“It's often the small steps, not the giant leaps that bring about the most lasting change” ~ Queen Elizabeth
(Queen's Christmas Message 2019 – Video Credit – YouTube – Global News)
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I've always been a bit envious of my brother, whose birthday falls on New Year's Eve.
Like the turning of a new year, birthdays are a chance to celebrate the passage of time, and (hopefully) wisdom gained. But the great thing about them is there aren't any resolutions. No shaming and guilting ourselves into changing the pesky details of our lives that make us perfectly imperfect human beings.
I think about this a lot lately as I hear people talking about all the things they're going to do come January 1st.
“Well, listen. I think you’re fine just the way you are. I mean, think about all of the ways you've grown and changed in just the past couple of years.”
This, from my husband, as we walk home from church in the wee hours of Christmas morning. It's well after midnight, the streets of downtown are deserted, and the lights of the city are magical. I'm wearing red shoes. I give him a hug.
These moments, we both agree, were our favorite from holidays this year. A season of adjusting and re-adjusting expectations. The gentle reminder that when the twinkling lights – from the city, on the tree, in our lives – begin fade, there's still something quiet we can look back on and be proud. It doesn’t often look like general merriment, like gilded paper, eucalyptus wreaths, or hot cocoa.
How the smallest of moments are often filled with the greatest joy
How a series of the smallest steps brought us to that magical evening. The power of stringing them together over a long period has produced some pretty significant change.
And so, with a new year is nearly upon us, I've decided to stop focusing on all of the things I've found lacking. No vows of big, dramatic changes. I've decided instead there's a certain beauty in taking stock of ourselves, peering in the mirror, surveying the wrinkles and greys and innermost imperfections and saying to ourselves: “You know, not bad.”
There are worse things, I’m sure.
Instead, I'll keep focusing on the good-for-me habits I've fought really hard for and would like to keep nurturing. Introducing some new ones along the way, and sharing them with you in a new series beginning in January. Maybe there are some small steps we can take together?
Happy 2020, sweet friends.
Might I propose we end the year with one of my very favorite soup recipes?
I love a good one-bowl meal and this lentil soup has become a lunchtime staple. It's hearty yet healthy and gives me lots of energy without weighing me down. Not to mention it delivers layer after layer of flavor. All of which in my mind translates to a soup that is filling, tasty, adaptable, and also delivers plenty of good stuff to my body.
It's also super tasty.
A few notes on why I like this soup nutritionally. In addition to the veggies, it has a nice amount of protein (from the lentils). The recipe also incorporates a touch of turmeric and vitamin-rich greens. If I have a ripe avocado on hand I'll slice 1/4 of it into small dice and sprinkle that across the top as well. Maybe a sprinkling of parmesan. With a bit of gluten-free bread (or croutons) that have been rubbed with garlic, the whole thing comes together.
Or serve it over brown rice.
This is also the kind of recipe to think about in broad strokes. There are so many ways to make subtle changes depending on your mood or what's in the pantry. A few ideas? Add a can of fire-roasted tomatoes; they'll play nicely off of the earthiness of the lentils. Some red pepper flakes, or jalapeno for those who like things spicy. Substitute a nice dark beer for some of the stock?
Maybe you'd like to make a thicker version with just a fraction of liquid? It will great spooned over your morning omelet. Also, consider varying the spices or spice blends. Smoked paprika, crushed chiles, toasted cumin, would all work beautifully.
Food52 also offers a comprehensive primer on making lentil soup without a recipe
~ Adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
- olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 - 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into ½" pieces
- 2 - 3 stalks celery, chopped into ½" pieces
- 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped into ½" pieces
- 1 Tbsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp sea salt + more to taste
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ½ cup green (or DePuy) lentils
- 1 ½ cup red lentils
- 7 cups vegetable or chicken broth (or water)
- 2 tsp lemon pepper (or something similar, like Mrs. Dash)
- 2 tsp Italian herbs
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 (14 oz) can fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 ½ cups roughly chopped kale (or anything sturdy like spinach or Swiss chard)
- ½ cup chopped parsley, for garnish
- ½ - ¾ cup grated Parmesan or something similar (dry and sharp)
- fresh, toasted baguette
- In a large pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil.
- Add the onion, carrots, celery, sweet potato, and garlic, and saute until just softened (~ 8-10 minutes)
- Add the lentils, broth, spices, and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir to combine
- Bring to a slow boil before reducing the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 40-45 minutes, or until the vegetables and lentils are tender, but not mushy.
- Working in batches, add about ½ of the soup in your blender or food processor. (An immersion blender would be great here too) Pulse a couple of times. You want the veggies to still be a bit chunky.
- Turn off the heat. Stir in the turmeric, tomatoes, and greens, allowing them to wilt. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed.
- Serve each bowl with a squeeze of lemon, parsley and generous sprinkle of Parmesan. Best served with a crusty garlicky baguette on the side.