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

Tex-Mex in No Time

Anytime I think of Mexican food I just think of a party going on in my mouth. Seriously though, my love of Mexican food (especially guacamole) has grown exponentially since moving to Hell’s Kitchen this past summer. Most likely because there’s about four Mexican restaurants every block…but there’s something about homemade Mexican that beats out all the restaurants. I’m ready for a fiesta tonight with My Sister Ria’s Favorite Fajitas. Let’s get cooking!

I started my day at Trader Joe’s this morning at 10:30. I actually look forward to going grocery shopping at this time. I never thought I’d say this, but Trader Joe’s on Wednesday morning is my happy place. I swear every time I go it just becomes more and more peaceful there. I think what made me the happiest about Trader Joe’s today was that I could buy just one bottle of beer for this recipe instead of buying a whole pack — talk about a money saver!

I still had to run to Fairway for 4 more ingredients: oregano, poblano chilies, a spanish onion and Tabasco sauce. This Fairway trip was probably the quickest and cheapest ever, so all around today was a great shopping day even though it was pouring outside.

Many of my friend’s are big Mexican fans, so I was expecting a larger crowd tonight, but as the day went on they all dropped like flies. I understand though, with the end of the semester coming up it’s crunch time on school work. Luckily, Ashley was able to come home at a decent hour and cook with me tonight!

I was originally going to wait for her to get home, but I was absolutely starving so I started to mix together the marinade. I could tell this marinade was going to be hot as hell from all of the spices I was putting in. I wasn’t able to finish making it though because I couldn’t open the bottle of beer. Ashley has the only bottle opener in this apartment on her key chain…and she was still at school. Defeated,and hungry, I laid down on the couch until she arrived home at 9:30.

Finally when Ashley arrived home we started cooking. The first thing I did was finish the marinade and let the steak soak in it while we chopped. We sauteed the vegetables, and charred the steak. Everything was going off without a hitch…until after I cut the steak and put it back on the stove to cook a bit more.

While I was cutting the steak, I asked Ashley to preheat the pans again. Well, as soon as I dumped the steak into a pan flames rose about two feet into the air charring our microwave. We both screamed so loud! This was the kind of thing film crews capture on professional cooking shows…we were completely shocked. Luckily the fire went away within seconds but it could’ve gotten ugly.

Once the steak was finished cooking, Ashley heated up the tortillas and we stuffed them full. Finally, after hours of being hungry it was time for the moment of truth.

3…2…1… Not what I was expecting…and not in a good way. Everything was pretty flavorless. The steak was very surprisingly not spicy at all, and the vegetables were extremely bland. These fajitas were very disappointing.

So, My Sister Ria’s Favorite Fajitas receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. This was probably one of the biggest letdown meals ever. Both Ashley and I were surprised at how tasteless everything was. Adding even just a little bit of seasoning to the vegetables would’ve made a huge difference. Such a second-rate meal.

Well, I don’t know how these could be Ria’s favorite fajitas, unless Ria is a very dull person, then these would’ve been perfect for her. Hopefully Rachael Ray’s next Mexican meal will create a fiesta in my mouth instead of a snooze fest.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Middle Eastern Meat-Free Dinner

I have always wanted to have every single one of my friends come over and enjoy a night of cooking with me, but that’s rarely the case because half of them are vegetarians and Rachael Ray basically creates only carnivorous recipes. Tonight, though, this meal is vegetarian friendly for once….and it falls on a night where all my veggie friends are busy. Oh, well. Nicolette and I will still enjoy this menu of Garlic and Red Pepper Pita Chips with Green Olive Hummus, Vegetable and Couscous Stacks, and Blackberry Napoleons. Let’s get cooking!

I love the days when I wake up and head straight to Trader Joe’s because it’s the only time the store is ever calm. This was the first time ever that one of the employees was not holding an “END OF LINE” sign while weaving around the store trying to follow the snakey line. I could move my cart freely without receiving the evil eye, and I waited in line 5 minutes tops. Wednesday mornings definitely are the best days to go to Trader Joe’s.

This trip was honestly somewhat relaxing…until I made my way to Fairway. Picture yourself at a zoo during feeding time, and all the animals somehow broke free of their enclosures…that’s what walking into Fairway is like. This place gives me a bigger headache than Trader Joe’s ever has, and everything is always so expensive! I was jumping for joy when I finally made it out of the store and made my way home.

Fast forward to tonight. Thank goodness my class let out an hour early because I was STARVING. I arrived at home and Nicolette came over shortly after.

We started out by making the pita chips. I had never made homemade pita chips before, and they were surprisingly super easy to make! I just cut up some pita bread, smothered the slices with evoo, garlic & red pepper flakes and baked them for 10 minutes. We served them with some hummus mixed with olives and red pepper flakes which leads us to the first moment of truth of the night.

3..2..1.. SO GOOD! Although extra hot and spicy, it was the type of hot where you can’t stop eating! Perfect appetizer for tonight’s main course.img_4342

Nicolette basically chopped everything up because I was so scatterbrained over by the stove. Also, the couscous recipe was mainly chopping and letting things bake for 15 minutes. When it came time to create the stack, the instructions told us to use a can and stuff the ingredients inside to make a perfectly shaped tower of food, but it was impossible to remove the bottom of the can. I knew my stack probably weren’t going to turn out pretty without the can as a guide, but I tried my best.

To assemble the tower I started out with roasted eggplant, then added roasted zucchini, couscous, roasted red pepper, red onion, mozzarella, basil & tomato. My stack turned out to look like a sad hill instead of a rising tower of food. A for effort I guess.

Time for the second moment of truth… 3..2..1..not too shabby. This mountain of food just seemed to be an odd combination, it wasn’t extremely flavorful, but that’s because I forgot to add parmesan to the couscous. I could definitely tell that this combination was on the healthy food spectrum so I felt pretty good while eating it. I should’ve given myself a bigger plate though, as the couscous fell off the mountain and onto the table. Nicolette cleaned up after me though, she’s like my mom.img_4344

Now to cook the best part of the meal: dessert. This one took a little longer because we had to let the blackberries marinate in sugar for 20 minutes. While the berries sat, we prepared the wonton wrappers for baking…and this is where everything starts to go bad. I put some butter in the microwave to melt and it starts to spark! I don’t even know why — I made sure I took off all the packaging before I nuked it. I guess my microwave just hates butter. Next, I pulled out my package of brown sugar. I understand that brown sugar is packed together, but mine was packed together solid as a rock. I think that if I threw the lump to the ground it would not have broken. So my question is: does brown sugar go bad? We had to forcibly break a tiny piece off of the rock, and grate it over the wonton wrappers. Talk about a struggle.

It finally came time to assemble this delectable treat. We layered blackberries and whipped cream in between each wrapper and dug in. 3..2..1..Hands down the best Rachael Ray dessert ever!! Everything about this dessert was delicious. I could have it every day, and that’s saying a lot because I’m not much of a sweets person. This dish was super messy though, and I nearly got filling all down my white shirt.img_4343

Ashley came home right as we were cleaning up and she scarfed down the pita chips. At least one vegetarian was able to enjoy part of tonight’s masterpiece.

Time for the ratings! Garlic and Red Pepper Pita Chips with Green Olive Hummus receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Hands down best hummus and best pita chips I have ever had. Hummus usually freaks me out, but this may have started a new hummus obsession for me. Also, I’ll be making pita chips all the time now that I know how easy they are to make! Next, the Vegetable and Couscous Stacks receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. This recipe was a perfect case of “don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” It might not have looked pretty, but it felt pretty good in my stomach. This is a leftover I’ll be excited to heat up for the next week. Finally the Blackberry Napoleons receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. It’s going to be very hard to top this dessert. Even though it isn’t summer, I feel like this is the perfect summer treat. From now on whenever I’m craving sweets, I’m definitely going to make this.

Is it weird to say that tonight’s meal had me considering joining the veggie-only side?…Yes that is very weird…I could never be a vegetarian. I love meat too much. Although eating some all-veggie meals sometimes is A-okay with me! Great food, great night.

Until Next week!

-Mary Honkus

First Night Feast

There’s a first time for everything, and tonight is full of firsts. It’s funny that this whole menu is titled “First Night Feast” honestly, because it’s the first time i’m ever cooking veal (woohoo) and it’s the first date night evoo! Yep, you read that right, a guy is cooking with me instead of all my gal pals. Luckily, this is the perfect menu for a date night. We’re making: Pasta al Forno, Veal Involtini with Pancetta on a Bed of Spinach, and Pears with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce. Let’s get cooking!

As with every cooking adventure, this one starts at the grocery store. I knew I wouldn’t have any time on Sunday to shop, so I headed to Trader Joe’s at 4pm Saturday afternoon – of course I decided to go at the busiest hour. I was able to pick up almost everything except the meat, and a few random items. So all in all I wasn’t too disappointed with Trader Joe’s today (surprisingly).

Next I headed to Fairway where I stood in line at the deli counter for a good 15 minutes before I was served. I’m a very impatient person so waiting there felt like an eternity. Finally, I was helped but when I said “one thick 3 ounce slice of prosciutto please” to the deli man, he looked at me like I was crazy. I didn’t think my request was too odd, but his mind was blown. He had to have 3 other deli guys help him slice the meat. I later found out he was a new guy..sorry new guy.

Anyways, fast forward to today (Sunday). Andrew came over bearing gifts of wine and amaretto (all for cooking of course). We started out how I start every week with chopping. Me, being an asshole, gave him the onion to chop. I got my karma pretty quickly, though because the onion was so strong it made me cry from across the counter.

We both seemed to have a habit of dropping things tonight, he dropped some onions and I dropped my garlic…I don’t know what the issue was, but besides that mishap, prep went off without a hitch.

We made the pasta dish first since it had to bake, then we moved on to the veal. These were veal roll ups – I know so fancy – we stuffed the veal with parsley, mozzarella, roasted red peppers, then covered the veal with pancetta and fried them. Andrew took care of the frying, and I was honestly very impressed with how he handled it for someone who rarely cooks and is always ordering seamless.

We finished off cooking dinner by cooking some spinach in wine. Now of course, it’s all about the plating so we attempted to make our plates look like a professional restaurant… you can see by the picture that we tried our best.

After what was actually 30 minutes for once (YAY!) it was time for the moment of truth…but I had to explain to Andrew what the moment of truth was. We both tried the pasta dish together first. 3..2..1..Not too bad! This baked pasta reminded me a lot of the carbonara I made a couple months ago. Both dishes tasted the same except this one was baked.

Next came the moment of truth for the Veal. 3..2..1…now this was DELISH! the cheese melted so perfectly and all the flavors blended together. I felt like I was at a real Italian restaurant. I honestly never thought I’d be able to make something like this. Glad the first time I made veal turned out to be amazing.

Once we were done eating, Andrew went straight over to the sink and started washing dishes. Personally, I was speechless. Anyone that knows me knows that I HATE doing the dishes, and I didn’t even ask him to do them! I gotta keep this guy around for a while.

We had a nice little system where he washed and I dried. It was great.

Once we cleaned up it was time to make the dessert. This was super simple. We pretty much just melted some chocolate chips, poured in some amaretto, then dumped it over peaches and ice cream. VOILA!

We decided to share a small bowl of this, so we sat on the couch and tried not to drip any chocolate sauce or ice cream anywhere. I was extra careful since I was wearing a white sweater, but Andrew on the other hand was not so careful. He should’ve been wearing a bib for how much he dripped onto himself. I just couldn’t help but laugh at him…I know asshole moment number 2 for me tonight: I laugh at other people’s misfortune; but no worries, he forgave me.

Now time for the rating. Both of us were pretty much on the same page with all the dishes. Pasta al Forno receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. I compared this earlier to the carbonara, and honestly, the carbonara was 10x better than this. This one was a little burnt, and contrary to what everyone says, pasta is not easy to cook. So when you throw together 2 people who’s fortes are not pasta making, you get a dish that is only 3 hearts. Next the Veal Involtini with Pancetta on Bed of Spinach receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. This was just all around delicious. The cheese was melted perfectly, the crisp pancetta added an extra zap of flavor, and the veal was cooked to perfection. I could not find anything wrong with this, except that it probably could’ve looked prettier. Finally, the Pears with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts as well. I was not expecting much from this dessert simply because of Rachael Ray’s history of desserts, but I was pleasantly surprised. I even said to Andrew “Don’t expect much from dessert.” but he loved it too, even though he did get it all over himself.

Well, a night of firsts turned out to be great. I’ve always wanted to have a cooking date with someone, and I don’t think it could’ve turned out better. I’ve said it so many times before but I’ll say it again. It doesn’t matter who you cook with – friends, family, a date, whatever – cooking with someone always brings you closer to the other person. Nothing is better than knowing and feeling that.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

A Lunch of My Favorites

Lunch: a meal I often confuse with breakfast. Why do I confuse it with breakfast, you ask? Because by the time I wake up every day it’s lunch time for most people. My meal times are completely messed up. I usually eat breakfast around 12, lunch around 5, and dinner around 9:30…..I blame college. But while today’s menu may be suitable for lunch, it will be making a delightful dinner for my friend’s and I. Tonight we’re making: Oven Fries with Herbes de Provence, Tomato and Spinach Soup, and Rachael’s Tuna Pan Bagnat. Lets get cooking!

I started out my day at Trader Joe’s. The last Wednesday I went to Trader Joe’s it was a madhouse, so I was mentally preparing myself for the worst. I was pleasantly surprised to find the store near empty…or as empty as Trader Joe’s could be. For once I was able to navigate my shopping cart without feeling like I was in the middle of Manhattan traffic at rush hour.

As I headed to the lower level of the store, I noticed a sign that I had never seen before that read “Get your shopping list ready for today’s Trader Joe’s adventure” Oh Trader Joe’s…if only you knew that coming into the store truly is a different adventure every time.

I was able to find many ingredients on the lower level, I then proceeded to the produce section upstairs…but something was telling me to go back downstairs. I’m glad I listened to that feeling because I found two other ingredients that were needed. Always gotta double check!!

I did have to make a pit stop at Fairway for 3 items, which was a total pain because Fairway’s line was out the door. It was as if Trader Joe’s and Fairway switched lives for the day.

I was also very surprised at how cheap this meal was. Starting out on the right side of the recipe today woohoo!!

Morgan, Nicolette, and Mel came over around 8:30 and we started out with chopping like usual. There were an ungodly amount of items to be chopped tonight, but luckily not much stove work. Morgan was the savior of the night for being so tall.

I need to explain the terrible layout of my cabinet space to my readers. First off, Ashley and I are a little vertically challenged; we’re both around 5’2. I don’t know who designed our kitchen but they decided to put all of the cabinets above the microwave and the fridge, which makes most, if not all of the shelves impossible for us to reach. Luckily Morgan is tall and was able to reach everything we needed for tonight. So shout out to Morgan.

Nicolette was on soup duty, while I made the filling for the sandwiches…Mel didn’t want to help me because seafood freaks her out. I don’t know it could freak her out, the little anchovies were so cute! Just kidding, but seafood really does gives me life.

Turns out I was the only one eating tonight so I had my little moment of truth by myself.

3..2..1…Not too bad, not too shabby. I liked the Tuna Pan Bagnat, and I was pretty skeptical at first. I love sushi tuna, but canned tuna doesn’t really appeal to me, not to mention I don’t care for many of the ingredients in the filling (artichokes & olives just to name a few). I probably should’ve chopped up the rosemary a little bit more though, because I was getting huge tastes of rosemary; it was overwhelming at times. The soup wasn’t anything impressive, it was literally just tomato sauce with some spinach in it. Meh. The fries were alright as well. They were a bit of a let down from the oven fries with cheese from a few weeks ago. Compared to the previous fries, these were pretty bland.

Now time for rating… Oven Fries with Herbes de Provence receives ♥♥ (2) hearts. I was truly looking forward to these, but they were such a let down. Way too blah. The Tomato and Spinach Soup receives ♥♥ (2) hearts as well. This is another recipe that totally underwhelmed me. We are in prime soup season now that the weather is becoming colder, so I was expecting something to warm my soul and make my taste buds sing. This recipe did NOT do that. I’m iffy on tomatoes to begin with, and this was nothing but canned tomatoes sprinkled with spinach. I felt like I was just eating tomato paste. Extremely disappointing. Finally Rachael’s Tuna Pan Bagnat receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. First off, I’d like to say I’m mad that I forgot to put the capers in, although I feel like they wouldn’t have made much of a difference. This was one of those dishes where it’s very good to start out but the more you eat it, the more grossed out you get. Definitely not one of my favorites at all.

Welp, this lunch for dinner turned out to be a flop. I think I’ll just stick to making breakfast for dinner. You can never go wrong with that.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus