How to Make Instant Pot Mixed Daal (Lentils)

I'm not a phenomenal cook. I honestly never really cooked much until I got married. I would bake cupcakes, cookies, pumpkin bread, and a variety of other desserts, but rarely tried cooking anything other than pastas and small appetizers. Even once we were married, I was in school or at work most of the time, so I would just throw something simple together and we'd be fine. Now that I have more time at home, I've been trying my hand at new recipes and just generally getting comfortable with experimenting in the kitchen. While doing so, I started using tools that allow me to cook more efficiently.

Mixed daal with basmati rice

Instant Pots are the new craze these days. I never understood the hype until my sister gifted me one and it made cooking so much easier. My sister started cooking Pakistani food in her Instant Pot, so I decided to give it a try. The result was amazing! I can be pretty impatient when cooking, so when the daal (lentils) and nihari were done in less than half the time it takes in a regular pot, I was sold. The Instant Pot is so easy to use and it's a pressure cooker, slow cooker, and rice cooker all in one. It saves time and also space. As someone who lives in a small apartment, I enjoy owning the least amount of pots and pans possible.

Instant Pot Mixed Daal Recipe
Instant Pot Mixed Daal Recipe

Most of my recipes for Pakistani food come from my mom. I thought I’d start sharing some of my favorite quick recipes here on the blog to help any other busy moms make delicious Pakistani food in a short amount of time. Please note that I’m not a pro at cooking at all and there are many ways to make the food I'll be sharing. I usually opt for the simpler and quicker methods, so if you like adding more ingredients, feel free to change it up. I’m still learning and have my mom on FaceTime when I cook sometimes (God bless her for being so patient with me), but I hope this helps you get started with cooking delicious food with an Instant Pot if you're a beginner like me!

Scroll down for the mixed daal recipe.

Instant Pot Mixed Daal Recipe
 

Instant Pot Mixed Daal (Lentils) Recipe


Ingredients
1 cup mixed daal
¼ onion (chopped)
1 clove garlic (whole)
½ teaspoon haldi (turmeric powder)
1 teaspoon laal mirch (cayenne powder)
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 tomato (chopped)
1 green chili (chopped)

For the Bagaar (Tempering):
⅓ cup oil
¼ small onion cut in slices
¼ teaspoon zeera (cumin)

Directions
Rinse 1 cup of mixed daal. Let it soak in a bowl of water for 30 minutes. Put the daal, onion, garlic, haldi (turmeric powder), laal mirch (cayenne powder), salt, tomato, and green chili in the Instant Pot along with 3 cups of water. Cover the Instant Pot. Press the Pressure Cook setting and set it to 6 minutes. Make sure to set the vent to the sealed position. Once the daal is done cooking, let it sit to naturally release the pressure or turn the vent to the release position to release the pressure immediately. Stir the daal. If you like your daal to be more soupy and softer, add a bit more water and cook for 3 more minutes. If you are fine with the texture, let the daal sit as is.

For the bagaar (tempering), heat up a small fry pan on the stove. Add ⅓ cup oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion slices, zeera (cumin), and kari patha. Once the onions have a golden color, pour the bagaar in the daal. Cover and let sit for 3 minutes.

Stir and serve with basmati rice.

 

Best Teething Toys for Infants

Like most new moms, I checked the clock 24/7 to make sure Amira was fed at the right time. The moment I saw her put her hand in her mouth, I dropped everything, grabbed my Boppy and nursed her immediately.

Eventually, that routine changed. Amira started putting her hand in mouth and didn't want to nurse. "Wow, is it time already?" I thought. "Yup! She's started the process of teething. She's going to try to put everything in her mouth," my pediatrician surprised me as I wondered how quickly time was flying. "Teething? But she's only 4 months old!" After doing some research and talking to my experienced mom friends and sister, I realized she was definitely teething. She keeps putting her hands in her mouth, along with all of her rattles and toys. She's constantly drooling, tugging at her ear, and has a few moments of fussing for no other reason than teething.

I started to search for teething toys that would help soothe Amira's aching gums. Some were better than others, so I thought I'd share my favorites here on the blog. Hopefully, any moms with teething babies will find this post to be helpful. And remember, every baby is different so test out a few and see what your little one prefers.

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Safety 1st Ellie Elephant Teether by Mombella

This is on the top of the list, because Amira absolutely loves it! I can tell that it really soothes her gums and my favorite part of this teether is that the whole thing is ok for her to nibble on. Some teethers have harder handles and just the top part is soft, but your little one can put any part of this silicone teether in her mouth and it'll do the job. Amira sometimes has the handle in her mouth and sometimes has the textured tip that sticks out from the top. It's adorable seeing her bite on it in all directions with drool everywhere. The handles are also very easy to hold, which was a huge plus since some of the teethers I found were difficult to hold onto.

Baby Banana Infant Training Toothbrush and Teether

One of my dear friends gifted this to Amira and I know it's a popular training toothbrush and teether used by many moms. Amira had a difficult time holding this one early on, but she has a good grasp now. The soft silicone bristles help soothe her gums and the peeling handles are the perfect size for her little fingers to hold. I like that this teether can eventually be used as a training toothbrush when her teeth actually come out. I've put this teether in the freezer as well and Amira seemed to really enjoy the cool sensation when she bit down on it.

MAM Mini Cooler Teether with Clip

I love that this teether comes with a clip. When a teether covered with spit falls on the carpet, you have to rinse or wipe it. The clip keeps you from worrying about the teether falling, which I love! The MAM Teether has water inside of it, which is perfect for putting in the refrigerator to help soothe your little one's gums. I like the shape of this teether, because Amira is able to reach her gums all the way in the back. The ring is the perfect size for her to hold onto and it's lightweight, so it rarely falls.

Chicco Fruity Tooty Teether

This was one of the first teethers I bought and to be honest, I didn't like it at first. Amira had a hard time holding onto it and getting it into her mouth in the beginning. Now that she's 6 months old, she has a better grip, so she's able to hold onto it for a longer period of time as she bites down it. The material is a little harder than the other teethers, but Amira seems to enjoy it. Every baby is different, so your little one might enjoy it sooner than Amira did!

I hope this list helps any of you moms out there looking for suitable teethers for your baby. If you already have teething toys, which ones does your little one enjoy? Let me know in the comments!

 

Best Baby Books for Newborns

I loved books as a child (and still do). I have fond memories of visiting my local library with my mom and getting lost among the books and the little stools that had legs that looked like cute little pencils. I also remember getting excited every time my teacher passed out the colorful Scholastic book catalogs. I loved how those catalogs felt as I turned each colorful page to see which book I would order next. Book fairs at my elementary school would get me pumped. I wanted every book I picked up. The illustrations and stories in these books allowed me to imagine the most amazing places and I remember getting lost in a new world every time I read a book. It sounds cheesy, but it's true!

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Now that I have Amira, I get excited whenever it comes time to reading to her. I have been reading to Amira ever since I was pregnant with her. It always felt funny to read to her before she was even born, but every now and then I just read my own books, magazines, articles, and recipes aloud. When she was finally born, I was eager to open up the books I bought for her. I never realized how much I would love reading to her and how much she would enjoy it. Amira's eyes light up with each illustration and she smiles as soon as I pick up a book and bring it close to her. As I read to her, she listens attentively, waiting for the next page of colorful drawings to come up. It warms my heart every. single. time.

Best Baby Books

So today, I thought I'd share just a few of our favorite books (so far). Whether you're shopping for books for a friend's baby shower or purchasing books for your own little one's first library, I hope this list helps: 

  1. The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
    One of many classic children's books written by Eric Carle, The Tiny Seed was the very first book I ever read to Amira when she was born. She sat in her swing as I read the story, but she mainly wanted to just look at the bright and colorful illustrations. It's a story about a tiny seed that grows to be a huge flower after surviving many adventures through the seasons.
  2. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
    One of my friends shared this book with me and I absolutely love reading it with Amira. I might even love it more than my baby. Every time I read a story from this book, I learn a new fact about an outstanding woman or girl who has achieved something amazing. Each story is short, simple, and easy to read. There's a beautiful illustration of each person along with their story. Amira loves staring at the colorful portraits while I read about the achievements of women through time. Sharing these empowering stories with my daughter makes me so excited to see what she'll achieve one day!
  3. The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
    This one's another classic. I read this to Amira right after I lay her down in the crib to sleep. The moment she sees the cover, she has a huge smile on her face. The rhymes are perfect for funny voices, which babies love, and the colorful illustrations keep them focused on the book. If there's one book I love, it's this one, just because it actually puts my baby to sleep sometimes! 
  4. The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin
    Books shouldn't be entertaining just for the baby. You should love reading them too! The Wonderful Things You Will Be hits that emotional spot in my motherly heart. The story is so sweet and gets you thinking about all of the wonderful things your baby will do as she's growing up. The illustrations are soft and beautiful. You'll love this book just as much as your little one does. Trust me.
  5. Five Pillars of Islam by Anwar Cara and Azhari Zulkifli
    While looking for Islamic children's books, I thought this one was great for babies. It's a very simple read compared to other Islamic children's books and covers the topic of the 5 pillars of Islam. Amira enjoys seeing the characters in each scene as they illustrate the meaning of each pillar.
  6. Pantone Color Books by Pantone
    This set of six books was one of the best gifts Amira received from a dear friend of mine. Each board book is devoted to one color of the rainbow and has cutouts of objects that represent different shades from the Pantone collection. The books are very well designed and Amira enjoys grabbing them to touch the cutouts. I like taking one with me in my diaper bag when I'm out, so Amira can look through it on the go.  
  7. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
    I remember this book being one of my favorites growing up, so I needed to share it with Amira! I mean, who hasn't read The Very Hungry Caterpillar? My mom even remembers reading it to me, which makes it even more special. It's another Eric Carle classic that gets Amira giggling every time we get to the part where "...he was STILL hungry!" This one's great for silly voices too. Did I mention I sound crazy when reading to my baby? Anything to get our little ones to smile and laugh, right?
  8. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
    I read Goodnight Moon with a soft voice right when Amira is ready for bed. The illustrations pop with bright red and green, which keeps her eyes moving throughout the page with curiosity. It's a short and simple read that gets her ready to snuggle, cuddle, and fall asleep.
  9. Peek-a-Boo Forest by Lamaze
    The cloth pages of this book make a crinkly sound, which gets Amira's attention immediately. If your baby's obsessed with the crinkly sound the diaper wipes bag makes (is mine the only one?) then she'll love this book. Peek-a-Boo Forest has flaps that you pull back to reveal which animal is hiding around the forest. It's an adorable book that works as a bedtime read or a fun game of peek-a-boo with your little one.
  10. My First Shapes with Frank Lloyd Wright by Mudpuppy
    I have always loved Frank Lloyd Wright's geometric creations as a designer and now love them as a tool to teach my baby about shapes. I bought this book as a souvenir for Amira while we were at the Guggenheim in New York. It's a wonderful book to teach your baby about colors, shapes, and of course, a little architecture. 

There are many more books I'd love to add to this list, but I hope you enjoyed reading about some of our first favorites! Which books are your little one's favorite? Let me know below!