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I can’t say anything else about 2020 that hasn’t already been said.  Rob and I are weathering the pandemic very well, and I am very grateful.  I feel a little odd talking about all the stuff I bought this year when so many people are struggling or dealing with bigger problems.  But here we are.  

I’ve thought about writing newsletters all year but haven’t been able to get it together enough to send anything out. I’ve missed it and am hoping to send more in 2021. I’m going to try and experiment with the format and any feedback is welcome. Here are my recommendations and highlights of 2020 wrapped into one big newsletter.

T H E   E D I T

All the best things I bought in 2020 were things that brought me comfort.  These Zella pants and top have basically been my uniform.  Because the top is so perfectly soft and flowy,  I ended up buying two colors: pink and black.  The pants are basically leggings with pockets large enough to accommodate my phone.  

Since everyone’s favorite activity this year is hand washing, I upgraded my hand soap to Aesop’s Reverence.  Yes, that name is a little grandiose and the $39 price tag is definitely a little unreasonable for hand soap… but the soap has a lovely woodsy scent and there are tiny little granules that buff away dead skin, so it leaves hands incredibly soft.  

A new coffee shop,  KLVN, with a killer hi-fi system, opened right before the pandemic set in.  I remember the first time I walked in, “It Could Have Been a Brilliant Career” by Belle and Sebastian was playing over the Dynaco A25 speakers. In the dozens of times I’ve heard the song, it never sounded so good. I would love to invest in a fancy hi-fi set up, but because we live in a small apartment, it seemed unnecessary for now.  These speakers from Edifier are only $99 and sound amazing… honestly, much better than all portable bluetooth speakers I’ve tried. 

Because we’ve been doing so much cooking at home, we are a little sick of our classic rotation of dinners.  I’ve loved trying recipes out of "Six Seasons'' because the book offers interesting takes on a big variety of vegetables.  It is organized by season, so I can easily navigate by the time of year. 

The last thing: a nice journal.  It’s a little corny, but it feels important to write about this wild time in our lives.  Journaling also helps me process things.  If a problem is a tangled knot, writing about it helps me think clearly and unravel it. 

Zella TopPants, Aesop Soap, Six Seasons, Speakers, Turn Table, Journal

B O O K   C L U B 


Recently, I did something that has always felt very off-brand for me.  Since all branches of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh closed, my access to books has been seriously limited. So I ordered a Kindle.  Why did this take me so long?  The Kindle has been around for at least a decade and are relatively affordable.  I love it for so many reasons: books can be downloaded instantly, the backlight, font, and text size are adjustable, it’s light and comfortable to hold.   And the best part?  Library books can be downloaded for free using the Libby app.  I’ve also started using Libby to download audiobooks, which I love for fiction.  

Anyway, here are some of the best books I read this year: 

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino - Tolentino nails what it is like to be a millennial woman right now.  I read this book in one sitting. 

Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener - this is a great peek into the world of tech start ups and hits very close to home for me

Medallion Status: True Stories from Secret Rooms by John Hodgman - I met Hodgman last year and got my copy of this book signed.  I also love his podcast, Judge John Hodgman 

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris - Sedaris is my favorite author; his books are like candy for my brain. 

At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson - I’m currently reading this book.  It’s basically history through the lens of the house, which is fascinating. 

I N   T H E   K I T C H E N



Spiced Chickpea Stew (Adapted from Alison Roman) 

I’m including a recipe that we have over and over and over again this year.  I love it because the ingredients are easy to always have on hand - chickpeas, coconut milk, and anything else you want to stir in.  It’s warm, satisfying, and not too heavy.  

Ingredients

¼ cup olive oil, plus more for serving
4 garlic cloves, grated on a microplane 
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, grated on a microplane 
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed (optional)
1/2 head cauliflower, chopped into florets (optional)
2 (15-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk
2 cups water 
1 bunch of Swiss chard, (or bag of spinach or any other greens)
Yogurt, for serving (optional)
Toasted pita, for serving (optional)

Method

Preheat the oven to 425F, wrap a sweet potato punctured with a fork in foil, and put it in the oven for 50 minutes.  Grate the garlic and ginger using a microplane to form a paste, I think that this helps disperse the flavor better than fine chopping, but that works, too if a microplane isn’t available. 

Next, finely dice the onion, and mix it together with the garlic / ginger paste.  In a large dutch oven (or stock pot), head up the olive oil.  You don’t really have to measure here, just generously coat the bottom of the pan.  Once the pan has heated up, scrape in the onion / ginger / garlic mixture.  Let the onions soften and get a little color and then add the turmeric, red pepper, salt and pepper.  If you don’t like a lot of spice, just a sprinkle of red pepper flake will do. Stir to incorporate, and then add the chickpeas.  Be mindful of the temperature, because if it gets too hot, the chickpeas can easily stick to the bottom and burn.  Cook the chickpeas for about 10 minutes and then mash them up a little to release some of the starch - this helps the stew thicken.  Add the sweet potato and cauliflower, stir and then pour in the coconut milk and water, stir and bring mixture to a boil.  

Reduce to a simmer, stir occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom.  Cook the stew until the sweet potato is cooked, about 40 minutes. Add the greens and stir until wilted, about 5 minutes.  Serve with a large dollop of greek yogurt and toasted flatbread (I like to use the naan from Trader Joe’s). 

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Copyright © 2020 Inge Moran, All rights reserved.


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