issue #155 - the one on meal prep
Abigail and Erica on why meal prep is the way to go
How many times has it happened to you? You slam the laptop shut after a few too many zoom meetings and realize you have no idea what’s for dinner. Do you want to order pizza, cook something, or reach into the depths of the freezer (does anyone know what’s back there)? It’s an overwhelming moment and we’ve all been there (and eaten cheese and crackers for dinner).
Decision fatigue can be a beast, so we created something to help combat it. Who are we? We’re Abigail & Erica, two food professionals and friends living in Brooklyn. We met in 2018 through a mutual friend (thanks, Tarn) and started teaching Zoom meal prep classes during the pandemic. After nearly two years of developing recipes and having lots of conversations about cooking, we realized meal prep was a solution to many of our dinnertime woes, especially when life gets busy. We wanted to share the recipes and kitchen tactics we’ve come up with so we published an ebook, Meal Prep Made Simple, to take planning off your plate so you can get delicious meals on it.
The book is packed with recipes AND it’s designed to be your guide through grocery shopping, setting up your workstation, and multitasking, which is the key to successful meal prep. Both of us get bored easily (we are avid Tiktok scrollers) so we include loads of meal prep remixes so you can enjoy all the recipes in different ways. This isn’t bland chicken breast meal prep, it’s flavorful and varied (we include desserts, drinks, and breakfast items). And as a bonus, everything in the book can be made vegetarian and gluten free, so everyone’s invited to the table.
Making this book was a labor of love this summer. We made soup in the middle of a heat wave (check out that recipe below), rushed to shoot photos before a thunderstorm came and ruined the light, lugged groceries on the G train, ate all the leftovers, and proofread until we could barely see straight. It was all worth it. We hope this book makes your mealtimes less stressful and more fun. And we are so grateful for the chance to cook and collaborate with each other!
For a peek inside Meal Prep Made Simple, check out our Go-To Green Soup, which gets a jolt of flavor from store bought pesto (this one is our favorite).
What We Read This Week:
Free Time by Jenny Blake - I picked this book up on Molly's recommendation (she has excellent taste in career and personal development books), and it was equal parts affirming (in how I've built the content business and my next steps with it) and educational (there is so much WISDOM in terms of frameworks and tactical advice). If you run a small business/work in one/want to run or work in one, and especially a role that gives you autonomy over your time and frees it up to do what you want to do, this is the book for you. I listened to the book first, and have a physical copy coming to me so I can highlight my favorite sections and use it as a reference as we plan the next phase of All The Smart Things. Highly, highly recommend.
The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit Series by Jessica Radloff - if you loved the show or want to learn how to build a really strong culture at work (or both!), you will love this in-depth, insider look at The Big Bang Theory. Radloff spends so much time with the cast and crew to create this rich record of one of the best comedies ever to air on television. While some elements of the show didn't age so well (Wolowitz basically until he meets Bernadette), it was a really remarkable work in how it pushed us past stereotypes of the nerd or the ditz and introduced us to some incredibly endearing characters who I still love and adore and miss. I really, really, really loved this book - and am back on a rewatch of the show.
The Switch by Beth O’Leary: I read this charming book on my recent trip to London, which was the perfect setting. It follows a grandmother and granddaughter who switch lives for a few months. The 79 year old grandmother has a lovely time in Shoreditch and her 20something granddaughter takes on small town life in the Yorkshire Dales. It’s like Freaky Friday, minus the body swap.
Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors: I’m just about to finish this novel that falls squarely into the Sad Girl genre along with titles like Happy Hour and My Year of Rest and Relaxation. It chronicles the lives of a loosely connected group of New Yorkers following the hasty Marriage of Cleo and Frank. Great read if you want to get in your feels.
Never Fall for your Fiancee by Virginia Heath: This is book 1 in a series (book 2 is out in early 2023) about a group of sisters, abandoned by their deadbeat dad, trying to make their way through Victorian England. This is one of the most fun fake-dating tropes I've read - genuinely laughed out loud several times. The audiobook is a delight - highly recommend it!
This Week’s Links
Here’s the smoothie that fuels me every morning:
Birdies’ Swan mules are the most perfect dressy shoes (that are also the most comfortable!). I’ve been wearing them with all my Diwali outfits, and they’ll take me through NYE and beyond.
The fortifying hair serum is responsible for speeding up my postpartum hair growth and reconditioning my grays to a soft texture. I do a scalp massage with it every single week before washing, apply a couple of drops to the end of my hair when styling, and use it to slick down flyaways for sleek hairstyles.
The brightening saffron serum is magic for hydrating and evening your skin tone. I apply it after toning every morning and on non-retinol/AHA nights, and before applying makeup for that glass skin effect.
The renewing bakuchi cream is my cold weather moisturizer and it feels like you’re applying dessert to your face. It’s rich and has a gorgeous slightly sweet scent and delivers incredible hydration to your face and neck.
Top #5SmartReads Of The Week
Spread of Catholic hospitals limits reproductive care across the U.S. (Washington Post)
The rest of the week’s reads (and conversations!) are below:
Suggestions on healthy meal prep for first time parents who are back at work!
First of all, you’re doing amazing! Second, don’t be afraid to seek support, from your community and from store bought shortcuts. Premade sauces, frozen vegetables, and a well stocked pantry will be lifesavers. You can start with one of the menus in the ebook or start by prepping one meal (say, a batch of granola for breakfast or a big grain salad for lunch) and work your way up from there. One note—be sure to avoid bringing the following meal prepped items into work: seafood, broccoli, and really any other cruciferous veggies. Your coworkers will thank us later.
Best recipe for vegetarian meal prep?
Shameless plug: everything in the ebook is vegetarian or can easily be made vegetarian! Abigail is a longtime vegetarian and we are both committed to creating satisfying vegetarian recipes.
What is your favorite/most used cookbook for weeknight meals?
We’re huge fans of Julia Turshen’s cookbooks—they’re beautifully written and approachable. Small Victories, her first solo cookbook, is a great place to start.
Favorite kitchen tools or kitchen organization tips
Erica is very partial to her GIR rubber spatulas and Abigail likes to keep her kitchen organized by keeping the kitchen gadgets to a minimum, though she does love a citrus squeezer that Erica gifted her. You won’t find an airfryer in either of our kitchens.
Any tips to keep the grocery store $$ total down when creating your weekly meal plan?
Though Erica is an omnivore, we both feel strongly that keeping meals mostly vegetarian is a great way to cut costs in the kitchen. If you’re able to shop in bulk, that’s another way to reduce costs as long as you have the storage space. And do everything you can to reduce food waste by repurposing leftovers and using up produce.
Tips for choosing/planning what to eat so it’s not overwhelming.
Decision fatigue is real—get help! There are a number of great resources available. You can opt for a service like Work Week Lunch that’ll help you curate meal plans, grab Meal Prep Made Simple (another plug!) to take planning off your plate, or start a running list of things you love to eat on your notes app or in a tool like Notion. Having a list ready when you’re overwhelmed but need to grocery shop is so helpful.
How do you prep for a 20 people party ahead of time?
Start getting organized as early as possible. Erica started prepping for her Friendsgiving celebration over a month out. If it’s a dinner party, opt for dishes you can cook, then freeze ahead of time (we both love lasagna!) and don’t be afraid to accept help from your guests if they offer (dessert is a great thing to outsource).
Want to eat well on a weekend NY trip but hate reservations. I like to wing it! Doable?
Doable, especially if you’re a solo traveler. If you’re in a group of 2-4, be prepared to stay very flexible with your dining schedule—you’ll have better luck dining very early or very late. Both of us have snagged spots at hard to get places by opting for an early bird special (Erica), or leaning into the night owl thing (Abigail). Put your name down somewhere and grab a drink nearby and be prepared to sit at the bar, which many restaurants reserve for walkins.
I never loved soup. Recipes to change that? :)
It’s okay if you don’t like a food! We’re all humans with preferences. There are lots of other cozy winter dishes to enjoy, like baked pastas, enchiladas, baked spinach artichoke dip! You can also try soups from different cuisines while dining out to see if there’s one you love. *If you still want to try a soup recipe, the one we shared above is really good.
Do I need an air fryer? What about toaster oven + air fryer in one?
You don’t need an air fryer! But if you want one and have the counter space, make sure you have lots of ways to use it in mind so it doesn’t wind up collecting dust.
Before we sign off, we want to share some favorite bites from this week (we are both thinking about food roughly 73% of the time).
Erica: My husband and I showed up at 5pm on the dot (see above re: early bird special) and snagged an outdoor table at Bar Pitti last weekend. The food was delicious, but we were really there for the immaculate vibes (it’s well known as a place to spot celebs) and to enjoy the crisp autumn weather. We ordered 3 pastas between the two of us (they’re huge! but we were hungry), and our favorite was the lasagna on the specials menu.
Abigail: I am passionate about bivalves and happy hour (I even wrote about the end of dollar oysters in New York) and recently experienced an excellent one at Flex Mussels with my longtime friend Isa. The happy hour includes oysters, pots of mussels with flavorful broth, bread for dipping, appetizers (get the whipped ricotta), and even french fries. We ordered a full meal from the happy hour menu, which goes until 7, and spent hours catching up before walking each other to the subway. A 10/10 New York night.
That about covers it from us. Thank you so much for lending us a moment to share a bit about ourselves and our kitchen philosophy. And thank you to Hitha for trusting us in the #5SmartReads driver’s seat this week—we had a blast!
Abigail & Erica
Learn more about Abigail & Erica on their website, and sign up for their cooking classes! And when they’re not together, Abigail spends time on Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok, and writing her newsletter, This Needs Hot Sauce. You can find Erica on Instagram, TikTok, or over on her newsletter, The Fresh Letter.