Make Your Own Burrito Bar

Living in Italy is great, but sometimes you just get so sick of Italian food. When my friends and I want something different our go-to is Mexican, but the only Mexican restaurant in Florence is a bit pricey. So how do we solve our craving without breaking the bank?… with our own burrito bar night! This menu is one that can put any Mexican restaurant to shame. We’re making Roasted Salsa with Mint and Cilantro, Spicy Black Bean Filling, Chicken, Red Peppers, and Chorizo Filling, and Refried Beans. Let’s get cooking!

This cooking adventure started last Monday. I knew that I was going to have a tough time finding many of these ingredients, but Mel informed me that there was a Walmart sized supermarket a short bus ride away. I truly thought this supermarket would be the solution, so I purchased a ticket and ventured off to this store.

When I arrived 20 minutes later, I was completely overwhelmed by the size of this place! I was also excited because I had a feeling I would easily be able to find everything…if only I had been able to find everything. It did not matter that this store was 10 times bigger than Conad, it still had the same things!! I couldn’t find beans, cilantro, cheese, or even cumin! I had never been so frustrated in my life. It was a complete waste of a grocery trip.

I came home with light shopping bags and headed to grocery store number 2 – Vivi Market. Vivi is a grocery store that specifically imports foods from different countries including China, Japan, the USA, and MEXICO!! I managed to pick up some black beans and jalapenos, but I still did not have all the ingredients I needed.

I was becoming so frustrated that I thought about emailing the Mexican restaurant, Tijuana, and asking them where they get their shredded cheese and cilantro from. I was becoming desperate at this point and considered even buying the cheese straight from the restaurant.

After a brief mental breakdown, I headed over to grocery store number 3 – Conad. I should’ve just started at Conad to begin with. I gave up on trying to find every ingredient. I ended up settling for parsley over cilantro, and cheese slices over shredded cheese. There was one item I still could not find — cumin. So I desperately wandered into Tiger and they had taco seasoning which is what I settled on. I was so happy that this disastrous shopping trip was finally over. I needed a glass of wine to help me recover from my traumatizing day once I got home.

Two days later on Wednesday I had recovered from that horrific shopping experience and was finally ready to cook! My friends were all finished with class around 6:30 so they came over shortly afterward. I handled some chopping but once they arrived I assigned everyone a job. Mel was in charge of the salsa, Saoirse handled the meat, Ashley chopped a bit, and Sara took care of the refried beans, all while I cooked the fillings.


I was pretty surprised at how smoothly everything went. Time flew by so quickly and before I knew it, Saoirse was heating up the tortillas, and we were ready to eat! We all overstuffed our burritos, and could hardly wait for the moment of truth.


3…2…1… woohoo! These burritos were fabulous! I tried each of the fillings, but my favorite was the chicken, red pepper & chorizo filling. It had just the right amount of spice and was so scrumptious! I threw in some salsa as well, and I can honestly say I have never tasted a mint salsa. It was a nice change from the typical run-of-the-mill salsas. I can’t forget about the bean filling and the refried beans! Both of those were delicious as well.

Now time for the ratings. Roasted Salsa with Mint and Cilantro receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. Like I stated earlier this was a nice change from normal salsa, but the mint was a bit overpowering. The Spicy Black Bean Filling receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Although this was not my favorite, Ashley adored it and that’s what was most important to me since it was the vegetarian filling for her! To me, it was a little bland, but she loved it. The Chicken, Red Peppers and Chorizo filling receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I was so sad that there wasn’t any of this left. I could have eaten it all week. This filling was meaty, juicy, and packed the perfect spicy punch! Finally, the Refried Beans receives ♥♥ (2) hearts. I don’t think these beans were a hit solely because they looked like vomit…oh well.

All in all, this burrito night was a hit! I love when my friends come together and bond over food. We can cross Mexican night off our list…what kind of food party will we get ourselves into next week?

Fino alla prossima settimana! (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.


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.


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.


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