Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Dangerous in the kitchen: Debra H. Goldstein

 HALLIE EPHRON: She's a judge who's hilariously funny. She writes cozy culinary mysteries but she's dangerous in the kitchen. She's the smart, award-winning author of the Sarah Blair mysteries ("Sarah, like me, is a cook of convenience who might be scorched if she gets too close to a kitchen.")


Today we are happily welcoming Debra H. Goldstein, sharing her love-hate relationship with the kitchen.

And by the way, her newest -- FOUR CUTS TOO MANY -- has just been published and she's giving away a copy to one lucky commenter.



DEBRA H. GOLDSTEIN: Before I was married almost thirty-eight years ago, my friends gave me a kitchen shower during which, because I hated the kitchen and cooking, they challenged me to identify what was in each of the gift boxes. Everyone got a good laugh when I pulled out a beautifully matched set of paper plates and napkins and someone quipped, “Oh look, she got her good china.” They were equally amused when I recognized the plastic box with the funny lid that could be rested on the counter upside down was a recipe box. It wasn’t that I’d known what the top of the box was for, but because there was a recipe card stuck in it reading: “Make Reservations.”

For thirty-six years, I adhered to that modus operandi. I even created a fictional character, Sarah Blair, who finds being in the kitchen more frightening than murder. Her specialty, like mine, is take-out or dishes made with prepared ingredients. Some of our best recipes are for Spinach Pie made with Stouffer’s spinach souffle, Jell-O in a Can, and stewed tomatoes that are simply heated canned peeled tomatoes.



Then, the pandemic hit. Although Sarah has continued making amusing recipes, I was forced to find my way to the kitchen at least three times a day. Pity my poor husband. In the past year, I have cooked us more meals than I prepared during the prior thirty-six years combined. There is no question that Joel eats at his own risk.



Rather than sharing another recipe with you today, I thought I would impart three important things I have learned this year:

1) If when you are trying to automatically clean your oven, you hear a pop and the digital timer on your stove changes from the time to reading F8, you have blown the computer brain. This can take up to two weeks for the replacement part to arrive and be installed.

2) F2 is the message your stove will send you when the oven catches fire. The flames will be bright enough that you won’t have to put the oven light on to see them. It is important that you are careful when putting out the fire. After the fact, when you’ve opened all the doors, turned on the fans, and the fire alarms in your house stop ringing, be aware that there may be soot not only in the stove, but because you turned on the fan to clear the air a bit, soot may migrate to the windowsill on the far side of the room from where the stove is located.

3) If the recipe calls for using a non-stick frying pan and a tsp of olive oil, make sure you use a tsp instead of a tbsp to measure the oil. More importantly, as you heat the oil, don’t add a drop more because you are afraid the pan doesn’t look sufficiently coated to prevent the protein you put in from sticking. Failing to follow the recipe as dictated will result in hot oil spattering on the stove top, counters, floor, and exhaust fan. The resultant mess takes longer to clean than sautéing the protein.



HALLIE: For a chance to win a copy of Four Cuts Too Many, do you have any similar kitchen tips or horror stories to share with Sarah and me? (I could write a treatise on the difference between a pint and a half-pint of cream: it's the difference between cheese pie and cheese soup.)


FOUR CUTS TOO MANY: Sarah Blair gets an education in slicing and dicing when someone in her friend’s culinary school serves up a main corpse in Wheaton, Alabama . . .

Between working as a law firm receptionist, reluctantly pitching in as co-owner of her twin sister’s restaurant, and caretaking for her regal Siamese RahRah and rescue dog Fluffy, Sarah has no time to enjoy life’s finer things. Divorced and sort-of dating, she’s considering going back to school. But as a somewhat competent sleuth, Sarah’s more suited for criminal justice than learning how many ways she can burn a meal.

Although she wouldn’t mind learning some knife skills from her sous chef, Grace Winston. An adjunct instructor who teaches cutlery expertise in cooking college, Grace is considering accepting an executive chef’s position offered by Jane Clark, Sarah’s business rival—and her late ex-husband’s lover. But Grace’s future lands in hot water when the school’s director is found dead with one of her knives in his back. To clear her friend’s name, there’s no time to mince words. Sarah must sharpen her own skills at uncovering an elusive killer . . .

Judge Debra H. Goldstein writes Kensington’s Sarah Blair mystery series (Four Cuts Too Many, Three Treats Too Many, Two Bites Too Many, One Taste Too Many). She also authored Should Have Played Poker and IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Her short stories and novels have been named as Agatha, Anthony, Derringer, and Silver Falchion finalists. Debra serves on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and is president of SEMWA. She previously was on Sisters in Crime’s national board and president of SinC’s Guppy Chapter.

95 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your newest book, Debra . . . Sarah’s latest mystery sounds quite intriguing.

    Ah, the only kitchen disaster tale I have is from the early days of our marriage when I made yogurt onion bread [to use up the half container of yogurt]. It sounded good, and my husband, bless his heart, ate a piece and pronounced it “okay,” but I am here to tell you that it was a horrible recipe and the bread was . . . not good. [The dog even refused to eat it.]
    And, as you noted, the oven’s self-clean cycle always sets off the smoke alarm. [So does regular cooking because the builder installed the smoke alarm is right by the kitchen doorway.]

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    1. Yogurt onion bread sounds delicious - your husband gets points for eating a slice. Confession: I'v'e never used my oven's clean cycle - i'd probably burn down the house if I did now.

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    2. Joan,
      Your husband is a trouper. Mine did something similar when we were dating ... I made a meal for him and his children where I was going to serve jell-o, but I used the water called for on the box plus what was to be substituted as a liquid. The result, as I explained was a chilled soup. The kids passed, but he gallantly ate away. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  2. Debra knows I love these books and the new one is on my TBR pile.

    My kitchen lessons:
    If you make bread only from rye flour, you will bake a brick - it does not rise.

    People with lots of fillings, weak teeth, and pockets in their gums will not enjoy that fabulous Indian dinner you made with lots of whole tiny seeds.

    When you float that orangey-red whole habanero in the chili to add subtle heat, it's better to put it in a tea ball just in case someone doesn't see it and bites into it.

    It's always better to measure NOT over the mixing bowl/pot. This might be the time a whole bunch of salt/cayenne/whatever comes pouring out and into the bowl/pot. It will be TOO LATE to rescue the mix.

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    1. Oh, the loose top on the pepper container - been there, done that. Salt. Sugar. Pepper. You'd think I'd learn

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    2. Hilarious! I might have to steal some of these if there is a book six -- I just turned in book 5, Five Belles Too Many, which I've been told will release in June 2022. I'm sure the brick could come in handy.... now let me think plotwise.....

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    3. Feel free to ask for details, Debra!

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  3. Debra, welcome to JRW. I always suspected that one would need a sense of humor to be a judge, and here you are! Your kitchen cautions are hilarious.

    If you experiment in the kitchen, there will be questionable if not disastrous results from time to time. Newly wed, I took the trout my brother had given us out of the freezer and poached it in milk according to a BH+G cookbook that had been my mother's. Irwin sniffed it and went out and brought home grinders (submarine sandwiches.) He still talks about that one and it's been 40 years!

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    1. That probably wasn't something you did - however poaching fish in milk???

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    2. Blame it on the cookbook. If the pictures aren't clear, I know I would easily end up with the same disaster. BTW, I enjoy grinders... can't tell you how many times we've substituted take out for things I've planned to make for dinner.

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  4. Congratulations on the new release, Debra!

    My advice is to always wear your glasses when reading the recipes. There is a BIG difference between a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon. We'll just leave it at that.

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    1. Good point... and I have reached the time in life when those pesky reading glasses come in handy.... but it also helps to refresh oneself on the abbreviations in advance of cooking.

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  5. Congrats on the new book Debra!

    As for sharing tips or horror stories, it's pretty simple. If you ever get a dinner invitation from me that says I'm cooking a meal, I've been hacked. When it comes to making a cooked meal at home, I cook FOR ME. I wouldn't inflict my cooking on anyone else.

    I'd much rather just get takeout if I'm in desperate need of a hot meal. But I will say, I make a mean cold cuts sandwich if called upon to do so. HA!

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    1. Jay: This confirms what I have long suspected -- that you are Kinsey Milhone's long lost brother. You share the same culinary talents!

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    2. During covid I've come to appreciate how much reasonaby descent "take-out" can be picked up at the supermarket. All hail the roast chicken!

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    3. and on your own plate, Hallie, it looks just like yours.....that's why I always have the caterers use my platters, if possible.

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    4. Jay, bet we could find some good places to meet for dinner ....and you can have the leftovers. I can't ever seem to get those heated up right either. Dry and dead just isn't appetizing.

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    5. Amanda, I actually can cook a few different meals and do them up so they are more than just edible. (I even cooked Thanksgiving dinner at least twice) I simply don't want to anymore. There's just me in the house and I don't need to impress me. And with no social life, it's not like I have to impress a woman with my culinary skills either.

      Hallie, yes. It is so much easier to get chicken from the deli than to go through the seemingly endless rigamarole of making it yourself at home.

      Debra, you definitely wouldn't like my cooking then. I like my stuff well done. Cuts out the chance I'm going to get food poisoning I say. And it might be hard to find a restaurant to have dinner because I'm really picky. I hate to try new places because if the meal stinks, then I'm still hungry. I usually just go to the 99 Restaurant and Pub in either Fairhaven, MA or Wareham, MA. Always consistent, great looking waitresses and bartenders who know exactly how I want my meal prepared.

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  6. Hysterical Debra! Congratulations on the new release.

    Here's some additional don'ts to add to your collection - when preparing a pound of spaghetti, use something bigger than a two cup saucepan. The smaller volume of water does not cook the pasta faster. Also, when those pesky oven fires break out do not emulate my father and toss a glass of scotch on the fire - it won't douse the flames.

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    1. Love the Scotch story, Kait!

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    2. Spaghetti! Is there any way NOT to make too much?

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    3. Thanks for the congrats. The scotch story is wild! Wouldn't vodka be better?

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    4. LOL - Anything would have been better! I remember seeing the flames shoot up from the broiler.

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  7. Welcome to Jungle Reds, Debra and congratulations on your new novel!

    Love that cat on the cover. Reminds me of my Siamese cat from when I was a kid.

    Funny baking story. Not quite a cooking story, though. I tried to bake a 4th of July cake for the holiday my first year of college.

    I forgot to let the two cakes cool off BEFORE putting the frosting, the blueberries and the strawberries. I put the top layer on top and I was frosting the top and the sides. I was decorating the cake to look like the American Flag when it fell apart.

    We decided to call it a ? trifle ? bread pudding ? Still tasted good, though.

    Diana

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    1. I'll bet it was absolutely delicious! And who notices what it looks like after a few beers.

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    2. thanks for the congrats... at least your college error was deliciously edible. I tried making a lasagna and got distracted. I served cash for pizza that night and bought a new pyrez dish for the apartment.

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    3. Hallie, yes, it was delicious. Beer? More likely to have wine cooler? I was going to say tea then I realized that it is contrary to the spirit of the 4th of July. LOL

      Debra, grateful that the college error was edible. Well, lasagna can be a challenge to make. I have had some successes and failures making lasagna. Perhaps it takes practice?

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    4. After I forgot to put in some of the layers and bought pizza for everyone instead, it was decided that maybe our agreeing to take a night each week to cook was a bad idea.

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  8. These are great, Deborah.

    From my son: The pasta makers know their business. So when they say 1lb of spaghetti serves 8 people, don't think, "But that doesn't look like enough" and do 2lbs.

    In fact, fight the urge to put "just one more handful" of pasta in the water for anything.

    Double-check the numbers on those measuring spoons before using. As Annette said, one tsp is a lot different than one tbsp.

    Read the whole recipe - even if you've made it dozens of times. Pumpkin pie does not taste as good without sugar.

    Congrats on the book!

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    1. Pumpkin pie without sugar: bleh!

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    2. Thank you for the congratulations. Love your son's wise observations. Believe me, I learned my utensil measurement lesson ... and not to throw in that little bit extra that my gut tells me would "help" the situation.

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  9. Congratulations on your new book, Debra!

    Don't forget to take the giblet bag out of the chicken before putting it in the oven to roast.

    Also, don't put a plastic bowl that contains live yeast into a warm oven...

    (These mishaps are from when I was about 13, maybe...I thought I was being so clever to roast a chicken and try my hand at baking bread... Oops.)

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    1. And check both ends of the chicken for that giblet bag.

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    2. Amanda and Hallie, also don't invite a cute boy to dinner in an hour and a half and then go upstairs and take a frozen chicken out to cook. There isn't time for the chicken to get warm enough to pry the giblet bag out.

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  10. Congratulations on your book release. Don't enter me as I've already purchased and read the book. Loved it.

    That's why I love things you can put in an oven - 30 minutes, set the timer and voila, food is done.

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    1. I love that idea but somehow, like the premade dinner I made the other night, one ingredient comes out off. The pasta part of the 30 minute prepared dish was either over-cooked or a la dente to a point it wouldn't dent. My husband ate the chicken pieces out from around the pasta... and didn't say a word.

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    2. I made a brief foray into frozen dinners - mixed results. As Debra says not all the parts come out quite right.

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  11. I have too many kitchen failures to point to one. But may I say I adore the cover of your book? Any well designed cover with a cat and cheese will get me to buy the book.

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    1. That is so nice of you... kensington does wonderful covers. They've managed to capture RahRah, the Siamese cat, and whatever food or beverage of choice the book features perfectly. As for kitchen failures, I bet neither you nor Sarah can keep up with mine.

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  12. I was just about to say that, Amanda! Exactly. Although my giblet incident happened when I was in my 50s :-). I knew all too well to take it out, I just… Forgot.

    And spaghetti squash can never be made to taste good. I don’t care what you say, just ignore the tempting idea that a vegetable can taste like pasta.

    Congratulations on the new book! And for all you do…


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    1. I completely agree on spaghetti squash. Feh. I've never gotten onboard with kale, either. Why eat kale when you could eat spinach?

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    2. Spaghetti squash is just a pile of stringy vegetable fibers, like the stuff you strip off your celery, right? What demented chef ever thought that would be a good idea for supper?

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    3. Count me in on Spaghetti squash... especially when mine came out clumped instead of stringy. I'm also with Hallie on the Kale. I'll take spinach anytime.
      Thanks re: the book, Hank.

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  13. My lesson is not to get creative when using a bread machine - stick to the EXACT measurements. I can't remember exactly what I tweaked in the recipe for banana bread, but it was enough to make the "batter" overflow out of the machine before it baked. I started it just before bed, so I didn't see the disaster until the next morning. It took days to clean and to get the mixture out of every part of the bread machine.

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    1. An "I Love Lucy" moment! (The TV show, not Roberta...)

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    2. Celia, I can just imagine your kitchen. Much like mine after the olive oil sprayed all over everything. Every time I finally thought I'd cleaned up, there was more to be discovered. I do congratulate you though.... I wouldn't have the guts to try to use a bread machine let alone make my own banana bread.

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  14. Advice: always have a back-up plan/excuse/whatever. A friend in college came for dinner and brought her 'famous' chili. I happen to love chili. This was inedible. Curry powder? Paprika? Cumin, garlic (lots), rosemary, tarragon, thyme, bay leaves--etc. "Oh, I like to experiment!" she said. Oh, and keep that bottle of Tums handy.

    I'll be looking out for Sarah's latest and catching up on her previous adventures, Debra!

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    1. Now you know what her chili was famous for...

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    2. Thanks, Flora. Hope you enjoy the books more than your friend's chili. From the sound of it, it didn't even qualify for a firehouse rating.

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  15. If you are "following" a new recipe from a book on a breezy day, make sure the page hasn't flipped to a different recipe without your notice. This happened to my younger sister when we were teenagers. She never noticed at all, but whatever the recipe was - some kind of dessert I think - it didn't turn out too bad.

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    1. I love the concept of mixing two recipes (after all, isn't that what I sort of do when I cook anyway...) and seeing what comes out as the final product. Sarah might have to steal what happened to your sister -- if she can find the right cookbook and be in the right place at the right time to catch the breeze.

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  16. Congratulations on the new book, Debra. It sounds like fun. And you sound like me, back in college. When they threw a kitchen shower for one of my friends, I contributed recipes for cold cereal, plain Jell-O, and a peanut butter sandwich. She was grateful.

    But what's up with your husband? Jenn's husband is my idea of a heroic pandemic spouse. He took over all the cooking chores during the shutdown. My late husband taught me to cook when he was no longer able to stand at the stove. You joke about how yours is uncomplaining when you serve up another disaster but I think he'd darn well better be, since you have the knives and the creativity to use them in imaginative ways.

