What’s Your Go-To Salad?

Recently, I’ve really gotten into Ask MetaFilter. It full of straight forward advice to pragmatic questions as well as people baring their soul to strangers on the internet and getting genuine responses back. 

I love this thread on peoples’ “go-to” salad. Lunch day-in/day-out can get pretty boring so it’s nice to get some new idea.


On Being a “Good Girl” and Depression

The most common way my depression manifests itself is a total lack of will power. I know I should advance the latest work project or at least start clearing out my inbox, but I can’t bring myself to begin. While I sit there in a stupor, the unread email count ticks up in both my work and personal email, my voicemail fills up, and my projects begin to grow mold. Beneath the total lack of will, a low thrum of anxiety begins. I cannot start work, so work piles up. Work has piled up and so it seems impossible to start.

Meetings are a bit of a relief because at least I am fulfilling some purpose. Someone has scheduled my time, told me where to be and when, so I get up from my desk and move to occupy a chair at a conference table. Depending on how much energy I have, I usually can let myself be swept away in someone else’s will for an hour or two. The impulse to please people is almost stronger than depression. I want to be cooperative, to be helpful if I can. This is perhaps why it’s the worst when the mask slips during a meeting. A person stops me in the hall outside. “Are you OK?” they ask, keeping their voice down. Clearly, I have failed to occupy my chair in a helpful and productive manner. The person asking genuinely cares, but what can I tell them? My brain is broadcasting static; the occasional station it picks up appears to be a nihilist talk show.

I get home from work and everything feels better. So is it the job? But then sometimes there’s a week where things completely reverse. Work is fulfilling, interesting, I am on top of it and loving the high of getting things done. Home is a slog where it feels like all I do is empty and load the dishwasher, eat, and sleep. 

It’s perspective, of course. But what a whole lot of effort it is to cultivate that perspective and keep it alive. When I bought my house a few years ago, I thought, Hooray! No more moving everything year; it’s mine and I’m here and stable now. I learned very quickly that you can’t just buy a house and sit in it; you have to maintain it, constantly. Things tend towards entropy. I’m pretty sure in two summers the wild grapes would tear the gutters from the roof. 

I have to tend to my mind. I have to keep up with its maintenance. Take my meds, exercise, eat right, get enough sleep, spend time with my friends, time recharging by myself.

Sometimes it isn’t enough. I have to wait those days and weeks out.  I have to sit, with my lack of willpower and my discomfort at the things I’m not doing piling up. I try to take care of myself enough not to disrupt other people’s lives or agendas. The “good girl” impulse keeps me functioning, running on autopilot until the depression passes. 

And that’s the perspective I manage to keep while I am depressed. This will pass. Tomorrow is another day. 



Vegan Delights from Bon Appetit

One of my favorite things to do is to flip through my issue of Bon Appetit and flag the pages with recipes I want to make. I have a stack of issues with pages flagged; more than I’ll ever get through in a year of cooking. It’s a kind of daydream to imagine all the delicious meals I might make over the course of a year.

Last night, I managed to make two recipes from this month’s issue: The Green Minestrone and The Spinach Salad with Dates. If you leave the parmesan off of The Green Minestrone both are vegan. Both were delicious.

IMG_2326 IMG_2327

To Excess


Vegas was awesome and full of excess: miles walked, lobbies pictured, drinks consumed, red meat savored, hot dry weather, gaudy decor, etc.

Today I’m drinking detox tea, wearing a fax mask, and about to do a coconut oil/honey treatment on my hair. When you need a recovery plan you know it was a good trip.

1986 Brings Us Mediterranean Cod and a Blah Veggie

Last night’s meal was Mediterranean Cod with Vegetables as the entree and Artichoke Hearts and Peas in Radicchio Cups from the 1986 version of The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook.

The version of Mediterranean Cod with Vegetables that I cooked had slightly different proportions: 2 small onions, 1 garlic clove, 1 green pepper, 3/4 C breadcrumbs (gluten-free in my case), and 1 large tomato, but otherwise is the same. I forgot the dill weed and wish I r had substituted something else in at the last minute. It was a delicious light meal, that made enough for a full second meal for two people. It just was missing some essential extra kick/flavor.


Rachel’s Rating: 1 spoon

John’s Rating: 2 spoons

For the Artichoke Hearst and Peas in Radicchio Cups, I couldn’t find Radicchio and made the mistake of using a rather bitter green.

Rachel’s Rating: 0 spoons. Never again!

John’s Rating: 1 spoon.

The Rating System

1 spoon = It was a OK.

2 spoons = solid meal

3 spoons = instant classic, immediate add to the remake list

Last Week in January 2014


Two books came into play this week: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow and David B.’s Epileptic.

  • Flow was my January pick for my book club with John. We alternate months, picking a book and having a dinner date to discuss the book at the end of the month. Next month is our retrospective. Flow was a three (out of five) star book for me over at Goodreads. Although I did not think it was very well-written, the ideas within it have already had an impact on me. (See more in the What I Learned section.)
  • Epileptic is a graphic novel that I picked up a Telegraph a couple weeks ago. It’s a memoir of a younger brother growing up with an older brother with epilepsy in the 60s and 70s in France. Intricate drawings and intense plot. A 5 star book to me.



John and I used our bookclub dinner date as an opportunity to participate in Cville restaurant week at Ten. I very much appreciated that they were able to adjust the restaurant week menu to fit my gluten-free needs.

Not a lot of additional cooking happened this week as I had tons of left overs from the weekend and several lunch dates during the week.


I had two highlights with exercise this week. The first is the Cycle and Barre class at ACAC. I haven’t taken exercise classes since high school and the kind of terrify me because of my fixed mindset. I went into this class not knowing what to expect and came out a convert. An excellent workout lead by a really great instructor (Melissa H, in this case).

The second is that on Friday I ran 6 miles in a hour and it was a dream run. The weather had warmed up so that I could run in long pants and a tshirt, I had the motivation, and my legs had the steam.


One working tip came out of this week: I was gathering feedback from a rather large group for a charter and decide to make a feedback excel sheet. I tracked what the comment was, who made it, and what the resolution was. I liked this for a few reasons: (1) commenters could see that I had gotten their comment and had a plan to respond to it (or that I had missed it!), (2) everyone could see who had actually provided feedback, (3) I had a checklist to run through as I was revising the document.

What I learned

This week, ala Flow, I learned that I like incorporating challenge into my life. Challenge, to me, is a much more motivating concept than “Goal.” A goal seems distant and far off; challenges are immediate and, in addition, playful. My challenge for this week was to attend an exercise class every day. I didn’t actually meet the challenge, but I attended classes 5 out 7 days.

What went well

Exercise! In particular, recognizing that I was nervous about seeming silly or “stupid” when I didn’t know the moves in a class and reminding myself that I am a beginner and that it was OK to not know the moves.

What I can do better

I keep letting food spoil before I can get to it. I’d like to do better about figuring out what my cooking schedule is and buying food to match the schedule.

What puzzles me

The chemistry of my body will always be a puzzle to me. Why I have weeks where everything comes together and why I have weeks where nothing goes right. Both of those states are in my head and things I can manage, but where do they come from and why?

Soup’s On for Sunday Supper

Tonight I made Spicy Pork and Mustard Green Soup from Bon Appetit. After not being able to find all the ingredients in the grocery store I made the following substitutions:

  • medallion cuts of pork  that chopped up instead of ground pork
  • an extra tablespoon of soy sauce* instead of the tsp fish sauce
  • vermicelli rice noodles instead of wide rice noodles
  • Tellicherry black pepper corns instead of 1 tsp Sichaun peppercorns
  • Ground cumin instead of 1/2 tsp cumin seeds

*If you are gluten-free, be sure to look for gluten-free soy sauce.


A word on washing greens: I don’t have a salad spinner and I dislike the leaf by leaf washing method (and think it is ineffectual). To wash greens, I get a large bowl, place the greens in the bowl, fill the bowl with water and a splash of vinegar. I agitate the greens in the water for a few minutes. As I pull them out to rip them up they get shaken and inspected. Use a bowl and not just your kitchen sink as your sink has either bacteria or cleaning agents in it (or both!).


I asked John to help me rate my meals. The rating system we used is 3 spoons.

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