Category Archives: Food Fail

Adventures in Food Preservation

A couple weekends ago, I started my first solid attempt at food preservation. I’ve frozen foods before and dried herbs, but this year marks the very first time I’ve canned anything and otherwise preserved foods in earnest.

Part of my new effort had to do with the secondhand gift of a deep-chest freezer. Part of it had to do with the proliferation of food-preservation blog posts and stories and canning supplies that greeted me at nearly every grocery store I went to. It just seemed like the “in” thing to do this season. It’s probably more a matter of me actually noticing it this year than any surge in popularity. It’s not like I’m seeing friends’ cupboards with the kind of collection in the World War II-era canning photo I attached to this post. If  you thought that was mine, you think WAAAY too much of me. It’s from the Library of Congress.

But I did do and plan on doing more of my fair first-timer’s share of canning. Coming up on the Food Life will be a review of a canning guide I received, some peachy canning and, if I can eek out a little time this weekend, some apple and/or pear works.

But first, I thought I’d share a few of the lessons and rules I learned from my so-far one weekend adventure in canning:

Rule No. 1: Make sure you have EVERYTHING handy, all your tools, all your ingredients. Everything. Which leads me to:

Rule No. 2: A wooden spoon and tongs are not a good substitute for a jar grabber tool. Which leads me to:

Rule No. 3: If you’re going to wear long sleeves while cooking, don’t wear polyester. If you slosh scalding water on your arm, it’s going to keep the heat in. My bare skin fared better. And just in case you didn’t know: treat a scald burn by running it under cool water and cover with a clean cloth. If you blister, seek medical attention (which I didn’t need, just thought I’d throw that PSA in there).

Some other yeah-I-should know-that lessons I was reminded of:

  • Fruit is sticky.
  • Fruit flies are fond of sticky fruit (say that 5 times fast!).
  • If your jam looks more like syrup than jam when you think it’s done cooking, it’s not going to get that much thicker when you seal it in a can.
  • If the recipe tells you to wait a week before eating your canned goods, take its advice.
  • Read the whole recipe before you go shopping. Every word.
  • Don’t try to do multiple recipes you’ve never tried before all at once to save time. Really think about your workflow first and leave time for emergency corrections.

The Food Life Lives

This is just a quick note to all the great folks who read this blog that, yep, I’m still here. I got sidetracked by some family matters and work that resulted in a load of trips to fast food joints and the TV dinner aisle of my local grocers, which didn’t really seem all that interesting at the time.

I guess we can list this under “Food Fail”.

But I’m back, and I hope that you’ll continue to read what I’ve got coming soon. Also, feel free to read along with me in the food world. I’ve added a list of the food articles, blog posts and recipes I’ve been finding to the right-hand side of my blog.

Spinach and Sausage Quiche: Food FAIL

I was all set to write a blog post about taking inspiration from friends and bringing it all together in one wonderful dish. I had gotten fresh eggs, fresh sausage given to me via one of my grandmother’s friends, instructions for making butter and, though I already ate the original gift, I was reminded how much I like baby spinach.

Well, there won’t be any food version of a hand-holding Kumbaya session just yet.

This weekend, I had another case of Food FAIL.

You’ll notice, there’s no picture on this post. I didn’t take one. It wasn’t pretty.

I’d determined to make the perfect blend of all those things, a quiche. I’ve had some success with with the basics from Julia Childs’ Mastering The Art of French Cooking with slight variations.

But I decided to try a new crust recipe (not Julia’s). And therein lies the fail.

But not just any crust fail. This was a combination of bad execution PLUS momentary stupidity.

It all felt just fine as I rolled out the dough and later pressed it up the sides of the pan. It didn’t seem to dry and while a little fragile when lifting, went mostly according to plan.

About halfway through the partial bake of the crust, I lifted out the foil filled with dry beans used to hold down the crust, and that’s when I saw it: a giant crack running nearly entirely down the center.

Maybe it’s because I’d tired myself out diligently doing housework all day. (Well, part of the day, but it was right before I started cooking.) Maybe it was the beer I drank before I started. Maybe I just felt hungry and pressed for time.

But some half-powered light bulb lit up over my head as I spied the crack and I thought: Oh yeah, I can just squeeze that little  crack together, patch it up with a little water and extra strip of dough. No big deal.


Big, big deal.

I poured in my quiche mix, popped it in the oven and next thing you know, I had a giant puddle of eggy goo in the oven and a quiche that was more like a pie-crust pizza with some egg.

Like I said, it wasn’t pretty.

But, being hungry and loathe to waste that much food, we ate what was left in the pan anyway. The crust was actually pretty flaky and the insides were rich and savory.

So, I’m going to add in the filling recipe, but you should find your own crust:

Spinach Sausage Quiche

Adapted from Mastering The Art of French Cooking

1 partially baked pie crust
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs minced shallots
4 cooked sausage links, sliced thin
2 1/2 cups young spinach
3 eggs
2 Tbs butter melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups milk (I used skim, because that’s what I had, but cream would make it richer)
salt and pepper to taste
dash nutmeg
1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 375-degrees.

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan. Sauté the shallots until fragrant and beginning to get translucent. Add sausage until hot, then add the spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted.

Whisk together eggs and milk. Add 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix with remaining ingredients and pour into partially baked crust. Sprinkle cheese on top.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Food Failure No. 324: Why Do They Always Happen?

FAIL: Poached Pear Tart
FAIL: Poached Pear Tart

No, I’m not really keeping count, but sometimes I feel like some ghost consortium of departed award-winning chefs is checking off the three-hundreth failure mark along a list of my cooking (and food photo) attempts.

I could feel it when I once went chasing after my cat and left a pot of water boiling on the stove so long that the non-stick layer smoked and peeled right off. Felt it when I had to step away from a dish-in-progress to look up the word “julienne” while onions and garlic burned away in a skillet on the stove.

And I felt it again last weekend, when I thought for sure I could pull off a poached pear tart, almost straight out of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.

A few months before, I’d had my first little test with a poached pear after eating a delicious dessert at Seattle’s Le Pichet: a delicate little pear poached in white wine with a dollop of an airy cream sauce. We had gone to the restaurant as part of a book club excursion after reading “My Life in France,” a posthumously published autobiography about Julia Child’s introduction to the country, cuisine and cooking.

After a little trial and error, I got down a passable piece of poached fruit. There is not a whole lot to poached fruit except sugar, water, spices and maybe wine or liqueur. Which is how I got all confident about the poached pear tart.

The rest of the tart requires a sugar crust and a custard bed for the red-wine-poached pears and a currant jelly glaze. The original recipe calls for an almond custard, but since I was bringing the dessert to a friend who is allergic to almonds, I went for a more standard custard recipe offered on the previous page.

Well, it seems that everything I touched for that recipe started out wrong:

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