summer reading

Why Summer Reading Is the Worst

Summer is winding down…only three weeks to go. I just finished Round 5 of “do your summer reading project before I take away your phone, your make-up, your other books, and everything else you hold near and dear to your heart” with Child #2.

This battle is getting really old

I thought about it the other day and I realized, not only have I been arguing with my kids about this for years, I’ve been fighting this battle since Hubby was in high school. Yes, you read that correctly. I distinctly remember fighting with him the summer before our senior year about his summer reading assignment procrastination. I, of course, had mine done the first week we were off in June, and he had yet to crack the book open three days before school started. I realize now that this should have been a warning sign to me and that any offspring of his were likely to carry the “summer reading project avoidance” gene. Lucky me, both offspring are recipients of this gene.

In all fairness, Child #2 isn’t usually THIS bad with reading avoidance—in fact, when she went into middle school, all sixth graders had to read Wonder. Not only did she read the book in record time (allowing me to read it, too), she used her birthday money to buy the next book in the series. It was a poignant, entertaining, heart-warming, and altogether WONDER-ful book. The kids were excited about reading that year, and I thought it was precedent for things to come. Finally, no outdated bore-fest…just fun and relevant reads for the kids to have them thinking even when school is out. After all, isn’t that why they DO summer reading anyway? To keep the kids’ minds engaged?

I Was Wrong

The summer reading project is apparently NOT going the way of the updated, modern novel. Nope. This year, she and her classmates have to read Animal Farm and compare it to the Russian Revolution…using quotes by dead literary guys. Yup. What a freaking buzzkill on summer.

She begged me the other day to help her with the assignment and I hated to admit to her that the summer reading book and assignment were crap. Me, the person who got excited when the teacher said to take out our silent reading books. Me, who read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn in fifth grade. Me, who understands and appreciates how important reading and education really is.

Seriously, I was left scratching my head after I read the assignment, unable to offer her any sage advice. Which is another reason summer reading projects and assignments are crap. The kids have to rely solely on their parents and friends for deciphering the assignment—there’s no teacher to talk to or help you when you don’t understand it.

Seriously, we can’t find better books for these kids???

I mean, Animal Farm was written seventy years ago. I get it, we need to study history or we’re doomed to repeat it and all that jazz, but maybe couldn’t we put the heavy topics on the back burner for the summer? Yes, the kids need to engage their minds and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, but aren’t there more books like Wonder that the kids actually love? I mean, NOT ONE OF HER FRIENDS HAVE FINISHED THIS BOOK. And you’re talking those honors kids that, like me, usually have it done in June.

It’s hanging over their heads and they are avoiding it like they avoid changing for gym. Seriously, this summer reading book has brought a blight on summer. It’s always there, taunting them. And taunting me, too. I mean, I’m the one who has to scream and yell and threaten. And why? Why do we have to do this? I’m pretty sure the choices of engaging, relevant reads for teens are endless.

Here’s a few GOOD summer reading suggestions

What about something by John Green? The Fault in Our Stars had me sobbing (quite like Wonder). Rainbow Rowell is another YA writer with great stories to tell. Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone? AMAZING. You want something “old”? How about The Outsiders? Dicey’s Song? The Westing Game? Virtually anything by Judy Blume.

There are literally THOUSANDS of books that teens will enjoy AND get something out of. But no. Let’s assign them a seventy-two year old book that’s really NOT for 12 and 13 year olds.

You’re never going to make everyone happy

I know this…believe me, I know this. I should have this tattooed to my forehead and walk around with a mirror, just to remind myself of this.

But maybe if we TRY to branch out beyond the dusty old bookshelf in the back of the now defunct school library and ask the kids what they’re reading, what they would like to read, and discuss come the first week of September…like a book club or something. Maybe then we’ll make summer fun again, like it was meant to be.

