Spicy Red Lentil Soup: A Recipe from the Damselfly Inn

Something a little hot just for you!

A few fictional years  have passed since Nan Grady was feeding her friends at the Damselfly Inn, but she’s still very much a voice in my head. Married now, and going by Nan Fuller, and still feeding her friends. I imagine them gathered around the big farm table in her kitchen, guests out enjoying the art museum or a play at the college, or warming up by the fire in the parlor. It’s cold and snowy outside. The pastures are white; the Fuller herd is in the barns. The sun goes down early, so the sky outside is dark, but the lights are burning bright in the yellow Victorian on County Road, and soup is on the menu.

Nan likes easy comfort food, but with a little something spicy and unexpected, so this recipe is one I can easily see her making. Pull up a seat at her table, and enjoy!

  • 2 T. coconut oil (olive is fine, too)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • fresh grated ginger to taste (I used a couple of tablespoons)*
  • 1 T. Thai red curry paste*
  • 2 T. Vietnamese chili garlic sauce (Tuong Ot Toi)*
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 T.  finely chopped garlic*
  • 1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes*
  • 2 tsp whole cumin seeds*
  • 3/4 tsp ground coriander*
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric*
  • 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, do not drain
  • 4 c. vegetable or chicken stock/broth
  • 1 c. red lentils
  • good pinch of saffron threads*
  • chopped fresh cilantro (if you’re into that)
  • plain greek yogurt, sour cream, or crème fraîche

Heat the coconut oil over medium heat, then sauté the onions until they are softened and translucent, but not browned. Add everything from the ginger to the turmeric and sauté for a minute. Dump in the tomatoes, broth, and lentils. Give it a stir, then add the saffron threads. Simmer for about 15 minutes. If you like, you can immersion blend it at the end for smoothness, but it’s not necessary.

Serve topped with cilantro and yogurt (or other dairy). Yum!

*Basically, adjust all the flavors to suit what you like.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Damselfly Inn is FREE for a limited time at Amazon, and you can pick up Buck’s Landing for just 99¢!

Cam’s Food Lab: Those Serious Eats Noodle Jars That Are Probably All Over Pinterest

The Food Lab: Make Your Own Just-Add-Hot-Water Instant Noodles (and Make Your Coworkers Jealous) | Serious Eats.

The article above grabbed my attention a while ago, when it made the rounds in my Facebook feed. It took me a couple of weeks to get around to trying it out, which is a shame, BECAUSE IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE.

A daily infusion of gingery broth, noodles, fresh veggies, and a touch of heat… IN A JAR.

I have a Fresh Instant Noodles Caps Lock problem.

The concept is so simple. Layer wet stuff first, then veg, then dry stuff, then noodles, then fresh stuff, and close it up until it’s time to eat. Then add hot water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Voilà! Comfort food without the massive MSG and gratuitous fat infusion.

The actual article outlines the technique and 5 basic “recipes,” but I went off-script from the start. Mark makes a variation on Vietnamese Mi Hoahn Than that I adore, and my favorite stir fry is Chicken and Bok Choy in Ginger Sauce, so… I mixed them up, and camp up with this beauty:



Start with about a teaspoon of chicken Better Than Boullion, a pinch of minced garlic, as much chili-garlic paste as you like, and a generous tablespoon of grated fresh ginger.

Layer in matchsticks of red bell pepper–maybe an eighth of a good-sized pepper, and thinly sliced bok choy, leaves too! I buy the baby ones, and use two stalks or so. Then, sliced dried shiitake mushrooms and a little bit of chopped turkey jerky. I swear, it softens just a little in the water, and it’s perfect. Add a little handful of packaged, pre-cooked hokkien stir-fry noodles.

The original article suggests putting the garnishes in a plastic bag, but I find they work just fine for a few hours resting atop the noodle layer. I use the white and pale green parts of a scallion, sliced thin, and a large pinch of finely chopped fresh cilantro.

I also like my soup on the scalding hot side, so I add the boiling water, let it sit for five minutes, and then empty the jar into a bowl and zap it in the office microwave for a minute. Lunch is served.

Ginger Bok Choy Fresh Instant Noodle Soup Unjarred

So much goodness in that bowl.

Now, go forth and create your own. Let me know how it goes.

Recipe for {Good} Trouble: Pumpkin Muffins

I loved this show when I was nannying. I’m a little sad my guy never watched it. Yours might like it, though! If you decide to click through, I might make a penny in affiliate link revenue. Just between us.

Pumpkin is a superfood. Pretty sure Beast knew that. I don’t know if Hamilton would have approved of the chocolate chips, but I like to think so. This recipe makes me happy, first because these muffins are gorgeous: sproingy, not too sweet, a little spicy… but also because every time we bake them, I recall this sweet little show from Nick Jr.’s line up ten years ago.

The original recipe I used called for a cup of pumpkin, but there were two problems there. There are nearly two cups of pumpkin in a can, and the recipe made 14 muffins, which bothered my sense of symmetry.

I’ve fiddled a little and come up with a nearly doubled recipe that uses the whole can of pumpkin and makes 24 perfect muffins. We freeze half and the other half keep for 5 days or so in a Ziploc on the counter.


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins


Preheat the oven to 350°F, line two standard muffin pans with paper liners {I like to give the paper liners a quick spritz with cooking spray, but that’s totally optional}.

In a smallish bowl, combine:

  • 3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 3 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 t. ground cloves

In a large bowl, combine:

  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 can pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)


  • 1 c. vegetable oil
  • 2/3 c. milk
  • 2 t. vanilla extract

Blend the dry ingredients into the wet, stirring until everything is combined and relatively smooth. Divide the batter evenly between 24 muffin liners. They will be full, but it’s okay. This batter doesn’t spread too much.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, depending on your oven. They should bounce back a little when you press gently on their domed tops.

Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes. I usually let them cool a little before noshing freezing.

Spiced Hazelnut Pear Muffins

I’m a proud sharer of Smitten Kitchen‘s recipes. Best Birthday Cake is one of my go-tos, as is. You don’t mess with perfection. Sometimes, though, I like to play around. When I saw the post regarding pear and hazelnut muffins, I had to give them a try. Especially when I realized I had some slightly past ripe pears in the fruit drawer and a bag of hazelnut flour in my freezer.

photo 1

I plan to have two, toasted and buttered, for breakfast. Delish!

Since I’ve fiddled with the original a bit, here is my recipe, inspired by sk‘s:

Spiced Hazelnut Pear Muffins
inspired by smitten kitchen’s
yields 12-18 muffins, depending on your pans/liners

Preheat the oven to 425°F (note: you will drop the heat when you put these in!). Line your muffin tins with paper liners. Start with a dozen, see how much batter you are left with before lining more.

In a large bowl, combine the following. I like to use my dough whisk, but a wooden spoon, spatula, or spoonula will work just fine:

  • 6 T. butter, melted and cooled a tad
  • 2/3 c. light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. buttermilk (or, 1 T. white vinegar + enough milk to fill an 8 oz measuring cup, which is what I did)
  • 2 soft pears, skinned and grated (roughly 1 – 1 1/2 c. altogether)

In another bowl, smaller is okay, combine the following:

  • 1 1/2 c. white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. hazelnut flour*
  • 3/4 c. rolled oats
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 3/4 t. baking soda
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. freshly crushed cardamom (from about 8 dried pods**)
  • 1/2 t. freshly grated nutmeg

Add the dry to the wet, and stir until everything is combined, but don’t over-mix! Now, spoon the batter into the liners until they’re almost full (this batter doesn’t rise enormously and the ones pictured aren’t quite as full as they could have been) and put them into your hot over. Immediately drop the heat to 375°F and set a 20 minute timer.

photo 2

Check for doneness with a bamboo skewer, toothpick, cake tester or whatever. If it comes out clean, you’re good. If not, put ’em back in for 3-5 minutes and test again. Mine took 23 minutes.

Let them cool for ten minutes in the pan before you take them out. Use the time to bring the oven back up to the higher temp for the remaining muffins. I like to put about 1/2″ of water in the empty muffin spaces to keep the heat consistent during baking.

photo 3

*like my dough whisk, my hazelnut flour is from King Arthur Flour, but you can find it around, or do like sk does and use crushed hazelnuts.
**I get the dried pods from a local Indian grocery in 1/2 lb. bags. Crack them open like a soft pistachio and remove the black seeds to crush them.

Spiced Peach Jam Experiment

spiced peach jam recipe, honey peach jam recipe, canning peach jam, homemade jam recipe, homemade holiday gift ideaI’ve been making lots of jam this week, and I ended up with some extra ingredients… time for a kitchen experiment. I’ve been dreaming of cardamom lately, which inspired the spiced peach jam concoction below. It was spicy and bright and delicious on toast, so of course I’m sharing the how-to:


Spiced Peach Jam
Yield: about 5 4oz. jelly jars

1 quart diced fruit*
2.5 c. sugar
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. sparkling wine
6 cardamom pods, split, seeded, seeds crushed fine

Before you start, wash your jars, bands, and lids. I sterilize them by setting them on a rack in a 300 degree oven until I need them. Soak the lids in a small pan of gently simmering water until ready to use. Bring your canning pot to a boil.

Toss everything into a big, wide pot, and cook it over medium low heat, stirring frequently and smooshing the fruit. It will come to a gentle boil. Lower the heat and continue to cook until the texture is thick and jammy, continuing to stir to avoid scorching.

Transfer hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Wipe the rims with a damp paper towel. Set down lids and screw on the bands. Process the jars in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. They should seal shortly after being removed from the canner with an adorable little pop (or have already sealed up in the canner), but you might have to wait a while for a full seal.**

Alternately, you can freeze the jam in clean, sterilized jars with freezer safe lids, or store the jam in the fridge.

*I used nearly 7/8th peaches, then a hunk of mango I had left over, and 1 Macintosh apple.

**I am not a certified preserving anything, this is just my method.