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


Pass Me a Hoagie

Growing up in Pennsylvania we would have get-togethers focused around one specific food: the hoagie. I feel like the hoagie is not well known across the US; most people commonly refer to hoagies as “subs” or even worse “sandwiches.” In my opinion, those names don’t come close to expressing the beauty behind a hoagie (I can tell you its a helluva lot better than a measly sub). This week, I was so excited to introduce my friends from all over what a real hoagie was like (except for Mel since she’s a fellow Pennsylvanian too), but anyways this weeks menu consists of Herb and Cheese Oven Fries, Sausage, Pepper, and Onion Hoagies, and Date Shakes. Let’s get cooking!

As with every other cooking adventure, this one started at the grocery store. I was so happy to have a buddy accompany me: my roomie Ashley! We didn’t have school on Monday (yesterday) for a Jewish holiday, and she didn’t work, so we were able to shop together for the first time ever. Ashley had never been to the 72nd street Trader Joe’s before, so needless to say it was a change for her. The store wasn’t super crazy since it was a Monday, but surprise surprise Trader Joe’s didn’t have the ingredients I needed except for cheese. It was a failure of a trip, and to sum it up in the words of Ashley “EW BYE.” (She did not like this Trader Joe’s).

We made a trip to Fairway two blocks up and I was able to get everything I needed there.

I’m going to go on a rant about Trader Joe’s for a moment. Don’t get me wrong, I love the store, but why why why do they not have a deli/meat counter. It’s a pain to have to go to multiple stores just to buy some stupid sausage…so, Trader Joe’s, if you’re reading this, it’s time for you to invest in a fresh deli counter!!

Anyways, we headed home and waited for everyone to come over. Mel, Martina, Dana, & Nicolette came and we all started by chopping, of course. Nobody wanted to chop at first, but I go a little she-hulk in the kitchen and made sure that no one was just sitting idle.

Nothing went as planned while we were cooking tonight. We had the potatoes on the baking sheet about to sprinkle some Italian seasoning over them, when Nicolette, who was attempting to open the seasoning, popped the top off and it all spilled everywhere! such a disaster. We quickly swept it up and put the fries in the oven…but the pan was too big for the oven so the door wouldn’t close the whole way and the apartment turned into a sauna.

Don’t think it could’ve gotten any worse? As I start cooking the sausage and peppers, the smoke alarm goes off which isn’t an uncommon occurrence, but when I went to turn it off it said “warning carbon monoxide.” All of us proceeded to freak out and not know what to do. I texted my super, and Mel called her stepdad for help. I was not about leave my food…I was determined to finish or I would die cooking.

Eventually my super texted back and told me to reset the alarm…glad to know Ashley and I’s safety was his main thought.

After that incident, though, cooking finished pretty smoothly. We broiled our rolls then brushed them with fresh garlic butter and piled the sausage and peppers on top. We each added some fries to our plate and then it was time for the moment of truth.

3..2..1 MMMMMM. The hoagie was out of this world! All of the spicy and sweet flavors created a party in my mouth. The peppers melted and had unique textures, while every bite of sausage exploded in my mouth with so much flavor. Having the bun toasted and brushed with garlic butter was the icing on the cake. The best hoagie I have ever had by far. The fries were a good side dish, some were a little charred, but still scrumptious and easy to make.

After we had finished dinner, we went on to make the date shakes. Nicolette was ecstatic because she loves dates so she took charge on this one. The shake appeared to be lacking thickness so we added ice cubes and more ice cream, blended a little more, and then served.

The best way to describe how they turned out was crunchy…the ice probably wasn’t a good idea, and all of the date pieces settled at the bottom. The flavor was fabulous, but the texture not so much. I have not been impressed by any of Rachael Ray’s dessert recipes yet. Hopefully there will be an impressive one soon.

Now comes time for the rating…the Herb and Cheese Oven Fries receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. I feel like this would’ve been a 5 heart rating if the seasoning hadn’t exploded everywhere…they were a little too seasoned, and if we shouldn’t have kept them in the oven for so long since some were burnt to a crisp. This recipe was very easy to make though, so this will be my go-to when I’m craving fries. The Sausage, Pepper, and Onion Hoagies receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This hoagie, like I said earlier was the best hoagie I have ever eaten. Every ingredient complemented the other perfectly. BRAVO  Rachael Ray. Finally, the Date Shakes receive ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. Nothing special about them at all…and they were crunchy…still waiting for the day to be amazed by a Rachael Ray dessert.

If there’s one thing I learned this week, it’s that obviously food matters more to me than my health because if there was actually carbon monoxide in my apartment I’d probably be dead, but at least I wouldn’t have died hungry!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus