Squid Fail

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It's no exaggeration to say I was in crisis the entire time I was making Jamie Oliver's Sticky Squid Balls from his show Jamie's 15-Minute Meals, which was on for about five seconds back in the fall of 2012. I liked that show, even though it had a really frantic pace, which is generally not how I like my cooking shows. I had seen part of the squid-ball episode and had recorded it for the other dish that was made in the second half of it, sausage–red pepper fusilli; I made the fusilli recently and thought it was delicious. When I made the fusilli, I'd watched the episode again and remembered the squid balls, and thought I'd try to make them. I have been eating squid since I was a baby (reportedly; my Italian grandma used to cook it in a tomato sauce, and serve it with spaghetti) and I love it, though I have never cooked it myself. I hadn't recorded the first seven minutes of the episode, though, and I had a lot of trouble following the recipe I eventually found on-line (it's not on his own web site), and I way over-salted the squid goo. And it all fell apart in the pan. And it was generally disgusting, and had a horrible taste I did not like (though Andy ate it). Oh no, I feel like I can still taste it right now, remembering. It reminds me of the Miso Incident of 2014 (bad). It could be argued that anyone who chooses to make something called "sticky squid balls" in the first place should be rigorously interrogated before they leave for the grocery store. It also took me not fifteen minutes but an hour and fifteen minutes. Anyway, I destroyed the kitchen (above) in the process, and later said to Andy, "Sorry I made such a disgusting dinner and reeked up the house." He said, "I thought it was good and I think it smells good."

And that's how you know you married the right person.

Either way, just . . . don't make Sticky Squid Balls.

Blueberry cream-cheese hand pies went much better, especially with Amelia's help. (She also likes to "stir" while I "cook" [note sarcastic use of the word "cook"; see above] — "stirring" is mixing all of the cast-off ingredients from whatever I am making, including spices and peelings, in water in a big bowl with various utensils in the sink, and this keeps her happy and busy for almost the entire time I am cooking next to her.) Shrimp salad (to which I add shell pasta) always makes me happy. Also, I am loving my bread machine, and for those who have asked I got this one. So far I have just used the basic white bread recipe in the book that comes with the bread machine, but I plan on branching out when I get a minute. It will be nice to wake up to fresh bread for sandwiches.

Amelia's two new preschool teachers came over yesterday for a little visit. I would say, between Clover Meadow Paulson and Amelia Paulson generally losing their minds with nervous excitement and me having no control over either one of them, it was complete pandemonium. I'm not even really sure exactly what happened but it was total chaos. Good thing the teachers work exclusively with toddlers and also have a puppy and were super cool about all of it, but I think I was mildly traumatized and am still recovering.

So, yes, it's been a bit chaotic, now that I think about it. Luckily it's also been raining or I fear I might've started shooting out sparks from my ears. Stacey, my intrepid assistant, is now  gone working on the grape harvest until November, so I've been trying to do her job, which used to be my job but hasn't been my job in so long that I've forgotten both how to do it and to do it, so it's taking me a few days longer than usual to ship stuff out of here. This will change next week, when I have a little more time.

Gosh, my girl is growing up. I love her so much. I'm so proud of her. I'm so excited for her. So many changes. One foot in front of the other. Slow and steady. We'll get there. I keep saying.


chaotic yet you are making so many beauty. Hang in there, life, I like to say, is 'not for sissys'... I know that it is hard to have so much happening at once. Peace to you!

I rarely comment on your blog, but have been reading ever since you became Amelia's Mommy. My granddaughter was born the same week as she was, in Portland too. I love Portland, although I live in Spokane. Many of the places you mention are familiar to me. I had to comment today because while I think your entire house is beautiful, I adore your kitchen. It's a happy kitchen, full of love and laughter and it shows in your photos. You are blessed my friend.

Squid balls? Sticky ones? Is it too soon to laugh about it?? Oh, man. They do sound kind of awful!
But you make it still seem somehow adorable.
As for teachers coming for a home visit? Now, that would be a scene I would be hard pressed to recover from anytime soon... it'd be a long, long time before I could laugh about it or post about it in a blog!
Enjoy the ride... that's what I remind myself, and suddenly the youngest son is about to leave to college, and the "baby" is in sixth grade! You will get there, you're right, but there's no hurry!

Yes, I've heard similar things about how long Jamie O's recipes take. Five times longer sounds about right. Love the photos today, especially the one of your steps, very pretty indeed, and Amelia sitting under the umbrella at the foot of them. Lovely to see your apple harvest. I've started to pick some of mine. Apple crumble for tea tonight. CJ xx

Brave woman! You continue to impress me with your daring panache, Alicia. I'm sending you soothing thoughts and a hug to cheer you on in your new but ever changing "routine," as the last summer days fall into Autumn. xxxxx

Alicia---As one Midwestern girl to another, I can tell you to steer clear of any creepy, crawly things that came from the sea!

Anyway, I can't believe how grown up dear Amelia is---in one of the pictures, it looks like she is knitting.

Oh, you make me laugh! What wonderful memories you're making with Amelia and FOR her. You're a loving and wise Mom.

Oh God bless husbands who say things like that. (Why is it that the dinner disasters always make the biggest mess!)

Things I was thinking as I read this post:

1) Alicia is hilarious
2) I love her

I'm sorry you've been stressed, but I literally laughed out loud with tears in my eyes. Thank you.

I have a method for making bread machine bread taste even better. It's a formula that works with any machine with a timer and any recipe. Thought I'd share in case you find it useful...

You take the water, a cup of flour, and about half the amount of yeast and start them mixing in the machine for 10 minutes. Stop the machine and layer on the rest of the flour, any oil, salt, sugar, etc. -- but no additional yeast. Then reset the machine on a timer for 8-12 hours. Basically, you have a sponge on the bottom of the pan working all night long and when the timer starts the next morning it mixes the sponge with the rest of the ingredients and makes the bread as usual. The sponge will actually bubble up through the other ingredients by morning. I've done white, whole wheat, and rye (all with a white flour sponge) and gotten good results. It works best for smaller loaves (1-2lb) but is otherwise completely automatic.

Ewwww Squid - I'm traumatized from that closeup picture alone. aarrgghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!

I always love your photos but believe that the picture of the squid should have come with a warning! It's like posting pictures of raw chicken! ;) I look away as quickly as I can! Your blueberry hand pies look amazing and ALMOST make up for it! It's all I can do to not go in the kitchen right now and make those! I love that your girl's teachers came by for a visit! When my Emmy was in first grade her teacher came over for dinner. She visited all of her students at home at the beginning of the school year. 9 years later and a move to a different town and she is still coming by for dinner!

Don't fret. Pre-school teachers are used to total chaos!

Bless you for sharing a recipe fail. We all have them, but blogs, where life is usually perfect, would make you think otherwise. As always, love your photos.

Well.. that is the most unusual recipe you've shared. :-) The pasta dish looks good! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

When my kids were small they LOVED making "soup." Soup making involved a bowl in the sink with water and old spices or stuff i had lots of they mixed in the water. Kept them busy for a long time. Until you mentioned stirring I have never heard of anyone else doing this with little ones!

We are squid (calamari) lovers too, but I don't think I would ever make squid balls, even the name conjures up dirty jokes we used to giggle about when we were younger! Fried calamari with peppers and olives, squid in sauce, so many good ways to enjoy it. I admire you for giving it a go!! Love the picture of your daughter in the chair, so serene! And anyway, Jamie O has how many sous chefs in the background doing all of the prep work for him and making him look good?!

Love Amelia's "stirring." Sometimes I let my class of preschoolers do this outside with "ingredients " we find. We call it flower soup. 🍁🍂🍁🍂🍁

I also used to watch "15 minutes" by Jamie Oliver here in the portuguese food channel. The one I tried was not at all as his was, it was a oven dish and it did not seem to cook well at all. My guy ate it without complaining too. Amelia is lovely and school will be fun for her, for sure!
A stitcher from Portugal
Paula Lima

Michaelanne says: September 02, 2016 at 06:16 AM

Sticky Squid BALLS!!! hahahaha!!! You are brave, Grasshopper!!! Your kitchen is a happy BEAUTIFUL place! All of your pictures are lovely...Thanks for the laugh this morning! Meems is looking so grown up! I agree with Brenda..In the one photo, she looks like she is knitting! I also loved the crossed legs on the step! Zach's preschool teacher visited once a week all year long! We are still friends..and Zach is going off to 8th grade on Tuesday! Have a great day..Ahhh..still laughing..sticky. squid. balls....

I can't even like the title of the recipe:)If I make something w/ fish sauce..I won't eat it..because I smelled it before it got combined;)
Her hair♥Her apron♥
Everything else looks fantastic.
My 11 yr old grandson loves fried calamari.

I love your brutally honest photos of life in action as well as all of those of your girlie and the beautiful things you make. It all makes me happy and gives me hope and inspiration..

I used to be a preschool teacher and we made home visits. Your description sounds very typical and fun! We used bread machines for mixing up play dough at school. I don't know if that's in the directions but it worked really well for us (no baking, just mixing). Our granddaughter is close to Amelia's age, I think I'll try some sink mixing with her!

I commend you for even attempting that recipe. I love seafood, but I don't get quite that daring. Give me the prawns, or even better, a nice big lobster, but I'll order anything beyond that from a restaurant. LOL I have had problems with time in his recipes in the past also and have come to the conclusion, right or wrong, that the time he says it takes to cook them is AFTER he's prepped everything and is ready to actually cook the dish. I think that time on his recipes may only be the actual cooking time and not the prep time, which, as you know is totally different.

Anyway, looking at the recipe, I don't see any added salt and think possibly he used the chicken stock cubes because those have a large amount of sodium in them already. I would think the squid is delicate and the salt added may have helped to degrade them a bit making them the squishy mess you claimed to have. Who knows/just a guess. I've seen chefs use the two spoons to form a ball as the recipe described, but I've never been able to do that successfully. If you attempt making it again, you might try using a small cookie scoop. Those are great for so many things and may work well with this recipe for you. Good luck though. I still say you did great just attempting the dish and hey, if hubby likes it, you won anyway. We are sometimes much more picky at things we make than our husband. I've spent hours making things in the past and when done, my husband practically inhales it, while I take one bite and am in the kitchen looking for cheese and crackers or something edible. LOL

I'm curious about the charming, lighted nightstand. And I love your always delightful blog. Thanks so much for everything you share.

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com