Vegan Gingerbread House Party

After decorating cookies Saturday afternoon, I headed back to the apartment to pick up Hector who just got home from school. We headed to Megan’s for our December Post Punk Kitchen {ppk} potluck. This month we decided to make vegan gingerbread houses. The kit that you can buy isn’t vegan but Megan made the cookies for the houses and figured out how to hold the pieces together!

Before we got too much sugar into our system, we had a lentil cauliflower soup that Megan made. It was really delicious. A perfect way to start the evening.

Lentil Soup

We all brought cookies to share with each other. All of them were really yummy!

gluten free chocolate chip cookies

chocolate crinkles

biscotti Megan warned us that once the sugar was heated, we had to act fast and start building. Nissa & Hector tried really hard to figure out their game plan! {Hector & I shared a house, which was pretty comical}

getting read to buildWhile we waited to start, we enjoyed some So Delicious Nog.

so delicious nogOnce Hector, Megan & Nissa began making the houses, I could not stop laughing. I will blame that from the sugar, but it was so much fun to witness the making of these houses.

construction begins!


will it stand up?

DSC_0289We had to get some string reinforcement to hold the houses together. It worked!

string reinforcementNissa’s dog, Oliver, wanted some sugar! He is too cute!

Oliver!We finally finished building the houses and decorated them. They turned out really unique!

Our house may have some flaws, like a hole in the roof, but we just incorporated that into the house as a skylight. The additional awning really adds a nice touch to the house.

our house!Megan’s house was amazing. The best part would have to be the boarded up windows!

Megan's HouseNissa’s house lives in a different neighborhood. It is well taken care of and color coordinated. Just look at that roof!

Nissa's HouseI really had so much fun Saturday! I am really for more holiday related things! 🙂

Have your every built a gingerbread house before?


Christmas Cookbook Wish List

I already own many cookbooks, but I am always on the hunt for more! There are cookbooks that I haven’t even cooked from, but I am always wanting to add to my collection! It might be an addiction, but I am ok with it. I find recipes online, but sometimes they don’t turn out. I have much better luck with recipes in cookbooks!

Since I am newly gluten free, I have a whole new cookbook genre to explore! I have complied a list of gluten-free cookbooks that I would like to own. Maybe my list will help you find a cookbook for someone who is gluten-free and vegan!

Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats: Cut Out the Gluten and Enjoy an Even Healthier Vegan Diet with Recipes for Fabulous, Allergy-Free Fare By Allyson Kramer


{Via Amazon}

Allyson Kramer is the author behind the popular blog Manifest Vegan. I have been reading her blog for awhile and have really been intrigued by her gluten-free recipes. This cookbook looks like it would be great for beginners. I really love that the nutritional information is included. This book is at the top of my list!

Review from VegNews Magazine:

“Top-notch photography, interesting-yet-not-overwhelming recipes, and an affable, approachable style are the hallmarks of Manifest Vegan, and each of these qualities shines through in the 200-plus page Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats.”

Gluten-Free and Vegan Holidays: Celebrating the Year with Simple, Satisfying Recipes and Menus by Jennifer Katzinger 

glutenfree and vegan holiday

My eye caught this book because it is geared towards the holidays. Finding vegan and gluten free recipes that can be enjoyed during the holidays can be difficult and having recipes in one book is a great resource to have all in one place! I am especially interested in the holiday cookies, cakes, and bread section! I have been struggling to find really good gluten free christmas cookie recipes!

Review from VegNews:

“Katzinger’s expertise sets this book apart. As founder of the Flying Apron Bakery in Seattle and author of Flying Apron’s Gluten-Free and Vegan Baking Book, Katzinger bucks the stereotype of gluten-free baking as boring and tasteless.  Her recipes…would be welcome on anyone’s holiday table, whether the host is vegan, gluten-free, or just hungry. Katzinger also includes tips on where to source specialty ingredients (just in case your local supermarket doesn’t regularly stock teff), and organizes her recipes into complementary menus for each holiday that make planning out your meal a breeze.”

The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook by Cybele Pascal

allegen free baking

 I like the idea that this book focuses on baking for those with all the common allergies  It can be hard to find a baking recipe that doesn’t call for wheat, eggs, soy, etc. 100 recipes are included!

—Review from Cookbook Digest “Somehow, without using wheat flour, dairy, soy, eggs, or nuts, Pascal finds that baking ‘possibilities are endless’ and with recipes for Chocolate Chunk Brownie Bars, Classic Yellow Cake, or Brandied Peach Tart, she is very convincing.” “the kind of advice that can make you an intuitive, allergen-free baker.”

The Gluten-Free Vegan: 150 Delicious Gluten-Free, Animal-Free Recipes by Susan O’Brien

the gluten free vegan

The beginning of this book has an introduction to eating vegan and gluten free. I love when cookbooks provide information, especially if you are new to vegan/gluten free cooking. It is really helpful. It also looks like most of the recipes call for real, whole foods, which is very important for me!

Gluten-Free and Vegan Bread: Artisanal Recipes to Make at Home byJennifer Katziner

artisan bread

I will be honest. I am intimidated by gluten free baking, especially with bread recipes. Maybe this book would help with my fear of gluten free bread making? This book looks wonderful and would be a great addition to a cookbook collection!

These 5 gluten-free & vegan cookbooks are definitely on my Christmas wish list this year! If I do get any of these books, I will do a more in-depth review!

Do you own any of these cookbooks? Do you have any cookbooks on your list this year?

Healthy Eating {Gluten Free}

This past few months I haven’t been eating as healthy as I should be. This needs to change asap. One thing that I have been noticing and paying close attention to the past few months is my gluten intake and how it makes my body feel. I have discovered that I tend to have these side effects when I consume gluten: my head hurts, joint pain, stomach issues, tingling and numbness in my hands & bloating. These symptoms only arise right after I consume gluten. I don’t really want to be tested to see if I have a gluten intolerance. Plus I don’t have a doctor here in Chicago and I am not sure where to go. I know that “gluten free” has become a popular diet and I think this is why I haven’t tried to go eliminate it from my diet.

My stomach issues have become more of an issues & I have decided that now is the time to try and eliminate it from my diet. I have done some preplanning & hopefully shouldn’t have any problems finding gluten free foods in my kitchen!

One thing that I am worried about is the fact that December is filled with lots of holiday get togethers. Also, my family isn’t too accommodating with my vegan eating. I will be bringing my own dishes to pass! Another thing that is a concern is gluten free vegan baking. This will be something that I need to try. I have found quite a few recipes, so I will have to try them out! Plus, it isn’t like I need to have baked goods all the time.

The rest of December I plan on testing out a gluten free diet and see how I feel. I also would like to cut back on my sugar intake. I want to feel lighter & my best by the time I run the Disney World marathon in January. I definitely want to keep a detailed account & plan on blogging a lot more about my eats. This is something that I have been wanting to do for awhile anyways.

I am really nervous about posting anything about eliminating gluten from my diet, but I really want to share this with everyone. It has been a couple of days without gluten and I feel really good! A lot of the symptoms that I have been having lately are gone. Hopefully this keeps up!

**Disclaimer: I am not advocating that going gluten free is best for everyone. I just feel it is best for me to try it right now. These are just my opinions that I write here on the blog. 

Turkey-Less Roast {Holiday Eats}

Earlier this week while I was at Trader Joes, I spotted a vegan turkey roast. It was located in the refrigerated section by the real turkeys and veggies. It was $9.99 and I normally wouldn’t spend that much on one item, but I really wanted to try it. They always get me with new vegan products. I just want to try every vegan product that I see!!

I knew that I wanted to try this roast well before Thanksgiving. Since Thanksgiving is only two weeks away, it is time to figure out what to make! So, last night I tried it for dinner. On the side of the box there is directions for a holiday roast. Basically you cut up some veggies coat with olive oil and salt & pepper. Place the roast on top and bake in the oven. Simple. Anyone can make this.

One hour later the roast was done. It came with gravy and you just heat the up on the stove.

Overall, I thought that the roast was pretty good. It was simple and easy to make. I normally do not eat processed “meats” like this, but every once in awhile it is a nice treat. It kind of tasted like Gardein, but not sure if it is. I would definitely recommend this, especially if you like to eat Gardein, Tofurky, etc. I eat them only a couple times a year, so this really was a treat. Hector said that he could eat it everyday. I am not sure if I will be having this for my Thanksgiving dinner, but it is a good backup option for me.

It would be great if you had vegetarian/vegan guests coming to your Thanksgiving and have no idea what to make. Just put it in the oven and your done! Your vegan guests would greatly appreciate the effort!

Have you tried a vegetarian roast before? Do you have a favorite roast?

Quesadilla La Reyna del Sur

Yesterday was not only the first day of November, it was also Happy World Vegan Day! To celebrate, Hector and I went to Quesidilla La Reyna Del Sur for lunch. We have been wanting to try this restaurant for months, but we have always wanted to go on a Saturday and they are not open on Saturdays. I was excited that we were finally going to try it!

It is located in the Bucktown/Logan Square neighborhood. We drove and we were able to park right in front! I hate having to worry about parking.

We sat down and we were brought chips and salsa right away.  The menu had a good selection of tacos, tortas, and quesadillas. There was also a great selection of fresh juices. I was tempted to get one, but I decided not to. I did notice that there was a lot of soy items on the menu.

Hector ordered two barbacoa tacos. Apparently the flavor is suppose to be like lamb. Hector enjoyed them, however, there wasn’t much salt. I think that is a good think though.

 I went with the xochimilco taco. It had soy steak, mushrooms and cactus. I think I went with the xochimilco taco because it reminded me of the time I went there when I was in Mexico. {If you are ever in Mexico, I highly recommend that you go!}

We also ordered two tamales. Now, we wanted normal tamales that were not in the banana leaves. Well, we were brought tamales that had been steamed in to banana leaves. I opted not to eat mine. I love tamales, but these just didn’t appeal to me. Hector ate them, but said that they needed more flavor.

Overall it was a pretty good lunch. Next time I wouldn’t get the tamales, but something else. It is worth going back to.  I really like that there are so many vegetarian options here in Chicago.

Do you have a favorite vegeatarian/vegan restaurant in Chicago?

Why I Became Vegan

I have been wanting to write a post on why I became vegan for a long time. There isn’t one short answer, but more of a journey that I am still going through. People become vegan for many different reasons. Some do it for their health, others for the environment, and those who are animal rights activist. {Just to warn you, this post gets pretty personal}

I decided to stop eating meat the day after Thanksgiving 2006. I didn’t understand how I could be contributing harm to innocent beings. The following March I gave up all dairy products. I mainly gave up dairy products because I thought it would improve my health. I was never really a big cheese person to begin with! Milk was trickery, but there are so many wonderful plant milks out there! This was honestly the best decision of my life.

Ever since I was born, I have had acid reflux. I would spit up my formula and gaged while trying to be fed. My acid reflux got really bad in middle school. I was puking almost every night and wasn’t getting much sleep. The doctor said that it was just acid reflux and that was it. My problems continued for years. My junior year of high school, I finally went to see a specialist. It turns out that I had a hiatal hernia. In 2007, I had surgery to remove the hernia, which turned out to be the size of a baby’s head. I can’t believe that was in my stomach!!

Since I had become vegan about 9 months before my surgery, I noticed a great improvement in my health before I even had my surgery. I had lost about 50 pounds and the symptoms had almost disappeared. Before my operation my acid levels were the highest my doctor had ever seen. If I didn’t have surgery, I would have gotten cancer of the esophagus.  Scary!!

After removing the hernia, I felt better. But I know that if I hadn’t changed my diet, some of my symptoms would have returned. Looking back on my experience, what really bothers me is that no one talked to me about my diet while I was growing up. I think this is were some doctors are lacking. Nutrition is extremely important especially if you have stomach problems.

I do blame my diet growing up for a lot of my health problems. I ate meat at almost every meal, drank milk with my dinner and ate so much junk! The typical American diet. Changing to a vegan, plant based diet has greatly improved my health! No more stomach problems!!

To sum it up, I became vegan for health reasons. Along the way I have become aware of the environmental impact of factory farming, and the rights of animals is now one of my main concerns. Through my journey into veganism, I have become a better person. I have a more compassionate outlook on life and see the world differently. I am still on my journey to living a compassionate life and I hope that I am able to share my love for the animals with others.

If you are vegan, what made you become vegan? If you aren’t vegan, have you ever though about adopting a plant based diet?

Chicago VeganMania

Yesterday morning Hector and I went to Chicago VeganMania at the Broadway Armory in Edgewater. I had been looking forward to this event for months. Any event that is about veganism, I need to go to. When we got there a few minutes before 10 there was a line outside the door. The first 100 people got a goodie bag. Sadly I wasn’t one of them.

When we got inside we walked around the room looking at the different vendors. I saw a lot of things I liked, but when I saw these over at Food Fight Grocery, I became extremely happy!

I was just about to order some of these soy curls online, but when I saw that Food Fight Grocery had them there I had to get two bags. Expect a recipes involving these soon.

We also picked up a bag of this popcorn. I am not a fan of popcorn, but this one had me sold. The kernels are small, but extremely flavorful.

After walking around the vendors, we headed over to the food area. So many choices! I love when I have a choice of what I am to eat! Cash was exchanged for tokens that you paid the food vendor. How cool is that?

We started off the the Italian sandwich from Upton’s Naturals. If you haven’t tried their seitan. I highly recommend that you do. It is available at Whole Foods!  I also love that the product is made locally here in Chicago.

Upton’s also had mustache cookies and Hector couldn’t resist a sugar mustache cookie.

We walked around for a bit and went to a couple of speakers/panel discussion. They were really interesting and I learned some more information on how to be a more healthful vegan. I think I will write a separate post on that this week. {I definitely need to improve my eating. It has not been as healthy as it could be}

We headed back to the food vendors. I wanted to get something from Soul Vegan, but while waiting in line they ran out of  mac ‘n cheese. So I headed over to the Chicago Diner instead and had a gyro. It was really yummy!

Hector grabbed some pad thai from Urban Vegan. His fav.

Overall it was a great day! Next year I need to remember to get there really early so that I will get a goodie bag. Second, if I see something I like to buy/eat get it right away. It probably will be gone when you come back!

Have you ever been to a vegetarian/vegan event?