Destination: Couch

Everyone has those days where all they want to do is come home, and curl up in front of the TV with their dinner and have a nice, chill night. That’s all I wanted to do today after the weekend I had, and because my sophomore year of college is officially over!! What better way to celebrate than with a lazy dinner of Super-Stuffed French Bread Pizza Rustica, and Sun-Dried Tomato Dip with Chips and Veggies. Let’s get cooking!

After last week’s visit to Trader Joe’s on a Sunday, I figured this Sunday trip would be just as easy, but I should’ve guessed it all depends on the time of day — and man, did I choose the wrong time. I went to Trader Joe’s at 5pm and the place was PACKED. I did most of my shopping in the line that wrapped the whole way around the upper level. I felt like I was never going to get out of the store. Luckily I did, only to do the exact same thing at Fairway. I waited for my turn at the deli counter for almost 20 minutes!! I had better things to do than wait for a half a pound of sweet sopressata (like go chill on my friends rooftop) but these are the things I do for my loyal EVOOers…what is my life?

The trip home from the grocery store was also a stressful one. Lately downtown trains have only been running express on the weekends so I had to go all the way to times square then transfer to an uptown train to get back to 50th street. Talk about a pain when you’re carrying about 20 pounds of groceries. Whatever.

I actually had a friend come cook with me tonight for the first time in AGES!! I forgot how amazing it was to have a cooking buddy. Martina came over and even brought some ingredients — she’s the real OG man.

In the past when Martina has cooked with me, “cook” has been a relative term — usually she supervises, but tonight she actually partook in the cooking! We chopped everything together and caught up on our pretty much nonexistent love lives. I started to cook the pizza filling while Martina cut the bread, but it should’ve been the other way around because she completely butchered the bread. Our pizza crust was almost ruined, but I swooped in to save the day and we switched cooking stations.

When the filling was done we stuffed out *saved* crusts, and topped them off with mounds of mozzarella then tossed them in the oven. While our pizzas cooked, we made the dip. I almost forgot I had my ratchet food processor, but it made an appearance tonight. I’m amazed that the piece of cardboard shoved into the slot does the trick, but that’s what you get from a cheap kitchen tool. All the ingredients were quickly processed into a lovely smooth dip, and by the time that was complete our pizzas were done too!

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Like the title of this menu says, our destination was the couch for this meal and we finally had our moment of truth. 3…2…1…OOOOO yes. This was exactly what my taste buds and stomach needed. It may not be a New York slice, but this is so much better than I could’ve imagined it to be. I must admit I was fearful because I usually prefer plain pizza, but all the meat and veggies in this dish was fabulous! The dip was also a nice touch and was a flavorful side dish.

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Now time for the ratings! Super-Stuffed French Bread Pizza Rustica receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts without a doubt. Before we even tried this dish Martina said she could tell it was going to be a 5 hearts meal, and she was right. I haven’t had pizza in two weeks (which is a super long time, since I’m hopelessly devoted to pizza) and this completely satisfied my craving. I have no problem eating this for the rest of the week. The Sun-Dried Tomato Dip with Chips and Veggies receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Also very good, and since it was served with some veggies it made me feel healthy, but after digging in to the pizza, the dip didn’t even come close to comparing to it whatsoever.

Although every meal I eat is on my couch, this one is probably at the top of my list. Like I said in my last post, when your apartment is the size of a shoe box, the only place that there’s room to eat is the couch. Next apartment I have I really need to make sure there’s table space.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

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

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