Behind the Scenes and Kitchen Fails

I was talking with a friend recently, about our small apartments, and tiny kitchens. I mentioned how much I love to cook and proceeded to tell her that I have a food blog. She stopped me there and said, “You have a food blog with a tiny kitchen?!”
Yes folks, it is possible to whip up amazing food in a small kitchen. I would love to tell you all my kitchen dreams and wish list items, because let’s be honest, when your dream kitchen looks like this:
Dream Kitchen Dream kitchen 2
It is hard to reconcile your own kitchen which looks like this:
IMG_3824a IMG_3826a
Do you see those ugly orange/brown cabinets which only hold all my dishes and appliances because I play kitchen Tetris, and the microscopic microwave? The counters that barely hold my crock pot and my cutting board…

Reminder to self: I can cook in a small kitchen.

But seriously. I know when I look at other bloggers it is easy to assume that their life and their kitchen is perfect. But I hope you feel a little better about your own kitchen escapades by seeing the reality of my own.
Along with cooking in this yellow-lit, itty bitty, kitchen, I have fairly human cooking mistakes. Although I have posted so many of my good recipes this year, I thought it might be fun to share with you the other side of my cooking experiences in 2015.

You should know that despite the fact that I have a food blog, I still make plenty of blunders in the kitchen. In fact, that is usually how I learn some of my biggest cooking lessons. I figured it was time that I not only show the success of my cooking efforts, but also my all-time fails. Let’s face it, some of these mistakes are inevitable, no matter who you are. I hope you have a few laughs!

Lime Coconut Slush
This looks decent, but don’t let the picture deceive you. It was awful. I tried using coconut milk and sweetened coconut flakes to make a popsicle. My goal was to make a coconut popsicle like the Outshine popsicles. Big fail. Then I tried to save it by throwing the popsicles into the blender with ice and lime. This smoothie tasted like a bland canned coconut and its texture was gritty beyond belief. Here’s to putting this crisp looking slush down the drain.

Spiced Zucchini Bread
This Zucchini bread actually tasted really good. It had lots of cinnamon, and it was really moist, but it just didn’t come out of the pan. I sprayed the pan really well before baking, but apparently that wasn’t enough this time. I shook the life out of those pans, but the bread wouldn’t budge. I tried to coax it out with a knife and that’s when it cracked. There was no salvaging this one for blog-worthy photos. Oh, and did you notice how I am using a broiler pan for a cooling rack? Of all people who should have a cooling rack, it should be a food blogger. But I’ve got to make due with what I’ve got!

Vinaigrette anyone? You may not be able to tell, but the light yellow layer of the vinaigrette in the left picture is a solid block of coconut oil. The rest of the dressing is trapped below. The vinaigrette was actually quite good. It was orange poppy seed, but because of the orange zest it had to be refrigerated. This is when the epic fail comes in, because the oil solidifies, and renders the vinaigrette completely unusable for 3-4 hours after removing from the fridge. Talk about planning dinner ahead of time. The vinaigrette on the right… I don’t know if it was just oil hardening in the chilled vinegar or if the orange juice caused the sour cream to curdle. Either way… well, let’s just stop at “chunky”.

Zucchini Gummies
These were supposed to be zucchini gummies. My mom sent me the recipe for fruit juice-infused zucchini, dried like a rasin. It sounded like a pretty good way to get the munchkin to eat his veggies. That is, until my pot of fruit juice ran dry without me knowing and fused the zucchini to the bottom of the pan in a mess of orange juice charcoal.  I had to use a spoon to scrape it all out, after soaking for 24 hours, and even then it took me a good 20 minutes to clean the pan. No zucchini gummies.

