Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage

Pasta with pumpkin and sausage never sounded appetizing to me. In fact, I’ve been stuck on this recipe for about 3 months because I have been so afraid to try it. I had to push past this fear because I told myself I wouldn’t skip any recipes. So here we are. I cooked this on Monday, January 25, 2016. The Monday after the Snowpocalypse.

Being a college student in one of the most expensive cities in the world, it’s only natural to shop at places that have the best deals. Trader Joe’s is the BEST cheap grocery store around my school, so of course I headed there to pick up my ingredients. Well, I received an unpleasant surprise because Trader Joe’s was completely barren. They had sold out of nearly everything. There were ZERO vegetables left, the bread section was completely empty, and the only thing that seemed to be on the shelves were baked beans. So much for getting my ingredients for cheap… thanks Snowpocalypse.

The only items I was able to pick up at Trader Joe’s were bay leaves and sage.

Onto the next store.

I have an order of grocery stores I go to, specifically for instances like this. I start out at Trader Joe’s, then onto Fairway, then Whole Foods, and if I’m still desperate for ingredients I unwillingly go to Gristedes (the prices at Gristedes are absolutely outrageous.)

Luckily, Fairway had pretty much every ingredient I needed, except for sweet sausage. I’m so glad my grocery store adventures for this recipe stopped at Whole Foods. Hopefully next time I’ll be able to pick everything up at Trader Joe’s.

Once I was back at the dorm, my friends River and Nicolette came over to cook with me.

One of the ingredients for this dish was dry white wine. We had the wine…but not a wine opener. This leads to the first dilemma of this recipe: how to open the wine. We searched ways to open it without having a corkscrew, and the first thing we tried was putting the bottle in a shoe and banging it against the wall. That did absolutely nothing, and thank God we didn’t put a dent in the wall. Next we try hammering a screwdriver into the cork…which worked, but now we had the cork stuck in the bottle. I guess we can say this was a half win because we got the bottle open, but now we don’t have a way to close it. Go us. Meh, someone will eventually drink it.

After we got the wine opened, we got on to cooking. We each chopped something up, then I was on sausage duty and River was on pasta duty. Dilemma number 2: one of our burners on the stove was burned out. This was easy to work around, but still a pain. The sausage took forever to brown, and curses to evoo because it splattered everywhere and burned like a bitch. Other than that everything else went off without a hitch.

I was still extremely nervous to try this recipe, simply because the combination of items did not sound good, but it sure did smell good. When the pasta was ready we called over our friend Adrian to join us for the moment of truth: the taste test.

River scooped the pasta into bowls for everyone and I grated some romano cheese on top. We counted down 3…2…1! and tried the first bite together. I’m pretty sure everyone was surprised at how good it was. I really loved it. All of the flavors meshed perfectly together. The pumpkin was there but not overwhelming, the cinnamon and nutmeg added the perfect amount of sweet spice, and the sausage gave it a huge burst of flavor.

On a scale from 1-5 hearts I have to give this recipe ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts! Simply because I did not have high expectations for this dish and it completely blew me away. Also, the leftovers lasted me a week which is always a plus for a college student. What did I learn from this recipe? 1. Buy a freakin corkscrew. and 2. Don’t knock a recipe until you try it.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

P.S. I promise I’ll take more time to make the pictures of the food more appetizing, this picture sucks.

The Beginnings of EVOO

I’ve always had a love for food, especially cooking it. Of course when you’re only 7 or 8 years old the best form of cooking anyone does is helping their mom bake Christmas cookies. I’ve always wanted to make complete meals though. I’d sit around for hours reading all of the recipe books in my house over and over again. Sometimes I would ask my mom if we could make one of the dishes, but she knew I wouldn’t eat them and said no. (I used to be a very picky eater, my diet consisted of buttered noodles). One day in third grade during the book fair, I bought my first ever recipe book: Classic Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals,  The All-Occasion Cookbook. I was so extremely happy to own my own cookbook; I read it cover to cover in a matter of days. Did I ever cook anything in it? The answer was no until the summer of 2014.

On June 18th, 2014, two of my good friends and I sat around on my porch wondering what we should do that day. We wanted something new and exciting, something that teenagers our age wouldn’t typically do. That’s when I thought of my Rachael Ray cookbook. I ran up to my room, excitedly grabbed it and ran back down to show them.

“Why not work our way through the whole book, starting on page 1?” I asked.

They loved the idea, and so we started on this cooking adventure together. The first recipe was Puttanesca Pizza: Tomato, Olive, Caper, and Anchovy. We scavenged my kitchen to see if we had any of the ingredients, then made up a list and drove to the nearest grocery store. None of us had been food shopping with friends before, but we found the experience to be pleasantly fun and hilarious. It took us about an hour to find everything, (don’t judge we were newbies to food shopping and didn’t know where everything was in the store) then headed back to my house. I always figured that cooking in general would be fun, but throw some of your best friends into the mix and it becomes a complete blast. The pizza took us a little longer than 30 minutes, but only because we were amateurs at this. We laughed the whole time saying “We’re making whore pizza!” because there was a side-note on the recipe that said Puttanesca is a pasta sauce named for streetwalkers, or ladies of the night, as it is spicy, fast, and easy to make.

After what was more like an hour than 30 minutes, we sat down and enjoyed our first ever meal together. I’d say we were all pretty proud of ourselves. Although we gave the pizza a 3 out of 5 stars, we couldn’t wait to try the next recipe.

We wanted to come up with a name for our little cooking group, and after a few minutes of pondering what it should be, we came up with the perfect name. “The Sisterhood of the Traveling EVOO.” Since Rachael Ray uses extra-virgin olive oil in almost every recipe, and abbreviates it to evoo, we figured why buy evoo for everyone’s house when we can bring the one bottle of evoo wherever we decided to cook. That day our cooking troupe was formed.

We had an amazing time that summer. We made it through 11 recipes, with only 1 that was terrible. We invited “special guest” friends to join us every recipe. I firmly believe that eating together brings people closer, but when you prepare the food together you really become more than friends…you become family.

Flash forward two and a half years later and we’re all off at college. We had a falling out and the original evoo sisters rarely or never talk anymore. I, being the owner of the cookbook, took it with me to college. Even though the original evoo sisters aren’t together anymore, I still wanted food to bring a joy to my life, and to the lives of people who will become my lifelong friends here at college. I go to school at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. My room mates and I are lucky enough to have a dorm with a kitchen. Semester of fall 2015 I only made 3 recipes from this book, but for the Spring 2016 semester I plan to make 1 recipe a week from this book.

This blog will be my Chronicles of EVOO. Think “Julie and Julia” except college edition. I hope whoever reads this becomes inspired to cook with friends and try new foods…and I hope people can laugh with me or at me in this crazy adventure. Here’s to a new semester filled with new food, new friends, and new memories.

-Mary Honkus

P.S. here is a list of all the recipes I have tried so far and their ranking from 1-5 stars (or hearts because there are no star emoticons.

Puttanesca Pizza: Tomato, Olive, Caper, and Anchovy ♥♥♥

Sesame Noodles ♥♥♥

Southwestern Chicken and Black Bean Burritos ♥♥♥♥♥ (best recipe ever)

Curry in a Hurry with Jasmine Rice ♥♥♥

Blue Moon Burgers ♥ (only recipe we hated)

Spicy Chicken Tacos ♥♥♥♥

Emmanuel Nini’s Caponata ♥♥♥

My Sister Ria’s Lazy Chicken or My Lazy Sister Ria’s Chicken ♥♥

Cajun Chili with Scallion Corn Cakes ♥♥

Zesty Chicken Cutlets Parmigiana ♥♥♥♥♥

Goodness Gracious, That’s Great Goulash! ♥♥♥

Thai Turkey Burgers ♥♥

Mamma’s Broccolini and Ricotta Pasta ♥♥♥♥♥

Tony Soprano Steak Sandwiches with Giardiniera Relish ♥♥♥♥