Saturday, August 14, 2010

Being vegan is so easy it feels like cheating

This is a recent simple lunch I brought with me to work: a Tofurky sandwich. It's so reminiscent of your pre-vegan days, you might feel a little guilty, as if you were cheating at the Vegan Game. Five slices of Tofurky Hickory Smoked Deli Slices, one slice of Galaxy Nutritional Foods Cheddar Flavor Rice Vegan Slices, tomato, alfalfa sprouts and brown mustard between two slices of Food for Life Ezekiel 4:9 Organic Sprouted 100% Whole Grain Flourless Bread. Is it just me or do these sandwich components have extremely long brand names?

Nutritionally this might be the best sandwich ever created. Ever! In one delicious sandwich, you get 23 grams of protein, 10 grams of fiber and 20% of your RDA of calcium. With only 320 calories you definitely have room for dessert.

Product of the Day: After patting myself on the back for using several products from the fabulous yet bargain-priced Giovanni line, I was introduced to MoroccanOil by two ladies-in-the-know, Alisa V.H. and Katie "Taysh" S. My hair says thank you, but my wallet is not speaking to you. The Original MoroccanOil Oil Treatment will give you seriously shiny and soft hair for about $40 for a 3.4 ounce bottle. Luckily it's oil, so you don't have to (and shouldn't!) put very much in your hair. It's quick addicting and I'm already using it daily. I apologize to your wallet in advance.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fun with pasta

No time for sass today. We're going to get straight to the FOOD.

The easiest vegan meal to make is pasta. EVERYTHING goes with pasta. Just pick your favorite vegetables and hop to it!

I made this pasta salad to take to work for lunch. Here I started with Ancient Harvest Gluten Free Organic Pasta (made with quinoa), and added steamed zucchini and yellow squash, grape tomatoes, black olives, sundried tomatoes, Italian dressing (Whole Foods 365 brand) and vegan grated topping from Galaxy Nutritional Foods. I usually only make two days' worth at a time because I'm a little picky about "leftovers." But you can probably make up to 4 days' worth and it would still be good.

Product of the Day: Lush Aqua Marina cleanser roll. This little is effective but gentle on sensitive skin. Apparently it's all in the seaweed. It looks like a very strange sushi roll. An added bonus is that it is technically a solid so you can put it in your carry-on bag when you fly. I don't see how I can ever go back to any other cleanser. I tend to use several of Philosphy's products but even they seem a bit harsh and synthetic in comparison to Lush products.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Big changes

Hello Vegecagoans!
Big announcement: I have recently left the Second City for the greener pastures of Denver. I have a few posts left to do on some of my Chicago experiences, but obviously my blog content will change dramatically from here on out.
My revised goal for the blog is to come up with easy meals and fun treats just to give you some ideas that you might not have thought of yourself. I'll also be talking about the vegan experience in Denver, but it's so easy to be vegan here that my blog would not be very interesting if these were the only entries.
Case in point: on Saturday night I tagged along with some non-vegans for ice cream at Sweet Action (52 Broadway), and much to my surprise Sweet Action had two flavors of vegan ice cream on the menu. They also had some vegan ice cream sandwiches available. That's right, I said vegan ice cream sandwiches! I love Denver. But where is the challenge??

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pick Me Up Cafe

I had walked by Pick Me Up Cafe (3408 N. Clark St.) many times over the last few years but it was not until yesterday that I was actually able to organize a group brunch there.

It was definitely worth the wait (although I wish I would have discovered this sooner!). Pick Me Up is my favorite type of place for group dining, with selections for everyone ranging from a calamari appetizer to vegan cake for dessert. The menu is a diverse selection of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pastas, pizzas, burritos, brunch fare and a huge drink list. A small green "V" next to a large number of dishes indicates these items can be made vegetarian or vegan.

After difficult internal deliberations, I settled on the berry pancakes, vegan-style obviously, with blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries. The cakes themselves were perfect, not too sugary, and the berries were exceptionally flavorful. Naturally I used liberal amounts of maple syrup too. The coffee was also awesome(!!), though I didn't get details.

Berry pancakes. Note R2-D2 and Emperor Palpatine on the table.

On a side note, Pick Me Up Cafe is just plain cute. All of the tables are decorated differently (we were lucky enough to get the Star Wars themed table) and it looks like a dorm room decorated by geeky hippies and hipsters. I mean that in the best way possible.

Product of the Day: Corona Light. Happy spring everyone.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Nacional 27

Paella for one at Nacional 27.

I was a little apprehensive to dine at Nacional 27 (325 W. Huron) earlier this month. Some friends from out of town had made reservations there to kick off Green River/St. Patrick's weekend on Friday, March 12. It's a hip restaurant and I had never been, so I decided to go anyway. Note: if a restaurant has margaritas or even mojitos on the menu, I can be persuaded regardless of food choices.

After checking over the menu I figured my best bet was the paella. The waitress, after reciting the specials for a solid 10 minutes, told me that because they did not have many vegetarian options she could let me have the paella for one, instead of the stated two-person minimum. I was pretty grateful for the accomodation. I asked the very knowledgable waitress for my usual requests: no cheese, no butter, no beef/chicken broth, etc. Then she asked "so you would like it vegan-style?" YES! Thank you awesome waitress and Nacional 27.

The vegetable paella is made up of roasted corn, peppers, chayote (squash), calabaza (another squash-y vegetable), orzo and green olives. Served piping hot. Also there was something leafy but I can't remember if it was basil or spinach. Either way, this was a delicious veggie dish at a decidedly meat-friendly restaurant.

Product of the day: Larabars. All of them. I had the cinnamon roll bar for breakfast this morning. Larabars have no added sugar, preservatives...nothing. These guys have quite a few calories and fat for a little snack, but they are just about right for a small meal or big snack, and the fat is mostly the good kind from walnuts. Walnuts are important for vegans because they are a good source of omega-3s, which we get less of than our fish-eating friends.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Beach weather

The daily temperature is regularly reaching the mid- to upper-40s here in Chi-town, and you know what this means: day-drinking outdoors. Yes. I don't care if I still need to wear mittens to prevent frostbite while I hold my beer, we're drinking outside, damnit!

You know what goes really well with beer? Burgers. More precisely, veggie burgers. Twice last week I had the good fortune to dine with friends at Dunlays on Clark (2600 N. Clark St.). The Dunlays veggie burger, available at dinner and brunch, is a delicious blend of rice, beans, walnuts, sweet potatoes and wild mushrooms. In addition to being delicious, this burger is actually quite nutritious. We've talked about the benefits sweet potatoes recently, and the substantial walnuts provide some much-needed and under-consumed omega-3 fatty acids. (Does anyone else think "fatty acids" is a horrible term for such a nutritious substance?) Dunlays also offers a small but decent selection of sides to go with your burger: on Thursday I ordered grilled asparagus, and on Sunday at brunch I caved and got the shoestring-cut french fries, to go with my mimosa, obviously.

Product of the Day: Imagine Foods soups. I just finished a carton of the Organic Creamy Broccoli Soup. It is delicious both while you are waiting for dinner to cook or when you wake up from a hangover craving green and salty food (another strange side effect of being vegan). The soup is low in calories and has no unpronounceable ingredients.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Grove

Hello friends. I've had a busy week with moving, a visit from my family and the arrival of my new puppy Seven. Well actually I've been on vacation this whole week, so don't feel too sorry for me. I moved most of my things last Thursday and my parents and brother helped me finish the move when they arrived on Saturday, along with the puppy and his dog-mother Pearl.

With all this moving and puppy-walking we were all pretty hungry Sunday morning, so we set out for the Panera a few blocks away. However, on our way we got distracted by a cozy little diner on Diversey called The Grove (501 W. Diversey Parkway). I had been here before and had some decent oatmeal, but nothing to write home about. I figured the family would like it though so we went in. I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only did they have mimosas for $2.50, they had added a breakfast dish to their menu called "The Vegan Skillet." I seriously could not believe it. It was a very simple mix of hash browns, red and green peppers and onions topped with tofu "cheese." It also came with a side of toast.

Absolutely delicious! They were generous with the peppers and the tofu cheese gives this dish a nice boost of protein. Since I had last visited The Grove they had added a few vegan, vegetarian and other healthy options. Of course they still had all kinds of traditional diner breakfast offerings to cure your hangovers. This just goes to show you that even a "greasy spoon" (no offense, I love a good greasy spoon) can offer some great vegan options. It's 2010's only getting easier to be vegan, especially in a big city like Chicago.

Where have you found vegan fare in an unexpected place?

Product of the Day: IntelligentsiA Papua New Guinea: Agoga coffee. I am drinking this stuff like water this week and will be a little sad to go back to our office coffee next week. Let's be honest: coffee, sustainably produced and sourced of course, is the real glue between vegans and non-vegans.