I fail at cooking.

So I’m doing Hamburger Helper, right? Simple, right? Just brown the beef, throw in the noodles and sauce mix, simmer for 15 minutes, right? Well, to start with, I had frozen the beef a couple of weeks ago. Planning ahead (!), I put it in the refrigerator yesterday morning to thaw it out. Tonight, still not completely thawed out, so I put it in the pan anyway, and started hacking it apart as best I could. That part actually worked out surprisingly well. The real problem came when I pulled out the Hamburger Helper box and discovered that in addition to two cups of water, I also had to provide a cup and a half of milk. Which I ran out of four or five days ago (I don’t like milk, and I often go for several days without using it, either after I finish my half gallon or after I’ve thrown it out). But, I’ve got this browned beef here, so I’ve got to use it. So I put in some extra water and some butter, thinking maybe that would account for the milk.

Apparently, I didn’t put in ENOUGH extra water to compensate for the milk, because after about five minutes of the simmering, I smell burning and sure enough, the water’s all boiled out and the meat/noodle concoction touching the bottoms and sides of the pot are BLACK. Ugh. Still, the rest looked salvagable, so I got the burned part out from around the good part, put some more water in and then let it continue simmering. After a few minutes, I wonder if it’s not about time for the timer to go off (my microwave doesn’t have a timer, so I use my cell phone alarm). And it’s three minutes PAST time. Didn’t hear it–possibly because I was still scraping black meat from the pot at that point. It wasn’t burned, but it’s not that great, especially since I keep finding residual burned pieces in the middle and have to fish them out.

So here it is, an hour later, and I’ve just stopped eating the worst $6 meal I’ve ever had. So what have I learned? Check the box before starting to cook to make sure I have everything. Make sure there’s enough liquid when simmering stuff that it doesn’t burn (need to remember this with rice as well). Stay better attuned to the progress of the cooking, even though it’s tempting to back to reading and TV. Check the timer more often. Just go buy already-made food instead of trying to make it myself, since I obviously can’t. Back to Ramen noodles for me…can’t screw those up.

(In my flimsy defense, I usually do make Hamburger Helper with reasonable competency. In this case, it was the question of the milk substitution that really screwed everything up.)