One of my favorite books is Beautiful Oops! by Barnie Saltzberg. It’s a celebration of the ways mistakes turn into masterpieces with just a little imagination. I read it to my preschool class every year.

I love the philosophy of this simple book:

  • Perfection is highly over-rated;
  • It’s okay to make mistakes; and
  • “Oops” moments birth beauty.

I was slow to embrace these truths growing up. I had a kindergarten teacher who slapped us when we made mistakes. A mother who valued meticulousness in everything she — and by extension, I — did. A years-long love of ballet with its demands for perfection of body and technique.

So when I finally realized the world wouldn’t shudder if I admitted my imperfections, I began to breathe a little easier. And when I took the next step and realized that mistakes can pave the way to discoveries, it was freeing.

I was pretty old when I learned these lessons. And it’s frightfully easy to forget them — to fall back into old perfectionist patterns and ideals. As an antidote, I try to practice “oops” discoveries every day.

It’s a pretty easy goal to meet …

As long as I’m in the kitchen.

Things rarely go as planned when we cook. Sometimes the onions burn before they caramelize. The oven turns off before the roast is done. The egg you just cracked has a chicken embryo inside.

Or you find out you’re missing a crucial ingredient minutes before the guests arrive.


What do you do?

Get creative and improvise!

That’s what happened with these mushrooms:

No breadcrumbs meant I had nothing to bind their savory filling. The realization sent me scrambling for alternatives, and wouldn’t you know it? The end result was more delicious than anything I’d previously planned.

“Oops,” indeed. This was a beautiful discovery.

I’ll have to share it with my preschoolers.

Portabellas Stuffed With Corn, Cheese … & Crackers(!)

Make these vegetarian by leaving out the Italian sausage.

  • 4 portabella mushrooms
  • 2 Italian sausage links
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 3 chopped scallions (white and green parts)
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup wheat crackers, coarsely crumbled
  • 4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with tinfoil. Coat it with nonstick spray, then set it aside.

Remove the stems from your mushrooms. Using a spoon, carefully scoop out the gills from inside the mushrooms.

Using a damp paper towel, wipe off any grit from the mushrooms’ outside.

Place the mushrooms — scooped side up — on your prepared baking sheet.

Glaze a medium saute pan with olive oil.

Squeeze the sausage from its casings and brown well. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, then wipe out your saute pan.

Again, glaze the pan with olive oil. Add the onion and scallion. Season with salt and pepper and saute until translucent.

Add the corn and heat through.

Add the garlic, parsley and thyme and cook for about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool.

Place the drained sausage in a medium bowl. Add the vegetables and toss well.

Add the egg, the cracker crumbs and 1/2 cup of the cheese. Combine well.

Using a large spoon, place the filling in your mushroom caps. Top with the remaining cheese.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the portabellas are tender.