Golden Split Pea and Pumpkin Soup

Autumn is still months away but when I was cleaning out the freezer I realized I still had quite a bit of pumpkin left over from last fall so I figured I would put it to use in an experimental recipe-

I took a basic North Indian Chana Dal recipe and tweaked the spices for a more Autumnal flavor. The caramelized maple scent of the fenugreek seed and bready, savory quality of the nigella compliment the earthy sweetness of the split peas. I use cassia cinnamon in this recipe instead of Ceylon cinnamon as it has a sweeter scent with vanilla undertones (due to it’s coumarin content). The pumpkin marries well with the peas and sweet and savory spices and imparts a rich, golden hue to the soup. This soup goes well with naan, roti or masala paratha.

Peas: Golden Split Pea and Pumpkin Soup

*The Thai chilies give this recipe a little kick- if you don’t like the heat you can skip them. A pinch of stevia extract works nicely in place of the jaggery.

*For a velvety smooth soup take the soup off the heat when the peas are all tender. Remove the cinnamon stick and tej patta and puree the soup (in batches) in a blender until smooth. Reheat and add the amchur and cilantro before serving.

  1. Soak split peas with baking soda in cold water for an hour or so. Drain peas, and rinse in several changes of water.
  2. Melt ghee over medium heat in a pot. Add the fenugreek, nigella, tej patta, cinnamon stick and Thai chilies (if using). When the seeds start to splutter add the onion and sauté a few minutes till onion begins to caramelize. Crush garlic directly into the pan and cook, stirring, until garlic is fragrant and starts to turn golden (do not brown/burn the garlic).
  3. Add the asafetida, chili, garam masala and tumeric powders. Cook, stirring, until the ghee becomes golden hued- about a minute. Add the tomatoes and pumpkin puree and simmer until the sauce thickens- about 5 minutes.
  4. Add peas, a tsp of salt, the sugar and enough water to make a thick soup. Bring to a boil, lower heat and let simmer until the peas are very tender- about 30-40 minutes. If you cook them long enough they will “melt” and develop an almost pureed quality. Add water if it isn’t soupy enough.
  5. Stir in amchur, remove from heat then add cilantro. Serve topped with a dollop of yogurt, green onions, and a dusting of grated nutmeg or extra garam masala.


Sweet and Savory Stewed Kidney Beans

The spice and cocoa blend used in this recipe is based on an authentic Mexican dark red mole recipe I found. The blend of smoky chipotle, sweet cinnamon and savory cumin and herbs compliments the rich, meaty quality of the kidney beans-

Kidney Beans: Sweet and Savory Stewed Kidney Beans

*You can use pre-ground spices instead of whole ones but the flavor won’t be as rich. You should use the thin, papery sticks of cassia cinnamon- the thick bark pieces can destroy a spice grinder. Save the thick pieces of cassia for mulled wine or cider. Thai chilies (or peri peri peppers) will give this dish some heat. If you want something less spice use ancho chilies or cayennes. Also ¼ tsp of stevia powder (or other sugar substitutes) can be used instead of brown sugar.

*I just pureed the raisins with the tomatoes. Other dried fruit like prunes or dates would also work.

*For a non-vegetarian version ground beef (lightly browned) would work well in this recipe. I would add it after the beans have become tender as they take quite awhile to cook. And on that note make sure to simmer/boil the beans for at least half an hour- kidney beans contain phytotoxins that can cause gastric upset (think extreme wind breaking). Thouroughly cooking the beans destroys these toxins. Pre-soaking them with baking soda also helps.


  1. Soak beans at least overnight (24 hours is even better) in cold water with baking soda. Drain beans and rinse in several changes of water
  2. Grind cinnamon, cumin, allspice, oregano, peppercorns, thyme, cloves, nutmeg and Thai chilies (if using) into a fine powder in a spice grinder. Place in a bowl and mix in cocoa and chili powders. Set aside.
  3. Melt butter in the large pot over medium heat. Add onion and bay leaves and sauté until the onion softens and begins to caramelize.
  4. Crush garlic and add that to the pot. Sauté the garlic for 30 sec or until fragrant and beginning to turn golden. Do not brown/burn the garlic.
  5. Add raisins, tomatoes and ground spice mixture to the pot and simmer for 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until gravy is thick.
  6. Add beans, water to cover (and a little extra depending on how soupy you want this dish), a tsp of salt and the sugar.
  7. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer 40-60 min or until the beans are very tender. Mash a cup of the cooked beans into a fine paste and return them to the stew. Continue to simmer, uncovered for about 20 min until stew is very thick. Remove from heat, add salt to taste and then stir in the cilantro.
  8. To serve, spoon over rice, add a dollop of sour cream and mix thoroughly. Garnish with shredded cheese, jalapenos, green onions and a dusting of ground cumin, cinnamon, chipotle and some freshly cracked black pepper.


New additions

We’ve been very busy putting together our new selection of organic dry goods and exotic spices, herbs and teas!

Our Pantry area boasts a variety of hard-to-find flours and grains as well as gluten-free baking mixes, organic dried beans, rolled oats and whole wheat flour. Our shelves are packed with items such as:

  • Organic corn meal, garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour, flax seed, millet flour, sorghum flour, brown rice flour, whole wheat flour, rolled oats, bulgur wheat, red quinoa and amaranth
  • Unsweetened and unsulfered organic shredded coconut and non-alkalized organic cocoa powder
  • Organic dried black beans, Fava (broad) beans, dark red kidney beans, mung beans, navy beans and pinto beans
  • Non-GMO chickpeas and yellow split peas (chana dal)
  • Sun-dried tomatoes, dried porcini and dried portabella mushrooms
  • Arrowroot starch and gluten-free baking mixes
  • Pot pie squares and Israeli-style (pearl) couscous

The fridge is packed with dried fruit and nuts including preservative-free dates, sun-dried Turkish apricots and California walnuts. We store them in the fridge to keep them very fresh.

And we now have a spice and herb library!

We’ve amassed quite a collection of exotic spices and herbs you can’t find nearby, with everything from aniseed to turmeric, whole green cardamom, black cardamom, ceylon cinnamon, fenugreek seed, kasoori methi, Nigella, tej patta and dadag phool (black stoneflower). And our selection will be expanding in the near future.

Most of these are organic and very high quality, very fresh and very fragrant.

We also have a variety of dried herbs and flowers like German chamomile, lemongrass, hibiscus and pink rosebuds which are excellent in tea and powerful enough to be used in potpourri. The rosebuds are great in spice blends like garam masala and ras el hanout to.

And in the freezer we have whole turmeric root, galanga (galangal) root, whole Thai chilies, lemongrass stalks and makrut (kaffir) lime leaves.

We’ve also expanded our selection of gourmet oils and vinegars to include organic canola and sesame oil and Chinese black vinegar. We also have a few international items like coconut milk from Thailand, tahini (sesame) paste, tamarind paste and Chinese cooking wine.

Visit us soon and check out all of our new inventory! We’ll be holding an Open House on August 18–details to follow.

Fresh out of the kiln 5/03/18

My first batch of pottery made with brown stoneware clay have finally been glazed and fired-

For this batch I applied an underglaze of Amaco’s Satin-Matte White and top coated that with their Satin-Matte Clear Glaze. Upon firing the white and clear glazes melded beautifully creating a creamy, grayish-white hue. The underlying khaki color of the brown stoneware clay really gives a wonderful depth to the finish. My favorites from this batch are these vaguely sea sponge-like luminaries which all miraculously survived.

Unfortunately only one of the bivalve-shaped napkin holders survived, and it shrank so much I think it works better as a sponge holder. The pieces I specifically intended to be sponge holders turned out nicely though.

All of the soap dishes survived- and I especially like how the clam shell-shaped ones turned out with the creamy white glaze.

A couple of serving bowls. The lip of these bowls undulates which gives them built in spoon rests.

Some oyster shell shaped spoon rests- the glaze looks perfect on these.

A cluster of miniature flower bud vases.

Some larger vases-

While these may seem purely decorative and very delicate these ceramics are both functional and quite sturdy.

Finally framed

My first batch of winter landscape studies are finally framed and up on the walls-

“Winter Forest Late Afternoon”- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 8″ x 10″. C. 2018-



For this piece I went with a distressed, dark pine frame I made from raw boards. The texture I gouged into the edges of the moulding compliment the expressive brushstrokes and texture in the paint surface.

“Snowbound Forest at Sunset- 1/15/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 13 1/2″ x 10 1/4”. C. 2018

For this painting I went with a walnut frame that I parcel gilt with composition leaf on the front surface. The bright gilt surface of the frame really makes the golden hues pop in this piece.

A clean, elegant walnut frame joined with keys and parcel gilt with composition leaf.

“Winter Forest at Morning- 1/15/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 8″ x 10”. C. 2018


The warm metallic gray of the silver leaf in this frame warms up the highlights in the painting and helps to tone down the blues of the shadow areas.


The rich dark brown of this frame helps to warm up this piece and compliment the purplish gray ground. The texture of the olivewood veneer blends in nicely with painterly tree trunks. This is the only frame in this bunch that I did not make myself.

“Winter Forest in a Snowstorm- 1/15/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board. 14″ x 10 1/4”. C. 2018


“Snowbound Forest- 1/16/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 10″ x 14 3/4”. C. 2018


For this piece I went with a simple, “bump” profile moulding. The grain of the oak plays off the movement of the snow covered trees and winding grape vines. The rich, golden color of the finish cools down up the warm gray hues in the painting.


“Snowy Winter Forest- 1/19/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 7″ x 10”. C. 2018

For the last two paintings I went with a very clean museum profile that was painted black and gilt on the top surface with aluminum leaf. The cool silver tones of the aluminum leaf make the cool whites of the painting seem warm by comparison. The depth of the moulding and the contrast between the flat black of the sides of the frame and the gilt front surface really makes these pieces pop off the wall.


“Snowy Winter Forest- 1/16/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 10″ x 7”. C. 2018

Back in the game

So after a couple months hiatus I managed to have a very productive weekend of sculpting-

Luminaries, vases and napkin holders made from a light brown stoneware clay

In this batch I have made a variety of kitchen implements and vessels with a new stoneware clay that should come out a dark beige color. *If* they survive I’m thinking I’ll coat them with a distressed layer of warm white glaze and over top that with a clear layer which should give the appearance of antique ironstone pottery.

Two spoon rests and a soap dish.

This pieces in this collection, like most of my work, has a very organic look to it. The spoon rests and napkin holders look vaguely like seashells.

The napkin holders remind me of ancient brachiopod fossils.

My favorites from this batch are the luminaries which resemble primitive sea sponges-

A trio of very organic looking luminaries.

I really hope the luminaries survive as they were very time consuming to make. Each little hole in them is a potential starting point for cracks. With any luck these pieces will survive the slow drying process over the next couple weeks and then it will be time to glaze them.


Experimental Forms

I had a few scraps of stoneware clay so I decided to try sculpting out some physical forms of the vague shapes that had been floating around in my mind-

Macaroni vase A potential macaroni vase[/caption]

I had seen a macaroni vase in a recent issue of Better Homes and Gardens and decided I would try to make one using a flat slab of clay instead of a a wheel-since I do not have a throwing wheel. I rolled out some leftover clay, cut an hourglass shape out and rolled it up. Then turned up the openings and molded the lips a little.

Two incense holders and a strange cornucopia shaped dish Two incense holders and a strange cornucopia shaped dish[/caption]

I really hope the vaguely cornucopia shaped dish survives- it brings to mind some of the fossils I’ve found of primitive sea life.

IMG_5303 A slightly different view-

Just in time for Fall

I have a fresh batch of leaf-shaped spoon rests and soap dishes in all the hues of Autumn-

Stoneware Red Oak Leaf Spoon Rest with Autumn Scarlet Finish 01 Alas-only one of the Red Oak leaf shaped dishes survived- but the finish on it is perfect.

Stoneware White Oak Leaf Spoon Rest with Autumn Scarlet Finish 01 I love how the Temmoku underglaze interacted with the Satin Matte Red Glaze.The mottled effect is almost a dead ringer for real fallen oak leaves.

Stoneware Sugar Maple Leaf Spoon Rest with Autumn Gold Finish 01 Most of the Sugar Maple trees in the woods behind my parent’s house turn a pale gold mottled with brown and orange similar to the finish on these dishes.

Leaf shaped ceramic spoon rests in all the hues of Autumn from The Farmhouse Atelier 01 Ceramic leaf shaped dishes in shades of Autumn Scarlet, Gold and Celadon Green mottled with brown.

Ceramic Napkin Holders

Fresh out of the kiln- a batch of very organic-looking napkin holders made from porcelain and stoneware clay:

Stoneware Napkin Holder by MJ Seal with Chartreuse Finish 01 The bright acid-green coloration of the Chartreuse Finish is not exaggerated.

Stoneware Napkin Holder by MJ Seal with Celadon Green Finish 01 The shapes of these napkin holders reminds me of coralline algae. I love how the Celadon Green glaze on this piece turned out.

Napkin Holders by MJ Seal The green and blue coloration of these pieces mesh well with their leafy, coral-like forms.

Botanical Study of Wild Ginger

In this nature study painted from memory a clump of Wild Ginger grows in an old tree stump. Note the small, three-pointed, earthy violet flowers blooming at the base of the plant-

full view of woodland scene 23 an original painting on board by mj seal “Woodland Scene XXIII”- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 11 1/4″ x 13 1/2″. C. 2017