Chicago VeggieFest 2012

Today was an awesome day: Mike and I spent the entire day at the Chicago-Area Veggie Fest in Naperville.  

And it’s not an overstatement to say that I have been looking forward to this day for well over a year.  I marked my calendar for the festival early last year, but out-of-state visitors that weekend resulted in a last -minute change of plans.  I was not going to let anything stand in my way of Veggie Fest this year!  

Our first stop? the Food Court!  I loved that every booth had lists posted of all the ingredients in each dish.  In addition, while all the food was Vegetarian, “V” symbols on the menu clearly marked the Vegan options.

It was hard to decide, so Mike and I wound up sharing 3 entrees.  One of which was these Sizzlin’ Veggie Kabobs which included Marinated Paneer Cheese and Mock Chicken in addition to the veggies, along with a yummy Mint-Yogurt sauce.


I loved how these ladies were all working together to assemble the kabobs.


We also shared an order of Vegan Caribbean “Chicken” which was pleasantly crispy & chewy.  

And best of all, we shared a Dosa – essentially an Indian Crepe.  The batter is fermented so the crepe tasted slightly tart, reminding me of Ethiopian Inerja bread, but crispy.  It came with several items for dipping: (from left to right) a spicy potato curry, coconut chutney, spiced coconut and a soup.


We enjoyed our lunch while sitting at a communal table and enjoying some awesome Reggae music from the Chicago-area band Gizzae.


Soon after, we decided we better stake out a good seat for one of the many cooking demos (they had a great schedule with a different demo starting every 30 minutes!).  There was a famous Vegan Chef from Chicago that I really wanted to see.  We got seats on the center aisle and before long there was a standing room only crowd, but the chef was nowhere to be seen!  Although the chef did show up (20 minutes after the demo was scheduled to start), I had already moved on to the demo in the next tent over which turned out to be FABULOUS!


Before today, I had never heard of Caroline Marie Dupont, but I am so happy to know of her now.  As a certified holistic nutritionist and vegetarian for 25+ years, she had so much great wisdom to share, and she came all the way from Toronto to do so.  Her session, “Happy, Healthy Vegan” covered her top tips for healthful eating & common pitfalls to watch out for.  She then walked us through what she eats in a typical day, including a recipe demo.


Two tips that really stuck with me were:

  1. Choose Cold-Pressed Oils, and drizzle them on your food after cooking. Oils are delicate. Heat (from both processing and cooking) can result in free radicals.
  2. Sprouting. Sprouts are so full of nutrients, and by making them in your kitchen in a Mason Jar, they’re about as locally-grown as you can get!

And here is her typical day of eating.  It follows her recommendations (which are in line with many other expert opinions I’ve read) for eating about 70-80% fruits & veggies, focusing on whole foods, and eating plenty of raw foods.

  • Start your day with a glass or two of purified water
  • Next up – have some fruit once you feel hungry
  • Her next snack would be a Green Smoothie (about 50/50 fruit and greens)
  • For lunch she has a hearty salad meal 
  • Then, a fresh green  juice
  • And lastly, at least 2-3 hours before bed, she’ll enjoy one of her Go-To Grain & Vegetable Bowls
She taught us how to make our own Go-To Grain & Veggie bowls, which can be made with infinite combinations of ingredients.  The version she made for us included Quinoa, Broccoli, Carrots, Cilantro, Scallions, Sprouts, Sauerkraut, Brazil Nuts, and a drizzle of Sesame Oil.
While I know it would be a hard transition for me to start eating like that every day, I’m hoping to make a few more steps in the right direction.  Mike and I talked about making the Go-to Grain & Veggie Bowl one of our standard dinner options (you know – Spaghetti Night, Taco Night, … Go-To Grain & Veggie Night!).  We are also going to try incorporating fresh fruit & green smoothies into our Sunday mornings.
I also bought a signed copy of Caroline’s cookbook, The New Enlightened Eating, which focuses on super-simple, clean-eating meals. I am eager to work some of her recipes into next month’s meal plans (especially her Orange Oatmeal Muffins, Tofu Cottage Cheese, and Soba Noodle Salad!)
Finally, after much anticipation, we went around and checked out all of the festival booths. Here are just a few of the highlights:
Nature’s Path‘s booth was Swag-City.  They must have given out thousands of tote bags and samples throughout the day.
How cool is this t-shirt? Not only is it awesome, my purchase also supports the T. Colin Cambpell Foundation.
And have you ever had a Savory Nutrition-Bar?  These Journey Bars were really tasty and unique.
We also sampled the spicy flavor of Peanut Butter & Co (it’s HOT!!!), enjoyed a taste of Manna Organics Cinnamon Date bread, learned about Door-to-Door Organics, and so much more!
By this point we had been at the festival for nearly 5 wonderful hours and were feeling snacky. We decided to get a light bite and take in some more music before hitting the road.
I had a Fruit & Greens Smoothie, Mike had a Mango Lassi, and we both shared a Strawberry Summer Salad.  This refreshing snack hit the spot.
We hydrated further with Fresh Coconut Water and found a place in the shade to enjoy music by the Giving Tree Band, which was now on stage, playing a great blend of blue-grass and indie rock.
I remembered reading about the Giving Tree Band before, and a quick google search turned up the Vegetarian Times article I recalled.  Not only are they a very talented group, the article shows that they are one of the greenest bands in America.  During the 30-day recording session for their album Great Possession, they camped in a local state park, ate organic food donated from a local farm, and biked 20 miles to the studio each day.  AND their instruments are made from naturally fallen trees.  Now, that is seriously GREEN!
On that note, we left eagerly anticipating next year’s event!
For those of you in Chicago – you can still catch this year’s Veggie Fest from 11am – 8pm tomorrow, Sunday August 12th.
And also mark your calendars for Chicago Vegan Mania coming up on Saturday, September 29th, and check out my review of last year’s event.
I’d love to hear from you!
Do you enjoy Cooking Demos?
Does your region have any Foodie Festivals?