Eating healthily in January has less to do with starting off a new year “right” and more about listening to what my body’s craving after the holidays. After eating nearly endless chocolates and cookies, finishing off that second bottle of wine “because it’s the holidays”, and making special roasts/pastas/steaks, my body practically begs for greens that are, for once, not drowned in butter. I’d simply rather eat egg whites scrambled with spinach than yet another cold slice of pie from the fridge. Namasté.
As we start this new year still in the throes of a global pandemic, maybe let’s go with simple and healthy and delicious and nourishing as a guideline. Dinners like butternut squash orzo, weeknight Thai green curry, spicy black bean soup with a healthy drizzle of fresh lime juice, turkey lettuce wraps, and fan-favorite sesame soy salmon.
Holiday breakfasts are often very indulgent (French toasts and pancakes and bacon and whipped cream and just wow), so maybe that’s where you’ll take the edge off. Try a green smoothie, a tropical fruit smoothie, or a mint chocolate chip version from goop, so you know it’s legit. Or maybe it’s protein you crave in the morning: baked eggs to set you up for the week, a potato and egg frittata, a classic egg in a hole (which I love with a strong up of coffee), or hearty-yet-healthyish migas.
I love to make a batch of muffins in order to not think about breakfast a few days in a row. Morning glory, vegan lemon poppyseed, or bran with blueberry. Last but never least, overnight oats filled with fruit, chia seeds, flax, dairy or non-dairy, maple syrup, shredded coconut. You make the rules.
Taking a break from something you loved a little too hard last month? Yep, go for it. There’s never been a better time to try Dry January, what with non-alcoholic “spirits” at a new high. See: Seedlip. Foregoing sugar for a while? Good idea. Fresh fruit with Greek yogurt, homemade granola bars, and vegan banana “ice cream” all scratch the itch. But it bears repeating that taking a break from something like alcohol, sugar, dairy, caffeine, meat, whatever…can come at any time of year and should be as temporary or permanent as you want or need it to be.
After watching A Life on Our Planet on Netflix, I am taking a harder look at my meat, fish, and poultry consumption. The fortunate thing is that there are endless ways to eat less meat without replacing it with lab-developed faux meat, which kind of still freaks me out. Coconut curried lentils, cauliflower fried “rice” with ginger and soy, pasta with smashed cherry tomatoes and arugula, shiitake tartines, roasted aloo gobhi…just a few great recipes that simply have no meat in them. Rather than replacing it with some “other” version, I’m just going to focus my efforts on vegetables and things. And I’m going to be more choosey about what meats I buy and cook.
I anticipate that lunch will still be where I falter. Maybe I’ll try something new, like making a big batch of garlicky stir-fried green beans or Adeena Sussman’s famous Adeena’s Greenas or falafel ahead of time so that when midday hunger does strike (…everyday) I’ll need to do little more than make quick work of warming up veggies and pairing with something just as simple. An egg, a bowl of warm and buttered brown rice, a pita smeared with tahini. I’ll let you know how it goes.
And now… We’re trying something new! It’s called Ask Nicole and it’s inspired by the many texts and DMs I get asking what to cook, where to get foodstuffs, and so on. I love those texts and DMs so much, truly.
From our first caller:
Q: I grew up loving pineapple “sunshine cake” for my birthday, but I want to make an upgraded version this year… Any ideas?
A: Hard yes. I’d start with a look at Canelle e Vanille’s caramelized pineapple and olive oil cake, which is the best of the sweet and caramel-y pineapple flavor with an ultra-moist cake. Same idea goes for Melissa Clark’s Campari olive oil cake: sub with a splash of rum instead of campari and add chunks of pineapple into the batter.
Lastly, Trang Doan (from Wild Wild Whisk) has a beautiful pineapple coconut frangipane tart that would really scratch the itch with its buttery, cake-y vibe.
And if you’re missing the whipped, creamy topping of the original cake I’d add whipped coconut milk, sweetened with a tablespoon of pineapple juice and a healthy drizzle of vanilla extract, on top of any of the above cakes.
Please reach out! There are three easy ways to do so: comment on this post, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or slide into our Instagram DMs. I’ll reply AND share the ones I think will be the most helpful to others.
Whatever your resolutions, let’s just agree that come June, we won’t lash ourselves for eating things our January-selves would have avoided. Deal?
Happy New Year, friends!