Why Halloween is the Worst

When I was a kid, I loved Halloween. I might even venture to say that it was my favorite holiday (next to Christmas, of course—what kid doesn’t love Christmas???). Back then, I was a Halloween junkie. The planning of my costume started back in August. I wanted to have the most original costume—no store brought would do for me. I can even remember what I was every single Halloween of my childhood. And trick or treating? It was the best night of our kid year—racing from house to house, barely waiting for people to get to the door, strategically working with your friends and siblings to work both sides of the street to maximize your candy to collection time ratio. And then the piles of candy on the living room rug afterward? My God, I’m getting the stomach ache that I was promised just thinking about it. Even though my parents never let us eat most of the candy (mysterious razor blades appeared in almost all the chocolate bars), the rest sat on top of the fridge in a bowl, tempting me to sneak candy from my bag directly into my secret hiding spot in my room. Not that I actually did that or anything, Mom. You know, cuz of razor blades…

Then as parent (and as a nurse in an elementary school—good God I could write a blog just about the horror of THAT) Halloween changed completely for me. Not at first, mind you. When my son was little, I was pretty young and still enjoyed dressing up for Halloween myself. I was so excited for his first Halloween as a little pumpkin. ūüéÉ (and he just sat in the stroller like a lump, his big pumpkin head listing to the left…) The first few years were easy—I would pick out what I thought was cute, we would trick or treat for an hour, and hubby and I would split the Reese’s and Kit Kats. The kid would get the lollipops and never be wiser. Win win for everyone.

Then out of the clear blue sky, the kid wanted to pick his own costume! And he would change his mind forty times before Halloween. So then we joined the masses of lunatics at the Halloween stores, hunting down that year’s “IT” costume. And then he wanted me and hubby to dress up in costumes that went with his—Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Tinkerbell. Think about how many hours we waste as parents at Halloween stores as our children have meltdown in the aisle because the “Blue’s Clue’s” costume in the store has the wrong color nose? And Halloween makeup that they’re inevitably going to rub all over their sleeve five minutes after you put it on? Ugh the stress. Or at least I thought that was Halloween stress.

Then, along came child number two who at a VERY young age became particular about her costumes (I think she came out of the womb screaming about her Halloween costume). Child number two is where I really got punished for what I must have put my mother through as a child—she wanted everything homemade. It started when she was 4. She DID NOT want to be a princess or a fairy or a ballerina like all the other girls. SHE¬†wanted to be a grocery bag. Yup. She had to see it on tv or something because this was before the days of Pinterest and You Tube videos. (Thank goodness for small favors). Fifty million hours of hot glue gunning empty packages to her costume. I broke out into a cold sweat as Halloween crept closer and her costume wasn’t done yet. On Halloween, my fingers were burnt from where I missed, and half the “groceries” fell off before she made it to the first house. Not to mention, it was kind of hard to walk in a cardboard box and it was incredibly hot that year. I ended up carrying the costume and my feet went numb from walking in the heat. That’s when I started cursing Halloween. Forget dressing up for me and the hubby anymore—I could barely handle one costume anymore.

A few years later, when Pinterest appeared in our lives, she discovered an American Girl doll costume I HAD to make. Once again, I stressed out over a costume she couldn’t even walk in as she went trick or treating. I had to carry the costume…while we walked four hundred miles and my feet got numb from the cold this time. The Reese’s weren’t even worth it anymore—I could get a bag for 70% the next day and not end up with fingers glued together and numb feet. I tried to talk her into store brought costumes after that…she resisted and¬†continued¬†torturing me. Raccoons and¬†“The Old Lady in the Shoe”¬†and anything else she could dream up that was innately difficult to make or find in any store. Last year, she wanted to be an iPhone—countless hours of cutting out “Apps” for the front of ANOTHER CARDBOARD BOX…for what???? Another costume that she couldn’t trick or treat in! The stress of making these homemade costumes was causing me to go through a ridiculous amount of TUMS before Halloween so I swore…NO MORE! This year I refused. Yup…I was a BAD MOMMY. But…she made her own costume…a billion hours (and quite a few dollars) worth of a costume that yup, she couldn’t even go trick or treating in! (She won “Funniest Costume” at her school dance so I guess that was worth it for her.)

