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.

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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

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Pennsylvania

This week we drew Pennsylvania out of the hat. The kids let out a groan.

“Man,” my daughter whines. My parents live in Pennsylvania and are always complaining they can’t get a decent meal there—they were spoiled from living in Jersey for so long. They could try actually cooking once in awhile, but I digress…

“What’s Pennsylvania? Road kill?” my son asked. “Deer on the dashboard?”

“I don’t know,” I grumbled as I pulled up “Pennsylvania cuisine” on my phone. I had no idea what our neighbors to the west ate. I scrolled down and stopped dead in my tracks. “Philly cheesesteak,” I announced. Philadelphia is in Pennsylvania. Well, duh! As a family, we’re not necessarily fans of Philly, per se (I’m a Mets fan and hubby is a Dallas Cowboys fan…get the picture?), but we do appreciate their cheesesteak.

The mood changed remarkably quick. “Can we have the cheesesteaks tonight?” the kids wanted to know.

“Yeah, tonight’s good,” hubby added. “It’s football day.”

“I know it’s football day,” I snapped back. Suddenly my family was eager for me to cook??? I had planned to make stuffed shells and the cutest little pull apart garlic bread I saw on Pinterest. I bought everything I needed at the store already. I was NOT prepared to make cheesesteaks—that meant another trip to the dreaded grocery store—on a SUNDAY. Going to the grocery store on a Sunday is equivalent to trying to get Superbowl tickets the day of the game.

At the begging of my family, I set off for the grocery store where I had my foot run over by someone else’s cart and forgot half the ingredients I needed to get because I left my list on the kitchen counter. I nearly got into a fight with a woman who cut the line and watched a man on line count the items in the cart of the guy in front of him and proceed to tell him he couldn’t use the express line. I watched women fight over the last box of pumpkin spice coffee, and a teen race an old woman in Rascal to a checkout lane that just opened. Oh yeah, the grocery store on Sunday is cutthroat.

Anyway, I arrived home to find my daughter and her friend had made “mozzarella stuffed onion rings” (another Pinterest delight) and a humongous mess of the kitchen. Onion skin crunching underneath my feet and grease splattered all over the backsplash. And the stove. And the counter. And the floor. The sink clogged up with breadcrumbs. Egg dripping down the side of the sink. Dog eating the eggshells he took out of the garbage. A pot with grease in it sat on the stove.

“Why didn’t you use the deep fryer?” I asked. At least that would have contained some of the mess.

“You have a deep fryer?” her friend asked with awe. “Fancy.”

“The fact we have a deep fryer actually means we’re not fancy at all,” my daughter pointed out. “We deep fry things.”

I angrily scrubbed the kitchen and loaded the dishwasher (so I could make another mess and have to clean it up again…I know it sounds crazy, but I can’t function in the presence of a mess). Then I cut up the onion (yuck—my family must know I love them…I touched raw onions for their meal), cut the rolls, lined up the cheese and broke open the cheesesteaks. Yeah, I used Steak-ums…there was no way I was slicing steak and making super complicated cheesesteaks. Besides, my family probably wouldn’t eat those cheesesteaks and I’d spend the whole night annoyed at them.

I cooked up the first cheesesteak without any problem, throwing the (yuck) onions directly on the griddle. (I used my Pampered Chef griddle if anyone cares…it’s so much easier than using a frying pan). Of course, each steak cooks up to the size of a postage stamp so you have to throw fourteen steaks on there for one sandwich.

The second steak sandwich, however, created a “Smoke condition” in the kitchen. My family is very familiar with the “smoke condition” portion of my cooking and they open windows without saying a word. I think I trained them to do that at the same time I trained them to flush the toilet. Some things go hand in hand. “Mom’s cooking? Stand by with the fire extinguisher.” (Mom’s Cooking! Call the Fire Department!)

I nearly started to cry though because the griddle was so hot, the steaks were sizzling up quickly and I couldn’t find a spatula to turn the steaks and the onions were burning…

It's hard to see the smoke, but that's why the picture is blurry

It’s hard to see the actual smoke, but that’s why the picture is blurry.

I felt like I was back working at Burger King like I did when I was a teen—grease splattering everywhere, trying not to overcook anything and keep up with the demand. I was pretty sure I felt a pimple forming on my forehead as I cooked, not unlike those days back at the King. That really made me want to cry. I  managed to hold it together long enough to make the cheesesteaks…onion for everyone else, onion free for me. 

Enter a caption

Everyone ate their meal, even asking for seconds. (That’s a huge rarity for any meal I make as you may know.) Too bad I feel like I’ve been dipped in our fancy deep fryer—I have to go scrub my face now…after I go get some Turkey Hill ice cream. After all, that’s in Pennsylvania, too 🙂 .