The Bad Mommy Cooks—Virginia

While not the first official state (that’s Delaware), Virginia was the first colony and the site of the first English settlement, Jamestown, in 1607. (That’s the settlement that didn’t disappear, by the way.) In fact, in 1584 the Queen at the time gave the name “Virginia” to all the land being explored by Sir Walter Raleigh. This land actually stretched from present day Maine all the way down to South Carolina. The beginnings of America started in Virginia and therefore, our Virginia meal reflected that.

It really wasn’t difficult to choose the components of this state meal. Of course we had to make Virginia ham—the state’s name is in the food for crying out loud! But what to make with it that screamed “Americana”???? None other than mashed potatoes, broccoli, and Apple pie. Is there anything more American than apple pie?

We had a ham in our freezer that has probably been there since last Easter. Our supermarket gives us gifts like a “free” ham or turkey at holiday times after we spend a certain amount in the store. I think it’s something like five million dollars—steep, but somehow we seem to earn the “free” meat product every time. (They used to give us 10, 20, or 30% off coupons…man, I miss those days…instead now I get an 11 pound ham 🙄.) Eleven pounds of ham is a bit much for three people (yup, Mister Picky Teenage Boy who is living on McDonald’s and Coco Puffs will not eat ham) so you can understand my reluctance to make it the ham before pulling Virginia out of the hat. Oh, by the way, my daughter wrote out the states back in August and until we pulled “Virginia” we didn’t know that she had spelled it completely wrong…yup…we pulled “the state of female anatomy” out of the hat. Cue inappropriate jokes from Hubby. 🤦🏻‍♀️

Hubby also refused to help me cook this ham. I’ve never made a ham and the sheer size of it terrified me. Go ahead, make your own inappropriate jokes…I’ll wait.

img_1049 Of course I had to google how to make the stupid thing and I panicked when I realized I didn’t have anything to make a glaze. Until I discovered a bottle of Pampered Chef Pineapple Rum glaze in the cabinet that was even older than the ham. The whole bottle fit nicely on the whole thing:

img_1050 As soon as I dumped it on the ham, hubby surfaced from his basement lair and informed me that I should have taken the skin off the ham. I gave him the finger and told him to bite me. I know, I know…so mature. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Anyway, the ham went into the Craptastic Oven from Hell at 430 degrees since the recipe online said to cook it at 375 and the oven is off by 55 degrees. I set the timer for 2 hours and 45 minutes since it needed to cook for 15 minutes per pound. The whole thing seemed like a word problem you’d find in a third grader’s homework 🤯 (I hate math).

Meanwhile I peeled the potatoes for the mashed potatoes and cut them up. Kind of off topic, but does anyone else shudder when they read a recipe and discover you need to “cube” roundish objects like potatoes? Seriously, how does one actually accomplish this? 🤔 I usually end up in tears because there is no way possible to cube all the potatoes into squares that are the same size. It just is geometrically impossible.

Ham in the oven. ✔️ Potatoes boiling. ✔️ Time to make the apple pie. I have to confess, I love apple pie, but I haven’t had it in years because it always reminds me of that scene in American Pie. You know the one I’m talking about. Wow, Virginia really does bring out the inappropriateness in people, doesn’t it? Oh well, Virginia is for lovers after all. 😏

So…anyway…the pie. I realized after I bought frozen pie crust that I’ve used for pies in the past, that I needed the refrigerated crust so I could have bottom and top to the pie. Back to the store I went. Oh and I had to get apples anyway. Apples are kind of the star of an apple pie.

img_1051   I like a medley of apple flavors so I used Granny Smith and Honeycrisp. The Honeycrisp is sweeter and the Granny Smith is tarter. I had a bit of a nervous breakdown because the apple-peeler-corer-slicer that I’ve had for sixteen years decided to crap out on me right then and there…just when I needed it the most…just when I was making my first apple pie.

I got over it and peeled and sliced the apples myself, all the while bitching about how much easier it would have been with the apple-peeler-corer-slicer. And while sticking to the floor because the juice was going everywhere.

The rest of the ingredients were simple: 3/4 c. sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 2 TBSP all purpose flour, 1 tsp lemon juice:

img_1056   Add to pie crust and cover with second crust:

As you can see from the last picture, I tried to get fancy with the cut-outs on the crust but I’m not really up to that level yet, you know? The pie went into the oven at 455 (55 degrees off, remember?) for 40 minutes. There was nothing left to do but cross my fingers.

So let’s put a pin in the pie saga and return to the ham which was now finished. Hubby caved to my commands and cut the ham for me:

img_1062   It came out perfect with a nice flavor from the glaze. The mashed potatoes weren’t too shabby either:

img_1065   (Even the dog loved them)

img_1066   By the time I finished cleaning up dinner, the pie was done. Oh, by the way, in case you ever make apple pie—after about 15 minutes in the oven you should take the pie out and put two inch strips of foil around the edges so they don’t burn.

img_1069   It looked good. It smelled even better. The problem was, the pie was supposed to sit for at least two hours. I wanted to eat it before then. It appeared a little deflated and watery—it could have been because I cut it too soon or it could have been because I didn’t use enough apples. After the broken apple-peeler-corer-slicer ate up two of my apples, I was down to 4 apples when the recipe called for 6. I didn’t think it mattered that much, but apparently it does. Next time I will definitely use 6. And I will also use a little more flour as well. Still, the pie was tasty and warm inside…a slice of Americana:

img_1070   (You can make a joke now…I know you’re dying to.)

strawberry icebox cake

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Alabama (Part 2)—IceBox Cake

Part 2 of our Alabama meal was dessert and it was a DISASTER. I was scrolling on Pinterest as I often do, and I came across this Strawberry Icebox cake recipe. I watched “Sweet Home Alabama” a billion times and I remember the part where the mom says she has a bologna cake in the icebox. I figured this strawberry icebox cake looked a heck of a lot more appetizing than a bologna cake. Plus, every year my husband’s mom makes him this “Boop Cake” for his birthday with really similar ingredients so I figured he would like it.

Who Names a Cake “Boop Cake”?

In case you are wondering, my mother in law got this recipe from my husband’s 5th grade teacher who’s last name was “Boop”—she’s made it for him every year since. I hate this cake with a burning passion. To me it is a gross combo of ingredients—crushed Ritz crackers and vanilla pudding? Yuck.  He loves it though. The strawberry icebox cake seemed a little more my speed with graham crackers and cheesecake pudding instead. I was dreaming that he would love it so much that he would request that instead of the Boop Cake for his birthday…fat chance. That didn’t happen because I messed it up.

How can you Screw up An Icebox Cake?

So this cake was one of the simplest recipes you can imagine. There were only 5 ingredients and it was NO BAKE (that was the most tantalizing aspect of this recipe to me if I’m going to be honest).

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I was really disappointed that I couldn’t find cheesecake pudding so I had to use yucky vanilla instead. I don’t think that was the biggest problem with the cake, though. The problem was that the directions were not super clear. The list of necessary ingredients also varied from the actual ingredients used (I found this to be the problem with the Alabama White BBQ sauce as well—could this be an Alabama problem?).  And I could not get a clear answer from Google on how much Cool Whip constituted 3 1/2 cups. We got answers ranging from 8 oz to 32 oz. We ended up buying $15 worth of Cool Whip and only ended up using half.

Plus, I pin too many versions of recipes. I think the ingredient lists get all muddled up in my head and I’m not sure where I read what.

Could That Be Where The Mistake Lies?

Maybe. Who knows. The directions on how to make the pudding were a bit fuzzy as well. First it said to follow the package directions (using milk). Then it said that I could use 8 oz. cream cheese to make the pudding if I was using vanilla pudding, but omit the milk. Um, how the heck can you do that???? How do you boil cream cheese on the stove in lieu of milk???? That sounded like a fire call waiting to happen.

It also said to let the pudding sit for five minutes and then fold the Cool Whip into it. It was still runny and I didn’t know if putting more Cool Whip would make it worse. Also, I didn’t have a 8 X 8 dish, so I needed to improvise. with that as well. I poured my first layer and boy was it liquid-y.

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When I added the graham crackers on top, they sort of oozed into the pudding mixture.

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Still, I continued to layer it with pudding, strawberries, and graham crackers keeping my fingers crossed. I figured that since it needed to set overnight, that would fix all the problems.

News Flash—-It Didn’t

My nephews came over the next day and it was my middle nephew’s birthday. He was complaining he didn’t get a cake (he got taken to dinner at Benihana and he got ice cream and they sang to him but apparently that wasn’t enough…) I realized Wait! I have a cake! An icebox cake! I stuck some candles in it and viola! Instant birthday cake!

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While the cake looked pretty nice on the outside:

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Once I cut it, it was an instant Pinterest fail:

This is what it was SUPPOSED to look like.       This is what it ACTUALLY looked like.

Oh well. You win some, you lose some. Try it at home and let me know if it’s just me or you’re icebox cake comes out crappy too. I’ve included the directions below.

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Alabama (Part 2)

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 c. Cool Whip
  • 3.4 oz package of cheesecake or vanilla pudding (2 c. cold milk to make the pudding)
  • 12 graham crackers
  • 2 c. of sliced strawberries

Instructions

  1. Make pudding according to package directions. Allow to thicken.
  2. Fold in 3 c. Cool Whip.
  3. Spread a thin layer of cream mixture to bottom of 8x8 pan.
  4. Cover with graham crackers (you can break them up to fit them).
  5. Spread another layer of the cream mixture on top of graham crackers.
  6. Layer with strawberries.
  7. Repeat.
  8. Top the final layer with the rest of the Cool Whip. Top with a few strawberries.
  9. Chill in fridge overnight.
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Alabama Smokehouse burger with white BBQ sauce

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Alabama (Part 1)

Alabama is going to be a two part blog because I got cocky and decided to make a meal AND a dessert. Both the Smokehouse burgers with Alabama white BBQ sauce and the Strawberry Icebox cake I looked at seemed simple. I didn’t think I could mess it up. Apparently I don’t know myself very well.

Anyway, the first part—the successful part…

Smokehouse Burgers with Alabama White BBQ Sauce

As you might remember, when we started this state challenge, I tried several times to make our first meal. We originally were going to do this in alphabetical order, but I met a lot resistance to the fried catfish that I planned for Alabama. I actually ended up throwing out the catfish I bought. That’s when we decided to pull each state out of the hat.

Needless to say that when Alabama got picked (they had to realize at some point it would happen…) there were faces made. So instead of putting them through the “catfish” ordeal again, I searched Pinterest for some new ideas. That’s where I discovered Smokehouse burgers made with ground pork instead of beef. We often have burgers at our house, but we’ve never had pork burgers, so I decided to try those.

The Alabama White BBQ Sauce

The Alabama white BBQ sauce included in the Smokehouse burger recipe didn’t sound as awesome as some of the other recipes for White BBQ sauce that I pinned. Being the rebel that I am, I COMBINED the Smokehouse burger recipe with a different Alabama white BBQ sauce recipe. Yeah, you read that correctly. I. Went. Rogue.

The White BBQ sauce seems to be an iconic staple in Alabama—everywhere I turned there were recipes for a different version. The one I used had mayo and Greek yogurt along with apple cider vinegar, honey, hot sauce, lemon juice, garlic and dijon mustard.

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All those flavors mixed together? The result is crazy good.

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It’s got a tangy ranch sauce kind of vibe going on…difficult to describe, but worth trying. Even after we were done with our burgers I was dreaming of all the other foods I could drizzle this sauce on…like wings. Mmmmm.

While I worked on the sauce, Hubby made the burgers. He wouldn’t let me make them because he is picky when it comes to burgers. I used to just buy the frozen Costco packages of burgers—he nearly had a heart attack when he discovered that. So ever since then, the only burgers we have are made lovingly from scratch:

These burgers had ground pork, smoked paprika, chipotle chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper. We served them on kaiser rolls with smoked Gouda and strips of bacon. (I wanted to have them on potato rolls but Mr. Chef of the Year would never dream of varying from the recipe…he’s not a rebel like me…) The result?

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Very nice flavors married together into a delicious burger. My only complaint is that it was drier than I’m used to—next time I think we will mix in some ground beef or use meatloaf mix. Anyhoo, I’d highly recommend this recipe and the Alabama White BBQ sauce. I’ve got some leftover…I wonder how it would taste on Fried Catfish? 😏

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Alabama (Part 1)

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 4 burgers

Ingredients

  • For the White BBQ sauce
  • 1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 c. mayo
  • 1 TBSP Dijon mustard
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • Either 2 TBSP of apple cider vinegar or 1 TBSP of apple cider vinegar and 1 TBSP of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp hot sauce (or more if you like spice)
  • salt & pepper as needed
  • For the burger
  • 1.5 lbs ground pork (or meatloaf mix)
  • 1 TBSP smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 8 slices of Bacon
  • 4 slices of smoked Gouda
  • lettuce
  • 4 kaiser rolls

Instructions

  1. Mix ingredients for white BBQ sauce together and chill in fridge.
  2. Cook bacon in skillet and reserve the bacon grease.
  3. Combine meat and spices.
  4. Add bacon grease into mixture.
  5. Form 4 patties.
  6. Heat grill (med-high)
  7. Cook, turning only once until internal temp is 160. (you may want to add the cheese directly to the burger on the grill to melt it a bit)
  8. Toast rolls on grill.
  9. Assemble the burgers on the roll with white BBQ sauce, lettuce, 2 slices of bacon (and cheese if you have not already added it)
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Vermont maple apple rings

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Vermont

Ah, Vermont. My aunt and uncle used to live in Vermont about a million years ago. What I remember about Vermont is that it was a beautiful state with twisty, winding roads, lots of farms, and maple syrup. In fact, I haven’t had maple syrup in about thirty-four years due to those twisty, winding roads. On one trip home from Vermont I had eaten pancakes with strawberries and maple syrup for breakfast—that breakfast ended up in the backseat of our car.  Ever since then, I wouldn’t touch maple syrup with a ten-foot pole. I’m sure my puking was due to the road conditions, rather than maple syrup, but my seven year old brain was convinced that maple syrup was the culprit.

It’s been quite a long time since that fateful car trip, still, no maple syrup has passed these lips. When we pulled Vermont, I assumed I’d go the easy route (especially after my Kentucky fail) and I’d just make waffles, pour some maple syrup on them and call it a day. To me, that would be a challenge enough since I have a maple syrup aversion. Hubby called me out on it—he said making waffles from a mix (like I do most Sundays) would be cheating.

“Fine,” I said, and I stormed off to troll Pinterest for a Vermont recipe. I quickly became intrigued by a pin for Vermont Maple Apple Rings. They’re cored and sliced apples dipped in batter and then grilled on a skillet. The recipe only had a handful ingredients and seemed quick and easy. Kind of like pancakes, but with apples in the center.

But knowing me, nothing is quick and easy. In fact, after I assembled the ingredients for the apple rings I recalled why I always make waffles and I never make pancakes. I suck at making pancakes. You may think that it’s impossible to not be able to make pancakes, but I assure you, I am crap at making pancakes. Still, I was committed at that point…no going back now. And besides, Hubby even made me coffee so I kind of had to make an attempt now. (Even though he only made half a cup and walked away from the Keurig, leaving me to finish making my own coffee while trying to cook 🙄)

I cored and peeled the apples for the rings with my handy Pampered Chef Apple Peeler Corer Slicer:

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I’ve had this awesome tool since 2002—I’ve used it more times than I could count. It came in real handy today since it not only peeled and cored, it makes them into rings—perfect for this recipe.

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The batter consists of flour, buttermilk, egg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. That’s it. You whisk the dry ingredients together and then add the buttermilk and beaten egg. You dip the rings in the batter and put them on the warm skillet, just like you would for pancakes. Sounds easy, right? Not for me.

