Tag Archives: cooking adventure

What a Face!

One of my favorite holidays is Thanksgiving because of all the delicious food. Why is it that all of that food (turkey, stuffing, gravy, potatoes etc.) is only made once a year? Why not have a Thanksgiving feast once every few months? Well, Rachael Ray came up with an amazing menu for anyone who just wants to celebrate Thanksgiving all year round. On tap for tonight is Open-Face Hot Turkey Sammies with Sausage Stuffing and Gravy, Smashed Potatoes with Bacon, and Warm Apple-Cranberry Sauce. Let’s get cooking!

After a long 7 hour train ride back to New York the first place I wanted to go was Trader Joe’s…yes, seriously it was Trader Joe’s. It had been so long since I last went grocery shopping, and I actually missed it — this must be what adulthood feels like. I arrived at Trader Joe’s around 7pm on Thursday night. That was by far the busiest it has ever been, and a majority of the customers were very cranky — must have been the after work crowd. Luckily I was able to pick up all but two items for this recipe, and I was able to pick up other weekly grocery needs for under $50! This is why I love Trader Joe’s — it’s always so cheap.

I decided to skip over Fairway and just buy the last 2 items on Friday. Not getting all my shopping done at once was so out of the ordinary for me, but I was going out Thursday night and wanted to make sure I had enough time to get ready. Priorities, am I right?

Fast forward to today (Friday). Martina offered to pick up the last ingredients, and once I picked up a rotisserie chicken we were ready to cook! It was a little difficult to convince Martina and Ashley to help me cook, so I did most of the work myself.

I started out chopping the onion. I pulled out some sunglasses to shield me from crying…but the glasses let me down. I was bawling from the stupid onion, and my makeup was halfway down my face. Onion – 1, Mary – 0.

Once I chopped everything and put the potatoes on to boil, I moved on to the stuffing. I removed the casing on the sausages, but they were still pretty difficult to crumble. I guess I’m just not a professional sausage handler yet.

When the potatoes were done, I demanded Martina to come help. It wasn’t much to ask: all she had to do was crisp the bacon in the microwave and mash the potatoes. The bacon was already precooked, but she refused to touch it with her fingers. I was like girl, quit being a wimp its cooked meat…her response was “I need to make enough money one day to always eat out.” She mashed to potatoes on the floor like a child, but they still turned out pretty good so I can’t complain.

Ashley opened the can of cranberry sauce for me, and I quickly heated the applesauce and cranberry sauce together, and made the gravy. The gravy was the last thing to be prepared, and soon after I assembled the sammies.

Although this meal was supposed to be turkey sandwiches, I knew it would be too difficult to find a rotisserie turkey, so I settled on chicken instead. I carved some of the chicken breast, dunked it in the gravy, and plopped it on some bread. Then, I topped the chicken with a big pile of stuffing and more gravy. I gave myself a bowl full of mashed potatoes (I hadn’t eaten all day, I was starving) and a little bit of cran-apple sauce. Finally it was time for the moment of truth.

3…2…1… It was like the heavens had started a joyful song in my mouth, most likely because it was the first bite of real food I had had all day (earlier I had 3 and a half bowls of cheerios…eating good!!) It was like a mini Thanksgiving feast for Martina and I. The whole open faced sandwich idea was interesting, but still good none the less. The chicken and the gravy meshed together perfectly…and the potatoes, man potatoes are always perfect. The cran-apple sauce was a nice touch as well.

Now time for the rating. The Open-Face Hot Turkey Sammies receive ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. I honestly could’ve done without the bread and just had the chicken and gravy, but it was still good either way. The Sausage Stuffing receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. I had an image of what this stuffing should’ve been like (my mom’s) but it did not turn out like that at all. The bread was too soggy and the sausage was not crumbly enough, it was still pretty tasty though. The Gravy receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Let’s be real, you can never go wrong with gravy. End of story. the Smashed Potatoes with Bacon receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. These potatoes were a little lumpy, but other than that they were delish. Finally, the Warm Apple-Cranberry Sauce receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. The perfect subtly sweet addition to this Thanksgiving-ish meal.

Thanks to this gourmet menu, anyone can reminisce Thanksgiving as many times a year as they please. I really think Thanksgiving should be changed to a semi-annual holiday. Everyone agree? That’s what I thought. I’ll see you all here for the next Thanksgiving feast!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

The Three R’s

When the cold weather comes along it means two things. 1. It’s the time to stay inside. 2. It’s the time to get fat and eat as much comfort food as you like! I really like cold weather for the second reason. I’m very excited about this recipe because anything pasta equals an instant cold weather favorite. Tonight on the menu is Rigatoni, Rapini, and Ricotta Salata Pasta. Let’s get cooking!

This adventure started yesterday (Sunday). I was a bit hesitant to go to Trader Joe’s on a Sunday because I figured it would be the busiest day. Luckily the store wasn’t as packed as I thought it would be, and the line was shorter than usual. I didn’t have to pick up many ingredients for this recipe (only 5!) but of course, Trader Joe’s didn’t have 2 items that I needed. I figured last week’s one-stop shopping trip was one in a million, but I was still pretty disappointed. I made my way to Fairway for rapini, aka broccoli rabe, and ricotta salata. I found both items pretty easily, but there was a catch… the 2 items were $15. Why is Fairway so expensive ): After that purchase I sulked all the way home.

Fast forward to today (Monday). I was hoping for a big turnout for tonight’s dinner, but per usual people weren’t able to make it. Ashley was my right hand chef tonight even though she couldn’t eat the meal since there was chicken broth in it…what an angel for helping.

There wasn’t much prep work for this recipe — the only things that needed chopped were the garlic and rapini. There were two HUGE bunches of rapini, and Ashley & I chopped it all. Although, when it came time to cook the rapini, it was impossible to get all of it into the pan. I decided to save some for another time.

The most annoying part of this meal was the thyme. Thyme leaves must be stripped from the stems, and that is a very time consuming job. I let Ashley handle most of that while I combined everything else and crumbled the cheese. Once we tossed it all together it was time for the moment of truth.

3..2..1…The first bite was good, but the second and third…not so much. The pasta was very bitter, I’m guessing because of the rapini. I ate around most of the it, and instead just ate the cheese and noodles.

Now time for the rating. Rigatoni, Rapini, and Ricotta Salata Pasta unfortunately receives ♥♥ (2) hearts. I had such high hopes for this dish, but it was quite difficult to eat. I thought that the bitterness of the rapini would be cooked out but I was very wrong. Major *sigh*

Even though this was not the most delectable meal, I am going to have to suck it up for the rest of the week since I have two very large tupperware containers left of it. Rachael Ray’s pasta dishes don’t usually disappoint, but when they do it’s similar to the feeling of Donald Trump winning the election. Hopefully next week’s dish will be better.

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

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

Santa Fe Meat-Free Dinner

Man, does Rachael Ray love to cook Mexican. I’m pretty sure half of the recipes in this book are Mexican dishes. After last week’s disappointment I was hesitant for yet another week of Mexican food, but here we are (you all know I never skip a recipe). Let’s hope Rachael Ray can redeem herself with Mexican Ice Cream Pie, Calabacitas Casserole with Polenta and Cheese, and Grilled Green Chile Quesadillas.

I started this beautiful Thursday morning at Trader Joe’s. I can feel Trader Joe’s turning me into a morning person…it’s weird. But anyways the store is such a peaceful place on weekday mornings, so much so that this trip was almost enjoyable aside from the fact that Trader Joe’s didn’t have half of my ingredients!! Nothing is more nerve-wracking than having to go to multiple places for one meal…I mean most of the time I end up having to go to Fairway, but it’s still annoying. I’m longing for the day that Trader Joe’s will have everything I need…but I doubt the day will ever come.

I headed over to Fairway next but still had issues finding some things. I basically went on a wild goose chase for polenta. I asked not 1, not 2, no not even 3, but FOUR employees where I could find polenta and they all told me different areas. I was so discombobulated, but luckily the cheese man could tell I was in distress and led me straight to the polenta. That man was a blessing.

I wasn’t able to find a graham cracker pie crust or monterey jack cheese so I asked Nicolette to pick those up.

Fast forward to about 6:30 PM today when I only had one thing standing between me and food….a FINAL EXAM. I quickly *yet carefully* completed my exam, then rushed home to start cooking.

Tonight we started from the end, aka we made dessert first. We dumped fudge sauce and vanilla ice cream into the pie crust and managed to crack half of it…oops. Oh well. We put the topping on and stuffed it in the freezer and moved on to the other dishes.

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Ashley, Nicolette and I worked on the casserole together and it took FOREVER…. way over 30 minutes. It probably took us so long because we were trying to figure out what exactly polenta is. Is it cheese? Is it dough/bread? We couldn’t figure it out even after we opened it up…it had such a weird texture…we actually had a discussion about it for a good 30 minutes.

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Once we put the casserole in the oven we moved on to the quesadillas. Ashley grated the cheese, and kept saying how that was her workout for the month. Nicollete took over cooking the quesadillas, and they turned out beautifully.

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We were so happy to finally sit down and eat….After TWO HOURS it was finally time for the moment of truth. 3..2..1.. It was a bite out of heaven. I still don’t know what polenta is but dang does it taste good! The quesadillas were BOMB, you truly cannot go wrong with quesadillas.

