The Bad Mommy Cooks Again

As you all must know by know, I’m a crap cook. I once had to be taught how to make Ramen noddles by my eleven year old daughter (in my defense, I lived at home in college and never had to have a Ramen noddle/hotdog dinner). But still, I keep trying. Mostly because we have to eat or we will die. We eat out a lot. I’ve gotten a lot of flak from friends and family for that. Not that they come over to help plan a meal and shop for a meal and clean up from a meal after it catches fire and the damn picky kids refuse to eat it…but I digress. It’s very difficult for me (as I’m sure it is for many of us) to execute a decent dinner without a hitch. So what to do?

I’ve become a Pinterest whore, pinning nearly every recipe that makes me drool and rarely making them. And when I do…well, you’ve seen “Pinterest fails”, haven’t you? I’ve signed up for every meal delivery service known to man, hoping that somehow, someway, the boxes that come to the house will magically transform me into Chef Mommy (or include an actual chef to cook me dinner) (See Cooking for Dum(me)). I’ve invested in an idiot proof crock pot that guarantees fantastic meals and still…I manage to mess it up. It’s depressing screwing up so much. I’ve lost the will to go on. Cooking wise, that is.

UNLESS…there’s a challenge involved. I do love challenges almost as much as I despise cooking. Whenever our family has faced a “food challenge”, we’ve overcome it…like the month I forbade us to eat out at restaurants (See The Great Cooking Experiment ). Last week as I was scrolling through the endless emails that those meal delivery service companies still send me (gotta give them points for trying—they don’t realize I’m hopeless at cooking), my mouth began to water at the pictures of food. It was around lunchtime and that’s when I’m particularly vulnerable to food pictures and the notion that I can cook. It must have something to do with a drop in blood sugar. Anyway…the menu was already there. One of the biggest challenges for me when planning meals is figuring out WHAT to cook (and who has practice and when will we be able to all sit down at the same time…), and with this menu, it was already figured out for me. Along with that week’s menu was an article from a news outlet stating that this particular meal delivery service was “cheaper and easier than the grocery store”. I eyeballed those words and said “Challenge accepted”. Already it was Heather 1, Meal Plan Company (MPC) 0, how could I go wrong?

For some reason, the meal delivery service companies actually allow you to download the recipe and print it out…even if you don’t purchase food that week. Suckers. So I did just that and headed to the grocery store to purchase everything I needed. Going to the grocery store was no big deal—even when we had the meals delivered, I still had to go to the grocery store for other meals. After all, we didn’t just eat three meals a week. Anyone who says it saved them from going to the store is either lying or doesn’t live with Walking Metabolism Man and Son. Heather 2, Meal Plan Company 0.

At the grocery store, I realized the pitfall to picking up your own ingredients was the fact that the meal plan company slips one IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND ingredient in each recipe. Like Chihuahua cheese. Which I am happy to report, does NOT come from actual Chihuahuas (long story…). No matter, I’m up for the challenge. I have Google and I’m not afraid to use it. Almost every ingredient can be replaced with something similar. Not like my kids’ palates are so refined that they’re going to notice the difference between red chiles and jalepenos anyway. And by going to the store I got to get MORE of the ingredients. Instead of the sliver of steak that the meal plan company sent last time (and the kids tried to stab each other with steak knives over it), I got three times as much. That’s now Heather 4, MPC 0. Yup…bonus points.

I got everything home and discovered that it was all just as stupid and confusing to cook as it was when they sent me the ingredients. I nearly set the stove on fire countless times and actually burnt the corn for one recipe. Oh, but I did learn that we HAVE a broiler on the oven. My husband looked at me like I was mental. How was I supposed to know it was a broiler? We’ve only had that oven for twelve years. While cook, though, I realized that the only thing that MIGHT have been helpful was the pre-measured ingredients. That would have saved me some agonizing over how much milk I needed if I couldn’t actually find a measuring cup. And chopping stuff. I do hate chopping stuff. So now it was Heather 4, MPC 1.

The first recipe was a Mexican street corn flatbread. Hubby and I really liked it, although I did end up putting too much milk in it. The homemade guacamole (not included in MP) and sangria (DEFINTELY not included) certainly helped. Kids balked at the sight of the flatbreads and each took bird-like bites and then threw themselves on the floor like I had fed them dog poop fresh from the backyard. Pretty sure they would have done that if the MPC delivered the food as well. So no score change on that one. Food1

Meal two was even tougher. Steak with Robert sauce. It was essentially flank steak with sides of sautéed green beans and blue cheese mashed cauliflowers. Sounds fancy, but it was rated “easy”.  (I love how the recipe cards rate them all as “easy”. Easy for who? Gordon Ramsey???). Hubby had to help or I really would have had to call the fire department since the recipe called for me to saute green beans and flank steak at the same time in separate pans. I can’t even reach for the salt and stir a pot at the same time. Here’s a pic of the finished product:

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The steak was really good, but that was all hubby’s doing. Although I did pick some nice pieces. And everyone was definitely happier with portion sizes this time. All steak knives were used appropriately. The wine was delightful, but once again…not included in the meal plan company’s version. The green beans were okay and the mashed cauliflower…well, that’s my third time attempting mashed cauliflower. Three strikes you’re out, right? At least the dog liked it. I’m giving myself a point for this one. Heather 5, MPC 1.

The last recipe was Carolina BBQ pork medallions. It had a coleslaw side, but nothing else. I love BBQ pork so I figured this would be a great one despite the lack of sustenance.

Well, it wasn’t. I forgot to season the pork before browning it. And I didn’t have the right “Dijon mustard dressing”. And my daughter ate all the peanuts for the coleslaw before I could make it. And I put too much of the jalepenos in the coleslaw. Oh and “ewwww why does this coleslaw have vinegar in it? I only like coleslaw with mayo in it.” Yeah. Pretty much a disaster. I think we all had ice cream for dinner that night. At least it looked pretty. Heather 5, MPC 2.

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Total cost of all meals? About $47. (Not including wine and guacamole ingredients). It would have cost me $119 if I went with the meal plan company for almost the exact same meals. Verdict? It’s NOT cheaper than the grocery store…not by a long shot. Especially not if you end up chucking one whole meal. Final score: Heather 6, MPC 2. However, the meal plans aren’t without merit. It was good to go out of our comfort zone and try new things…things I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. Don’t take my word for it though. Check out one of the sites and try the challenge yourself.

Disney Freaks on a Leash

With the dawn of Social media, we’ve really gotten to know our neighbors. Well, maybe not completely since people pick and chose what they WANT us to know about them, but often, even as people try to curb their reality, we discover a lot about them. what I’ve discovered about many of my Facebook friends and acquaintances is that they’re Disney Freaks. They go to Disney, eat, sleep and breathe Disney and when they’re not doing that…they’re thinking about Disney.

Now, I love Tinkerbell as much as the next girl. I’ve been to Disney World a few times. I even have a Tinkerbell hat. And a couple of mugs. But that’s where it ends for me. If Disney World goes belly up tomorrow, I’ll just shrug and wonder how it’ll affect the stock market (well, no, I probably won’t even wonder that). But many people around me would be devastated. They would probably crawl into an underground Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole and die.

With all the Disney craze around me, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps I wasn’t missing out on some vital piece of my existence, something that would complete me in the way only a margarita on the shores of Turks and Caicos has in the past. So on a trip to the west coast, I decided to suck it up and visit Disneyland—mini Disney World for those who aren’t ready for the big time yet, those who haven’t immersed themselves completely in the Disney culture. I expected to be wowed, I expected to be dazzled, I expected to stumble home at the end of the day, wondering what hit me and how I had gone this long without falling in love with Disney.

And indeed I did. I was wowed by the prices (over $300 for me and my daughter to spend six hours at the park and go on a grand total of THREE rides). I was dazzled by the heat and the fact that I felt like I was going to melt while waiting for aforementioned rides. And I didn’t have to wonder what hit me…it was anti-Disney mania at its finest. I am confidently stating that I never need to go to Disney again. Yes, Disney Freaks, you heard me correctly. I. Am. Not. Going. To. Disney. Again.

But Heather, you are saying, you can’t MEAN that! The reason you didn’t have a good experience is because you didn’t do Disney right! You went in the summer at the height of tourist season! You didn’t get your fast pass and you didn’t go at the right time and you didn’t plan your rides and attractions for maximum benefit. You can’t expect to have fun like that!

You’re right. I didn’t. You want to know why??? I went to Disney with three other adults and SEVEN children. That’s roughly two kids per adult. Oh, and did I mention that the kids ages ranged from 22 months to 13 years??? Yeah, let me know how you would maximize that experience, Disney Freak. You would need a lot of kiddie leashes. We only had one leash and seven that needed to be on a leash. We had seven kids who were all hungry but couldn’t decide what they wanted to eat. We had seven kids whose reactions to the characters ranged from “Get that %^&$ character away from me!” to “Please can we wait on line for nine hours to hug Mickey?”. We had one kid have an allergic reaction to apples of all things and got to see the inside of the first aid building as an added bonus. We had one kid (mine) have a giant anxiety attack when she got to the front of the Matterhorn line after waiting for well over an hour. We had the same kid walk away from her cousin who had the only cell phone. We had the cousin with the cell phone frantically calling me on MY cell phone just as I was being pushed away from the dock on “It’s a Small World”, helpless to do anything for my child, causing me to spend the entire ride absolutely frantic that she was going to get lost in Disneyland. (She didn’t, thank God). We (literally) bumped into people with “Just Married” shirts on and ran over childless couples with our strollers. We had four adults looking at each other in misery, marveling at the idea that people COME HERE VOLUNTARILY!!! We had seven kids who wanted to “just go home” but couldn’t because we were trapped on Main Street while the Oh My God Could It Be Any Louder parade went by. We had six kids who couldn’t have cared less about the parade (and one that was happy that Mickey waved to him—the same one who didn’t want Mickey anywhere near him before). We had seven kids that were overjoyed to be let loose in the Souvenir Shoppe while the adults tried to catch their breath and scrape together our change to buy stuffed animals that cost as much as a steak dinner. We had one kid cry when his balloon blew away. We had another kid cry when she couldn’t get everything she wanted in the shop. We had four exhausted adults drag themselves to the cars, dreaming of a cold shower and colder beer, only to be meet by choruses of “Can we go in the pool when we get home instead?”

So yes, Disney Freak, I’m not kidding when I say I. Hope. I. Never. Have. To. Go. To. Disney. Again. I’ll be at the pool relaxing instead. That shouldn’t upset you, though…it’s more Disney for you.

kids in misery

The kids in Disneyland…don’t they look thrilled?!?!?!?