Chopped

It is known to many close to me that I cannot cook. I’m not appearing on the next season of “Worst Cooks in America” but it’s best to have lowered expectations if you’re having dinner at my house. It’s not for lack of trying. I try ALL THE TIME. I’m that person where I get an A for effort but a big fat F for execution.

Baking, however, I can do. Breads, cookies, and amazing birthday cakes (usually) go off without a hitch and are downright delicious. But when it comes to making a decent meal for our family that doesn’t have one little thing that you need to make your peace with…well…that’s another story.

So why would a person that uses a microwave in 75% of her cooking volunteer to host Thanksgiving dinner? Perhaps I was up for the challenge. Perhaps I thought that this was my chance at culinary redemption. I need to prove to myself, as well as poor Joe who has been the victim of my meal flops, that I could actually pull this off and make a Thanksgiving dinner for the ages.

Armed with a slew of recipes and a friend on speed dial for any Thanksgiving-meal related questions, I am currently brining my turkey and prepping for tomorrow. That said, I think it’s only fair that I pay homage to the absolute cooking fails of my past because “Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something” (Morihei Ueshiba)

Here’s hoping that these mistakes only lead to my success tomorrow. Bon appétit!

  1. Paper Wrap Panini – in an effort to impress my boyfriend (now my husband) I offered to make him a delicious panini with the new panini press he gave me for my birthday. Before I go on I need to address the elephant in the room: Why did would anyone give their girlfriend a cooking gadget for their birthday? Joe maintains that I asked for it but I disagree. I ate boxes of cereal in my early 20s for dinner and I thought I was in a place where I needed a separate device to make sandwiches? No way. Clearly he had seen early signs of my lack of cooking prowess and was trying anything to help improve it. Any way, the paninis looked pretty incredible and as we sat down to enjoy them Joe made a disgusted face after a particularly large bite. I’ve come to dread this face as it’s plagued me for years now. This face is the tell-tale sign that I have royally screwed up yet another meal. Joe’s eyes usually close slowly and re-open in this expression that says “REALLY?” This particular instance I had forgotten to remove the piece of paper from his provolone cheese and it had baked and melted into the sandwich creating a wonderfully biodegradable bite. The rest of the sandwich remained untouched even after I helpfully removed the paper and deemed the sandwich fine to eat.
  2. Dinosaur Chicken Nugget Stuffed Shells – The Food Network’s Instagram account posted a video of “Stuffed Chicken Parm Shells”. Take a stuffed shell, put in a piece of a chicken cutlet, and top with sauce and there you have Stuffed Chicken Parm Shells. Seems simple enough but I wanted to make it even more simple since I didn’t feel like thawing out chicken and making the chicken cutlets. Enter my epiphany: I could use the kids’ chicken nuggets and it would totally be the same thing. Breaded chicken is breaded chicken, right? Wrong. To make things even funnier, these weren’t standard chicken nuggets. These were the DINOSAUR chicken nuggets so I had to awkwardly cut a bunch of Stegosaurus and T-Rex shapes into even slices that would tuck nicely into the shells. A tail here. A head here. Time to eat! Upon biting into my latest concoction, Joe described these as “Olive Garden meet McDonald’s” and “not in a good way”. When you try to shortcut a shortcut recipe, it’s never going to end well.
  3. Bone-in Enchiladas – I promise I’m not trying to collect on the life insurance policy that’s out on my husband, but last week I made enchiladas with leftovers from our rotisserie chicken. Joe’s signature “Lynn f’ed again” face came on a few bites in when he asked “Are there bones in this?” I groaned “Oh man! I thought I got them all out!! Sorry!” Not willing to risk his life for sub-par enchiladas that may or may not contain more bones, he discarded the rest of his meal and settled for a turkey sandwich.
  4. The Stuffing From Hell – A few years ago I endeavored to make my mother-in-law’s amazing stuffing. This stuffing is heaven on earth. It’s also a recipe that’s been so honed by her over the years that she doesn’t keep track of quantities – everything is to taste with an adjustment of a pinch or dash of this or that to bring it to the excellence that it is. My attempt, however, was as my Dad described “Dog vomit on bread”. Not only did it look unappetizing, it was almost inedible. It was so dry that you were forced to take a sip of water or wine (I opt for the latter as it would help you to forget this atrocity) to choke it down. After watching the pained faces of my family I told everyone to just stop eating the stuffing and my Dad merrily tossed 8lbs of dog vomit on bread. Everyone was much happier after that. Usually only Joe is subjected to my kitchen failures but this one stung even more so because 15 people were privy to it.
  5. Queen of Undercooked Meats – Perhaps this should be the most concerning of all given that I am doing the turkey. There isn’t a particular instance but rather something that happens on a regular basis. I blame the lack of a meat thermometer coupled with the fact that I get so hangry that I can’t be bothered to let poultry cook all the way through. As a result, more often than not Joe cuts into his chicken only to close his eyes, summon the patience to deal with my culinary deficiencies, and set down his silverware as he silently carries his plate to the microwave to finish cooking the chicken.

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