Once we finished din din, we moved on to dessert. To finish the pie off we drizzled it with honey and added a dollop of whipped cream. Another moment of truth. 3..2..1…This..This dessert takes the cake as the best Rachael Ray dessert EVER! It was amazing, although it was kind of complicated to eat without coughing. The pie topping had lots of cocoa powder and cinnamon, and the first few bites felt like we were doing the cinnamon challenge. But once we got past choking, the pie was delicious!

Now time for the rating. Mexican Ice Cream Pie receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This knocks all of Rachael Ray’s desserts out of the park. Who would’ve thought that a pie topped with cereal flakes would be so good! The cough attack was definitely worth the deliciousness of this dessert. Calabacitas Casserole with Polenta and Cheese receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. This dish was super flavorful and really healthy since it was mostly vegetables. the only reason the casserole receives 4 instead of 5 hearts is because polenta is just an odd food, I don’t know how I feel about it. It’s like one of those foods that tastes good but is just questionable; if you get what I’m saying. Finally the Grilled Green Chile Quesadillas receive  ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This dish was a landslide 5 hearts. It’s hard to mess up quesadillas, and these were the best quesadillas I’ve ever had. I could eat these for the rest of time and be perfectly content. So delicious.

Well, Rachael Ray really redeemed herself this week with this meal. She has resumed her position as queen of Mexican food in my book. But, she has yet to prove herself in the Italian food department…I guess we’ll find out next week if Rachael Ray can be multicultural in her cooking.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Tex-Mex in No Time

Anytime I think of Mexican food I just think of a party going on in my mouth. Seriously though, my love of Mexican food (especially guacamole) has grown exponentially since moving to Hell’s Kitchen this past summer. Most likely because there’s about four Mexican restaurants every block…but there’s something about homemade Mexican that beats out all the restaurants. I’m ready for a fiesta tonight with My Sister Ria’s Favorite Fajitas. Let’s get cooking!

I started my day at Trader Joe’s this morning at 10:30. I actually look forward to going grocery shopping at this time. I never thought I’d say this, but Trader Joe’s on Wednesday morning is my happy place. I swear every time I go it just becomes more and more peaceful there. I think what made me the happiest about Trader Joe’s today was that I could buy just one bottle of beer for this recipe instead of buying a whole pack — talk about a money saver!

I still had to run to Fairway for 4 more ingredients: oregano, poblano chilies, a spanish onion and Tabasco sauce. This Fairway trip was probably the quickest and cheapest ever, so all around today was a great shopping day even though it was pouring outside.

Many of my friend’s are big Mexican fans, so I was expecting a larger crowd tonight, but as the day went on they all dropped like flies. I understand though, with the end of the semester coming up it’s crunch time on school work. Luckily, Ashley was able to come home at a decent hour and cook with me tonight!

I was originally going to wait for her to get home, but I was absolutely starving so I started to mix together the marinade. I could tell this marinade was going to be hot as hell from all of the spices I was putting in. I wasn’t able to finish making it though because I couldn’t open the bottle of beer. Ashley has the only bottle opener in this apartment on her key chain…and she was still at school. Defeated,and hungry, I laid down on the couch until she arrived home at 9:30.

Finally when Ashley arrived home we started cooking. The first thing I did was finish the marinade and let the steak soak in it while we chopped. We sauteed the vegetables, and charred the steak. Everything was going off without a hitch…until after I cut the steak and put it back on the stove to cook a bit more.

While I was cutting the steak, I asked Ashley to preheat the pans again. Well, as soon as I dumped the steak into a pan flames rose about two feet into the air charring our microwave. We both screamed so loud! This was the kind of thing film crews capture on professional cooking shows…we were completely shocked. Luckily the fire went away within seconds but it could’ve gotten ugly.

Once the steak was finished cooking, Ashley heated up the tortillas and we stuffed them full. Finally, after hours of being hungry it was time for the moment of truth.

3…2…1… Not what I was expecting…and not in a good way. Everything was pretty flavorless. The steak was very surprisingly not spicy at all, and the vegetables were extremely bland. These fajitas were very disappointing.

So, My Sister Ria’s Favorite Fajitas receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. This was probably one of the biggest letdown meals ever. Both Ashley and I were surprised at how tasteless everything was. Adding even just a little bit of seasoning to the vegetables would’ve made a huge difference. Such a second-rate meal.

Well, I don’t know how these could be Ria’s favorite fajitas, unless Ria is a very dull person, then these would’ve been perfect for her. Hopefully Rachael Ray’s next Mexican meal will create a fiesta in my mouth instead of a snooze fest.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus