In The News


It’s truly unbelievable. The worst damage in the history of this 105-year-old American institution. While there has been hail damage in the past, it only ever amounted to a few panes of glass.

This is totally different.

DONATIONS

They need help folks. Desperately. There are rare plant species, everything from tropicals to succulents. Not to mention the critters, like turtles, who call this place their home. Undoubtedly there will be fundraisers in the near future and below is the first. Also below is a direct link to the donation page at the conservatory:

HISTORY

Designed by Jens Jensen, this stunning 19th-century conservatory is on the National Register of Historic Places. The propagation greenhouses also provide plants for Chicago’s parks. Needless to say, this is a catastrophic disaster.

Honestly, what is the world coming to when potato chips aren’t 100% potatoes! Evidently, Pringles® brand chips are only 42% potato which exempts them from England’s VAT tax.

One interesting argument that P&G used to further their goal of having Pringles confirmed as not being classified as potato crisps includes the phrases, ” ‘uniform colour’ and ‘regular shape’ which ‘is not found in nature’ “. That last part cracks me up.

No word yet on what comprises the remaining 58%.

Here’s the BBC story.

FOOTNOTE: Yes, some packages of Pringles are labeled as vegan but they’re still manufactured by P&G, not exactly a company known for positive animal welfare policies.

I received my first order from ReusableBags.com today and it came with a special offer for a FREE ACME Bag with a future order of over $50 and the invitation to pass on this special offer to others.

It’s so cool that ReusableBags.com exists let alone has this really awesome offer. Here’s how it works:

  1. Visit their website and place items in the cart exceeding $50
  2. During checkout, enter the coupon code, FREEACME (case sensitive)
  3. Submit the order and they’ll include a free ACME Bag in your shipment

Now they don’t mention on the coupon card, which ACME Bag is part of the offer and there are more than several on their website. But hey, free is free and if you’re in the market for some of their other items, it’s a good offer.

And their fine print does say, “limit 1 per customer (while supplies last); online orders only; total before shipping must exceed $50″.

They sell many cool environmentally aware products, like the 2 SIGG water bottles I ordered that arrived today. They are awesome! However, I think I’m more excited about them than dear hubby. He’ll drink out of the Chicago river if I let him.

Well, I don’t know what I was so worried about. The Green Festival was full of vegan food options and I really didn’t need to pack my own bento lunch. Two of the best vegan restaurants in Chicago were there, serving up huge heaping plates of tasty awesomeness.

There were:

And for dessert, Chicago Soydairy had a booth with several Temptation ice cream flavors.

Also present was Field Roast providing their phenomenal sausages with grilled veggies on buns. If you’ve never tried any of Field Roast’s products, you simply must. Their stuffed Celebration Roast is an awesome holiday substitute for mock turkeys.

Of course, I couldn’t eat everything so I settled on the Jamaican Jerk sandwich with coleslaw from The Chicago Diner and ended with chocolate Temptation ice cream from Chicago Soydairy. I really wished I had room for Soul Vegetarian’s famous mac ‘n cheese. Oh well, they’re not far from a client of ours so next time we take him out to lunch, maybe that’s where we’ll go.

In any event, the Green Festival was packed and, at times, a little stressful for someone with crowdaphobia. There was an amazing array of green goods for the home, body and spirit. Of course, this blog is about veganism and that means animal welfare. So I present to you, the first shot from the event…I was watching a demonstration of non-stick cookware when I noticed this little sign near the front of the booth:

This pretty much set the tone for the festival. Everyone was friendly, chatty and all smiles.

Without further delay, here are a few reviews of products that caught my attention:

To-Go Ware Meal Containers

I’ve seen photos of the To-Go Ware containers on other websites but never held one up close and personal. These are a modern styling on the tiffin food containers common to South India and are bigger than I previously thought. They could easily carry lunch for two folks.

What I really liked though were To-Go’s bamboo cutlery set that included chopsticks, spoon, fork and knife. These were really cool and I should have bought a set. I did get a shot of the latest holders they offer which are made from recycled materials like newspapers and bags:

You can get the original handwoven holders with a set of cutlery at their website. The handwoven holders are produced by a women’s cooperative on the Thai-Burma border called WEAVE. Watch the video to learn more about the WEAVE group.

Now back to the container: you have to remember that these are stainless steel. They won’t impart any weird flavors to your food. They’ll live forever. You can put your To-Go Ware in a toaster oven, regular oven or over an open flame. But, they’re not microwavable. But then most plastic Japanese bento boxes aren’t microwavable either. Nonetheless, I thought the steel tiffin food carrier was charming and seemed large enough to hold a boatload of food. Though the gentleman manning the booth didn’t know the capacity of each compartment and I’ve not been able to find it on the website. Alas, I must buy one to find out and fulfill my blog duties. ;-]

Bag ‘Em Danno

One of the nice things about packing bento lunches is the opportunity to reduce waste by reusing leftovers in creative ways and also packing lunches in reusable containers rather than disposable wrappers and bags. This weekend at the Green Festival, I went one step further and bought 2 Bag-E-Wash contraptions to enable me to reuse my large zipper-style plastic bags. I am thrilled to not have to throw away these bags or figure out how to effectively clean and dry them after using. And as many bento planners know, storage bags are very helpful for freezing portioned foods because they let you remove the air prior to popping in the freezer.

I have yet to use them but will report back once I do. I expect they’ll take up a fair amount of room in the dishwasher but I don’t use bags that often anyway. And yes, I’m aware that dishwashers too can be wasteful but that’s where I’m drawing the line. I’ll hand wash what I can but if I’m home late and totally pooped, I’m going for the convenience.

Factoid: Did you know that America produces 10 pounds of plastic bags per year for every person on the planet?

New vegan food products from Edward and Sons

I’ve seen various Edward and Sons products in stores but never knew just how vast their product selection actually was. It’s HUGE! And they’ve just launched several new food items, two of which I’ll be testing later this week.

I think most vegans craving macaroni and cheese have tried their Road’s End brand of boxed mac ‘n cheese but did you know they are the same folks that make these items:

  • Let’s Do…Organic® brand gummi bears and feet (the sours are the best IMHO)
  • Let’s Do…Organic® brand sugar cones
  • Let’s Do…Organic® brand ice cream cones
  • Brown Rice Snaps brand crackers

Among many others. They make so many products, I was grateful for their assistance in pointing out the newest selections.

The newest additions to their pantry that I’ll be reviewing soon are:

  • Not-Chick’n Bouillon Cubes
  • Native Forest® Mango Passion Chutney (evidently so new it’s not even on their site yet)

…Oh hell, let’s do the Chutney now….(opening jar…finding cracker…) wow! This is good. Downright yummy. It has a bit of a kick to it but I wouldn’t say it’s hot. Just a little restless leg syndrome. And that’s smoothed over by a soft sweetness. The coloring is a nice and toasty warm brown with chunks of mango. I’m going to have to include this in a bento lunch with some cucumber sticks and crackers. Would also be yummy on a sandwich or wrap with veggies. Has a tweek of a savory angle to it although it’s sweet too. I’m digging this. When I include it in a bento, I’ll try to take a close up photo of it. Although it is a very dark earthy color.

Anyway, go here to check out all the other new Edward and Sons products.

Rock ‘em Sock ‘em

One of the biggest challenges of being a vegan is finding groovy vegan socks. Knee socks, specifically. And stretchy ones at that. I’m so tired of all those mass marketed socks made overseas that don’t quite fit, aren’t comfortable, slide under my heel while walking and just aren’t cool enough to shell out good money for. Additionally, I have larger calves than most and can never find knee socks that can be pulled all the way up. I think that’s because most knee socks today are designed for skinny teenagers, not middle-aged housewives. And being a cold-natured person living in the windy city, knee socks are crucial to my survival.

So, I was kinda hoping to find something useful among all the organic cotton and hemp clothing booths at the Green Festival but all they had were ankle warmers in nifty natural colors like unbleached white and unbleached white.

I was nearing the end of my winding trek through the showroom floor and saw something that made my heart skip a few—an entire booth comprised completely of socks! Really really cool socks too! Ok, so there were a few hats in the booth but only on one small rack. Here’s a photo showing a sampling of the grooviness that Rock ‘n Socks manufactures.

Another really great thing about Rock ‘n Socks’s socks (aside from the wonderful designs and colors) is that they are recycled. Yeah, recycled but not from post consumer undies or anything gross. They are made, in the USA, from pre-consumer cotton/poly blend fibers salvaged from factory scrips and scraps.

As I write this, I am wearing the pair I purchased at the booth yesterday. They are quite comfy and seem to be staying up. I will further test them by wearing to work to ensure they can take a daily beating. The owner, Misty did say yesterday that she thoroughly tests their sock designs during manufacture because she wants to ensure they fit a wide range of people.

In the meantime, you should head over to the Rock ‘n Socks website to get a view of all their socks. They don’t have an online shopping cart function yet but are working on it. Misty said to just contact them with what you want and they’ll handle your orders analog style for now. They’re also sold via several retail outlets across the nation and you can get that list on the site.

Note: While Misty didn’t intend to make vegan socks, she in fact did by using recycled cotton fibers. So these fall under the subcategory of accidently vegan but vegan nonetheless.

