Vegan Valentines in Chicago

Vegan Cookie Cake from Foxship Bakery

A few days ago I published my 2022 Be My Vegan Valentine guide for gifts you can have shipped – with plenty of time to order because yeah, I’m real organized like that. This time I’m turning my attention to Chicago (and Chicago-ish areas) and highlighting some vegan-friendly Valentine’s specials being offered by local businesses.

Please note: I’m going to keep adding to this post as I receive information. Not everyone has their menus planned, order links live, etc. So check back often, and if you’re a Chicago or nearby Chicago business offering a vegan-friendly special for Valentine’s Day email me or DM me on social media so I can add you! Also, check out the Coming Soon area for some folks who will have something special for Valentine’s Day, but don’t have all the details published yet.

Chocolate, Sweets, & Gifts

Pie, Pie My Darling Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cake

Vegan Valentine Donuts – Chicago’s first and only vegan-owned donut shop, Liberation Donuts, is offering a Valentine’s Day Box featuring four donuts and a chocolate-drizzled croissant. Boxes are pre-order only, and can be picked up or scheduled for delivery on Feb. 13 or 14.

Pie, Pie My Darling – This Chicago vegan bakery always goes all-out for Valentine’s Day. If you’d like a whole cake, orders are now open for Cookie Monster, Chocolate-Covered Strawberry, Red Velvet Sprinkle, and Chocolate Raspberry cakes. Other treats such as x-rated conversation heart sugar cookies will be available for pre-sale closer to Valentine’s Day, so watch their social media for those. To see the full menu and instructions for ordering, click here.

Foxship Bakery just dropped their Valentine’s menu which includes three cookie flavors – red velvet, neapolitan, and cake batter; as well as heart-shaped cookie cakes, brownies and bundles with different combinations of each. Order for Chicago pick up on their site.

Goth Romance – Lockport-based Battycakes is offering cookie cakes adorned with skeletons, coffins, and personalized messages (vegan option available) and has promised more “non-specific love holiday” themed treats to come. Orders are very limited, use this form to reserve yours for Chicago or Lockport pick up.

Romantic Meals

Vegan Italian Dinner – Pre-orders for Herbivore’s ala carte and prix fixe vegan Italian menu will open at 10pm on 2/2. Pick up your order between 4-8pm on Monday, Feb. 14th. If you haven’t had Chef Max Musto’s Italian dishes yet you’re in for a real treat!

Heart Shaped PizzaMy Pi is offering heart-shaped pizzas, which can be made vegan and topped with a variety of tasty options, including Upton’s Naturals seitan. Orders must be placed on Monday, Feb. 14th and will be available for pick up.


Coming Soon

Details and/or pre-orders haven’t been announced yet, but these places will be offering vegan Valentine’s Day specials so keep an eye on their social media and I will update when more info is available!

Vegan, GF Valentine’s Treats – Holcomb Hollow will drop their Valentine’s menu on 2/5. (Mundelein, IL)

Vegan Chocolates in West Town – Rumor has it Upton’s Breakroom will be stocked with organic vegan Valentine’s Day chocolates from Sjaak’s.

Vegan Valentine’s Sushi – Vegan sushi pop-up Snackie Chan is putting the finishing touches on their special menu and will be announcing it soon.

Fundraiser: Help A Working Mom Whose Son Has Cancer

Linley and Bryson

If you’ve read my blog or followed me on social media for some time, you may know that each year I dedicate my birthday to raising money for cancer non-profit Grind for Life. This past birthday, December 2021, I sat out the fundraiser because we’d just lost my mother-in-law to lung cancer. But just a few weeks later I’ve found new motivation to fundraise again. This time, to help my friend Linley Hollywood of Chattanooga’s Your Local Seitanist travel to see to her son while putting her business on hold for a month.

In the handful of years I’ve known Linley, I’ve come to admire her huge heart and endless generosity so much. At the beginning of the pandemic when so many were facing food scarcity, she raised funds, and spent quite a bit of her own money to make huge grocery runs to open her own free community pantry. When a manufacturing facility in North Carolina suddenly closed, leaving employees without their vacation pay or benefits, she personally sponsored a number of them and helped others to find folks who could sponsor them too. Linley uses her talent and creativity to turn vegan chicken and biscuits into a lifeline for other people whenever she can. 

So now it’s time for us to help the woman who helps everyone else. Linley’s 12-year-old son Bryson has rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare type of cancer that forms in the soft tissue. This type of cancer tends to spread, as it has in Bryson’s case. Side effects form the cancer itself can be quite severe and painful, and we’re all familiar with the side effects of chemotherapy. It’s taxing on otherwise strong adults, and absolutely exhausting for a growing child. Bryson lives in Florida, while Linley and her business, Your Local Seitanist, are in Tennessee She’s made the long trek several times, each time having to close her business to do so. COVID has been especially tough on independent restaurants like hers, and despite the struggles Linley has managed to keep a small team employed. Closing her shop would mean not paying her staff, and losing out on revenue that they need to pay rent. It’s a choice no parent should have to make – your child or your livelihood and that of the folks who depend on you. Please help us to raise the funds necessary to cover rent, and to pay Linley’s loyal staff, so she can close up for a bit and be with her son.

We’re hoping to raise $5,600 to cover payroll, utilities, and rent for one month. If you can donate, please do. And if you can’t, sharing this fundraiser would help enormously, too.

Ready to donate? Awesome! Every $10 you donate earns you a chance to win something. ($10 = 1 entry, $20 = 2 entries, etc.) Please keep an eye on your email for messages from me after the fundraiser closes.

About the Prizes 
I’m pausing prize donations at this point and will be choosing winners on Friday, Jan. 28th. Thank you to all our donors – please check out their sites and give them a follow on social media!

– A variety pack of vegan products such as Ch’eesy Mac, canned soups, Jackfruit, and free item coupons for Seitan and Updogs from Upton’s Naturals    

– A Nooch crewneck sweatshirt  in your choice of size from Herbivore Clothing

– A copy of “Vegan Yack Attack On The Go!”  by Jackie Sobon

– A tote bag  from Vaca’s Vegan Creamery

– One vegan Jerky of the Month  package (2 x 6oz vegan jerky) from Herbivorous Butcher

– A unisex medium Richard Minino-designed Golden Dinosaurs shirt (VNM 2.0 Gold on Black) from Golden  Dinosaurs

– An autographed copy of Think Like a Vegan  by Emilia A. Leese and Eva J. Charalambides

– Two winners will each receive the full collection of The Vegan Roadie Cookbooks (3 books each winner) from Dustin Harder

– A prize bundle including a t-shirt, sticker pack, a patch, and buttons from Rock Roll Repeat

– A “Nah Dogs Nah Masters ” t-shirt from Nah Dogs

– Chicago offer: A $50 gift card to Sundae Stop for homemade ice cream and other treats (vegan options available). 

Donate here, and if you can’t donate, a share would help a lot too!

Be My Vegan Valentine

The Christmas decorations may still be rattling around in the front yard, but ready or not, here comes Valentine’s Day! For some it’s a reminder to celebrate those you love, for others, it’s a reminder that monogamy and romantic relationships are simply a social construct. Either way, you might find yourself shopping for a vegan this year. Or maybe you’re a vegan looking to keep your Valentine’s Day gifts aligned with your values. So here are some of my suggestions for a perfectly sweet vegan Valentine’s Day.

Chocolate, Duh

Chocolate is considered an aphrodisiac, so gifting a heart-shaped box of chocolates to someone you love (or like, or just wanna make out with) makes perfect sense. Vegans often find themselves left out of this category not only because so many chocolates contain milk, but also because cocoa farming has a dark secret – child labor and/or slavery. Of course vegans aren’t the only ones concerned with human exploitation, but we do tend to look into the ethics of our foods on a deeper level than others. For both of these reasons, and because they are simply exquisite, I can’t recommend Lagusta’s Luscious chocolates highly enough. Year after year they appear on lists of ethical chocolatiers,

Lagusta’s offers lots of options from the traditional box of bon bons, to giant, heart-shaped Tahini Meltaway (my favorite), to a life-sized chocolate skull for your Valentine to smash open and retrieve even more treats inside. You can also add non-edible gifts such as coffee mugs or tote bags to your order, plus shop a variety of Sweet Maresa’s baked goods to your order, which leads me to…


From NY, With Love

For me, the perfect Valentine’s Day treat is something that’s at once decadent, but petite. I want to indulge, but I don’t want to change into sweatpants or need a nap. Macarons are at the top of the list – light, chewy, sandwiched with jam, chocolate, or buttercream… and anyone who’s attempted to make them knows, a pain in the butt. These little “happy burgers” as Teno used to call them when he was little, are as beautiful to look at as they are delightful to eat. But, as the base is mostly egg whites, they’re often elusive to vegans. Sweet Maresa’s in NYC is a vegan bakery that specializes in these French confections (as well as delightful Italian cookies, and some of the best coffee cakes I’ve ever eaten.)

Pre-order the massive 25-piece fruit and chocolate macaron box, or pick up the cute holiday cookie tin. Either way your Valentine will be surprised by this rare and special treat.


Yep, It’s Lingerie

You really need to know your Valentine well to determine whether or not lingerie is the right gift. And even then, choosing lingerie they’ll like is a gamble. But chances are, if your sweetie is vegan, they’re already a fan of Purrfect Pineapples. Vegan-owned, and definitely one of the pioneers of the handmade lingerie scene, Puurfect Pineapples pairs classic silhouettes with fun and unusual prints – everything from black lace with bats to cute little kittens. And it’s not all cutesy-cutesy, either, because you can also order lacy underthings embellished with inverted crosses if your Valentine has an evil streak.

All with the piece of mind that you won’t find any animal-derived materials such as silk or leather, and that the designer and seamstress herself has values similar to your own (or to your Valentine’s!)


Set The Mood

I know not everyone was blessed with a husband who loves to make candles, so you have to buy them. And in fact, even though Tony does love candle making he also still likes to buy them and receive them as gifts. I’m a big fan of Burke & Hare Co., who I first learned of when they did a Type O Negative collab candle with my friends at LastCraft. Not only do they make really complex seasonal scents in sleek, modern packaging, but they also make perfume oils and room sprays to make your whole vampire’s den smell lovely.


Take Another Little Pizza My Heart

Sweets, sweets, sweets but what if you’re like me and your vegan Valentine prefers savory? Hang onto your butts, because here comes heart-shaped vegan pizza! From my hometown Chicago, that just so happens to be made with Italian Seitan from the company I friggin’ work for, Upton’s Naturals. I present to you MyPi vegan pizzas that you can ship just about anywhere! These romantic pies are available with a huge variety of vegan-friendly toppings, and come in 2-packs and 4-packs.

Use my affiliate link for $25 off your first order of $60 or more!


Charcuterie You + Me

Image from No Sweat Vegan

A few months ago I binge-watched Rome, a very horny period drama from the early 2000s. One detail I was totally obsessed with was that every time there was a social gathering, everyone lied around on plush sofas eating what was essentially charcuterie. Huge trays of bread, olives, cheese, cured meats, and olive oil would be brought out and everyone would just lounge around plucking various combinations of small bites and washing them down with wine.

Charcuterie is a great Valentine’s Day meal option because you can decorate your board with edible flowers, arrange the various fruits, nuts, non-dairy cheeses, and vegan meats in dazzling displays, and eat with your hands like a couple of sexy goblins. When I can’t find the specialty cheeses and meatless meats I’m looking for in my local stores, I turn to Vegan Essentials.

They have a charcuterie and pate section, but I also look at the slices and sausages section for my boards. They also offer tons of artisan cultured cheeses, including some from my friends at Cheeze & Thank You.


The Love Witch

First of all, if you have not seen The Love Witch, please make that your Valentine’s Day viewing. I was first gifted Witch Baby products by my friend Jessica, a practicing witch. I’ve been a fan and customer ever sense. 100% vegan, their soaps, scrubs, body butters and more are magically scented, and will fill your whole bathroom, if not home, with their luxurious fragrance. YOu can shop the Valentine’s Day collection, or go rogue and choose from their best-sellers. I personally am a repeat buyer of their Love body butter, a creamy blend of pink lady apples and rose that comes with a piece of rose quartz tucked inside.


Sealed With a Kiss

In this weird time where so many of us have been separated from our friends and family for months, or even years, a handwritten note means a lot. Yes, we can all keep in touch via email and social media, but there’s something delightful about getting a piece of mail. So whether you’re looking for a card to accompany a gift you’re giving in person, or you just want to send a note to someone you love… who happens to be vegan, my go-to card shop is Betty Turbo.

There are tons of fun original designs for everyone from dessert lovers to wrestling fans, but it’s the card with the nooch reference that really does it for me. There’s even an Anti-Valentine’s Day card if that’s your vibe.


The Way to a (Hu)man’s Heart

Christmas grosses me out because it’s one of our most flagrant displays of capitalism – so why don’t I feel the same about Valentine’s Day? I don’t know, maybe because there’s a little less pressure to go into crippling debt to participate. But also, it’s very acceptable to give a homemade gift for Valentine’s Day, because it’s personal and meaningful and romantic. Cooking a lovely dinner at home for your loved one is a super sweet idea – and COVID-friendly. I recommend Vegan Pasta e Ceci because it’s hearty, but not heavy, a little bit spicy, and I’m biased, but I think Italian food is the sexiest of all foods. Have you ever listened to the sound pasta makes when you stir it? I mean…


Made With Love

While we’re on the subject, you also don’t have to spend tons of cash on chocolates if it’s not in your budget, or if you’re in a time pinch. You can make a really impressive little box of handmade vegan truffles with some easy-to-source ingredients. Visit your local craft supply store for a heart-shaped box and some ribbon and you’re in business. If you’re more ambitious than that, pick up Lagusta Yearwood’s book Sweet + Salty and recreate her best-selling treats at home.


Babies and Dogs and Stuff

Valentine’s Day has a certain reputation, but in recent years people have started using it as an excuse to celebrate all sorts of platonic love. Galentine’s Day is typically celebrated on Feb. 13th, and is a way for groups of women to celebrate their love for one another. Treating your children or fur children to a treat is a nice way to include everyone, too. My dad always gave my sister and I chocolates on Valentine’s Day, and I looked forward to being included every year. (Therapy break – oh, have we discovered why I love this holiday that makes no sense for me to love?)

No Whey has lots of vegan Valentine’s Day treats, including the super kid-friendly tube of Chocolate No-Nos. Sjaack’s also makes a lot of kid-friendly, organic chocolate treats like their Bear Hug, a dark chocolate heart filled with vegan gummy bears.

My little floofs have sensitive stomachs, so I plan on making their Valentine’s this year so I can be sure to only use ingredients that agree with them. These Raspberry Peanut Butter Treats look perfect, and I think they’ll love them.


I hope I’ve helped you find the perfect gift for your vegan Valentine, or even a little something special for yourself. Be sure to tell me in the comments if you discovered something new here – or if you have a great vegan gift idea that I omitted!

Vegan Pasta e Ceci (Pasta With Chickpeas)

When made traditionally, Pasta e Ceci is “accidentally vegan,” although many people finish the dish with some Parmesan cheese. This is a really simple dish that will only dirty one pot, and comes together in about 20 minutes. The garlicky, spicy sauce gets its added richness from the liquid in the canned chickpeas (also known as aquafaba). If you prefer to cook your own chickpeas for this recipe, feel free – just follow the note in the recipe to make sure you aren’t missing out on any flavor.

Violife and Follow Your Heart both make really good vegan Parmesans that can be found in Whole Foods Market and most other well-stocked grocery stores.

Vegan Pasta e Ceci

Thanks to aqua faba, this dairy-free sauce is thick and creamy. This pasta is served like a stew, so expect extra sauce – perfect to sop up with bread. Feel free to add your favorite herbs, this recipe is just a framework for the simplest version possible.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: one pot dinner, pasta, vegan pasta
Servings: 2 people

Equipment

  • A large, heavy-bottomed pot

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or to taste, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste can use 1 cup crushed tomatoes instead
  • 1 tsp kosher salt or to taste, up to 2 tsp
  • 2 cups water might need a bit more, see instructions
  • 1 (15oz) can chickpeas drained, but reserve the liquid
  • 6 oz uncooked pasta
  • fresh herbs or greens optional, see note
  • vegan Parmesan cheese optional

Instructions

  • Over a medium flame, heat the olive oil in the pot.
  • Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring often so it doesn't burn. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and golden.
  • Stir in the tomato paste and salt, cook for another minute.
  • Pour the chickpea liquid (aqua faba) into a measuring cup, and add water until you have 3 cups of liquid. Add this to the pot and bring to a boil.
  • Add the pasta and chickpeas, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure the pasta is cooked to al dente. Some cooks like to smash some of the chickpeas with a spoon while they stir, this is optional.
  • It should look like stew – the sauce will thicken and the water will be absorbed by the pasta. If you prefer it loose, add a splash of water.
  • If adding herbs, greens and/or cheese, turn the heat off and stir them in. You want your herbs or greens to wilt and/or the cheese to melt.
  • Spoon into bowls and top with more crushed red pepper (optional). Serve with a nice, crusty bread.

Notes

Fresh basil, escarole, Tuscan kale or radicchio are all nice green additions you can make at the end – but just choose one to keep the flavors pure. 
Some people like to go easier on the garlic, and add some chopped yellow onion during the first steps. 
Fresh rosemary can also be a tasty addition to throw in with the garlic and red pepper flakes. 
If you prefer to cook your own chickpeas, use 1 cup vegetable broth, plus two cups of water for the liquid. 
If you’re using canned chickpeas, be mindful of the salt content of the liquid, this sauce can easily get too salty. 

Friday Five: Building an Ethical Wardrobe

I’ve wanted to write this post forever because like veganism (which I endlessly cover here) it can be really overwhelming to take the first step toward a more ethical closet when there are seemingly five million ways to do it “wrong.” But also like veganism, the most important step is the very first one and once you’re on the path you can only do better from there.

There are lots of reasons to put more thought into what you’re filling your closet with – the environment and human rights are two good ones. I recently wrote at length about my own experience that opened my eyes to the issue, you can find that post here. This is by no means a complete guide but rather suggestions for overcoming some of the biggest obstacles I’ve encountered on my own journey to be a more conscious consumer.

1. The Emperor Has No Clothes

Vegan Docs do exist now, what a time to be alive.

