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2012 February

Archive for February, 2012

I’ll be back on next week but I thought in the mean time (since I didn’t want to leave my New York contest post up until Tuesday since the contest ended Friday, February 24), I’d offer you something marvelous to read. It’s a repost from last fall but hopefully you’ll find it as exciting as the candy aisle at the grocery store.

Along with the millions of others who have stumbled upon my blog you may be scratching your head and asking, “What’s with the name, Diane? Why is this thing called ‘It’s All Good – Until You Burn Dinner?’” Clearly, you haven’t been around my house late in the afternoon when dinnertime looms.

You see, even if my day starts out splendidly (meaning, it’s sprinkled with the usual unicorns, magic fairies, and gum drops) when the afternoon starts to wan, deep gray clouds begin to boil over my roof and an eerie stillness falls across my kitchen.

To make a long story short, I…well…pretty much suck (for lack of better words) at cooking. But I really can’t help it. It’s sort of a genetic thing passed down from generation to generation of potato boiling ancestors on my side of the family. Granted, my dad had to feed an entire family of 6 on a modest income, but some of the things my mom scratched onto her Food Town grocery list and cooked from week to week should have been vetoed. I have vivid childhood memories of the evenings my family spent gathered around the dinner table, our eyes rolled back in our heads, endlessly chewing on hunks of my mom’s “minute steak,”– meat that clearly must have been produced and packaged by Wrigley’s.

My grandma is said to have been quite the chef in her earlier years, but by the time I was old enough to toddle around her kitchen, she was very old and her menu consisted primarily of tomato jam, Hy-Vee cottage cheese, and 7 month-old German potato salad. Needless to say, I didn’t take any cooking cues from her dinner table, either.

So, since I really didn’t have a cooking mentor, after I got married I basically had to teach myself and it  has been an extremely painstaking process for the entire family. My husband recalls quite clearly my “scorched green been streak” and the night I gave new meaning to “Cajun blackened chicken.”

My cooking woes have followed me everywhere. One morning while vacationing with my family in the Black Hills I burned a waffle on one of those “do it yourself” hotel waffle cookers in the dining area. Somehow, I set off the hotel’s smoke detectors and within minutes, the building was being evacuated and fire trucks were whining into the parking lot. And yup. You guessed it. I sprinted out of the building along with all of the others panicked guests – with my black waffle resting safely on my plate. And there I stood, alone with my innocent waffle, while guests in their pajamas gave me the stink eye and whispered amongst themselves. My cooking is like the plague.

It took many years, but I have gotten better at creating some remotely edible dishes for my family, like my chicken wild rice soup. If I ever have you over for  dinner you’ll never have to wonder “what’s for supper?” because 9.7 times out of 10, that’s what you’re going to get.

And I don’t mean to brag, but although I struggle with the cooking stuff, my baking has actually gotten pretty good. Gone are the days when my kids would find circular hardened discs in the cookie jar. Now they actually find something known to the rest of civilization as a “c-o-o-k-i-e.” After doing a lot of reading, testing, and cookie dough eating, I can actually make a few recipes that are really quite delicious!

This is where I need to send you over to my cooking-baking-creating hero Amanda Formaro at AmandasCookin.com. I thank my lucky stars that I found her before my daughter’s graduation open house last summer.  Amanda doesn’t know it, but I’ve been stalking her recipe blog over the last few months (you gotta try her peanut butter cookie recipe!) I guarantee that even if you’re a cooking/baking slouch like me, you will be able to find something delicious to make there. Heck, if you’re not into baking, just go to look at her pretty food pictures.

Even though I hate to cook (or shall I say, cooking hates me?), like tennis elbow or a bad back, I’m learning to live with it. I just wonder how long my family will be able to survive on chicken wild rice soup.

Soo… who or what has been your cooking inspiration? Your greatest challenge?  Does your significant other do most of the food preparation in your home? What are some easy dinner solutions when you just don’t’ feel like cooking?

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