Saturday, February 23, 2008

Convenient: Frozen Oatmeal

This is a pretty funny story from Bitter Sweet:

"Convenience foods are undeniably attractive options when compared with traditional, time-consuming dishes, and so I can see how easy it is to get lured in by the seductive notion of easy eating. Just heat and go! [...] Homemade is always infinitely better, but unless you do nothing but cook all day long, it isn’t always a realistic possibility.

"On the other end of the spectrum are those pointless conveniences that are made for the laziest and most reluctant cooks, and stumbling upon a box of frozen, steel-cut oatmeal at Trader Joe’s I thought for sure I had another one to add to the list. Seriously, frozen oatmeal? How busy/cooking-incompetent/mentally impaired would you have to be to need pre-cooked, frozen oatmeal?"

She buys the oatmeal and ends up eating her words. She loves it.

Some convenience foods seem like a ridiculous waste of money and cardboard packaging. But some, well some are just tasty :)

On the other hand, oatmeal is a pretty convenient food, regardless of what kind you buy. Even the regular stuff that's not quick-cook is simple and convenient. Just add water and heat up!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Convenient: Microwaves

When we first imagined this blog, Vegan Convenient, we were traveling. We stayed in motels with mini-fridges and microwaves. Aside from eating out and eating raw, all of our vegan meals were prepared in the microwave.

Microwaves are one of the most convenient methods of preparing vegan meals. They cook food up fast and they require very little space.

You can cook frozen, fresh, or canned foods in the microwave, but did you know you can also cook up rice in the microwave?

Look! It's a microwavable rice cooker.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Childhood Favorite Soup

When I was very young my siblings and I wanted Lipton's chicken noodle soup all the time. My mother decided to make it every day until we got sick of it. And sick of it I did indeed get. Still, the thought of such homey soups makes me a wee bit nostalgic for the days when I didn't have to worry about much beyond what I had for lunch.

It's comfort food. So it's natural that there would come a time when I would want to bring that memory alive again, without the real chicken, excess salt, or pitiful broth. And so I put together this vegan version.

I had some "veat" left over from the "chicken" salad I made recently, reported here. I sliced that up while I heated some vegetable broth. In this case I used vegetable broth cubes in boiling water because that's what I had. To the boiling broth I added the veat "breast" slices, some chopped red pepper, and frozen peas. When it started to boil again I tossed in a chunk of cappellini that I had broken into pieces. In a few minutes it was done, ready for salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Honest. It's a lot better than Lipton's.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Saying no to Veggie Brothers

Today I decided to place an order with Veggie Brothers. I noticed that all of the entrees and appetizers are varieties of fake meats. Several were on the order of "hot and spicy chicken wings", however, and I remembered just how tasty such concoctions can be. Not too long ago I ordered some from a vegan Thai restaurant on Melrose in Los Angeles (yes, vegan Thai, and no, I do not know why spicy chicken wings in a Thai restaurant).

The other items for sale include "home cooking" items like mashed potatoes, pasta, veggie chicken noodle soup. What is nice about the Veggie Brothers offerings is that you can order a single serving, a family-size package, or even a "food service" pack. Because I had not tried their food before I chose several single serving items and one family pack (yes, southern fried "chicken"). I looked at the shipping information and did not see any cost information at this point so I went ahead filling out the order.

My total was about $50, which seems a good amount for a trial of this sort. The items are frozen so I knew there would be some expense involved in the shipping, as there is at the other two vegan food delivery services I have tried (Hungry Vegan and BuyKind).

I knew shipping would be more than amazon but I wasn't expecting to be socked with a $50 "special handling" charge on top of the shipping charge. I looked into it and learned that deliveries west of the Mississippi must go by air, which requires the use of dry ice, which is what the extra charge is for.

So curses. I just couldn't justify it for my order. And I don't want to order a huge amount in case I don't like any of it. So I won't be ordering from veggie brothers until they open a plant closer to home.

Now it's up to you! If you live east of the Mississippi and have tried veggie bros or want to, please do! And let us know about your experience.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Tale of Two Salads

The other day I happened to catch an episode of "semi-homemade" on the food channel. In this episode, Sandra Lee created a cashew chicken salad using deli coleslaw, cooked chicken strips, mandarin oranges, and cashews (a bit of olive oil optional). I thought this might be a good candidate for veganizing. So here's how I went about trying that:

First I made a vegan coleslaw because I couldn't find one at my local deli. I made the one I described in this post. Easy to make, tasty. Can keep in fridge a day or so.

Second, I took a package of Veat vegetarian chicken breast from the freezer. It looks like this:

When I took it out of the package it looked like this:

I didn't really want to eat that. Doesn't look so good. But I thought maybe I could make it more appetizing by cooking it in a teriyaki sauce. For this purpose, I chose Trader Joe's Soyaki sauce. I cut the baby out of its little plastic package and cooked it on the stove in a small frying pan, turning it now and then to get it warm and covered with the sauce. When I could put a fork in it I took it out and sliced it. It looked like this:

So that did help. At least aesthetically. I cut these slices into two pieces, bite-sized. Then I was ready to put it all together. Coleslaw, chicken, mandarin oranges, cashews. Here's what it looked like:

It looks okay, huh? Well, it was okay but it was far from great. In fact, I'd say maybe not ready for prime time. But it wasn't as bad as some of the reviewers of the original dish said. Comments on the original chicken salad, using a mayo coleslaw and real chicken, included these gems:

I thought this would make a quick and easy lunch but my husband just stared at me. I tried a couple of bites and threw the rest out. Nothing could save this dish.

terrible. I used a good cole slaw (Rudolph's) and it still turned out to be pretty disgusting. My husband absolutely hated the mandarin oranges in it.


I served this for lunch and my husband just laughed at me. He wouldn't even try it. I ate a bit but I have to admit it was a bad idea. The mayonnaise in the slaw just serves to slime everything else up and the taste isn't that great.

To be fair, not all of the comments were bad. But these are representative of those that were, and they seem to have some elements in common: husbands, for example.

I'm not recommending the vegan version as I made it. I wonder if one made with a vegan mayo might be better. Or another type of faux chicken. I'm open to suggestion!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

BuyKind experience

I learned a few things by buying food through In a nutshell:

* Buykind is a fledgling vegan food delivery service. Buykind contracts with vegan restaurants that have won awards for their food, and arranges for items from their menus to be made available for shipping all over the country. So far there are only six restaurants in the group, but obviously this kind of business should be able to expand fairly easily. The kind of attention that the owner gives to the business just might translate into success. Read her story on the website.

* Vegan foods are making their way into the wider marketplace. All of the wraps I purchased actually came from Nature's Express, based in Yuma, Arizona. These amazing plant-based deli foods, including many raw foods, are infiltrating their way into Whole Foods markets and other locations, including the restaurant from which I placed my order.

My experience.

I decided that I wanted to order completely online, through the order form, rather than by email or by telephone. I also decided to save shipping costs by choosing a restaurant on the west coast. Only two restaurants on the list are on the west coast, and one doesn't yet offer online orders (but you can place your order by email or phone). So I chose the other, Good Karma in Venice Beach, California.

And that's why I ended up ordering wraps and spreads. It doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to order this kind of deli food by mail, but I wanted to try out the service. Fresh vegetable wraps, particularly featuring raw foods, don't tend to freeze well, so they need to be eaten soon after delivery. The other items on Good Karma's menu don't travel well and so are not offered, but believe me, the next time I am in Venice I'm hunting this place down (sweet potato fries!).

I placed my order Saturday night. I took a chance on the shipping costs because they are not included in the initial order but added later. I hope that it will be possible to spell out shipping costs more specifically on the website soon.

Jody, the buykind proprieter, called me almost immediately. She told me I could add additional items for the same shipping cost and told me what that cost would be. She said the order would be shipped out on Monday for delivery Tuesday, by ground. The order would be packed with ice packs and insulated materials so should be cold when I got it. I decided, then, to add to the order and chose additional wraps and spreads. I sent this information to Jody by email, who recalculated the total and sent me the paypal invoice.

On Tuesday Jody called me again. Somewhere along the way my order did not get processed. Good Karma had not packed it up and sent it along its way. Jody was tracking orders through her delivery service, KHL, and found that somehow my order was not on the truck. She asked if it would be okay to ship it Wednesday for delivery Thursday. I said sure. It's all a part of the experience. She said she would send me a gift certificate for $10 for my inconvenience, to be used on my next order.

The order arrived late in the day Thursday, as promised. Individual plastic containers held the wraps and the usual plastic bowls with lids contained the spreads. These were packed with ice packs and surrounded by strips of insulating material, which Jody notes is biodegradable. I am not sure about this part or I may have misunderstood her. The strips are like padded envelope material, except that they have a shiny (aluminum?) sheet on one side.

This is what the items looked like. This is where I saw Nature's Express and got curious, given that the address on the label is in San Diego, not Venice Beach. If you look closely at the label you can see that the ingredients are excellent. So too was this interesting Kale wrap:

Everything was fresh and inviting to look at. I will admit that I am not a big fan of the sliced meat substitutes, so the wrap I ate that had a kind of sliced chicken in it didn't overwhelm me. I was more impressed by the hummus in the kale wrap (not to mention the kale itself). The hummus is raw, made from cashews and something else I have forgotten, and it is creamy and delicious. I also had a barbecue tempeh, tofu pesto, and veg "chicken" tequila lime wraps. I haven't yet tried the spreads, which are made by Good Karma.

Overall, the experience and the food was good. I will use the $10 certificate to try something from another restaurant, something not a wrap. Although these wraps were good I really didn't want to work my way through five of them in a couple of days (although they make fine breakfasts).

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Coleslaw, according to wikipedia, is a salad consisting primarily, and minimally, of shredded, raw cabbage, although it often also includes shredded carrots. There are many variations of the recipe which include the addition of other ingredients, such as red cabbage, pineapple, or apple. It is usually mixed with a dressing which traditionally consists of, or is based on, vegetable oil and vinegar or a vinaigrette. In the U.S. coleslaw often contains mayonnaise (or its substitutes); although many regional variations exist, and recipes incorporating prepared mustard are also common. A variety of seasonings may be added. The dressing is usually allowed to settle on the blended ingredients for several hours before being served. The cabbage may come in finely minced pieces, shredded strips, or small squares. (see

Coleslaw is also another reward for picking up that head of cabbage, an inexpensive and versatile vegetable.

Hats off for this recipe to Rebecca at vegan food:

1/3 c. oil
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
3 T sugar (or brown rice syrup or apple juice concentrate)
2 t salt
2 t mustard seeds
1/2 t celery seed

small cabbage, shredded
onion, thinly sliced
red bell pepper, thinly sliced
carrot, coarsely grated

Boil dressing ingredients for about a minute. Pour over salad ingredients. Mix. Let sit for a couple of hours. (I put it in the fridge.)

When I made this recipe I used the Mark Bittman method for the salad ingredients: I put the ingredients in a colandar, ground coarse salt over them, mixed it up. I let that sit for a couple of hours to drain the excess water from them. Because I had used salt in this step I didn't add any to the dressing.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Vegan Valentine's Day Chocolates

My mother-in-law (who is not vegan) sent these terrific vegan chocolates to me and my husband for Valentine's Day!

The chocolates are from Rose City Chocolates and their description of the chocolates says:

"Go Vegan! The Best Vegan Chocolates Will Amaze Your Valentine. This splendid selection of vegan specialties has been made without any animal products of any kind, with no sacrifice in flavor or to our commitment to all natural and fresh ingredients. Additionally, all of the sugar used in making these chocolates is processed from the sugar beet - there are no animal products used in processing or filtering the sugar. The chocolates in the selection are shown below. Each Box is beautifully wrapped in a hand-tied ribbon."
We didn't wait for Valentine's Day to come. We opened the box and tasted a piece. They are fabulous!

So, if you're looking to get some vegan chocolates for yourself or a special someone, consider these from from Rose City Chocolates!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Ordering in again

I just made my second order from a vegan food delivery site. This time it was This site offers various meal items from several restaurants in different parts of the country. By going through the restaurants and placing an order, I learned this much:

1. There are a total of six restaurants so far. One of the restaurants does not yet offer online ordering; you have to order by phone or email. I decided against that option simply because I want to stick with getting it all done online.

2. You have to complete an order at one restaurant before going to another. They are separate orders.

3. Delivery information is incomplete and seems to vary from restaurant to restaurant but I may have that wrong. To be safe, I ordered from a restaurant in Venice, California because it's relatively close to me (about 200 miles). And imagine my surprise when no shipping charge was made at all! But then I got a call from Jody at buykind saying they calculate shipping after the order is placed, and they offer a flat rate per box which is quite reasonable for me. She said I could add up to five more items for the same rate, so I am going back to choose a few more items.

4. The website could use some work. As a web designer myself I tend to be sympathetic. It can be hellish getting it the way you want. Also, this is a brand new business.

5. Because I ordered Saturday the order will be prepared and shipped on Monday and will arrive Tuesday. Sounds good to me.