My Favorite Books of All Time

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Did you know that March was National Reading Month, and April is National Poetry Month? In honor of this, I pulled out the books that are warmly, firmly lodged in my heart forever, and started writing. Here they are in one collection, A. A. Milne’s original Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, and his poetry collections When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. If you have never read them, or if you have only ever been exposed to the Disney version of Pooh Bear, I exhort you to secure yourself a copy of all four.

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These are without a doubt my favorite books and author of all time. It could be said that I live my life by A. A. Milne. His lines and scenarios come to mind in such a broad range of circumstances. I even react like Piglet in Winnie-the-Pooh when he and Pooh nearly catch a woozle, when my husband tries to startle me: “‘What?’ said Piglet, with a jump. And then, to show that he hadn’t been frightened, he jumped up and down once or twice more in an exercising sort of way.”

The illustrator too, is near to my heart. The “silly old bear” his most recognized work, E. H. Shepard also did illustrations for The Wind in the Willows and The Reluctant Dragon, both Kenneth Grahame gems. Whether pencil drawings or watercolor, his soothingly familiar pictures complement Milne’s words with an endearing quality that lends much to the work. My favorites are the ones that have children in them–there is an enchantment and a realism to his depictions of the way they play, as if make-believe and real-life are equally true, and happening always.

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I once saw Winnie-the-Pooh on a book list under the caveat “not books I would read for my own enjoyment.” I couldn’t disagree more. A. A. Milne, a credit to the authors of his day, writes in a way that fully engages and genuinely amuses both child and adult. His wit and humor are supreme, and have stood the test of time fantastically. Of course, they are perfect for young children, but even if your little ones are not little any more, or if you have any nostalgia at all for your own childhood, they’re a delight.

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The characters are all our old familiar favorites, only more authentic and less snarky than the animated versions. Except Eeyore. Eeyore is considerably more sardonic than the washed-up Disney donkey, a true cynic, and I love him for it. He reminds me of my late grandfather. And the whole lot of them (including Alexander Beetle, one of the smallest inhabitants of the forest, who Disney sadly overlooked), remind me of my grandmother, for it was she who originally gifted me the exceptional audio version that I fell asleep to every night as a little girl, and who made sure our kids had a copy of the books, which I now read in my best imitation of Peter Dennis’ lovable voices, officially endorsed by Christopher Robin himself.

Milne’s poetic prowess is evident in Pooh’s many verses in Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, and it gets to swell and shine in his collections of poetry, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. Poetry for children can be hard to get into, and quality poetry for children can be hard to find. There are some beautiful works out there, and then there are some specimens that replace delicate command of the English language with rude and goofy humor in an attempt to appeal to kids. Milne’s offerings are exemplary—funny and charming, just like his bear.

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Milne captures the magic of pretend and the gentle simplicity of early childhood because he writes from the perspective of a father about the imaginary adventures of his real-life son, Christopher Robin, and his beloved toys. It is his love and intimate knowledge of his little boy’s world that glows through the pages like the late afternoon sun through the leaves of a quiet wood on a warm September day.

As a parent, I get a little damp-eyed when we get to the end of the series. How I wish Milne had written so many more children’s books (indeed, as I researched for this post I discovered this book and ordered it), but I suspect he drew upon those little years that we all know pass too quickly, and then his boy grew up and on to bigger things. The excitement of that growing-up is evident in the introduction—I mean the Contradiction—of The House at Pooh Corner (oh yes, these are books in which even the introduction is not to be missed). Still, I can’t help being struck by the bittersweetness of it, and Milne writes with the tenderness of a parent so well, that we keep going back to it again and again, and I presume, and do hope, we will for years to come.

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Sunchokes and Music

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I’m seriously considering a new blog series in which I assign music to a food that goes with it. Let’s try it. Episode 1: Sunchokes.

If sunchokes were a band, they would be Alt-J. Both obscure except in certain circles, but absolutely killer. Quirky, creamy, crispy. Subtly sweet. A low, earthy hum punctuated by a kick of salt. Certain to make your next dinner party more interesting.

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I haven’t seen them since the last Farmer’s Market of the season (talking exclusively about sunchokes now, but I would love to hear Alt-J pumping down our little Main Street) and I’m going to bet that’s the best place to look for them. I’m told they’re available through March or April, so definitely check your local supermarket or co-op. I don’t live near a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, but they would likely carry them too. They are also commonly known as Jerusalem Artichokes, though they are not an artichoke nor do they hail from Jerusalem. Native to North America, they’re a tuberous root, related to the common sunflower. More names include sunroot, earth apple, topinambour; the list goes on.*

Ours made their way into a Kale, Sunchoke, Mushroom, and Farro Hash. Which was most definitely, based on how many dishes it called for, a restaurant kitchen recipe. When I think of “hash,” I think quick, easy, one-dish meal. But here you’re working with a number of ingredients that really do better if cooked on their own. And, as written, this would never have cooked properly in any pan the average home cook has in their kitchen. But it’s delicious. This is the recipe to bookmark if you need to bring just one dish to Thanksgiving dinner with an adventurous crowd.  It would also be great next to some roasted meat of some sort, and something red to drink. We had it with an Oktoberfest from Lakefront Brewing in Milwaukee.

Also pairs well with Alt-J.

 

Sunchoke, Kale, Farro, and Mushroom Hash
Adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 6-8 as a main dish, 12-16 as a side dish

I’ve simplified this a little from the original recipe, but it’s still pretty involved. And it makes a lot. You could probably get by with a half-batch. We had enough for the 5 of us to have a main dish serving for supper AND lunch the next day.

  • ¾ cup farro
  • 1-2 pounds sunchokes
  • 1 pound kale, washed (but not dried—the moisture will help to steam it) and torn into bite-size pieces, tough stems discarded
  • 6-10 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3-4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small red onion, sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 1 pound white button mushrooms, sliced or quartered
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. In a medium saucepan, cover the farro with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until the farro is tender, about 25 minutes. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, cover the sunchokes with water and add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer til the sunchokes are just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain.
  3. Slices the sunchokes ¼- to ½-inch thick.
  4. Fry sunchokes in batches: In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add a single layer of sunchokes, and cook over medium-high heat until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes.
  5. Turn the sunchokes, and brown on the other side, about 2 minutes.
  6. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate in a single layer to crisp. Repeat as needed. Set aside.
  7. In the empty skillet, heat 1 more tablespoon butter and 2 more tablespoons olive oil. Add the red onion and a pinch of salt and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 12 minutes.
  8. To the onions in the skillet, add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium-high heat until browned, about 3 minutes. Remove onions and mushrooms to a plate and set aside.
  9. Add 1 more tablespoon oil and add the kale to the skillet, tossing occasionally until just tender.
  10. Add cooked farro, onion-mushroom mixture, and sunchokes, and toss to combine and heat everything through. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

*They have also been called–ah, I cringe to type it!–fartichokes. (Now that will forever be associated with my name in the annals of the internet.) This is simply due to their high levels of a carbohydrate called inulin. They didn’t seem to cause any gastrointestinal distress for us, but I feel the need to say they are probably best as a part of a dish, instead of making up much of the whole. Okay, end of Public Service Announcement.

I Am Poured Out Like Water

There are few more humbling things than being ill. It seems to me when God wants to remind me of how insignificant and helpless I am, he strikes me with the stomach flu.

My dependency has never been so profound. I call my mother and pray she is able to take the kids for the day. If she can’t, movies become the order of the day, save for the point when their energy gets the upper hand and the floor of the house becomes a distant memory. The five-year-old reports that the toddler has decorated my comforter with highlighter. I resign myself to this new fluorescent décor scheme and ask him to dole out apples for a snack. Tomorrow I will find a forsaken core beneath the dresser.

I somehow survive through lunchtime, and Mom comes to the rescue. The house now quiet, I sleep for hours—I assume; time has become a blur, like all the productive things I was going to do today.

Perhaps this is a gift, a chance to catch up on some reading. My efforts remove but a couple of stones at the base of my “To Read” mountain. By the second article, my cognitive abilities are waning. Another nap.

Of the very act of resting my muscles now are weary. I try listening to an audiobook, but my mind disagrees with my restless legs and can’t keep up. (“All I ask,” says my stomach, “is some peace and stillness.”)

The book is John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Life.” It’s excellent, but I don’t know if I am capable of fervor today. I had to lean on the counter for support to open a bottle of Pedialyte, and it took all my strength just to get off that foil seal. Merely hobbling to the bathroom was arduous. I am altogether feeble and pathetic.

I know Piper has a companion book titled, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer,” but this is something far less meaningful. If I were thus ailing, I could aspire to live and die well, but, Lord willing, I will be better by tomorrow. My suffering is trivial.

So I pray. Incoherently, and peppered with the processing of my own thoughts and worries, I intercede for a fellow mom whose husband is also in grad school. I ask for grace in her marriage and mine, to weather the stress of these final months of the semester. I pray for our husbands, and my sister, to persevere diligently in their studies. My prayer for Sam especially is that he would be spared from this illness so he can keep on working with the necessary velocity.

And now I write, with no real moral in mind. If you receive any edification from this, it is the Lord’s doing. Truly I accomplished nothing today. Life carried on in my home and around the globe and across the universe and I contributed nothing to it.

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint…my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws…You who fear the Lord, praise him!…For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.” Psalm 22:14-15, 23, 24

“The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass…Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:7, 28-31

Beef, Leek, and Barley Soup

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So far, one quarter of the recipes on this blog are soup recipes. Does that seem like a lot? I try to restrain myself from sharing more soup recipes, and in the winter it’s a real challenge to limit the meal plan to one soup per week. This should come as no surprise considering I once wanted to open a shop inspired by one of my favorite places in Wiesbaden, La Soupe, a restaurant  that served nothing but–you guessed it–soup. I have had vast experience as the official “soup maker” at the coffee shop where I used to work, a job I loved immensely. The slicing, sautéing, and stirring became a welcome respite from the busy barrage of caffeinated customers. Soup is the perfect thing to make when you need to catch up with your own thoughts.

Beef, Leek, and Barley Soup

Maybe it’s that respite I still seek when I make soup at home (apparently, Smiley Face Bananas are to toddlers what legal addictive stimulants are to working adults). I’m drawn to its ease and versatility. One dish dinners are my favorite, and soup has to be one of the best ways to get plenty of vegetables, protein, and even whole grains into a meal that passes muster with the family. There is an endless variety of flavors and textures to explore. And I think we’re all familiar with soup’s benevolence towards vagrant leftovers and substitutions alike.

But I can’t help being reminded of a conference I once attended where the speaker advised wives to ask their husbands, “How can I love you better?” One husband’s answer, reportedly: “I don’t like soup. You make soup too often.” To which she replied, “You mean I could maintain the peace in our home and nurture marital bliss by simply serving you solid food?!?” I guess maybe one can have too much soup. Before you make this, maybe you should ask your spouse how they would feel about eating Beef, Leek, and Barley Soup.

 I really hope the answer is, “Great!”

Beef, Leek, and Barley Soup

Beef, Leek, and Barley Soup
Adapted from Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin
Serves 6-8

  • 2 beef short ribs (about 2 pounds), trimmed if very fatty
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 leeks, cut lengthwise, rinsed, and sliced (both white and green parts)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ cup barley
  • 8 cups (2 quarts) beef stock
  • Black pepper
  1. Place short ribs on the bottom of your soup pot. (You can pat them dry and sear them first over medium-high heat for a little more flavor. be sure to scrape up the browned bits when you add the stock.)
  2. Add onions, leeks, garlic, barley, and beef stock. Grind in a little black pepper.
  3. Bring to a boil, then let it simmer, partially covered, on low for 2 ½ to 3 hours, until meat is tender and practically falls apart when prodded with a fork.
  4. Carefully remove short ribs from the soup to a cutting board to cool a bit. I like to break them apart into large chunks to speed this up a little.
  5. Meanwhile, skim the fat from the top of the soup if necessary. If you have the time, a stint in the fridge overnight makes this much easier.
  6. When the short ribs are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones, break/chop it into chunks, and stir it back into the soup.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste, make sure meat is warmed through, and serve.

My Spice Rack & Spiced Sweet Potato Fries

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How many more weeks of winter do we have left? Because I have two little boys with a lot of energy to burn, one who gets especially riled up when he hasn’t been outside in a while, and has a tendency to turn into a little monster. Literally, he pretends he’s a monster, growling and rough-housing and being awfully destructive. As for me, I could handle a nice long walk in the sunshine, a trip to the farmer’s market, and something cooked on the grill. But seeing as I’m stuck inside for the time being, I want to tell you about a couple of my favorite things in my kitchen right now.

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First: my spice rack. Have I mentioned that we live in a small, dark apartment? The kitchen is so bad I think it’s actually affected how much I like cooking. If you’ve caught glimpses of it in the background of pictures you’ll know what I mean. This  spice rack is my glimmer of light and beauty. I absolutely love it. Sam made and mounted the shelves, and I did the tins. They’re a generous 8 ounces (the small ones are 4), filled with everything from allspice to thyme (boy, I need to get some Za’atar or something, that didn’t really sound as impressive and exotic as I’d anticipated). They’re labeled alphabetically of course, with a clear label placed just so over the white one for no smearing, and to be honest, I need to make some more of them. Since the shooting of these photos, I’ve amassed a few more spices, which are just sitting on the ends of the shelves awkwardly mismatching, or blatantly nonconforming.

Yes, they do collect a bit of dust. But I love them so much, I don’t even care. You just have to stay on top of it, or get your mom to give you a Norwex* so when you do finally get around to wiping them down, you can do it without any nasty chemicals getting close to your food. And ideally, spices should be stored in complete darkness, i.e. that cute little window in the top could actually shorten the lifespan of your spices. This is the one major benefit of having a windowless kitchen. If I’m going to be deprived of the sun, by golly I’m going to take advantage of it!

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In honor of the beloved spice rack, I give you: Spiced Sweet Potato Fries. They’re my other favorite thing in my kitchen right now, but that’s just barely true because there’s only small amount leftover, tucked away in the refrigerator and it just occurred to me that they’d make a tasty afternoon snack. These are what I always imagined sweet potato fries should be, from the time I first tried them deep-fried but dull at a summer music festival. I’ve since become friends with frozen sweet potato fries, but to me they still need a dip in curry ketchup or mayonnaise for a little zing.

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But these fries, with the lightest coating of oil and some time in a hot oven, come out with the sweet, syrupy flavor of a properly roasted or baked sweet potato.** They’re sprinkled with the robust flavors of freshly crushed coriander, fennel, oregano, and red pepper, plus some kosher salt, and they are perfect. Speaking of baked sweet potatoes, this spice combination might also be good on them, maybe toasted? You’d want to be generous, to account for the fries’ wide surface area. Just a thought. But the fries are hard to beat. They’re quite possibly my favorite food.

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I even added way too much oil this time I made them, and they were still phenomenal. If you must, you can call them Sweet Potato Wedges or Spiced Roasted Sweet Potatoes instead of fries. I tried to estimate what the oil measurement should be when I typed the recipe, but just start with a tiny bit and add more if you think it needs it. I remember back in the days before I had kids, I used to dip my fingers in oil and just lightly moisturize each wedge one at a time.  If this sounds as ridiculous to you as it does now to me, be aware that was also back when I would make only one pan of these; I’ve since doubled the recipe to satisfy all four of us. If it still sounds ridiculous, good, that means you’re sane; just use that illustration as a guide and remember when it comes to the oil you really don’t need much at all. Having kids, or a life, definitely should not mean missing out on these fries.

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In fact, my family loved them. Well, I’m not sure if William even tried them. I could swear he’s happily devoured them before, but as I said, being cooped up all day gets him a little cantankerous. Anyway, the rest of us were just fine with having one less person to share with. You can dial back the red pepper flakes if your kids are not into spicy, or leave it out altogether. Once cooked, the skins are super easy to peel off before serving to little ones if you’re worried about choking hazards. (Titus with his eight teeth did fine with the skins after we got tired of peeling around the fifth or sixth chorus of “More! More!”) Serve them with your family’s favorite burgers, sloppy joes, or ABCLT’s (my attempt at a spin on BLT’s: chicken sandwiches with bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato, lettuce, and mayo). What more is there to say? Go forth and make sweet potato fries!

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*I have no affiliation with Norwex and they have no idea who I am. Do I wish they did? Of course. That rag is amazing, but I’m still not so sure about spending that much money on…a rag. And I didn’t. My mom gave it to me, because she’s nice like that.

**By the way, because it took me an inordinate amount of time to figure out how to “properly” bake a sweet potato, the technique is this: wash, prick all over with a fork, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment to minimize the mess, and bake at 400 degrees or so for at least an hour or two, or as long as it takes to get them to exude that caramelized, syrupy goodness. Don’t be afraid of overdoing it. Serve with just salt and maybe a little butter, velvety soft skin and all.

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Spiced Sweet Potato Fries
Adapted from Gourmet, January 2002
Serves 6-8

  • 4 pounds sweet potatoes, washed & dried
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (more or less, just enough to lightly, lightly coat the fries)
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Mortar and pestle, spice grinder, or some such to crush spices***
  • 2 large baking sheets
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut unpeeled potatoes into 3/4- to 1-inch wedges, and into manageable lengths if necessary. Arrange on two baking sheets with enough room to spread out in one layer.
  3. Rub wedges with oil, or drizzle and toss. There should just be the slightest coating of oil.
  4. Coarsely grind coriander, fennel, oregano, and red pepper with mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
  5. Stir together spices and salt.
  6. Sprinkle half of the spice mixture on the sweet potatoes (that’ll be about 1/4 of it per baking sheet if you’re making a full batch).
  7. Slide baking sheets into the oven, on the two middle racks, and bake for 20 minutes.
  8. Remove sheets, flip each wedge over (I find myself flipping each one individually with a fork and/or clean, quick fingers. Like the oiling, maybe not the most practical, but it’s what works best for me.), and sprinkle remaining spice mixture over fries.
  9. Place baking sheets back in the oven, rotating so the upper sheet is now on the lower rack and vice versa, and turning so fronts are to the back this time–this makes for more even cooking!
  10. Bake for another 20 minutes or until they’re as tender, crisp, and toasty as you like.

***I have a mortar and pestle I use often for things like this. In addition to being useful, I think it’s just pretty sitting out on my counter. I have also used a cheap fill-and-twist adaptation of a salt/pepper grinder–I think it came filled with coarse salt, but I bought it for the grinder. Some people use an inexpensive coffee grinder set aside only for spices (because the oils can be hard to clean out, and unless you like fennel-flavored coffee, this is not so good).

Christmas Cookies

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Isn’t it neat how holiday traditions are formed? It’s rarely intentional; for me, the things that stick are not the things I’ve tried to contrive and force but the ones that just simply fall into place every year. Sometimes this is frustrating for me, because I’m a planner. But when I’m busy complaining or fretting about how things didn’t go as I’d imagined, I’m missing the beauty and the blessing of how they are. Maybe you know what I mean. As a mom, I want things a certain way, I want my family to have good experiences that they’ll remember fondly. But God is good, and he wants to do the same for me.

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I had the idea to get each of my kids a Christmas ornament each year that represented them and their current loves, hobbies, etc. so that each year decorating the tree would be a nostalgic, meaningful experience. But Titus doesn’t even have a “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament, as I was far too busy and tired from actually taking care of a baby last year to make or shop for one. Doesn’t that represent “Baby’s First Christmas” better than any ornament ever could? Such were not my thoughts at the time, but someday I’m sure I’ll cherish the memories of those moments I spent with him that I came so close to wasting stressfully trying to adhere to my self-imposed tradition.

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Our first little snowfall of the winter yielded very little actual snow, but I was still delighted. Saturday morning, by the time all of us got bundled up and outside, the light layer of snow was all but melted, a wet layer of slush scarcely covering the dead grass. I was initially disappointed, but when I put my frustration away, I was able to see that William was completely unaware that this was not ideal snowman-making weather. He and Sam had a “snowball” fight with what unmelted snow Sam salvaged from the top of our car, Titus waddled around in his coat that made him two or three times as plump as normal, and our time ended quintessentially with tears from both boys. Titus finally got fed up with his hat covering half his face and falling down every two steps (adorable), and William was wailing after getting a slush-ball to the ear. We all came in and left a big pile of wet, dirty snowclothes and a row of muddy boots outside our door. It was perfect.

Then there’s the baking. I have an ever-growing list of sweets I want to make so badly each year at Christmas time. Never mind who’s going to eat fifty dozen cookies (we don’t even have that many friends and acquaintances, though I think I know a few people in this house who would happily volunteer). Starting in late November I just have this urge to turn on some Christmas music and fill our home with the scent of sugar and spice. And chocolate. And nuts. And cherries, coconut, dates, espresso, almond, lemon, caramel, and mint, with an overarching aroma of butter. The bigger problem is not who is going to eat them, but when all of this baking is going to take place. Even with my plan of making a batch or two per week, and the help of my trusty freezer, making enough cookies to share with every neighbor in our building is not going to happen.

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So I narrow it down to about five different cookies instead of an infinite variety. These Date Balls and Chocolate Cherry Cookies have made the cut every year. The Date Balls are an old family recipe from my dad’s side of the family, but I never paid them any mind until my my first Christmas as a newlywed. There I was in my own little kitchen in Germany, a clean slate before me of what would be “our traditions” as a family, and it was as if it just wouldn’t be Christmas without these cookies. I made some small adjustments to the original recipe, and they were adored at every Christmas gathering we brought them to. One friend thought he tasted chocolate in them; nope, just dates, rice krispies, and chopped pecans, but these three ingredients give them a similarly delicious, toasty, rich flavor that makes us come back to them every year. As a bonus, I believe they can easily become gluten-free. I’m no expert on the matter, but you’ll want to make sure you use gluten-free rice krispies (some have malt extract or are processed on equipment that comes in contact with wheat or barley). And I’m not sure about the corn syrup, but be very cautious when dealing with someone who is severely gluten-intolerant, and when in doubt, always check with them first on every ingredient.

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The Chocolate Cherry Cookies also date back to our time in Germany. A friend gave me the recipe one Christmas and I have made them every year since. Sam goes crazy over them, and has already eaten a good portion of my give-away stash under the guise that he will make another batch for me. They are so easy to eat. A perfect little chocolate cookie gets topped with a maraschino cherry, which is then hidden under a cap of creamy, decadent chocolate-cherry ganache. I’m thinking a double batch would definitely be a good idea next year. UPDATE: He is indeed in the kitchen making another batch as I type! What a good man.

I hope your Christmas is filled with unexpected blessings and joy. If you find the time to work these into your holiday baking, I’d love to hear about it. If not, that’s wonderful too. Have a lovely, peaceful Christmas enjoying the traditions your family has grown to love.

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Date Balls
Yield: 50-60 1-inch balls

  • 8 ounces fresh dates*
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 heaping cup pecans
  • 2 1/2 cup rice krispies
  • 14 ounces shredded, sweetened coconut
  1. Toast pecans: heat oven to 350 degrees, spread pecans in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and bake until fragrant and slightly crisp, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, split dates, remove the pits, and chop finely (roughly 1/8 to 1/4-inch pieces). Place in a medium-sized saucepan along with the butter, sugar, corn syrup, and egg white.
  3. Chop pecans finely and add to a big mixing bowl. Add rice krispies, and mix to combine.
  4. Spread some coconut on a plate for rolling the date balls in later. Prepare a workspace and a place to set warm date balls once rolled; I use a baking sheet lined with parchment. You’ll also want some softened butter for your hands.
  5. Heat date mixture to boiling, boil 3 minutes.
  6. Pour date mixture over rice krispies and pecans, stir gently to combine.
  7. With buttered palms, make balls about 1-inch in diameter, rolling each one to coat with coconut as you go and placing them on your cookie sheet. No need to space them very far apart. The size is about 2 teaspoonfuls. The key is to keep them on the small side; 1-1/4 inch is okay, but you’ll be tempted to make them bigger and bigger as you go along. Try to avoid ending up with golf-ball sized date balls. Trust me, you’ll only come to regret it.
  8. Let them cool and enjoy!

*Are you very familiar with fresh dates? They’re worth seeking out; when made with them, these cookies are far superior than when made with dried ones. But, okay, I cringe to tell you this: examine fresh dates and remove any moldy-looking ones before using. There is no excuse for this even being an issue, but let’s face it, fresh dates are not the most popular item in the produce section, and it happens. I hope that all your dates are perfect and you don’t have to deal with this at all, but I’ve run across it a couple of times and feel it my responsibility to warn you. (I have never gotten sick from dates.) If it freaks you out, use dried ones.

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Chocolate Cherry Cookies
Yield: 48 small cookies

  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate (Don’t skimp and use the cheap stuff here! The success of the ganache depends upon good chocolate. Trust me. It doesn’t have to be super high end, I use Baker’s Bittersweet Chocolate, the purple box, which is exactly 6 ounces. Just not the cheap-o Aldi chocolate chips, though their Moser Roth chocolate bars will work in a pinch, if you, like me, insist on learning the hard way.)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 Tablespoons maraschino cherry juice from the jar
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 10-ounce jar of maraschino cherries, juice reserved for ganache (see above), cherries halved and set on paper-towel-lined plate; you should have about 48 cherry halves
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Make ganache: place chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, and cherry juice in a bowl and microwave about 30 seconds at a time, stirring well, until just melted and creamy. Don’t overcook. Alternately, you could use a double-boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder with a whisk until combined. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.
  5. Add egg and vanilla, beat well, scraping bowl as needed.
  6. Gradually add the flour mixture and mix until blended. This will be thick. I like to give it one final stir by hand to make sure everything is fully incorporated.
  7. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 1-2 inches apart.
  8. Make a small indentation with your thumb in the center of each cookie, then place a cherry half into each hole and press gently.
  9. Spoon 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of ganache on top of each cookie. If it has thickened a bit, just use the tip of your spoon to give it a little swirl to cover the cherry and make it pretty.
  10. Bake for 10 minutes. Cookies are done when the edges are firm and cracked a little, but the rest of the cookie should still be soft. Let them cool on the cookie sheet for a couple minutes before moving to a cooling rack.

Sam’s Notes: He made a slight change to the cookie dough when he made them and I had to guess what it was. He doubled the salt. It was good.

Also, I heard a despairing, “My thumbs are too big!” from the kitchen as he was making the indentations for the cherries. If you have this problem, just use a smaller digit. :) Silly as it sounds, it does help to make the hole a little smaller than the cherry itself, because then when you press the cherry in, it will stick a little, which will help it stay in place when you’re spooning on the topping.

Sausage, Potato, and Kale Soup

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When Titus was  a newborn, a good friend brought us a couple of awesome suppers, and this soup was one of them. Hearty, spicy, rich but balanced by the healthy kale, it was happily devoured by all of us, and shortly thereafter I took to the internet in search of a recipe. When I made it myself and it was a hit, I knew we had a keeper. It has been enjoyed many times since, which is saying something because if you talk to Sam you’ll learn that much to his frustration, I don’t often make the same dish twice, even if it’s good. He’s made sure this one has made it onto the “Sam’s Favorite Meals” list.

So, at church when it was announced that the annual Reformation Day Party would include a Soup/Chili Contest, it was kind of a no-brainer. I’m pretty sure I leaned over right there in the pew and whispered to Sam, “Sausage Potato Kale?” “Yes.” We were sure we had this one in the bag, but guess who beat us out for Best Soup? My mom.

I kid, of course, I kid. To me, all the soups were winners, and I should know, I think I tried about nine of them. Pumpkin, bacon, beans, chicken, potato, leek, squash–moderately small portions, mind you!–but yes, always a lover of variety (some might say chronically indecisive), I did have a taste of almost everything. It was wonderful.

Equally wonderful was seeing my boys have fun playing in the leaves. Some of the young ladies made a huge pile of leaves and they all had fun jumping in it. How sweet is that? I love my church family.

A friend asked me at the party what else I do with kale. We love it. This soup is probably our favorite way to eat it. There’s another kale soup that I’ve written about, Kale, Bean, and Noodle Soup. I’ve also made kale with spicy tomatoes and beans, braised collard greens (a recipe in which kale and collards are basically interchangeable), Bruised Kale Salad (use a nice, delicate kale, but don’t bruise it as heavily), kale with pasta, and most recently, Kale Chips. William likes to crumble them over everything. Mainly I think he just likes to crumble them. I caught him with  a handful of the light, crispy flakes just as he was blowing them–poof!–into a shower of kale confetti. But if you’re looking for a recipe that is sure to please, this soup is the way to go. It’s delicious.

I just got another request for the recipe, so without further ado: Sausage, Potato, and Kale Soup.

Sausage, Potato, and Kale Soup
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Serves 12

  • 2 bunches of kale*
  • 12-15 small to medium potatoes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 to 1-1/2 pounds Italian sausage (different brands vary in heat and saltiness, I used Hy-Vee brand bulk Italian sausage)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. To prepare the kale, tear the leafy parts from the stems in bite-size pieces. (Keep in mind you’ll want to pick them up with a spoon with a little potato and a little sausage too, to help you gauge the size of your bites. Can you tell I’ve made them too big before?) Put the kale in a colander or salad spinner as you go. Discard stems.
  2. Rinse the kale well. I use my salad spinner: fill it up with water and swish the kale around. Give it a bit of time to let any dirt settle (I might slice or prep some other ingredients while I wait), then lift out the insert and dump out the water. Spin dry, or just shake as with a colander. You don’t need to get it super dry as you’re just going to be putting it in a pot of liquid in a bit, but you don’t want it dripping so much it waters down the soup.
  3. Slice potatoes about 1/4 inch thick, halve any large discs. Put potatoes in a medium pot, add water to cover, bring it to a boil and cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Drain.
  4. Alternately, you can cook the potatoes in the microwave. Do not slice, but place whole, dry potatoes on a shallow microwave-safe baking dish or plate. Microwave on high, turning potatoes every 3 minutes, until skewer can be inserted with little resistance, 9 to 12 minutes. Cool about 10 minutes before slicing as directed.
  5. In a large pot, brown sausage and onions on medium-high heat. Drain off fat. Add broth, cream, milk, red pepper flakes, oregano, salt, and pepper. Bring to a low simmer and cook gently for 30 minutes. Try not to let it boil, but if it does and your milk curdles, don’t despair! I did that at least three times and was surprised to find when I added the potatoes that it seemed to be fixed!**
  6. Stir in potatoes, then kale, slowly to give it a little time to wilt and reduce in volume. Stir gently and simmer until kale is tender, about 10 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. (I usually add quite a bit more salt and pepper.)

*That’s 2 supermarket bunches, which seem to be pretty standard in size, as opposed to farmer’s market bunches, which can be quite generous. If you have one of those giant bunches, you’ll need only one, maybe even half of one bunch. (You can use what’s leftover to make Kale Chips!) For this recipe, I usually have about a colander/salad spinner full of kale when it’s all torn up. I know, that still seems like a lot, but it does cook down. The time I took these pictures, I overdid it with one of the huge bunches from the farmer’s market. It wasn’t horrible, just extra kale-y.

**I don’t know why I’ve never tried cooking the potatoes in the soup; it would certainly simplify the recipe. It might be worth testing, as would upping the cream-to-milk ratio. Both starch and fat help keep proteins from bonding. I don’t know if it un-bonds them after the fact, all I know is I couldn’t tell it had curdled after I added the potatoes. Good news though: it tastes great either way!

William’s Camping Party: Part III

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Who else is loving this Indian summer we’re having? Yesterday I was actually tempted to turn on our air conditioner, but I abstained because it’s almost November, and that would just be wrong. Can somebody tell me how it is almost November already? I still have pictures from William’s birthday party hanging out on my computer, which was more than a month ago. It’s high time I shared them with you.

I wanted to get William involved in making things for his party. I figured he was old enough to understand giving a small token of gratitude to his guests, and we had a nice little talk about what makes birthday parties special and showing how we’re thankful for the people that are there to celebrate with us. These are the favors William helped to make. We took a special shopping trip and he got to pick out the ingredients from the bulk bins at the natural foods store to make his very own trail mix. He came up with a pretty tasty mix! I ordered these die-cut forest critters from Etsy and together he and I glued them onto labels (just folded squares of paper). Then I wrote out the labels, filled the bags, and simply stapled them on. I love how they turned out, but mostly I enjoyed making them with my boy.

Camping must include fishing, right? Here is our fishing game. I sewed some fish out of felt, sewed some key rings to their noses, and made a fishing pole from a stick, cotton twine, and a couple of magnets. (Tutorial here, felt was another Etsy purchase from this lovely shop.) William thought it was awesome that the fish stuck to the tackle: “Look at dat!” And yes, I did think about the fact that the magnets would stick to the galvanized bucket. I figured it would be an added challenge for the rest of our guests, as 80% of us were over the age of 13.

Titus came up with his own variation.

And yet another version of the game: Auntie Erin caught a William!

I came up with a nature hunt to go along with some of William’s other presents. His aunties got him some adorable stuffed animals, and I made him a little nature notebook with descriptions of each of them, based on these from National Geographic. Here is an excerpt: “I am an active-at-night, or nocturnal, mammal that can live throughout much of the world…My nickname is ringtail, and it’s easy to see why: black and brownish bands encircle my bushy tail…I make my den in trees or at the tops of houses or buildings, high above ground. You can also find me living in in abandoned barns or buildings, hollow trees, or brush piles.” William had to listen and then use these “clues” to figure out what the animal could be and look around to find it. (I had hidden the critters around the campsite prior to the party.)

Can you guess this one? “I am very fast: when I sense danger, I ‘chirp’ and dart into a nearby tree hole or log for protection. I eat insects, nuts, berries, seeds, fruit, and grain, which I stuff into my generous cheek pouches and carry to my home to store…My den can be dug under tree roots, rocks, or nestled inside old logs.”

It’s a chipmunk! There was also a hedgehog. He was my favorite. Unfortunately, one of our four-legged guests found him before William did. It was my own fault, I should have been more mindful. Oh well.

There was also this. A Duplo fire engine. Quite possibly William’s favorite gift. I think he plays with it every single day. And now, I leave you with this picture of Auntie Erin instructing William on the finer points of marshmallow roasting technique.

I still can’t believe I have a three-year-old! William, I love being your mom.

New World Cheeses & Roasted Squash, Gorgonzola, and Arugula Pizza

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Sam and I recently attended a couple of cheese tastings/classes at our local natural foods store, where we learned all about European, or “Old World,” cheeses, and “New World” cheeses, as in cheeses produced in the U.S. based on those traditional, timeless techniques. Working our way backwards, we started with the New. In this first class, we tasted four different cheeses from the Wisconsin cheese company Sartori: Parmesan, Asiago, MontAmoré (a Sartori original), and Gorgonzola. Sharing “tasting notes” and recipes while munching on cheese, fruit, bread, and wine got me thinking about one of my favorite recipes involving one of my favorite cheeses: Roasted Squash, Gorgonzola, and Arugula Pizza. Okay, all of my recipes involving Gorgonzola are among my favorites, but this one might be at the top. I thought I’d also share my class notes in addition to the recipe.

The first two cheeses we tried are two I think are pretty familiar, and, to me, fairly similar. Parmesan and Asiago are both hard, aged cheeses, and the particular ones we tried from Sartori were really nice. I’m no aficionado, but the differences I noted were that Parmesan was drier, crumblier, where the Asiago was a bit moister and creamier. Personally, I preferred the flavor of the Parmesan; it had that classic, complex Parmesan nuttiness that the Asiago lacked. Perhaps the simpler flavor of the Asiago however is what makes it so great and versatile for so many different uses. Some of the suggestions made were: pasta, cheese plates, sandwiches, soups, casseroles, and fondue. So, pretty much anything—I venture to assume that the texture of the Asiago makes it a creamier melting cheese, and I will turn to it more often as an all-purpose cheese now that I know a little more about it.

The next cheese we tasted was even creamier, the MontAmoré. This was my favorite cheese of the four we tried that night, which is saying a lot because they were all good. Sartori actually created this “hybrid” cheese from a cross of Parmesan and Cheddar cultures. I should have taken better notes when they were talking about cultures, because that’s all I remember, oh and something about different cultures being integral in the production of different cheeses. I consulted Sam to see what he remembered about cultures from the class. “Well, the Italians liked cheese because of their Mediterranean culture,” he said with a smirk.

A little internet research and I’m reminded that there are many different kinds of cultures (living microorganisms), originally native to a particular environment, and that is what is meant by “New World Cheeses,” that is, that the cheeses are made in the New World, but from cultures originally found in the Old World (Cheddar from England, Parmesan from Italy, etc.). “New World” also refers to the cheese’s literal place of origin, as the land, the climate, the air and water, the cows and what the farmers feed them, all play an important role in the terroir of the final product.

For MontAmoré, that final product is fruity, creamy, tangy cheese flecked with tiny, delightful calcium crystals. I once tried a cheese that had these crystals and unknowingly found them off-putting. At this class I learned they are actually a difficult-to-achieve, desirable natural effect of the aging process, but it was not this knowledge that changed my mind about them but simply the wonderful intrigue they add to this semi-soft, easy-to-eat cheese.  I loved the pairing of MontAmoré with a chewy, yeasty bread, so when someone mentioned it made a great grilled cheese sandwich, I ardently wrote that down.

Our last cheese of the night was chosen appropriately as it was the brashest, strongest-tasting of the bunch. It may not have the smooth seductiveness of the others, but I love Gorgonzola. That said, the Sartori Gorgonzola I found to be a bit too salty for my preference. Upon reflection I would say this one might be better enjoyed in small quantities on a cheese plate with some dried fruits and honeycomb, and a red wine assertive enough to stand beside it, rather than in a recipe where it needs to integrate and complement other flavors simultaneously. On this pizza, however, it plays well with others.

I will talk about two Old World Gorgonzolas in my next post; I’ll tell you now that all three varied wildly, but this pizza is a good canvas for any of them. It’s a little different, but if you like even one of the elements, you must try them together. The contrast of flavors atop each slice just balance one another so well. The squash is soft and sweet from roasting with a little oil and maple syrup, the salty Gorgonzola melts around it, and then you top the whole thing hot out of the oven with lightly dressed, peppery arugula. It’s warm and rich and bright and fresh all at once. Old World or New World, I highly encourage you to make it with whatever Gorgonzola you can find.

Roasted Squash, Gorgonzola, and Arugula Pizza
Adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis, via Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4-6

These measurements will make two pizzas, which I almost always do these days when I make pizza at our house. It can easily be halved, but who doesn’t like leftover pizza? The arugula will probably wilt completely, but it’s not gross . You can add more fresh arugula after you reheat it if you like. Another note: this is a great way to eat squash on its own. We’ve had Maple-Red Pepper Roasted Squash as a yummy side dish on many occasions.

  • 2 acorn squash, one pound each, or two pounds of butternut squash (get small ones if you can, they are less stringy and more flavorful)
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pizza crusts or 2 pounds pizza dough (Remember you’re going to be using one baking sheet to roast your squash, so plan accordingly. This is when parchment paper or Boboli pizza crusts can come in handy.)
  • 4-6 ounces (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups) crumbled Gorgonzola (Use more or less depending on your taste and your particular Gorgonzola. Sartori Dolcina Gorgonzola is rather salty, I used less than 4 ounces total.)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Squeeze of lemon juice or a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. For acorn squash, rinse and dry the outside of the squash, then slice in half from top to bottom and scoop out seeds and gunk. Slice squash into 1/2 to 3/4-inch wide half moons and pile on a baking sheet large enough to hold squash in a single layer. If you’re using butternut squash, follow the same procedure, but peel it first (no need to rinse since you’re doing this). The butternut squash is going to turn out a little softer, the sturdy acorn squash might look a bit prettier. Really the decision is between whether you prefer peeling a big raw squash (butternut) or many small, cooked squash slices (acorn). It’s up to you.
  3. You are going to spread the slices out to cook, but for now, roughly pile them on your baking sheet to make mixing easier (or use a bowl). Drizzle with the syrup and olive oil, sprinkle with the red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, and give it a light toss to evenly coat. (I use my clean hands.)
  4. Spread out the squash in a single layer and bake for about 10 minutes, flip the slices, and bake 10-15 minutes more. The squash should be tender and golden.
  5. While the squash cools a little bit, prep your crust. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, press and stretch out two 13-inch rounds if using fresh dough.
  6. Crumble (or smudge, if you’re using a deliciously buttery Gorgonzola) 2-3 ounces or about half a cup of Gorgonzola on each crust, followed by 1 cup of mozzarella on each crust.
  7. When squash is cool enough to handle, remove skins if needed (acorn squash) and scatter on top of the cheese. You can leave the crescents whole or tear them into pieces, as I do, to crowd more on!
  8. Bake pizza until golden and cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  9. Toss arugula with lemon juice or balsamic and scatter across pizza right after it comes out of the oven. The arugula will wilt just a bit and be ever so delicious. (Oh! Untested tip: I was thinking you could cut the pizza before you add the arugula to keep more of that leafy goodness from sticking to your cutter instead of making it to your mouth!)

Masoor Dal (Red Split Lentils with Cabbage)

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What is a beautiful shade of orange, warmly spiced, hearty, creamy, and isn’t pumpkin? It’s called Masoor Dal, or Red Split Lentils. With Cabbage. File this one under “Perfect Weeknight Meals for Fall.”

I’ve mentioned before that we like to keep our meals relatively cheap. This means I have a cupboard stocked with various bags of dried beans, a heart full of good intent, and very little idea of what to make with them. There is something very appealing to me about starting with something so wholesome; taking the time to soak, simmer, season; and ending up with a satisfying meal. Part of what appeals to me is the foresight it takes to do that. Ah, ever-elusive foresight!

With the emergence of sweaters, wool socks, and pumpkins, I’m also smitten with the image of a pot of beans simmering on the stove, as the air outside turns crisp, the days grow short, and the trees across the way turn golden. Can’t you just picture it? How much more perfectly “fall” can you get? Thanks to masoor dal (which requires no soaking!), I was able to live out this image on a chilly October day.

A staple of Indian, Nepali, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, West Indian, and Bangladeshi cuisine, dal is basically just a stew made from split beans. (Yes, I took that directly from Wikipedia. And Google, how well do you know me by now? You should know when I type “dal” I mean “dal,” the slightly obscure Indian dish, not “Dallas,” city in Texas, home of that one football team.) I suppose you could sub in any split lentils or peas, but the red lentils here are what give the dish its beautiful orange hue. It’s also flecked with red from one tomato, and little slivers of green from a thinly sliced jalapeno. I think it’s really pretty, and if you’re not familiar with Indian food, this is a good introduction to it, because visually it converts your mind from “big serving of mushy food” to “vibrant, richly flavored creamy sauce enrobing tender shreds of cabbage and onion!” It’s a gentle push into the world of cumin, curry, and chiles, into which I’m only beginning to venture myself.

What I mean is, it’s pretty kid-friendly. William said, “It has good flavor!” (Incidentally, that’s the same thing he said about the higher-sugar breakfast cereal I bought recently.) Even the baby liked it. Though I mentioned there’s a jalapeno in there, it’s not too spicy. As with anything involving chiles, it is adjustable–I deseeded half of my jalapeno. Also, my jalapeno had been aging in the fridge a week or two; I don’t know if that made any difference in the heat, but the dish turned out fairly mild. I served it with pre-cooked frozen brown rice–you know, because I have no foresight–with a couple handfuls of peas thrown in, and some naan that I had tucked away in the freezer for a meal like this. Oh, and I made myself a cup of hot chai, because it seemed like the right way to end a lovely fall meal.

Masoor Dal (Red Split Lentils with Cabbage)
Adapted, very slightly, from Smitten Kitchen; Originally from Madhur Jaffrey, Indian Cooking
Serves 4 to 6

The lentils cook long enough that you can get away with waiting to do all your slicing and such after they are underway. If you prefer to prep everything before you begin, you’ll have about ten minutes of active cooking of the cabbage mixture and then have some time to relax before you come back to add it all to the pot of lentils. That’s why I split up the ingredients list like this. The tomato, ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon salt can be prepped and kept in the same bowl; and the cabbage, onion, and jalapenos can also be put together (I used my colander to hold them, it was already “dirty” from rinsing lentils). Also note the two different measurements of salt. Of course, you should always read over the recipe before you begin, but do let me know in the comments if this type of breakdown is helpful.

  • 1 1/4 cups red split lentils, picked over, washed, and drained
  • 5 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 medium tomato, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon peeled, finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped (I went for the middle ground and used 3)
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thin from pole to pole
  • 1/2 pound cored and finely sliced cabbage (I found that this was about 1/4 of a supermarket head of cabbage. Going to have to figure out another thing to make with the rest of that cabbage. Good thing it’s cheap!)
  • 1 to 2 jalapenos, stems removed, halved and finely sliced (I used one old jalapeno with half the seeds removed for a pretty mild dish)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Put lentils and water into a heavy pot and bring to a boil. Remove any scum that collects at the top.
  2. Add the turmeric and stir to mix. Cover, leaving the lid very slightly ajar, turn heat to low, and simmer gently for 1 1/4 hours. Stir a few times in the last 30 minutes of cooking.
  3. When the lentils are underway, prepare the rest of the ingredients (see headnote). Heat oil in a skillet (at least 9-inch) over medium heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds and let them sizzle for 3 to 4 seconds.
  4. Add the garlic and watch carefully; as soon as it begins to brown, add the cabbage, onion, and jalapenos.
  5. Stir-fry the cabbage mixture for about 10 minutes until tender-crisp, or longer if you prefer more tender cabbage. (This will probably vary due to the thickness of your shreds and the heat of your stovetop. Feel free to increase the heat to medium-high, as I probably should have done from the get-go as I suspect my stovetop runs cool.)
  6. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of salt and remove from heat.
  7. When the lentils have cooked 1 1/4 hours, mix in the tomato, ginger, and remaining 1 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook another 10 minutes.
  8. Add the cabbage mixture and and remaining oil in the frying pan and stir to mix. If necessary, bring to a simmer for a few minutes to heat cabbage through.
  9. Excellent served with rice, vegetables, and Indian bread such as naan or roti, especially on a crisp October evening.