Good Things 2021: February

I haven’t been able to wrangle myself to write weekly, so here’s catch-up on this short month!

My amaryllis bloomed! I’ve been admiring it in the diffused morning light from the overcast sky which been giving us snow intermittently. I’ve been being diligent at picking up a weekly bouquet for myself at Trader Joe’s. It’s been a few weeks in a row of tulips, because they are fabulous.

Good Things and Creative Input:

  • Watched: The Big Chill – which has a surprisingly good soundtrack! To All the Boys:2, and Lucky Logan (neither of which were must-watch.) And MINARI! (HIGHLY recommend.) Signed up for Letterboxd, a film version of Goodreads. I’ve been *loving* WandaVision, and been watching Agent Carter, with deep angst that they cancelled it after two short seasons.
  • Reading: been loving the Brooklyn Bruja series. We’re reading Caste for Wellesley Book Club. A little behind on my reading these days!
  • Errands of note: Went to the dentist! Started my taxes!
  • Movement: The last week of my lifting class was bittersweet – I’ve enjoyed the structure of a Monday, Wednesday, Friday program at 6pm to look forward to. After finishing it, I made the attempt to switch programs and do the work on my own – it’s been… semi-successful! I’ve also kicked off our Ompractice My Core Floor Pelvic Health program (the exercises are very fun!) and I’m doing more time on the bike to contribute to our Circumpolar Race around the World Team.)
  • Together-ness: Weekly Zoom Trivia! A chocolate truffle making class on Zoom. A Zoom Pizza birthday party with charades and a seven year old DJ.
  • Organization: weekly personal sprint planning tag team!
  • Flowers: Red Tulips! Daffodils! Orange Tulips!
  • Joy: Getting a POST CARD from my DOG. Reading the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer. Getting a second BLANKET with my dog’s face on it.

After a few weeks of being house bound with a sore back, Bertram has been up and at em for the past week or so going on walks again, and I’m deeply relieved!

Last week, I went to Formaggio to wait in line and bid farewell to the location that has been one of my comfort places for the past twenty years. It’s moving three blocks down the street, but I have a LOT of feelings.

{Good Food}:

One thing I’ve really enjoyed over the past few months is shared meal planning with friends. Not that we’re actually eating the same things, just more as an accountability tool. More than the fancy planning, I’m really interested in those quick default meals my friends are eating – I find that I’m more likely to make a healthy choice when I can swap out a simple meal that I know a friend is also enjoying this week.

The most glorious bowl of cottage cheese topped with Formaggio Kitchen passionfruit curd. A generous dollop. (And then having this same thing about four times for desserts. Sometimes I added a little oat.)

Some highlights:

  • Post-Superbowl Feast: leftover’s from my family’s Zahav montreal shortrib extravaganza from Goldbelly.
  • My favorite Epicurious Kale and Date salad.
  • Lobster Cacio Pepe
  • Calabrian Tomato Dumpling Soup from Trader Joe’s with added chicken
  • Kheer from my Indian take-out from Shan-a-Punjab.
  • Lentil soup with ham, bok choy, eggs
  • Chicken tenders in the air fryer with a big ole salad and two dipping sauces. I tried the new magnificause from Trader Joe’s (the second was actually Chik-fil-a spicy sauce.)
  • Molten Chocolate saucy cake.
  • Big pot of Kimchi Stew.
  • Pot of Rancho Gordo pinto beans. Ate a bowl with honey, and plantain garlic croutons which was sensational. Another bowl another day with chopped tomato, egg, and star dust (Rancho gordo tajin)
  • Cafe Spice Chicken Tikka Masala (one of my favorites pre-made meals).
  • A bowl of ham, chicken, broccoli, and basil caesar.
  • Fennel salad with hardwood smoked tuna.
  • Annies Mac n Cheese with Birdseye Broccoli with Cheddar sauce… because.
  • Incredible Beet Tzaziki from Formaggio.
  • Broccoli with blue cheese, toasted walnuts, and balsamic vinegar.
  • Mocktail with seltzer, cherry jam, and rosewater.

Lunar New Year food from my neighborhood Chinese restaurant: noodles, and sesame balls, 8 Treasure rice, and date rice cake.

