Epic Culinary Failures

Oh, where do I start? I started cooking at age seven. I learned to peel carrots and place them in ice water in the frig to curl. My grandfather called them “suicide carrots.” Everything I made was prefaced by that word, but people liked my cooking.

I had an episode recently. For years we’ve had Friday Pizza night. I now use only Italian OO flour for my dough, seldom use tomato sauce and for a regular night it’s just sauteed mushrooms and perhaps bell pepper and lots of quality fresh Italian mozzarella with a sprinkling of pepper and Parmigiano Reggiano at the end. If we have a cooking class or kids the right age to dress their own pizzas I prep at least 17 toppings. Yes, including anchovies.

Cutting the recipe in half to make one pizza was easy. It’s 1.5 cups flour. I always need to add more water wherever I live to make the food processor dough come together. This time It was so wet I was adding flour like crazy. It came together, rose twice and rolled out wet but was a nice tender dough.

What was my mistake? I reached for the dry measuring cups and got 1/3 cup instead of 1/2 cup so the flour/water ratio was messed up. Human error, not the right eyeglasses to see the tiny measurement on the handle!

My husband’s family drove five hours to see us for Christmas one year. I made a lovely pork loin roast with roasted, cornbread-stuffed apples and hard cider gravy. I wanted something that didn’t have pork or apples in it so decided on a root vegetable puree with potatoes and rutabaga. Last night I saw the first episode of America’s Test Kitchen with Julia Child’s classic recipe of Beef with Burgundy sauce. Andy did a test of ricers. Mine wasn’t even tested.

I’m sure you know what a ricer is. Hand-held device, put cooked potatoes in it, place the plunger down and voila! It’s like a huge garlic press, and yields the fluffiest mashed potatoes you’ve ever eaten, with seasoning, milk and butter.

Rutabagas were another story. Finally my mother-in-law took over. I could not get them through the ricer as they were so fibrous. I’ve never done carrots through a ricer but I think I probably could do that. I haven’t used it since and my husband bought me an old-fashioned food mill with three blades from a hardware store.

I think Nanny heard of my rutabaga disaster (the meal went well) and got me an old-fashioned sqare pounding potato masher similar to the one from Revere Ware my mother had for decades. It’s fine for the two of us, but if I’m cooking for a crowd either the ricer or the food mill are summoned to duty.

Dee’s chicken chili was a disaster of epic proportions. First off, I found this great recipe but didn’t really know anything about chiles. This is after cooking school, hey, they taught French back then and not Spanish or Mexican or Thai. I was at the farmer’s market and bought a plant, Thai bird chile. It was pretty. I decided to use 1/3 the amount of chili in the recipe and it was so hot it was inedible. The next day I threw in corn and everything but the kitchen sink. No way.

Now I look forward to Hatch chili season and use different peppers, blister them on the stove, steam then peel and seed. I make a great Texas Chili with beef (thank you, Lady Bird Johnson for your 1962 recipe).

Let’s just say this. Old dogs can learn new tricks. Always keep learning. A word, a skill, a tip, fashion, a new dog bowl, whatever. Keep learning. This post is dedicated to Iris Apfel. Sorry to make it one of my culinary disasters! Dee

ps I saw “Iris” at a film festival recently. If you like fashion and big personalities that is Iris. Last night I saw that the film has come out on Netflix. Next week we’ll have a girls’ night in, with food and beverages, and watch it at home. d

Crazy Shopping/Epic Culinary Errors

This morning I drove down a one-way street to a particular grocery store, parked in an alleyway behind it (not much is free parking-wise here) and the alley was blocked by two trucks, each way.

Thank goodness, because the produce section was bursting with freshness and deals. I’ve just rinsed a pint of strawberries that I’m planning to take downstairs to share with the staff who keep me alive every day. Once they dry I plan to add a bit of Meyer lemon zest, juice, and a sprinkling of raw organic sugar. From Dee.

I was supposed to get berries and cereal for my husband, who returns tomorrow from a business trip, two weeks. I got the berries, two pints for $3 so am keeping one. No cereal. I found Lyle’s Golden Syrup, nobody carries that these days. It was my mother’s favorite, on toast. I use it in marinades and will do so today, chicken wings.

Then I found mincemeat. No, it’s not meat, it used to have suet in it. Mom made mincemeat tarts every year for Christmas. I now make them and they are a staple on Nanny’s 50-dessert table every Thanksgiving. Actually my mother-in-law makes the pastry and I fill the tarts and cut out little Texas stars and hearts for the tops. I have “hot hands” that are good for unmolding cold things, but if I even look at chocolate or butter, it melts. Don’t even talk to me about copiers.

