Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Happy belated Thanksgiving! I hope you all had a lovely time with family and friends.

I spent my Thanksgiving in Iowa for the first time since 2004. Our guest list was small, and the humans were outnumbered by the pets: my parents, brother, grandma and grandpa versus two dogs, six puppies and a 17-year-old cat. Here's what our meal looked like:

Can you tell which plate is vegan? The Tofurky gives it away, but in case you were wondering, the plate on the left is vegan. Clockwise from the Tofurky, there is stuffing, cranberries, mashed potatoes and in the middle we have a mashed sweet potato-banana combo. Bonus points to Mom for trying something new and crazy she saw on the Today Show! The plate on the right (my Mom's plate) has some green beans on it. I passed on these...don't even get me started on canned vegetables. That's a topic for another day.

As you can see, vegans don't suffer when it comes to food. That's probably the biggest misconception about being vegan. As long as you are not a total lazy bum, there is a way to make a vegan version of all of your favorite foods. Though I understand that Tofurky is not quite the same as actual turkey. But, my friends, check out two tiny carnivores who were sneaking bits of Tofurky from me:

Bonito and Lucky were begging for more Tofurky!

I must confess that my plate was not 100% vegan. This is one of the occasions where I step off my soap box (and in some ways step onto a totally different soap box). The seasoned croutons my mom used in making the stuffing had "2% or less" of whey. When anyone, especially my mother, goes to the trouble of making me special vegan dishes, and one of the ingredients of one of the dishes is 1/50 non-vegan, how on earth could I refuse? That would be incredibly rude and disrespectful of someone really trying to minimize the animal products in the food s/he was serving. So some vegans may say I'm making excuses, but I said my thanks for the cows who give us whey and dug into my "vegan" stuffing. In my book, sometimes it really is the thought that counts.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Carnivale came early this year

We're going back to basics for this post. What does a vegan do when going out for a nice dinner in Chicago with her meat-eating (yet totally fabulous) girlfriends?

Back in October, Ali and I won a gift certificate for $100 to Carnivale (702 W. Fulton Market), an upscale and totally hip restaurant with a Latin-themed menu. So last week we went out for dinner, and we brought our friend Kate B. (who is an extremely watchable actress, by the way) because she's just so much fun.

Kate was loving the Carnivale Margarita, Ali enjoyed the caipirinha, and I sampled the white sangria and Green City Market Caipirinha. The guacamole was absolutely delicious and the accompanying tortilla chips are that fat-laden kind you always hope the restaurant serves. (Ali and Kate shared the mixto ceviche...for you none-vegans I'm told it was absolutely delightful.)

After an hour of drinks and appetizers we finally opened our menus. The waitress was very knowledgeable about the menu and helped guide me to all the dishes that could be veganized. I settled on an entree called "Quinotto" that I had never seen before but makes so much sense. It's like risotto, my favorite Italian dish, but in place of arborio rice they used quinoa, a nutritious little South American grain. Also in the Quinotto were onions, Brussels sprouts, pine nuts, mushrooms and a chile sauce on the side. Behold:

Isn't it lovely? This dish was unbelievable. I of course requested this without the goat cheese that this Quinotto normally includes. The mushrooms gave it that extra dose of "umami" I've been hearing so much about lately.
After my experience I would highly recommend a night out at Carnivale if you are a vegan but have meat-craving dining companions. They have all kinds of seafood and the steak for which Latin America is famous. (Yum?)

I'm off to Iowa today for Thanksgiving festivities. I was planning to cook an elaborate vegan meal at my apartment for my parents and brother, but last week my brother's dog had a surprise litter of puppies. So I'm riding back to Sioux City tonight to see the six little puppies. In the words of my brother, prepare yourself for some pretty extreme cuteness:

I have been looking at this photo every 30 seconds for the past two days. I can assure you that it does not get old.

Product of the Day: Obviously I'm going with a vegan's best Thanksgiving weapon, the Tofurky. I can't wait to eat this tomorrow. If you're lucky enough to be in Sioux City, they have them at Hy-Vee on Hamilton Blvd. If you are not in the vicinity of a Hy-Vee, on the Tofurky website you can find a list of retailers so you can get your own spherical bundle of meatless joy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Everyone knows that the cover models are airbrushed

Someday my cookies will be cover-worthy. In the meantime, they taste pretty good.