Listen, I don’t want to keep comparing this transition to veganism, but they have so much in common! When I first went vegan I gathered up all of my leather boots – literally dozens of expensive pairs of  Dr. Martens I’d collected over many Christmases, birthdays, and graduations – and I put them all into a donation bin. This left me feeling smugly vegan, and yet, also without any boots and too poor to replace them. (Plus vegan Docs wouldn’t be created for nearly 20 more years.)

Once you’ve decided to swear off fast fashion and other unsavory clothing manufacturers you might be tempted to get rid of everything “bad” and start over. If you are independently wealthy and have the means to donate your entire wardrobe and replace it in a day, good for you! But for most of us, it makes more sense to replace items as needed, or as we can afford it. Chances are no one is going to point to your Forever 21 dress and say, “Excuse me, but I thought you were ethical?” But on the off chance that does happen, just remind them that you’d rather not contribute to the massive clothing waste stream by discarding an item of clothing while it’s still wearable. Also tell them to mind their own business, they sound like a jerk.

When the time does come to part ways with your clothes, consider selling them to a resale shop such as Buffalo Exchange, or post them online using resale apps like Depop, ThreadUp, or Poshmark. Most of my clothes are pretty weird, and I’ve found Depop to be a good place to sell weird things. If your items are in good shape, you can usually recoup some of the cost, and use your earnings toward buying new clothes from ethical brands (or buying ethical brands second hand, more on that later.) Of course donating your clothes to a charitable cause is always a great idea. I found a women’s shelter in MI that is happy to take my gently worn business attire and shoes for their clients who are going on interviews.

If you’re in a situation where you can’t start replacing items for the foreseeable future, treat your fast fashion gently to make it last. I have more than a few very inexpensive and cheaply made dresses in my closet that I’ve only ever hand-washed and never put them in the dryer. This kept the color from fading, and the stitching from wearing out. I also kept some cheap shirts that lost their shape or developed other flaws and made them into tank tops to work out in.

The bottom line is, you don’t have to walk around naked.

2. Welcome to Staples

Yes, I do own this. It’s from Tuesday Bassen.

Say you’ve sold a few pieces, or managed to save up some cash and you’re ready to start replacing your old wardrobe with a cool, new, ethical one. That’s pretty exciting, and you might be tempted to go straight for an ethically made in the USA gold satin jacket with a hot dog angel appliques because you deserve it! But, I do recommend starting with some staples that you’re going to use a lot. Things like jeans, shoes, office attire (if applicable), a pair of black leggings, or a winter jacket.

I know that’s so boring and hard to do. I keep a list on my iPhone of wardrobe items I need (currently I need jeans) and things I want (a pair of sweatshorts with John Wick’s face on them). As I sell things on Depop, or feel ready to make a purchase, I consult my list. This helps to keep me from making impulsive decisions (please see the golden hot dog jacket one more time) and prevents me from ending up in a situation where I have no pants, but three gold satin jackets.

3. How Will I Know?

TL;DR: Brands with ethical practices are generally transparent about them on their website, and brands with questionable practises tend to not mention manufacturing at all. This is still an emerging area of interest for a lot of brands, so you might need to do some digging and send some emails to find the answers you’re looking for.

How can you tell the ethically made stuff from the rest? It can be tricky, because apparel makers that use child labor, sweatshops, and other unsavory manufacturing methods don’t exactly brag about it in their FAQs. But brands that do manufacture ethically *do* usually brag about it, and rightfully so.

If I’m shopping a brand I’m not sure about, I spend some time on their site looking for a statement about their manufacturing ethics. Nine times out of ten, if a brand is doing the right thing they’re going to have at least one page dedicated to telling you about it. Everlane*, for example, has information about each of their factories (as well as their environmental initiatives and transparency about their own internal practices). Sometimes it’s as simple as these couple paragraphs from Big Bud Press.

*I chose this as an example, don’t come for me about their leather products. I’m not a customer.

You’re going to read a lot of wishy-washy, vague stuff – especially from large brands like Nike that want to use all the right words, but not actually commit to anything. When I run into this, I usually consult sites like Good On You to see what their reports say. Maybe a brand that famously used sweatshop labor has changed its ways – but if not this site can suggest some ethical alternatives.

Indie and smaller brands don’t often end up on sites like that, though, and that’s when it’s time to crack your knuckles and write an email. Email the company and ask specific questions. How do you monitor the health and wellbeing of the people who make your clothing? Are they paid a living wage? What documentation or official statements can you share regarding the health and safety of factory staff? It’s like the old days of veganism before Facebook groups and Instagram accounts – you’d have to email or even call a company and ask if certain ingredients were vegan! And if they didn’t know, or couldn’t give you enough info to make an informed purchase, you didn’t buy that product.

American-made clothing is on-trend right now, and even cooler, US-made textiles are growing in popularity. While “Made in the USA” doesn’t always guarantee ethical practises, it’s usually a good sign and a good place to start. Lots of countries, like Sweden, have good reputations for fair labor practises, and lots of countries with less-than-great records are also home to small manufacturers who are looking to change that reputation. So I don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea that anything made in China or India, for example, is not made with fair, safe labor.

Buying handmade directly from the maker is also usually a safe bet.

4. Ethically Made Money Bags

Big Bud Press has amazing sample sales and other deals throughout the year.

If you’ve typically shopped fast fashion there can be a fair amount of sticker shock when you start adding ethically made clothing to your closet. For example, Shein has a tie dyed pullover sweatshirt on their site for $9 right now that looks an awful lot like the one Big Bud Press is selling for $78. While I don’t have any tips for scoring BBP clothes for $9 other than making a wish on a shooting star, I do have some tips for shopping ethical brands on a budget.

Sample Sales

Once you’ve found a few ethical brands you like, sign up for their emails and/or follow them on Instagram and turn notifications on. Lots of these brands have sample sales, or exclusive sales for newsletter subscribers or social media followers. Once you hear about an upcoming sale, make sure you have an account on the website and if you can save your shipping and payment info do it. Sale items tend to go really fast, so I sit on the site hitting refresh, with my info pre-loaded, ready to grab what I want and check out without stopping to find my credit card or type out my address. Yes, it is kind of dramatic but I’ve scored some pieces at 75% off this way. This applies to seasonal sales, Black Friday, sample sales, and more.

Payment Plans

A lot of sites now offer interest-free installment payments from third parties like Afterpay and Affirm, and PayPal also now has a “pay in 4” option that breaks your total into four installments. This option can make the higher price tag that often comes with ethically made clothing a little easier to swallow. No matter what you’re shopping for, I also recommend creating a Rakuten account and installing the browser extension to automatically find coupon codes and earn cash back on your purchase. I know that sounds like an ad, but last year I got over $300 cash back so I know it works.

The Kind You Find in a Second Hand Store

Buying second hand is a great solution to the ethical clothing dilemma regardless of the brands you buy. Fast fashion doesn’t usually last long enough to be resold, but I personally wouldn’t be opposed to buying a second hand pair of vegan** gym shoes from a brand that I otherwise wouldn’t buy from because of their manufacturing practises. It’s also a great way to keep clothing out of the wastestream.

**I’ve also seen vegans debate buying non-vegan items like leather boots second hand. We can argue about it later, just wanted to put that out there.

That being said, if you do only want to represent ethical brands in your wardrobe but are looking to save money, you can find a lot of gently worn items from ethical brands on site like Depop, Poshmark, and ThreadUp. Sometimes they’re discounted, and other times it’s people looking to sell discontinued items at their cost or a markup, so set your expectations accordingly.

Sorry ’bout It

I really apologize for this because I know no one likes to hear it, but the method I’ve had the most success with personally is just buying less. I do shop sample sales, and I do scour resale apps, but more than anything, I just live with fewer clothing options than I used to have when $100 shopping spree at the mall could get me five new items. I have maybe five basic pieces of business attire to get me through meetings and trade shows, some basics like black leggings and a black dress, and then a few times a year I add something special like a jumpsuit or a fall jacket or winter coat to the mix. I have fewer than 10 pairs of shoes in my entire possession and a few pairs are almost as old as Teno! I just try and take care of things so I don’t need to replace them very often. When it comes time this year to part ways with the Matt & Nat shoes I spent a few hundred dollars on in 2015 it’ll be a lot less painful when I consider that means it only cost me $30 a year to own them. (I’ll still miss you, though, silver oxfords!)

5. Perfectly Imperfect

Compassion Co. is a great source for sweatshop-free vegan logo clothing.

Just by reading this much about buying clothes that aren’t made by children or in sweatshops you’ve taken a big step. It’s hard to identify a problem and make personal sacrifices to try and help solve that problem. Going back to my first point, no one is expecting you to makeover your whole wardrobe overnight, and likewise, no one will ever be a perfectly ethical consumer. I’m typing this on a computer that was probably manufactured in a way that would make me really angry to know about.

But that’s the thing. I can look into that, and if I don’t mind answers that satisfy me, I’ll contact the company. I’ll see if there’s a petition or an organization dedicated to improving conditions for the people who make these computers and I’ll do what I can to support those. I don’t know how to make my own computer, so I have to choose my battles. But that doesn’t mean I have to accept the unacceptable.

This one singular issue is a really good example of how interconnected so many parts of our economy are, and how gross capitalism can really be. Clothes shouldn’t have to be so cheap that we need to kidnap children to make them. Everyone should be able to work a safe job that pays them enough money to buy the things they need and want. It sucks that it’s controversial to believe that, but going back to the veganism connection, it’s something that I hope will one day soon be obvious to more people.

For my own part, the site I use to offer print-on-demand merch lists the certifications from each vendor, and country of origin for each item. I try to choose the best options as I select items to offer. I hope this has been helpful, and please tag me @bakeanddestroy when you post your ethically made wardrobe pieces because I want to see!

Vegan Pretzel Dogs

It’s National Hot Dog Day, a very important holiday in the city of Chicago. So, I’m sharing this recipe for pretzel dogs. Honestly, it’s kind of a hybrid between pretzel and bagel dogs and if you wanted to top them with Everything But the Bagel seasoning and call them Bagel Dogs no one’s going to stop you. I recommend these to be made with Upton’s Naturals Updogs, because I helped develop the recipe for those, and therefore, think they’re the best veggie dog available. (P.S. This illustration was done by Betty Turbo, and the photo is by Celine Steen!)

Vegan Pretzel Dogs (AKA Pretzel Dogs of the Dead)

Now, at first it might seem like government-issue crackers or Spam would be a more suitable Dawn of the Dead-inspired recipe, but when I think DotD, I think late-70’s mall. When I think late-70s malls I think of food courts, and I can’t pass a mall food court without gazing longingly at the pretzel dogs and wishing aloud that they were somehow vegan. Wish no more, my friends.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: bagel dog, pretzel dog, vegan hot dog, veggie dog
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 &1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 4 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs margarine melted
  • 1 package Upton’s Naturals Updogs
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 Tbs baking soda
  • 1-2 Tbs margarine melted
  • Kosher or pretzel salt to finish

Instructions

  • Combine the water, sugar and 2 tsp kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and margarine and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, 4-5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil.
  • Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for 50-55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
  • Preheat your oven to 450°. Once the dough has risen, pinch off pieces and roll them into ropes. You might want to flour your hands and the surface you’re rolling on because this dough is sticky. Wrap each Updog in the dough and place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. (I use a Silpat, which makes my pretzel dogs fancy and French.) Mix the cup of warm water and one tablespoon of baking soda together. Brush each wrapped dog first with this mixture and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Brush each baked dog with melted margarine and sprinkle with salt.
  • To feed invading biker gangs, you may want to double or triple this recipe.

Please note, some of these links are affiliate links, which means if you click and make a purchase I will earn the smallest and most hilarious amount of money imaginable.

Podcast: Live from Little Bear Sanctuary

I had the pleasure of speaking with animal rescuer and sanctuary founder Christopher Vane on his podcast Live from Little Bear Sanctuary. If you aren’t familiar, definitely click that link and read Christopher’s story! We had a really nice chat about the benefits of being an #oldvegan, what we would eat on Pig Island, and our mutual love of cupcakes and New York City. You can watch it or listen a lot of different ways, but a few easy ones are Facebook and YouTube .

You can support Christopher’s work at Little Bear Sanctuary with a donation or merch purchase here!

Friday Five: For the Dogs

It’s been quite a while since I dedicated a Friday Five post to dogs. In fact, when I wrote Gifts for Obsessed Pet Parents, Lulu was my only pet. But now we have Flapjack and the amount of things I buy for dogs has more than doubled. Lulu also recently developed some tummy troubles that her vet dubbed “dog IBS” so everything on this list that’s edible has proven to be tummy trouble-proof. But you should always be careful introducing new foods to dogs, especially older dogs.

1. Bramble Plant-Based Pet Food

The girls try Bramble

Just before we moved into our new place, the folks from Bramble reached out to see if Flapjack and Lulu would like to try their new line of plant-based, fresh dog foods. I sent over my new address, and it was the very first package to arrive to the new house. When I opened the tub of The Roost, their favorite flavor, I was shocked to see something that looked like a meal I would eat myself. Grains, fruits, veggies, beans – it even smelled good.

Lulu had just been diagnosed with “tummy trouble” for lack of a better word, so while I let Flapjack go to town on Bramble by the bowlful, I encorporated just a tablespoon at a time into Lulu’s bland diet. She tolerated it really well, and I ended up mixing her prescribed food 1/2 & 1/2 with Bramble.

There’s lots of veterinary science easily Googleable that supports a plant-based diet for dogs, and I personally know several plant-based dogs who have been thriving for years. If you have any questions about the nutritional content of Bramble, it can be found on their site – but of course always consult with your vet when switching your dog’s diet and do whatever is best for your pet’s health.

Bramble Plant-Based Pet Food will be available in the northeast this month (July) and expanding to the east coast, and into the midwest later this year. Pricing will depend on the weight of your dog, but will be comparable to other fresh pet food brands.

