravy I made pumpkin and chocolate cream pies. Chocolate cream pie on Thanksgiving, you say? But my husband's family loves anything chocolate. And I was happy to show off, even buying designer chocolate instead of the usual Baker's. I've made this pie a dozen times--using a recipe right out of the JOY OF COOKING. The graham cracker crust was lovely, but the chocolate pudding part looked grainy. And though I refrigerated it overnight, it never set. We served it in bowls and I was humbled. Though the mounds of whipped cream did help...(These pix are the actual offending pie--If you look closely at the full pie, you'll see the grainy texture. Why you might ask, did she stop to take a picture? I must have known in my heart this would come in handy one day!)

Happy Thanksgiving to all our MLK readers! xoxo Lucy

KRISTA DAVIS: At least you could eat it, Lucy! Our big holiday disaster happened one Christmas. My mom was ready to put the goose in the oven when – boom – the electricity went out. We probably could have tried roasting it on the grill, but what about all the side dishes?  Instead, we phoned everyone and ate our Christmas dinner the next day. As I recall, the electricity returned about eight o'clock that night.

My current trend seems to be forgetting at least one dish in the fridge on Thanksgiving. LOL! No matter, everyone seems thrilled to have another dish added to the yummy leftovers the next day. 

A very happy Thanksgiving to all! Whatever happens, don't forget that the little kitchen mishaps often make for the funniest memories. ~Krista

 Krista, I know about forgetting a dish. LOL! I think we all do that. My disaster was the Thanksgiving we moved into our new house in Los Angeles. New kitchen. Lots of people. Not enough space. And everyone wanting to "help." Ooops. Too many cooks, you know? I dumped the stuffing on the floor as I was trying to negotiate going around someone to get to the oven. I really hadn't figured out the square footage of "between the oven and the island" very well. And then the milk boiled over for the mashed potatoes! And the milk oozed

below the stove to the drawers so they all had to come out and get washed down. Before dinner!  Ugh!!!  But the dinner was delicious, and by this time, everyone was participating in clean up.  Too funny. But not so funny at the time. I do remember having a delicious sauvignon blanc...again and again...

Happy holidays, to all. May you enjoy those you love and let those you love "help" when they can.

~ Daryl aka Avery

SHEILA CONNOLLY: I can't recall a lot of disasters of my own, although for the first half of my life turkeys were either overcooked to dryness or still pink in the middle--there didn't seem to be any such thing as "just right." I can remember my mother and grandmother poking the darned things and arguing whether it was ready or not.

The worst Thankgiving dinner I ever attended was when my husband and I were guests of a colleague of his, in North Carolina.  His wife was a bit mentally unstable and retreated to the bathroom in tears, and Jim was left holding the turkey and asking us, "How do you make gravy? Do I just add water to the pan?" We all survived, but their marriage didn't.

To balance that, one of my best Thanksgivings ever was in Berkeley, where there are lots of people with few relatives around.  One person gathered together 25 guests for a potluck.  The long table occupied the entire living room and extended six feet into the hallway.  That's the way to celebrate Thanksgiving!

PEG COCHRAN: I, too, have forgotten side dishes in the fridge--usually the homemade cranberry sauce!  With so much on the plate how would you even notice!  When I was a kid my grandmother made the turkey, getting up at some ungodly hour to get it in the oven.  That turkey was COOKED by the time it came to the table.  As my cousin always said, you don't have to carve Grandma's turkey, just hit it on top with a fork and all the meat will fall off the bones.

I've been lucky not to have had too many disasters (okay the make it now, bake it later dish that contained tiny canned shrimp and white bread..but that was before I knew better.)  At some point, it was in the late 90s, I learned about brining a turkey.  It was all the rage almost overnight (I was really into food and had honestly not ever heard of it before.)  I decided I would brine our turkey.  It was fairly small but I still didn't really have a big enough container for it (this was before I learned you could use a clean garbage bag.)  I ended up putting it in my large soup pot.  It was a snug fit, and the lid wouldn't quite go on.  And there wasn't any room in the fridge for it, but it was hovering around freezing so I put it outside on the front steps (I had no deck and the back door was downstairs.) 

When I went to retrieve it to cook it the next day, I had to chase a whole bunch of birds away.  They were nibbling on the raw turkey!  Fortunately I was able to retrieve the situation by cutting off that end of the turkey.  We all survived!  Hope you not only survive but thrive!  Happy Thanksgiving to all. Peg

Oh disaster! You bet, and If only it had been food. All our food disasters happen at Christmas and New Year's. But two years ago, as we were driving to the cottage after having picked up a turkey for Thanksgiving, we drove over the crest of a hill just as the sun was starting to set in the early fall sky. We were blinded by the sun in our eyes -- the windshield went black. Worried about hitting someone head on, the little mister pulled over to the side of the road, taking out a farmhouse mailbox and the front bumper of our 4-month old car.  

Some time later, we were
 grateful that we hadn't killed someone or been killed. There's always a bright side when turkey's involved.  Have a lovely Thanksgiving everyone. Enjoy your family, friends and food.  Look our for mailboxes.

XO  MJ (aka Victoria)

CLEO COYLE: MJ, sounds like that turkey was a party crasher! Hey, no groaning. Bad jokes are allowed on Thanksgiving--after a few adult beverages. And adult beverages were definitely on the menu after this disaster...

This one is a story from my dear husband (and partner in crime-writing). On Marc's first Thanksgiving in New York City, he wanted to whip up a feast for his roommate and some friends.

Marc was no novice at cooking. He’d preparing meals for his family since the 9th grade (because both parents had careers). Unfortunately, he’d never gotten up early enough on Thanksgiving morning to watch his mother and father prep the bird for the oven; so he failed to learn an important lesson...

Fast-forward to a small apartment kitchen in New York City. Marc proudly prepped and stuffed his ten-pound turkey, and popped it into the oven. All done! Right? Wrong. Before long a foul plastic smell filled the apartment. What was it? Some illegal incinerator going full tilt? An unlicensed construction crew? No matter, the stench quickly passed and the turkey roasted to beautiful perfection—but looks were deceiving.

Marc had failed to clean the gizzards out of the neck flap, and they were sealed in plastic. The bird looked great—but it tasted like hot, wet Styrofoam! That Thanksgiving, Marc and his friends enjoyed dinner at the local fast-food joint (Nathan's), where the hot dogs were delicious. 

Which goes to show you: no matter what you're eating for dinner, if you're sharing it with people you care about, Thanksgiving can turn out to be a doggone beautiful meal. May all of us...

Eat with
(Thanksgiving) joy!
~ Cleo 

And to all
of our readers...


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My 5 Kitchen Disasters -- and Recoveries (with recipes) by Cleo Coyle

"Only God gets things right 
the first time." 

~ Stephen King*

* Tweeted by "Advice to Writers," 
a fun twitter follow at this address: 

This quote leads my post today for
good reason. I'm talking about
Kitchen Disasters
(More on that below.)

But first...


A shout-out to my fellow bloggers Lucy Burdette and Meg London (aka Peg Cochran), both of whom have new releases today: Death in Four Courses, the 2nd entry in Lucy's Key West Food Critic Mysteries; and Murder Unmentionable, the first in a new series, from Meg. To learn more, visit Lucy's home page here or Meg's page here, and be sure to come back for their blog days this week to learn more from the authors themselves. 

Congrats Lucy and Meg/Peg, 
have a great release week!


Cleo Coyle, who hasn't burned
down her kitchen (yet), is
author of
The Coffeehouse
My 5 Kitchen Disasters...
and Recoveries

Anyone who's spent serious time in the kitchen has had their share of gloppy rice, sunken cakes, and, (with apologies to Chef Paul Prudhomme) unintentionally blackened fish. On the other hand, if you click this link, you'll see that Chef Paul actually warns you: 

"If you don't have a commercial hood vent over your stove, this dish will set off every smoke alarm in your neighborhood!"