OYSTER delivery from Island Creek thanks to Somchay and Janet. I’m so thankful for friends who will do an emergency drive to Duxbury to pick up $10/dozen Island Creek oysters…

Zoom Truffle Making Class! This was so much fun. Plotting my next online cooking extravaganzas.

Of course, there’s been a lot of snuggles as well.

With this, I bid you adieu!

Here’s to a very good week!

xo, Sam

Good Things 2021: Week 4

Two weeks ago I started typing: “It always feels weird to capture the small details when the world is so tumultuous. I’d be remiss not to make note here that this week was NOT normal. That our nation’s capitol was stormed….” and then I closed my laptop and put this post away. This month has been both impossibly short and impossibly long. As time goes these days. My days are full.

My work is so satisfying and our impact expanding – we now have about 100 live group classes a week of yoga, meditation, pilates, tai chi, and more on Ompractice. Our new Head of Engineering, Danielle started this month, and we’ve already been diving into building the next version of the platform that we’ve been dreaming of. We’ve been expanding our partnerships with the Department of Veterans Affairs, our support of Black Boys Om, and next month we kick off a pilot for pelvic health/floor/core programming with a PT partner. This month we had our very first official board meeting!

At the same time, life has it’s lows – family members with illness, Bertram’s back flaring back up (a sad hurting puppo on meds is no fun at all), the weather is a little too New-Englandy, I still haven’t come down from the anxiety around the election, and this pandemic is long. That said, all the reason for Good Things.

Good Things:

  • I finished writing my Q1 reading list, and finished a few books.
  • I kicked off my kitchen resolutions by re-reading Diana Kennedy’s Nothing Fancy, and Nigella Lawson’s new book Cook, Eat, Repeat – which I ordered from England.
  • I kicked off some group Artist’s Way creative sessions! Our book club meets every week to go over a chapter.
  • Time with friends brainstorming ways to support each other, help meal plan, organize, commit to self care.

Movement: Week one: I ran three three mile runs in addition to my streak this week. Yin class with Yasmene on Ompractice. I contributed miles to my Circumpolar Race Around the World with my BattleDucks team! My new bright pink 20# weights came in the mail, ready to be picked up and put down. Week 2: I’ve been doing a Monday – Wednesday – Friday women’s lifting class on Zoom. The first week everything hurt, and now I’m looking forward to our workouts. 40 minutes, warmups, strength portion, slightly more active portion, cool down. Last week I ran three miles in the gorgeous snow fall. I’m not sure how I’m feeling about the impending snow storm, but I now own my own pair of Yaktrax. I also got a few fresh pairs of sneakers: my new pair of Glycerin 18s, and then a GoreTex coated pair of Brooks for better snow and slush running.

Creative input: 

  • Reading: finished Fredrik Backman’s Anxious People, starting on Laila Lalami’s The Other Americans. For my night time reading (usually YA set in a place with limited use of electronics in the plot), I’ve started the Brooklyn Bruja series.
  • TikTok: The Wellerman, and other shanties.
  • Watching: Finished Lucifer, films of the week were Bombshell, Kajillionaire (watch-party with Xtina!) Finishing Designated Survivor. BEST show? TED LASSO – which I *highly highly highly* recommend and devoured in a weekend.
  • Creative Dates with myself: I had a Korean-ish Fried Chicken Sandwich from Shake Shack. I spent 25 minutes in a brutally cold outside line to make my way through Formaggio Kitchen to acquire novelty: robiola wrapped in cabbage, passionfruit curd, some good mozzarella, a seville orange, a yuzu, a bergamot, and a cinnamon bun. I’ve been chipping away at a 1000 piece puzzle that has taken over my coffee table.

{Good Food}

At the beginning of the month I sat down and made a long list of possible January meals. I’ve made attempts to be creative, but I do often find myself eating the same types of things over and over before moving onto the next season. I didn’t quite stick to everything planned, but it was a great reference point. This month my Air Fryer has been on double duty. Here’s a range of many of my simple but flavorful meals this month.

Rice bowls of all kinds: this one is hardwood smoked tuna over seasoned rice with tomato and cucumbers. This is one of my favorite quick meals using microwave frozen rice, a little rice vinegar, sugar, and furikake.

Chicken tacos: ground chicken with Trader Joe’s Taco Seasoning, fajita onions and peppers, chopped tomatoes, and avocado. I forgot how much I love taco night! It’s been a while.

Pierogies in the air fryer (they become… a little bit like an empanada), with pork tenderloin and salad with balsamic fig dressing.

Alta Strada Tribute Night: I had a few friends for a “dinner party” where two out of four of us cooked meals inspired by one of our college local restaurants. The third brought wine after eating Chinese takeout. The fourth had to come in between evening meetings. Which… all in all, was not unlike our college experience. I made a salad with white anchovies, marinated ricotta with lemon, pepper, olive oil, and fried sage, and a spicy pasta with fish. Caroline’s looked better than mine!

Spicy pasta with grilled chicken and roasted cauliflower. Super simple! I’ve been making a little bit more pasta than usual, and I do not dislike the trend.

Trader Joe’s got in more boxes of butter mochi for a HOT second. I didn’t manage to buy any, but I ended up baking one box from my emergency Trader Joe’s pantry. (I have four boxes left.) Multiple friends also baked this – what a lovely thing baking the same things. I got to face time a toddler who was eating the same snack and it was great.

Calamari in the Air Fryer: salt and pepper with panko. Home made cocktail sauce, and garlic aioli to dip.

Trader Joe’s Kibbeh over a lemony salad with yogurt dipping sauce and mint. I quite liked these!

A platter of sashimi from Sakanaya (I was too late for them to make me an order, so I bought a bunch of fish and made my own. My knives were not sharp enough, alas. Need to borrow a Tri-Zor again.

A cheese bagey (childhood spelling intentional) in the air fryer!! Yes. In case you didn’t know, you can butter a bagel, and the melt cheese on it, and it come out perfectly crispy and cheesy.

Corona Pizza Beans with broccoli and plantain croutons (BUY these at TJs!). The idea is vaguely from Smitten Kitchen and is all the rage in the Rancho Gordo Bean Club group. This is the lazy person version, in which I pour vodka sauce and cooked corona beans and mozzarella in a bowl with Italian seasoning.

Citrus Garlic Pork in the airfryer over broccoli with pesto. Pork chops cook perfectly in the air fryer in about ten minutes, and let rest for another ten. I feel like a Trader Joe’s advertisement site – but I did also like this seasoning.

Scallops over orzo pasta with chopped tomato and sherry vinegar. And cheese! A riff from one of Giada De Laurentis’ old cookbooks with perfect summer warm orzo salads with red wine vinaigrette.

Take-Out of Note: LeDu Pad Kee Mao and Green Papaya Salad (which I ordered twice this month.) Shan-a-Punjab Butter Chicken, Naan, Raita, and Kheer.

{Good Bites}

  • Trader Joe’s Grainless Granola with half and half (salty, sweet!)
  • Trader Joe’s Plantain Croutons (salty, crunchy!)
  • Trader Joe’s Spicy Chakri Mix
  • Smoothies of note: [protein powder, berries, wheatgrass.] [Protein powder, cocoa packet, banana, peanut butter.]
  • Air fryer chicken with italian seasoning, sweet potato fries, cucumber
  • Dark chocolate layer cake from Star Market
  • Ground turkey, spicy thai eggplant stirfry
  • An oatmeal chocolate chip cookie from Great Harvest
  • An apple fritter with warm apple filling from the depths of my freezer
  • Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Chicken Mochi
  • Rancho Gordo Popcorn on Trivia Nights (Thursdays)
  • Trader Joe’s Beef Shawarma (ate with broccoli)
  • Ramen with pesto, air fried branzino, and air fried crunchy eggplant cubes. A mash up, but delightful.

This weekend I went ahead and made myself a big pot of Kimchi Soup that I’m looking forward to for the week. With pork and tofu.

And that’s a wrap! Looking forward to resting this evening and starting the week fresh.

I’ll leave you with this face.

Here’s to a very good week!

xo, Sam

Q1 2020 Reading List

After a great 2019, and a middling 2020 for reading, I’m back with a renewed sense of enthusiasm for books in the new year. Having a reading list helps me make decisions about getting in quality reading without falling into decision making slumps.

I aim to have a large percentage of my reading written by women, POC, and international writers; and typically read a handful of Man Booker short list titles. I typically make a list of my favorite categories, and then will supplement or swap as I find reading that calls out to me. I make room for the synchronicity of just picking up any random title, but I always have a backup! 

A few notes and observations:

Audio Books: yes, I definitely count audiobooks as reading. I process information better when on my walks and runs, and thus prefer listening to memoirs or non-fiction this way. It’s also easier for me to stay engrossed and follow along while I’m moving physically. 

Don’t forget FOOD! For the past two years, I read almost zero food memoirs, literature, or history – some of my favorite topics. So I made this one of my kitchen resolutions this year! (Again.) I’m also re-reading cookbooks. 

The library is your friend. While I always try to support local book stores – I’m also a huge fan of my local library – grabbing things off the Speed Read Shelf is my jam – I’m happy that our library is still open to grab things.

As always, still working my way through my list of Personal Leadership Development Books, and the BBC Big Read. I also read quite a few business books for work – whatever I need to expand my ideas and sharpen my skills. Last week was our engineer Danielle’s first week of work, and she asked if we could have a shared reading list in our team knowledgeable. 🙂 

January:

  • I’ll be kicking off a round of The Artist’s Way with a group of friends.
  • Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (read!)
  • Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
  • The Other Americans by Laila Lalami (Wellesley Book Club Book) 
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  • Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson
  • Stand Out by Dorie Clark (re-reading with a friend) 

Categories to choose from: (I often choose outside these, but I find that when I’m in the mood for a particular feeling, it breaks down by this type of category.) 

Food Writing:

  • The Man Who Ate Too Much by John Birdsall. 
  • Everything is Under Control by Phyllis Grant. 
  • Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson. 
  • Dirt by Bill Buford. 
  • Rebel Chef by Dominique Crenn.

Gripping / Thrilling / Literary:

  • My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite 
  • The next in one of my Scandi crime series of choice.
  • Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

YA fiction

  • VE Schwab – what have I not read? 
  • Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin
  • The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy) by S.A. Chakraborty
  • Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova (Brooklyn Brujas) 

Leadership / Business / Finance:

  • How I Built This by Guy Raz
  • Health Design Thinking by Bon Ku and Ellen Lupton
  • Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed

Fitness and Health / Mindfulness / Brains

  • The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk
  • How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell
  • The Body, A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson

Audio Books:

  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (been half read for a while!)
  • A Promised Land by Barack Obama
  • Prairie Fires – by Caroline Fraser

What’s on your next up list?

xo, Sam

Good Things 2021 Week 1

Good Things 2021 Word of the Year Bloom on flowers on the Second Lunch

Thoughts on a Word of the Year. I’ve used this as a haphazard practice for the past decade. 2011: Habit, in 2017: Share, in 2018: Finish. Sometimes I hold on to my word, other years they slip away, the act of setting the intention for a few minutes enough for me. In 2021: we have BLOOM. Even if it’s just a reminder to myself to get a weekly bouquet or plant. This being a food blog, my secondary word that kept on coming to mind is “pickle” and I’m already getting started thinking about ferments.

And we commence! This week I stumbled across a wise thought from a brilliant and captivating friend, who said something to the effect of: “I survived 2020 by treating each month of the year as a new slate. And of course, tea.”  (I took liberties with the quote as it was part of a tweet thread.) I’ve always loved the idea of a rhythm for one’s life – structure to dream, build, coast, reflect, relax, and then do it all again. 

There’s the comfort of making new choices and permission to change one’s mind if something does not work out – if you hate it, you get a clean slate. If not, you continue that path. I see structure as the creative constraint to let you take bigger leaps

I have quite a bit of optimism about the year to come.  

With that, I start with my first Good Things of the year – the short notes from my weekly personal Retro. (A retrospective is an exercise where you cap each work cycle with three questions, usually a version of: what worked well? what should we improve? what will we commit to improving in the next work cycle?) My personal retro includes my “what worked well” which is also, incidentally – my gratitude practice. You’ll notice that many of my good things are small things that may seem inconsequential to others, or even something that we are taught to be ashamed about.

Two moments about this for both myself and for you.

In 2021, I want to celebrate the small things. While big accomplishments should always be celebrated, the small things that seem inconsequential may literally be the thing that keeps you going in any particular day – are in my opinion the most important things. So if you want to show me your microwaved broccoli that you managed to feed yourself, of that you got of the couch and showered for the first time in weeks, I want to CELEBRATE you for that.

Fredrik Backman Anxious People Book on The Second Lunch

This week: I took time to relax and write. 

  • I wrote about food, cooking, and my vision for the upcoming year.
  • I wrote my kitchen resolutions.
  • I wrote my intentions for the month.
  • I wrote my reading list for the next few months.
  • I participated in a vision board session with friends – everyone else cut out magazine images, I just sat around dreaming in community.

Movement: I ran an accidental 5k PR on January 1st! I ended the year with a beautiful Yin class with Yasmene on Ompractice, and started with Jane subbing for Jess in her Decompress and Rest class. I contributed miles to my Circumpolar Race Around the World with my BattleDucks team!

Creative input:

  • Reading: Fredrik Backman’s Anxious People.
  • Watching: Bridgerton, Lucifer, kicking off my 2021 movie watching with Class Action Park.
  • Creative Dates: I kicked off a large puzzle this week – Ducks of North America. Even though I found my table to be a little bit too small. 
Rancho Gordo Super Lucky 2021 Black Eyed Peas on The Second Lunch

{Good Food}: a solid start to the year – cooking meals rather than just assembling.

Marcus Samuelsson’s Black Eyed Pea Curry. From Food and Wine. This is a recipe that has some notoriety in the Rancho Gordo Bean Club facebook group (of course there’s a group). At the last glance, I’d note that more than 250 people acknowledged cooking this recipe over the New Year (there was a poll). It’s definitely one to keep in your back pocket. Even  if you don’t like black eyed peas, it’s a handy base for a variety of bean swaps. The coconut milk, the berbere, the turmeric – are wonderful.

A Stone and Skillet English Muffin with chicken liver pâté. Almost a match for last week’s superlative Elephantine Parker House Roll breakfast sandwich with Egg and Cheddar.

New Year’s Eve Super Fusion 2: seafood avocado salad, beef tataki, a California roll, tamago sushi. 

My Italian neighbor roasted chestnuts in her fireplace, doused them in rum, and gave me a small bowl of them.

Cheater’s Sicilian Seafood Stew with Swordfish, rao’s, pine nuts, garlic, orange zest, and sherry.

Honey Aleppo pork tenderloin with air-fryer cauliflower and sweet potato, green goddess dip, and spicy mayo.

Cottage cheese with blueberries and maple syrup.

Here’s to a very good YEAR of eating, creativity, and joy in the small things ahead.

xo Sam

The Second Lunch Kitchen Resolutions 2021

julia child in her kitchen

Welcome Back, old friend. I was tempted this year to just re-post last year’s Kitchen Resolutions as a bit of a re-do, but as I mentioned this week in my annual review, 2020 was not many things, but proved to be a good year for eating things out of my kitchen. I was truly surprised that the variety of things that I ate and cooked for myself. There were a lot of simple meals. That said, a lot of this is just copy-paste of years past. I’ll go ahead and make notes about what I’m updating.

One of my favorite lists to come back to each year is my Kitchen Resolutions: my commitment to spending more time doing the things I love: cooking, reading about food, talking about food, and eating…. all of the food.  

I’ve been writing these resolutions for more than a decade, and some of them pop up year after year – affirm doing good things that work – and a handful are new each year. You can take a peek through previous years here:  (2012) (2016) (2017)  (2018) (2019)

Here’s a list of my resolutions, some old, some new!

My weekly meal planning process – it took me more than a decade of meal planning to realize that I don’t love this process because I’m obsessed with food – I mean, I am, but that’s not the point – I love the process because it’s an anchor habit that helps me do everything else in my life. It keeps me fed, energized, and provides me joy and novelty. It helps me connect with friends, culture, and tap into my creativity.

Blogging my weekly Good Things: Good Things also has a dual purpose – I find myself living more fully when I know that I’m accountable to having it written down at the end of the week!

Read (More) Excellent Food Writing. I’m loving Bettina’s work in Vice (and on Twitter). Soleil Ho’s restaurant coverage in SF. Write something as riveting as: The Bucatini Shortage of 2020.

100(0) fruits, nuts, and seed to try – here’s my list; I was surprised to see this as one of my most viewed web pages of 2020. It seems like a lot of folks out there were interested in a challenge.

[New] Intentional Culinary Novelty: I get a lot of joy from the quest for the best (chocolate, sandwich, chestnut spread, bean, etc.) In 2020 I had some fun with my Rancho Gordo Bean Club subscription, a box from Mozzerella Co., treats from Elephantine, and mail-order of individual ingredients such as Xi’an Chile Oil. I’d like to continue this trend! Do you have any favorite mail order items for me to add?

Revise my backup list: (a version of it here) even when I meal plan, some days, I just want comfort food that requires little effort and really only muscle memory. There’s the food I plan, and then the food I eat when I can’t stick to what I’ve planned – and it always helps to have something in between that provides some sense of nutrition: I’m looking at you, microwaved bag of broccoli or cauliflower gnocchi. I’d also like to add a short list of global 10-15 minute meals.

Minimize the amount of stuff on the counter in my kitchen: this seems like a yearly aspiration, but I find myself updating and iterating every time. I really like having quick access to ALL THE THINGS. One of the things I need to tackle this year though is finding extra space for clutter on the countertops, and paring down dishes and Tupperware because if everything is clean there isn’t… actually space for it all put away.

Cooking recipes from cookbooks – in addition to (I think) a weekly Turkish recipe, I’ll make an effort to add at least one cookbook recipe to my weekly meal plans, add a few new cookbooks to my collection, and combine this with some favorite cookbook re-reads. I’m not set on these; they are a starting point:

  • January – Nothing Fancy: Recipes and Recollections of Soul-Satisfying Food by Diana Kennedy
  • February – Cook, Eat, Repeat – Nigella Lawson
  • March – What We Eat When We Eat Alone: Stories and 100 Recipes by Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin
  • April – The Flavor Equation – Nik Sharma
  • May – The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth by Roy Andries de Groot
  • June – The New Portuguese Table: Exciting Flavors from Europe’s Western Coast by David Leite
  • July – My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl
  • August – Saffron in the Souks – John Gregory-Smith
  • September – Chetna’s Healthy Indian: Everyday Meals, Effortlessly Good for You by Chetna Makan
  • October – A Work in Progress: Notes on Food, Cooking and Creativity by René Redzepi
  • November – Olives, Lemons & Za’atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking by Rawia Bishara
  • December – Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater

Collaborative Dinners + Cooking Classes: With Zoom becoming just a normal part of every day life for EVERYONE, and dinner parties currently impossible, I’d like to host three this year. Starting with a small friend Alta Strada meal. I’d also like to take at least (1) online Zoom cooking class – something I’m unlikely to have made myself at home.

Food memoirs and literature: more from my favorite genre, that I’ve not paid nearly enough attention to this year. Next on the docket: The Man Who Ate Too Much by John Birdsall. Everything is Under Control by Phyllis Grant. Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson. Dirt by Bill Buford. Rebel Chef by Dominique Crenn.

Garden 2021: this year I opted for the front garden in pots. I think I’d like to plant FLOWERS in the back garden next year so I have blooms ready to go.

Bucket list restaurants – this one is on pause for some of this year! I dream of a time where we’re all vaccinated and I can travel and eat at some of my dream restaurants around the world. Where I can eat through all the local places with Eater 38 as a guide. For now, I’m set on enjoying some local takeout every so often as a treat.

Other notes: taking a new stab at a Kitchen Projects list, updating my Turkish Meals list, and baking pumpkin chocolate chip cake.

Do you have any kitchen resolutions this year? I’d love to hear about them!