Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Frida's + Sensational Bites = Awesome!

I recently stumbled upon the delicious combination of Frida's for dinner and Sensational Bites for dessert. 
 My husband knows the owner of Frida's, and we've been there a couple of times. Oh by the way, I'm talking about the location in Southport, not the Andersonville location. The Andersonville Frida's was the first one opened and I hear the decor is even more Frida-fabulous than Southport, but I have yet to make it there. Anyhow, the staff at Frida's are very accommodating as far as veganizing some of their dishes for us weirdos, I mean vegans. And Marlene (the owner) has told me herself that the rice as well as the beans are always totally vegan. There, that's one less question you'll have to ask! The first time we went there a little over a year ago, I believe I got Black Bean Enchiladas (::ahem:: hold the cheese) and Cactus Tostadas. Very interesting! But pics. This was long before this blog came to be. 
But this last time we went, I did get pics! They had (non-vegan) flautas in their appetizer menu and I ordered them with potato filling instead. With a side of guac, of course. 
There are quite a few items on the Frida's menu that can be made vegan, so just ask! I really like the atmosphere here, great date setting. Especially if your date is omni, like mine. 
So after dinner, why not mosey two doors down to Sensational Bites? OK, I gotta be honest here, I was not the one who discovered that this place has a few vegan offerings, it was my husband. As we were leaving Frida's and I walked out to the car, husband came up with a box and said that inside the box was a vegan pumpkin chocolate chip cupcake with cinnamon frosting. Wow!

Since I'm evidently trapped in the body of a senior citizen, I can't drink coffee after about noon or so. That being said, this cupcake would have gone great with a nice hot cup of black coffee. Can't win 'em all I guess. Well, it was delicious regardless. 

So, I decided to go back to Sensational Bites and get the skinny on the vegan situation. The woman at the counter told me that they always have at least one vegan item available, and they had about three the day I stopped in!
Peanut Butter...Doozie? Never heard of one before. But hey, it's vegan!
And of course here are the cupcakes!
So...the point of this post is that Frida's for dinner and Sensational Bites for dessert is a great idea and I think you Chicago-living people need to get on it! 

3755 N Southport Ave 
Chicago, IL 60613
(773) 935-2330

Sensational Bites 
3751 N Southport Ave
Chicago, IL 60613
(773) 248-2271

Song of the day: "Got To Give It Up" by Marvin Gaye

Friday, January 21, 2011

Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's: my vegan junk food heaven, my fitness hell. Yeah yeah, of course they've got plenty of healthy stuff there. But how am I supposed to limit myself to fresh produce, beans, grains and the like when there are so many awesome goodies there? I've photographed a bunch of things over the past month or two, and I'm gonna share what I've got here. Please note that there are lots of other Trader Joe's things I have yet to buy/eat/review/whathaveyou, but I gotta have some discipline in my life!

 First of all, I've already established in a previous post that their bagels are awesome, so let's not get repetitive! Sorry for the photo of a 2/3 eaten bag of Everything Bagels on the right there. Believe me, they're delicious.

 These "meatballs" are great and cost about half the price as the other brand that I buy at Whole Foods! I usually have a bag of these in my freezer for emergency dinners like spaghetti and "meatballs", but also the random concoction of say, meatballs, green beans, rice and gravy? 

Apple Strudel?!? What??
Vegan?!? What?!?! Yep, it's true. I heard through the grapevine (AKA: PPK), that there was a such thing as a vegan apple strudel at Trader Joe's. I think I gasped out loud when I actually saw it though. However...I wasn't too happy with the way it tasted overall. That may be partly due to the fact that my oven decided to singe part of it and leave other parts lukewarm, or it may be partly due to the fact that I wasn't expecting raisins to be in it and was surprised to taste them. Anyway, I haven't totally given up on this strudel, and since it comes with TWO, I can try again another day! I'm pretty sure the raisins will still be in there, but at least I can change the oven temp and watch over it better. 

 But seriously...has anyone else had this?? Oh man, it's freaking GOOD! I had some at a friend's house and just had to get my own jar so I could shamelessly inhale it. And I did! And what's great is that you can mosey on a couple aisles over to the bread section and grab yourself a bag of mini whole wheat pitas and just dip (and dip, and dip) away. But wait till you get home to do that. I'm just saying.

Now just because it says 100 calories per bar doesn't mean that you should go eating 3 or 4 of them at once. I was actually saying that to myself, not to you guys. Well, while I wouldn't say that these are mind-blowing, they are still pretty good and I'd buy them again. They help satisfy my sugar cravings that I get way too often. 

 I'm not a huge fan of pre-packaged noodle dishes, but yet I buy them and am consistently disappointed (this is no reflection on this particular item or Trader Joe's for that matter, by the way). However, it is something I would buy for a road trip or something. So I'm not totally ruling it out.

And...saving the best for last....
 If it's possible to feel excitement and disappointment at once, that's what I was feeling when I first saw these. I LOVE chocolate cherries, but I also LOVE trying to stay in decent shape. Hence, the excitement/disappointment. But naturally I bought a box and managed to ration them out at a reasonable pace. Sort of.
 The "may contain traces of milk" bit doesn't really bother me, but I wanted to take a pic of the ingredients because I know some vegans may not be ok with that.

Oh and also, TJ's also has a vegan product list on their website! Here's a link. Pretty cool, huh? Yeah, I thought so too.

Anyone else have Trader Joe's favorites they'd like to share? If you're not near a TJ's, they have a "coming soon" section on their website for future locations, check to see if they're (hopefully) coming to a city near you!

Song of the day: "Heirloom" by Bjork

Monday, January 17, 2011

Appetite for Reduction!

Ok, so as some of you (or none of you?) know, I got my copy of Appetite for Reduction as a Christmas gift from my wonderful husband. If you don't have your copy yet, stop reading this silly blog right this instant and buy a copy! Hey, I'll even give ya a link HERE! You can even "look inside" most of the book there. But stop being cheap, just buy it.

Anyway....I've made a few recipes and thought I'd report back here. Why? I don't know. It's just what I do. 

The very first recipe I made was the Black Beans in Red Velvet Mole:

Good photograph...probably not. Good food? Yep! Can you believe I've never had mole before? I didn't know what I'd be looking for as far as taste, but thankfully La Liz was here with me at the time and she said, "yep, this is mole alright!". I made some basmati rice with it...why not, right? The only thing I left out were the aniseeds, because I didn't have any...hell, I've never had those in my house. Oh, and the recipe calls for a 24-ounce can of black beans, but I just used two 15-ounce can's worth and it was perfect. And it makes plenty for leftovers! 

Next up: Irish Stew with Potatoes and Seitan
I'm a sucker for most dishes with seitan and potatoes in it. This one was pretty good! I don't know if it looks like a heavy sort of meal to you, but it really wasn't. I had it with rice the first night, with a piece of whole wheat toast the night after, and with farfalle pasta the final night. By that time I was a little stewed out! Overall I think I enjoyed it with the farfalle the most. Oh...and I swore I had green beans in my freezer, but alas it was a bag of peas. So, I subbed.

And tonight's meal was Braised Cabbage with Seitan:
Yes this probably could have used some color for presentation, but I was tired and hungry and not picky...don't judge me. I really liked this for two reasons. One, it was quite delicious although the photo may not reflect that. Two, it was so easy to throw together. In fact, I threw some potatoes in the oven right before I started on this, and it all came together at the same time. That's a roasted potato you see in the bottom right there. I highly recommend doing that! It went well with the cabbage/seitan goodness, and I was able to clean up while everything was cooking. It's the simple things in life that make me happy, really. 

Out of these three dishes, I'm torn between the mole and the cabbage/seitan as far as a favorite. They're both so different, I guess it would just depend on what kind of mood you're in! 

For the record, I have also made the Sweet & Salty Maple Baby Carrots and the Broiled Blackened Tofu. The baby carrots were SO easy and tasty...but I didn't take a photo! Sorry. But if you can just close your eyes and imagine a pan full of baby carrots, that was pretty much the gist. 
The blackened tofu was "ok", but that is nothing against Isa's recipe by any means. If I can confess something to you, it's that...well...I don't If there's a vegan hell, am I going to it? Probably. But I'll fill my pockets with seitan and hope for the best. I keep giving tofu chance after chance, but it's just not working out between us. Oddly enough though, I like the tofu that I get at a few of my fave restaurants around here, but that's probably because they deep-fry it! C'est la vie I guess. 

So, who's got their copy already? What have you made so far, and what are your thoughts?

Song of the day: "Tigerlily" by La Roux

Friday, January 14, 2011

Vegan pizza by the slice at Ian's Pizza Wrigleyville!

For those of you in the Chicago area, Ian's Pizza in Wrigleyville now offers vegan pizza by the slice on Thursdays from 5-10pm! 
Wait, didn't I just say that?
So last night I went in to see if this was actually for real. And it is! I asked the girl at the counter if this "vegan pizza-by-the-slice phenomenon" is a permanent or temporary thing, and as far as she knew, she said it's permanent! This was only their second Thursday doing this, but she said last week was insane and the vegan pizza was selling like crazy. Good news! 

They use Chicago Soydairy Teese and Upton's Naturals vegan "meats". Tonight Ian's had three different kinds to choose from! Spicy Seitan Nacho, Vegan Sausage, and Tomato Spinach. I tried the Seitan Nacho back during Chicago Vegan Week in October, and although it was good (very spicy, though!!), I decided to try the Tomato Spinach:
 Well, well, well....looks like I've got a new favorite pizza! Man, this was so good! Just the right amount of cheese, plenty of spinach, and of course Ian's crust is always uber delicious.

You can get vegan pizza at Ian's any day of the week, but Thursday is the only day that you can buy it by the slice. Otherwise you've gotta order the whole pie...which isn't necessarily a bad thing if you've got a bunch of hungry vegans or you're perfectly happy eating leftover pizza for breakfast. 

So make sure to stop in Ian's and grab some yum pizza!

Ian's Pizza
3463 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60657

Song of the day: "Dreadlock Holiday" by 10cc

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Coupla recipes from Vegan On The Cheap

I love when I just happen to have all the ingredients for a recipe on-hand. Believe me, that doesn't happen often. But the other day, I had all the ingredients for the Skillet Hash from Vegan On The Cheap.
I think that although this was a great "throw together" meal, I kinda feel like there was something missing. However, this seems like a good base recipe that you can add a variety of veggies or spices to and make it your own. But since I don't have any culinary creativity to speak of and heavily rely on recipes...this didn't work out for me overall. But it sure did taste better than a PB&J, which was my only other option that night.

And tonight I made the Very Veggie Burgers.
 Now these I can get down with! The burgers come together quickly and easily. And I like the taste! The three changes I'd make next time are:

*A teensy bit less mushrooms. It called for a cup, I think I'll lessen that to maybe 3/4c next time.

*Add a bit of vital wheat gluten. Even though I refrigerated the patties for about 90 minutes before frying them, they were still difficult to flip because they were a little crumbly.

*Double the recipe! These are simple to put together (like I said), but it only makes 4 patties. Next time I'll make 8 and freeze half. 

Oh, and I should mention that I didn't use fresh parsley and basil like she calls for. I used dried. I know fresh would be better, but I'm freaking broke and need to save money any way that I can, folks! 

For those of you who live in the Chicago area, make sure to look for this brand of bread next time you're at the supermarket:

Their breads are good, reasonably priced actually says vegan! What, you don't see it?

Oddly enough, Whole Foods sells this brand as well...but for up to $1.50 more than Jewel-Osco does. So even though I do love me some Whole Foods, get your Z Best breads at Jewel! Not all their products are vegan though, so make sure to double check each label. But I know you'd do that anyway, I mean, what vegan doesn't?

Anyone else have Vegan On The Cheap? What are your thoughts? And has anyone tried Z Best bread? 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Vegan Cream Cheese Taste Test

I haven't had cream cheese since going vegan. And honestly, it's not that big of a deal to me. I was never a huge cream cheese fan anyway. However, recently I've been getting a slight craving for a bit of cream cheese on my bagel. I've heard of two main makers of vegan cream cheese: Follow Your Heart, and Tofutti. And since I have no idea which one would be the one for me, I decided to give them both a try. And report back here, of course.

First up: Tofutti
 By the good are Trader Joe's Everything Bagels?!?!
Now, don't think I'm a weirdo...but I like my everything bagels with jelly. For real. for the taste of the Tofutti. I honestly have to say that I didn't care for it. I tasted the bagel before putting the jelly on and after.'s just kinda...waxy, I guess? Hard to explain really. But I feel like it tasted plasticky, if anything can actually taste that way. Bottom line, I just don't think I would buy this again.

Next up: Follow Your Heart
This brand was about .70 more expensive, for the record. 
I tried this on a cinnamon raisin bagel.
Don't forget the jelly!
So, while I didn't think this one tasted waxy, it still didn't really blow me away. It has an odd aftertaste that I can't quite describe. I guess I went into this thinking that I'd get a close version to the non-vegan counterpart, and that was my mistake. 

Bottom line: If I had to choose one of the two, I'd go with Follow Your Heart. But being as I'll probably never be in a situation where I'd have to choose, I'll happily settle with a bagel with Earth Balance. And jelly, of course. 

Does anyone have an opinion about either of these two "cream cheeses"?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Workout DVD reviews

When it comes to working out, I usually prefer the gym. But recently I just haven't had the motivation to go as often as I'd like. Mostly because it's harder for me to leave the house in the freezing winter weather! I know...excuses, excuses. So instead of completely giving in to my "excuses", I decided to try some workout DVDs to spare me from the all-morning ordeal that is the gym. We recently got Netflix back on our TV (thanks to husband's new PS3), so what better time to try out some of their instant-watch workout DVDs?

Yesterday I tried Self: Slim and Sleek Fast!
Overall I liked this one. I would consider myself at an intermediate fitness level (at best), but I know I should probably be doing more cardio. This workout is good if you're in the same boat as me. If you're already a cardio freak, then this might not be so challenging. In my opinion, the instructor wasn't too cheerful/annoying, so that's a plus! I found myself a little winded and sweaty by the end of it. Good deal! All you need are a pair of sneakers and a set of light weights.

And today I decided to give 10 Minute Solution: Pilates a try. 
 This one is a keeper! Well, they both are really. But I enjoyed this one a bit more. I had only taken a Pilates class once before, and I was still able to keep up (mostly) and understand the technique of the DVD. What I'm trying to say is that this is good for Pilates beginners! Probably intermediate levels as well, but as with the other DVD, advanced folks may not feel challenged enough. This video breaks down into 5, 10-minute Pilates segments. You can do the whole workout, mix and match, or just do the segments that you enjoy or that challenge you. I did the whole thing from the beginning since it was my first time. I'd probably do it that way again in the future. All you need is a set of 2-3lb weights, and maybe a mat.

If you've got Netflix, give some of these workouts a try! And report back!

Do you do home workouts or do you prefer the gym? Or neither?!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

La Liz goes home.

First thing this morning I dropped Lizzy Rizzy off at the airport. So sad! But I'm SO happy that I got to see her again after 2.5 years. And I'm glad she spent Christmas with us. BUT I'm sorry that I got some sort of flu-bug and we stayed in for New Years! I owe you, Liz. JX misses her already. The first words out of his mouth this morning were "Where's Liz??" 
I think he's gonna miss her reading books to him at bedtime. 

She promises she'll be back though! 

So yesterday we were walking down Clark street attempting to do some shopping, but it's kinda hard to shop when everything's closed! Anyway, the one place that was open was Crossroads down on Clark and Diversey. I like that place, so our walk wasn't a total letdown. Afterwards we stopped by Yummy Yummy, a vegan-friendly Chinese/smoothie joint. 

 Now while I have had a couple of duds from this place, overall I really like it and would still recommend it. My old favorite was the Soy Gluten Fried Rice, but this is a new year, so time for a new favorite! Mongolian Seitan....
 This stuff is so freaking good, there is no way in hell that it can be good for you. But that's ok since I don't make it to Yummy Yummy all that often. The portion sizes are good too, so you'll probably have enough for two meals if it's just you eating. I had my leftovers for lunch today and wasn't disappointed. They also serve meat, so it's a good place to go if you happen to have vegan food-fearing folks with you. Oh, and they deliver! Check out their site for more info or just to have a look at their menu.

Yummy Yummy Asian Cuisine
2901 N Broadway
Chicago, IL
(773) 525-6677 

We miss you, Liz! Come visit again anytime!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Chicago Spotlight: Fritz Pastry

Happy New Year! Hope everyone's year is off to a good start so far. Unfortunately, mine started off a little rough...I think I've got the flu. But I picked up some Dayquil kinda stuff at Walgreens and that's been a lifesaver. 

Anyway, the one and only New Year's Resolution I've made is to adjust my sleep schedule. I go to bed way too late and never get a full night's rest. So, I'm trying to fix that. And what better way to start off on the right foot than to go to bed before midnight on New Year's Eve? Yep, that's what I did. I did it partially because I felt like sh*t, but also so I could wake up at 7:30am and stop by Fritz Pastry (one of my fave spots in Chicago) for some vegan doughnuts!

Fritz Pastry is a European-inspired bakery where vegan items are almost always available. They are not marked, so ask! But usually it's the doughnuts, muffins, and cupcakes to name a few. My all-time favorites are the doughnuts and the chocolate muffins! Today I got two doughnuts, a blueberry muffin and a chocolate muffin. Don't worry, I'm not eating them all by myself! Although I think i could....

The Fritz staff are always very nice and I love the atmosphere of their shop. 
I love this painting!
 Be sure to check Fritz Pastry out if you haven't already! Also, they periodically have special doughnut flavors, so follow them on Twitter to keep up to date!

Fritz Pastry
1408 W Diversey Pkwy (between Southport and Ashland)
Chicago, IL
(773) 857-2989