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    1. Gigi, my husband is hopeless in the kitchen. He makes me look good. A few years ago, I had to have major surgery to rebuild my foot after an injury. Because I was not allowed to put weight on it for months, my friends organized a dinner brigade. About five days after I came home, when I still was not too good with using my scooter, friends brought dinner early. They told Joel all he had to do was heat it in the microwave at dinnertime. When I rolled into the kitchen, hungry, cross, and hurting, I ended up bursting out laughing. He was staring at the microwave absolutely in a panic. He's not a coffee drinker nor a cook -- we realized he had never used a microwave (and we'd had various ones for almost thirty years). I've never seen such panic on someone's face.

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    2. Oh, my! You two must be a match made in heaven.

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  17. No real kitchen tips, except be careful if you've never used a gas stove. I moved a year ago to a house that had my first gas stove, and it has been an education. The first time I used it, I put the burner on a setting where something was clicking. I only found out later that clicking is not acceptable while you are cooking--setting is too high! I also learned that heating up soup happens way faster than I expected--proceed at your own risk!

    But I do have a laundry room tip. I also inherited my first front-loader washer and dryer when I moved. Recently my dryer started chewing up clothes. The lint trap wasn't sitting flush, and clothes would get wrapped up in one side of the lint trap that was sticking up more than it should. I thought about ordering a new lint trap, but I thought I should first investigate the reason why this was happening. Turns out that even though I clean out the trap every time I do a load, a lot of lint had gathered in the space below it. I tried cleaning it out with every long utensil I could find, but I only managed to drop a blue scrubbing pad down where I couldn't reach it. I called my son for advice, but he was on a ride at an amusement park. I asked for help on Next Door and got some interesting suggestions. I called my home warranty company, but they couldn't help me because it wasn't a bigger (cycle) problem. Finally, I called an appliance repair referral company and managed to get a technician in the next day. He took off the whole front of the dryer, but he got the job done and retrieved the pad as well. (And he gave me his card so I can contact him directly next time and avoid the referral company's fee.) The moral of the story . . . clean out UNDER the lint trap frequently, before the errant lint can stick like glue to the wall of the machine (maybe use the crevice tool from your vacuum cleaner) and hang on to anything you stick down there--don't drop it or you'll never be able to retrieve it yourself. Failing that, bring in a tech once a year or so and grit your teeth when you have to pay.

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    1. Years ago I bought a set of special attachments that have a long, flexible tube that extends the reach of the typical vacuum hose. They have adapters so they can fit onto any vacuum, and I have more than gotten my money's worth out of them.

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    2. I'll definitely look into those, Karen! Sounds like a very handy solution.

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    3. Margie,
      Now you've got me planning to go clean out the lint filter after I do a virtual program tonight! I know I won't be able to go to bed until I know it is clean. Thank you for stopping by and adding to my worries (I mean chores).

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  18. Debra, thank you for the many laughs this morning! We all go through these cooking mishaps eventually.

    Microwaves are great, but remember to cover the fish, and be sure you use a lower setting than full power. Because exploded fish is a pain to clean up.

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    1. Ditto ditto exploding mac and cheese, harvest apples, and I could go on. At least the circular thing that rotates comes out to be washed.

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  19. Did you know that eggs can explode? I put 4 eggs in a pan of cold water, turned on the stove, and stepped outside "for a minute" to talk with a neighbor. Returning to the kitchen 25 minutes later, I found egg confetti scattered over every surface.

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    1. Joel likes hard boiled eggs, so I read up on how to make them and never could get them quite right...so I broke down and asked my mother. The recipe was easy and most of the time, they come out perfect....except when I ignore them, they crack, and that confetti starts erupting in the pot. Luckily, I've never reached the stage where it has scattered out of the pot. I can't imagine the mess you had.

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  20. I love the expression on your cat's face, looks like it sampled the blue cheese. I'm sure my sister, brother and I had similar expressions when we, as little kids, would sample the blue cheese my Granddad had daily for lunch.

    As for kitchen adventures...be sure you cover the eggs with water when you are going to boil them and don't boil the pan dry. That one is my sister's.

