By Jody Worsham
All rights reserved to sue Betty Crocker
I don't know why I thought it would be different this time. Maybe because it's spring, hope eternal and all that. Maybe because I didn't have anything to post and cooking puts a sure fire end to writer's block. Maybe because the children were putting on those extra McDonald's pounds. Whatever the reason, I was really making a concerted effort to get it right this time.
I began last night by pulling out all my cookbooks, all three of them. The children and I sat at the kitchen table and leafed through the books marking things that looked good but most importantly easy. After they went to bed, I went back through "Deceptively Delicious" by Jessica Seinfeld. She had recipes for sneaking vegetables into foods without the children being the wiser. I needed this since the five-year-old who once ate every gourmet dish offered on the cruise ship has suddenly turned into a carnivore and the nine-year-old who once was a carnivore is now close to becoming a vegetarian.
I made a list of all the recipes we would try, noted the page number and the cookbook where it could be found. From that one page, I made a list of all the ingredients that I did not currently have in the house. That took up two and a half pages. This morning after dropping the kids at school, I headed for Wal-Mart, lists in hand.
The "Deceptively Delicious" required pureed sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, and cauliflower. Since my cooking utensils consist of a couple of skillets, a knife, and a mini food chopper, and no food processor within the thirty-five acres, I had a brilliant idea. Baby food is pureed. I'd get that. I chased all over Wal-Mart with my list. I found a pork loin, ground turkey, wheat elbow macaroni, baby food carrots, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, unsweetened applesauce and the other 5,000 things that were supposed to be healthy if you would only eat them. The spice aisle took me awhile, since all I had was salt and pepper. Who knew spices were so expensive!
Back at home I tackled the pork loin first. The recipe said to salt and pepper the pork loin, crush the garlic and rub all sides with rosemary. It seemed more efficient to just throw all the spices in the backing dish and just flip the pork loin around and roll it over and over. Off to the oven for thirty minutes at 425 degrees. After 30 minutes, it still looked raw. I couldn't find my husband's smoker meat thermometer so I just cooked it ten more minutes. It still didn't look brown so I cooked it ten more minutes while I searched for the thermometer. I found it and sure enough the pork loin was done, well done, very well done. I didn't know there were that many degrees of "done-ness" for pork.
Next I tackled the applesauce-rolled-oats-pureed-carrot-muffins. I guess I should have read the right side of the recipe and not just the list of ingredients on the left. I just dumped everything together at the same time. What is the point in messing up two bowls, one for dry and one for wet, when you were going to put everything together anyway. Fortunately after I measured the 1 ½ cups of flour into the first bowl, I was a bit suspicious of the "flour" which turned out to be not flour but powdered sugar. I wisely got a magic marker and labeled that clear container "powdered sugar" so I wouldn't make that mistake again. Of course pouring the bowl of sugar back into the narrow container resulted in a few spills. I found the flour, labeled it and proceeded. By now my counter top is strewn with assorted measuring spoons, every bowl I own, vegetable oil, foil cupcake cups, oats, applesauce, sixteen spoons, and assorted piles of sugar, flour, so when I knocked over the quart of vegetable oil, it didn't seem to matter. Luckily my black counter tops are supposed to be lightly oiled every two weeks. I won't have to worry about my countertops for at least two months. I never said I was neat.
I had the cupcakes neatly placed evenly around the cookie sheet for even browning and they would have stayed that way if I hadn't hit the edge of the cookie sheet on the oven door as I was preparing to put the cupcakes in the oven. Now they resemble an applesauce sheet cake with little foil dividers. I tasted one after they were done and while they aren't much to look at, they are quite tasty.
Next I tackled the "healthy meatloaf". I must have run out of paper when I was listing all the ingredients I needed because I somehow missed the Italian flavored bread crumbs and the parmesan cheese. Not to worry, I had cornbread stuffing mix so I just threw in some Italian seasonings I had bought for another recipe. This time I read the order in which to mix the ingredients on the right side. See, this was going to be better… edible! I called my hubby in town to bring home the cheese. I wasn't sure my family would eat the ground turkey so I mixed it with some regular ground beef. The secret hidden ingredient this time was…carrots. I must have changed my mind about whatever recipe required the squash and cauliflower. So far carrots are in everything. Can you eat too many carrots?
I got the meatloaf safely into the oven and it would have been just fine except, well now I had something to write about so I sat down to my computer and started to write. After the second draft, I became aware of some irritating beeping sound coming from the kitchen. I don't know how long the timer had been going off, but from the looks of the meatloaf, quite some time.
I have loaded the dishwasher twice trying to get the kitchen back to semi-normal. I fear the new puppy may O.D. on spilled sugar, flour, turkey, catsup, and applesauce from the floor. It has taken me four hours and $150 in spices and groceries to produce an over-dried pork loin, thirteen applesauce cupcakes, and a crispy meatloaf. And that's just lunch and supper today. Tomorrow I will have to do it again.
Some people are just helplessly and permanently cookingly challenged. I don't even think "America's Worst Cooks" would take me.