December 31st is fast approaching and for many, it represents a time to reflect on the past year and an opportunity to make a clean start. Often times, goals we set for the new year get lost in the daily grind and we become frustrated and give up by mid-winter. Recently, I discovered a quote from Gandhi I would like to share with you: “In a gentle way, we can shake our world”. It’s a powerful yet soft message that reminded my western mindset that leadership can be found through the unspoken word. Is it possible to be gentle with ourselves and lead by example before we can make a positive impact on our children, families, and communities, and, therefore, our world?
Looking ahead to the new year, I promised myself NOT to set unsustainable goals without any foundational habits to support them. Instead, I will strive for a growth mindset and learn new short term habits. Why not break it down to one new habit a month for the next 12 months? I believe gently investing our intentions one habit at a time towards a future goal promotes significant accomplishments that bring meaning and value into our lives. With this new gentle mindset think of owning 12 new habits within a year. Expect setbacks but don’t underestimate the growth we can achieve in one year. Reinventing myself in my mid-forties, I’ve learned a lot along the way. For one thing, I’ve learned you don’t have to go it alone. Find a like-minded community and ask for help. As always, you have Hello Palate on your side.
Healthy Habits start in our Kitchens
I can’t think of a better way to kick start a new habit this January than to learn a new cooking technique or recipe – especially if they give you good luck for the year!
Many cultures celebrate New Years’ with a ritual of renewal with some help from auspicious foods. Why not increase our odds for a great year ahead with the belief that eating foods like fish, legumes, grapes, pork, and greens will support our new habits with a little luck on our side. I have chosen some of the healthiest recipes for you.
Soba Noodles in Bone Broth
The Japanese tradition of eating buckwheat noodles called Toshi Koshi soba, or “year-long passing” noodles is meant to symbolize health and longevity in the new year. It’s customary to slurp up these noodles without biting into them for the best results. Buckwheat is on my list of healthy foods with the following benefits: a good source of manganese and thiamin to support cardiovascular health, and with its high protein content without the gluten, it is ideal for people with food sensitivities. Check labels on packages for buckwheat only ingredients.
This recipe is so simple but elegant enough for a New Year’s celebratory dinner. I encourage you to add in your stock or broth for the added tasty health benefits.
In Italy, they eat a combination of two culinary symbols of good luck: pork and lentils. Lentils and their small seed-like appearance swell when cooked giving off an appearance of coins and the more you consume the more financial rewards will come your way. The custom of eating pork is based on the notion that pigs symbolize progress by rooting themselves in the ground before moving forward.
Lentils are my favorite legumes because they are the easiest for people to digest making this particular fortune food a good healthy choice for your dinner party. Please enjoy the recipe below omitting the bacon if you so desired for a plant-based inspired dish.
Hello Palate’s Lentil Stew with a Sunny Side Egg
4 pastured raised eggs
1 1/2 cup Beluga lentils
3 bacon strips chopped (nitrate-free)
3 cloves garlic minced
2 carrots diced
1 celery diced
1 onion diced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
6 cups liquid of choice (broth or water)
1 bunch lacinato kale
2 fresh sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Optional: red pepper flakes and grated pecorino cheese
- Combine aromatics, carrots, celery, and bacon in a heavy Dutch oven. Stir until fragrant over medium-high heat for about 2 mins.
- Reduce flame to medium low, cover and cook until vegetables are tender about 5 mins.
- Uncover and add your liquid of choice, lentils, thyme, bay leaf and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender about 30 mins.
- Poach or fry your eggs during this time. After lentils are tender, transfer a few ladles of soup to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Return puree to Dutch oven and simmer adding in more liquid of necessary, and at this point add kale to wilt before serving.
- Ladle the soup into bowls topped with egg, sprinkled parsley, salt and pepper to taste and serve!
Pesce for Luck
Fish is an easy choice to enjoy when it comes to your health and it’s been a popular so-called fortune food since the middle ages. Eating whole fish is a culinary symbol for abundance and good luck throughout Asia. This year makes it a new habit in learning to prepare whole fish and reap the abundant health benefits. An easy technique and a recipe for any modern-day cook to serve up and enjoy!
Sicilian Baked Whole Fish with Raisins and Pine Nuts: please note this is a great cooking technique for any whole fish for you to create your own recipe.
- Ask your fishmonger for the freshest catch of the day, gut, trim and scale a whole fish for you.
- Soak your fish in saltwater, pat it completely dry and season it inside and out with salt and pepper.
- Stuff cavity of fish with aromatics like chopped garlic, add fresh herbs like parsley, sage or oregano. Drizzle the whole fish with olive oil.
- For this recipe: roast pine nuts in a skillet and soak the raisins in water until plump.
- Roast your whole fish until the thermometer reads about 135 degrees – insert into the thickest part of the fish for best results.
- Be confident not to overcook your fish. Feel the fish flake under the skin when you pull on it with your fork. Top your fish at this point with pine nuts and raisins and return to the hot oven for another 3 mins. Serve with a side of greens or salad.
Poached Fish is another option and here’s one of my favorite chef’s recipes for you.
There are plenty of good reasons to eat more greens. Cabbage, kale and chard are just a few to mention that have leaves that look like folded money and many cultures believe it is a good idea to serve them up for good fortune in the New Year.
This recipe combines kale and lentils for double the luck.
Please share with our community any lucky recipes your families like to enjoy on New Years’. These are just a few of my favorites. Wishing you an abundance of joy and health in the new year. Cheers!