By Heather Mullinix
Do you ever want to go to the comments section of a blog, or on a post on Facebook and Internet scream, "LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE"?
No? Just me? I guess that's because the rest of you haven't fallen victim to unscrupulous food bloggers and Facebook sharers who post pictures of mouth-watering, exquisite-looking, tempting delicacies, from old favorites with new twists (green southern sweet tea, anyone?) to new treats never before imagined (quinoa-stuffed peppers). And then, many times, those yummy-looking photos are followed by nutritional information that makes you sit up, take notice and start a shopping list. Delicious and good for you? What could be better.
Then, after slaving over a hot stove (or a slow cooker), the final product is revealed to be icky.
It's either nowhere near as appetizing looking, burnt beyond recognition or still frozen in the center. It's mushy with no texture or so rock solid you'll need to visit the dentist if you attempt to taste this kitchen abomination. And it tastes like old gym socks.
This has happened to me on more than one occasion. At first, I thought maybe it was me. I mean, I'm not the best cook in the world. At times, I've wondered if I was the absolute worst cook in the world. I've actually managed to burn water and I'm pretty sure I've developed an immunity to food-borne diseases. I used to joke my best diet tip was to eat my own cooking, because you couldn't choke down more than a few bites at a time.
But I've gotten better. I haven't had to scrape off the burnt outer portion of chicken to get to the edible — though incredibly dry — meat still left somewhere inside in probably more than a year.
I've also started branching out, trying new foods and new recipes. It's cheaper than eating in a restaurant all the time, certainly more satisfying than frozen microwavable meals and helps me control my diet much better, eliminating extra sugar or making adjustments here and there.
The problem I've found, though, is there's a bit of "truth in advertising" missing from some of the recipes I've found on the Internet. Take, for example, the breakfast I painstakingly prepared in my slow cooker last week.
I've been wanting to do better about eating a healthy breakfast. If I'm in a hurry, I'll often forget about oatmeal or eggs or even a protein shake and opt for the delicious and oh-so-not-healthy sausage, egg and cheese biscuit. But I'm trying to be healthier. And it's annoying to run or walk mile after mile and never see a change in your waistline or on the scale. So obviously my breakfast held some potential for some calorie and cholesterol savings.
Food blog-land delivered with an apple cinnamon overnight slow cooker recipe. The photos of yummy looking oatmeal with chunks of delicious apple were too tempting to pass up. And the nutritional information didn't make me want to head for the hills.
"You can do this," I told myself, and went to work measuring out oats, cutting up apples and adding milk and water.
The next morning, the lovely smell of cinnamon and apple wafted through the air, calling me from my slumber and helping me get out of bed, even though those blankets were so warm and comfortable and the temperature had taken a decidedly fall-like dip.
I was so excited. A hot breakfast? That didn't come in a fast-food wrapper? This hasn't happened in my house outside of a weekend in I don't know how long.
I made my way to the kitchen and took the lid off my slow cooker and I spied with my very sleepy eyes — mush.
It was mush! Icky, ooey-gooey mush.
Perhaps I should have seen this coming, but the blogger promised texture. She promised bits of crunchy goodness from the sides.
That was not there. It was just a bowl full of mush. I don't particularly enjoy mush, but I ate it anyway. The taste was OK, but I've had better oatmeal from a microwavable pack.
This is not the first time this has happened. I've created dishes that were picture perfect, just like in the book or on the recipe card, only to spit the first bite out because it was so incredibly awful! It wasn't burnt. It was just bad.
Thankfully, I was recently shared another bad experience. Floating in the interwebs is a recipe for a no-bake chocolate cookie that's supposed to be better for you than the original, with mushed up banana and no oil.
I shared the recipe and someone nicely noted, "If you've tried these and liked them, good for you. If not, don't expect it to taste good." She then left me a great recipe for a chocolate fix that was tasty, easy and diet-friendly.
Much like everything else, recipes are a "buyer beware" situation. If you're going to be cooking for a load of people, maybe that's not the best time to try out the latest, greatest, "you just gotta try this" dish. Experiment before hand and, trust me on this, keep an emergency dinner in the freezer, just in case.
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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.