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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

3 Meals In The Life - Weekly Meal Prep

Today I wanted to share a bit of the methodology I use for weekly meal planning. Since one of my many 2017 goals (I don't do resolutions) revolves around limiting food waste, I thought such a post would be particularly relevant, especially if you too are looking to conserve while eating nutritiously and efficiently. 

Alton Brown's Easy Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic and Yotam Ottolenghi's
Cucumber & Poppy Seed Salad, Photo: NK

Now don't misunderstand, I know full well that In the midst of all life's responsibilities, meal planning can seem daunting. 

One easy way to demystify it with an eye towards lessening food waste is to start with one recipe idea and then think about the ingredients you'll have leftover, and then what other meals they complement.  After a while, you'll get in the habit of knowing how to group your meals. For instance, I know whenever it's Taco night (my husband's fave), a grain bowl with scallions and protein won't be far behind. 

For a more regular look into our daily meals, follow us on Instagram.

Salmon Barley Bowl (with Poppy Seeds!), Photo: NK

1. On weekdays, choose simpler recipes (most here on Neurotic Kitchen take well under 45 minutes), especially those that can be quickly warmed in the microwave or even served at room temperature. Note: This week, we made an easy version of Chicken With Forty Cloves of Garlic which still takes an hour and a half to cook, but the prep time is very short so you can pop it in the oven as soon as you get home from work. Alternately, it's a great Sunday dinner. 

2. Wash, prep and chop all your veggies early in the week; you'll have them at the ready for even quicker assembly. The end result less prep time. If you've planned it so that your veggies are part of several different meals, you'll also have less waste.

3. Make large batches of grains and other staples to add to packed lunches, salads, or bulk up kids' meals

Meals (for 2-3)
Shrimp Tacos (optionally Marinated)
(Click above for the Recipes!)

Shrimp Tacos, Photo: NK 

Shopping List

Veggies & Starch 
1 Bunch Scallions (for Tacos and Salmon Barley Bowl)

5 Persian Cucumbers (for small Cucumbers) (for Salmon Bowl & Chicken + Cucumber and Poppy Seed Salad)

2 Avocados (for Salmon Bowl and Tacos) 

Tortillas (for Tacos)

Mild Red Chilies (for Tacos and Cucumber Poppy Seed Salad)

Barley (For Salmon Bowl, to bulk up lunch salads, and as a base for extra kids' meals)

Cilantro (For Tacos, For Cucumber Poppy Seed Salad)

Salsa/Store-bought Pico de Gallo (and optional Tortilla Chips for Salsa & Chip snack)

Poppy Seeds (For Cucumber Poppy Seed Salad and Salmon Bowl) 

Pre-Peeled Garlic (optional, as you could buy whole and peel Garlic) but it will save you time!

Thyme (for the Chicken) Note: Thyme keeps about 7 days, here's another idea for it.

5 Ounces Smoked Salmon 

Whole Chicken cut up (bone in and skin on)

1 Pound Shrimp 

Optional Extras:

Washed and ready to eat Salad Mix. I use this to make to work lunches - just and add whatever extra Veggies, Grains or Proteins we have leftover from dinner! 

And there you have it. I hope you enjoyed a little look into our weekly recipe planning. Here's to more recipes and easy and elegant meal ideas for 2017. Happy cooking! 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Easy Elegance - Spaghettini al Limone

There are several Lemon-driven recipes here on Neurotic Kitchen (find them HERE, HERE and HERE) and the reason for that is simple: I love the stuff. Today's incredibly simple but elegant meal will delight your palate and is a worthy choice for dinner parties, date nights, or any time you want to treat yourself. 

As a bonus, its low-cost ingredients will keep you within your New Year's budget, but the austerity stops there; a sinful amount of Butter makes this not all that diet-friendly, but, incredibly, the finished dish manages to feel so light and refreshing that it is perfect for a first course to get your tastebuds ready for more. Once the Pasta is cooked, this dish comes together in just 5 minutes, so with your mis en place ready to go, you can make it with guests on hand and only be gone from the party very briefly.
Spaghettini al Limone, Photo: NK 

Spaghettini al Limone
Serves 6 as a light appetizer, 4 as a heartier appetizer
Very lightly adapted from Maria Batali

6 Tablespoons Salted Butter 
Pound Spaghettini or other thin long pasta
2 Tablespoons Salt 
1/4 Cup Lemon Zest (from about 4 lemons)
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/2 Cup Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese 
3 Tablespoons finely chopped Chives 
Extra Salt and Ground Pepper 


Boil a large pot of water with 2 Tablespoons of Salt in it. 

Meanwhile, in a very large saute pan, add the Butter and Lemon Zest and heat over moderate heat, stirring. 

Once water is boiling, add the Pasta and cook until just al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup Pasta Water and drain the pasta. 

Add drained Pasta to the saute pan. Toss Lemon Juice onto it. Toss to coat with Lemon Zest and Butter Mixture and loosen with a tablespoon or two of pasta water, tossing continuously over medium heat for about a minute until thickened. 

Turn off flame and sprinkle on Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese. Taste for Salt and add more if needed. Season liberally with Black Pepper. Divide Pasta among plates and sprinkle with chopped Chives. Serve with extra Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese. 


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas Cookie Of The Year - Snowballs

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a very soon to be Happy New Year! Wow... 2016. I'm not going to go there. Though personally I have much to be grateful for, I am very ready for us all to move along to a fresh new start. One thing is for sure, it's going to be interesting.

As this year draws to a close, I find that as is usual for me, I feel the urge to cook the homestyle dishes and family recipes that bring with them wonderful nostalgia and warm family memories. As I think of the people behind those foods, I'm sorry to say that there are many who can no longer join us around the table at Christmas. That doesn't mean their spirit isn't there. 

Photo: NK 
Enjoying the cookies you see above always makes me think of my Great Aunt Mary. She made these powdery confections every Christmas and referred to them as Snowballs. It's also come to my attention that these crumbly, light cookies packed with ground Pecans and Butter go by many names and enjoy obvious cross-cultural popularity at holiday tables and beyond. Some call them Butterballs,  Rum Balls, and still others, Russian Tea Cakes. Come to think of it, they're also a bit like Mexican Wedding Cookies.  

When I think of Great Aunt Mary, a sweet and gentle soul known for her caution and tidiness, I can't help but also think of the phenomenal Eggplant Rollatini she was also known for. She delighted in its methodical, meticulous preparation, and let me tell you, if you were lucky enough to take home a tray of these leftovers, you knew you were in for some good times.

Though Aunt Mary passed away several years ago, I wanted to honor her this holiday by remaking Snowballs. Without access to her original recipe, I scoured the web for something that looked similar. Truth be told, I can't picture my Aunt Mary adding Rum to these, but what do I know. The winner was a recipe that was featured in Bon Appetit's roundup of Old School Italian Christmas Cookies Sounds about right...

I followed Bon Appetit's Butterballs (aka Snowballs) Recipe exactly and I am happy to say they were fabulous. Light, crumbly, melt in your mouth. The perfect cookie for dessert of even breakfast/brunch with coffee! Even better, these are super easy to make and look beautiful and festive dusted with Confectioner's Sugar. They make great hostess gifts or just any special occasion. Old school though they may be, they have a chic quality to them; I could see serving them at a bridal shower or even chic cocktail party. 

If I had to pick another of my all time favorite Christmas Cookies, I'd definitely go with the Pignoli, but the Snowball is nonetheless a fab addition to any table, any time of year. I hope they bring back good memories for you, and today, I enjoy mine with my Great Aunt Mary in my heart. 

For the recipe, click HERE.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Holiday Cheers - Sugar & Spice Old Fashioned

There's no place like home for the holidays, but the season is always a little more merry when toasted with an exceptional cocktail. And that's just what we had thanks to my husband's ingenuity. After only a few tries he came up with the perfect Old Fashioned with a little holiday flair thanks to notes of Cinnamon, Vanilla and a Brown Sugar rimmed glass. It was a wonderful way to kick off our 6th Annual Feast of the Seven Fishes

Sugar & Spice Old Fashioned, Photo: NK

Sugar & Spice Old Fashioned
Makes 1 Drink

Light Brown Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Sugar & Spice Simple Syrup (recipe & ingredients below) 
2 Ounces Bulleit Bourbon
3 Dashes of Bitters
Handful of Ice 
1 Wide Strip of Orange Zest
Club Soda 
1 Maraschino Cherry or Luxardo Cherry
1 Cinnamon Stick

Set out a plate with Light Brown Sugar spread on it. 
Rub the rim of the glass with Orange Zest, twist it in half and set it aside. 
Lightly rim half the glass with Honey and dip in the Sugar to rim.
Place Simple Syrup in the glass.
Add the Bourbon.
Add the Orange Peel. 
Add three dashes of bitters and a Tablespoon or two Club Soda.
Taste. If you like it a bit more sweet you can add another 1/2 teaspoon Simple Syrup.
Drop in the Cherry and garnish with a Cinnamon Stick then serve!

Sugar & Spice Simple Syrup
Makes about a Half Cup

1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Water
3 Cinnamon Sticks
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract or 1 Split Vanilla Bean

Combine Water and Sugar in small sauce pan. Bring to a boil.  
Add Vanilla and Cinnamon Sticks.
Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so. Stores in the fridge for several days.