Healthy Snacks Roundup

I’ve been so fortunate to try some really amazing and healthy snacks lately, so I thought it would be fun to do a roundup and share some of these great finds. Any and all of these snacks will be perfect to keep on hand for travels, stashed in a snack drawer at work or in a pantry at home. I’m all over each one of these options!

Ellie Goulding GoMacro Bar

Ellie Goulding GoMacro Bar

GoMacro Bars– I had the chance to try out GoMacro bars last year and absolutely loved them. The peanut butter chocolate chip one was my absolutely favorite (should be no surprise here)! GoMacro recently partnered with famous singer Ellie Goulding on a new bar, the Ellie MacroBar which has coconut, almond butter and chocolate chips. In addition, specially marked Ellie Goulding MacroBars have a “Goulding Ticket” inserted inside for a chance to win VIP tickets to Ellie’s concert at Madison Square Garden or a one-on-one workout with Ellie in LA. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me! Delicious, healthy, great tasting bar and a chance to hang with Ellie Goulding?! I’m in. Check out the link for more information here and then go get the bar. They are so delicious!

Brad's Kale Chips And Broccoli Poppers

Brad’s Kale Chips And Broccoli Poppers

Brad’s Raw Crunchy Kale and Broccoli Poppers– I have the same problem as most people; the clock strikes 3pm during the work day and I need a snack. While potato chips sounds like the best idea ever, I know that I can’t go that route. But, I’ve found just about the best substitute. Enter Brad’s Raw Crunchy Kale snacks. They are crispy, crunchy and taste great! Never baked or fried, all flavors of Brad’s Raw Crunchy Kale are dehydrated at or below 115 degrees to preserve essential nutrients and enzymes. There are even a variety of flavors like the “Vampire Killer” coated with red bell pepper, cashews, sunflower seeds, lemon juice, scallions, chickpea miso, garlic, and Himalayan sea salt. Such a fun flavor and delicious too. I have absolutely loved having these around for that 3pm snack craving and knowing I’m eating something healthy over junk food. A win-win for sure!

SuperSeedz Gourmet Pumpkin Seeds

SuperSeedz Gourmet Pumpkin Seeds

SuperSeedz Gourmet Pumpkin Seeds– If you’ve been following me, you know I love anything pumpkin. I love the seeds too! I was really curious to try out SuperSeedz Gourmet Pumpkin Seeds not only cause it’s right up my alley, but there are a ton of great flavors to choose from in both sweet and savory flavors like cinnamon sugar, maple sugar and sea salt, curious curry and somewhat spicy (among quite a few other flavor options). I have loved adding the sweet variety seeds to my morning oatmeal and adding the savory flavors to my salads. Oh, and also just eating them as is for a snack. The great thing about these pumpkin seeds is that the chewy outer shell of the seed has been removed, so there’s no chewing forever or having it stuck in your teeth. I’m totally on board having these at work, at home or when I’m on the road as they are great anytime, anywhere. Check them out.

The Paleo Cookie Company

The Paleo Cookie Company

The Paleo Cookie Company– I attended the Good Food Festival in Chicago in March and met the awesome owners of The Paleo Cookie Company. They were offering samples of their cookies and I immediately fell in love. These cookies are handmade, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free and GMO-free with all natural ingredients. But, more than any of that, they are absolutely delicious and addictive! I particularly fell in love with the pumpkin spice cookie which has hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom and has only 100 calories per cookie. The pumpkin cookie was originally meant to only be a seasonal cookie, but it was such a popular hit and in high demand that it was kept around as a staple offering. When the people speak, you listen! Trust me on this one, the pumpkin cookie is to die for and there is nothing to regret.

I Heart Keenwah Snacks

I Heart Keenwah Snacks

I Heart Keenwah Snacks– Another amazing find at the Good Food Festival were the I Heart Keenwah snacks. Offered in both sweet and savory varieties these delicious snacks are made from a base of quinoa and are certified gluten-free and non-GMO. I tried the peanut butter cacao quinoa clusters which are delicious little squares of cacao nibs and creamy peanut butter as well as the Herbes de Provence puffs which are perfect as a snack on their own or added as a crouton substitute for salads. Both were great snacks and will be perfect for those times I’m on the road and want a healthy alternative to junk food. I know my gluten-free friends are going to be so excited to know about this awesome option for them too. I guess that means I have to share now, huh?!

so, there you have it! I’m have some upcoming trips planned and many of these snacks will be accompanying me. Can’t wait.

 

Please Note: While I was provided with product, all opinions are my own.

Chicago Happenings – April Recap

Truth be told, I hit a wall in April. I also started an 8-week business communications class, so my usual writing time for the blog was overtaken with reading and homework assignments. I promise to be better this month because I definitely felt the void of writing. My mojo is back! With that, I did of course still go to some great events and tastings:

Gino's East Pilsen

Gino’s East Pilsen

Gino’s East Pilsen – The popular Chicago deep dish pizza restaurant opened a sister location in Mexico City last year. It was such a hit in Mexico City that a sister of the sister restaurant opened in early April in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. With a menu reflective of what’s offered at the Mexico City location, there are unique dishes to check out at the Gino’s East in Pilsen. Some of the vegetarian items I tried out included the guacamole and chips, esquites (a warm dip of grilled sweet corn, serrano, epazote, spicy mayo, cotija cheese and lime served with chips) and the Nopal Vegetarian pizza (cactus, pickled onion, mushroom, potato, mozzarella and pizza sauce). It was cool to try something different and of course, wash it all down with a delicious margarita. Make your way to Pilsen to try out this unique Gino’s East.

Bernie's Lunch & Supper

Bernie’s Lunch & Supper

Bernie’s Lunch & Supper– I was excited to finally try out this awesome River North restaurant after seeing so many great Instagram pictures of the yummy looking food and beautiful drinks. I loved the modern interior and vibe of Bernie’s Lunch & Supper, which was packed on a random Tuesday night for dinner. Definitely a hot spot! As for the food, I was definitely a fan. Two of my favorite dishes were the carrot and avocado salad (fresh and grilled carrots, avocado, romesco, almonds, grilled scallions and spinach with a delicious hidden sauce on the bottom) as well as the falafel plate with charred eggplant, hummus, feta and sliced cucumber served with some warm house made naan bread. I also thoroughly enjoyed the drink named Hygge (lsolut Elyx Alsolut Elyx Vodka, Leopold Bros. Michigan Tart Cherry Meletti Amaro, Orgeat, Lemon) which was unlike anything I’ve ever had before. And, I just recently found out Bernie’s has an awesome rooftop patio. I’m definitely adding this in the rotation of rooftops to hit up this summer. You in?

SteakBar Chicago

SteakBar Chicago

SteakBar – Yes, I fully realize the irony of The Vegetarian Tourist going to a place called the SteakBar. But, you know me…I love getting sneak peek’s at new restaurants before they open to the public. The soft opening party was a fun time perusing this new Old Town spot. I liked the feel of the place and even tried a couple delicious vegetarian bites (the truffle mac and cheese as well as the avocado bibb salad which was sort of like really good guacamole in a lettuce cup). But, what I was most impressed by were the draft cocktail options. I wasn’t really expecting much since I didn’t think a pre-made drink coming out of a tap would be that good. I was honestly blown away at how awesome these cocktails were and impressed to say the least! The Old Town Punch (vodka, aperol, st germain, lemon) was my favorite. If you find yourself in Old Town, it’s definitely worth a stop, especially for a draft cocktail.

