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

Dip-able Dinner

When you think of parties what is one food that is always present? If you’re thinking of dips you are correct! Dips, or dip-able foods, have become staples in American culture, but especially when it comes to big gatherings. I’m thinking tonight will be the most well-attended cooking adventure. I can’t wait for all my friends to be together for this menu: Asparagus and Green Beans with Tarragon Lemon Dip, French Dip Roast Beef Sandwiches, and Chocolate Fondue. Lets get cooking!

This cooking adventure is pretty spread out. It all started on Saturday when I went to the grocery store. I knew I wouldn’t have any time to shop on Sunday, so I went ahead of the game and headed to Trader Joe’s. I really didn’t have to pick up much which was great, and everything pretty inexpensive. I thought this was going to be the cheapest week yet for me, until I picked up a pound and a half of roast beef at Fairway…I died a little inside when my item wrung up for $20. The price I pay for a good meal…whatever, it’s always worth it!

Sunday rolls along and I was pretty excited….until everyone bailed. I get it, everybody has busy schedules and things come up, but it was frustrating for me considering I had already bought items that would go bad in a few days. Not only that, but after long tiring weeks, cooking with my friends is what makes me the happiest. No friends to cook with = no cooking = empty stomach = a very sad Mary. ):

Luckily, Nicolette my forever right hand woman and sous-chef said that she’d be able to cook on Wednesday! So, fast forward to today (Wednesday.) I had a few more ingredients to pick up because I didn’t want to burden Nic with too many items, then after class Nicolette, and surprise last minute guest Morgan came over!

Instead of making everything at once like usual, we decided to take things one at a time starting with the Tarragon Lemon Dip. Making this was fairly easy: we just threw a few things into a bowl and voila! A few weeks ago when my dad came to visit he brought me the cutest dip tray and I had been waiting to use it just for this. Once the veggies were cooked and ready to be dipped we had our first moment of truth.

3..2..1.. WOW! I must say, we were all pretty skeptical about this, but it was addicting!! We ran out of dippers so we had to cook more. This dip was creamy, and honestly I don’t know how else describe it. The only ingredients were mayo, lemon juice & zest, a shallot, tarragon, parsley and pepper which seems so simple but the outcome tasted like it was crafted by a gourmet chef. Not only was the dip delicious but the fact that it was served with asparagus and green beans made the healthy girl inside me scream for joy. It’s decided: this is what I’m making for friendsgiving.

After we were done ooooing and ahhhhing over this dip, we went on to make the main course: French Dip Roast Beef Sandwiches. This was probably the easiest main dish to make. Only 1 shallot needed to be chopped, then we mixed together a perfect dipping sauce on the stove that smelled just like french onion soup. When the time came, we dipped the roast beef into the sauce and set up little ramekins of extra sauce for extra dipping. We even decided to be a bit daring and put the Tarragon Lemon Dip on the sandwich…I know, we got fancy up in here.

Moment of truth number 2 here we go! 3..2..1 NOM! Also quite delicious, but from the first bite we could already tell what we could’ve done to make the sandwich even better. 1. toast the buns. 2. add cheese because everything is better with cheese. 3. the Tarragon Lemon dip was an exceptional touch. Still so good though, really no complaints here!

We had to let our stomach’s settle a bit before moving on to dessert: Chocolate Fondue. This was also extremely simple to make. We heated some heavy whipping cream, then melted in some dark chocolate and it was complete. We came armed and ready to dip some pretzel rods, biscotti, and strawberries into this delectable treat.

So, for the final moment of truth… 3..2..1 Yet another YUM-O moment. Let’s be real though, anything with dark chocolate is gonna be hella good. I didn’t think I’d be able to stop eating it. Morgan, Nic and I sat together and watched the debate with the fondue. Name something more American than that…I dare you.

After this long, filling three course meal we sat together and debated on what each recipe should be rated and this is what we came up with: the Asparagus and Green Beans with Tarragon Lemon Dip receives without a doubt ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This has to be the best dip I have personally ever eaten…and that’s saying a lot because I’m in love with buffalo chicken dip. If I could rate this 10 hearts I most definitely would. Next, the French Dip Roast Beef Sandwiches receive ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Also very scrumptious but there were a number of things (whichI listed earlier) that could’ve made this dish a home run. Finally the Chocolate Fondue receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. At last a dessert that wasn’t disappointing! I can’t get over how easy it was to make as well. The perfect ending on this little dip-able dinner.

After having a rather crappy week, cooking tonight really cheered me up. There’s just something about coming together with my best friends and bonding over food. Doing this makes me so happy, and I hope I’m able to keep doing this for a long time.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Thanksgiving for Everyday

Fall. What are some of the things that come to mind with the word fall? Changing leaves, pumpkin spice, and Halloween are a few, but I think the epitome of fall is Thanksgiving. As the weather grows colder and the leaves finally fall, people gather together to celebrate the most wonderful thing on this earth: food. Now, although Halloween hasn’t passed yet, we are having a mini thanksgiving feast tonight! This week’s menu includes Herb Smashed Potatoes with Goat Cheese, Turkey and Wild Mushroom Meat Loaf Patties with Pan Gravy, and Green Beans with Lemon and Toasted Almonds. Let’s get cooking!

Since many of my friends and I were swamped with homework on Sunday, we decided to cook on Wednesday (today). My day started out with a trip to Trader Joe’s. I was expecting a nice relaxed visit to the grocery store since it was mid-week and in the middle of the afternoon….but I was very wrong. It seemed like every nanny/parent on the Upper West Side decided to bring their kids with them to the store today, and the kids were not very happy.

I overheard one kid arguing with his mother: “You better give me my money back mom. it’s my money!!”

“No, Tommy, it’s not your money. I know you stole it from me.”

“NO MOM. I didn’t steal it, it’s mine! I may have stolen it back out of revenge on you but it’s mine!

….I’m never bringing my kids to the grocery store in the future.

It was ALMOST a successful visit to Trader Joe’s except they didn’t have bread crumbs. What kind of grocery store doesn’t have bread crumbs?! So strange. Anyways, I made a quick pit stop to Fairway then headed home.

I had to run to the kitchen supplies store in the Chelsea Market today as well because I needed a potato masher, and a peeler for tonight. I usually love going to the Chelsea Market, but today it was overrun with tourists blocking the way. Nothing gets me angrier than people standing idle where I am trying to walk. Not gonna lie, I pushed some people out of the way. No regrets.

I picked up my tools, plus a mixing bowl because everyone needs a mixing bowl and just laid low until everyone came over.

Well, everyone was supposed to come over at 6 but ended up being an hour late (still love you Saoirse and Jenny). Ashley and I started the prep work by chopping everything before they even arrived.

This cooking adventure was a bit chaotic because everything was centered around the stove. At one point I think that all 4 burners were going. Also, the meatloaf patty recipe was too confusing so I ended up just making a bunch of turkey burgers…Oh well, still tasted the same.

Everything was relatively easy to make and before long it was already time for the moment of truth. 3..2..1 yum yum yum I was very impressed! The turkey burger/patty concoction was so delicious, I think it was the mushrooms…or the gravy..or both! When I was younger I had a weird fear of gravy, and I’m just now realizing what I was missing out on. It brings so much more flavor to the meat, and it made this burger completely irresistible. The mashed potatoes were unbelievable too, I think what made it so good was the goat cheese. I just couldn’t get enough. Finally, I was surprised with the green beans. I really don’t like green beans, but tossed in lemon butter they weren’t half bad.

To finish off the night we strolled down to Schmackery’s for some delicious cookies (:

Now for the rating! Herb Smashed Potatoes with Goat Cheese receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. I feel like anything carby or starchy will be rated high with me, but I never expected goat cheese to take this dish out of this world. I loved it, I will definitely have to make this again. The Turkey and Wild Mushroom Meat Loaf Patties with Pan Gravy receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This blew me away, and I think it came down to the gravy. Meatloaf has always freaked me out too, but now I actually want to try a meatloaf because of this. All the flavors were great and it melted in my mouth. So delicious! Now the Green Beans with Lemon and Toasted Almonds receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. I don’t like green beans at all but this dish made them bearable.

Thanks to this week I feel like I now have some tricks up my sleeve for friendsgiving in a few weeks….It also got me excited for real Thanksgiving and going to see my family. I miss eating with them…and my cat. That is all.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus