Good Things 2020: Week 42

I’ve been leaning into fall. You’ll see quite a bit of New England fall situation in this post. Leaves. Flowers of changing colors. I’ve begun to roast things for the season. And I broke down and bought myself an air fryer. I’m busy air frying crispy potatoes at the moment while I pause to recap my week and the good things in week 42! (how?) of 2020. 

Before we get into last week, I’ll just note that my culinary highlight this week was helping Samin Nostrat today find a specific thing in a slightly obscure cookbook – Ada Boni’s Italian Regional Cooking – to fact-check for an article. I happened to have on the shelf just two squares over from her own book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Quick culinary adventuring to the rescue on Twitter! 

Fall notes, shall we? My neighbors have some exquisite gardens still in bloom. I managed to clean up and prune some of my slightly-neglected front porch plants, and I have a few tomatoes still hanging on their last legs before the frost. 

Last weekend, I opted for a virtual run of the Boston Women’s 10k – making this my NINTH year in a row running this race (you can see my first race recap here!) I contemplated running the race course, but opted to safely run through my neighborhood, where it’s a little more hilly and a little less crowded. 

I was not running this race to “race” it – but opted for a comfortable run, breathing through my nose, listening along to a Peloton marathon training run (thanks, Matt Wilpers!) – and somehow in the last .4 mile looked down at my watch for the first time in the run and realized that I would be technically PRing the race course itself had it been run officially. At which point I decided I might as well hustle a little bit. Turns out that a 1275 mile summer four month base training – is a STRONG BASE! I’m a little disappointed not to be doing “real” fall racing right now!

Repping my shirt and my lack of pandemic haircuts: 

Next up in my “lean into fall!” plan was my first chili of the season. I go through chili phases. The simplest chilis I make are sort of “hack” chili. The “recipe”: I cook up some ground meat – in this case, turkey, with cumin, salt, and chile powder, add a bag of frozen peppers and onions, dump in a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles, and a jar of salsa – in this case pepita salsa from Trader Joe’s. 30 minutes on low for flavors to meld, and everything is better after a night in the fridge. 

One stroke of genius I had in the middle of the night one night was to order emergency cheese. Each week as part of my Circumpolar Race Around the World, I set about organizing a small research email for my team members about the cities and towns that we are running through.

Given that it’s me, a good portion of the email is devoted to local ingredients, recipes and specialties. We’d been traveling the past month down the Eastern Coast of Mexico, through Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Chiapas.

I’m now hungry daily for seafood, filled tamales, and good cheese. What started as a search for Queso de Bola de Ocosingo online (you can’t get it imported, alas), led me to Carlos Yescas’ interview in Cuture Cheese Magazine – shouting out Mozzarella Co. and founder Paula Lambert (sold many of her cookbooks at Omnivore! – which led to a 1am emergency order of her “South of the Border” cheese sampler. Which I do not regret one bit.

So far, I’ve made my way through the goat cheese wrapped in hoja santa leaf, and the Queso Oaxaca. 

In other small comforts, inspired by the vast amount of corn dishes I’ve been reading about as we head down through Mexico and Central America, I’ve been craving good corn things. The easiest of which: I’ve been eating the occasional popcorn with good things on it. Or just plain with some salt.

My other emergency comfort food is doctored Annie’s Mac and Cheese; and given that this is the month leading up to the election I’ve found myself needing some of that too. Here’s a bowl topped with braised honey aleppo chicken thighs.

Fortunately, my comfort-dog has been doing extra good work.

Here’s a few more good things, dinner-wise: I’ve been a long time subscriber of Cook Smarts (affiliate link); a meal planning service. Although meal planning is one of my favorite personal activities, I always love inspiration from different places. I found myself savoring two excellent Cook Smarts meals this week.

Lomo Saltado: a Peruvian dish that is cooked like a stir-fry. Seared marinated steak, peppers, and onions, tossed with tomato, served with crispy fries. I made only one small edit; realizing mid-cooking that I didn’t have a tomato, I stirred in a spoonful of Tomato Achaar. 