Savage Bingo - Headquarters Beercade

Savage Bingo – Headquarters Beercade

Savage Bingo at Headquarters Beercade– Alright, I had no idea what I really signed up for when I agreed to go to Savage Bingo at Headquarters Beercade in Lakeview. I just saw the word Bingo and the option to win prizes like Lollapalooza tickets or an iPad Air, and I was sold! Honestly, it’s kind of hard to describe exactly what Savage Bingo is…it really can only be experienced. Think great music with a DJ, fun drink options and an announcer that will pick on participants and embarrass them in front of everyone if they call out Bingo but don’t actually have Bingo! There are also varied formats for the Bingo rounds including the speed round (where the numbers are read off so insanely fast it’s beyond impossible to keep up) to the final round where you must get every square filled on your card. Oh, and the announcer is not at all PC and quite belligerent actually, which makes for a riot of a time. I was equal parts laughing and equal parts scared throughout the evening worrying the whole time that he was going to pick on me! If you are looking for something fun and unique to do on a Wednesday night, go check it out. You might come home a big winner with an awesome prize!

Midwest Rum Festival

Midwest Rum Festival

Midwest Rum Festival – This past weekend I had the chance to attend the Midwest Rum Festival. It was the perfect weekend to spend indoors for the fest since it was cold and rainy. Sponsored by TheRumLab.com, this event included everything from tasting new rums, to attending brand seminars, to enjoying great music and some fun snacks. My friends and I had a blast sampling some great rum-based cocktails and even trying some rum straight without mixers. We were each given a card which was like a passport to get hole punched at each station which made for some fun to try to visit each vendor. Admittedly, we just couldn’t do it as it was just too much for us (wimpy, I know)! We should get an “A” for effort though. Last year the fest was in Louisville, KY, so maybe they will try different cities each year? Who knows! But, if it’s back in Chicago, go get your rum sampling on.

 

Please Note: While I was invited to these events, all opinions are my own.

Chicago Happenings – March Recap

The month of March was filled with lots of fun travels for both work and fun; Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toledo, Ohio (for a wedding). No wonder the month flew by…I was gone most of the weekends of the month! I still tried out some great things during the weekdays when I could:

Urbanbelly Wicker Park

Urbanbelly Wicker Park

Urbanbelly– One of my all-time favorite chefs in Chicago is Chef Bill Kim (read about his vegetarian cooking class I attended here). He is truly one of the nicest, most humble chefs I’ve ever met. I was thrilled to hear he was opening another location of his famed Urbanbelly restaurant in the bustling Wicker Park neighborhood underneath the blue line El stop at Damen. I attended the soft launch party and was not surprised that the food and drinks were outstanding. I absolutely fell in love with the sweet potato, maple, feta and arugula dumplings (so unexpected, but SO good), the vegan kimchi and let’s not even talk about how much of the pea shoot fried rice I had (jasmine fried rice with scrambled egg, tofu, pea shoot and Madras curry powder). I literally could not stop eating it. It’s wonderful to find Asian restaurants that understand that many of us vegetarians don’t eat fish sauce, so it was great to see a menu reflective of that kind of attention. I’m super excited to go back and try the vegetarian pho and other dishes. Oh, and you know I will be ordering that pea shoot fried rice. One for dine-in and one to-go. Yes, I’m that obsessed.

Earl's Kitchen + Bar

Earl’s Kitchen + Bar

Earl’s Kitchen + Bar– When you think of things associated with Canada you probably think of things like hockey, maple syrup and Justin Bieber to name a few (ha ha, sorry for the Bieber reference…I had to). You can also now add Earls Kitchen + Bar to the list. This awesome chain out of Canada is making its appearance all over the US, including right here in Chicago. I finally tried it out and was really blown away by not only the sheer volume of options on the menu, but the international influence from many different cuisines of the world. I’m talking Japanese, Mexican, Chinese, Korean and Indian just to name a few. I wasn’t sure how authentic these dishes would be, but I was really impressed with everything I tried (which was a lot)! I have to say that hands down my favorite vegetarian dish I tried was the Korean Bi Bim Bop. And, I was not expecting it all. The spice level, flavors, fresh ingredients and awesome stone bowl it was served in made it feel like a truly traditional dish. And, also to note is the fun drink menu, like the Silly Wabbit drink that was visually made to look like an actual carrot (including the fact that they use fresh pressed carrot juice in the drink). So, let’s give a little love to our neighbor from the north and enjoy this great restaurant here in the city of Chicago.

