January and February are classically the ‘gloomiest’ months of the year. No wonder. Unless you’re a young, cold-loving winter sports fan, there’s not much for you to do. But you can push back against the blues with cheap menu upgrades…
It’s officially called Seasonal Affective Disorder. And its short form – SAD – is all too appropriate.
According to CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, “Psychology Today reported that SAD is estimated to affect 10 million Americans, and that another 10 to 20 percent may have mild symptoms. For 5 percent of adults who experience SAD, for about 40 percent of the year they have symptoms that can be overwhelming and can interfere with their daily lives.”
No kidding, eh?
Whatcha gonna do?
CNN Health says, allow yourself a little, inexpensive food upgrade now and then. It’ll warm your cockles and gladden your heart.
You might be surprised at how economical a little upgrade now and then can be. And you’ll (potentially) be amazed by how good it makes you feel. Not to mention, you’ll establish yourself as culinary magician and dinner table hero with your famished family!
Create on-hand combos
Take a look in the pantry and fridge. What have got on hand that might go together into… something?
Canned Soup creations
I have a casserole on line for implementation over the next two or three days: There’s a can of Creamy Clam Chowder at the front of the canned goods shelf that’s been begging me to use it. I’ll cook up a package of Udon Noodles I have in the freezer, chop up some fresh mushroom fragments I have in the fridge, and too in a handful of frozen peas and sweet corn kernels.
Mix it all up and plop it into a well-greased casserole dish. And top with buttered bread crumbs. You can use anything crunchy for a topping, BTW: leftover corn chips, potato chips, cheese puffs… Whatever! Bake covered at 350 F until it bubbles and serve right away.
Any canned creamy soup will work. Be sure to add only half the liquid called for ion the label if it’s condensed. And use Milk, not water.
A Chili for all occasions
This one is superbly suited to winter. Clear out the canned goods cupboard! Throw into a slow cooker or instant pot a can or two of kidney, pinto or other beans, a can of corn (drained) a can of mushrooms (drained), a can of tomatoes (chopped or crushed work best), and whatever else you have on hand that seems like it might ‘go’ in a Chili. Meat is optional. Just let ‘er go on medium stirring occasionally. Spice as hot or tame as you wish. But don’t leave out the Tex-Mex seasoning – or plain Chili powder of your choice. The chili makes all the other flavours come together perfectly.
Pizza-fi-cation for the Nation!
You can easily pizza-fy any flatbread, pre-made pizza crust or even slab of rye or sourdough bread. Really. All you need is cheese or tomato sauce for a base, and odds and ends of leftover meat and veggies from the fridge. Anything goes. But top it with lots of melty cheese. Again, meat is optional! Goes together fast and bakes up perfectly in any oven in just a few minutes at 400 F or higher. I love my Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer for this application!
Make it a Curry
Whatever you’re making – a soup, a stew, a casserole – freshen it up by making it a Curry! If yoi’re cooking from scratch this time, use 2 cans of chick peas (garbanzo beans), lentils of your choice or par-cooked potatoes cut into 1 in. / 2.5 cm chunks. Add a jar of Tandoori, Butter Chicken, Tikka Masala or Korma cooking sauce, and simmer. Got leftover mushrooms? Cauliflower or Broccoli florets? Frozen Green Peas? Meat is optional! The more the merrier! Serve over (cheap and easy) plain white rice, or Linguini or Fettuccini pasta.
The bottom line
You can use up stuff from your pantry and fridge (avoiding food waste) and treat yourself at the dame time. Heck… If you’re like me you may find yourself incorporating some of your ad hoc, anti-SAD creations in your go-to recipe repertoire!
~ Maggie J.