Notes on a wedding
Plus, thoughts on walking, veggie sides, and sticky toffee pudding tips
Hi friends! A lot has happened since we last spoke. I spent a few months in Vermont, developed a daily walking habit, and, oh, got married….!
More specifically, Sam and I were able to celebrate our marriage with a small group of loved ones in the backyard of my parents’ house in Vermont. It was an incredibly intimate and special occasion, and when I think back to that weekend, I’m filled with gratitude. I’m grateful to have gotten to spend several days making memories with people we love, many of whom we hadn’t seen since before COVID hit, and so extremely grateful for the many, many people who helped us plan and safely execute the day.
Most of all, I’m grateful to have started on this next phase of life with a partner who I love and appreciate even more after 18 months of very little time apart. We’ve become a pretty darned good team over the past eight years, and I can’t wait to see what those ahead bring (aside from Sam making me laugh exactly this hard approximately 20 times a day, which is a given.)
After a quick and relaxing trip to Big Sur, we’re back in SF and our regular routines. For me, that means waking up early-ish and going for a walk — a habit I kicked off in June and have kept up nearly every day for the past four-plus months.
Working out has never come naturally to me; I was the kind of kid who came last in school races and faked being sick to get out of P.E. My three years of college lightweight rowing stand out as an oddity in that history — I was never particularly fast and struggled with a back injury, but the strong community and the fact that nobody gets to row if your eighth person is missing were great motivators to show up day after day.
When I graduated, that motivation evaporated overnight and I went back to being someone who doesn’t enjoy cardio. In the 6 years since, I’ve gone on and off various workout regimens, none of which stuck long term because I fundamentally dreaded doing them. Then in June, I finally internalized something I’ve been fighting to get my brain to accept for a long time, which is that having a generally active lifestyle is probably more important to long-term health than intermittently getting super-fit and doing tons of hard workouts.
So, my goal recently has been re-orienting my life around movement. I have a general belief that sustained willpower doesn’t exist, and that you have to structure your life in such a way that it’s extremely easy to do what you want to get done. For me, that meant picking a default activity - walking - that’s easy enough that I can’t argue my way out of skipping it.
Am I now super fit? No. But I’m in much better shape than I was, and more than that, I now willingly take every opportunity to walk more than I need to — if a place takes under 40 minutes to walk to, chances are I’ll skip the bus or the Uber and just use my own two feet, which is something I’d never have done six months ago. I’m proud of that, and I’ll be prouder still if I’m still doing it at 50.
It’s been long enough since the last newsletter that I’ve got a huge backlog of favorite recipes to share with you! So let’s take this in stages.
If you’re looking for easy, delicious veggie sides:
Smitten Kitchen’s blanched green beans with almond pesto takes <15 minutes to make and relies on pantry staples. I do it with walnuts, and I bet it’d work well with pecans too. Super creamy and satisfying.
It took me literal years to try the Smitten Kitchen avocado and cucumber salad, but since then I’ve already made it multiple times. I swap mayo for greek yogurt and use chili oil in lieu of hot sauce.
I bought a big bag of baby spinach at Costco a few weeks ago and then promptly forgot what I needed it for, so googled around and came across this amazing Japanese blanched spinach with sesame dressing from Just One Cookbook. I’ll be deliberately buying spinach for this purpose whenever I can moving forward - it takes maybe 5 minutes and is addictive. (PS, since I don’t have a suribachi, I blitz the sesame seeds in my spice grinder and then stir in all the other ingredients.)
If you have a ton of romaine in the fridge but are sick of salads, try this cooked lettuce with oyster sauce and garlic from The Woks of Life! It takes about 5 minutes and has become a staple side in our household.
If you need a more filling main course:
One of my colleagues recently shared this recipe for Korean-inspired crispy tofu tacos recently, and I’m so glad they did! Crispy crumbled tofu with a sticky gochujang glaze is a revelation. I had no tortillas so did it as a rice bowl with the slaw - still great. (Unless you are a serious spice fiend or using very mild gochujang, 2tbsp is plenty.)
