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A few of my resolutions for 2024—and a recipe for a Greek New Year's cake that should be made year-round.
As December fumbles around, purple lipped and looking for a little more cheese, we call her an Uber and remind her the party is over: it’s now time for our super gorgeous, very focused, extraordinarily judgemental January to arrive. She’s mostly keto but I’ve seen her be flexitarian, we tell our friends. She’s super fun to workout with, plus she introduced me to my digital detox therapist, you insist. She can be our designated driver.
The trickiest of months, this lithe, journaling, green juice goddess can truly set most of us up for disaster. I’ve downloaded more health apps and hired more personal trainers in the month of January than any other month; I’ve added unnecessary cabbage to soups, gulped down enough vitamins and minerals to fortify a small breed of horses, declined social invitations so I could “stay focused and on plan’=”—and unsurprisingly I’ve been miserable the entire time.
January can be dark, it can feel long, it presents us with holiday shopping credit card statements we aren’t ready for. And adding food and beverage restrictions in tandem with extended workouts seems quite cruel. There must be a way to embrace the positivity of a new year and embrace the gusto of wanting better health and wellness without feeling so entirely sad the entire time. I’ve seen an uptick on a new kind of resolution manifesto with In Lists (Reading More Books, Healthier Boundaries, More Natural Looking Filler) and Out (People Pleasing, Avoiding Criminal Sentencing, Muffins)…I’m here to share my In List with you, the reader, but especially for January—for anyone who just wants to feel less stringent and enjoy themselves a little, too.
When asked about the greatest challenges that she had faced in her life, Aretha Franklin answered, ‘What to cook for dinner, night after night’. We all know this conundrum of coming home tired and uninspired and wanting a home cooked meal without the effort of a home cooked meal. Can I make this in 30 Minutes? Great. Is this a Sheet Pan Situation? Even better. Will everyone want seconds? Sold.
Dinner Ideas for the Uninspired, Lazy Meals, Deflated Dinners…whatever you Google will bring up anything from Beef Pan-Fried Noodles to Just Add an Entire Block of Cream Cheese to the Crock Pot Kind of Recipe. A Better Weeknight Dinner can just mean a smidge more effort, and ‘a smidge more’ is a great resolution to have for 2024. You’re not taking away flavour or calories, just adding a few new additions to your roster of easy meals that taste delicious.
I grew up with a father who was serious about having a great barber, a very good butcher, and an even better accountant. Finding a respectable, dedicated food professional is as important as the kitchen appliances you fuss over purchasing, the pantry you stock, and the cookbooks you delight in. Taking a recipe to a pro who is happy to help you source a spice, trim a tenderloin, or let you try the aged gouda is the secret to success behind everything you make.
For my weeknight chicken recipe, I relied on my pros at Vancouver’s Cioffi’s for very good quality ingredients, as the recipe has just a few. As a little girl my mamma would take me to Helen’s Children’s Wear on Hastings for proper Italian leather shoes and very stylish but slightly pageant-like taffeta dresses. Now, I make the pilgrimage to the landmark neon Heights sign for the best cuts and freshest ricotta. In a month spent coming down from hyper socializing and endless parties, social burnout can be real in January. If the butcher is your only friend this month, it will be worth your while.
Without the added stress of a January total mind and body makeover, we apply this gentler approach to our kitchen environment. Maybe it’s not the year of a total renovation, or buying new appliances, but it could be the month of replacing one thing that is Just Meh with something that functions well and is beautiful.
I fell in love with the pricier John Pawson Salt and Pepper shakers photographed in this month’s photos, as well as the super affordable Puddifoot cutlery. The discipline to choose one special thing and not spiral into overconsumption will be what we brag about on our spin bikes if we decide to go. And in the end, it was avoiding the big sweeping changes in exchange for a smidge more effort without compromising flavour or fun.
And that is how January became the guest I enjoyed Around My Table, we adapted to each other’s needs, and hopefully yours too.
Most variations of this cake call for blanched almonds, we are omitting for common nut allergies without sacrificing flavour.
You don’t have to wait until the holidays to enjoy this cake either. I say a Lucky Cake is suitable at any time and should be encouraged.
2 cups white sugar
3 cups butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
6 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup warm milk
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Coin wrapped in tin foil or wax paper.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Generously grease a 10” round cake pan.
Beat sugar and butter together in a medium bowl until light in colour. Add in flour and mix until the texture is mealy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Combine baking powder and milk; add to bowl and mix well. Combine lemon juice and baking soda; add into the batter and mix well. Pour into prepared cake pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove and gently insert the coin to the top into the cake, then return to the oven and bake again for another 20-30 minutes until it springs back lightly to the touch. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes before inverting it on to a cake stand. Whoever gets the coin hidden in their piece will have good luck for the year!
Are you over 18 years of age?