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dhal makhani

January 14th, 2012 | 5 Comments »

The cuisine of India is one of my favorites, almost hands down. I love the vibrant flavors and colors, the spice and aroma and the endless variations. I love the lentils, the vegetables, the breads and condiments. All of it.

I’m not alone in my love for this aromatic and delicious foods, and recently a group of my closest friends and I decided to get together one evening for Curry Night. We’d spent a talkative morning over coffee chatting endlessly about food ¬†and hit upon the topic of Indian food, each sighing in joy, rolling our eyes and declaring it’s lofty place in our lives. Paired with an intense desire to get our husbands in the same room together, we planned, plotted and perfected our recipes, and on an unseasonably warm January night, we carried fragrant dishes to Amanda and Brian‘s beautiful brownstone apartment in St Paul and gathered, loudly, to enjoy this amazing food, and some well deserved face time. The holidays, with their obligations and frenetic pace had kept us apart far too long and we needed a night together of food, wine, chatter and fun. The entire evening was a wonderful and delicious, with much needed laughter and camaraderie.

Dhal Makhani is one of my most favorite lentil dishes to order when I go out for Indian food, but I’d never attempted it at home, mostly due to the absence of an easy place to buy the requisite black beluga lentils required. But when a shipment from Marx Foods landed on my doorstep, with 8 2-lb containers holding a rainbow of colored lentils, all I needed was a good recipe. And an excuse.

Thankfully, I found both.

Lentils, as a food, don’t win many beauty contests. What they are beyond their rather homely end result is a quick-cooking, nutritional little powerhouse. This dish was deliciously fragrant and hearty; black lentils hold their shape beautifully after cooking, and with the right amount of garlic, ginger and onion, along with the heady blend of spices that make up many Indian dishes, this recipe was glamorous with flavor and it smelled simply amazing. A thin drizzle of cream gives it a wonderful rich taste, and it evolves over time and a day in your fridge to gain in taste what it lacks in eye appeal.

This recipe can easily be made vegan by eliminating the heavy cream, substituting an alternate of choice. It has no meat in it at all.

 

Dhal Makhani

1 cup black lentils, washed and picked over
2 large onions, minced
2 green chilies, sliced (remove seeds and inner membrane for less heat, if desired. I used jalapenos)
2 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped into cubes
2″ piece of ginger, chopped
1 T. garlic, minced
2 t. ground coriander
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. red chili powder
1/4 c. heavy cream
2 T. cooking oil of choice (i use grapeseed)
2 T. ghee
1 t. cumin seeds

In a small bowl, mix ground coriander, ground cumin and chili powder together. Set aside.

Place rinsed lentils in a medium pot and cover with 3 cups of cold water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmering, and cook until lentils are tender, about 25-40 minutes. You can leave just a bit of bite to them, as they will cook more in the finished product.

Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, heat oil and add onions. Stir to coat and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are beginning to brown. Add green chiles, ginger, garlic and the ground spice mix and stir to coat completely. Continue to cook and stir until the vegetables are tender and deeply browned, about 20-25 minutes. Keep heat regulated to avoid burning them, and stir often.

When the lentils are tender, transfer them to the skillet, reserving some of the cooking water. Stir the lentils to mix with the vegetables, and add the cooking water, 1/3 cup at a time until a smooth gravy forms. Bring to a simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and season with salt. Cook for a few more minutes and taste for salt. Turn off heat and wait for the simmering to stop. Drizzle the heavy cream over the top and stir to incorporate.

For an authentic finish, heat ghee (or clarified butter) in a small skillet until very hot. Add the cumin seeds and quickly cover the pan. Shake the pan while the seeds pop, and when they stop, scrape the butter and seeds on to the Dhal Makhani and stir together. This mixture is very hot and will sputter so be careful.

happy new year everyone!

December 31st, 2011 | 2 Comments »

I debated a recap type post, to ring out 2011 with panache and style, but let’s face it….. those aren’t my strong points, regardless of how you look at it. I’m pretty basic and down to earth. And after 5-1/2 years of blogging, recaps are sort of old hat.

And there’s no list either, of stellar accomplishments I’ve set down for 2012. While I love the idea of making positive change, and growing a bit more of myself each year, I don’t publicly declare those. I just try and make some little changes, in baby steps and in the right direction, and I realize that my human-ness will always get in the way of these, every single year.

And this blog, really, wasn’t the highlight of 2011. While I discovered a whole new level of health and well-being this year by giving up meat, it felt so simple and easy, like I was meant to be here, filling my belly with good things. Kind of akin to unearthing a pair of beloved gloves you thought you lost, pulling them on so familiar and solid. I think I’ve belonged here, feeling this good and so energetic, all along.

The best part about this past year? My friends. My amazing, beautiful, talented, funny, touching, warm, engaging and trustworthy friends. These people were but a breath in the air last year at this time; something there, but not really, and poised on the edge of 2010, facing down a new and full 12 months ahead, I had no idea that within six weeks of this year beginning, on a very cold February night, how my life would change so dramatically. That so many incredible doors would open, that these smiles would become so familiar, that the truth of an honest and loving friendship would sustain me so well. Who knew? One month you hesitantly attend a huge social gathering of fellow food bloggers, and suddenly the rug of your normal life is yanked from underneath, but a hundred hands reach out to help you stand, in a brand new way. Could I even begin to describe what that feels like? This beating of wings inside my heart, this joy that’s been quietly administered? I’m more of who I am, because of who they are.

May you be blessed with the gift of honest friendship, now and always, and may 2012 be full of dreams realized, love and laughter.

{{photo from Google images}}

grateful

November 12th, 2011 | 1 Comment »

I awoke this morning with a full heart, enriched from an experience last night that really blew me away. I’ll share it soon, when it manifests in reality. But it got me thinking, with Thanksgiving approaching, about everything that I’m brings me gratitude in my life. I could go on endlessly, because my life is filled with abundance for which I am deeply humbled about, but today, in this quiet moment with the sunrise, two cuddly cats and a steaming cup of coffee, this is what comes to mind.

Today I am grateful:

~~for chances taken, despite how ridiculous they sound in my head.

~~for my job, which is about to get crazy busy and exciting and fun and I’m looking forward to every moment of that.

~~for fun, because we all need to have fun in our lives.

~~for the support of my amazing husband and for an equally amazing son.

~~for two loving felines in good health.

~~for a warm home, good food, abundance and never-ending grace from above.

~~for a reliable vehicle.

~~for endless creativity and spark that keeps me excited for life and each new day.

~~for rest, even when it’s fractured.

~~ for friends, amazing, loving, warm-hearted, passionate, silly, engaging, strong, beautiful friends. My life has been so richly blessed by the presence of so many incredible people and the kind and generous ways they’ve guided me. I don’t know where I would be without them in my life.

 

What’s on YOUR plate this month??

tying up the heart songs

October 18th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

I look around the table at the women gathered there and I’m caught, just a bit, by the warmth and authenticity sitting with me. I feel blessed, and caught up in the moment of our conversations, of life and marriage, parenting and food and everything in between.

It’s chilly, and clear, but the wind is gusting hard against the old patio doors, making them rattle and throb in the gale. It is October, after all, and no one came here expecting to sunbathe and swim. We knew we’d find bare trees and dry brown grass, and everyone brought slippers or warm socks. Several people came with thick blankets to help ward off the chill of an October night.

But at this moment, no one is thinking about the cold hard wind outside. Because when you gather eight women who are all passionate about food, amazing things happen and we lay it out before us, gazing at the repast with gleaming eyes, exclaiming over the sight. We pour wine in to glass jars and pull up our chairs. Fragrant soup simmers and there is never a break in the conversation as we segue from one topic to the next, easily, like we’ve done this all our lives. Several of us have only met, just today and the moment the cabin door opened and the laughter swept in from the yard. But we know each other, as old friends, regardless of how much face time we’ve had. It’s inherent, this tribe. We have a bond and we just know, in our hearts that we belong here.

Outside the cold bright day turns to a brisk and clear night. There is warmth inside those rattling glass doors that the chilly Autumn night can’t chase away. We sit over homemade salsa and tortilla chips, freshly made bacon jam with crackers and toasted bread, deeply flavored roasted nuts. The promise of warm soup hangs in the air, and there is more bread, delicious and healthy salads and the conversation that feeds us, on and on, an endless succession of nurturing topics, filled with appetizing laughter.

There is more wine poured, glass jars clink on the table and plates come out. Bowls are set near the stove and a ladle dipped in to the pot, drawing forth a steaming amount to smell, while quiet smiles play across faces rich with anticipation. There is no one in this room who isn’t wholly in love with food, passionate about it in every way; who loves to feed others, who lives to share the bounty. They are kindred, these women, these beings that I love. There is a depth to the emotion that runs further than I could have imagined. Food sustains them, and they sustain others with it, through emotions, and heart songs and old glass jars. Through fragrant bread studded with herbs, through kicky salsa that dances on your tongue. Beyond the crackers, and the tortilla chips, there isn’t a processed item in sight. We love our food in exactly the way it should be; freshly and lovingly made.

The darkness outside is impenetrable now, and the dishes are cleared and washed. We slowly move to the sofa, the comfy chairs. Blankets are drawn over full tummies, feet pulled up and tucked under for warmth and yet the conversation never stops. No topic is exhausted or drained from our lips. Now there is dessert, and coffee to give us a brisk resurgence, but soon the home brewed beer is brought out and we taste, slowly sipping, loving the results. It’s close to midnight before we admit defeat and stumble sleepily, happily and with stuffed tummies and hearts, in to our beds.

The morning is more clear sunshine and sustained winds, a humming furnace and sleepy smiles. “I slept like a rock.” resounds from every mouth that appears, eyes relaxed and dreamy, arms wrapped tight in a cocoon of contentment. The coffee pot bubbles and we slip easily into conversation, watching out the windows to a morning rising bright and clear over the lake outside. Breakfast, again, is a dizzy array of fresh baked quick breads, creamy scrambled eggs dredged through with colorful vegetables, the ripest and juiciest pears and apples plucked fresh from the trees only days ago. We’re quieter, more relaxed. We smile and need no reason. We just are; in the moment, right here with our tribe, right where we need to be.

With a sigh, we rise and clean and organize and pack and hug and hug and hug again and laugh and wander across the crunchy leaves to the waiting cars, calling out, again, a goodbye, a thank you, smiles so wide that it seems to split our faces right in two. I close the door against the battering winds and face the empty cabin, the incredible array of foods they’ve left for me to enjoy. My heart is full, the song played out with a few last fading notes to a silence that feels rich, yet forlorn.

They’ll be back again. This much I know.


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miscellaneous december

January 4th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

Seems that funk I fell into at the end of December included a complete mind wipe of some important occurrences, a few pretty cool happenings that I simply ignored on the blog. That is, until I downloaded the photos off my camera, and at 110 of them, I missed sharing some stuff, people.

Like the mother of all blizzards that socked us in with 20″ of snow.

And left all of us a little bit awed.

A week later, we dragged an enormous freshly cut Balsam pine through that snow for our Christmas tree.

My decades old Jade plant gave us a spectacular display of Christmas foliage.

In the dark of December, the natives got a little restless.

And I drove from the extreme Northern part of the Cities to the extreme Southern end, to spend a Friday night in a bar with some awesome friends, drink beer and sing ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ out loud with Tim Mahoney. I barely recognized myself.

Then Mother Nature played a cruel trick, sent us a rainstorm to welcome in the New Year and turned the most glorious snow I’ve seen in years into rock hard and useless piles of ice that we’re stuck with until April. Yeah, happy freaking 2011. No wonder I slipped into a funk.

But….. it’s over. The funk, that is. Time to move on…….

thankful~~

November 24th, 2010 | 12 Comments »

~~ for my health, especially following last month’s car accident.

~~ for the fact that last month’s car accident was not serious

~~ for good insurance, oh thank goodness for good insurance

~~ for the 5 kittens and their mama who were rescued last month, and that someone may open their hearts and homes to them.

~~ for a wonderful, amazing, supportive, loving, accepting, gracious spouse

~~ for the best 16 year old boy anyone could ask for

~~ for the skills of my masseuse and chiropractor who keep me feeling good, and my hairdresser who is nothing short of amazing with both her talent and her personality

~~ for a nice home, good cars, warm clothes, sturdy shoes, hats & mittens, central heat, cozy blankets, good furniture, entertainment and rest

~~ for the food in our kitchen, and the ability to buy what I need

~~ for the warm fuzzy felines that lay all over me purring their love, and for their vet who keeps them healthy

~~ for the fact that life sometimes breaks your heart, then turns around and unexpectedly gives you another chance, a better story, a happier outcome. We would never appreciate those peaks of life if it weren’t for the dark valleys we travel through to get there.

~~ for being able to choose my happiness, for being strong enough to say ‘No’, for the ability to say ‘Yes’, for knowing when it’s time to let others make the decisions, for being wise enough to ask ‘Can you help me?’

~~ for being able to see that the little things in life are often far more important than anything else

~~ for family, as imperfect as they are

~~and last, but most definitely not least, I am incredibly thankful for the ladies who give me reason to smile every day, regardless of how close they are to me, or even if I’ve yet to meet them in person; wonderful and warm women who support me, encourage me, inspire me, humble me, remind me of who I am, and love me anyway. Women who seek me out, who point me out, who rave over what I do and jump with glee when they see me. Women who give me bone-crushing embraces while smiling to the end of the universe. Women who share their lives, their expertise, their failures and victories, their beautiful children, their humor and grace, and most of all, themselves……. people like Liz, Missy, Molly, Tracy, Darcie, Jennifer, Liz, Samara, Jen, Stephanie, Shaina, Crystal, Anna, Heather, Monika, Kristen, Chris Ann, Trish, Jen, Laura and Barb, Cindy ……. I suppose if I’m going to be thankful for these wonderful ladies, and the presence of them in my life then I need to also be thankful for Twitter because without that platform, and without me jumping in to it headfirst just one year ago, I wouldn’t have met any of them. And to try and stress how much it’s changed my life, and how grateful and thankful I am for them…. well, I would need an entire post to do that.