Hemingway, Meal Prep, and Leftovers

T.G.I.F! Yes, even in paradise we can get excited about the weekend. This weekend in particular is a celebration of Ernest Hemingway down in Key West. Yesterday was his birthday! Didn’t know Hemingway was such a fixture down here? Well he is. Writers and artists don’t only flock here for the beauty and light but in hopes that a little of his genius will rub off on them. Touring his former home with one of the knowledgeable docents is a highlight of visiting here. Even if you aren’t a fan of his writing or the man himself, his home gives a unique glimpse into Key West’s history and the impact that man had on its culture.
While there are many Hemingway-related events planned for the festival, the one that might baffle you the most if you happen to stumble upon it unawares as I did years ago is the Hemingway Look-Alike Contest held down at Sloppy Joe’s. Imagine casually strolling up Duval, rounding a corner, and being surrounded by 50 men in white beards and kakhi shorts. I was take aback to put it mildly. Then I found out that this is a yearly contest and you can see the photos of all the winners hanging on the wall at Sloppy Joe’s all year around. Mr. Foodie and I are determined to spend some time in Key West this weekend, so I might get him a glimpse of that spectacle.
It might seem silly to end the week with a post about how I usually start the week, but I thought I’d share with you how Mr. Foodie and I usually launch our culinary adventures each week with some routine. I am by no means the first to advocate for doing some food prep on Sunday so you can eat more healthily and save money throughout the week. My prep is not perhaps as comprehensive as some because I have the time each night to do a little prep and cooking (plus I just enjoy it), but if you are strapped for time and/or hate cooking during the week, there are many ideas for prep that will save you time, money, and cooking headache. For us, I like to prepare for the week by hard boiling some eggs and making a chicken stock.
                                                                               Stock
This might seem silly to most of you who probably love the convenience of picking up a few cans of stock at the grocery store if you are the type to use stock in the first place, but I love making my own. In the first place, having a roast chicken (whether you make it yourself or buy it at the store) to start the week is awesome. You can use the breast meat for soup, salads, and sandwiches. You can munch on the chicken legs anytime or make it part of an informal cheese, bread, chicken leg dinner. You can use the meat to make burritos or casseroles, the list is endless. Then you’re left with this chicken carcass – why let it go to waste? Pop it in a large pasta pot, cover with 8 cups of water, salt and pepper. Peel one medium-large onion and slice in half, put halves in the water. Throw in a handful of baby carrots and the leafy tops and root bottom of a celery bunch. Make sure to toss in any liquid that pooled at the bottom of the chicken roast container (good flavor there). Bring to a boil and then simmer for 40 minutes while you do something else. Use tongs to remove as much of the stuff as possible and a handheld sieve to scoop any other bits from the stock. Et Voila! You have a delicious homemade stock for the week. Upon tasting it you might think it doesn’t taste salty enough because you’re probably used to store-bought, which, like most processed foods, has a lot of salt. Feel free to add more to taste, but know that you will probably be adding it to something or adding something to it that has salt down the road.
What to do with this stock, then? Sometimes I save it and use it a bit at a time in stir-frys and casseroles (you can also freeze it in bulk or in ice cubes for dashes of flavor that will last you months, but often I go ahead and make a soup for Mr. Foodie and I with the stock. Chicken noodle is, of course, a good choice since you will have leftover carrots and celery from your prep and the chicken breast meat from the roasted chicken. All you need is noodles – this is btw a great way to use up any leftover noodles you have in the pantry, but my favorite noodles to use are whole-wheat spaghetti or egg noodles. The other soup I love making is Kale, bean, turkey soup. Cook up your ground turkey (or mild Italian sausage if you want more flavor) and put it in the stock, add chopped Kale, 1-2 cans of either chickpea or cannellini beans, heat together and serve with fresh pepper and a sprinkle of Parmesan.
                                                                            Eggs
While I’m making stock, I always boil eggs using the method my grandma taught me: put eggs in pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, boil for desired amount of time (for hard, 8-10 minutes). Once they are done, drain, add cold water, toss in ice cubes to stop the heating process, pop in egg carton and put in the fridge (or eat! Slightly warm boiled eggs are the best). Since I add mine back to the carton with fresh eggs, I take the onion peel leftover from my stock prep and add it to the water – this dyes the eggs naturally and helps Mr. Foodie distinguish between the boiled and fresh ones in the carton when he goes for a snack.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Leftover Dinner                                                                                                                         Remember those leftover celery and carrots you have? I put them in ziplock bags and we use them for hummus dipping throughout the week! So nothing gets wasted and everything is yummy. This past week I made the Kale soup instead of chicken noodle, so I still had some leftover noodles and meat from the chicken. With that we made a quick angry pasta (saute chopped garlic and red pepper flakes in a little olive oil, add cooked noodles to coat, take off heat and sprinkle with parmesean cheese), microwave-steamed whole green beans (I don’t like microwave veggies usually, but we had them leftover from guests, so I improve them by tossing with hot oil and flavoring like pepper flakes or garlic), and of course chicken breast meat. This dinner took 15 minutes since we were using leftovers.
Chicken, Angry Pasta, and Green Beans

What do you do to prep for the week? We’ve been thinking about adding prepped salads to the repetoire, but I could use some suggestions for making that work. Feel free to leave comments below.

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