So I started grabbing a few things not on my list. Check out mincemeat on the blog. My brother, in NYC, went everywhere to try to get mincemeat, and was even told to get a taxi to New Jersey! He looked it up online and what was the first thing that popped up? Cooking With Dee. He never knew I had a blog or wrote about mincemeat. I called Amazon and got two jars sent directly to Dad so my brother wouldn’t have to carry them on the plane.

As I could not leave because the alleyway was still blocked, I dropped off groceries in the car and headed across the street looking for two bottles of brown ale. I did find them, called Old Brown Dog from New Hampshire and showed the proprietor my card that sports a photo of my old brown dog! What a morning.

* * *

As to the ale, I’m making Beef Carbonnade for my husband’s return. Usually Friday night is Pizza Night but that’s too much last-minute work and he’s only home for the weekend. Beef in the style of the charcoal maker: beef; onions; bacon; and beer. I brown everything starting with bacon, onions, then beef, all separate (beef is tossed in seasoned flour beforehand). Then add the beer and simmer on the stove or in the oven for about three hours, stirring every once in a while. I serve it over pappardelle noodles that just need a few moments to cook. It’s one of his favorite dishes and the weather is feeling like fall.

I think I’ll write epic failures on another post. You must be snoring away already! Dee


This is the time of year for horror flicks, costumes et al. I buy a bit of candy each year but in 20 years no-one has visited. No-one can get in here unless I arrange for everyone with kids to come see us, and I am not into the Halloween spirit.

What is creepy is internet stalking that began yesterday by a local vendor who has my address, phone and other information. There are no good treats to go with that trick. For this individual we’ve a couple of special treats, personal security and video footage, everywhere.

Kids, be careful. Have a chaperone nearby and have your parents go through every treat before you eat one. I’m old enough that certain really nice ladies took the time and effort to make caramel apples and we knew the ladies but my parents still threw the apples away because they heard that nasty people were placing pins in them, long before biological weapons.

One day, long ago, my girlfriend arranged for me to stay with her that night so we could be downtown and go to apartment buildings and get a great haul. I still couldn’t eat any of my candy until I was picked up early the next morning and my parents went through the stash. I swear to this day that my mother swiped anything with chocolate and nuts! No caramel apples, though. Happy whatever, Dee


In two ways. It’s night and Zoe and I were asleep and she started to get sick to her stomach. I got her to the bathroom where she got sick on the tile floor. I picked it up and cleaned the area. She’s now lying on another bed of hers, by my desk and seems OK but lost her entire dinner. I’ll watch her tonight and tomorrow and talk with my husband when I decide whether to go to the vet. I gotcha off the carpet, Zoe!

The next is more sinister. I’ve had three real bullies in my life, and two who just wouldn’t let me do the job I was paid to do. Age 8, the F brothers took my winter hat and passed it around, then ripped it in half. When I got off the school bus, sobbing, I was sent to the principal’s office where I had to identify the perpetrators. I knew I’d be dead the next day. Our neighbors, combined, had ten kids which was over half the school bus. They let the brothers know in no uncertain terms that I was never to be molested again. Thank goodness for the children of dairymen! Not a blow was thrown, it was words and good people.

The second is this third-rate chief of staff for a committee chairperson in the legislature. He made my life a living hell, through words and deeds. He’s still on my list. Recently I found out my former boss, who became head of the entire brigade, has been out for this guy’s hide for decades! Thanks, K!

Third is someone who should have retired years before I ever met him. He didn’t want me at my client location so would trick me, calling me at home late at night, into fake meetings and say to the chairman of the board that I called the meeting when I showed up at 8 a.m. He must be dead now. Nothing I could do about that at the time but get a grant so I wouldn’t have to deal with him and a requirement that either the President or Chair would be with me if I had to do so. It was their requirement, not mine.

Now there’s another Gotcha! A son of a long-term businessman nearby kicked me out of his automotive shop. I’ve been a good customer there for years. He then bragged to fellow mechanics about how he kicked me out and he had already doubled his father’s estimate for an oil change and checking fluids and brake lights. Word is he wants to make it a bar for motorcycle enthusiasts.

This one I dealt with all on my own. I found a new mechanic who did the work for 1/3 of the “get lost” price. I talked to everyone in the neighborhood who has used their services. I gave them a scathing local review about lack of proper customer service, nothing wrong with car service in the past. Now he has found me and wants to be my friend on a business social media site. He lost a customer, I lost a mechanic and found a better one for our two cars. Now he is trying to find me through business-related social media. I’m ignoring him.

Oh, I also alerted zoning people about using pricey real estate zoned for an auto shop for a bar. That may have him riled up a bit as well. His rant toward a long-time customer was the first I’ve ever encountered. I lost a mechanic but he may lose his business by how he is overcharging, yelling at, threatening and kicking out female customers. Plus having an after-hours biker bar.

Find your words, ladies. You’ll need them, even if you’re as old as …. Dee


I would like to thank Harold for being a good friend to my father-in-law for many years. I’m just a gal but he has been a wonderful gift to our family.

He is such a thoughtful and meticulous man, whose home is being claimed by government to flood for a reservoir. He knows every tree, every inch of the land and will lose all of that as Dallas needs water.

Was I afraid? Yes. But he took us out to get two wild hogs. They caught them, we transported them and I wrote down the weights as they ran them through a scale. Then he went inside and was paid.

Those hogs were taken to Forth Worth TX then to France where wild boar is a delicacacy. Chingiale. Italian for wild boar equals delicious. I love that we’re sending France something and not the reverse but wish Texan chefs would feature wild boar. They eat crops. They know how to steal and eat well.

We have not had a close relationship but he did do something spectacular. At age 12, our nephew’s birthday, Harold surprised him with a deer hunting license and a trip. My brother-in-law had a license already and all three went out early the next morning.

There is a documentary that gives Harold’s and my father-in-law’s views on the flooding and destruction of the river. It has cost our family 500 acres. They’re now renting it for cattle but will have to give it up due to methane, yes cow patties.

Harold, I can feed a baby calf. I’m too old to do much else than cook for y’all and keep stuff up for your dogs. You gave this city gal some chops on the ranch. Thanks for being such a good friend to our family, Dee


A couple of years ago our dear dog Zoe’s precious toy gave up. Ten years of service. So my husband built another. A rubber lacy cage around a latex gorilla with a squeaker. The cage assures she will not attack the gorilla and take out the squeaker in under 30 seconds. That is what she does and why this toy was invented. There are no stuffed animals here. She would eviscerate them in seconds. But she’s the sweetest dog in the world, loves adults, kids and even errant pups.

After ten years, her only toy deteriorated due to age. So has her bowl stand. I’ve had the same bowl set for her for nearly 12 years and the stainless bowls are fine. While I hate to get rid of it, the stand has rusted out underneath and the rubber on the bottom will not go back into place no matter what I do.

Yesterday I washed the mat that goes underneath her bowls. That may need replacing as well. She’ll be 12 in January and after all these years needs a new bowl set. It’ll keep her spine straighter as it will be lifted by a few inches. She is such a good girl and deserves a $9 bowl set every 12 years!

We try not to spoil Zoe because everyone else does. She’s kind of a mascot around here. Kind of like me not getting into the frat but am still in touch years later with its leaders. Now I’m giving them recipes for their camping trip!

I hate losing Zoe’s toy and bowl stand because I don’t want to lose Zoe. She’ll be 12 soon and while her senior blood panel is good it would break my heart to lose her. I’ll have to make the decision. My husband may be out of town or not choose to participate because he hates this as do I.

Don’t be fooled, he grew up on a dairy that is now a cattle ranch. His dad had to shoot both predators, and cattle beyond saving. So did he. It’s like living in Old Yeller though he hasn’t touched a rifle for years nor do we have any weapons in our home. Oh, I do cook so have knives but take them to veggies. Our young cousin asked to teach me how to shoot last year and I declined. This year, I’ll say it’s OK as long as I have a 22 and we’re shooting at cans, scary.

The first year, we were married, I was in PJ’s getting some tea and his Dad came up in the truck and said “hop in!!” I ran and got a coat and shoes and he took me to see a 14 point buck. All we got to see was the doe. What he told me about his heart and soul, his wife and sons that day is that he is a kind, honest man who doesn’t hunt for sport. If he was poor he would go legally into the woods and kill for food.

Last Thanksgiving he took me on a tour on the four-wheeler to see all the baby calves. One was dead and mama would not leave it. There is a bovine community that sometimes adopts a twin. There are babysitters. It is creepy to be in the bathroom at 5 am and have nine bulls looking at you from 2o feet away but you get used to it. I even fed a twin calf their version of milk. Something like ours…. that they give us daily.

Family is so important. I miss everyone who is lost to us, and cherish all that remain. Slainte to all our human and four-footed friends. Dee



There is a girl who lost a grandfather not too long ago, and a young couple who took their vows yesterday. We wish them every happiness.

My husband was there on our behalf and he said the Bride looked beautiful. Of course she did! The guys were dressed in white shirts and jeans, probably cowboy boots but no hats. Groom added a vest.

My husband said all the gals looked great. Typical. He is a techie and not really good on descriptions of social events and I’m usually there so we can compare notes on the interesting people we met. No, we don’t talk about suits or dresses.

What I like to see is a new generation having faith in a life together, the vows we took 12 years ago. Congratulations!  With all best wishes for bride and groom and families for emotional support over the years. Dee

ps I had to practically run a marathon to gain entry into this family. Cousin’s new husband is sailing in on a wing and a prayer. We have a month to plan his hazing, Probably the worst is … I can’t tell you, it is a quiet mind game. Then we’ll see if he can make it through life with this side of the family.