Whip Smart Kitchen

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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!

Southwest-style sweet potato frittata

Breakfast, Recipe, Slow FoodLeannda CavalierComment

A silky blend of eggs, ricotta and gruyere top hearty sweet potatoes, black beans and smoky vegetables. Flavorful and filling, this frittata can feed your brunch crowd or be stored in the refrigerator for days of healthy breakfasts.

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you buy products I recommend. I only recommend products I believe in. That means I've used it myself in most cases, and at the very least I've researched it thoroughly and find the company trustworthy—I would never recommend anything I wouldn't buy and use myself. Please reach out if you have any questions!

Stomach... rumbles... uncontrollable... gimme that southwest style sweet potato frittata—skip to the recipe, please!

I've always thought frittatas were so-so. Pretty good. Nothing special. 

Breaking news: I was WRONG. 

The frittata conversion

This summer while Adam and I were visiting his parents in West Virginia, they made us an incredible brunch. It featured biscuits (duh, I said "West Virginia"), a selection of gourmet jams (new playlist name?!) to try and the star of the show: a cheesy, tender frittata. 

The problem with frittata for me has always been that it's either too rubbery or too slimy, and/or that it's just too eggy. Yes, I know its supposed to taste like eggs. Yes, I love eggs. No, I have no desire to eat a wet scrambled egg pie. Sorry.

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But this frittata. THIS frittata was spongey in a buttery way, had plenty of texture to break up any monotony, and had as much flavor as any savory dish at my favorite brunch spots. It was filled with sausage, potatoes, kale, spinach, onions, and lots of cheese. 

One of the reasons it was so incredible is because my parents-in-law broke the rules of the recipe they were using, and brilliantly so. It said to drop ricotta in by the spoonful before cooking, but they went ahead and mixed it right in to the eggs with the gruyere. I think that made all the difference in terms of texture. They also threw in some browned sausage into the mix, which was pro play-calling. 

I've been a frittata fiend since. I've made one nearly every week—really. It's such a great breakfast, and I just have to work for it Sunday to reap the benefits throughout the workweek. To switch it up I've been rotating versions, including the one I'm sharing today: southwest-style sweet potato frittata. 

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This frittata has the same incredible texture, but a slightly different vibe. Namely, smoky-sweet. Onions, cherry tomatoes, jalapeños and black beans form the smoky base, while crispy-edged sweet potatoes add meatiness and mellow things out. It's topped with... you guessed it an egg mixture enhanced with ricotta and gruyere.

I know, it doesn't sound like either of those cheeses should go in anything invoking the southwest, but I swear it works. If you really have a problem with the gruyere, you can always go for some sharp cheddar, but DO NOT skip the ricotta. 

Ricotta is essential to the experience I'm trying to give you. Don't question it. I'm more Lucille Bluth than David S. Pumpkins on this one. 

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I truly don't know that I'll ever make another frittata without it.  

A fatty hypothesis with some steam to carry it

If I had to guess why the ricotta-egg mix is so magical, I'd chalk it up to the fat versus liquid content. Ricotta a whey protein, which is essentially cream or milk quickly curdled with an acid in order to thicken it and intensify the flavor. That means the fat and protein stick around without all the liquid.

When you cook eggs mixed with dairy products or other liquids, too much steam can become a problem. With a short cooking time it's not such a big deal, but the longer the cooking time, the more tightly the proteins in the eggs bond, the more liquid they push out, and the tougher your eggs get.

On the other hand, if you reduce the liquid and up the fat, your eggs are going to steam less, and your eggs should stay tender. Furthermore, the added fat will coat the proteins and slow down their coagulation even more.

TL;DR: You get to have your cake and eat it too, as the liquid from the milk will steam the proteins enough to make the eggs fluffy, but the fat in the milk and the ricotta will coat the proteins to help keep it from getting tough and rubbery. 

Why mess with a frittata that isn't broken?

I believe in moderation, so some sausage is perfectly okay in my diet. On the other hand, moderation probably doesn't include eating it nearly every day. Besides, sometimes you've just got to switch things up!

A big benefit of this southwest-style sweet potato frittata is that it puts a little healthy twist on things. Swapping out sausage for black beans and potatoes for sweet potatoes lowers the sodium a bit, adds some more vitamins and fiber and lightens things up overall without sacrificing flavor. It's probably not the recipe you're looking for if you're overly concerned about cholesterol, but hey, it's also not the 90s. 

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A few months after our trip, Adam's parents came to visit us on their way to visit family in Alabama. I was able to serve them my version of their frittata on their way down, and this southwest-style sweet potato frittata on their way back home. I might have gushed a little over how they've inspired my new obsession and made my mornings before work so much easier.

This southwest-style sweet potato frittata is perfect if you have company coming over, especially if you prep the vegetables ahead. I personally like to make this on a Sunday so I don’t have to worry about breakfast throughout the week.

It refrigerates beautifully, and can be reheated in the microwave without altering the texture dramatically, unlike many egg dishes. That's saying something, because generally I ha-ha-haaaate microwaved eggs. The ahem RICOTTA keeps the microwave from turning the eggs into smelly rubber. I just pop in a slice for 45 seconds to a minute and savor it with some coffee and maybe a side of fruit.

Are you a frittata fan? What's the best one you've ever had? As always, I want to hear from you! Whether you make this one, think it sounds good, or just have strong feelings on egg-dishes, let me know in the comments!

Got a question or something you're struggling with in the kitchen? I'd love to help you out if I can, but I won't know until you ask.

If you make this recipe, make sure you come back and let me know how it was, or you can post a photo on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #whipsmartkitchen & tag me!

One more thing—bloggers, Instagram enthusiasts and influence aficionados: stick around until the end of this post. I've got something fun for you!

Anyway, let's get cooking!

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Hey, are you a blogger too?

Maybe even a food blogger? I'm attending a live Q&A Thursday (11/9) with Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro's Lindsay and Bjork Ostrom on how they've grown their Instagram following to 500K.

I'd love to see you there too! It's mainly for food bloggers, but I can easily see anybody interested in Instagram getting value out of this. It's super-easy to register, just click this link—Instagram Live Q&A with Food Blogger Pro—or the graphic below. 

Full disclosure, this is an affiliate link. That means that if you end up enrolling in Food Blogger Pro after clicking my link, I'll get a small portion of anything you pay. 

That being said, the webinar is totally free and you don't have to buy anything to get a ton of incredible info (seriously, just listen to their FREE Podcast—I'm obsessed). I really believe in Food Blogger Pro, and Pinch of Yum is the delicious proof that they know what they're doing. Bjork and Lindsay and their whole team are so knowledgable and generous, and they've helped WhipSmart Kitchen become what it is today (and what I hope it will grow into!). 

How we grew our instagram following to 500k

It's still a new year... get a fresh start!

Leannda Cavalier6 Comments

How crazy is it that spring is already here? It's pretty cool outside here, but feelings of newness and invigoration are undeniable for me. Flowers are blooming... okay, they mostly bloomed in the 75º February weather and froze over in March. Regardless, spring is about new beginnings and new life.

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That goes for the baby squirrels under my deck, the tulips poking out their leaves, and all the ideas I've been hoarding in my notes app. 

I have a question for you, and I want you to be honest. How are your New Years resolutions going?

If they're not going so well, know you're not alone. According to a U.S. News & World Report story, more than 80 percent of resolutions probably failed more than a month ago. There are a number of reasons NYR don't work out for people—one of which, I believe, involves the very name. 

New Year's resolutions. New. Year's. Resolutions.

The funny thing about today? It's still 365 days away from this date last year, and next year. I think the holiday we call New Year's is important to recognize, and can be a great time to reset and try to change. Symbolism can be a great tool.

On the other hand, we make SUCH a big deal out of it that it can directly set us back.

New Year's Day is a temporal landmark. That's the idea that when there's a clean restart, people are more likely to actually turn their aspirations into reality.

The thing is, New Years comes at an inconvenient time for change. How many cookies did your family send home with you after Christmas? How much candy and leftovers do you have from all the festivities? Do you just let it all go to waste for your new lifestyle? Not to mention that you likely let up on your workout schedule and developed some hard-to-break habits over the holidays. 

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One study found that people buy more healthy food in January... but their junk-food-buying habits didn't change from what they were spending over the holiday season (during which they bought 15 percent more junk food than usual).

Don't get me wrong, adding healthy foods in is a great way to change your habits, but at some point you've got to take some of the junk food out of your cart to make a difference. 

Making new habits takes time, and if you try to do everything at once it can be overwhelming. It can also be incredibly discouraging if you falter by mid-January. 

Today is the third day of spring—but that doesn't even matter. Every day is what you make it. It can be anything you want it to be! If take advantage of that, maybe March 21st of 2018 can be your one-year anniversary of finally making that change you wanted to make. 

So right here, right now, I challenge you to make a plan for one thing you want to change in the next year. Oh, and I want to help!

Download your free guide in the box below, then come back & keep reading to make your plan!

Making the plan

Step 1: Choose one goal you want to achieve in the next year.

Follow the guidelines below to help you out: 

  1. It has to be something you can reasonably achieve in the next year. Don't choose things that aren't within your control, or that could take years to achieve.
  2. It has to be challenging. Yes, it has to be achievable, but choose something you've struggled with for a while, or that isn't so easy you could do it in a week. We're looking for a transformation of some sort. If you don't challenge yourself, you won't grow.
  3. It has to be worth it! Really think about why you want it. Make sure it's something you really want, or you won't do it. 

Step 2: Set objectives to make your goal concrete.

What has to happen for you to reach your goal? Let's go back to that example of "getting healthy." Getting healthier means different things to different people. You might want to lose weight, build muscle, lean out, lower your cholesterol, run a marathon, or even just breathe easier on the stairs.

Choose three end results that make up the big goal you chose, and write them down. But be specific! Instead of just vaguely saying lose weight, say how much you want to lose. Say where you want your cholesterol to be. Say what kind of exercise you want to be able to do. Make it measurable so that at the end of the year you can know exactly how far you've come. 

Step 3: Break it down into action steps.

The best way to achieve a goal is to break it into bite-sized steps you can incorporate daily. So what small steps do you have to take to make your objectives a reality? Choose a few actions that will help you meet each of your objectives.

So if one of your objectives was to lose 20 pounds, maybe you decide to do that by eating home-cooked meals at least five days a week, exercising for at least 10 minutes five days a week, and only eat dessert twice a week or on special occasions.

These actions should be things you can start doing immediately, and that you can feasibly stick to. I'm not saying they shouldn't be difficult, but if you're out of shape, committing to working out for an hour five days a week right away is a recipe for failure, or even injury. If your favorite hobby is baking, cutting out sugar entirely probably isn't an option you'll stick to for long.

Remember, you can always adjust your goals to make them more challenging as you get used to them.

Step 4: Check in and adjust as you go.

Set a date each month in your calendar to evaluate how things are going. Are you making progress? Have you faltered or given up on certain action steps or objectives? That's okay!

It's not ideal, but now is the time to think about whether you need to adjust your goals to make them more doable, pivot, or suck it up and renew your commitment.

Setting an actual date in ink will help you keep yourself accountable instead of just giving up until next year. 

Step 5: Evaluate how well you met your goal, and move forward!

Listen, I want you to go at your goal with everything you've got. The thing is, nobody is perfect. We all have our struggles. Don't let all your self-worth or happiness be conditional on whether or not you met your goal.

Be happy with any progress you made! Celebrate your successes and think of ways to keep the train rolling ahead! Make a plan so you don't fall back into your old habits.

If you didn't meet your goals, let it go and move on. You tried, and at least you have a starting point. You know your weaknesses and what you need to work on. You know what obstacles you'll face and

You can take this plan or leave it, but I really encourage you to think about where you want to . There are so many ways to make a change, and I don't presume to have the best one. I just know structure, mindfulness and planning are what work for me.

Just remember, you don’t have to do it all at once. You don’t have to do it alone. You don't have to quit because you had a bad couple of weeks.

Over the next few posts I'll be sharing some of my goals, tips for making big changes in the kitchen, and more!

I would LOVE to hear about changes you're making in your life.

In the comments tell me:

  • ONE big change you want to make this year, and how you're going to make it.
    • Can I help? Are you struggling with cooking, food, or wellness-related goals
  • Will you use this plan? Do you have a different method?

Let me know :)