Italy Meets Greece

Three weeks into living in Italy, and surprisingly I’m not sick of eating pasta. Well, I’m sick of restaurant pasta because that equals me blowing $$$$. I can’t even begin to explain how excited I was when I read tonight’s menu and realized I’d be making an Italian pasta dish of my own. On tap for tonight is Sicilian Sausage and Fennel Pasta, and a Greek Diner Salad. Let’s get cooking!

I used to think that traveling to Trader Joe’s was a trip and a half, but nothing could prepare me for Italian grocery stores. Before I even left to go shopping I had to research translations of all the ingredients just in case I had to ask an employee where to find an item. Looks like my grocery trips are now going to be a part time language class for me too.

I started out at Conad at 10:30AM. I was able to find all of the produce…but that was about it. I wasn’t in the mood to ask any of the employees where things were, plus I was in a hurry to get to class.

After class, I decided to have another go at a different supermarket: Pam. Pam is more like an express super market, so I didn’t go in there with high expectations. I managed to find feta cheese, pepperoncini, and chicken broth, but I still needed to find sweet Italian sausage….I really thought that would be the easiest thing to find because, oh, I don’t know, I’m in freaking Italy??!! Mama mia!! I stumbled upon another random market across the street from me and decided to give it a go. I found sausage, but I couldn’t tell if it was sweet sausage (yes I get super anal about ingredients). I stared at the package for about 10 minutes before my eyes found “DOLCE” and I nearly yelped for joy. I still needed to find oregano, but I was so done with this scavenger hunt through Florence, so I just gave up on that one.

I had to run to class after the endless grocery trip, but after 2 and a half hours it was cooking time…almost. I come home to see my room mate Shannon at the door of our building saying she broke her foot, so I helped carry her to the hospital. Once she was checked in our other roommate Stef stayed with her & I hurried home because if I didn’t eat soon I was going to pass out.

Before I could even cook I had to stop back at the random market to buy a new pan because all of the pans provided by our apartment sucked.

Finally after hours it was time to cook! As the sausage browned I chopped up garlic, onions and fennel. Fun fact about fennel: it smells like licorice, which is interesting because once I threw the vegetables in the pan I smothered them with sambuca which is licorice flavored liqueur. The whole sauce was a random concoction of spices, veggies, and cream, and they all seemed odd to pair together, but Rachael Ray’s weirdest combinations tend to be the best.

As the sauce simmered and pasta boiled, Kait joined me to chop up the salad ingredients. Chopping is always quick and easy whenever you have a helping hand! Before I knew it, it was time to eat.

Kait got all cute and set the dining room up for a roomie dinner, then we all sat down (minus Shannon because she was still at the hospital) and had the moment of truth.

3…2…1…No exaggeration, this pasta was the best since I’ve been in Italy! At first I thought it tasted so good because I was beyond starved, but everyone had the same reaction. I’d say it was a success! The salad was just a salad, nothing extravagant about it. Just salad.

Now time for the ratings. Sicilian Sausage and Fennel Pasta receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This pasta was so unique because it was sweet. Most people would be like “a sweet pasta? gross!” but hear me out, this was great. There was a slight licorice flavor to it from the fennel and sambuca, but not overwhelming. It was the perfect balance of salty and semi-sweet. Fabuloso! The Greek Diner Salad receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. I realized after we cleaned up that I forgot to put the feta cheese in. -_- Cheese always makes everything better, so this was just a meh salad. There was literally nothing special about it, and anyone could’ve made it — simply unimpressive.

Rachael Ray has perfect timing: as soon as I move to Italy, all of the upcoming recipes just happen to be Italian! I don’t know if it’s all in my head, but I think making Italian food in Italy makes it taste better…I’m definitely right. Pasta has always been the most difficult thing for me to make, but I’m gonna come back to the US a pasta master. Just you wait!

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus

PS Because of the ridiculous wifi here I couldn’t upload the pictures. I tried for 14 hours. So sorry about no pictures of this awesome meal. ):

Advertisements

At Home Sunday

It has been a crazy ride in New York with this blog — From my love/hate relationship with Trader Joe’s to masterpiece and failure recipes, this blog and my love for cooking have flourished in this city. But now, it’s time to take EVOO international!! For those of you who don’t know, I moved to Florence, Italy for a year, but I knew I couldn’t leave EVOO or my faithful readers behind. I packed up the cookbook, and safely made it to Europe. After settling down (and eating more pasta than I’d like to admit) I finally made the time to continue this cooking adventure in my new apartment. On tap for tonight’s first Italian EVOO is Aldo’s Cold Herb-Roasted Chicken and Blanched Green Beans with Parsley. Let’s get cooking!

This adventure is sort of confusing and all over the place because 1. I don’t know how to get around the city yet and 2. all the food labels here are in Italian. It’s going to take some time to get used to grocery shopping here. I first tried this marketplace called Vivi, and I was honestly petrified when I went inside. It was small, dingy, and I felt like there was no way the place would pass US department of health standards. The owner’s toddler was also riding around the tiny store on his tricycle, and bumped into me a few times. I left there empty handed but I knew it was for the best.

The next place I tried actually felt like an American supermarket. Stepping into Conad was somewhat relaxing — I knew it was clean and I knew this would become my regular grocery store. It was pretty easy to find all of the ingredients (considering all I needed was a chicken, green beans and parsley), but the way you buy the produce was slightly confusing.

Europeans are so much more trusting in the grocery store. To buy produce you put as much of one item in the bag as you want — in my case green beans — then you weigh it, and the scale prints out a price sticker according to weight. A pretty easy process, but anyone could put more in after they print the sticker….grocery stores in the USA are definitely not that trusting.

I didn’t cook until the next day (today). A majority of my room mates almost convinced me to go out to eat for the 5th night in a row, but I held my ground and stayed behind to cook instead. Rachael Ray warned in the recipe that it would take over 30 minutes — finally something she was honest about. Although cooking time was longer, it was honestly the easiest recipe in the history of this blog. All I had to do was rub my chicken with herbes de Provence, and then let it cook in the oven for 40 minutes.

I ran out while it was cooking (don’t worry, one of my room mates was home to watch it) to buy some tupper ware. When I returned the chicken was supposedly done, but when I cut it open it was still a little pink so it went back in the oven for another 20 while I made the green beans.

Now the recipe says that both of these items should be served cold….but ain’t nobody got time to let a full roasted chicken cool to room temperature (and why would you want to eat cold chicken) so I ate both of these hot. I’m sure that it was 100% better than it would’be been cold. Sorry, Rachael Ray.

IMG_4845

I was starved, so when this moment of truth finally came around I was so happy. 3..2..1… I was so hungry that this meal was better than I thought it would be. You all know I’m not a fan of green beans, in fact I’m allergic to them… but these were stomach-able. I gladly scarfed them down. The chicken was cooked beautifully too. I don’t care what anyone says, the skin is the BEST part! The whole bird was juicy and delicious. I could’ve eaten the whole thing but stopped myself and only ate half instead. Not too shabby for my first home cooked meal in another country.

Now time for ratings. Aldo’s Cold Herb-Roasted Chicken receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. I loved this chicken. It had a simple spice yet was so flavorful and cooked to perfection. The only thing that prevented it from receiving 5 hearts was that I never realized how difficult it was to eat a full chicken off the bone. I felt like a savage while eating and wasn’t sure if I got all the meat or not, which was kind of frustrating honestly. The Blanched Green Beans with Parsley also receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. I hate green beans, but this dish was more than tolerable for me. I will never LOVE green beans, but at least I didn’t hate them. I definitely can and will eat these for leftovers the rest of the week.

Cooking in a different country is oddly different, not just because of the shopping, but also having to learn how all of the appliances work. Though this cooking adventure didn’t require much work, I look forward to becoming more comfortable with this culture and my kitchen. Hopefully Rachael Ray will bless this next year with lots of Italian recipes to come. I’m ready to become a master *Italian* chef! Here’s to the next year of new food and new adventures! Ciao!

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus

One-Hot-Pot

I often recall simple times when I lived on an alpaca farm and ate simple food like buttered noodles (I had an interesting childhood). I was a very picky eater back then, but now I’m open to try anything and everything as most of you know. Instead of cooking in the city this week I’m back at my humble abode in the middle of nowhere, and while there are not alpacas anymore, I’m very excited to have a simple dish with some close hometown friends. On tap for tonight is Chili Verde. Let’s get cooking!

This adventure doesn’t start at the grocery store, but rather at the doctors office. Since I am an *adult* now, I took myself to the doctors by myself. It was just an annual check up but I had to get a shot. Normally I wouldn’t complain a huge amount, but they made me stay an extra 20 minutes since I drove myself. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and go grocery shopping. It had been about 3 weeks since I had last shopped for groceries and I missed the feeling of wandering through the isles looking for my ingredients — it’s kind of like an adult scavenger hunt if you think about it. Finally they let me go and I made my way over to the Giant Eagle.

My list of things I needed to pick up was rather simple today, but there was one ingredient I feared that I would not be able to find: tomatillos. As I stated before, I live in the middle of nowhere, so I did not have high expectations for this store to have such an exotic vegetable, but I was pleasantly surprised when I found them! They were right beside the tomatoes (since the are Mexican green tomatoes) and I nearly jumped for joy when I found them. It was so refreshing to be able to pick up all of my ingredients at one place (yes I am throwing shade to you Trader Joes…but I still love you).

I went to pay for my items, and the cashier had the most confused look when he picked up the tomatillos. he said to me “uhhhh….I have no clue what these are.” I told him and explained exactly what they were, and continued to tell him how surprised I was they they had them in the store. He said, “You never know what you’ll find here, it’s always full of surprises.” Isn’t that the truth.

I came home and waited for Molly and Hussein to come over at 7. Hussein told us he’d be late because he was cutting down trees, but Molly and I knew it was just an excuse so he didn’t have to help cook — Sorry Hussie, nothing gets past us.

Molly arrived and we got straight to work. First we dug through my kitchen supplies boxes to find my cutting boards. I find it amazing that my parents only have 2 cutting boards — I have about 10 (okay big exaggeration, but seriously you can’t just have 2 cutting boards!!). Once we found the boards, we could get onto the fun part. We threw the turkey into a pot and seasoned it with cumin, grill seasoning, and hot sauce. I finished off all the cumin, which was a big accomplishment: it was the first spice I used the whole way through. I’m basically a master of cumin now.

While the turkey cooked we chopped up so many green vegetables: zucchini, a green bell pepper, the tomatillos, cilantro, and thyme. I realized I forgot to pick up jalapenos, which made me sad for a minute but I quickly got over it. This recipe was relatively simple — we just tossed everything in the pot, let it cook for a few minutes and voila! We were ready to eat.

IMG_4012

We dressed up our chili with a little cheese and some scallions & brought out a whole bag of tortilla chips as well. We sat out on my back porch to enjoy some fresh air and watch the sunset as we had our moment of truth. 3…2…1… ahhh, that was so delicious. This dish was as simple as could be, yet so satisfying. All of the ingredients were so fresh too, which made a huge difference in the dish. I had 2 heaping bowls of this stuff, and that’s saying a lot since the thought of chili freaked me out for most of my life.

Hussein ended up missing the whole meal (it wouldn’t have mattered if he eventually showed up anyways because we ate it all), but we met him at Shaffer’s for ice cream. It was the perfect ending to a lovely summers night.

Now time for the rating. Chili Verde receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This dish was not only flavorfully satisfying, but it also meshed perfectly with our surroundings. This is one thing that I don’t think many people think about. For example: seafood tastes better when you’re near the ocean. Chili is a simple dish to make, and we made it in a simple place: in the wide open country setting next to a few farms and a corn field. The whole atmosphere made this dish a million times better than I thought it could ever be. This was definitely and unforgettable meal.

While I adore living in the city, sometimes its good to step back and enjoy the little things and the quieter places. Cooking with childhood friends, and making memories we’ll remember when we’re old and gray is such a wonderful feeling. I’m excited to do the next evoo in an exotic place, and hopefully make many more cooking memories abroad as well.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Big Soup!

Ever have those nights where you just want to stuff your face and eat like a normal person? That has been me for the past two months while I was preparing for a pageant I was competing in. I have not tasted bread, or sugar, or any of my favorite things for the past two months….I HAVEN’T EVOOD IN TWO MONTHS!!! WHO AM I?! Thank goodness I’m back to discovering so many delicious recipes, and I wouldn’t want to get back into the swing of things with a different 3-course menu than tonight’s. On tap for tonight is Green Minestrone, Tomato Basil Panzanella, and Lemon Coconut Angel Food Cake. Let’s get cooking!

I started this cooking adventure like any other at Trader Joe’s on Tuesday. This was no ordinary Trader Joe’s run…it was my LAST Trader Joe’s run since I move out in a week. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually going to miss that place and all of the great deals it had — even if it was a pain in the ass most of the time.

I was really hoping this trip would be quick and painless but it didn’t look too bright when I was stuck on the subway for 20 minutes in between stations. Train delays are one thing but when you’re trapped in an over packed unairconditioned car, you just want to die. When I finally reached my destination I felt like I was breathing in fresh air for the first time in years.

Despite the rocky beginning, this grocery run could not have gone any smoother. I found all of the ingredients I needed (besides white cannellini beans and ditalini pasta), but I knew my friends would be able to pick those up no problem. Everything was also super affordable which I can always count on Trader Joe’s for! I’d say this was a very successful last trip — see you in a year Trader Joe’s!

Fast forward to today (Thursday). After a long day of dog walking, I was so excited to come home and have a wonderful home cooked meal. I’m so happy I didn’t have to cook alone either! Girl’s night: cooking edition coming atcha. Chela, Amy & Krystina all joined me for a feast.

Amy brought the beans & Krystina brought the pasta (Krystina went all fancy and bought the pasta from Eatily!) We started how we always do with chopping. It was mainly Amy and I doing all the work since Chela brought her own pizza (typical) and Krystina doesn’t trust herself with knives (can’t blame her).

IMG_3316.jpg

Once all of the chopping was complete everything else was pretty simple — all I had to do was throw everything in a pot to make the soup and let it simmer for a while. While the soup was brewing I turned my attention to the Panzanella. This recipe really confused me because it told me to let the bread soak in water, then to wring it dry because you don’t want soggy bread…why is the bread supposed to be drenched in water if it shouldn’t be soggy??? Rachael Ray were you high when you created this recipe??? Whatever, I always do as the recipe says, but I let Amy dry the bread so I wouldn’t be at fault if it was weird…sorry Amy…

IMG_3315

I couldn’t let Krystina sit and do nothing, so I gave her some cheese to grate which she did beautifully. I threw the cheese into the soup, while Amy mixed the Panzanella together, and then it was time for the first moment of truth.

3…2…1….It feels so good to eat real food again!!….JK the soup is something I could’ve eaten on my diet since there was no sugar, but it was still good and I didn’t feel bloated or gross while eating it. Thumbs up from me! The soggy bread though….it was still soggy. Someone please explain to me why one would drench bread in water if you don’t want it to be wet? This is so mind boggling to me. Once you got past the sogginess of the bread, the rest of the dish was pretty dang good — very Italian.

We scarfed down our dinner so we could move on to dessert. Now, I didn’t go full out pastry chef here, (I bought a pre-made angel food cake), all I had to do was dress it up a little bit. I heated up some lemon curd and added a little lemon zest, then skillfully drizzled it all over the cake. Finally I topped it off with shaved coconut, and I have to say, it looked like a masterpiece! If it wasn’t so pretty we would’ve dived in sooner.

IMG_3317

So now for the second moment of truth: 3…2…1… BEST DESSERT IN EVOO HISTORY. I’m serious! This was so simple, yet sweet and out of this world. Maybe I’m freaking out since I haven’t had any sugar in 2 months, but this was absolutely glorious. I honestly could’ve eaten the whole cake. It is taking all of my willpower to save Ashley the last slice of cake..I’m such a good room mate.

Now time for the ratings. Green Minestrone receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. This soup was good, don’t get me wrong, but it was very bland. This could’ve been 10 times better if a few spices were added for good measure, but it was boring. Onto the next. The Tomato Basil Panzanella receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. Flavor wise this dish was fabulous, but I just could not get over the soggy bread. Why would you wet the bread, Rachael Ray?? I will not rest until this question is answered. Finally, the Lemon Coconut Angel Food Cake receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Talk about a strong finish! This dessert was light and airy, yet sweat and satisfying. I could eat this all day every day (I’m a sucker for fruity desserts) plus it was super easy to make! I loved it!!

It felt great to get back on the EVOO train, but also bittersweet considering this is the last EVOO in my first NYC apartment. Don’t worry, now that I’m back, I’ll be evooing every week. But where in the world will the next blog take place? You’ll find out next time! Thanks for reading!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

IMG_3316.jpg

Destination: Couch

Everyone has those days where all they want to do is come home, and curl up in front of the TV with their dinner and have a nice, chill night. That’s all I wanted to do today after the weekend I had, and because my sophomore year of college is officially over!! What better way to celebrate than with a lazy dinner of Super-Stuffed French Bread Pizza Rustica, and Sun-Dried Tomato Dip with Chips and Veggies. Let’s get cooking!

After last week’s visit to Trader Joe’s on a Sunday, I figured this Sunday trip would be just as easy, but I should’ve guessed it all depends on the time of day — and man, did I choose the wrong time. I went to Trader Joe’s at 5pm and the place was PACKED. I did most of my shopping in the line that wrapped the whole way around the upper level. I felt like I was never going to get out of the store. Luckily I did, only to do the exact same thing at Fairway. I waited for my turn at the deli counter for almost 20 minutes!! I had better things to do than wait for a half a pound of sweet sopressata (like go chill on my friends rooftop) but these are the things I do for my loyal EVOOers…what is my life?

The trip home from the grocery store was also a stressful one. Lately downtown trains have only been running express on the weekends so I had to go all the way to times square then transfer to an uptown train to get back to 50th street. Talk about a pain when you’re carrying about 20 pounds of groceries. Whatever.

I actually had a friend come cook with me tonight for the first time in AGES!! I forgot how amazing it was to have a cooking buddy. Martina came over and even brought some ingredients — she’s the real OG man.

In the past when Martina has cooked with me, “cook” has been a relative term — usually she supervises, but tonight she actually partook in the cooking! We chopped everything together and caught up on our pretty much nonexistent love lives. I started to cook the pizza filling while Martina cut the bread, but it should’ve been the other way around because she completely butchered the bread. Our pizza crust was almost ruined, but I swooped in to save the day and we switched cooking stations.

When the filling was done we stuffed out *saved* crusts, and topped them off with mounds of mozzarella then tossed them in the oven. While our pizzas cooked, we made the dip. I almost forgot I had my ratchet food processor, but it made an appearance tonight. I’m amazed that the piece of cardboard shoved into the slot does the trick, but that’s what you get from a cheap kitchen tool. All the ingredients were quickly processed into a lovely smooth dip, and by the time that was complete our pizzas were done too!

IMG_9713

Like the title of this menu says, our destination was the couch for this meal and we finally had our moment of truth. 3…2…1…OOOOO yes. This was exactly what my taste buds and stomach needed. It may not be a New York slice, but this is so much better than I could’ve imagined it to be. I must admit I was fearful because I usually prefer plain pizza, but all the meat and veggies in this dish was fabulous! The dip was also a nice touch and was a flavorful side dish.

IMG_9714

Now time for the ratings! Super-Stuffed French Bread Pizza Rustica receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts without a doubt. Before we even tried this dish Martina said she could tell it was going to be a 5 hearts meal, and she was right. I haven’t had pizza in two weeks (which is a super long time, since I’m hopelessly devoted to pizza) and this completely satisfied my craving. I have no problem eating this for the rest of the week. The Sun-Dried Tomato Dip with Chips and Veggies receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Also very good, and since it was served with some veggies it made me feel healthy, but after digging in to the pizza, the dip didn’t even come close to comparing to it whatsoever.

Although every meal I eat is on my couch, this one is probably at the top of my list. Like I said in my last post, when your apartment is the size of a shoe box, the only place that there’s room to eat is the couch. Next apartment I have I really need to make sure there’s table space.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

TV Dinner

With finals quickly approaching, there is nothing more I want to do than sit in bed with a huge dinner of all my favorite foods while watching Gossip Girl on Netflix. Anything like that is way better than studying for finals. It’s my lucky night tonight, because although this menu isn’t my favorite food (sushi) I can still watch Netflix while eating it! On tap for tonight is Chicken Cacciatore Subs and Al Fredo’s Popcorn. Let’s get cooking!

This adventure started yesterday (Sunday) at the grocery store. Trader Joe’s was the last place I wanted to be at 8pm on Sunday. I had a long weekend celebrating Ashley’s 21st and all I wanted was to curl up in bed and sleep for at least 15 hours. But I still dragged my butt to the store. I was expecting the store to be overflowing with people, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was absolutely no line! This was one of the most bearable shopping trips of my life — until my Sherri Hill shopping bag broke. RIP to that bag, it had been with me since I moved to New York. I had to carry the bag like a baby the whole way home so it’s contents wouldn’t spill everywhere.

Fast forward to today (Monday). After my first round of classes I stopped by the Food Emporium to pick up my last two ingredients: rolls and diced tomatoes. I wasn’t cooking until my last class was over at 6:30, but I texted Martina to remind her to bring the wine…she said she couldn’t come anymore ): I thought I’d finally be cooking with friends after so long, but I guess not.

I was starving by the time class was over and ran home as quickly as I could to start cooking. I didn’t have much to chop tonight which was a relief and the chicken cooked pretty quickly. All was going well until one of the chicken breasts literally flew over my counter and onto the floor. I just about had a heart attack. Luckily the chicken didn’t get dirty (5-second rule) and I placed it back on the plate to be chopped.

While my veggies cooked I cut the chicken. I didn’t have time to go out and buy more red wine, but I’ve had some sitting in my kitchen since January (I know gross) but I didn’t have any other options so I used that and prayed my food would still turn out okay.

Once the sauce was complete and the chicken was submerged into it, I piled the concoction onto my rolls, topped it with some provolone, and put it under the broiler to melt.

IMG_9053

I decided to clean up a bit while the cheese melted, but I took to long and burned it a bit, but no worries, it was still edible! So here comes the 1st moment of truth for the night. 3…2…1… Just what I needed! This sub was oh so delicious. The combination of my favorite veggies (mushrooms, bell peppers, & onions), and perfectly cooked chicken was stupendous! I made two since I was so hungry and I situated myself on the floor to watch Gossip Girl while I ate.

I was so full from my subs, so I waited until Ashley got home to make the popcorn. I realized last minute that we were out of Parmesan, so I ran over to Duane Reade in my apron to pick some up. The line at Duane Reade was worse than the line at Trader Joe’s, I was there for a while before I finally made it home.

When I finally got home I topped my popcorn with garlic butter & Parmesan, then Ash and I had another moment of truth in front of the TV. 3…2…1…meh. This popcorn was so buttery and cheesy. I’m not much of a cheesy popcorn person — I prefer for my popcorn to be cooked in coconut oil and lightly topped with salt.

IMG_9054

Now time for the ratings. The Chicken Cacciatore Subs receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. My dad always says that the bread makes a sandwich and I couldn’t agree more. This bread held everything inside and never got soggy. The contents were also very flavorful and made for one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in a while. Bravo to these subs. Al Fredo’s Popcorn receives ♥♥ (2) hearts. It doesn’t take much to mess up popcorn, but Al Fredo must’ve been high when he made this recipe. Too much cheese, too buttery, too bleh. No thank you. I only ate it because it was in front of me but Ash and I threw half of it away.

All in all, you know it’s a good night when you can sit on the bed and watch TV while you eat..but let’s be real. When your apartment is the size of a shoe box, the only place there’s room to eat is the bed…so a tv dinner is my dinner every night. Although I try to make it seem like I eat fancily…or at least cook fancily…okay whatever, goodbye ya’ll!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Go Fish!

I have had summer on my mind for months — not just the weather, but summer food as well. I imagine having some freshly caught seafood on the shore accompanied by a nice refreshing salad… Okay the salad part was a lie, I rarely like salad… But, with summer right around the corner, tonight’s menu is giving us a little taste of summer nights to come. On tap for tonight is Swordfish Kebabs with Tomato, Onion, and Arugula Salad. Let’s get cooking!

I knew today (Monday) was going to be a very busy day. I somehow was able to squeeze in my grocery shopping after my classes were done at 2. I only needed to pick up a lemon, an onion, arugula, and swordfish — aka the smallest evoo shopping list in the history of this blog!! Since I was already at school I just walked 3 blocks down to Whole Foods where I was able to find Every. Single. Item.. Even swordfish! But I didn’t buy the swordfish there. Why didn’t I buy it? Because after Whole Foods I went down the the Lobster Place seafood market inside Chelsea Market. This is the only place I will buy seafood because I know it will be guaranteed fresh — they never disappoint!

After I picked up the fish I stopped by Bowery Kitchen Supply for metal skewers. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any, so I reluctantly settled for the wooden ones. The only reason I was reluctant about wooden skewers was because we are cooking the fish using the broiler, and I just imagined the skewers catching fire…well I guess we’ll just have to see tonight!

Fast forward to tonight. This is the first evoo EVER that is taking place in someone else’s apartment…and the second ever date night evoo. We all remember how the last date night evoo went: I never saw the guy again…maybe because I’m too demanding in the kitchen? Who knows, I just hope this adventure doesn’t end the same as the last one.

I arrived at Sergio’s place, and was greeted by Sneakers the pup. (Little backstory, I met Sergio through an app…but not a dating app. Oh no, we met through a dog walking app because I walk his dog. How’s that for a funny story?) Anyways once Sneakers got over the excitement of seeing me…and peeing everywhere…she went in her crate and we got to cooking.

The first step was to preheat the broiler. Now, Sergio had some sort of high tech oven that didn’t say “BROILER” like most ovens do. This one just had a bunch of weird symbols, and he didn’t know which one was for the broiler. Before we could even start he had to find the manual to figure out how to turn it on. Moral of the story: always learn your oven symbols before you have a cooking date.

Anyways, once that was taken care of, I skewered the fish, and made the rub from lemon zest, garlic, parsley and salt. I covered the fish and we plopped them in the oven.

I’m sure all of you know that when I cook with people, they are not just sitting on the sidelines. So, I gave Sergio the task of cutting the onion. I gave him the onion because I didn’t feel like crying tonight — I know I’m evil. Sneakers kept crying in the crate, so I let her out and she turned out to be our little sous-chef. It was the cutest thing ever!

IMG_8558

Sergio had to chop a 1/2 cup of onions, but he totally messed it up. He didn’t take the skin off the onion before cutting it. I thought it was basic knowledge to take the onion skin off before chopping but I guess not. I made him re-cut it, and he gave the skin covered onion to Sneakers. Needless to say, Sneaks was pretty excited that her dad’s mistake equaled food for her.

Now we came to another dilemma: the kebabs needed flipped, but Sergio didn’t have any oven mitts! I was flabbergasted! How does someone not own such a basic kitchen necessity?? He used dish towels to take the fish out and in, and I’m amazed he didn’t burn himself.

While the fish finished cooking we chopped the tomatoes the salad together. Before we knew it, it was time for the moment of truth.

3…2…1…WOW! This fish was absolutely amazing!! I haven’t had swordfish in ages (actually since the last time I made it through evoo, which was in the summer) and I forgot how much I loved it. The paste/seasoning I put on the fish was perfect and light — it reminded me so much of summer. The salad was a great compliment too, and so delicious! For such a simple salad it packed a big flavor punch. We were both so impressed with how it turned out.

Now time for the rating. The Swordfish Kebabs receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. There was nothing that could have made this any better. The fish was cooked to perfection, and the seasoning was simple but fabulous. I could eat this every day and I wish there would have been leftovers. The Tomato, Onion, and Arugula Salad receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts as well. You all know I’m not a big salad person, but this completely blew me away. I am now a believer in salad thanks to this.

I’d say this evoo date went 10x better than the last one, plus we had a cute little velcro dog to help out. Who says cooking with puppies is impossible? Tonight I just proved the whole world wrong and made a scrumptious date night feast. Talk about an all around win! Woohoo!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Turbo Classics Meal

Think about the most stereotypical meal you see mom’s making in TV shows and movies — really think about it. 90% of the time, these moms are making some sort of chicken, potatoes, and a salad…a well rounded meal; a classic meal. Tonight I’m playing that mom with this menu. On tap for tonight is Garlic Roast Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon, Pesto-Smashed Potatoes, and Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Dressing. Let’s get cooking!

Today was a beautiful Monday, and to celebrate this day, I decided to skip my 5pm class and go to Trader Joe’s instead. This week’s ingredients were pretty basic, so from the start I felt like it was going to be a one-stop trip. The first few minutes in Trader Joe’s were a bit disappointing. I was looking for pesto, but only found pesto-quinoa -_- This was super frustrating because I’m allergic to quinoa. Luckily, I was able to find normal pesto that wasn’t soiled by quinoa.

The only item that was completely sold out was rosemary. Trader Joe’s really played me this trip. I was so close..so, so close from not having to go to Fairway, and Trader Joe’s crushed my one-stop shop dream for the day. At least everything at Trader Joe’s totaled out to only $40!!

I stopped at Fairway for my rosemary and was out of there within 10 minutes, so altogether this shopping trip was one of the least stressful ones to date. Woo hoo!

I came home and once I cleaned some dishes I was ready to cook.

First I put the potatoes on to boil since I knew that would take a while. While the water was heating up I prepared the chicken. First I chopped the rosemary and sprinkled it all over. Next I was able to get rid of all my frustrations of the day by pounding the garlic with my mallet — that has to be my favorite cooking appliance. I then covered the chicken in olive oil, and grated some lemon zest over top before finishing it off with some grill seasoning. Finally, I tossed it all together and threw it in the oven.IMG_8264

Back to the potatoes. It was time for an arm workout! I added some chicken broth for the first round of mashing, then I added the game changing ingredient to make these potatoes unique: the pesto! I was able to smash these potatoes to the perfect consistency — not gonna lie, I was pretty proud of myself.

IMG_8265.JPG

Once the timer went off for the chicken, I had to add one more thing; the best ingredient known to mankind: wine…and lemon juice. I let the chicken marinate in the wine while I made the salad.

The salad was the easiest thing. It was only romaine, endives and walnuts. I topped the salad off with a nice Gorgonzola vinaigrette.

IMG_8263

This meal didn’t take as long as the last one. After one hour it was time for the moment of truth! 3…2…1… I was pleasantly surprised with the salad — the thought of Gorgonzola freaked me out, but it was a nice touch to a rather plain bowl of vegetables. The chicken was flavorful, cooked to perfection, and extra juicy. The potatoes…mmmmmh. Potatoes are just one of those things that you can never get wrong. All together this was a very good, well rounded meal!

Now time for the ratings. The Garlic Roast Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. This was a tough thing to rate since for Easter dinner yesterday I had a roasted chicken as well. My mind was still clouded with the chicken from yesterday and how amazing it was. Also, even though I love wine, I really think this dish would have been better without it. This dish had the potential to be 5 stars, but it wasn’t up to that level. Next, the Pesto-Smashed Potatoes receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Rachel Ray has so many potato recipes —  it’s amazing how smashed potatoes can be so versatile. This one was quite tasty, but not as tasty as some previous taters. I made enough to feed a small army, but I will not be complaining about these leftovers whatsoever. Finally, the Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Dressing receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. It can be difficult for me to eat salads…they’re just too bland and healthy for me most of the time. This salad was pretty good, though. Even though the Gorgonzola dressing scared me at first, it was a nice compliment to a rather simple salad.

I think I made a pretty good classic TV mom dinner, although I would rather make new and exciting foods that typical moms wouldn’t make. In the future, my kids better not be as picky as I was when I was younger because they’re going to be the taste testers for my new and exciting creations…if I ever finish this 30 minute meals book… This book really is never ending but I wouldn’t want to cook from anyone other than Rachel Ray.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

I Can’t Believe I Made This

Hello my fellow EVOOers!! I want to apologize for not posting in a while. Life was so hectic, but I finally found the time to cook! It had been way too long. I really wanted to impress you guys with tonight’s dish — as the title goes — I really can’t believe I’m making this! On tonight’s menu is Spinach-Artichoke Casserole, Rice with Sweet Red Peppers, and Shrimp Newburg. Let’s get cooking!

I spent most of my week in Atlanta, and I feared I would never make it home. The airport was a complete disaster since there were so many flight cancellations the day before due to the weather. After 6 hours of waiting, I was finally on a plane back to New York. Where was the first place I went as soon as I landed? You’re all going to think I’m crazy, but I went to Trader Joe’s. Most people would assume that I’d want to go home, relax, and de-stress, but instead I went to one of the most stress inducing grocery stores in Manhattan. Why? I DID IT FOR EVOO GUYS! Seriously though, the trip wasn’t so bad. It was actually calming to be back at Trader Joe’s since I hadn’t been in weeks.

I already knew I would have to stop at Fairway for shrimp, so I didn’t get angry at Trader Joe’s off the bat either. Altogether it was a pretty good shopping day.

Fast forward to today (Saturday). I had a full day of dog walking, so as one can imagine I worked up quite the appetite. I did all the usual things: chopping and what not, then I made the casserole. The casserole was pretty easy to put together –all I had to do was layer bread, artichokes, and spinach then top it with lots of cheese and bake it.

IMG_7705

While the casserole baked I moved on to the rice and shrimp. Why does peeling off shrimp tails take forever? I now understand why restaurants never do it! When I finally peeled all the shrimp, I let them cook with lemon and bay leaves. Then I made the sherry sauce. All of this was super easy…but it took forever!!

IMG_7706IMG_7707

Finally after 2 hours (30 minute meals my ass) it was time for the moment of truth. 3…2…1..This food was definitely worth the wait. The shrimp with the sherry sauce WOW. Out of this world. I literally said “I can’t believe I made this” to myself. The rice…you can never go wrong with rice, and I love rice so it was amazing. I was somewhat nervous to try the casserole because I get iffy with spinach-artichoke, but it was delicious!! I didn’t want to stop eating, I easily could’ve eaten into oblivion..that’s how good everything was.

