Welcome to the January 2024 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
In case you missed the big news, we launched our brand new weekly vegan meal plan service, Meal Plans by Rainbow Plant Life, earlier this month!
Since this is what I have been working on the most over the last few months, I thought I’d share a bit more here.
As much as I love sharing new recipes (I really do!), I also love providing useful content that my audience truly wants.
And what I have come to learn from all of the feedback I get from readers like you and viewers on YouTube is that what most home cooks need is not more recipes but more structure and more planning taken care of for them.
If you lead a busy life—and let’s be real, most of us do—there is so much mental juggling and planning required in order to get wholesome and tasty dinners on the table, week after week.
Even more so if you are vegan or want to eat more plant-based food, as this comes with additional challenges: e.g., getting your picky or skeptical family members to enjoy eating what you eat; finding recipes that strike the right balance between healthy, delicious, and satisfying; etc.
So when I was dreaming up these meal plans, I designed them so they would solve all of the pain points that my audience members mentioned.
Each week, you get a complete PDF delivered to your inbox that contains:
- A new menu of exciting and tasty yet nourishing plant-based meals;
- A complete and categorized grocery list;
- Tons of ideas and tips for tailoring these meals to your lifestyle and preferences;
- A set of meal prep steps that you can complete in 60 to 90 minutes on a Sunday that will majorly streamline your weeknights while still allowing you to enjoy fresh meals that never get boring.
- And each week, the recipes contain shared components and overlapping ingredients, which means you have fewer ingredients to buy and less prep work to do…but with a little creativity (okay, a lot!), I’ve made sure that the meals are still varied, unique, and never feel repetitive. In fact, in the first quarter (13 weeks), there is not a single meal that gets repeated.
And it brings me GREAT JOY to see that so many of you are absolutely loving the meal plans and already experiencing so many of the positive impacts I had hoped you would.
My mission has always been to make it fun and exciting to eat plants so that more and more folks will eat, well, more plants (and fewer animals). And the reaction we’ve gotten so far tells me these plans are helping to accomplish that mission 🥳
I am so proud of these meal plans, and of the hard work the small but mighty RPL team has put into making these meal plans come to life.
If you want to try our meal plans out with a 7-day free trial, sign up here!
📔 Cookbook Update!!
It’s been about 6 months since the last time I gave you an update on my second cookbook (read that first update here) so I figured it was time to share more.
I just learned that my cookbook will be published on September 3!
When I heard that, I thought “oh my, that’s so soon!” and then I remembered that I had been working on this book for 3 whole years 😅
I will share more updates in the near future, like the cover and title, pre-order information, etc. But for now, here is what I’ll say:
This book is my love letter to vegan cooking. It’s a distillation of everything I’ve learned about vegan cooking over the last ~8 years. It’s big and comprehensive and, in my perhaps not-so-humble opinion, it’s my best work yet.
Don’t get me wrong. I am proud of all the work I share and of my first cookbook, The Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook. But I was still a baby when I wrote that first book. Not a literal baby. Babies can’t write books, of course.
I was, however, a mere infant in terms of my career. I had only been sharing recipes for about a year when I started writing that book, and Rainbow Plant Life was still a side hustle when my first book was published.
This book, however, feels like a more mature evolution of my work–in terms of the recipes, the writing, and the photographs—and I cannot wait for it to be in your hands (in 7 ½ months).
🤸🏽What I’m working on in life
Okay, not actually snacking on food (I don’t think that requires much “work” lol), but exercise snacks.
I’ve written about this in past updates, but I am injury-prone. Not because I’m clumsy (though I am also that) but because I have overly mobile joints, an old ankle injury (I tore a tendon in law school; it never grew back), and a trifecta of feet issues (flat feet, bunions, and overpronation). Very sexy, I know.
A few times a year, my hips decide to misalign themselves (I’m not sure what the proper medical term is), resulting in my right leg being longer than the left. And that, in turn, leads to back pain, which can lead to pain in any or all body parts below the back.
The sexiness continues! Anywho, as I mentioned in a past RPL at Home post, I’ve been working on getting stronger in an attempt to thwart the effect of said misalignments.
I had been loving my exercise regimen and feeling stronger than I had in 5 years. Then, about six weeks ago, after a workout, I felt that familiar twinge in my back.
Luckily, the back pain that ensued has been much less severe than in times past, which is almost certainly due to the fact that I’m stronger now. But I haven’t been able to exercise as frequently or as vigorously as I would like.
After being bummed about this for a few weeks, I decided to look for additional ways to add movement into my daily life. Enter my old friend, the exercise snack.
An exercise snack is basically a short burst of exercise that can be done any time of day, with minimal or no equipment (and importantly, doesn’t require a change of clothes or a shower afterwards).
I became acquainted with exercise snacks when I was a corporate lawyer and regularly glued to my desk for 12 hours a day. A couple times a day, I’d go to the back stairwell that no one used (we were on the 25th floor) and I’d sprint up the stairs until I was out of breath. Or, if my officemate was in a meeting, I’d do jumping jacks or air squats before sitting back down to do some soul-sucking document review.
While the idea of sprinting is no longer appealing to me (or my joints), I’ve been bringing back the exercise snack a few times a day and have been loving it.
If it’s the kind of day where I need to sit at my desk for hours (to write blog posts or my cookbook, develop recipes, edit photos, etc.), I’ll break up all that sitting with a few exercise snacks spaced throughout the day.
Here are some of my recent go-to exercise snacks:
- 1-minute wall-sit + 20 (modified) pushups + this move for 1 minute
- 1-minute plank hold + squats for 1 minute + modified burpees for 1 minute
- 5 minutes of light weights with cardio moves
Reintroducing exercise snacks into my life has made me feel better about myself, my fitness journey, and my overall health. Just knowing that they’re so good for you (they can even undo some of the damage from sitting all day) makes me almost excited to do them, at least most days.
Speaking of snacks, I’ve also been thinking about joy snacks (a suggestion from reader Catherine S.) and how to incorporate little moments of joy into my life. I’ll be writing about that in the next edition of RPL at Home!
What I’m watching, listening to, and reading
We have been loving the latest season of Fargo. The casting is truly fantastic: fans of the TV shows Ted Lasso, Never Have I Ever, Stranger Things, New Girl, AND Mad Men will be delighted to see some of their favorite characters play much different roles in this show.
And this season has plenty of suspense (and just enough weirdness) to keep you on the edge of your seat. Season finale drops this Tuesday!
In the December edition of RPL at Home, I mentioned that I was about to start the novel The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. It tells the decades-long story of the Gangulis, a Bengali family who immigrated from India to the U.S. in the late 1960s.
I previously read The Namesake nearly 15 years ago, and a reader, Yashodha G., asked me in the comments if I thought I’d learn anything new from my second read.
From the first few pages, I could already tell that reading this book in my mid-30s was going to be a much different experience than when I was in my early 20s.
The first part of the novel focuses on the experience of Ashima, a new immigrant who left everything she knew in Calcutta to move with her new husband—an engineering student and a man whose name she didn’t even know until her actual wedding—to frigid New England.
Though my parents immigrated to the states during a later immigration wave (early 1980s) and are from a different part of India (they’re Gujaratis from Mumbai), as I read these first few chapters, I couldn’t help but imagine my parents in their first few years in the U.S.
When they boarded a plane to the U.S. in 1982 as newlyweds so that my dad could practice medicine, they too barely knew one another. And they also left behind their families and every familiar comfort they knew in order to start a new life on the frigid east coast.
Reading the perspective of Ashima as a new immigrant threw into sharp relief the bewilderment and fear my parents must have faced in those early days as well as the sacrifices they made to come to this country (and to thrive here).
Like the characters, they went years without seeing their parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins, with just the occasional (and very expensive) long-distance call and handwritten letters to keep them connected. They too were forced to adopt certain American customs and dietary habits not out of a true desire but because assimilating was often the only choice. And of course, they also experienced their fair share of being looked down upon because of their accents and feeling torn between two very different cultures.
Reading The Namesake as a fully-fledged adult rather than a somewhat immature 20-something helped me to see my parents as something beyond my parents. As people. As individuals. As immigrants who struggled and endured and built a life for themselves in a once-strange but now-familiar country.
I loved listening to this episode from NPR’s TED Radio Hour on how we can live longer and better using lessons from the Blue Zones. In case you’re not familiar, “blue zones” refers to pockets around the world where people live exceptionally long lives thanks to a combination of their physical, mental, social, family, and spiritual habits and practices.
Hearing about folks in their 80s and 90s not just living but thriving was inspiring, and it encouraged me to think about the areas of my life where I’m already doing pretty well and where I need to improve.
On the plus side, I’m fairly active; eat a lot of wholesome plant food; have strong relationships with my family, partner, and closest friends; and find great meaning in my daily life and work (thanks to you all!).
And the areas I need to improve? My activity level could always be better (see above; I’m working on it!), my diet could always be more nutrient-dense (but I love chocolate and pizza!), and I definitely need to prioritize working a bit less so I can spend more time on social connectedness, hobbies, and things that bring me meaning outside of work (e.g., travel).
Over the last decade, I have thought a lot about how I can build and live an intentional life, so this episode was definitely good food for thought.
New Recipes and Posts
RECIPES YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
- Vegan Chocolate Chip Muffins: Do you ever crave a really excellent bakery-style muffin with a bountiful top? Then please welcome these Vegan Chocolate Chip Muffins. Or rather, chocolate chunk muffins (read the post to learn why chocolate chunks > chocolate chips). They’re grown up muffins with dark chocolate and a crunchy caramelized topping that’ll rock your world.
- Red Wine Vinaigrette. Homemade salad dressings are one of the easiest things that can take your cooking from basic to gourmet. And this red wine vinaigrette will do just that. It’s zingy, garlicky, fresh, and bright, and it comes together in just 5 to 7 minutes. The leftovers stay good in the fridge for nearly 2 weeks, and its uses are endless.
In honor of Veganuary, we have lots of new holistic vegan content on the blog!
HOW-to posts you might have missed
- Complete Guide to Tofu: Everything you need to know about tofu! From the different varieties and when to use which one, techniques for making tofu more flavorful, and various cooking methods to transform this flavorless blob into the star it deserves to be.
- Complete Guide to Tempeh: The same thing but for tempeh! Tempeh can be difficult to love, but this post will guide you down the right path, enabling you to truly enjoy this nutritional superstar.
- The Ultimate Vegan Grocery List: Tips for navigating the grocery store as a new vegan, plus all the essentials you need in one grocery list.
- The 5 Best Vegan Protein Sources: A list of the best protein-rich plant-based foods plus tips on how to incorporate these foods into your diet.
- My Favorite Kitchen Equipment: I finally put together a list of my favorite kitchen equipment, both big and small items, with a focus on tools that have helped me become a faster, more efficient cook.
🧳✈️🏝️Fun Things (coming soon!)
Max and I have been working so hard on the new meal plan business that we haven’t had much free time, BUT next month, we are taking a 12-day trip to Australia! (technically 2 of those days will be spent up in the air / at airports, but still, it will be our first real vacation in 1 ½ years).
Max’s grandparents live in South Australia, outside of Adelaide, and they are the sweetest, cutest human beings. Though they’re in their 90s and have trouble walking, they still hold hands while they walk. They are truly #couplegoals. After family time, we’ll fly to Melbourne, which I’ve heard is a vegan mecca.
If you’re from Melbourne or have visited, please send your recommendations for good eats and fun things to do in the area 🙂
Okay, that’s it for this first RPL at Home post of 2024! Drop me a line below and let me know what you’d like to see in the next edition!