Let me start by saying that I assume there will be more than one set of “cooking issues” in my future, so I went ahead and started numbering. Guys, I assume you understand if you are not an accomplished cook. If you are, keep your snide comments to yourself please.
If you have read my blog for any length of time. you already know that I now live in my own apartment after living the first 6 months of this year sharing a 3 bedroom condo with two roommates who were, shall we say, less than clean. See the kitchen pic to the right to prove my point. I like to think they were just supporting the local bug population by feeding them directly from the counters. Makes it a little less horrific in my mind. SO, needless to say, I NEVER cooked in that nasty kitchen. I moved to my new apartment just over a month ago and I love it! It is clean and I keep it that way.
Cleaning is easy for 1 person, but cooking is something that I am warming up to. Pardon the pun. I have microwaved a variety of things, eaten sandwiches, opened cans of everything, and definitely eaten out. My actual experience cooking in the skillet has been limited primarily over the years to cooking breakfast, and browning meat while someone else is nearby. Don’t get me wrong. I can do grilled cheese too. Honestly, I am pretty good on a grill, which I no longer have, but that’s beside the point. I can cut veggies, make salads, and I even made fresh peach salsa once. So, when I moved in to my new place, one of the things I vowed to do was learn to cook things that weren’t microwaveable. My mom even showed me how to make homemade cream gravy, which I have not yet been brave enough to try. Sorry Mom. Another thing I vowed to do was NEVER have a nasty kitchen.
So when I last got paid I went to the grocery store and decided to stock up on cleaning supplies and groceries, including the various Helpers. What’s a Helper? Oh, you know. Hamburger Helper, Chicken Helper, Tuna Helper, and even Whole Wheat Helper. I also got lunch meat, spam, vienna sausages, and ice cream sandwiches. Did I say gourmet cooking? Hush!
Fast forward to today, September 3, 2012, the day I cooked Hamburger Helper in my brand new skillet, which I bought at the store that same day. A nice big one with a non-stick surface. A red letter day for any bachelor, except that I had a few “issues”.
Issue 1: I had a lot of ground venison in the freezer that came with me when I moved. Venison is a healthier, leaner alternative to hamburger, so I am going to be healthy and use it. Plus its free. Finally, and this is really important, I have to make more room in the freezer for ice cream. Keep in mind that the venison was processed at the local deer processing place and has been in the freezer for a couple of years, waiting for me to use it today, Labor day 2012. Thinking ahead, I took it out of the freezer yesterday and sat it in the meat drawer of my fridge to thaw. Did I think to wrap it or put it in a ziploc bag? Why would I? It was already in a white plastic wrapper, secured with a twist tie. Well, when I opened the refrigerator today, it looked like I shot the deer inside the drawer. I can only assume when they process meat at Bubbas’ Deer Processor that there may be a little blood left in the meat before it gets frozen. Who knew there was so much in one pound of venison? I felt like I should call the HazMat team for a massive cleaning.
Issue 2: I can clean that up. I’ll just wash it out. No Problem! No nasty kitchen, remember? (Did you hear the screeching of the brakes?) I opened my refrigerator door and went to slide the drawer out. Apparently, unless the door can be opened completely to the side, it blocks the slide out drawer. In my apartment , the door opens against the wall, so guess what? The slaughter drawer stays in the fridge and I get to clean it the old-fashioned way. Oh well, that is manageable. Paper Towels, soap and water, and more towels, and more water, and more towels. Oh, I forgot to mention I had to clean the other meat packages that were already in there. WHEW! Done! Cooking is awesome!
Issue 3: Did you know that everything you need is not included in the box of Hamburger Helper? I mean it says 4 cheese lasagna on the box and
I remembered it had a seasoning packet. Should be good to go. Add the meat and that’s it. Right? Not so. I didn’t see the instruction that said you need milk. I mean until I was cooking it already. I finished my milk 3 days ago. SO, my lasagna hamburger helper had primarily water added to it and it wasn’t looking like I remembered it (not unusual these days). Then I thought, CHEESE HAS MILK! Genius. I took my last two pieces of American cheese product, (which probably doesn’t have milk in it actually) and threw it in the mix. then I stirred it, covered it, and prayed.
Issue 4: Venison Helper does not exist. If it did, I am sure the seasoning packet would be different. Undoubtedly, the seasonings in my package are optimized for hamburger. Why do I mention this? TASTE. Taste is one of the five senses and for me, was not lost when I went through chemotherapy. So, believe me when I say that “bland” doesn’t begin to describe what I put in my mouth….briefly. “Pasty” would be a compliment and quite generous at that. “What now? I know I can fix this.” BAM! Light bulbs came on over my head and angels started singing. I remembered that I went to the hunting extravaganza a few weeks ago and bought a set of seasonings. In a minute I added a little salt and pepper and a healthy dose of Bud’s Magic Buck Fajita Sparkle. Suddenly my 4 cheese lasagna helper perked right up.That is the sign of real cooking isn’t it? Innovation?
Issue 5: Be sure to wear a shirt when cooking meat in a skillet. Splatter guards? Yeah, right! Or when scooping hot food from a skillet to a bowl….or when eating scalding hot food that likes to fall from the spoon directly onto your chest. Enough said.
Issue 6: Always check the bottom of a brand new skillet before you put it on the stovetop. “But why?” you may ask. Did you know they glue paper to the bottom of the skillet with instructions, warranty, etc. on it? At least that’s what I think was on it, since it was all charred and most of it had dropped into the silver tray below the skillet, like an ashtray. I was glad it was there to catch the ashes, but I assume that’s not its normal function? The sad thing is that I never knew anything was wrong until I picked the skillet up to switch burners.That’s when I saw the white ash on the electric burner and smelled wood smoke. “Boy that Magic Fajita Sparkle really adds the flavor and the real wood smoke smell too. AWESOME! “, No. Sadly, I burned off the paper from the skillet without a single clue I had done so.
The bright side? I cooked an edible meal without burning down the apartment. My kitchen is clean. I am full. Smells like a campfire, which is nice. What else is there to worry about? Oh. I need to put up that warran……oops. Nevermind.