Catching The Torch

Trials by Fire in Hostessing, Motherhood, Life


“Quel désastre!”

Quel desastre!!

Have you ever had a disaster in the kitchen?  I’ve had several.  Today let’s tell a few stories of disasters large and small, and your creative remedies.  I’ll start:


Brown Sludge:

When the Hubs and I were newly married, I decided to get all domestic and learn to use the crockpot.  I made some dinner with great success by meticulously  following a recipe.  I decided that I had acquired Universal Knowledge regarding the crockpot, and invented another recipe the following week.  Into the pot went frozen chicken, raw rice, pineapple, tapioca (??), garlic, sugar, and a variety of other spices and sauces I thought would combine nicely.  I cooked it on High for about 11 hours, and it smelled delicious.  I proudly opened the lid to plate my creation, and found…Brown Sludge.  The texture was sticky, bumpy, and congealed. The appearance was brown, slimy, and diaper-like.  No one on Earth could’ve identified the chicken vs the rice vs the tapioca blobs.  The taste was a decent combination of garlic, pineapple and BBQ sauce.

I figured we’d eat it.

Brown Sludge

I served it up to my poor husband who was recovering from the flu.  He manfully took a few bites and asked if we had any cereal…


Pepper Grinder Explosion:

One day, whilst trying to prepare dinner with the help of my hungry and bored 1-year-old, I handed him a couple of spice bottles, including the black pepper grinder.  He immediately began to use them as drumsticks on the wooden floor, and I went about my cooking.  About a week later, we had guests for dinner and I was trying out a new recipe (always a good idea…) that I hadn’t actual read (an even better idea…)  It was a grilling recipe, and I was to prepare the marinade, rice, and grilled items, and the Hubs was to do the actual grilling.  Because he’s awesome (and knows me well enough to panic internally when I tell him I’m trying a new recipe that I haven’t really read), he took some spices and oils out to the grill with him.  About 10 minutes into the grilling, I was summoned outside.  It seemed that while seasoning the vegetables, the black pepper grinder top flew off and broke into pieces of plastic all over the food.  It also spilled the full measure of the bottle over the vegetables: about 6 TBS of black pepper.  A bit too much for most palates…  Because I’m me, I did not have extra vegetables in the house, so we couldn’t simply chuck them out and start again.  After a quick conference, I headed inside and grabbed the splatter shield and the strainer.  We flipped the pan of veggies onto the splatter shield, then scraped them into the strainer.  After the majority of the black peppers were contained, and the overly-seasoned veggies were fed to the birds, we quietly scooped the salvageable ones back into the grill pan, and away we went.



Here are a few Quick Fixes for Cooking Disasters:

  1. Too spicy: Add a dairy or a sweetener: milk, sour cream, cream cheese plain greek yogurt, jam…
  2. Too salty: Add acid (like lemon juice – not the stuff that will kill people…)
  3. Meat is overcooked: Chop it up and throw it on salad or grains with sauce/dressing
  4. Pan fire: Fire extinguisher, but baking soda will work in a flash!
  5. It is an unsalvageable disaster: Salute it, throw it in the trash, pour a glass of wine and order pizza!

What are your stories?  Quick fixes?  Please share!

And of course, no post would be complete without a new recipe.  Here’s that grill recipe I was talking about, minus the 6 TBS of black pepper…

Grill-tastic Dinner for a Crowd










Lovely Tarragon Pasta

Lovely Tarragon Pasta

Here’s a delicious fresh pasta dish to celebrate the first day of spring!  Tarragon is an interesting herb that gives an otherwise heavy dish a pop of freshness.  Try something new and clean out your veggie drawer at the same time!

Total Time: 30 minutes


  • Bunch of fresh tarragon, chopped (or 2 TBS dried)
  • Olive Oil
  • Leftover veggies (I like mushrooms, zucchini, and onions)
  • Minced Garlic
  • 1 lb bacon
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (or sour cream or cream cheese)
  • Your favorite pasta
  • Finely chopped roasted pecans or pine nuts (optional)
  • Shredded parmesan cheese for garnish


Boil water for pasta.  Heat pan and cook bacon on low heat until crispy.  Cook in batches.   Dump grease as necessary.  While bacon is cooking, chop vegetables, and make salad and bread if you like.  When bacon is cooked, drain on paper towel-lined plate.  Pour all but a bit of remaining grease from pan.  Toss in minced garlic and cook for no more than 1 minute.  Do not let it turn brown.  Add a bit of olive oil and the vegetables.  Cook until soft.  Add chicken stock and tarragon, bring to a boil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add heavy cream and cook on low, stirring until well-mixed and at a nice consistency.  Add crumbled bacon.  Stir in pasta.  Serve and enjoy!

