Vegetarian Stir-Fry

On many nights I find myself craving Chinese food…mostly because it is quick and cheap. Honestly, though, I haven’t ordered Chinese in a while because I have strong will-power. Just kidding, I don’t have strong will-power I just end up ordering sushi… Anyways, that’s besides the point. The point is our recipe tonight is Veggie Lo Mein. Finally a traditional Chinese dish I can make at home. I’m praying that this will be good so I will stop wasting money on takeout.

As with all of my cooking adventures, this one starts out with my trip to the grocery store. Lyss and I’s long trip to Trader Joe’s last week was a painful one. Luckily we just found out that there’s a Trader Joe’s so much closer to us on 72nd street! We still had to subway there, but I could already tell that this trip would be so much easier.

With every new grocery store comes a new challenge: trying to figure out where everything is. The layout of this Trader Joe’s definitely wasn’t as nice as the other, and it was kind of confusing, but it was cheap so I can’t complain too much. In total I spent only $35 not only on ingredients, but just regular grocery shopping for the week. This is the sole reason why I love Trader Joe’s.

We headed home on the subway and barely broke a sweat. All in all great shopping trip. There was only one item, Tamari, that we couldn’t find, so Mel picked it up on her way over.

When Mel arrived we started cooking! Lyss is a master at making pasta, something that I have not mastered, so she was in charge of the pasta. While the it cooked, we each had something to chop. Mel was on pepper duty, Lyss was on garlic duty, Ashley was on scallion duty, and I also helped with garlic.

Side note…so happy Ashley was actually home to cook, and that she was actually able to eat this meal since it is vegetarian!

Anyway, once everything was chopped and the noodles were done we threw everything together and voila! This 30-minute meal was actually 30 minutes!! This was a first, and all of us were super pumped because we were all starved.

Mel scooped out generous portions for each of us and this time we had a real countdown.

3..2..1.. I feel like every week I say WOW, but this week beats out all other weeks. This is the wow of all wows. This lo mein was AMAZING. And I wasn’t the only one to think so. Ashley kept repeating “this is so good. this is so good” and the hum of everyone “mmmmming” echoed until every last bit was gone. Simply a fabulous meal.

For dessert we had some delicious store bought macarons from the one and only Trader Joe’s .

Now time for the rating…..Can you guess what Veggie Lo Mein receives??? If you guessed ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts you’re right! But in my heart this recipe broke my scale. Now when I’m craving Chinese food at 2 in the morning I can make it myself. I’ll definitely be making this dish again this week because we still have all of the ingredients left. I would like to thank Chinese people for making Chinese food, and I would like to thank Rachael Ray for making this recipe. I sound like I’m saying a speech for a cooking award…Just practicing for my future award one day…

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Grill-Top Dinner

Grilling and summer — a match made in heaven. There’s just something about having friends over for that good old fashioned cookout in the summer. The only thing is when you’re in the middle of New York City with no back yard, you don’t have that luxury; but having a stove and some friends is still a great substitute. On tap for tonight’s grill (stove) top menu is Maple-Mustard Pork Chops with Grilled Apples, Mom’s Oil and Vinegar Potato Salad, and 3-Bean Salad. Sounds like the perfect menu for a summer cook-out (indoors).

It felt good to finally be able to cook again after a week and a half with no stove. The stove in my apartment breathed it’s last and died on us. RIP stove ??/??/1920-07/05/2016. Once we got our stove replaced this past Friday, we knew we had to celebrate with EVOO, and that’s exactly what we did!

This cooking adventure started out with our trip to the grocery store, of course. After 2 very expensive EVOO meals spent at Food Emporium, we decided that that place was not worth our money and headed back to the original grocery store: Trader Joe’s. Oh, Trader Joe’s I missed you so. Lyss and I headed down to Trader Joe’s on 22nd and 6th all the way from our apartment on 49th and 9th. This is the first grocery trip that involved us traveling via subway. Let me tell you something – subway stations in the summer are not fun. The best way to describe them is stepping into a hot sauna with 100 people you don’t know and an overwhelming smell of B.O. Usually the subway cars have air conditioning, but our car, for some God forsaken reason, did not have any air. I thought I was being put in my grave; but luckily, 15 minutes later, we emerged from the depths of hell and scurried into Trader Joe’s.

Being back in this grocery store was like visiting a long lost friend: I had never been so happy to be back. We grabbed almost every item, but not all because when does Trader Joe’s ever have all the ingredients needed? Then we happily went to the checkout knowing that we saved ourselves $50. Of course, we had to make a stop at Fairway for the Golden Delicious apples, and the pork chops.

Now came the most difficult part: getting all of our heavy groceries back home. Carrying groceries on a subway is not the most pleasant experience ever. We crammed back into the crowded subway and I held onto my purchases like they were my new infant babies. I especially kept my eyes peeled for homeless men because I felt like they were gonna sneak in and pick pocket one of my ingredients. Once we got off at our subway stop it was like being on an obstacle course and our prize was making it home. I already have walk rage toward people that walk so damn slow in New York… there are people with places to be and who can’t afford to get stuck behind slow asses. Add 20 pounds of groceries to be carried, and the amount of slow asses increases by 200%. My inner mean girl came out when I yelled at some people to get out of my way…I’m not even sorry about it, I felt like my arms were going to fall off! Thankfully, we made it home. I was dripping so much sweat, it looked like I had just run a marathon. I definitely won the marathon though, and the prize was saving $$$ thanks to Trader Joe’s.

Lyss and I chilled out until 7 when Mel and Amy came over to cook. We started out with our ritual of chopping everything before we got into the real work. We split the recipes up this time: Lyss and I took care of the pork chops and apples, while Mel and Amy took care of the potato salad and bean salad. We had a great system going on, and we made everything in a timely manner with no mishaps! Such a great cooking experience.

Before we knew it, it was time to eat. Before all of us had a plate, Amy was already digging in and raving about the food, so we were getting pretty hyped to eat.

So, time for my personal moment of truth. 3..2..1…Those pork chops!!! Delish! The sauce that was made was sweet and savory all at the same time. I didn’t feel like I was eating a pork chop, I just felt like I was eating heaven. When I paired the chop with the grilled apples…no words. Just the perfect combination. As for the potato salad…not bad, but nothing special. I felt like I had tasted something extremely similar in a past EVOO recipe. The bean salad…bleh. I am not a bean person at all. I could only take one bite and that was enough for me.

Everyone else loved everything! Of course, everyone had their own favorite dish, but all in all this meal was a hit! To top it all off, Mel made us brownies. The perfect ending to another great cooking spree with some of my best friends.

Now time to rate everything! Let’s start with the Maple-Mustard Pork Chops with Grilled Apples…this dish wins ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts altogether. Great combination of savory and sweet, but the downside for me was that the pork chops were a little over-cooked, they were a little tough to chew. The flavors all meshed perfectly so A+ for flavor. Mom’s Oil and Vinegar Potato Salad receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. Again, not too shabby, but nothing special. There was a lot of red wine vinegar in this recipe which tied all of the flavors together. Rachael Ray assures that leftovers only get better so I have high expectations for this dish in the next week. Finally, the 3-Bean Salad receives ♥♥ (2) hearts. Although, I absolutely did not like the salad, Lyss loved it and said it was amazing. I have to remember I’m not the only one test tasting the cooking, and if my friends like it, it deserves a higher rating. Don’t knock it till you try it folks.

I promise I will be posting weekly now that I have a new stove. Thank you all for reading, you’re the best!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

30-Minute Southern Classic

Chicken and rice…something that you can never go wrong with. There is just something about the combination that is straight fire. When I read this week’s recipe and saw that it had both chicken and rice, I was so excited….and I was also excited to use my new kitchen for EVOO again. Anyway, this week we have another full meal including a dessert! On the menu is Country Captain Chicken with White and Wild Rice, and Bourbon Street Candy Balls. A classic combo, with an alcoholic dessert…interesting. Let’s see how this pans out.

First off, of course we had to get the ingredients, but there was a small issue with me buying one of the ingredients: Bourbon. I’m not 21 and I can’t just traipse into the liquor store, but fortunately, I have friends that are 21. Chela ran to the local liquor store and picked up the bourbon, so obstacle number one was completed.

Obstacle number 2: Amy, Lyss, and I were just about to leave for the Food Emporium…when it started pouring cats and dogs. Amy and Lyss wanted to stay back and wait for the rain to stop, but I was already ravenous. We ended up squeezing underneath a little umbrella and scurrying as quickly as we could to the grocery store. Luckily, it stopped raining halfway there! Shopping was pretty uneventful, except that everything was so expensive. All of the ingredients totaled out to about $80!!!! It sucks because there is no other grocery store that is in a relatively close walking distance from where I live. It’s okay though, I’ll sacrifice all my money to food.

We came home and immediately started cooking. First, like always, we had a few things to chop: a red bell pepper, green bell pepper, garlic, and onion. Once we chopped, Amy took care of the rice, and I took care of the chicken. The best way to describe how this dish turned out is it was like a big chicken soup, but it’s not a soup, the chicken just sits and soaks in a soupy vegetable mix. Sounds weird I know, but it looked oh so tasty.

The chicken and rice didn’t take long to cook so once it was done we all dug in. Amy almost lost it because I wouldn’t let her have a preview taste before it was finished, so as soon as she got her plate she took an amazing photo (which is pictured) and she ate like she had never eaten before.

We all ate like we had never eaten before. This chicken was absolutely mouth-wateringly stupendously out of this world amazing. It had completely soaked up all of the flavors from the soup/sauce it was sitting in, so it was so juicy. The rice of course was a perfect compliment, and the sauce…oh that sauce. Mix it with anything, that stuff is good. We each went up for seconds, maybe even thirds. I have not had a chicken recipe that good in a while. Thank you Rachael Ray!

We cleaned up the mess we made from dinner, then moved on to dessert….Oh boy, was dessert making interesting. First, we had crush up some vanilla wafers. We did this by placing the cookies in between 2 pieces of wax paper and pounding it with our mallet. We realized how bad of a mistake this was when cookie pieces were flying out the edges of the wax paper. We ended up playing a game of trying not to get our fingers crushed as Lyss pounded the cookies and we tried to keep the paper together. Fortunately, Amy and I still have all of our fingers. Next, we had to chop up some pecans. Do you know what it’s like to chop up pecans? When you chop a piece off, I swear it turns into a bullet and goes flying! There were pecan pieces all over the kitchen…there might even still be some laying around. That wasn’t even the most interesting part. The recipe called for 4 shots of bourbon to make the candy balls. We don’t own a shot glass at my apartment, so we had no idea how to measure out a shot. We settled on using 1/4 cup to equal 1 shot. Yes you read that right, we put in a full cup of bourbon into the mix…Before you all ask if we were trying to kill ourselves, no we’re just stupid. We basically became that lady from the vine “now pour 2 shots of vodka” and she pours the whole bottle in.

Well, we realized how terrible of an idea it was to put a full cup of bourbon in because it made the mix so soupy, we couldn’t even form balls. So, we added more of every ingredient and decided to make frozen candy bars. We dumped the mix into a glass container and let it sit in the freezer. It never fully hardened since alcohol doesn’t freeze but it became sort of like a dip. When the time came, we took the concoction out of the freezer, passed out vanilla wafers and tried it…..dear lord. The only thing you could taste was the bourbon, except it tasted sweeter because of all the sugar. Lyss, Ashley, Amy, and I gagged on it, but of course Chela loved it. She can eat it all, I just hope she doesn’t go into liver failure.

Now it’s time for everyone’s favorite part: rating the dishes. The Country Captain Chicken with White and Wild Rice without a doubt receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Everything about this dish was fabulous, the flavors mixed to make magic once they reached our taste buds. We were in awe of this chicken recipe. It takes a lot for me to like chicken recipes, I don’t know, chicken is just hard to get right sometimes, but this surpassed getting it right. This chicken is the answer to all chicken (that doesn’t make sense but it’s the truth). As for the Bourbon Street Candy Balls with Pecans…. ♥ (1) heart. This is the first recipe to get ranked with only 1 heart. Now, I know they could’ve been good if we didn’t pour as much bourbon in, but this recipe was a complete disaster. Maybe I should try it again and actually measure out the right amount of alcohol…but not anytime soon, the smell of bourbon sickens me at the moment. Moral of the story: buy a damn shot glass.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus