Red Lentil Dahl

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Vegucated giveaway contest! The winners were lucky commenters #7 and 8, which were chosen at random, funnily enough. I hope Melanie and Ashley enjoy Vegucated as much as I did and share their newfound knowledge with many others.

I also so much appreciated everyone’s comments. I considered responding to a few individually, but decided to hold off and address a multitude of your thoughts, stories and concerns in this post.

I would first like to say that in reading many of the comments, I recognized so many of my own thoughts when I was first considering a vegan diet — words like “scary,” “life changing” and “restrictive” floated around in my head on a constant basis. For awhile it was all I thought about. I would jealously ogle meat-eating restaurant patrons as I gazed into crowded restaurant dining rooms, street after street. I imagined I would  never get to be “one of them” again. I watched Top Chef on repeat just to get it “out of my system” (or is that just because Bravo happened to always run Top Chef marathons when there was never anything else on?) I passed the cheese section at Whole Foods for weeks on end, guiltily taking whiffs of the delicious Parmesano-Reggiano air. If I told people I was going vegan, there was no turning back, I thought. I would get called out for simply being found in the cheese section, let alone eating the stuff. I would be crucified if one night I “slipped” and caved to my seemingly endless sushi cravings. If I go vegan, I thought, it’s all or nothing.

So when I finally did “go vegan,” I did something I never thought to do the countless times I’d considered a vegetarian/vegan diet before. I didn’t tell anyone. Sure, I might have made some passing comments to the effect of “I’m eating less meat these days.” And I maybe told my husband there wouldn’t be many more chicken taco nights for awhile (to his dismay). But essentially, I didn’t make a grand announcement. I didn’t even fully admit to myself that this was what I was doing. I just slowly stepped into it — an innocent flirtation that turned into a monogamous, long-time affair.  That way, I didn’t have to come to terms with giving up so many things I loved in one fell swoop. Because I wasn’t. If I want fish, I’ll eat it, I told myself. If I get sick of tofu, I’ll go back to ordering chicken. For those first few months, occasionally I did. And as I lived that way for awhile — not telling anyone what I was doing, not really fully committing 100% — I continued to educate myself. I did that for a number of months — well past my honeymoon, even, where I did eat cheese and fish. Then one day, months later, I found I didn’t want cheese anymore. I didn’t want fish. Maybe I was realizing how much better I felt. Maybe I had “educated” myself enough to fully dissuade myself from ever wanting to eat another animal again. Maybe my taste buds had just forgotten what meat and cheese tasted like. But whatever the reason, one day it just kinda clicked. Since then, I haven’t looked back (aside from eating one mussel recently because I was ravenous, which my husband was quick to call me out on. This, of course, confirmed all of my previous fears that once you go vegan, you have to be perfect in public or you’ll hear about it).

Anyways, the moral of the story is that if you see any of yourself in my abbreviated story, rest assured that you are not alone. Through my own experience, I’ve become convinced that the absolute worst way to make any diet change is to do it overnight (unless, of course, there are dire health concerns at stake — then you should probably get working on that diet overhaul ASAP).

I know that different approaches may work for different people. I am only one story. But if I could pass on anything from my own experience, it would be the understanding that no one is grading you except yourself. You may get criticism from people on either side of the food spectrum, but ultimately, your own voice should matter most.

Start slowly, within your comfort zone. Maybe that means not eating meat for one day a week; maybe it means only eating meat once a week. And while you’re in that comfort zone, explore some things that don’t fall squarely within it. Educate yourself. Try new cuisines. Treat yourself to some new cookbooks. Make it a goal to eat at a new veg-friendly restaurant once a week. Don’t beat yourself up if you eat something “off limits.” Enjoy the process and think about this as expanding your food horizons rather than limiting them. I would have never discovered half of my favorite dishes and restaurants today had I not been forced to by virtue of not being able to eat half the things I ate before.

In short, if you’re considering going vegan, don’t sweat out the idea of making a drastic overnight change. Slowly incorporate new items into your diet, become more conscious of your food in general. Learn about the why of veganism, not just the how. Maybe one day you’ll forgo meat (and eggs and dairy) eventually, but don’t become obsessed with the end game. Enjoy the process. I certainly did.

Red Lentil Dahl:
I love Dahl (Indian lentils), so I’ve made many Dahl recipes in my life. I know how different each unique recipe can be. This recipe is a mildly spiced, somewhat sweet dahl that has the consistency of a thick soup. It presents with a nice color thanks to the addition of fresh tomatoes and tomato paste. Feel free to play with the consistency by adding more lentils (for a thicker dahl) or more water (for a thinner, soupier result). You can also play with the spices if you wish — some like their dahl with garam masala or turmeric or additional ginger. Serve with brown rice and an Indian-spiced vegetable side for a full and satisfying meal. 

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons ginger, freshly minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons oil

1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds

2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste

1 1/2 cups red lentils

2 tomatoes, chopped

3 cups water

1 14 oz. can light coconut milk

1  teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

cilantro, for garnish

Directions:

1. In a large skillet or Dutch Oven, heat the onion, garlic, ginger and mustard seeds in oil. Cook over medium heat until the onion becomes translucent and the seeds begin to pop, about 4-5 minutes.

2. Add tomato paste. Add lentils and allow then to be coated with the onions, tomato paste and oil, stirring until combined. Add water and chopped tomatoes. Bring water to a boil (about 5-10 minutes). Reduce to a simmer and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes.

3. Add remaining ingredients except cilantro. Do not boil but return to a simmer and simmer on low, covered, for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  You may add additional water to thin out if dahl becomes too thick. Serve warm, over rice or by itself, topped with fresh cilantro to taste. May add additional salt or cayenne to taste.

Comments

  1. says

    Hey Beth, I missed your earlier post, but congrats to the winners (random.org sometimes doesn’t seem so random when I run giveaways either, but I’m sure the winners never complain!), and kudos to you on figuring out what works for you! I’m assuming you ate a mussel (not muscle) and it doesn’t matter what eating plan you’re doing, if you stray from it in public, folks are quick to say Ah Ha! This Dahl looks mighty tasty, dear. Will share on my gfe FB page later. :-)

    xo,
    Shirley

  2. Beth says

    Thanks, Shirley! I certainly did eat a mussel, not a muscle (duh!) My regular copy editor was on vacation for the week : ) Good to hear from you!

  3. says

    Beth,
    I love reading your recipes, the words and the photos really complete the story. I never even considered food ‘ restrictions’ until my baby girl was born last year, I noticed her belly was sore after I ate certain foods. I quickly cut out the big 3, dairy, egg and peanut. Things improved, but not completely. I continued to nurse her and when we did solids I kepts those foods out of her diet. I didn’t get much support, in fact I think the pediatrician ordered the food aklergy blood testing to shut me up. I was right though, she is indeed allergic to egg, dairy, peanut and borderline on soy. It’s been an adventure in eating but it was really opened my eyes to the options that are out there for us. I am lucky that at 13 months she loves all beans (in fact, we went out to dinner the other night so I quickly make her sweet potatoes and garbanzo beans in the pressure cooker, she loved it!) anyways.. Thanks for the inspiration in all things culinary!
    Cheers,
    Abby (Scott)

  4. Beth says

    Abby, Thank you so much for your comment. It can be very, very daunting indeed to navigate the allergy-free world. Or an “adventure” as you put it! After getting over the initial shock and mourning of my old foods, it was very eye-opening and even, dare I say…fun?

    Sweet potatoes and garbanzos in the pressure cooker, eh? That sounds kind of amazing. Oh, and I am so honored to be considered an inspiration! That’s always the hope! I am always looking for new inspiration, as well. It’s certainly easy to get into a rut at times. Anyways, thanks for stopping by and for your comment. Talk to you soon! Beth : )

  5. Sandy says

    Beth, As a fellow suffered of many allergies and hypothyroidism (diagnosed as an auto-immune thing), I can say that the path to health is a life-long journey with lots of interesting side trips.

    Sugar has been on my bad thing list for many, many years. I can walk past office cake and holiday candy with no more notice of it than extra copier paper.

    Right now, I’m working toward getting less gluten in my diet and anything else that feeds candida. I don’t worry about what people think when I ask what might be in a dish even in a restaurant. Dealing with the consequences of a slip can vary between uncomfortable to alarming because there are a few things where I know the allergic reaction would be dangerous to me.

    My personal big challenge is cooking. While I really enjoy cooking and do it well, cooking for one (the cats don’t count–LOL) is hard. Cooking more on weekends helps with the time-crunch part during the work week.

    My best to all who are making efforts at improving their health by saying no to the standard modern food offerings and choosing what they know is right for their personal health and well-being.

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