Sweet Rolls
Aaah, the beautiful sweet rolls. I worked so hard on these, because they were to go to some of my friends. I made sure the dough was just right, the cinnamon swirls beautiful, and the rolls perfectly large. When I baked them, I started smelling them 10 minutes before the timer said they should have been done. I checked, and they were gorgeously brown. Figuring that this was because of elevation differences between Idaho and Texas, I pulled them out of the oven. I waited for them to cool, iced them, and delivered 2 of the 3 pans. When I returned home, I pulled my own sweet roll out of the pan that I had reserved for our family, only to discover that the center was not completely cooked. It wasn’t 100% doughy, but it still had the raw flour flavor. How embarrassing! I gave two of these pans away! I guess I learned my lessons: 1) reduce the baking time AND temperature when cooking in Texas, and 2) test everything before you give it to someone else. Did I mention that this is not the first time I have done this? Seriously awkward.

Shrunken Apples
IMG_1882 IMG_1881
I had this idea for Halloween, to put dry ice in fresh apple cider to make “witches brew”. It was going to be awesome. Then the genius came when I thought I could make shrunken apple heads, like you see in the Martha Steward Halloween magazines, into the witches brew. Cut the apples. Check. Carve faces into the apples. Check! Bake the apples for 50 minutes. That is when they are supposed to get shriveled and slightly browned. But it didn’t happen. So I turned the oven on broil.
If you should know anything about me, it is that I have to make reminders for everything, because I forget quicker than you can say it. And no, I did not set a timer for the shrunken apple heads in the oven on high broil.
It is just as well that their faces were torched, because they were near to apple sauce long before I put them under broil. I guess I should have thought the recipe through before baking half an apple for 50 minutes  If I were to do it again I would only broil it for 3 minutes (no baking), and be sure to set a timer!

Cinnamon Caramel
This was another Halloween escapade. My original plan was to make those apple mouths, with marshmallow teeth. I was going to call them “vampire bites” (I know, I am a cheesy Halloween fanatic). We were taking it to my friends party, however, and her son is allergic to peanuts. I couldn’t use peanut butter to stick the teeth on, but that was no problem! Icing should do the trick. Except, when you put it on an apple it starts to melt and run. It was a hopeless mess. I had the apples already cut up, so I figured I would go to Plan B. Cinnamon caramel. It would still go along with the vampire theme, being that it is a red fluid substance. I had successfully made the caramel with Red Hots before, but I only had Hot Tamales on hand. It should work the same right? Wrong. Everything was going smoothly until the candies stopped melting past the gummy interior. I smashed, mashed, and chopped at those things, but they would not dissolve into the caramel. By this time, I had cooked the caramel way too long, and I knew it would never be a soft, runny, gooey dip; more like chunky Laughy Taffy. I just brought the apples to the party… by themselves.

Raspberry Toffee
Raspberry Fudge
I saw this toffee recipe and thought it looked so good! I was curious about the temperatures though, because it said to cook it to about 250 F, but all toffee recipes I have seen say to cook toffee to about 300 F. Cooking it to 250 only seemed like it would be caramel, and I wanted crunchy toffee, so I went ahead and cooked it to 300…. except I only got to about 265 before it turned into a brown burned mess.
Looking at the two pictures, I would definitely say that I nailed it! Except for a few minor details such as the flavor, color, texture, and everything else.

This is just a little behind-the-scenes. Besides the numerous times I make horrible cooking mistakes, my food doesn’t always look as delicious as it tastes. I have to make special efforts to make it presentable for the camera, so don’t feel bad when you make a Pinterest recipe and it doesn’t look the same as the picture. It may taste the same, but we food photographers might do strange things to present our food in a good way. I will show you a few of the things you might see in my kitchen when I am about to do a food shoot.
Things like yogurt, dressing, and other sauces don’t usually drizzle so beautifully over your food. That is when the syringe comes in handy. But seriously, unless you are taking a picture of your food, who has time to carefully squeeze a syringe full of yogurt over their waffles? It just isn’t practical. Glop it on, my friend.

These are a few other things you might typically see when I am taking pictures of my food. My son hanging on to my leg, waiting for me to be finished (which by the way, it was 10:00 am and we were both still in our Pajamas) or him sitting at the table ready to fling oatmeal at me while asking me to take pictures of his food as well. This is the life of a mom, food blogger and photographer.

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