Edible adventures: 1000 new fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds

I added a new list to my list of lists this week: one of my kitchen resolutions for this year – a thousand new fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, stretching both my culinary chops, shopping habits, foraging opportunities, and encouraging and indulging my travel bug. I suppose this is more of a lifelong quest to eat with curiosity. I don’t exactly plan on trying a thousand new foods this year, but hopefully I’ll get a good start. Game, on!

The full list (or at least the start!) is here.

Have you gone on any epic culinary quests? Traveled the world to try a new food? I want to hear about it!

The Second Lunch Kitchen Resolutions, 2017

julia child in her kitchen

Well yes, it’s that time of year again! I’ve spent the better part of the weekend taking stock of my kitchen resolutions – really, the only resolutions I make each year!

Some of my 2016 and previous years’ kitchen resolutions included:

:: to use my large/fancy appliances more often (done!)
:: to do a weekly assessment of fresh produce in my refrigerator (done, and was significantly less wasteful!)
:: to cull the pantry (did a decent fridge cull, pantry is still overwhelmed)
:: to take better care of my cast iron (nope, yikes!)
:: to not use the wrong lid on the wrong pot (learned my lesson and stuck with it)
:: to not season directly into the pan (took this one to heart!)
:: to read my new cookbooks cover to cover before buying several more (fail)
:: to wash all dishes and wipe down counters before going to bed each night (mostly)
:: to keep a running kitchen journal (for the most part, electronically this year)

In 2017, I’m doing things a little differently. My word of the year is share, and so this year I’m focusing my kitchen activities on content creation. I thought it would be a good year to get a head-start on two of my cookbooks that I’d like to write. I’ve had these bubbling for the past decade, and thought that it’s a good time as any to get crackin’.

This year I’d like to write two cookbook proposals – one for a Turkish cookbook with family recipes and a love letter to Istanbul, and another for an everyday eating cookbook, in the style of Nigel Slater, Anna Jones, or the Leon cookbook.

Create two seasonal healthy cooking e-books – with meal plans to take advantage of the seasonal bounty, fresh produce storage tips, easy dinner ideas, and suggested pantry upgrades.

Continue with my weekly meal planning – I was quite consistent in 2016 writing my meal plans, and I’d like to continue the trend. I’d like to write more about how I go through the process of meal planning, the resources that I use, and how I simplify the process of making weeknight meals.

I’d like to start eating my way through some restaurant bucket list restaurants – as part of an overall goal to start traveling more. Since moving back from California, I can count my exquisite dining experiences on about one hand these days. We’re not talking all Michelin, but really experiencing the work of some notable chefs and global cuisine to continue my lifelong education in food.

Start working my way through at least 100 new fruits and vegetables – and come up with my list of 1000 to try. This is more complicated living in New England, but it occurred to me that I’ve been lacking in novel food experiences lately and need a good place to start. I’m going to be compiling a list by sitting down with Elizabeth Schneider’s Uncommon Fruits & Vegetables, Alice Waters’ fruit and vegetable tomes, Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy, and some of my River Cottage Guides, and researching vegetables and fruits unique to specific global cuisines in some of my regional cuisine specific cookbooks that I already own.

Write out a list of challenging cooking experiments to try, and add in a good weekend cooking project at least once a month. My default in the kitchen is quick weeknight meals, and there are some great projects that I’m missing out on.

A short list of cookbooks that I already own and love that I’d like to re-read and cook a recipe from this year:

January – 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer
February – Zuni Cafe by Judy Rodgers
March – The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson
April – French Feasts by Stéphane Reynaud
May – The Italian Baker by Carol Field
June – Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen
July – Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce
August – Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin
September – The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert
October – My New Orleans by John Besh
November – Japanese Cooking by Shizuo Tsuji
December – Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan

Do you have any kitchen resolutions this year?

So you are thinking of doing a Whole30….

So you are thinking of doing... a Whole30

While I’m not doing a Whole30 this January, I’ve done several rounds of the nutrition challenge in the past, and one of my favorite parts of the experience is the planning process! For those of you unfamiliar with Whole30, it’s a 30 day nutrition challenge created by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, which focuses on eating unprocessed whole foods, and cutting out inflammatory foods such as sugar and alcohol. For more information, go to Whole30.com, and make sure to get a copy of their book “It Starts with Food”.

1. Plan, plan, plan! Go into your challenge with a plan in mind. I actually use a Google spreadsheet – here’s my sample Whole30 template, feel free to copy and make your own – to plan my month in advance. I’m flexible as I go along, but having done some of the heavy lifting before I dive in really helps me to stick with positive choices.

2. Batch cooking is your friend. Every weekend on Whole30 I plan an afternoon where I make a few staples for the week. I hard-boil a dozen eggs, roast a tray of vegetables, bake some sweet potatoes, and grill a few pounds of chicken or other meats to keep in the fridge. I like also making a sauce of the week, such as mayo, romesco, or chimichurri. Overall I spend about two hours in the kitchen – so I can cut my daily cooking time down to a minimum!

2. Whole30 should NOT be a consistent test of your will power. Build yourself up for success! Clear your house of treats you know you won’t be able to stay away from. If you go consistently to social events, prepare by eating in advance, keeping a compliant snack in your bag, and stay prepared! If you happen to live in a place where social life seems to revolve around alcohol (ahem, Washington DC?), go to the bartender and order a soda water with a lime. (Pretend it’s a gin and tonic if you are tired of explaining Whole30 to people.)

4. Make a list of restaurants where you can get a Whole30 compliant meal, and schedule in at least a weekly dinner out. Eating at home for thirty days can be exhausting if you haven’t gotten used to it. I like having a few options in my back pocket where I know I can get meals that fit with the program. In the past, I’ve done Chipotle, and one of my neighborhood restaurants where I can order a steak or roast chicken, potatoes, and greens with minimal fuss.

5. Make a list of easy pantry meals that you can fall back on if you don’t want the meal that you’ve planned for the night. This is crucial if you aren’t used to sticking to meal plans. Some nights things change – be it your schedule, the weather, your mood, and you find yourself wanting something different. I keep a list of pantry meals or quick fix meals for these evenings so that I’m not left making a bad choice. Breakfast for dinner is often a solution for us. I always keep a bowl of chili in the freezer to pull out in an emergency.

6. Find support. Whole30 can be mentally challenging, and it always helps to do it with a friend. If you don’t have friends or family on board, there’s a great community out there – Instagram (#Whole30) and Pinterest are both good places to find people on the program.

7. How can I Whole30 with a family? This can definitely be a challenge, but it’s doable! The challenge is certainly easiest if everyone in the house is eating the same meals and your spouse is on board – but you can still do it if they aren’t! I’ll usually make a main dish that works for everyone, with optional non-compliant sides for those who aren’t participating in the challenge. Encourage family members to eat treats out of the house, or if they’d like to eat them at home, don’t feel like you have to sit there suffering and watch them while they do it! Take some me-time!

8. A Whole30 challenge does not need to be boring! If you are worried about eating boring chicken breasts and broccoli for thirty days, I promise you, the Whole30 does not need to be that! Many cuisines are naturally Whole30 friendly. I do a lot of Mediterranean tray bakes, Mexican inspired meals, Italian, and Middle Eastern meals. Spices are your friends – stock up at Whole Foods or Penzey’s before your challenge.

9. Rely on some template meals. You do not need to plan elaborate meals each night of your Whole30. Mel Joulwan champions the “Hot Plates” – Protein + Veggies + Fat + Spices + Sauce = Meal. (Lots of good stuff in her cook book Well Fed!) I like doing theme days for inspiration: “egg night”, “soup night”, or “meat + two veg night”.

10. Whole30 does not need to break the bank. Eating organic meat and vegetables and cooking all of your meals at home can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. I practice this year round: find your sales and purchase in bulk. I ask the butcher to package meats in pound increments so I can freeze each separately and defrost as I go along. Trader Joe’s Organic Free Range chicken thighs are delicious. Make use of the frozen vegetable – they can be great convenience foods, and are often riper than out of season vegetables. I subscribe to a CSA farm share in the summer time, and a meat CSA all year long to help lower the cost of these higher quality foods. (Plus, you’ll likely be saving money by not drinking alcohol and avoiding treats.)

11. You do not need fancy appliances to do a Whole30. A good pan, sharp knife, a roasting sheet, and a dutch oven are what I use most often. If you do want to get a little fancy, I love my spiralizer for making vegetables for salads, crispy fries, and vegetable noodles.

12. Know what to expect. It helps to go into the challenge with the right mindset. Whole30 isn’t a crash diet, it’s a way to reframe your eating style, and form new healthy habits. That said, it can very be challenging. Cutting sugar and alcohol cold turkey can be difficult. Be prepared to notice your feelings, acknowledge them but don’t fight them, and persevere. It will be hard, but you can do it!

13. Commit to the month. You can do anything for a month! If you find yourself frustrated, take solace in the fact that this is a finite challenge, and you will definitely learn things about yourself along the way. Choose a few new recipes each week, commit to learning some new cooking techniques, and have fun!

For more Whole30 resources, check out these resource posts on a few of my favorite blogs:

If you are interested in any personal coaching to support your Whole30 (or gym nutrition challenge) – I do schedule one-off consultations to help you strategize your month of good eating in compliance with the program! Email me at sam@thesecondlunch.com for more information. 

Starting Monday – Secrets of Self Care

tackeff 6 week fall wellness coaching program

This week has been a vibrant whirlwind – which is sort of how I’ve come to expect my fall to be – life reflecting nature – the leaves changing colors, the winds picking up. Except I’m not gearing up to hibernate, but instead bolster myself for the holidays and the new year. It’s a little scary how fast it’s come this year. Wasn’t it summer yesterday? (Okay, so maybe it did hit 73 degrees here this week…)

Much of my free time has been spent building out my fall wellness program which starts on Monday! – the Secrets of Self Care, and I realize that I haven’t talked to you about it here on my corner of the internet, and YOU are who I’ve been writing this course for!

Secrets of Self Care is a 6 week program for those who have been focused on career, family, or business, and lost themselves a little in the process. (Okay, isn’t that all of us?) Six weeks leading up to the holidays to help you get back in touch with yourself.

Are you lacking inspiration to make simple, healthy, and seasonal meals?

Are you feeling tired with the change of seasons?

Do the holidays cause you anxiety?

Does your energy wane in the early afternoon?

Do you find yourself making sub-optimal food choices when you don’t have better options?

Do you feel like curling up on your couch with a cup of tea, and not leaving?

Join me for this adventure in which we’ll focus on being kinder to ourselves, supporting our needs and desires, and nourishing our bodies.

What you get:

– Daily weekday emails providing journaling and action prompts.
– Supportive online accountability
– A variety of printable handouts
– A personal coaching consultation with Sam (via Phone, Hangout, or Skype)
– Additional email support for the duration of the course

The cost of the course is $179 for the 6 weeks, including a 1-1 personal coaching session.

We start Monday – I’d love to have you join me – we’ll be thinking, writing, dreaming, and bringing good things to life, and I’ll be doing the work right along side of you!





If you want to hear more, email me at sam@thesecondlunch.com, and I’d happy to hop on the phone with you for a few minutes to talk about the work that I do, and how I can help!

Summer Dinners + Training Updates

After my first triathlon this summer, I decided to try giving up music while running outdoors. During the triathlon, where headsets are prohibited by the USATF, I managed to get through nearly two hours of swimming, biking, and running, without it, and found myself really enjoying the quiet time. Without music you can listen keenly to your body and your surroundings. I find that I’m slower, but I think that really it’ll help me continue to build up my fitness, and more importantly, my mental fortitude. When you have nothing to listen to other than your thoughts, you have to make a conscious effort to fill your head with positivity in order to keep going strong. Last weekend I went for my longest run of marathon training so far, 13.1 miles on the coast, with nary a song nor podcast to keep me company. I did, however, have this view:

ryebeach.JPG

Now, about that positivity. I wouldn’t exactly say that marathon training is going smoothly, but it hasn’t been abject failure. My long runs have all been *excellent* learning opportunities – specifically what NOT to do when running. 10 miles without food? Bad idea. You will be tired and crabby. Forget your water bottle? Good thing you brought some cash. Thank you kind people of Starbucks. Chafing under your left arm? Next time, there’s body glide. Yeah, I don’t quite know how that happened either. Fortunately, I’ve been tweaking as I go along, and each part of this adventure has me itching to continue. That’s really my ultimate goal with this marathon training: work hard toward something new, and have fun doing it.

I’ve also been doing it my own way: plenty of cross training in the mix, and as many new ways to challenge my body and mind as possible. Last Wednesday I woke up before dawn to head out to Harvard Stadium for a full tour with November Project. Stadiums are a challenging mental exercise. You head up the big steps, down the little ones, and work your way up and down, again and again, until you’ve worked your way around 37 sections. It has that hamster wheel feel to it, although working out with hundreds of other people at once makes it a spectacularly fun form of torture. My “carrot” was a 6 month old piglet named Phoebe, who was waiting to play at the last section of the day if you got your best time. My kind of motivation, and you bet I got to play with her!

beachrocks.JPG

Another major piece of this marathon adventure has been fueling my body with delicious (and nutritious) foods. Here’s some brutal truth about endurance training: many people gain weight while training for a marathon. I did not want to do this! A large part of training is learning how to effectively feed yourself on long activities, as well as during your every day life. It’s easy to get into the habit of rewarding yourself with food post workout, but I’ve long tried to avoid this, because usually it’s a hard habit to kick when you reduce your milage and energy expenditure. Instead, I’ve been rewarding myself with home cooked dinners and packed lunches.  Yep, very wholesome of me. Here are a few of the best last week, re-shared from over on my Instagram.

Breakfast for Dinner. Cooked up some ground beef and onions with salt, garlic powder, and cumin. Added chopped potatoes, browned for a few minutes then added some chicken stock and covered the pan so the potatoes would cook through. Added a few extra eggs, and dinner is served!

beefpotatohash.JPG

Seafood Mixed Grill.  King salmon, monkfish, and sea scallops, and beautiful dry farmed tomatoes I picked up at Formaggio Kitchen.

seafoodmixedgrill.JPG

Zucchini Noodles with Meat Sauce.  I shred, and then salt zucchini generously in a colander for 20-30 minutes. Give them a good rinse, and I usually try to wring out all the excess liquid. Usually I’ll pat with paper towels. If you have time, you can put them in the fridge for an hour to further the drying. And then just cook for 1-2 minutes in a good hot pan, and I’ll season and coat with a little olive oil. Topped with meat sauce made with Rao’s marinara.

zoodlesandmeatsauce.JPG

Dinner, Island Style. Pork chops, seasoned with salt, allspice, and garlic powder. Cooked in a little coconut oil on medium high, about 7 minutes on each side. Salad: cabbage, mango, and mint, with a dressing of lime, fish sauce, a little coconut oil for sweetness, and water.

porkchopsslaw.JPG

Crispy salted chicken leg with a carrot, tomato, cucumber and avocado salad with cumin dressing. Quick tip: to cut lots of cherry tomatoes, put away the knife, and take out your kitchen scissors!

roastedchicken.JPG

What’s on your table this week?

Are you training for any particular events this fall?

Healthy Balance

ShakeShackSweetGreen

For the past few months I’ve been hopping on the #FitFluential Twitter chats, looking to meet like-minded folks passionate about health and fitness.

Tonight one of the questions was about nutrition trends, a topic that always piques my interest. One person quipped “Now we say “clean eating” is a trend. When I was young, it was called, “eating at home.” And I’m not that old.” And isn’t it so true? Growing up, eating well meant eating wholesome, home cooked foods, free of junk additives. Treats were few and far between, but when we got them, they were savored.

I like to say that I’m not training for any particular race, I’m training for life. And to do that, I think about what I eat often – my goal in life is to eat sanely, well, and with delight. Sometimes it falls in line with trends, and sometimes it doesn’t. My eating is largely seasonal, heavier in the winter, lighter in the summer. At home I cook a lot of mediterranean inspired meals, and many of my home cooked meals fall squarely into the “paleo” or “primal” camp, which I was doing well before things became trendy. I just call it “eating”, and it’s something that I’m excited to do every day.

There’s always room for well-selected treats – tonight was no exception. I couldn’t help a trip to Shake Shack to celebrate National Burger Day. To balance it out, I crossed the street to the brand new sweetgreen in Chestnut Hill to pick up a “guacamole greens” salad to accompany it. Now that’s a good meal!

Pin It on Pinterest