Now that you’re hopefully gorging yourselves on Kringle, here’s another holiday treat worth going out on a hunt for – Panforte. I noticed that there were a stack of these when I stopped by Formaggio Kitchen this morning, but these are photos are from the one I ate last year (before I learned how to focus my lens, apparently,) and I’ll be picking up a new one in the next few days. The Panforte is similar to a fruitcake – a dense round of candied fruit and nuts that is heavily aromatic with warming spices.

I have a history of hiding food that is just too good to share – my mom and I famously rationed a jar of crunchy Biscoff spread  for months by hiding it in the lid of our couscoussière and eating it by the single spoonful – and this is one of those foods that you consider hoarding to yourself and not sharing with anyone. It’s worth sharing however, because even selfishly, you’ll make friends with this treat.

The Panforte di Siena from Formaggio comes with it’s own little powdered sugar packet. If you can’t find a round of this, you can make your own: I’ve had this recipe from David Lebovitz bookmarked for the past two years.

I’d say that this is too rich to eat more than a little slice at a time, but I’d be lying – it’s rich, certainly, but left to my own devices I could polish this thing off over the course of a long afternoon.

Other similar seasonal treats I’d like to try making:

Melissa Clark’s Moist and Boozy Fruit Cake

Laurie Colwin’s West Indian Black Cake

Do you have any favorite holiday spiced cakes?

So long, Sportello Mornings.

Tomorrow is a no good, very bad day: my absolute favorite morning ritual is coming to an end. Sportello, my “third space”, is no longer going to serve coffee and breakfast. They are ceasing morning operations, and  frankly, I don’t know what to do with myself. I’ve been going to Sportello several days a week for more than a year, and I’m just not ready for this break up.

Sportello Counter

This past week I’ve been going through many stages of grief. First there was surprise – I assumed the renovations were just a tidy up – a refresh. And then horror. Then anger. Then self-blame. Now a little bit of self pity. But mostly, I have no idea what I’m going to do with my mornings. Do I bring my coffee to work? Find a new morning space? After tomorrow I have no idea where I’m going to find the calm white counter, barstool with my back to the window, facing the door so I could see people come in. No morning conversations to eavesdrop. And I had such a thing going – I was a regular. You don’t just become a regular – you have to earn it. Build it up slowly over time. It’s a special, warm, fuzzy feeling being a regular.

I’m going to miss the Friday bagels, with the perfect ratio of seeds and salt. Toasted, just lightly – really just warmed. I’m going to miss the Fazenda roast, that perfect coffee needing no cream or sugar. And ice coffee with two straws.

I’m going to miss the ethereal, buttery maple biscuit. I remember my first biscuit – it was on on a Friday, before I realized that I could reserve a bagel, on a busy morning when they had run out. I picked it up reluctantly – despite my love of bagels, I don’t really eat very much of these flour-laden things. And so that biscuit. I took it out the bag as I walked over the bridge, and I had to stop walking because I was having a biscuit epiphany and literally could not keep on going. This was one of the best things I had ever put in my mouth. I may in fact miss this biscuit more than any thing else.

I’m going to miss the hard boiled eggs (three) that I’d pick up for breakfast, and eat slowly throughout the morning.

I’m going to miss turning down the Thursday donuts. And the doughssant craze. And the cinnamon buns (which I never actually ended up trying!).

I’m going to miss Joanne (another regular). She’s the artist. She even painted one of the cows!

I’m going to miss the coffee refills.

I’m going to miss the regulars from the office across the street who’d put up a sign in the window announcing how many bagels they’d like to reserve on Friday.

I’m going to miss that guy with the really impressive Lincoln beard. Yeah, seriously great facial hair.

I’m going to miss those mini quiches that they stopped making earlier in the year. I already missed them for months, and was hoping that they’d return soon.

I’m going to miss the drinks that I rarely got – those stupendous ones with things like ganache in them. I didn’t even know you could put ganache in coffee.

I’m going to miss the croissant yesterday which I ate because there were no maple biscuits left and I thought that I might as well try it given that I’m not going to ever get to eat it again. Dear lord was it a delicious croissant.

I’m going to miss Kaylee, Megan, and Amanda – who saw me most of the time before my morning caffeine (yikes!) and made me feel at home.

Salmon Bagel and Coffee

Sportello Pastries

Sportello Donut Day

Quiche and Coffee


Maple Biscuit Sportello

Iced Coffee


Bagels and Coffee

Bagels on the tray

Goodbye Sportello mornings, you will be missed.

Hey Hey It’s Meat Club Day!

The last Tuesday of the month is the day I pick up my meat club allotment at the best butcher shop in town – M.F. Dulock, in SomervilleFor $50, I left with a nice sized package of spicy beef sausage, stew meat, stir fry meat, goat chops and pork jowl – enough to last me several weeks. The meat is pasture raised, broken down by the people handing it to me. It makes me a really happy camper.

I wish I had more exciting stories to tell you, but here’s what’s plaguing me today: I have $11.30 in library fines. I swear I’m not a jerk – it was an accident involving eight items that were overdue for three days. And two of those were DVD’s. And apparently, when you have an excess of $5 in fines, they shut off your ability to download digital items, until you head into the library and pay up. And they also disable your ability to the pay the fines online. This makes me grumbly. Let me give you my money! I might even donate a little extra every time I had to pay a fine if I could do it from the comfort of my own home.

Okay, but what does this mean for me exactly?

It means that I can’t download the audio book that I’ve been queuing patiently for for two months.

Let me pay you money, library, and let me download my Wallander audiobook!

Which reminds me. I probably should get around to trying Does anyone use it? Is it worth it? Inquiring minds want to know. I’ve been trying to stick to this free audiobook from the libary thing, but apparently it raises my general stress level to “unacceptable neuroses”.

Okay, that’s enough complaining. I suppose I should mention something about my almost favorite part of the day – dinner! (Second only to Second Lunch.)

My first order of business was to fry up a merguez burger that I was planning on eating on some wilted greens with lemon. After frying the first side for a few minutes, I got a call from Devon letting me know that he needed to be picked up, so I turned off the heat, flipped the burger, and popped the lid on, hoping for the best. When I returned less than 20 minutes later, the burger was browned nicely on both sides, and cooked perfectly through. A meaty-miracle!

I’ll admit though, that somehow in the 20 minutes I forgot all about the wilted greens. By the time we got home I was starving, so the burger became my appetizer. Devon came back hungry, so I decided to put the “red hot beef” sausage from meat club in the pan – which halfway through cooking I determined was too spicy for him (it was so spicy that I nearly was choking on the smoke – just the way I like it). So he got refried beans and eggs cooked in spicy sausage drippings, and I ate a piece of sausage, and no vegetables, and just decided that I’d be okay with it, because sometimes all you want is a piece of meaty goodness, and nothing else. Sometimes, being an adult is *the best*.

Fresh flowers, Sarah Jenks, and the weekly meal plan.

When was the last time you got yourself a bouquet of flowers? I’m ashamed to say it had been far too long since I’d done so – and flowers really do make me smile every time I walk by them. I picked up this gorgeous bouquet of dahlias last Sunday at Russo’s in Watertown, and they’ve lasted me all week long.

This week, I’ve been following the prompts for Sarah Jenks‘ ‘Live More, Weigh Less Challenge‘. As a health coach, I’m particularly fond of following the work of others in the health and wellness space, and Sarah does some really great work changing women’s lives. One of the reasons I went to nutrition school was purely for self-education, and I’ve learned so much not just from my teachers, but from my peers. Nearly a decade into my journey to good health, I feel like there is still so much to learn about myself, so participating in challenges like this is my version of continuing education.

The challenges this week have been utterly joyful, and there’s something very satisfying knowing that you are participating in self-care with a large group of people who are committed to doing the same. We’ve been instructed to buy ourselves flowers, make a luscious green smoothie, hike, and watch the sunset. All of which, I’ve documented on my Instagram if you’d like a peek: @alphaprep – I’d love to connect there. Now, these are all things that I know I should be doing, but sometimes I need a little prompting to put myself first and get out there. Maybe you do too? If so, I’m fairly sure you can jump into the challenge at any time. (And lest this sounds like too much of a shill, I’m not affiliated with Sarah in any way, other than I think she’s great!)

This week I sat down at a new (to me) coffee shop called Fuel to get my meal planning on. I ordered a Cortado (espresso with milk), and a large iced coffee, and got to writing.

Before leaving my house, I took a quick snapshot of the contents of my fridge and freezer to avoid letting produce go to waste, and used leftovers as the basis for this week’s list.

Week of September 9th. 

Sunday :: Cast-iron flounder, a mess of kale, and a few potato latkes. Sunday is always fish night around here, and local flounder was on sale. The monkfish also looked delicious, but I haven’t had flounder for a while, and although it’s a mild fish, I always quite enjoy it. The potato latkes – not homemade, but a treat from Trader Joe’s.

Monday :: Cheddar dogs, baked beans, and greens. Cheddar dogs. Yes, not quite health food, but my love loves them, and nostalgia wins out on occasion.

Tuesday :: Taco salad, with cabbage slaw. Typically this is some sort of protein with all the fixins’ of a regular taco. Since I’m craving seafood, we might have fish taco salad. Unless I don’t get to the store, in which case, some sort of ground meat in the freezer from my butcher will win out. We’ll see.

Wednesday :: Vietnamese braised beef brisket. Last week I got a copy of Luke Nguyen’s new cookbook ‘Greater Mekong‘ in the mail, and I’ve been longing for Vietnam – the country is on my top five culinary travel destinations. This recipe is actually out of one of Luke’s older cookbooks, ‘Indochine‘.

Thursday :: Orange pork tenderloin. Or maybe spice-rubbed pork tenderloin. Or pork tenderloin medallions in red curry. Or something else. I have the tenderloin, hopefully the inspiration will come.

Friday and Saturday, I’ll be eating my meals out of a van while I compete in the New Balance Reach The Beach Relay. I’ll be running three legs (about 14 miles, total), of 200 miles with 11 of my coworkers at RunKeeper, and I’m expecting that I’ll have to push myself in ways I’m not prepared for. I’m still trying to figure out how to feed myself on this trip. We’ll see.

And you? What are you eating this week? Also, will you get yourself a bouquet of flowers please, and let me know that you’ve done so? It’ll make me smile!

–– Sam 

End of Season Barbecue at Formaggio Kitchen

Today we headed over to Formaggio Kitchen for the last of their weekly seasonal barbecue. We’ve braved the lines a half dozen times this summer to partake in this wonderful tradition. It would have been more, but usually I’m too ashamed about how many times I’ve been there during the week to show up again on a Saturday. I drink a lot of coffee at Formaggio.

We’ve devoured their sausage, beef brisket, lamb brisket, hot dogs, tongue tacos, Turkish lahmacun (“llama-june” – think: very, very thin pizza topped with ground meat), cornbread, grilled corn, jicama coleslaw, smoky-sweet-meaty baked beans, potato salad, grilled peaches, and their grilled chicken. It’s always a treat.

We arrived late this afternoon, around 1:45, and queued up before I even had a chance to go in and grab my favorite coffee. I didn’t want to risk it.

It was chilly, but the smell of barbecue kept us distracted. We stood behind two men wearing leather jackets and babies in papooses. A small child behind us was getting enthusiastically licked by two patient dogs. I love the line for people watching here almost as much as I love the barbecue. Everyone is always smiling with anticipation, and you get a real motley crew. We were once invited to a house in the Virgin Islands by a complete stranger while waiting in the line – you never know who you are going to meet.

When we got to the front, Devon got a few hot dogs, and I will have you know that I managed to score the very last serving of barbecue beef brisket. That’s right, the crispy, bottom of the pot, the “Sorry, that’s all folks!” serving, the ultimate, pinnacle of meat. A moment later and we would have been out of luck, and I would have likely been sobbing on the sidewalk.

For a single split second I felt bad for the folks standing in line behind me. Yes, just one tiny fraction of a second. And then I sat there, selfishly and un-apologetically, eating it slowly, savoring every last bite of the falling apart tender, profoundly meaty, infused with the memories of the season serving of barbecue brisket. I assure you, it was the best barbecue of the summer.

Plus, I got to spend the afternoon with this guy. I lent him my favorite cable knit, and he looked particularly handsome in it. I might have to just let him keep it.

So long, barbecue, we’ll be anxiously waiting your return in Spring.

A Trip to Volante Farms

Quiet mornings. I love them.

After downing my cup of coffee, I headed over to CRCF for a morning workout. I hadn’t been in for almost a week because of my race on Monday, and was excited to do some lifting. Less excited for the jump roping. I still feel like an uncoordinated five year old when you hand me that particular torture device.

Wednesday WOD 10/10/12

A.  Power Clean – 10 minutes to a heavy set of 2 (I worked up to 75#)
Rest 5 min.
B. Press – 10 minutes to a heavy set of 3 (I worked up to 65#)
Rest 5 min.

WOD (Workout of the Day):  “Forrest Gump”
10 min. running clock
Complete 100 Double Unders then with remaining time:
Ladder up of:
Deadlift 225/155 (I used 125#)
Deficit Push-up (25lb Plates) (I did strict pushups)
*Start with 1 of each, then 2, then, 3, etc.

Result: After spending 4 minutes to get to a whopping 32 double-under attempts, Coach Steve kindly let me continue the rest as single-unders to 150 jumps. I then managed four rounds of the ladder + 2 lifts.

After the workout, I spent a few minutes practicing our challenge skill of the week: pull-ups. After months of subbing jump-ups in workouts, I’m ready to master a new skill. I have the next week to get the longest unbroken set of pull-ups I can, using my scale-sanctioned light green band. So far? 3. Gotta work on that technique!

Finally, I headed over to Starbucks for my post-gym reward of iced tea and dried mango. I love these Peeled Snacks unsweetened organic dried mango packs!

After drinking my body weight in tea, I headed over to Volante Farms to pick up some of my produce for the week. Volante Farms is a great family farm in Needham, and their farm stand is full of beautiful produce, much of which they grow on location or source from local farms. They also have a deli, ice cream, and dried goods, as well as greenhouses with plants galore. I’m never there with my camera because I’m usually picking stuff up right out of the gym, but now that I have this new fancy-pants iPhone, I thought I’d put it to good use.

Here are some scenes from the farm:


I ended up coming home with spaghetti squash, ambercup squash, a cauliflower, a romanesco, parsnips, three different varietals of apples, and some Komatsuna, a leafy green similar to bok choy.

For lunch, I decided to make a stir fry of the Komatsuna with leftover ground turkey, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, coconut aminos and sesame oil.

In the afternoon, I roasted a delicata squash. It was going to be for dinner, but I ate the entire thing while getting some work done on my computer.

For dinner, I braised lamb shanks from M.F. Dulock with tomato, eggplant and anchovies. Devon got his off the bone over some spaghetti with parmesan, and I got both shanks, extra eggplant, and a garnish of parsley. This meal was a keeper! I’ll be posting the recipe soon. {Edit: recipe here!}