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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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