Turns out, Inlander staffers are writers — and not cooks — for a reason

Staff writer Daniel Walters' chicken thighs spiced with ras el hanout. - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
Daniel Walters photo
Staff writer Daniel Walters' chicken thighs spiced with ras el hanout.

Flour Power

I'm something of a lazy cook. Any corners I can cut, any pre-packaged products I can use, I'm into it. And when it comes to pasta, I'm one of those "just buy a jar of whatever sauce is on sale" kinda guys. But one night when I was going to make fettuccine alfredo, I decided I'd make my own alfredo. I was going full Barefoot Contessa on this one. I simmered the cream and mixed in the grated parmesan, but the sauce wasn't thick enough, so naturally I googled "how do I thicken sauce?" Flour is the answer, says the internet. Easy enough. All of our dry goods are in glass canisters on the counter, so I grabbed the flour, mixed it with cold water like I read, and slowly incorporated it into the sauce. It didn't really work, so I added even more flour, then poured that beautiful, homemade sauce all over the pasta. What I hadn't accounted for is that flour and powdered sugar, which was also in one of those uniform glass canisters, look almost exactly the same. My alfredo ended up sickeningly sweet; adding salt only made it all-the-more unpalatable. It all ended up in the garbage. Now all of our canisters are clearly labeled, and I'm back to buying the premade sauce. (NATHAN WEINBENDER)

I Roll Slow

My issues in the kitchen revolve around being too careful. Whether chopping, slicing, dicing, sautéing or even shopping, everything takes longer than it should. When a recipe says "30 minutes of prep, 20 minutes of cooking time," I'm looking at a three-hour process. And on top of that, virtually everything I make happens in a slow cooker because I'm afraid of creating a culinary disaster any faster than I need to. That means I get up early to do my snail-paced version of shopping, chopping, slicing, dicing and sautéing, and then throw all the stuff in a pot for like 10 hours before I eat it. Fortunately, most things turn out at least edible, if a little soft and bland. Unfortunately, I'll never be the person who gets home from work and whips up a delicious meal for my family in 20 minutes. (DAN NAILEN)

Roux Blues

May 9, 2017: While making gumbo, I stirred the roux for over half an hour and it was changing color to a milk chocolate brown with the aroma becoming nutty. So, I wanted a taste to make sure I wasn't on the verge of burning it and, without thinking, put a wooden spoon of molten-lava hot roux onto my lips. Don't do that. It took about a month for a large blister on my lower lip to completely heal. (YOUNG KWAK)

Cookie Crisis

Since I could stand on a chair to reach the counter, I've baked Christmas sugar cookies each year from a cherished family recipe. Before my grandmother passed away in 2006, my siblings and I made them at her house — a full day of mixing, rolling, baking and frosting. After she died, I vowed to carry on the family tradition. Going off a recipe I nearly know by heart, you'd think I'd have most of it down, right? I do now, but in one of those first years baking without Gramma's careful guidance, I had a major blunder. In my mind, somehow, baking soda and baking powder were interchangeable. (They're not.) I didn't realize the mistake until too late, after mixing up a massive batch of dough and baking several sheets of cookies. When I finally sampled the outcome of my efforts, I was surprised to discover the cookies were unusually salty... Did I accidentally overmeasure the salt? Forget a cup or two of sugar? Nope. I just used baking soda instead of baking powder. I recall starting over, but also trying to salvage the soda-laden cookies I'd already baked with extra frosting, hoping they'd be edible. To no one's surprise, I've not made this mistake again, having learned a hard lesson about reading recipes more carefully. (CHEY SCOTT)

Cocky Candy Making

While in a high school cooking class my freshman year, I gained plenty of confidence in the kitchen. Dicing onions? No sweat. Fancy tarts? Ugh, that was like, last week's assignment. Obviously now a professional, I took an interest in making increasingly complex sweets at home. The king of all sweet skills to master? Candy making. How about Tootsie Rolls? They (literally) can't be too hard, right? I carefully measured and poured the sugars and syrups into a pot, stirring and increasing the heat. Once the sticky mess reached what I estimated was the right temperature (who needs a candy thermometer, really) I put it in a glass bowl and let it cool just enough to where I could pick it up and start stretching my homemade taffy. Thing is, I couldn't pick it up. I could barely pull my hands out of the bowl, chocolate sticking to every surface of my skin. Yuck. Better put on some rubber gloves. That'll make it easier, right? Wrong. After just a few seconds, the rapidly cooling molten sugar clung to the gloves so strongly I had to yank my hands out of them before I could become the next hilarious story for my friend's mom, an ER nurse. What was left was a bowl of hardened chocolate glass, which my brother and I dutifully chipped away at over the next week — we weren't about to let a little latex flavor now and then convince us to waste all that sweet, sweet sugar. (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)

Breakfast All Day

My kitchen expertise ranges from cereal to eggs. One time, I poured too much milk on my Honey Nut Cheerios. But it was cool because when the Cheerios were all gone, I just drank the extra milk. This other time, I tried to make a three-egg omelette. About halfway through, I realized that I'd accidentally purchased scrambled eggs, instead of the omelette-making kind. (MITCH RYALS)