Monday, December 21, 2020

I Did Not Set My Toaster Oven on Fire

I do sometimes like a dramatic headline.  As I mentioned over on the substack newletter, one of my go to recipes this year has been baked oatmeal. I read a thing eons ago that suggested automating lunch.  That if you could simplify part of your meal decisions, or make choices that provide easy leftovers or repeats, you will be happier.  I find this works well for me.  Baking or cooking up a batch of something that provides four meals takes care of well, four meals.  I was using berries in the baked oatmeal in summer. And as we moved into fall I've used apples, apples and peanut butter, and lately, apples and cranberries.  
My oven is kind of a pain in the butt, so I often use my toaster oven.  The one I have right now has a timer, and for things I've made over and over and don't need to check on this timer is great.  I can pop the baked oatmeal in, set the timer for thirty minutes and go to sit on the couch (whole feet away) and ignore it.  
I used a slightly different measuring cup this time, and noticed things looked a little different.  Not crazy different, but a little. I set the timer and went to go watch Sunday service, and while I was sitting there I thought, hmm, what is that smell. My toaster oven has gotten a lot of use, so sometimes - even though I scrub the crumb tray regularly, a little crust or two of something chars up.  But this smelled different. So, while I was sure it was fine, I decided to get up and check.  Just in time to see a tiny flame.  
I turned off the toaster oven.  The flame had already flickered out, but in an abundance of caution, I left the door shut and grabbed some hot pads.  I probably also should have unplugged it.  When no new flames appeared I carefully opened the door, and saw that the baked oatmeal had puffed up enough that one piece of it had been pressed against the upper element of the toaster oven. The element has a metal guard, so nothing can easily touch the element directly.   
The baked oatmeal was mostly baked and it was only a small piece that had puffed up against the guard.  I managed to avoid even setting the smoke alarm off.  (Yes I am sure the smoke alarm works. I was fast - this time.)    
It was a good reminder though. That small changes can affect things that seem automatic.  That the things you are used to doing still carry risk.  And that one way to test your sense of smell in a respiratory pandemic is to cook things.