If January had a face it would be that of a wizened old crone. After the brightness of December, the anticipation of the Christmas festivities, the jollity, the excesses and the bright twinkly Christmas lights, the world retreats to a dreary gloom. We can’t even cheer ourselves up with a food treat because parsimony is the byword for January as we attempt to make up for December’s gluttony. The only bright spot on the horizon is that the afternoons will start slowly drawing out by the end of the month. There’s always the hope of a little snowfall to change the palette of grey – lying snow will throw up a bit of welcome light at night and make a change of scene for the days.
The Christmas decorations have gone away, the last of the pine needles have been vacuumed up and the last of the mince pies, Christmas cake and turkey have been consumed. January’s kitchen treats are going to have to be light and low calorie.
Since we have to be careful what we eat this month, we need food that’s both low on calories but full of flavour and satisfying. While it’s far too cold and dreary to be thinking about salads proper, a spelt (or barley) salad will bring a reminder of the summer to come, serve while the grains are still warm to keep the chill off and bring out the flavours.
Soups too are a handy fall-back this month. Fill up on veggie-thick, fat free soups and it won’t seem such a dreary chore. Soups are such a lovely way to warm up on cold days. This lovely minestrone soup can be prepared the night before working days and just re-heated with the pasta when you come home from work.
Fish is a useful meal when we’re watching the calories too. This lovely Venetian baked fish is really full of flavour and very satisfying, the drizzle of olive oil won’t break the diet, but you can leave it out if you prefer.
Puddings are going to have to be light too, or hard earned! Soft fruit compotes are a handy fall-back, and lovely if you can make them with fruit frozen from last summer. Serve them with fat free yoghurt for a guilt-free treat. A rice pudding is a nice treat, but make it with skimmed milk rather than full fat, and cut down on the amount of butter and sugar too.
Good walks every day will blow away the cobwebs and bring some much needed daylight onto our skin. Of course, the icy pavements, salt and antifreeze are a hazard to be aware of this month, especially for those of us with dogs. Being towed along an icy pavement by a four legged companion intent on getting as much distance under her feet in as short a time as possible is always entertaining! I escape danger at every turn this month.
By the end of this month the days will at last start to show the earliest signs of drawing out. We’ll be hanging onto the last dregs of daylight by our fingernails by 5pm – but it’s a start!