Thursday, June 19, 2008

On equipping the kitchen

On Vegan Convenient we focus on the easy ways to get the food to the table without sacrificing taste or nutrition. We do need some equipment, though.

With What do I Cook?
An overview of cooking equipment

Although many of us like trying many different types of foods to find new tastes and uses for plant-based foods, when we cook such foods ourselves we rarely need any kind of specialized equipment. The basic vegan kitchen is really a simple kitchen.

The Basics
The basics will get you through most recipes. You can chop vegetables with a knife and cutting board, saute in frying pans, boil water and make soup or cereal in the large or small saucepan, mix simple cookies or salads or casserole mixtures in the large bowl.


It's possible to get by with one knife, a chef's knife, but we believe in three types:

Chef's knife
Bread knife (serrated blade)
Paring knife

It's helpful at times to have more than one paring knife, possibly different sizes, but one will do. You'll want a knife sharpener as well. Whatever is recommended for the type knives you purchase. It isn't necessary to get the very best knives, as lovely as they are. A decent medium-quality brand should give you many years of good service.

If you are serious about cooking, learn how to use that chef's knife to its full advantage. When you have the skills, throwing together many fresh ingredients won't throw you.


Frying pans: cast iron is great for adding iron to your diet and for cooking foods that require high heat, and to boot these pans are not expensive. It's nice to have the chef's pans, the expensive ones, but really you can do very nicely with a set of two or three reasonably-priced pans, whether cast-iron or stainless steel or some other material. You'll probably want to avoid aluminum and teflon because of their potential effects on your health.

Sauce pans: Another set of three, varying sizes. Good to have a set with heavy bottoms, again not aluminum or teflon. With lids.

Baking pans: Useful to have a cookie sheet or two. Cookie sheets can be used for components of many main dishes as well as for cookies.

Bowls and cups:

Two mixing bowls, one large and one small, should do you.
1 liquid measuring cup
1 dry measuring cup set


Pancake turner (aka spatula; depends on what country you're in)
Large mixing spoon
A set or two of measuring spoons

Cutting boards:

It's handy to have more than one. Wood is safer than plastic (bacteria survive on plastic longer than on wood).

Beyond the basics: making it easier:

If you find you have a real yen for this cooking thing, so much so that you want to branch out into sauces and smoothies and dips and many many chopped things and even some fancy baked stuff, you'll find that this equipment makes it easy and so much fun:


Regular blender. Find a good one. Don't just get the one on sale. Check the resources page at the end of this book for websites that offer unbiased reviews of kitchen equipment.

High-performance blender. A Vita-mix or equivalent high-performance blender can do things ordinary blenders can't, like make almond butter and whole fruit juices.

Immersion blender. Great for pea soup and similar mixtures. Just stick in the pot at an angle and whir away. Easier than processing batches of hot liquid in a regular blender.

Food processor. Again, don't go for the cheapest. You should be able to find a decent medium-size processor for not much more than the cheaper models and the first time you chop vegetables you'll be happy you did. Check reviews. Don't be fooled by advertising and don't compare on the basis of options. If you think you'd like to make bread with your food processor, you'll need to step up to a higher-quality one.

Plastic chopper. There are many of these out there, the small choppers with handles you turn. They are inexpensive, can replace a food processor for many foods (like onions), and usually are easy to clean.

Rice cooker. Rice cookers are simple beasts that do a great job on all kinds of rice. You can cook a whole pot full or less, and freeze what's left over in portion-size baggies.

Miscellaneous appliances. Grillers are great for grilled vegetables and sandwiches. Waffle irons make terrific vegan waffles. A stand mixer makes many mixing chores much easier and if it is heavy-duty enough it can make bread dough too. Crock pots continue to give us a way to get a meal started that can cook itself while we are away; especially handy for chile, soup, stew.

For most home cooks, a minimum of equipment is necessary to create a wide variety of delicious vegan meals. We recommend starting with the basics and adding as needed, as your interest expands. It can be a lot of fun to try dozens of recipes from the many excellent vegan cookbooks out there.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Easy roasted vegetables

left: unbaked vegetables ready to go into oven

One type of convenient product I have come to love is the spice or herb blend. I have a "greek seasoning" blend and a "creole seasoning" blend that can be used on almost anything. One example is this easy roasted veggie dish. These are general directions because the dish will vary with what you have on hand, what you like, how much you want to make.

Use fresh vegetables from your refrigerator. Or you could use the stew-type frozen vegetable mixes available in grocery markets for an even easier version. Root vegetables, like potatoes and turnips and onions, make fine roasting fodder. Bell peppers of any color, leeks, squash, all are good. The cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage and broccoli, may not fare as well but could work if the dish is covered long enough to get them steamed. Corn could make a great addition (frozen or fresh).

Estimate how many veggies you'll need based on how many will be eating and how big a pan you'll be using. You'll want the veggies to make a layer that is not too thick so they will all cook evenly. Wash and cut the vegetables into bite-size chunks. Leave skins on potatoes.

left: roasted vegetables ready to eat

Pile the vegetables into a shallow roasting dish or casserole. Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons (or more, depending on how many there are, you want a very light coating) of olive oil on top, and a generous amount of greek seasoning mix on top of that (or try another seasoning mix that goes well with vegetables, like Italian). Mix lightly and cover the pan (with a lid or with foil). Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, stirring two or three times. Remove lid or foil and let cook 5 - 10 minutes uncovered.

Monday, June 2, 2008

7 Vegan Convenience Foods

There are more vegan convenience foods than some omnivores imagine. You just have to know where and how to find them. That's where this blog comes in. We help you make veganism convenient through quick and easy cooking as well as vegan convenient foods.

Erik at listed a few vegan convenience foods in his last podcast. We thought we'd share that great resource.

Here are the vegan convenience foods Erik recommends:
  1. Clif, Luna, Lara, and Probar Energy Bars
  2. Kettle Chips
  3. Tings
  4. Late July Crackers
  5. Almond Butter Balls
  6. Primal Strips
  7. Annie’s Goddess Dressing
Personally, I enjoy Lara bars and Luna bars the most. I don't much care for Probars, but we're all different and you might like them a lot. Energy bars are an excellent emergency food to keep in your purse or backback for those times when you're stuck with omnivores who refuse to accommodate your eating preferences. Or, obviously, they're great on hikes or bike rides, too :)