It’s that time again! The Vegan Month of Food.

I don’t have a theme this year; I’m just trying to use Vegan MoFo to get my vegan blog mojo back. I’ll start of with a restaurant review.

Woodstock’s classic sushi/miniature golf combination ended this summer. Golden Rolls is moving to the former location of the world’s second worst restaurant, Vaughan’s Broasted Chicken. Major renovations had to be done, including removing some hideous wood siding to reveal a brick exterior! No wonder Vaughan’s closed; it had bad taste all around. There aren’t many restaurants that serve chips and guacamole along side AAC rolls and tofu steak, so I hope Golden Rolls opens soon.

A new restaurant opened up next to mini golf, Munch. We ordered take out from there. It’s still overwhelming to take two babies to a restaurant, but H said it looked baby-friendly. H called in an order; he checked the ingredients of a couple menu options that sounded vegan. However, I forgot to ask if they put butter on their hummus sandwich (?!?). Rookie mistake. Fortunately, I had some ciabatta buns in the freezer, so I transferred the “generous” schmear of hummus (the chef & I have different definitions of generous), lettuce, tomato & avocado to the ciabatta bun.


I also got the hot ma-me salad, which was supposed to be served with edamame. The kitchen was out of edamame, so they subbed kalamata olives. I love kalamata olives, but they didn’t go well with spicy Thai peanut vinaigrette. The dressing was delicious with the other salad veggies and it would have been great to have the protein from edamame. H said the chef was very apologetic.


Munch has potential; we’ll definitely go back again and hopefully they’ll have edamame.

We ate dinner at the kitchen counter while the twins played; our new normal “restaurant” experience.


Happy Groundhog Day!

The most wonderful time of the year! Last year the festivities were canceled because of the blizzard; this year it was a toasty 32 degrees and there was a large crowd at the Woodstock Square.

The Square is still decked out with Christmas lights. I love fog. Maybe not when I’m driving, but for standing around, it has a calming effect.

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I arrived at the Square shortly before seven, so I caught some of the singing. The guest of honor (besides Woodstock Willie, of course) was Bryan White. His career must be going nicely.


Woodstock Willie dancing


Woodstock Willie waiving to the poor people on the side who can’t see anything.


Woodstock Willie did not see his shadow (yay!). Spring will be here soon!

I really wish they didn’t use a real groundhog. They have the big mascot, who is the highlight of the event; a stuffed groundhog would do the job. It’s not like the groundhog actually predicts the weather. The groundhog comes from some animal rental company and that kind of makes me sick. How is it treated in captivity and how traumatic is it being stuffed in a fake tree stump and then shown off to a big group of fans and cameras? It’s a fun celebration and groundhogs are  cute (and often overlooked), so it’s nice that they get their day, but there is no need to use a live animal.

Bye-bye, Willie!


Summer Weekends

I love summer! On Saturday, H and I went out on our bike to the Huntley-Union-Marengo (HUM) trail. It’s a nice trail and was not very crowded (except for the woman breastfeeding her three year old in the middle of the trail while the other 5 family members waited. Very strange). Unfortunately, it is just the UM trail now; the Huntley leg isn’t complete. It was only 3.5 miles (7 round trip), but a good distance for our first ride of the year.

Saturday evening we had sushi at Golden Rolls and played a round of mini golf (sushi & mini golf, a winning business plan!)

This is the third time we have played mini golf. The first time was at Navy Pier and H had a lucky streak of holes in one and came from behind to win. He never lets me forget that game. We also played at the resort we stayed at in the Dominican Republic. It was a terrible course. I won, but H said it doesn’t count because the  course was so bad (um, I also played on that terrible course! It counts!!) A lot was riding on this game.

I don’t understand why people play golf on wide open courses (so boring!) when they can play with castles and waterfalls.

It was a close game until the halfway point, but, as you can see, someone got his butt kicked.

We went inside to play arcade games. H soundly beat me at skee ball and some game where you jump on buttons when they light up, but he gave me all the prize coupons. I cashed them in for a Twizzler.

Then I rode the horsie. The last time I was on one of these things was somewhere outside of a Kmart when I was about five. It was not as fun as I remember.

There may or may not be video of this.

P.S. Notice how I chopped my hair off!

Today we went into the city to meet up with my friend Tira, her husband and little baby. We met when we were teaching English in Shenzhen, China 10 years ago! It was so great to see her again.

We went to Pheonix for dim sum and Joy Yee for bubble tea. I got the watermelon shave ice. Delicious and refreshing.


After bubble tea, H and I stopped at the Asian market for dumplings and I found an entire cooler of vegan items! New favorite store! Vegan shrimp, crab, pork fillet and dumplings.

Tira & Chris took us up to State Street. H bought some shirts from Macy’s and I bought a rolling pin from Anthropologie. My $2 one from IKEA finally bit the dust.

Now I need to make another pie!

Random things from this week – Jenapea’s, Simple Market & Bike Commuting

Jenapea’s on the Square would be great if it just added a vegan protein. (OK, they do have peanut butter sandwiches, but it’s hard spending $5 for a peanut butter sandwich (note: make sure you order the PB sandwich without butter spray)). Hummus on its Alpine Veggie sandwich would be great (without the cheese and mayo). And how hard is it to throw some beans on a salad? Charge me an extra dollar and you’ve more than paid for a can of beans.

H and I went here on Monday and I ordered the Garden salad. The homemade croutons have cheese in them, so I didn’t get those. Fortunately, I had some leftover beans at work. I brought those along and surprised H when I reached into my purse and pulled out some beans. I really wanted a salad though. If this is how I have to do it, so be it.


The biggest news of the week is the Simple Market, which is finally open in the Square. As you can see from this amazing photo below, Daiya is available in Woodstock! And…RICE WHIP!!! Much of the Simple Market is dedicated to organic meat, eggs and dairy, but they offer lots of vegan products, too. It is an all natural, gluten-free store, which is almost too good to be true.

I bought Daiya pepperjack style and some B12 supplements.


Yoga in the park started this week. It’s a Parks & Rec program held at Emerson Park. Monday was amazing. The weather was perfect- sunny and just a tad chilly. Hopefully, we’ll have more days like that and not like Wednesday when it was pouring down rain and we moved into the depressing multi-purpose room at the Rec Center. There’s still room in the class, so if you live in town, you should join us!


And finally, I am a bike commuter! I’ve biked to work three days this week, even on Tuesday when it was gross and rainy and even yesterday when I forgot to change into flats. Before I noticed and could go back in to change, some guy at the bar next to my office said “You’re biking in heels? That’s hardcore!” To which I replied, “yeah, it is!” and rode off.


Woodstock Pub House

Another example of mediocre food in Woodstock is the Woodstock Pub House. Based on H’s appreciation of this dining establish, I assume they serve fresh meat, but the vegetarian food is obviously canned or frozen. The second worst sandwich I’ve ever had was at WPH (the worst was Pizza Milano in DC). The sandwich contains marinated canned vegetables that fall all over the place when you try to eat it. Diced vegetables don’t belong on a sandwich! The WPH pasta tastes fine, but its just spaghetti with marinara and frozen spinach. I can make some just as good (no, much better) and it doesn’t cost thirteen dollars! Every dish at every restaurant in Woodstock is reasonably priced, except the WPH pasta.

So I stopped ordering off the menu. This is the good thing about WPH; it is very accommodating when I create my own dishes. For a while, it served a mushroom steak dish and I created a portabella mushroom burger. Now that the mushroom is gone, I order the fish tacos and ask them to take the black beans from a burrito and replace the fish. It also has several seasonal dishes. One month there was a vegan salad. This month they have a vegetable sushi roll. I felt compelled to order it because it was vegan and might not be there the next time we went. It wasn’t bad.

After dinner we went to see Bridesmaids, which was pretty funny.

Woodstock Farmers Market

Besides Expressly Leslie, the other good thing about living in Woodstock is the farmers market. Today was the first market of the season. It was 30-something degrees and I was wearing my winter coat, but it almost felt like spring! I bought rhubarb, spinach and green onions.  I also picked up a jar of habanero pickles from Gramp’s Gourmet.

With the spinach and green onion, I made Udon Noodle Stir Fry, which I found through Food Gawker. It was good, but I doubt I’ll make it again. I think I may have had problems adjusting it to 5 servings. Maybe the flavors will meld overnight and the leftovers will be better today.

Picnic for the Planet – Happy Earth Day!

Last Friday was Earth Day and in honor of Earth Day, The Nature Conservancy celebrated with a Picnic for the Planet. Here is the Woodstock, IL version held in Emricson Park.

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On the menu: Pressed Picnic Sandwiches and Three-Bean Salad with Agave-Mustard Vinaigrette


To veganize the sandwiches, I used Ste Martaen’s muenster cheese (although, if I had the time, I would have made this delicious-sounding cashew goat cheese). I was also going to add Peppered Tofurky Deli Slices, but they had gone bad. It was still a yummy sandwich without the “meat.”

The agave-mustard dressing (just sub agave nectar for honey in the recipe) is so good!


To drink, we had seltzer water with fresh-squeezed lemon juice, strawberries and agave nectar.


We were joined by this little lady.


Our amazing view at the top of the hill.


Dessert! S’more cookie bars. So rich and decadent.

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The Green Box Boutique

Despite living in Woodstock for over two years, I just discovered the The Green Box Boutique in the Square. It features eco-sustainable and fair trade items, including clothes, jewelry, gifts, wine, coffee, and (wait for it) VEGAN PURSES! We rushed out of the store on Saturday, so I went back yesterday for a closer look.  I bought some whole bean coffee and made it this morning; it’s very good.

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I made a Clean-out-the-Fridge Lentil Soup last night. It was perfect for a cold, rainy night.

  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 1/2 cup of sliced carrots
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 tsps cumin
  • salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste
  • 3/4 cup red lentils
  • 3/4 cup black lentils
  • 4-5 cups of veggie broth
  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 4 tsps lemon juice

In a large soup pot, saute celery and carrots in a little water. Add zucchini, bell pepper, garlic, cumin and red pepper flakes.  Add lentils and 4 cups of broth, bring to a boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add quinoa and extra broth and simmer until quinoa is cooked. Add lemon juice and serve.


Chicago Weekend

My friend from high school came to a conference in Chicago last week and stayed a few extra days in fabulous Woodstock. While it was more like winter than spring, we still had a blast.

On Friday night, we went to Duke’s Alehouse in Crystal Lake. I feel like they had fewer vegan options this time, which makes me a little sad, but the jalapeno hummus appetizer was great.


For dinner I ordered the vegan chili again (this time with French bread instead of non-vegan cornbread) and the roasted vegetable pizza.

On Saturday, I had my last longish run before the marathon. H & A met me in Crystal Lake for breakfast with the group. In the afternoon, I showed A around the beautiful city of Woodstock. We occupied ourselves for hours in the town square shops admiring vintage hats and laughing at corny trinkets.

We rushed to catch the 5:48 train to Chicago, but I still managed to juice 9 limes to make vodka gimlets for our trip down. (I’m stealing pictures from my friend; she has a really good eye).

We went to Ai Japanese for sushi when we arrived downtown. Without realizing it, I ordered two versions of the same sushi roll. The plain garden roll and a fancy one. Sadly, Ai uses egg in its tempura and cream in the kabocha corn soup. The chef hemmi veggie roll is garden maki topped with cucumber & moro-miso; mango; endive & sansho; avocado & nori paste; oshinko.

We ended the night at Rebar in Trump Tower. Good view, great cocktails, nice crowd, but watch your drink like a hawk! Servers grabbed our drinks well before we were done with them. At $18 a pop, I want to drink the entire thing, not 3/4 of it.

Thank goodness for the weekend pass; we got back on the train on Sunday afternoon and headed downtown to Karyn’s on Green.

I started with the French Onion Soup.

A had the Butternut Squash Soup, which looked and tasted amazing.

H ordered biscuits and gravy. The biscuits and “butter” were good, but the gravy left a little something to be desired.

I think I’m finally at the point where next time I go I’ll try something new, but I had to get the crab cake sliders again.

A’s Buffalo Chicken Pita looked great.

We didn’t save room for dessert, but we ordered it anyway. The chocolate terrine was amazing, but the coffee cheesecake was so gross. We picked the berries off of it, but the cake was not edible.

They use Villeroy & Boch new wave cups & saucers.

We tried to go to the top of the Sears Willis Tower, but once again, I wasn’t able to use my free tickets to the Sky Deck. When my parents came, it was closed when we wanted to go. When my sister and her husband came, it was a dark & stormy night and there would have been no view. Yesterday, there was a one and a half hour wait! It wasn’t worth missing the 6:30 train to stand in that line. We walked around town a bit, went to the lobby of the Palmer House and then caught the train back to the burbs.

Karyn’s Raw

H is on call this weekend, so I decided to go into the city today. I needed to return a jacket to J. Crew and I could go to Whole Foods and a vegan restaurant. I had planned on going to the vegan take out restaurant, Life on Mars, but unfortunately it is closed. So sad. Also on my list was Delicious Cafe, but I ultimately decided on Karyn’s Fresh Corner. On one side is the fancy Karyn’s Raw and the other is a cafe and market selling essential ingredients for people on raw diets. It’s overwhelming; I don’t know what half the stuff is. I tried some samples: sweet potato chips, which were not good, and Herb Seed Cheese, which was not bad. Ultimately, I decided on a safe kale salad. The deep dish pizza was tempting, but I couldn’t turn down avocado. I also got a scoop of mango ice cream. Even though it is ice cream I was expecting something sorbet-ish. It was not. It was definitely creamy. And delicious. Yet, not quite the perfect meal on a 20-degree day. I think it would be much easier to eat a raw diet if I lived somewhere warm.

Whole foods is so vegan friendly now. Apparently the CEO, John Mackey, is almost vegan (he eats eggs from the chickens he keeps on his property). There are so many more vegan options now than when I regularly went to Whole Foods in DC two years ago. I stocked up on some exotic essentials that are not available in Woodstock or are way overpriced: nutritional yeast, quinoa, red lentils, organic sugar and some multi-colored popcorn (okay, not essential, but it looked pretty and goes so well with nutritional yeast). Unfortunately, I could not find black lentils for my next Top Chef Wednesday dish.

For dinner we went to Golden Rolls Sushi & Grill. There were plenty of tables tonight and we were seated immediately, so hopefully last Friday night was just a fluke. Golden Rolls is one of the few places in Woodstock with decent food. I usually get the avocado roll and the cucumber roll, which are really cheap. Around $3, I think. We get edamame or agedashi tofu as an appetizer. Another great thing about Golden Rolls is that it is BYOB. The liquor store just down the street sells sake or we bring a bottle of white wine. Tonight we only had red in the house. Because we had red wine, I decided it would be a good time to try the teriyaki tofu dish. The teriyaki sauce was nice. The greens on top might have been the best part. I’m not sure what they did to them, but they were really good.