Good Things 2019: Week 8

the second lunch weekend brunch

This weekend I found myself slightly under the weather – likely a factor of working out in a group fitness environment several days a week… and having a co-founder who has a toddler! On the plus side though, my immune system is as fortified as ever, and illnesses these days are really only days of feeling a little under the weather, rather than anything more sinister. After a generally chronically ill childhood and teenage years, I don’t take this for granted!

{Good Things} 

I found myself resting more this week – after a couple of full months, this week had packed days of hard work on Ompractice, coupled with more intentional downtime. More reading, a little bit more time in front of the television, and delivery instead of a night out. As I get older, I continue to double down on my self care practices to make sure that I have the energy to do the work I want to do in the world. It’s *so important*.

While keeping the relaxation intentional, I still fit in daily workouts, a combination of some higher impact fitness classes, relaxing yoga classes, and my daily mile streak. 

Fitness, this week: 

  • Monday: a mile outside. 
  • Tuesday: OrangeTheory
  • Wednesday: OrangeTheory and Foundations with Traci at 7:30 on Ompractice (60 minutes) 
  • Thursday: Yoga for Tight Shoulders and Neck at 12:30 ET with Niki on Ompractice (amazing!) and another OrangeTheory! 
  • Friday: a “rest day mile”
  • Saturday: OrangeTheory – I’ve been going to the 9:15 am class, and it feels good to get it done!
  • Sunday: “recovery mile” outdoors.

Out of the house

the second lunch cambridge naturals the coconut cult

A quick trip to Boston Landing – for a pit stop at the new location of Cambridge Naturals, and a cup of coffee at Kohi. In addition to a FULL STOCK of pretty much every natural food product I’m ever on the hunt for, I was delighted to see the wildly overpriced but delicious Coconut Cult yogurts at Cambridge Naturals. I resisted ($27.99 will do that to you – hello two dollar coastal mark-up), and instead filed away the note to self, and grabbed myself a Topo Chico for the road. At Kohi I picked up a Cortado (They have Tandem Coffee!) About two dozen banana breads were coming out of the oven just as I arrived, and the place smelled like heaven.

the second lunch kohi cortado boston landing and topo chico

A Target trip – notable because I had a definitive shopping list and left without making ANY extraneous purchases. Can you believe it? (I could barely believe it myself.)

This post on building Willpower: we’ve been blogging some longform articles on Ompractice this month! Chris did the heavy lifting on this one, but it was a collaborative effort! 10 concrete tips on how to build and strengthen your willpower.

A manicure – after months going without, I finally have been working on making my hands presentable again. I took myself to a Miniluxe treat on Friday night, getting my favorite “Rodeo” color. (Side note: I always thought it was Rodeo – like the cowboys… until I realized one day that it’s supposed to be the classy Ro-de-o drive. I choose to be cowboy classy.)  My first trip back since having to pause my $65/month unlimited mani membership because I couldn’t make the time for trips. Locals, this is a *steal*.

the second lunch miniluxe rodeo manicure

Watching: On the plus side, more downtime means more progress towards my 52 new to me movies this year. (Preferably without a cell phone in hand.) In preparation for the newest theater release, I caught up with How to Train Your Dragon 1 & 2. Both very cute! 

On television: I finally succumbed to Russian Doll on Netflix. (I’ll join the chorus: it’s SO GOOD!)  And a few minute into the Oscars, I decided to actually turn it on and watch – despite having avoided it for many years. Aside from the rotten best picture vote, I was happy to see some of my favorites win awards – including Olivia Colman for her role as queen Anne in The Favourite, Into the Spider-verse, and Ruth Carter for the costumes in Black Panther, and Hannah Beachler for the Production Design in Black Panther. I’m so excited for Bao – I haven’t watched it yet, but it’s at the top of my queue!

davis museum tour lavinia fontana

Creative Date: 

On Saturday, I went for a museum tour at the Davis Museum at Wellesley – actually the home of my first museum internship (I worked in Development), and where I spent four years on the Davis Museum Student Advisory Committee. I hadn’t been back for years, and was thoroughly thrilled at the updates. For anyone local to the Boston area, the museum is truly a gem. One of the missions of the director of the Davis is to update the museum to better represent the diversity of the student body – and this is clearly seen in both acquisitions and the exhibitions on view.  
We went on a tour of women artists, and I spent another hour wandering through the galleries.

There’s a phenomenal new exhibit – Art_Latin_America, including a wide selection of protest and propaganda art, that I highly recommend visiting! 
Here’s a peek at some of the art: 

Next museums on my list? Thanks to some great Twitter suggestions this week, here are some next ones for my list. I’ve been to many of these, but most it’s been over a decade! Who wants to join me?

A few suggestions that I’ve been to recently: the Whaling Museum in New Bedford (I went this summer!), and the Seacoast Science Center in Rye., NH. I’m also trying to work my way through some of the Historic Houses and Trustees Properties. And many thanks to all of you who chimed in. You know who you are!

Three other smart suggestions I’m bookmarking: getting a museum membership high enough to provide reciprocal membership at other museums (it’s.. possible I have that already.) This resource to look up participating museums: NARM – the North American Reciprocal Museum Association. And the Highland Street Foundation which sponsors free museum Fridays in the summer.

{Good Eating} I found myself eating a lot of leftovers this week.

the second lunch algerian jewish beef onion coriander stew clifford wright real stews

Algerian Jewish Beef, Onion, and Coriander Stew. From Clifford Wright’s Real Stew – a cookbook I’d highly recommend. This was INCREDIBLE. Here’s the recipe: I used ground beef instead of stew meat, and canned diced tomatoes, but everything else stayed the same!

Chocolate “Dessert” Hummus. Okay… don’t hate me. I bought two different kinds – Joseph’s and Boar’s Head, and they are both great, and I’ve been eating them after dinner, with a bunch of collagen hydrolysate stirred in as a end of the day protein boost.

the second lunch david lebovitz chicken lady chicken

Chicken Lady Chicken from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. I marinated this gorgeous bird for three days in the wildly flavorful marinade, and then roasted it in the oven. The recipe calls for spatchcocking, but I wanted to cook it in my Breville toaster, so upright she went. Recipe here. Giving into a meme, I served it with generously buttered noodles with parsley. Meme – worth reading the tweets: https://www.eater.com/2019/2/11/18220148/generously-buttered-parsleyed-noodles-meme

the second lunch generously buttered noodles and chicken lady chicken

Hodo Sesame Yuba Strips and a soft cooked egg. I was surprised to see West Coast tofu maker Hodo in my local Whole Foods, and couldn’t resist. These were nutty and good.

the second lunch barbecue pulled chicken and turkish beans over kale

Barbecue pulled chicken and Turkish beans over a bed of kale. A bit of a cultural mashup, this made for a satisfying dinner. 

the second lunch turkish manti trader joes cauliflower gnocchi

Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi deconstructed Turkish Mantı with ground beef, yogurt garlic sauce, and urfa pepper chile butter drizzle. This was a genius move on my part – hitting all my favorite flavors of one of my favorite dishes, but with my favorite TJ’s vegetal freezer item: the cauliflower gnocchi. 12/10 will make again.

the second lunch shan a punjab butter chicken takeout

Shan-a-Punjab Takeout butter chicken, raita, garlic naan, and potato naan. A masala chai, and kheer for dessert. (I have to restrain myself from ordering this three times a week.)

the second lunch soba stir fry with kimchi

A somewhat disappointing stir fry with soba, tofu, and tahini.  (What I should have done was made the Otsu recipe from 101 cookbooks…alas.

Brunch: lucky 7 grain toast with Bavarian Rubius cheese, applegate maple chicken sausage, and some soft eggs.  (At the top of the post.)

A bowl of mac and cheese. I don’t think I actually managed to take a picture of it, because I was hungry, tired, and under the weather. I stirred in a spoonful of Trader Joe’s Garlic Spread-Dip (which is basically Aioli), because, why the heck not? 

Here’s to a good week!
xo Sam

Good Things 2019: Week 7

It’s feeling just slightly like spring! Well, maybe not, it’s snowing here, but I can fantasize. This week, I’ve been thankful for consistency, good food, good company, and getting back into the swing of things here. And thank you to the two people who actually texted me to say you’ve been reading my blog!

the second lunch bertram loves sleeping

{Good Things} 

CPR + First Aid: I did the first step re-upping my first aid and CPR certification (required for my RRCA run coaching cert, and my ACSM personal trainer certification.) You can now take part of the class online as long as you do the in-person training to actually get a little hands on time. I passed the online modules, but unfortunately my in-person was rescheduled because of the snow storm, so I still have to take it!

After having to re-schedule an in-person coffee date, I had a great zoom call with my friend Sonya, who closed her (successful!) photography business to embrace her calling, and pursue coaching for creatives full time. It’s always great seeing people step into their zone of genius.  

the second lunch VVM Hub Springfield coworking space

The plants in our Springfield Office (VVM Hub) I’m delighted each week to drive out and work in this beautiful space!

Worked on some speaking applications! This year, as I build Ompractice to serve thousands of people through yoga and meditation, I’m also looking to speak more about the things that I love helping people with: wellness, productivity, business, and women’s empowerment.

the second lunch sam run streak snow day

Fitness, this week: I’m starting to feel back to my old self. This week I got in a series of excellent workouts, while maintaining my run streak – including in an accidental flurry. On days I head to OrangeTheory, I try to start on the weights, and then I simply do my mile when I hit the treadmill before joining everyone else with the pre-planned tread workout. 

the second lunch bertram dog nanny cam

Bertram and I are practicing alone time. Because I’ve worked from home over the past three years that I’ve had Bertram, we’ve not been diligent about practicing alone time beyond my daily runs and the occasional grocery shop. I’ve been practicing progressive alone time, including when I’m at OrangeTheory and still feel the need to check in with him on the nanny cam. Here he is quietly howling like a baby husky. We just have to keep working at it. 

Watching: I’ve been chipping away at my goal of 52 new to me movies this year. (Preferably without a cell phone in hand.)

  • This week I watched a documentary – Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski. Had no idea where it was going to go when I sat down to watch it. Clearly, neither did the director and producers. Pretty wild. CW: nazis.
  • The Incredibles 2 – great! 
  • Flavorful Origins – a Chinese cooking series of the flavors of Chaoshan (on Netflix). I’ve noticed that Netflix has been auto-playing dubbing lately, which, if you watch with subtitles, you’ll notice a HORRIBLE mis-match. I complained about this last week when watching BorderTown. I highly recommend just listening in Chinese and reading the English subtitles rather than the dubbed version.  
the second lunch newton historic jackson homestead
Newton Historic Jackson Homestead


Creative Date: after driving by the Jackson Homestead and Museum over a thousand times (literally), I finally decided that this would be the weekend to explore it! (For $8, I got myself a ticket that gives access to the Jackson Homestead and the Durant-Kenrick house, which I’ll save for another weekend. 