On that note, I had fries twice, as my Air Fryer arrived mid-week. So far, it’s been a success!

The second meal was more of a riff on the idea: Vietnamese Pork Chop
with spicy pickled cucumbers, roasted asparagus, and ginger rice. Also delicious.

The rest of my meals were a whole lot of un-photogenic bowls of things, but I’ll note them: leftover Yom Kippur mix and match foods, savory herb chicken and roasted cauliflower with yogurt, a sweet chili shrimp bowl from Whole Foods, shrimp and avocado with cucumber and peanut noodles; roasted harvest veggies with pork tenderloin; a bowl of chicken and rice. Oh, and a bowl of cauliflower gnocchi with crumbled shrimp burgers and sweet chili sauce. UGLY delicious. 

Oh, and challah french toast: made in five minutes with two eggs, some half and half, cinnamon, and sugar. Perfection. 

I leave you with a seasonal parting shot of Bertram, and some entertainment recommendations: Indian Matchmaker (Netflix), The Left-Handed Booksellers of London (Garth Nix – book), and one of my favorite Ompractice classes of the week: Yin Yoga with (Dr.) Yasmene Mumby on Tuesday nights at 8pm Eastern

And if you’d like to HATE-watch something, I highly recommend last weeks episode of Great British Baking Show… where they attempt and FAIL to make brownies. 

Until next time!

xo Sam

Good Things: September 2020

It is possible that September of 2020 was the longest month, although October seems to be bringing a strong case. While I have largely resisted getting hooked into doom-scrolling the worst of the 24-hour news cycle, I’m thankful that fall is my favorite season to be outdoors, so I’m pulled gently outside on a daily basis, and it’s not hard to spot GOOD THINGS outside in fall!

While I missed out on the Five Fork Farms Dahlia Share this year, SOMEONE please remind me next fall!, I’ve been walking the neighborhood in search of resplendent blooms.

Fall running season is my favorite! After my 1275 mile summer adventure across Tennessee and back, I’ve been transitioning to a new fitness balance – a moderate dose of weekly running (my daily mile, and 3-5 miles or so a three times a week), adding back a good strength training program, and adding in a few yoga and meditation classes a week on Ompractice

I’m particularly happy with my little “workout corner” to make movement more visible and encouraged on a daily basis. Visual cues are really helpful for me to get into the mood to workout. 

While I don’t have any particular training plan for running right now, and as it stands, fall racing isn’t *really happening* (I did sign up for the virtual Boston 10k though!), I was thrilled to come across this – a real USATF meet happening right by my house. 

Good Things: Puppies. Bertram got to enjoy the company of Penny Pupadoodle this week, and they both took up perch protecting the neighborhood while our leaves change colors. We also spent time with Sawyer!

And we participated in more than one outside romp on the front grass with Albert. This is Albert. 

Good Things: Reading

I’ve not been in a rut, but I’ve been attempting to read too many long books at once. Right now I’m in-progress with several; on Audible: Leigh Bardugo’s Ruin and Rising; Garth Nix’s new The Left-Handed Bookseller of London, and Keith Ferrazzi’s newest Leading Without Authority; and on Kindle: High Output Management. 

In physical books, I’ve been re-reading Keith Ferrazzi’s ‘Who’s Got Your Back’ as part of my leadership group book club – action oriented reading!

Good Things: Outdoor Excursions. While my outdoor time has dramatically reduced after my April – August race that had me outside for 10 miles or more a day, I’m still spending as much time as I can in the fresh air. 

At the beginning of the month, I went on a socially distanced walk in the woods in Belmont. I took a glorious afternoon excursion one weekend to Fresh Pond, where I was able to mostly avoid the crowds and enjoy the fresh air. I made my first trip to Formaggio in FOR-EVER, where I was so overwhelmed by choice that I made out with a single small piece of Halvah. 

Love little love notes like this.

