Category Archives: Cooking

Coconut Red Lentil Soup + A Publication

Guess what I got in the mail yesterday?!

My thesis finally came! It’s taken almost 5 months…I’d almost forgotten about it! Of course, I promptly sat down and looked through the whole thing for mistakes – if you submit it with something wrong, even if a page is backwards, they will print it. I’ve heard horror stories of people getting theirs with entire pages backwards! So glad that didn’t happen to me! Even though nobody will read it besides my parents and David, it’s still technically my first publication! So awesome.

I was on a real Asian/Middle Eastern kick with my menu plan last week (some highlights were beef with snowpeas & chickpea burgers), but the best of the bunch was this coconut red lentil soup from  101 Cookbooks.

It was really easy to put together, and even though it had a couple of ingredients that are not always stocked in the pantry – red split lentils and yellow split peas – a quick trip to the bulk foods aisle in Whole Foods easily took care of that. I only made minimal changes: took out the raisins (I just don’t care for raisins in savory foods) and added a carrot. Enjoy!

Coconut Red Lentil Soup
adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 cup yellow split peas
1 cup red split lentils
7 cups water
2 medium carrots, 1/2” diced (next time I will actually add another)
2 tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and minced (I always grate mine on the microplane – I am terrible at mincing!)
2 tbsp. curry powder
2 tbsp. butter
8 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 14 oz. can coconut milk (I used light and don’t think it affected the flavor here at all)
1 tsp. salt
chopped cilantro for garnish

Thoroughly rinse the split peas and lentils until they no longer put off dingy water. Cover with the water in a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, add the carrot and 1/4 of the ginger. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or so, or until the split peas are getting tender.

Meanwhile, in a small dry pan, toast the curry powder until it is fragrant. Use low heat and keep an eye on it – you don’t want it to burn or your house will smell like curry forever. Set aside.

Saute half of the green onions and the rest of the ginger in the butter in a saute pan until soft (if you wanted to use raisins, this it where you would add them). Add the tomato paste and saute for another minute or two. Add the curry powder and then add the whole mixture into the simmering lentils along with the coconut milk and salt. Continue to simmer, uncovered, for at least another 20 minutes. It will thicken up – if you don’t like thick soups you can add a little water to thin it out.

Serve garnished with the remaining green onions and the cilantro. Heidi recommends serving this over brown rice or farro, which I will be trying with the leftovers.

Happy dinner!




Blogger Down!

Hello, Blogland!

It’s been a hectic couple of months. Not that it’s much of an excuse, but it really has. When I logged on today, I saw that my last post was September 1st, which makes it almost two months since I posted. Gulp. Sorry about that :-/

To make a long story short, I started a new full-time job and started (and finished – but that’s another story for another day!) my MLIS degree. Needless to say, readjusting to working a “regular” schedule has been a challenge for me. Since I’ve been a grad student for the past two years, I was used to having a very flexible, do-whatever-you-want-when-you-want schedule. Now, I’m up at 6:00-6:15 every morning and in to downtown LA by 8:00am. It’s very different. In a good way! But different.

In any case, there will be more to come about all of the above, but I wanted to share this recipe that I made for dinner last night. It was delicious! And pretty easy. The whole thing took me about an hour and ten minutes, so it’s not a meal for a super quick dinner, but definitely good enough for company (or just for yourself!)

Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs, Mushrooms, and Spinach
adapted from Martha Stewart Magazine (October 2010)

1 spaghetti squash (approx. 3 lbs) halved lengthwise
a couple of tablespoons of  grapeseed oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped
3 tbsp. freshly grated Romano cheese (or Parmesan)
1 tbsp. dried bread crumbs (I used Italian style)
8 oz. lean ground turkey
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 cup chicken stock (low-sodium, of course)
4 cups baby spinach

Preheat your oven to 375. Place squash halves face up on a foil-covered baking sheet. Drizzle with grapeseed oil and season with pepper (you could use salt here, too, but I generally don’t add salt to things like this – personal preference). Bake for 45-60 minutes. Remove and scrape the flesh (ew?) into strands with a fork.

Spaghetti squash: start to finish

Meanwhile, heat tsp. of oil in a large skillet. Cook the onion and the garlic until tender and then add the oregano. Cook until fragrant. Divide the mixture – half in 1 small bowl, half in a large bowl.

In the large bowl – stir the breadcrumbs and half of the cheese into the oregano mixture. Add turkey, salt and pepper, and mix together with your hands. Form into 9-12 small meatballs.

Heat another tsp. in the skillet (the one you used before is fine). Add the meatballs and brown them – about 6-8 minutes – don’t cook them all the way through! Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add another tsp. of oil to the hot skillet and cook mushrooms until tender and beginning to brown. Add meatballs back to the pan along with the small bowl of oregano mixture and the stock. Simmer gently, partially covered until the meatballs are cooked through – about 5-7 minutes. Add spinach and wilt. Top the spaghetti squash strands with the veggie/meatball mixture and serve.

I will be back soon. Promise this time.

Green is Good

I have been spending a lot of time with these two items lately:

I am really working toward deepening my yoga practice and really improving my ability, so I have been practicing almost every day. I am already noticing that it is easier to hold some of the poses and I am definitely more familiar with the flow, which is a big help.

And, I had my first day of school last week! Maybe even what will be my last first day of school. Too soon to tell just yet on that though. I am starting a Master of Library and Information Science program, adding to my M.A. in musicology and my B.A. in music.  Lots of introductory and background reading thus far, but as history is my one true academic love, I don’t mind at all.

All of this on top of starting a new job next week, I am definitely feeling the need for maintaining a calm and relaxed frame of mind. I am also trying to take really, really good care of myself – eating lots of healthy food, getting plenty of sleep, and, of course, the yoga doesn’t hurt.

Today, though, I tried something new. I have read about Green Monsters on several of the blogs I read everyday. They have always looked super gross and totally unappetizing to me. I am not really a smoothie girl anyway, but the green tinge just really never did it for me.

Until today. Today I decided to just give it a go and when I was at Whole Foods I picked up a package of spinach. Reading about how much energy you get from adding these to your diet and all of the “side effects” like better hair, clearer skin, etc, really made me want to try it. For my recipe, I referred to Angela’s website for green monsters: Green Monster Movement. I used her recipe for a “virgin” green monster and added a tablespoon of peanut butter, per the recommendation of many others.

The verdict? It was really good! You can’t taste the spinach AT. ALL. And I would not lie about such a thing. I could not drink quite as much as the recipe made, but I think it’ll be easy to cut it down a little bit. I encourage you to try one, if you haven’t already. If I can like it, I think anyone can!

Peanut Butter Banana Green Monster (adapted from

2 cups organic spinach
1 – 1 1/4 cups milk (any kind – cow, almond, soy, rice, etc – I used skim cow’s milk)
1 tbsp. flax
1 banana
1 tbsp. peanut butter
5-6 large ice cubes

Add the ingredients to the blender in this order: flax, spinach, banana, peanut butter, milk. (Angela says that the reason for this order is so that the heavy ingredients weigh down the flax and spinach so they don’t fly up in the blender and stick to the side.) Blend on high for 1 minute. Add the ice and blend on the ice cube setting. Pour and enjoy!

Easy Lemon Yogurt Cake

I hosted my first official dinner party at our new apartment yesterday. I am happy to report that it was a success!

That’s our table, all set up. I realized last week that I only had a set of 4 placemats and 4 fancy (read: cloth) napkins and we were having 5 total for dinner, so I bought that tablecloth at Cost Plus on the way home one day last week. You can’t really tell in the picture, but it’s a really pretty blue and brown Indian pattern. I love it!

I am definitely still getting used to the fact that I have a blog because I kept forgetting to take pictures of everything I made! Gah! Luckily, this blog is intended to be about more than just cooking, but I am definitely making a concerted effort to remember from now on!

On the bright side, I did remember to take pictures of this amazing lemon yogurt cake I made for dessert.

It comes together so easily – you don’t even need a mixer! Just a whisk and a spatula and you’re good to go! I hadn’t made this before yesterday and normally I wouldn’t try out a new recipe for company, but this is an Ina Garten recipe and she has never steered me wrong, although I will say that I didn’t like this cake as well as her basic lemon cake. However, using yogurt and vegetable oil instead of butter makes it a bit healthier – at least that’s what we were all telling ourselves last night!

Lemon Yogurt Cake (Ina Garten)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup whole milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 eggs
2 tsp. lemon zest (about 2 lemons worth)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar
2 tbsp. lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper and grease and flour the pan.

Disclaimer: I will admit here that when recipes call for mixing the dry ingredients ahead of time, I don’t always do it. If I’m making a special occasion cake or something really complicated with a lot of steps, then I’ll do it. But I figured for such a simple everyday cake, it wasn’t necessary. I thought it turned out excellently!

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla.

Add the flour, salt, and baking powder and whisk until just combined.

Fold in the oil with a rubber spatula until it is well combined – make sure it’s really all mixed in! You don’t want a greasy cake!

Pour into pan and bake for 50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. (I always, always set my timer for 10-15 minutes ahead to check, just in case it’s going more quickly than the recipe says. Even if you have a good oven thermometer, the time can still be different than the recipe. So check early!)

After you take the cake out, let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn it out onto a cooling rack. Meanwhile, combine the 1/3 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of lemon juice in a small saucepan and simmer gently, whisking, until the sugar is dissolved. It will be very clear when it’s ready. Pour over the semi-cooled cake to soak in. (Don’t wait until the cake is too cool, or it won’t soak in as well!)

Now, cool the cake completely. If you’re serving it that day, go ahead and make the glaze – just whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth and pour over the top of the cake. If you’re waiting a day or two to serve (like I did), cover your cake tightly – I put mine under the dome of my cake plate – and make the glaze the day you serve. Otherwise, your glaze will dry out slightly and won’t be as fresh looking.

Enjoy! This is a really easy recipe and the cake keeps well for a few days, if kept tightly wrapped. If anything, it only gets more moist and the lemon flavor deepens if you wait a day to serve. Yum.

The Beginning

Hello, world! I feel like the first blog post needs some kind of special introductory feel to it. So, hello. And welcome!

I have been reading blogs for a couple of years now, but this is my first foray at one of my own. As a grad student, I write a lot, so why not add something more self-designed into the mix?

I am Christa. Currently in school for library science. With an M.A. in musicology already under my belt, I am hoping to combine the two fields and become a music librarian in a couple of years. I live in Pasadena, a town just outside of Los Angeles, with my boyfriend, David. We both love to cook and go to restaurants, and I spend a lot of time “homemaking,” or at least my version of it.

My hope is that my blog will serve as a cache for favorite recipes, photography, decorating and organization ideas, and just kind of things that come up in life in general. We will just have to see where it takes me!

First and foremost, though, I want to tell you guys about this soup:

Tom kha is a Thai soup and it also happens to be David’s favorite. We made it for the first time last night and it was so good. I used a recipe from Sunset magazine and while I’m sure it’s not the most authentic recipe, it is super easy and comes together really quickly – perfect for a weeknight.

So here you go: Tom kha soup and welcome to my blog!

Tom Kha Soup (Sunset Magazine, December 2008)

1 14 oz. can coconut milk (I used light)
1 14 oz. can chicken broth (I had some homemade stock in the freezer, which I defrosted and just poured into the empty coconut milk can to measure 14 oz.)
6 quarter size slices fresh ginger
1 stalk fresh lemongrass
1 lb. chicken breast or thighs, boned, skinned, and cut into 1 in. pieces
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. fish sauce (or soy sauce – see below)
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. chili paste

In a medium saucepan (we used the Le Creuset) combine coconut milk and chicken broth. Add the ginger and lemongrass and bring to a boil over high heat.

Add the chicken and mushrooms, lime and fish sauce. Or, if you’re us, Google “fish sauce substitutes” because I thought that fish sauce and oyster sauce were the same thing and we already had oyster sauce – but nope! Turns out an equal amount of soy sauce works and you can’t tell the difference.

We added the lime rinds after we squeezed the juice out.

Then you add the sugar and the chili paste (or garlic chili sauce, which is what we had) and reduce the heat until the soup simmers. Cook for 10 minutes or so until the chicken is cooked through. Dish into bowls and garnish with cilantro and/or basil, being sure to take out the lemongrass, ginger, and limes if you put them in. Serves 4.