The house was stop on the Underground Railroad, and the museum is three floors of history including a history of slavery and anti-slavery in the North, a rotating exhibit which featured the Newton architect Annie Cobb who was one of the women who exhibited at the World’s Expo in Chicago, and a historical toy exhibit, which even featured the now “vintage” game boy color, circa 1992. 

I was delighted to find it to be a well curated little museum with things to see and read around every corner.  Here are some of my favorites from the trip. (Including the mustache mugs!)

{Good Eating} 

This week brought the delivery of a Green Chef box, another new-to-me box which I had yet to try. While I love these kits for the novelty of having my dinner picked for me, the cooking time on these is always nearly double what it takes for me to make a fairly sophisticated meal from scratch. (Want to try Green Chef? Feel free to use my affiliate link for 4 free meals.)

the second lunch trader joes channa masala and tomato soup

Batch cooking this week: for meal prep last week, I made a green tahini charmoula, soft boiled some eggs, made a batch of pepita chili, and baked chicken thighs with za’atar. All good choices! This weekend I cooked up eggs and a batch of Algerian Jewish beef, onion, and coriander stew. I also started the marinade on a chicken that I plan on roasting later in the week. 

What I ate: 

the second lunch green chef chicken katsu

Chicken Katsu bowl, with cabbage, carrot, and pineapple slaw with sesame seeds. Tonkatsu sauce, and a togarashi spiced mayo. (Green Chef

A big green salad, with romaine, green goddess, chunks of feta, and za’atar chicken. 

the second lunch green chef roasted garlic herb chicken

Roasted garlic-herb chicken with cheesy mashed potatoes, sautéed chard, cabbage, and apple. (Green Chef) It’s amazing what a little cheese in mashed potatoes can do to brighten my mood. 

the second lunch green chef hawaij rubbed steaks

Hawaij-rubbed steaks with herb sauce, feta, pistachios, farro with a tomato sauce, and collard greens. (Green Chef) The leftovers were great the next day with some eggs and sardines. 

the second lunch caviar rice bowl

A caviar bowl: sushi rice, salmon caviar, soft boiled eggs, green tahini, picked daikon and garlic flower, and a little bit of sharp mustard. I got the caviar at Bazaar. (When I’m not blessed with a delivery from Zabars, I’ll either pick it up there or at Berezka.) 

the second lunch trader joes pepita salsa turkey chili

Pepita turkey chili, with peppers. With whole foods parm crisps crumbled on top.  (The secret ingredient is Trader Joe’s new pepita salsa, which if you haven’t tried it yet, go, and grab two.) 

the second lunch annies macaroni and cheese and turkey

Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese with herbed turkey. Sometimes I’m craving comfort food, and this is one of my top contenders. 

Trader Joe’s Mash-up: Channa Masala + Organic Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup (see the photo up to there). This was genius at the tasting station, but I made tweaks using the low sodium tomato soup this time around, and adding some more of the herbed turkey breast.

the second lunch kale salad with pollo asado chicken and delicata squash with egg

A kale salad with pollo asado seasoned chicken, roasted delicata squash, pico de gallo, and an egg. (Yes, I did say chicken chicken.) 

the second lunch thai green curry with cod and eggplant

Thai green curry with eggplant and wild cod. Topped with a little yogurt and cilantro. 

the second lunch vermont village turmeric and honey vinegar shot

Snacks of note: the crispy okra from Trader Joes. I munch through the whole bag with glee. Also – this delightedly vinegar shot that I snagged from my friend Jacqueline’s pantry last week. So good! (I snagged a bunch of these at Star Market today. I suspect making my own would be wildly cheaper, but portable is great!) Our Springfield office was stocked with laughing cow cheese wedges and string cheese, so my day was made.

Desserts of note:Whole milk ricotta two ways: day one with maple syrup and cacao nibs, and day two with chocolate sesame butter.

Also: Enjoy Life sunseed chocolate protein bites. These were on the “new” shelf at Trader Joe’s, and are already backlogged from the supplier. 
Wild Ophelia Vosges Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Bites with Soft Caramel. (Pro-tip: these are something like $11 at Starbucks, but can be acquired for free with the free food/drink reward on your Starbucks card!)

And: a scoop of Ben and Jerry’s Coffee Toffee Crunch.

 I’ll leave you with a parting shot of Bertram – doing what he loves best – napping in the sunpatch. 

the second lunch bertram the frenchie sunpatch nap

Here’s to a great week.

xo – Sam

Good Things: 2019 Week 6

the second lunch instantpot batch cooking

It was a very good week.

One of the best parts of the weekend so far has been knocking out a million nagging tasks, cleaning out my inbox, and re-reading this article on configuring your phone to be less distracting.

And here I am, writing to you! I do hope it’s been a good week where you are. If not – tomorrow is a new day, fresh with new opportunity to do good things, see good people, and eat some great meals. Hopefully you find some inspiration in here to do just that.

