Monthly Archives: March 2013

Curried Red Lentil Soup


This soup, another little number from the America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook, is so good and so easy. They don’t use the word “quick” in that cookbook title lightly–those folks mean business!

I originally decided to put this soup on the menu because we had some red lentils sitting around that have been in the pantry since we lived in Delaware (!). Why yes, we moved to Chicago going on 4 years ago. So yes, that would make these lentils at least 4 years old . . . if not 5 . . . or 6 . . . but I didn’t die, so case closed. Let bygones be bygones. Better a lentil saved than a lentil wasted. Let the old lentils rest in peace in their final place of digestion. Let anyone who has objections speak never and forever hold their peace, amen and amen. It is better to have eaten and loved than to never have eaten at all. Don’t take no wooden lentils. You can lead a mouth to lentils, but you can’t make it eat.

I just got completely lost . . . where were we?

Anyway, after looking at the short ingredient list I thought, “this will probably be okay. Not awesome, not bad–just okay.” And I was (heh heh) okay with that.

But my premature diagnosis was wrong. I LOVED it! The flavors are simple and clean but also deeper than you would expect considering the quick cooking time.

Make it! Especially after a cold day out and about.


It will warm you to the very cockles of your feet.

What are cockles?

Nobody every explained.



Serves 2-3

1 cup red lentils, rinsed
4 cups vegetable broth
2 TBS butter
1 onion, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBS grated fresh ginger
1 TBS curry powder
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 TBS minced cilantro
½ cup plain yogurt
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Microwave the lentils and 2 cups of broth about 8 minutes, until liquid is mostly absorbed.

2. Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the chopped onion and cook for 5 minutes, until softened, stirring occasionally and adding salt and pepper as it cooks. Add the garlic, ginger and curry powder, and stir for 30 seconds.

3. Add the microwaved lentil mixture to the pot along with the rest of the broth and the tomatoes. Simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and re-season as needed.

4. Serve the individual portions with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle of cilantro. Enjoy!


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Working with baby: two months in


I’ve been back at work with baby for two months now.

Two months! I can’t even believe it.


Last I shared I was only 1 week in, so I figured I owe you all an update . . . and I owe it to myself to process how things are going too. It’s amazing how having to write something out really makes you think on a deeper level.

I guess the short answer to how things are going at work is: it’s just like the rest of life–there are easy days. There are hard days. On the hard days it feels like it’s always hard. On the easy days I think, “wow, this isn’t so bad! I could do this forever!”


What makes a hard day? The lethal combination of a fussy baby + a big workload with a ton of multitasking + people in the office (especially visitors or clients) who may not be amenable to the sound of crying in the background. Or foreground, as it may be. Take any of these elements in isolation and it’s totally fine. Fussy baby: yes! I can listen to a lot of crying before hitting any kind of limit. Multitasking: yes! I can nurse my baby while answering the phone and typing an email left-handed. Strangers in the office: yes! I don’t mind showing off my baby to whoever may come in. But put all three of these elements together and the result . . . it’s explosive. This lethal combo has only happened maybe 5 or 6 times, and leaves me emotionally drained and grasping for the energy to make it to glorious bedtime . . .


. . . or to the comforts of passing out on the couch.

But let’s get some perspective–if it’s happened 5-6 times, that means there have been another 39 or so days that have been just fine and dandy.

There are lovely times, like when I’m alone in the office and feel absolutely free to get down on the floor and try out all my goofy voices on Alice, trying to elicit that baby chuckle that I love to hear. There are awkward times, like when the Pest Control guy needs me to sign his tablet while I’m nursing Alice at my desk, or when someone (of the male persuasion) saw my nursing cover and said “Aw, is she napping?” and I had to clarify “No, she’s eating.” But overall, I try not to worry about what anyone thinks. Whether she’s crying, or nursing, or being whiny or goofy or talking up a storm, it’s not worth it for me to try to get into the heads of anyone else. I’m getting better at this–not fearing judgment. Going with the flow. Letting go of efficiency so that I can serve my daughter (side benefit: I’m on my way to becoming ambidextrous).


I’ve had some serious mommy guilt on two occasions:

1) The time when we had a call with a client and Alice was screaming her head off. I tried everything to calm and quiet her, but she was inconsolable. Feeling desperate and cornered by the situation, I put her in her travel bed in the laboratory, where no one could hear her, and returned to the office. She was in there for 45 minutes or so just yelling and crying, and though I stand by my decision to put her there and let her cry it out while I took care of something that couldn’t wait, I felt bad. Especially when one of the guys from the plant came into the office and was like “Um, Jenna? Did you know your baby is crying in the lab?”

“Yes–that’s why I put her in there,” I said, distressed. I almost cried myself at that moment.

2) Alice’s 4 month doctor’s appointment was on March 5th. I didn’t have any misgivings going into it, but our pediatrician informed me that her weight gain had fallen off the curve of what’s considered normal: she had only gained 6 oz since her last appointment 5 weeks prior.”Sounds like your milk supply isn’t as good as you thought it was,” he bluntly informed me. Alice was supposed to be putting on about an ounce per day, and she had only put on an ounce per week. I was appalled. Especially because at her last appointment (right before I went back to work) she had been right on track. What had happened to slow this? What was going on with my milk supply??


Obviously (to me), work. I must have started nursing her less and never noticed. Bad mommy! said the voice inside my head. So after spending that afternoon and evening upset, distraught, plagued by guilt and engaging in emotional self-flagellation, I came up with a plan: I would nurse Alice constantly. I would chunk her up if it killed me and my breasts forever.


So at home, at work, on the road, and wherever I happened to be, that baby ate all the time. If she would take it, I would give it. I weighed her 6 days later on the calibrated industrial scale at work.

And in 6 days, my friends, this baby went from 11 lbs 6 oz to 12 lbs 3 oz.


You have no idea how relieved this makes me feel. And I don’t plan on stopping my intensive nursing plan until this baby has doubled her birth weight at 14 lbs 2 oz.

So things are going well. For now–which is all I need to worry about. Once she starts crawling, who knows? I hear that’s a game-changer. But I won’t know how to manage it until I get there, so there’s no use imagining scenarios in which I fail or succeed or struggle or triumph.

You know what’s crazy? How much Alice has changed since the first day I came back into the office. She’s gone from a 3-month old who hated tummy time and didn’t know she had hands . . .


. . . to a 5-month old who is rolling over, grabbing things and chewing on everything.


I don’t feel like I’ve been back at work for that long, and yet my baby is so different than when we started. Here she is back at the end of January . . .


. . . and here she is now.


I still don’t know how long this working arrangement will be good for us, but whether another few months or another two years, I’m so grateful for how things are now.

Happy Monday dear readers!