Whip Smart Kitchen

Recipes, methods & musings for the whip-smart home cook

Holiday

New Year's lentil soup with sausage meatballs

Holiday, Dinner, Recipe, Slow Food, Soup, WinterLeannda CavalierComment

This savory Italian-inspired soup is filled with earthy lentils, infused with aromatic herbs and peppered with tender meatballs. Lentils are a New Year's tradition, but this soup is great anytime.

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I'll reflect later, give me the recipe now!

Happy New Year! What are your New Year's resolutions?

I have mixed feelings on New Year's Eve and New Years. On the one hand, I think it's a little overblown. Reasons: I already stay up past midnight most days, I'd rather drink hot chocolate by the fire than go out and I already set expectations for myself I can't possibly meet without a holiday to mark the occasion.

On the other hand, I do think it's nice to have a symbolic check-in where you can create a blank slate along with all the other people trying to do the same. It's a good time for people who go 100 mph to stop in the quiet days after earlier holidays and reflect on what's working and what's not. 

Keeping things real with New Years Resolutions is a tough balance to strike, and it can get ugly fast.

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I know I said I don't need a holiday to tell me to set my expectations, but that's only half-right if I'm being honest. As a strategic communicator in my day-jobs, I'm always setting deadlines and benchmarks to measure against—otherwise how do you even measure whether you were successful or refine your strategy? How do you stay intentional? 

As a human, I should do that more in my own life. 

I'm thinking about that a lot right now, especially after this particular holiday season. I typically go all out baking and making food as gifts, but this year I just couldn't do it. I had too much on my plate, and didn't finish up my work from the fall in time before we set out on our holiday travels. 

Some of my favorites to make are salted, nutella-stuffed, browned butter chocolate chip cookies; peppermint hot chocolate mix; peppermint marshmallows; salted bourbon caramels and my favorite: povitica. Povitica (po-va-teet-sa) is a magical Croatian swirled bread stuffed with walnuts, chocolate and cinnamon. I started making it about four years ago as a way to connect with my roots, and it's become a tradition. An incredibly labor-intensive tradition where I spend two days making five delicate, twirly loaves. 

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Had to skip it too. It was the bread, or my sanity. Considering Christmastime is when I finally see all my family and friends, I needed the sanity. I'll send the bread later. 

I don't think we should be too tough on ourselves or beat ourselves up, but it's always good to consider what's actually realistic and give ourselves time to make it work. So, as much as I don't want to make it too big a deal, a year is a pretty good checkpoint. You have the symbolism of the cycling seasons, the restful few days to think (if you're lucky) and other people doing the same thing to help you get excited and keep you accountable.

Ready to set goals you'll actually reach? Start here.  

One year, five steps.

It might sound odd, but all of that ties perfectly into this recipe for lentil soup with sausage meatballs. Symbolism, tradition, realism, slowing down and hey, getting excited! Because this soup is really, really good. 

Eating lentils after midnight on New Year's is considered good luck in Italy, and the legumes have similar symbolic meanings around the world. The coin-shaped pulses represent good luck and prosperity to Italians, and are often served with pork sausage, stuffed trotters and other pig-based products because pigs root forward. Other cultures focus on the circular shape of the lentils as well, but they associate it more with the circle of life itself rather than fortune. 

Beyond that, lentils are incredibly nutritious and accessible, as hearty crops with plenty of vegetable protein. They've been a staple of multiple cultures' diets for thousands of years for a reason. 

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Prosperity, luck, forward-motion, health, life cycles. What's more New Year's than that? 

Well, if you're like me, a strong dose of realism. In life, that means trying to set goals I can actually achieve and reasonable time-frames. In this recipe, it means that I'm not making stuffed pig trotters with my lentil soup. Not that I have anything against it, and I'm not saying I would never make it or try it. Maybe I will one day, but it's just not going to become a tradition in the Cavalier house. 

More realistic? Sausage meatballs. Yes, please. Accessible. Simple. Still symbolic. 

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It's also so, so delicious. The earthy, peppery French puy lentils go beautifully with the mirepoix, tomatoes, herbs and spinach to finish. The meatballs add a kick to keep things interesting. Plus, for those of you who care, it's a pretty healthy start for the year. No, it's not plain leek soup, but it's balanced. Nutritious and filling and tasty. It's a great meal to ease you into good habits, as going cold-turkey is a change that's unlikely to stick or make you very happy in the meantime. 

And hey, if you don't eat lentil soup with sausage meatballs at midnight, don't see it as a missed opportunity, because this recipe is fantastic anytime for any reason. Tomorrow is just as good for a fresh start as any. 

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I actually intended to post this recipe last year, but didn't because the photos weren't what I wanted, which set up a whole string of posts I meant to put up at a certain time, and failed to do so. I also had hoped to get it up a little earlier this year. Another dose of that realism for me. I didn't give myself enough time or understanding, and things... spiraled.

Something I'm working on this year ;). For now, I'm mulling it over while the soup simmers.

I've been making lentil soup with meatballs for New Year's for several years, and just like me, it's evolved quite a bit. I've used different type of lentils, herbs, ground meats, proportions—I'll spare you all the nitty-gritty details for now. 

I'm sure it will continue to evolve, whether it's me making more changes, or you putting your own spin on this dish in your kitchen. 

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I hope you set realistic but ambitious goals for yourself this year, and I hope you reach them with a healthy dose of hard work and patience. I hope you're intentional both in your strides and staying present in the moment. Finally, I hope you have the year you want, with plenty of joy among the ups and downs. 

If you make this recipe, I'd love to hear from you and see it! Leave a comment below, or take a picture and tag me on social media—mine are in the links below if you want to connect!

P.S. Feel free to leave your resolutions in the comments to put it in writing ;)

So let's get simmering!

Holiday baked brie with rosemary-infused cranberry sauce

Holiday, Party, Fall, Recipe, Vegetarian, WinterLeannda CavalierComment
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Christmas may be over, but we still have some of the holiday season to go.

Now, I know everyone's getting ready to "detox" and "start the new year with a new you." I'm with you (kind of), but listen: moderation is your friend. Deprivation? Not so much. More on that later, but don't skip this one just because 2017 is going to be the year you REALLY stick to boiled chicken and greens.

This appetizer would be perfect for a new years party. Decadent and cheesy, but "together" and so much more fun than some store-bought cheeseball. If you don't care about all that, throw it out the window, because it's freaking delicious. 

I've made this for several parties and the reaction is always, "what is THAT?!" Cut a sliver out and the wide eyes are joined by dropped jaws, watering mouths and reaching hands.

Pierce through the crisp crust, and meet tangy-sweet, gooey cranberry sauce mixing with buttery, salty, melty brie. Bits of lightly browned, pastry. The smell. Smother. It. On. A. Cracker. Now. Lizard brain. I wish I had a picture of this, but the last few times I've made it, it's been torn apart before I even got the chance. 

The rosemary and orange along with the cranberry give it the aroma every holiday party should have. 

I will say I've made mini versions just to snack on at home. I won't say how many times.

(It's a bunch of times.)

Slate ran a series a few years ago with new rules for party guests and hosts: never bring brie to a party, ever again. Fighting words, those. The writer argues American brie is a pasteurized disgrace to what a true Brie should be.

He's not wrong. It's worth reading and considering, especially if you're interested in how safety regulations affect our food for better or worse

Here's the thing: I've never been to France. I don't know if I'll ever be in France. I've never had access to a "proper" brie. I don't know if I ever will.  

I am discerning and try to get the best quality I can out of what I buy. I learn all I can and try to be aware of what is and what is not authentic, traditional, "correct," and so on. But there's only so much thinking, learning and searching most of us can do before we need to pick a cheese already.

The brie he's talking about? The adulterated disappointment? It's pretty good. It's REALLY good when baked into a pastry with cranberry sauce. Maybe I'm compromising here, but I like to enjoy my life. Enjoying cheese I have access to and like instead of pining for something I can't get is something that doesn't bother me too much. 

Not to say that I wouldn't go on a "real" brie hunt if the opportunity presented itself. 

Also, as curious as I am to try a cheese that tastes undeniably like broccoli, I'm pretty sure it would suck with cranberry sauce. Guess I'd have to create another recipe for that. 

Enjoy—the cheese and life in general. 

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