Good Things in Food: I was excited to get started on my Rancho Gordo bean passport this month. They sent a little booklet in the mail as part of bean club, with bean “stamps” and a space for you to take notes on your bean journey. As I have an ever changing backlog of good beans, it’s a fun little project! 

While I’ve been mostly getting food from my CSA or a weekly store trip, this month I made a concession trip to Eataly to treat myself to a variety of produce, prepared meat and seafood, and snacks. I picked up their chicken cacciatore (so good!), a chicken milanese, and some bubbe’s chicken soup Seemore chicken sausages. 

Their produce is usually quite good, and relatively inexpensive compared to the super market, which is confusing. Once or twice a year I stumble across a perfectly ripe melon, which ends up being a highlight of the week.

They also have a *very good* salmon burger, which I ate over a fall salad with apple, roasted potatoes, and the end of the good summer tomatoes. (On that note, I’ve picked up the new little shrimp burgers this week from TJ’s, and will report back.) 

I got a container of their marinated octopus salad, which I ate with a crispy lettuce, tomato, and potato salad. (Yes, there’s a trend.) Crispy lettuce is so darn delicious!

Good Thing: Eating as Vicarious Travel. Another good thing in September: I’ve been virtually walking and running along through Mexico with a team of my friends for the Circumpolar Race Around the World. Each week, I write up a little email about the cities we are “traveling” through. As we made it through Tampico, a city of Crabs – I couldn’t help but cooking a theme meal: crab salpicon over a salad. 

Other good meals: I’m back on the marinating train. Meat is just so much better when you coat it in spices or sauce, and let it just hang for time to do it’s work. I’ve been doing chicken – a little bit of yogurt or sour cream, and a spice mix. Or lamb with cumin and olive oil. This one was honey-aleppo marinated steak kabobs over corn and tomato salad. 

I’ve also been into super simple lunches: things that are more assembled than cooked. When I have the energy, I’ll do a tiny bit of prep on the weekend to have chopped vegetables ready to go. I’ll also make a bean of the week. (Chickpeas, in this case.) This one had tomatoes, cucumbers, fennel, and chickpeas with chicken.

The chickpeas get a completely different treatment for the next meal: Orange bowl: warmed chickpeas with wilted spinach, tomato, potato, with dynamite sauce.

The third version is dinner: this is a favorite chicken liver and chickpea curry, with Patak’s Tikka Masala PASTE which is always in my fridge. 

Moving onto the next bean: Egg and Eggplant two ways (roasted, and salad) – with fat Rancho Gordo Corona beans. Corona beans are huge and meaty. I’ve been meaning to pan fry them, but haven’t yet. This batch was cooked in some leftover pan drippings added into the boiling water.

And my perpetual favorite meal: a “Sushi Roll in a Bowl” with seasoned rice, chopped fish or meat, quick pickled cucumbers, pickled ginger, and furikake seasoning. Sometimes I make this with chicken, or pork chop, or really any protein on hand, but a favorite in the past few months has been with Trader Joe’s smoked ahi tuna. I haven’t seen it in the last week though, but am hoping it’ll be back! 

Other Good Snacks: a few good snacks to mention from September.

  • Blueberries, oats, brown sugar and a splash of cream. 
  • Applesauce, oats, cottage cheese, cinnamon, and maple butter. 
  • Roasted Spaghetti squash, with walnuts and crunchy maple sugar. 
  • Single Serve Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies – just a little bit of water, the cookie mix from TJ’s and microwave for one minute. 
  • An apple cider donut from Honeypot Hill Orchards (thanks Somchay!) 
  • Chopped liver, noodle kugel, and stuffed peppers (from my mom!)

And here’s Bertram to wish you into the new month. 

Cheers! Here’s to some Good Things in the next week.

xo Sam

Good Things 2020: Week 34 and 35ish.

Good Things: Goal Setting + Getting What You Want. // Last month I worked through some goal setting workshops with a group of friends, and one of my dream goals was around receiving fitness clothing and (fresh pairs of Brooks Glycerin 18s in Men’s 11, yes, sasquatch feet, every month) from the universe.

The act of goal setting is a way to articulate your needs – which in turn allows you to notice opportunity when it hits you – and to ASK for what you need. Goal setting helps make things happen.

The magical results? 2 fresh pairs of sneakers, and I was the beneficiary of a windfall of gentle and lovingly used fitness clothing in happy colors from a friend consolidating closets. What is swirling about in your mind that you haven’t had a chance to articulate yet?

Good Listening:

  • The Wubi Effect: If you have an hour, this podcast episode on RadioLab was the best thing I listened to all week. It’s a fascinating look into how China’s technological renaissance almost didn’t happen. For one very basic reason: The Chinese language, with its 70,000 plus characters, couldn’t fit on a keyboard. A good reminder about bias being built not just into software and systems, but into hardware itself.
  • Tim Ferriss’ interview with Hugh Jackman was just spectacular.
  • Arlan Hamilton’s 8 minutes about boundaries.
  • Who’s Got Your Back – Keith Ferrazzi.
Wellesley, from afar. The campus is sadly locked down to visitors.

Material Acquisitions:

  • A small shutter clicker for my iPhone. (Bertram thinks it’s the treat clicker, see below.)
  • New resistance bands for my home “gym”.

Good Things in Food:

  • New Items at Trader Joe’s of Note. If you haven’t noticed, I’m in love with Trader Joe’s. My source of much novelty and joy in life comes from tracking and trying new items from the store. This week:
    • Sweet & Spicy Pineapple Barbecue Sauce (a good chicken marinade),
    • The dark chocolate protein muffin (taste wise it was good, but it weirdly didn’t set up in the microwave.) – next up I also purchased the maple variety.
    • Corn & Green Chile Pepper Quiche – this was good – I made it for a quick protein filled dinner in the toaster.
    • The vegan caesar dressing in the salad section was worth picking up.
    • Two dips of note: the herbed tahini sauce (went on chicken thighs and shredded carrots and parsley), and the Romesco Dip (very good!) – perfect to add some flavor and depth to salads, or serve with roasted meats or veg of any kind.
    • I picked up the new Kimchi in the fridge case, although haven’t opened it yet.
    • The Bazaar Basket snack mix is delicious: almonds, sweet apricots, salty chickpeas, sour cherries & pistachios –– I added a sprinkle of chocolate chips because I roll that way.

Turkish Stuffed Peppers – it’s that season! Recipe loosely adapted from Ayla Algar’s Classical Turkish Cooking. The filling is ground beef, onion, my grandmother’s spice mix – heavy on cumin, red pepper, oregano. I went for a traditional meat and rice stuffing, making a quick pivot to a stuffed pepper meatloaf-ish situation when I realized that I only had two peppers to stuff, and a pound and change of stuffing. Served throughout the week with yogurt, and one day with cottage cheese.

Taco-seasoning chicken thighs over black beans, with steamed greens and pineapple mango salsa. (This salsa is new from Whole Foods by the guacamole. I’m not likely to do this kind of chopping for a regular meal!)

Peanut Tofu with steamed bok choy over rice. I’ve been eating this somewhat often.

Treats from Elephantine Bakery. This week: Salted Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Cake. (Second only to their Cardamom Rose Water cake slices. Their pistachio & orange blossom cake is also notable.) My brother has been dropping off the occasional treat from Elephantine, one of our favorite bakeries. Usually I’ll indulge in something, and then the rest goes in the freezer as emergency snacks. Over the past few months, I’ve also had a chocolate chip cookie, some blueberry scones, the cardamom and orange zest palmier, a ricotta lemon danish, their olive ficelle and rosemary focaccia. So good.

Salted Pineapple Ice Cream from J.P. Licks. Mid-run. I thought I was going to get something like Dole Whip, but it was actually cream based, not very pineappl-y, and slightly savory even? I get chocolate sprinkles on the bottom.

Still absolutely loving the blooms happening.

I’m not quite ready for summer to be over – I’ll be savoring these last few weeks.

Here’s to a very good week!

xo Sam