Tapas Party (For one)

I’ve made it to the party section of my Evoo book — take a guess what that means… it means endless amounts of recipes that are designed to feed 20 people. But, I don’t know 20 people…and it is one of those weeks where the only people I want to cook with are me, myself, and I. So, although this tapas menu is supposed to feed 20 people, it will be feeding only one: me. Tonight’s menu consists of Potato Tortilla, Herbed Chicken Tapas, Chorizo and Vegetable Confetti Tortilla, and Mushroom Caps in Garlic Sauce. Let’s get cooking!

This adventure started on Monday at Conad. It had been a frustrating day so far. My roommate Mel and I had been going back and forth with a travel agency that jipped us out of $25. It may not seem like a lot of money, but when you’re in Europe without a job for a year, it is A LOT. Once again we left the agency annoyed, and I thought it would be the perfect time to go grocery shopping. I don’t know why I thought that would be a good idea — my track record with Conad has not been a good one.

Though, this trip to Conad was the easiest, most calming grocery trip since I arrived in Italy 6 months ago. I was able to find every ingredient easily and quickly. To make things even better, All of the items came out to less than €30! I consider that a huge success since this meal is meant to feed 20 people.

I sat down at my kitchen table and said a little prayer since I was about to make a TON of food. I was scared. I didn’t know if I would be able to do it. I kept thinking “This menu will be the end of me.” So I decided to split this menu into two cooking days.

The first day I made the Potato Tortilla and the Herbed Chicken Tapas. To start, I created the marinade for the chicken which consisted of lemon juice, rosemary, thyme, evoo, and salt & pepper. The chicken swam around in that while I chopped up the potatoes and onions for the tortilla. 48005872_Unknown

I was nervous about making the tortilla. I have a Spanish friend who explained to me that they are pretty difficult to make. The instructions terrified me as well — there was a lot of flipping involved. I can’t even flip pancakes correctly, so I wondered how on earth I would be able to flip a tortilla correctly.

I sauteed the vegetables then apprehensively poured the eggs in. So far, so good. The eggs began to set and I attempted to let the top layer run to the bottom to set…that worked too. It finally came time to flip, so I grabbed a plate, but the plate was smaller than the pan. I was anticipating a disaster. I called my roommate Sara over to help, and we both handled the flip with ease. It was nearly effortless. The tortilla cooked for a few more moments, then voila! I made my first tortilla and it turned out beautiful.

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I quickly cooked my chicken, then sat down for my first moment of truth.

3..2..1… Ay caramba! This was more than I could have hoped for. The tortilla was amazing!! For those of you who don’t know what a tortilla is (I didn’t know), it’s basically like a Spanish omelet. It had been ages since I had eaten a potato so the taste of that was like heaven in my mouth. Absolute perfection! The chicken was also marinated perfectly and oh, so juicy. I probably could’ve eaten all 20 servings in one sitting, but I managed to have a little bit of self-control and saved the rest so I could have leftovers this coming week.

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I had a busy week at school, so I wasn’t able to make the second half of this evoo menu until Friday (Today). Luckily I had so many delicious leftovers to tie me over until I was able to cook again.

I came home from the gym ready to make more delicious tapas for myself! I was much more prepared to make a tortilla this time around. This tortilla sounded like a “fully-loaded fries” version of a tortilla because it is topped with sausage, onions, red & green peppers, and peas. While the tortilla set, I cooked the mushrooms and doused them with wine. The aromas coming from the kitchen were utterly mouthwatering.

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This tortilla proved to be more of a challenge since it was double the size of the last one. But fear not — I successfully flipped the beast TWICE! I could barely contain my excitement.

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My stomach was grumbling so loudly, and it thanked me when the moment of truth finally came. 3…2…1… I’m telling you, it does not get better than this. I’m going to start making tortillas regularly because damn are they delicious! The mushrooms were impeccable as well.

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Now time for the ratings. the Potato Tortilla receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I’m telling you, this omelet thing was out of this world! Potatoes, onions, and eggs are the best combination. No one argue with me. The onions became slightly caramelized as I was sauteeing them, so there was a hint of sweetness which made for a firework explosion of flavors in my mouth. Amazing. The Herbed Chicken Tapas receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Homemade chicken dishes are often hit or miss, but this one was a home run! The marinade was one of the best I have ever used, and throughout the week the chicken stayed juicy and delicious. Usually, I get tired of rosemary after eating it two days in a row, but I just could not get enough of this chicken. The Chorizo and Vegetable Confetti Tortilla receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I didn’t think I would be able to top the first tortilla, but 2nd times the charm? I loved how it was filled with numerous vegetables — it made me feel very healthy, and who doesn’t love a delectable healthy dish? I am still in awe of this tortilla. Finally, the Mushroom Caps in Garlic Sauce receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Mushrooms are one of my favorite foods, and when you cover them in a savory garlic sauce…just wow. Juicy, tender, and delicious! This meal was simply incredible.

After reading “serves 20 people,” most people would cut a recipe to serve just themselves…Not me. I will never do that, and anyone who says I can’t eat 20 servings worth of food is not a friend of mine. I think I’m going to turn all of these cooking “parties” into parties of one…because I can never have enough food. Thank goodness I have a gym membership this semester…

Fino alla prossima settimana! (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

Italy Meets Greece

Three weeks into living in Italy, and surprisingly I’m not sick of eating pasta. Well, I’m sick of restaurant pasta because that equals me blowing $$$$. I can’t even begin to explain how excited I was when I read tonight’s menu and realized I’d be making an Italian pasta dish of my own. On tap for tonight is Sicilian Sausage and Fennel Pasta, and a Greek Diner Salad. Let’s get cooking!

I used to think that traveling to Trader Joe’s was a trip and a half, but nothing could prepare me for Italian grocery stores. Before I even left to go shopping I had to research translations of all the ingredients just in case I had to ask an employee where to find an item. Looks like my grocery trips are now going to be a part time language class for me too.

I started out at Conad at 10:30AM. I was able to find all of the produce…but that was about it. I wasn’t in the mood to ask any of the employees where things were, plus I was in a hurry to get to class.

After class, I decided to have another go at a different supermarket: Pam. Pam is more like an express super market, so I didn’t go in there with high expectations. I managed to find feta cheese, pepperoncini, and chicken broth, but I still needed to find sweet Italian sausage….I really thought that would be the easiest thing to find because, oh, I don’t know, I’m in freaking Italy??!! Mama mia!! I stumbled upon another random market across the street from me and decided to give it a go. I found sausage, but I couldn’t tell if it was sweet sausage (yes I get super anal about ingredients). I stared at the package for about 10 minutes before my eyes found “DOLCE” and I nearly yelped for joy. I still needed to find oregano, but I was so done with this scavenger hunt through Florence, so I just gave up on that one.

I had to run to class after the endless grocery trip, but after 2 and a half hours it was cooking time…almost. I come home to see my room mate Shannon at the door of our building saying she broke her foot, so I helped carry her to the hospital. Once she was checked in our other roommate Stef stayed with her & I hurried home because if I didn’t eat soon I was going to pass out.

Before I could even cook I had to stop back at the random market to buy a new pan because all of the pans provided by our apartment sucked.

Finally after hours it was time to cook! As the sausage browned I chopped up garlic, onions and fennel. Fun fact about fennel: it smells like licorice, which is interesting because once I threw the vegetables in the pan I smothered them with sambuca which is licorice flavored liqueur. The whole sauce was a random concoction of spices, veggies, and cream, and they all seemed odd to pair together, but Rachael Ray’s weirdest combinations tend to be the best.

 

As the sauce simmered and pasta boiled, Kait joined me to chop up the salad ingredients. Chopping is always quick and easy whenever you have a helping hand! Before I knew it, it was time to eat.

Kait got all cute and set the dining room up for a roomie dinner, then we all sat down (minus Shannon because she was still at the hospital) and had the moment of truth.

3…2…1…No exaggeration, this pasta was the best since I’ve been in Italy! At first I thought it tasted so good because I was beyond starved, but everyone had the same reaction. I’d say it was a success! The salad was just a salad, nothing extravagant about it. Just salad.

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Now time for the ratings. Sicilian Sausage and Fennel Pasta receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This pasta was so unique because it was sweet. Most people would be like “a sweet pasta? gross!” but hear me out, this was great. There was a slight licorice flavor to it from the fennel and sambuca, but not overwhelming. It was the perfect balance of salty and semi-sweet. Fabuloso! The Greek Diner Salad receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. I realized after we cleaned up that I forgot to put the feta cheese in. -_- Cheese always makes everything better, so this was just a meh salad. There was literally nothing special about it, and anyone could’ve made it — simply unimpressive.

Rachael Ray has perfect timing: as soon as I move to Italy, all of the upcoming recipes just happen to be Italian! I don’t know if it’s all in my head, but I think making Italian food in Italy makes it taste better…I’m definitely right. Pasta has always been the most difficult thing for me to make, but I’m gonna come back to the US a pasta master. Just you wait!

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus

PS Because of the ridiculous wifi here I couldn’t upload the pictures. I tried for 14 hours. So sorry about no pictures of this awesome meal. ):

At Home Sunday

It has been a crazy ride in New York with this blog — From my love/hate relationship with Trader Joe’s to masterpiece and failure recipes, this blog and my love for cooking have flourished in this city. But now, it’s time to take EVOO international!! For those of you who don’t know, I moved to Florence, Italy for a year, but I knew I couldn’t leave EVOO or my faithful readers behind. I packed up the cookbook, and safely made it to Europe. After settling down (and eating more pasta than I’d like to admit) I finally made the time to continue this cooking adventure in my new apartment. On tap for tonight’s first Italian EVOO is Aldo’s Cold Herb-Roasted Chicken and Blanched Green Beans with Parsley. Let’s get cooking!

This adventure is sort of confusing and all over the place because 1. I don’t know how to get around the city yet and 2. all the food labels here are in Italian. It’s going to take some time to get used to grocery shopping here. I first tried this marketplace called Vivi, and I was honestly petrified when I went inside. It was small, dingy, and I felt like there was no way the place would pass US department of health standards. The owner’s toddler was also riding around the tiny store on his tricycle, and bumped into me a few times. I left there empty handed but I knew it was for the best.

The next place I tried actually felt like an American supermarket. Stepping into Conad was somewhat relaxing — I knew it was clean and I knew this would become my regular grocery store. It was pretty easy to find all of the ingredients (considering all I needed was a chicken, green beans and parsley), but the way you buy the produce was slightly confusing.

Europeans are so much more trusting in the grocery store. To buy produce you put as much of one item in the bag as you want — in my case green beans — then you weigh it, and the scale prints out a price sticker according to weight. A pretty easy process, but anyone could put more in after they print the sticker….grocery stores in the USA are definitely not that trusting.

I didn’t cook until the next day (today). A majority of my room mates almost convinced me to go out to eat for the 5th night in a row, but I held my ground and stayed behind to cook instead. Rachael Ray warned in the recipe that it would take over 30 minutes — finally something she was honest about. Although cooking time was longer, it was honestly the easiest recipe in the history of this blog. All I had to do was rub my chicken with herbes de Provence, and then let it cook in the oven for 40 minutes.

I ran out while it was cooking (don’t worry, one of my room mates was home to watch it) to buy some tupper ware. When I returned the chicken was supposedly done, but when I cut it open it was still a little pink so it went back in the oven for another 20 while I made the green beans.

Now the recipe says that both of these items should be served cold….but ain’t nobody got time to let a full roasted chicken cool to room temperature (and why would you want to eat cold chicken) so I ate both of these hot. I’m sure that it was 100% better than it would’be been cold. Sorry, Rachael Ray.

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I was starved, so when this moment of truth finally came around I was so happy. 3..2..1… I was so hungry that this meal was better than I thought it would be. You all know I’m not a fan of green beans, in fact I’m allergic to them… but these were stomach-able. I gladly scarfed them down. The chicken was cooked beautifully too. I don’t care what anyone says, the skin is the BEST part! The whole bird was juicy and delicious. I could’ve eaten the whole thing but stopped myself and only ate half instead. Not too shabby for my first home cooked meal in another country.

Now time for ratings. Aldo’s Cold Herb-Roasted Chicken receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. I loved this chicken. It had a simple spice yet was so flavorful and cooked to perfection. The only thing that prevented it from receiving 5 hearts was that I never realized how difficult it was to eat a full chicken off the bone. I felt like a savage while eating and wasn’t sure if I got all the meat or not, which was kind of frustrating honestly. The Blanched Green Beans with Parsley also receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. I hate green beans, but this dish was more than tolerable for me. I will never LOVE green beans, but at least I didn’t hate them. I definitely can and will eat these for leftovers the rest of the week.

Cooking in a different country is oddly different, not just because of the shopping, but also having to learn how all of the appliances work. Though this cooking adventure didn’t require much work, I look forward to becoming more comfortable with this culture and my kitchen. Hopefully Rachael Ray will bless this next year with lots of Italian recipes to come. I’m ready to become a master *Italian* chef! Here’s to the next year of new food and new adventures! Ciao!

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus

One-Hot-Pot

I often recall simple times when I lived on an alpaca farm and ate simple food like buttered noodles (I had an interesting childhood). I was a very picky eater back then, but now I’m open to try anything and everything as most of you know. Instead of cooking in the city this week I’m back at my humble abode in the middle of nowhere, and while there are not alpacas anymore, I’m very excited to have a simple dish with some close hometown friends. On tap for tonight is Chili Verde. Let’s get cooking!

This adventure doesn’t start at the grocery store, but rather at the doctors office. Since I am an *adult* now, I took myself to the doctors by myself. It was just an annual check up but I had to get a shot. Normally I wouldn’t complain a huge amount, but they made me stay an extra 20 minutes since I drove myself. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and go grocery shopping. It had been about 3 weeks since I had last shopped for groceries and I missed the feeling of wandering through the isles looking for my ingredients — it’s kind of like an adult scavenger hunt if you think about it. Finally they let me go and I made my way over to the Giant Eagle.

My list of things I needed to pick up was rather simple today, but there was one ingredient I feared that I would not be able to find: tomatillos. As I stated before, I live in the middle of nowhere, so I did not have high expectations for this store to have such an exotic vegetable, but I was pleasantly surprised when I found them! They were right beside the tomatoes (since the are Mexican green tomatoes) and I nearly jumped for joy when I found them. It was so refreshing to be able to pick up all of my ingredients at one place (yes I am throwing shade to you Trader Joes…but I still love you).

I went to pay for my items, and the cashier had the most confused look when he picked up the tomatillos. he said to me “uhhhh….I have no clue what these are.” I told him and explained exactly what they were, and continued to tell him how surprised I was they they had them in the store. He said, “You never know what you’ll find here, it’s always full of surprises.” Isn’t that the truth.

I came home and waited for Molly and Hussein to come over at 7. Hussein told us he’d be late because he was cutting down trees, but Molly and I knew it was just an excuse so he didn’t have to help cook — Sorry Hussie, nothing gets past us.

Molly arrived and we got straight to work. First we dug through my kitchen supplies boxes to find my cutting boards. I find it amazing that my parents only have 2 cutting boards — I have about 10 (okay big exaggeration, but seriously you can’t just have 2 cutting boards!!). Once we found the boards, we could get onto the fun part. We threw the turkey into a pot and seasoned it with cumin, grill seasoning, and hot sauce. I finished off all the cumin, which was a big accomplishment: it was the first spice I used the whole way through. I’m basically a master of cumin now.

While the turkey cooked we chopped up so many green vegetables: zucchini, a green bell pepper, the tomatillos, cilantro, and thyme. I realized I forgot to pick up jalapenos, which made me sad for a minute but I quickly got over it. This recipe was relatively simple — we just tossed everything in the pot, let it cook for a few minutes and voila! We were ready to eat.

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We dressed up our chili with a little cheese and some scallions & brought out a whole bag of tortilla chips as well. We sat out on my back porch to enjoy some fresh air and watch the sunset as we had our moment of truth. 3…2…1… ahhh, that was so delicious. This dish was as simple as could be, yet so satisfying. All of the ingredients were so fresh too, which made a huge difference in the dish. I had 2 heaping bowls of this stuff, and that’s saying a lot since the thought of chili freaked me out for most of my life.

Hussein ended up missing the whole meal (it wouldn’t have mattered if he eventually showed up anyways because we ate it all), but we met him at Shaffer’s for ice cream. It was the perfect ending to a lovely summers night.

Now time for the rating. Chili Verde receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This dish was not only flavorfully satisfying, but it also meshed perfectly with our surroundings. This is one thing that I don’t think many people think about. For example: seafood tastes better when you’re near the ocean. Chili is a simple dish to make, and we made it in a simple place: in the wide open country setting next to a few farms and a corn field. The whole atmosphere made this dish a million times better than I thought it could ever be. This was definitely and unforgettable meal.

While I adore living in the city, sometimes its good to step back and enjoy the little things and the quieter places. Cooking with childhood friends, and making memories we’ll remember when we’re old and gray is such a wonderful feeling. I’m excited to do the next evoo in an exotic place, and hopefully make many more cooking memories abroad as well.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Big Soup!

Ever have those nights where you just want to stuff your face and eat like a normal person? That has been me for the past two months while I was preparing for a pageant I was competing in. I have not tasted bread, or sugar, or any of my favorite things for the past two months….I HAVEN’T EVOOD IN TWO MONTHS!!! WHO AM I?! Thank goodness I’m back to discovering so many delicious recipes, and I wouldn’t want to get back into the swing of things with a different 3-course menu than tonight’s. On tap for tonight is Green Minestrone, Tomato Basil Panzanella, and Lemon Coconut Angel Food Cake. Let’s get cooking!

I started this cooking adventure like any other at Trader Joe’s on Tuesday. This was no ordinary Trader Joe’s run…it was my LAST Trader Joe’s run since I move out in a week. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually going to miss that place and all of the great deals it had — even if it was a pain in the ass most of the time.

I was really hoping this trip would be quick and painless but it didn’t look too bright when I was stuck on the subway for 20 minutes in between stations. Train delays are one thing but when you’re trapped in an over packed unairconditioned car, you just want to die. When I finally reached my destination I felt like I was breathing in fresh air for the first time in years.

Despite the rocky beginning, this grocery run could not have gone any smoother. I found all of the ingredients I needed (besides white cannellini beans and ditalini pasta), but I knew my friends would be able to pick those up no problem. Everything was also super affordable which I can always count on Trader Joe’s for! I’d say this was a very successful last trip — see you in a year Trader Joe’s!

Fast forward to today (Thursday). After a long day of dog walking, I was so excited to come home and have a wonderful home cooked meal. I’m so happy I didn’t have to cook alone either! Girl’s night: cooking edition coming atcha. Chela, Amy & Krystina all joined me for a feast.

Amy brought the beans & Krystina brought the pasta (Krystina went all fancy and bought the pasta from Eatily!) We started how we always do with chopping. It was mainly Amy and I doing all the work since Chela brought her own pizza (typical) and Krystina doesn’t trust herself with knives (can’t blame her).

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Once all of the chopping was complete everything else was pretty simple — all I had to do was throw everything in a pot to make the soup and let it simmer for a while. While the soup was brewing I turned my attention to the Panzanella. This recipe really confused me because it told me to let the bread soak in water, then to wring it dry because you don’t want soggy bread…why is the bread supposed to be drenched in water if it shouldn’t be soggy??? Rachael Ray were you high when you created this recipe??? Whatever, I always do as the recipe says, but I let Amy dry the bread so I wouldn’t be at fault if it was weird…sorry Amy…

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I couldn’t let Krystina sit and do nothing, so I gave her some cheese to grate which she did beautifully. I threw the cheese into the soup, while Amy mixed the Panzanella together, and then it was time for the first moment of truth.

3…2…1….It feels so good to eat real food again!!….JK the soup is something I could’ve eaten on my diet since there was no sugar, but it was still good and I didn’t feel bloated or gross while eating it. Thumbs up from me! The soggy bread though….it was still soggy. Someone please explain to me why one would drench bread in water if you don’t want it to be wet? This is so mind boggling to me. Once you got past the sogginess of the bread, the rest of the dish was pretty dang good — very Italian.

We scarfed down our dinner so we could move on to dessert. Now, I didn’t go full out pastry chef here, (I bought a pre-made angel food cake), all I had to do was dress it up a little bit. I heated up some lemon curd and added a little lemon zest, then skillfully drizzled it all over the cake. Finally I topped it off with shaved coconut, and I have to say, it looked like a masterpiece! If it wasn’t so pretty we would’ve dived in sooner.