iFLY Chicago Lincoln Park

iFLY Chicago Lincoln Park

iFLY Chicago– Even though I consider myself pretty adventurous, there are still things that I’m not sure I can do, like skydiving. I think I would freak out on the plane ride up and then right before I had to jump out of the plane. So, I recently tried out pretty much the next best thing; indoor skydiving!! The newly opened iFLY in Lincoln Park was such an amazing experience and probably the closest I’m ever going to get to real skydiving (well, maybe I’ll change my mind someday, who knows)! This indoor simulator has you “flying” inside basically a huge air tube with an instructor by your side to guide you. Check out the video I posted on Facebook here. You go through a whole experience where you first watch a safety and “how-to” video. An instructor will then help you get geared up with jumpsuit, goggles, helmet and earplugs. And then you are off! I was definitely a little nervous, but once I got in the air tube, I had the best time flying around and enjoying the experience of what it must feel like to be floating through the air. I have to admit the time went by really fast, just as it probably does when you are free-falling in skydiving. I would definitely go back with family and friends and its the perfect indoor activity, especially on those cold winter days when you are looking for something fun to do. Go check it out and let me know what you think!

Snap Kitchen Streeterville

Snap Kitchen Streeterville

Snap Kitchen– I think I was the last person in Chicago to try out Snap Kitchen! No really…my Instagram feed has been filled with beautiful pictures of all the awesome dishes and cold pressed juices for months now. I FINALLY made it to Snap Kitchen since it opened inside the Whole Foods in Streeterville, which is close to my work. I was so impressed with the quality of food and found it fresh, healthy and delicious. What really hit the chord for me though is that all the signage and packaging for every dish is color coded. So, standing from 10 feet away from the refrigerated case, I could quickly scan through all the options and find the green tags that denotes a vegetarian/vegan dish. I don’t have to read every tiny ingredient to determine if something is vegetarian since it’s already done for me and so easily visible! In addition, I had the chance to meet the mastermind behind all the food, the executive chef, Matt Reinhart. Not only was he so incredibly nice and humble, he truly was interested in my honest feedback. I appreciated that (and that he was even interested in it at all)! I know he’s already incorporated some of my ideas and I’m excited to see what else he comes up with as Snap Kitchen is always reinventing their menu. Definitely worth trying out Snap Kitchen, no matter what your palate or dietary restriction.

Tilt At 360 Chicago Observation Deck

Tilt At 360 Chicago Observation Deck

360 Chicago– Can you imagine being 94 flights up in the sky, and then tilting out of the skyscraper at 30 degrees hovering 1,000 feet over the Magnificent Mile? Yeah, me either, until I tried it. Another one of Chicago’s fun adventures is the Tilt at the John Hancock Observatory. Basically in a glass enclosed “ride” of sorts, you are tilted out of the building with sweeping views of the city and the streets below. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done and is truly the first of its kind in the world. And, it’s definitely not for the faint of heart! It was fun and so unique and you know I love that! The other great thing about 360 Chicago is that you can enjoy views in every direction of Chicago (get it, 360 degrees). I spent a lovely evening trying out the Tilt, taking some great pictures before it rained and learning about new upcoming events like the Sunset Series; weekly events such as a Monday night tripod series with a photographer, Tuesday evenings with a docent from the Chicago Architecture Foundation and Thursday evenings with a DJ for a fun party. I kind of want to go for each one of these to check them all out. Who’s in?

 

Please Note: While I was invited to these events, all opinions are my own.

Finally, Kati Rolls In Chicago!

It’s no secret that I love kati rolls. I mean it was one of the first topics I wrote about on my blog when I started it a few years ago (read more about that here).

So, you can imagine my excitement when I found out my friend Kaushik was opening Chicago’s first ever, true kati roll place. My mouth started watering from the second I found out.

Hakka Bakka opened in the fall of 2015 in the DePaul area of Chicago and has been quite the hit ever since. I also love Kaushik’s story; quitting his full-time corporate America job to attend culinary school to follow his dream of opening his own restaurant. How’s that for following your passion?

For someone that’s never been to Hakka Bakka before, I like to simplify it and describe kati rolls like “Indian-style burritos.” You start with a handmade Indian flatbread and then fill it with grilled meats or paneer (cheese) (and they now offer chickpeas as well as spiced potato as even more options for us vegetarian and vegan folk) and then have it topped off with your choice of fillings like fresh tomato, onion, jalapeno, etc as well as four different house-made chutneys. It’s flavorful, filling and just simply delicious.

Hakka Bakka Kati Roll

Hakka Bakka Kati Roll

One thing that sets Hakka Bakka apart from other kati roll places is that you choose the type of sauce you have the meat or paneer sauteed in; tikka (hot), hariyali (blend of cilantro and mint) or reshmi (creamy white sauce blended with poppyseeds and other spices). My personal favorite is the hariyali (green sauce), but honestly, they are all good. You can’t go wrong.

Sampling Hakka Bakka's Menu Items

Sampling Hakka Bakka’s Menu Items

And, if you’re not feeling the kati roll route, you can get anything made as either a salad or as a bowl served with rice. It’s nice to have options! Speaking of options, it is a MUST to get the addictive masala fries served with a cilantro dipping sauce as well as the mango lassi drink (a traditional Indian drink of mango and yogurt). Lastly, the daal (lentil soup) and rice are nice add-ons to your meal, or as a meal separately if you are looking for lighter fare.

Hakka Bakka Lunch

Hakka Bakka Lunch

If you are craving Indian food and are looking for something quick and casual, Hakka Bakka is the place for you. I know so many people who have tried their delicious food and loved it and I know you will too. Stop by and say hi to Kaushik and let’s help support someone who has not only taken a risk to follow their dream, but actually made it happen.

Foodie Spontaneity In Los Angeles

This was SO not my normal.

I attended a healthcare conference in Las Vegas a few weeks ago (for the day job!) and then met up with my bestie Sonia in Los Angeles for a little getaway. I figured since I was so close to the West Coast, I should just make a weekend trip out of it.

LA Trip With My Bestie

LA Trip With My Bestie

By now you should know that I would have normally researched all the latest hot spots in LA, asked all my foodie friends for recommendations and pretty much had an idea on where we could go for each and every meal.

But I didn’t do any of that this time. This trip was different for several reasons: 1) Sonia and I and had not really made any plans for the entire weekend, so we weren’t really sure what part of LA we were actually going to be hanging out in, 2) I didn’t really want to spend the time researching and getting my heart set on something and then not having the chance to make it there, and 3) sometimes it’s just fun to discover things along the way and not have everything planned. I know, I know…it’s so not me to be saying that, especially when it comes to being in another great food city like LA, but I can be spontaneous too!

With the help of Yelp, some local friend’s suggestions and just going with the flow, here are some of the fabulous spots we hit up on our weekend trip. Mind you, we were ALL over the place throughout the weekend: Malibu, Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey, Playa Del Rey, Venice Beach, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach. I know, crazy, right?!

In N Out Burger LA

In N Out Burger LA

In N Out Burger in Marina Del Rey- No shocker here. This is my must-have first item when I land and my last must-have when I depart any city with this beloved fast food chain. And you know the drill; grilled cheese animal style which is a toasted bun, melted cheese, grilled onions, fresh lettuce and tomato, pickles, special sauce and mustard. It never disappoints. NEVER! Of course accompanied with the fresh-cut fries and a splurge with a coke, I just can’t be happier. I seriously was looking forward to this meal the entire time I was in Vegas eating at amazing restaurants, that’s how addicted I am! And, in case you were wondering, yes we had In N Out twice on this weekend trip, just as I stated…first meal arriving in LA and one last hoorah before heading to the airport to depart. Call us crazy!

