Text that says Culinary Disasters Fall 2020 Edition next to pumpkins and candy corn.

Culinary Disasters {Fall 2020}


This fall did not disappoint when it came to culinary disasters. I had more successes than disasters, but that’s not the point of this post! As far as the disasters were concerned, I was able to rescue several dicey situations, but not all of them.

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Kung Pao, General Tso, General Pao?

I’ve made several successful Chinese takeout-inspired dishes this year. The first was a chicken and cashews, which I still need to make a couple more times before it’s ready to post here. I also made a Spicy Orange Chicken, which is a twist on the Panda Express favorite.

My boyfriend wanted Kung Pao chicken. I don’t know why, but I sometimes get Kung Pao and General Tso’s chicken confused. Generally General Tso’s chicken is fried/crispy. It doesn’t have peanuts, and I don’t think it has veggies. Kung Pao is seared and has peanuts and veggies. Anyway, I was a little distracted and printed a recipe for Slow Cooker General Tso’s Chicken from Creme De La Crumb. I printed it out, pasted it in my trusty recipe notebook, and made some modifications to the method so it was similar to my spicy orange chicken and cashew chicken recipes. When the recipe finished cooking I thought, “Wait, that’s weird, this is supposed to have peanuts.” Then I realized I’d made the wrong recipe. Thankfully the recipes are somewhat similar, so I was able to tweak it just enough to convert it to be close enough to Kung Pao. I just added some sauteed bell pepper and peanuts. It was very good!

The Dog Ate My Cookies

Large dog sitting in a kitchen.

One of my dogs is a a little bit special. She’s very smart and knows lots of commands, but she is also high energy and lacks impulse control. She’s a counter surfer, too. I made these Candy Bar Cookies and had them all set up and ready to be photographed. I turned my back for all of 10 seconds. When I turned around the cookies were gone. She doesn’t typically counter surf when I’m right next to her! Thankfully I had enough cookies to set up a new photo. I monitored her to make sure she wasn’t getting sick from ingesting chocolate, and she was totally fine.

Stack of cookies behind cookies broken in half. Cookies have chocolate candy pieces inside.

The Instant Pot

I have so many friends who love their Instant Pot. I got one on a Black Friday deal. What finally pushed me over the edge to get one? This Easy Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes recipe from Wheat by the Wayside. I got the Instant Pot and did the “water test” that’s allegedly supposed to help you familiarize yourself with the Instant Pot. The first recipe I tried to make was rice. Keep in mind I can make perfect rice on the stovetop. Instant Pot rice was a flop three times. The first time it wasn’t cooked all the way. The second time it was burned on the bottom. I even followed the recipe that came with the darn thing!

I tried using it in slow cooker mode to make chili. I used my trusty Slow Cooker Beef Chili recipe. It was bland and mushy. The beef broke down too much. The tomatoes and beans were unrecognizable. It was so bad my boyfriend said, “I’m never eating that again!” (not even on hot dogs).

Finally, some successes! I’m finally getting used to the Instant Pot, but I still don’t love it. I used it on sautee mode to make popcorn, which was probably my first Instant Pot success. Next, I made a Ham and Lentil Soup (recipe from Meatloaf and Melodrama), which turned out great. I made Potato Soup (recipe by Crunchy Creamy Sweet) last night, and it was also a success. I don’t think I’m ready to start developing my own Instant Pot recipes yet, but maybe later in 2021.

Recipe Development Gone Awry

Being a food blogger involves a lot of trial and error. Most food bloggers test, retest, and retest recipes before we post them. I had a a few attempts that didn’t turn out great, but some of them can be saved (further refined) and posted eventually.

Cast iron skillet breakfast casserole: This seemed like such a great idea. The hash browns weren’t cooked nearly enough. It had way too much of a quiche texture (I make a killer Breakfast Quiche, but that’s not what I was going for here). It was also very bland. I’m not sure the cast iron skillet is the best cooking method for this recipe. Maybe a casserole dish would be better? I’m going to go back to the drawing board on this one.

Slow cooker honey bourbon chicken: I don’t know what exactly I was going for with this recipe. Persnickety Plates has a Crock Pot Honey Bourbon Chicken recipe and points out that bourbon chicken gets its name from Bourbon Street in New Orleans, so the recipe doesn’t actually contain bourbon. I should’ve just made that recipe. Mine had somewhat of an identity crisis. It wasn’t sure if it wanted to be Asian-inspired, Southern BBQ, or some other random group of flavors (and it was nothing close to something like Korean BBQ). I was on a Zoom happy hour while I was making this, and when I asked for advice on how to improve the recipe, they were all (understandably) perplexed why I would’ve combined the ingredients I did. I ate it, but it wasn’t stellar.

Muffin tin egg bites: This seemed like a great idea for a make-ahead breakfast. It was another recipe based on my Breakfast Quiche. I’ve done quiches in smaller form (Crabby Mini Breakfast Quiches). They took forever to cook and I didn’t remove them from the oven soon enough. I think the condensation made them deflated and weird. I’m going to try this one again, but will remove them from the tin sooner after they come out of the oven.

Culinary Disasters {Fall 2020}

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