2019 intentions

1.12.2019

I think every person on the internet these days is telling us their resolutions.... and also that they don't believe in resolutions. For the record, I don't believe in resolutions either. They feel like things we want to do but never get around to - or they are incredibly prescriptive and set you up to fail.

With that said, of course I've done some goal setting. In the recent months I have done a better job at some of these areas but I'd like to be better. I considered the month of October to be "Walk-tober" and tried to do 100,000 steps a week. It was a really challenging goal at times but I liked having something to drive me.

Given that, here is what I'm thinking for 2019:

  • 12 Books
  • 12 different restaurants/coffee shops/farmers markets
  • Health goals (good sleep, great water)
  • Continue meditation practice
  • More letters/packages in the mail

So some are numbers based and some are not. I don't want to say 8 glasses of water a day because I'm just not going to be great at keeping track. But, I can keep it top of mind and try to drink more water. I'm already pretty vigilant about sleep but it's good to have that on the list. But here are some thoughts and rationale:

  • Books // We used to read a whole lot when we were kids - but these days I'm sucked into reading random articles on the internet - which is fine but also not. One of the best parts about reading books is passing them along to the next person. I'm also not ashamed of all 12 books being "fun". I don't need to learn anything new, I just need to read. That being said, it'd be great to try a book on mindfulness and maybe one on professional development.
  • Restaurants // I prefer to cook for myself, I like the challenge. I also like the affordability of it. When I'm looking for a coffee or last minute lunch, I find myself going back to the same spots all the time. This goal is an effort to push me to try new things. They don't have to be restaurants even, coffee shops count and so do farmers markets.
  • Health Goals // I have absolutely zero self control around salty items. This will probably never improve, it's just who I am but I can do other things like sleep better and drink more water. Seems like a good place to start.
  • Meditation // Right now I'm an intermittent 5 minute meditator. I feel pretty good about the time but wouldn't be upset if I increased to 10 minutes occasionally. I like the 5 minute threshold because it's like a nice brief reset button. My goal is to actually meditate indoors and not in a yoga class. I lose focus much more easily when I'm in my house.
  • Send Mail // It is so depressing to only get bills in the mail. The only way to fix that is to send more mail to other people and maybe you'll get something back in return. 

2018 Christmas Card = Summer living and loving

1.10.2019

Ah yes. Another year, another Christmas card.

I struggled with this initially. 2018 was a very different year. Yes, every year is different but when I look back on it... nearly every picture in my phone was of house construction. It was almost as though I didn't go outside at all - unless it was to look at my new shingles, windows, or monitor the grass seed.

But alas, after doing some digging I was able to find a bunch of pictures that actually represented the year. There are some house ones in there for sure but it is slightly more reflective of 2018. The year was a whole lot of bagels with my brother, sea glass walks, marsh sunsets ... and house renovation. The summer was very well featured because I was laid off at the beginning of Summer. I had the opportunity to take midweek trips to Martha's Vineyard and go blueberry picking with my neighbors. It'll be tough to return to a life when I have to do things during peak tourist windows. 

I'm not sure what the 2019 card will have on it - but here's hoping that it includes more of all the good things in life. 

Rosemary Lemon Chicken Patties & Parmesan Cauliflower Mash

1.06.2019

I took a health survey earlier this week that strongly recommended I eat more vegetables. I failed at that for several days until today. A trip to Trader Joes for some cauliflower and a nice new recipe that  I found on the internet. I used to get a lot of my inspiration from Food52 but the past few months I've been loving "The Feed Feed". This gem from was found in two great categories: easy weeknight and gluten free.

Overall this meal is incredibly easy to pull together - but even easier if you have an immersion blender and a penchant for not measuring things. I've been doing a lot of baking recently and have only really measured for the raspberry frangipane because pastry freaks me out.

A few notes:
  • Patty size // The recipe originally calls for 4 quarter pound patties but I like smaller patties. I ended up squeezing out 9 from this batch. Admittedly they were not super even in size but I really like the smaller serving.
  • Kid friendly // I don't have kids but if I did, they would be able to help prepare this. You literally put all the ingredients in a bowl, mix it, and then cook it in a skillet. 
  • Cauliflower // A vegetable puree is super easy to make. It looks intimidating but it really is just a two step process and made even easier with an immersion blender.
  • Speedy // This meal comes together very fast - but could be faster. It you want speed, start your cauliflower before the chicken patties. Then you can be boiling your cauliflower while you get the chicken going. Whole meal will take less than 25 minutes!
Here's how it goes.

MAKE THE CHICKEN PATTIES
  • In a medium bowl, mix together the ground chicken, sour cream, rosemary, kosher salt, cayenne powder, garlic paste, and lemon zest. 
  • Divide into patties. Patty size is determined by you - but mix will give you between 4-10 patties. Heat oil skillet over medium heat. Sear each patty for 5 - 8 minutes per side depending on size.
MAKE THE CAULIFLOWER
  • Add cauliflower to a large pot and cover with water. Add a generous pinch of salt to the water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until soft and tender.
  • Place cooked cauliflower into a food processor with butter and parmesan. Puree until creamy. 
Shopping List
FOR THE CHICKEN PATTIES:
1 pound ground chicken
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
2 teaspoons garlic paste
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil

FOR THE CAULIFLOWER MASH:
1/2 cup head cauliflower, chopped into florets (about 6 cups)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan
Salt, to taste

Jeep Girl

1.03.2019


I wrote this post originally back in November... but it was stuck in my drafts for quite some time... and now it's out of my drafts... and that's a better place for it.

Today we said a final farewell to my old faithful Jeep Wrangler. This car has been the only car that I've ever owned since I was in high school. I remember the day that we bought the car. There are a lot of things that I am sure I forget but this car had some incredible memories in 19 years. I had this car for more than half my life. A person can do a whole lot of living in that time.

But the car has been such a part of my identity in a way. I loved how small it was. I knew every nook of that car. I knew how much space I had for parking, turns, packing, and more importantly ... before running out of gas which I never did once. I knew there was a tennis ball stuck in the corner of the truck for probably the last 8 years. I could have easily gotten it out, but never really got around to it until today.

In a weird way, I feel like saying "good bye" to the old Jeep is a way of me letting go of any baggage and (some) immaturity lingering. At times I can have an incredible case of "grownup" imposter syndrome, and maybe letting go of the car I drove with my first boyfriend will help that. In spite of being a home owner with a mortgage and graduate school debt, I sometimes just don't feel like I'm old enough for any of this. But in reality I really am. At least, the bank who gave me the mortgage believes I am.

In the spirit of saying farewell to the Jeep, I wrote down a bunch of lists of things that happened in that car. I miss it. There is absolutely no way that my modern Jeep Cherokee with electric seats will have nearly as many memories. It's just not possible.

Work // Here are all the jobs that I drove this car to.

  • lifeguarding in Hingham. On several occasions I had to call my dad to pick up the car because it would be raining and I would have forgotten to put up the soft top.
  • interning in Quincy between my junior and senior year of college
  • driving it around Mass during my years in public accounting.
  • driving it to NJ for that summer I lived there
  • back and forth to the airport when I worked for IBM
  • back and forth to the train station when I moved to the burbs
Incidents / Accidents // When reading this list, please keep in mind that it happened over the course of 19 years.

  • I hit the light post in the driveway. Square on. I did not clip it. I am still not sure how this happened.
  • I rear ended a woman in Hingham on my way to get my first bank account before college.
  • One time in college, I came out to the car completely crooked in a parking spot ... and a parking ticket. According to the campus police, a bunch of strong guys probably thought it would be fun to lift the car and move it. Not joking. I didn't pay the ticket obviously.
  • A woman rear ended me just before the 4th of July in Cohasset. She was an odd duck.
  • A pipe flew off a Clean Harbors truck on my way home for Thanksgiving one year and dented the front hood of the car. Could have killed me, but no biggie.
  • But the worst time was the day I graduated from College, I got into a small accident on the highway... and then ran over a family of ducks. Yes, a family.

"Boyfriends" that rode in the car... term used loosely in some occasions. Not that it's a competition, but not every person I dated has rode in my car. I've dated more than 4 people.

  • Chris // driving it to Kingston to see that boy that would never really kiss me. I remember parking it in his side yard next to his Jeeps. He was the first one to teach me about the "Jeep Wave"
  • Justin // driving it to Vermont for a romantic weekend. Picking him up from the airport countless times. He never picked me up from the airport once. 
  • Tom // I was pretty lazy when we dated. I think I made him do most of the driving ... but I'm pretty sure that I drove us to the movies once.
  • Per // Not a real boyfriend, but I did pick him up from the train for a suburbs date. Boys were always rather interested in the fact that I drove an old Jeep Wrangler. Per was one of them. 

Places it's been driven // I am by nature a homebody but that doesn't mean the car hasn't always stayed in the driveway.

  • Furthest South = Philadelphia to visit my boyfriend at the time when I was in NJ
  • Furthest West = Yankee Candle
  • Furthest North = Christmas Cove Maine or Vermont
  • Furthest East = Provincetown? I don't think it ever made it to the Vineyard

Times I remember calling AAA

  • When I got my first flat tire driving to have lunch with my mom. They couldn't figure out where I was so a nice highway worker and his friend changed it for me. Never told anyone that story before... but he said "I wouldn't want my own daughter out here by herself". I did ask them both for ID first. Nerd.
  • Dead batteries multiple times at BC. I habitually forgot to turn off the interior lights.
  • When I locked my keys in the car attending an MBA info session at MIT. After breaking into the car, I then found the keys in the bottom of my gym bag which was on my shoulder the entire time. For what it's worth, we found 4 spare keys in the console of the car while cleaning it today. 
  • Multiple times that summer in NJ for "hose issues". It was a very expensive 3 months. The upside is I did improve my negotiating skills with car mechanics.
  • But the scariest was when I broke down on a highway in Newark, the cars were going by so fast that the car was shaking on the side of the road. I managed to get off the highway (dumb move) and into a dunkin donuts parking lot. I've never been so freaked out for my safety than I was waiting for AAA at that Dunkin Donuts. My bf at the time was in Peru and I remember sending him blackberry messages panicking. 

Things that were broken and I never fixed

  • CD player // this stopped working after year two or so. Technically it still worked if you just wanted to listen to a cd in the exact order and not skip tracks. In hind sight, I think I left my Vertical Horizon cd in the player when I sold the car. It has been in there for 17 years. I'm not kidding.
  • gas gauge // for probably the last two years the gas gauge has not really been accurate. So I would always reset the odometer every time I got gas and refill before I drove 250 miles.
  • peeling paint // for some reason the paint would always peel on certain hinges and mirrors... and not others. I'm not sure why but after fixing it once, it felt like a never ending cycle.

Memorable Passengers

  • Taking my grandfather for a ride one father's day I think. He said he hadn't been in a Jeep since the war.
  • In high school, Taking my grandmother to Hingham for my prom dress fitting appointment. I just scanned a picture of this the other day.
  • While I was in grad school, I drove my friend Will and I to our eye doctor appointments in Belmont. Half way there a spider started to crawl down the front windshield, Will reached out and smack it... and shattered the windshield. He felt terrible. I could only laugh. The spider was dead and that's all that mattered.
  • Driving my sister and I back from Boston on countless occasions. She would be singing like an idiot in the passenger seat... and I'd record her. I still have these videos.
  • One million trips to Dunkin Donuts with my brother. I have no idea how many honestly, like 19 years worth. He grew up from a car seat in the back to the front passenger seat... and even to the driver seat.
Times I remember the odometer
  • 77,777 = August 2009 // driving back from Philly the summer I lived in NJ
  • 100,000 = December 2015 //  I moved home to the burbs from Boston
  • 121,499 = November 2018 // the day I sold the car

turmeric tomato soup

12.31.2018

I treasure a nice, flavorful soup. In 2019, my goal is to make some soups that don't include tomatoes - it feels like I'm always pulling out two cans of diced tomatoes. That being said, there is something irresistible about a good, flavor filled tomato soup. And that is this one.

I found the recipe trolling Instagram one day and was candidly drawn to the turmeric. I know the health benefits of turmeric are numerous. You won't get a whole lot healthier for eating this soup but it certainly doesn't hurt. The flavor is also not bananas strong so even picky eaters (ahem, my parents) would eat this and not even know.

I ended up making this soup and giving most of it away to a 91 year old neighbor. I kept an itty bitty bowl of it for myself pretty much to validate it wasn't poisonous. The recipe does not yield a whole lot. It's really just enough for 2 bowls which might be perfect.
  1. Heat the coconut oil in a sauce pan and fry the onion and garlic for one minute.
  2. Add turmeric and cherry tomatoes, and cook until the tomatoes softens and leave their juices.
  3. Add the tomato can, vegetable stock, apple cider vinegar and basil, bring to boil, cover with a lid and let simmer for five minutes.
  4. Transfer into the blender and pulse to obtain a creamy liquid.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and serve garnished whatever suits your fancy. 

Shopping List
5 oz cherry tomatoes, rinsed and cut in halves
1 can diced tomatoes with their sauce
½ cup low-sodium vegetable stock
1 small onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coconut oil
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp dried basil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

turkey posole

When I first moved into my new house, I brought with me 11 cans of diced tomatoes. It was nuts. Thanks to my recent run of soups and stews and chilis, I have many fewer cans in my inventory. In the near future I might have to add "diced tomatoes" back to my shopping list on the weekends.

In continuing my "homemade Christmas" of 2018, I make my grandfather this soup. A couple months back he told me the San Diego is his favorite place. I didn't know of any San Diego soups but I did know Mexican food would be a good inspiration. And that's how we have a turkey posole soup. Posole soup is a traditional Mexican stew that normally calls for like a pork or chicken - but ground turkey is a healthier option.

This soup can be very spicy if you want. I wasn't sure where my grandfather lands on the spicy spectrum so I held back. I swapped out the poblano pepper for a jalapeno but kept half the seeds. Compromises. Just like some soups and all chilis, this one is better the longer you let the flavors develop on the stove. You can see the broth deepen in color and become more opaque. 

Here's how it goes.
  1. Cook sweet pepper, onion and hot pepper in olive oil until onion is translucent.
  2. Add meat and cook until it is no longer pink. Drain off fat, if necessary. 
  3. Stir in cocoa powder, oregano, salt, cumin, ancho chile pepper and cinnamon. Cook and stir for 1 minute. 
  4. Stir in tomatoes, hominy, water and tomato sauce.
  5. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes to blend flavors, stirring occasionally. Garnish with green onions and radishes. Serve with lime wedges.
Shopping List
1 pound ground turkey breast
¾ cup chopped red or green sweet pepper
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped fresh poblano chile pepper (I used jalapeno)
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground ancho chile pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 (14.5 ounce) cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (15.5 ounce) can golden hominy, rinsed and drained
1 cup water or reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 (8 ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce
Lime wedges

ham and cheddar scones

A couple days ago I made a list of all the leftover ingredients in my fridge and tried to figure out a way to use them - or just not waste them entirely. The list included: Christmas ham, sour cream, and radishes. Radishes are admittedly an odd one. I barely like them so this might just be a complete loss there. However, I can put the ham and sour cream to use in a savory scone.

In the past I have made many scone varieties including a pancetta version in 2013. In 2014 I even used the pancetta scones to try and bribe a landlord for wood floors. These ham scones are definitely more of the savory spectrum. It's nice for breakfast but if I'm being honest I also had two at 8pm last night watching Office reruns.

A few notes:
  • Ham // Although the ham was cooked, I sautéed it for a couple minutes to crisp it up a bit. Not needed but just a personal preference. 
  • Texture + Height // This recipe doesn't get the same height as previous scones but I took a few shortcuts. I think the mixture was a little too wet and I didn't keep the butter super frozen. That being said, it's hard to resist ham and cheese scones either way.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the shredded frozen butter to the flour mixture and stir to combine.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk sour cream, egg and vanilla until smooth. Use your hands to work the sour cream mixture into flour mixture until the dough starts to come together. 
  5. Add in the ham and cheese and gently mix to combine. If necessary, add in some milk to moisten the mixture. 
  6. Once the dough completely comes together, turn it onto a clean surface and shape it into a circle or rectangle. Cut the scones with a floured knife to the shape you desire. 
  7. Put on a baking sheet, sprinkle with granulated sugar and bake until golden. Bake time will be between 15-25 minutes depending on the thickness of your scone.
Shopping List
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on top
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoons baking soda
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, shredded and frozen
1 large egg
1/2 cups sour cream
1/4 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 - 3/4 cups chopped cooked ham
2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2018 tomatoes

12.29.2018

This post is heavily delayed but I wanted to write it none the less. I think this past summer's tomato varieties were the best yet. I almost wouldn't change anything except for the fact that I like trying new varieties too much. I got too busy last year and never wrote a 2017 recap, but here is the 2016 one.

There were some real duds this year (ahem, Black Krim) but also some real winners. It'll be hard for me to not plant "4th of July" and "black truffle" every year. They are both so great. 4th of July is very productive but my favorite feature is the size. Black Truffle is always a showstopper both on the vine and on the plate.
But, here is the real breakdown. All of these varieties were organically grown from seed in my garage - except the 4th of July. My dad grew that one right down the road. During my last analysis I rated tomatoes for uniqueness, production, and overall wonderfulness. In spite of my overall love of numbers and spreadsheets, there is potentially no correlation between these 3 ratings. I'm not a data scientist.

TypeOverallUniqueProduction# Plants
black cherrycherryAAB1
midnight snackcherryAAA1
sunrise bumble beecherryB+B+B+1
ShimmerplumA-B+A2
4th of JulyslicerABA2
sweet tangerineslicerBB+A1
black truffle pearAAA1
big rainbowbeefsteakC+AC-1
black krimbeefsteakDB+B-1

black cherry (2017 graduate) // A little later to ripen compared to last year, but still amazing. Lots of fruit on the plant still but not nearly as productive as the other cherry varieties. I think its just a weird thing because last year I was swimming in black cherry tomatoes.

midnight snack // total attention grabber. They are front and center in the garden so everyone sees them. The color is really beautiful and they are very tasty for a cherry tomato. It was a little confusing for guests because they just saw the purple tops and assumed they were ripe. Tomatoes aren't ripe until the bottom of them is red.

sunrise bumble bee // very fun. if you can wait until they are just the tiniest bit orange/red, then they are the most delicious but still good a bit early.

Shimmer // Really interesting. Like a black truffle and a san marzano had a baby. Wonderful color and more flavor than a san marzano. Incredibly productive. It was borderline disappointing because I ended up with so much wasted fruit at the end of the season.

4th of July // complete homerun. Ripened the soonest (early August). Perfect shape and size. Excellent early red tomato flavor. Perhaps not the most attention grabbing variety but the combination of size and bright red color is perfect.

sweet tangerine // beautiful orange color. Not super juicy but a great sliced tomato. I always like to have one orange or yellow variety in the garden and this is a good option. Size is very much a beefsteak as the fruit gets quite large.

black truffle (2016 and 2017 graduate) // Always a winner. Forever and ever. Technically the black truffle is a beefsteak variety but the size is much more approachable. It would be hard to pass up planting this in the garden every year.

big rainbow // ripened very late into the season and not super productive. I only got 4-5 the whole summer ... but they were seriously beautiful. I might have sworn when I cut into the first tomato. It might be worth the gamble to plant this variety given how beautiful they are when ripe.

black krim // I'm honestly not sure why everyone always wants to try this variety. Despite being fairly productive this year, the fruit was a bit gnarly in shape and more bug prone than the rest of the garden. I did enter one of the tomatoes in a local contest because it was just so big. I have no desire to try this variety again.
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