Tofu Stir Fry

tofu stir fry

Teaching brings an unusual kind of balance to my life. Take any individual day, and my life doesn’t seem to have any balance at all. During the school year, I’m out the door by seven, and I barely even pause to eat between then and when I get back home. My life is a whirlwind of teenagers and papers and undecipherable scribblings on the whiteboard. But just when I think I can’t grade another essay or write another reading quiz… voila! Vacation! Balance comes to the force. I go from full-time teacher to the equally full-time task of being a stay-at-home mom. And so when I take the long view–semesters or years rather than days or weeks–I think my work-life balance is just right.

The problem is that I’m not nearly as good a homemaker as I am a teacher. You need someone to teach an English class? I’m your gal. Love it. Can do it all day. You want to talk about symbolism in The Catcher in the Rye? About the futility of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby? Shall we dissect a poem or practice writing essays for standardized tests? I’ve got you covered. Keeping up with laundry and clearing up Toymageddon in the living room, on the other hand? Errr, no. I’m currently surrounded by building blocks, stuffed animals, and partially-folded stacks of clothes. The dishes from lunch aren’t done, although I did wipe down the oatmeal chunks and smoothie dribbles from the dining table–my major accomplishment of the day! I could tackle the rest of the straightening right now, I suppose, but then when would I write this blog post?

What summer vacation buys me, you see, is the opportunity to prioritize things other than schoolwork. I begin every break from school with an unrealistically ambitious list of goals. This summer I’ve got a giant reading list, about fifteen different house projects, a tiny backyard garden (can we say that six plants counts as a garden?), a couple modest exercise goals, some longstanding writing ideas, and prep work for a new course I’m teaching in the fall. Of course, most days I chuck all that out the window in favor of playground trips, finger-painting extravaganzas, and afternoon naps, but it just feels really good to be able to choose my own priorities for a couple of months. Maybe one of these days I’ll even finish folding the laundry.

I am happy to report back on at least one concrete accomplishment of summer break thus far: I’ve checked off my reading list a collection of David Foster Wallace’s essays called A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. Highly recommend. As a disclaimer, I haven’t read and probably never will read DFW’s giant masterpiece, Infinite Jest. I’m just not that into sprawling postmodern novels. (Sprawling Victorian novels, on the other hand…) But these essays are gold–funny, playful, and packed with insight into the American notion of fun. The titular essay is about the author’s trip on a luxury Caribbean cruise. Whether or not you’re planning to take a cruise this summer (or in your lifetime), this essay will make you think twice about your own notions of relaxation and how it’s being sold to you. Wallace isn’t particularly kind to middle America in this collection, but then again, he turns his incisive observations towards his own neuroses just as frequently–Exhibit A, his hilarious fascination with his cruise ship’s Vacuum Sewage System, or Exhibit B, his “boviscopophobia… the morbid fear of being seen as bovine.”

Also, how did I not know that this book has not one but two essays about tennis? I kind of wish I’d saved them to read during Wimbledon next week! If you follow tennis at all, you’ll love these; the essay about Michael Joyce, in particular, is a great snapshot of the tennis world in the mid-nineties. FYI, I skipped the essay on television (too much has changed in the world of TV since 1990) and on David Lynch (not my cuppa), and unless you love critical theory, you might skip the little piece on post-structuralism as well. But there’s still more than enough here to enjoy.

Back to what I was saying about getting to choose my priorities. Yet another goal on my list for this summer is to try some new recipes. Here’s one that I ran across and just had to attempt, as I’ve always loved the General Tso’s Tofu dish from the Chinese takeout place around the corner. I was thoroughly impressed with the outcome of this tofu stir fry, but I’m pretty sure this is not going to go into my typical weeknight dinner rotation, as it involved multiple pots and pans, three mixing bowls, two cutting boards, a gallon-size Ziplock bag, a cast iron skillet, and even more kitchen paraphernalia. At one point I actually said aloud, “Man, this is complicated!” But I’m definitely going to return to this as a special occasion dish.

Photo Jun 16, 6 56 00 PM

Time Commitment: The Minimalist Baker lists twenty minutes to make her General Tso’s Tofu. HAH! Not even close. My slightly edited tofu stir fry took about an hour. It would have taken even longer if #2 hadn’t gone to bed early, giving me a little extra concentration to devote to a cooking project.

Mess: This made a Deepwater Horizon-level disaster zone of my kitchen. If I looked carefully I probably could have found some oil-covered ducks somewhere in there.

Photo Jun 16, 6 56 06 PM

Mom Fails: Various and sundry. I forgot to add the dried red chilies in the final minutes of sautéing the tofu. Whoops. That little bit of added heat would have been delicious. Also, Minimalist Baker pressed her tofu for ten minutes, which I also did, even though ten minutes seemed a bit short to me. Should have gone with my instincts, as my tofu was still kinda mushy as I fried it. And finally–yes, ANOTHER fail–don’t be like me and decide to chop your tofu into tiny little cubes. All that means is that you’ll spend thirty minutes trying to flip over teeny tiny squishy tofu bits in an effort to get them to fry evenly. It was annoying, and it didn’t really work. 1-inch cubes will be fine.

For Kids: Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t manage to get the chilies in there, because #1 loved the tofu! We were out of lemon, though, so she refused to eat the broccoli. Apparently now she will only eat broccoli when it has lemon juice spritzed over it. Toddlers. Sheesh.

Tofu Stir Fry

Serves 3-4

Adapted from The Minimalist Baker’s General Tso’s Tofu


  • 1 cup white or brown rice, cooked according to package directions


  • 1 12-oz package extra firm tofu
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1-2 tsp Sriracha sauce (depending on your spice tolerance)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 5 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil, for frying
  • 4-5 dried red chilies, optional (depending on your spice tolerance)


  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/4 c maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp water

Stir Fry

  • A few glugs oil (sesame or otherwise) for sautéing
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 2 broccoli crowns, cut into one-inch florets
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • Other vegetables, if desired


  1. Before you begin, press your tofu to get out excess water. Sandwich the tofu in a clean towel (or between a healthy amount of absorbent paper towel) and set something heavy on top–a heavy bowl, a cast iron skillet, etc. Let the tofu press for 20 minutes or so, as you chop your veggies, cook your rice, and…
  2. Whisk together your sauce: combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
  3. Return to your tofu. Cut it into approximately 1-inch cubes. Then place the cubes into a medium mixing bowl and sprinkle with soy sauce, Sriracha, sesame oil, and maple syrup. Toss gently to coat.
  4. Place the coated tofu cubes into a gallon-size Ziplock bag. Add 5 Tbsp cornstarch to bag and shake gently until cubes are coated and kind of pasty looking.
  5. Heat oil in medium frying pan. Fry tofu cubes on all sides until golden brown. Once you’ve started this process…
  6. Begin sautéing your vegetables in a wok or large frying pan.
  7. Once your tofu is looking brown and slightly crispy, add a few dried red chilies to the pan, if desired. Cook another minute.
  8. Once your vegetables are cooked to your liking (mine took about eight minutes), add the sauce and tofu. Cook 2-3 minutes more, stirring frequently, until sauce has thickened slightly and coated all elements of your stir fry.
  9. Serve tofu stir fry hot, with rice.

Ethiopian Kik Alicha

Ethiopian Kik Alicha

Rob and I have history with Ethiopian food. When we still lived in Pasadena, Rob took me to LA’s Little Ethiopia (which is like, all of one block) for my first experience with Ethiopian cuisine. I’m ashamed to say it now, but at the time I was not impressed. Driving out to West LA made me grumpy, our food was room temperature, and the spongy, slightly sour bread (injera–which I now love, by the way) weirded me out. After we moved to the Bay Area, Rob somehow convinced me to try again, and LO! I was immediately converted by this amazing restaurant just a few doors down from our church. I wanted to visit every Saturday. In fact, during the third trimester of my pregnancy with #1, we did visit just about every Saturday. (Rob knew better than to say no to me when I was pregnant and sweating through a California summer.) #1 was born with berbere spices coursing through her veins.

Photo Mar 20, 4 44 06 PM

So for our fifth anniversary, how did we celebrate? We took a drive down to Atlanta for some Ethiopian food at a little hole in the wall we visit every time we happen to find ourselves in that neck of the woods. Or when we just can’t go another day without Ethiopian food and are willing to drive two hours to get it, because COME ON, Chattanooga, get with the program!

Photo Mar 20, 4 43 59 PMAnd behold, it was very good.

So, you know me. I had to at least try to recreate Ethiopian goodness at home. I’ve tried a couple of recipes, actually, and while I’ve never pulled off restaurant-worthy wat, this delicious kik alicha comes pretty close to my best Ethiopian experiences.

Time Commitment: The yellow split peas have to simmer for a while, so this takes close to an hour. I really need to try this in the pressure cooker, as I bet I could cut the total time in half. I’ll keep you posted!

Special Equipment: If you have a food processor, you can use it to purée your onions. Otherwise you’ll just have to do a very fine mince, which is kind of a pain.

Mess: If you use your food processor, you’ll have to wash it, obvs. Otherwise it’s a one-pot meal.

Ethiopian Kik AlichaEthiopian Kik Alicha

Adapted from Veggies by Candlelight’s recipe

Serves 4


  • 2 onions (I used sweet onions)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup yellow split peas, rinsed and sorted
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • salt, to taste


  1. Purée onions and garlic in your food processor, or finely mince them.
  2. Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until the liquid is gone and they are just turning brown.
  3. To the same pot, add in split peas and cover with three inches of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes or so, or until peas are tender. You may need to add some more water along the way.
  4. After cooking, stir in tumeric, olive oil, and salt.
  5. Serve with injera or (shortcut for lazy cooks!) storebought naan.

“Bacon” Cheddar Cauliflower Soup (Guest post!)

Bacon Cheddar Cauliflower Soup

Note: This recipe is a guest post from one of my [Emily’s] very oldest and dearest friends–reader, writer, and hiker extraordinaire, Jessica. I don’t really have cauliflower in our family’s dinner rotation, but after this post, I’m convinced to give it a try. Enjoy!

Emily asked if I would write a guest blog for The Supper Files. As a reader of Emily’s blog, and a long-time friend,  I’m happy to contribute a post!

Our cooking adventures extend back to high school where our first attempt to make pizza from scratch left us with unleavened crust as we forgot to add yeast to our dough! Fast forward to 2016 and even though we don’t live in the same state anymore, we still bond over cooking adventures. This year we are challenging ourselves to baking a cake each month, as suggested on Food & Wine’s cake baking bucket list.

Besides the trend of monthly cake baking, my latest cooking obsession has been cauliflower. If you are anything like me, you might know cauliflower as that unwanted vegetable next to celery that’s always leftover on any appetizer veggie tray. You may have also arched a skeptical eyebrow at pinterest pins proclaiming cauliflower as the primary ingredient in pizza crust.

Or the idea of grating cauliflower to create imitation fried rice. Perhaps even making twice-baked potatoes…without the potatoes!

Cauliflower Fried "Rice"
Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

Dear reader, I was skeptical too. All these posts for uses of cauliflower seemed downright blasphemous! Replace the beloved potato with cauliflower? In any recipe–why would you? Well, as a vegetarian, our diets can stack up heavy on the carb side if we’re not too careful. Why is that a problem you ask? Too much of the wrong types of carbs can result in unwanted weight gain and other problems. Granted carbs are just about in everything and my motto is all things in moderation so to help with the diet balancing act, enter the wonderfully versatile cauliflower. And who couldn’t use more cruciferous veggies in their life?

One of my new favorite cauliflower recipes is this Bacon Cheddar Cauliflower soup, adapted for a vegetarian diet from Iowa Girl Eats.

Time Commitment: I haven’t timed myself making this, but on average, it seems every recipe I put my hand to takes about an hour (including prep, cook time and clean-up).

Mess: While this soup can be made in one pot, the messiest part will be grating the cauliflower, which brings me to:

Special Equipment: If you have a food processor, that will make your cauliflower shredding job SO MUCH easier. I use the blade for shredding cheese and my cauliflower florets are sliced up in no time. Otherwise you can use an actual cheese grater (mind your fingers), or toss in a blender and pulse a few times.

Serving Suggestions: Serve with your favorite crusty bread and a side salad.

Bacon Cheddar Cauliflower Soup


  • 8 slices veggie bacon, chopped (I use LightLife’s Smart Bacon)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt & pepper
  • 4+ cups shredded or grated cauliflower (1/2 large head-1 large head), personally I don’t think you can add too much!
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 c hot water + 2 “chicken” bouillon cubes= 2 c “chicken” broth
  • 2 c milk
  • 3-4 dashes hot sauce
  • 2 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • Toppings: green onions, bacobits, and sour cream


  1. Whisk together flour and 1/4 cup chicken broth in a small bowl then set aside.
  2. Saute bacon in a large soup pot over medium heat until crisp. Add celery and garlic to the pot then season with salt and pepper and saute until vegetables are tender, about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Add cauliflower and onion powder  to the pot then stir to combine. Add water then place a lid on top and steam cauliflower until tender, stirring a couple times, about 5-7 minutes. Add remaining chicken broth and milk then turn up heat and bring to a boil.
  4. Slowly whisk in flour/chicken broth mixture while stirring, then turn down heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes, or until soup has thickened. Puree soup in blender then return to pot (you may also use an immersion blender instead).
  5. Turn off heat then stir in 2 cups cheddar cheese a little at a time until smooth. Taste and adjust salt, pepper, and/or hot sauce if necessary. Serve topped with bacobits, green onions, and sour cream.

Weeknight Potato Leek Soup

Potato Leek Soup

Rating: 4/5 stars. It only takes about half an hour to throw together this smooth vegan potato leek soup for a simple weeknight dinner.

Wednesdays are my busiest days at work. I mean, every day is really busy for a teacher–and that’s what I thrive on, so that’s fine. But Wednesdays are uncomfortably busy. Most days I get a prep period or two to gather my thoughts, grade a few papers, and collect any materials I might need for upcoming classes. Wednesdays, though, I meet with all five of my classes plus my little advisory group. My only break is lunch, and I inevitably end up trying to cram into my 45-minute lunch everything that I would have ordinarily done during my hour-long prep period.

I come home pretty tired on Wednesdays. That means that for Wednesday night dinners, anything more ambitious than scrambled eggs usually scares me off.

I’m glad I ventured out of my comfort zone for this potato leek soup. I ran across this recipe on Pinterest a couple weeks ago and was attracted by the simple ingredient list. Another enticement: I’d never cooked with leeks before. Based on the results in this recipe, I’ll have to think about other places I can work leeks into my cooking. One note, though–leeks need very thorough washing. Mine had mud throughout their layers, so I did a preliminary rinse, then halved them and rinsed them again to get out all the mud.

Time Commitment: 30 minutes. This soup comes together amazingly quickly, especially considering most of the cook time is just waiting for your potatoes to cook. This is definitely a weeknight-friendly meal.

Mess: Remarkably little. This can all be done with one cutting board and one pot.

Mom Fails: I made this recipe using a bag of small baby Dutch gold potatoes. This worked out great in terms of flavor, but peeling all those tiny little potatoes was a major pain. I’ll opt for larger Yukon gold next time around.

Weeknight Potato Leek Soup Photo Feb 03, 6 30 56 PM (1)

Source: Use Real Butter’s Potato Leek Soup

Serves 4


  • 2 glugs olive oil
  • 1 bunch leeks (3 or 4), carefully washed and sliced thin
  • 2 lb yellow potatoes, preferably Yukon gold, peeled and diced
  • 4-6 cups vegetable or chicken broth (you can sub water for part of this if desired)
  • Salt to taste–I used about 1/2 teaspoon
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste–I used about 1/4 teaspoon
  • Optional: minced fresh herbs to finish. I used parsley, but this would also be great with dill or chives.


  1. Heat oil in your pan. Add leeks and sauté for 5 minutes.
  2. Add potato and 4 cups broth. Simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  3. Purée soup with immersion blender (or in regular blender, in batches) until smooth. Stir in additional broth or water until soup is desired thickness.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve in bowls, garnished with fresh herbs.


Spinach Stuffed Shells

spinach stuffed shells

Rating: 4/5 stars. These pretty spinach stuffed shells make a festive entrée for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

Yesterday began with Chattanooga’s one obligatory minor snowfall of the year and ended with a call to the Poison Control Center. We like to keep things interesting.

Photo Jan 23, 10 35 31 AMPhoto Jan 23, 10 52 32 AM







I know it’s hard to believe, but somehow that little innocent managed — after bedtime, in the dark, using her bed as a trampoline — to reach into her top dresser drawer, find a jar of Vicks VapoRub, open it, and spread it all over her face and bed. Rob and I, watching TV downstairs, were completely clueless until we heard some wailing upstairs around 10 o’clock. We found our daughter and everything in her bedroom greased like a hog and smelling like a pharmacy. #1 had hidden the incriminating Vicks by this point, but it was clear what had happened. And then she said it: “Ninny eat some.”

Continue reading “Spinach Stuffed Shells”

Squash Sprout Salad

Squash Sprout Salad

Rating: 4/5 stars. This squash sprout salad — which can serve as a sophisticated side or a substantial entree — is a celebration of the best flavors and textures of the colder months of the year.

Someone please explain to me the general public’s prejudice against Brussels sprouts. I just don’t get it. Brussels sprouts are a delight. For one thing, they’re like little miniature cabbages. Adorable! People love miniature donkeys, teacup chihuahuas, even miniature giraffes. Why not the cute little miniature cabbage, aka Brussels sprout?

More importantly, Brussels sprouts have a great texture, especially when roasted. The exterior layers cook up all crisp and papery, while the interior remains chewy and moist. And to me, roasted Brussels sprouts taste just like fall. We’re now in the depths of winter, but this salad hearkens back to the season of decorative gourds–a definite point in its favor. In fact, it would make an amazing Thanksgiving side dish.

A note on the rating: Personally, I would give this squash sprout salad a full five stars. It has so many of my favorite cold-weather Photo Jan 16, 12 54 04 PMflavors. But Rob is in the anti-sprout camp (despite the fact that he loves cabbage; tell me how that makes sense), so I deducted a star from this dish for stirring up vegetable-related family dissension.

Time Commitment: About 45 minutes. Most of that time is passive; you just have to keep an eye on your veggies and lentils as they cook.

Mess: I bought packaged squash and sprouts, making this dish quick to come together and to clean up.

Mom Fails: Two words: mushy lentils. That made the final product of the salad a little bit stickier than I would have liked; everything was coated in a layer of lentil goo. After doing a bit of research, I’ve learned that I probably cooked my lentils at too high heat. After bringing lentils to a rapid boil, you want to decrease the heat as much as possible to keep them just barely at a simmer. Or so says the internet.

Squash Sprout SaladSquash Sprout Salad

Source: Adapted from Smitten Kitchen Spicy Squash Salad

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side


  • Olive oil for drizzling vegetables
  • 1/2 c black or green lentils
  • 2-3 c (or 1 12 oz bag) peeled, cubed butternut squash
  • 2 c chopped or shredded Brussels sprouts
  • 1/2 c crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/4 c roasted seeds (I used some sunflower seeds I had on hand, but you could use pumpkin or even the seeds from a fresh butternut squash)
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cook lentils according to directions on the bag. This should take approximately 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. In the meantime, line a shallow baking dish with foil. Spray foil with cooking spray. Add squash and sprinkle with salt and oil. Then roast for 20-30 minutes or until cubes of squash are tender, but not too brown. Watch your squash closely; it might take more or less time depending on how large the cubes are.
  4. When the squash is tender and slightly browned, toss the shredded Brussels sprouts into your baking dish. Stir to combine; then put everything back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so. You want to cook the sprouts just enough so that the exterior layers are getting crispy, but not black.
  5. Let everything cool to room temperature.
  6. Mix together all ingredients in a pretty salad bowl. Serve as a main dish with bread or rice, or as a side dish to your eye-popping Thanksgiving spread.

Red Lentil Dal

red lentil dal

Rating: 5/5 stars. The complex flavors of this red lentil dal with onions come together quickly and simply–an excellent weeknight meal!

Like most of America, Rob and I spent a lot of this week making plans for the billion plus dollars of lottery winnings that were sure to be ours Wednesday night. In this, as in most things, we tended towards the self-righteous. We wouldn’t buy a boat. Too much work! We wouldn’t buy a million-dollar home (which, in Chattanooga, is quite a home). Too much unused space! Too much furniture to buy! We briefly considered chartering planes for all our travel (because commercial flying = the worst), but then we looked up how much that cost and decided it would be too wasteful. Instead, we discussed charities we would donate to or found–industries that hire ex-cons, daycares that provide quality child care to low-income mothers, scholarship funds for undocumented kids. (See? I told you we were self-righteous!)

We agreed on at least one selfish project, though: a wall of built-in bookshelves for our living room. Our three ancient Ikea shelves are all literally double-booked. Rob’s calculus books are starting to feel like second class citizens because they’re tucked away behind the newfangled Mathematical Methods for Foreign Exchange. My Dickens collection has outgrown its cozy cubby. But we can’t help ourselves–we always buy more books. It’s a compulsion.

Photo Jan 16, 7 40 34 AMPhoto Jan 16, 7 41 43 AM







Alas, we didn’t win the lottery. But built-ins may still be in our future at some point. We seriously do need more bookshelf space, not only for Dickens and Microwave Spectroscopy(???), but also for my growing collection of cookbooks, including Vegetarian India, a ChristmasPhoto Jan 14, 8 52 23 PM gift from my brother. Thanks, Mills!

Indian food tops my list of favorite global cuisines. After Christmas, I made a trip to one of Chattanooga’s several (can you believe it?) Indian grocers to gather everything I’d need to start cooking from my new book. I bought several bags of lentils, tons of spices, and a block of frozen paneer that I’m saving for a special occasion.

Today’s red lentil dal is my first foray into this particular cookbook. The original recipe didn’t have quite the flavor complexity that I wanted, so I combined its delicious onion-cumin topping with the spices from a New York Times dal recipe. And wow, what a marriage. This recipe is going to be a go-to in 2016, for sure.


Photo Jan 14, 6 30 05 PM (1)Time Commitment: This clocks in at 40-45 minutes, well within my range of acceptable time-frames for a weeknight dinner. Also, some of that time is hands-off, meaning that I managed to “play bubbles” with #1 AND get her started with some painting. (But then I got distracted making the topping and she painted all over the table, so there’s that.)

Mess: Prepare yourself to wash some pots and pans, because this requires two, plus a third if you want to make rice. Still, that’s a small price for such an otherwise quick and easy dal.

Mom Fails: Not today, folks, not today.



Red Lentil Dal Photo Jan 15, 6 45 48 PM

(Source: adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Vegetarian India and

Serves 4, with rice or naan


  • 4 tbsp vegetable or olive oil, divided
  • 1 c red lentils
  • 1/2 c canned crushed or diced tomato
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 small sweet onion or shallot, sliced into thin strips
  • 2 dried red chilies
  • 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds


  1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a medium saucepan. Toss in spices (coriander, cumin, tumeric, and ginger) and sauté, stirring, for 30 seconds.
  2. Add lentils, tomato, and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil; then turn down heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Uncover and cook for 15-20 more minutes, until lentils are soft and not too watery. Salt to taste.
  3. About 10 minutes after you start cooking the lentils, begin the onion topping. In a small pan, heat the other 2 tbsp oil. Add chilies and cumin seeds and cook for 1-2 minutes. (Be careful, as the oil has a tendency to splatter at this phase.) Then add onion or shallot. Cook 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until onion is beginning to turn brown.
  4. Pour onion mixture over lentils and immediately cover pot to trap aromas.
  5. Serve with rice or naan.

Vegan Chickpea Stew

Rating: 4/5 stars. This chickpea stew is warming and delicious but almost too time-consuming for a weeknight dinner

Guys. There are things that might seem like good ideas at the time, but are definitely not.

Photo Dec 10, 6 37 19 PMThis?

Letting your daughter play with the spices so that you can finish up dinner in something approaching a timely fashion?

Nope, not a good idea. Unless you like having your kitchen floor carpeted in coriander. Which, to be honest, isn’t so bad. At least it isn’t sticky. And I did manage to get dinner on the table. Continue reading “Vegan Chickpea Stew”

Pressure Cooker Split Pea Soup


I am starting 2016 with a messy kitchen.

More than that, I’m starting 2016 with a messy life. Nothing is neatly compartmentalized. I’m always multi-tasking. I nurse while I read, pump while I grade, parent while I cook, wash dishes while I listen to the latest episode of Serial.

And so it was on New Year’s Eve. I wanted to make split pea soup, but #2 wanted to be held, and #1 wanted to take pictures of her brother. Which of course turned out fabulously.

Photo Dec 31, 6 26 31 PM
Photo by #1, who clearly inherited her photography skills from me.

I had managed the trick of sautéing up the vegetables and spices one-handed and had gotten just about to the point of actually adding the peas to the pressure cooker when #1 decided that she wanted some water. Not to drink, of course. To “clean” with. “Nini is cleaning microwave,” she tells me, plunging her hands into her cup and then rubbing them, dripping, on the front of the microwave. “Mama made mess.”

Photo Dec 31, 6 32 20 PM
Lest you think I’m exaggerating about the mess

How true, little one.

So yes, I’m starting 2016 with a messy life. But I’m starting the year with a big pot of split pea soup, too, and that’s something.

Recipe Details

This recipe is loosely based on the California Pizza Kitchen recipe.

Photo Dec 31, 6 22 35 PM

Time Commitment: As described above, I made this while juggling two kids bent on making the process as difficult as possible. And I still finished in just under an hour.

Special Equipment: I like to imagine a pressure cooker vs. crock pot death match for people (like me) with limited kitchen storage space. If you could only choose one, which would it be? I’m guessing that super organized people, the planner types, probably prefer the crock pot. But me? I make my dinner decisions at the last minute. Do I really feel like beans tonight? Or am I feeling guilty enough about those ungraded research papers that I’m going to call in some pizza? Pressure cookers give you that kind of flexibility–namely, to procrastinate. Plus, they make awesome beans, including this split pea soup.

My trusty pressure cooker
My trusty pressure cooker

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, this will probably need to cook for more like 45 minutes, not 15. I’m sure you could also do it in a crock pot. But I haven’t researched that; to do so would betray my pressure cooker fandom.

Mess: Despite the current state of my kitchen, this is actually a low-mess recipe. Everything cooks in one pot, and the rest of the work can be done on a single cutting board.