Food Experiments Gone Awry: My Very Own Kitchen Nightmares

kitchen-nightmares-Chef-RamsayOver the years, I’ve developed confidence in my ability to cook just about anything except bread. I regularly search for different recipes online, but also don’t hesitate to come up with my own creations.

My first kitchen experiment occurred when I was about 10 years old, and was trying to earn some kind of Girl Scout cooking badge. One of the requirements was that you had to make your own recipe. I decided to make pepper meatballs. I have no idea where I came up with this one, but my mother — trusting soul that she was — left me to it.

I proceeded to make a bunch of meatballs from a pound of ground beef. The pepper part? Well, in the middle of each meatball I poured about 3-5 Tablespoons of black pepper. Then, for good measure, I sprinkled the outside of each meatball with more black pepper. I then cooked them in some oil (probably way too much), and proudly served them over some heated up SpaghettiO’s. Yikes! After one taste, my mother made something else for everyone to eat, and suggested that I stick with recipes for awhile.

I suspect that watching the unique combinations that the chefs on Chopped make from the mystery baskets may have given me a bit too much confidence lately. Last week, I heard someone mention a stir fry made with mangoes and chicken that sounded really good. Problem was, I couldn’t remember where I’d heard about it. So, instead of doing the smart thing and actually searching for recipes, I decided to experiment. It seemed to me I had all of the ingredients that would make a tasty dish.

I first sauteed some onions, then added in some chicken breast sliced into small pieces. After it was all cooked, I added some frozen mango cubes (and these are normally rather flavorful), and when they were warm, dumped in a sauce mixture I thought would be quite tasty — peach salsa, some soy sauce, and a bit of red pepper sauce. I then mixed in some cooked whole wheat pasta, and expected a true taste treat….not so much.

It was bland, horribly, horribly bland. Now mind you, I had a huge wok filled with this mixture, so hated to let it go to waste. I dumped in a bit more soy sauce, a bit more red pepper sauce, and out of desperation, a bit of salt. It helped, but it still wasn’t fantastic.

But, I’m a big believer in leftovers, so saved the remainder for the next night. On the second night, I decided to add some toasted almonds to the dish. Again, an improvement, but definitely not something I’d replicate. On the third night, I added in some edamame, which truly did improve things, but still not enough to make me ever want to cook it again. Finally, on the fourth night (yes, I made a lot), I just couldn’t face it again, and dumped the remainder out.

Since then, I’ve made much simpler, more tried and true recipes. I think it’ll take awhile before I do another experiment quite like that, but I may actually start looking for mango and chicken stir fry recipes on the web, once I get the taste of this one out of my mind.

Do you ever experiment in the kitchen? If so, what have been some of your biggest successes? Your biggest disasters?


15 thoughts on “Food Experiments Gone Awry: My Very Own Kitchen Nightmares

  1. dick

    It wasn’t an experiment on my part as much as it had to have been an experiment on the original recipe maker’s. I lilke almost any confection made with yeast, so decided one day to make what was titled “mocha yeast cake,” from a pamphlet of recipes from Fleischman’s yeast. Once mixed, baked, removed from the pan, I set it–had a wonderful aroma–in the center of the kitchen table. First, the cake split in half; then the halves broke into several pieces; the pieces broke into multiples. The cake literally crawled everywhere until the top of the table was completely covered in pieces that got smaller and smaller. It was alive.

  2. Victoria S

    I love to cook, and I prefer to make up my own recipes also. One day, while watching Rachel Ray, she made this dish called Swiss Chard. Well, I was looking for a new vegetable dish, and while chard was something I never heard of, it was a nice looking, leafy green vegetable, and I love leafy greens. So I went to her website, downloaded the recipe, and with ingredient list in hand went shopping. I prepared the dish for dinner that night , and we were all kind of excited, looking forward to a new dish (my reputation as a darn good cook ensured that the kids will at least try). After the first forkful, we all looked at each other in dismay…Swiss Chard has absolutely NO TASTE!! For a beautiful leafy green, it was like eating green air…nothing! Unlike you, however, I had no intention of leaving that stuff in my house, and down the garbage disposer it went.

    My biggest hit has been a recipe I use for Lasagna. It’s from an old McAlls Cookbook revised in 1973, before the words cholesterol, fat grams or portion control were mainstays in our vocabulary. For that very reason, however I only do it about twice a year. I have made it for family and friends for years and everyone loves it.

  3. LinnieGayl

    VictoriaS, I’ll be that lasagna is really tasty!

    I do make swiss chard from time to time, but saute it with lots of garlic and some red pepper flakes. Otherwise, you’re right, pretty tasteless.

  4. Missie

    Swiss chard is tasteless? Who knew! This is all quite informative. :-)

    And I’m now feeling haunted by creeping mocha yeast cake and all you can taste is pepper meatballs! :-)

    I enjoy experimenting, as well, but of course, the results can be mixed.

    One of my most failed experiments involved an attempt to use some giant zucchini we had been gifted with. We walked out of the house one day, and there, on the tailgate of the pickup, was a couple of GIANT zucchini. (Living in a rural area, we sometimes get gifted with fresh, homegrown produce.) I decided to be creative with this much zucchini on hand and made up a recipe to make zucchini lasagna, using the zucchini in place of the noodles. Total and complete disaster — the zucchini was tough and chewy; we ended up just eating the meat and cheese sauce with bread and salad. Undeterred, a few years later, I tried it again when zucchini was on special at the store, but even applying some lessons learned from my previous experiment, it just wasn’t all I’d hoped. *shrug*

    My best successes are my lasagnas — I have several variations and all seem to go over well, and by using lean meats and reduced-fat cheeses, it’s something we feel we can enjoy — and also a yeast bread recipe I concocted one day that I refer to as my “unFrench French bread.” ;-)

  5. LinnieGayl

    Missie, interesting about the zucchini failures. I’ll have to admit I’m a traditionalist with lasagna, and have only ever tried it with noodles. I have experimented with substituting veggies instead of spaghetti to serve with marinara. Instead of the spaghetti squash that so many people try (and I’m a complete failure at), I julienne carrots, zucchini, and yellow squash, either saute or steam them, and then top them with the marinara sauce. I really like it, and find it quite satisfying.

  6. Missie

    I’ve done up a veggie lasagna — but with noodles — that’s pretty tasty, too. It has lots of slicing and dicing and sauteeing of fresh veg, so it’s more time consuming than a regular lasagna, so I don’t make it as often as I do other versions.

    Carrot, zucchini, and yellow squash would definitely be tasty with marinara sauce, too.

  7. LeeB.

    Well I don’t experiment at all with recipes but I thank everyone for sharing their stories. Wiping tears from my eyes because the stories made me laugh.

  8. Jean AAR

    Tinned tuna plus mayo, then cook it in a saucepan with soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Eat with pickles on toast.

    Don’t ask me what I was thinking, because I sincerely have no idea.

  9. LinnieGayl

    Jean….hmmm…that’s definitely different. Although I will admit to adding Worcestershire sauce to many, many things.

  10. AARPat

    I found a recipe while I was pregnant with our first child that was supposed to be a Middle East favorite. Since I grew up in Nebraska, a Middle East favorite sounded very exotic, so I decided to make it. It was mashed bananas and pork chops–made together like a casserole. Talk about ugly!

    We’re still married–38 years later.

  11. dick

    When we first married, my wife decided to impress me by making an aspic of some kind with chicken as the base. It was a vile green color, stiff as an icicle; each slice looked most like fake chuck-up.
    Needless to say, I ate it–once.

    Took me a while to figure out what was wrong with the cake recipe. I actually contacted Fleischman’s and asked if there was a typo in the recipe. I eventually figured out it had too many eggs. Much, much later, Fleischman’s issued a new pamphlet with a corrected recipe; they had reduced the liquid used in starting the yeast and added a 1/2 cup of flour.
    Wasn’t nearly as tasty, though. The crumbs made great cottage pudding.

  12. xina

    I used to experiment all the time and came up with some pretty horrible food. I finally learned to follow a recipe and now that I can make food that everyone can eat (!) I’ve learned about spices the cooking temps and cooking time that really make a difference in cooking. I can’t use a lot of salt, so I have to rely on other spices. I’ve got 3 shelves(big shelves) of spice and always have fresh parsley, cilantro and a rosemary bush in my window. I enjoy cooking, having a glass of wine and making something that earns some oohs and ahs. Better than the other reactions I used to get! :)

  13. Casandra Slatkin

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