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

What a Face!

One of my favorite holidays is Thanksgiving because of all the delicious food. Why is it that all of that food (turkey, stuffing, gravy, potatoes etc.) is only made once a year? Why not have a Thanksgiving feast once every few months? Well, Rachael Ray came up with an amazing menu for anyone who just wants to celebrate Thanksgiving all year round. On tap for tonight is Open-Face Hot Turkey Sammies with Sausage Stuffing and Gravy, Smashed Potatoes with Bacon, and Warm Apple-Cranberry Sauce. Let’s get cooking!

After a long 7 hour train ride back to New York the first place I wanted to go was Trader Joe’s…yes, seriously it was Trader Joe’s. It had been so long since I last went grocery shopping, and I actually missed it — this must be what adulthood feels like. I arrived at Trader Joe’s around 7pm on Thursday night. That was by far the busiest it has ever been, and a majority of the customers were very cranky — must have been the after work crowd. Luckily I was able to pick up all but two items for this recipe, and I was able to pick up other weekly grocery needs for under $50! This is why I love Trader Joe’s — it’s always so cheap.

I decided to skip over Fairway and just buy the last 2 items on Friday. Not getting all my shopping done at once was so out of the ordinary for me, but I was going out Thursday night and wanted to make sure I had enough time to get ready. Priorities, am I right?

Fast forward to today (Friday). Martina offered to pick up the last ingredients, and once I picked up a rotisserie chicken we were ready to cook! It was a little difficult to convince Martina and Ashley to help me cook, so I did most of the work myself.

I started out chopping the onion. I pulled out some sunglasses to shield me from crying…but the glasses let me down. I was bawling from the stupid onion, and my makeup was halfway down my face. Onion – 1, Mary – 0.

Once I chopped everything and put the potatoes on to boil, I moved on to the stuffing. I removed the casing on the sausages, but they were still pretty difficult to crumble. I guess I’m just not a professional sausage handler yet.

When the potatoes were done, I demanded Martina to come help. It wasn’t much to ask: all she had to do was crisp the bacon in the microwave and mash the potatoes. The bacon was already precooked, but she refused to touch it with her fingers. I was like girl, quit being a wimp its cooked meat…her response was “I need to make enough money one day to always eat out.” She mashed to potatoes on the floor like a child, but they still turned out pretty good so I can’t complain.

Ashley opened the can of cranberry sauce for me, and I quickly heated the applesauce and cranberry sauce together, and made the gravy. The gravy was the last thing to be prepared, and soon after I assembled the sammies.

Although this meal was supposed to be turkey sandwiches, I knew it would be too difficult to find a rotisserie turkey, so I settled on chicken instead. I carved some of the chicken breast, dunked it in the gravy, and plopped it on some bread. Then, I topped the chicken with a big pile of stuffing and more gravy. I gave myself a bowl full of mashed potatoes (I hadn’t eaten all day, I was starving) and a little bit of cran-apple sauce. Finally it was time for the moment of truth.

3…2…1… It was like the heavens had started a joyful song in my mouth, most likely because it was the first bite of real food I had had all day (earlier I had 3 and a half bowls of cheerios…eating good!!) It was like a mini Thanksgiving feast for Martina and I. The whole open faced sandwich idea was interesting, but still good none the less. The chicken and the gravy meshed together perfectly…and the potatoes, man potatoes are always perfect. The cran-apple sauce was a nice touch as well.

Now time for the rating. The Open-Face Hot Turkey Sammies receive ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. I honestly could’ve done without the bread and just had the chicken and gravy, but it was still good either way. The Sausage Stuffing receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. I had an image of what this stuffing should’ve been like (my mom’s) but it did not turn out like that at all. The bread was too soggy and the sausage was not crumbly enough, it was still pretty tasty though. The Gravy receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Let’s be real, you can never go wrong with gravy. End of story. the Smashed Potatoes with Bacon receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. These potatoes were a little lumpy, but other than that they were delish. Finally, the Warm Apple-Cranberry Sauce receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. The perfect subtly sweet addition to this Thanksgiving-ish meal.

Thanks to this gourmet menu, anyone can reminisce Thanksgiving as many times a year as they please. I really think Thanksgiving should be changed to a semi-annual holiday. Everyone agree? That’s what I thought. I’ll see you all here for the next Thanksgiving feast!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

The Three R’s

When the cold weather comes along it means two things. 1. It’s the time to stay inside. 2. It’s the time to get fat and eat as much comfort food as you like! I really like cold weather for the second reason. I’m very excited about this recipe because anything pasta equals an instant cold weather favorite. Tonight on the menu is Rigatoni, Rapini, and Ricotta Salata Pasta. Let’s get cooking!

This adventure started yesterday (Sunday). I was a bit hesitant to go to Trader Joe’s on a Sunday because I figured it would be the busiest day. Luckily the store wasn’t as packed as I thought it would be, and the line was shorter than usual. I didn’t have to pick up many ingredients for this recipe (only 5!) but of course, Trader Joe’s didn’t have 2 items that I needed. I figured last week’s one-stop shopping trip was one in a million, but I was still pretty disappointed. I made my way to Fairway for rapini, aka broccoli rabe, and ricotta salata. I found both items pretty easily, but there was a catch… the 2 items were $15. Why is Fairway so expensive ): After that purchase I sulked all the way home.

Fast forward to today (Monday). I was hoping for a big turnout for tonight’s dinner, but per usual people weren’t able to make it. Ashley was my right hand chef tonight even though she couldn’t eat the meal since there was chicken broth in it…what an angel for helping.

There wasn’t much prep work for this recipe — the only things that needed chopped were the garlic and rapini. There were two HUGE bunches of rapini, and Ashley & I chopped it all. Although, when it came time to cook the rapini, it was impossible to get all of it into the pan. I decided to save some for another time.

The most annoying part of this meal was the thyme. Thyme leaves must be stripped from the stems, and that is a very time consuming job. I let Ashley handle most of that while I combined everything else and crumbled the cheese. Once we tossed it all together it was time for the moment of truth.

3..2..1…The first bite was good, but the second and third…not so much. The pasta was very bitter, I’m guessing because of the rapini. I ate around most of the it, and instead just ate the cheese and noodles.

Now time for the rating. Rigatoni, Rapini, and Ricotta Salata Pasta unfortunately receives ♥♥ (2) hearts. I had such high hopes for this dish, but it was quite difficult to eat. I thought that the bitterness of the rapini would be cooked out but I was very wrong. Major *sigh*

Even though this was not the most delectable meal, I am going to have to suck it up for the rest of the week since I have two very large tupperware containers left of it. Rachael Ray’s pasta dishes don’t usually disappoint, but when they do it’s similar to the feeling of Donald Trump winning the election. Hopefully next week’s dish will be better.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

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