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The problem was the skillet got too hot and the rings were uneven texture. This caused burning of some of the batter, but due to the batter not sticking consistently on the rings, some bits of batter didn’t cook. The same thing happens to me with pancakes. I can never cook them thoroughly. The end result wasn’t too bad and they were edible, which is the main thing:

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I managed to eat the maple syrup without any adverse stomach issues. Hubby suggested AFTER I made them that I should drop the batter on the skillet, put the apple into the batter, and then cover with more batter to get more even coverage. I might try it in the future. As for now, Vermont is in the books.

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Vermont Apple Rings

Ingredients

  • 2 or 3 apples cored, peeled
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 c. buttermilk

Instructions

  1. Core and peel apples. Slice into rings.
  2. Heat skillet over medium heat and grease.
  3. Whisk dry ingredients together.
  4. Add egg and buttermilk and mix.
  5. Dip apple rings in batter and drop on skillet.
  6. Cook first side until golden brown and then flip. Repeat for second side.
  7. Serve with maple syrup.
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Kentucky Mint Julep

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Kentucky

Kentucky Disaster

*Sigh* Things were going so well on our cooking tour. I guess I could only expect Kentucky to be a bombtastic failure. I was so excited that we pulled Kentucky last week. The Kentucky Derby is May 5th, only a few days away…what serendipitous timing! There were so many different Kentucky Derby recipes to choose from, that I decided we needed to make a meal, a drink AND a dessert. Hot Browns, Mint Juleps, and a Derby Pie.

I Was a Bit Overwhelmed by the Menu

Now as you can imagine, all that makes for a complicated grocery list. Okay, maybe not complicated, but I’ve got a lot on my mind these days. Flipping back and forth between recipes on Pinterest, I may have gotten a little bit confused and sort of morphed a few of the recipes together. So this meal required the initial trip to the grocery store, when I forgot to put the turkey on the list (pretty much the centerpiece of the Hot Brown), a second trip to the grocery store to get the required turkey, and a third trip when I realized we didn’t have mint for the mint julep (kind of important for a mint julep I’m thinking). And there wouldhave been a fourth trip because I didn’t have enough heavy cream, but I was able to find a recipe that used exactly as much cream as I had on hand. The good news is, I had everything I needed for the Derby pie. 😁

What’s a Hot Brown Anyway?

Hot Browns originated at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky in 1926. They’re open faced turkey sandwiches topped with Mornay sauce, cheese, and bacon. There were a couple of variations of the recipe (hence my confusion), so I choose one that also included cheddar cheese in addition to the Pecorino-Romano cheese.

For the Mornay sauce: Melt 4 TBSP butter in a sauce pan. Add 1/2 c. all purpose flour and create a roux. Then add 1 quart of heavy cream and stir for about 3 minutes. Off heat, add 1/4 c. of Pecorino-Romano cheese. Thank goodness this wasn’t as labor intensive as the roux that we made for the gumbo because then I really would be upset—it’s bad enough I made three trips to the grocery store for this meal. I’m not sure if I did something wrong, or the sauce is supposed to come out the way it did, but for some reason, my sauce was kind of…gloppy. Which made it difficult to pour on the sandwiches. Or what was supposed to be sandwiches.😬

It’s All the Texas Toast’s Fault

So when the recipe called for Texas toast as the sandwich base, I, um, really thought it meant the frozen Texas toast garlic bread that we eat. 🤦🏻‍♀️ Yeah. I really did. Go ahead, laugh at me. Everyone else in my house did. So I assembled the sandwiches on the garlic bread—slices of roasted turkey, the Mornay sauce, and some cheddar cheese sprinkled on top.  Some recipes had tomatoes sliced on top, but I knew nobody would want that in my house so I just set them to the side. *The recipes also called for each Hot Brown to be cooked in an individual dish. Ain’t nobody got time for that. 🤪

I put them all in one baking dish.

img_0739 The dish goes in the oven (or in my case, the Cuisinart) until the cheese starts to bubble. Then you place strips of bacon across the top.

img_0740 This is where the Texas toast was a problem. You see, it was frozen and I wasn’t sure if I should cook it first or cook it all together—the recipe didn’t say…probably because I wasn’t supposed to be using frozen garlic bread in the first place. Needless to say, the toast didn’t crisp up and was soggy and not exactly the flavor it was supposed to be. The kids complained and made faces and refused to eat it. They fed theirs to the dog until I yelled because he’s allergic to turkey. They left the table. Hubby poked at his Hot Brown and made his own faces. I ate my Hot Brown and threw everyone else’s in the garbage. Hubby went out and got Chinese food. If you use the real Texas toast, you can probably avoid that whole scene. I think.

