Thursday, March 4, 2010

something old, something new

I remember when I was a child, my parents used to brush their teeth with baking soda periodically. My mother once explained to me why, but that was well over 2o years ago and I'm not ashamed that I don't remember it now. I, on the other hand, have been a devoted fan of Aquafresh in all its incarnations for most of my life. My dedication and faithful use of this toothpaste is actually due to what I perceive to be a mild case of paranoia on my part. In the more than three decades I have had teeth, I have never had a cavity or a root canal and I have all of my wisdom teeth still in my mouth and doing just fine. I didn't know anyone else who used Aquafresh but I saw my friends getting cavities and having trouble with their teeth, so in my semi-logical teenage mind, I figured my toothpaste was magical and that the moment I switched to a different toothpaste, all my teeth would fall out of my head.

I'll have to let you know how that works out, because when the last bit of toothpaste was squeezed from the tube last week, I replaced it with Tom's of Maine Natural Whole Care.

Something that has been bothering me for at least the past several months was how downright weird toothpaste like Aquafresh, Colgate, and other "mainstream" brands are. I mean, they're sweet! How does that happen and how can it be good for my teeth? Bit by bit, I became somewhat appalled with the ingredients in my toothpaste (hint: not magical faeriedust) and at just the right time, stumbled across an ad for Tom's toothpaste.

It doesn't taste like much and it actually leaves you feeling like your breath is less than minty fresh, but I'll tell you - my teeth haven't felt this clean since the last time I escaped from the dentist's office. I have been using this toothpaste twice a day for the past week and I am still amazed each time I finish brushing. They feel absolutely clean and here's the real kicker: I've been using Aquafresh Whitening for years, trying to reverse the staining done by years of overusing coffee and red wine. After only one week of using this hippie toothpaste, presumably made from tree bark and raindrops, there is a noticeable difference in the color of my teeth.

So, thus ends my raving review of Tom's of Maine toothpaste. Before we go into my next product review (something new), let me share this week's menu.

1. Pomegranate Saute on Cinnamon Bulghur - I was actually going to make this tonight, but Mister didn't feel like eating, so I had what was left of the Seitan Cacciatore with a mega-salad (mixed greens, sprouts, carrots, a clementine, sliced green olives).

2. White Bean-Tarragon Soup - this is one of the simpler soup recipes I've seen that actually attracted me. My idea of a good soup, perhaps colored by Mister's distaste for drinking his dinner, involves a ton of varied ingredients - a bulky soup, with five different veggies, maybe some beans and/or pasta or rice. This looked too good to pass by, though, so we'll see how it goes.

3. Tofu Saag - this looks like a creamier and less spinach-pressing-intense version of Palak Paneer, which is one of my favorite Indian meals. I've seen recipes like this in other cookbooks, but always passed on them, probably because it looked too difficult or I thought the results would be too bland.

4. Pasta Florentine - because you can never eat enough frozen spinach. And because Mister might die if I don't start making more pasta. It must be the sliver of Sicilian in him.

5. Homey Vegetable Stew with Dumplings - There is a similar recipe in Veganomicon and it looks so tasty and hearty and comforting, but it also looks extremely time-consuming and I have not been willing to make the effort yet. This recipe has almost as much promise and seems slightly easier to make. Maybe it will enhance my zeal to make Isa's recipe next time.

6. Monk Bowl - because that's just an awesome name for food. Also, because roasting tofu sounds like fun.

On Tuesday night, I made the Cajun Beans & Rice from The Accidental Vegan. I am so glad I did because I think I have finally found a satisfying recipe for this staple! I used ambiguously named "Red Beans" from Whole Foods, along with diced green pepper, and leftover Basmati (even though the recipe called for brown rice). I really think the magical ingredient that made this recipe better than others I've tried was the vegan Worcestershire sauce.

Anyway, I served it up with a nice big salad of mixed greens, carrots, kalamatas, and green grapes. It was a very nice dinner and it came together with delightful speed.

All of this week's menu items (except for #1) come from the newest member of my Cookbook Army, The 30 Minute Vegan by husband-wife team Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray. This book is walking the tightrope between adventurous and fruity. This couple is blessed to live in Hawaii, which probably plays some role in the hippie air conveyed at times by this cookbook. Overall, though, I am thrilled with it. I put it on my Wish List sight unseen, which is rare for me. Because so many cookbooks have similar recipes, when I'm recruiting a new one to join its brothers and sisters on my shelves, I'm looking for a spark of creativity or something truly exceptional to set it apart from the others.

This book has so many of the elements I favor in other cookbooks - each recipe is accompanied by suggested partner recipes, which is so valuable if I decide I'm actually interested in making a side dish or appetizer. There is also a decent introduction that reads more like a blog in that it is very self-centered. I mean that in the purest form of the word - the introduction involves things that the authors find important in their own lives - what ingredients are necessary in their pantry/fridge, what cooking tools they can't live without, what causes tug at their hearts. I like knowing those things because it helps me to evaluate where I stand on things like, say, spirulina (a newer "superfood" - algae...not interested, thank you).

The point of the book, in case you missed it, is fast-cooking meals. The authors obviously care a great deal about the way they fuel their bodies, though, so they have included little snippets that tell you how you can enhance the meal if you have some extra time, as well as ways to cut down on cooking time/effort even more, in case you just spent 45 minutes looking for parking and are now officially starting to turn inside out from hunger.

I haven't really bought into the whole raw/living foods thing, but I do think it's neat that the authors have provided alternative ways of preparing certain recipes in order to make them live, and have marked recipes that are already raw/live with a little heart. I'm not interested in making raw/live food a way of life but I have been interested to try a recipe here and there and see what it's about, so this could be a fun experiment. I'll let you know how it goes!

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