What is that sound? Ah, it is blissful silence. The phone has stopped ringing. No, your friends haven’t dropped you en masse. Your family hasn’t kicked you to the curb. It’s the candidates. Although their signs still litter front yards and byways, they’ve moved on. Fickle creatures, the presidential hopefuls are now wooing voters in South Carolina and Nevada.
So here you sit. Feeling a bit deflated? On top of being dropped like yesterday’s news, it’s been at least two or three weeks since you dumped your New Year’s resolution. If that’s not enough, the polar vortex roared in over the weekend with subzero temperatures.
No need to pout. The talking heads, pundits and life coaches are ready with help. Forget those resolutions; it’s time for a thirty day challenge. Who can resist the promise of a better body, a better brain, a better anything or everything? Especially if it can be achieved in just thirty short days.
So, what are we talking about here? If the checkout line at the grocery store is any measure, there is a thirty day challenge for just about everything. There is the thirty day cleanse. It has nothing to do with housekeeping. Thirty days to better abs, it has everything to do with sit-ups. The thirty day no carb challenge is self-explanatory. You can spend thirty days without alcohol, caffeine, added sugar, social media, your cell phone or television. The list of self-improvement possibilities seems endless.
Are you ready for a thirty day challenge and which one? Maybe you’ll make up one of your own.
How about dance every day? You can dance for the exercise or for the pure joy of it. Perhaps there is a low point in your day when energy and enthusiasm lags. Whether you take three minutes or thirty, play your favorite dance tunes and have at it.
The post primary silence might be a hint to start a daily meditation. Fifteen minutes in the morning could set the tone for the day. Afraid you’ll fall back to sleep? How about a few quiet moments at the end of your workday? It will create a boundary between your job and the rest of your life.
If a cleanse seems a bit drastic, why not cook with real food for a month. Nothing packaged with artificial anything or ingredients that you can’t pronounce. Just fresh, whole vegetables, grains, meats, poultry, fish and dairy. Cooking from scratch puts you in control of how much salt, spice and oil and you needn’t worry about added sugar.
Book lovers who never seem to find the time can promise to read every day. No, you don’t need to sneak off for two or three hours. Ten minutes of quiet time with a good book could do wonders for your mood and stress level.
If you are allergic to morning, this next one will be difficult. Try getting up at six o’clock every day. Admittedly, this challenge will be much easier in a couple of months. It’s hard to get out of bed when it is still dark outside. Dark or not, that extra hour is nothing short of amazing. Use the time to read or write, practice yoga, catch up on the news or do a load of laundry.
You won’t have to get up early to take a photograph every day. Perhaps you’ll focus on one view and see how weather and light make it new every day. Then again, maybe you’d rather find a new subject every day to hone your skills with different lighting, textures, colors, themes and mood.
Whatever the challenge, enjoy the next thirty days and bon appétit!
Lemon Risotto with Spinach & Herbs
A Nye family favorite, this risotto is good as a main dish and delicious with seafood, chicken or lamb. Enjoy!
Serves 6 as a main course, 10-12 as an appetizer or side dish
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
About 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth*, hot
Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon
1 pound baby spinach, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped basil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Heat a little olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until translucent. Stir in the rice and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
Add the wine, season with salt and pepper and simmer, stirring often, until the wine is absorbed. One cup at a time, add the hot broth and continue to simmer and stir.
After about 18 minutes, stir in the lemon juice, grated zest and any remaining broth if necessary. The rice should be al dente, not mushy. Fold in the spinach, basil and parsley. Cook and stir until the spinach has wilted. Total cooking time is 20-25 minutes.
Add the nutmeg, Parmigiano-Reggiano and butter and continue stirring until the butter and cheese have melted. Serve immediately.
* It’s best to use homemade broth but that is not always possible – even if you do get up at six o’clock in the morning. Shop around to find your favorite brand but check the label. If it includes artificial or unpronounceable ingredients, keep shopping.
Homemade Chicken Broth
1 (about 5 pounds) whole chicken, quartered or 5 pounds chicken thighs and legs
3-4 cloves garlic
3 carrots, peeled and quartered
3 celery stalks, quartered
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
About 8 sprigs parsley
About 6 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
About 6 quarts cold water
Put the chicken, vegetables, herbs, salt and pepper in a large brothpot. Fill the pot with enough cold water to cover all the ingredients by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, skimming the foam as it collects on the surface. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer, partially covered, for 4 hours. Skim and stir the pot from time to time.
Remove the solids from the pot and discard. Cool to room temperature, skim any excess fat and strain the broth into quart or pint containers. Cover and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.
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One Year Ago – Black Bean & Beef Chili
Two Years Ago – Coq au Vin
Three Years Ago – Crostini with Beef Tenderloin & Stilton
Four Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Five Years Ago – Lemon Cheesecake
Six Years Ago – Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms
Seven Years Ago – Raviolis in Broth with Meatballs & Escarole
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!
Will you take on a thirty day challenge? Which one? Feel free to share!
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016