Welcome to the December 2023 edition of RPL at Home, where I share what I’m up to when I’m not in the kitchen or in front of the camera.
Each month, I’ll share snippets of what I’m working, habits I’m cultivating, things bringing me joy, books/TV shows/podcasts I’m enjoying, and more. Think of it as stream-of-consciousness blabbering meets a semi-curated list of recommendations meets life update.
🍽️ What I’m working on in the biz
Honestly, this header should read “What I’m working on in my new biz.”
I spent a lot of time over the past year surveying the RPL community about their cooking challenges, and it became clear to me that one of the biggest problems had nothing to do with following a recipe.
It’s all the other stuff that goes into putting delicious plant-based meals on the table on a consistent basis:
- figuring out what to cook week after week
- making organized grocery lists to avoid impulse purchases and food waste
- organizing your busy schedule around cooking
- building an arsenal of recipes that the whole family will enjoy
- figuring out how to take the stress out of weeknight cooking without succumbing to the same boring dinners (or, ordering takeout).
So I’m pleased to share that our brand new vegan meal plans tackle all of these problems!
What you’ll find in each weekly meal plan:
- A complete grocery list that’s categorized by grocery store section and contains tons of substitutes based on allergens and ingredient availability.
- High-impact meal prep steps that take 60 to 90 minutes each Sunday so you can save time and stress during your weeknight cooking.
- Three hearty dinner recipes + a weekly side salad, all of which include shared ingredients and components, reducing your overall cook time and grocery list (and sometimes, grocery bill!)
- Restaurant-quality dinners that come together smoothly and easily during the week.
I can’t tell you how excited I am about launching these meal plans! I truly believe they will minimize the stresses of weeknight cooking and empower you to fall in love with plant-based cooking.
We even had a few of our meal plans tested by 40 beta testers in the RPL community, and the positive feedback has been overwhelming (in a good way!).
If you want to join our waitlist, stay up-to-date with our launch, and get access to exclusive discounts in January, sign up using this form:
📲 What I’m not working on in the biz
With the new meal plan business and all my recent travel (more on that below), there are certain things I have not been working on. Like social media.
I took a break from Instagram in September because every time I opened the app, I either felt anxious, envious of something or someone else, or wildly distracted. So after 7+ years of Instagram being a part of my daily life (a truly wild fact), I decided to take a break.
I thought my break would last 2 weeks. Yet, here we are in December, and it’s been 2 months since I’ve even opened the app, let alone posted content.
This break has been amazing for my well-being: (1) that feeling of never having enough time has mostly disappeared; (2) I feel less anxious; (3) I no longer experience sensory overload.
I have more time
It seems easy enough to say, “If you previously spent 1 hour on Instagram per day and then stopped using the app, you would now have 1 extra hour every day to do something else.”
But that’s a dramatic undercount of how much time I’ve gotten back.
That’s because every time we switch tasks (e.g., taking a break from writing a blog post to check Instagram, then returning to the blog post), it takes considerable time to really get back into the flow of things and to refocus.
Research has found that it takes about 25 minutes to return to your original task after being interrupted! For instance, if I checked Instagram twice during a blog-writing sesh, it would take me, on average, an extra 50 minutes to write that blog post!
Not having the temptation to open Instagram means I have gained literal hours back in my day, and I’ve been using that time to focus on the high-impact work I enjoy the most (and to do more fun things!).
I feel less anxious
Lez be honest, social media can be a dumpster fire sometimes. And even when it’s fun and light, there are certain things that make me anxious and feel like I’m not doing enough. Like seeing how prolific other content creators are (i.e., posting new recipes daily!).
Not exposing myself to this inundation of content means I can stay laser-focused on what I actually have control over. That helps me enjoy the process and feel proud of the work I’m doing instead of feeling anxious, envious, or inadequate.
I no longer experience sensory overload
Short-form videos—which started with TikTok and have taken over Instagram and increasingly YouTube—have made social media platforms places of sensory overload (at least for me).
The distraction of a fast-moving, endless loop of quick videos can overstimulate our nervous systems. This overstimulation makes it harder to accurately sense how we’re feeling, which can worsen our fears, anxieties, and stress.
Taking 2 months off from social media has not just solved that problem for me. It’s also given me a glimpse into what life used to be like before the digital overload era.
For instance, I now find myself craving silence from time to time. The last time I can remember truly sitting in silence and enjoying it was back in college and law school (10-15 years ago). Since then, I have often used social media (and to a lesser degree, podcasts and music) as a tool of distraction when I don’t want to feel my feelings, think about hard things, or do the work that needs doing.
That sobering realization has made me seek out silence more often these days. I’ve even found myself driving or cooking without listening to any podcasts or music (an unthinkable fact just months ago).
All that to say, my hiatus from social media has been really great for my mental health, productivity, and overall well-being.
Though, of course, I recognize the irony of being a “content creator” who doesn’t post on social media LOL.
At least for now, though, I still feel like I’m creating the most high-value content that I can: long-form YouTube videos, detailed recipes on the blog (not as many as I’d like, but still), and meal plans (for the near future!).
That doesn’t mean I won’t ever return to Instagram. I probably will soon, but my relationship with it has definitely changed.
What I’m watching, listening to, and reading
We’re still slowly working our way through The Americans, which is one of the greatest shows ever made and arguably the greatest TV show about spies (though the French spy thriller Le Bureau is also a fave; I would 10/10 recommend it).
And a few days ago, we started watching Season 5 of Fargo. I loved seasons 1 and 2 of this franchise and am extra excited to watch this season because two of my favorite actresses star in it: Juno Temple (who played Keely on Ted Lasso) and Richa Moorjani (fellow vegan and IRL friend of mine who played Kamala on Never Have I Ever). We finished episode 3 last night and it’s been brilliant so far.
In a recent edition of RPL at Home, I mentioned I was reading The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese. The novel centers around a family in Kerala, a tropical state in southern India that I visited back in college with my best friends Lucia and Sonia (more on them below!).
I was enraptured by how his writing evoked such specific images and feelings of life in India, and Kerala specifically, at precise historical time periods. So I decided I wanted to read more books that take place in India (it is the motherland, after all!).
While I’m not ordinarily one to re-read books (too many books, too little time!), I decided to revisit two books I previously read ~15 years ago.
First, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, which I finished a few days ago, and The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, which I’ll start in a few days.
As soon as you start reading The God of Small Things, it becomes clear why this book was so popular when it was first published in the 1990s and has gone on to sell 6 million(!) copies. Roy has a very unique style of prose, but it’s her narration that sets this book apart. Like any great novel, each character comes alive in your imagination with the most ordinary and extraordinary of details.
She effortlessly weaves together personal tragedies and family resentments with larger historical forces, like the Indian caste system and the powerful force of Communism in Kerala to produce a profound and beautiful yet agonizing novel.
I haven’t listened to as many podcasts as usual (see above!), but I loved loved loved this recent episode from Modern Love: Two Boys on Bikes, Falling in Love. The writer and narrator, Eric Darnell Pritchard, has the loveliest voice and his narration about his first love is so pure and so sweet that I want to listen to it all over again.
New Recipes and Videos
New Recipes you might have missed
- Vegan Apple Crisp. Hot take: I like apple crisp better than apple pie. It’s so much easier to make and tastes just as good (if not better). This version features gooey, maple-spiced apples baked underneath a crispy, crunchy and slightly chewy streusel and strikes the best sweet-salty balance. A must-make for your holiday dinner!
- Sausage & Fennel Pasta with Crushed Tomato Sauce. In need of a quick but gourmet-tasting pasta dinner? Look no further than this rich and meaty 10-ingredient pasta inspired by the Italian classic dish, Bucatini all’Amatriciana.
VIDEOS you might have missed
- Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells. If you’ve ever been curious about my recipe development process and journey, this recent video walks you through how I approach my older recipes and how I improve them. I brought a gourmet upgrade to one of my favorite OG recipes on the blog: pumpkin ricotta stuffed shells! The original is great, but the upgraded version is mindblowing.
- Aloo Gobi. This has been one of the most-requested Indian recipes and I finally filmed a video on how to make it! Bonus: my hilarious and adorable parents do a blind taste test with my version and a restaurant version.
RPL Recipe Club
We’re still going strong with the RPL Recipe Club! Each month, I choose a different recipe for the RPL community to make, and December’s recipe is my Vegan Chili! Anyone can make the recipe, then submit a photo to win amazing kitchen prizes.
This month, we’re giving away an apron and knife from Hedley & Bennett (you probably have peeped me wearing their aprons and using their knives in my YouTube videos!).
For all the details check out the December 2023 edition of the RPL recipe club.
In the most recent edition of RPL at Home (in October), I mentioned that my sister and I were #blessed to have two best friends (and fellow sisters), Lucia and Sonia.
Our moms met in the 1980s as new immigrants from India while both of their husbands (our dads) were busy working as medical residents, often pulling 48- and 72-hour shifts.
Despite the fact that, in 1989, my family moved to California and theirs to Maryland, our moms continue to be besties and so do the four of us gals (we’re more like sisters than friends).
In November, my whole family took a 2-week trip to Baltimore to celebrate both Sonia and Lucia’s back-to-back weddings! My sister was the maid of honor in Sonia’s wedding the first week, and I was the maid of honor in Lucia’s wedding.
It was such a pleasure to be there for our closest friends on their special days and to spend time with both of our families together.
PS: Max and I stayed in DC in between the weddings. Similar to our DC trip in October (for another wedding!), we had incredible vegan food at Planta Queen. If you have a Planta Queen in your area, the Pressed and Torched sushi is probably my favorite-ever dish from a restaurant so don’t sleep on it.
Okay, that’s it for this last RPL at Home post of 2023! Thank you for reading these personal posts this year. I have so enjoyed writing them and sharing a glimpse of my life behind the screen.
Drop me a line below and let me know what you’d like to see in the first edition of 2024!