Stock, Eggs, and Leftover Dinner

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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Sloppy Joe’s and Sunset

Sunset Celebration – Photo Credit: mallorysquare.com

Seeing as we had guests this week, we popped down to Sloppy Joe’s on Key West for a little nip before Sunset celebration. For those of you unfamiliar with Key West rituals, each night the sunset is celebrated with live street performers, food and drink vendors, and of course the often gorgeous sunset itself. This all takes place in Mallory Square which is a beautiful square right on the water and also the location of where many cruise ships dock. Due to their size, the ships are required to leave before sunset or they’ll end up blocking the view for folks in the square. The sun sets right over Sunset Key – perhaps the most expensive real estate in the Keys – which oddly enough used to be called Garbage Island because it was a former dump. Waste disposal in the keys, as you might imagine, is complicated. Recycling is fairly big here and waste is now shipped up to the mainland instead of dumped onto one key or another. In any case, sunset can be a wonderful experience. Some advice for you newcomers – don’t go to the square until just before sunset (30-10 min before) because a) it is hot as satan’s pants until the sun actually dips in the sky and b) the performers drag out their shows as long as possible to get to the good stunts in order to draw big crowds and make more money, so the best part usually takes place near sunset.

To occupy yourself in the meantime you might consider grabbing a bite at one of the many restaurants off the square or off Duval Street (the main drag). As with any tourist center of town, you have your traps. For instance, right of the square, Red Fish Blue Fish looks appealing enough, but their food is underwhelming at best. There is also a Cuban restaurant off the square called El Meson de Pepe. While locals wouldn’t call this the best Cuban food in key west (more to come on that), I have always had a satisfactory experience here. It is roomy, comfortable, and the food does offer a good selection of Cuban favorites. Perhaps the coolest part, and fun for kids as well, is the memorabilia around the restaurant. They’ve set up a kind of “story” of Cuban history and culture for you to walk through which is very interesting. My go-to dish here is an appetizer of fried cheese. They also make excellent mojitos.

My favorite place to grab a bite with guests before sunset is Sloppy Joe’s. First because it covers two “must do” things in one night – SJ and Sunset – but also because I like the atmosphere, the entertainment, and the food. The drinks are okay, but somewhat pricey for what they are, so prepare yourself. However, the menu offers more than standard pub fare which is nice in this part of town. The other day Mr. Foodie ordered the pork tacos and they were wonderful. They are prepared in the Cuban fashion with onion and garlic – and the black bean sauce was incredible. It was also the perfect amount and went well with our Papa Dobles (a sweeter/tarter version of what Hemingway used to drink). Recently, Sloppy Joe’s added a Tap Room behind its main restaurant space. I haven’t tried it out yet, but it looks enticing (if they can keep the beer cold – an always tricky thing to do down here).

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