Kitchen Diary

I swear it’s a problem with my oven

It’s never my fault. Swear. It must be my cookware. My spatulas. My appliances. The lighting in the kitchen.

As terrible a cook as I am, I really do love trying to bake things. Brittany Angell’s gluten-free lemon poppyseed bread from her book Every Last Crumb was the latest endeavor. And it was AMAZING – after I sliced off the burnt bottom and sides.

I followed instructions exactly. It was one of those easy recipes where, as long as you bother to measure, the only other thing you have to do is stir everything together. Nothing fancy. No “rising” or “folding.” Just combining. Even for me, combining is usually pretty foolproof.

For Pete’s sake, combining is just stirring. What the heck could go wrong.

Yet I still managed to burn 5 of 6 sides of the thing. I’m telling you. It’s got to be my oven.

The center was absolutely perfect, though, and I’m not too proud to scoop out the good parts with a spoon and pretend the rest didn’t happen. I’m not too proud to have my dinner guests do the same thing, either. (It’s either that or takeout, since I forgot to thaw the roast.)


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The over-sensitive smoke alarm


There aren’t many household safety devices that can add insult to injury quite like a smoke detector. While I don’t burn things as often as I used to, I must have trained the thing to go berserk right as the “preheat oven” light clicks off. I’m telling you, there was not even a hint of smoke (by that I mean, there were no smoke plumes a-la Belle’s father’s “invention” in Beauty and the Beast).

I used to hide the smoke alarms under pillows, in drawers, behind couches, and anywhere the air from the kitchen couldn’t get anywhere near ‘em. Once I smashed a detector that wouldn’t shut up with a meat mallet.

But I’m an adult now (or, at least, I can no longer pretend I’m not an adult) and that doesn’t fly any more. It’s either learn the behaviors that will preclude a shrieking smoke alarm (ie learn to cook), or deal with it gracefully when it happens.

At the very least, I need to remember that our smoke detector is linked to our alarm system. This means that when it goes off, I need to key in a code immediately or risk a brigade of very cute firefighters showing up at my home. Wait…what was the problem with that again.


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Do the Work


Sometimes a quote stops you in your tracks, and sticks in your head all day.

I needed to hear this, because I desperately want the revolution but, dammit, I never want to do the dishes. And not just metaphorically, either. When you commit to eating at home, there are always dishes to wash. It never ends. I think back to my teenage Taco Bell days and wistfully remember when “doing the dishes” meant a semi-weekly clean out of crumpled paper bags and soda cups from the floor of my Honda.

Nobody wants to do the dishes: the hard work, the nuts and bolts, the difficult changes, the day-to-day drudgery. But that’s where change happens: in the dozens of tough, tiny choices that we make every day.

So, what’s your revolution? Eating better? Changing the food industry? Healing yourself? Breaking old habits? Whatever it is you are striving for, keep going. Do the work. I’m rooting for all of us.


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Stomach Flu: The Struggle is Real


There’s nothing like an exorcist-level stomach flu to keep you in bed, wishing you had the Grim Reaper on speed dial.

I was laid out like this recently, hoping for an unscheduled end-times, when I sent Liz a desperate text: “Help. Nothing is staying down and everything tastes awful. I’m getting dehydrated. Please send Holy water.”

Liz advised me to eat anything that sounded even remotely appealing, and to try my best to keep it as clean and nourishing as possible. At that point I would have consumed seventeen boxes of Cap’n Crunch if I thought it would help. Desperate times, friends.

Alas, even the typical non-nourishing sick foods like ginger ale and crackers didn’t even sound good. So I sucked it up and focused on what I knew would help rid the demons quickly.

Coconut Water

I usually love his stuff but, oh man; getting it down and keeping it there was not a treat. But I’m listing it first because when all of the electrolytes and potassium kicked in it made a big difference – fast. Totally worth it. Coconut water is like Gatorade, but without huge amounts of food dye, corn syrup, and weirdo chemicals. Wait…how is Gatorade even a health thing, again?

Bone Broth

I was lucky to have made a batch of chicken broth before I got sick, and I was grateful to have it on hand. Even more reason to make chicken broth or bone broth and freeze it for emergencies. I just heated some in a mug and added a dash of salt. Not gonna lie: it was not appealing. But the warmth helped and I figured even a few sips would do some good. Liz suggested adding some very soft cooked veggies to the broth, like carrots. I wasn’t ready for anything solid yet…but it’s a great suggestion for when you’ve leveled up from exorcist-sick to zombie-sick.

Sparkling Mineral Water

Gives you the same tingly, home-sick-from-school feelings as ginger ale but without all of the sugar (or more aptly, high fructose corn syrup.) Ginger itself can be stomach settling though, so finding a clean ginger soda to sip could be another good option. Or better yet, try a ginger lemon/lime tonic.

Coconut Oil

When Liz suggested this one, I began to doubt our friendship. How was I going to swallow a spoonful of coconut oil?! In my condition? Was she insane? Then she reminded me of the amazing anti-viral properties of coconut oil. Thanks a lot, smarty pants. And I wanted to get better. So I did it. And it sucked. But I don’t regret it. (I did put a small dab of raw honey on top of the coconut oil, you know, to help the medicine go down and all that jazz.)

And so I got better at last. And without the soda, Gatorade, crackers, toast and other bland but not terribly nourishing foods that are usually recommended when you’re sick. It’s doable. Just be strong. And if things get ugly, find a priest.


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Word to the Bad Cook

Seasoning something “to taste” means you should add small amounts of your preferred seasoning gradually, being sure TO TASTE as you go along because just because you like spicy food “A LOT” doesn’t mean “A LOT” will not ruin an entire pot of chili and severely harm your taste buds.”

So. Add a little of what you THINK you like. Wait. Taste. Add a smidge more, if desired. Taste. Repeat until you’re satisfied.

With “heat” ingredients like cayenne, recipe instructions on the Wild Wild internet often say “to taste.” This is because one person’s idea of “heat” may be another person’s idea of “the fiery pits of Hades” or “heading dead into the fire swamp.”

On a related note, the heat-giving components of spices are fat-soluble. This means that while ice will temporarily cool the burning, you’ll need a fat-containing liquid to help sweep away the heat for good. Otherwise, the burning will just come right back. Try swishing with full-fat milk or coconut milk.

And never, never touch your eyes.

I’ll recover. I hope.


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