I Can’t Believe I Made This

Hello my fellow EVOOers!! I want to apologize for not posting in a while. Life was so hectic, but I finally found the time to cook! It had been way too long. I really wanted to impress you guys with tonight’s dish — as the title goes — I really can’t believe I’m making this! On tonight’s menu is Spinach-Artichoke Casserole, Rice with Sweet Red Peppers, and Shrimp Newburg. Let’s get cooking!

I spent most of my week in Atlanta, and I feared I would never make it home. The airport was a complete disaster since there were so many flight cancellations the day before due to the weather. After 6 hours of waiting, I was finally on a plane back to New York. Where was the first place I went as soon as I landed? You’re all going to think I’m crazy, but I went to Trader Joe’s. Most people would assume that I’d want to go home, relax, and de-stress, but instead I went to one of the most stress inducing grocery stores in Manhattan. Why? I DID IT FOR EVOO GUYS! Seriously though, the trip wasn’t so bad. It was actually calming to be back at Trader Joe’s since I hadn’t been in weeks.

I already knew I would have to stop at Fairway for shrimp, so I didn’t get angry at Trader Joe’s off the bat either. Altogether it was a pretty good shopping day.

Fast forward to today (Saturday). I had a full day of dog walking, so as one can imagine I worked up quite the appetite. I did all the usual things: chopping and what not, then I made the casserole. The casserole was pretty easy to put together –all I had to do was layer bread, artichokes, and spinach then top it with lots of cheese and bake it.

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While the casserole baked I moved on to the rice and shrimp. Why does peeling off shrimp tails take forever? I now understand why restaurants never do it! When I finally peeled all the shrimp, I let them cook with lemon and bay leaves. Then I made the sherry sauce. All of this was super easy…but it took forever!!

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Finally after 2 hours (30 minute meals my ass) it was time for the moment of truth. 3…2…1..This food was definitely worth the wait. The shrimp with the sherry sauce WOW. Out of this world. I literally said “I can’t believe I made this” to myself. The rice…you can never go wrong with rice, and I love rice so it was amazing. I was somewhat nervous to try the casserole because I get iffy with spinach-artichoke, but it was delicious!! I didn’t want to stop eating, I easily could’ve eaten into oblivion..that’s how good everything was.

Now time for the rating. The Spinach-Artichoke Casserole receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. What made this dish so amazing was the bread: it maintained its crunch and didn’t become soggy at all. All of the cheese was a major plus too. Cheese makes anything amazing. Next, the Rice with Sweet Red Peppers receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I love rice so much, but this put a little spin on it with the bell pepper. Who knew that one simple ingredient could make a dish 10x better? The pepper was a marvelous addition. Finally, the Shrimp Newburg receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Everything about this dish was fabulous. The shrimp was cooked to perfection and the sauce was by far the best sauce I have ever had on any shrimp, and that’s saying a lot because I eat a lot of shrimp. Such a delicious meal.

This meal made me feel like I can really cook anything in this world and have it turn out great. I never lost my love of cooking, but this weeks meal put more fuel into that flaming love. I cannot wait to cook again — and I promise it will be soon!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

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

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

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

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

Results Guaranteed

After a night of partying it up celebrating the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 the only thing I could think of was making a beautiful home cooked New Years Day feast. Unfortunately, since Nicolette has decided to come visit on the 2nd, we have to wait a day to cook this meal. I’m sure it will be worth the wait, though. On the menu is: Marinated Grilled Flank Steak with BLT – Smashed Potatoes, and Lemon-Butter Broccolini. Let’s get cooking!

To start out the last day of 2016, Ashley and I made our way to Trader Joe’s around 10:30 am. When we arrived I knew that something…or rather many things were out of place. Trader Joe’s decided to rearrange and move everything around. *Cue eye roll* Everything was perfect where it was before, I don’t know why they had to move it all. Whatever. I quickly forgave the switch because for the first time ever I WAS ABLE TO PICK UP EVERY SINGLE INGREDIENT I NEEDED!!! My 2016 wish came true. I had never been so happy before. I was happy dancing all the way through line and all the way home.

Fast forward to today (Monday). Nicolette and I decided to both go to the gym…I know so typical after new years it’s gym time!! But since we were working out we started cooking rather late around 9 pm.

For the first time less than 5 items needed to be chopped! I took care of all the chopping while the potatoes boiled and Nicolette made the marinade for the steak. These recipes required a lot of sitting around and doing nothing. We had to let the steak sit in the marinade, let the potatoes boil….just so much sitting around.

Once the potatoes were ready to be smashed, Nicolette took over and added in the BLT – bacon, leeks, & tomatoes. While she was smashing I grilled the steaks…side note the marinade smelled AMAZING. I could just tell everything was going to be great as it was cooking.

We made the broccolini last… in the microwave. I have never actually cooked something fresh in the microwave before. It made me feel like I was going back to level 0 on the cooking skills scale. At least it was quick and low maintenance to make!

I thought I was going to keel over of starvation before the moment of truth, so I was beyond excited when it came time to eat. 3..2..1…YUM-O! I tried the potatoes first and they were so good! Not a single complaint about them. I’m already a huge fan of mashed (or smashed) potatoes and I enjoy throwing in different ingredients and seeing how the potatoes turn out. This was definitely a hit! The steak was grilled to absolute perfection. The marinade was beyond comparable to anything else and probably made it the best steak I have ever cooked. The broccolini was the best vegetable for this meal. You can never forget your greens!

Now time for the rating! The Marinated Grilled Flank Steak receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Simply the best marinade I have ever used, and since the steak was grilled to perfection it was a win win. Nicolette and I absolutely loved it! The BLT – Smashed Potatoes also receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I didn’t know what to expect with putting leeks into the potatoes, but everything smashed together beautifully. I can and will eat these potatoes for days! Finally the Lemon-Butter Broccolini receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Gotta love the veggies! This vegetable was the perfect addition to make a well-rounded meal — and they were quite delicious! Altogether probably one of the best EVOO meals ever.

The title of this menu was right — results really were guaranteed! Having a meal like this was so spectacular, especially since EVOO reached a milestone tonight. We have reached page 100 in the cookbook! only 241 more pages to go! Can’t wait to see where the next hundred pages take us!

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

Santa Fe Meat-Free Dinner

Man, does Rachael Ray love to cook Mexican. I’m pretty sure half of the recipes in this book are Mexican dishes. After last week’s disappointment I was hesitant for yet another week of Mexican food, but here we are (you all know I never skip a recipe). Let’s hope Rachael Ray can redeem herself with Mexican Ice Cream Pie, Calabacitas Casserole with Polenta and Cheese, and Grilled Green Chile Quesadillas.

I started this beautiful Thursday morning at Trader Joe’s. I can feel Trader Joe’s turning me into a morning person…it’s weird. But anyways the store is such a peaceful place on weekday mornings, so much so that this trip was almost enjoyable aside from the fact that Trader Joe’s didn’t have half of my ingredients!! Nothing is more nerve-wracking than having to go to multiple places for one meal…I mean most of the time I end up having to go to Fairway, but it’s still annoying. I’m longing for the day that Trader Joe’s will have everything I need…but I doubt the day will ever come.

I headed over to Fairway next but still had issues finding some things. I basically went on a wild goose chase for polenta. I asked not 1, not 2, no not even 3, but FOUR employees where I could find polenta and they all told me different areas. I was so discombobulated, but luckily the cheese man could tell I was in distress and led me straight to the polenta. That man was a blessing.

I wasn’t able to find a graham cracker pie crust or monterey jack cheese so I asked Nicolette to pick those up.

Fast forward to about 6:30 PM today when I only had one thing standing between me and food….a FINAL EXAM. I quickly *yet carefully* completed my exam, then rushed home to start cooking.

Tonight we started from the end, aka we made dessert first. We dumped fudge sauce and vanilla ice cream into the pie crust and managed to crack half of it…oops. Oh well. We put the topping on and stuffed it in the freezer and moved on to the other dishes.

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Ashley, Nicolette and I worked on the casserole together and it took FOREVER…. way over 30 minutes. It probably took us so long because we were trying to figure out what exactly polenta is. Is it cheese? Is it dough/bread? We couldn’t figure it out even after we opened it up…it had such a weird texture…we actually had a discussion about it for a good 30 minutes.

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Once we put the casserole in the oven we moved on to the quesadillas. Ashley grated the cheese, and kept saying how that was her workout for the month. Nicollete took over cooking the quesadillas, and they turned out beautifully.

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We were so happy to finally sit down and eat….After TWO HOURS it was finally time for the moment of truth. 3..2..1.. It was a bite out of heaven. I still don’t know what polenta is but dang does it taste good! The quesadillas were BOMB, you truly cannot go wrong with quesadillas.

Once we finished din din, we moved on to dessert. To finish the pie off we drizzled it with honey and added a dollop of whipped cream. Another moment of truth. 3..2..1…This..This dessert takes the cake as the best Rachael Ray dessert EVER! It was amazing, although it was kind of complicated to eat without coughing. The pie topping had lots of cocoa powder and cinnamon, and the first few bites felt like we were doing the cinnamon challenge. But once we got past choking, the pie was delicious!

Now time for the rating. Mexican Ice Cream Pie receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This knocks all of Rachael Ray’s desserts out of the park. Who would’ve thought that a pie topped with cereal flakes would be so good! The cough attack was definitely worth the deliciousness of this dessert. Calabacitas Casserole with Polenta and Cheese receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. This dish was super flavorful and really healthy since it was mostly vegetables. the only reason the casserole receives 4 instead of 5 hearts is because polenta is just an odd food, I don’t know how I feel about it. It’s like one of those foods that tastes good but is just questionable; if you get what I’m saying. Finally the Grilled Green Chile Quesadillas receive  ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This dish was a landslide 5 hearts. It’s hard to mess up quesadillas, and these were the best quesadillas I’ve ever had. I could eat these for the rest of time and be perfectly content. So delicious.

Well, Rachael Ray really redeemed herself this week with this meal. She has resumed her position as queen of Mexican food in my book. But, she has yet to prove herself in the Italian food department…I guess we’ll find out next week if Rachael Ray can be multicultural in her cooking.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus