Sunday, January 27, 2008

cabbage and potato soup

I like to make soups from what I have on hand. This one is substantial, earthy, inexpensive and I think delicious. It also freezes well. It isn't a quick meal but it's easy to put together if you are okay with chopping vegetables, and if you freeze portions they will be ready when you are.

Cabbage and potato soup

Makes about 8 servings (adjust to your needs; nothing is sacred!)

2 Tablespoons +/- oil
2 large potatoes
1 large onion
1 large carrot
1 clove garlic
1/2 head cabbage
1 - 2 quarts vegetable broth or water
1 - 2 tsp ground red pepper
paprika, black pepper, salt to taste

Peel potatoes and carrot. Chop onion. Heat oil in large soup pot, add onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is a bit soft. Chop garlic clove and add to pot, stir. Chop carrot, add to pot. Chop cabbage and stir into pot, cook a bit, then add broth or water. Cook until potatoes and cabbage are soft, about 20 minutes. Season with red pepper. Serve sprinkled with paprika and pepper and pass the salt.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A simple cabbage salad

I admit openly: I stole this from Mark Bittman. The recipe. He made a video showing how to make this salad, which I watched, and then I made the salad that you see here. Mark Bittman is a video columnist for the New York Times, his vlog (?) is called The Minimalist. A good name, and when I saw the headline - "shredded cabbage" - I thought I might simply link to the video here. Unfortunately, The Minimalist titles feature pictures of animal products being made into food, including sea animals, so I figured it wasn't really appropriate for this blog. BUT the cabbage recipe? Perfect.

Warning: it actually takes a bit over two hours to make this. So don't drag out the head of cabbage right before dinner.

Shred cabbage into a colander. Any kind of cabbage, any way of shredding. I simply sliced it thinly, then quick-chopped those "slices". Took a minute maybe. Add in other hard veggies like carrots if you like.

Sprinkle about three tablespoons of coarse salt on the mix and toss it together.

Let it sit for about two hours, draining into the colander. After two hours, squeeze the mix to let go of additional water.

The mix has shrunk a good bit by now. Put the mix into a bowl. Add some pepper (freshly ground, of course), sprinkle with a bit of olive oil, follow with a light (sherry or rice, for example) vinegar, toss together. And that's it.

This would go well with a veggie burger or other sandwich or some soup and bread. Or any time you just need a little crunch.

Hungry Vegan review

I have had only one experience with the Hungry Vegan. If any of you have ordered from there and would like to share your experiences here, I hope that you do so. We have heard from lmf about her experience, which made me conscious of how different it can be for different people.

Timeliness: My order arrived on time. Everything was cold and safe to eat. So I was able to eat all of it, and with one exception I did.

Leaky packages: Both soups leaked. lmf said some of her bags leaked as well. In my case, they only started to dribble when I took them out of the box so it was not a big deal. However, I would be concerned if I were the owner of this company.

Product appearance: Some types of dishes travel and present well even when packaged in bags like these. Some do not. I had some trouble with appearance:

This one was like a brick of mush. It tasted all right but its appearance really put me off and I ended up tossing most of it (this is the one dish I didn't finish).

This was a piece of pie. I'm big on sweets so I ate it all but I don't think I would have offered that to anyone else.

Nice appearance to this tofu dish. It also tasted good, was perhaps my favorite.

There was a lot of variety: a bean dish, rice dishes, tofu slice dish, pasta, different types of soups, more.

Cooking quality: Most of the cooking seemed to be done correctly. The seasonings were appropriate, the ingredients cooked properly (nice pie crust) - except one. The bean dish was undercooked. I cook a lot of dried beans and I know when I taste that bit of roughness that the beans are not quite done. They were soft but not all the way there.

Taste: Here's where I simply debated with myself. The dishes all tasted okay. I can't say any were standouts. I kept asking myself, what makes this dish special? And I didn't have an answer. Of course this is my personal opinion. To me, these dishes were similar to what I tend to have in my freezer, left over from major cooking efforts on my part. Decent enough to eat but rarely really really good. Actually, I do think some of my soups and bean dishes surpass what I ate from the Hungry Vegan.

Like many of you, I don't want to dis any effort to offer vegan foods conveniently. My experience was not terrible, even if it was not outstanding. I can see room for improvement and I fully expect this fledgling operation to improve where it needs to (especially in bag sealing and appearance, in my opinion) and I am very interested in the experiences of others.

In the meantime I will be ordering from the two other sources mentioned by others here: veggiebrothers, which offers a lot of choices, frozen, and buykind, which arranges to ship meals from vegan restaurants. Thank you to peacebro and jory for these finds. I will, of course, share these experiences too.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Vegan Blogs Part 2

More vegan blogs for your enjoyment!
  • Vegans of Color - this blog is a group blog that tackles the issues of overlap between veganism and race. An excellent blog that can be eye opening for vegans and nonvegans alike.
  • Veganize Me! - Amy takes nonvegan recipes and converts them into vegan ones.
  • Vegani - your basic vegan food blog. Pictures, recipes, reviews. Great for omnis going vegan or vegans looking to add variety.
  • Vegan*Core - focuses on diet.
Want more vegan blogs? Check out the last vegan blog post or look in the sidebar for the blogroll here at Vegan Convenient.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Quick meals from books

There are different ways to get food on the table quickly and easily. One way is to use convenience food, one focus of this blog. A good cookbook for this approach is Conveniently Vegan (see link at right). This book offers many meals that require only a few easily-found ingredients, many of which can be from the cupboard or freezer.

Another approach, also frequently used in this blog, is to put together fresh ingredients or foods that you have made yourself previously when you had a few minutes. A cookbook that uses this approach is 20 Minutes to Dinner (see also the link on the right, just added today). This book is aimed more at people who like to cook, at least some of the time. It offers directions to cook or prepare many "components" of dishes, like dried beans or "breast of tofu" or vegetarian "sausage", so that you have, in essence, your own "convenience foods". Throughout the book are some lovely alternatives to everyday items that you can usually throw together very quickly, too - like the banana milk I made today to put on my cereal (banana, cold water, vanilla and a blender). Obviously, the advantage to making your own is that you know exactly what is in it. These foods may also save money.

20 Minutes also offers a food prep and nutrition chapter, with information on what equipment you need (very little) and on getting the most nutritional bang for the buck.

Some folks have posted complaints on that it often takes longer than 20 minutes to get dinner on the table, using this book. From what I have sampled and read, I'd say this is probably true. However, the more skilled you are with your equipment the sooner you will get that meal out there. It's probably a good idea to assume it will take a half-hour most of the time, and sometimes you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Breakfast potatoes variation

I never get tired of potato variations. This one features soyrizo - which I note keeps better than the meat version and, as I have noted before, tastes every bit as good - and fresh baby spinach. These directions make plenty for two.

1-2 Tablespoons olive or neutral oil
1/4 large onion (or 1 small onion)
1 large baking potato (can also use new potatoes)
1/3 package of soyrizo (soy version of chorizo)
1/4 pound mushrooms
handful of fresh spinach leaves
parsley, salt, pepper

Chop up the onion, saute at medium heat until a bit soft. Add the chorizo, smash around the pan, fry until it starts to crisp up. Chop up the mushrooms roughly, toss into the mix and keep turning to get them cooked a bit. While the mix is cooking, slice the potato thinly, then add. Turn over several times to mix, then cover for a few minutes to let the potato get nearly cooked through. Take off the cover, turn as needed to get to the doneness and crispiness that you desire. Near the end, throw in the spinach leaves, cover again to steam a bit. Take off the cover, cook to desired doneness. Serve sprinkled with parsley, offer salt and pepper.

As usual with this type meal the ingredients and amounts are totally in your power. You might prefer to make it with leftover potatoes, already cooked, or put the sliced potatoes in the microwave for a few minutes to cook before adding. If they are sliced thinly enough they do cook fairly quickly in the pan, so it's up to you.

Picture of soyrizo stolen from the urban granola -

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Hungry Vegan: first impressions

My Hungry Vegan order showed up today, right on time. The box was sitting on my front porch when I arrived home after a day away.

I opened it and found a styrofoam cooler with sealed bags inside, along with two ice packs, which were still mostly frozen.

On top of the bags was a letter listing the food items enclosed and some notes about the food.

I lay all the items out on the table so i could look at them.

There were two soups (lentil and carrot bisque), eight meal items (including a quick bread), and two desserts. The carrot bisque soup bag was not sealed all the way and therefore when I took it out it dripped a few drops. The pie was pretty smashed - I wonder why they thought that would travel well! I went ahead and heated the bisque, along with a potato-rosemary-olive-sun-dried tomato mix, for dinner:

The food was good. What I ate actually reminded me of meals I make myself when I am paying a bit of attention and even actually following a recipe. And it was filling enough. I think two people could have had the soup. I haven't tried anything else yet.

My first impression is that there could be better quality control. That soup should not have leaked. All seals should be tested - surely there is a way to do that. And the pie might have done better packed differently, or left out altogether. I do think this is a good option to have available, especially if you do not want to cook (or can't) and don't live near good delivery places. The shipping cost is rather high outside the regional area, so it also makes more sense for people inside that area than for people like me, but the cost of the food is quite reasonable and sometimes we can justify the shipping expense.

Vegan Food Brands

Here's a list of some food brands that tend to be vegan/ vegetarian (not in any particular order):

  1. Fantastic Foods
  2. Cliff Bar
  3. Luna Bar
  4. Boca Burgers
  5. Alternative Baking Company
  6. Silk
  7. Garden of Eden
  8. Lightlife
  9. Cascadian Farm
  10. Tofutti
  11. Foods Alive
  12. Gardenburger
  13. Earth Balance
  14. Newman's
  15. Walnut Acres
  16. Health Valley
  17. Muir Glen
  18. After The Fall
  19. Natural Feast
  20. Now and Zen
  21. Chocolate Decadence
  22. Santa Cruz Organic
  23. Galaxy
  24. Annie's Natural
  25. Seeds of Change
  26. Loma Linda
  27. Morningstar Farms
  28. Yves Veggie Cuisine
  29. Celestial Seasonings
  30. Natural Touch
Just be sure to double check the ingredients and/or look for a label that says "vegan".

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Other Vegan Blogs Part 1

Want to read more vegan blogs? Here are a few others to try:

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Order it online! Whereever you are in the U.S.

The Hungry Vegan offers a full menu of vegan meals that can be delivered to your door, ready to heat and eat. Every week they design and create a different menu, and everyone gets the same thing. The orders placed by Tuesday at midnight are shipped out the following day, and delivered one or two days later by FedEx. The prices are reasonable for a delivery service like this: $75 for one week's meals for one person. Delivery is fairly expensive, but cheaper if you live in the regional area near the Hungry Vegan (see the website for a map).

I have just ordered one week's worth from them. I will write about my experience here. I am hoping for the best - what could be more convenient than delicious vegan meals that are sitting in your refrigerator, ready to heat?