Tag Archives: beans

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.

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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.

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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

 

 

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

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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Endless Summer

During the cold winter months, I miss one thing more than anything: SUMMER. I’m definitely more of a warm weather person and the blistering cold just drags me down most of the time. Not only do I miss the heat, but all of the amazing summer foods too. I’d do anything to be at a cookout with friends, soaking up the sun, and eating some good food. Luckily with tonight’s meal I’ll be transported to summertime (for at least a half hour). On tap for tonight is Oil-and-Vinegar Slaw, Devilish Chili-Cheese Dogs, and Summer-ish Succotash Salad. Let’s get cooking!

It’s the ultimate cheat-meal day of the year: Super Bowl Sunday. Ash and I decided to host all of our friends & have a watching party. In preparation for everyone to come over I headed to Trader Joe’s around 4pm.

I stepped out of the subway at 72nd street to my worst Trader Joe’s nightmare. the line to just get INTO the store was wrapped around the block. I debated dropping everything and going home, but I knew I had to stay. Thank Goodness the line moved quickly; I was inside within 12 minutes.

This Trader Joe’s trip was not the most pleasant to say the least. There were shopping cart traffic jams every step I took, and surprise surprise….I couldn’t find half of the ingredients I needed. I prayed Fairway wouldn’t be as crowded.

Fairway was crowded, but not as crowded as Trader Joe’s. I managed to find 99% of my ingredients there. What about the last 1%? Oh, don’t get me started. I needed hot dog buns, so I went over to the bread section. A lot of times I have issues finding things — even though they are right in front of my face. I asked an employee “hot dog buns…are they right in front of me?” as I said this, someone took the LAST bag of buns. I wanted to scream. The guy even laughed as he walked away. Talk about rude.

I left Fairway in a pretty bad mood because of the whole bun situation. Thankfully I have awesome friends that helped fix the situation. Ashley Gray stopped to get me my buns before she came over. She was my lifesaver!

I came home and slowly but surely, people started bailing. I feel like I should just expect to cook alone from now on, which sucks, but it’s life. At least cooking alone gives me time to think.

I immediately started chopping 2 onions, a red bell pepper, & garlic. Chopping and dicing everything is always the slow part of cooking, but once that was done it was time for the main attraction: cooking the meat.

I slapped down some ground beef into my pan & browned and crumbled it, then added some tasty extras: onion, garlic, chili powder and Worcestershire sauce. Lemme tell you, it smelled heavenly! I felt like I was at a good old barbecue.

I let the chili sit a bit & moved on to the dogs. Now, these dogs aren’t just regular chili cheese dogs — they’re devilish chili cheese dogs. To make them extra devilish, the dogs marinated in melted butter and hot sauce. It’s getting spicy in here!

Once the dogs were firey enough, they were assembled and put under the broiler to let the cheese melt. While the dogs were in the oven I quickly threw together the slaw and the salad.

Finally it was time for the moment of truth….I left the hot dogs in the oven a little too long so they were all burnt, but that didn’t stop me from digging in. 3..2..1…ahhhh sweet summer time….or sweet super bowl time? Whichever….either way this meal was delicious! This was the first time I had ever had chili cheese dogs….in fact it’s the first time I ever ate a hot dog with toppings! (I liked my food very plain growing up). They were not too spicy and I could’ve eaten 5 more of them at once — they were that good! The slaw was a nice refreshing side with a little hint of sweetness; quite the pleasant surprise. The salad was also good. I’m not a huge fan of random salads with beans but this was totally acceptable for me.

Now time for rating! The Oil-and-Vinegar slaw receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This was a good surprise to me. I had never eaten any kind of slaw before, and this was a perfect touch next to the dogs. Crunchy, salty & sweet all mixed into one! It was great. Next the Devilish Chili-Cheese Dogs receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This is what a hot dog should be like. The dogs had the right amount of spice, and when topped with the chili & melted cheese it became a beautifully crafted spicy & flavorful master piece. So delicious. Finally, the Summer-ish Succotash Salad receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. This dish was acceptable to me, but it was nothing special. Like I said, I’m just not a huge fan of bean salads. Altogether this was a great meal and perfect for the Super Bowl.

Summer or winter, this meal will make you feel like you truly are in an Endless Summer. Now I can’t wait for summer and all of the picnics/barbecues that will entail! Only 4 more months until the time comes…the wait will be hard, but these hot dogs will keep me satisfied for the time being.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Rainy Night Relief

On rainy days (or in this case snowy days) the best thing to do is curl up in a ball, watch a bunch of movies, and eat comfort food. Throw some friends and family into the mix and it’s sure to be a memorable day. Now if only my day was like that…. at least the comfort food part is! On tonight’s menu is Sausage, Beans, and Broccoli Rabe “Stoup,” and Italian Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwiches. Let’s get cooking!

Since I am home for winter break, I figured it would be the perfect time to get the original EVOO crew together. Josh, Tabitha, Emily and I made plans to cook together on Wednesday at 6:30. I had work until 5, so afterwards I quickly rushed to Giant Eagle to pick up some ingredients.

I didn’t want to be late so I was running around the store like a mad woman trying to find everything. Of course two very important ingredients were not available. Emily came to the rescue with basil, but I had to substitute broccoli rabe with collard greens. I only spent 20 minutes in the store which definitely has to be a record time for the shortest grocery trip ever!

Once I arrived home, Josh informed us that he missed his train from Pittsburgh…so this cooking adventure fell apart pretty quickly — we simply couldn’t cook if one of us was missing! So instead Tabitha, Emily, and I went to Applebees and I decided to cook Thursday night with my family.

Finally Thursday came around. I got off work an hour early at 7, came home, and got straight to cooking! Dad picked up the last of the ingredients needed, and as always we started by chopping everything up. I assigned dad the onion, and before anyone calls me a bad person for doing that he has glasses that shield his eyes from crying so HAH. He did most of the chopping while I browned the sausage for the stoup.

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It was a little difficult to brown the sausage for three reasons. 1. My stove at home stinks! Only the back 2 burners work, and one of them only works on the highest setting. 2. I forgot how long it takes electric burners to heat up. 3. I forgot to remove the casing on the sausage so they were near impossible to crumble. Once Papa Honk chopped the sausage a bit we put the rest of the ingredients in and let the stoup simmer while we made the grilled cheeses.

The recipe for the grilled cheese called to drizzle some evoo in the pan with garlic, and then let the bread soak it all up. Dad was worried that the bread would become soggy from the oil, but it actually became crunchy and toasted beautifully. I loaded each sandwich with provolone, tomatoes, and basil, then I let dad take over with the flipping. He made some mighty fine looking grilled cheeses.

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Once the sandwiches were ready, mom joined us and we scooped some stoup into bowls, finishing each bowl off with fresh parmesan. We were so ready for the moment of truth.

3..2..1… Completely delicious! The stoup was so simple yet so flavorful and satisfying. The vegetables softened up nicely, and even though the broth was so simple (just chicken broth) it packed a flavorful punch. We all finished our stoup pretty quickly. The grilled cheese was out of this world! The first thing that came to my mind was the Melt Shop, which is a gourmet grilled cheese shop in New York. This sandwich was just like a Melt Shop sandwich…no, it was even better!! Dad just couldn’t get over the bread and olive oil. He mentioned it after every bite.

Now time for the ratings. Sausage, Beans, and Broccoli Rabe “Stoup” receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Not only was this stoup delicious, but it was also filling. I am not a big fan of beans, but they were not overpowering whatsoever. All of the ingredients meshed extremely together and left all three of us full and happy….and it left dad and I sleepy. I fell asleep on the floor, and he fell asleep in a chair about a half hour after we ate. So worth the drowsiness, though. The Italian Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwiches receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts as well. This was like a grilled cheese on steroids. The trick is really in the bread. Don’t use pre-sliced bread — go for the freshly baked Italian bread. Now instead of ordering a sandwich from the Melt Shop, I can make my own gourmet sandwich in the comfort of my home. Talk about a win win win!!

Even though the original EVOO crew didn’t cook together, it all worked out in the end. While cooking with friends is fun, cooking with family is the best. Don’t worry though, the original EVOOers will be making an appearance soon to cook up a *hopefully* delicious meal!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus