Tag Archive: kitchen


With the Holidays approaching, I bring you first hand advice on how to handle dinner catastrophes with grace and poise, from personal experience.

1. HELP! MY KITCHEN IS ON FIRE!

A classic situation. You only turned your back on the stove for five minutes , and all of the sudden, there are flames and smoke where dinner were supposed to be. The hardest and most important thing is to take a quick second to think. This is no time to react without thinking, trust me. My sophmore year, when my pot roast caught on fire (long story short, I was trying to brown it), my roommate impulsively grabbed the pot and shoved it in the sink, and when she turned on the cold water…yeah, you guessed it. Flames shot up to the ceiling (and left burn marks to prove it!). Thankfully, no one was hurt.

Moral of the story: DO NOT POUR WATER OVER AN OIL FIRE. Instead, cover the pan with its lid, or a baking sheet. If the fire is large, I would go straight for the fire extinguisher. If you can’t put it out yourself, it’s okay. Call the fire fighters. If the fire is electrical, cover with salt or baking soda. NOT LIQUIDS! It’s good to keep a spare pack of salt and baking soda in an easy-to-access spot in the kitchen, just in case. Consider it a very cheap kitchen accident insurance.

2. HELP! DINNER IS RUINED, AND I’D RATHER EAT MY TIE THAN ORDER PIZZA!

Either you just realized you don’t have enough chicken to go around, or the green beans for the nicoise are moldy, or your pot roast turned into boeuf flambe (see above). I’m not a big fan of the scouts, but I do agree with the motto: be prepared!

That’s why I always have a backup plan. At all times, you can find in my kitchen:

  • one or two boxes of pasta – served hot with chopped garlic, olive oil and parsley as a side dish. Or squash, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil, and call it “pasta primavera.”
  • some kind of rice – it takes a while to cook, but a little rice goes a long way. Goes with most any meat, fish, veggie and sauce.
  • homemade broth – not enough meat to go around? Toss it in a big pot of hot broth, cook briefly and call it soup. Add pasta!
  • canned tomato – last minute pasta sauce, or salsa, or bruschetta topping, these life savers will never go bad!

Of course, it never hurts to think of a back up plan the day before dinner, and maybe spring for a few extra ingredients, just in case.

3. HELP! I DID SOMETHING EMBARRASSING IN FRONT OF MY GUESTS!

Oh boy. We’ve all done that one. Unfortunate gas passing, spilling drinks, dropping dishes, you name it. One that sticks in my head is the first “real” dinner I hosted in my college apartment. Fancy japanese crackers and reisling were provided before the food was ready, and everyone was enjoying the evening so far. I was elated that everything was going so well. When I pulled the chicken out of the oven, everyone oohed and aahed. I was gleaming with pride, until I presented the bird neatly on the table, lifted the knife, and…nothing. I’d never carved a bird before, and had no clue how to do so.

I stood frozen, staring at the bird, knife in hand, perhaps wishing it’d just carve itself. Thankfully, after a couple awkwardly quiet minutes, a guest stood up and said: “Here: I’ll do it.” We all joked that he got to be the “father” for the evening. My boyfriend looked up chicken carving videos on youtube, and we all had a good laugh over the whole thing.

For the record: when you have done something embarrassing, excuse yourself. Then, if your guests found your blunder funny, laugh along. You may not see the humor in it right away, but if anything, you might have broken the ice! If your guests are as mortified as you, show them that you’re in control. Mop up the drink, quickly throw the ruined food in the trash, sweep up the broken plate before they can help you. Smile, joke that no one was severely harmed, wink, and carry on like it wasn’t a big deal. The bigger fuss you make over an accident, the more awkward.

There you have it! I hope this has been helpful. If you have any questions about kitchen disasters, I’m your girl! Just leave a comment or send me an e-mail at violainthekitchen@gmail.com.  Happy Holiday planning!

With love,

– Viola –

My boyfriend has a problem: He’s addicted to eating out.

It’s not that he can’t cook – he’s great in the kitchen! Like most males, he carries the barbecue gene. He knows his way around a pan, and even made up some delicious recipes of his own.

So why does he insist on going out every chance’s he’s got? Laziness may play a small part in it, but I think that mostly, in some way, he enjoys justifying that he can get a good burger and two sides for “only $4.95.” He likes the fact that in NYC, pizza comes for $1 a slice, and that you can get your fill of nitrate (hot-dogs)  at any street corner from a cart. I’m not saying that eating out is always unhealthy, but he certainly doesn’t go to a restaurant for the salad, if you catch my drift.

This has caused some strain in our relationship, as I hate eating out. Why pay $16 (including tip) for a dinner that could have cost me $5 to make at home, turned out healthier, tasted better, served on my own china with my own silverware, and included a glass of wine?

So, we agreed to compromise. Burgers, chili, pizza and pork rolls are still a part of the diet, but now they’re homemade. We haven’t stopped drinking altogether, but we keep the liquor cabinet stocked, instead of barhopping (for which we are too old, anyway). But I can’t eat this “man food” every day, so I had to come up with something else to keep my honey out of the fast food joints.

Yesterday, I did something new: instead of asking the usual “what’s for dinner?” I wrote out the “Menu du Soir” on the dry-erase board. I grew up in one of those tiny European countries near France, so I speak fluent french. Using the fanciest, fruitiest terms I could think of, I wrote out the menu I had in mind:

*Asperges au four, avec un fin filet d’huile et parsemées de gros sel*

*Blancs de poulet à la panure poivrée*

*Compote de pommes chaude au miel*

Even if you don’t know how to say half of the words, doesn’t it sounds so much more appetizing (and a bit snottier) in french? The menu translation is as follows: roasted asparagus, with a thin trickle of oil and coarse-grained salt; chicken breasts with peppered breadcrumbs; hot applesauce with honey.

It did the trick, and helped feign the illusion of a ritzy frog-leg-serving, mustachioed-waiter-harboring establishment, rather than our boring old kitchen. It took a lot of energy to be the chef/sous-chef/waitress/busgirl all at once, so I’ll still let my beloved carnivore fix sloppy joes and franks three or four nights a week, but it’s nice to treat him to his “restaurant outing” without paying the salty (hehe) bill.

For the avid cookers out there, here are the recipes of the night. For applesauce recipe, refer to previous post.

For the chicken, you’ll need:

  • chicken breasts (1 breast per person)
  • All purpose white flour (enough to cover the breasts)
  • slightly beaten eggs (1 egg is enough for about 4 breasts)
  • enough bread crumbs to cover the breasts (I bought mine plain, and mixed in some salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and dried rosemary)
  • olive oil

Pre-heat your oven at 350˚F. Rinse and pat the breasts dry, and roll them in the flour.

Then, roll them in the egg.

And then, in the bread crumbs.

Generously coat the bottom of a large frying pan with olive oil. Heat the pan on high, and add the chicken (if you’re fairly new at frying, I would only do one breast at the time).

When the breasts are browned, transfer to a baking sheet covered with a sheet of aluminum foil, and bake 10-15 minutes, or until the breasts are done. COOKING TIP OF THE DAY #1: To check if chicken is fully cooked, make a small incision. If the juices run clear, the chicken is done. Also, the inside should be white, not pink. DO NOT EAT UNDERCOOKED CHICKEN! Serve warm!

For the asparagus, you’ll need:

  • a bunch of asparagus
  • coarse-grained salt (regular salt is okay)
  • olive oil
  • pepper

Preheat the oven (or your toaster oven, if you have one!) to 420˚F. Get rid of the ends (opposite of the yummy-looking tips). COOKING TIP OF THE DAY #2: The easiest way to get rid of the “bad ends” is to snap them off with your bare hands. Just put your fingers at the base of the spear, and snap wherever it’s the easiest – that’s where the tough, stringy part stops and the yummy, tender part starts!


Arrange the spears on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil, and drizzle some olive oil on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 10 minutes. Bon appétit!

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