I’ve been thinking about today’s post for awhile, it has been on my mind for several weeks, yet now I’m finally sitting down to put my thoughts into words to share with you.
The theme for what I want to write about is not falafel or my love for Middle Eastern food, but instead, it’s about Taking a Break. My original intention was to publish this post last week, right after Thanksgiving, but I decided to give myself that break that I’d been thinking about! For months, I’ve been diligently writing, testing, and photographing at least one recipe each week to add to my website, but the time had finally come to hit pause, reflect on my gratitude for all that I have in my life, and take a break from my routine. The good thing about habits is that when a strong habit is broken, it’s easy to resume. So last week’s break was easy to return from, and here I am again, doing what I love - sharing my recipes!
During the Holiday Season, I find it’s important to take a break from many different things that come up in daily life. Whenever I feel like my calendar is too full with plans and obligations, as so many people seem to struggle with during this time of the year, I give myself permission to take a break. What does this mean? For me, it looks like staying at home for an entire day or graciously skipping a social obligation to stay home with my family. Wearing cozy PJs, watching a movie and snuggling with my husband/daughter/kitties is oftentimes what I need to do to feel grounded, to slow down from the hectic pace that the Holidays force upon our schedules. Note - this type of taking a break isn’t reserved just for this time of year, but it just feels even more necessary during the dark, cold wintertime!
As you know, self-care practices are a big part of my daily life. I cherish my morning meditation, my long walks outside, my quiet time to read and relax. But sometimes, there’s too much going on to fit it all into my schedule. It’s at times like these that I grant myself permission to take a break. No guilt, no shame. For example, when my parents were visiting for Thanksgiving, I prioritized our time together as a family, which meant that I didn’t give myself as much alone time as I typically would in any given day. I was tired from staying-up later than usual to hang-out with my mom and laugh, so getting out of bed early in the morning to meditate didn’t happen for a few days. The world didn’t end because I decided to take a break from my rituals, did it? In fact, I’d say that my time with my family was more valuable than my time doing my self-care practices. And because my self-care constitutes strong habits, I was easily able to return to these daily practices as soon as I wanted to do so.
For many people, the Holiday Season is full of decadent eating and frequent drinking. I enjoy to cook and bake recipes that I only make during this time of the year for celebrations - whether it be for my husband’s birthday, for Thanksgiving, for New Year’s, or for general Holiday bliss. I look forward to multi-course dinners and over-the-top desserts, to gatherings full of delicious wine. But I also know to take a break from this type of consumption! If I know that my weekend will be full of party food and drinks, then I make sure to treat my body with respect by eating tons of greens, vegetables, and lighter fare during the weeks before and after. I don’t deny myself the pleasures of decadent eating and drinking, but I do balance the consumption with healthful eating and taking a break from wine for many days at a time, to reset my body (and my mind).
This week’s recipe is the perfect way to take a break from the Holidays, while still enjoying a delicious vegetable-based meal. I’m able to sneak some hearty kale into these baked bites - we all need more greens in our lives! I serve the falafel as a sandwich for my daughter and husband, and as part of a giant salad for myself. One of the best parts, other than how amazing it tastes, is that falafel is the perfect make-ahead meal to have in the freezer. I love to make a double-batch, serve half for a meal and have the other half on-hand for a quick dinner when I’m feeling tired and need to take a break from the kitchen.
How do you take a break in the midst of the Holiday Season? Tell me, I’d love to hear from you!
Wishing you a relaxing weekend, full of delicious food, health & wellness.
Crispy Kale Falafel
Ingredients: (note - use organic whenever possible)
2 C chopped kale (remove thick stems)
1/2 C parsley leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t sea salt, or more, to taste
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t sumac
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 cans (14oz) chickpeas, rinsed & drained
to serve: fresh pita bread, hummus, tahini, salad greens, fresh vegetables
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
To the bowl of a large food processor, add the kale, parsley, garlic, salt, ground cumin, and sumac. Pulse to combine. Pour the lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil over the mixture and pulse again, to make a wet chopped mixture. Remove the mixture from the bowl of the food processor to a large mixing bowl.
Place the rinsed & drained chickpeas into the bowl of the food processor (no need to wash-out), and pulse to break-down the chickpeas into small gravel-like pieces. The beans should not be smooth, but not too finely chopped, either. Pour the coarsely-ground chickpeas into the mixing bowl with the kale mixture. Using a wooden spoon or your hands (which is easiest!), combine the kale mixture with the chickpeas to make a homogenous mixture. It should feel a bit sticky and moist, yet come together easily.
Roll the mixture into 18 balls, approximately the size of golf balls, and place on the lined baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully flip each ball over, then return the sheet pan to the oven for an additional 25 minutes. The falafel balls should be golden brown and crispy on the edges when they’re done.
Serve immediately, or cool to room temperature and freeze for a make-ahead meal. To freeze, place room temperature falafel balls on the sheet pan into the freezer for 6-8 hours, until frozen solid. Remove from the sheet pan to a covered container or freezer bag and keep frozen for up to a month, until ready to serve. To serve frozen falafel balls, do not thaw - place on a lined sheet pan and bake at 300 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
recipe yields 18 falafel balls, approximately 4-5 servings
double or triple the recipe for more servings, or make each ball smaller and serve as an appetizer (adjust baking time accordingly)
substitute chopped spinach for the kale, if desired
make the falafel balls spicy by adding some harissa or cayenne pepper to the mixture, to taste