meal prep tips and tricks

by jax on October 9, 2014

Meal prep

In the interest of saving time and money in what I knew was going to be a hectic week, I took on some meal prepping. It may seem like a lot of work, but honestly it came together in a couple of hours Tuesday night. As you can imagine, the front loading really helps when work days run long, kids don’t nap, or you have a headache and just want to go to bed early.

Terrible photo because I was rushing around, but you can see we have quite an array. Sourdough waffles for breakfasts; lemon-blueberry muffins for breakfasts and snacking; angel hair pasta; chicken stock; brown rice; a riff on puttanesca sauce made with canned tomatoes, capers, tuna, garlic, and fresh basil; toasted walnuts; cut-up celery, carrots, and cauliflower (ready for snacking and/or roasting); caramelized onions, and kale and walnut pesto. Not shown: browned ground pork, diced butternut squash, and shredded green cabbage.

So far the meals I’ve thrown together this week include chicken salad, pasta puttanesca, caramelized onion omelet, pork and veg stir fry, roasted cauliflower, squash, and cabbage salad with bacon and toasted walnuts. I plan to use the pesto with the pasta, scrambled eggs, and sandwiches and the stock to make soup, either carrot or cauliflower with caramelized onion crostini.

The inspiration for my meal prep is primarily from an amazing cooking class I took years ago in Brooklyn from Purple Kale Kitchenworks. Chef Ronna Welsh taught us a method of cooking individual ingredients so that they taste delicious alone and then improvising throughout the week by throwing them together in different combinations along with your fridge/pantry items and some key “bridges” such as homemade stock, compound butter, and caramelized onions.

Here’s an example from her class:

The Produce
Kale
Fennel
Kuri Red Squash (any squash will do)

Cook
Sautéed kale
Braised fennel
Roasted squash
Freekeh (a type of toasted wheat, delicious; replace with any grain)
Caramelized Onions (“bridge”)
herb or garlic butter (“bridge”)
Chicken stock (“bridge”)

Meal Possibilities
Freekeh, kale, and onion soup
Fennel bisque
Fennel and caramelized onion sandwich
Melted gruyere and squash sandwich
Freekeh with squash, onions, and kale
Fennel gratin
Freekeh with fennel and garlic butter
Squash and garlic butter
Squash and kale salad

‘Hope this inspires some meal prepping out there! You won’t regret it.

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a lost and found meal

by jax on September 25, 2014

split pea and ham soup

I haven’t forgotten that I promised to blog about Popover Sundays. There was an interruption in our regularly scheduled programming this past weekend (Happy Birthday, Zoe Moon!) so Popover Sunday was sadly canceled. More to come on why it’s my favorite meal of the week.

I’ve been trying something new this week: not buying groceries. Instead, I’m shopping my cupboards, fridge, and freezer and getting creative with meals. Sounds simple enough, but when you’re used to picking up a few things a few times a week, this can present some challenges. While living in the city for more than ten years, I fell into the habit of stopping at bodegas on my way home from work and gathering ingredients for that evening’s meal. I quickly grew to love shopping and cooking that way and, well, old habits die hard. I think nothing of buying food several times a week, be it from the grocery store, local farms, or one of our many country markets.

When I thought about moving to the country, one thing that really got me going (aside from dreams of a huge garden and backyard hens) was having an extra refrigerator — those who experienced my fridge and freezer in New Jersey know why. We have that huge garden now, much more than we can handle. We have the backyard hens and glorious fresh eggs. And, of course, we have an extra fridge and freezer in the garage. While I do appreciate having extra space for food, I realize  I’ve been guilty of waste and one thing I hate is wasting food. The trap: buy, cook, store, forget. One exception — the Korean food my mom and aunts make over the summer is never wasted. (Those meals are among our very favorites!)

Earlier this week, inspired by our money-saving experiment, I dug out a ham bone from Easter (little freezer burned, but I went with it anyway), along with some frozen chicken stock (hands down my favorite item to keep stocked in the freezer) and threw together a rich and satisfying split pea soup that my whole family devoured. This delicious recipe made enough for one family dinner, lunch the next day for Jef and me, and two quarts left over. The jars are neatly labeled in the freezer, with no worries of being forgotten.

Split Pea and Ham Soup with Browned Butter and Thyme
adapted from The Nourished Kitchen
2 cups split peas, rinsed 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 ham hock (about 1 1/2-2 pounds)
2 1/2 quarts homemade chicken stock

Pour the peas into a large mixing bowl, cover them with hot water by 2 inches, then stir in the baking soda. Cover the bowl loosely with a kitchen towel and let the peas soak at room temperature for at least 6 and up to 12 hours; refreshing the peas with hot water once or twice. Drain and rinse.

Melt the butter in a heavy stockpot over medium heat. Let the butter froth and foam until it turns a warm, toasty light brown and releases a nutty scent, about 3 minutes. Watch it closely so it doesn’t burn. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the onion, celery, and carrots. Sauté for about 5 minutes, then add the thyme and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more.

Stir the soaked, drained split peas into the vegetables, add the ham hock, and pour in the stock. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour, or until the peas fall apart when pressed with a fork. Turn off the heat, remove the ham hock from the pot, and take the meat off the bone, chopping it into bite-size pieces. Purée the soup with an immersion blender to desired consistency, then add the meat. Serve hot – yummy with sourdough toast or grilled cheese.

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weekend mornings, part one

September 20, 2014

The ritual of weekend mornings. Greeting the hens, collecting eggs, picking and eating some gorgeous golden raspberries on the way back into the house. Heating up the cast-iron skillet and tossing on a few beautiful filets from the grass-fed farm down the road. Cracking fresh eggs into foaming butter. Brewing strong coffee and tempering a […]

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on snacks

September 15, 2014

Every few weeks (or days, depending on the need), I tell Van a story along these lines: Once there was a little boy who only wanted to eat snacks all day. At breakfast time, his mommy made delicious scrambled eggs! But the little boy said, No, Mommy, I just want to eat snacks. His mommy told him […]

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two quick dinners

September 11, 2014

“Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.” – Rumi It’s been one of those weeks. ‘Just dropping in with two treasures for you that result in delicious anytime meals. Both are adapted from The Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther, a wonderful cookbook and valuable kitchen resource. Despite common misconception, soufflé is not […]

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12 hours later

September 8, 2014

It’s mind-boggling how children can go from acting perfectly normal one minute to quite ill the next. When I showed up to get Van from daycare today, he was running around the backyard laughing and kicking a giant orange beach ball. On the ride home he said he wasn’t feeling well and had a “cold […]

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the weekend, and a fresh start

September 8, 2014

I’m hoping to start a new blog soon, to get a fresh start. Until I find the time to figure out how to start a new site (or, realistically, just get my husband on board to do it), I’ll write here because the desire to put my thoughts down can no longer be quelled. It’s […]

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kale caesar salad

September 5, 2013

When I was very, very pregnant with Bowie, a group of my best ladies took me to a special luncheon at Bryan Voltaggio’s Family Meal in Frederick, MD. Oh, I loved walking in that space and feeling for a moment like I was back in NYC. So much gorgeous natural light, even if the view […]

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misty meadows farm creamery

August 28, 2013

Misty Meadows was one of the first places I explored upon moving to Pennsylvania from New Jersey. I can’t remember where I first heard the name, but it sounded like a place I needed to check out. I’ve been a regular customer from the first visit. I go weekly to purchase a couple dozen eggs […]

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Summer soba salad

August 20, 2013

Cool soba noodles slathered in a nutty, zing-y, spicy sauce woven between crunches of fresh carrots, radishes, and cucumbers. Truly a dish that delights on a warm summer evening. A pot of boiling water. A mandoline to make quick work of the veggies. And a large stainless steel bowl for whisking the sauce and mixing […]

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