March 24, 2011

Speed Vegan — review and recipes | Vegan deals

When Alan Roettinger wrote "Speed Vegan," he was not following a vegetarian or vegan diet, but as a gourmet chef, he was charged with creating a book of wonderful vegan dishes that could be prepared within a time frame of 30 minutes. He welcomed the vegan-friendly nature of the recipes as a challenge, not an obstacle. He says in the introduction:
My motive in cooking has always been to create something extraordinary, something that thrills and delights the palate. When I'm working within a set of guidelines — such as low fat, gluten-free, or nondairy — I regard these parameters as challenges, never as any sort of goal. My objective is clear and consistent: to transform something I absolutely must have (food) into something I deeply appreciate (deliciously satisfying food). Part of that goal is to also ensure that the food is at least vaguely healthful, so it doesn't come back to haunt my pleasure with ugly consequences.
He also says that he created the recipes to please his own non-vegan palate, and he believes this is a good thing, as the recipes may help to persuade non-vegans who sample the dishes, that vegan food is delicious.* This may be a good thing for new vegans and non-vegans, but long-time vegans whose palates have adjusted to a plant-based diet, may find some of the food over-salted. This is not to say the recipes aren't great — the ones we tried were wonderful — but we had to greatly reduce the salt. Don't let what I've just said dissuade you from buying the book — it's packed with inspired ideas for creating fast, gourmet food that will surprise you with its flavor and beauty. There are so many intriguing recipes in the book that I want to try, I'm sure I'll be cooking from it regularly, but with discretion, as far as the salt content goes. The recipes, though speedy and easy enough for the average cook, are based on whole foods, not packaged stuff, in case you were wondering.

Building an assortment of good cooking tools can seem daunting. The book begins with excellent suggestions for selecting kitchen equipment, from "must have" to "hard to live without" to "makes work more fun if you have," so you can build a workable collection as finances and fancy dictate. Many people in transition to a plant-based diet wonder what to stock in their pantry, and the second chapter addresses the question with a comprehensive list of ingredients, and an interesting descriptive paragraph about each one. The first recipe chapter, called Jump Starts, contains recipes for flavor enhancing condiments to make and have on hand — stuff like garlic oil, chipotle chile purée and balsamic vinaigrette, which will add fast, deep flavor to your cooking.

The first dish we tried was white bean soup with Tuscan kale. My husband made it, and it took him about 30 minutes, though the soup tasted like it had been simmering for hours. It would have been fabulous if it hadn't been so incredibly salty. I could taste the flavors under the salt but I could barely eat one bowl. The recipe serves four to six, but contains three bouillon cubes plus a teaspoon of additional salt. (My husband didn't add the extra salt, or I wouldn't have been able to eat the soup.) To give you some perspective, my husband used Rapunzel vegan vegetable bouillon, which contains 1030mg of sodium per serving (that's 43% of the daily sodium for a 2000 calorie diet). Each cube is considered two servings (2060mg), and the soup contained three cubes, or six servings. One teaspoon of salt contains 2400mg of sodium. That's a big hit of sodium. (More thoughts on sodium, here. Most Americans get too much sodium in their diet, and it's not a bad idea to teach our palates to appreciate the inherent, delicious flavors of whole foods.) It's entirely possible that the author used a lower salt bouillon than we did, but be aware of the sodium content of any bouillon cube you choose. And add extra salt carefully.

The next time I make this soup, I'll either use low-sodium broth, homemade broth, or broth left over from cooking the beans myself, instead of bouillon cubes, or maybe just one cube. (I'll pressure cook the beans to keep with the "speed" theme, but of course it won't be as fast as opening a can.) I'll probably reduce the oil, too, but that's me. I'm posting the original recipe. (We added cooked brown basmati rice to ours.)

The second recipe we tested was red quinoa with zucchini and corn. Once again, we were rewarded with an easy-to-prepare, delicious dish filled with flavor and color. (We left out the bouillon and reduced the salt by more than half. And we used regular quinoa.) There are so many fabulous-sounding recipes in "Speed Vegan," I can't wait to try more of them.

White bean soup with Tuscan kale
(Reprinted with permission. Please do not re-post.) four to six servings
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 7 cloves peeled garlic
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale (or any kale) stems removed, coarsely chopped
  • 3 vegetable bouillon cubes (see above story)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (see above story)
  • 2 15-ounce cans cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar, if needed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  1. Pour the water into a medium pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Pulse the onion, carrot, celery and garlic in a food processor until very finely chopped.
  3. Put the oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the onion mixture, stirring well. Cook, stirring often to prevent sticking and burning, for about three minutes.
  4. Add the kale and stir until wilted.
  5. Add the boiling water, bouillon cubes and salt. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat, and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the kale is tender.
  6. Add the beans and simmer until heated through.
  7. Taste and adjust seasonings. If you detect a bitter edge, add the agave nectar.
  8. Remove from the heat and stir in parsley. Serve at once.

Red quinoa with zucchini and corn (Reprinted with permission. Please do not re-post.) four to six servings
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 zucchini, diced
  • 7 cloves peeled garlic, minced
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 1 cup red quinoa, rinsed and drained (you can substitute regular quinoa)
  • 2 cups carrot juice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (we used less than 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube (we left this out)
  • 1/2 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
  1. Heat the oil in a medium pot.
  2. Add the onion and cook and stir until it begins to soften.
  3. Add the zucchini and garlic, and cook and stir for two minutes.
  4. Add the corn and quinoa, and stir to mix thoroughly.
  5. Add the carrot juice, salt and bouillon cube, and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat, cover, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until quinoa is tender.
  6. Stir in the cilantro and serve at once.
* Interestingly enough, Alan Rottinger convinced himself to try a vegan diet. There's a note in the introduction saying that since writing "Speed Vegan," he has adopted a plant-based diet, and is happily thriving on it. You can read his blog here. There are lots of terrific recipes there.

Visit the Book Publishing Company Web site for a chance to win a copy of "Speed Vegan" and other vegan cookbooks.

Full disclosure: Speed Vegan was sent to me without cost by Book Publishing Company. They did not try to influence my review.

UPDATE, 3-27-11: I just attended a cooking demo at Vegfest with Alan Roettinger and, coincidentally, he made red quinoa with zucchini and corn. When he added the bouillon, he said he was using Rapunzel brand NO SALT bouillon cubes. That would make for a much less salty result than we had!


If you're anywhere near the Seattle area this weekend be sure to visit Vegfest at the Seattle Center exhibition Hall. It just so happens that Alan Roettinger, author of "Speed Vegan," will be doing cooking demos on both days. I'll be volunteering as a food demonstrator on Sunday from 10 to 2, so if you think you recognize me (:D) be sure to say hello.


Vegan deals

By now, most people have probably heard about the Web-based companies like Groupon, that send you daily deals for half-price entertainment, meals and services. The intrepid Vegan Backpackers are busy establishing a vegan deal program, and looking to sign people up to receive bargains on products and services of particular interest to vegans. Check it out by clicking on the heart!


Here's a blog post with links to the blog author's "top 25 blogs to help you go vegan." (No, this blog isn't on the list.)


  1. That soup sounds delicious... and I know that bouillon can vary so much. Some of my recipes are probably super heavy on the salt too... I think when you've been a chef in restaurants, it's hard to reduce salt at home sometimes. I know for me it is!

  2. i love that he wrote it while not vegan and then decided to go veg! how exciting! i jsut went to his blog, he seems really nice. he took a photo of something for a reader so she would know what to look for in the store, thats pretty cool of him. im going to go check out that vegan groupon thing right now!

  3. Wow, those both look delicious and I'm going to have to try them. I'm trying to make faster meals on weeknights.... so we don't eat at 7:00, like we did tonight!

  4. Great review of the cookbook! I have noticed that people who are used to cooking with meat tend to over salt when there's no meat involved. Maybe they think they need to compensate for the flavor, I'm not sure. :-)

  5. Melody,
    I think it's hard for everyone to reduce salt. Salt is addictive, and it's so easy to become accustomed to it. There are so many negative health issues associated with too much sodium that I think it's worth it to make the effort. One of the things I liked about the cookbook is there are so many flavor sources, lots of salt isn't needed. I think that's true of your recipes, too.

    I guess the recipes must have been really good! I like his blog, too, and I just found out he'll be at Vegfest this weekend! (in Seattle)

    We seem to be eating later and later, but not because we're cooking time-consuming dinners. I think we're just avoiding cooking in general. Speed Vegan has a lot to offer — the food is fast and easy but boring at all, and you can season it as you like. The recipes are very appealing.

    Did you guys just get a lot of snow?

    Chow vegan,
    Thank you. I think the salt may be to compensate for the flavor, but also if you eat things like corned beef, cold cuts, hotdogs, sausage, ham, etc., which contain a lot of salt, you become used to the salty taste and everything starts to taste bland. The same is true of salty snacks and junk food (vegan or otherwise) in general.

  6. I have Speed Vegan. My girls cook from it often.
    Blessings, Debra
    Raw Vegan Diet

  7. I've seen that book around in the stores, but never stopped to have a look. Thanks for the review, I'll have to take a peek inside next time I see it.

    V. cool that he switched to a vegan diet after doing the book.

  8. Thanks for the great book review.

    Both dishes look great, but I would be like you with the whole salt thing. I was just thinking about some white bean kale soup the other day.

    That's pretty cool that he went vegan after writing the book.

  9. Debra,
    I think it's a very clever cookbook!

    You should definitely look at it; it's one of those books where the recipes seem simple, but the results taste gourmet. There are lots of ideas for interesting combinations of ingredients.

    There was so much flavor in the recipes that all the salt wasn't needed. I was just thinking that when you eat raw foods, you don't pour on the salt, and the food still tastes great. I don't salt my salad!

  10. i'm going to have to try that quinoa dish. have you ever used better than bouillon? i like it because it's not a cube, it's more like a thick sauce, and you can add just as much or as little as you want. plus it dissolves faster and i think it tastes better than regular bouillon.

  11. Emily,
    I don't think I've ever tried that. I usually use homemade or low-sodium stock from a box. I also have some powdered stuff but I rarely, if ever use it. My husband bought the cubes specifically to test the recipe. I'll have to look for btb next time I'm shopping.

  12. Thank you for the review, Andrea. I have the book but haven't made anything from it yet. I'll make sure to adjust the salt.
    Whenever I go out eating at vegan restaurants, I realize that their dishes are very salty, often too salty. I've always asked myself why they did it. I guess now it know. It might be the omnivore guests "fault" :)

  13. Mihl,
    I added a note to my post about meeting Alan Roettinger today, and finding out he uses no-salt bouillon, but he didn't note that in the recipes. You should definitely try some of the recipes — they are fast and delicious. Today I tasted a third dish from the cookbook and really enjoyed it.

  14. I had never had good luck with red quinoa before, but the nuttiness of the quinoa mixed with the sweetness of the corn is really an ideal combination. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  15. Objective and fair review, Andrea. More on the salt, eh? You're trying to make me reduce mine, I just know it! I need to anyway. Bleh. So, I made a soup similar to his (on my blog, of course) called White and Green soup, or the other way around, maybe. Anyhow, I think kale and beans is a winning combo, for sure. How did the food demo go?

  16. Those look and sound delicious. How great that he's decided to eat vegan from now on! I hope it lasts...

    I once cooked a dish from Skinny Bitch which used LOTS of stock cubes. It was uneatable! Maybe they meant the salt-free ones, too, but I don't think they said so!

  17. Easy Vegan,
    I used regular quinoa because I couldn't find red, and it worked really well. I love quinoa both for the taste and the speed of cooking.

    You know you should reduce the salt. We all eat too much salt. Kale is my favorite green thing, and I love it in soup with just about anything.

    I stood and poured samples of cereal into little cups for five hours, but it was fun. There was a huge turnout, and I was right next to Theo chocolates!

    I think he will mention the salt-free cubes in his next cookbook! He seems like a really nice and entertaining guy.

  18. Thanks! I love quinoa too - it is just the red I've had trouble pairing with recipes. One idea I've had is to make some type of a quinoa fritter with red quinoa, cashews, onions, tumeric, curry, cilantro, lime, chilis, etc. I might play with that this weekend.

  19. they do look like great recipes. I always find myself adding too much salt to things like lentils because they just seems to absorb it without being able to taste it. I'm working on using different flavourings to compensate though and have discovered lo-salt tamari soy sauce which really helps!

  20. I hadn't really given this cookbook much thought, since it sounds fairly similar to many out there, but these recipes do look promising. The quinoa sounds like a perfect summer side dish, so I'll have to hang on to that recipe for warmer months (and summer veg)!

  21. if you ever ear about a French chief who dare do do half that way on the vegan side, just call!
    e are so late on this part of the planet!

  22. Easy vegan recipe,
    That sounds good. Quinoa works really well in burgers, so fritters will probably turn out great.

    The less salt you use, the more you'll find the real flavor of foods. It takes a while for your taste buds to adjust, but once they do, you'll think everything is too salty.

    The cookbook is nothing like what I expected. Like you, I never gave it much thought. But the recipes are intriguing, and after watching a cooking demo by the author, I'm looking forward to trying more of them.

    I'll keep that request in mind. :)

  23. So Andrea, how was the VegFest? Did you have fun? Was there a good turnout? Will you be posting about it for those of us who didn't get to go? *sniffle* *whimper* sniffle* :-)

    I loved reading that Alan went vegan after writing Speed Vegan - that's great! I took a peek at his blog(s) - he's certainly living an interesting life!

  24. Laloofa,
    Vegfest was exhausting fun — it's not easy pouring cereal into little cups non-stop for five hours. :) The turnout was huge and the samples were extravagant, and I ate a lot of stuff I don't normally eat. I only took two photos this year so I can't show you what it was like, but eventually I'll get around to posting something. Thanks for asking.

  25. The soup looks delicious though! I always have to reduce the amount of salt called for in recipes because it's usually too "mummifying" for my taste.

    Yay for vegan deals!

  26. Andrea, thanks so much for your wonderful review!
    Definitely my bad on the salt--I do use unsalted bouillon cubes, but also I have low blood pressure, so it was never an issue for me, and my wife is a salt-o-holic (she salts hers even after all the salt I use--go figure). But, as you observed, the farther I get from my last animal product meal(2 years now), the less salt I find I need/want.

    To answer one of your readers re: me going back to a nonvegan diet--not even vaguely interested! I feel sooo much better in so many ways, it would be like asking if I'd consider smoking again--it's been over 20 years now--yuck!

    Seriously--thank you very much for taking the time to review my book. I'm adding your blog to my blogroll.

  27. River,
    I think the recipes are great — with the salt reduction. But, remember, I did discover that Alan uses no-salt bouillon. That would make a big difference.

    You're welcome. I love your cookbook, and as I told you at Vegfest, I just wish the recipes said to use no-salt bouillon. I bought some unsalted bouillon to try, and I also have an unsalted condiment mix that adds lots of flavor without salt.

    Thanks for adding my blog to your list.


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