Vegan Cheesecake?! Yes, please!

logoMariano’s is making a huge stamp here in Chicago. Their grocery stores are popping up all over the city with a huge following. I absolutely love the store… they always have a vast assortment of impeccably fresh produce. And not to forget, their prices are definitely hard to beat. So, when I found out that they now carry vegan cheesecake, I could hardly contain myself, as well-made vegan cheesecake is hard to come by. I was ecstatic.

The famous Eli’s Cheesecake came out with a vegan line. Now, they supposedly only sell them at Mariano’s. And it is SO good. Rich. Smooth. Creamy. Delicious. All of the above 😉 As a VeggieLuv‘r, every once in a while, it’s nice to indulge in a very tasty vegan dessert. They currently have a two flavors: Belgian Chocolate and Carrot Cake Cheesecake. Even Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods” host Andrew Zimmern describes the cheesecake as “…really good. It has the right texture”. Cheers to that! Also — Check out the Eli’s Cheesecake website for more details!

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Celeb Sighting at One of Chicago’s Well-Known Vegan Restaurants

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BEYONCÉ VEGAN DIET EXPLAINED! HEALTH EXPERT KARYN CALABRESE DISHES ON MEETING JAY Z’S WIFE AND BLUE IVY IN CHICAGO (EXCLUSIVE)

On December 13th, Karyn Calabrese, the queen of all things vegan in Chicago, posted the above picture of her and Beyonce at one of her well-known vegan restaurants, Karyn’s Cooked off North Wells. When it comes to food, Beyoncé finds herself at all things veggie now-a-days (she happened to be performing at the United Center that same night). I must say, I frequent Karyn’s Cooked A LOT. My absolute favorite is the Taco Salad Bowl…so good — a mix of lettuce, pico de gallo, guacamole and soy cheese topped with tasty grilled seitan and a side of chipotle sauce. Oh, and can’t forget! The freshly made donuts that you can find there in the mornings are the BEST!

Compassionate Fashion Designers with Exceptional Creativity

Fashion Designers with Compassion and Exceptional Creativity

In a recent article of Michigan Avenue Magazine, designers, Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart (Vaute Couture) and Joshua Katcher (Brave GentleMan), were highlighted and interviewed for creating some amazingly stylish and modern fashion designs that are also vegan. Vaute Couture (animal-free fabrics – sustainable vegan and eco-friendly) is known for its remarkable men’s, women’s and children’s designs. Brave GentleMan is 100% vegan men’s fashion line (that includes: suits, shoes, accessories, etc.).
Personally, I own one of these fun shirts from Vaute (pic below) that I received as a gift. I love wearing it, as it always seems to spark fun conversation when out and about.
Best part about these two, they are not only incredibly talented at creating phenomenal vegan fashion designs, they are good friends of one another and graduates of DePaul University as well. Yea, Chicago!

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Veggie Vending Machine in Chicago

Veggie Vending Machine in Chicago

Such a fun concept! A vending machine with Healthy Options! When I think of vending machines, I think of the typical options: soda, chips, cookies, candy bars and other processed items. Farmer’s Fridge is the complete opposite, in a new and exciting way. On-the-go hand-crafted, healthy, fresh salads. Visit this kiosk…yes, I said kiosk and choose from one of several options (some of which include: North Napa Salad, Crunchy Thai Salad, High Protein Salad to name a few). They also have breakfast, snacks and more. In addition, all meals are served in recyclable jars. Can’t get any better than that. I am definitely going to check this out and will fill you in on my thoughts and provide more details!
Location: Garvey Food Court, 201 North Clark Street, at West Lake Street.
www.farmersfridge.com

Chicago Restaurant Review: Kitchen 17

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I recently visited Kitchen 17 with a friend last week. It’s located on the north side of Chicago, right off of Broadway on West Briar Place. Walked in and was immediately greeted warmly by the owner, Don, who so kindly suggested some of their most popular dishes. And I definitely needed help deciding, as there were so many delicious options to choose from. It’s also very rare to walk into a Chicago restaurant that is exclusively vegan and one where all the items on the menu sound just as tasty as the next. I ultimately ended up choosing the Rosemary Veggie burger and a slice of lemon cake for dessert. The burger was fantastic. Very hearty, grainy and the seasonings were spot on (the rosemary was an amazing touch). The burger was topped with a hummus spread, this wonderful sesame tahini sauce and the traditional: lettuce and tomato, all in between soft, crisp ciabatta bread. Cannot forget the dessert! The lemon cake was light, fluffy and just the right amount of citrus flavor. I could have easily had another piece or two…or three, it was just that good.

*Forgot to take pictures of the food! I was so mesmerized by the meal. Next time, I will definitely take pictures and post…and believe me, there will be a next time. 😉

Chipotle’s New Vegan Option – “Sofritas”

Chipotle to Test ‘Sofritas’ Tofu Option in Chicago Restaurants

Beginning October 21st, Chipotle will test out its new vegan option, Sofritas, tofu (sourced from California-based Hodo Soy) braised with chipotle chilies, roasted poblanos and spices. Dependent on its success, it will become a permanent option on their menu. Cannot wait to try!

The Top 9 Reasons I ♥ Chia Seeds

chiaseedsAlthough this seed is native to South America and has been a staple in Mayan and Aztec diets for centuries, most of us are just now learning that these little seeds of wonder are not just for the purpose of spreading its sprouts onto grooved terra cotta figurine heads that with time sprout into green plant “fur” or “hair“…“Cha, Cha, Cha Chia!” Anyone remember that fun jingle for the chia pet (that grew in popularity in the 1980s)? And this summer, arranged along Michigan Avenue between the Chicago river and Roosevelt Road, there were 12 foot tall sustainable art chia sculptures.  Chicago’s very own monster-sized versions of the chia pet!

We now know that chia seeds are a lot more to us than art, they provide us with some real nutritional value. I have been eating chia seeds for the past few years because I’ve found, with lots of research, they need to be an integral part of my diet. Why you ask? I’ve identified my top 9 reasons for making chia seeds one of my VeggieLuvin’ favorites!

  1. Chia seeds are one of the richest plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids which can help to reduce inflammation, reduce high cholesterol and enhance mental, intellectual performance. Also great for strong hair, nails and glowing skin.
  2. These seeds offer one of the highest plant-based sources of protein which helps with weight loss and building lean muscle.
  3. They are an excellent source of fiber – 10 grams in only 2 tablespoons! This is the stuff that keeps us full longer, balances our appetite and helps debloat.
  4. Very rich in antioxidants, chia seeds help protect the body from free radicals, aging and cancer.
  5. They are a great source of calcium. 18 percent of DRI [Dietary Reference Intakes]. And vegans have a hard time getting calcium, why??
  6. I can consume these whole and do not need to grind up in order to release all the great nutrients (as I would with flax seeds).
  7. Chia seeds are great for regulating blood sugar. They can reduce insulin resistance and decrease abnormal amounts of insulin in the blood.
  8. They are a quick, easy and simple ingredient to add to any meal. I love to use it to make a delicious pudding or sprinkle some on top of my breakfast cereal.
  9. They’re fairly inexpensive. I can grab a 5 ounce bag at Trader Joe’s for just 5 bucks! Which lasts me a couple months, if not longer, it all depends on my cravings. 😉

Also, better yet, there are a few restaurants around Chicago that have incorporated chia seeds into their menus:

What are the reasons you love chia seeds? Interested minds would like to know!

And the Journey begins…

When deciding to become vegan, I thought, “I’m going to have an extremely rough time transitioning in Chicago.” It’s not like I’m in Los Angeles or even New York City for that matter. IT IS CHICAGO. Home of the Chicago dog and city of Chicago-style pizza. I barely knew of any restaurants that were specific to or even with dishes that were vegan, plant-based. I didn’t know where to start. But, I sort of figured that in Chicago, there would/should be a few here and there. The real issue though…how would I survive on this diet every single day? I was so used to going out to eat often; it is all apart of socializing and most importantly, it’s an easy way to live. No home cooking involved! I met up with friends and family at local restaurants at least twice a week. Another issue: would I have to eat beforehand (to make sure that I have something of substance in my stomach before heading to the restaurant)? And/or would I get stuck eating a boring salad and feel extreme hunger pains afterwards…all the while watching others at the table indulge in all of the delicious, tasty foods. Of course, this would not be my ideal situation.
At the end of the day though, I knew that this diet transformation was not going to be an easy one. I spent my whole life eating whatever I wanted and MORE. But, with all of the positivity surrounding the vegan/plant-based lifestyle and after reading Dr. Campbell’s book, it was definitely worth a try. My initial plan was to stick with the diet for 2 weeks. I figured that was doable. Just to try it out. If it worked for me, if I actually felt at the benefits that have been mentioned (more energy, healthier, happier, etc.), I would stick with it. Otherwise, I would go back to my old ways. Nothing to lose and I would stick it out. “Just two weeks!” I kept telling myself.
And after I finished up the 2 weeks, I ultimately decided to continue eating a plant-based/vegan diet! And by continue, I mean, make it apart of my lifestyle.
This website serves as my journey…Hope you enjoy!