The Mint Julep

I’ve never had a Mint Julep although I’ve certainly heard of them. I envision Southern ladies fanning themselves and sipping Mint Juleps on their front porch.

To make them, you make a mint simple syrup: boil sugar and water in a 1:1 ratio. Add mint leaves and cool in fridge for a few hours. Put crushed ice in a tumbler and add 1 TBSP of the simple syrup and 2 oz of Kentucky bourbon. Garnish with mint:

img_0743 *That baseball bat looking thing? Hubby’s “mint muddler” 🙄🙄🙄

The verdict on the Mint Julep was not what I was expecting. Based on the name alone, I thought it would be a more “girlie” drink—Southern ladies drink this??? The bourbon could put hair on your chest. Hubby liked it. I wasn’t a fan.

On to Disaster #3…the Derby pie

I actually shouldn’t say that…the Derby pie was pretty good and really easy to make. The list of ingredients includes 1 stick of melted butter, 1 c. sugar, 2 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/4 c. all purpose flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 c. chocolate chips, and 1 c. chopped pecans. Oh and of course, a refrigerated pie crust:

img_0732 Melt the butter and beat together with sugar until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until mixed well. Add flour and salt. When mixed, add chocolate chips and pecans.

img_0736 Pour into pie crust and bake on 325 for 60 minutes or until toothpick come out clean in center of pie.

img_0737 End result was actually edible and a consolation prize for dinner:

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Hubby’s Statement

I know this is highly unusual for my blog, but Hubby wanted to put his two cents in:

“She tries really hard. I think her cooking skills have improved immensely during this challenge. The Texas toast…frozen, though? Just an epic fail. I may have to start babysitting her in the kitchen when she cooks.”

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Nebraska

I cringed last as Hubby pulled another middle of the country state. To me, Nebraska was equivalent to farmers, football, and amber waves of grain. I would have never dreamed that one of my favorite foods actually originated in Nebraska.

Legend Has It…

Reuben Kulakofsky, a Jewish grocer from Omaha, Nebraska is credited with inventing a sandwich for his weekly poker game at the Blackstone Hotel sometime in 1920. The owner of the hotel was so impressed with this sandwich, he put on the hotel menu. According to sources like Wikipedia, that sandwich was the first Reuben, born not out of New York or New Jersey as one would expect, but out of a hotel in Nebraska. Nebraska! Nebraska-ians (?) love their Reubens. In fact, March 14 isn’t just Pi Day in Omaha—it’s Reuben sandwich day.

Or, It Could Have Happened This Way…

Unfortunately, no one knows if that story is completely true because there are many other “Reuben” origin stories, including one that claims the Reuben originated from a deli in New York City called Reuben’s Delicatessen. Supposedly, it included “Reuben’s Special” on its menu as early as 1914. The earliest references to the sandwich in print are from the mid-20s and are New York based. There’s also speculation to whether the sandwich was invented for an actress or something just whipped up by the cook. So, not so clear.

What’s Even Less Clear is What’s on the Sandwich

The “classic” Reuben has corned beef, swiss, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing on rye bread. There are many variations on this recipe, including pastrami in substitution of the corned beef (Hubby and I argued about this one—they’re PRACTICALLY the same thing), Russian dressing or mustard in lieu of the Thousand Island, and coleslaw instead of sauerkraut. Some people even use turkey instead of corned beef or pastrami. Anyway you slice it, people call this sloppy sandwich a Reuben. (In NJ sometimes a similar sandwich is called a “Sloppy Joe”—turkey, roast beef, coleslaw and thousand island dressing.)

We’re Eating a Reuben for Nebraska and That’s the End of the Story

Any way you slice it, the point is, Reubens are really popular in Nebraska, so that’s what we had for our Nebraska meal. There was a collection of groans when I announced this fact. (Notice that no one else does the state research so I ALWAYS have to be the person who picks and I ALWAYS have to deal with the moaning and groaning from the members of my family who are unhappy with my decision.)

But I ignored them. I like Reubens. Child #2 gets a Reuben panini whenever we get subs. TFB if Hubby and Child #1 aren’t fans. After our very labor intensive Louisiana meal, a Reuben that could be whipped up on a busy weeknight was perfect.

First the Meat

The only way I could get Hubs to agree to eat a Reuben was to let him make it with pastrami. *Sigh* Although corned beef and pastrami taste almost exactly the same, a Reuben with pastrami is called a “Rachel”. But whatever. Let him eat the pastrami. At least he was trying something new.

The meat gets warmed up on the griddle while the sauerkraut warms up in a pot on the stove:

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You butter the rye bread* and toast the one side and put Thousand Island dressing on the other:

*Seedless rye—Rye bread with seeds is the devil. I hate biting into one of those seeds. Yuck. Whenever I got a Reuben in a diner, I would order it on a roll because I hated the seeds. Until I discovered seedless rye…GAME CHANGER!

 

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Then top with the meat, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut:

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Cover with a second piece of toasted bread (with Thousand Island dressing spread on the one side). Grill both sides like you would for grilled cheese. Serve when cheese is melted and meat is warmed throughout:

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While the sandwich was messy as it always is, I added less meat than they would in a diner or deli, so it was more manageable. The sandwich was delicious and I enjoyed it. Child #2 was pleased with it as well. The other two grumbled, but ate the sandwich because they knew they weren’t getting anything else to eat for dinner. I would definitely make a homemade Reuben again in the future…just maybe not when the Reuben-haters are home.

 

Louisiana Gumbo

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Louisiana

First, a warning. This blog post will be long. Between talking about Louisiana and the actual making of this meal, I’ve got a lot to say. But I assure you that it’ll be worth it.

Louisiana History

While every state has some rich history, there are not too many with such deep rooted FOOD histories as Louisiana’s. The main cuisines of Louisiana are Creole and Cajun…a combination of French, Spanish, West African, Native American, German, Haitian, and Italian influences, in addition to Southern US influences. Louisiana was founded by the French, hence the slow and complex cooking found in Louisiana cuisine. I’ve discovered that the main difference between Creole and Cajun cooking is that Creole uses a tomato base, while Cajun does not, and that Creole is considered a little more “high brow-city food” while Cajun is more “country food”. Here’s a handy Pin that outlines the differences.

Full disclosure: Hubby went through an “I Love Emeril” phase quite a few years back. At that point in time, despite the fact that visiting New Orleans has been a bucket list item for me for quite some time (I had a teacher in 5th grade describe the above ground graves and I was instantly morbidly fascinated), I did not share his enthusiasm for New Orleans cooking.  I wasn’t big on trying new things. I wasn’t big on spices. That was the old me. New me wants to shake old me and tell her not to be such a weenie and try new foods!

Don’t Be a Weenie

The purpose of this State Food Tour is to experience the cuisine of other states and try new things. Sometimes it’s difficult to find a meal that we want to try and that we haven’t really had before. Not with Louisiana. There was soooooo much to choose from when we had to pick what we were making for this state. Did we want Jumbalaya? Crawfish? Gumbo? Etouffee? Shrimp Po’Boys? There aren’t too many other states with such an overwhelming selection of choices.

Even though I really wanted a Shrimp Po’boy (soooo good) we decided to go with a Cajun Gumbo…one that was loosely based on a recipe by the Great Emeril himself (we made some changes based on preferences and availability of supplies).

Gumbo is a bit complicated…

After pinning a few recipes and reviewing them, I realized that the gumbo was going to be a little more complicated than I’m comfortable with. Over the course of this project I’ve come to learn a thing or two about cooking, and I would even dare to say that I’m actually improving. That’s not to say that cooking doesn’t scare me. Complex and time consuming recipes paralyze me with anxiety. I’m always afraid I’ll ruin the meal or have to perform too many steps at a time and I’ll get overwhelmed by that.

I didn’t have to twist Hubby’s arm to get him to do most of the work with this recipe. This is him enthusiastically watching a You Tube video about making a roux:

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While the idea of stirring a pot of flour and oil for an hour overwhelmed me, it excited him. Weirdo.

Do the Roux

Anyway…on to the roux. Apparently another difference between Cajun and Creole is the way the roux is made—Creole uses butter, Cajun, uses vegetable oil. You need to heat it over low heat and stir in the flour it until it turns a chocolate brown color. It LITERALLY needs to be stirred CONTINUOUSLY for an hour. Like you can’t do anything else at all. Because you’ll burn the roux and then you’ll have to start over. Seriously…you can’t even scratch your nose.

Hubby set up the roux and we took turns stirring it—I had to stir while he chopped up the onions, pepper, and celery for the gumbo. If there’s anything I dislike more than stirring a roux, it’s chopping up onions. (Really, how do people do it without crying?) He stirred while I used the garlic press to squeeze and entire bulb of garlic in order to get the 3 TABLESPOONS of garlic. And then I wondered why my hands were sore the next day.

Here is our roux in stages:

See the chocolate color in the last picture? Hubby was practically swooning when he saw that. These were taken at 10 min intervals—it turns out that we only had to stir for about 40 minutes because we had 1 cup of flour and oil instead of 2. If you ever want to make this recipe, I would highly suggest watching one of those roux making You Tube videos to help you out.

The roux was the most difficult part of the whole recipe. I’m glad Hubs did most of that because I probably would have had a nervous breakdown worrying about messing it up. Now that I know how to do it, I would feel comfortable doing it on my own. The only problem would be if I had to go to the bathroom. I guess I can’t drink any water before making a roux by myself.

The Easy Part

Once the roux was the right color, the veggies, garlic, sausage, and cayenne pepper were added and cooked while stirring for about 5 minutes until the veggies were soft. The chicken stock was added directly to this pot, along with salt, pepper, and a bay leaf. Then the pot was reduced to a simmer for about 2 hours. (During that time you have to check the pot to skim the excess oil off the top every once in awhile.)

After that, we added shrimp*, green onions (yuck), and parsley to the pot and allowed it to simmer until the shrimp was cooked, about 20 minutes. We served it over rice with a sprinkle of file powder**.

*Shrimp was a deviation from the original recipe—Cajun cooking more commonly includes Crawfish, while Creole tends to use shrimp. Crawfish is a little harder to come by around these parts.

**This was fun to find. Two different grocery stores on a Sunday afternoon in search of a tiny little bottle of powder. When I told Hubby that the powder was an optional garnish, he didn’t seem to care and still insisted on having it. Ugh.

Don’t forget the wine

I did a little research on what wine pairs well with gumbo. My choices were a Riesling or a Chenin Blanc. I had never heard of Chenin Blanc (it’s French…fitting) and in the spirit of trying something new (on my expedition to retrieve file powder), I picked that up to have with the gumbo:

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It was a nice crisp taste, not too dry and not too fruity, either. It paired well with the meal.

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Bon Appetite!

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Lousiana

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 3 hours

Total Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 3 TBSP of minced garlic
  • 1 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb of andouille sausage (cut into small pieces)
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 boxes of chicken stock (8 cups)

Instructions

  1. Make roux with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of vegetable oil. Stir continuously until roux is a chocolate brown color. (This will take between 35-45 minutes.)
  2. Once the roux is the right color, add the veggies, garlic, sausage, and cayenne pepper, stirring for about 5 minutes until the veggies are soft.
  3. Add the chicken stock directly to this pot, along with salt, pepper, and a bay leaf. Reduce to a simmer for about 2 hours. (During that time you have to check the pot to skim the excess oil off the top every once in awhile.)
  4. After that, add shrimp, green onions, and parsley to the pot and allow it to simmer until the shrimp is cooked, about 20 minutes.
  5. Serve it over rice with a sprinkle of file powder.
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