Hence, this is why Halloween is the worst…too much pressure from my child to create a great costume. Whatever happened to those plastic grocery store costumes with the masks that you couldn’t breathe behind? Those were nice…we should try those for next year…

 

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The Bad Mommy Cooks—Indiana

Back to the USA tour, we (we, meaning the hubby) pulled Indiana out of the hat. That’s the last time I’m letting him pick, by the way…I was really hoping for California since avocados are almost out of season and I need to have avocados for our Cali dish. Anyhoo, Indiana…middle of the country…aka. Lack of Spiceville. I’m sorry if you’re from the middle of the country and you are taking offense to this—and I’m even more sorry that you guys don’t know what you’re missing. I goggled Indiana cuisine (Indianian??? Try saying that mouthful). Sugar cream pie came up. Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like—a pie of sugar. Oh and butter and cream, too. Now I like pie as much as the next guy, but one with fruit in it…you know, so I can pretend I’m eating healthy. But a pie of butter and sugar? THIS is what the great state of Indiana is known for? Hello, diabetes and heart disease anyone?

As much as my sweet-toothed daughter REALLY wanted to have the sugar cream pie (her dream meal probably involves pixie stix emptied out over white bread—The Breakfast Club, anyone?), the rest of us in the house (you know, the ones with working tastebuds), would not hear of it. So back to the drawing board. I then discovered that people in Indiana, Iowa, Illinois and company, enjoy a state fair delicacy called a pork tenderloin sandwich. Now, as you know, I am a sucker for all things of the pulled pork variety. I, however, am not a fan of other pork products like pork chops, pork tenderloin or even…bacon (gasp). I WILL eat it, but I definitely don’t crave it. I was not looking forward to pork tenderloin sandwiches. But at least I wasn’t going to have to stomach a sugar cream pie.

This recipe was quite involved, we soon discovered. It called for the pork tenderloin to be pounded flat with a meat mallet and soaked in a buttermilk mixture overnight. The next day, the pork cutlets are dredged in flour and crushed saltines or Ritz crackers—has no one in the middle of the country heard of breadcrumbs????

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(Yes, the wine was necessary. It was a rough week. Don’t judge. And red wine is good for your heart, which I needed to counteract the next step of this process.)

Then, the cutlets are deep fried in peanut oil. God, I hope no one at these state fairs have a peanut allergy. They would break out into hives just watching this deep fried. Just like I could feel my arteries hardening while frying this stuff. By the way, I mean no disrespect to the good people of Indiana. I have nothing against deep fried food. I love a deep fried calamari as much as the next guy. Mozzarella sticks? My house or yours? Potato on stick—delish. I’ve even had a deep fried Oreo (not my thing, but I tried it). We OWN a deep-fryer. But pork tenderloin remains in my head as a “healthy” dish (albeit, a boring dish), and the idea of deep frying it was turning my stomach. Even though we used a vegetable instead of peanut oil, I could practically feel my arteries hardening as hubby fried:

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The next step was to create the sandwich. A sauce is made by mixing mayo and mustard and swiping it on the inside of a hamburger bun.¬† The sauce was actually pretty good. It was probably my favorite part of the meal. Then you pile on tomato, lettuce, onion and pickles and voila, there’s your sandwich:

Hubby cheated and put cheese on his sandwich. I didn’t feel this was fair because cheese would have made the sandwich much more palatable for me. I just could not get over biting into the sandwich and getting a whiff of fried pork. It just felt wrong to me. Putting extra pickles on my sandwich and more of the sauce helped disguise the “smell” which hubby told me I was “crazy” for smelling. As a result, I gave this dish a 4 out of 10. Everyone else in the house liked it a lot more than I did and gave it more like a 7. Maybe some of you would like this kind of sandwich, so here’s the recipe below. (I halved it because we had enough sandwiches for an actual state fair population and the dog ate more than half. He also ate the greasy paper towels out of the garbage and had diarrhea for two days, but I’m sure that had nothing to do with the sandwiches.)

And if you’re from Indiana, can you PLEASE tell me there is life beyond sugar cream pie and pork tenderloin sandwiches??? I may have to send you a pizza and a sub if you don’t.

STATE FAIR PORK TENDERLOIN SANDWICHES:

Ingredients:

1 lb of center cut boneless pork loin

1 egg

1 cup of buttermilk

1 clove of garlic

dash of salt and pepper

1/8 tsp of cayenne pepper (I say, to heck with this and go with 1/4 tsp…live dangerously)

a sleeve of saltines or Ritz crackers

1 cup of flour

Oil for frying

hamburger buns

mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onion—for toppings

Directions: Cut the pork into equal pieces and pound flat with meat mallet. Whisk together egg, buttermilk, garlic, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper in a bowl. Add pork and refrigerate overnight (or at least 4 hours).

Crush crackers and transfer to plate. Pour flour on another plate. Dredge each piece of pork in the flour and then dip back in the buttermilk. Then coat with the cracker crumbs. Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a skillet (or deep fryer) until deep-fry thermometer reads 350 degrees. Fry 3 minutes on each side—drain on paper towels.

Add to hamburger buns and add toppings as desired.

 

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Plated

We interrupt our regularly scheduled “Balogs Eat Around the USA” weekly post for a Meal Delivery service critique. Last week we got an email¬† coupon for 50% off our first Plated box. Well, you guys know how I feel about meal delivery services. Not only have I tried Blue Apron, Hello Fresh¬†, Marley Spoon, and Home Chef, I’ve actually replicated their meals from the recipes they post online…just to prove that the claim that they “save you money” is false (see The Bad Mommy Cooks Again¬†). But heck, if someone wants to give me $80 off my grocery bill to try their meal delivery service, who am I to say no?

Since I’ve tried a vast majority of the delivery services, I can honestly say that some are better than others. While it was the cheapest, I found Blue Apron to have WAYYYYYY too many steps and the end result often looked like my kitchen had blown up. Like seriously, I think most of the recipes used half my pans and cooking utensils. And salt—holy crap, so much salt. Hello Fresh was slightly easier, but still too involved and it took me forever to cook. If a recipe said 45 minutes, it was taking me well over an hour. Plus many of their ingredients showed up not so hello fresh. Plus, at the time, they didn’t allow you a choice for the meals (I do believe that has changed, but that was definitely a nail in their coffin at the time—I’m trying to feed fussy kids here). Marley Spoon underwhelmed me so much that I can’t even remember the meals we had. I don’t think the family were fans at all. Home Chef was our favorite and we even stuck with it for a little bit. The meals were flavorful and we got to chose up to three meals a week. Their damning quality, however, was that they were the MOST expensive and provided the least amount of food. Maybe it seemed that way because it tasted the best—none of the meal plans at that point in time had taken a teenage boy into account. There should be a box to check for having a male going through puberty in your house. Maybe they’d actually send enough food then. So when Plated arrived, I was no stranger to the meal delivery world.

It arrived around 10 am on Sunday with everything intact—that was definitely a plus in my book. The first meal we had was Crispy Chicken Sandwiches with Old Bay Aioli. A little labor intensive, but hubby and I worked together to prepare the meal. The good part was, it didn’t use a lot of dishes (Halleluiah!). The bad part was,¬†while it tasted good, it didn’t seem to be worth the effort we¬†put forth to make it. It only took about 35 minutes,¬†so time-wise it was okay…just not what you want to commit to for chicken sandwiches. Also, hubby hated the buns. Unfortunately, the buns were also part of another one of our recipes. More on that later. We decided to rate this recipe a 5. Nothing terrible, but nothing special either.

The ¬†next night, we had Cuban beef bowls. I was a little skeptical about this one. I wasn’t sure how the family would react to going out of their comfort zone and trying something completely different than I would normal make. Once again, hubby and I cooked together. It was totes adorbs. We should have been filming a commercial for Plated while we did this. Hubby seared the meat and made the Mojo sauce while I was his helpful little sous chef and made the rice and the Avocado-Pineapple Salsa. It sounded like a weird combo, but it had my mouth singing. AMAZING dinner. Probably one of the best we’ve had of all the meals combined. Like seriously, I wanted to lick the bottom of my bowl. We gave it a 9—the only reason we didn’t give it a 10 was because the avocados arrived way overripe and we could only use one of them.¬† ¬†

After the beef bowls, I had real high hopes for Plated. I was actually starting to think we might order it more often. The recipes¬†weren’t too time consuming, they didn’t use a lot of dishes, and they¬†gave you more than enough food…especially the protein.¬†My only thought at this time is that I might not want to order 4 meals every week. We had to have a Plated meal every day so they wouldn’t go bad and it didn’t leave any room for us to be spontaneous with our meals. Like order Chinese or something one night. We had to actually cook every night. Bummer.

We then had the Chicken Avocado Burgers with Lemon Aioli and green beans. Hubby tapped out of this meal and I was left to cook it on my own. And that night, all my love for Plated ran screaming from the house. I was leery the second I removed the ground chicken from the package. I had never used ground chicken before and now that I made these burgers, I know why. After I molded them into burgers (they squished miserably between my fingers and actually looked like mounds of cat vomit), I had to sear them on the stove. I prayed none of my family members would enter the kitchen and see how disgusting they looked before they were cooked—I knew they wouldn’t eat them if they did. But no worries, even though they didn’t witness the cat vomit patties, they still wouldn’t eat the burgers. My hubby and son took a few bites (hubby complaining about the buns again and my son complaining they were tasteless and bland), but my daughter wouldn’t even touch the burgers. I swallowed as much as I could and¬†choked down¬†the green beans (I hate green beans, but I didn’t want to starve). At least 75% of the meal ended up in the garbage with an overall meal rating of a 2. The only reason it didn’t get a 1 is because it only took me a half an hour to make.

(Here’s a picture. I don’t want to be the only person who had to see this. You can’t unsee it either.)

So now we were 1 for 3. Okay, maybe 1 and a half for 3 considering the first meal was a 5 and that’s not really a failure, per se. The last meal was going to be the deciding factor. Hubs was on his own this time since I was still bitter about being the only person to have to experience the cat vomit patties. This was Seared Steak with Shishito Pepper Salsa and smashed potatoes. I usually defer to hubs for steak anyway. He’s much better than I am with it. I didn’t have any part of cooking since I had to run the teen all over God’s creation before dinner. When I walked into the house, though, it smelled fantastic. The peppers were so spicy I think my husband had tears in his eyes. However, once he blended them and¬†made the salsa, they weren’t as spicy as we would have liked. This seems to be one of the problems with all the meal plans…we normally use a lot of spice, so the meals from the delivery services tend to taste¬†bland to us. I understand that they need to cater to the masses, but there should be a “kick it up a notch” option (to borrow a phrase from Emeril). The steak tasted just as fabulous as it smelled and the potatoes were also delicious.¬†Overall, the meal was really good and we gave it an 8.

Will we try Plated again? Not sure—we will definitely need to chose the recipes more carefully, but I did like that we had a lot of options and choices for the meal plan, including al little as 2 meals a week, or as many as 7. It does take the guess work out of meal planning and cuts down my grocery store visits—I was only there three times last week instead of my usual six :). It was also fun to cook with the hubs, having the recipe printed out already. We shall see in the future, but I think this week, it’s time to resume our eating around the USA Challenge.

The Bad Mommy Cooks—New Mexico

I have a confession—we didn’t actually pull New Mexico out of the hat. Please don’t stone me for not sticking to the rules like my daughter wanted to. The thing was, I found some “Game Day recipes” on Pinterest (damn Pinterest sucks me in like the ringing of slot machines suck in a gambler). I saw a recipe for “Pork Taquitos”, something we had never had, but made from…yup, pulled pork. Have I mentioned I love pulled pork?

Anyway, I decided to make the taquitos and at the same time, I realized we hadn’t made any “state” food this week. So I looked it up and low and behold, taquitos are part of New Mexico’s cuisine :). Awesome sauce. Two birds, one stone. As I’ve said before, I’m kind of an expert with all thinks involving pulled pork (we can just forget about the disastrous¬†Hawaii¬†meal, right?), so I was definitely hoping to add a plus in my scoring column. The only thing I wasn’t anticipating was how utterly time consuming the endeavor of making pork taquitos would actually be. The steps take you through making pulled pork and THEN making carnitas and THEN making the taquitos from that. And they have the nerve to classify it as a “Fast” food. I’m not kidding—for a “fast” food, this was a very involved recipe, from making the wet rub all the way to pulling the pork and tossing it in the homemade barbeque sauce. This recipe also included a yummy chipotle ranch dipping sauce which I caught my son spooning directly into his mouth.

So my husband’s biggest complaint when I cook is that the food doesn’t have enough flavor. Well, with a wet rub consisting of garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, liquid smoke, smoked paprika, chili powder and brown sugar, and topped with a sauce made from orange juice, lime juice, jalepenos and onions, there was no way this pork could be anything but bursting with flavor. And the house smelled AMAZING.

Because the pork needed to be seared before putting it in the crock pot (something I’ve never done before), I think it led to the pork literally falling off the bone (I used a pork shoulder). There was actually no “pulling” involved. That delighted me to no end because I usually end up burning the crap out of my finger pads trying to pull the pork. Never again will I suffer for my craft—searing all the way!

The BBQ sauce consisted on a store brought bottle sauce mixed with cream cheese, sour cream and cheddar cheese—are you drooling yet? I was. In fact, I sampled so much during the prep process that I could only eat one whole taquito. I did have a leftover taquito the next day for lunch and it was just as delicious. All the members of the family also were surprised at how good this meal was (initially they were turning their noses up at the idea). Here’s a picture, although it does not do the flavor of this meal any justice. You’ll just have to make it for yourself to¬†experience that.

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Kansas

Moving right along to the middle of our great country…this week we dined on Kansas cuisine. What’s in Kansas, you ask? Good question. Not much. Little known fact—the hubs and I traveled cross country almost twenty years ago from Jersey to Arizona so I could work as a travel nurse. One of our stops was in Colby, Kansas. In Colby, there was nothing but wheat fields and a Pizza Hut. Big city folk that we are, we were bored for the 12 hours we were there. We also lost our cat for a few hours, causing us to panic, cry, put the other cat on a leash to try to find her, and other rational pet owner behavior. I didn’t want to leave her behind and hubby didn’t want to halt our trip to look for her any longer. I cried about him being a monster and leaving our baby to certain death (we were childless at the time…obviously…people with kids rarely even notice they HAVE pets). Turns out, she had wedged herself into the reclining chair in our hotel room and reemerged right before we were completely ready to give up. 

Anyway, that had nothing to do with Kansas cuisine, but a long winded confirmation that we have BEEN to Kansas and did not actually sample any food that we couldn’t have gotten in Jersey. So, we Googled away to come up with a perfect feast for the state with nothing but wheat fields and arm chairs for naughty kitties to hide in. No, we did not have Pizza Hut. I give you, Kansas City brisket, baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad, macaroni salad and corn. Yes, I realized afterward that the “Kansas City Brisket” was probably from the better known Kansas City, Missouri, but heck, they’re close enough, right?

Hubby made this meal and I have to say (and not just because I’m behind in the scoring), it wasn’t my favorite. The kids were meh about it as well. Hubs loved it of course because he loves brisket—the sauce was good, but the meat could have been crispier. But for making brisket for the first time, he did okay. I’m certain he’ll be trying again soon. 

Here’s a picture of our almost Kansas kitty who lived another 17 years after her brush with death in a recliner: 

Top 10 Ways to Embarrass Your Teen & Preteen

Kids don’t come with a handbook, so sometimes it’s like I’m back in school. I feel like I’m learning something about parenting everyday. My latest educational experiences have led me to the conclusion that I, as a parent, am innately an embarrassment to my kids. Now I remember being absolutely mortified by my own parents growing up, but it was because they WERE embarrassing. They were the very picture of uncool. My husband and I, however, are the epitome of cool parents—the parents no one should ever be embarrassed by. Yet somehow, here we are, living the dream, embarrassing our kids without even meaning to. So, because I have learned so much over the past few months about embarrassing my teen and preteen, and I’m sure there are parents out there who actually WANT to do this, I’ve compiled a list of way to do so:

  1. Thinking you’re dope by using their slang…or slang you legit thought was their slang. I even downloaded the Urban Dictionary app to my phone (an iPhone 5C—which also embarrasses them), so I’d be up to date on this stuff. TBH, I really thought I was lit, but turns out my slang usage is totes 2015. Awks.
  2. Wearing their clothes. My daughter and I are roughly the same height and weight and size (for now—hopefully she’ll be at least an inch taller at some point). I thought this was great—expanding my closet with cool, new clothes without even having to shop twice (I DID pay for the clothes to begin with). I thought I’d be tres chic wearing the latest fashions. Apparently this closet sharing thing only goes one way…she can borrow from me, but I can’t borrow from her. Because, “God Mom, that’s for young people to wear.” I had no idea I was a senior citizen. Quick, call AARP!
  3. Talking to their teacher about their progress in school…good or bad. Apparently taking an interest in your child’s education is a pretty uncool thing to do. According to my son, unless he’s flunking out, I should stay out of it. Also, checking your kid’s grades on the computer is pretty lame as well.
  4. Going out to pick them up not completely dressed—or in my case, in pajamas with no bra. Glasses also make them uncomfortable. Messy hair? The worst. Listen, if you call me at 11:00 at night to come get you from your friend’s house and I’ve been ready for bed for two hours, you’re lucky you’re getting a ride. Don’t give me, “OMG I can’t believe you came out like that????” I can deduct the cost of Uber from your allowance very easily.
  5. Singing in the car—especially when their friends are in the car. Okay, Okay, I admit…I can barely carry a tune and I may or may not sound like a cat being castrated when I sing…but I doubt any of their friends’ parents sound like Adele either. (And apparently this rule applies to rapping as well—if you bust out into “Baby Got Back” with your kid’s friends in the backseat, they’re likely to try to jump out of the moving vehicle.) Dancing in public and/or in front of their friends also works. I thought I did a mean Flashdance (I had a leotard and legwarmers at one time) until I was told otherwise by my mortified daughter.
  6. Showing people pictures of them as a baby or talking about them as a baby to others. (This one I was told to be true by other teens’ parents—this actually doesn’t apply to my own little narcissists who love showing people their baby pictures. I guess it’s because they were cute babies. It probably works better if your children were hideous babies.)
  7. Saying embarrassing things to them in front of their friends. In all fairness, I don’t always do this on purpose. With the dawn of FaceTime, this is a difficult one to avoid—I can be saying something like, “Hey, are you having stomach issues? The bathroom reeked after you came out.” Or “did you just fart?”  and I get, “Thanks Mom, now you embarrassed me in front of blah, blah, blah”. Well, how was I supposed to know you literally keep your girlfriend in your back pocket on FaceTime while you watch TV?
  8. Kissing them in public. This includes, but is not limited to, on the cheek, top of their head, blowing them a kiss, and actually saying “I love you”. Up until the third day of 7th grade, my daughter wanted to kiss me AND hug me goodbye. After day four, she barely lets me stop the car before she jumps out, in fear that I am going to try to acknowledge that I love her. Kissing your spouse or significant other (in public or even in your own home) is enough to make them melt on the floor like the Wicked Witch. 
  9. Trying to friend them on social media. The last time I did this (and it was NOT to be cool—it was to keep tabs on their sneaky little asses), I was rebuffed multiple times. Who knew, they don’t want to Snapchat with mom…
  10. Writing a blog. And posting this picture on my blog… (It’s color correcting concealer, btw…I’m not a warrior princess.)img_4968