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.

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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

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