The Root of the Matter: The Research Phase

No matter what kind of challenge I’ve done, I’ve always found I am more successful when I do a little research first. The same thing goes for my plant-based eating challenge*. I’ve spent the past month testing recipes, learning about what is considered vegan, and things I need to limit. 

A lot of people that I’ve told about the challenge have said that they have been interested in trying a vegan diet, but that it seemed like a lot of work. Many have said to me that they think it’s too much effort to know what they can and cannot eat. That’s where a little bit of research comes in. By “research,” I mean checking ingredient labels for things like dairy, eggs, or meat.

If that’s too overwhelming, I have also found some success with my good friend, Google. I store a lot of my pasta in containers rather than in the original boxes in my house. With that being said, it wasn’t very easy for me to check if it was OK to use in one of my recipes. Well, Google has informed me that majority of boxed pasta is indeed vegan and they even listed off several brands that I buy. It’s really not as much work as people think!

No dairy, no eggs, no meat. It’s as easy as that!

If you read my last blog post, you would have read that I bought a vegan cookbook as part of my research phase. I started making recipes from it so I will have go-to meals I know that I love for this challenge (I actually have already created a list of the recipes I love from the first cookbook with page numbers so that my family can make them throughout the challenge).

I’m hoping that all of my research will not only help me but help my family to be successful in this challenge, too. After loving all of the recipes from the first cookbook so much, I decided to buy the second one. I can’t wait to start flagging recipes in this one and start cooking.

 
 Cheesy Sweet Potato Pasta Photo Credit: Alyssa DelSoldato

Cheesy Sweet Potato Pasta
Photo Credit: Alyssa DelSoldato

 

As you may know, I love meal kit delivery services, so I decided to do some research and find a vegan one. Having one of these will help me to be successful on the busiest of nights. This week I decided to try Hungry Root, a plant-based meal kit that promises everything is under 500 calories and takes less than ten minutes to cook. (By clicking this link here, they’ll give you $30 off your first order, which brings your total to $39 instead of $69.)

With Hungry Root, you can totally customize your box so that you can have a variety of types of meals. The box I created included three meals that are two servings each, one that is one serving, and a dessert that has nine servings. I ordered a Bangkok Curry Salad Bowl, Pulled Jackfruit Curried Rice, Cheesy Cashew Sweet Potato Pasta, Red Pepper Edamame Bowl, and Almond Chickpea Cookie Dough.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this meal kit, but I had a mostly positive experience. The box arrived on Monday around 8:30 pm, which I thought was kind of late, but that’s not the company’s fault. I unpacked the box and was delighted by how organized it was. I liked that everything was clearly labeled and in its own container. Everything was easy to fit into one of my bins in my fridge.

 
 Photo credit: Alyssa DelSoldato

Photo credit: Alyssa DelSoldato

 

The box included recipe cards for each meal, although one of mine was missing. The recipe cards that they send are just suggested ways to use the ingredients, and a lot of their pre-made items have several suggested ways to use them.  Unlike other meal kits, this one had some ingredients that were used for more than one meal. For example, the Coconut Curry was used in the Bangkok Curry Salad Bowl and Pulled Jackfruit Curried Rice.

I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical about the pre-made items, such as the Edamame Salad, Red Pepper Edamame Bowl, and Pulled Jackfruit, but I was delightfully surprised. Everything tasted fresh, and by having some pre-made items in each meal, it really made each recipe take under 10 minutes to make. I actually timed how long it took to make each meal and everything was 8-10 minutes, except for the cookies. 

When I was telling people about these meals, their eyes lit up when I told them that they took under 10 minutes to make, although I didn’t quite feel the same way. While a meal under 10 minutes is really amazing for a busy workweek, I prefer to make everything from scratch. I’m “that person” that likes to cook myself an elaborate meal after a bad day— that meal always makes me feel better (I think I like cooking a lot more than most people, though).

I didn’t mind having dinner done so quickly, but I personally like to have a little more say in how I prepare my meals. This was the one thing that was really difficult for me. A lot of the food was already prepared and I like to have a little more control over the ingredients in my recipes. I like to cut out most of the oil that a recipe calls for, use minimal salt, and swap ingredients, but I couldn’t do that for any of these. Also, with other meal kits, I keep my favorite recipe cards to duplicate at another time. I can’t do that with this company. Since you need most of their pre-made ingredients, you can’t just make these again on your own. 

I wouldn’t say that I was overly impressed with any of the recipes, but they were all pretty good. What I was impressed with most was their sauces— especially the Cashew Cheddar— and the Almond Chickpea Cookie Dough. If this company had these items available in a store, I would probably be buying them every week. I found it so baffling when I looked at the ingredients on the container… how did these ingredients come together to make this flavor? Can I reproduce it? Well, that’s my next goal!

I loved that only one meal required the Cashew Cheddar so that I had half a container left. I’m going to make macaroni and cheese with it this weekend hopefully. As for the cookie dough… Wow. You can safely eat this raw because it doesn’t have any eggs in it, or you can bake it into cookies. I tried both and was very happy with each. The container also suggests using the cookie dough in a mini muffin tin to make mini chocolate chip muffins that can be used for a vegan whoopie pie.

I had recently learned about the latest vegan trend, pulled jackfruit. I was pretty shocked to learn that there was a “pulled meat fruit” out there that I’ve been missing out on for all these years! I made my own last week by buying a can at my Asian grocery store. Jackfruit itself doesn’t really have any flavor, so like tofu, it takes on the flavor of whatever you put on it. It took under 5 minutes to make: I sautéed it, then poured the BBQ sauce over it. I also added some red onions and threw it on a toasted bun. It had the same texture as pulled meat, and the BBQ sauce made me feel like I was eating meat.

 
 Pulled Jackfruit & Cauliflower Rice Photo Credit: Alyssa DelSoldato

Pulled Jackfruit & Cauliflower Rice
Photo Credit: Alyssa DelSoldato

 

Having tried this earlier in the week on my own and then receiving it in my meal kit box, I wasn’t surprised that it had that amazing pulled meat texture. The jackfruit from the meal kit was sent to me in a bag covered in a BBQ sauce. For some reason, I had a little more trouble shredding this one, but it was still really good, although I don’t think I would mix it with cauliflower rice again. I felt like the cauliflower took away from the texture of the pulled jackfruit— I definitely liked having it on a bun better.

Another thing I like about these recipe kits is that they send all of the ingredients for the suggested recipe, but they also recommend other pairings in case you’re not into it. I liked these recipes and can imagine a box like this being great for a really stressful week. I plan to order another one for my first week on the challenge since I’ll be recovering from Thanksgiving and traveling. It’ll be a relief to know that this will be arriving on Monday so that I can have challenge-approved meals in my fridge. I won’t have to worry about grocery shopping late Sunday night in a panic.

I honestly am really looking forward to more Cashew Cheddar and trying their Black Bean Brownie Batter. I’m not sure how I feel about paying the full price of $69 for this, but for one week of stress-free cooking while I prepare for my challenge, I’d say it’s worth it.

My plant-based eating challenge begins in two weeks… stay tuned!

 
 Click to JOIN      “Chef Orky’s Plant-Based Eating Challenge”  page    for updates, recipes and MORE ON this experiment!

Click to JOIN “Chef Orky’s Plant-Based Eating Challenge” page for updates, recipes and MORE ON this experiment!

 

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*Disclaimer: It is recommended that you consult a doctor or health care professional before making changes to your diet.