Want more Clean-Out-the-Fridge dinners?  Try Lemon-Garlic Pasta with Leftover Chicken or Ooh La La Frittata!


Ooh La La Frittata

Ooh La La Frittata

Truly, there is no kitchen creativity I love more than transforming miscellaneous ingredients into a fabulous meal.  This has resulted in brilliance and disaster.  Ask the Hubs about the infamous Brown Sludge… Luckily, the following recipes lean more toward the delicious side of the spectrum.

This one may not please some who don’t enjoy having “breakfast” for dinner, but it has protein, veggies, cheese, and you’ll serve it with salad and bread, so I say it counts.

This one will get rid of your spare half-cut veggies.  Peppers, mushrooms, peas, and/or onions will all shine in this dish.  Celery, carrots, lettuce, maybe not.  Tomatoes will get mushy, but maybe you like that sort of thing.  The original recipe calls for bacon and perhaps you have some left over.  However, you can chop up any extra lunch meat and substitute that as well.   Technically, this is a breakfast or brunch item, but as I stated in Some Like it Hot: Breakfast Solutions, I never would have time to make it in the morning.


  • 1 1/2 TBS butter
  • 8 slices bacon, ham, or other lunch meat (chopped)
  • 1 cup chopped veggies
  • A few basil leaves, torn
  • 8 large eggs, beaten
  • 5 oz goat cheese (thickly sliced)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Grated Parmesan (or other hard cheese)
  • Large handful of arugula leaves (or leafy salad)
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing


Preheat your oven to Broil.  Melt butter in a large (preferably non-stick) skillet.  Cook the meat until brown and crisp.  Toss in the veggies and cook for another minute or two, then add the basil.

Beat the eggs and pour them into the skillet.  Gently shake skillet over medium heat.  Frittata will begin to set at the bottom.  Top with goat cheese.  Arrange your slices nicely.  Season generously with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle grated parmesan over frittata and place pan under the hot broiler for a minute or two until the eggs are set on top.  PUT AN OVEN MITT ON YOUR HAND.  Remove pa and oh-so-carefully slide frittata onto a large plate.  Lightly dress arugula leaves with vinaigrette, then pile on top of the frittata.  Cut into wedges and serve with crust bread.

For more ideas, see Leftovers: Scraping Together the Scraps of Your Party


Lemon-Garlic Pasta with Leftover Chicken

Leftovers Lemon Garlic

Truly, there is no kitchen creativity I love more than transforming miscellaneous ingredients into a fabulous meal.  This has resulted in brilliance and disaster.  Ask the Hubs about the infamous Brown Sludge… Luckily, the following recipes lean more toward the delicious side of the spectrum.

This recipe will use any leftover chicken from Chicken SlopOrange Chicken, or Thai Chicken Salad. Of course, you can cook chicken, but that adds time and effort, and who wants that?  It also uses any lemons you bought for drinks, or hard cheeses you bought for your cheese board appetizer or Ploughman’s Lunch.  The obsequious green bottle of parmesan you probably have in your fridge works perfectly.

Prep time: 5 minutes   Cook time: 15 minutes   Total Time: 20 minutes.  Serves 4


  • Box of spaghetti noodles
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 T lemon juice (or juice from 2 lemons)
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Left over chicken breast, shredded (or shredded rotisserie chicken)


Cook pasta.  Combine oil, lemon juice, and garlic in a bowl; mix well.  Season with salt and pepper.  Heat in microwave 2 minutes.  Warm up chicken in microwave.  Combine pasta, flavored oil, and chicken.  Stir in parmesan cheese.  Serve with leftover salad.  Tip, this goes very well with a good green salad with blueberries, roasted pecans, and poppyseed dressing.

