This weekend is one of my favorite weekends of the year – Veggie Fest weekend! Mike and I spent the entire day today at the festival (our third year in attendance), and as always had a fantastic time.
If you live in the Chicago-area and enjoy Food, Sunshine & Music (and don’t mind crowds), I highly encourage you to check out the festival tomorrow (… or at the very least, next year!).
Here’s a recap of our day, starting with what’s always my favorite part:
The Food Court was packed with people, evidence of how much this festival has grown. Yet surprisingly none of the lines we waited in were too long – perhaps because we learned from experience: The Masala Dosa and Smoothie booths always have the longest lines at Veggie Fest, so we visited those booths first, early in the day when the lines were short.
The Masala Dosas truly are a work of art. The giant Indian crepes are good, but what really makes the dish stand out is the symphony of flavors from the Coconut Chutney, Sambar (soup), Spiced Potatoes, and Hot Pepper Chutney.
The Green Smoothie was delicious too, and though the color was dark green, we couldn’t taste the Kale one bit!
Since it was nearing lunch time, we also grabbed a couple of Sandwiches on our first pass through the Food Court … a Reuben Panini and a Paneer Kabob.
I was really craving the Reuben, so I caved and got it even though I knew this one wasn’t Vegan from the inclusion of Swiss Cheese. I liked that they used Tofurkey for the “meat” and the Rye Bread, Saurkraut and Pickle really hit the spot!
Mike chose a Veggie & Paneer Kabob which was deliciously seasoned and drizzled with my favorite condiment – Indian Cilantro Chutney. As delicious as the Kabob was, the best part was the flaky, buttery bread which reminded me of the decadent Rotis at FlatTop Grill.
For a mid-day pick-me-up we enjoyed some beverages from the “Cocina Vegetariana” booth – a vibrantly flavored Jamaica (Hibiscus) Drink for me and a rich and creamy Horchata (Rice Pudding-like beverage) for Mike, in perfectly portioned 8oz cups.
We also snacked on a shared piece of the Vegan Sausage Pizza (a favorite of ours from last year) and a dish of Aloo Tikki Chole, which was my favorite dish at this year’s festival. Like most Indian dishes, the Aloo Tikki Chole was the perfect balance of sweet, salty, sour and pungent with Cilantro-Mint Chutney, Red Onion, and Ginger on top of savory Potatoes (Aloo) & Chickpeas (Chole).
Lastly, before leaving, I simply had to try a Turmeric shot, mainly because I’d never seen these anywhere before, but also because it sounded like a great way to sneak in some potent antioxidants!
Mike and I each had a shot of the golden yellow elixir of pure Turmeric & Lemon Juice. These weren’t delicious but didn’t taste bad either. I’d readily drink one again, but for my health, not for the flavor.
Veggie Fest always has a great schedule of Food Demos (happening on 3 stages!) so we made sure to check out a couple of those as well. We didn’t have time to see all the demos I had bookmarked, but I did get to see the Top 2 on my mental list – vegan cookbook authors Ellen Jaffe Jones & Alan Roettinger.
Ellen Jaffe Jones
Ellen’s book “Eat Vegan on $4 a Day“ has been on my “wish-list” for ages, so when I saw her name on the Veggie Fest Schedule, I considered her demo to be a Must-See. Also the author of the book “Kitchen Divided“, today she was presenting from the book “Paleo Vegan” which she co-authored.
Ellen is a very interesting lady – in addition to cookbook author, she’s also an accomplished athlete (#7 in the US in her age-group for the 1500m run), a 2-time Emmy award-winning television journalist, and a mother to 3 daughters.
Ellen’s passion for nutrition & fitness is genuine and deeply rooted – her mother, aunt and BOTH sisters had breast cancer, so she does what she can to better her odds.
Today, she demoed 2 fresh salads for us – a “Naturally Sweet Slaw” studded with Medjool Dates & Raisins and a Swiss Chard, Red Pepper and Cucumber Salad with a Balsamic & Basil dressing. The Swiss Chard Salad was especially beautiful and I could smell the fresh basil, cucumbers, and red peppers from where I sat – sadly the volunteers passing out the samples had a bit of a mix-up so Mike & I didn’t get a chance to try it!
Luckily, all of the recipes for Veggie Fest 2014 are on the Festival website, so I’m thinking of making the salad myself sometime next week!
I also planned to see chef Alan Roettinger’s demo. He co-authored Paleo Vegan with Ellen, and also wrote several of his own books including Speed Vegan, which I’d previously heard of, and Extraordinary Vegan, which was the focus of today’s demo.
He too proved to be a very interesting (would you ever guess he grew up in Mexico City?) and passionate speaker. He explainined that his mission is to help people live better (& happier) by teaching them to make healthful, delicious food.
He showed us how to make Nutty Chocolate Chia Bars that I highly recommend you try (click here for the recipe). In a clever twist, instead of putting Chia IN these bars, the sticky nut & date bars are rolled in chia seeds for a perfect coating!
He also made a delicious “Quick Spicy Slaw“, giving a few great tips along the way, including:
1. Make Homemade Garlic Oil a staple by placing 2 pressed/crushed cloves of Garlic into 1/2 cup of oil. Store in the fridge and drizzle over soups & salads just before serving for an extra pop of fresh flavor.
2. For quick and even slicing, he recommended this Benriner Slicer (pictured below, bottom-left). At $22, it’s much cheaper and smaller than most Mandolines.
3. Lastly, he showed us how we can easily elevate his Quick Spicy Slaw from an everyday dish to special-occasion worthy by using a ring mold, avocado slices, and some micro-greens (pictured below, top-left).
He was pretty funny and I can tell he likes to think and ponder a lot. I particularly liked one thought that he shared with us:
Everyone knows that food “Made With Love” tastes better. But one day he started wondering why? It’s not like the glow of love actually flavors the food or anything. Eventually, the reason came to him:
Food Made with Love tastes best because putting Love into something (or someone) means giving it your Attention.
Isn’t that so true?
In between demos, I made sure to have plenty of time to checkout the many booths at Veggie Fest. There was a great selection of Vendors this year, and even better – many of them were offering great deals on their products and even plenty of Freebies!
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps was giving out generous amounts of samples of their products. I was only sad their products weren’t available for sale at the festival. The Orange-Lavender lotion Mike tried smelled incredible and I’m looking forward to trying out the Shikakai liquid soap sample I brought home since I’ve been looking for a new, eco-friendly & gentle hand soap.
We also each got to bring home full-size samples of Jimmy Bar! – locally made snack bars with pure & simple ingredients. I’d heard great things about these bars from Erica, so I’m looking forward to giving them a try!
Mike and I also enjoyed stopping by the Door-to-Door Organics booth. Not only am I a fan of their produce delivery service, I was also excited to see that they were passing out free organic pluots! A cross between plums and apricots, these were super juicy & sweet and a perfect snack on such a hot day.
I was like a kid in a candy store at the Peanut Butter & Co booth. When I saw that they were selling 3 jars of PB + a tote bag, all for just $10, the only difficult decision I had to make was which flavors to choose.
I also snagged a mini-loaf of Fruit & Nut Manna Bread for just $1. I love this healthy, sweet bread for breakfasts and snacks and with such high quality ingredients, at this price it was practically a steal!
Lastly, we picked up a bag of Cobra Corn for just $2. Since I had already splurged on the PB, I let Mike pick out his favorite flavor, the Chai Caramel, in lieu of my favorite, the Bombay Seasoning corn.
I left with quite an impressive haul that will have me reminiscing about Veggie Fest for days to come!
MORE TO LOVE!!!
Besides the Food, Demos & Vendors, there’s even more to love about Veggie Fest!
1. The Admission is FREE! For those who would like to contribute, however, they encourage donations through a Food Drive. They made it easy & fun to donate too by having cheap & healthy goods for sale right at the drive booth. I purchased a few bags of rice, beans, and lentils and then got to ring a bell & was donned with a string of mardi gras beads as a fun thank you
2. I always love looking at their gallery of Veggie Art, most of which is made by local students.
3. Inspiration is throughout the fairgrounds, in part through thoughtfully posted signage.
4. And last for tonight, but not truly last at all… THE MUSIC! I was so excited to see The Giving Tree Band perform for my fourth time. Their folk-rock music is timeless and fun for all ages – including kids & clowns!
Phew! That was a busy day, and a LONG post! While Veggie Fest continues tomorrow, I’ll be relaxing at home and starting my countdown for the next Chicago-area Veg Fest…. Chicago Vegan Mania on October 11th.
I’d Love to Hear from You!
Have you tried any of the products or cookbooks I saw at Veggie Fest?
If not, which ones would you like to try?
Note: This post contains Affiliate Links, however it is not a paid post and all opinions are my own.