Alisha Ramos, the Founder and CEO of Girls’ Night In, Shares What Her Own Night In Usually Looks Like
Staying in to protect our collective wellbeing is top of mind for people around the world at the moment— and likely will be for the foreseeable future as we work together to flatten the curve of COVID-19. So it seemed both ironic and appropriate that we’ve had this particular edition of The Way We Eat scheduled for this weekend, the first that has all us truly hunkered down. Our subject today is Alisha Ramos, someone who has built a platform around the entire concept of staying in and doing what nourishes you.
Contrary to what you might think, running a business devoted to getting cozy and chilling out can actually be rather stressful — it’s a business after all. We chatted with Alisha about the zaniness of launching a start-up, her favorite Korean cooking YouTuber (“she’s just so funny!”), and what her perfect night-in looks like these days.
What does the bulk of your work day look like?
It usually involves a lot of meetings, either internal or external, which sounds really boring but that’s truly where a lot of time goes! I like to have one-on-ones with my team to make sure they’re set up for success, then we have planning meetings, time set aside for larger projects and initiatives. We’re growing a lot so I’m doing a bit of hiring right now. That means recruiting, coffee meetings, interviewing, a little bit of everything.
What do you eat in between all those meetings?
Our office really, really loves Sweetgreen. We have an outpost that they deliver to so that’s really great. Today I had sushi. I am trying to cut back on buying lunch though. My fiancé and I have been trying to batch cook on Sundays and Wednesdays, so we usually eat leftovers in between. On weeks like that when I’m good and organized, I’ll bring in whatever we made for dinner for lunch.
Girls’ Night In is all about how to prioritize self-care, but I imagine that can be hard to do as CEO. How do you manage?
I had a really challenging time with this a few months ago. Everything was happening all at once and I hit a point where I was doing too much and everything felt like top priority. In that situation, your body is the first thing to tell you that it’s time to slow down, you’re about to burn out, something needs to change. That’s when I started to get really strict with myself about not looking at or even thinking about work on the weekends. Not doing work was the easy part, but thinking about work, obsessing over it, and feeling anxious was what was really consuming me.
What are some ways that you cope with that?
Our team tries to unplug in the evenings and on the weekends. When we’re out of office, we have an agreement to not send any Slacks or emails. If I absolutely have to write an email, I schedule it to go out the following morning. Because we all hold each other accountable, that really helps.
On that note: What’s the very first thing you do when you get home for the day?
After a long day, I can’t wait to say hi to our dog Bowie! He’s a Shih tzu / Bichon mix. I take him for a walk around the block and make sure he’s well-fed first. He’s so spunky and has a lot of energy — we joke that he’s the extrovert of the relationship. Cory and I are both introverts.
The perfect trio! What’s next on the nightly docket?
I’d say we watch more Netflix than the average couple. We watch a lot of TV and sometimes eat dinner in front of it. We do have screen-free nights once a week though — no phones or TV. We’ll eat and then read a book in the same room. Other times we will work on a puzzle over a glass of wine and just talk. It can be really easy to zone out on the couch and realize you haven’t had a conversation in a while.
OK that sounds like my perfect night in. What’s yours?
It varies! This past Friday we were supposed to have a fancy dinner and cook some filet mignon at home. But it was a Friday and at the end of the week we’re just so…tired. So we got pizza from our favorite local spot. Lots of Fridays look like that.
- Biggest challenge in eating? My fiancé and I are getting married this year, so I think eating healthier is on both our minds. We’d like to incorporate more greens and lean protein into our diet, but we’re not necessarily “salad people” so finding the right recipes is challenging. Planning ahead is also always a challenge — both of us are very busy, and it takes time to research recipes, create grocery lists, and go shopping for groceries. We mostly have a good groove down though.
- How much do you cook at home every week? We try to cook during the week as much as possible, and on weekends we almost always eat at a restaurant or order in.
- What are your household’s top 3 default dinners? Chicken Larb Gai from Bon Appétit, a one-pan/skillet chicken dish like the One-Pot Chicken and Dates by Alison Roman from Nothing Fancy, and Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken from NYT Cooking.
- 5 things on your grocery list every week? Bananas, garlic (all the garlic), chicken thighs, some type of green thing, and oat milk (I know). Thing I wish was on our grocery list each week: kimchi.
- Where do you shop, primarily? We live near a Giant, which is a non-glamorous but gets-the-job-done grocery store here in Washington, D.C. Sometimes I’ll stop by Trader Joe’s for snacks. Snacks are important.
- The last grocery you splurged on? Sqirl jams. They are the best.
- Favorite drink? I always opt for a chai latte if it’s available.
- Favorite thing to eat while watching TV? Jeni’s Ice Cream (Boston Cream Pie flavor). I also like to pop my own popcorn and sprinkle it with truffle powder. Or Flaming Hot Cheetos.
- Most genius cooking tip anyone ever taught you? If your brown sugar has hardened, put a piece of bread in it and it’ll soften up again overnight. It’s like magic each time!
- Your best budget tip? Keep it simple and challenge yourself to eat in X number of days per week. For us it’s 5 days per week. The savings will follow — eating out is expensive!
- Cookbook you actually cook out of? Right now, it’s Nothing Fancy by Alison Roman.
- Who does the dishes? Whoever did not cook does the dishes. If we cooked the meal together, we just alternate who does the dishes and who puts things away into Tupperware, wipes the countertops, etc. One weird rule though: I never unload the dishwasher. I just hate doing it. I give my fiancé full credit for taking on that task each time.
Is cooking at home a form of self care for you?
100%. We switch up recipes all the time in our house and we very rarely repeat the same recipe from week-to-week. I love not shying away from intimidating recipes either. One of the most ambitious recipes we’ve tried was this fried whole fish with tomatillo sauce recipe from Bon App.
Woah, looks so yum!
I’m also trying to get in touch more with the Korean cooking I grew up eating. My mom is south Korean and I grew up there. I’m teaching myself more classic dishes like kimchi Jjigae stew and trying to incorporate more Korean groceries into my rotation. We’re planning a trip to H-Mart soon to stock up on jars and jars of kimchi.
I’m also obsessed with this amazing Korean mom who has a YouTube cooking channel that’s really big: Maangchi! Her recipes have been the most authentic and similar to what my mom would make. I recently made her Korean kimchi pancakes, bulgogi. She’s just so funny too.
Amazing, I’m going to have to subscribe to her channel! Okay, last one: what’s your favorite way to make dinner-time feel cozy and special?
When we’re eating dinner, I’ll make a conscious choice to not have my phone out or visible. I used to have a bad habit of always having it glued to my hand and it was very distracting. We’ll make sure to set our dining room table too. I have a candle obsession, so we’ll light two big candle sticks and a bunch of votive candles. That’s one ritual I like: Setting the table and lighting a candle so every meal feels cozy and intentional. We’re sitting down, it’s time to take a break and enjoy this meal and each other’s company.
The Way We Eat is a series of profiles and conversations with people like you about how they feed themselves and their families.We’re actively looking for people to feature in this series. You don’t have to be famous or even a good cook! We’re interested in people of all backgrounds and eating habits. How do you overcome challenges to feed yourself? If you’d like to share your own story with us, or if you know of someone you think would be great for this series, start here with this form.