The oft-neglected polenta and BOOTS OMG BOOTS!

For dinner the past two nights I made polenta with spinach, tomato sauce, garlic and olives. That's it!

Slice the polenta (you can find this little Italian import in a tube package near the pasta), layer the slices in a small Pyrex baking dish, cover it in frozen chopped spinach, sauce, garlic and olives. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, longer if your spinach is really frozen.

Recently I bought my first garlic press at Ikea for $3, and I highly recommend getting yourself one. Crushing the garlic really brings out the flavor.

Layer the polenta slices and spinach like this!

Dinner is served. Yes, those are kalamata olives. Vegecagoan is equal-opportunity and this dish is part Greek.

Product of the Day: Report Over-the-knee faux suede boots. I just got a pair of my own in black. I sleep in these things, I love them so much.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New breakfast love

Hey y'all. I had such a great breakfast this morning that I couldn't keep it to myself.

Ricera Rice Yogurt. OMG. Last week I made my first visit to the Whole Foods on Huron. I was getting a little tired of my usual Trader Joe's soy yogurt so I picked up a few different brands and types of vegan yogurts.

Why should we eat this yogurt stuff anyway? Ask Jamie Lee Curtis. Or just watch the collection of unintentionally hilarious (non-vegan) yogurt commercials over the past few years:

But I digress. To get to the point of this post, Ricera Organic Blueberry Rice Yogurt, consumed by yours truly for the first time this morning, is my new favorite "yogurt." Low in fat, with a little fiber and protein, and extremely delicious. Did you hear me? EXTREMELY delicious. A little bit sweet, a little bit tart, just like me.

Product of the Day: Seriously? Did you not read the beginning of the post? Here:

Monday, September 7, 2009

A laborious lunch

Happy Labor Day!

Just a quick post to tell you about an easy lunch I just made up today.

I started with a FlatOut Light Italian Herb Wrap, spread a bit of Sabra Hummus with Roasted Pine Nuts, then added alfalfa sprouts, three slices of Lightlife Smart Deli Turkey, and steamed zucchini and yellow squash. I'm making this for my lunches this week to take to work, but I'm thinking about substituting the hummus with a pinch of dijon mustard. I think both versions sound equally yummy.

In preparation for the Chicago Half Marathon next weekend, I ran 10 miles yesterday, which gave me just enough of a feeling of accomplishment to completely coast through the rest of the weekend.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Taco-Flavored Kisses

Last night I was totally craving tacos. I have a Mexican dinner scheduled with Marie and Kendra tonight, but I couldn't wait!

I set out some frozen spinach and sweet corn to thaw, then headed over to Dominick's to pick up the other ingredients. I found a package of 12 corn tortillas for $0.39! And you might think such a great deal would be sub-par with nasty ingredients, but these tortillas are seriously authentic and have only three ingredients: corn, water, and lime. Unbelievable.

The beauty of tacos, besides their tastiness, is their simplicity: gather your favorite Mexican-ish foods and put them in a warm tasty tortilla envelope. I layered Amy's Organic Refried Black Beans, the spinach and corn in a tortilla, heated it all in the microwave* and topped it off with some Tofutti Sour Supreme. (I bought zucchini too for these, but I had too many ingredients and the tacos were in danger of developing into full-blown burritos.) Next time I might try to add some Teese or salsa, but really these tacos had enough variety of flavors and textures, so anything else could be overkill. The beans, by the way, were fantastic, and not overly spicy. I had never had these before. Usually I am conflicted on whether to use refried beans or black beans in Mexican dishes, but this product solved that dilemma.

Looking forward to more vegan Mexican food tonight, con muchas margaritas.

Product of the Day: As if you couldn't guess, I'm loving Amy's Organic Refried Black Beans.

*I am quite afraid of the microwave oven, but I am able to use it occasionally as long as I don't think about it too much.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Big Weekend/Monday for Vegecagoans!

Unless you live under the proverbial rock, you know that this weekend our great city is hosting Lollapalooza. As if copious amounts of great music isn't enough, this year Chicago Soydairy returns to bring us their Temptation Vegan Ice Cream to enjoy at the festival. According to their blog, they will be selling cones of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Fair Trade Chocolate, Vanilla and Mint Chocolate Chip in the north food court. CC cookie dough all the way! This is the same delicious vegan ice cream that Chicago Diner uses in their shakes. Could this weekend get any better?

No. And to top it off, Ian's Pizza on Clark Street is making this upcoming Monday downright bearable. It's vegan pizza night people! They will be using Teese (also from Chicago Soydairy!) and Upton's Naturals and Yves faux meats on the pizzas, in addition to the veggies. Check out the menu and take time out of your Lolla weekend to place your order before Monday.

I have a large backlog of posts, and I will definitely blog after Lollapalooza for those of you still paying attention. Enjoy the weekend!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dinner in Streeterville and a Gay Angel

So I started this blog to show how I navigate Chicago and stick to being vegan, without making my friends go to Chicago Diner for every single meal. Saturday night I went to P. J. Clarke's (Illinois & Columbus) for dinner with Katie C. I usually get the garden vegetable burger without cheese but was informed by the waiter that they actually put cheese in the burger, not just on it. Sad face! I knew it was too good to be true. And now I have to concede that cheese does in fact make things even more delicious. The waiter seemed very knowledgable about the food and what is and is not vegan, and he directed me toward the southwestern wrap. It was very good but I'm still salty about the burger. I did have the comfort of the sweet potato fries. SO long story short, if you're in Streeterville looking for beer, food and possibly some outdoor dining, check out P. J. Clarke's and the southwestern wrap. Your dining companions will have plenty of meat and cheese options. Everyone wins (well, the people win...not so sure about the cow that ends up in the burgers your friends may order).

On Sunday Chicago celebrated gay pride with a parade in Boystown. Katie S. and Rachael hosted a breakfast to "get ready" for the parade. Katie made some vegan homestyle potatoes for me (potatoes, vegetable oil, salt & pepper...yum!). I meant to get champagne for mimosas but alas in Chicago you cannot buy alcohol before 11:00 a.m. on a Sunday. So when I arrived at Katie's I began drinking screwdrivers. Big mistake. After drinking 3-5 screwdrivers, plus the heat and sun while watching the parade, I nearly blacked out and yes, vommed over the balcony. I was not alone in vomming, which made me feel slightly better, but it was not my finest moment. Anyway, I'm resting on the porch, lying with my face down on the patio table, and all of a sudden there is the neighbor, Paul, hovering over me with a plate of cookies. "I heard you are vegan, and these cookies are for you." He scooped a few cookies off of the plate he was carrying and put them down in front of me. "Feel better," he said and walked away.

At least I think this is what happened. Eventually I ate the cookies, rallied and then went to dinner. I ordered fajitas and of course had to grab the skillet with my bare hand. Now I have two burnt fingers. For the past several Mondays I have shown up at work with bandages on at least one body part. I'm hoping for an injury-free weekend but this is a three-day weekend, the 4th of July, Stephanie's bachelorette party, all in Sioux City. I'm just hoping I am alive next Monday.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I'm still alive!! And well-fed.

Hello Vegecagoans!

Yes yes I know, it's been over a month since I've posted.

I'm pretty proud of this baby. Kendra was in town for the weekend, and Katie Corey is in Chicago on extended leave from K.C., so we had a girls' night out Saturday. Because I'm poor (having had all of my money siphoned off from my bank account to the wedding registries of dear friends) I was completely on board when Marie suggested we make dinner.

Kendra, Marie and I were walking around the Green City Market in Lincoln Park on Saturday, and everything looked so lovely and appetizing! We each got smoothies from Seedling Enterprises that would probably make a great hangover cure, though we wouldn't really know. We found some purple asparagus (pictured) that was even better than regular asparagus, but turned green after cooking. I don't get it either. We also bought a "quarter ounce" of purple basil (pictured on the pasta). I don't know why we had to have purple things, it just made sense at the time. The girl selling the basil was pretty witch-tastic, but the guy next to her warned us not to get too crazy with that quarter ounce of "basil." Everyone's a comedian. As we left the farmers' market we strolled through the Lincoln Park Zoo to see critters and get a little sunburn. My favorite thing about Lincoln Park is that, because of the free admission to the zoo, you can see polar bears and giraffes on a whim. This was 6-year-old E$'s wildest dream.

But I digress. Next I took a quick trip to Trader Joe's on Ontario to pick up the linguine and some organic extra virgin olive oil. At my apartment I steamed the purple asparagus for 12 minutes (I usually do 14 minutes for green asparagus) in my Oster steamer. This little miracle worker is $29.99 at Target. Have I mentioned this yet? Probably. I love it. I use it nearly every day to steam vegetables. Steaming veggies is much better than boiling. Not only do the veggies taste better, steaming allows the vegetables to retain more of their vitamins and minerals than with boiling. Better tasting and better for you.

I boiled the linguine and mixed a ton of dried basil into the olive oil for my "pesto" sauce. I didn't have any on hand, but a vegan Parmesan substitute can be mixed in for more flavor. I then cut grape tomatoes in halves and steamed them with some sliced baby portabella mushrooms for about 3 minutes. I dished up the linguine, added the pesto sauce, and then topped it off with the tomatoes, mushrooms and the fresh purple basil, with the purple asparagus on the side.

Add copious amounts of "fine" wine to taste.

Marie, Katie and Kendra putting up with my vegan cooking. (Marie brought a little baggie of real Parmesan cheese, but still...)

Congratulations to Kendra for more than one month of vegetarianism. Wow! And congratulations to Marie for running three miles today! It was 90 degrees out! And Katie...well I know you did something really awesome today too.

I'm training for the Chicago Half Marathon again this year. Sometimes I don't believe that I actually finished last year so I'll do it again just to be sure. Today is day two of training and I'm already sore.

Product of the Day: Jonathan Product Create Volume Thickening Foam, available at Sephora. This works well in my long hair even in this heat we Chicagoans have been begging for (and are now complaining about).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chicago Diner

Hey Vegecagoans! I have just a very short post tonight. Today for lunch I went to my favorite restaurant in Chicago, the generically-named Chicago Diner. This time I actually remembered to bring my camera! The diner is conveniently located two blocks from my gym and on Sundays I am sometimes able to strong-arm my friend K into eating here.

The sweet potato quesadillas were calling me but I made myself try something new. I ordered the California Reuben ("agave slow roasted mesquite 'turkey' seitan on marbled rye, topped with fresh coleslaw & cheeze") with sweet potato fries.

They brought me the wrong kind of potatoes, but it was a little blessing in disguise because I didn't eat them and was therefore able to save room in my tummy for a shake. We both had a Bell's Oberon Ale (K's idea, I swear) too. K got her favorite black bean burger and they actually brought her sweet potato fries.

I was pretty full but I hadn't had one of their shakes in months and I couldn't take it any longer. Sometimes in the gym classes when the instructor is making us do too many lunges I promise my crying hamstrings that I can go to the diner afterwards and get a shake. So once in a while I have to make good on my promise to myself. I ordered my standard cookie dough peanut butter shake. Yes, it is as good as it sounds. I forgot to take a 'before' picture but...

...I finished it. Afterwards I took a serious nap.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I'm too tired to think of a title

Greeting Vegecagoans!

I must apologize for completely slacking on posting. Thank you to my seven (7!) followers on Google Reader for sticking with this experiment of mine.

To be entirely honest I thought I would do quite a bit of posting from work, and sure enough I start having to actually work during most of my waking hours. And I know I said I would focus on Chicago and its unique challenges and advantages for vegans, but these last few weeks I am lucky if I make it to the Burrito Beach down the street, much less an actual restaurant.

I went to my first bachelorette party last weekend. I mean, it was the first one I've attended, it was not my bachelorette party. Sure enough, the hostess brought out Jell-O shots.

This always makes me uncomfortable because the person approaching you with a Jell-O shot truly believes they are giving you a rowdy little ray of sunshine. This one even had whipped cream and a candy %&#!$ on it. But when I look at a Jell-O shot all I can see is the Kind & Knox gelatin factory down I-29 from my hometown of Sioux City, Iowa. The smell of this factory, and the corporate meat-packing plants and factory farms around it, is overwhelming. I concede that it is better to make a "useful" product out of the leftover cattle body parts, using the whole animal rather than just the meat, but gelatin and its components have ruined any chance I have at being a normal binge-drinking 25-year-old adult and just taking a jiggly shot with everyone else.

It's easy for me to say no to these Jell-O shots, but it is hard to see the look of disappointment from the bearer of the Jell-O shot when I refuse. There is not much I can do to explain my refusal. Whenever an occasion calls for Jell-O shots, it is the absolute wrong time to preach about gelatin and the virtues of veganism.

Two (maybe three?) years ago, before I was vegan (but had mostly stopped eating Jell-O), my second cousin, a professional sorority girl at a state university, brought Jell-O shots to the family Christmas Eve gathering. I gave in and took one. I hated Jell-O, but I really hated the thought of offending my wacky drunken lovable relatives.

This past year I did not partake. And at the bachelorette party I avoided Jell-O shots by playing photographer while everyone else participated. Until I was forced to take tequila shots to compensate.

Product of the Day: Today I'd like to give a quick shout-out to Jamba Juice for being vegan friendly. As I mentioned my work schedule has been jam-packed lately. (On top of the usual activity, today's events included a stolen shredder and our head of security getting food poisoning from a hamburger around 11:30 a.m...these incidents were unrelated) This morning I was already running around at work at 7:30 a.m. so I eventually needed breakfast like WHOA. I went to my trusty Jamba Juice and got an Apple Cinnamon Pretzel (just seven simple ingredients, all with non-scary pronouncible names) and a Pomegranate Paradise smoothie. On Jamba's website you can find a list of all of their vegan products.

Win a Gift Bag From Victoria's Secret!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

H1N1...or "another blow to the pork industry"

I am getting a little off-topic, but until I am ready for a vegan/Chicago-centric post, here are two tidbits of info related to "swine flu."

#1 - A video about proper hand washing technique. The nurse in the video is my mom, and she loves pandemics.

#2 -

Let's not freak out about swine flu. Egpyt decided to kill all their pigs last week, without any reported H1N1 cases in the country. This just doesn't make sense, and it hurts humans as well as little piglets.

Last night my dear friend M reported that her roommate works with someone who has a confirmed case of H1N1. Please do not tell my mother.

Product of the Day: Speaking of mothers, Vegecagoan's product of the day is Best Bath Store's "She Is Seriously Spoiled" gift basket (check out the price tag, it is "serious.") Mother's Day is Sunday, May 10th people.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Liz: A Tribute

Hey friends! Sometimes it can be difficult to coexist with omnivores. But do not be discouraged, even in the Midwest there are many vegan sympathizers.

This is my roommate Liz:

She is not vegan. She just LOVES vegetables!! She love them! This is what she was cooking:

This is a mix of kidney beans, northern beans, spinach, broccoli, corn, peas, garlic, olive oil and a lil' pinch of salt. It's delicious. For sure.

One time Liz and her boyfriend (whose family raises beef cattle for a living, mind you) made these delicious cupcakes:

Vegan "Oreo" Cupcakes. Holy cow! (I frosted these bad boys). The recipe is from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes For Cupcakes That Rule.

"That bitch needed a cupcake!" - Liz E.

All you Vegecagoans looking for a compassionate roommate: you can't have her, she's taken.

Homework for today: vegans, invite an omnivore to try a totally vegan meal. Omnivores, take a cue from Liz and throw all your favorite vegetables into a pot and see what happens! You can eat meat tomorrow.

Product of the Day: Galaxy Nutritional Foods Vegan Grated Topping: Parmesan Topping.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day, Vegecagoans!

If you are like my dear Vegecagoans and you live in a city, then you've seen Greenpeace activists (or employees, depending on how you want to look at it) on street corners asking for contributions. Because they induce at least a little feeling of guilt, you try to walk by as quickly as possible. You pretend to check your phone for text messages or you pretend the music you're listening to on your iPod is so awesome that you don't even notice that little Greenpeacer right in front of you, asking you to please just pledge a small percentage of your meager income to save the planet. For goodness' sake, it's the planet we're talking about!

I used to dread these encounters. And while I still would like to avoid having the Greenpeacers stop me at the corner just as the walk signal to cross turns on, I have a solid response to the inevitable "What are you doing for the environment?"

I'm vegan!

Even if I forget to recycle the plastic container from my soy yogurt, or someday when I'm a zillionaire I fly a gas-guzzling jet with a carbon footprint the size of a Brontosaurus, I can rest easy knowing that I am reducing my impact on our natural resources and minimizing my contribution to a giant cause of global warming: raising livestock. To simplify the message: if you eat beef, that cow had to eat a lot of plants (if you're lucky and he wasn't fed his brothers and sisters) and drink a lot of water before he made it to your plate. Why not take out the middle man (or middle cow, in this case) and eat the plants?

Please consider giving up meat or animal by-products at ONE meal today. And since I'm posting this after lunch, I guess that means dinner or 4th meal.

Just for fun...

Product of the Day: Liz Lovely Chocolate Moose Dragons. I know I should have started with a Chicago-area product, but this is probably the best cookie in the world. Behold:

Monday, April 20, 2009

My beef with beer

I love beer. Oh boy do I love beer.

I mean I'll go for a vodka tonic once in a while, and I'm pretty friendly with Pinot Noir, but beer is my BFF. We'll get into other beverages later but for now let's focus on beer.

Beer and veganism do not always get along. This is a big shock to a lot of people. A combination of water, barley, hops and yeast...sounds like it was MADE for vegans! Au contraire, my friends. Even some of you omnivores may be disturbed to learn that in order to clarify some beers (and wines too) manufacturers may use isinglass or gelatin.

Isinglass comes from the swimbladders of fish, and gelatin...well, gelatin comes from the really gross parts of slaughtered livestock.

Does this sound medieval to you? IT IS! Why would we use fish bellies and animal collagen in our beer, when brewers could use seaweed or artificial clarifying agents? Both of these vegan alternatives to isinglass and gelatin are actively used by many beverage companies in their manufacturing process.

Yesterday I received an email from Vegan Chicago (a ridiculously fabulous MeetUp group) with a link to On this site you can look up your favorite poison and see if it is vegan or not. So naturally I looked up a few of my faves. Corona, praise the Lord, is vegan. I was extremely sad to learn that Rock Bottom Brewery, a fantastic chain with a rooftop at it's Chicago location, uses either isinglass, gelatin or both in its brew process. I immediately wrote to Rock Bottom, told them I loved them, and asked them to please get critters out of my beer!

Ok now it is time for homework.

1. Go to and look up your favorite beers, wines or other poisons of choice. What does it say? Make a mental list of your favorite beverages that are vegan so you'll be ready next time you're at a bar, grocery store, family gathering, or frat party.

2. If you love a beer, wine or alcohol that is not vegan, write to the manufacturer! If every one of their customers writes to them asking to veganize their products, they'll listen. It just makes good business sense. That's capitalism, baby! (For bonus points please contact Rock Bottom for me. We need to form a little vegan (or vegan sympathizer) army. I already miss the Walleye Wheat. They have a rooftop, people!!)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Why Vegecagoan?

I am surrounded by omnivores, all lovely people who truly enjoy eating meat, eggs and dairy products. This blog is about making vegan choices in a society built for omnivores, so we can all coexist and live happily ever after.

I need to tell you upfront that I make mistakes far more often than I would like. Generally I do eat honey, and sometimes I eat food that I am pretty sure is vegan, if not 100% sure. If I find out later that something is not vegan, I will not eat it in the future. As this blog develops I will show you why I do not beat myself up about these things, and that being vegan (or vegetarian) does not have to be black and white if you do not want it to be.

However if you do have the mental energy to go totally amazingly vegan every hour of the day, I commend you. Personally I try to do my best and show others, even omnivores, that you can make vegan choices easily, helping yourself, our animal friends, and the environment. Everybody wins.

(A big shout out to Kate Johnston, the godmother of Vegecagoan, for coming up with the title of this blog!)