It’s been a hot minute since I last blogged. But, as always, I have a hastily concocted excuse that really doesn’t stand up to the reality of the fact that I don’t have a job, or school, and should technically be able to post every single day.
But I wouldn’t want to overwhelm you guys with how absolutely hilarious I am and possibly give you a heart attack from laughing too hard every single day, so really, I’m doing you a favor.
I’ll still throw my excuse out there anyway– I’ve started a new book and I’ve been writing feverishly and blah blah blah blah okay you get it. So moving on. I’ve got some exciting news before I get to the theme of this particular post– I ate at CiCi’s Pizza today… and NOTHING HAPPENED. NOTHING.
No mistaken gender, no chance encounters with acquaintances that dredged up humiliating memories from my past. I only ate four (cough five cough) pieces of Alfredo Cheese Pizza. It was completely, totally commonplace.
So perhaps the CiCi’s curse has been broken! But don’t worry. I’m still going to expose my humiliation for your amusement.
Now to start my story.
There are two facts you may or may not know about me.
The first fact is that I am a fanatic pinner who is unashamedly and wholeheartedly addicted to Pinterest. Like, it’s bad. I think Pinterest is 64% of what I use my phone for. And I don’t want to brag, but my wedding board is kind of the best. Like, if you’re getting married and need a planner, then feel free to check it out. Because I’m becoming more and more sure that my calling in life is to plan weddings, like Jennifer Lopez in the 2001 classic, The Wedding Planner. And one day I’ll be planning this nice but spoiled lady’s wedding and then meet the perfect guy when he saves me from getting squashed by a runaway dumpster only to discover he is the fiance but then he and his fiancee will realize they don’t love each other and he loves me and I’ll end up with a hot, perfect husband. Except it will be actually a great love story because the guy won’t be Matthew McConaughey.
Sorry, MM fans. But anyway– my wedding board is pretty much amazing, just saying.
Now, the second fact you need to know for today’s post is that I am a very bad cook. I mean, I can handle the occasional brownie or cake mix, and I love to whip up some pre-packaged cinnamon rolls every now and again. But truthfully, I’m just too scatterbrained to be successful in the kitchen. This has never been a great source of concern for me though, truthfully. I’ve never really been too interested in anything to do with cooking.
But then, something happened.
That something is called my sister started watching Chopped, and forced me to watch it with her.
Let’s just say, things spiralled out of control from there.
So this week I read an article on Buzzfeed called 18 Signs You Are Obsessed with Chopped. I laughed uproariously, gleefully reveling in the knowledge that I was, indeed, obsessed with Chopped (Sign Number 19- YOU WANT TO SCREAM AT EVERY CONTESTANT TO NOT MAKE A BREAD PUDDING FOR DESSERT ROUND SRSLY GUISE THAT’S WHAT EVERYONE DOES). So not surprisingly, a couple days later, I was watching Chopped. I was also casually surfing through Pinterest during commercials. Perhaps you see where this is going.
Chopped + Pinterest= “Hey…. I think I’m going to bake something!”
Eagerly I began searching through the pages of Pinterest, my eagle eyes peeled for some sort of unique, delicious, life-changing dessert. A dessert that my family would beg me to make for years to come. I had bright, glittering visions in my head of people asking me to parties just so I could make this dessert– of my friends wheedling me shamelessly to get the recipe and then passing it down among their families for generations to come.
I’m an adult, I thought emphatically to myself. It won’t be like when I was younger and didn’t know what I was doing. I watch the Food Network now. I know what I’m doing.
I continued to pump myself up as I scrolled through recipe after recipe, never quite finding what I was looking for, but just KNOWING it was waiting there for me. Suddenly, something caught my eye. Something… intriguing. Something with berries.
(Side note: if you’ve never seen this commercial then I pity you. Go watch it right now. I’ll wait.)
Not only did it have berries, but, even better, it was French— I couldn’t even pronounce the name and I had certainly never heard of it.
Eagerly I clicked on the link, and found I even already had the necessary ingredients! IT’S FATE, I thought to myself. This recipe just had that certain je ne sais quoi that told me it was meant to be. With bubbling enthusiasm, I rushed into my kitchen, ready to unlock the Chef Rowe that I just knew was there inside of me.
I began feverishly heating ovens and cracking eggs and beating mixtures and boiling milk and mixing mixtures and buttering pie pans. Finally, it was berry time. Now, technically the recipe calls for fresh raspberries, but it said you could just use berries. We didn’t have any actual fresh berries, but scrounging in the freezer did reveal that we had both frozen raspberries and frozen cranberries. Really feeling my culinary creativity at this point, I daringly decided I would mix the two together for my magical French dessert. I skillfully de-iced the frozen sliced raspberries (slightly mushy, but I was baking them, everything was going to get mushy anyway!). Then I washed off the very cold, whole cranberries. Briefly I wondered if I should slice the cranberries up but the recipe said nothing about slicing cranberries (to be fair, the recipe said nothing at all about cranberries specifically, which leads me to believe that the originator of said recipe never dreamed someone would try to use cranberries for it). So I thought, why bother?
Cheerfully I spread the whole cranberries and the mushy remains of the sliced raspberries in my carefully prepared pie dish, and readied myself to finish the prep for my delectable dessert by pouring the mixture I had so slavishly whipped up. I tipped the bowl over, and started pouring.
As I did so, however, I noticed two things.
1. The cranberries were not remaining docilely on the bottom of the pie dish like they were supposed to– instead, they floated to the top like so many taunting little apples to a very inept participant in a game of bobbing for apples.
2. I had too much mixture and not enough pie dish.
Frowningly I regarded these unexpected problems that had cropped up, my complete lack of experience in matters of cooking leaving me with no idea of how to address the situation.
But I was obsessed with Chopped, damnit, with an actual Buzzfeed article as evidence! I had a creative, talented, generational-recipe-creating chef inside of me! I could do this! I could!
So gingerly I began picking out floating cranberries, taking about half of them out and depositing them into a cup. Then I proceeded to try and pour more mixture/batter/stuff into the dish. I managed to get most of it in, but there was still a troubling amount left.
So now I was stuck both with not enough berries AND not enough mixture. Even to my nonexistent cooking instincts, this seemed to be a problem. So again, I applied my brilliant brain to the problem.
Why would the cranberries be floating? I asked myself. And then suddenly, it dawned on me.
The cranberries were floating because they were still whole which meant they still had air inside them. All I had to do was let the air out, and everything would be fine!
I honestly don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to just take the cranberries out and slice them up. That would be the logical thought, wouldn’t it? That’s probably what you thought I was going to do. It’s probably what you would have done yourself. Oh, but Readers, never, never forget– I am not normal.
My solution to the floating cranberries?
Stab them with an ice pick.
Now, you might think that was a joke, one where I thought up the stupidest, most ridiculous method of getting air out of cranberries and then threw it out there for a laugh.
I won’t attempt to explain to you the difficulty of trying to stab tiny individual floating fruits, bathed in a slippery mixture of eggs and milk and other things, with an ice pick. Because it just makes it so much worse. Because why, at any point, did my brain not kick in and say, Sara, this is one of the most foolish things you have ever done. Stop immediately.
Instead, I stabbed about fifteen cranberries before deciding that would be enough, and pouring the rest of the mixture in, which now fit! And in blatant disregard of the utter, unacceptable absurdity of the entire situation, my brain instead decided that since the mixture now all fit in the pie crust, I was doing something right! So I then proceeded to shove all the extra cranberries I had taken out back into the pie dish.
And hey!! They fit, too!!! Chef Rowe was back on top, triumphantly overcoming the baking tomfoolery that had so briefly stymied her.
I cheerfully shoved the whole thing into the oven, blithely ignoring the fact that the liquid hovered precariously close to the edge of the pie dish and that floating cranberries had erupted like zits all along the top of the dish. Then I skipped off to watch some more Chopped while I waited.
I won’t describe what emerged from the oven, because I think this picture says it all:
I’ll just leave that picture there for you all, without commenting.
But what I will share with you is that while I was trying to take this out of the oven, I burned my arm quite badly.
I LITERALLY BRANDED MYSELF WITH MY OWN STUPIDITY.
At this point, Readers, I’m just going to take advantage of the convenient fact that I never have to see your faces while you read this post. And I will especially enjoy this fact when I tell you that even after stabbing cranberries with an icepick and scarring myself– I WAS NOT DETERRED.
I convinced myself that the problem was simply that the pie dish hadn’t been big enough, and I hadn’t used fresh fruit. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was like, yeah, probably should’ve cut up the cranberries. But hey, c’est la vie, you live and you learn! And there were endless amounts of recipes on Pinterest just waiting for me to try.
So the next day, I determinedly began searching for another recipe, and finally find one I thought was perfect. My burn still smarting, I was especially excited by the fact that you didn’t have to bake anything. No sirree. Because I was going to make a mousse.
Berries and cheesecake? SIGN ME UP.
But this time, I was determined to be smart. This dessert was going to go RIGHT, by god. So I forced my sister to go to Walmart with me to make sure I had fresh ingredients, including fresh fruit. I scampered around, collecting my things, only to realize to my utter frustration that Walmart was simply out of blackberries. Just completely out.
Scowlingly I stomped to the car, with my sister soothingly suggesting we just go to the grocery store Homeland, which was sure to have them. Somewhat mollified, I agreed, and I hurried into Homeland to get my prize, already intent on making my delicious, SUCCESSFUL dessert.
Quickly I scanned the entire fresh produce area, and then did a double take. Not only were there no blackberries in sight, there wasn’t any other kind of berries. Instead, Homeland had about six types of grapes AND NOTHING ELSE.
In a building anger, I rushed over to an employee and asked them if they had any fresh blackberries. When they told me all they had was what was on the produce wall, I huffily snatched up a bag of frozen blackberries, paid, and grandly exited the store.
When I got home, I grudgingly began to prepare everything, acknowledging that the frozen blackberries would do fine, because they obviously had not been frozen in the freezer for who knows how long like yesterday’s fruits had been in our freezer. Finally, it seemed that things were going right. I began tossing and stirring and scraping things into the mixing bowl of our mixer, gradually feeling my good humor and completely unjustified optimism return. I added the last ingredient, and triumphantly turned off the beaters. It was going to be perfect, I just knew it.
Except when I went to scoop a bite out to taste, I realized that my mousse was not, in fact, the least bit moussey. Instead, it was a bit runny and already the ingredients seemed to be separating. Again, Chef Rowe was facing a potentially devastating setback. My mind began feverishly running through ideas to salvage the situation, when suddenly, it hit me.
You’ll be proud, at least, that my solution did not involve icepicks in any shape or form. Instead, I decided to quickly whip up a white cake mix, and then use the blackberry quasi-mousse to top it with, a la my favorite dessert at Olive Garden:It’s white cake with like strawberry sauce and then like some kind of magical fluffy white chocolate mousse and honestly I could just drown in a pool of this and I would die completely, blissfully happy.
So, just make a white cake and put my concoction on top of it, and voila– instant classic.
Since this was Sunday night, that meant we were having dinner at my Nana’s house, which just happens to be next door to mine. So I grabbed a cake mix and my mousse stuff, and trotted over to my Nana’s to finish dessert. I mixed everything up easily and quickly, because, after all, even I can make a cake mix without messing it up. I wisely remembered to turn the oven on before I did this so that way it would preheat as I made the mix. I went about my way with restored spirits and a spring in my step. When the mix was ready, I went to pop it in the oven only to discover to my surprise that it still wasn’t done preheating. I frowned, but fatalistically accepted that there had to be SOME delay– obviously true genius only grows out of struggle. But after a few more minutes, I began to grow concerned about why the oven wasn’t done preheating. Finally, I opened the oven to peek inside, only to be reminded abruptly that my Nana stores all her extra pots and pans that don’t fit in her cabinet inside her oven when she’s not using it.
In utter shame I began removing piping hot cooking ware and shoving it anyplace I could find where it wouldn’t melt something. Very quickly after I removed everything out of the oven, it reached optimal baking temperature, and I shoved my cake pan in with a great breath of relief. Twenty-seven minutes later, I popped out a completely acceptable white cake out of the oven, and I began cutting it up and putting it into little bowls so I would be able to top it with my mousse, which had been put into the refrigerator where it had surely been firming up and taking on proper mousse-like qualities.
With a burning desire to just be done with the whole endeavor, I pulled my mousse out of the fridge– and discovered that not only had it not firmed up, but the ingredients all seemed to be trying to disassociate from each other, much like I now decided I wanted to do with baking in general.
I had no choice but to plunge ahead and serve it up.
The taste at least was acceptable, though by no means a recipe to pass down the family. I’m trying it again now and it just seems kind of…off. But at least it didn’t taste like berry flavored eggs, as my first dessert attempt had.
And that, my friends, is how I quit my brief, inglorious stint as Chef Rowe.
PS I know this one was a really long post, but thanks for sticking with me and I hope you enjoyed it! I certainly would prefer that SOMEONE got some enjoyment out of those two days.
And just in case you are interested, here are the links to the two recipes I so defiled. If you attempt them, I wish you much better luck than I had!
Dessert 1: Clafoutis
Dessert 2: Blackberry Cheesecake Mousse