If you are lucky enough to have regular access to tomatillos, trying Kenji López-Alt’s pressure cooker chicken chile verde is a no brainer. Minimal prep, maximum flavor.
As regular readers will know, I am obsessed with eggplant, so immediately Pocket’d Kristina Razon’s recipe for Tortang Talong - Filipino Eggplant Omelette - when it went up on Serious Eats. Soft eggplant, egg batter that’s crisp on the edges, and a rich pork stuffing - you can’t go wrong.
And because there’s always room for dessert…
I recently found myself in the position of baking for a large group but unable to make a tray of brownies, my go-to group dessert. After wracking my brain for a solution, I remembered that I had a massive bag of dates in the pantry and ended up going for this make-ahead baked sticky toffee pudding.
For those who are unfamiliar, sticky toffee pudding is a British steamed pudding (essentially a cake batter that you steam instead of baking) that’s made with softened dates and topped with a butterscotch-y sauce. It is absolutely divine and the #1 thing I miss from the decade I spent in England. I finally made it myself last Christmas using Ravneet Gill’s recipe and was so happy to discover that it’s really not that hard!
I stole one trick from Ravneet’s take and applied it to the baked version, which is to simmer the dates in a little more water, blitz them with an immersion blender and then blitz in the baking soda. I have not done a side by side comparison but would guess this probably made for a lighter (and definitely less chunky) batter. If you’re not into large fruit bits in your dessert, give it a shot.
Last but not least: what’s on my reading list?
The last few months have involved a lot of space fiction. I re-read Mary Robinette Kowal’s alternate-history Lady Astronaut series, which I adore, and then sped through Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth, which couldn’t be more different: they’re very weird, dark, and compelling books about necromancers in space. (Yes, really.) I’m five books into Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries series about a security android that gains free will, and all have been great so far - fast, funny, and contemplative about what it means to be human.
After studiously avoiding it for a solid year, I finally gave in and read Piranesi and yes, it totally lives up to the hype. For some reason I had it in my head that it was going to be “deep” literary fiction and hard to slog through, when it’s actually a mystery in a fantastical setting. It starts slow, but is beautifully written, and you’re quickly sucked in.
I haven’t read too much romance recently (send recs!) but did speed through Evie Dunmore’s Portrait of a Scotsman and Helen Hoang’s The Heart Principle, which were good but didn’t quite live up to their predecessors. I also enjoyed Alexis Daria’s A Lot like Adiós, which was quick, fun, and sexy, and Today, Tonight, Tomorrow, which got me more emotionally invested than a novel about high school rival nerds had any right to.
I’ve somehow managed to summon the focus for a few nonfiction books these past few months, and one of the most impactful was Already Toast, Kate Washington’s look at caregiver burnout in America. It’s also a memoir of her own role as a caregiver to her husband throughout his treatment for aggressive cancer. I consider myself pretty familiar with the devastation of the US healthcare system, but the astonishing lack of resources for long term caregiving is one crucial facet I hadn’t thought much about before reading this - strongly recommend.
Now that I’m back in SF and have lost my daily walking companions, I’ve finally been forced to get over my longstanding aversion to audiobooks. So far I’ve “read” and enjoyed Strange Bedfellows, UCSF professor and physician Ina Park’s engaging look at the past and present of STIs, and just finished Bottle of Lies, journalist Katherine Eban’s riveting (and terrifying) investigation of fraud in overseas generic drug manufacturers.
That’s all for now, folks! I’m going to try and come back to this more often moving forward, but given Open Enrollment for the ACA Marketplace (and thus my busy season at work) started on November 1st, we’ll see how it goes!
Reiterating my annual PSA that if you need insurance support, please reach out - answering your questions brings me great joy and is never a burden. And either way, if you need insurance don’t forget to enroll by December 15th to have coverage starting January 1st! (Most states are letting you enroll until January 15th this year, but your coverage will generally start in February if apply after that 12/15 deadline.)