Ollo Malibu

Ollo Malibu

Ollo in Malibu- Both Sonia and I had never been to Malibu before so it was definitely on our list of places we wanted to visit over the course of the weekend. We made our way there first thing Saturday morning and both of us loved the laid back feel and the fact that it is situated right on the ocean. We had the chance to discover the beautiful Pepperdine University campus too and take in some of the breathtaking views. Not only that, we discovered the cutest restaurant called Ollo, a wonderful farm to table restaurant. While I had the delicious huevos rancheros, Sonia got the lemon, blueberry and ricotta pancakes. Let me tell you…these were some of the best pancakes we’ve ever had! They were so moist and light and fluffy and best of all, flavorful. Aside from the great food, the setting was adorable and there was even a real tree right in the middle of the restaurant. We enjoyed having a relaxing brunch before we head out for the rest of the day’s adventures.

Menotti's Venice Beach

Menotti’s Venice Beach

Menotti’s in Venice Beach- After arriving in Venice Beach to hang out for the afternoon, we decided to grab a coffee before we walked along the boardwalk area of Venice Beach as well as the beach. We randomly stumbled upon the cutest, hipster coffee joint called Menotti’s. I kind of wished we had some time to just chill and take in the fun vibe in the place, but my heart was set on spending the most time possible out at the beach and playing in the sand. Both Sonia and I got one of the signature drinks called the Spanish latte; espresso, almond milk, sweet condensed milk and cinnamon. It was a yummy treat because let’s be real, condensed milk is kind of like dessert! We both sipped our lattes as we walked along the boardwalk and then went to walk along the ocean and get our feet wet in the freezing Pacific Ocean waters. It was SO nice to be out in nature, listening to the waves and seagulls and letting that fresh ocean air frizz out my hair to the max. I didn’t mind one bit and I truly enjoyed every second of it. This Chicago girl appreciates any time spent at the ocean, and that, with a latte in hand.

Red O Santa Monica

Red O Santa Monica

Red O in Santa Monica- Ok, is it bad that I didn’t even know that famous chef Rick Bayless has restaurants in LA? Please don’t shun me from the foodie community! Luckily my local LA friend Veena did, and she was able to get a last-minute reservation for the three of us at the Santa Monica restaurant Red O. You know I’ll never say no to Mexican food!! We enjoyed a lovely dinner with drinks, guacamole and chips and our own entrees. Both Veena and I had the vegetarian enchiladas stuffed with assorted roasted veggies in a tomatillo verde sauce. I have to say that I was very impressed with not only the enchiladas, but the black beans and rice that were served alongside. They were all so flavorful and it was nice to have such great food….I mean, it is Rick Bayless after all! Oh, and even though we were all stuffed, we decided to share a dessert. The passion fruit butter cake with grilled strawberries, passion fruit custard, coconut crumble and coconut ice cream was to die for! Make sure you order it:)

Manhattan Beach Post

Manhattan Beach Post

Manhattan Beach Post in (you guessed it) Manhattan Beach- This was my first visit to Manhattan Beach and I absolutely loved it! It’s such a cute little town right along the water and the vibe is right up my alley. Thanks to Yelp and the recommendation of friends, we ended up at the Manhattan Beach Post for brunch. There was a long wait so after we put our names in, we went for a walk along the lovely pier area and pretty much got completely wind-blown from the excessively windy day! It was ok though cause it helped us work up an appetite. I will say that there were limited veggie options on the brunch menu, but I made it work, as I always do! I tried out the cheesy eggs with avocado toast and had to try the warm sticky bun which came highly recommended from our awesome waitress. And, it was!! It came in its own little cast iron skillet and was drenched in the most yummy, caramel like sauce. The dinner menu looks a little more veggie friendly and I bet it’s awesome, so definitely check this place out.

All in all, a fun, fabulous, foodie weekend in LA. It just goes to show that I can be spontaneous and still have some of the best food around. Thanks Sonia, Veena and Yelp!