{Good Things}

Hopefully I won’t lose you with this first one, but the Patriots won the SuperbOwl 🦉 Hear me out: over a decade ago, we really needed that win. I remember the first parade – I bundled up in cold weather gear and cheered and screamed. This year was different. We’ve been winning. The sport is problematic to say the least. But regardless about how you feel about the NFL or the Patriots – it’s been really nice to walk around a city that feels uplifted and a new sense of optimism. I’ve been thankful for that feeling during these otherwise depressing times. Sports can do that.

Plopping. In addition to my quest for curly girl hair care that had me acquiring a bunch of new conditioner last week, I’ve been back to “plopping” – a curl protective hair drying technique that involves me wrapping a shirt around my head and waiting for the curls to dry. (Unfortunately, I also managed to get hives from one of my new conditioners… except I’m not actually sure which one. Wish me luck.) 

This week in nagging tasks. This week I knocked off a bunch of them, including a long overdue 401k rollover, fixing my driver’s side rear view mirror, and an oil change. The Universe also reminded me that it’s good to fix things you’ve been stalling on. I managed to get pulled over the day AFTER I fixed the mirror… with a newly broken tail light. No ticket, and I’m so glad that I had made the previous repair. I fixed the light this weekend as well!

Heather came to Cambridge. The best part about having friends become super fancy experts in their field is that they come to Boston to speak at conferences and workshops, and then go out to dinner with you! I met Heather at Legal on Tuesday night for some chowder and a seared tuna bowl. Here we are not looking at the camera quite at the same time.

The Second Lunch Sam and Heather

Amanda’s Birthday Party at Naco Taco. It’s crazy to think that I’ve known Amanda for 25 years! To celebrate, I made the trek out to Elmendorf for a gift certificate, some candied orange peel, and chocolate dragées. (I’m a little ashamed to say that I managed to leave Naco Taco… without eating a taco. I will go back!)

Talking about baked goodness: my brother was in LA this week. In addition to his dream trip to The Price is Right (yes, I was jealous) he brought me back some treats. A Kouign-Amann from Dominique Ansel bakery. I was hoping for a cronut, but they wouldn’t sell it to him because it would get stale. He also brought me two pounds of Philz Tesora, one of my favorite coffees.

the second lunch dominique ansel kouign amann

This week in Movement + Meditation: Another good week of fitness! The key to success this week was that my workouts were scheduled mostly in advance. A year and a few months, my run streak continues!

On Ompractice – my online yoga and meditation company – I took a Yoga Nidra session with Amy, and Foundations of Yoga with Traci (Wednesday 7:30 pm) this week. If you are interested in taking yoga classes at home where your teacher can see you – our unlimited membership is only $5 for your first month right now! I’d love for you to try it out.

There were also walks around the neighborhood, and THREE Orange Theory classes: got my splat on – on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Except, I don’t have the OT watch, I just wear my Apple Watch and it’s good enough for me.

Because I was out several nights in a row, I skipped my usual combo of a creative date with myself and dinner, in favor of an early movie on Friday night and a meal at home. I chose The Favourite – which I greatly enjoyed. Notably, my fellow theater goers did NOT. So many people around me hated it. It was deliciously quirky. Emma Stone, Olivia Coleman, and Rachel Weisz are all *fantastic*.

the second lunch frank and momo

{Delicious Meals} 

This week brought me several trips out of the house, punctuated by quick meals, and leftovers. I cooked a few different things from Anita Lo’s award winning cookbook “Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One” this week.

Dr. Bouley made me dinner! My friend Jacqueline is a chiropractor, health coach, and loves cooking as much as I do. She’s also the mom to two spunky french bulldogs, Frank and Momo (above). Dinner at her house is always a treat. She made me chicken thighs, roasted potatoes and broccoli, a salad, and baked me an amazing cookie for dessert. 

Her spice cabinet inspired my project last week:

the second lunch livewell chiropractic spice cabinet

The chicken has Northwoods Seasoning (so good!) and got crispy in the cast iron.

the second lunch livewell chiropractic makes me dinner

The cookie dough was gluten free from Twist Bakery in Millis. UNBELIEVABLY GOOD. With some nada moo ice cream and a drizzle of Soom chocolate tahini.

the second lunch gluten free chocolate chip cookie twist bakery millis

Other good meals:

Anita Lo’s Kale Salad with Tahini and Dates from Solo My absolute favorite kale salad is this one from Epicurious – but this one has come in a close second, and is significantly easier to make quickly. I ended up making it for two separate meals. (You put all the ingredients in a bowl, and stir.)

The Second Lunch Anita Lo Solo Kale Date Salad

Later in the week I followed up with her Red Cooked Duck recipe from Solo with some jasmine rice and broccoli. The store was out of duck legs, so I ended up going a little fancy with some duck breast.

the second lunch anita lo solo red cooked duck

Lots of quick meals this week:

  • Leftovers of Chrissy Teigen’s Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe from Cravings. I had put a portion in my freezer last week for a future perfect night.. but hadn’t realized that night would be less than a week later. Oops?
  • Trader Joe’s Gnocchi alla Sorrentina. I keep bags of this in my freezer for days when hunger strikes and I’m seeking comfort food. 
  • An omelette with leftover green vegetables and a side of sauerkraut. It turns out Eggs and Sauerkraut are a lot of people’s jam in my friend group.
  • A romaine salad with blue cheese, blue cheese dressing, and a whole bunch of marinated anchovies. 
  • A bowl of rice with eggs, chicken sausage, sauerkraut, and green dressing. 
  • Trader Joe’s Macaroni and Cheese in the red box mixed with some Green Vegetable Foursome. When I’m not feeling like cooking, at least I can microwave. (Below. See, that looks at least a bit virtuous.)
the second lunch trader joes macaroni and cheese and vegetable foursome

Batch Cooking this week: this week I got my cook up on, and made soft boiled eggs, a charmoula-ish green dressing with anchovy, garlic, and my leftover parsley and mint, baked chicken thighs with za’atar for my upcoming lunches, and made a batch of pepita chili in the instant pot

the second lunch zataar chicken thighs

I leave you with Bertram on the yoga mat, hoping you’ll try out his tongue to nose pose. 

the second lunch bertram the frenchie touches his nose

Here’s to a great week! –– xo Sam

Good Things: 2019 Week 5

the second lunch winston flowers delivery purple flowers

There’s something incredibly satisfying to recapping my week by looking through the photos on my phone these days. This is my blog version of a regular gratitude practice – something I’ve committed to over the past few years and can’t recommend enough in order to really appreciate the good things in life. (And for that matter, I appreciate each and ever one of you reading this. Hello!)

{Week 5}  Good Things

  • a gorgeous floral delivery from Winston Flowers – my aunt and uncle are excellent at pick me up gifts. These purple flowers are stunning, and they’ll last for a while!
  • my curl quest – last week I ran out of conditioner, and decided to go wild testing out a bunch of new options. My typical go-to is Acure, which I pick up at Whole Foods. But to embrace my curls, I know that there are better options, so I polled some curly friend (and the cashier at Marty’s) and ended up getting a bunch of sample size – Shea Moisture, Carol’s Daughter, Kinky Curly, Cantu, and the Trader Joe’s Shea Butter and coconut oil hair mask. I’ll keep you posted.
the second lunch curly girl conditioner haul
  • Movement, amplified. In my quest to “spend out” – gift certificates, passes I haven’t used, memberships, I realized that I had a 10-pack to OrangeTheory that is going to expire this month. So I took my first class on Friday, another today, and I have my next two scheduled this week. Not sure how this is going to affect my year long run streak – so I’m going to be mindful of not overdoing it.
  • Yoga: four times! To ensure my mobility, stretching, and well, because I founded the company and get all the free yoga and meditation I want: I took FOUR! live classes on Ompractice this week. I’d love for you to join me! Unlimited membership is only $5 for your first month, and I’d be happy to meet up virtually for a class on me! Here was my lineup:
    • Yoga Nidra with Amy a cross between yoga and meditation – all about conscious relaxation, a chance to renew, and recharge yourself. Mondays and Wednesdays at 1 pm ET, 10 am PT. (Amy was in the polar vortex of the midwest while I was complaining about our 10 degrees…)
    • Yoga for Office Workers is a 25-minute break from the world. Tuesdays at 3:30 pm ET, 12:30 pm PT with Charina. Harkening back to my Runkeeper stretch-o-clocks! (Charina was actually in her “outside office” for class because…. southern California..)
    • Chair Yoga with Marie. Chair yoga is great for anyone, but is especially recommended for those who want a gentle practice. One of the surprising things was how much I enjoyed seated sun salutations!
    • Yoga for Low Back Pain with Traci – a perfect low impact class. Thursdays at 7:30 pm ET, 4:30 pm PT. Also – Traci was a sport for not laughing at me as Bertram decided that instead of his usually nap, he was going to “assist” me by licking me, sitting on the mat, and generally speaking being adorable but in the way.
ompractice amit ray quote
  • Two large library hauls: one of my favorite “activities of abundance” (a.k.a. making your self feel better through shameless acquisition without affecting your wallet) is checking out a huge stack of library books. I had to go to two different libraries this week. (On the literary note, I had about 50 recommendations from friends that I was going to post here but the list was too long. I’ll make a separate post if you need ideas of good reading!)
  • Team Retrospective: each week, one of my favorite personal activities is to reflect over the week with three questions: what worked well, what didn’t work well, what do I want to stop doing? This is straight from the “agile” playbook that most tech companies use to keep their teams celebrating their wins (hello, gratitude practice), and learning from their misses. We had a *great* team Retro this week!
  • New folks on my weekly *Do The Thing virtual co-working. Each week I gather together friends (from around the world!) for a weekly digital co-working session on Wednesdays at 1:30 – 3pm Eastern. We go around, each share what we want to get done, and then I mute everyone and we get to work. Want to participate? Sign up here.
  • On that note, I had an “in-person” friend come to participate in *Do the Thing hour this week. Amanda came with lunch she had prepared for us, and work to do! Salad (TJ’s cruciferous crunch), roasted delicata squash, warm farro, freshly made black beans, an herb-buttermilk vinaigrette, pickled shallots, an avocado, and tomatoes. I added a little bit of chicken and cilantro from my fridge. My friends are amazing.
the second lunch farro and black bean salad with avocado vinaigrette

{Delicious Meals:} 

Got ahead of myself there with a delicious meal in good things! There were so many more!

This was another week absolutely smitten with Alison Roman. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve cooked this many recipes out of a cookbook in years. If you don’t have your own copy of Dining In, RUN!

On that note, I think I’ve cooked more from cookbooks in general this month than I have in the past five years.

Here’s some of the highlights this week:

Takeout From Kimchipapi. Kimchipapi is new to Allston on Harvard street. Korean fusion poke bowls and other good stuff. (#SendNoodz.) Recommend! I had the crab fries – thin fries topped w/ crab salad, spicy mayo, eel sauce, fish eggs, scallion, and black sesame. And then a make my own poke bowl with kale noodles (thin starchy noodles), spicy tuna tartar, salmon, crab salad. Pickled radish, pickled ginger, kimchi, fresh corn and carrot, spicy mayo, ponzu sauce, fish eggs and roasted seaweed. I regret nothing.

Black bean soup with chimichurri chicken. No shame, my secret recipe is that I use Goya black bean soup in the red can. It’s excellent. 

Chicken Tikka Masala with chicken thighs arugula salad with mint, basil, and cilantro. There’s no recipe here. Truthfully, I ordered a container of sauce from Shan-a-punjab, and then cooked some chicken thighs in it. Paired with an arugula salad with mint, parsley, basil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. My salads are usually half greens half herbs these days.

the second lunch butter chicken and arugula herb salad

Alison Roman’s turmeric roasted carrots with seeds and labne. This was *outrageously good*. I used Samira’s Homemade labne with black olives as the base for the recipe. If you are in New England, I highly recommend picking up some at Whole Foods!

the second lunch Alison Roman Dining In Turmeric Roasted Carrots with seeds and labne

Alison Roman’s scallops with corn, hazelnuts, and brown butter chermoula. Over another arugula salad with cilantro and some lime. Another complete stunner of a dish. Also: the key to golden scallops is to NOT TOUCH THEM when they are cooking in the pan. Look at these beauties.

the second lunch alison roman dining in scallops with corn hazelnuts and brown butter chermoula

Alison Roman’s fennel rubbed pork – so, technically I did a mashup of two of her recipes here because I had pork tenderloin and not chops, and wanted to roast everything while luxuriating in a long shower with one of my new conditioners. The pork marinates in advance in a seed bath of glory. I opted for the double fennel situation, because… why not?

the second lunch alison roman dining in fennel rubbed pork with fennel

Chrissy Teigen’s Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe from Cravings. You guys. This dish. Here’s the goodness: lots of crispy pancetta, olive oil, garlic, black pepper, red pepper, lemon juice, cheese, more cheese. And then you add arugula for virtue and bite. The recipe is here, but I recommend the cookbook.

the second lunch chrissy teigen cravings lemony arugula cacio pepe 1
the second lunch chrissy teigen cravings lemony arugula cacio pepe 1

Arugula salad with avocado, green goddess, and marinated anchovies. Apparently I’ve just been craving arugula for weeks and am finally fulfilling my cravings.

the second lunch arugula salad with avocado green goddess and marinated anchovies

Well, that’s about it for this week!

I’ll leave you with this week’s best dog portrait: Bertram, in his element.

the second lunch bertram the frenchie in gray

Here’s to a great week! –– xo Sam

PS: every month or so I send out a newsletter of wellness wisdom, good things, reading, and more. I’m due for a new one imminently.

If you want to subscribe, just sign up below!

2019: Week 4

The Second Lunch Lobster Cobb Ish

Here we are, the last week of January, and I’m here to document some of the good things this week that happened in my life. I’ve taken back to writing out the good parts of my week as part of my regular gratitude practice – so here we go with a second blog post in 2019! On a roll!

You Got This Valley Venture Mentors Wall Art
{Week 4}  Good Things
 
  • My kitchen project: working to organize my spices this week. I went to the Container Store for an expandable spice rack, and did some well-needed culling. I still need to figure out how best to store my assorted bags and vacuum packs of spices from the spice bazaar in Turkey. Right now they are just hanging in a variety of places. (Pictures below are the “after”. I’m not a minimalist)  
  • A facebook thread about [the oldest thing in your refrigerator]. While I didn’t win any awards (I think that went to a can of paté from the 60’s, my own contribution to the thread was a dried mushroom packet from around 2007. This may have been the catalyst to do a little bit of cleaning. (Oddly enough that isn’t getting tossed.) Fess up, what’s the oldest thing in your fridge? (Drop it in the comments.) 
the second lunch spice overhaul
the second lunch spice overflow drawer
  • My creative date: I ended up punting on my planned creative date on Friday (the creative time I take to myself every week out of the house) but I ended up watching a movie and ordering some Indian takeaway, which was pretty spectacular. So I ended up squeezing in a last minute creative date on Sunday: a.k.a. a trip to the library where I acquire as many books as I want. (Bonus: free.) I ended up with a new to me Korean cookbook, some YA fiction, the new Reid Hoffman book about scaling your startup, and Mimi Sheraton’s 1000 things to Eat Before You Die – which I plan on making my own list for. 
The Second Lunch Winter Library Haul

  • Lunch with a friend at Rox. 10 years of catching up!  My regular meal: classic breakfast with two eggs, ham, and a side of hollandaise.
  • I went out to an event at MassChallenge. Looking forward to more events, conferences, and panels this year as I take put on the “start-up founder” hat (cape? spandex) for my online yoga and meditation company and spread the word of what we’re doing to take make yoga and meditation accessible to every body, not just the 1%.
  • On that note, TWO yoga classes this week. I took Yoga for Office Workers with Charina on both Tuesday and Thursday this week on Ompractice. You can take the class right from your desk – in my case, my couch. She was kind to deal with my creaky-ness and tight hips! Want to join me this week? One of the best ways to stay accountable to fitness is to do it with friends!
Ompractice Yoga for Office Workers with Charina
  • My new sketchbook and pen. Inspired by so many of my favorite creatives, I realized I was long overdue for a sketchbook. (See my first doodle this week.) 
  • I got a new plaid shirt from StitchFix. Usually I just get my box and return everything (I don’t pay a styling fee, so I just keep them coming.) This week I found something I loved!  (My affiliate link if you are interested in signing up, and you get $25 off your box.)
The Second Lunch Sketchbook Doodles
The Second Lunch Stitch Fix Top
{Delicious Meals:} 
 
  • The last of my hot paprika chicken broth with tortellini. While watching the second of the Fyre festival documentaries. (Watch Netflix first, then Hulu.) 
  • Scallops, mushrooms, and cauliflower gnocchi. I had to call Trader Joe’s to put aside three cauliflower gnocchi for me, because they keep on selling out in a flash. Could be the woman who bought *12* last week. But who am I kidding, I’ve been that person. 
  • Trader Joes Vegetable Biryani with yogurt. These are very good. (I also really like their fish korma curry and the lamb vindaloo. I try to keep them stocked in my freezer!) 
  • A stir fry with ground turkey and escarole, topped with Odd Flavor Sauce from Lucky Peach: 101 Easy Asian Recipes. (I make this sauce every few weeks. It’s *very good*. 
  • An avocado with fig balsamic vinegar
  • Trader Joe’s Mash Up: Cauliflower Gnocchi + Gnocchi alla Sorrentina. Sometimes you really want gnocchi, but you also really want vegetables. 
  • Delivery (twice this week… yeesh):
    • Pho Viet: the Allston one has a new outpost in Newton Centre. I went for Bun with a spring roll and a jasmine bubble tea. (Oh bubble tea, it’s been a while.) 
    • Shan-a-punjab. Butter chicken, garlic naan, aloo naan, raita, masala chai. All of the condiments. I also ordered an extra masala sauce to re-purpose for a meal in the coming week. 
  • Lobster Cobb-ish. (The first photo in this post.) This got some major love on Instagram this week, and frankly it was as good as it looks. Fresh lobster meat from Whole Foods, arugula, mint, basil, and a lot of lemon. Tomatoes, avocado, and a little bit of stilton. Pretty much the *perfect* dinner. 
  • Omelette with Peas and Cheese, shallots and peas cooked in butter, with a couple of eggs, some leftover Mexican blend cheese, served with some tomatoes and a bunch of sauerkraut. 
The Second Lunch Vietnamese Bun and Bubble Tea

And because in flipping through the week, at least 60% of my photos are photos of my dog, I leave you with this image from the week of Bertram, the couch seal.

Oh, and this link, just because I had to explain it to someone this week, and you might enjoy it as well: Dishwasher salmon. Did you know this was a thing?  

The Second Lunch Bertram The French Bulldog On the Couch Lounge Seal

Have a great week! xo Sam

PS: every month or so I send out a newsletter of wellness wisdom, good things, reading, and more. I’m due for a new one in a week or so. If you want to subscribe, just sign up below!

The Second Lunch Tastes It: The Home Chef Meal Kit

Home Chef Box The Second Lunch

Well hello there! What’s cooking? I’m back in the kitchen today with a quick profile of another meal kit delivery service for your reading pleasure.

This installment? I try it: a week of “Home Chef”.

A few years back I took on a new kitchen challenge: to cook, taste, and review a variety of meal kits. In a sea of meal kits, I wanted to answer the age old question of: which meal kit is the best on the market right now?

Among the initial entrants, I tried Sakara (not actually a kit – it’s really $$$ organic meal delivery), Purple Carrot (vegetarian), and then many months of Blue Apron which I was then too lazy to cancel. On the plus side, it was good for a more comprehensive review, which you can read here.

At the end of the day, I found that cooking meal kit takes me a lot more effort than doing my own meal planning, shopping, and cooking. It’s also a good amount of waste packaging wise. And truthfully, I’m a better and more creative cook.

Nevertheless, I’m still charmed by the appeal of having a box of goodies show up on my doorstep and someone occasionally taking over the mealtime decision making, so I’m continuing my mini quest and trying different boxes every so often in order to share with you all, dear readers.

Disclosure: Home Chef knows nothing about me, but I did get a free box through their refer a friend program, and the links to Home Chef are affiliate links which give you $30 off your kit, and give me more free food. (If you order enough kits, you can send a free box to a friend; on par with most of the other meal kit customer acquisition programs.)

Home Chef Pork Chops The Second Lunch Dog

The details: 

Home Chef Box overview – Home Chef is a more general meal kit without any particular slant. I’d characterize them as American home cooking with a hint of global food exploration but nothing overly fussy or too adventurous for the average palate. The company is based in Chicago, and has raised 57 million through series b (see Crunchbase), which is about a quarter of the funding of Blue Apron who was just shy of 200 million pre IPO and less compared to HelloFresh’s 365 million pre IPO.

How much does Home Chef cost?

This is a little complicated: $9.95 per serving – two servings of two dishes in the box; although you can add on lunches (most are $7.99/serving), seasonal fruit ($4.95/serving), or a smoothie ($4.95/serving) as extra which is a nice touch. If you glance, it’s not totally clear that the add ons will charge you for two servings. You can also choose some weeks from “Premium Meals” which seem to include bigger pieces of steak or lamb for 19.95 a serving, but these aren’t offered every week. And if your order is under a certain amount, you get charged the $10 for shipping. So the minimum box comes in at around $49.80 and goes up from there.

What kind of meat and produce does Home Chef have?

Generally, I found Home Chef’s to have an overall decent quality of produce and meat, although, notably NOT organic. (Most of my personal purchasing is organic and I get my vegetables and meat from a farm share; so I don’t think I’d get the box regularly for this reason alone.) Nothing seemed wilted or bruised, and generally everything was tasty. The fresh sausage packed in the lasagna skillet likely wouldn’t have past the two days I waited to cook it though even though it suggests that it would last 6 days on the recipe card.

The service strikes me as less “foodie” focused compared to, say, Blue Apron’s inserts about the farms and farmers (which sometimes strikes me as greenwashing but I still buy into), although does suggest wine pairings.

What kind of recipes does Home Chef have?

The recipes and ingredients on Home Chef are notably a little bit more basic than other services. I ended up going with two fairly simple dishes which worked well, although I’d be curious as to how the flavors are on the more global recipes. Each week you get to choose from several options on the list.

For my box, I chose the grilled pork chop with whole grain dijon sauce, and the Italian sausage lasagna skillet.

Home Chef Meal Variety

How easy are the Home Chef recipes to follow? 

As you can see in the picture of the sheet; the recipes are fairly simple and bulleted. You are encouraged to read through the whole recipe before starting (which is good practice, but always a useful reminder). I found that the recipes might leave a little too much room for interpretation for a novice cook, but I got along just fine. There were a few steps in each recipe that weren’t what I’d have written, but in the end, my dishes turned out alright. For example: the skillet called for “one medium oven-safe pan” although the picture seemed to be of a cast iron, I wasn’t sure what actual size cast iron counts as “medium” (8 inch? 10 inch?), so opted for a pyrex.

Decently quick to cook. Unlike other meal kits, the Home Chef recipes seemed to take less steps and take me less time overall to cook. Each dish was closer to 25-30 minutes of cooking (compared to Blue Apron which routinely had me chopping, prepping, etc. for 45-60 minutes.) Home Chef was closer to the promise of ease than other kits that I’ve tried so far.

Home Chef Recipe Cards The Second Lunch

In your first delivery, Home Chef sends you a little plastic binder to save your recipe cards. It’s a little flimsy, but was a nice touch.

Home Chef Recipe Binder The Second Lunch

What’s in the Home Chef Box?

Aside from the recipe cards, the box itself is filled with individual bags – one for the combined meats, and then individually packaged bags for the separate meals themselves which include all produce, spices, etc.

Home Chef Meal Kits The Second Lunch

* Packaging – I’m not sure that anyone will solve this – it’s about the same size box as Blue Apron; each meal comes in it’s own little plastic bag, and the meats are separated into bags, the box here is filled with an icepack, and a soft plastic material filled with batting of some type. Still a PITA to break down and recycle, but what can you do?

I’ll note here that my Frenchie Bertram is not afraid of much in life, with the clear exception of cardboard boxes from meal kit delivery services. Which he wanted to let me know was NOT OKAY for me to put on “his gel mat bed” in front of the stove while I took this photo. If I could have added the audio file from his complaints here, I would have.

Home Chef Packaging The Second Lunch

How much food is in each Home Chef box? Is Home Chef healthy?

Portion Sizes – appropriate for two light-moderate eaters. I was still hungry after both dishes. I tend to supplement meal kits anyway with more vegetables, but volume alone wouldn’t have been enough for me to be satisfied, even though calorically the dishes were in the 500-700 calorie range. I’d love to see more vegetables to round out the dish.

Nutrition: the recipes themselves do have ingredients and high level macros listed (calories, carbs, fat, protein and sodium) for those interested in tracking. You can choose from a variety of different diet preferences, including vegetarian, low carb, and calorie conscious meals.

Home Chef Pork Chops The Second Lunch

Other notes: I had to email customer service to move my first deliver date (before cut-off) because I ended up having a last minute travel situation. They were quick, competent, and pleasant to deal with.

Home Chef Italian Sausage Skillet Lasagna The Second Lunch

The Bottom Line: 

Did we enjoy the Home Chef meals? Yes. Both meals tasted good. The pork dish was slightly better looking in presentation, but flavors were very good with both. As mentioned above, would have liked a little bit more vegetable for volume! I think overall I prefer a slightly more spiced and creative dinner if ordering a meal kit, but Home Chef does deliver on overall taste if you don’t mind a slightly boring meal.

Would we order Home Chef again? Possibly. I haven’t actually canceled the service, so it’s quite likely that I might try another box to compare and update this review.

Want to try Home Chef? Here’s a link for $30 off your first order.

Want to read more meal kit reviews? Here’s my comprehensive review of several months worth of Blue Apron meals, and I’ll be updating this post as I try more kits.