For more ideas, see Leftovers: Scraping Together the Scraps of Your Party


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Lady Katy’s Bread Pudding

Lady Katy's Bread Pudding

4-6 servings

Prep time: 15 minutes.  Rest time: 1 1/2 hours  Cook time: 1 hour  Total time: ~3 hours


  • 1 loaf of English Muffin bread, cubed in thick cubes (4 cups) (You can substitute any bread; baguette, cinnamon raisin bread are also delicious.
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 TBS maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350*  In an 8-inch square pan, toast cubed bread in the middle of the oven until bread is crisp but not golden, about 5-7 minutes.  Mix melted butter in with bread, tossing to coat bread completely.  In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, cream, eggs, maple syrup, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla.  Pour over bread, stirring to coat.  Cover and chill pudding at least 1 1/2 hours.  Bake pudding in middle of oven until it just sets but still trembles slightly, about 50-55 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Adapted from “The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook” by Emily Ansara Baines


Orange Chicken

Orange Chicken

If this recipe were a piece of clothing, it would be your favorite pair of jeans.  It goes with anything, meets any occasion, you can dress it up or down, and it makes you feel wonderful.  And it’s easy.  I make this almost every week, and it’s my go-to if I’m delivering a meal to a neighbor or new parents.  I’ve also dolled it up to serve for big family dinners.  I haven’t met anyone, including my picky toddlers, who won’t eat Orange Chicken.

This is also Mimi’s recipe, and she was quite proud of it.  What would the Queen say?  I believe she would say it is delicious.


6 chicken breasts

2 cups of rice

1 stick of butter

2 T flour

2 T sugar

1/2 tsp ground mustard

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

2-3 cups of orange juice

Salt and Pepper

An orange, sliced.


Boil your rice according to package directions.  Melt butter in a large frying pan.  Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.  Brown chicken on both sides (cook in batches to avoid over-crowding).  Remove to plate.  Stir in spices and flour and cook over low heat until it forms a smooth paste.  Gradually stir in orange juice, stirring constantly.  Bring to a full boil.  Place chicken back in pan (you can squish them together now) and drape some sauce to cover chicken.  Turn heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.  Remove one breast, check doneness.

Arrange for table:

Weeknight dinner:

  • Individual platings: Rice, chicken breast on top, drizzle sauce over both
  • Sauce in a gravy boat

Fancy dinner:

  • Rice in covered serving dish with a pat of butter in middle
  • Chicken arranged nicely on plate, drizzle sauce over
  • Slice orange, then, make a cut in middle of orange through one part of rind.  Twist orange slices into S shape and arrange on chicken
  • Sauce in gravy boat because people with LOVE it.

As a Meal-On-Wheels:

  • Buy a square disposable foil pan with lid
  • Pour in rice and stir in all but a little sauce until fully mixed
  • Arrange chicken on top, drizzle sauce
  • Place 3 flat orange slices in middle

Mimi always served this with steamed broccoli, but a salad is easy and crowd-pleasing.  This recipe also freezes well.

For more Dinners en Famille, see this


Chicken Slop

Chicken Slop

Chicken Casserole, or as it will forever be known in my family, Chicken Slop, is one of the best meals for a crowd I have made.  Everyone loves it, it’s just different enough, and it is filling.  Embodying the spirit of my late grandmother Mimi, it is interesting, a little eccentric, and exceedingly warming to the soul.  Viewer Warning:  This recipe contains 2 ingredients my generation of cooks despises as much as they love quinoa and kale: Butter and Cream of Chicken Soup.  Is this recipe low-fat?  Absolutely not.  Is it an economically delicious treat for a crowd.  A thousand times yes.

(Katy, why did you link The Blue Danube Waltz to this?  Because this)

Chicken Slop


8 boneless chicken breasts

2 cups of rice\

4 T butter plus 1 stick of butter

1 can Cream of Chicken soup

10 oz fat-free sour cream,

1 small can of diced green chiles

1 can of water chestnuts

1/2 cup sliced almonds

3 sliced hard-boiled eggs

1 can French-fried onions

Salt, pepper, and thyme


Preheat oven to 375*  Bake chicken for 30 minutes in a 13×9 pan with a little water.  Cover tightly with foil.  Cool.

Cook rice with 3 cups of water (or chicken broth) and 4 T butter

In a big casserole dish, mix can of soup, sour cream, green chiles, almonds, water chestnuts, and eggs.  Cut up cooled chicken.  Add chicken and cooked rice to casserole, mix well.  Add salt, pepper, and thyme.  Melt a stick of butter and pour it over the top of slop, then add entire can of french-fried onion rings.

Bake 50 minutes at 350*

Serve with a big salad and crusty bread.

For more Dinners en Famille, see this