Mushroom Barley Lentil Soup

This soup was inspired by the awesome San Francisco Soup Company’s delectable vegetarian selection. I sampled this soup and just had to try to simmer up a pot in my own kitchen. I did. It was amazing. Like any soup recipe, it is easily customizable to suit your taste or what you’ve got on hand.


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3/4 cup pearl barley
  • 3/4 cup dry brown lentils
  • 1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
  • 2L low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups sliced button mushrooms


1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent.

2. Mix in the celery and carrot; cook for another 5 minutes.

3. Stir in the barley and lentils so they are coated with oil, continue to cook and stir until lightly toasted.

4. Pour in the vegetable broth and season with thyme, parsley, pepper and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil.

5. Add the porcini mushrooms, cover and simmer for 25 minutes over low heat.

6. Add the button mushroom, cover and continue cooking for another 30 minutes. Keep stirring occasionally.

6. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed before serving.


Low sodium. Fresh Ingredients. Clean eating. Delish.


Cooking With Kiddies Recipe Share: Pizza Dough

We made mini pizzas at our first Cooking with Kiddies class last week. It was a success! The kids had a chance to get their hands messy and participate in the meal-making process. Most of all, they enjoyed finally munching on the product of their hard work!

A few of you had asked for me to share my pizza dough recipe, so here it is.

Homemade Pizza Dough

1/4 cup warm water (hot to the touch, but not boiling)
1 tsp sugar
1 pack yeast
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp salt

1. In 1/4 cup warm water, add 1 pack of yeast and 1 tsp sugar. Dissolve. Cover and let sit for 5-10 minutes until it foams.
2. In mixing bowl, mix flour with salt, oregano, basil, parmesan, and garlic powder.
3. Add yeast solution. Knead dough by adding more water until ball forms.
4. Cover dough with moist cloth and let sit for at least an hour.

Makes 4 mini pizzas or one large pizza.

Super-Moist Guilt-Free Avocado Brownies

Super-Moist Guilt-Free Avocado Brownies

Good guacamole makes any party an instant hit, but few people know what else to do with these amazing fruits. Want more from your avocados? Try using them in baking. Avocados make exceptional substitutes for butter and other fats in baking recipes. Their subtle flavor is easily masked with traditional baking ingredients like cocoa powder and vanilla extract. Avocados provide all the moisture and creamy texture of fats, without the unhealthy side effects.

Check out my recipe for these delicious Super-Moist Guilt-Free Avocado Brownies over at Musings of a SAHM.

The Heartbreak of ‘Meatless Mothering’

It’s been months since my last outing sans-stroller, and I am delighted to be perusing a non-laminated, non-sticky menu at a ‘grown-up’ restaurant. I skim through it quickly, looking for the small carrot image that will be printed near the entree I will be eating this evening. There’s one. It looks like I’ll be having mushroom pot pie tonight. Not bad, I think to myself.


Most people are faced with dozens of food choices when they go out, which might make the decision-making process confusing. Not me. Most restaurants sport a menu with no more than two or three carrot-marked entrees. I don’t find the lack of choice frustrating or bothersome at all; but, that’s probably because I know of nothing else. I have been a vegetarian my entire life.

When I tell people I am a vegetarian, they are often surprised, in awe, or just confused. Regardless of the emotion, the response is always amusing. “You don’t eat ANY meat? Then what do you eat?” is one that I hear far too often. I always explain how lucky I am to be born in an Indian household in which the vegetarian options are so numerous, you could have a different vegetarian meal every day of the year.

The challenge exists only when I step out of the house. That has always been the case.


I love being a school prefect. I wear my badge proudly. Sometimes I wear it at the grocery store, too. I’m the youngest prefect in my school, and I am honoured by this fact. It’s Pizza Day today, which means I am going class-to-class handing out pizza.My hair is tied back in a tight ponytail. I fix my skirt, and make sure my shirt is tucked in.

Morning gym class and math olympics have left my mind and body exhausted as well as my stomach grumbling. I finish up my deliveries, and rush back to my third grade homeroom to devour my own lunch. The lunch supervisor hands me a pepperoni slice.

“No. I ordered cheese. I always order cheese.” I speak with conviction, but wary not to be disrespectful.

“Sorry,” she says. “We’re all out.” She picks off the pepperoni with her bare fingers, and hands me the slice.

I eat it. The slice is meatless, but I can still smell the pepperoni. I am distracted all afternoon, and rush out of the building as soon as I hear the bell. My walk home is quiet and slow. As I finally arrive at my doorstep, I start sobbing uncontrollably. My eyes search through the waves of tears for my mother’s eyes. Only she will understand.


As an adult, I am eager to explain the reason behind my vegetarianism. It is not because of cultural or religious reasons, as others often presume based on the colour of my skin. I am not another person to jump on the veggie bandwagon because it is the fad of the month. No, I am a vegetarian for moral reasons. I do not think it is right to eat animals. That’s all there is to it.

I have felt this way as long as I can remember. However, even as an outspoken child, I did not have the courage to speak up about it like I do now. Instead, when my six-year-old brother shoved a chicken nugget in my mouth, I made quite the dramatic scene in McDonald’s. Through the screams and tears, I even managed to send him on a guilt trip with a detailed story about how the nugget was probably the mother of the cute little chicks we were taking care of in our kindergarten class that year.

So when we began to think about my son’s upbringing, the decision to raise him vegetarian was an easy one. For me.

I know I have my work cut out for me. I know the dreaded day will come when he will want to try something from his father’s meat-filled plate. I know I will have to hear other parents question whether vegetarianism is healthy for a child, or why I am imposing my own dietary choices on my child. I know the day will come when I will be the one opening the front door to find my little boy drowning in his own tears, and I will witness my heart shatter in front of my very eyes as I realize that even a mother’s heartfelt prayers and tight embrace will not shield him from this world.

The challenges I will face, the words I will hear, the heartbreak I will experience – will all make me question my decision.

Only for a second.

But then, I will realize that all parents dedicate their lives to teaching their children what they believe are good values and morals. Parents are always telling their children, ‘Don’t lie. Be kind. Respect your elders.’ So if my set of values includes ‘Be kind to animals.’ why shouldn’t I share this with my son?

Like all parents, I will do my part to share my beliefs. I will show him where his food comes from because it is my responsibility to arm him with the power of knowledge. The intent is to give him opportunities to experience healthy and delicious vegetarian meals so he realizes that living a meatless life is not impossible. As he grows older, I hope that he will think critically about his food and understand that even dietary choices are moral decisions, and not simply made for health reasons or reasons of convenience.

When that dreaded day does come and he asks to try a chicken nugget, I know I have no choice but to oblige. In the end, we hope to raise a child who will form his own sense of morals and values that resonate strongly with him. They may match mine, or they may not.

This post originally appeared on MasalaMommas.


Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography / Foter / CC BY

Lotsa Veggies Spaghetti

This one was a hit last night! Spaghetti is usually a popular meal with toddlers, but this version is one that you definitely won’t mind serving. The long list of chopped veggies means there is ample opportunity to get the kids involved in preparing the sauce. Give them a chance to explore the vegetables – how they look, smell, feel, and taste – while chopping them up. Then, toss them all in the sauce and have the kids watch as the appearance and smell changes as they cook. My little guy loved picking out the mushrooms in last night’s dinner and exclaim how he helped mommy chop them up!

Lotsa Veggies Spaghetti

  • 1/3 pkg Spaghetti, prepared as per package instructions (I have been using multigrain pastas these days. They are made from lentil and whole wheat flour so they’re higher in protein and fiber when compared to the regular starchy version! There is a slight difference in texture, but the difference in taste is negligible.)
  • 1/3 cup starch water (don’t throw out the pasta water!)
  • 1 cup Marinara Sauce (Use your favorite recipe, or a bottled/canned one will do too)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 cup button or portobello mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1/2 zucchini, finely chopped,
  • 1/3 cup carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 cup spinach, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup broccoli, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp each of dried basil, oregano, and chili flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan Cheese


  1. Heat skillet with olive oil on medium heat. Then, add chopped garlic and saute for a minute.
  2. Add all chopped vegetables. Cook until vegetables are soft. It won’t take more than a few minutes because they are finely chopped.
  3. Add in salt, pepper, and spices.
  4. Add in marinara sauce, sour cream, and water.
  5. Simmer sauce to let the flavors of the vegetable medley marry with the sour cream and marinara sauce.
  6. Add in cooked spaghetti, and top with Parmesan. Serve with a fresh salad for a healthy and delicious meal.

Want more tips on how to involve your kids in the kitchen? Check out my Bay Area Parent article: 10 Reasons Why Your Children Should Spend More Time in the Kitchen


Lotsa Veggies!

Lotsa Veggies!

Plated Spaghetti and Salad

Lotsa Veggies Spaghetti served with a mixed green salad. Strawberries, walnuts, chopped dates, mixed greens, tossed in a light balsamic vinagrette.

Apple Cinnamon Bread Pudding


This is the perfect breakfast food – wait, no – this is the perfect anytime food. I challenge you to limit yourself to just one spoonful of this deliciously creamy-on-the-inside, crispy-and-chewy-on-the-outside, dish. My little guy devours this delicious bread pudding in minutes, and I have absolutely no problem with that. After all, it does have all four food groups in one 8″ pan. You can always adjust the sweetness to your dietary needs and preferences.


  • 6 thick slices french bread, day old works best (cut into 1″ cubes)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup raisins or chopped dates
  • 1 apple, peeled and thinly chopped
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Spread bread cubes in 8 inch square baking pan. Drizzle melted butter, and sprinkle dates or raisins over top.
3. In a bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Mix well, and pour over bread. Lightly push down with a fork until bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or toothpick comes out clean.

Note: Want to enjoy this recipe for breakfast, but don’t want to bother with the prep early in the morning? This recipe refrigerates well. Make it the night before, leave it in the pan, and pop it in the oven when you wake up for a warm, delicious breakfast in the morning! 

Mexican Quinoa Salad

I am a huge fan of Mexican food! The flavorful and aromatic medley of beans, vegetables, and spices is a delight to all the senses. I tossed this salad together this morning for lunch; I am pleasantly surprised, and thought I would share!


Mexican Quinoa Salad

1 cup whole grain quinoa
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup greenpepper, chopped
1/4 cup cucumber, chopped
1/4 cup tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 ripe (but firm) avocado, cubed
1/4 cup carrots, thinly sliced
1/4 cup corn kernels
1/2 cup black beans
3 tbsp chunky salsa
1/4 tsp fajita spice
Cilantro, for garnish

1. Rinse quinoa. Add water and salt, and bring to a boil. Let it simmer covered for 7-10 minutes, until quinoa is cooked. Fork through cooked quinoa. Let it cool.

2. Toss together all ingredients (including cooled quinoa) in a large bowl. Serve chilled.