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I’m writing you from my studio—a clean space in the upper reaches of our 250-year-old barn, 40 yards behind our home. It’s a space my husband, András, created for me in the early-pandemic times when he was briefly at home with us.
Inside the studio, it’s a New Year—fresh paint, fresh plants, and new projects and ideas pinned to my vision board. But inside our house, it’s still Christmas—the tree is up, toys are still scattered, and gingerbread houses remain.
Maybe you’re still recovering from the holidays, too? That’s ok.
A lot of people are talking about resolutions and goals, their word of the year. It’s a lovely tradition—but as a reminder (for me as much as you): we can do these exercises any time in our life. On the first day of the year, I was sick in bed sick, so today will have to do.
Coming back from Hungary in November, we had to think hard about how we wanted to spend our time. Everything was both old and new again, which forced me to dig into how we wanted to live an old life, in new ways—ways that honored the changes we went through as a family during nearly four months of travel.
December was fast and furious, but as I was making decisions about gifts, events, and spending—I kept asking myself, which would have the most impact: Lots of small charming decor, or—say—one glowy tree with white lights in everyone’s bedrooms? Many small toys for the kids, or instead—new ski or climbing gear, and games that kept us playing and growing together, as a family.
I could have chosen to support every single great cookbook that came out in 2022 (so many!!) with a gift guide, or instead, put my energy behind one author and book that resonated with me, and where I felt I could help push the needle (see that, here).
I used this little trick all of December to help remind me to do more— with less.
Early in our new year, this still feels right. So, my word this year— if I have one— is IMPACT. Instead of donating to a half-dozen organizations this year, what is one non-profit making the most impact where we believe it counts? What one big trip would be the most meaningful for our family at this stage? And—where is my time most effective? Over the last three years, I spent an enormous amount of time with my kids (they might be sick of me). This year, I’ll get more help, and focus on impact moments: clear-eyed, steady moments of joy and connection—instead of being the one who has to fill their every need, every moment of the day.
You can apply this principle in the kitchen too. It’s called IMPACT COOKING (or, that’s what I’m calling it anyway). And, so far for us—it’s working.
Instead of feeling like we (me, and you!) have to do 100% from scratch meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, for January at least, we’re focusing on impact cooking: making the things my family will devour with gusto—that are also easy on the cook.
In our house, that’s warm tortillas with avocado, flaky salt, and lime for school-day breakfasts (it takes 3 minutes, promise! Keep tall stacks of corn tortillas and counter-ripened avocados, at the ready)—and Cacio e Pepe on repeat for fast dinners, with a big green salad whenever the moment calls. Bonus: both are majorly budget friendly— for anyone else recouping from over-holidaying.
IMPACT COOKING is also meatballs (turkey, beef/pork, or meatless) that I can make in advance and freeze to turn into slider sandwiches, meatballs over polenta, and Italian Wedding Soup, a family favorite.
It’s also egg sandwiches—which my husband would happily eat 365 days a year—simple or stacked, open-faced or classic— dolled up with anything you crave. I love bacon, avocado, spicy greens, and a drizzle of honey-lemon and olive oil, laced with turmeric (recipe). IMPACT COOKING can also be keeping bacon in the house, for the two of us who crave it in winter with our morning grapefruit (weird and true), and to chop and stir into mirepoix (onion, celery, carrot), as the base of winter stews.
Another type of IMPACT COOKING is one-pan cooking. I wrote bunches of these recipes for the New York Times. Crowd favorites: Green Shakshuka, One-Pan Shrimp Enchilada Verde, and Sweet and Spicy Tofu with Soba Noodles. Melissa Clark also wrote a book about this topic, called Dinner in One. (Three recipes that caught my eye: Sheetpan Meatball Sub Sandwiches on Garlic Bread, Spiced Brussel Sprouts with Paneer and Tangy Lime Dressing, and Lemony Turkey and Meatball Soup with Winter Greens in a Dutch Oven!).
Let’s not forget I wrote a whole book about high-impact, one-pot cooking called INSTANT FAMILY MEALS, with recipes like Cacio e Pepe Risotto, Soup Au Pistou, Big-Flavor-Bolognese, and Congee with all the fixings. These recipes call for an instant pot, or similar multi-cooker—a high-impact tool for winter cooking (and I’m learning some of them can be converted to an air-fryer, too).
Yet another kind of IMPACT COOKING—one that might work for you—is focusing on sauces. Make one or two sauces and dressings, on Sunday afternoon that you can use all week, to bring more flavor to every meal. My favorites are The Only Green Sauce You’ll Ever Need (serve on chicken, fish, tofu, egg toast, roasted veg, salads, grilled paneer—and everything else you make already)—from my book Every Day is Saturday, and a classic Dijon vinaigrette we keep in a jar in the fridge, for nightly salads.
Maybe for you IMPACT COOKING is taking time off from trying new recipes and instead making your kid’s favorite chocolate chip cookies at least once a week (here’s ours)—or better yet: make them as a one-pan blondie, that everyone can nibble when the mood strikes. These feel like a mid-day hug in a lunchbox.
Speaking of impact: eating out can have a major effect on us too when it’s in the budget. In my family growing up, we ate out every Sunday after church—which gave my mom (our sole cook at that time) a much-needed day off, and all of us one day to choose what was on our plate (blueberry pancakes for me!).
This year, instead of grabbing several filler meals out during our busy week (mid-week-pizza, or soup from the farm shop when I’m stretched thin), I’m focusing on eating out fewer but better special meals, in places that satisfy —body and soul (ambiance, service, and crazy good food)—the way restaurants were meant to.
And when it’s not in the budget, here’s an old friend that never fails: avocado toast.
I want to have an impact, here, too—with all of you, in your homes and your lives. To do that, I need to start asking for feedback—to find out what’s helping you most. Comments and likes on posts tell me what you’re enjoying, so please use them, but watch for a few polls coming soon, too.
For now, I want to bring impact via joy and vitality to your world, from mine: resources for amazing recipes and trips that deeply nourish. To that end, I’ll be continuing my Postcard From.. series, along with Dispatches from Central Europe and any/everywhere we travel. And, starting next week—expect to see a new recipe column here, that brings my 15 + years of nutrition knowledge to the table, in full color.
In the meantime, thank you for being here! Here’s to a year of huge vitality, abundance, joy, and impact—-and satisfying all our cravings.
Photos for this post by Gentl + Hyers for Every Day is Saturday. Food and Prop Styling by Sarah Copeland.
Would it be possible to get the exact recipe for the Green Shakshuka with avacado and lime which you wrote about on Instagram. You said that you had written about the recipe in your newsletter but Search turned nothing up. It looks fabulous and my girlfriend and I will love making it!! ❤️💙💚
Impact Cooking is an idea I support!