Rainy Night Relief

On rainy days (or in this case snowy days) the best thing to do is curl up in a ball, watch a bunch of movies, and eat comfort food. Throw some friends and family into the mix and it’s sure to be a memorable day. Now if only my day was like that…. at least the comfort food part is! On tonight’s menu is Sausage, Beans, and Broccoli Rabe “Stoup,” and Italian Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwiches. Let’s get cooking!

Since I am home for winter break, I figured it would be the perfect time to get the original EVOO crew together. Josh, Tabitha, Emily and I made plans to cook together on Wednesday at 6:30. I had work until 5, so afterwards I quickly rushed to Giant Eagle to pick up some ingredients.

I didn’t want to be late so I was running around the store like a mad woman trying to find everything. Of course two very important ingredients were not available. Emily came to the rescue with basil, but I had to substitute broccoli rabe with collard greens. I only spent 20 minutes in the store which definitely has to be a record time for the shortest grocery trip ever!

Once I arrived home, Josh informed us that he missed his train from Pittsburgh…so this cooking adventure fell apart pretty quickly — we simply couldn’t cook if one of us was missing! So instead Tabitha, Emily, and I went to Applebees and I decided to cook Thursday night with my family.

Finally Thursday came around. I got off work an hour early at 7, came home, and got straight to cooking! Dad picked up the last of the ingredients needed, and as always we started by chopping everything up. I assigned dad the onion, and before anyone calls me a bad person for doing that he has glasses that shield his eyes from crying so HAH. He did most of the chopping while I browned the sausage for the stoup.

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It was a little difficult to brown the sausage for three reasons. 1. My stove at home stinks! Only the back 2 burners work, and one of them only works on the highest setting. 2. I forgot how long it takes electric burners to heat up. 3. I forgot to remove the casing on the sausage so they were near impossible to crumble. Once Papa Honk chopped the sausage a bit we put the rest of the ingredients in and let the stoup simmer while we made the grilled cheeses.

The recipe for the grilled cheese called to drizzle some evoo in the pan with garlic, and then let the bread soak it all up. Dad was worried that the bread would become soggy from the oil, but it actually became crunchy and toasted beautifully. I loaded each sandwich with provolone, tomatoes, and basil, then I let dad take over with the flipping. He made some mighty fine looking grilled cheeses.

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Once the sandwiches were ready, mom joined us and we scooped some stoup into bowls, finishing each bowl off with fresh parmesan. We were so ready for the moment of truth.

3..2..1… Completely delicious! The stoup was so simple yet so flavorful and satisfying. The vegetables softened up nicely, and even though the broth was so simple (just chicken broth) it packed a flavorful punch. We all finished our stoup pretty quickly. The grilled cheese was out of this world! The first thing that came to my mind was the Melt Shop, which is a gourmet grilled cheese shop in New York. This sandwich was just like a Melt Shop sandwich…no, it was even better!! Dad just couldn’t get over the bread and olive oil. He mentioned it after every bite.

Now time for the ratings. Sausage, Beans, and Broccoli Rabe “Stoup” receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Not only was this stoup delicious, but it was also filling. I am not a big fan of beans, but they were not overpowering whatsoever. All of the ingredients meshed extremely together and left all three of us full and happy….and it left dad and I sleepy. I fell asleep on the floor, and he fell asleep in a chair about a half hour after we ate. So worth the drowsiness, though. The Italian Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwiches receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts as well. This was like a grilled cheese on steroids. The trick is really in the bread. Don’t use pre-sliced bread — go for the freshly baked Italian bread. Now instead of ordering a sandwich from the Melt Shop, I can make my own gourmet sandwich in the comfort of my home. Talk about a win win win!!

Even though the original EVOO crew didn’t cook together, it all worked out in the end. While cooking with friends is fun, cooking with family is the best. Don’t worry though, the original EVOOers will be making an appearance soon to cook up a *hopefully* delicious meal!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Santa Fe Meat-Free Dinner

Man, does Rachael Ray love to cook Mexican. I’m pretty sure half of the recipes in this book are Mexican dishes. After last week’s disappointment I was hesitant for yet another week of Mexican food, but here we are (you all know I never skip a recipe). Let’s hope Rachael Ray can redeem herself with Mexican Ice Cream Pie, Calabacitas Casserole with Polenta and Cheese, and Grilled Green Chile Quesadillas.

I started this beautiful Thursday morning at Trader Joe’s. I can feel Trader Joe’s turning me into a morning person…it’s weird. But anyways the store is such a peaceful place on weekday mornings, so much so that this trip was almost enjoyable aside from the fact that Trader Joe’s didn’t have half of my ingredients!! Nothing is more nerve-wracking than having to go to multiple places for one meal…I mean most of the time I end up having to go to Fairway, but it’s still annoying. I’m longing for the day that Trader Joe’s will have everything I need…but I doubt the day will ever come.

I headed over to Fairway next but still had issues finding some things. I basically went on a wild goose chase for polenta. I asked not 1, not 2, no not even 3, but FOUR employees where I could find polenta and they all told me different areas. I was so discombobulated, but luckily the cheese man could tell I was in distress and led me straight to the polenta. That man was a blessing.

I wasn’t able to find a graham cracker pie crust or monterey jack cheese so I asked Nicolette to pick those up.

Fast forward to about 6:30 PM today when I only had one thing standing between me and food….a FINAL EXAM. I quickly *yet carefully* completed my exam, then rushed home to start cooking.

Tonight we started from the end, aka we made dessert first. We dumped fudge sauce and vanilla ice cream into the pie crust and managed to crack half of it…oops. Oh well. We put the topping on and stuffed it in the freezer and moved on to the other dishes.

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Ashley, Nicolette and I worked on the casserole together and it took FOREVER…. way over 30 minutes. It probably took us so long because we were trying to figure out what exactly polenta is. Is it cheese? Is it dough/bread? We couldn’t figure it out even after we opened it up…it had such a weird texture…we actually had a discussion about it for a good 30 minutes.

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Once we put the casserole in the oven we moved on to the quesadillas. Ashley grated the cheese, and kept saying how that was her workout for the month. Nicollete took over cooking the quesadillas, and they turned out beautifully.

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We were so happy to finally sit down and eat….After TWO HOURS it was finally time for the moment of truth. 3..2..1.. It was a bite out of heaven. I still don’t know what polenta is but dang does it taste good! The quesadillas were BOMB, you truly cannot go wrong with quesadillas.

Once we finished din din, we moved on to dessert. To finish the pie off we drizzled it with honey and added a dollop of whipped cream. Another moment of truth. 3..2..1…This..This dessert takes the cake as the best Rachael Ray dessert EVER! It was amazing, although it was kind of complicated to eat without coughing. The pie topping had lots of cocoa powder and cinnamon, and the first few bites felt like we were doing the cinnamon challenge. But once we got past choking, the pie was delicious!

Now time for the rating. Mexican Ice Cream Pie receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This knocks all of Rachael Ray’s desserts out of the park. Who would’ve thought that a pie topped with cereal flakes would be so good! The cough attack was definitely worth the deliciousness of this dessert. Calabacitas Casserole with Polenta and Cheese receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. This dish was super flavorful and really healthy since it was mostly vegetables. the only reason the casserole receives 4 instead of 5 hearts is because polenta is just an odd food, I don’t know how I feel about it. It’s like one of those foods that tastes good but is just questionable; if you get what I’m saying. Finally the Grilled Green Chile Quesadillas receive  ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This dish was a landslide 5 hearts. It’s hard to mess up quesadillas, and these were the best quesadillas I’ve ever had. I could eat these for the rest of time and be perfectly content. So delicious.

Well, Rachael Ray really redeemed herself this week with this meal. She has resumed her position as queen of Mexican food in my book. But, she has yet to prove herself in the Italian food department…I guess we’ll find out next week if Rachael Ray can be multicultural in her cooking.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Tex-Mex in No Time

Anytime I think of Mexican food I just think of a party going on in my mouth. Seriously though, my love of Mexican food (especially guacamole) has grown exponentially since moving to Hell’s Kitchen this past summer. Most likely because there’s about four Mexican restaurants every block…but there’s something about homemade Mexican that beats out all the restaurants. I’m ready for a fiesta tonight with My Sister Ria’s Favorite Fajitas. Let’s get cooking!

I started my day at Trader Joe’s this morning at 10:30. I actually look forward to going grocery shopping at this time. I never thought I’d say this, but Trader Joe’s on Wednesday morning is my happy place. I swear every time I go it just becomes more and more peaceful there. I think what made me the happiest about Trader Joe’s today was that I could buy just one bottle of beer for this recipe instead of buying a whole pack — talk about a money saver!

I still had to run to Fairway for 4 more ingredients: oregano, poblano chilies, a spanish onion and Tabasco sauce. This Fairway trip was probably the quickest and cheapest ever, so all around today was a great shopping day even though it was pouring outside.

Many of my friend’s are big Mexican fans, so I was expecting a larger crowd tonight, but as the day went on they all dropped like flies. I understand though, with the end of the semester coming up it’s crunch time on school work. Luckily, Ashley was able to come home at a decent hour and cook with me tonight!

I was originally going to wait for her to get home, but I was absolutely starving so I started to mix together the marinade. I could tell this marinade was going to be hot as hell from all of the spices I was putting in. I wasn’t able to finish making it though because I couldn’t open the bottle of beer. Ashley has the only bottle opener in this apartment on her key chain…and she was still at school. Defeated,and hungry, I laid down on the couch until she arrived home at 9:30.

Finally when Ashley arrived home we started cooking. The first thing I did was finish the marinade and let the steak soak in it while we chopped. We sauteed the vegetables, and charred the steak. Everything was going off without a hitch…until after I cut the steak and put it back on the stove to cook a bit more.

While I was cutting the steak, I asked Ashley to preheat the pans again. Well, as soon as I dumped the steak into a pan flames rose about two feet into the air charring our microwave. We both screamed so loud! This was the kind of thing film crews capture on professional cooking shows…we were completely shocked. Luckily the fire went away within seconds but it could’ve gotten ugly.

Once the steak was finished cooking, Ashley heated up the tortillas and we stuffed them full. Finally, after hours of being hungry it was time for the moment of truth.

3…2…1… Not what I was expecting…and not in a good way. Everything was pretty flavorless. The steak was very surprisingly not spicy at all, and the vegetables were extremely bland. These fajitas were very disappointing.

So, My Sister Ria’s Favorite Fajitas receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. This was probably one of the biggest letdown meals ever. Both Ashley and I were surprised at how tasteless everything was. Adding even just a little bit of seasoning to the vegetables would’ve made a huge difference. Such a second-rate meal.

Well, I don’t know how these could be Ria’s favorite fajitas, unless Ria is a very dull person, then these would’ve been perfect for her. Hopefully Rachael Ray’s next Mexican meal will create a fiesta in my mouth instead of a snooze fest.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus