Chicago VeganMania 2013

September has been quite the busy month so far!  I’ve been to Florida (for my birthday and bridal shower), to India (!!! – for a business trip), and equally exciting… to Chicago VeganMania!

Please forgive me in advance – with so much happening so close together, my recaps of Florida and India are going to be a little bit belated.  In the meantime, I’m excited to share about my time at the 5th Annual VeganMania – and my 3rd year in attendance.

The doors to the one-day-only event opened at 10am on Saturday at the historic Broadway Armory building in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood.  When I arrived at 9:45am, the line was already around the block.  We were all vying for the special goodie bags that the first 100 attendees would receive.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get one, but my friend Nissa, who arrived at 9:15am, did! I was excited to get a sneak-peek into her bag which was stuffed full of individual product samples.  The highlight of her bag was this sampler pack of Weleda’s lotions, which on it’s own would have been well worth waking up a half hour earlier :-)


Once inside, the rest of the day was a whirlwind.  

We did a lot of Socializing.  

Nissa and Megan from our PPK Potlucks were there.  I met Sarah Norine, a visitor from Minneapolis that I had been chatting with on the PPK Forums.  We celebrated our one-year Friend-versary with Laura & Darren, who we had met at VeganMania last year. And my (soon-to-be) cousins, Evie & Jerry were there with their 3-year old daughter, who has been to VeganMania every year since she was born :-)

It was so nice to spend time with like-minded friends and family, and I’m so lucky to have found such a great community to be a part of!

We did a lot of Eating.

I laughed because despite having breakfast right before arriving, at 10am Mike was already craving the Radical Ruben and Kale Salad from Chicago Diner.  Very soon after, we made another visit to the Food Court for the combo plate from Soul Vegan, my favorite eat from last year’s event (and in my opinion, the best Vegan Mac & Cheese in the city!).

Both were delicious, but this year, my tastebuds were topped by Native Foods Cafe’s new Chipotle Chop Salad, which will be debuting on their menu this October.  Not only did I love the combo of creamy, lime-y dressing over crisp romaine with black beans… I also actually made a profit from sampling this dish!  The generous serving below was priced at just $2… and after chatting with the servers, they passed me a $5 gift card for the restaurant.

We Relaxed.

One of my favorite rooms at each year’s VeganMania is the “Culture Cafe“.  This room always has live music, coffee with a huge array of non-dairy milks, and a few vendors selling art and baked goods.

At the Delicious Cafe booth, Mike enjoyed a couple cups of coffee from local roaster Metropolis Coffee with a variety of milks – much to our surprise, his favorite was the Quinoa Milk.

I enjoyed some free Dr. Scott’s Brownies, loaded with Belgian-Chocolate and nuts.  He’s working to start a small business and was offering free samples in exchange for feedback on the recipe.  My feedback? No changes needed – these were deliciously rich & chewy, with real-food (and of course, vegan) ingredients.

And both Mike and I treated ourselves to chair massages.  The price of $10 for 15-minutes is hard to beat, plus there’s nothing quite like relaxing into a massage with live acoustic guitar music playing in the background.  The music line-up looked fantastic.  While we were there, Zach (who we also saw at VeggieFest) was playing his beautiful music, and I’m wishing I had bought one of his CD’s!

We shopped.

Regretfully, I barely made it to even half of the booths at the event, but regardless I came home with an assortment of goodies.

We brought home a Vegan Taco from the Treehouse Society for our kitty cat to enjoy.

And for myself, I purchased a mystery bag from the VeganCuts booth.  I hear all of the mystery bags were slightly different.  The one I grabbed contained some of my beloved Good Beans, the newest flavor (Sesame Ginger!) of Journey bar which I have been anxiously waiting to try, BBQ Chia Chips, and an assortment of other treats.

We Learned.

Also regretfully, time flew by so fast that I was only able to make it to 2 and 1/4 of the fantastic panels and demos on the agenda.

I caught the tail-end of the cooking demo by Jackie Fisch of the local blog, Barefoot Essence.  While I missed her cooking, I did get to ogle at her beautiful spread of in-season produce, and I learned that she too is a proponent of batch-cooking on Sundays for easier meal-prep throughout the week.  Thankfully, she’s been recapping her demo on her blog, so I don’t have to miss out on the rest of her presentation, including the recipe for the Cheezy Roasted Red Pepper Marinara Hummus that she made for the crowd.

Next up, we saw chef Jenny Cornbleet’s  “Raw Made Easy” demo.  I enjoyed my sample of her Raw Chocolate Cake, but even more so, I enjoyed her enthusiastic and practical approach for getting more raw foods into our diets.

Her advice?

  • Have Raw Breakfasts – They’re super easy to prepare.  Think Green Smoothies, Overnight Oats, and Chia (or other Seed) Puddings.
  • Have a mostly-raw salad for Lunch – Breakfast + this lunch already puts you at 50% raw for the day
  • Add a Raw Side-Dish to Dinner – If you’d like to get up to 80% raw, simply add a small salad or raw soup as a side-dish to your cooked dinner.
This advice really stuck with me since I had never realized before that it could be so easy to get up to 80% raw while still making recipes within my “normal” repertoire.  While I still don’t eat as much raw as I should, I did add one of her favorite Side-Salads (I used Kale instead of Lettuce) to my dinners last night & tonight!

Lastly, Mike and I attended the Vegan Nutrition Panel which was actually our favorite part of the day.  The panel consisted of Author & TV-show host Julieanna Hever, local dietician Carolyn Tampe, and Eric Sharer, a dietician specializing in Oncology Nutrition.  I was a bit starstruck by Julieanna since she’s a total celebrity in the vegan world, and I was impressed that Carolyn and Eric were able to teach me just as much through their answers.

I was actually sad that this panel was only an hour long.  The audience was full of questions.  We kept asking and they continued answering until a minute before the next event was scheduled to start in our room.

The topics discussed ranged from Calcium supplements (and the importance of not taking too much) to Anti-Inflammatory Diets to eating to Reduce Cholesterol and  more, and they definitely gave me quite a lot of food-for thought!

The one thing we didn’t do?

We didn’t pollute!  Yet another thing that Chicago VeganMania does right is it’s focus on reducing waste.  There was a full-length story in Saturday’s Chicago Tribune about the eco-friendly practices at the festival.  I was impressed to read that thanks to their Green Team, last year’s huge event resulted in only 4 kitchen-sized bags of garbage going to the dump.  This year, they aimed to achieve Zero-Waste.  I’m eager to hear how they did!

 I’d love to hear from you!

If you were at VeganMania – what were your highlights from the event?

What kinds of Non-Dairy Milks have you tried before? Have you had Quinoa Milk?