‘Tis the Season

If you’re like me, you’re gearing up for Cyber Monday. Once Thanksgiving hits I avoid all stores, with the exception of the grocery store and few local independent businesses, like the plague until about mid-January when one can only hope the Santa’s and mobs of crazed looking people are gone.

Here are some of my favorite online retailers sure to have some pretty good deals in the weeks to come.

Loving Eco is my favorite of the Groupon spin-offs.  Though not all of the products they sell are vegan, they do sell quite a few vegan products and they clearly mark them with a V. They also mark which items are organic, fair trade, cruelty free, handmade, energy efficient, biodegradable, etc. A percentage of each sale on Loving Eco goes to charities, which change on a weekly basis. Among vegan charities that have benefited from Loving Eco are Mercy for Animals and Farm Sanctuary. If you sign up for their site, you’ll get a weekly e-mail featuring the deals of the week. This week they have select Matt & Nat bags and wallets on their site at a 45% discount!

Vegan Cuts is another Groupon-like discount site for vegans and they’re compiled this great Holiday Gift Shopping Guide, which includes several coupon codes! Subscribe to their site and you, too, can enjoy their weekly deals.

Rescue Chocolate – If you’re looking for something sweet for your loved ones, nothing beats Rescue chocolates. They’re vegan and all profits go to animal rescues.

Need more ideas? Check out Vegan Mainstream’s Holiday Gift Guide.


Remember the 5th of November…

November 5th is a big day for the Chicago Vegan community. Not only is Vegan Mania that day, but Mercy for Animals will be screening the new documentary, Vegucated, at the Viaduct Theater that evening!

Chicago Vegan Mania


This is Vegan Mania’s 3rd year and once again it’s being held at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse (1419 W Blackhawk, Chicago, IL) from 10am – 5pm and it’s FREE! Parking can be hard to come by, so come early or ride your bike/take public transit.

Some of you may be wondering, “What is Vegan Mania?” It’s a celebration of everything that is vegan – food, community, commerce, fashion, and more! It’s where I discovered St Martaen’s delicious artisan cashew cheeses (long before they had the food truck) and Vaute Couture’s lovely coats (before they left us for New York 🙁 ).

Even though the event is free, you’ll want to bring some cash with you because there will be a food court, which will feature delicious options from Chicago’s vegan restaurants and food companies, like Upton’s Naturals. In the past there have also been a wide variety of vegan goods for sale, like Ethically Engineered soaps, Herbivore Clothing, the aforementioned Vaute Couture coats, and more!

This year’s speakers include, Chicago’s Mercy for Animals Campaign Coordinator, Kenny Torella; vegan body builder, Robert Cheeke and Vegan Outreach’s Director of Outreach, Jon Camp. This year’s food demos will include culinary delights from Laviyah Ayanna of the Vegan Food Truck, Sandi Swiss of Canary Confectionary, Linda Szarkowski of Green Spirit Living, the Chicago Diner and Chicago Soy Dairy. All dishes demonstrated and sampled will be free of all animal ingredients.

Finally, there will also be a Family Activity Area with eco-crafts, and a culture cafe featuring a DJ, acoustic acts, artists, a coffee bar and a Vegan Rockstar photobooth!

Hope to see you there!


Saturday, November 5th, 2011
Viaduct Theater
3111 N Western Ave., Chicago, IL

Vegucated is a new documentary that follows 3 meat and cheese loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for 6 weeks. Along the way they discover the cruelty behind the industries they supported and are soon eager to fight back. The film is described as part sociological experiment, part science class and part adventure story.

The film will be followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Marisa Miller Wolfson.

To be sure you get a chance to see this film’s Chicago premier, purchase tickets in advance at http://vegucatedchi2.eventbrite.com/

Bleeding Heart West Town Review

This past weekend, Nick and I went to check out the new Bleeding Heart bakery in West Town, which unlike other Bleeding Heart locations has a cafe which serves brunch M-F from 7am -4pm and 57 straight hours starting on Friday at 7am and ending on Sunday at 4pm.

The cafe’s menu includes 7 vegan entrees. Nick ordered the Housemade Vegan Biscuits and Gravy and I had The Roots skillet.

The Roots

At first I wasn’t blown away by the skillet, because I was eating every vegetable on it’s own. The skillet consisted of potatoes, turnips, carrots, beets and seasoned tofu. However, when I started eating the tofu with the veggies I discovered that all of the flavors blended together really well. I left feeling more than satisfied since the bowl was big and the root veggies were filling. My only complaint is that I wasn’t given any vegan margarine or jelly or anything to go with my bread, which was pretty dry.

Vegan Biscuits and Gravy

The biscuits from the biscuits and gravy were probably the fluffiest biscuits I have ever had! Normally I don’t get biscuits because more often than not they’re hard or mealy or too dense, but these were perfect! They also came with seasoned tofu, which was the only disappointing part of the dish. It would have been nice if it was a tofu scramble with a few veggies thrown in, like onion and tomato or it they were served with Upton’s Naturals sausage instead of tofu and some roasted poatatoes. Then the Housemade Vegan Biscuits and Gravy would be AMAZING! As they are now, they’re just good.

Vegan Sweet Potato Pie

For dessert I took home a mini vegan Sweet Potato Pie, which was good, but I’m not sure it was $7 good. I did love the toasted Dandies on top, though! I will have to try to replicate this at home.

Overall it was a pretty good meal. I’m looking forward to going back and trying some more of their vegan offerings. Beware if you go late on a Saturday morning, though, because the place was bumping, so we had to wait about 20 minutes and I’m pretty sure there were only two waitresses working, so we didn’t get the best service.


The Results Are In!



Congratulations to Scintillating19 on winning a box of sprouted bread from Manna Organics. Please send your name and mailing addresss to secondcityvegan@gmail.com so we can ship you your bread!

The winner was chosen using Random.org to generate a random number between 1 & 7, which was the number of comments submitted. I’d like to thank everyone who participated.

Manna Organics Give-Away

We’re super excited to be offering you a chance to participate in our very first give-away!

A 4 loaf variety pack of Manna’s Sprouted Breads (approximate retail value$25).

Please, leave a comment below telling us how you like to eat bread before Friday, October 28th, 2011. We’ll be picking a winner from the comments at random on Friday. Be sure to leave your e-mail address, so we can get a hold of you. This contest is only open to those living within the Continental US.

Good luck!


Manna Organics Bread Review

Recently we were asked to review Manna Organics breads*. Manna Organics is a family owned and operated organic bakery in Lisle, IL which specializes in sprouted, yeast free organic bread without salt, oils, sweeteners or leavening agents.  We received a free variety pack from them and started sampling right away. Our pack included the following breads: Millet Rice, Carrot Raisin, Banana Walnut Hemp and Sunseed.

Manna breads are very moist and dense since they’re unleavened. I wouldn’t recommend you buy them to make sandwiches, but they’re great as accompaniments to a meal or as a meal in and of themselves since they are rich in protein and fiber.

The first bread I sampled was the Millet Rice bread and both Nick and I agreed it was our favorite. It has a slightly sweet taste, so it was delicious on it’s own, as well as, topped with margarine. I served it with Trader Joe’s Meatballs and pasta for dinner the night I received my shipment and I was very pleased with how it complimented the dish. I could see it going really well with soups or stews. The idea of pairing Manna Rice Millet bread with split pea soup is literally making my mouth water.  Our roommate, Tyler, was also a big fan of this one!

Manna Organics Millet Rice Bread & Pasta with Meatballs

The Banana Walnut Hemp came in at a close second. It’s more of a breakfast bread and is good served both cold and warm, with or without margarine. I was alone in my enthusiasm for this one, because Nick’s not a big banana fan. I liked that it was sweet, but not too sweet. I was also pleased to see that it contained flax and hemp seeds, which are a great sources of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.

Beware, this bread is a bit sticky, so be sure to follow the cutting instructions on the back of the package.

Banana Walnut Hemp Bread

I’m not a big fan of Rye Breads, and though the Sunseed isn’t a rye bread it has a slight rye bread taste. It’s the kind of bread I only eat if it’s coated in margarine, but it can also go well with soups and stews, though it wouldn’t be my first choice and everyone else in my house seemed to feel the same way.


Finally, there was the Carrot Raisin bread. This one was not something I’d seek out. I like carrots and I like raisins, but I didn’t like the pairing of the two. The raisins stood out and the carrots were flavorless. Since the carrots were shredded they gave the bread an odd texture, almost as though it contained shredded coconut and I don’t like shredded coconut . Out of all the breads we received, this one was the only one that didn’t get finished before it went bad.

Carrot Raisin

Manna currently offers 9 varieties of Sprouted breads, as well as Sourdough and Wheat Free breads.  You can find their breads in the frozen section at most Whole Foods locations nationwide and in Canada, as well as at independent health food stores and on their website: http://mannaorganicbakery.com

I definitely plan on making split pea soup with Millet Rice bread in the near future and I’m very curious about their Cinnamon Date bread.

Check back tomorrow to enter our Manna Organics give-away!

*We treat all solicited reviews as non-solicited reviews, ensuring that you get our honest, unbiased opinions.

Apple Cider Cookies

On a recent trip to World Market, I picked up some mulling spices for apple cider. I ended up using some to experiment with cookies. They came out pretty good, but I think I need to do some further experimentation because they could be better. Perhaps I’ll add a caramel glaze or filling next time, or maybe bits of apple or nuts!

Apple Cider Cookies


2 3/4 cups of flour
2 1/2 Tablespoons of mulling cider spices
3/4 Teaspoon of baking powder
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup and 2 Tablespoons apple juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup non-dairy yogurt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease 2 cookie sheets.

Sift dry ingredients together making sure there aren’t any clumps of brown sugar. Add wet ingredients and mix everything together until the dough is smooth and free of any lumps of sugar or margarine. Once your dough is ready, place rounded spoonfuls of it onto your cookie sheets.

Bake for 20-25 min until edges are lightly browned.

Hashbrowns the Second City Vegan Way

I use hashbrowns as a base for a meal on a regular basis. It’s something I learned from Nick. The neutrality of the potato allows for a wide variety of flavors to be added, as well as various vegetables, vegan meats, vegan cheeses, nuts, etc. This simple meal has taught me how to be a better cook by allowing me to experiment with a wide variety of spices, like cumin, chili powder, curry powder, paprika, etc. as well as whatever I happen to have in my fridge.


I always make sure I have a bag or two of frozen hashbrowns in my freezer. Today’s meal was made up of cauliflower, red and orange bell peppers, peas (frozen), nutritional yeast, Upton’s ground beef seitan, chili powder, flax powder (have to get those Omega 3s in there) and a little bit of olive oil and salt.

What I typically do is pour half a bag of hashbrowns into a pan coated in oil and place the heat on medium. Then I chop the veggies before adding them and stirring everything around to make sure everything has some oil on it, so nothing sticks to the pan. I don’t add spices until the end when most of the hashbrowns have browned because they absorb a lot of the oil. If you add them beforehand it’s not the end of the world though, just add a little more oil to keep things from sticking to the pan, don’t add water cause your potatoes will turn to mush. I typically also add nuts, daiya and hot peppers towards the end if I’m going to add them because burnt nuts can ruin a meal, spicy peppers heated for too long can become unbearably hot and Daiya can melt and stick to the pan instead of your food, which is a waste.

Do some experimenting of your own. It’s an easy meal, you can throw in pretty much anything you have in your fridge and more often than not you’ll be pleased by your results.

If you need more ideas try:

Southwestern Style: Hb’s, jalapenos, corn, peas, green onions, chorizo, flax powder, vegan cheese (the cheese can help cut the heat of peppers sometimes), and chili powder.

Indian Style: Hb’s, peas, cashews, garlic powder, cumin, curry powder and coriander powder.

Midwestern Style: Hb’s, broccoli, Daiya cheddar cheese, onion powder.

The possibilities are endless!


Cousin’s Incredible Vitality

At some point last year I bought a $20 Groupon to Cousin’s Incredible Vitality (3038 W. Irving Park Rd, Chicago 773-478-6868) and Nick and I finally cashed it in last month. Cousin’s is both entirely raw and entirely vegan.

We weren’t really sure what to expect when we went in. Neither of us have a lot of experience with raw food, but the little bit of experiece we do have has been pleasant. Still, we were both a little nervous.

The place itself has simple decor and the tables are arranged cafeteria style, so on occasion you may find yourself seated next to a complete stranger, but I’m ok with that. However, it took a while for us to be seated and for someone to come take our order. When our server did stop b she was friendly, and brought us a carafe of water.  This was a pleasant surprise; reviews we had read online said they normally don’t bring water until you received your meal. Plus, lately its felt like we’ve had to chase down waitstaff at other establishments for water or appropriate it ourselves. Cousin’s, however, provided us with ample water. The wait to place our orders was longer than one would normally expect, but at least we did have plenty of time to peruse the menu.

We ordered the RAWmazing Antipesto ($7) as a starter, which consisted of zucchni frittes, onions rings, fakin bacon, bell peppers, tempura with olive and pumkin seed cheese.

It was not what I expected at all, but it was good. The olive and pumpkin seed cheese dip was excellent and I probably could’ve just eaten that stuff by itself, but it complimented the rest of the appetizer well and it was all gone long before our entrees came out.

For my entree, I ordered the Sushi Maki ($10) – 5 rolls of Nori rolled sprouts, almond pate, avocado and greens served with soy sauce on a bed of romaine lettuce.

I was dissapointed in my entree. The rolls didn’t stay together very well, they were dry and they didn’t have much flavor. They also weren’t served with any wasabi paste and the soy sauce they were served with was incredibly salty. I was glad they were served on a bed of romaine lettuce cause that helped cut some of the salt. Needless to say, I don’t think I’ll be ordering this entree again.

Nick ordered the Portabella Melt ($10) – A marinated portabella mushroom stuffed with seed cheese and avocados, topped with sprouts and a tomato sauce, served with a side salad of broccoli, cauliflower and spices.

We both agreed that he got the better of the two entrees. The meaty consistency of the portabella mushroom made you feel satisfied and it’s filling was flavorful and went well with the mushroom. The side salad of veggies and spices was also very good. I would definitely order this again!

We finished dinner off with a piece of raw strawberry cheesecake topped with banana. As far as cheesecakes go it was alright. We did both leave the restaurant satisfed though.

Since this is a raw organic restaurant the prices are a bit higher than places I traditionally go, especially when taking portions into account. However, there were a lot of items I was curious about on the menu, which I would like to try, so I’ll definitely be back. I feel like Cousin’s is the perfect place to go when you’re looking for something light and healthy, especially on those hot summer days when you don’t feel like cooking, but want something a bit more elaborate than a salad.

They also offer a detox program for those who are interested and raw cuisine classes.

Chicago Soy Dairy’s Ice Cream Social at Logan Hardware

Yesterday, Chicago Soy Dairy hosted an ice cream social at Logan Hardware, a vegan owned record store/arcade near the corner of Western and Fullerton (2410 W Fullerton), to benefit Mercy for Animals. Five dollars got you all the ice cream you could eat!

It was a perfect weekend for the event what with people being in town for Riot Fest and the gorgeous weather. I was super excited because you could also pre-order pints of Temptation and get Dandies and Teese at a discount, so if course I took advantage and ordered 2 pints of Pumkin Pie, 2 pints of Tripple Threat Chocolate and 2 bags of Dandies. I’m going to be on a sugar high for a week!

Sigh, if only I could still get this stuff from stores. Guess the only way to fix that is to have more vegan ice cream socials! 😉

What do you think, Chicago?