The List: How I Completely Changed My Meal Planning Strategy (for Good!)

Our Editor's guide to the best things to eat, do, and read this week.
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Mondays have a tendency of sneaking up on me after a great weekend, but this one came especially quickly. On Saturday, I was all over Los Angeles, catching up with friends, so we kept Sunday to ourselves to slow down a bit. Jonah and I woke up early to go for an early morning, chilly hike up Echo Mountain. On our way back home, we stopped at the Atwater Farmers Market where we picked up all the ingredients for a Bourbon Pear Crumble, then spent the afternoon baking and reading (I've been on a health kick lately, but you bet I put ice cream on that pie! What are rules, if not breakable?). It was a sweet end to a perfect weekend. Here's what else I'm loving this week:

1

In the past, I've carefully meal-planned by specific recipes for complete meals, but lately I've taken a different approach by prioritizing meal planning from the sauce down. Here's the idea: Rather than carefully plan out my week by meal, I batch-make two to three sauces on Sunday night and start with a few base ingredients in my fridge that can become a variety of different meals, depending on what I'm craving during the week. 

Lately I've been starting with: Miso Tahini Sauce (or another Asian-inspired sauce), Vegan Basil Pesto (or something that goes with Italian flavors), a simple protein-packed pasta sauce, a broken-down rotisserie chicken, a dozen eggs, lemons, and a huge container of spinach. 

Using mostly things I already have in my pantry, this can become: a tahini grain bowl, breakfast tacos, basil chicken-spinach pasta, shakshuka, lentil soup, white beans and kale, a stuffed baked sweet potato, tomato sauce on toast, etc! 

I still have to cook a bit each night, but having ready-made healthy sauces means I can throw something together with minimal effort—and decide what I'm craving the day-of. 

2

It took me all of one week to breeze through this podcast, in which a reporter interviews a friend who escapes a cult after 12 years in it. The cult, NXIVM (pronounced 'nexium') was essentially a multi-level marketing scam that promised 'self help' but instead successfully brainwashed thousands of people, including actress Allison Mack. It disbanded earlier this year when the founder, Keith Raniere, was pressed with several charges—including sex trafficking. The interviews are fascinating mostly because Sarah, the main subject, seems so completely normal—and points out that you don't have to be nuts to be talked into joining a cult (um, terrifying...). 

P.S., I'm also really enjoying The New York Times' new opinion podcast, The Argument, which debuted last week!

3

Two weeks ago, Jonah and I received our sample ballots for the midterms, and outside of a few biggies, like governor and senator positions, there were a lot of races and propositions we barely know anything about. Enter: The Ballot Party! The idea is to invite over a group of friends (we're having about ten people over next week), and divide the props and races among each person, so that they can then present on each one. It's an easy, fun way to be informed ahead of voting day!

4

I'm a huge fan of Samin Nosrat's recipes, which use the fundamental idea that great food is comprised of four elements: salt, fat, acid, and heat. In her new Netflix show, she travels around the world to discover how those elements are applied to different cultures. I recommend watching it with this cookbook nearby in case you get hungry!

P.S., If you're in L.A... the Eastside Food Fest is this weekend! And podcast fans can buy tickets to a live taping of NPR's 'How I Built This' with Guy Raz in L.A. in December, here! Also! We're also hosting a pop-up sale in two weekends at the Row DTLA... stay tuned for details!