Do you remember that review I did a couple weeks ago about that new awesome vegan cheese, Teese® mozzarella? No? Well, it’s a really good vegan cheese (and I think I’ve just about tried them all) made by the fine and ethical folks at Chicago Soydairy.

On to the point of this post, Ryan Howard, owner of Chicago Soydairy, just informed me that Teese® is now available in two retail stores in Chicago. While it’s not yet noted on the Teese® website, you can get this great tube of awesomeness at:

Green Grocer is fairly new I think. It’s near my office in the Kinzie Corridor.

For those of you too far away, you can still get Teese® online at Vegan Essentials. I’ve heard of Vegan Essentials shipping overseas with great success too.

I really hope that Teese® meets with even more success because, quite frankly, I want to be able to buy it forever. Yeah, I like it that much and cheese (along with milk chocolate) has been the hardest thing to give up.

Now be forewarned, the packaging is still very food service oriented. It comes in a red plastic casing with a very minimalist label. But don’t be fooled, it’s AWESOME! And you get a whole pound for about the same price as some other brands charge for 6 to 8 ounces. Of course, you may end up eating it all in one sitting if you like it as much as I do.

Note:

Check out Nina’s recipe for Caprese using Teese® mozzarella.

In case you’ve been living in a bento box and haven’t heard the news: Ichiban Kan’s online store is now open! Yep, the famous Japanese dollar store from the West Coast is online. And not a minute too soon. I was beginning to seriously consider spending too much money on bento boxes from eBay.

To give you a sense of what kind of cents you’ll be saving, take a look at my first haul below.

Here’s a list of everything I got for $26.25 (before shipping).

  • 2 white bento boxes with rubber gaskets
  • 1 nifty yellow monkey bento box with two-tiers and room for cookies on top
  • 1 red monkey bento box shaped for large onigiri
  • 1 elastic bento belt for the yellow monkey box
  • 3, yep, 3 mandolin veggie slicers, 1 with a knuckle guard (this is my fave)
  • 1 pack of dressing bottles
  • 2 different sets of rice molds, cute and regular
  • 2 refrigerator trays, tall and short
  • 1 metal soap for getting garlic smells off your hands
  • 1 mini bamboo mat and rice paddle
  • 15 differently sized sealable mini containers

My mind is still shocked at all that for sooo little.

The items that I’m finding most useful are the white and yellow bento boxes, the two smallest slicers, the refrigerator trays and all the little sealable containers. I use the white bentos to pack fruity breakfasts for Peter and myself and the yellow to pack Peter’s lunch. I haven’t figured out how to make the best use of the red bento box yet but still thinking on it. The little sealable containers are awesome for all those tiny leftovers you don’t want to throw away because they just might fit into a bento. AND I’ve been using the wee little round ones for homemade salad dressings.

If you’re wanting to save big on lots of ‘different things’, Ichiban Kan’s loads of fun.

Let’s face it, vegan cheese largely sucks. There are a few gems out there but they’re still flawed in some way. While one may actually resemble the skunkiness of a blue cheese, it doesn’t melt. Another may have a nice yellow cheddar appearance but it tastes like cardboard with a slimy, gritty surface. It’s interesting to note that most of the vegan Mac ‘n Cheese recipes on the Internet call for anything BUT store-bought vegan cheese.

Well, we may finally be experiencing the tipping point on vegan cheese. There’s a new kid on the block and it’s called Teese Mozzarella! This stuff actually melts, EVEN IN THE MICROWAVE. Let me repeat that, EVEN IN THE MICROWAVE!

And get this, it actually tastes like what I remember mozzarella to be. Now of course, I’m not going to do a side-by-side with the real thing but for vegan folks looking for a pizza, pasta, salad and snack cheese, this is perfect.

Teese Mozzarella melted on pizza!!

I’d initially read about Teese on the Internet, visited their site and saw the video showing it melting on pizza in a wood-fired oven. Then I started seeing excellent reviews. More excellent reviews than most other cheeses.

So, I bought 5 pounds.

Yep, IT’S SOLD BY THE POUND! Not those wimpy little overpriced 4 ounce packages but a really honkin’ pound! I love this company. They know how to please a Midwesterner for sure.

I placed my order at Vegan Essentials, one of only three retailers selling the cheese. Teese was originally targeted to the food service industry so the packages you’ll get are rather industrial looking. But who cares?! IT REALLY MELTS!

The first thing I did was attempt to melt some on a TLT in the microwave it melted and ran elegantly down the crusts of my bread in no time at all.

Of course, it looked so yummy I forgot to get a photo. I’ll make another one and post a photo with the exact time to meltage.

So, fear not. Head on over to the Teese website to get the facts then place your order at Vegan Essentials. I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed. And if you are, send your leftovers to me.

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