In an attempt to start prying some of the community away from some fairly emotional happenings, I thought it'd be fun to post about my experience preparing dinner for my daughter two nights ago. My wife is an RN (labor and delivery) and often works a 3-11PM shift, meaning I'm often home taking care of my 5-year-old and 4.5-month-old daughters. Sometimes, she doesn't tell me what to do about dinner. Those are the best days, because they mean I either get to warm up leftovers (very quick!) or go to a drive-thru (free toy!). Other days, she tells me what to make. Well, "suggests" might be a better word... but it's less accurate. Monday, she set out a box of Hamburger Helper and... suggested I make it. I said "no problem" because, really, if they tried, most single-cell organisms have the brain power required to make Hamburger Helper. Its whole raison d'être is to make meal preparation easy. Well, apparently, not for me. The first step with this recipe, and, I suspect, for all Hamburger Helpers, is to brown the hamburger. I have browned hamburger before. I've even, stunningly, made entire meals from scratch (back before I was married). I used to be able to cook and bake and feed myself, which included browning hamburger. Monday, though, I found out just how far I'd regressed. The first part went well... I put the pan on the stove, added the hamburger, and started to brown it (yes, I broke it up and didn't just cook a giant lump of burger). At this point, I feel it's important to note that we do not have gas to our house and so have an electric stovetop (which was there when we bought the house). It's one of those which are completely flat with imbedded heating elements (smooth glass surface). I hate electric cooking, but anyway... the stovetop will come into play shortly. So... the burger's browning. Thinking ahead, I open the packets in the hamburger helper. Rice, sauce mix, cheese mix for topping, taco chips. I get the required 2.25 cups of hot water heated in the microwave. Man, am I ever efficient. Now, of course, when browning hamburger, you need to stir it occasionally, breaking up pieces, etc. I was stirring with a spatula. Yes, of course, something metal or wood would work better, but the spatula was handy. Then... the baby started fussing, so off I went to calm her down. In the meantime, the spatula, which I'd left in the pan, melted. Oh well. Never liked it anyway. I then realized I needed something for the grease. The only thing I saw handy was a can of powdered baby formula, so I emptied the remaining formula into another canister.. or tried to. The stuff is a bit self-adhering and came out in a big clump, half of which ended up on the counter and/or the floor. So I cleaned that up, got the can ready, even made an aluminum foil "funnel" to keep all the grease from flowing out, and got ready to pour in the liquids. What I hadn't realized is that my wife bought meat which was apparently from cows on the Atkin's diet, as it was, I think, 100% fat free. Holding up the pan, lid covering the burger, I managed to get approximately one drop of liquid into the container. That's it. One drop. Well, maybe two. But really, there was no reason to have prepped a grease container in the first place. But, not being one to leave well enough alone, I tried to get more grease out, holding the pan up for a bit longer... until the lid slipped up and half the hamburger poured into the container and onto the (just cleaned) countertop. Joy. So, I cleaned up the burger, pouring it back into the pan. As the counter was clean, it all went back in, and that drop of grease that had managed to eke its way into the container? Back in with the burger. I then added the water and rice and sauce mix and covered the pan, as per instructions. I even remembered to set the timer. And I remembered to stir occasionally. On my third stirring, the baby once again made her presence known, so, mid-stirring, I set the pan lid onto the stovetop and went to calm her down. When I got back, the steam under the lid had cooled and condensed, creating a partial vacuum and adhering the lid to the (now known by all to be flat glass) stovetop. It was stuck! So I used another lid on the pan and then proceeded to pry the original lid off the stovetop, and in the process managed to knock over the opened bag of taco chips (yeah, who saw that coming...), half of which fell to the floor and were instantly hoovered up by our golden retriever. Then, finally, the dish was cooked. All that was left was to add the taco ships and the cheese sauce. Except, I realized, I was supposed to have mixed the cheese sauce with milk and let it sit while the meal was cooking. Oops! So I poured milk into a measuring cup and dumped in the cheese sauce mix. I should point out that we have those OXO measuring cups, which have an angled measuring surface inside the cup, making it virtually impossible to actually mix anything in it. Hence, the cheese "sauce" was actually lumpy cheese mix and milk. While I'm sure this surprises all of you, my daughter didn't like it. Not the lumpy cheese - she'll eat cheese of any sort - but the mix itself was too "peppery" (to her, anything remotely spicy is "peppery"). So... I heated up leftovers from the night before, and, two minutes later, she was happy. And I got to eat the meal I'd so lovingly prepared.