    Don't use a new bread recipe for a family meal. The one I was given had you fermenting the dough overnight, in the refrigerator. It didn't raise and became hockey puck rolls when cooked. My family reminded me of it for twenty years.

    Do not let your neighborhood do nice thing and try to eat a pie that was made with salt instead of sugar, a lot of salt was used in place of a lot of sugar. That one is my niece's error.

    Okay, enough fun, time for work.

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    1. Salt instead of sugar - a contestant on the Great British Baking Show did that. That's why I keep ingredients in the containers they came in instead of look-alike cannisters. Accidents waiting to happen.

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    2. Deana, great tips. RahRah wasn't happy in the cheese, obviously. I've done the boiling the water out of the pan with the eggs, but happily, unlike the comment above, the remains were still in the pot and both went into the garbage together. No bread disaster story. Although I never put salt instead of sugar in a pie (I've only made a few pies and they were super easy ones), I used that in one of my short stories early on.

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  21. Canned apples are not the same as canned apple pie filling. Handy hint if you're making a pie for the first time.
    A frozen turkey takes longer to thaw than the label says. Those turkey people lie. If you fall for their lies have plenty of snack food around for your guests while the turkey is doing its thing.
    Baking a coffee-flavored treat? Ground espresso and instant espresso powder aren't quite the same. One will add a delightful crunchiness to your recipe.

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    1. Love your suggestions. I agree with you about those turkey people lying. When I was single, I used to get adopted by families who felt sorry for me on holidays (Jewish holidays, Thanksgiving, you name it... I could look pitiful for food). Went for one at one of my favorites, ready to pig out and be sent home with a care package. We had appetizers and the cook went in to start putting the main and side dishes out and discovered that she'd made the sides fine in her double oven, but forgot to turn on the one with the turkey. No, we didn't eat pizza, but she was mortified. I was disappointed as she was an excellent cook and without the main dish, we devoured the sides and desserts. I heard the turkey was good the next day.

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  22. Hi Debra! Love your cover and Sarah's adventures sound delightful. Just reading today's post has made me contemplate the horrible state of my oven. I tried a roast chicken recipe last week that called for putting a cast iron skillet in the oven while heating to 500 degrees. Take skillet out of oven, put in the chicken--do you know how scary it is to handle a 500 degree cast iron skillet? And how heavy that skillet is with a chicken in it? And how much your well seasoned skillet will smoke? Cue oven fan, house fans, windows open. After fifteen minutes you turn the oven temp down to 350, cook until chicken is done (no suggested time.) Every place I poked on that darned chicken read done on the instant read thermometer. I let it rest, then when I went to carve it, it was raw in the middle. Arrggh.

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    1. Thank you for the cover compliment. Sarah's adventures actually are fun. Your story about the stove and the cast iron skillet was scary without even being there. It's funny how those pesky thermometers lie (sort of like the turkey people telling us how long the turkey will take to defrost).

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  23. Debra;

    I’m really excited that there’s a new book. I love that series!

    I had a recipe for roasting garlic in the microwave. For a brief moment there were flames. There was lots of smoke. It set off my across-the-hall neighbor’s smoke alarm. That’s when I realized my own alarm needed new batteries. The microwave survived.

    DebRo

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    1. Deb, so glad you love the series. Hope you enjoy the new book, too. Wow, you must have had smoke to set of the neighbor's alarm. Glad you found out you needed new batteries before there was a problem at your place.

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  24. My tip is, if you have a double oven, make sure you turn on the correct one. I put in chicken to bake one time and turned on the wrong oven. We wound up getting pizza.
    sgiden at verizon dot net

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    1. Sandy, if you look at the comments above, you'll see one I tell about being a guest for Thanksgiving where the hostess did just that. We ate the sides, appetizers, and desserts.

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  25. Debra, finally, a cozy mystery for the rest of us! One of the best things about being an empty nester with only an adult daughter living at home is that I don't have to cook dinner unless I feel like it.

    I had more cooking disasters than I can count when I was first married. There was the roast that came out Gray and with the consistency of shredded cardboard. The pork gravy that crystallized like a science experiment. and of course the expensive cut of beef my husband bought for Christmas dinner that I accidentally turned into pot roast.

    Clearly I should avoid meats.

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    1. I empathize with your disasters. That's why I wrote this kind of culinary series. Another story on me - when I moved to Alabama, I had a government job that simply required me to have a bar membership (I had DC, Michigan, and GA and thought those were enough). AFter I married a Birmingham boy and knew I wasn't going anywhere, I decided I should take the Alabama bar, just in case (no reciprocity). During the weeks I was working and studying for the bar (it had been several years since the last one), my stepchildren would come for dinner and I'd nuke something in our wedding present microwave. Bar passed, work quieted down and I decided to make a nice steak meal in the oven. The 6 year old looked at his steak and wouldn't touch it.....(he was used to chicken and vegetables at his mom's) .. "what's the matter?" I asked. "The color," he said. It wasn't grey like when you microwave a steak.. He got over that feeling very quickly and has been a meat lover ever since.

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  26. What a fun post, Debra!

    I actually like cooking, but I do remember scorching my microwave once when I was younger. I overheated the bagged popcorn to a crisp. Even now, I press the "Popcorn" button instead of relying on sound to figure out when the cooking is done.

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    1. Jennifer... it's amazing what we can do even with something like a bag of popcorn and a microwave. I think it's because so many of the kernels don't pop. It can't be our fault.

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  27. Ah,schadenfreude...(I think Harley Jane Kozak taught me that word) I so enjoy reading and empathizing with everyone's kitchen/appliance disasters! We've all had them. A lot of my worst with food occurred as a young newlywed, and almost ALWAYS when I was cooking for my parents and in-laws! Once I tried making my friend's mother's Heavenly Hash aka Watergate Salad as a side-dish to impress my whole immediate family and in-laws, but instead of using just the dry pistachio pudding mix I didn't read through the recipe correctly and made and used pudding (with milk)instead of just the dry ingredients and the whole thing was a sloppy mess. I was so embarrassed, but everyone just laughed it off.

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    1. My mother-in-law wouldn't have laughed it off. She was a lovely woman, but when it came to entertaining and serving food, she was a stickler. Our first Thanksgiving, when I was in charge of the meal, I was in the kitchen, wearing an apron and underwear, an hour before dinner. My table was set. Things were cooking fine. I looked out the window and up the driveway to see my prim and proper mother-in-law and my father-in-law walking down the driveway. I never moved so fast to dash from the kitchen to throw on clothing to open the door for them. She thought she could help. If giving me a heart attack was helping -- just saying.

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  28. When I was first married I overcooked everything and my m-i-l was very outspoken about my poor cooking abilities.

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    1. Mine simply tried avoiding having me in the kitchen.

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  29. Cooking was always an adventure into the unknown for me since I was a complete novice. Inedible, undercooked, or no flavor. I had to learn and teach myself what would be tasty without slicing my skin and injuring myself in the process.

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    1. I gather you survived and today are an excellent cook. I tried. One skill that has always eluded me except when it snowed. Snow in Alabama is so rare that when we get snowed in, I'd be totally relaxed (no office work, no school, etc) so I'd cook up a storm of my own by following recipes exactly. Did I mention I collect cookbooks? I like the pictures and stories they tell.

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  30. Guess I should count my blessing for growing up in a cooking family.
    Although I have had some interesting cooking experiences. Pudding like things just don't "pud". I made a chocolate pudding pie and as I served the first piece, the crust moved from pie plate to plate, but the filling oozed from the one to the other. We were all laughing so hard we hurt!

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  31. I am a fan of this series! Thanks for the chance to win the latest book!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by for the chance to win...and for being a fan.

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  32. Becky Sue EpsteinJune 9, 2021 at 9:17 AM

    Hi Debrah, Can I send you a copy of my useful kitchen book, Substituting Ingredients?
    (In case the pandemic isn't really over this summer, haha.)

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    1. That sounds delightful.. but only if I can buy it or swap you for the new pdf one Kensington just released of the recipes from my first four Sarah Blair books. It's called Simple Recipes for the Sometimes Sleuth. Anyone who goes to my website, https://www.DebraHGoldstein.com can get a free copy of the pdf cookbook and sign up for my newsletter. Obviously, even Kensington, who wanted recipes in my books, agrees that mine go directly to the funnybone rather than the stomach.

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  33. Our heroines have similar kitchen incompetencies, Debra. Thanks for the hilarious post!

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