New Haven Clam pie

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Connecticut

Ah, Connecticut. Connecticut was another state that Hubby and I lived in pre-children, when I worked as a traveling nurse. Unlike Arizona, we enjoyed Connecticut a lot—probably because we were within driving distance from friends and family and were able to go home often. Connecticut was beautiful when we were there (fall and early winter)—the perfect time of year. There were great restaurants, a million places to shop, amazing foliage and nature, and Yale (I worked at Yale/New Haven Hospital…I enjoyed telling people I worked at Yale 🤣). The hospital I worked at was fabulous and I even made some friends, unlike when we lived on the center of the sun in Arizona. We might even have chosen to live there had it not been so crazy expensive for us. Also, it’s difficult to spell Connecticut without spell check. (Do you know how many times spell check has corrected me in this paragraph alone???)

Anyway, while our experience in Connecticut was a positive one, I cannot say the same for my Connecticut meal. Connecticut is apparently well-known for Pepe’s Clam Pie—pizza with clams on it. I, nor Hubby had ever had the clam pie when we lived there, so we were interested in trying this food that had allegedly put New Haven on the map. Yup, this iconic restaurant, with its iconic pizza, has been a New Haven staple since 1925—literally a mile from where I worked. And yet, we never ate there.

In all fairness, we weren’t exactly the foodies that we are now. I mean, we thought Pizza Hut was gourmet, for God’s sake. Plus, we were pretty much dirt poor, too. Just buying groceries without the credit card was a major accomplishment.

Side Note

As I sit here trashing my former eating habits, I’m chowing down on English muffin pizzas. With wine. At least I used real mozzarella and chunky sauce instead of American cheese and ketchup.

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Anyway, the Clam Pie

In the NY and NJ area, heavily laden with Italian bred gavones like myself, you don’t have to clarify what you want when you order “a pie”. I had no idea that anyone anywhere else called it anything different. When we moved to Arizona we were in for a rude awakening. We went to the local pizzeria (pizza tasted like cardboard, by the way) and ordered a pie. The girl looked at me in all seriousness and asked if I wanted cherry or apple. 😳

Anyway, I guess in Connecticut they call it something else as well. It’s called apizza (pronounced “abeets”) by the locals. This particular apizza has no tomato sauce or mozzarella (“moots”). Just clams, olive oil, garlic, oregano, and pecorino romano cheese. Impossibly simple.

So how the heck did I mess it up?

Well, I didn’t totally mess it up. It was just a harrowing experience to make. Okay, so maybe I’m being a tad dramatic, but it involved multiple trips to the supermarket, which is not good when the recipe has five ingredients, four of which we have on hand on a regular basis. And surprisingly, we had the FIFTH ingredient (the clams) in the freezer as well. So what went wrong? I shouldn’t have even had to go to the store once, let alone multiple times.

The problem was the pizza crust. You see, I was planning to just grab a ball of dough from my local pizzeria, just like I do when I make pepperoni bread. However, I read the article on the clam pizza a little more closely and it seems that this pizza is thin crust, requiring a different kind of dough…one I would need to make myself.

Cue immediate anxiety attack.😬

I was petrified I’d screw the dough up. And if I screwed up the dough, there was little to no chance that the pizza would taste good. There was a lot riding on my dough making ability. (Breathe into paper bag here.)

Stop Being a Baby, Heather

I stopped breathing into the bag and checked out the ingredients for the dough. I was immediately relieved to learn that the dough only consisted of yeast, flour, salt, and oil. I went to the store to get the yeast since it was the only thing we didn’t have. After twenty minutes of wandering up and down the baking aisle (and asking the unhelpful customer service girl for help), I left the store yeast-less and defeated.

The next time I was in the store, I went to the baking aisle to try again. Luckily there was a guy stocking shelves, so I asked him where the yeast was. He replied that oddly enough, the yeast was kept by the hot dogs. Weird. But I was thrilled I found the yeast and was determined to make the dough that night.

Until I got home that night and read the recipe again. Yup, I got the wrong yeast. I needed instant yeast and I got regular. (Who knew there is different kinds of yeast???) Back to the store I went. Sigh. This wouldn’t be a Bad Mommy meal if it didn’t cause me agita, right?

Armed with the instant yeast, I began the prep the dough, which needed to be made the day before the clam pizza because it needs to sit in the fridge in a bowl overnight. I won’t bore you with the details of this whole process—while the ingredients were simple, the steps were a little complex. If you want to know how to make the dough, you can read the recipe at the end.

Get to the Pizza Already!

The next day come hell or high water, we were having this pizza. High water actually happened—we made this pizza in the middle of one of the many thunderstorms we’ve been having lately. Friends of ours stopped by mid pizza making and were subjected to our cooking and cooking arguments as they were unable to leave safely during the storm. There were many tears during this meal prep (mainly from me), a lot of yelling (both me and Hubby), and burnt fingers (Hubby).

The dough actually did what it was supposed to in the fridge. Once I got it out and tried to roll it, well, that was a different story. I have some sort of defect when it comes to rolling out pizza dough—3 of my uncles worked in pizzerias, I’m pretty sure they would be mortified if they knew I not only cannot toss dough up in the air, I can’t even roll it out with a rolling pin.

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After about 20 minutes of trying to roll this dough out, I succeeded in actually making the dough in the shape of Connecticut. This was not intentional. I wanted round like normal pizza.

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Hence the tears. That’s when Hubby stepped in and discovered it’s not so easy:

 

He used my second ball of dough so that the crust wouldn’t be tough from me manhandling it for almost a half an hour—the dough recipe yielded two balls of dough.

There were holes and it wasn’t round, but it was rounder than mine. It would have to suffice.

It hardly mattered because the wheels fell off the cart after the dough was rolled out. You see, in reading the directions, we discovered that we had no idea what a “peel” was…we only knew that we didn’t have one, whatever it was. Hubby yelled at me to Google it quickly. I yelled at Siri when she refused to cooperate. Hubby yelled at me and told me to type it in and stop relying on Siri. I yelled back that my hands were full of dough. And so on and so on. You get the picture.

Turns out that a “peel” is that huge wooden spatula thing they use in pizzerias to get the pies in and out of the oven. We would have to create a makeshift one to get the pizza on the stone (which was warming in the oven, per the directions of the recipe). First though, we added the clams, garlic, olive oil, Pecorino Romano, and oregano without incident. Hubby got to use his squeeze bottle that he bought at the kitchen supply store. (It’s the little things that excite him…)

 

Then it was time for the oven. There was more yelling and burnt hands.

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Since our oven is craptastic, the smoke detector was wailing during most of the cooking process. And it was pouring out, so we couldn’t open a window—we had the kids on “smoke detector fanning duty” for most of the time the pizza was cooking. Talk about stressful cooking!

After all that work, I was ready for complaints from the kids. It was clam pizza after all. I didn’t expect them to eat it, even though it came out smelling and looking delicious. The garlic smell permeated the house, making my mouth water.

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Surprisingly, it was well received and everyone was looking for more pizza, making me wish that I hadn’t manhandled the first ball of dough so badly that it was unusable. But at least we have a new meal to make—hopefully I eventually learn how to toss pizza dough. 🤪

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The Bad Mommy Cooks—Connecticut

Ingredients

  • For the dough:
  • 1 tsp INSTANT yeast
  • 4 1/2 c. of flour
  • 1 1/2 c. warm water
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 8 TBSP olive oil
  • For the pizza:
  • 8 oz fresh frozen clams
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 TBSP EVOO
  • 3 TBSP dried oregano
  • 3/4 c. Pecorino Romano, grated

Instructions

  1. For the dough:
  2. Add yeast to warm water and stir. Allow it to sit for a few minutes until dissolved.
  3. Mix flour and salt in bowl (I used a stand mixer bowl so I could just connect it to the mixer for the next step).
  4. Add 6 TBSP olive oil and mix for a minute or so.
  5. Remove dough from bowl. Work dough into a ball.
  6. Rub the sides of the bowl with remaining olive oil and place ball back into bowl. Make sure there is room for dough to expand to twice its size.
  7. Wet a clean dishtowel and wring out excess water. Cover bowl with dishtowel.
  8. Heat oven to 100 degrees and then turn off.
  9. Place bowl in oven for an hour.
  10. For best results, place bowl (tightly covered with lid or plastic wrap) in fridge for 24 hours before using.
  11. For pizza:
  12. Place pizza stone in cold oven and then preheat oven to 450.
  13. Wash and dry clams.
  14. Roll out dough (thin).
  15. Move it to a peel or the back of an oiled pan so you can transfer to stone easily.
  16. Spread clams out on dough.
  17. Sprinkle garlic, oregano, and cheese on dough.
  18. Drizzle olive oil on top.
  19. Place on stone and bake until dough is golden (about 10-15 minutes).
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I’m a Stalker Parent

I have a confession to make. I’m a stalker. No, I don’t peek in windows of celebrities or anything. I just stalk my kids. Not on social media or anything embarrassing like that…IRL. (In real life…for you un-hip parents out there.) No, that’s not right, either. I don’t drive around trailing after them with their friends or walk ten paces behind them at the mall—I’m not a nut job Helicopter Parent. But I do track them with the Find My Friends App and I’ll tell you why.

Parenting is Nerve Wracking

Remember last year when my son got his permit and I didn’t think anything could possibly be more nerve wracking than sitting in the passenger seat clutching the “oh $hit bar” while my teen drove? Guess what? I was wrong!

He got his license last week, and it turns out that letting them drive off completely on their own with no responsible adult in sight is the most nerve wracking day of your parenting life. (That is, of course, the most nerve wracking, right of passage, normal parenting life—I’m not talking about the day they take a nosedive down the staircase and break their arm or the day they faceplant into the window sill and cut their chin open.)

I swear, sending them off to kindergarten or a sleep over at a friend’s house is absolutely a walk in the park compared to the day your teen takes the car keys and drives off to God knows where. On their own. Without anyone to guide them. No one to help them make good choices. Without anyone to yell if they drive too fast or change lanes without looking in their rear-view mirror.

Hence, the stalking.

Stop Shaking your Head at Me

I know, I know. Some of you out there are shaking your head. Some of you think I’m overreacting…as usual. I bet you have younger kids. Or no kids. For those of you with younger kids, I’m sure you can imagine the terrifying feeling that you would get in the pit of your stomach the day your tiny baby is big enough to drive, but you don’t think it’s that big a deal. I assure you, you are wrong.

Remember the first time you brought your baby home from the hospital and you panicked every time the car hit a bump? Or when another car sped by at a lightening speed? And then when you finally got that precious baby in the house and stared at him or her because you had no clue what you were doing??? Remember that feeling of “oh my God why did the hospital let us take this baby home”???? Yeah, multiply that feeling times a hundred and you might understand how I felt watching my firstborn drive off on his own. I seriously dry heaved in the bathroom after he drove away. (I probably would have thrown up if I had been able to stomach any food that morning.)

So can you really blame me when I checked my phone five minutes later to make sure he was en route to his destination? Then again ten minutes after that to assure he got there? And then every twenty minutes later so I knew what time he would be leaving to drive again? Or when I cyber followed him all over town, nudging my Hubby and asking, “what the hell is he doing there?” and “how did he get on the other side of town so quickly?”

Side Note: This Doesn’t Just Affect Moms

I think Hubby would have liked everyone to think he was the more chill parent about this whole driving thing, but I caught him checking his own app several times during the day and making the same pained faces at his phone as I was making. I could see the wheels turning in his head as we wondered who our kid was with and what he was doing. At least we didn’t have to wonder where he was. We could see that.

So I’d like to think this “stalking” helps ease my parental anxiety a bit. Although it does open up our imaginations as we are forced to make up stories in our heads about what he could possibly be doing based on his location. Because we definitely don’t want to text him to ask him what he’s doing. That would be weird. We would look like stalker parents or something.

🙄😬🤪

Minnesota Juicy Lucy

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Minnesota

It’s summer break and we’ve been a bit lax on the State Tour de Foods lately. The reasons vary, but it’s mainly because we haven’t been on our normal school year routine (see Am I Running a Diner Here?). We did have our Minnesota meal a few weeks ago, but I haven’t had a chance to actually write about it until now.

Minnesota, for all you geography challenged out there, is one of those “up there” states. By “up there”, I mean near Canada. And cold. Like Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Montana. I can’t even fathom living where the temperature doesn’t usually crawl above the freezing mark until the beginning of April. I’m a warm weather Jersey girl myself—I look forward to beach days in the spring and not wearing a coat till Christmas. I’m not sure how I would fare in a foot of snow for Halloween.

