Good Things 2020: Week 20

Some moments, 2020 feels like an endless bizarre loop, other moments I’m jolted out of the dream sequence with something new – good, bad, or otherwise. It’s a weird sensation. Time is doing funny things – the endless March, a non-existent April, somehow we are past the halfway point of May. It’s all a little unsettling, so I’m doubling down on routine with a dash of adventure and hoping for the best.

This week was my birthday. I had some reservations about a birthday during this pandemic, but all in all, I toasted myself to a year of getting older, wiser, and making it through. I shucked some oysters, literally and metaphorically. I took a stab at a list of hopes and dreams for the year – one for each year that I’ve been alive, and somehow made it to about 16 before giving up on list making. I’ll come back to it this week if I get the chance, it seems like a nice way to focus my thoughts.

I’ve been pausing to snap photos of the blooming flowers in the neighborhood at every turn. I rescued a Weigela from destruction in a neighbor’s discard pile. In one of my daily loops, I stop to say hello to the family of geese – each day counting to make sure that the five little ones are still together. Last week on my walk a coyote darted right past me, so I’ve been checking in each day and hoping for the best.

The Garden Commences! One of my generous birthday gifts was an allotment of plants from my mother – with a nod to my brother who generously dropped them off.

We started this week with herbs: the planter got four parsleys, dill, and the first of the basil. In the pots: lemon verbena, lemon balm, swiss chard, kale, rosemary, and mint. In the two long planters, three types of thyme in one, three rosemary plants in the other. I have early girls and sungolds, and variegated nasturtium ready for planting once I find the self watering planters of a certain size this afternoon. A strawberry plant is waiting to be hung up.

More to come in the next few weeks: a trip to Russo’s and Mahoney’s, weeding the back plot, and planting potatoes and other hardy herbs that won’t require much watering back there. A few more flowers: dahlias and others that I’ll be able to snip for blooms as the summer progresses. It’s a good beginning.

While I try not to collect too many material things, I did get myself a few small gifts: a new signed copy of Joe Yonan’s Cool Beans from Celia at Omnivore for inspiration for my Rancho Gordo hauls, and a new painting of the ocean from my friend Judith.

{Good Food} The one consistent thing has been my farm share, home cooked meals, mostly simple. I’ve not had the patience for much elaborate cooking. My dad made me a batch of Flo’s sauce, an onion-relish to eat on hot dogs, or with eggs, or in tuna salad. My brother picked me up a handful of treats at Sevan: stuffed grape leaves, pastirma, and kazandibi (my favorite pudding), as well as the small green Turkish plums that I love with fish.

  • Oysters. I picked up 8 Wellfleet oysters, and set about shucking them at home. It’s been a LONG time since I’ve done my own, and was relieved that it really wasn’t much of an ordeal.
  • Ham and Cheese and Egg Pasta. Too lazy to make myself a carbonara, I made thick cut Canadian bacon, egg, cheese, and arugula with lemon, and tossed in some fresh Valicenti spaghetti.
  • My “bean of the week” was Rancho Gordo black caviar lentils. I cooked them with an onion and two bay leaves. They had a variety of different iterations. First: with tomato, feta, and cucumber. Then they got lovingly tossed into palak paneer with yogurt. Another bowl had pesto and a few soft boiled eggs.
  • Roasted potato with garlic aioli. I’m of the firm belief that there’s nothing wrong with an entire meal being a potato every so often. Potatoes are too far oft maligned, which is disappointing because they are bursting with nutrients, taste good, and there are so many wonderful varietals! On one evening I roasted a filling amount, and ate potato gleefully with garlic aioli and some of my dad’s Flo Sauce. No greenery in site.
  • Lemon Pudding: Sticky Toffee Pudding Co. A notable dessert. It’s a nice lemon sponge with a tart curd. Served with a spoonful of vanilla ice cream. I absolutely adore this brand, and freeze the single serve desserts for emergency cake whenever needed. (The Sticky Toffee and the Molten Chocolate are also perfection.)

I leave you with Bertram in our weekend office, planning the week ahead.

Here’s to a good week.

xo Sam

Good Things 2020: Week 19

If we can clear the air with the Pandemic, all the terrible things going on in this world, and 2020 just being a general dumpster fire – without further ado, I’ll jump back into my regularly scheduled Good Things posts for 2020.

Spring Tulips

Good Things: an acknowledgement of things that are working well, the little things I’ve noticed, moments that I’ve paused to savor. A combination of my weekly wins, gratitude practice, curiosity and observation.

Good Things Week 19:

I’m kicking off the warmer months with a new fitness challenge – the #GVRAT1000k virtual race across Tennessee. It ends up being about 5 miles a day roughly of walking and running, so not too far off from my usual distance, but still an admirable challenge. One of the things I’m going to enjoy is learning more about the state of Tennessee as I go. I have a couple of thematic audio books lined up. For anyone curious about the genesis of this race, it’s put on by these folks. (Recommended watching.) I’ve taken quite a bit of pleasure heading outside and watching spring unfold.

{Good Reading}

This week, I’ve taken to working through finishing half read or listened books on my Kindle/Audible over the past few weeks. I had a good chuckle when I found myself with Radical Focus (Christina Wodtke), Radical Candor (Kim Scott), and Radical Acceptance (Tara Brach) all on the docket.

I’m currently loving Arlan Hamilton’s new book It’s About Damn Time: How to Turn Being Underestimated Into Your Greatest Advantage.

Embracing Re-Reading: Last year, my focus was on both reading and watching new to me books and films, rather than re-reads as a way to inspire, intrigue, and shake up my routine. With the general progression of 2020, I switched to seeking comfort where I knew it would could be found: my evening reading shifted largely to re-reading my favorite stand-bys. (This coping strategy was well honed from seasons of finals periods in high school and college, when I’d switch back to re-reading for comfort.)

In Fiction over the past few weeks, I finished my epic re-listening journey of all the Harry Potter books – the ones read by Stephen Fry (not Jim Dale). I then moved onto a re-listen of Garth Nix’s Sabriel, one of my fantasy favorites. Not everything was old hat: I also read Leigh Bardugo’s The Ninth House, and have commenced Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch.

{Good Eats}

My cooking has been relatively simple – things that require really limited prep time, mostly a minute or two of chopping and then roast in the pan, or that have developed flavor by a long bath in a marinade. In added kitchen excitement, I treated myself to a long-desired Thermapen in my favorite yellow. One of the best tools in your kitchen.

This week in good meals:

  • Chicken thighs with Elotes, tomato salad with lime and cilantro. (pictured above) – cheat’s special with Trader Joe’s Mexican Corn from the freezer section.
  • Herby chicken, ramen, and garlic yogurt sauce. Ive become a fan of Trader Joes savory herb chicken thighs – they have a nice woodsy-mint taste. I served them on fresh ramen from Valicenti pasta company, with a garlic-yogurt sauce.
  • Rancho Gordo Vaquero Beans – my bean pot of the week. I cooked these simply with a few bay leaves and some garlic cloves. Looking forward to my next Bean Club shipment!
  • Greek-style three ways: one of my favorite combinations is the Greek tray bake with potato, tomato, and whatever protein you are using. I did this three separate times. Pork chops with fennel, potatoes, and tomato; a second time as Greek Fish with Tomato, and a third as Chicken with lemon, tomato and potato. There’s not much I like more than a good tray bake and these flavor combinations.
  • Lamb chops roasted over potato. My fennel and cumin seeds have been doing overtime this week. I ate the dinner with a trio of sauces: garlic aioli, shaved truffle mustard, and seafood cocktail sauce (because I’m classy.)
  • Cuban pork tenderloin with lime and grapefruit marinade over cauliflower chimichurri rice. The marinade is perfection: olive oil, lime, grapefruit and white vinegar with garlic. I’m not strict about the proportions, but the original recipe is one for Chuletas de Puerco from the Versailles Cookbook that my mom uses quite frequently. It’s just so good.
  • Banana Curry Fish over rice with lime. Another comfort food that reminds me of my mom’s kitchen. It’s a super simple combo of butter, bananas, and curry powder.

Odds and Ends:

  • Morning Coffee. Black. On my little second floor porch. (See above. Big mug thanks to the folks at SurveyMonkey.)
  • A large bowl of broccoli, beans and pesto. Looked virtuous, tasted delicious. When summer comes along I tend to make my own pesto, but until the plants are copious, I buy Bear Pond Farm from Whole Foods.
  • Naan with really good hummus, soft boiled egg, and tomato. Or a second iteration with hummus and the above pesto.
  • A bowl of soaked oats with milk and seville orange jam. I needed to finish up the last few spoons of jam, and this seemed like a worthy pairing. (It was.)
  • Really good popcorn. It’s absurdly easy to make good popcorn at home. I usually don’t even bother to stove-top – I just microwave a few spoonfuls dry in a large pyrex with a heavy plate on top.

With this, I conclude this week’s Good Things. Let me know what you’ve been up to – I’ll be back for more. Of course before we part ways: I’d be remiss to send you off without your weekly Bertram. This little buddy turned FIVE last month. He’s the happiest dude. <3 Here’s to a good week.

2020 Q1 Reading Ideas

Sam Tackeff 2018 Personal Development Reading

Coming off of a great year of reading (who would have guessed, 2019?), I’ve been keeping up the momentum with a list of books to start with in 2020. 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. I typically make a list, request books from the library a few at a time, and then will supplement or swap as I find reading that calls out to me. 

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! Last year 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!

The library is your friend. Grabbing things off the Speed Read Shelf is my jam. I aim for one a week. Not two, because I can never finish two in 7 days and will get fined. (Plus, if I have a list, I can reserve things in advance.) 
Still working my way through my list of Personal Leadership Development Books, and the BBC Big Read. 

Here are some of my next reads (vaguely categorized):

YA fiction

  • VE Schwab – Villains Series
  • Tomi Adeyemi – Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha) 
  • S.A. Chakraborty – The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy) 

Leadership / Business:

  • Marshall Goldsmith – What you got there won’t get you here 
  • Dr. Spencer Johnson – Who Moved my Cheese?
  • Danny Meyer – Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business
  • Tom DeMarco – Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams
  • Bill Aulet – Disciplined Entrepreneurship

Mindfulness / Brains:

  • Dr. Oliver Sacks – Musicophilia 
  • Nicholas Cook – Music, A Short Introduction
  • B.J. Fogg – Tiny Habits
  • Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk – The Body Keeps the Score
  • Jenny Odell – How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy
  • Louise Aronson – Elderhood
  • Bill Bryson – The Body, A Guide for Occupants

Audio Books:

  • Ann Patchett – The Dutch House
  • Dr. Jen Gunter – The Vagina Bible
  • Kate Moore – The Radium Girls
  • Casey Cep – Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee

BBC Big Read (1-100, 101-200)

  • Joseph Heller – Catch 22
  • Sebastian Faulks – Birdsong
  • Louisa May Alcott – Little Women

Memoirs / Non-fiction Reporting 

  • Patrick Radden Keefe – Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland
  • Bill Browder – Red Notice
  • American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind

Books Started But Unfinished 

  • Atul Gawande – Being Mortal
  • H is for Hawk
  • Yuval Harari – Sapiens 
  • Philip Pullman – The Secret Commonwealth (done!)

Others to get to if I get to them: 

  • Joe Biden – Promise Me Dad
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates – The Water Dancer
  • Rebecca Solnit – A Field Guide to Getting Lost
  • Sally Rooney – Normal People 
  • Alex Michaelides – The Silent Patient

Anything great on your reading list? Do you keep a list?

Good Things 2019: Week 52

With our year coming to a close, one of my favorite cozy winter activities is to snuggle up with a mug of coffee spiked with eggnog, my 2019 calendar, and my phone’s photo album, and sit and review the year coming to an end. I work to make a list of the things that were meaningful, and then do a deeper dive of the things that I’d like to improve. Without posting the entire novel, here’s a little bit about how I went about doing this: 

I start out with general buckets to note things in:

  • My year in fitness: any races run, programs taken, favorite classes, PRs.
  • Favorite movies, tv, and books. 
  • Favorite podcasts (Dolly Parton’s America!) 
  • Review my reading list: how diverse was the range of authors and thinking? 
  • Favorite Eats: restaurants, recipes, and purchases (I’m looking at you bucket of Maldon and Rancho Gordo Bean Club) 
  • Review of Travel: in 2019 relived highlights from Disney in March (that JIKO tasting and Safari! Dole Whip!) Turkey in June, Stratton in July, Houston in September and New York in October. 
  • Creative Dates: my weekly journey into culture – museums, plays, and more. 
  • What I learned (courses, projects, etc.) 
  • Fun Random Things
  • New Things Tried
  • What didn’t work so well, and low points
  • People I met / re-connected with / spent time with

This year, I had two fun “consumption” goals – rewarding myself for relaxation that I got quite a bit of satisfaction out of. I set my Goodreads 52 books goal, (surpassed!) and 52 new to me movies. (This year I’m also planning on tracking my TV watching – it seems to improve my overall quality of choice when I write down what I consumer. I also plan on tracking my music listening with a focus on albums.)  

Because this is theoretically a food blog, here were some of the highlights of my year in food, done middle school yearbook style:

A deeper dive into food superlatives of 2019: 

  • Favorite Takeout: Shan-a-punjab butter chicken, Cava, Wegman’s California Rolls
  • Best Cookbook: Alison Roman’s Dining In (my cookbook of the year) 
  • Best Soup: Samin’s Ribolitta from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
  • Most Liked IG Post: Lobster avocado salad
  • Best Salt Craving Fixes: IKEA Kalles Tube, Whole Food Cheese Crisps
  • Best Recipes: Chrissy Teigen’s Cacio e Pepe, Anita Lo’s Red Cooked Duck
  • Best Turkish-ish: deconstructed cauliflower gnocchi Manti
  • Best Condiments: Patak’s Tikka Masala paste, Branston Pickle
  • Best Food Purchases: 3lb Bucket of MaldonRancho Gordo Bean Club!
  • Best Throwback Recipes: Chicken Marbella, Fettuccini with Spring Veg.
  • Best Porch Snacks: pesto mozzarella toasts, cherries and wine; Whole Foods Cheese Crisps
  • Best Family Meal: 4th of July Ceviche
  • Favorite Ben and Jerry’s: Pucker Upper; Justice Remixed
  • Best Fast Food Item: McDonald’s Stroopwaffel McFlurry
  • Favorite New Trader Joe’s: Kunefe, Peppermint Hold the Cones; Cinnamon Rugelach, Aqua Kefir, Italian Bomba Fermented Pepper Paste
  • Best Apple: Topaz
  • Favorite Method: marinating in mayo (thanks, Kenji!
  • Best Evening Snacks:
    • Whole Foods Chopped Mango
    • Cottage cheese with olive oil, salt and pepper.

As for this week’s Good Things: 

I’ve been wrapping up the last week of the year with reading, cooking, work (yes, we have some incredible things in store for us at Ompractice), at least three miles a day outside for my Race Menu Winter Warrior challenge, and more.

{Meals of Note:}

Chinese Tomato Eggs: soft scrambled eggs with shaoxing wine and sesame oil; with some smoked salmon. I wanted Chinese/Jewish/Turkish comfort food and this is what I came up with.

Pulled Pork with Arugula Salad: with cucumbers, lime juice, and a side of nectarines. I was going to have some baked beans with this, but I forgot.

Vietnamese Ginger Chicken Thighs: a great recipe from Melissa Clark’s Dinner: Changing the Game, over arugula salad with cucumber (sense a trend?) A good reminder that marinating meats overnight is always a good idea! Looked like this:

Refried beans with Chicken: a forgotten staple. This is one of my favorite comfort foods. (All it could have used were some HEB tortillas… but I’m due for another trip to Texas since I’ve eaten my freezer stash.

Pork Tenderloin with Peperonata: (top photo) arugula salad with cucumber. I love Peperonata – stewed peppers, onions, and tomato, with a nice hit of red wine vinegar at the end of cooking. It’s versatile and can be made days in advance and only gets better.

Turkey and Cranberry Bean Fagiole with Kale: defrosted a batch from my freezer, and ate for several lunches in a row.

I’ll be finishing up the last day of the year closing out loose ends, but I’m ready and excited for 2020! Thanks for sticking around here, I appreciate you all!

Here’s to a great new year!

The Second Lunch Kitchen Resolutions 2020

julia child in her kitchen

One of the key insights of the past decade: if I write it down on a list, I’m more likely to do it.

Lists enable me to dream and achieve in ways that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to. They are the structure that enables me to envision more and do more. I keep master lists, reading lists, home projects, work lists, and more. Some are written as a way to to plan, others as a way to acknowledge achievements – one of the highlights this year was my “movie consumption list” – my goal to watch 52 new to me movies! (I even have lists of lists.) 

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

First, here are some of my previous resolutions I’d like to continue with: 

My weekly meal planning process – this has gone through different iterations over the years – waffling back and forth between digital and paper, depending on mood. Currently it’s a revised template that ends up either in my Evernote or paper journal (which I then snap a photo of before heading to the grocery store.) Each week I sit down and assess the things in the fridge or freezer that need to be used up, plan out things to batch cook, and dream up my dinners, lunches, and snacks. Then I shop.

Bucket list restaurants – I can count the number of times I ate out on my two hands in the past year. While I’m all for home cooking, I’d like to continue to eat my way through some of the local gems we have in this area. (To that end, I use the Eater 38 as a guide.) 

100(0) fruits, nuts, and seed to tryhere’s my list; quite a few of these I’ve definitely eaten (but can’t actually remember eating…. hello aging) so I’ve left them on my master list to actually re-try for the record. A good friend is on a quest to fall in love and try new vegetables, so I might rope her in to some of them and see how we do. 

Minimize the amount of stuff on the counter in my kitchen  – I generally like access to “all the things” in my kitchen. That doesn’t mean that they have to all be on the counters everywhere. This year I added a handful of new pots and pans without getting rid of other stuff, and it’s clear that I need a better storage solution for everything. (I did however add spice racks to my kitchen, which was a good move!) 

Cooking recipes from cookbooks – while I’ve never been one to actually cook recipes from cookbooks regularly (I usually read, learn, and adapt), Alison Roman’s Dining In: Highly Cookable Recipes had SUCH great recipes that I cooked many of them this year, and will concede that sometimes it’s fun to let someone trusted “take the wheel”. I’ll make an effort to add at least one cookbook recipe to my weekly meal plans, and combine this with some favorite cookbook re-reads:

What other resolutions are on the docket for 2020? 

Blogging my weekly Good Things: yup, back on the wagon. I’ll note that one of the biggest differences between writing each week and not writing each week (hello, crazy back half of 2019!), was that without the suggestion of public accountability, my meals got much more boring, and not in a good way

Cookbook Dinners: over the past few years I’ve made some half-hearted attempts to form a cookbook club, but I think I’ll take it up again this year, even if it’s only me doing the cooking. The last one I did was Zahav, and it was a good time for all. (Despite the recipes needing more seasoning, but I digress.) My goal here will be a minimal and doable 3 times this year

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. A bowl of rice with yogurt, a box of Annie’s macaroni and cheese, or gasp – TJ’s chicken nuggets. I’m going to peruse Dinner: A Love Story, because I seem to recall that she has good inspiration here.

Food memoirs and literature: while I made it through more than 52 books in 2020, there was NARY a food memoir or food history, and boy do I need to change that. It’s one of my favorite genres.  To do this week: add a handful of these to my January reading list to get off on a good start.

Garden 2020: this year I made the effort to grow more in my pots and had ample fresh herbs. I also weeded and tended to the back plot – and grew some medium-happy potatoes (I’ll probably go for bigger ones next year), an outsized rosemary, lavender, and more. 

Other notes: taking a new stab at a Kitchen Projects list, having people over for casual meals more often, cooking with my Turkish spices more often, making a batch of ice cream every so often, baking pumpkin chocolate chip cake.

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