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So now for the second moment of truth: 3…2…1… BEST DESSERT IN EVOO HISTORY. I’m serious! This was so simple, yet sweet and out of this world. Maybe I’m freaking out since I haven’t had any sugar in 2 months, but this was absolutely glorious. I honestly could’ve eaten the whole cake. It is taking all of my willpower to save Ashley the last slice of cake..I’m such a good room mate.

Now time for the ratings. Green Minestrone receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. This soup was good, don’t get me wrong, but it was very bland. This could’ve been 10 times better if a few spices were added for good measure, but it was boring. Onto the next. The Tomato Basil Panzanella receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. Flavor wise this dish was fabulous, but I just could not get over the soggy bread. Why would you wet the bread, Rachael Ray?? I will not rest until this question is answered. Finally, the Lemon Coconut Angel Food Cake receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Talk about a strong finish! This dessert was light and airy, yet sweat and satisfying. I could eat this all day every day (I’m a sucker for fruity desserts) plus it was super easy to make! I loved it!!

It felt great to get back on the EVOO train, but also bittersweet considering this is the last EVOO in my first NYC apartment. Don’t worry, now that I’m back, I’ll be evooing every week. But where in the world will the next blog take place? You’ll find out next time! Thanks for reading!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

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Go Fish!

I have had summer on my mind for months — not just the weather, but summer food as well. I imagine having some freshly caught seafood on the shore accompanied by a nice refreshing salad… Okay the salad part was a lie, I rarely like salad… But, with summer right around the corner, tonight’s menu is giving us a little taste of summer nights to come. On tap for tonight is Swordfish Kebabs with Tomato, Onion, and Arugula Salad. Let’s get cooking!

I knew today (Monday) was going to be a very busy day. I somehow was able to squeeze in my grocery shopping after my classes were done at 2. I only needed to pick up a lemon, an onion, arugula, and swordfish — aka the smallest evoo shopping list in the history of this blog!! Since I was already at school I just walked 3 blocks down to Whole Foods where I was able to find Every. Single. Item.. Even swordfish! But I didn’t buy the swordfish there. Why didn’t I buy it? Because after Whole Foods I went down the the Lobster Place seafood market inside Chelsea Market. This is the only place I will buy seafood because I know it will be guaranteed fresh — they never disappoint!

After I picked up the fish I stopped by Bowery Kitchen Supply for metal skewers. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any, so I reluctantly settled for the wooden ones. The only reason I was reluctant about wooden skewers was because we are cooking the fish using the broiler, and I just imagined the skewers catching fire…well I guess we’ll just have to see tonight!

Fast forward to tonight. This is the first evoo EVER that is taking place in someone else’s apartment…and the second ever date night evoo. We all remember how the last date night evoo went: I never saw the guy again…maybe because I’m too demanding in the kitchen? Who knows, I just hope this adventure doesn’t end the same as the last one.

I arrived at Sergio’s place, and was greeted by Sneakers the pup. (Little backstory, I met Sergio through an app…but not a dating app. Oh no, we met through a dog walking app because I walk his dog walker. How’s that for a funny story?) Anyways once Sneakers got over the excitement of seeing me…and peeing everywhere…she went in her crate and we got to cooking.

The first step was to preheat the broiler. Now, Sergio had some sort of high tech oven that didn’t say “BROILER” like most ovens do. This one just had a bunch of weird symbols, and he didn’t know which one was for the broiler. Before we could even start he had to find the manual to figure out how to turn it on. Moral of the story: always learn your oven symbols before you have a cooking date.

Anyways, once that was taken care of, I skewered the fish, and made the rub from lemon zest, garlic, parsley and salt. I covered the fish and we plopped them in the oven.

I’m sure all of you know that when I cook with people, they are not just sitting on the sidelines. So, I gave Sergio the task of cutting the onion. I gave him the onion because I didn’t feel like crying tonight — I know I’m evil. Sneakers kept crying in the crate, so I let her out and she turned out to be our little sous-chef. It was the cutest thing ever!

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Sergio had to chop a 1/2 cup of onions, but he totally messed it up. He didn’t take the skin off the onion before cutting it. I thought it was basic knowledge to take the onion skin off before chopping but I guess not. I made him re-cut it, and he gave the skin covered onion to Sneakers. Needless to say, Sneaks was pretty excited that her dad’s mistake equaled food for her.

Now we came to another dilemma: the kebabs needed flipped, but Sergio didn’t have any oven mitts! I was flabbergasted! How does someone not own such a basic kitchen necessity?? He used dish towels to take the fish out and in, and I’m amazed he didn’t burn himself.

While the fish finished cooking we chopped the tomatoes the salad together. Before we knew it, it was time for the moment of truth.

3…2…1…WOW! This fish was absolutely amazing!! I haven’t had swordfish in ages (actually since the last time I made it through evoo, which was in the summer) and I forgot how much I loved it. The paste/seasoning I put on the fish was perfect and light — it reminded me so much of summer. The salad was a great compliment too, and so delicious! For such a simple salad it packed a big flavor punch. We were both so impressed with how it turned out.

Now time for the rating. The Swordfish Kebabs receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. There was nothing that could have made this any better. The fish was cooked to perfection, and the seasoning was simple but fabulous. I could eat this every day and I wish there would have been leftovers. The Tomato, Onion, and Arugula Salad receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts as well. You all know I’m not a big salad person, but this completely blew me away. I am now a believer in salad thanks to this.

I’d say this evoo date went 10x better than the last one, plus we had a cute little velcro dog to help out. Who says cooking with puppies is impossible? Tonight I just proved the whole world wrong and made a scrumptious date night feast. Talk about an all around win! Woohoo!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Turbo Classics Meal

Think about the most stereotypical meal you see mom’s making in TV shows and movies — really think about it. 90% of the time, these moms are making some sort of chicken, potatoes, and a salad…a well rounded meal; a classic meal. Tonight I’m playing that mom with this menu. On tap for tonight is Garlic Roast Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon, Pesto-Smashed Potatoes, and Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Dressing. Let’s get cooking!

Today was a beautiful Monday, and to celebrate this day, I decided to skip my 5pm class and go to Trader Joe’s instead. This week’s ingredients were pretty basic, so from the start I felt like it was going to be a one-stop trip. The first few minutes in Trader Joe’s were a bit disappointing. I was looking for pesto, but only found pesto-quinoa -_- This was super frustrating because I’m allergic to quinoa. Luckily, I was able to find normal pesto that wasn’t soiled by quinoa.

The only item that was completely sold out was rosemary. Trader Joe’s really played me this trip. I was so close..so, so close from not having to go to Fairway, and Trader Joe’s crushed my one-stop shop dream for the day. At least everything at Trader Joe’s totaled out to only $40!!

I stopped at Fairway for my rosemary and was out of there within 10 minutes, so altogether this shopping trip was one of the least stressful ones to date. Woo hoo!

I came home and once I cleaned some dishes I was ready to cook.

First I put the potatoes on to boil since I knew that would take a while. While the water was heating up I prepared the chicken. First I chopped the rosemary and sprinkled it all over. Next I was able to get rid of all my frustrations of the day by pounding the garlic with my mallet — that has to be my favorite cooking appliance. I then covered the chicken in olive oil, and grated some lemon zest over top before finishing it off with some grill seasoning. Finally, I tossed it all together and threw it in the oven.IMG_8264

Back to the potatoes. It was time for an arm workout! I added some chicken broth for the first round of mashing, then I added the game changing ingredient to make these potatoes unique: the pesto! I was able to smash these potatoes to the perfect consistency — not gonna lie, I was pretty proud of myself.

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Once the timer went off for the chicken, I had to add one more thing; the best ingredient known to mankind: wine…and lemon juice. I let the chicken marinate in the wine while I made the salad.

The salad was the easiest thing. It was only romaine, endives and walnuts. I topped the salad off with a nice Gorgonzola vinaigrette.

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This meal didn’t take as long as the last one. After one hour it was time for the moment of truth! 3…2…1… I was pleasantly surprised with the salad — the thought of Gorgonzola freaked me out, but it was a nice touch to a rather plain bowl of vegetables. The chicken was flavorful, cooked to perfection, and extra juicy. The potatoes…mmmmmh. Potatoes are just one of those things that you can never get wrong. All together this was a very good, well rounded meal!

Now time for the ratings. The Garlic Roast Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. This was a tough thing to rate since for Easter dinner yesterday I had a roasted chicken as well. My mind was still clouded with the chicken from yesterday and how amazing it was. Also, even though I love wine, I really think this dish would have been better without it. This dish had the potential to be 5 stars, but it wasn’t up to that level. Next, the Pesto-Smashed Potatoes receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Rachel Ray has so many potato recipes —  it’s amazing how smashed potatoes can be so versatile. This one was quite tasty, but not as tasty as some previous taters. I made enough to feed a small army, but I will not be complaining about these leftovers whatsoever. Finally, the Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Dressing receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. It can be difficult for me to eat salads…they’re just too bland and healthy for me most of the time. This salad was pretty good, though. Even though the Gorgonzola dressing scared me at first, it was a nice compliment to a rather simple salad.

I think I made a pretty good classic TV mom dinner, although I would rather make new and exciting foods that typical moms wouldn’t make. In the future, my kids better not be as picky as I was when I was younger because they’re going to be the taste testers for my new and exciting creations…if I ever finish this 30 minute meals book… This book really is never ending but I wouldn’t want to cook from anyone other than Rachel Ray.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Italian Stick-To-Your-Ribs

There are some nights where it’s in your best interest to have a big carb-filled meal…usually it’s best to have a meal like that before you go out to party. This menu includes the perfect pre-party feast, and good thing I’m going out after this! On tap for tonight is Italian Mini Meat Loaves with Mac ‘n Three Cheeses, and Seared Greens with Red Onion and Vinegar. Let’s get cooking!

My adventure started on Wednesday at none other than Trader Joe’s. I knew that my grocery bill would be expensive…which I was dreading. I also knew I would definitely not be able to find everything I needed at Trader Joe’s…double the dread. I walked out spending a whopping $65. I think that’s the most I’ve ever spent at Trader Joe’s at once. I also spent $15 at Fairway. All I’m saying is these dishes better be worth the money.

Fast forward to Saturday. All of my friends and I were gearing up to head over to Hoboken for a party. What better way to prepare than with some homemade mac & cheese, am I right? Well, almost everyone works on Saturday. Guess who almost cooked alone again…me!! Luckily Saoirse got off work around 6:30 and cooked with me.

We began how we always do by chopping. There wasn’t much to chop which made everything a lot easier.

I created the meatloaf patties first by throwing meat and a secret concoction of stuff together in a bowl. I formed 4 little patties and placed them in the oven.

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Saoirse cooked the pasta since I still have yet to figure out how to cook pasta effectively, and then I got started on the cheese sauce. It was so beautiful to watch the cheese melt together in the pot. Cheese is perhaps the most beautiful creation on this earth.

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In the middle of cooking we got the notification that the party was canceled…looks like this was turning into just a regular cheat meal.

While the mac & cheese finished baking, we made the seared greens — they smelled delicious.

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This 30 minute meal actually felt like 3o minutes because before we knew it, it was time for the moment of truth. 3..2..1… MAC & CHEESE HEAVEN YES! The mac & cheese was to die for. Homemade mac & cheese is a million times better than store bought. Wow, so freaking good! The meat loaf patties were yummy as well..and (kinda) healthy with all the veggies in them. Finally, the greens added a nice flavorful punch at the end.

Now time for the rating. Italian Mini Meat Loaves receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. The thought of meatloaf has always freaked me out…maybe that’s why I couldn’t give it 5 hearts? No the actual reason is I just don’t like tomato paste, and although there was only 3 tablespoons of it in there, the flavor was a little overwhelming for me. The Mac ‘n Three Cheeses receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Mac & cheese is another thing I didn’t really like growing up. Currently, I usually only like it with lobster but this mac & cheese made me a believer that all mac & cheese is good. I can’t wait to eat this for dinner all week. Finally, the Seared Greens with Red Onion and Vinegar receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Also super good, but something about it was just a little too healthy for me on this night (I know I’m weird).

Although my plans for the night ended up being a bust, this meal was definitely not! I am now a firm believer in all things mac & cheese. I also encourage everyone to make homemade mac & cheese because it doesn’t even compare to the boxed crap.

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