Kitchen Disasters

August 16th, 2010 at 11:11 am
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I was thrilled when I discovered that Lauren of Celiac Teen was hosting a round-up of “kitchen disaster” posts today. With all the tasty recipes and culinary successes floating around out there in the blogosphere, it’s easy to forget about the messes that sometimes occur more often than the successes.

The burnt muffins, the rock hard cookies, the slimy salad greens. We’ve all had our share of kitchen failures. Today I’m opening up and sharing a handful of mine with you. Just so you know that I’m not a perfect cook. Every recipe is not a success. Every photo is not a good one. I’ve had some doozies.

Here’s a glimpse at a few of them.

Braised Leeks Gone Wrong

The goal: tender spring leeks slow cooked to sweet and meltingly soft perfection.

The result: slimy, wilty leek strips helplessly doctored up with a bad combination of herbs

It was earlier this spring and I was on a leek kick. My attempts to caramelize them, roast them, and even puree them with potatoes were all spot on. I figured that braising them would be a piece of cake.

I was disastrously wrong in that assumption, let me tell you. I took a bundle of leeks, thin and tender, and cut them into rings, taking care to wash and dry them meticulously. I sautéed them gently in olive oil—too much, mistake number one—and added water to sort of steam them into tenderness toward the end of cooking—which would be mistake number two.

After seasoning them with salt and pepper, I sampled a leek hoping for a sweet, soft explosion of spring in my mouth. What I got was an awful burst of snotty, slimy, utterly horrible onion flavor in my mouth. I didn’t know what went wrong, and I still don’t actually.

I tried to disguise the horrid leeks with a smattering of herbs—both fresh and dried—from my pantry and fridge. A little of this and a little of that, then another taste. Worse! Never combine dried oregano, dried rosemary, fresh tarragon, and fresh mint in one dish. It was beyond bad.

Lesson learned: as simple as a technique may be—whether it’s blanching beans or braising leeks—don’t just assume you’ll be an instant pro because you’ve done it with other ingredients before. Oh, and really give some thought to how you combine your herbs. When carelessly thrown together, a pinch of this and a sprinkle of that can send your recipe into the trash before you can say “slimy leeks.”

The Countless Failures of Gluten-Free Flatbread

The goal: gluten-free, whole-grain flatbread that holds up well when frozen or reheated

The result: bendable cardboard

I’ve tried time and again to recreate a tasty gluten-free flatbread to serve with soups and hummus. Time and again I’ve failed.

Using millet flour exclusively was a complete disaster. Buckwheat flour along with a couple of eggs in the mix was a little better, but still unpalatable. The closest thing to perfection was a blend of arrowroot starch, buckwheat flour, and millet flour—yet I wasn’t impressed with the texture, even though the flavor was okay.

Whole grain, gluten-free flatbread is still my “pie in the sky” of recipes. I’ll still hammer away with new flour combinations and different methods of baking or pan frying. But as of today, I’m nowhere near a tried and true recipe yet.

Lesson learned: never stop trying.

Chocolate Crusted Berry Tarts: A Combination of Flaws

The goal: bite-sized tartlets perfect for summer picnics

The result: bland, weirdly textured treats I would only serve to forgiving immediate family members

Don’t let looks deceive you. These tartlets look better than they tasted. The crust—a blend of almond and millet flours along with unsweetened cocoa powder and honey—was pretty bland. It needed a kick of extra sweetness or spice, one of the two.

The frosting, a whipped coconut cream spiked with lemon zest, sounds divine, right? Not so. It was not quite the right texture and reminded me more of painter’s putty than cream cheese or whipped cream. With a few tweaks, I think there’s still some hope for the frosting but I’ve yet to revisit it at this point.

I guess the only thing that was worth eating on these tarts—for me, anyways—were the berries. The lackluster crust and odd coconut cream texture did not climb high on my list of must-make summer recipes.

Lesson learned: gluten-free, dairy-free desserts are tricky little buggers. Simply swapping one flour for another or using coconut milk in place of heavy cream doesn’t always work. When it does, victory is sweet. But don’t get disgruntled when it doesn’t. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and eat whatever’s salvageable.

Watery Lentil-Almond Burgers

The goal: to make my tried and true recipe for Lentil-Almond Burgers for my sister and brother-in-law

The result: throwing them in the trash

On a visit several years ago to Utah to visit my sister and brother-in-law, I was sure to pack my recipe for Lentil-Almond Burgers, a savory blend of green lentils, vegetables, almonds, and spices formed into patties and cooked on the stovetop. They were one of my favorite vegetarian suppers to make at the time and I was eager to prepare them for my family.

I followed the recipe exactly. I even measured, which I rarely do unless I’m testing a recipe for this blog. The patties turned out gloppingly wet and completely unshapeable. I felt awful. Where had my trusty recipe gone wrong?

To this day I don’t know what happened. I ended up mushing the burger mixture, wet as it was, into a loaf pan and baking the thing like a lentil loaf. It still ended up in the trash.

Lesson learned: sometimes even your favorite recipes turn out all wrong. The weather, a careless mistake, a faulty oven—all are culprits of disaster. Don’t get discouraged when things don’t work out. Give it another go and hope for the best.

P.S. I’ve since made the burgers again several times (although not for my sister), and had smashing success every time.


  1. Hallie, this was fantastic! I loved reading all about the ones that didn’t quite work. I’ve had flatbread that is that cardboard too, as well as old standbys that suddenly don’t work. Thank you so much for joining in!

  2. HA, love your descriptions :)

  3. Very cute Hallie! It’s always nice to read about other people having baking challenges, especially because I’ve been so challenged myself in the kitchen lately!

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I'm Hallie Klecker, a professional recipe developer, author, and passionate gluten-free foodie. As a certified holistic nutrition educator, my goal is to inspire others to live a balanced, nourished life through eating well and living pure—one bite at a time. Learn more.