Back before I had a kid, I used to make gnocchi fairly often. This was long before I was vegan, but still, I’ve always been trying to eat less meat. After I had a kid, I guess I decided it was too much work, so it’s been at least 14 years since I’ve had fresh, homemade gnocchi, and I’m kicking myself because it’s so easy and delicious. This stuff is far above the packaged gnocchi that I tend to buy from Trader Joe’s. My gnocchi is light and fluffy!
I dreamt up this recipe as I was running errands the other day, trying to figure out if I needed to stop at the store and what I could make for dinner. It was my first attempt and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.
Don’t be intimidated by the long list of instructions below. It’s really not that difficult and once you gone through the process, it will be much easier the next time.
Spinach and kale gnocchi with mushroom and red pepper cream sauce
First a little back story…Back in May I saw a post on Instagram about a food drive. Earlier, I had started following a non-profit called Cruelty Free You + Me and they had organized a plant-based food drive to gather supplies for another organization that was getting food to people in need. I wanted to help.
That’s when I met Vick Hauptman. She’s the founder of CFYM and the organizer for the food drive. CFYM is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, their mission is to help communities in need and to advocate for and support animal sanctuaries. One sanctuary they support is SoL Criations. A recent donation drive raised money for Vick to buy the supplies we delivered on our visit.
Roadtrips require seeking out all the vegan food and we found some great spots! Our first stop was Surya Cafe. We visited their Fitchburg location, which is attached to a yoga studio. The space was beautiful and peaceful, there’s no other way to describe it than saying it was very Zen. We seemed to be the only people there besides the cook and the manager, but it was lovely. We ordered online, then sat in their courtyard. The Sushi Bowl was fantastic.
We made it!
SoL Criations is a small family-owned sanctuary in Endeavor, WI. It’s a lovely 3-hour drive from the Chicago area (we left from Westmont, IL). Of course, that’s not including food stops, but when you’re traveling with awesome people, time flies!
The farm was transformed from a 20-acre alpaca farm to an animal sanctuary by Brenda and Jon Vetter. They started their journey to becoming vegans when they saw the interconnectedness of all life. Now it’s their mission to help others reawaken their innate compassion and make these connections.
Fun fact: Cria is the name for baby alpacas.
The sanctuary is home to birds (chickens, ducks, guinea fowls, etc), pigs, donkeys, goats, sheep, dogs and cats. They come from a variety of situations with some needing new homes because of owners passing away while others come from abusive situations or were very close to slaughter.
We had a beautiful afternoon meeting the animals. As we met the animals, Brenda shared the stories of how many of them came to live at the sanctuary. Most importantly, we gave quality pets and scratches to anyone interested!
Side note: I loved their little compost outhouse! It was adorable and sustainable. They used a lemonade jar over a sink to provide a way for guests to wash their hands. So perfect!
Chatting with friends
Stella and Jasper
On our return home, we stopped at Pig Minds Brewing in Machesney Park, IL. Known for its handcrafted ales, it also offers an entirely plant-based menu! There were many items I wanted to try, but I settled on the Buffalo Chikin’ Wrap and I wasn’t disappointed. However, I wasn’t so crazy about the side of slaw. Stella had the Nashville Hot Chikin’ sandwich and declared it good. I messed up and ordered the kimchi for her side and she wasn’t happy about that. Overall, I would love to go back someday to try more options and maybe have a beer.
Nashville Hot Chikin' Sandwich
Buffalo Chikin' Wrap
I totally love a good day trip and this one was among the best. We ate yummy vegan food and supported a beautiful sanctuary all within a day’s travel.
I love telling my friends about the podcasts I listen to. I thought it was time I finally shared some of my favorite’s with you. I don’t have a ton of time to listen to these, but when I get the chance, I prefer listening to podcasts over music these days. The podcasts I listen to tend to be about plant-based food, people living or educating about sustainable lifestyles, or people trying to help us be better people.
Spontaneous Vegetation Podcast: Chicago eco steward Nance Klehm interviews folks who find the cracks, break up the compaction, remediate the contamination and leave the soil (metaphorically or literally) better for us all. Word of warning, the sound isn’t great for this, but when I’m interested enough in something I tend to overlook the flaws. https://www.mixcloud.com/lumpenradio/playlists/spontaneous-vegetation/
Hippie Haven Podcast: Callee of Bestowed Essentials has honest conversations about living harmoniously with ourselves, others and the planet. https://hippiehavenpodcast.com/
Plant Proof: This is a resource created by Nutritionist Simon Hill to assist those looking to add more plants to their plate and upgrade their health. I usually need to take notes when listening to this one.
The Rich Roll Podcast: Author and athlete Rich Roll delves into a master-class in personal and profrssional development, ultra-athlete, wellness evangelizing to help us unleash our best selves. Always fascinating, inspiring and entertaining! https://www.richroll.com/category/podcast/
People always seem to wonder, what do vegans eat? If you’re lucky enough to live in Chicago there are more than enough options for food of all kinds all over the city. With all the craziness that’s happening in the world, I thought it’s a great time to spotlight some amazing Black-owned vegan restaurants that we have here.
Mostly based on the south side they may not be the most conveniently located, but they are well worth the trip! One of the best meals of my life was at Soul Vegetarian, back in the mid-’90s on Thanksgiving day. A group of friends made the trek (it seemed sooo far away at that time!) and we feasted on the most delicious and comforting food I think I’d ever eaten. I loved it so much; I made sure to buy their spiral-bound cookbook. It was such a great food experience and I was still decades away from being vegan.
Finally! Chicago finally has a zero-waste store! I’d given up hope for such a thing ever happening, but Eco & the Flamingo nonchalantly opened in the Lincoln Square neighborhood…during the pandemic!
Have you been looking for ways to reduce your waste, use less plastic, buy plastic-free and cruelty-free body care products? Then this is the one-stop-shop you’ve been looking for!
The shop is on the quiet side street of Rockwell, off of Montrose in the Lincoln Square neighborhood. You’re not sure it’s there until you see the poster of the Flamingo in the window, every time I’ve been there the sun is reflecting harshly off the windows.
It’s a fairly small space, but they have a lot to offer. The walls are lined with bulk bins filled with pasta, beans, dried fruit, coffee, spices, etc. They have zero-waste and cruelty-free body care and the center of the store has a table for all your bulk, liquid, refillable housekeeping needs, including dishwasher cubes that you can buy per cube.
You can kiss your plastic kitchen scrubbers goodbye because they have the wooden sustainable replacements that you’ve been waiting for. Looking for a bamboo toothbrush or vegan floss? You will find it all here!
I picked up some paper towel alternatives, made from absorbable cloth, you can just rinse them in the sink or toss them in the wash after use. It’s a small but effective way to reduce waste in the kitchen. I’ve gone back for more after buying my first roll. I love them because it reduces the need for unnecessarily wasting paper and eliminates the plastic that they wrap paper towels with.
As a person who has never been one to order online unless it’s the absolute only way to get a product, I’m beyond thrilled that Eco and the Flamingo has opened in Chicago. Just a few years ago I was excited to visit Package Free in New York City, after years of being an advocate for a sustainable lifestyle. It was the first time I’d stepped foot into a zero-waste store. It took a few more years for Chicago to get a bonafide resource, but it’s finally here.
Remember, one of the best ways to reduce waste and create a sustainable economy is by shopping locally. Check out Eco and the Flamingo’s website for all their zero-waste, sustainable, bulk buying options, but if you live in Chicago (or are visiting) be sure to stop in to make your purchases.