Now time for the rating. The Spinach-Artichoke Casserole receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. What made this dish so amazing was the bread: it maintained its crunch and didn’t become soggy at all. All of the cheese was a major plus too. Cheese makes anything amazing. Next, the Rice with Sweet Red Peppers receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I love rice so much, but this put a little spin on it with the bell pepper. Who knew that one simple ingredient could make a dish 10x better? The pepper was a marvelous addition. Finally, the Shrimp Newburg receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Everything about this dish was fabulous. The shrimp was cooked to perfection and the sauce was by far the best sauce I have ever had on any shrimp, and that’s saying a lot because I eat a lot of shrimp. Such a delicious meal.

This meal made me feel like I can really cook anything in this world and have it turn out great. I never lost my love of cooking, but this weeks meal put more fuel into that flaming love. I cannot wait to cook again — and I promise it will be soon!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Country Inn Supper

Picture this: You are in a log cabin in a beautiful forest, enjoying everything nature has to offer. You’re away from the city lights and having a nice relaxing weekend with your closest friends. What do you imagine yourself eating/drinking? I hope the answer is soup, cider, and nutty ice cream because that’s what you’re getting! On tonight’s menu we have Beef and Watercress Dumpling “Stoup,” Hot Spiked Cider, and Maple-Walnut Ice Cream Cups. Let’s get cooking!

This adventure starts at Trader Joe’s in Upper Manhattan because I am not in a log cabin in a beautiful forest unfortunately. I headed out to Trader Joe’s around 1:30 on Saturday and I knew from the start that this was not going to be an easy trip. I went to get on the subway…and the station is closed “NO 1 TRAINS AT UPTOWN 50TH STREET STATION THIS WEEKEND” the sign read. What a pain in the butt! I had to take the 1 train downtown to 42nd street then take an uptown express train to 72nd street. Train construction always occurs at the least convenient times.

It took me about 40 minutes to get to the store when it should’ve only taken me 15. This was already set up to be a failure grocery trip. Trader Joe’s was typical…they didn’t have everything I needed, but I was surprised by a few items (like watercress) that they did indeed have! This stop was also super expensive because I had to pick up some nuts and meat — the two items that always make my bank account cry a little.

Next I went to Fairway and found everything I needed pretty quickly. I could not find liquid smoke, but that was an optional ingredient so I said screw it. The last thing I was looking for was a box of biscuit mix. I asked an employee where I could find biscuit mix, and they led me to BISQUICK pancake mix instead…I didn’t feel like searching any longer and picked up the pancake mix…I mean it’s close enough to biscuit mix right?

I came home and after I got some homework done I began to cook. I’m really starting to get used to cooking alone — I can sing as loud as I want with my music and no one will judge me.

I started as I always do with chopping. I wish someone would invent anti-onion goggles that prevented crying. I desperately need a pair of those. The chopping was pretty simple and quick so I moved on to the cooking.

I love the smell of meat cooking, it’s such a glorious smell. Everything I put in the pot smelled delicious so I had high expectations. This recipe called for something I had never heard of/done before — Cook the dumplings by pouring some of the batter into the soup. It was quite odd but I try not to doubt Rachael Ray. I mixed together my pancake mix with the watercress and spooned it into the pot. From then on it was in the EVOO gods’ hands.

While the soup cooked I heated up my apple cider with some cinnamon and cloves. This was supposed to be a spiked apple cider but I couldn’t get my hands on a bottle of apple brandy so this is just hot cider.

Before I knew it the soup was done so I uncovered the lid and what I saw was…not pretty to say the least. This was the UGLIEST food creation ever and I was honestly a little scared to eat it. I unwillingly spooned some into my bowl and poured my apple cider…at this point I was really wishing my cider was spiked.

fullsizerender-26

It was time for the moment of truth. 3…2….1….uhhh okay, not too bad to start out. The meat was pretty tasty, but the dumpling things…I don’t know, the consistency was just off. I tried to eat around most of the dumpling — I’m not even gonna call it a dumpling it was just a weird pancake mass type thing. I mean I ate the whole thing, and it tasted good for the most part but it could’ve been so much better…plus it looked like slop. The cider was good and warmed my cold soul. That was a great winter drink.

fullsizerender-25

After I finished my slop I made my maple walnut sundae, and that dessert did not disappoint. It was crunchy, sweet, and delicious and I could’ve had more.

fullsizerender-27

Now time for the rating. This should be interesting. The Beef and Watercress Dumpling “Stoup” receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. This dish really had so much potential! Maybe it was the pancake mix that made it weird, I don’t know, but I was highly disappointed by it. I’m half afraid to eat it the rest of the week…wish me luck. The Hot Spiked Cider receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. I liked this, don’t get me wrong, but without the spiked part this cider fell short. Finally the Maple-Walnut Ice Cream Cups receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This dessert was the light at the end of the tunnel. It was very simple but sometimes simple is the best. I loved it.

I’ve always known I was a big city girl, and this meal just reinforced that. No country bumpkin food for me — I’ll stick to my seamless app and get my sushi from across the street delivered to my door, ahh city living.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus