I like New Year’s.  I don’t like it because of the parties — truthfully, J. and I usually do very little to celebrate, and this year we did even less than we ordinarily might.  I don’t like it because of the champagne, which I generally don’t even drink.  I don’t like it for any reason other than the fact that it’s a fresh start and a chance to regroup in the middle of winter, when almost nothing really feels fresh here in the Northeast.

I like the New Year because I can take a moment to think about things, and to change my perspective, if need be; and because it seems to poke me (sometimes sharply) each year into some sort of action, if only by virtue of its newness.  I often find myself with a yen to clean and organize on January 1, or thinking quite seriously and clearly about something I want to do that I haven’t gotten around to tackling yet.  There’s been some of that yesterday and today, for sure — I finally framed and hung a few pictures and whatnot that had been cluttering up my space for a while, threw away mountains of disorganized paperwork and miscellany, and spent a little while musing here and there on what exactly I’d like my life to look like on January 1 of 2013, and how I might be able to get there in the next 12 months.  But honestly, the theme for me these days — and for 2012, perhaps? — appears to be simplicity.

You’ve noticed, probably, that I haven’t been around much on the blog.  (Those of you who follow me on Facebook, however, have had the privilege of being bothered by me on a routine basis.)  It’s not that I don’t love this blog and that I don’t want to be writing every day.  It’s just that I have been going through a process for the past few months of figuring out how to grab onto and enjoy more of my life, and part of that has involved needing to give myself a break.  A physical break.  RRG may be my favorite piece of brain candy, and goodness knows I enjoy it more than many things in my life, but I tend to work on this blog after putting in my long days of working and parenting and singing and taking care of Life Stuff.  So when my body gives out and I end up just being tired and sick — a lot — I have to regretfully step away from the computer screen and spend some time doing a whole lot of Nothing with my late evenings.

All of this is by way of saying that I’ve been away, and I’ve been thinking about stuff, and I’m in a good place (Happy New Year, everyone, by the way!), and I’m feeling less sick and less tired and ready to come back with some new energy.  AND that because of the New Year and the bloggy hiatus, of sorts, I’m looking to be easy with myself and conduct the family-work-blog-life balancing act with as much purposeful simplicity as I can.  Which leads me, delightfully, back to the same old chestnut that has saved my sanity on an almost daily basis for years now.  The meal plan.

This month’s plan is based on a few principles: first, that it will lead into the month with the use of some last holiday leftovers and some double-duty cooking; secondly, that it will continue my quest to use less meat in a number of our meals (though not quite fifty percent this month, I’m afraid); thirdly, that it will satisfy the kind of cold-weather hibernation food cravings that tend to set in during a January in New England; and fourthly, that it might help me to whittle down on the food budget a bit each week, because after some unexpected household expenses and so forth, I can easily foresee wanting a little extra in our pockets throughout the beginning of the New Year.

Sunday, 1/1: We started our month with that good old culinary reset button, Sunday Roast Chicken.  I served it with cous cous, roasted broccoli, and honey-glazed carrots.
Monday, 1/2: There’s a bit of Christmas ham left to be used (it was frozen after cooking, don’t worry).  We’re making Croque Monsieur with it and serving a big kale salad alongside.
Tuesday, 1/3: Slow cooker — Butternut squash soup, crackers, cheese, and fruit and veggie platter
Wednesday, 1/4: Linguine with chicken ragout (using leftover roast chicken), salad
Thursday, 1/5: Tacos with homemade wheat tortillas, beans, and grass-fed beef
Friday, 1/6: Fend night
Saturday, 1/7: Broccoli-cheese quiche, roasted vegetables
Sunday, 1/8: Dinner with family
Monday, 1/9: Chicken crusted with honey and pistachios, garlicky pasta, vegetables
Tuesday, 1/10: Slow cooker — tortilla soup
Wednesday, 1/11: Pepperoni and spinach calzones, fruit
Thursday, 1/12: Burgers, sweet potato fries, salad
Friday, 1/13: Fend night
Saturday, 1/14: Falafel, hummus, homemade pita
Sunday, 1/15: Baked penne with tomato cream sauce, salad
Monday, 1/16: Fish fingers (depending on what kind of fish looks good), roasted potato wedges, vegetables
Tuesday, 1/17: Slow cooker — chicken and dumplings
Wednesday, 1/18: Egg noodles with roasted winter squash, bacon, and balsamic dressing
Thursday, 1/19: Couscous and roasted vegetable toss with lamb mini-meatballs
Friday, 1/20: Fend night
Saturday, 1/21: Homemade pizzas
Sunday, 1/22: Spoon roast, mashed potatoes, vegetables
Monday, 1/23: Salmon cakes, sauteed greens, fruit
Tuesday, 1/24: Slow cooker — turkey sloppy joes, veggie chips
Wednesday, 1/25: Stir fry and brown rice (I’ll decide about meat, seafood, or entirely vegetarian when I get to the store that week)
Thursday, 1/26: Vegetable-rice soup, breadsticks
Friday, 1/27: Fend night
Saturday, 1/28: French onion soup, salads with poached eggs
Sunday, 1/29: Roast pork dinner with sweet potatoes and vegetables
Monday, 1/30: Tamale pot pie
Tuesday, 1/31: Slow cooker — West Indies chicken, rice, fruit

Happy 2012, everyone!  As always, feel free to comment and ask questions, request recipes, etc.