Curried Lentils and Potatoes

January 19, 2009

I’ve been wanting to experiment with lentils for dinner.  I don’t cook them often enough, so I found myself thumbing through How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Bittman to get my creative juices flowing.  

While chopping up my ingredients for last nights dinner I was chatting with my good friend and cooking buddy *E* who reminded me of all the different types of lentils available with which to experiment: French lentils, red lentils, and the variety of green and brown lentils.  I got very excited!


Curried Lentils and Potatoes-1.jpg

Saturday night’s recipe was Curry Lentils with Russet Potatoes, served with organic Jasmine rice.  *J* & I loved the dish! But Booh … not so much.  She didn’t like the cilantro sprinkled throughout, plus it was complex with flavors and spices, not her favorite.  But that was okay.  Meant more for me!  Between negotiating half of *J*’s fourth serving onto my plate along with Booh’s picked-apart small serving, I managed to squeak out a second serving for myself.   I ended up serving her an avocado and assortment of fruit instead.

But my favorite part of the meal wasn’t the lentil potato dish … it was the veggie dish: Carrot, Cabbage and Red Onion Salad in a Cilantro Maple Tamari dressing.  Yum!  Let me say that again … YUM!


Preparation: 1 hour. Serving size: 4

  • 1 cup dried organic brown lentils
  • 1 can organic coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cup homemade organic veggie stock
  • 1/2 tablespoon Muchi Curry Powder (turmeric, cumin, black pepper, ginger, coriander, fenugreek, garlic, celery seed, cloves, cayenne pepper, caraway seed, white pepper, mace)
  • 1/2 tablespoon Sambhar Curry Powder (coriander, red chili peppers, fenugreek, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, black pepper, asafoetida)
  • 2 medium organic russet potatoes (cut into large chunks)
  • 2 tablespoon organic virgin olive oil
  • sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Cilantro for garnish
  1. Combined the first four ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Turned the heat down to low to simmer gently, and partially cover with lid.  Stir occasionally while allowing the lentils to start absorbing the liquid, @ 15 minutes.
  2. Add the potatoes and gently stir in.  Put the lid on and allow to cook for 10 minutes.  
  3. After 10 minutes, check and add vegetable stock if needed.  Don’t let them dry out.  Add olive oil (or butter/ghee) and stir in.
  4. Cover and allow to  continue to cook until lentils are soft and potatoes are tender (not mushy!).  This takes 5-10 minutes.  Add more stock if needed.
  5. Season with black pepper and sea salt to taste.  Lots of black pepper is good, but careful with the salt.  I almost put in too much, so go slow!  
  6. Removed from the heat and let it stand with the lid on while finishing up the salad (recipe to follow).  It allowed the potatoes to cook more (not mushy!) with out drying out the dish.
  7. Garnish with cilantro.  Yogurt too if you have it.  We didn’t.  Used rice as our cooling agent instead.


I had a bunch of cilantro I purchase to garnish the lentil dish with that I decided to use in my vegetable dish.  I found a recipe for a dipping sauce in the mentioned cook book that I modified to go with the veggies I had on hand.  If you can, make the dressing ahead of time and allow to sit:


  • 1 clove organic garlic
  • 2 tablespoon wheat-free tamari
  • 2 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (grade B if you have it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili peppers
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves (finely chopped)

Stir ingredients together and let it sit while cooking the lentils.  


  • 2 cups organic cabbage (shredded into long thin strips)
  • 1 cup organic carrots (shredded)
  • 1 cup organic red onion (cut into thin strips)

The longer and thinner the cabbage, carrots and red onion are cut into the better. I used my Black and Decker Handy Slice ‘ Shred appliance (I picked up at a tag sale new in the box for a buck!) but a sharp knife for the onion and cabbage and a peeler for the carrots would work fine.

Blanch the cabbage for 30 seconds, strain and the into a cool water bath.  Strain again.  

If you can, make a double batch of both recipes for lunch the next day!   The next day I brought leftovers over to *E*’s house to share for lunch, and they were just as good as the night before … if not, better!


Rebounder in the Living Room

January 17, 2009
Picking the Perfect Squash

Picking out squash at the Amherst Farmer's Market this past summer.

Over at Fitness and Wellness in America, fitness professional Chris Arterberry writes about keeping New Year’s nutrition and exercise resolutions during our current economic climate and ponders if folks will stick with them or not.  He concludes, “Overall, even in these tough times, I think one’s success with health-related New Year’s resolutions still comes down to personal behavior and one’s support system, not personal finances.”  

He mentions some shopping alternative people might take to stick with their healthy nutrition resolutions, including shopping at Wal-Mart for health food rather than Whole Foods.  There’s healthy food sold at Wal-Mart?! I had no idea! Not that I want to shop at Wal-Mart … it just feels a bit like an oxymoron. I have seen some healthier foods sold at Costco, like Lara Bars and Organic Olive oil, but never in my life would I have thought Wal-Mart as a source for health food.  I always thought of it as the land of Wonderbread and marshmallow fluff!

I started off my new year with a 10-day cleanse (Master Cleanse), so I feel extra invested in my resolution to health and wellness. Committed to continuing a healthy lifestyle during this recession, my family continues to shop for our “healthy” food at Whole Foods, our local co-op and Trader Joe’s. The trick for us is to buy mostly whole foods from the produce section and bulk food aisles, choosing local when available. Any pre-packaged foods we get are gluten-free. And we look for sales at each store. Being vegan helps a lot too, but my husband isn’t there (yet!). So frozen fish, chicken and cheeses at Trader Joe’s is a good bargain. And I should mention that TJ’s has great prices on their packaged nuts and dried fruits. Some are even organic and sulfur-free!

In the summer time part of our solution will be to grow our own vegetables, frequent the local pick-your-own orchards, farmer’s markets, farm stands, and to participate in our local CSA.  And one of my main objectives for this spring is to get chickens for a steady supply of fresh eggs!

As for exercise, I run on the road. But when it’s minus twelve outside … my husband suggested joining a gym. I could argue that joining a gym to keep us exercising and healthy, in the long run, would save us money … but what about right now? Rebounder in the living room? Maybe so.

Discovering Maternal Lineage Through Matryoshka Dolls

January 16, 2009

Matryoshka Dolls-1.JPG

“Mommy, where did I come from?”

By the time Booh asked me this question, she was four and I had been preparing for a couple of years by collecting Russian nesting dolls. I had been picking them up at tag sales and white elephant sales and they’ve become one of my favorite tools for addressing this simple yet complex question. I start with the big doll, her Great Great Grandmother, open her up and pull out her Great Grandmother, open her up and pull out her Grandmother, open her up and pull out her mother, open her up and pull out, well, her. It has proven to be an effective illustration.

“The name [Matryoshka] wasn’t chosen by accident… Matryona (lovingly Matryosha, Matryoshenka) was a very popular and common Russian name for a woman. Also, the word was derived from the Latin “mater” (mother) which was perfectly suited for the toy. “* The first time I demonstrated the concept of maternal lineage to my daughter she stared at the dolls, the little gears turning inside her head… “How did I get in there?” I then did it backwards, replacing the dolls, working back in lineage: this is you, you came from me, I came from Gram, and so on. It was the backwards method that got her engine going and put the concept of lineage into form, and gave me some more time to figure out how to answer THAT question.

Music from the Civil Rights Movement

January 16, 2009

Booh and I have enjoyed exploring songs from the Civil Rights movement, including:

  • This Little Light of Mine,” an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement and a song all children should learn as a source of inspiration as they face adversaries and hard times in this life.
  • We Shall Not Be Moved,” an African-American spiritual that was sung during the slave liberation movement and the Civil Rights Movement. A great song to teach your children as they learn to stand up for truth and justice.
  • If I Had a Hammer,” a song that’s been sung during the Labor Movement and the Civil Rights Movement
  • We Shall Overcome,” a song that originated back before the Civil War, that Pete Seeger and Joan Baez have been credited for popularizing.

Another great song that has become synonymous with the Civil Rights Movement is an African-American spiritual, “Oh Freedom,” which was sung by Joan Baez on the morning of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s great speech, “I Have a Dream.” Here’s a video of Joan Baez singing “Oh Freedom.”

“The fact that so many folksingers joined Dr. King in his effort to spread the word about civil rights was hugely relevant, not only because it brought a little added media attention to the effort, but also because it showed that there was a faction of the white community that was willing to stand up for the rights of African-Americans. The presence of folks like Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, Odetta, Harry Belafonte, and Pete Seeger alongside Dr. King and his allies served as an omen to people of all colors, shapes, and sizes that we are all in this together.”*


Here’s a great playlist of additional songs that celebrate freedom and the Civil Rights Movement from recent independent musicians and well known artists:

  • Pete Seeger – “Dr. King on Violence” [Seeds: The Songs of Pete Seeger]
  • Buck Howdy – “This Little Light of Mine” [Giddyup!]
  • Tom Paxton – “Your Shoes, My Shoes” [Your Shoes, My Shoes]
  • Dan Zanes – “We Shall Not Be Moved” [House Party]
  • Dan Zanes – “Down By the Riverside” [Night Time!]
  • Ella Jenkins & Pete Seeger – “If I Had a Hammer” [Ella Jenkins & A Union of Friends Pulling Together]
  • Toots & the Maytals – “Freedom Train (Jamaica)” [World Playground 2]
  • The Deedle Deedle Dees – “Underground Railroad” [Freedom in a Box!]
  • Lori McKenna – “Ruby’s Shoes” [Paper Wings & Halo]
  • The SNCC Freedom Singers with Dorothy Cotton & Pete Seeger – “We Shall Overcome” [Smithsonian Folkways American Roots]
  • The Snow Moon

    January 9, 2009

    Full moons come,
    full moons go,
    softening nights
    with their silver glow.
    They pass in silence,
    all untamed,
    but as they travel,
    they are named.

    When the Moon is Full: A Lunar Year
    by Penny Pollock

    In many cultures a folklore name is associated with each full moon of the year. January’s full moon was called the Wolf Moon by some Native Americans, as noted in Penny Pollocks book, When the Moon is Full: A Lunar Year.

    The Farmer’s Almanac describes Januarys moon lore, “Amid the cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. Thus, the name for January’s full Moon. Sometimes it was also referred to as the Old Moon, or the Moon After Yule. Some called it the Full Snow Moon, but most tribes applied that name to the next Moon.”

    Pollock writes a simple children’s books that offers an elementary look at moon lore. It’s beautifully illustrated with woodcuts that have been hand colored by Mary Azarian, a Caldecott Award winning illustrator. Using lyrical poetry, the author takes the reader through a journey of twelve months by sharing Native American folklore that is associated with each month’s moon.

    Pollack’s account of the full moons includes the January full moon as the Wolf Moon, a time when Native Americans observed wolves becoming restless. February is the Snow Moon due to heavy snows that used to happen in our area in years past. The Sap Moon is in March when the Maples come alive, and April is the Frog Moon as our little amphibian friends pop out on the spring scene. The Flower Moon is in May and the Strawberry Moon is in June. July hosts the Buck Moon when deer sprout their antlers, and August is the Green Corn Moon. The Harvest Moon happens in September, and due to the moon’s early rise October is the Hunter’s Moon because of the extra light added to the setting sun. The Beaver Moon is November’s moon and December is known for the Long Night Moon corresponding with the Winter Solstice.

    Pollock has a couple of pages in the back of her book with questions and answers about the moon. One question is “Can a full moon have more than one name?” And her answer is yes! Many.

    Christmas Day Hike

    December 30, 2008

    On Christmas Day we hiked down our property to where the river and the stream meet. With all the snow we had, melting after a rainy now above freezing day, the river and creek are rushing!

    The last second of this video might leave you wondering about the outcome of our hike. One thing I can say about Booh is she’s made of rubber (plus she has a great sense of humor!). So go ahead, laugh!

    Snow Lichen

    Snow Lichen

    You can’t hear it too well, but J says “Look how high the creek is.” And then Booh replies, “It’s a creek, not a cricket.”

    Then J says, “Hey honey, what’s this called.” That’s when Booh looks and loses her balance and does a face-plant into the snow.

    This is what he was looking at.  Not sure what it is called, so we are calling it Snow Lichen until we can get an id.  There is a Flickr group called ID Please.  I posted this photo here and hopefully some wonderful botanist can do just that.

    Murder of Crows

    December 29, 2008

    What an amazing winter sunset we had last night!  We had been ice skating with good friends when we came outside to a spectacular view.  The air was balmy and we stood in the parking lot outside of the ice skating rink watching the sky change from orange to pink to violet.  If only the utility poles and fence (and houses and road and mounds of gray snow) weren’t in the way of this beautiful scene. 

    And to add to this amazing view, on the opposite side of the parking lot , was a murder of crows.  Below I’ve posted a short video I shot.  

    I had no idea that a collective noun for a flock of crows was a murder of crows.  And how lucky were we to witness them on the 4th Holy Night.  But what does it all mean? 

    The Frozen Playground

    December 27, 2008

    Ice Storm 2008

    Click on photo to see notes we've added.

    The first big winter storm of the season was a dramatic ice storm. Three and a half days without electricity nor heat for us.  More than a week for many others. The drama was high and the landscape was beautiful with a thick blanket of ice! Although the region was in a State of Emergency, and the main roads were closed, I ventured out with Booh to photograph all the drama. Her favorite stop … the frozen playground.

    If you click on the photo it will take you to our Flickr page where we added notes about the individual pictures.

    We had a fun time that first night, playing card games, eating PB&J sandwiches and making holiday cards and ornaments by candlelight. –  Just so you know, there is a limit to how many card games you can play with a six-year-old!

    On that first night the house was still warm enough in the early evening (50’s) to stay the night, but by morning it was starting to dip towards freezing. Hauling water from the river to use in our toilets and wearing our parkas inside to stay warm quickly grew old, plus Booh started to catch a cold.   After the volunteer fire department stopped by to check in and confirmed that the electricity would indeed be off for days, we decided to high-tail it out of there.

    We set to unpacking our refrigerator and freezer into coolers to stay frozen outside, draining our pipes, and filling our cats bowl with enough food for a few days, and then headed south on I-91 to stay with relatives.  It was fun to stay in a warm house full of family and friends, coming and going, and even got to be a party of Booh’s grandmother’s 84th birthday celebration.  The whole experience will be interesting to hear Booh recall as she gets older.

    Gluten-Free Gingerbread Men (and dreidels!)

    December 21, 2008

    I remember as a kid decorating cookies for the holidays with my dad and brother. My mom would buy a roll of Pillsbury sugar cookie dough and cut it into thin medallions for us to decorate with rainbow jimmy’s and red hots.

    J and I have followed a similar tradition since we met, only we make and decorate gingerbread men (and women) from scratch. I’ve made a gluten free gingerbread cookie dough two years in a row, and sadly many of our gingerbread men wind up on the Infirmary Cooling Rack. They just don’t hold together as well. I guess my mother had the right idea!

    I made a royal frosting this year and piped it onto the batch I decorated with gluten free sprinkles. J and Booh opted to spread frosting on theirs with a butter knife and add currents. Booh found licorice Jelly Belly jelly beans and added those to hers too. That should taste interesting!

    One of our neighbors is Jewish and they’ve never decorated Christmas cookies, so we invited them over to help us. They brought their dreidel cookie cutter. The dreidels stayed together much better than the gingerbread men.

    Next year I think I’ll go back to a traditional gingerbread cookie recipe … unless someone knows of a good gluten free recipe that holds up after they come out of the oven!

    Country Bike Riding

    December 11, 2008

    Learning to bike ride for a kid in the rural hilltowns isn’t an easy task, for there aren’t many flat stretches of pavement for them to practice. The time will come when these rural kids will need a bike to get together and play with their next door neighbor (a mile down the road!) or meet up at the local swimming hole. So they have to learn. But how? Where?

    Here we found a barn nearby that Booh could practice in. There’s some farming equipment she has to dodge, and the occasional cow chip to avoid, but it’s a flat paved surface, two qualities hard to come by in these parts.

    She’s getting pretty good, and she’s not afraid to fall. I can’t say that I will be ready anytime soon to let her travel a mile down the road to play with her neighbor. But when the time comes, I hope the farm equipment and those cow chips will have offered her good obstacle training for dodging speeding logging trucks that come hauling down the mountain, and avoiding the occasional road kill.

    Winter Solstice: How an ancient tradition is celebrated today.

    December 7, 2008

    Illustration by Jan Davey Ellis

    Ellen Jackson’s book, The Winter Solstice, (published by Millbrook Press) takes a look at the many different cultures throughout history who have celebrated the Winter Solstice and developed cutoms for this shortest day of the year.

    With a simple storyline and attractive watercolor illustrations by Jan Davey Ellis, Jackson’s book is a nice addition to a social studies curriculum for children ages 4-8 this time of the year. The Scottish, Romans, Scandinavians, Celts, Northern Europeans, Peruvians, Pueblo Indians, and the Kwakiutl Indians are presented with their customs and beliefs; in addition to a scientific look and simple experiment to illustrate the planetary alignment that creates this seasonal change.

    Jackson also explains how the winter solstice is celebrated today in modern American and European cultures, and how solstice customs have found their way into the celebrations of Hanukkah and Christmas.

    She ends her book with a Cherokee folktale of creation that tells why evergreens stay green because of their faith that the sun would return.

    If you have a seasonal title you would like to recommend, enter it in the comment box below. We’d love to hear from you!

    How to Make a Gnome

    December 6, 2008

    This is a super easy nature craft we learned how to do during the winter fair at Booh’s school:

    Material list: acorn, unfinished wooden bead, felting wool, felt, raffia, silk flower (optional), hot glue gun and a fine tip magic marker.

    1. Draw a simple face on the unfinished wooden bead with a fine tip marker.
    2. Glue the wooden bead atop an acorn that is just larger than the bead.
    3. Glue a small lock of felting wool to the top of the wooden bead.
    4. Glue a rectangular piece of felt on top of the wool lock.
    5. Tie around the “neck” a piece of raffia, holding down the felt “scarf.”

    Another option:
    Between Step 2 & 3, take a detached silk flower and cut a hole in the middle, just large enough to push over the “head” of the gnome. Leave off Step 4 and glue an acorn top on as a hat instead.

    These make great handmade “green” gifts for the holidays. You can coordinate the colors to match the seasons and make them for May Day, Winter Solstice, or Fall Equinox to give as gifts or add to a nature table.

    Learning to Surf at the Jersey Shore

    December 5, 2008

    This past summer Booh and I headed to the Jersey shore for a few days.  Her grandfather tried to teach her to body surf with a boogie board.  She was a bit hesitant at first but once she got out there she let him set her up to catch the next wave.  She giggled when the wave caught her board and started to carry her towards to shore … but then she wiped out and went head over heals, getting water up her nose and sand in her teeth.  When she came up and got her footing she marched out of the water, mad as a wet hen, leaving her boogie board behind and blowing water out of her nose.

    She kept to the tidal pools after that.  They were warmer, no waves and shallow, all things safe.

    Handmade Holiday Card Swap

    November 30, 2008

    Handmade Holiday Card Swap, originally uploaded by icybooh.

    This year Booh and I are participating in Kids Craft Weekly’s Handmade Holiday Card Swap. We finished up our designs and sent them off to 10 families that are part of the swap. Our families were from all over the USA and two international families (Mexico & Australia), including a first grade class in Massachusetts.

    Above is our design. We cut a star out of recycled scraps of paper and hole-punched 10 round “ornaments” that we glued onto our Christmas Tree design. They were a lot of fun to make and we are looking forward to receiving our 10 handmade cards from families participating in the swap too.

    Carnival Sounds

    November 10, 2008
    Every year we go to our local country fair where they have a carnival game that every kid wins … and every year Booh has selected a plastic toy horn (along with at least a hundred other country kids). The night air is filled with the sound of these little horns blowing and has become a sound you associate with the fair.

    When we got home … the horn went “missing.”