Italian Stick-To-Your-Ribs

There are some nights where it’s in your best interest to have a big carb-filled meal…usually it’s best to have a meal like that before you go out to party. This menu includes the perfect pre-party feast, and good thing I’m going out after this! On tap for tonight is Italian Mini Meat Loaves with Mac ‘n Three Cheeses, and Seared Greens with Red Onion and Vinegar. Let’s get cooking!

My adventure started on Wednesday at none other than Trader Joe’s. I knew that my grocery bill would be expensive…which I was dreading. I also knew I would definitely not be able to find everything I needed at Trader Joe’s…double the dread. I walked out spending a whopping $65. I think that’s the most I’ve ever spent at Trader Joe’s at once. I also spent $15 at Fairway. All I’m saying is these dishes better be worth the money.

Fast forward to Saturday. All of my friends and I were gearing up to head over to Hoboken for a party. What better way to prepare than with some homemade mac & cheese, am I right? Well, almost everyone works on Saturday. Guess who almost cooked alone again…me!! Luckily Saoirse got off work around 6:30 and cooked with me.

We began how we always do by chopping. There wasn’t much to chop which made everything a lot easier.

I created the meatloaf patties first by throwing meat and a secret concoction of stuff together in a bowl. I formed 4 little patties and placed them in the oven.

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Saoirse cooked the pasta since I still have yet to figure out how to cook pasta effectively, and then I got started on the cheese sauce. It was so beautiful to watch the cheese melt together in the pot. Cheese is perhaps the most beautiful creation on this earth.

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In the middle of cooking we got the notification that the party was canceled…looks like this was turning into just a regular cheat meal.

While the mac & cheese finished baking, we made the seared greens — they smelled delicious.

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This 30 minute meal actually felt like 3o minutes because before we knew it, it was time for the moment of truth. 3..2..1… MAC & CHEESE HEAVEN YES! The mac & cheese was to die for. Homemade mac & cheese is a million times better than store bought. Wow, so freaking good! The meat loaf patties were yummy as well..and (kinda) healthy with all the veggies in them. Finally, the greens added a nice flavorful punch at the end.

Now time for the rating. Italian Mini Meat Loaves receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. The thought of meatloaf has always freaked me out…maybe that’s why I couldn’t give it 5 hearts? No the actual reason is I just don’t like tomato paste, and although there was only 3 tablespoons of it in there, the flavor was a little overwhelming for me. The Mac ‘n Three Cheeses receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Mac & cheese is another thing I didn’t really like growing up. Currently, I usually only like it with lobster but this mac & cheese made me a believer that all mac & cheese is good. I can’t wait to eat this for dinner all week. Finally, the Seared Greens with Red Onion and Vinegar receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Also super good, but something about it was just a little too healthy for me on this night (I know I’m weird).

Although my plans for the night ended up being a bust, this meal was definitely not! I am now a firm believer in all things mac & cheese. I also encourage everyone to make homemade mac & cheese because it doesn’t even compare to the boxed crap.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Your New Favorite Meal

You can never go wrong with one thing. That thing is pizza. Pizza is my ALL TIME favorite food…I could eat it all day every day (literally). It’s dangerous to live in the land of $1 pizza. $1 might not seem like a lot but I bet I’ve spent over $100 on dollar pizza this past year…yes, I eat that much pizza. I’ve been on a health kick lately, so I’ve been trying not to have as much, but as soon as I saw the recipe for tonight I knew this pizza would pass off as healthy…or at least semi-healthy. Tonight we are making a Pizza Salad. Let’s get cooking!

I started this adventure on Tuesday (yesterday). After my last trip to Trader Joe’s I vowed to never go back on a Sunday, and only do my shopping on the weekdays. What a better way to spend Valentine’s day than at the grocery store — am I right? Well, Trader Joe’s was like a loving boyfriend to me today. Not only did I find all but one ingredient (I knew I wouldn’t find prosciutto there), but there was also NO LINE!!! Having no line at Trader Joe’s is basically unheard of. I fell in love with Trader Joe’s a little bit more yesterday. Thanks for being my Valentine.

I ran to Fairway to pick up my prosciutto and headed home.

Fast forward to today (Wednesday). I had a very busy day full of dog walks and class, so I wasn’t able to come home and cook until 9pm. That may seem really late to cook and eat, but that’s usually around the time I eat every night…it’s the only time during the day I’m free!

I was all alone to cook tonight, which I was okay with because I was tired and ravenous so I quickly got started.

The only thing that needed chopped was two cloves of garlic which took 3 minutes, and then came the fun part: rolling out the dough.

Compared to my friends, I have a pretty extensive collection of cooking supplies. But I don’t own 2 of the most basic items – both of which I needed tonight – a rolling pin and a pizza cutter. I just had to make do with what was laying around my kitchen.

I spread out some flour on my counter and started to knead the dough. I tried to do that spinning trick that so many pizza chefs do…. but I just looked like a flubbering idiot. After I kneaded the dough for a while I grabbed a wine bottle (I know, classy) and used that as my rolling pin. I thought forming this dough into a pizza crust would be simple, but I was so wrong. It took me a good 20 minutes to finally roll it out to a good size. Every time I tried to expand it, it kept shrinking down to the original size. It was somewhat frustrating but I finally got it after switching wine bottles. I really need to invest in a rolling pin.

Once the dough was rolled, everything afterwards was easy peasy. I layered *fat free* pizza sauce, mozzarella, garlic & red pepper flakes onto the crust and popped it in the oven for 12 minutes. While the pizza cooked I just ate some mozzarella…that is the best cheese ever, I swear!

When the pizza was done I topped it with prosciutto and lemon arugula. It looked beautiful. I don’t think pizza could ever be ugly, but this was like the queen of pizza —  looks wise. I prayed that it would taste just as good.

I cut the pizza in quarters and then it was finally time for the moment of truth. 3…2…1… That’s it, that’s it. I’m dropping out to become a pizza chef. This was the mother of all pizzas..NO this was the GOD of all pizzas!! I couldn’t stop eating it. Everything about it was simply delicious. Wow is all I can say, WOW.

Now time for the rating. Pizza Salad receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts even though it easily broke my scale. I’m a plain Jane when it comes to pizza, but these toppings were spectacular and made me feel a bit healthy. The recipe said this pizza was only 2 servings, but I’m a firm believer that any pizza can be a personal pizza. All you have to do is believe in yourself.

Pizza is a wonderful beautiful thing, and I truly believe it was given to us from the heavens. How could something that amazing not come from heaven??? I will definitely  be making this again. Heck, I’m just convinced I’m a master pizza chef. I think I’ll open my own pizza place. Mama mia it’ll be Murr’s pizzeria!! Just kidding, my uncle has a pizza shop and South Carolina, so I’ll let him be the pizza man of the family. But be warned Uncle Dave…I bet I could beat you in a pizza making contest now.

PEACE, LOVE, PIZZA!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Endless Summer

During the cold winter months, I miss one thing more than anything: SUMMER. I’m definitely more of a warm weather person and the blistering cold just drags me down most of the time. Not only do I miss the heat, but all of the amazing summer foods too. I’d do anything to be at a cookout with friends, soaking up the sun, and eating some good food. Luckily with tonight’s meal I’ll be transported to summertime (for at least a half hour). On tap for tonight is Oil-and-Vinegar Slaw, Devilish Chili-Cheese Dogs, and Summer-ish Succotash Salad. Let’s get cooking!

It’s the ultimate cheat-meal day of the year: Super Bowl Sunday. Ash and I decided to host all of our friends & have a watching party. In preparation for everyone to come over I headed to Trader Joe’s around 4pm.

I stepped out of the subway at 72nd street to my worst Trader Joe’s nightmare. the line to just get INTO the store was wrapped around the block. I debated dropping everything and going home, but I knew I had to stay. Thank Goodness the line moved quickly; I was inside within 12 minutes.

This Trader Joe’s trip was not the most pleasant to say the least. There were shopping cart traffic jams every step I took, and surprise surprise….I couldn’t find half of the ingredients I needed. I prayed Fairway wouldn’t be as crowded.

Fairway was crowded, but not as crowded as Trader Joe’s. I managed to find 99% of my ingredients there. What about the last 1%? Oh, don’t get me started. I needed hot dog buns, so I went over to the bread section. A lot of times I have issues finding things — even though they are right in front of my face. I asked an employee “hot dog buns…are they right in front of me?” as I said this, someone took the LAST bag of buns. I wanted to scream. The guy even laughed as he walked away. Talk about rude.

I left Fairway in a pretty bad mood because of the whole bun situation. Thankfully I have awesome friends that helped fix the situation. Ashley Gray stopped to get me my buns before she came over. She was my lifesaver!

I came home and slowly but surely, people started bailing. I feel like I should just expect to cook alone from now on, which sucks, but it’s life. At least cooking alone gives me time to think.

I immediately started chopping 2 onions, a red bell pepper, & garlic. Chopping and dicing everything is always the slow part of cooking, but once that was done it was time for the main attraction: cooking the meat.

I slapped down some ground beef into my pan & browned and crumbled it, then added some tasty extras: onion, garlic, chili powder and Worcestershire sauce. Lemme tell you, it smelled heavenly! I felt like I was at a good old barbecue.

I let the chili sit a bit & moved on to the dogs. Now, these dogs aren’t just regular chili cheese dogs — they’re devilish chili cheese dogs. To make them extra devilish, the dogs marinated in melted butter and hot sauce. It’s getting spicy in here!

Once the dogs were firey enough, they were assembled and put under the broiler to let the cheese melt. While the dogs were in the oven I quickly threw together the slaw and the salad.

Finally it was time for the moment of truth….I left the hot dogs in the oven a little too long so they were all burnt, but that didn’t stop me from digging in. 3..2..1…ahhhh sweet summer time….or sweet super bowl time? Whichever….either way this meal was delicious! This was the first time I had ever had chili cheese dogs….in fact it’s the first time I ever ate a hot dog with toppings! (I liked my food very plain growing up). They were not too spicy and I could’ve eaten 5 more of them at once — they were that good! The slaw was a nice refreshing side with a little hint of sweetness; quite the pleasant surprise. The salad was also good. I’m not a huge fan of random salads with beans but this was totally acceptable for me.

Now time for rating! The Oil-and-Vinegar slaw receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This was a good surprise to me. I had never eaten any kind of slaw before, and this was a perfect touch next to the dogs. Crunchy, salty & sweet all mixed into one! It was great. Next the Devilish Chili-Cheese Dogs receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This is what a hot dog should be like. The dogs had the right amount of spice, and when topped with the chili & melted cheese it became a beautifully crafted spicy & flavorful master piece. So delicious. Finally, the Summer-ish Succotash Salad receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. This dish was acceptable to me, but it was nothing special. Like I said, I’m just not a huge fan of bean salads. Altogether this was a great meal and perfect for the Super Bowl.

Summer or winter, this meal will make you feel like you truly are in an Endless Summer. Now I can’t wait for summer and all of the picnics/barbecues that will entail! Only 4 more months until the time comes…the wait will be hard, but these hot dogs will keep me satisfied for the time being.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus