Some months back, My Veggie Chef offered an invite to test-drive their vegan meal-delivery service. And while I'm not vegan, being a modern human adult with all the requisite life-scheduling madness, the idea of enjoying a week of home-made meals while only putting in the work required to heat up a Bertolli had some serious appeal.
Not familiar with My Veggie Chef? Here's the gist: You choose a regular-sized or full-sized order, and receive frozen meal kits for five vegan (and, if you choose, gluten-free) entrees per week. Regular orders serve three to four folks per entree ($80); full orders serve six to eight ($160). Menus change weekly and span from Southwestern beloveds (chili) to Italian favorites (gnocchi), Asian flavors (Lo Mein) and beyond.
Depending on the particular meal, you'll have a simple heat-up or a few more prep steps, but the entire preparation process is clearly and simply outlined on the kit. And yes, it's easy enough for the non-cooking-inclined to make a meal happen without mangling it.
Chef Kristie Rigdon Holdren does all the shopping, chopping, seasoning, and portioning, and makes a point of listening to clients' needs and wants while planning menus -- a recent week included a bean chili inspired by a Veggie Chef customer who can't eat tomatoes.
Don't expect foams and sous-vides -- these are largely simple, homey meals designed to appeal to varied palates and fit into busy lifestyles. If you've never tried to eat veggie or vegan before, My Veggie Chef can offer some great insight into whether it works for you, while making you aware of all the options you have if you stick with it. But carnivores aren't left hungry either -- we didn't miss the meat, personally, but most of the My Veggie Chef meals can be easily meat-ified, too, by adding a few more steps and your own ingredients.
All that said: Here, a week in the life of a My Veggie Chef diner:
Paella with Marinated Tofu and Veggies
Kitchen time: About an hour
Difficulty: on the 1-10 scale between Minute Rice and actual cooking, around a 6
Consensus: Less a paella than a decked-out rice dish, this was still tasty and filling -- easily enough for three full meals for two grown adults. The meatiness of the mushrooms and marinated tofu made us not miss the meat, and while this was the most work-intensive and our least favorite meal of the week, it was neither difficult nor unappealing -- just a decent, simple meal.
Kitchen time: Maybe 10 minutes
Difficulty: On a 1-10 scale between cold cereal and actual cooking, maybe a 2
Consensus: This one was a total score, and the inspiration for many a follow-up meal. The seasoning on the seitan was flavorful and just spicy enough, and the sauteed peppers and onions brought some great bite and freshness. Beyond easy, and super delicious.
Gnocchi With Pan-roasted Green Beans
Kitchen time: About 15 minutes
Difficulty: On a 1-10 scale between Chef Boyardee and actual cooking, about a 3
Consensus: Disclaimer -- you'd have to be OK with the denser texture of store-bought gnocchi to dig this; tender home-made pillows they weren't. But, being fine and familiar with that kind of gnocchi, we loved Chef Holdren's additions. This was as easy as boiling up gnocchi and dumping on some store-bought sauce, but was far more enjoyable, with flavorful herbs, buttery and crisp green beans and sweetness and crunch from pine nuts. Another simple, delicious and filling dinner, and another favorite for the week.
Seitan and Pineapple Stir Fry
Kitchen time: About 15 minutes
Difficulty: On a 1-10 scale between Top Ramen and actual cooking, probably a 2
Consensus: As meat eaters, we'd had no particular draw toward tempeh prior to this My Veggie Chef experience, but at this point in the week, we were converts -- perhaps mostly due to Chef Holdren's ability to season and flavor the stuff quite well. Solid meatiness from the mushrooms and teriyaki, sweetness from pineapple, crunch from water chestnuts, and while this was just as easy to prepare as those Wanchai Ferry sacks o' frozen food at Kroger, the taste was much fresher and much better.
Indian-spiced Quinoa With Raisins and Pine Nuts
Kitchen time: About 30 minutes
Difficulty: On a 1-10 scale between heating up leftovers and actual cooking, about a 3-4
Consensus: Ending on a great note. Quinoa's easy to love, since it's full of good protein and amino acids and fiber and such, and is also nutty and delicious. Chef Holdren's offered sweetness with raisins and more of that pine-nut crunch, plus enough Indian flavor to appeal to folks who love those spices, without pushing those whose palates are a little less adventurous. Good and delicious family food, simple as heating up a box of Rice-A-Roni.
For more info and/or to order, visit the My Veggie Chef website.
Disclaimer: My Veggie Chef provided the meals; the opinions are all mine.