Since becoming interested in cooking back in my late teens, I’ve experienced a good number of situations where a little voice in my head says “you probably shouldn’t do this…” but I do it anyway. I’m not talking about the “you probably shouldn’t eat that entire jar of peanut butter” voice, or the “you probably shouldn’t eat the whole box of cereal voice”, although let’s be honest, we’ve probably all heard them at some point or another – and ignored them too. What I’m referring to this time is that voice that tends to pop up when dealing with either very hot or very sharp things. Let me illustrate with a few examples.
Tale #1: When I got a new mandoline a few years ago, I was very excited about my new kitchen gadget – so much so that after a few practice strokes, I felt invincible in the presence of its sharp blade. Beets, carrots sweet potatoes – you name it, I was slicing like a pro on the Food Network. I decided that even slices could be created more quickly if I didn’t use the plastic protective handle that you’re supposed to stab into the vegetables and push down over the blade. I tossed it to the side and continued along slicing. The instructions warned against it, but most people don’t even read those anyway, right?
All was well until I encountered one particularly tough carrot. It got caught in the bade so I quickly pulled it out and forcefully pushed it down again. Said carrot was only about 2 inches tall and sadly, my finger and knuckle became just as familiar with the blade as the other veggies I’d sliced that morning. There was red everywhere, and it wasn’t beet juice.
Tale #2: I was in a rush to make a smoothie one morning after finishing up with teaching a spin class. I needed to get to work early, so I planned to whip one up quickly, pour it into travel cup and take it with me in the car. The Vitamix had just been spinning its mighty blades to puree the ingredients in my smoothie and I was ready to add the ice. Already running late, I switched off the blender, I took off the lid and stuck a spoon in to scrape up some protein powder that had become stuck on the side of the jug before tossing in the ice. Evidently I should have waited a little longer because the blades were still spinning. The result was a very bent out of shape spoon and smoothie ALL OVER the kitchen wall, my face, and my hair.
Tale #3: In order to get through my seemingly bottomless dry chickpea stash, I decided to make hummus. I poured the chickpeas into a pot, added roughly double the amount of water, put them on the stove with a lid to cook, then went about doing some cleaning around the house. I heard the timer going off but I was in the middle of cleaning the bath so I just let it beep… for what I soon realized was a few minutes too long. The chickpeas were very thirsty, the pot boiled dry, and it was a case of “soak for a few hours, scrub, rinse, repeat” for the next 2 days.
Tale #4: My mum might not like me sharing this story because it makes her sound like she was trying to kill me, but I know that wasn’t her intention…. well, at least I don’t think so. 😉 This is the most epic and most potentially dangerous tale of them all. I’d been baking one afternoon in my family’s kitchen when we lived in Bahrain, and it was getting close to dinner time. We’d made a group decision to have chicken, so after marinating it for a few hours, I put the chicken in a baking dish and set it into the already-hot oven. This was a gas oven, and since it was only a few minutes between taking my last batch of baking out and putting dinner in, I didn’t see much point in switching it off.
About 40 minutes passed and we were all getting hungry. All afternoon, our dogs had been at my feet in the kitchen as usual, ready to catch any bits of food that I dropped. I should have taken note when I walked into the kitchen to check on the chicken, because they both just stated at the opposite end of the room in their beds. Opening the oven, I noticed our dinner didn’t look cooked at all. My mum came in to take a look and at this point, noticed that the flame had gone out. Neither of us like matches, so she told me to “use the barbecue lighter and carefully re-light the oven”. Assuming she had my best interests in mind, I did what I was told.
Just seconds later, there was a HUGE bang, and possibly some flames as well – I couldn’t see because my eyes were shut, my arm was hot, I’d dropped the lighter in shock and instinctively jumped away. When I finally opened my eyes, all of the hair on my right arm, most of my right eyebrow and some of my eyelashes had been singed off, and there was that chicken sitting in the oven, raw as ever just like nothing had happened. It was quite the drama, but I think my mum and I both learned that you don’t just “carefully re-light a gas oven” when the gas has been on all afternoon.
Tale #5. This incident happened on Sunday and is far less entertaining than any of the above kitchen sagas, but still, a lesson was learned. It was another “you probably shouldn’t do this” moment, and the thought was “you should probably use a bigger pot.” I was in weekly meal prep mode and chili was on the menu. I’d just scribbled down a recipe brainstormed while at the gym a few hours earlier for Smoky Chipotle 3 Bean Chili, and all the ingredients were sitting out on the counter ready to be used (and photographed, obviously).
With all photos taken, I started chopping and tossing things into a soup pot. A big batch was my goal and this thing was completely rammed with veggies and beans, but I didn’t quite intend for it to be 15-cups-sort-of-big. I poured the last couple of ingredients into the pot, gave it a stir, put the lid on and went away to do some laundry. “You probably shouldn’t do that” is what I was thinking, but there were things to be done and I wasn’t in the mood for creating more dishes to wash.
Just a few minutes later, I heard sizzling. I ran to the kitchen to find saucy bubbles dribbling down the sides of the pot that quickly fell onto the stove, creating a nice crusty mess (and a big scrubbing job afterwards.) Grabbing smaller saucepan from the sink and a ladle, I transplanted a few cups of chili from the overflowing pot to the smaller one – in record time, I might add.
My lesson learned from this tale, and the one I’d like to tell you so you don’t have to experience the same mess as me, is USE A BIG POT. Seriously, make it huge. All spills aside, this recipe is AHH-mazing and you won’t want any to go to waste. The serving size is generous (about 2 cups per serving), you’ll be hitting your daily veggie quota like a champ, and instead of saying “you probably shouldn’t….”, that little voice in your head will be saying “wow, that was freaking delicious!”
Smoky Chipotle 3-Bean Chili
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 26 mins
Ingredients (about 13 cups)
- 2 large cloves garlic
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 3 cups chopped celery
- 2 cups diced carrots
- 2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped into bite-size pieces
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1x 28fl oz can diced tomatoes
- 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 2 cups yellow sweet corn, rinsed and drained if canned
- 1 cup chopped mushrooms
- 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (or 2 for a hotter spice level), minced, plus 3 tbsp adobo sauce
- 3 cups cooked mixed beans of choice, such as kidney, black beans, and white navy beans
- green onions and cilantro or parsley, to garnish
Chop all the vegetables. Spray a very large pot (yes, use the biggest one you have) with a bit of olive oil and begin sautéing the garlic, onion, celery, and carrots on medium-high heat. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the bell pepper pieces and spices along with ¼ cup of broth. Stir for 2 minutes to coat.
Pour in the tomatoes, remaining broth, corn, mushrooms, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce and beans. Stir again to thoroughly mix the ingredients.
Cover the pot with a lid and reduce heat to medium low. Let the chili simmer for 20 minutes, then serve or divide into single-serve containers and freeze once cooled.
So tell me…
- What’s your best kitchen disaster story?
- What’s in your lunch this week?