Drynuary for Hungry Again

Pomegranate Mocktail

This January, I tried something that I haven’t done since I was pregnant with my last baby. A month of sobriety. It’s known as Drynuary, but let’s just call this my Month of Drinking Club Soda.

Why Drynuary?

Drynuary is the practice of pledging to abstain from alcohol for the entire month of January. It is a trend started in Great Britain, but is growing in popularity here in the states. Most people use it as a sort of secular Lent ritual, fasting from booze for a month to re-set the body and mind and to give your poor liver a rest after the non-stop partying of November and December. And although most people won’t admit it, it’s also a way to gut-check your dependence on alcohol.

I decided to try Drynuary after reading an article in Slate just after New Year. The writer told of his own journey over the last eight years, using the annual January abstinence to clear his mind and body. Something about it struck me at the time. After three months of socializing and parties, it sounded like a challenge that I should take. It was a few days after celebrating New Year’s Eve and I was figuratively feeling the hangover of too much food and drink during the holidays. Drinking was feeling more like a habit and less like a pleasure. I was ready for a break. I wasn’t even sure I was going to make it through to the end of the month, to be honest.   

So, how was not drinking for a month?

Actually, not bad at all. I replaced the nightly glass of wine with club soda and lime. I also drank more herbal tea before bedtime. I drank lots of variations of sparkly water on the weekends. Club soda with blood orange. Club soda with lime and orange bitters. Club soda with pomegranate juice. Club soda with club soda. I stayed very hydrated this month.

Going booze-free for a month was painless on most weekdays. It was easy to give up my nightly glass (or two) of wine or beer with dinner. It got a bit harder on the weekend nights though, when I was socializing with my friends. When you’re around other people who are drinking and having a good time, you can feel the tug of longing for a cocktail or a couple of glasses of wine. Everyone, of course, was very supportive of my sobriety. I don’t think my presence slowed anyone else down, and I got offers of cups of tea and club soda to keep me happy. After the first couple of weekends, I honestly didn’t miss my cocktails all that much.

And what positives came out of a month of not drinking? Thrillingly, I lost weight. I guess those glasses of empty calories really do add up. I also just felt lighter and more clear-headed. Our restaurant bills were a lot smaller this month, especially since Tim tried to hold down his drinking this month in solidarity with me. I also have left behind that feeling of antsiness when cocktail hour rolled around each night. Booze. Eh…I can take it or leave it.

But that’s not to say that I’ve stopped drinking for good. This year, February 1st falls on a Sunday… Super Bowl Sunday. So, I plan on breaking my booze fast by having a few beers to celebrate. It should be interesting to see how my body reacts to alcohol after a month away from drinking. Going forward, I’ll continue to have my Friday Cocktails, my social hours with my friends and the occasional celebratory glasses of wine. Just…not so much (or at all) during the middle of the week. So, here’s to more mindful and moderate drinking for the rest of the year. Cheers!

And here’s a mocktail to keep you more festive during your own sobriety…

Pomegranate Mocktail

8 oz. Club Soda or sparkling water
2 oz. pomegranate juice (like Pom)
the juice of one lime
2 dashes of orange bitters

Pour all ingredients over ice. Mix and enjoy!

Pomegranate Mocktail for Drynuary

Pomegranate Mocktail for Drynuary

 

Making Beef Stock from bones

Finished homemade beef stock from bones

I recently bought a share of a beef cow with some friends. We split a half a steer between the five of us. My friend Casie had tracked down a farmer who could sell us meat that was organic, grass-fed and humanely-slaughtered. After dividing the share between five families, I took home a freezer full of meat. Given the option to pick whatever odd cuts of meat that we wanted, I asked for the large leg bones for soup and marrow and ended up with three 9-pound bags of assorted soup bones. I was the only one that wanted them, for some reason. What to do with this treasure? The only thing to do was to try making beef stock from bones at home.

Beef stock made from bones is so nutrient-rich and satisfying, that it has been used as medicine for centuries. Filled with bio-available protein, calcium, amino acids and niacin, there is a reason why doctors (and your mother) prescribe a bowl of broth when you are sick. When it is made at home, it is naturally low-sodium and low-calorie. The bones give the stock lots of collagen, which is essential to our bone and joint health. Because it is made from bones, it is relatively inexpensive (and frugal) to make. Making beef stock from bones is certainly easy and the result is a basic building-block for sauces, soups, rices and stews. 

Continue reading »

Porcini Mushroom Barley Soup

Porcini Mushroom Barley Soup

Soup has magical qualities. It warms you and comforts you. If you are on a diet, soup gives you an easy way to bring more vegetables into your diet in that is completely satisfying. When it gets cold, one soup that I love to make is Porcini Mushroom Barley Soup. It is full of “umami”, the savory taste that makes you go “mmmm”.

Continue reading »

Low Sugar Blackberry Jam

Low-Sugar Blackberry Jam

My family loves blackberry season. We can’t wait for the blackberries to come in every July so we can start our month-long ritual of berry picking and blackberry jam and cobbler-making. After three bug-bit, thorn-scratched excursions this weekend, we have already picked two gallons of wild blackberries. It’s not really a problem, but the berries are starting to get backed up in my fridge. It’s time to get serious about jam making. So, this week, I’m pulling my canning jars out of the closet and I’ll put up my first batch of low sugar blackberry jam for the summer.

Continue reading »

Fish in Parchment Paper (en Papillote)

Grilled fish is one of our favorite summer dinners, but not all fish do well cooked over a dry heat. Some fish do better poached or steamed. One way to prepare them is by cooking fish in parchment paper, or “en papillote” which is French for “in paper”. En Papillote is a simple technique where you put a fish fillet, some vegetables, some aromatics (such as herbs or garlic) and a bit of liquid & oil into a pouch made of parchment paper, then roast it quickly at a high temperature, steaming the fish in it’s own juice. This method seals in the flavors of the fish and veggies, while keeping them very moist. And the best part is when you bring the parchment pouches to the table and everyone gets a peek inside. It’s like opening a present… a delicious present. 

Continue reading »

Basil Tom Collins Cocktail – a low-cal summer cocktail

Basil Tom Collins cocktail

Getting dressed for the pool last weekend convinced me that it was time to go back on a diet. What a drag. When I’m watching my weight, giving up alcohol is one of the first things I have to do. It’s not like I drink a lot, but I have to watch the weekly alcohol consumption that tends to creep up – the extra glass of wine with dinner, the beer with my slice of pizza. It’s easier just to ignore alcohol and switch to unsweetened ice tea or water for most of the week. But, after being “good” all week, I want to have my Friday cocktail treat. In order to not go too far off the rails on Fridays, I switch to light, skinny cocktails. One of my favorite low-calorie drinks is the Basil Tom Collins cocktail. 

Continue reading »