Lentil Salad, Strawberry Cake, Books for Tweens

Good morning! I completely forgot to pick up anything Passover related in my last supermarket shop, so last night was like all other nights in my house, sadly. (Haha.) We did have a Zoom call with my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews for a pre-Seder check-in, but we signed off before my brother-in-law cracked the Haggadah. To all those celebrating, Gut Yontiff! (And I’m sorry about the leavened cake below!) To everyone else, here are a few simple recipes to anchor your day…

Pantry: Easiest Lentil Salad

The salad is so comforting to me and simple enough to make for lunch. (Longtime readers will recognize it as Rosa’s Lentil Salad.) Turn it into healthy dinner by stretching with spicy greens (or whatever leaf you’ve got), shredded chicken, and a little more dressing.

Enough water or broth (any kind) to cover lentils
8 ounces brown lentils (you can also use beluga)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped bell peppers (any combo: red, green, orange)
2-3 scallions, white and light green parts only, minced
leaves from 3 springs fresh thyme or any herb (optional)
Your favorite vinaigrette* (see note)

Bring salted water or broth (or any combination of the two) to a boil. Add lentils and cook until cooked through but still holding their shape. (I start tasting and testing for doneness after about 12 minutes.) Drain and toss with peppers, scallions, thyme, and a generous drizzle of vinaigrette.

*My favorite vinaigrette In a jar, shake the following together until emulsified: 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 1/2 teaspoon honey, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, 1/3 cup olive oil

Project: Strawberry Cake

This is another Smitten Kitchen favorite (she really is the best), which we found by way of Cup of Jo. Perfect for your first batch of sweet spring strawberries. (Or maybe your second batch; you should eat your first batch one by luscious one, with your fingers, standing up in the kitchen.) Phoebe made one last week and it disappeared so fast I lost my chance to photograph the finished version.

Purpose: Pleasure Reading for Tweens

As promised! Phoebe scanned her shelves for books she loved as a tween (longtime blog readers might recognize a few) and here’s what she came up with for those of you with kids who might be craving something in between TikTok and required reading:

Bone by Jeff Smith (graphic fantasy series) The story of Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone (rejects of Bone-ville) who find themselves caught up in a quest to save the valley (and their friends). Addictive as lays potato chips. Every book gets progressively darker. I still reread these. 

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (iconic sci-fi series) In Earth’s future, children are recruited and trained to fight a space war against alien forces (“buggers”). Ender is quickly identified as the best of them all. Hugo and Nebula award winner. An addictive series that raises questions about power and humanity. 

Mosquitoland by David Arnold (YA novel) A girl’s quest (via Greyhound bus) to reconnect with her sick, estranged mother. She meets some interesting people along the way. Funny, sad, lovable.

Wonder by RJ Palacio (YA novel) August had been homeschooled his entire life because of a shocking facial deformity when his family decides it’s time to enroll him in middle school. The narration alternates between classmates, family members, and himself. This book taught me the importance of being “kinder than necessary.” It’s so huge now that it’s being taught in most schools, which is a great thing.

Amelia Rules by Jimmy Gownley (comic-style graphic novel series) After her parents’ divorce, Amelia moves to a new town, attends a new school, and makes new friends. Witty, adorable, and deep, here is everything you need to know about growing up.

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang (graphic historical fiction) Two separate books, each account tells the story of both sides of the Chinese boxer rebellion. Neither side is “good” or “bad.” Both books are smart and cool to look at.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (historical fiction) Set in Nazi Germany, a girl learns to read from her foster father, and steals forbidden books. A massive bestseller — heartbreaking and addictive.

Thanks, Phoebe!

Stay safe, stay home.

The goal of the Project, Pantry, Purpose series to keep us sane, distracted, and connected. Please continue to comment below with suggestions for recipes, projects (for kids and adults), good deeds, donation ideas, stories, movies, games, puzzles. Or just tell me how you’re doing, what your daily routine is, and how DALS can help you or people in your community. You can also email me directly at jenny@dinneralovestory.com.

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Thanks Jenny! Happy Pesach to all who celebrate – “why is this night different from all other nights…”!

To add to tween books – and female representation! –

– To all the boys I’ve loved before – the first book is the best one of the three – by Jenny Han
– ANYTHING by Rebecca Stead, who’s my all-time favorite YA author – she’s really a genius – we have 2 (!) new copies of her new book but my favorite is When you reach me
– Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Mom of Boys

Senior boy seconds “To all the Boys” book and he would also say that “How to Keep A Boy From Kissing You” is a fun read as well.


Made your roast chicken (from recent post) last night, with mashed potatoes, green beans, squash, and roasted chickpeas (for the vegetarian teen). This satisfied my 13 year old’s request for “thanksgiving dinner.” It was a delightful celebration for a Wednesday in quarantine:)

Mom of Boys

Senior boy may enjoy Enders Game. Thanks for the suggestion. He recommends Science Fair by Dave Barry for a very, very funny light read. Both kids read it and loved it so much they made us listen to the audio book on a car trip. Every single one of us enjoyed the book. We refer to it frequently in our daily lives.

We’ve had a host of good meals lately. Last night was homemade pasta with bolognese. Tonight it is our cobb-coise salad again. I’ve been making a good bit of Indian-ish food. It is what was served in our home most nights growing up. It is so easy with any vegetable and some rice, you have a meal. And as long as it is spicy, our kids will eat it.

Celebrating 5 weeks of Quarantine in this household tonight.


I love everything about this post. Thank you. I’ve been thinking about lentils, I think Saturday will be a lemony lentil soup. The strawberry cake is on the “maybe” list for Easter brunch, and my tweens need some new books. We checked out Boxer and Saint from the library last summer, but it never got read. I teach middle school, so some of these need to be on my bookshelf at work. Thanks again.

Catherine Hong

I still have not read Boxers and Saints. Tell Phoebe thank you for reminding me! AND last night I made the strawberry torte, 100% inspired by your post. I wouldn’t have thought to buy strawberries otherwise. We ate 3/4 of it before bedtime.


I gave my son the Bone compilation book for his 7th birthday (5 years ago!) based on your recommendation. To this day, he’ll pick it up to read it. He declared it the best gift i ever gave him! i’m hoping he takes it to college 🙂 He is currently reading The Book Thief, but it’s in competition with his gamer life.

That strawberry cake is a winner! Baked your banana bread yesterday and it was delish. It stuck to the bottom of the loaf pan a bit, but since it was just for us, I didn’t care. Next time, I’d put some parchment paper in there.

thanks for all these great ideas!

Rachel Q

Loonnnggg time reader, first time commenter. Just wanted to say how incredibly much I am appreciating these daily posts. I read them every day while I’m eating lunch and they’re full of ideas and joy and inspiration. Thank you for all that you do.