January blues? Cheer up!

Here we are, with the New Year rung in and the resolutions made – now what?

It seems we always start the new year with a combination of energy and guilt. We get all fired up to start new things, improve our performance, be more healthy and positive….

Then, real life gets back to full swing and we get overwhelmed and we feel guilty that we didn’t keep those resolutions or forgot to post that we were grateful on social media – you know how it goes.

I have a proposal to get us out of that blue funk which takes over our lives this time of year: Let’s get back to basics.

How about we start small? Let’s not aim for the moon right away, maybe we just aim for hitting the same mark a few times in a row to feel successful.

  • Get up, smile (even if you don’t feel like it – it will grow on you). Greet your spouse and/or kids with a sense of hope that today will be okay.
  • Grab your coffee or have your smoothie or even lemon water. Maintain your regular morning routine – or create one – and it will keep you going.
  • Make it through the day aiming to keep that smile – can you manage a bit of water cooler talk at one of your Zoom meetings? (“How ‘bout those Canucks?” will certainly get some kind of response. Or you can just share that smile ?)
  • Enjoy the view on the way home, if you still commute farther than down the hall. If you work from home, have a walk to get the mail and breathe the fresh air. Oh, and if you need a sticky note to remind you to get the kids from taekwondo or your spouse from their office, nobody will think less of you; it’s OK.
  • Make a simple dinner – comfort food is made for the month of January. If you can manage a homemade quick pasta, great. If it’s more a night to order pizza, get one vegetarian and then you can say you took a healthy step.
  • Relax after dinner, maybe have a cup of tea. Write yourself a few reminders for tomorrow and then go to bed. You don’t have to watch The Bachelor live – you can stream it later.
  • Get up tomorrow and repeat for the rest of the week. At the end of the week you can review, and work toward adding one new thing – a new flavour of smoothie, a new topic at the water cooler… pretty soon, you’ll be ready for a new recipe at dinner.
  • Often at this time of year we do some looking back, and we can be quite nostalgic. You don’t want to be stuck in the past, but focusing on a bit of tried-and-true comfort can be good.

The familiarity of old things can help us conserve a little energy when we need it, and it helps us remember why keeping those old things alive is worthwhile. Not everything has to be new, or an adventure.

One of my favourite nostalgic meals is Tuna Casserole. There was never really a recipe — my mom just filled the Pyrex casserole dish she had with egg noodles and the filling. Whatever we didn’t eat that night with jellied salad went in the fridge and got portioned out for leftovers (it’s great reheated). In case you’re keen, it goes like this:

  • Preheat the oven to 350F /175C.
  • Par-cook enough egg noodles to fill your casserole dish (usually 150-200 g of pasta per person is enough, then you need a baking dish to put it in). Cook the noodles until just barely soft, even a bit crunchier than al dente.
  • Prepare the filling: 1 can of tuna per 2 people, 1 can mushroom soup per 4 people, veggies (mushrooms are really good, peas work, broccoli is OK, green onions are nice to sprinkle in)
  • Drain the cans of tuna. Pour the soup into a medium bowl and add 1 can of milk per can of soup. Season liberally with thyme, oregano, pepper – and anything else you fancy. Stir the soup mix together till well blended. Chop veggies into bite size pieces.
  • Layer the casserole: add 1/3 of the noodles, then flake in half of the tuna, half of the veggies and 1/3 of the soup mix. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat the layers: second 1/3 of noodles, remaining filling and second 1/3 of soup mix and more salt & pepper; then last 1/3 of noodles with last 1/3 of soup mix drizzled over and a bit more salt & pepper.
  • If desired, you can grate some fontina or Parmesan cheese on top, or add bread crumbs (this was something fancy I added as a teenager).
  • Bake in the oven, covered, for approximately 40 minutes, until filling is bubbling. (If your dish is really full, you will want to put a sheet of tin foil under it to catch any drips in the oven.)
  • Serve hot, with jellied salad or iceberg lettuce salad if you want to be really nostalgic. If you like a bit of crunch, those dry “chow mein noodles” are delicious sprinkled over top.

I’ll offer one tip that may involve something new – get someone to help you do this. Even spouses who are foreigners in the kitchen can manage this recipe, and kids love building things.

I think I was seven years old the first time I assembled this dish. Think of it as creating a bit of new nostalgia for your family… “remember way back when you made your first tuna casserole?!”

Still not feeling it?

If you are feeling like you need more to recognize your efforts toward a new-and-improved life, how about celebrating with a local craft beer or cider or B.C. wine? You can toast your accomplishments and support the local economy at the same time.

It is a brand-new year, folks. We got this.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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