Backyard Picnic

When one thinks of summer, I’m sure large backyard picnics with family come to mind. Growing up in Pennsylvania, I’m pretty sure I went to a different family member’s cookout every other week. This summer since I’ve been in New York, I haven’t been able to enjoy a backyard picnic..but thinking about it not many people in New York do. Sure, they might have a rooftop picnic (if they’re rich enough) or a fire escape picnic (much more common), but this week my friends and I are having a picnic in my living room. Since school starts tomorrow and everyone is back in the city, I figured we should all have a back to school dinner together! On tap for tonight’s menu is Honey Mustard BBQ Chicken, Butter Bean Salad, Corn on the Cob with Chili and Lime, and Fluffernutter Brownies. Let’s get cooking!

This trip to the grocery store was quite uneventful for me because I had everyone pick up 2-3 items. This made my wallet happy, and was also less stressful on me because I was running around like a mad woman 2 hours before everyone came to pick up the chicken and nuts. I do have just one complaint — WHY ARE NUTS SO EXPENSIVE? We needed chopped nuts for the brownies and I spent $10 on a little packet of them. At least I didn’t buy all of the ingredients, I really would have had to have a funeral for my bank account.

Anyways, I cleaned the whole apartment before everyone came over (10 people were going to be here in total). I now understand why my mom would want the house cleaned when we were having guests. Everyone arrived around 7 and it was a great big happy reunion! I have never been so happy to be reunited with people. 3 months without everyone was too long.

Now, because I live in such a small space and there were 10 people here, it became a little cramped but I gave everyone a specific task to keep things moving. I took care of the sauce for the chicken, Nicolette (MY SOUS-CHEF IS BACK) cooked the chicken, Mel made the salad, Saoirse made the corn, and Morgan, Chela & Amy took care of the brownies. Some how we made it all work. It was great.

Everything was made within the hour and I set up a nice little buffet for everyone. We all dug in! Everything was absolutely delicious! There was almost nothing left, except for some chicken because most people are vegetarians. I think what made the food so enjoyable this time around was just being back together with everyone — it’s safe to say we all had happy hearts and happy stomachs.

Now time for rating! The Honey Mustard BBQ Chicken receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. This was not the hit of the night because there was so much of it left (that’s okay more leftovers for me all week) but every time I make one of Rachael Ray’s chicken recipes, it always tastes exactly like the last. We need more variety!! Hopefully the next chicken recipe spices things up. The Butter Bean Salad receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This was without a doubt everyone’s favorite dish. Every time someone spoke they were raving about it! I’m not one for beans, but this was actually pretty good. There wasn’t even a crumb left. The Corn on the Cob with Chili and Lime receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Also quite scrumptious. I have only ever eaten corn with butter and salt. The chili powder and lime juice was a nice different surprise; to me it was like corn on the cob gone Mexican — refreshing with a little kick. There was also no trace of corn left by the end of dinner. Finally, the Fluffernutter Brownies receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. These brownies were just like typical brownies. We were supposed to put peanut butter chips into the batter but could not find any, which made Mel happy since she’s allergic to peanuts. Anyways, these brownies were topped with nuts and marshmallows. I don’t think you could ever go wrong with brownies and there was also none left by the end of dinner. Simply amazing.

I don’t think that there was a better way to kick off this school year. Like I have said in many previous posts — I am positive that food only brings people closer together. I can honestly say after this dinner I already feel closer with all of my friends. It’s like we weren’t even separated for three months. It’s nights like these that I’m so glad I’ve kept up with this cooking adventure. These are the nights and memories I live for. Here’s to a great school year, and a great cooking year!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Peasant Bread Surprise

Chicken pot pie — something I have never eaten. I honestly had no idea what it was so I had to look it up. The definition of chicken pot pie from dictionary.com is “a deep-dish pie containing meat, chicken, or the like, often combined with vegetables and topped with a pastry crust.” I don’t know, if a pie is not a dessert pie it kinda freaks me out. I honestly have no idea what to expect with this weeks recipe: Chicken Not-Pot-Pie…is it a pie or is it not? Guess it’s time to find out.

As with every other cooking adventure, this one starts with a trip to the grocery store. I was babysitting a dog this weekend, and right before I went to Trader Joe’s, her owners picked her up and that equaled $$$$ for me, which equaled evoo $$$$ for this week. CHA-CHING!

Trader Joe’s was the busiest I had ever seen it, yet I was only able to find one ingredient: chicken. I waited in a 20 minute checkout line for just chicken. Needless to say I was a bit annoyed, but I bit my tongue and headed over to Fairway. I had a feeling I would be able to find everything in Fairway and I was right! I think I was most excited about the huge round loaf of bread I picked up because bread is life. Once I checked out I headed home.

About 20 minutes before everyone was supposed to come, Morgan texted me saying she couldn’t make it and she was supposed to bring an ingredient ): I ran out to Food Emporium in the rain to pick up artichoke hearts and rosemary. Shortly after Mel came over and Ashley got home and we started cooking.

This recipe was fairly simple. Mel chopped while I cooked the chicken. We were able to have a little snack while cooking because the recipe called to scoop out the insides of the bread. It was some sort of champagne bread, and we could all taste the champagne…so yummy. We even got a little fancy and dipped it in olive oil and vinegar.

The chicken was really smokey and managed to set the smoke alarm off twice. Our kitchen was covered in a thick smog, but we worked through it.

The fun part came when the chicken was done cooking. We stuffed the hollowed out bread with EVERYTHING. Chicken, artichokes, roasted red bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, provolone, peppers, and spinach all smooshed into this loaf of bread. We put the lid on it and stared in amazement for a while, not believing we were able to fit everything inside.

We transferred the loaf to a cutting board and cut it into wedges. I have never seen a more beautiful sight. It was a monstrous sandwich which reminded me of a hoagie from when I was a kid. It smelled even better than it looked.

Mel and I were so excited for the moment of truth. 3..2..1.. A bite of all things good in this world. Taking a bite of this sandwich made me wish I could go back in time and not be so picky about what was on my hoagies (just ham and lettuce) I wish I could’ve experienced this goodness sooner. All of the flavors meshed amazingly producing a mosh-posh sandwich of deliciousness. I’m not one for artichokes but they were perfect in this. I couldn’t pick out any ingredient’s flavors individually; all the ingredients became one. I scarfed down this sandwich, yes it was messy and bigger than my head but so worth it. I contemplated taking another wedge, but was sure I would literally explode if I did, plus Mel was making sugar cookies.

Now time for rating. Without a doubt Chicken Not-Pot-Pie receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. There wasn’t a bad thing about this thing. I don’t know what to call it because it definitely was not a pie…but I guess the name fits. Anyways, I’m so glad I have lunch for the next 2 days because half of the loaf is still leftover. I sign off tonight with a very happy food baby, the happiest one I have ever had.

Until next week

-Mary Honkus

PS in the photo the sandwich kinda fell apart but it’s still beautiful.

Healthy Hunger Buster

I have been waiting for the day for an evoo recipe to feature fish, and that day has finally come! If you know me, you know that I cannot live without fish. Sushi is my FAVORITE food, and every time I go to a restaurant I always order some sort of seafood. Now, although this is not sushi, *sigh* it’s still good enough! On tonight’s menu is Swordfish Steaks with Mango Salsa and Curry Couscous. My taste buds are already excited thinking about it, so lets get cooking!

I was in Pennsylvania for this past week, so when I returned home to New York on Tuesday (yesterday) I had to make a trip to Trader Joe’s; not just for cooking, but also because I had absolutely no food whatsoever. I was expecting this trip to be easy, which it was, but some people must’ve had bad days because as I tried to politely weave my way through the line to reach some food I received the nastiest glares. Like, damn, I didn’t realize that trying to get the food I needed was such a crime. At least I was able to find everything, besides the red bell pepper because they ran out…of course.

Fast forward to today, Wednesday. There was one last very important ingredient I had to pick up: the swordfish. I think the main reason I was so excited for this recipe was because there is a fresh seafood market in the Chelsea Market, and I have always wanted to get my fresh fish from there for evoo. My heart was happy going there, but my wallet was not. I spent freaking $54 on 2 lbs of swordfish!!! WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE SO EXPENSIVE? I bit my tongue as I paid for it. This better be some magically delicious swordfish. Although, I can’t help but think it is better to have more expensive good quality fish than cheap-o fish that will cause food posoining.

Mel, Kait, & Morgan came over at 7:30. They actually arrived before me because I was coming from a dog walk on the upper east side. Mel was cooking her dinner because she doesn’t like fish, so Morgan, Ashley & I got cooking. We chopped like usual, and I tried to get Kait to cut the bell pepper, but she was too busy texting her boo. She even asked me to teach her how to cook and now won’t….I donut understand!! (Still love you Kait.)

This recipe was particularly easy. Mainly all we had to do was chop stuff up, let the couscous sit, and cook the fish which didn’t take long at all. It was pretty funny actually because Morgan and I were the only ones who planned on eating any of it since the others don’t like seafood…oh well, more for us!

The time came quickly for the moment of truth. 3..2..1. Oh, so delicious! After a long day of walking dogs (I walked 13 miles) this was fireworks of joy in my mouth. Not only was the swordfish cooked to perfection, but the mango salsa on top packed the perfect sweet flavor. The couscous was also delicious, even though I forgot two of the ingredients…oops. Who would’ve thought orange chunks would be great with couscous? Maybe its just because I love fruit, but everything with the fruit was fantastic. Morgan loved it all too. It also was comforting knowing that everything we ate was also good for us. A total win win!

Now comes everyone’s favorite part: rating our food. The Swordfish Steaks receive ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Yes, they were mouth watering delicious, but still, the $54 I spent on them is still haunting me. The Mango Salsa receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. The swordfish and the salsa together was a match made in heaven. All of the flavors complimented each other perfectly, but Morgan kept saying how the mango wasn’t ripe enough. I couldn’t tell but hey whatever, still delicious. The Curry Couscous receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts as well. I think it was just knowing it was all good for me. There’s nothing better than knowing that what you’re eating is actually nourishing your body. I must say, bravo Rachael Ray, although I hope the next seafood recipe is a fish that isn’t as expensive.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Passport to Hong Kong

Every time I eat at an Asian restaurant, I’m always in awe of how amazing everything tastes when it looks so complicated to make… especially noodle bowls. I’ve wanted to make an at home version for a long time now, and thanks to Rachael Ray, this dream is finally coming true! On tonight’s menu is Baked Crab Spring Rolls and Noodle Bowls. The recipes seem a bit complicated, but there’s nothing that my friend’s and I can’t conquer so lets get cooking!

Lyss and I started this adventure with going to Trader Joe’s on the Upper West Side. The place was a madhouse like usual, and not surprisingly, we weren’t able to find all of the ingredients. Luckily, there is a Fairway two blocks up so we headed straight over with high hopes that we would find the last of the ingredients.

It was a struggle to find the last few ingredients on our own. Lets be real who actually knows where water chestnuts, bean sprouts, and phyllo dough is in the grocery store? Luckily, a nice worker named Lamine took us to each and every item. He was real sassy though. I told him that these were the items we couldn’t find at Trader Joe’s…that was not the right thing to say because then he went off saying “Oh, I see how it is. Treating Fairway like a second rate grocery store. How would Trader Joe’s like it if they knew you were cheating on them??” I had no clue what to say so I just shut my mouth and followed him.

We headed home and everyone came over around 7. Lyss, Mel, and I started chopping before Krystyna and Amy arrived. Once they arrived, things got a little wild, and not in a good way.

I asked Mel to open the crab meat, and she is deathly afraid of sea creatures so she almost threw up. Then, I just kind yelled at her to poach some chicken and she had no idea what to do….sorry Mel.

Eventually we got some sort of an assembly line going on. Lyss and I took care of the noodle bowls: I’d put the veggies in, she’d add the noodles, then we both ladled the broth in. This part went pretty smooth, until the broth would spill out….not a fun clean up.

Amy and Krystyna made the spring rolls, but trying to figure out the phyllo dough was an issue. We didn’t realize how thin it was and we continuously ripped it. Although, they got the hang of it pretty quickly and made many baby spring rolls. Mel and Ashley made themselves a separate filling without any crab, and they *attempted* to roll their stuff….they looked like little blobs.

When all the spring rolls were finally rolled, we put them in the oven and started to eat the noodle bowls. Amy came all prepared with her special chopsticks and spoon, and the bowls looked good so we were pretty excited.

So now for the first moment of truth! 3..2..1…uhhh…I don’t know what I was eating. The whole thing was basically flavorless. The best way to describe it was cabbage water. So bleh…and everyone felt the same way. The others tried to spice it up by adding garlic powder, salt & pepper, but nothing worked. Mel even said “this tastes like ass.” Good way to put it Mel.

We had higher hopes for the spring rolls. We took them out of the oven and we had another moment of truth.  3..2..1. HOT. because we didn’t let them cool…and salty, a little too salty. Everyone said they were good, but the looks on their faces said otherwise. We each had one and were done.

Well, we didn’t want all the spring rolls to go to waste, so Ashley, Mel, and I put them into baggies and headed out to find some homeless people to give them too. During any other hour of the day there are tons of homeless people out, but I guess when the sun goes down they all find shelter because we found maybe 2. So, we left the rolls in random places hoping they would be eaten by someone. At least we tried to help the homeless.

When we came home there was red velvet cake ready for us: the only delicious part of the night. Thank God for cake.

Now time for rating…this is going to be pitiful. the Baked Crab Spring Rolls receive ♥♥ (2) hearts. Too salty, way too salty. They were just weird, and it was obvious no one was a big fan of them..well except for Ashley and Mel who had their rolls without the crab meat. As for the Noodle Bowls they also receive ♥♥ (2) hearts. I feel like it could be better if there were some spices in the bowls, but all in all it was ass, as Mel put it. This Chinese cuisine attempt was an epic fail. Thank God there is a Domino’s pizza sitting in front of me right now. Bon apetite!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus