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Don’t Fear Tofu

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Tofu has been making its way into mainstream menus for a few years, but many people are still confused by this vegetarian classic. Is it a meat substitute? Is it a vegetable? Do you put it in a salad? The answer is that tofu is an extremely versatile food item that just about anyone can enjoy!

 

What is tofu?

Tofu is derived from soybeans, and made by pressing coagulated soy milk into flat, white blocks. It is a staple in most vegan and vegetarian diets due to its high protein content and nutritional value. This purely organic food is often used as a meat substitute in many recipes, and it is commonly found in East Asian and Southeast Asian dishes.

 

What are the common misconceptions?

One of the most common misconceptions about tofu is that it lacks taste. While it may not be bursting with flavor on its own, it has the ability to take on the flavor of other ingredients in the dish. Because of this, it can be used for just about anything! Add tofu to hearty soups and stews, and it will take on a savory, meat-like quality. Include it in a smoothie, and it adds texture to the fruity drink. Another benefit of tofu is its nutritional value: high in protein and amino acids while low in calories.

 

How do you use it?

Learning how to properly cook tofu is the first step towards enjoying it. There are tons of tips available, but the most useful is to press and drain out any excess water before cooking it. This allows it to better absorb the dish’s other ingredients, resulting in a bolder flavor and a more meat-like consistency. The tofu is then be ready to substitute meat in many dishes.

 

It is clear that tofu can be used beyond vegetarian and vegan diets. While everyone has different tastes and food preferences, there are ways to make tofu enjoyable for anyone. Its endless possibilities and ongoing list of health benefits should not only inspire, but encourage all to give it a try.

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How to Host a Vegan at Your BBQ

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People tend to associate a barbecue with cheeseburgers, hot dogs and other meat-focused dishes. However, that’s not for everyone, as roughly one million of the United States population is vegan. Although that means only about half a percent holds this dietary preference, it’s important for a host to be able to cater to the needs of their guests by integrating healthy, vegan dishes into a traditional barbecue.

 

Appetizers

The appetizer is an essential piece to a BBQ, as it is the perfect way to lightly snack and socialize. A simple, easy way to satisfy your guests is to offer a pre-made vegan appetizer that everyone will love, such as chips and guacamole, hummus with veggies or a fruit platter. These options are healthy, meat-free and can be easily prepared.

 

Proper Grilling Rules

Meat is known as the king of barbecues. However, veggie and tofu patties are quickly gaining ground on meat, as they can be seasoned to taste like a meat patty. One rule to keep in mind, is to avoid grilling these items on the same spot used for meat, as that will result in cross contamination. If there’s not enough room for everything, use disposable foil or trays to separate the vegan items from meat, or grill the vegan items first.

 

Tweak Traditional BBQ Favorites

Instead of wondering what to make, veganize traditional BBQ favorites. Tweak dishes like baked beans, macaroni salad and potato salad to have a vegan spin! Researching recipes to cook these dishes on your own is a simple way to make sure that your guests have vegan options.

 

Make a Super Salad

Super salads are healthy and simple options to provide at a barbecue. Although people have a wide variety of food preferences, you can accommodate them all by leaving different types of cheeses and dressings on the side. This way vegans can leave out the cheese and enjoy non-dairy dressings.

Knowing how to host a vegan at your barbecue will prevent your guests from worrying about what food items they can eat. If you would like to learn more, or explore other vegan recipes, sign up for our newsletter!

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Vegan, Latin-American-Inspired Menu

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Latin American-inspired dishes are a fantastic way to stick to a vegan diet while enjoying flavorful and creative creations. Colorful peppers, flavorful avocados and endless spices can make a chef out of even the most reluctant meal-prepper. Here are a few of our favorite, easy-to-make items.

 

Smoky Guacamole

The Moon Meals smoky guacamole recipe is simple and delicious. In less than 15 minutes, you and your guests can enjoy a healthy appetizer, whether they’re vegan or not! The recipe includes avocados, onions, peppers and tomatoes. It’s sturdy enough to stand alone, or even added as a garnish to just about any main course.

 

Fiesta Wrap

The Fiesta Wrap requires zero prep time, as it can be purchased from several Jewel locations. The prepackaged meal is built with a vegan meat and cheese sauce wrapped in a spinach tortilla. The vegan wrap is an excellent choice for any meal, and it’s so flavorful that it’s likely to fool any meat eater.

Whether you’re new to the vegan diet, a vegan veteran or a curious meat eater, these menu items will surely satisfy any appetite in a healthy way. If you are looking for more healthy, vegan recipes, click here and keep an eye on the Moon Meals newsletter to get the latest healthy food ideas sent directly to you.

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What is a Meat Detox and How to Get Started

Moving towards a plant-based diet is a fantastic change that offers many health benefits. However, it can be difficult to eliminate meat — especially in a carnivore-focused culture like ours. That’s why many experts recommend a full meat detox to truly commit to your new lifestyle and begin building those habits that go into maintaining a healthy lifestyle..

 

What is a Meat Detox?

A meat detox is as simple as it sounds: a diet that does not include meat. In doing so, the body goes into cleanse mode to rid itself of the accumulated toxins. There can be negative side effects during this process - headaches, fatigue, etc. - but they should subside in about a week.

 

After the detox period has passed, you’ll start to see key physical benefits, like smooth digestion, weight loss, increased energy and skin improvements. Keep in mind that not every person will experience every one of these effects, but even experiencing one or two of them would let you know the detox was a success.

 

Don’t Skimp on Protein

Meat might be out of the question now, but that doesn’t mean your protein intake should suffer. You can ease the transition by substituting certain vegetables to get your daily protein from alternative sources. Here are a few foods that can replace meat in certain recipes:

 

  • Beans or legumes
  • Eggplant
  • Lentils
  • Mushrooms
  • Tempeh
  • Jackfruit
  • Potatoes
  • Cauliflower

 

Another important tip is to increase your vegetable intake. Replacing a bag of chips with a plant-based alternative is a healthier option that will boost detox results while providing essential nutrients like fiber.

 

Redirect Your Cravings

It is common to crave meat during a meat detox or vegan diet, especially in the early stages. Fortunately, there are many options that will allow you to satisfy those cravings without “cheating.” For example, if you have to have a hamburger, you can substitute the beef patty for a black bean, portobello or veggie burger. Here are a few other options:

 

  • Tofu is a great replacement for chicken or pork dishes, as it can be seasoned to mimic the taste and cooked to resemble a meat-like texture.
  • Seitan packs a ton of protein and its texture is easily compared to meat. This is only an option for those who don’t avoid gluten, as it’s made with processed wheat gluten.
  • Textured vegetable protein is an easy-to-use, dehydrated soy product. It’s a fantastic ground beef substitute, and you can do just about anything with it once it is rehydrated.

 

What Next?

With all of these great food substitutes and alternative protein sources, the meat detox could not be any easier. By the end of your detox, you’ll probably be so amazed with the results that you won’t want to give them up. Why stop? The meat detox is a great transition into a full vegan lifestyle, which is a great way to keep your body clean and healthy.

 

If convenience is what you are looking for, there are plenty of vegan or vegetarian friendly restaurants throughout Chicago and pre-made vegan meals in some grocery stores, like Moon Meals’ Fiesta Wraps.

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Maximize Your Grocery Shopping Experience

It’s pretty easy to walk into a grocery store and want to purchase items that you don’t need — especially if you aren’t prepared. Americans typically throw away about 25 percent of the groceries they buy. To get the most out of your grocery shopping and avoid wasting food or money, here’s a quick guide to start implementing more efficient shopping practices.

 

Check Your Inventory

Look through your pantry and fridge before you head to the store to determine items that you need or can skip buying. Searching through your current groceries will help you identify current items that are about to expire and need to be used. It will also keep you from accidentally purchasing items at the store that you already have. Having too much of an item increases the likelihood that it won’t be used before its expiration date and will be tossed in the trash.

 

Plan Your Meals

Planning out a weekly menu is cost effective and can make forming a grocery list much easier. Read through every recipe you plan to use and write down every ingredient you are going to need. Once you cross check it with your current inventory, you can hit the store with confidence. Your shopping experience will be faster, and a set list will prevent you from wandering up and down the aisles.

 

Choose Seasonal Items

As you’re creating your weekly meal plan, put some thought into money-saving possibilities. Choose recipes that call for similar ingredients so you can save money by buying in bulk rather than small amounts of many items. (This will also cut down on waste!) Additionally, consider seasonal dishes, as their contents will be cheaper. In fact, you can save roughly 30 - 50 percent more than items that are out of season.

 

Grocery stores can take a toll on your wallet if you don’t go in with a plan. Remember, if the store is out of stock on sale items you want, you can always ask for an IOU. This way you get every ingredient for the price you can afford.

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Vegan Eats in Chicago’s North Side

Looking for vegan and vegetarian eats on Chicago’s North Side? You won’t have far to look! Here’s a list of some of Moon Meal’s favorite restaurants scattered throughout the neighborhoods.

Chicago Diner

3411 N Halsted St, Chicago
(773) 935-6696

Meat free since ‘83! The Chicago Diner is a classic in the Chicago vegan and vegetarian scene. Not only is the versatile menu completely vegan, there are also gluten-free options, a bakery for custom cakes and even a cookbook you can purchase! And don’t forget that a trip to the restaurant isn’t complete without a sample of its award-winning, world-famous vegan milkshake.

Veggie Grill

614 W. Diversey Parkway, Chicago
773-868-1863

Veggie Grill is a California-based chain that has several locations around Chicago. This fast-casual spot celebrates the veggie, the fruit, the grain and the nut to offer an extremely robust menu. There’s even a kids section for little veggie lovers.

Roti Modern Mediterranean

1000 W North Ave, Chicago
(312) 235-5027

Roti Modern Mediterranean is an extremely popular destination for delicious rice plates, salads and wraps with tons of customizations. This is a perfect spot for vegans and vegetarians to get a filling meal that provides a variety of proteins.

Native Foods Cafe

1023 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 549-4904

This premier fast-casual vegan restaurant serves crafted one-of-a-kind cuisines. From their southern fried chicken waffles to their salads and wraps, Native Foods Cafe provides sustainable, plant-based meals to the Chicago community in the North Side.

Protein Bar & Kitchen

1953 N Clybourn Avenue, Chicago
(773) 472-1500

Protein Bar & Kitchen smoothies, breakfast burritos, scrambles and more are all delicious and wholesome meals packed with protein-rich sustenance. This vegetarian-friendly restaurant is a flavor-forward destination.

Handlebar

2311 W. North Avenue, Chicago
(773) 384–9546

The next time you’re in Wicker Park and hungry for a healthy vegan meal, head to Handlebar. They serve made-from-scratch vegetarian and vegan comfort food all day long, seven days a week. Additionally, if you’re they have a full-service bar and beer garden to fill your afternoon with healthy food and good times.

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Chicago’s South Side Vegan and Vegetarian Destinations

Whether you’re trying to be healthier, you have a dietary change, or there’s ethical reasons for being vegan or vegetarian, you don’t have to worry about compromise or deprivation. Chicago’s South Side has numerous flavorful veggie-centric spots for you to try out. Here is a list of Chicago’s South Side destinations.

B’gabs Goodies

1450 E 57th St, Chicago, IL 60637
(773) 256-1000

B’gabs Goodies will have you thinking about what ingredients you’re putting into your body. With its emphasis on living a cleaner, healthier lifestyle, you’ll want to join one of their meal plans or pick up a juice cleanse.

Majani Restaurant

7167 S Exchange Ave, Chicago, IL 60649
(773) 359-4019

The name says it all; it’s Swahili for “green.” Majani is the go-to vegan destination in the South Shore neighborhood. The community-centric attitude can be found throughout the business — even in the ingredients sourced from local gardens and farms.

Nana

3267 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 929-2486

With a heavy emphasis on local and organic products, Nana serves American cuisines with Latin American, Mexican and Spanish influences. If you believe in wholesome ingredients, such as no preservatives or other additives, then Nana will be your go-to place.

Original Soul Vegetarian

203 E 75th St, Chicago, IL 60619
(773) 224-0104

If you’re looking for a vegan restaurant that won’t compromise taste, then Original Soul Vegetarian is your answer. The menu offers food that is both healthy and delicious recipes that leave your taste buds satisfied.

 

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Vegan and Vegetarian Dining Hotspots in the Chicago Loop

Chicago might be known for its steak and Italian beef sandwiches, but there are plenty of delicious and fulfilling options for vegans and vegetarians. If you find yourself looking for fast-casual options in the Loop, you’re in luck! Here are a few of our favorites.

Be Leaf

29 N Upper Wacker Dr, Chicago
(312) 877-5399

This stylish, counter-served spot lets you customize your grain bowl, salad or wrap with the best seasonal ingredients. These bright creations are pleasing to the eyes, as well as taste buds!

Chicago Raw

131 N Clinton St, Chicago
(312) 831-2729

There’s a growing number of plant-based restaurants in Chicago, and Chicago Raw has brought the highest quality of uncooked dishes. Not only can you pop in for grab-and-go options, the restaurant provides a weekly meal service that serves up an entire week’s worth of raw options.

LYFE Kitchen

413 North Clark St, Chicago
(312) 836-5933

LYFE Kitchen, a meal spot with several locations around Chicago, serves modern comfort food with vegetarian options. This robust menu is full of organic, locally-sourced items, presenting breakfast, lunch and catering opportunities.

Flat Top Grill

30 S Wabash Ave, Chicago
(312) 726-8400

A create-your-own stir fry restaurant that gives vegans and vegetarians a fun, interactive dining experience with endless options. Flat Top Grill also has an option to put “dietary restriction” on any bowl.