Big Soup!

Ever have those nights where you just want to stuff your face and eat like a normal person? That has been me for the past two months while I was preparing for a pageant I was competing in. I have not tasted bread, or sugar, or any of my favorite things for the past two months….I HAVEN’T EVOOD IN TWO MONTHS!!! WHO AM I?! Thank goodness I’m back to discovering so many delicious recipes, and I wouldn’t want to get back into the swing of things with a different 3-course menu than tonight’s. On tap for tonight is Green Minestrone, Tomato Basil Panzanella, and Lemon Coconut Angel Food Cake. Let’s get cooking!

I started this cooking adventure like any other at Trader Joe’s on Tuesday. This was no ordinary Trader Joe’s run…it was my LAST Trader Joe’s run since I move out in a week. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually going to miss that place and all of the great deals it had — even if it was a pain in the ass most of the time.

I was really hoping this trip would be quick and painless but it didn’t look too bright when I was stuck on the subway for 20 minutes in between stations. Train delays are one thing but when you’re trapped in an over packed unairconditioned car, you just want to die. When I finally reached my destination I felt like I was breathing in fresh air for the first time in years.

Despite the rocky beginning, this grocery run could not have gone any smoother. I found all of the ingredients I needed (besides white cannellini beans and ditalini pasta), but I knew my friends would be able to pick those up no problem. Everything was also super affordable which I can always count on Trader Joe’s for! I’d say this was a very successful last trip — see you in a year Trader Joe’s!

Fast forward to today (Thursday). After a long day of dog walking, I was so excited to come home and have a wonderful home cooked meal. I’m so happy I didn’t have to cook alone either! Girl’s night: cooking edition coming atcha. Chela, Amy & Krystina all joined me for a feast.

Amy brought the beans & Krystina brought the pasta (Krystina went all fancy and bought the pasta from Eatily!) We started how we always do with chopping. It was mainly Amy and I doing all the work since Chela brought her own pizza (typical) and Krystina doesn’t trust herself with knives (can’t blame her).

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Once all of the chopping was complete everything else was pretty simple — all I had to do was throw everything in a pot to make the soup and let it simmer for a while. While the soup was brewing I turned my attention to the Panzanella. This recipe really confused me because it told me to let the bread soak in water, then to wring it dry because you don’t want soggy bread…why is the bread supposed to be drenched in water if it shouldn’t be soggy??? Rachael Ray were you high when you created this recipe??? Whatever, I always do as the recipe says, but I let Amy dry the bread so I wouldn’t be at fault if it was weird…sorry Amy…

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I couldn’t let Krystina sit and do nothing, so I gave her some cheese to grate which she did beautifully. I threw the cheese into the soup, while Amy mixed the Panzanella together, and then it was time for the first moment of truth.

3…2…1….It feels so good to eat real food again!!….JK the soup is something I could’ve eaten on my diet since there was no sugar, but it was still good and I didn’t feel bloated or gross while eating it. Thumbs up from me! The soggy bread though….it was still soggy. Someone please explain to me why one would drench bread in water if you don’t want it to be wet? This is so mind boggling to me. Once you got past the sogginess of the bread, the rest of the dish was pretty dang good — very Italian.

We scarfed down our dinner so we could move on to dessert. Now, I didn’t go full out pastry chef here, (I bought a pre-made angel food cake), all I had to do was dress it up a little bit. I heated up some lemon curd and added a little lemon zest, then skillfully drizzled it all over the cake. Finally I topped it off with shaved coconut, and I have to say, it looked like a masterpiece! If it wasn’t so pretty we would’ve dived in sooner.

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So now for the second moment of truth: 3…2…1… BEST DESSERT IN EVOO HISTORY. I’m serious! This was so simple, yet sweet and out of this world. Maybe I’m freaking out since I haven’t had any sugar in 2 months, but this was absolutely glorious. I honestly could’ve eaten the whole cake. It is taking all of my willpower to save Ashley the last slice of cake..I’m such a good room mate.

Now time for the ratings. Green Minestrone receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. This soup was good, don’t get me wrong, but it was very bland. This could’ve been 10 times better if a few spices were added for good measure, but it was boring. Onto the next. The Tomato Basil Panzanella receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. Flavor wise this dish was fabulous, but I just could not get over the soggy bread. Why would you wet the bread, Rachael Ray?? I will not rest until this question is answered. Finally, the Lemon Coconut Angel Food Cake receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Talk about a strong finish! This dessert was light and airy, yet sweat and satisfying. I could eat this all day every day (I’m a sucker for fruity desserts) plus it was super easy to make! I loved it!!

It felt great to get back on the EVOO train, but also bittersweet considering this is the last EVOO in my first NYC apartment. Don’t worry, now that I’m back, I’ll be evooing every week. But where in the world will the next blog take place? You’ll find out next time! Thanks for reading!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

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Country Inn Supper

Picture this: You are in a log cabin in a beautiful forest, enjoying everything nature has to offer. You’re away from the city lights and having a nice relaxing weekend with your closest friends. What do you imagine yourself eating/drinking? I hope the answer is soup, cider, and nutty ice cream because that’s what you’re getting! On tonight’s menu we have Beef and Watercress Dumpling “Stoup,” Hot Spiked Cider, and Maple-Walnut Ice Cream Cups. Let’s get cooking!

This adventure starts at Trader Joe’s in Upper Manhattan because I am not in a log cabin in a beautiful forest unfortunately. I headed out to Trader Joe’s around 1:30 on Saturday and I knew from the start that this was not going to be an easy trip. I went to get on the subway…and the station is closed “NO 1 TRAINS AT UPTOWN 50TH STREET STATION THIS WEEKEND” the sign read. What a pain in the butt! I had to take the 1 train downtown to 42nd street then take an uptown express train to 72nd street. Train construction always occurs at the least convenient times.

It took me about 40 minutes to get to the store when it should’ve only taken me 15. This was already set up to be a failure grocery trip. Trader Joe’s was typical…they didn’t have everything I needed, but I was surprised by a few items (like watercress) that they did indeed have! This stop was also super expensive because I had to pick up some nuts and meat — the two items that always make my bank account cry a little.

Next I went to Fairway and found everything I needed pretty quickly. I could not find liquid smoke, but that was an optional ingredient so I said screw it. The last thing I was looking for was a box of biscuit mix. I asked an employee where I could find biscuit mix, and they led me to BISQUICK pancake mix instead…I didn’t feel like searching any longer and picked up the pancake mix…I mean it’s close enough to biscuit mix right?

I came home and after I got some homework done I began to cook. I’m really starting to get used to cooking alone — I can sing as loud as I want with my music and no one will judge me.

I started as I always do with chopping. I wish someone would invent anti-onion goggles that prevented crying. I desperately need a pair of those. The chopping was pretty simple and quick so I moved on to the cooking.

I love the smell of meat cooking, it’s such a glorious smell. Everything I put in the pot smelled delicious so I had high expectations. This recipe called for something I had never heard of/done before — Cook the dumplings by pouring some of the batter into the soup. It was quite odd but I try not to doubt Rachael Ray. I mixed together my pancake mix with the watercress and spooned it into the pot. From then on it was in the EVOO gods’ hands.

While the soup cooked I heated up my apple cider with some cinnamon and cloves. This was supposed to be a spiked apple cider but I couldn’t get my hands on a bottle of apple brandy so this is just hot cider.

Before I knew it the soup was done so I uncovered the lid and what I saw was…not pretty to say the least. This was the UGLIEST food creation ever and I was honestly a little scared to eat it. I unwillingly spooned some into my bowl and poured my apple cider…at this point I was really wishing my cider was spiked.

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It was time for the moment of truth. 3…2….1….uhhh okay, not too bad to start out. The meat was pretty tasty, but the dumpling things…I don’t know, the consistency was just off. I tried to eat around most of the dumpling — I’m not even gonna call it a dumpling it was just a weird pancake mass type thing. I mean I ate the whole thing, and it tasted good for the most part but it could’ve been so much better…plus it looked like slop. The cider was good and warmed my cold soul. That was a great winter drink.

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After I finished my slop I made my maple walnut sundae, and that dessert did not disappoint. It was crunchy, sweet, and delicious and I could’ve had more.

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Now time for the rating. This should be interesting. The Beef and Watercress Dumpling “Stoup” receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. This dish really had so much potential! Maybe it was the pancake mix that made it weird, I don’t know, but I was highly disappointed by it. I’m half afraid to eat it the rest of the week…wish me luck. The Hot Spiked Cider receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. I liked this, don’t get me wrong, but without the spiked part this cider fell short. Finally the Maple-Walnut Ice Cream Cups receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This dessert was the light at the end of the tunnel. It was very simple but sometimes simple is the best. I loved it.

I’ve always known I was a big city girl, and this meal just reinforced that. No country bumpkin food for me — I’ll stick to my seamless app and get my sushi from across the street delivered to my door, ahh city living.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus