Happy Summer

I hope everyone had a fun Memorial Day weekend and start to summer! I was lucky to have a few additional days off and I took advantage of the beautiful weather in Chicago. I did a lot of eating and drinking around the city and crossed a lot of stuff off my bucket list! Here’s what we did:

(Finally!) had dinner and drinks at 3 Arts Club Cafe at Restoration Hardware.

Enjoyed vegan brunch at Handlebar in Wicker Park. We all shared vegan fried pickles with ranch dip that were AMAZING! I definitely want to go back.

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Did some rooftop hopping including the Cabana Club and Chop Shop in Wicker Park.

Tried Goddess and the Baker coffee and sat along the river. (Highly recommend – thanks to Chickpea in the City)

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Went back to Pick Me Up Cafe for a little (lot of) hangover food in Wrigleyville.

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And Monday we finished off the weekend with brunch at Hub 51 and a cookout on a friend’s rooftop in Lakeview.

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Talk about a great weekend! Needless to say I needed a little bit of a reset after all the food and alcohol, but it was such a great start to summer! I’m hoping to jam pack the rest of my weekends here with this many fun activities.

How did you all spend your Memorial Day Weekend?

Eats // March & April

Sharing my recent food adventures in the city, and there’s quite the variety this time around – I tried Indian food, went to both casual and more upscale Asian places, and a new American health food spot downtown. Let me know your thoughts!

1//. Four Belly

  • huge menu with a lot of variety
  • *vegan options!!*
  • BYOB – like almost every other Asian place in the city, woohoo!


2//. Royal Indian Grill

  • right next door to Four Belly
  • first time trying Indian and will definitely be back!
  • great service, delicious food
  • *vegan and gluten-free options clearly labeled*

3//. Sunda

  • visited a few times now, never disappoints
  • trendy scene with great drinks and presentation of food is on point
  • separate menus for all your dietary and allergy needs (insert thumbs up emoji here)

We started with drinks and the legendary Crispy Brussels Sprout salad (the vegan version).

This is just the sushi we ordered – Nigiri, sweet potato caterpillar (NOM), and the garden roll. We ended the night with their vegan coconut sorbet and it was AMAZING. It was so creamy and had actual pieces of coconut in every bite.

4//. True Food Kitchen

  • an excellent new addition to the health food scene in Chicago
  • you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu – including drinks
  • fast service, flexible options like vegan and gluten-free
  • the ambiance is bright and open (they even have an open kitchen to watch what they’re cooking)

 

 

Stay tuned for my next round of recent eats… whenever that may be. Conquering the food scene in Chicago, one spot at a time.

Any and all recommendations are welcome :)

Whole Foods Vegan March

Recently I feel like I’m in need of a reset with my diet and alcohol intake, and with a new month starting tomorrow, the time is now!

I have a few events coming up in April and the following months and I want to feel and look my best. So during March I’m going to focus on a whole foods vegan diet to reset my body along with appropriate exercise. I’m not looking at this as a “diet” but more of a reset and lifestyle improvement.

I don’t usually have a problem with getting motivated to sweat (thanks recently to taking classes with friends!) but I struggle more with my eating habits. Yes I’m still vegan, but I’m eating out more than I should (like giving in to those darn delivery apps), snacking when I’m bored, and overdoing meal portions. I want to reign in this pattern of mindlessness I’ve fallen into and get serious about what’s going in my body.

I’m going to focus on lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and minimize (if not eliminate) processed foods. I’m sharing this here so I keep myself more accountable and I’ll post regular updates along the way.

My first big grocery haul will include most of the following:

Vegetables: spinach, romaine, carrots, mushrooms, bell peppers, cucumber, zucchini, tomato, potatoes (regular and sweet), broccoli, cauliflower, avocado, chickpeas, black beans, lentils

Fruits: bananas, apples, all kinds of berries

Grains etc: oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, sprouted bread, hummus, tahini

This will also be a great opportunity to improve my cooking skills! I’m not big into smoothies, especially when it’s still winter in Chicago. I want to make homemade soups, salad dressings, rice bowls, stir fries etc. I’m going to look through some of my favorite food bloggers recipes for ideas and new things to try.

If you want to do a reset with me, by all means let’s do this!

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Recent EEEats

Over the past few weeks I’ve ventured to some great restaurants with friends. I wasn’t the best about taken pictures everywhere but I wanted to share my thoughts anyway!

I also wanted to mention I joined the Yelp and HappyCow community (a website to help people discover vegetarian and vegan places to eat).  It’s been fun writing reviews occasionally and it’s so helpful to read up on restaurants before visiting.

1//. Meli Cafe – Loop

  • I had the most AMAZING brunch at their Dearborn location. Seriously we still talk about how we want to go back but also don’t want to taint our first experience. The space is beautiful, the menu is large including a whole vegan/gluten-free section, plenty of coffee re-fills… I could go on and on. I had the fluffiest vegan pancakes with fresh fruit.  My friends ordered omelettes, french toast, a breakfast bowl and loved it all. I want to try their River North location because I heard it’s a different vibe, it’s also closer and they really know how to do an awesome (vegan) brunch to please everyone!

Those are my pancakes in the top left… so good.

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2//. Mahalo – Wicker Park

  • Went to dinner here with a group. The ambiance is soooo cool and beachy, drinks are delicious and strong. I shared the Big Kahuna drink with a friend (it comes in a pineapple!) and then a Mai Tai.
  • The food was a bit of a let down for the guys in our group.  Our waitress was new and messed up a few orders and I think they were looking for larger portions.. But the highlights were the pork fried rice and coconut shrimp! I shared some french fries, which are not your average ones by the way.  If I remember correctly they are crispy and seasoned sweet potato and turnips! For my main I had the veggie poke bowl, which was pretty good.  Overall I’d give this place another try with a group of girls, even just for the drinks!

3//. Mia Francesca – Lakeview

  • This Italian place has a few locations in and out of Chicago. I’ve been to the Lake Forest restaurant a few times and knew it was great quality so I was excited to try it downtown! The ambiance is lively with dim lighting, and the food is delicious. They were accommodating with my dairy-allergy and I had a huge bowl of linguine with fresh cherry tomato sauce. The friends I went with both ordered off the specials menu and had the lobster cheese ravioli. I would definitely come back here for a date or with a group.

(I swear I haven’t just gone to places that start with “M”…)

4//.Andy’s Thai Kitchen – Lakeview

  • I love Thai/Asian food and had been dying to try this restaurant for a while. This is one of those places where it really helps to read Yelp reviews and tips – Andy’s doesn’t take reservations, is a small space, and is cash only!! So my friend and I were prepared to wait when we arrived, which actually was only 25 minutes.
  • They’re a little understaffed so it took a little longer than normal to order, but our food came out very fast and was soooo good. We ordered veggie soup, hot and sour soup, Pad Thai with shrimp, and Vegan Pad See-Ew. This is a vegan-friendly place, you just need to tell your waiter of any dietary restrictions. They serve great portions and we both took home leftovers! Would highly recommend to anyone living in the area, just come prepared with cash.

Thai food doesn’t really ever look pretty in photos…

 

More delicious spots to come! Has anyone else eaten at these places?

Amy’s

Isn’t it the best when you find a food company you love?!  I recently discovered Amy’s brand in my local Jewel and I’ve been hooked. You can buy all types of frozen meals, soups, burritos, bowls etc. Many of their products cater to several types of food allergies and diets such as gluten-free, dairy-free,  and vegan, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy.  I’ve really liked the products I’ve tried so far – they’re packed with flavor, keep you full, and the ingredients are organic!

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I’m usually against frozen meals due to their additives and high levels of sodium, but it’s a helpful backup option when you don’t have time to cook ahead.

Here’s what I’ve had so far:

  • Lentil Vegetable soup
  • Light and Lean Quinoa and Black Beans with Butternut Squash & Chard
  • Harvest Casserole Bowl
  • Brown Rice and Vegetable Bowl
  • Thai Green Curry

Next up:

  • Lower sodium Lentil soup
  • Quinoa, Kale, and Red Lentil soup
  • Teriyaki Bowl

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Another great thing about this brand is they offer low sodium options and they really don’t taste that different. I’ll let you know how they taste!

Have any of you tried Amy’s? What are some health food brands you love?

London: Part 1

This year I celebrated Thanksgiving a little differently…. I flew to London to see my brother who’s studying abroad there!

London was one of my favorite cities I visited during my study abroad in college, so I was very excited to go back. I was there a little less than a week and we did all the walking, exploring, and eating you can imagine.

I want to share my adventures there in two parts – food/restaurant spots and the places we explored. Since I’ve previously been to London we passed on all the usual tourist stuff and made our own to do list for the week.

There are so many food options in this city and I was pleased to find it’s very vegetarian/vegan friendly. I didn’t take pictures at all the places we ate, but below are some of the highlights.

Have you been to any of these places?

1//. The Mae Deli: Opened by Deliciously Ella and her husband on the cutest back street by the Marble Arch. It’s a cozy place serving plant-based breakfast, lunch, and dinner deli style.

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My brother and I stopped in for a quick coffee and small bite before heading out to explore for the day. We both ordered the Mae Coffee which is made with coconut milk and 2 shots of espresso (much-needed to keep the jet lag away), and we split a slice of their Blueberry and Orange cake. Everything was delicious and vegan, and my brother was surprised to enjoy it so much!

 

2//. Daisy Green: Another adorable cafe style place by the Marble Arch. We had an amazing brunch here that met both our meat-eater and vegan needs.

My brother ordered The Bondi, which included several meats, half an avocado, and charcoal bread (so cool)! I had the Summer Porridge, which is served cold with the most incredible presentation. It included fresh and freeze-dried fruit, seeds, and edible flowers!

I mean…. just look at that oatmeal…

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3//. Busaba Eathai: To be honest, we randomly came across this Thai place when we were dying of hunger walking around. It was a great find though, let me tell you. The food was warm, tasty, and just the right portions. I ordered the Pad Thai Jay, which is vegan, and my brother ordered the Jungle Chicken curry with a side of fried rice.

 

4//. Yori: Authentic Korean spot we stumbled upon. I forgot to take pictures but we ordered a scallion pancake to share and then our own Bibimbap bowls! Very good and I would recommend if you like Korean food.

5//. Dishoom Carnaby: I didn’t take any pictures of the food, but I was told by several people to eat at this well-known Indian restaurant. They have a few locations  and we were not disappointed!

It was a little challenging for me to eat here, but they do provide a dairy-free menu. I ordered the vegetable samosas, a bowl of seasoned vegetables, and basmati rice. My brother ordered garlic naan bread and a chicken entrée. This is another restaurant I would highly recommend to try if you’re in London and enjoy Indian food!

 

Stay tuned for part 2 of our London adventures!

A Vegan Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is  meal traditionally centered around meat and all sorts of buttery, creamy dishes. Since transitioning to a plant-based diet, I’ve discovered there are so many delicious recipes that don’t include meat or dairy and taste amazing!

I’m making a few recipes to bring to a Friendsgiving this weekend and I wanted to share those as well as other great vegan options to cook for the upcoming holidays!

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

Vegan Pumpkin Currant Bread – I’m doing a spin off on this recipe and adding dairy-free chocolate chips instead of currants. yum.

Some other vegan options that are worth trying:

Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprout, and Bread Stuffing with Apple

Read: this Thanksgiving recipes post by Minimalist Baker

Green Bean Casserole

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

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What are you cooking this Thanksgiving?

Veganism in the Media

Woah – big vegan news featured at the top of The Skimm on Thursday 10/13.

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Tyson Foods buys a stake in Beyond Meat

A noteworthy excerpt:

“Besides catering to changing consumer preferences, food companies are increasingly concerned with the drain on natural resources that comes with raising animals for meat, said Sara Olson, a research analyst with Lux.

“The more corn and soybeans we’re feeding to animals instead of to people, the less efficient it is,” Olson said. “There is concern that we really can’t feed a whole planet with meat.” ”

I couldn’t agree more…

I also recently watched the documentary Forks Over Knives on Netflix and it was so good! It’s very informative on the benefits of eating a whole foods, plant-based diet. They share historical data as well as research and studies “examining the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.”

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This documentary is a much lighter take on the effects of eating meat and dairy products and focuses on more of the positive health benefits for humans. There are others like Cowspiracy are filled with cringe-worthy videos and images of suffering animals.

I would highly recommend watching Forks Over Knives if you’re a vegetarian or at all curious to learn more about eating plant-based.

Dry Hop Brewers

I finally had the chance to go to Dry Hop Brewers in Lakeview to try their beer, food, and hang out with some friends this weekend. What started as just brunch with a few people turned into a great afternoon with a bigger group hanging out and drinking beers.

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I walk by this place a lot and always notice the crowd, fun energy, and open air atmosphere. I’m so glad I finally got to experience it for myself! The beer was delicious – I tried the Shark Meets Hipster wheat IPA and the Spottieoppiedopolicious (what a name, am I right?) and I really liked them. I’m not a fan of hoppy beer and these were just the right amount! Next time I want to try a flight to taste their other options…

For brunch I ordered their Vegetable Reuben minus the cheese and horseradish sauce. It came with a side of fries and an interesting ketchup that seemed like a mix of tomato/pasta sauce and regular ketchup. It was delicious! My friends order the chilaquiles and the breakfast sandwich, which also looked very good.


Overall it was a fun afternoon with friends on a beautiful afternoon. The only downside to Dry Hop is they don’t have any TVs! Especially on a weekend I think that is a turn off for most people who are looking to watch football…

But I will definitely be back!

Chicago Vegan Food Spots

I have a list going of vegan restaurants in Chicago I want to try ASAP. Most of them are fairly close to where I live, so I just need to make the effort to go! Here is what I have so far…

 

1. Kitchen 17 in Lakeview

2. Pick me up Cafe in Wrigleyville

3. Meli Cafe in River North/Gold Coast ( but has multiple locations). One of the Chicago food bloggers I follow, Chickpea in the City, has been here several times and raves about it.

4. Vegetarian Express – Has a deceiving store front, but their website, menu, and ratings have me intrigued to go.

5.Green Zebra in Noble  Square

Have you been to any of these spots or have any other Chicago recommendations? I am all about exploring new restaurants and different neighborhoods in the city.