Jeff Novick, MS, RD, LD, LN, popular speaker on healthy vegan foods, has developed a series of three DVDs (so far) on “Fast Food”. His position is that anyone can buy food in any supermarket and prepare a healthy vegan meal in about ten minutes – for very little money. Volume One is The Basics.
The Basics introduces us to the ten food groups Jeff says we should have in our cupboards and freezers at all times:
1. Frozen vegetables
2. Frozen Fruits
3. Quick Cooking Brown Rice (he recommends Success brand)
4. Canned beans – no salt added
5. Canned or packaged tomato products – no salt added
6. Whole grain pasta
7. Dried fruit
8. Unsalted nuts, seeds and nut and seed butters
9. Intact whole grains (buckwheat, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa etc)
10. Seasoning mixes, salt-free.
With these ingredients you can make an endless variety of lunch or dinner dishes, based on Jeff’s five very simple recipes – which are variable to your taste. The dishes call for very little work and time, taste good, are healthy, and cost little.
The DVD also offers some specialty recipes – a low-fat hummus, a tahini dressing, oatmeal, smoothie, a chocolate berry parfait, and a special treat: almond butter stuffed dates.
In this DVD Jeff introduces us to his two “helpers”, two young sisters who open cans, put quick rice packages into boiling water, and taste the end result. Jeff shows them (and us) how to put together each of the recipes. Fortunately, the DVD also includes a pdf file of all of the recipes so they can be printed out or used directly from a computer. Or sent to a friend.
So is it worth buying?
Depends. This approach should be especially valuable to new health-minded vegans who might not know just how to get going on this new way of eating. All of the foods are familiar and easily found, the prep takes maybe a minute or two, and the meal is done in ten-fifteen minutes. Even those of us who have been cooking in a similar way for a while can benefit from the extra tips and information.
This is not a full-blown cookbook. Five meal recipes and a few extras doesn’t sound like much. It is more than a collection of recipes, however. It is a general method that is easily varied. Even so, for those who have been cooking healthy vegan for a while it may be a disappointment.
The information is solid and the method useful. However, there are some aspects of the DVD that, frankly, made me laugh or wonder (not when intended):
* The kitchen. Clearly Jeff used a working home kitchen. It is laid out in a manner that makes it difficult for viewers to keep an eye on the dish because so much else is in the way. There is clutter on the counters in the background and the stove is in the middle of the room, with the cameras some distance away. No cooking channel would accept this arrangement.
* The sound. We can hear well enough. There are times that an echo creeps in, giving the DVD a bit of an amateurish feel (along with the kitchen).
* The serving sizes. Jeff and his two helpers clearly did this all in one day. They all wore the same clothes throughout. Some of the foods were left out, after the making of one dish, to be used in the next. Yet Jeff insisted on offering huge servings to his helpers. I expect he may have done this to suggest to us that this is an appropriate amount for us to eat at a meal. However, he was making five different meals in one day so clearly the young women took a bite or two and the rest landed in the garbage disposal.
* Disposal. There was no set arrangement for disposal of trash or recyclables. Jeff alternately tossed used cans into the trash or set them aside on the counter. I’d think this would be an elementary part of a basic plan.
* Jeff does every step for every recipe, even though the main method is the same. The DVD would be much shorter if he just showed the changed ingredients and jumped to the end result. However, the repetition might be good so that we get the basic idea in our heads and can just go to the cupboard and freezer and make it happen without reference to anything.
I have cooked several of these dishes. For me, the soup was the most successful, in large part because I used canned tomatoes with chiles, which added just the right amount of bite (for me). Every one makes such a large amount that I usually make half, and even that lasts me for several meals (I live alone). Fortunately, these dishes freeze easily. Serving-size amounts can be placed in freezer bags, labeled, and frozen. Really nice to have when all you have energy for is heating something in the microwave.
Note: I purchased this DVD from the website.