Veggies have a special place in my heart. No meal is complete for me without an ample serving of vegetables. But the reality is that making purely veggie-based meals can be challenging. For starters, cooking vegetables is time consuming – it’s so much easier to grill a piece of chicken! Also, veggies are usually not satisfying on their own and can be monotonous if you eat them for every meal (even for the most ardent veggie lovers, there are only so many sautéed or roasted veggie dishes that one can eat!).
I started my company, Down to Cook, with the mission to make vegetables delicious, satisfying and easy to cook. Before founding Down to Cook, I spent 10 years working as a food product developer. I worked for a few companies that made plant-based meat and dairy analogs. We would do so much engineering to try to make plant materials mimic animal products that at the end of the day the results were so highly processed and expensive that I questioned what we were even doing. I knew that we could be more creative and develop plant-based products that are actually healthy and also affordable. It was really troublesome to see that healthy food was only available to people of a certain income level. This was my calling to take all that I learned and (without being too cliché!) be the change that I wanted to see in the industry.
When I was first exploring the idea of Down to Cook, I started by doing a lot of research on the challenges of cooking plant-based meals at home. There are a plethora of fake meats and cheeses, pricey meal kits and frozen veggie patties out there. And for the plant-based pros, tofu and beans are common go-tos. The crazy thing to me was that there were no products that focused on cooking actual vegetables! This led me to hone in on a singular focus: how can we make fresh veggies the center-of-plate protein while being satiating and easy to cook?
This is how I developed our first product, Adda Veggie Protein Mix. You simply add fresh veggies to the mix to create a protein alternative that can be used exactly as you’d use ground meat – formed into patties, meatless meatballs, or a crumble. The mix itself is a blend of pea protein, fiber, and spices that adds plant-based protein and (crucially!) gives veggies that satisfying texture of ground meat – brown and crispy on the outside and juicy and mouth-watering on the inside. My main focus was to replicate the textural elements that make ground meat satisfying but to still retain that delicious fresh veggie flavor. Personally, my favorite ways to use Adda Veggie are to make broccoli burgers, eggplant meatballs, mushroom crumbles for taco filling, and cauliflower keema (a traditional ground lamb Indian dish). There are tons of other ways to use the mix, and it works with a variety of veggies.
I’m really proud of this product because all along I wanted to use my training in food science to make healthy at-home cooking feasible for busy people, and to create something that’s valuable for folks. I’m also proud to help make plant-based eating more accessible. To me, accessibility means making the price point affordable, but it also means making products that are attractive to a diverse crowd. We have to design products inclusively, taking into account the needs and desires of those communities when developing products, and making sure that we sell those products in places that actually reach those communities. We’re so excited to reach more people who are down to cook healthy, plant-based food!