So what is there to do when it’s so cold? Well, eat of course! And drink. There are a lot of bars in those cold states. Two in particular argue about who created the burger that we decided to make for our Minnesota state food.

The “Juicy Lucy” (or “Jucy Lucy” as Matt’s Bar has dubbed it) was without a doubt created in Minnesota. That’s not the controversy. What is controversial is WHERE it was created. Both Matt’s Bar and 5-8 Club in Minneapolis claim to have created this burger where the cheese is inside instead of on top. (These bars are a five minute drive from each other…unless you’re drunk…you should probably call an Uber. Or walk. You could definitely walk. Just wear lots of layers so you don’t get frostbite.) According to Wikipedia, this burger is so renowned that it has been featured on Man vs. Food and former President Obama has even requested Juicy Lucy burgers from both bars. Yet, the controversy still remains on its origin, enough to create a rivalry among the townspeople (much like the controversy of who created the Hot Brown Sandwich).

When I first searched for recipes for this burger, I was a little dismayed to see that it didn’t seem to involve any spices. Or egg. Or bread crumbs. How was this burger going to stay together? How could it possibly taste good with only salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce to flavor it? Hubby thinks I don’t put enough flavor in our foods already—he would lose his mind if I told him this didn’t have any spices to it.

Determined to discover a more “flavorful” version I searched a couple more recipes—they all were nearly identical. No spices. No breadcrumbs. I was starting to see whatever made this burger iconic would be a very bare bones recipe. So I proceeded to make the Juicy Lucy burgers…sans onion, sans garlic, sans breadcrumbs, sans BBQ sauce… (Okay, I did use garlic pepper instead of just plain black pepper…shhhh!)

I seasoned the ground beef (the recipe called for 1 lb of ground beef to make 2 burgers—I tripled it so I would have 6 burgers—with the Worcestershire sauce, salt and (garlic) pepper, and formed them into 12 balls. I flattened them into patties and made little wells in the bottom patties for the cheddar cheese to sit in:

Then I covered the bottom patty with the top patty, pinching the sides to ensure they stayed together and the cheese didn’t leak out. (A few of them still separated upon cooking, so you really need to make the seam…seamless.) The result were giant hamburger patties. They took FOREVER to cook. Hubby made them in his cast iron skillet—it might have been faster to grill, but if they had fallen apart, it might have been messier. Still, the burgers came out nice and juicy-looking:

Because I was skeptical about the Juicy Lucy’s taste, I wanted to ensure our meal would have something tried and true. I made air fried potato chips with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic as well:

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Throw in some coleslaw, you’ve got a meal.

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Surprisingly, the burgers were delicious and DEFINITELY juicy. The cheese can be very hot, so be careful. It didn’t even need more than a squirt of ketchup for flavor, either. We will certainly add The Juicy Lucy to our meal rotation in the future. We might experiment with other cheeses, and will make the burgers smaller for sure to cut down on cooking time. Try one yourself—I doubt you’ll be disappointed! (Nor will you care which bar created them!)

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Minnesota

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 6 burgers

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs ground beef, 85% lean
  • 8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
  • garlic pepper & salt to taste (A LOT of garlic pepper)
  • 6 potato buns, toasted

Instructions

  1. Mix ground beef with Worcestershire sauce, salt, and garlic pepper.
  2. Form into 12 balls.
  3. Create patties and make a "well" in 6 of them. Add cheddar cheese to the "well".
  4. Top those 6 patties with the remaining 6, sealing the edges tightly so they don't come apart while cooking.
  5. Use cast iron skillet or grill to cook. (About 7-8 minutes on each side)
  6. Toast buns.
  7. Add ketchup, mayo or whatever topping you'd like and serve!
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Am I Running a Diner Here?

I love summer, but I’ve got to tell you, I think I may lose my mind with over a month left until school starts up again. The kids are killing me. According to them, every day in the summer is a party. All the rules of September through June seem to go out the window. Besides the endless activities and “can so-and-so sleep over?” and “can I go to so-and-so’s house?”, there’s the problem of our summer eating schedule. Which…is largely due to the activities and the sleepovers and the going to friends’ houses.

September through June, our meal schedule goes something like this:

Between 7:00 am-8:00 am: Breakfast

Between 12:00 pm-1:00 pm: Lunch

After school: Snack

Between 5:00 pm-6:00 pm: Dinner

Loosely, of course. Weekends are a little different and it’s subject to change to depending on what we have going on at night, but still, everyone GENERALLY follows this plan. In the summer however, it seems “Everything Goes”. Apparently over the kitchen doorway is a sign that reads “Mom’s 24 Diner! Eat What You Want, When You Want!!!” (And pout when Mom gives you a hard time about it.)

I follow the September through June dining plan all year, including in the summer. I am hungry for breakfast by 8, lunch by 1, and dinner by 6. My body doesn’t say, “screw that, it’s summer”. My body like routine and normalcy. The rest of the house, however…

Here’s Child #1’s schedule:

8:00 am: Wake up. Have coffee. Lounge around. Ignore mother’s requests to eat breakfast.

10:00 am: Eat breakfast.

10:30 am: Eat breakfast again.

11:00 am: Ask what’s for lunch.

11:30 am: Eat lunch.

12:00 pm: Have snack.

12:30 pm: Ask what’s for dinner.

1:00 pm: Stare into the fridge and announce there is nothing to eat. Walk to McDonald’s.

1:30 pm: Work out.

2:00 pm: Go out with friends.

4:00 pm: Return. Ask about dinner again. Have a snack. (At no point is Child #1 using the paper plates, bowls or cups I have asked him to use because he makes too many dishes and he isn’t the one who washes them.)

4:30 pm-7:30 pm: SLEEP.

8:00 pm: Ask about the dinner he slept through. Offer Child leftovers from missed dinner. Child may or may not eat leftovers depending on mood.

8:30 pm: Go back out. Get food while out.

10:30 pm: Return. Make pasta.

11:00 pm: Have a bowl of cereal.

11:30 pm: Have ice cream.

12:00 am: Make more coffee. Immediately go back to sleep.

Child #2’s schedule varies greatly from Child #1:

11:00 am: Stumble out of bed and reject all breakfast choices.

12:00 pm: Lie around and moan and groan about being tired. Reject all lunch choices.

12:30 pm: Take a nap.

2:00 pm: Wake up and announce she’s STARVING and ask when is lunch? Reject lunch choices.

2:30 pm: Eat seven hundred and fifty two mini pretzels and ask about going to the movies/bowling/sleeping at a friends’ house, etc. etc. Clean room for the hundredth time this week when told that she cannot leave the house till said room is clean and laundry is put away.

4:00 pm: Go out with friends.

7:30 pm: Return and wonder where dinner is. Offer Child leftovers from dinner. Child refuses leftovers.

8:00 pm: Have a bowl of cereal.

8:30 pm: Whine about hunger pains and still refuse leftovers.

9:00 pm: Go back to sleep.

12:00 am: Wake up to the smell of coffee brewing and make a cup. Stay awake for the next 3 hours binge watching “The Office”.

And repeat. Add in Child #1’s work days and Hubby’s work days, it’s a wonder we ever get a normal meal in this house. Some nights Hubby and I shrug our shoulders and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for ourselves. A few weeks ago I ate an Eggo waffle for dinner. Last night I had a block of cheddar cheese for dinner. And I didn’t even have any good wine to go with it.

And you know what pisses me off? I’m following a normal eating schedule here and they’re the ones getting annoyed that they can’t eat at their leisure. Today I got a text in Target from Child #2 wanting to know when dinner would be because she was hungry. It was 4:00. And yesterday I got a “what’s for lunch” text…I was at the beach.

I’ve got to laugh at all my friends on social media posting all the fun things they do with their kids during the summer…hell, we can’t even get a meal together, let alone DO anything outside the house. I almost long for the days when it was just picky eating I had to worry about. Now I have one that is grazing 24/7 and the other I have to force-feed until she’s “starving” at the most inopportune times (kind of like when we were trying to potty train her all those years ago…). I guess that’s part of life when your kids are teenagers and doing their own thing with no regard for anyone else in their house (Pretty much the Teenage Mantra). Maybe next year I’ll install a vending machine in the kitchen and make some money off of them at least.

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Florida

I’m just going to come out and lay it on the table right off the bat. I’m not a Florida fan. I’ve been there about a half dozen times and I’ve not been impressed with the place. I don’t like Disney (horrors!) and I’m not a fan of alligators or dying of heat stroke while I’m trying to tie my shoes.  Not trying to offend anyone since I know about 20% of my Facebook “friend” list are Florida transplants from. New Jersey. It’s just not the place for me. Still, I was hoping that Florida would still be a source of a good meal since there a lot of different cultures in Florida. And I’m sure it would have been. You know, if I wasn’t involved in cooking it.

I picked Cuban sandwiches since I’ve had them before and them I was a fan of. Since sandwiches are pretty easy, I decided to make key lime pie as well, one of Hubby’s favorite desserts. Besides ice cream, that is. Back in March for St. Patrick’s Day, I wanted to make key lime pie, but I couldn’t find any key lime juice, so I ended up just making these cute little key lime pie jars using regular sweetened lime juice:

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But this time I wanted to make the pie. Once again, I scoured the store and could not find key lime juice anywhere. I did find a key lime pie mix though and although I wanted to make this pie from scratch, I knew when to give up. Good thing too because I managed to screw up the mix. Can you imagine what damage I could have done if I had tried to make the pie from scratch?

More on that later. First, the Cuban sandwiches. I found a recipe for a Cuban “style” panini. I love paninis. My daughter loves paninis. We’ve spent countless hours at our local sandwich shop waiting for paninis. Paninis can be quite inconvenient to wait for. So why not buy a panini  maker and make our own at home????

Good question. We hardly have room for any additional appliances in our kitchen and Scrooge McDuck wasn’t really on board with us getting a panini maker in the past. But once I presented the idea as part of our food tour, I was given the thumbs up to purchase one. (Like I need a thumbs up to go shopping 😏) Here it is (isn’t it so purty???):

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the Cuban sandwich actually has origins in Florida—cafes in Ybor, Tampa created this sandwich in the late 1890’s for the many Cuban cigar factory workers. It evolved over the years—adding salami or capicola and ham in addition to the roast pork. The variation I made only had ham, Swiss and capicola, no roast pork. I also couldn’t find any Cuban bread, so I used Ciabatta bread. Half the Ciabatta bread was gone before I could make the sandwiches because apparently everyone in the house (except Boy Child who is really starting to get even pickier as he ages) likes Ciabatta bread. It’s delish dipped in olive oil with fresh pepper, by the way:

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e sandwiches themselves were a cinch to make—about three or four minutes in the panini maker after buttering the outside of the bread, putting mustard on the inside of the bread, and adding the meat, cheese, and pickles.

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nce I didn’t have all the correct ingredients, I’m questioning the validity of this sandwich, but considering I was the only one who ended up eating the whole thing, I’m not going to lose too much sleep over it. See, Hubby and Boy Child do not like ham sandwiches. They were not happy with the idea of Cuban paninis and were quite vocal about their displeasure. Hence why I had made the Key lime pie for Hubby.

Girl Child was in some sort of funky mood that day and announced she wanted a Grilled Cheese Panini instead. At least she took a bite of it before deciding. 🙄🙄🙄

img_1371-1 Anyway, I thought it tasted great. The bread crisped up really nicely and the cheese melted perfectly. And I got a panini maker out of the deal, so…there’s that. FYI, panini makers squish your sandwich to about half the size, so keep that in mind. I should have added more meat on my sandwich.

Back to the Key lime pie. Like I said, I had gotten the mix, which was really simple to make:

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It was like pudding, boiled on the stove. I even got pre-made graham cracker crust, thus really limiting my chances of screwing up. But…I made the meringue from scratch…and that’s where it went south.

Honestly, I didn’t have any trouble making the meringue. I separated the eggs and whipped the whites (adding sugar) until stiff peaks formed:

I topped the pie and baked it until the meringue started to get golden, just like the recipe said:

img_1356-1 It looked good. It smelled good. I bet it WAS good.

And then, I stuck it in the fridge. Before it was cooled. And we didn’t eat it till the next day.

I took it out and HOLY CONDENSATION BATMAN. It’s difficult to see in the picture, but the meringue topping separated from the Key lime. And the crust got mushy as well. While it tasted fine, no one really wanted more than a couple of bites due to the consistency being funky, and I ended up throwing out most of the pie. 😩😩😩

Let’s recap what I got out of our Florida meal:

  1. I CAN make a meringue topping. Storing it however…
  2. The family is pick as hell.
  3. I got a panini maker.
  4. Ciabatta bread is yummy.
  5. I still can’t find Key lime juice in Shop Rite.

And that’s a wrap…hopefully our next state will be more successful and please everyone in the house.

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Maryland

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Maryland

Ingredients

  • For the sliders:
  • 16 oz lump crab meat
  • 1 c. Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 c. mayo
  • 2 TBSP parsley, minced
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Slider buns
  • lettuce
  • For the Pimento cheese:
  • 8 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 oz cream cheese, room temp
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 c. mayo
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
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Like Virginia is for lovers, Maryland is for crab cakes. Who doesn’t like a nice crab cake to usher in the summer months? Well if you don’t, keep moving…nothing to see here.

We were lucky enough to pull Maryland from the hat the same week that we actually were going to Ocean City, Maryland. Since I’ve already started a blog about Places to Eat in OC, you could say that our family has become well versed in Maryland cuisine. This weekend we ate at some of our favorite places; Longboard Cafe, Higgins Crab House , and Uber Bagels, in addition to a new place, The Big Easy on 60.

Still, for the sake of our state blog, I felt I needed to give you all a recipe that we have personally made in our house—crab cake sliders. Maryland is to crab as Maine is to lobster—you can’t go 10 feet without seeing a sign advertising fresh Maryland crabs, like these All You Can Eat crab that we had at Higgins:

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Nice, huh? We had 13 dozen. It took almost two hours to eat (the quietest dinner we ever have is when we have crab…everyone is very focused on their work…except for my son who, without fail, will order something ridiculous from a crab house like ribs or wings…)

Anyway, these crab cake sliders are a house favorite. We got the recipe at the ONE cooking class Hubby and I attended together. Usually Hubby goes with his friend and they go out for drinks afterward and I’m never asked to tag along, but this one time I was allowed. Actually, I think I insisted on going cuz I wanted to see what the big fuss was all about. I haven’t been back since because, in case you didn’t know, cooking class is boring. 🙄

But at any rate, during that class we had some good seafood, including these crab cake sliders with pimento cheese, and I’ve strong armed Hubby into making them several times, including recently, counting as our Maryland meal. By the way, if you are one of those weirdos who don’t like crab, you can use lobster or shrimp. You could probably even use salmon if you don’t like either of those. The recipe includes a lot of chopping (hence why I have Hubby make them), but it’s worth it because the sliders are incredibly filling and you will have enough to easily feed six people. Unless they’re pigs and then you could probably only feed three. 🐖

You start off with some lump crab meat. You can either extract it from the crab on your own, or, the much easier way, buy a can of lump crab meat. Just make sure the pieces are coarsely chopped and not too big. If you use shrimp you need to put it in the blender to get the same effect.

Mix mayo, parsley, lemon juice, dry mustard, salt, and black pepper. (This recipe originally included 2 chopped green onions—I’ve opted to leave them out since I hate them…you do what you want.) Incorporate the crab (or shrimp). Add bread crumbs and fold into mixture.

img_1011 Divide into equal size portions, shape into patties, and place on baking tray. Stick those in the fridge for about a half hour or so to get them to form.

img_1012 This is when you prep the pimento cheese. By the way, this cheese tastes great spread on Triscuits. It’s so easy to make, too. You combine shredded sharp cheddar cheese, softened cream cheese, black pepper, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, mayo, sugar, and a chopped red pepper, and you are good to go:

img_1014 Refrigerate that while the crab cakes cook. You can cook them on a skillet, or use the air fryer like we did:

img_1019 Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown and then assemble the sliders. Place on slider buns, top with pimento cheese and lettuce, and ENJOY!

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