Monthly Archives: September 2012

Moong Dhal

Even though I grew up learning to cook (and eat!) French food, I like to mix things up every now and then. Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines, so I’ve learned how to make a few simple Indian dishes. Moong Dhal is a staple of my limited repertoire of Indian recipes. I originally looked up lots of recipes online and adapted mine based on the balance of spices I prefer. My dhal is probably not as authentic as it could be, but it’s tasty.
Moong Dhal:
2 cups moong dhal (yellow lentils)
1 Tbsp Turmeric
2 Tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
1 medium red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
1 chili pepper, finely chopped (I like to use fresh thai chilis if I have them. This time, I used dried thai chilis, and only 1, because the little guy was going to be eating it. Normally I would make it spicier)
8-10 whole curry leaves (I get them at the Indian grocery store and keep them in my freezer)
3 large tomatoes, diced
Salt to taste
Cilantro, chopped, for garnish
1. Wash the dhal in a large bowl several times until the wash water is clear. Cover in water and soak for 20-30 minutes. Drain the water. Put the washed and soaked dhal in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, and cover with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover with lid most of the way and simmer for 20 minutes, until the lentils are soft.
2. While the dhal is cooking, prep the remaining ingredients. Dice the onion and chop the garlic. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Melt the ghee/vegetable oil. Cook the onions until they begin to be translucent, stirring often. Next add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, ground cumin, chili pepper and curry leaves. Then add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Don’t let the garlic burn! The cumin and mustard seeds should start to pop. Remove from heat.
3. Stir the turmeric into the cooked lentils. Next add the onion and spices from the previous step into the lentils. Stir well.
4. Stir the tomatoes in and cook for a few minutes. Add salt to taste.
5. Serve with naan bread, chapati or rice, and garnish with cilantro.
The most recent version of dhal and homemade chapati (recipe and instructions here) were a hit in our house, little man included.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

An overabundance of zucchini in the summer is a very common first world problem. I’ve heard stories of people leaving bags of zucchini on their neighbor’s door, and sneaking away to not give the poor unsuspecting neighbor a chance to politely decline the bag of summer weeds. I found myself with a boatload of zucchini last summer and was getting tired of my usual sauteed zucchini with garlic (which is delicious btw) and zucchini soup, so I went to facebook. One of my facebook friends came through for me in a big way and sent me this recipe, which I’ve since been making at least every 2 weeks ever since. I even froze enough shredded zucchini last summer to get me through the winter without giving up my beloved chocolate zucchini cake. Thank god for breastfeeding, because I would never have lost the baby weight while continuing to eat this on a regular basis otherwise. 
Here is the recipe so that you can enjoy too:


  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 sticks of butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 4×10 inch loaf pans and set them aside. 
  2. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until well mixed. Add the eggs, mix well. Next add the vanilla and mix well. 
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder and whisk together. 
  4. Add about 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on medium-low speed. When the dry ingredients begin to incorporate, add another 1/3 and mix again (you don’t need to wait until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated to add more). Repeat one more time. 
  5. Next mix the yogurt into the batter, then the zucchini. The zucchini should moisten up the batter significantly. Finally, add the chocolate chips and mix until they are well incorporated. 
  6. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake for 50-60 minutes. (Check after 40 minutes, since ovens can vary widely. This cake usually bakes for 55 minutes in my oven, but the original recipe calls for 40-45 minutes of baking). 

Enjoy with coffee as an afternoon pick me up. Or, if you prefer, do what I did- ignore the 2 sticks of butter in the recipe, change the name to Chocolate Zucchini Bread instead of cake, and have it for breakfast. The calories are negated that way. It’s scientifically proven…or something.

Organizing Toys for my Toddler

After little man’s first birthday, we found ourselves needing a better way to organize his toys. What a lucky boy he was (and continues to be) with all the new things he has to play with. But, our single fabric bin to store all his toys just wasn’t going to cut it anymore.
See how things were before? A mess!! And with two parents who hate clutter, this mess wouldn’t last for long.
So off to IKEA we went, in search of a solution. I had visions of cubbies that we would eventually be able to label with words and pictures to identify where things go. This is how many of the preschool classrooms I’ve worked in are organized, to help the children be more independent in their toy clean up. I love the concept and plan on implementing someday…when I have a chance to take pictures of all his toys. Maybe that will happen before he goes to preschool…

We ended up deciding on the Expedit shelving from IKEA. They have many different combinations of cubes available, but we settled on a 4×4 cube shelf. I was hoping to find some clear plastic boxes (“totes” as my husband likes to call them) that would fit in the cubes, so that he can see what’s inside and point to the box he wants to play with. I figured I would have a hard time finding the perfect box.

Turns out, we already had them in the house! The clear plastic bins from the Container Store fit perfectly! See the two on the bottom left? Those are two of their “sweater boxes.” And the one on the right is a “deep sweater box.” I’m really happy with how this turned out, and little man seems to like it too! He points to what he wants if he can’t get to it himself, and he’s already able to start to participating in cleaning up his toys. Win win!


Growing Garlic

It’s about that time of the year to get ready to plant garlic. If you’ve never considered growing your own garlic, you should. The first time I tasted home grown garlic I was totally blown away. It’s much more fresh than anything you can buy in the store and you can taste it. Plus, it’s fun to choose heirloom varieties of garlic, and never run out! 
People are usually surprised when I tell them I’m planting garlic in September or October (in CA you can plant it up until November). Apparently, you can plant it in the spring too, but you will end up much smaller bulbs. Planting in the fall is like giving the garlic a head start. It has to have enough time to grow some greens and establish itself before the first fall frost so that the bulbs can grow in the spring and early summer. 
Another question I often get asked about planting garlic is, “What do you plant? Garlic seeds?” The easiest way to grow garlic is to break apart a bulb of garlic and plant the individual cloves. Make sure you plant them with the root end down (pointy tip of clove is up), and plant them 2 inches deep, about 6 inches apart with 1-2 feet between rows. Then make sure to water evenly. This year, I will probably mulch the garlic to help the soil retain water. I’ll also amend the soil with compost and some worm casting before planting my garlic. 
If you’re wondering where to buy seed garlic, I get it from the Seed Savers Exchange (pretty much where I buy all my seeds). They’re almost out of garlic for the season so order now if you’re planning on growing garlic this year. (A quick Google search for “buying seed garlic” will give you some other sources that are still selling garlic if you missed SSE). 
Here is last year’s garlic in the spring.  The greens are looking good!

Getting bigger:

Garlic is ready to harvest in July. You’ll see the greens start to turn yellow. Two weeks before harvesting your garlic, stop watering it. It needs time for the skins to dry up. You don’t want to leave the garlic in the ground past when it’s ready to be harvested, though. That will just result in moldy garlic skins that wont keep.

Here is half of our garlic after I pulled it up:

Once you’ve pulled up your garlic, let it dry in the sun (or a dry, well ventilated area) for 2 weeks before storing. You can store soft neck garlic by braiding it together, or just break off the bulbs and keep them in a dark, dry place.

Summer tomatoes

Every time we head out to the backyard now, little man goes straight for the tomato plants. We had a slow start to our tomatoes this year since we were in France from mid-May to early June. Even though we weren’t able to plant them until we got home, I knew we’d eventually have some tomatoes to enjoy thanks to our long warm season.
Well, they’re not as impressive as last year, but we have definitely been enjoying lots of cherry tomatoes. Most of them have been eaten right off the plant. This is little man’s preferred method of tomato-consumption. In fact, there have been times when he’s eaten tomatoes voraciously while outside, only to flat out refuse the very same tomatoes in his high chair. I guess I officially have a toddler.
As long as the warm weather persists, I’ll at least be able to get him eating veggies on our trips out to the backyard. Next summer, he might even be know how to choose between green and red ripe tomatoes. What a wonderful way to learn your colors.
For now, we’re taking full advantage of our warm days while they last.
Get in my mouth!