Complete, All-in-One Tomato Dal Mix in a Jar Gift – Just Add Water & Butter

An all-in-one-jar dal mix for gift-giving, with tomatoes and aromatics included – easy for the giver to prepare using packaged ingredients and spices, and simple for the recipient to make, as only simmering is necessary.

Complete All-in-One Tomato Dal Mix in a Jar Gift Tags

One Christmas in the 1980s, a well-meaning neighbor gave my mom a jarred dry bean soup mix. It sat in our pantry for years and never got made, because it called for additional ingredients we didn’t keep on hand.

Having seen lots of variations on holiday soup mixes over the years, and knowing that Indian recipes are enjoyed by but not a competency for most Americans, a dal mix occurred to me many years ago, but there was always The Tomato Problem and The Sautéing Aromatics Problem. I didn’t want to give a gift that’d clutter up the pantry because it needed another purchase or too many steps.

A decade ago, I ran across dehydrated tomato powder for the first time and thought ooh, I could make a tomato dal mix with that.

Within the last couple years, I ran across ready-toasted minced onion and roasted garlic powder and thought there’s the sautéing aromatics problem solved.

This is flavored with a dried tomato and aromatics blend that calls on freeze-dried ingredients, plus a masala of toasted and untoasted spices. It eschews tempering because of its unfamiliarity to many Americans. I made this for my neighbors, so it’s composed with Standard American Diet folks in mind; its spice blend is sweetly fragrant, with a light touch of green chiles.

Using the prepared mix only requires simmering the dal with water and butter, then adding the seasoning packet toward the end. Even the butter could be skipped, if needed.

So this recipe has been percolating since 1984, give or take, and I think it was worth the wait.

There are directions below to prepare one jar of mix or a dozen.

Complete Tomato Dal Mix in a Jar

  • Servings: 6 per jar
  • Difficulty: easy
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An all-in-one-jar dal mix for gift-giving, with tomatoes and aromatics included - easy for the giver to prepare using packaged ingredients and spices, and simple for the recipient to make, as only simmering is necessary.

Credit: She Spills the Beans
measuring spoons
measuring cups
small skillet
wooden spoon or spatula
small heatproof bowl
large bowl
spice grinder
kitchen scale (optional)
small wax paper cookie bags or plastic treat bags
adhesive tape
pint (16 oz) canning jars
jar funnel
printer paper
hole punch


For one jar:

Spice Masala:
1/2 t ground coriander
1/4 t ground cumin
1/2 t anise seed
3/4 t black peppercorns
1/8 t turmeric
1/2 t roasted garlic powder
1/4 t ground cardamom
1/8 t cinnamon
1/8 t ground cloves

Seasoning Mix:
10 t (29 g) tomato powder
1 t (1 g) freeze-dried green chiles
1 1/2 t freeze-dried ginger*
1 T (6.4 g) dried minced white onion
2 t (4.3 g) dried minced toasted onion
1 T (1.75 g) freeze-dried cilantro
1 3/4 t (10 g) table salt
1 T (14.5g) granulated sugar

To finish:
1/3 c (15 g) air-dried tomato flakes

3/4 c (170 g) split yellow moong dal

For 12 jars:

Spice Masala:
2 T (12 g) ground coriander
1 T (6 g) ground cumin
2 T (15 g) anise seeds
3 T (33 g) peppercorns
1.5 t (6 g) turmeric
2 T (21 g) roasted garlic powder
1 T (9 g) ground cardamom
1.5 t (3 g) cinnamon
1.5 t (3 g) ground cloves

Seasoning Mix:
2.5 c (343 g) tomato powder
3/4 c (21 g) freeze-dried cilantro
1/4 c (12 g) freeze-green chiles
6 T (2 g) freeze-dried ginger*
3/4 c (77 g) dried minced white onion
1/2 c (52 g) dried minced toasted onion
7 T (120 g) table salt
3/4 c (174 g) granulated sugar

To finish:
4 c (180 g) air-dried tomato flakes

9 c (2.04 kg) split yellow moong dal


  1. In a small skillet over low heat, toast the coriander and cumin, stirring, until fragrant. Turn them into a small heatproof bowl.
  2. In a spice grinder, buzz the anise seed and peppercorns until finely ground. Add them to the small bowl.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients of the spice masala – the turmeric, roasted garlic powder, ground cardamom, cinnamon, and ground cloves – to the small bowl. Mix thoroughly. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the seasoning mix ingredients – the tomato powder, freeze-dried green chiles, freeze-dried ginger, dried minced white onion, dried minced toasted onion, freeze-dried cilantro, table salt, and granulated sugar. Mix thoroughly but gently, as the tomato powder is fine and becomes airborne easily.
  5. For each jar being prepared, combine in a bag:
  6. – a slightly rounded tablespoon (1 T 1/8 t or 7 g) of the spice masala
    – a scant 1/2 c (66 g) of the seasoning mix
    – 1/3 c (15 g) air-dried tomato flakes
    Settle the ingredients into the bag, fold the top down, and tape or tie closed.
  7. Place each sealed bag into a pint canning jar. Using the jar funnel, add 3/4 c (170 g) of split yellow moong dal to each jar.
  8. Place the lid and ring on each jar and screw down the rings.
  9. Print as many copies of the instructions as jars being prepared. Using the hole punch, punch a hole in a corner of the instruction sheet. With the string, tie the instructions to the jar.
  10. Tomato Dal Mix Instructions: Open jar and set seasoning packet aside. Pour dal into sieve and rinse under running water. Drain. Place dal in medium saucepan. Add 6 c water and 3 T butter. Simmer over low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the dal disintegrates. Add contents of seasoning packet and simmer another 10 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender. Enjoy over rice, with papadums, or with your favorite flatbread. Makes six servings.

    *I used Penzeys freeze-dried ginger; if using Litehouse, which is cut in larger pieces, and measuring by volume, press it into the measure.

Soup Technique

I made a recipe I haven’t used in years last night and was reminded of a good broth technique for vegetarian soups.

When I was about 20, I received Yamuna Devi’s book Lord Krishna’s Cuisine. It was my go-to cookbook for years, as I made my way through it, learning what urad badis were and how to combine spices and make homemade milk fudge. My copy reflects all of that. It’s yellowed and turmeric-stained and a little wavy on some pages from wet fingers repeatedly turning from the first page of a recipe to the second.

Many of the recipes have copious notes from my first attempts in the margins. I made this on January 10, 1996. I’ve written around the illustration of the spine being sliced off a cabbage leaf that there was a huge snowstorm the night before – about 2 feet of snow was on my car that morning.

This is a fine winter-ingredients soup – cabbage, carrots, nothing unusual there. However, what sets it apart is its approach to creating the broth.

Broth can be an issue in vegetarian soups, and that’s where this recipe shines. Chicken or beef stock is a quick way to create flavor in non-veg soups. For herbivores, there’s always the option of vegetable bouillon – I love this stuff from Organic Gourmet, as the paste form feels more flexible to me – and somehow more foodlike – than a pre-measured bouillon cube. The problem with always relying on bouillon is that all your soups tend to come out tasting the same.

In this recipe, split lentils and coriander seeds are covered with boiling water and allowed to steep for an hour, then ground until smooth in a food processor. Aromatics are added later in the process. This creates a smooth, creamy-textured, lightly spiced broth without the soup becoming overtly a lentil soup. It’s wonderfully delicate and flavorful.

The dal called for by the recipe is toovar dal, also spelled as tuvar dal or toor dal. They’re yellow split peas, basically. Devi suggests substituting moong dal for variety; I used the moong dal pictured above.

Continue reading “Soup Technique”

Mexican-Inspired Squash

When you like something that’s healthy more than the person you’re in a relationship does, there have to be accommodations made.  That’s what this recipe is about.

I love squash.  I loved it when I was a baby.  My mother made my baby food from scratch, since those were the days when baby food still had sugar and salt in it, and some of the yellow vegetables – sweet potatoes and squash especially – were both easy to prepare using a food mill and easy to get me to eat.  My mom would cook batches of vegetables, freeze the prepared food in ice cube trays, and at mealtimes, take out a divided baby dish and put a couple cubes of applesauce in one cavity, a couple cubes of squash or sweet potatoes in another, cereal in the third, then heat it in the oven.

One time when she took me to the pediatrician, he remarked on my skin color.  My mother hadn’t noticed, but the doctor said that I had a bit of a yellow tinge.  They eventually deduced that it was my phenomenally healthy diet that was the culprit.  My mom says she doesn’t remember the doctor telling her to cut back on the yellow-orange stuff, but that not long after that I got to the stage where I could eat more solid foods, and with the introduction of more green vegetables, my yellow color disappeared.

My beloved has never been in any danger of turning himself yellow, but he’ll tolerate some squash as long as there are other things on the menu.  He loves spicy food, so that’s the accommodation.  We had this with black beans seasoned with plenty of lime juice, garlic and cilantro over tortilla chips with a little cheese.  This is scandalously easy if you bake the squash in advance, and baking the squash in advance is also scandalously easy.

1 medium butternut squash

1 t. canola oil for the squash

1 T. canola oil for the pan

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 chipotle chili en adobo, minced

3/4 c. cilantro, minced

1 T. hot sauce (Whole Foods private label)

Juice of half a lime

2 T. orange juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Wash the exterior of the squash and then split it lengthwise.  If you wish to remove the seeds in order to bake them to use as a snack or plant them, remove them.  If not, they can be left in, as they become quite easy to remove once the squash is baked.  Rub a little oil on both faces of the squash, and lay it flat side down on a baking sheet.  Place the sheet in the oven and bake until the squash is browned and tender when pierced with a fork, about one hour depending on size.

When the squash is cooked, remove the seeds if you have not previously done so.  Turn the squash on its flat side and remove the skin.  Cut it lengthwise into strips, then crosswise into rough cubes.  It will disintegrate on cooking, so don’t worry too much about the uniformity of your cubes.

Heat the canola oil in a deep, wide pot over medium-high until it is hot but not smoking.  Toss in the garlic, chipotle chili, and cilantro, and sizzle until the garlic is fragrant but not browned.  This should take less than a minute.  Add the cubes of squash and stir, turning, until the squash and seasonings are well-mixed.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until heated through if the squash was previously baked and refrigerated.  When it is hot through, add the hot sauce, lime juice, and orange juice.  Stir to combine.  Serve hot.  Makes about 8 servings – depending on who you’re eating with and how much they like squash.

Black Bean & Citrus Salad

I didn’t try very hard on the food styling on this one – not feeling so good this weekend, so I just made my plate and took a snapshot of it.  This is a favorite entrée salad.  Tortilla chips are nice underneath it or crumbled on top, but not necessary.

For the beans:

2 1/2 c. dry black beans, sorted, washed, and soaked for at least eight hours/overnight, or quick soaked
canola oil to sauté in
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle chili en adobo, minced
1 t. cumin

1/2 c. minced cilantro
juice of 1 lime
hot sauce to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Heat canola oil in large pot or pressure cooker; sauté onion until well-wilted and slightly translucent.  Add garlic, chipole chili, and cumin, and sauté briefly.  Drain soaked beans and rinse, then add to the pot.  Add water to cover plus 1 inch; if pressure-cooking, fit lid, bring to pressure, and cook for 20 minutes, releasing pressure by running cooker under cold water.  If using a regular pot, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 1 hour or until tender.

In either method, drain beans, reserving cooking liquid, and add cilantro, lime juice, hot sauce, and salt and pepper to taste.  Add back about 1 c. of liquid – enough to prevent the beans from drying out excessively, but not so much as to make them excessively sloppy.

For the dressing:

1/4 c. canola oil
1/3 c. orange juice
1 T. WFM private label hot sauce
1 T. minced cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together vigorously until emulsified.

Remaining ingredients

3 oranges, cut into sections
2 grapefruits, cut into sections
5 oz. package fresh spinach
1 c. grated cheese (I use a sharp cheddar because that’s what I always have around, but jack or feta would work well too)
2 avocados, cut into wedges and peeled

Combine citrus sections in a bowl.

Plate salad by placing greens, then beans, cheese, avocado, and citrus sections on plate.  Drizzle with dressing.  Toss at table rather than beforehand – it gets ugly once tossed, but it’s still delicious.  Makes 4 entrée-sized servings.