Tara’s Everyday Yellow Dal


I start making dinner around 5. The cupboards are bare, the fridge even more so but there’s enough. It becomes a game to me. I’ll pretend I’m on a game show where the contestants are presented with a bare fridge and told to cook. With a bit of time and ingenuity I wow the judges with a restaurant worthy dish prepared with few ingredients and a bit of pluck. I’m not on tv, I’m in my own kitchen and dinner must be made.

Digging deep into the pantry I brush pass the jars of rice and beans and the crumbled mess of random plastic bags holding odd bits of nuts and dried fruit. I reach for the cracked yellow lentils, a purchase I made months ago at an indian market. Tonight I’ll make dal. I don’t have all of the very few ingredients listed on the recipe but I make do substituting parsley for cilantro and red onion for yellow. I ignore the instruction to use ghee and grab butter instead.

While the yellow beans dance in the simmering water I busy myself elsewhere discarding the contents of several tupperware containers clearing out even more space in the desolate fridge. A turkey caracas becomes stock which I’ll later accidentally leave out overnight having been too resolute in finishing Stranger Things and subsequently too fearful to wander into the dark kitchen alone.

I slowly sip on a glass of wine while pressing and pulling soft balls of dough into flat rounds. They puff and expand on the griddle and soak in the buttery bath I lavish on them. The red onions temper and melt in the not-ghee with cumin seeds and a dried chile while I rewarm Saturday’s rice that I plucked from the fridge like buried treasure.

The food sits idly on the table while I wait not-so-patiently for the dinner time routine to commence. Hands must be washed and the table set. We all finally sit down and find plates in front of us but no utensils or water glasses. I scoff under my breath and wonder how many times have we done this and why is it still never done correctly? When will they learn and when did I become that mom who cares so deeply about missing water glasses.

Dinner has interrupted the kids playtime outside with the neighbors. They come inside still behaving as if they are outside with raised voices, thunderous applause and raucous cheering. I miss the quiet of the stove, the rhythmic stirring and the company of my wine glass. But we’re here now, at the table and the hour I’ve just spent in the kitchen culminates to this moment; the five of us around the table.


The kids happily eat the food and give me sweet praises for this simple meal. It helps that there is homemade bread to hug the dal and to motivate a second helping. They are kind but they are antsy and our conversation never moves beyond Gabe and I continually barking orders. “Sit down. Ask nicely for what you need. Legs off the table. Quick!! Go get something to clean that up! Yes, you may be excused.”

After many reminders the kids clear the table then scurry off to resume what they were doing before dinner interrupted them.

“Well that was completely unsatisfying.” I say to Gabe as we work together to clean the kitchen. I’m feeling completely dejected. It’s not just that I’m frustrated with the kids and their behavior but also with myself. That I wasn’t able to turn dinner into something more than a lesson in table manners. My slumped shoulders, rolling eyes and constant demands hung heavy on the table.

I want the table to be a place of refuge for all of us. A place we look forward to meeting. Where plates of warm food fuel us and the conversation and connection feeds us. I dream of gathering at the table when our three are adults, we’ll gather less often but the familiarity of the place makes us feel immediately comfortable and we fall into the same rhythm. I don’t want the table to be a place where they have to feel like they have to behave perfectly or act a certain way in order for mom to be pleased.


We come to the table broken, empty, imperfect, human and we are met there with grace, love and sustenance. The table is the place we revive ourselves so that we can exist in a world away from the table. It’s our fueling station, an anchor in a world that makes us feel like a boat ripped and pulled in towering waves. We crash and slam against the shore, our wood splinters, we’re thrown about but the table is the calm. At least that’s what I want it to be.

Of course at some point they must learn that legs aren’t meant to be on the table and conversations about certain body parts and actions those body parts are capable of should be saved for another time but I am determined to fight harder for connection over compliance and not let their imperfect actions keep us away from the table.

The table is worth fighting for. What happens there won’t ever be perfect as those of us who sit around it aren’t but it can be beautiful and powerful. As I get older I realize that life isn’t about a few momentous occasions such as weddings, the birth of our children or work successes but rather it’s the repeated small things that become traditions and rituals. Those are what we remember and strive to recreate when we’re needing an anchor to steady us. Those rituals become our comfort. The rest is ceremony.


Tara's Everyday Yellow Dal

Serves 4 to 6

We’ve since made this dish many many times in our house. It’s one of those rare recipes that everyone in the family applauds, it easy to throw together and even easier on the wallet – and this time of year that is such a bonus.

This recipe comes directly from my friend, Tara, and her stunning book, Seven Spoons. I’ve kept the recipe in her words because she writes so beautifully. Her entire book is a stunner – add it to your wish list if you don’t already have it.

As I mentioned in the post I made a few tweaks here and there based on what was available in my pantry (I used butter, red onion, and parsley) so you can trust that this recipe will serve you well even if it’s not followed perfectly.

For the dal:

1 cup (225 g) moong dal (split yellow lentils)

3 cups (710 ml) water

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Medium-grain kosher salt

For the tarka:

2 tablespoons ghee or unsalted butter

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 small onion, minced

1 or 2 fresh or dried whole red chiles

Leaves picked from a small bunch of cilantro

Fresh lime wedges

To make the dal, in a medium heavy saucepan, cover the dal with water. Swish the lentils around with your hand, then drain the water through a fine-mesh sieve. Return any dal from the sieve to the saucepan and repeat, washing, agitating, and draining, until the water runs absolutely clear. It will probably take 7 to 10 changes of water. Pour the 3 cups (710 ml) of water into the pot to cover the lentils. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, skim any scum that rises to the surface, then lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Add the turmeric and cook until the dal is quite creamy, 45 to 60 minutes. Stir the dal regularly as it simmers or it can catch at the bottom of the pan and burn. If the dal starts to look dry before the lentils are cooked, add hot water (from the tap is fine). Season well with salt.

About 20 minutes before the dal is done, make the tarka. Melt the ghee over low heat. Fry the cumin seeds for maybe 1 minute, until sizzling and fragrant. Add the onion and chile and cook, stirring, until the onion is very soft and translucent, 15 minutes. When the dal is ready, tip the tarka over the dal, stir to partially combine, then sprinkle the cilantro on top. Serve right away with lime wedges and naan or over rice.

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Holiday Gift Guide

Our first ever NWS Holiday Gift Guide is happening!!

For well over a month now I’ve had a Google Doc open clicking over to it frantically as I’ve thought of the things in my life that make my toes tickle and my stomach flutter. The items on this list are things Gabe and I use, love and bring a little bit of shiny joy to our days.

I love love love giving gifts (I’m also a big fan of getting gifts). So much so that I will put off my holiday shopping because I’m always sad when the last gift has been purchased. Also, I’m terrible at keeping the gifts a surprise. Just ask Gabe. One year I bought his present on Christmas Eve and I couldn’t wait the twelve hours to give it to him on Christmas morning so I made him open it the moment I got home from the store. Speaking of Gabe, he is the best gift giver and so I am thrilled to have his input on this list. Seriously somehow he manages to give gifts that are perfect. So perfect you didn’t even realize you needed that gift and then you have it and life is a little better.

I feel like we covered a lot of ground with this list. Obviously there are a lot of food-centric gifts because if you hang out much around here then I’m guessing you like food. But we’ve also listed some of our favorites for the coffee lover, we have some seriously talented artists and good old fashioned baseball caps – that one is all Gabe but he sure does look adorable in his hat. We hope that these gifts bring some people in your life (or you) some of that sweet, simple joy.

Coffee Aficionado

NWS Gift Guide

1. Driftaway Coffee I’m a big fan of subscriptions for gifts. I mean how fun is it to get a gift that keeps on showing up at your house?! This coffee subscription starts with a tasting kit so that the following shipments are best suited to your taste. It is completely customizable and the coffee is great.

2. Coffee and Vinyl Pairings from Turntable Kitchen. Last year for Valentine’s day I gifted Gabe with a subscription to this service. I had intended on it being a three month gift but every month I love watching him brew a cup of coffee with local Slate beans then sit in his favorite chair while he listens to his vinyl record. It’s been almost a year and I have no intention of canceling anytime soon. Matt Hickey, the music half of Turntable Kitchens, carefully selects the music pairing each month and we’ve never been disappointed.

3. Aeropress Coffee Brewer $30 (Gabe’s pick) A space age coffee brewer for under $30? Yes, please. Usually when I’m traveling, I toss the aeropress in my bag. Easy to brew in a hotel or at the campsite. For a clean cup of coffee with minimal effort and cleanup, grab an aeropress.

4. Stanley Classic One Hand Vacuum Mug $20 (Gabe’s Pick) When I stop to think about the items in my house that I use on a daily basis my Stanley mug comes to mind. A few years back I inherited the classic large green thermos from my Grandfather that is great when out fishing all day or on road trips when sharing an entire pot of coffee. This individual thermos gives nod to the past but makes enjoying hot coffee possible for hours into my day. I toss it in the car and while little dented and scratched, my coffee never spills and rarely lasts long enough to get cold. I use the 16oz in green. Also available in Red and Navy!

5. Heath Ceramics – Stack mug $30 (Gabe’s Pick) Give your hands and lips something to look forward to in the morning besides your hot wife. These mugs have been making dining tables look good since the 1960’s and their quality ceramic keeps your coffee (or tea) warm. Hard to believe a mug this beautiful is microwave and dishwasher safe.


Passionate Cook

NWS Gift Guide

6. Nudo Adopt Give the gift of an olive tree! Seriously. Through Nudo adopt you can gift a friend an olive tree adoption. Your friend can choose the grove (there’s tasting notes with each area for easy selecting) where their tree lives then Nudo will send olive oil from that tree.

7. Portland Apron Company I bought one of these aprons at a pop-up shop that my friend’s host every year and this year I bought another. I wear it nearly everyday except when it’s in the wash – which is why I needed to buy another.

8. Earlywood – The flat spatula. I reach for these flat spatulas all the time. They are perfect for cooking and for serving.

9. Cast Iron Skillet This pan never leaves my stove. Once properly seasoned it can be used to fry eggs. It’s my chicken roaster, my frittata pan, my casserole dish, where I sear my steaks and at times it’s my cake pan. I even take it camping with me. Bonus: It’s only $15!

10. Marge Granola A morning favorite for every member of our family!

11. Opinel Pocket knife – No. 6 or 8 carbon blade $12 – $15 (Gabe’s Pick) Who doesn’t love a knife that can handle the campsite as well as the MoMa? This French beauty can’t wait to carve up your next picnic but will look good on your nightstand as well. The Opinel No8 (larger) or No6 (smaller) with a carbon blade would be my recommendation. They make a stainless blade that won’t rust, but I love the patina you can get on a carbon blade and they are sharp! (Grab one with an olive wood handle if you can find it.) And when your kids have enough fine motor skills to start writing their letters they can start whittling sticks. Opinel makes a great first pocket knife for kids with a rounded tip and easy-to-hold size.

12. Pure Maple Syrup Aged in Pappy Van Winkle Whiskey $38 (Gabe’s Pick) Pappy’s, for breakfast!?! For anyone who likes Bourbon and Syrup this is a no-brainer. So many possibilities with this stuff.



NWS Gift Guide

Outside of the Kitchen

NWS Gift Guide


19. Le Labo Perfume Tubereuse 40 perfume. I had been on the hunt for the perfect perfume for several years. I’ve dragged Gabe into countless stores with me forcing him to smell my wrist until the cloud of dozens of intermingled scents drove us out. Then one day a package arrives from Le Labo. Now this is my perfume. It’s not overwhelming, floral but not so much so, light yet memorable. It’s my favorite thing to wear everyday. Yes, it’s a bit pricey but I’ve had mine for several months now and I’ve barely made a dent in the bottle.

20. 52 Lists for Happiness Book I love these lists for their soft reminders to focus on the good. It’s a great gift to give to anyone in your life. We all could use more happy.

21. Ebbets Field Flannel Baseball Cap $45 (Gabe’s Pick) This is not your grandpa’s hat… oh wait, it is (or was)!! I love baseball. But these guys take their love to a different level. They hand make replica baseball hats (and gear) of teams from the past. I encourage you to read some of the stories of the Chorizeros (yes, that’s “Sausage Makers” in Spanish). A Mexican-American minor league baseball team from Los Angeles in the 1950’s. Or the Seattle Rainiers which played in the Pacific Coast League in the first half of the 1900’s. I know I sound like an old man, but these hats are legit, and packed with stories. Also a great way to hear stories and make conversation with the old-timers.

22. Noonday Jewelry When you give a gift from Noonday it’s not just a beautiful accessory it’s also helping to provide for artisans all around the world. Multitasking is just about my favorite thing ever, in gift giving too. Dual purpose giving. Love it.

23. Autographed print by Seattle area creative Invisible Creature $30 (Gabe’s Pick) Good art can be affordable. I love this print by local creatives at Invisible Creature (Don & Ryan Clark). I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with Don on a few projects and their work is inspiring to say the least. They’ve also designed toys (collectible action figures if you’re an adult male) and some rad wooden blocks. Our kids are older now, but I still keep our Stack & Scare wooden blocks at my office to entertain any little ones that stop by to say hello.

24. Blackbird Hekkes Incense Over the last year I’ve become a big fan of incense. Filling the house with a soft perfume helps me relax. It’s often one of the first things I do when the kids head off the school – the time when I most need to relax. This one is a favorite. Not to overwhelming and lasts a long time.

25. Oxford Pennant $25 (Gabe’s Pick) “It’s not a Pennant, it’s an Oxford!” If you know anyone who appreciates the spirit of American Sports Tradition (or just needs a kick in the tuckus), an Oxford Pennant is a great gift. They have a variety of cities, slogans, and sayings. Something for anyone.



NWS Gift Guide


Gifts that Truly Give


30. A Goat Yes, you read that right. And no, I’m not losing my mind. A dear friend of mine recently had the chance to visit Sri Lanka with World Concern. She saw first hand how a gift of a goat literally changed the life of an entire village in a short time. If you’re like me you’ve questioned the validity and usefulness of giving livestock from those catalogues that flood mailboxes this time of year. But after hearing my friend’s story and seeing her images from her trip. I’m sold and am so excited to, as a family, give a goat.

31. First Aid Arts If you’ve visited our shop you know that we’re huge fans of First Aid Arts. A portion of every purchase goes directly to them in support of their mission of using the arts to help victims of trauma. I deeply respect my dear friends and their organization and am so thankful for their heart in this mission. You can support them through our shop, their shop or simply by making a donation on their site.

Some of these are affiliate links but all are products we know and love.

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