Lentil ‘Meatballs’ and Molten Salted Caramel Chocolate Cakes

It only took 50+ days, but I achieved part of my new years resolution—the bulk of a meal made completely by following a new recipe! It started with an absolutely tempting dessert recipe that I stowed away for our first Valentines Day as a married couple. I was excited to surprise D, who may love salted caramel more than me, and stocked up on the ingredients subtly. And like the best laid plans, life got in the way and I got hit with the flu just before February 14th.

We decided to postpone V-Day until I was feeling better, which means this weekend was both Valentines Day and our 4-month wedding anniversary. Time has flown by, so I wanted to really take a night to celebrate us, celebrate the milestone of 1/3 of our newlywed year, and do something a little bit challenging to symbolize taking risks and growing together. What resulted was far better than I ever could have imagined.

We paired our 'meatballs' with a kale salad and garlic bread

We paired our ‘meatballs’ with a kale salad and garlic bread

Lentil ‘Meatballs’ with Homemade Marinara

Meatballs were never a huge appeal for me growing up–while they were always homemade, they just weren’t my favorite meal. Regardless, I have always loved Italian food, especially in the cooler months when comfort food is anything warm! Pasta has never been a big component in our diets, but I would honestly put D’s marinara on a flip flop, so these ‘meatballs’ seemed like a great way to satisfy all of our priorities while also trying something new. I am so proud to say that I followed the recipe exactly, with the exception of substituting fresh basil for the parsley that the recipe called for. We didn’t make the pesto that the recipe called for, but I preferred these with marinara because the texture and color actually makes them seem like turkey/chicken meatballs, which traditionally would be served with a red sauce. They were fun to make- we actually smashed everything together with a potato masher instead of the food processor! 

We invited some friends over to dinner and I was honestly nervous. Our friend E is as rough-and-rugged as it gets. He lives in the woods, stocks his freezer with freshly killed venison, and is a true man’s man. His wife R was vegetarian in college, so we knew she would give us honest feedback about how well these compared to the real deal.

OH.MY.GOODNESS. The herbs and the ricotta keep these rich and flavorful, the lentils give them great texture, and there’s nothing better than knowing these are honestly healthy! I also like that they’re ‘clean’ eating, not a ton of processed soy, which often people associate as the only alternative to meat. Drenched in some amazing marinara, all 4 of us were completely satiated. I took the leftovers for lunch today and put them over quinoa– what a fantastic pairing. Try these on a sub with melted mozzarella, atop your favorite pasta, or toss with pesto for a different iteration. I can’t wait to make a double batch and freeze them to have as needed for weeknight dinners- they are very versatile and so delicious!

Absolutely decadent!

Absolutely decadent!

Molten Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel
The recipe that started it all…I love the meticulous nature of baking and knowing that as long as you follow steps A, B, and C that the end result will be what you expect. Life doesn’t always work out that way, nor do relationships, but you’ve got to take the risks to see if the end result is worthwhile.  While this recipe may be intimidating, just take it step by step and you’ll be fine. At the end, you’ll have an oozing chocolate and caramel reward. My only suggestion from the initial recipe is to add the caramel to the ramekins before you refrigerate them, because once the cake portion sets in the fridge, it’s hard to push the caramel into the cake and cover it back up with cake batter (you want it to be completely enclosed with the chocolate batter). We also made them in muffin tins because we didn’t plan well and the ramekins were in the dishwasher…so don’t make the same mistake we made. They were still amazing, but more difficult to get out of the pan due to the slight slope of the sides. No one seemed to mind the gooey mess that resulted because we were too busy licking our forks and trying to hold back from eating the leftover cakes.

If you’re too intimidated by the full recipe, here’s my suggestion for a way to adapt this to suit your level of comfort with baking. Make a double batch of the caramel and pour it atop your favorite brownie recipe (even if that’s a boxed mix!) Just bake the brownies completely and pour the caramel over while they’re still warm so that the chocolate and caramel get a chance to melt together a bit and cool together. This caramel is absolutely fantastic. It takes quite a while for the sugar to get to the golden level you need it to get to, but patience is a virtue and I promise you’ll find it worth the wait. The only downside of this recipe is now I’ve revealed my trump card and D expects salted caramel everything for every special occasion moving forward. We’ll see….

Sometimes taking a risk pays off. And this weekend, despite the delay in our special meal, every minute in the kitchen created one of the most amazing meals we’ve had in a while.

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