Category Archives: stuffed

Big Night Dinner

People say there’s no place like New York, but there’s really no place like New York when the weather starts to warm up. Summertime in the city calls for long days in Central Park, open-air restaurants, and my personal favorite: rooftops. Two years ago I was lucky enough to befriend some guys who have a private rooftop — now we’re pretty much family, and cook out on that very roof multiple times a week. After the first balmy grill night a few weeks ago, I knew I had to bring back weekly EVOOs ASAP — plus I have the time since I just graduated and don’t have full-time employment yet. So, this really is a big night dinner: bringing back consistent EVOOs with a menu of Brandy and Orange Chicken Topped with Stuffed Shrimp, Fruited White and Wild Rice, and a Maple Nut Coffee Ice Cream Dessert. Let’s get cooking!

Mikella and I woke up on Memorial Day to sublime weather: it was 80 degrees outside with not a cloud in the sky. When it’s this nice outside hopping on the subway feels like a sin, so we decided to walk down to Chelsea Market. After an awesome, and slightly sweaty 25 block walk, we arrived at my all-time favorite fish market: The Lobster Place. I constantly rave about this place — trust me, you won’t find fresher seafood anywhere in Manhattan. We picked up eight jumbo shrimp and a tin of lump crab meat, then made our way to Trader Joe’s to continue our ingredient hunt.

We walked to the Trader Joe’s in Chelsea, and it brought me a lot of nostalgia — the Chelsea TJ’s was my first go-to when I moved to NYC…maybe it’s weird to get nostalgic over a Trader Joe’s but I’m a sentimental person, so let me be! We quickly found every item on our list…almost. I knew coffee ice cream was probably going to be a toughie to find here, and I was correct. Joe: you have the oddest ice cream flavors, why no coffee???

Due to TJ’s lack of ice cream, we made a quick stop to Fairway, then headed home.

As we were getting ready to walk over to our friends’ apartment (312) I realized my maple syrup was moldy….I didn’t even know syrup could get moldy. We needed syrup for the dessert, and no one at 312 had any, so we stopped at a bodega along the way. I have one question: why is maple syrup so expensive?! $10 for a tiny bottle is a bit ridiculous, don’t ya think?

We arrived at 312 to quite a sight: four hungover degenerates laying on the couch. The apartment had yet to be cleaned from the night before, and I was not about to cook in a grimy kitchen (guys if your reading this, sorry, but your kitchen freaks me out). Luckily my bud Christy lives across the hall and had a spotless kitchen! I prefer to have everyone assist in cooking, but I knew it was best to let the boys continue to be couch potatoes. Just Mikella and I were the master chefs of the evening.

Mikella is not very fond of raw meats, so I put her in charge of the rice dish. we chopped our respective ingredients, then she was the rice wizard while I handled the stuffing for the shrimp. The aromas of onion, pepper, and crab meat sizzling in olive oil and butter were mouthwatering. What’s stuffing without a little toasted bread too? What was supposed to be toasted bread turned out to be crispy bread (yes, there’s a difference) because I didn’t realize how quickly the toaster oven heated up. Mix a small kitchen with a girl trying to save toast and you end up burned: my one injury from the night.

I recovered quickly and let Mikella take over stuffing duties because I butterflied the shrimp. I probably should have watched a video on how to butterfly, because it was difficult, and I’m 100% positive I did not do it correctly… oh well. Once my shrimp were..uh..slightly cut, I attempted to stuff them, but they were definitely not stuffed. All of the stuffing fell out and was just sort of laying beside the shrimps. I proceeded to throw it all in the oven and hope for the best.

While the shrimp baked, I cooked the chicken. The chicken breasts we bought were some of the biggest I have ever seen in my life — I’m telling you, we got three that could feed 10 people (and they did). Due to their size, it took longer than usual to fully cook. After about 22 minutes, the chicken was tender and juicy. I promptly threw together the sauce: brandy, butter, and a bit of orange zest, then topped off our chicken.

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Once we finished our preparation, we took everything to the roof and called for the couch zombies to come eat. We all piled our plates high and had our moment of truth.

3..2..1…First bites like this are one of the many reasons I love doing EVOO. Like bitch, I MADE THAT! The shrimp, wow. Cooked to perfection and topped with buttery, delicious stuffing. Now that was amazing! It was so good I got a little greedy and took a second shrimp (sorry to whoever didn’t get to try this bite of heaven). The chicken was delightfully moist and had a citrusy hint thanks to the sauce. I was really surprised at the rice: a blend of white and wild rice dotted with golden raisins, mandarin oranges, and almonds — items you wouldn’t think would go with rice, but made a pleasant, slightly sweet mixture. I had two servings it was so yummy.

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Once everyone finished dinner, Mikella and I grabbed all of the dessert items, and spooned out coffee sundaes for everyone. A few scoops of coffee ice cream, topped with almonds and peanuts, drizzled with maple syrup, and garnished with cookie sticks — simple yet beautiful.

My tastebuds were pleasantly surprised by this dessert — I don’t particularly care for the taste of coffee, but this tasted like caramel! I’m convinced it was the syrup that made all the difference. Rachael Ray isn’t the most creative when it comes to desserts, but this one was simple and spectacular.

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Now time for the ratings. The Brandy and Orange Chicken receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. This wasn’t bad, but wasn’t astounding — just another chicken dish with a hint of citrus. The Stuffed Shrimp receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This dish may not have exactly been stuffed shrimp, but whatever it ended up being was over-the-top GOOD. I would’ve eaten every shrimp, but it would’ve been unfair to hog all that delicious perfection. The Fruited White and Wild Rice receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Typically you expect rice dishes to be savory, but the lightly sweet rice was unexpected in a good way, and really balanced the flavors of the other courses well. Finally, the Maple Nut Coffee Ice Cream Dessert receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I consider this an adult twist on the classic ice cream sundae. No alcohol was involved, but the coffee and maple flavors just seem more mature than vanilla and chocolate. This is a dessert I’m going to indulge in all summer.

No matter what the activity — eating, exercising, socializing — it’s always better under and open sky. Thank goodness it’s summer so I can do all those activities in the fresh…well semi-fresh air of New York City. Next time you eat outside, stop to savor all flavors in your mouth and the people around you. I promise, you’re going to want to remember these moments for a very long time.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

 

 

 

 

A Meal for my Hunnies

So many new things have been happening in my life, so I had to step away from the blog for a few weeks. I started my senior year of college, I landed the internship of my dreams, and a new room mate moved in! Now that things have settled a bit, I knew it would be the perfect time to have old and new friends alike over, and cook a fabulous meal. This menu is one I’m sure we’ll remember for a long time: Tilapia with Tomatillo Sauce, Avocados with Creamy Maque Choux, and Margaritas Granitas. Let’s get cooking!

This Adventure started two days ago on Sunday. My good pal Christy and I took our weekly trip to Trader Joe’s, but we chose the absolute worst time possible: 7pm. Sunday evenings at Trader Joe’s are easily comparable to an active war zone. People are rude, and there is next to no inventory. There were no vegetables or chicken, and half the store’s shelves were completely ransacked. I just wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible, so I left nearly empty handed.

I needed a full day to recover from that fiasco, and on Tuesday morning after class I headed to Whole Foods in Chelsea to pick up the rest of the ingredients I needed. I grabbed tomatillos, cilantro, tilapia, avocados, and lime pops. This experience was painless, and pretty cheap — maybe I should shop at Whole Foods more often.

I had to make one more stop at a local liquor store to pick up tequila and Cointreau for our special margaritas tonight. I don’t go to the liquor store often (I know, that may be hard to believe) so the cashier had to guide me on where to find what I needed. $50 later, not only are we stocked for tonight, but also for the next 2 months.

Fast forward to this evening. Classes let out early thanks to a Jewish Holiday, so Krystyna and Taylor came over at 7. We immediately got to work chopping everything up. Taylor was in charge of the tomatillos, and she was so intrigued by the vegetable. For those of you who don’t know what Tomatillos are, they are Mexican green tomatoes, but oddly enough, they kind of taste like apples. Once everything was chopped, I cooked the fish while Noelle and Mikella made the margs…actually making the margaritas was more like a 5 person job. No one could figure out how to work the blender, so I stepped in and saved the day.

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While everyone enjoyed their homemade frozen margaritas, Taylor and I cooked away. I handled the sauce for the tilapia, and she prepared the avocado stuffing. Everything smelled so good, and we were all so excited…then the smoke alarm went off. Honestly, it’s not an uncommon occurrence in my house, so once we shut it off we were ready to eat.

Everyone served themselves family style, and we all migrated downstairs to our massive dining room table to eat.

We all had our moment of truth together. 3..2..1.. Spicy goodness! This tilapia was cooked to perfection (courtesy of moi) with just the right amount of kick from the spices and sauce. Tilapia is so delicate, and I was worried the spices would have ruined it, but it was so delicious. The stuffed avocados were a big hit too. It was great opening all six avocados and seeing the perfect green/yellow color in every single one. We all had a tough time scooping the flesh out of the skin, but the taste was spectacular. Creamy corn and peppers overflowed each avocado half, and they were all devoured quickly.

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Christy and Nico showed up an hour late, but they still enjoyed and scarfed down the rest of the food — they showed up too late for margaritas, though.

Now time for the ratings. The Tilapia with Tomatillo Sauce receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. There was so much hype leading up to this recipe and it did not disappoint. It was somehow spicy, sweet, and savory, and melt-in-your-mouth — aka a masterpiece. The Avocados with Creamy Maque Choux receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Avocados are arguably the best food in the world, and I don’t know why I never stuffed one before. The creaminess of the filling played well with the creaminess of the avocado flesh. I think I could’ve eaten 5 of them. Finally, the Margaritas Granitas receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. If you know me, you know I love frozen margs (especially the ones from Mickey Spillanes) and these margaritas rivaled the best of the best. They were tangy and sweet with the perfect kick. Now whenever I’m craving a marg I can make them in minutes from the comfort of my own home. Score!

This meal was all around perfection, but I think my favorite part of tonight was seeing my friends mesh together so well. Mikella just moved in, and they made it a point to include her and make her feel welcome. These are the kind of moments with my people that make my heart full, and I can’t wait for all of us to get closer and create many more memories like the ones we made tonight.

Until next week!

Mary Honkus

 

 

Little Bites Party

Going on vacation is always fun — there’s relaxation, no worries, and ENDLESS FOOD. I recently returned from a semi-vacation (more like a work trip) with constant snack food. Designers will spend hundreds of dollars to create a dress, but will refuse to spend more than $5 on food. My diet consisted of cheese cubes, popcorn, and questionable alcohol concoctions. Needless to say I’m very happy to be back home and able to cook some REAL food…even though it may be in the form of little bites, it’s still real food. Today’s menu consists of Lemon Pepper Chicken Tenders, Chickpea and Rosemary Dip with Zucchini “Chips”, and Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Portobellos. Let’s get cooking!

It’s been a super rainy day in the city, which always puts a damper on having to go to the grocery store, but since I have a buddy, it makes things a little better! My pal Christy recently moved to the city from upstate, and let me tell you guys we’re practically soulmates — we always go to Trader Joe’s together. I went over to her place around 12:30, and after having a spiked seltzer – or 2 – we made our way uptown.

This Trader Joe’s visit just happened to be the most monumental visit ever because I was able to find Every. Single. Ingredient. I don’t think that has happened once in all of evoo. I was literally jumping for joy — I looked like a mad woman…if only the other shoppers understood.

I headed home to take a nap, then walked over to Christy’s at 5:30 to get down to business…too bad she was still napping so our cooking adventure was delayed by like 30 minutes.

Once she was awake and ready, we threw on our aprons and got to work — sort of. See, it was a busy evening at 312 because everyone was preparing for a major roof party. How major of a party, you ask? Let’s just say an ice luge in the shape of the Eiffel Tower was arriving as I was trying to prepare the marinade for the chicken. I was unable to help lift the luge up 7 flights of stairs since I was busy mixing together lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil, but I assure everyone that it made it to the roof safely.

Once the ice sculpture was in place, Christy cooked the chicken while I threw the ingredients for the dip in the food processor *cue the ‘that was easy’ button.* Then we both prepared the portobellos while Christy simultaneously did her makeup for the party. It was sort of a hectic cooking experience because people started to arrive while we were still in the kitchen. Honestly, everything was a blur, but somehow we managed to put it all together and make it look pretty, too!

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We created a little space in all the chaos to sit down and have our moment of truth. 3..2..1…Diving into that stuffed mushroom was all I needed – no seriously, it was the first thing I ate all day and I was starving. I have never been a huge fan of artichokes, but spinach and artichokes mixed together inside of a mushroom completely changes the game. We waited a little too long to eat the chicken tenders and they were a bit cold, but still the flavor was fabulous, and that dip…I can’t call it dip anymore it’s freaking rosemary hummus RACHAEL RAY!! The hummus was out of this world! Although, the zucchini chips were meh, so we replaced them with Triscuits. I actually took the hummus next door where Kansas and I ate it all instead of being social at the party — because priorities.

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Now time for the ratings. The Lemon Pepper Chicken Tenders receive ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. I am actually disappointed because these could have been so much better if they were actually served warm. This is totally my fault though, I need to get better and making sure all the dishes are completed at the same time. These were still delicious, though, and super lemony. The Chickpea and Rosemary Dip with Zucchini “Chips” receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. This was definitely the hit of the night. I didn’t realize how easy it was to make hummus, and I think this is my new party dip (plus it’s healthy!) This would’ve received  5 hearts if it wasn’t for the Zucchini Chips — they were completely bland and probably would’ve been better if they were seasoned and/or baked. Finally, the Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Portobellos receive ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. this was spectacular and filling, although I would’ve been happier with less artichokes…those things can really be overpowering.

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I learned one very important thing today: cooking before a party may seem like a good idea — ya know, fuel up before you poison your body with alcohol — but this cooking adventure was so hectic. Hopefully next week will be calmer for my own sanity…but knowing me and my friends, we’ll probably do it all over again just like this — kids in our 20s, we just never learn.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

 

A Great Gathering

With all the traveling I’ve been doing, I have really been missing a nice home cooked family meal. Don’t get me wrong, experiencing European cultures through food is AMAZING, but sometimes you just want to come home to an array of different foods waiting for you on the dining room table. This week was the first week in a very long time that all of my room mates and I were actually home, so we decided to cook a family dinner feast. On tap for this week is Sweet Sausage-Stuffed Portobellos, Giardiniera, Antipasticks, and Fresh Figs and Melon with Prosciutto. Let’s get cooking!

This adventure started out on Monday. After reading over the recipes, I noticed that the Giardiniera needed to be made at least 24 hours in advance so that the vegetables could marinate properly. I went to good old Conad to pick up all of ingredients: cauliflower, carrots, & peppers. I came home, quickly threw these veggies together, and poured the vinegar marinade over top. I finished this off with a good shake, then put it in the fridge for it to marinate overnight.

Fast Forward to today (Tuesday). We still had so many ingredients to pick up, so Shannon and I geared up for our ingredient scavenger hunt. We started at Conad where we managed to pick up some meat and cheese, but we still needed figs, cantaloupe, and sausage.

Next we went to the Central Market. I had never been to the Central Market before, and it was amazing! There were countless stands of fresh fruit & veggies, fresh meats, and endless pasta. I thought this would be the place we would find everything we needed, but we didn’t find anything!! I wasn’t completely disappointed though, because now I know where to go for the best fresh produce.

Our final stop on this quest for ingredients was the corner Crai market. We found all of the items within 10 minutes. Although we only managed to find dry figs, we did find the cantaloupe, so I took that as a win!

The only thing that separated the 5 of us from cooking family dinner was class. As soon as 5:30 struck I ran home to start cooking this gourmet meal! Stef and Ashley were waiting for me in the kitchen when I got home. We strapped on our aprons and began by chopping everything up.

I turned my attention to cooking the mushrooms — side note, we couldn’t find Portobello mushrooms in Italy??? We substituted with another kind of mushroom, but still so weird — The best part of cooking the mushrooms was drenching them with wine, because you know, everything tastes better with wine.

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Next I started on the stuffing while Ashley and Stef put together the antipasticks. We had a really good system going on, and everything was going smoothly, but then we hit a bump in the road. Ashley and Stef were putting together the prosciutto, cantaloupe, & fig platter when we realized we didn’t buy a freaking cantaloupe. Nope, we bought a gigantic grapefruit. A GRAPEFRUIT!! So instead of having this platter, they made dried figs wrapped in prosciutto.

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Finally everything was ready. We had a beautiful spread out on the table, and Kait poured us all a glass of wine. We filled our plates then it was finally time for the moment of truth.

3…2…1… Ahhh, the sweet taste of a home cooked meal. Everyone’s faces lit up with happiness. The most popular dish among our crowd was definitely the stuffed mushrooms. We had an overabundance of stuffing, so we all ate that by itself too. We ravaged through that stuffing. All of us were a bit skeptical of the Giardiniera, but were pleasantly surprised on how delicious it was! The antipasticks were also a big hit. The figs were a little iffy, but overall everyone was happy and full since we ate the whole meal — which was supposedly meant to feed 12 people — obviously Rachel Ray has never fed a group of hungry college girls.

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Now time for the ratings. The Sweet Sausage-Stuffed Portobellos receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Stuffing is such an underrated food. It was great in the mushrooms, and great on its own as well. As we were eating everyone raved about how delicious it was. This was a very successful recipe. Next the Giardiniera receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. I thought this would be like a salad, but it was just pickled vegetables. Stef was super excited for this dish and encouraged us all to try it. It was different from anything I have ever eaten before, and it was pretty good. I wouldn’t eat it every day but it was still good to try. The Antipasticks receive ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. These were pretty simple — just kebabs with provolone and sopressata, but simplicity is often overlooked, and it was delicious! Definitely would eat again. Finally the Fresh Figs with Melon and Prosciutto receives ♥ (1) heart. We tried to compromise after the grapefruit, but there was just no saving this dish. At least we tried, though.

After weeks and weeks of eating out, this meal was greatly needed, appreciated, and helped us bond a little more! Having this Italian gathering with the roomies was probably one of my favorite nights in Italy. Don’t forget the little moments like this — food and friends create the best memories. I swear by it!

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus