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!

Good Things: Week 28 and 29

shrimp and scallop ceviche the second lunch

Scallop and shrimp ceviche – perfect for the hot summer weather.

A little bit of a hiatus here – good things still happening! June escaped me – I ended up on a last minute trip to Istanbul (the food!), had a lovely retreat to Wanderlust in Vermont with Ompractice, and then came home to a summer cold that I have been working to shake. I think I’m about to be free from it! Here’s crossing my fingers.

Trying out AIReal yoga at Wanderlust.

sam does AIReal yoga the second lunch

At the top of Stratton Mountain

wanderlust stratton 2019 the second lunch

A few things that I’ve been doing the past few weeks that have had the most impact in my day to day:

Declaring Email Bankruptcy on Newsletters: don’t skip the personal emails, but if you have swathes of email newsletters you’ve intended to get read, just go ahead and delete them all. You have my permission. On that note, if you want to hire me to completely organize your 67,000 emails, create folders of the important stuff, and purge for you, just hit me up. I find the process so cathartic.

Adding some more accountability to my workflow: always a good thing! In addition to my weekly *Do the Thing Hours that I lead (virtual co-working on Wednesdays at 1:30 Eastern if you ever want to join!), I recently committed to an accountability group that has us sharing our daily stand-ups on a regular basis.

Using free-writing as a way to ease myself into doing any particular task. I find that if I’m stalling on something, a simple free write for 10 minutes or so is a good way to get myself going.

Daily time apart from this little zombie puppy. Yep, we practice separation. Usually I go to the store or the gym, and watch him staring at me on the nanny cam.

zombie bertram the second lunch

Good Things, in no particular order:

{{ Meals of Note: }}

Trader Joe’s Lemon Ricotta ravioli with olive oil, chopped cucumbers, shredded chicken, and parmesan. With plenty of black pepper.

trader joes lemon ricotta ravioli with chicken and cucumber the second lunch

Trader Joe’s Egg Frittatas with swiss cheese & cauliflower. LOVE these. I’ve been making them for lunches and just breaking them up over arugula salad.

Trader Joe's egg frittata with swiss cheese and cauliflower the second lunch

Chicken sausages with kale and broccoli slaw salad. My mom makes great use of her IKEA grill pan.

broccoli kale salad and sausages the second lunch
  • Ben and Jerry’s “Pucker Upper” at Target. Raspberry and tart lemon sorbet. Very good!
  • Trader Joe’s Kunefe – a Greek dessert in the freezer section with crispy bits, salty melting cheese, a sweet syrup, and pistachios.
  • Roasted strawberries and rhubarb.
  • An incredible ceviche. (See the first photo.)

This Trader Joe’s beet pasta is pretty.. but a little bland?

trader joes beet sauce pasta the second lunch

Yellow beans and rice, with cucumbers salad and yogurt. The cucumber salad can be made in advance and lasts me a few days. Same with the beans!

rice and beans and cucumber salad the second lunch

{{Books}} I’m working my way towards 52? 75? books this year? as part of my quest to read rather than interwebbing during my downtime. We’ll see where I get.

Re-listening to Steven Pressfield’s ‘War of Art’. This is one of my absolute favorite books. The concept is about overcoming The Resistance – all the things that hold you back from creative pursuits. I had a bit of driving to do over the past few weeks, and so I downloaded the audio book for a refresher.

cucumber and goat cheese salad the second lunch

Re-reading Tamar Adler’s ‘An Everlasting Meal’. After a month away from my farm share, I returned with a large amount of produce and needed reminders about what to do with them. This is a wonderful book about the foundations of building good cooking systems.

Outer Order, Inner Calm. Gretchen Rubin’s newest book – a short read about cleaning, which actually prompted me to let go of a few extra things and get back on the tidying wagon. Recommend as an afternoon break.

A few in progress: Free to Focus (Michael Hyatt), Radical Acceptance (Tara Brach) and Radical Candor (Kim Scott) – I swear I didn’t plan that!

As far as fiction goes, I’ve been reading Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – which while highly entertaining (and bizarre) is about 782 pages and taking me *forever* to finish. I’ve been managing a few chapters before bed each evening. I’m also listening to Circe on audiobook. Similarly, a little stalled on this because I don’t find that I’m often in the mood.

flowers in the garden the second lunch

{{ Activities of note: }}

Beach walks! Finally got my toes into the sand, and did a long walk on Jenness with my mom. Bonus – got in a run last week on the ocean as well.

sam and elian at the beach the second lunch

Whole Foods Focus Group. I had a grand time at my local Whole Foods as part of a focus group – paying me for my feedback and feeding me free food? Yes, please! Plus the session was full of delightfully quirky people, and veered quickly into writing letters to Jeff Bezos and anti-nuclear policy.

Ramping up my runs: we’re three months out from the Reebok Boston 10k for Women. (This is the 43rd running of the race née Tufts10k / Bonne Bell Mini Marathon). This will be my 8th year running the race! And – I’m thrilled to be an official sponsor with Ompractice, and partnering with the race to provide Ompractice yoga classes leading up to and post-race for all runners! I’ve been running consistent miles with my year and a half long streak, but it’s been a while since I’ve run consistent long runs. I’m building back up! So far it’s been fairly low impact relaxed 2 mile runs and some intervals. I like easing into things!

rye beach rocks the second lunch

A few good films: I made the point to see the new Spiderman and Yesterday (so cute! go see it!) in the theater. Still working my way through my 52 new to me movies spreadsheet this year. It’s a fun pursuit.

flowers the second lunch

Gardening: I’ve been consistently weeding my plot, and my planted potatoes are thriving. Herbs are doing well in my front pots, and someone (I’m assuming the rabbits) have eaten my kale.

rye beach greenery the second lunch

{{ Acquisitions of note: }}

New sneakers: on that note, at some point I realized that my “new” sneakers I acquired in the fall last year have some 300 or so miles on them, so it was time for a refresh! Proper footwear is one of the keys to avoiding injury. I went for a pair of Zoom Pegasus 36s in BRIGHT red, because YOLO.

nike pegasus zoom 36 red the second lunch

A Nest. Which I installed myself! I love that I can manage my AC from my phone, particularly to adjust down when I’m out of the house. I also had an energy audit, got fresh LED lightbulbs to replace old bulbs, and am getting some insulation to help reduce heating and cooling bills.

A big bucket of Maldon salt. I decided to delight myself with a this large bucket that I ordered from across the pond. You can never have enough on hand.

bucket of Maldon sea salt flakes the second lunch

The Turkish Cookbook. A new Phaidon hardcover, written by Musa Dağdeviren (the owner of Çiya, one of the best places I ate last spring in Turkey. Regretfully, I didn’t get to go last month, but if you find yourself in Istanbul, it’s not to be missed.)

{{ Bertram }} the majority of the 30k photos on my phone. How could I not?

bertram in his bed the second lunch
bertram cooling off the second lunch
bertram frenchie bulldog bee harness the second lunch

Here’s to a great week!

xo Sam