Seasons by the Sea: Resolution Road

A time of fresh beginnings
Brown rice grape leaf salad and Vietnamese pork meatball banh mi salad, from Jeanne Kelley’s book “Salad for Dinner,” can be part of a realistic plan for self-improvement in the new year. Laura Donnelly

   Are you going to make a New Year’s resolution this year? If so, you are among the 50 percent of Americans who will do so. Of that 50 percent, I’m sorry to tell you, another 50 percent will fail within six months. However, those who make explicit resolutions are the most likely to succeed.
    The new year is a popular time to make resolutions, a time of fresh beginnings, a clean slate, a new date book! In the medieval era, knights took the “peacock vow” at the end of the Christmas season each year to reaffirm their commitment to chivalry. Romans would make promises to the god Janus. Ancient Babylonians would promise to return borrowed objects and repay debts.
    Resolutions have changed over the years, predictably becoming more superficial and appearance-oriented, especially among young girls. In the 19th century, a young lady’s typical resolution would be to become less self-centered, more helpful, a more diligent worker, and to improve internal character. Body image, health, diet, and possessions were rarely mentioned. By the end of the 20th century, the typical teenage girl’s resolution was related to body, hairstyle, makeup, and clothing.
    As the number one resolution among Americans is to lose weight and try to be healthier, I would like to offer some helpful tips. Start by emptying your refrigerator and pantry of unhealthy processed foods. Good job. You have also just completed the number two resolution, which is to get organized. Now buy or borrow some new cookbooks that will help jumpstart your commitment and offer inspiring recipes. That old “Joy of Cooking” won’t help you figure out tasty things to do with quinoa, freekeh, and kale. My current favorite book is called “Salad for Dinner” by Jeanne Kelley.
    Americans’ number three resolution for 2013 is to spend less and save more. If you begin by eating less meat and more whole grains and vegetables you are on your way. The number six resolution is to learn something exciting. Hey, learn how to cook healthy meals with your children! Resolution number 10: Spend more time with family. Done.
    It has been scientifically proven that those who vow to lose weight and start off with a punishing, puritanical diet are doomed to failure. However, those who vow to lose one or two pounds per week, a realistic goal, are more likely to succeed. That is another reason I love “Salad for Dinner.” The last recipe, and only dessert in the book, is for chocolate cream pie. Don’t deprive yourself; you had salad for dinner!
    When re­stocking your pantry, make sure to get brown rice, quinoa, wheat berries, couscous, etc. I store all of these items in the refrigerator to prevent them from getting rancid. Cook a big batch of the brown rice every week and keep it in the refrigerator. As it takes 45 minutes to cook, it’s hard to be spontaneous like you used to be with Minute Rice. Buy a variety of beans, canned and dried. Nothing wrong with popping open a can of cannelini beans to add to an Italian tuna salad, or black beans for your chili. And don’t forget short cuts! When I prepared the following recipes I cheated by buying already shredded carrots and a store-bought roast chicken.
    If you like making soups, make a lot and freeze in plastic pint and quart containers. Keep pesto in the freezer for a quick meal with whole wheat pasta. Of course your refrigerator should be full of the basics, celery, onions, carrots, and garlic. With these always on hand you can make stocks and vegetable soups. Oranges, lemons, and limes are also essential to have on hand to add zest and tang to fish dishes, chicken, vegetables, and fancy cocktails.
    So don’t disappoint yourself by setting an unrealistic goal. Set a small goal, and you are likely to succeed. Have salad for dinner, and perhaps a little sliver of that chocolate cream pie.

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