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Go Straight to January

As is my wont, your Aunty is going to completely skip over the rest of the holiday season and land squarely on January 1, 2014 . Feet first. I figure that you have the rest of this month firmly set up with open houses, family breakfasts, brunches and dinners, right up to 11:59 p.m. on December 31st and are ready to sink into oblivion and hope to wake up sometime on January 1st to toddle around the house in your jammies and bunny slippers, nursing headaches, nausea and a very large mug of tea (or perhaps something stronger).
You are going to want to treat your tummy with tenderness. In the US, the digestive assault began in late November (end of October if you count Hallowe’en) with fats, sugar, alcohol, grain-based carbs and meat, meat, meat right up through and including New Year’s Eve. If your colon has not already started howling, it’s not for lack of trying. At the moment, mine is behaving like that section of the Gulf which is being coyly referred to as ‘a dead zone.’ Blech.

I am not going to stand (or sit) here wagging a finger at anyone over this, but let’s not forget that it really is a good idea to chuck a few odd bits of fresh fruit and some green veggies into the tank occasionally just for, as my dear old Mum used to say, ‘roughage”. Keeps thing moving along as they say. But you still might, after all of this, be feeling just a bit, mmm, out of sorts.

So, if you need to just keep bulling through to the end of the year (not that you have to, mind you, but I do recognize that it’s not always easy given what is usually occupying the plates and platters at holiday events), we’ll be polite and avert our eyes for the moment until we get to New Year’s Day.
Why NYD? Well, there is all that traditional ‘clean slate’ business which is always interesting to grapple with, and there are always some nice, plain, and frankly healthy dishes to eat that day which will go a long way toward re-establishing some sense of discretion ‘down there’.

New Year’s Day Starters:
If you are not someone who has any grain or gluten issues I’d go for:
Thick-cut or steel cut oatmeal, slow cooked on the stove, served with slivered almonds or chopped walnuts, cinnamon, and fruit. Traditional is raisins – but you want to go all cutting edge and fresh, I’d cut up pears or apples for the bowl, with a peeled orange or tangerine at the side for the vitamin C which is necessary to help with the iron that you can get in oatmeal.

If you are someone who has grain or gluten issues, I’d go for some sort of cooked quinoa or chia seed cereal as a substitute.
Now, if you are the sort of person who stands in front of the stove in despair in the morning, you’ll be happy to know that you can do oatmeal and other cooked cereals overnight in a crockpot.Oatmeal in a crockpot So, when you stumble into the house at 2 a.m., just pull out the cereal, etc. and throw everything into the crockpot according to directions so that it will be ready for you when you get up. No brainer.

If you miss out on doing that (and again, if you end up face first on the couch, we really do understand), then here are directions for making old fashioned oatmeal or other cooked cereal on the stove – you’ll need a small pot with a snugly-fitting lid:

Measure into the pot 1/2 cup of oatmeal and a cup of water for each person who wants oatmeal or other cooked cereal. Put on the lid and put on the heat until the oatmeal starts to bubble. Don’t go wandering off for the news paper or anything else or you will end up with the pot boiling over. Shut down the heat to the lowest it can go. Set the timer for 5 min. When it dings, your cooked cereal is done. See how easy that is – why use instant anything when in five minutes you can have genuine cooked cereal which is so much better?

For liquids, I’d start the day with a big glass of not teeth-chatteringly cold water, followed up with a go for green tea. Lots and lots of green tea, get dressed as your local weather insists on and take a good 30 min. outdoor walk (unless of course you have wind chill factors in the negative numbers, in which case I’d advocate climbing stairs and staying out of trouble). Between the fiber in the fruit and the oatmeal and the water and tea, your digestive system will get the idea that you are taking matters seriously. If you are the sort of person with a deep-seated belief in pro-biotics (and I am one), I’d arm myself with some good ones now (you want the highest population numbers you can find on the package – millions, you want tens of millions).

Now, I don’t know if you are the sort of person or family who either hosts or goes to open houses on New Year’s day, but if you host, you may wish to take pity on your guests and offer them, in addition to whatever else you are planning to put out, some traditional and homey foods on the buffet so that they can pick and choose:

New Year’s Open House Buffet:
Cut up fruits and veggies (keep them refrigerated until the last moment so that they are crispy)
High pro-biotic plain-flavored yoghurt as a dip (the pro-biotics will help repopulate and wake up those beneficial bugs which have been laboring under less-than-optimal conditions over the past month)
Something with greens in it: Spinach salad, blanched kale (either in a salad or in some other kale dish kept warm), tossed green salad with sliced oranges, with a selection of infused olive oils and vinegars including my fav, which is white balsamic vinegar (fruity and so much lighter than the caramelized dark ones).

Hoppin’ John or some other whole grain and dried bean or lentil dish (high in fiber and protein, low in fat). Want to try faro (either warm or in a salad? Here’s your chance)Faro recipes

If you are going to serve meat, try to emphasize something like roast chicken or turkey rather than commercial sliced deli meats which are generally high in fats, sugar and salt.

If you are going to serve breads or rolls, select or bake with whole grains.

If you want to serve soup, try to make one from scratch with low or no-added salt broth bases and put in lots and lots of veggies. A great one for this time of the year is Chinese (or the Thai version) Hot and Sour soup (but don’t forget to have boxes of tissues available because these soups will clear out the sinuses quickly).Thai Hot and Sour Soup

All of these items are easily made in advance and can be either frozen and warmed up quickly or re-warned that day for presentation. And all of these are light, tasty and welcomed by your guests.
Bon Appetite!

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