On Fire

I haven’t always been a good cook. I have always tried, but it took me several years of trying before I wasn’t setting the kitchen on fire every time I stepped into it. About the fire, you think I’m kidding don’t you? Its true. Keep on reading.

To give you a little background, we will head back to my younger years. I was in middle school and my mom, who had raised 5 kids, had decided to go to college at the age of 50. She graduated from undergraduate school and then went on to get her Masters degree.  During the school year she taught at the local elementary school and during the summers, she took classes towards her Masters degree at Pittsburg State University. On summer mornings, my mom would get up and set out to school, leaving my older sister and I at home.

We were on our own for lunch. My typical meals, I kid you not, were a) Miracle Whip sandwich foldovers (one slice of bread with Miracle Whip, folded over), b) pizza sauce with mozzarella cheese mixed in and heated up in the microwave, c) fried tortillas. My mom had other things for us to eat, but I usually went with one of my own “gourmet” options.

I did a pretty good job of making the Miracle Whip sandwich fold overs and the pizza sauce with mozzarella creation. It was the fried tortillas that got me into trouble the most often. For the fried tortillas, I would put the oil in the pan, turn the burner on, then run downstairs to watch As The World Turns.  Nine times out of ten, I would get caught up in the show and would be pushed out of the TV trance only by the sound of our smoke alarm blaring. I’d run upstairs to find flames shooting up in the air from the heated oil, would grab the baking soda that mom left by the stove, dump it on and put out the fire.

This happened frequently… I’m talking 2-3 times a week. Looking back, I can’t believe I didn’t burn our kitchen down. Even more surprising is the fact that my mom didn’t ban me from the kitchen! Instead, she would come home to the baking soda covered stove and floor and know that I had been attempting to cook. Eventually she made a rule that if something was on the stove, you had to stay in that room.

My cooking abilities have improved over time. I firmly believe that it may be because I stopped frying tortillas. I found out that some things never change this evening when I set out to make what was on the menu – Fajita Skillet. The first step in the recipe had me frying up strips of flour tortillas. I did a batch, put a little salt on them and the kids came running in and devoured them. Since that batch was gobbled up, I decided to do another batch. I cut the strips, heated the oil then added them to the pan. Soon after the tortilla strips were added to the pan, one of the kids hollered and needed something. I ran into the other room to help them and was there for a bit when an old familiar smell drifted into the air. The smell was of burning oil and blackened tortillas. Sure enough, when I ran into the kitchen, flames were shooting up into the air. Grabbing the baking soda was old hat to me and putting out the fire was second nature – kind of like riding a bike.

Unless you like the excitment of catching your kitchen on fire, I would put the “stay in the room when hot oil is on the stove” rule in place in your house too. The fajita skillet recipe is a great one, but not worth replacing your kitchen for!.

Fajita Skillet adapted from Taste of Home Magazine

  • 2 flour tortillas (10 inches), cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • 1 medium green pepper, sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped

In a large skillet, fry tortilla strips in 2 tablespoons oil on both sides for 1 minute or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
In the same skillet, cook the chicken, beef, green pepper, onion, soy sauce, brown sugar, chili powder, cumin and pepper in remaining oil for 3-4 minutes or until chicken juices run clear and vegetables are crisp-tender.
In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and lime juice until smooth. Stir into skillet. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Stir in pineapple and tomato; heat through. Serve with tortilla strips. Yield: 4 servings.

Are you hungry for more fajita recipes? Check out these recipes by food bloggers around the blogosphere.

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  1. says

    I love homemade tortilla chips–but I gotta admit I have never left the room while making them. :) I usually only make them when the husband is home too, needless to say.

    My mom also went back to school, and I was in charge of feeding my 3 younger siblings dinner for quite a spell. To this day they have not stopped teasing me over the dinners I fed them–always either Kraft mac-n-cheese or noodles with melted philly with Jiff muffins on the side. Somehow vegetables never crossed my mind. For a long time after becoming an adult my siblings refused to believe that I actually COULD cook. :)

    Lauras last blog post..Blueberry Custard Pie–And A Discovery

  2. says

    Hehehe. Don’t feel too badly. A few years ago, my then 12 year old daughter was home alone while I went to the hairdresser. Her dad was on a plane to somewhere. Out of the blue, she decided to make something and put a plastic bowl filled with chocolate chips on the stove top. She was trying to melt the chocolate, but ended up almost burning the house down! I got a call from the fire dept. on my cell phone and had to race home – in my smock, with highlight foils all over my head! Now, we have a “no cook” rule when I’m not home. True story!

    Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewys last blog post..The Omnivore’s Hundred from Very Good Taste

  3. pat/Mom says

    Oh, Kristen, how well I remember that period in your life. As I read your post, I remembered that my mom worked and I also was on my own for lunch. I did not cook. My gourmet creations were sandwiches made of peanut butter and mustard…don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it…or pork and beans with miracle whip. I bought some pork and beans the other day because I was hungry for a pork and bean sandwich. Your dad just shook his head.

  4. says

    We have so many fires, mostly when my kids were babies becuase my brain was so fried from exhaustian! But yes, cleaning up those fires, ugh, it sucks.

  5. says

    Oh my gosh!!!! I used to have miracle whip sandwiches when I was little eeww. I caught my stomach on fire when I was pregnant with our second. We have a gas stove and I was just cooking along and felt something hot, I looked down and there were flame coming off my stomach. I freaked and patted the fire out then I couldn’t stop laughing. Thanks for the great story!

    Amys last blog post..I owe, I owe so it’s off to work I go

  6. Nella says

    I too have had fires on top of the stove and in the oven, blown up a pyrex baking dish, melted a cooler on the heating element of an electric stove, sucked a corningware ramekin down the disposal, had things burn in the bottom of the dishwasher, and have thrown a burning pan outdoors into a snow bank.

    All any of it did was make me laugh. It never has stopped me from cooking! Nella

  7. says

    Well think of it this way, from a very young age, you knew how to put out an oil fire! I saw kids in college regularly try to put out oil fires with water on our old stove that often went up in flames!

    I’m finally back from vacation, and looking forward to better keeping up with reading my favorite cooking blogs! Hope your summer went well!

    Hopies last blog post..End of Vacation / La rentrée

  8. says

    Great story, Kristen! It made me laugh.

    I’ve never set the kitchen on fire, but I had several attempts (such as a . . . homemade, um . . . improvised, macaroni and cheese I made for myself and my siblings) that are infamous in my family.

  9. says

    I’ve only caught my food on fire once. I was broiling some chicken, and I forgot that my oven had a really fierce broiler. I was so freaked out!

    I totally agree with the rule to stay in the kitchen while there’s hot oil around. Scary stuff happens when you lose track of what you’re cooking! :-)

  10. says

    Woo! You gave a shoutout to the elusive Miracle Whip sandwich – my big brother and I grew up on them and as much as I want to be a foodie, every once in awhile all I want is a piece of white bread with a smear of MW on it. :) Thanks for bringing back some sweet memories.

    SKs last blog post..13 steps to a better life

  11. says

    Oh, wow, does this post bring back memories! As a teenager I was over at my best friend’s house, a lot, and once she decided to make french fries, from scratch. I don’t need to tell you how that story ends, now do I? “Stay in the room when hot oil is on the stove”, you don’t need to tell me twice! :) The fajita skillet looks delicious!

    LyBs last blog post..Blueberry Daze

  12. says

    two things:
    -i had a great love of white bread, mayo, and american cheese sandwiches as a child. now, i shudder to think.
    -i have always had a great fear of hot oil and to this day have never deep fried anything. perhaps it’s better that way. :)

    graces last blog post..like riding a bike…

  13. says

    Oh wow, yeah, those lunches sound rough! I think I dry heaved a little! Then again, we used to microwave cheese, PLAIN! We’d pour off the grease and dig in with a spoon. We also micro-ed Krusteaz muffin mix. I shudder too.

    These Skillet Fajitas sound GREAT! And I love the last pic of the ice cream, it’s gorgeous! Way to make the melting work for you! Every time I try to take a pic of ice cream it turns out like that, only difference is yours looks beautiful and mine just looks like melted ice cream…

    Hot Garlics last blog post..Labor Day Part II

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