Which brings to mind my post from last Thanksgiving. That's where my Captain Kirk on fire photo came from, a public service message for those attempting to fry a whole turkey without, oh, say defrosting the bird...or putting the fryer a sufficient distance from flammable objects. 

You can view my post here along with "Eat, Fry, Love," the entertaining little video from Mr. Shatner and State Farm Insurance.

What's my point? Good cooking (like good writing) takes a bit of time: Writers write and re-write. Cooks cook and re-cook. 

A common piece of advice given to culinary students is to go home and practice, calling to mind an adorable scene from the equally adorable movie Julie & Julia. Do you remember it? Julia is determined to get her knife skills up to par in her French cooking class, so she goes home and chops a huge pile of onions in one afternoon. The resulting stench in the house (and sting to the eyes!) sends her husband out of the building for lunch. 

Julia's afternoon of "practice" was far from appealing, but in her cooking class the next day, she triumphed. (A classic set-up/pay-off of dramatic structure, too, thanks to the late, great writer/director Nora Ephron.)

Below are a few of my own stories of Fails that led to...well, better results. To children, we say, "try, try again," and that's the take-away today, I guess, in cooking, in writing, and in life.

~ Cleo

"Leftover Salsa" Pasta Primavera 

Spying a plastic container of leftover salsa one morning, I thought, "Why not give this a go?" Bad idea. Chef Gordon Ramsay would have spat this experiment of mine into his napkin. My lesson: never use leftover chopped tomatoes for anything but sauce!

A Healthier Shrimp Scampi Pasta

This is my my version of Shrimp Scampi, which swaps out the typical 1/2 cup of butter for olive oil with a touch of butter and places it over pasta. I'd like to think Gordon would ask for seconds...

To download my recipe PDF, click here.


Zero Fat Muffins 

Behold my "zero fat" muffin. No butter, no oil--even the milk was skim. Pretty to look at, but this thing was low fat to the point of inedible. Hey, willpower's one thing, but ten minutes after eating this muffin, you'd be tearing into a pan of brownies, just to get the flavor and texture out of your mouth! Major fail.

Oatmeal Cookie Muffins

A tasty little muffin laced with the flavors of an oatmeal cookie. It has the goodness of oats in it and is also low in fat, using canola oil and low fat buttermilk instead of butter. It does have sugar and I wouldn't recommend eating six in one sitting, but it's a useful alternative to a lot of high-fat recipes or fast food muffins.

For my Oatmeal Cookie Muffin recipe, click here.


No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

Oh, geez, don't ask. I have the photo because I was hoping it would work out. But it was such a major fail, I threw it out! (Never firmed up for cutting and the flavor was awful.)

Microwave Fudge

Yes, you really can make fudge using just your microwave. It's smooth and tasty and (IMO) nice enough to serve to guests or give as a gift.

For my Microwave Fudge
recipe, click here.


My FAIL #4 
Key Lime Pie 

Distracted one day, I had miscounted the number of eggs in this pie. Woops. The homemade graham cracker crust was delicious and so was the pie, after I froze it.  But serving it thawed was a total disaster. My lesson: pay attention while cooking!

No-Bake Key Lime Cheesecake Pie

Another crack at the Key Lime Pie, while actually counting the number of eggs, led to success. But the fail led me to trying the recipe Marc's mom made for him as a kid, most likely from a recipe clipped from a newspaper or cream cheese package. (I tweaked her ratios until I was happy with it, and made it an even easier recipe by using a pre-made crust.)

To download a recipe PDF for the No-Bake Lime Cheesecake Pie, click here.


#5 Not Quite a Fail, more like a... 
Not yet good enough!

Behold my latest try for my
Brooklyn Blackout Cake

Yes, I am still experimenting, trying to get that perfect balance with cake layers as chocolaty as they can be while still being strong enough to hold up to the pudding filling and frosting of the classic Blackout structure.

The experiments continue
into this week! 

When I get it just right, I'll start uploading it on my Web site. Check later in the week at for updates. And I'll be sure to share it with you right here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, too, so no worries. Until next week...

Try, try again... 
(with joy!)

~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries