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Crazy ranting | Cheribundi™! | Lentil-spinach soup | Test recipe

Posted Apr 30 2010 12:53pm

I’ve never felt particularly comfortable suggesting to others what they should eat. I’m strong in my opinions about what I eat, and what I believe constitutes a healthy and cruelty-free diet, but so is everyone else. If someone asks for my opinion or guidance, I’m there, but I don’t like trying to convert others to my way of thinking. Everyone has a different opinion about what foods make for a “healthy” diet. Some think a healthy diet consists of raw foods, and some think all food should be cooked. Some thing a diet should contains lots of meat and dairy, and some abstain from all animal products. Some think fat and sugar in “moderation” is fine and others try to eliminate as much fat and sugar as possible. Some eat only white flour, some only whole wheat flour, and some eat no flour at all. I know people who think their SAD diet filled with Twinkies and burgers is healthy, and others who think brown rice and veggies is all that’s necessary for good health. Some believe no animals should be eaten, and some think animals exist for our gustatory pleasure. One big thing all these different eaters have in common is, based on what they are used to eating, they all have an opinion of what tastes good. Our taste buds are trained by what we eat. If you eat a lot of salt, less salty food tastes bland. Eat lots of sugar and unsweetened foods taste boring. Eat lots of butter ... you get the picture.

I recently read a review that suggested vegan baked goods are all pretty much inferior to baked goods made with dairy. Maybe for someone used to traditional baked-goods, that’s true. (And, in fact I often adjust my cooking if I am preparing food for people used to a meat-and-dairy-based diet.) But the point I want to make is, when you change your diet, your preferences tend to change, too. The thing is, I don’t really care if my chocolate chip cookie tastes like it’s made with a pound of butter. I don’t want it to taste that way because it won’t taste good to me; it will taste greasy. If food is too salty or sweet, I find it unpleasant to eat. My tastes have changed as a result of changing my diet, and I’m not trying to replicate animal tastes or flavors from the past; I’m not trying to make my bean burger taste like a cow. High-fat, high-salt food doesn’t really give me comfort, and I sometimes find myself less appreciative than others of restaurants or cookbooks that specialize in vegan comfort food. I love great-tasting food, but my idea of what tastes good doesn’t depend on replicating the flavors of a meat-and-dairy-based diet. When I first became a vegetarian, these kinds of foods were considered transitional — foods to bridge the gap between an animal-based and plant-based diet, or foods to serve omni friends. Lately, it’s starting to feel like these foods are a kind of new vegan diet — one that is the same as an omnivorous diet, only cruelty-free. The race is on to create new vegan cheeses and meat analogs that more closely replicate animal foods, often with long and scary ingredient lists.

The more people who find their way from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet, the better, and if this is the root of the current emphasis on comfort foods, then I’m all in favor. I just hope we’re not losing sight of the connection between diet and health, the pleasure of eating simple foods, and learning to taste and appreciate the real flavors of the foods we eat.

Speaking of simple foods, my husband had oral surgery this week, and needed to eat soft foods for a few days. I made a simple lentil and rice soup that was both easy and delicious. (This soup would be even better if the cumin seeds were whole and toasted, but my husband couldn't have seeds.) If you use brown rice, it will need to cook about 15 minutes longer. The soup has no added fat.

Soft and simple lentil and rice soup with spinach
  • 1 cup dried red lentils, washed and drained
  • 1 cup short grain white rice, washed and drained
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 cup tomato purée
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (low sodium)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 2 cups (approx.) frozen spinach
  • juice of 1 lemon
Place everything but the lemon juice, salt and spinach in a 5 quart soup pot. Bring to a boil then turn down heat to simmer. Simmer covered for 25-30 minutes until rice is tender and lentils are cooked. Add spinach, salt and lemon juice, and heat gently until spinach is defrosted and cooked. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Add more broth if soup is too thick.



When the makers of Cheribundi™ cherry juice asked if I'd be interested in sampling their juice, of course I said yes. I love tart cherries, and each eight-ounce bottle of Tru Cherry™ contains 50 cherries — two servings of fruit. The Cheribundi™ Web site says: "Our proprietary juicing process, which was developed with Cornell University, bottles all of the good nutrients of tart cherries rather than boil them away. The phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals in cheribundi™ will keep you feeling great and living life to the fullest." The cherry juice is not from concentrate.

The juice comes in three flavors, one of which contains whey. I received the two without whey, Tru Cherry™ which is lightly sweetened with apple juice concentrate, and Skinny Cherry™ which is sweetened with stevia, and is lower in calories. I sampled the Tru Cherry™ for breakfast this morning, and it tastes just like cherries! It really does. It's perfectly, deliciously tart. I can't wait to try the second flavor.

Full disclosure: This product was sent to me as a free sample with no requirement that I blog about it or make positive statements about it. All statements in this post are my honest opinion.


Recipe testing

I tested a recipe for Clem Chowdah for the amazingly creative and productive team of Celene Steen and Joni Marie Newman . Yum!
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