2. Because Animals Omega & Probiotic Sprinkles

Right after I heard from Bramble, the folks from Because Animals reached out and I was really starting to feel like a stage mom! They were offering some Noochies, their plant-based pet treats, for the girls to try but when I explained Lulu’s new digestive issues they recommended their Superfood and Probiotic Supplement. Lu’s vet had recommended a probiotic, and I figured a vegan one from a Chicago-based brand would be a pretty good place to start.

I’ve been sprinkling a tiny bit on both dogs’ food each morning (the package has recommended amounts for your dog’s weight, my tinies only need 1/4 – 1/2 tsp). This supplement is meant to support digestion, as well as a healthy coat and in the few weeks we’ve been using it I’ve noticed a marked improvement in both for both dogs. Plus, they both really love it – Lulu won’t eat her food until it’s been sprinkled.

This brand is also developing cultured meat (lab grown) for pet food use, which I think it really incredible, both for herbivores who feel conflicted feeding meat to their animal companions, and simply because raising livestock for food is incredibly taxing on the environment and cultured meat could combat that.

Because Animals Omega & Probiotic Sprinkles 4.4oz, $25

3. Barkbox Treat-free

Our downstairs neighbor at our old apartment had an older Beagle who had poor vision and was scared of squeaky toys, the poor thing. So, she started giving Lulu and Flappy the squeaky toys out of her BarkBox. (BarkBox is a treat and toy subscription box.) When we decided to move I knew I had to get my own subscription because my dogs go totally nuts for new toys. I signed up for a six month subscription, and after entering info about Lulu including her size, play style, toy preferences, etc. her first BarkBox arrived a few weeks later.

I was incredibly impressed with their customer service because after filling out the first survey with the info that Lulu had totally destroyed most of the toys she received in a day, I got a personal email back letting me know they’d send tougher toys next time, as well as a bonus package of replacement toys in the meantime. So, I had a feeling I’d get a response when I contacted them to see if I could get an all-toys box because Lulu can’t eat the treats. And I did! Although they don’t currently offer an all-toys box, they were able to change my subscription to ensure that Lulu got an extra toy in place of the variety of treats they usually send. Now my dogs recognize the box when it arrives each month and lose their tiny little minds.

BarkBox subscription prices range depending on the length of your subscription. Use my referral link to sign up, and if you have a Rakuten you can earn $9 when you subscribe.

4. Bluebird Botanicals CBD Oil for Pets

Working from home for all of 2020 was great, except for the part where it caused both my dogs to develop severe separation anxiety. When I worked in the office, they were home alone for 8-10 hours a day with no problem, but now they’re so used to be being around they freak out when I go check the mail. CBD has done wonders for my own anxiety, and Bluebird Botanicals was recommended to me by a food scientist I used to work with so that’s the brand I’ve stuck with.

I put a few drops in the girls’ food about 30 minutes before I plan on leaving the house, or on a day when I know there’s going to be a lot of noise like the 4th of July or scheduled construction. It really seems to help with anxious barking and destructive behavior without making them sleepy or otherwise weird.

Bluebird Botanicals CBD & Hemp Oil for Pets 1oz, $27.95

5. Earth Rated Dog Wipes

Both my dogs are low to the ground, so they rub all over all kinds of dirt and stinky stuff when they go outside, but it’s not good for their coats to wash them too often. These natural, compostable wipes are the perfect solution. I keep them right by the door, to wipe dirty paws and I use them a few times a week to gently wipe away “dog smell” from their coats. They both think they’re just getting extra pets so they come running when they see the package.

Earth Rated Dog Wipes 100ct, $8.99

Pizza for Everyone: Vegan Breakfast Pizza Recipe

Pizza for Everyone is ready for Chicago pick up – have you ordered yours yet? A few months back, my friend Derrick, owner of Paulie Gee’s Logan Square and the Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop in Wicker Park, asked if I’d be interested in contributing a vegan pizza recipe to a book being put together to raise money for loads of great local causes. I said no. End of story.

Just kidding! I said yes, and ended up contributing not one, but three recipes! Since then, the book has received a super cool design treatment by Zach Sherwood and will be available for Chicago pick up starting this week.

Here’s how it works:

Fill out the form with your name, email, pick up location preference (there are lots of choices) and which Chicago org you’ll be donating your $35 to (again, lots of choices). John will follow up to confirm your donation and then you go get your copy. That’s it!

Here’s where I f’d up:

I sent over recipes for three pizzas and a vegan pizza crust recipe… but one of the pizzas (this one, in this post) is actually meant to be on a biscuit crust. I mean, it would still be totally good on the crust in the book – but yeah, biscuit crust. So, I decided to share that recipe here too for anyone standing there with the book in their hands like, “Excuse me, where is the biscuit crust recipe?” It’s right here, settle down.

Vegan Breakfast Pizza

The only thing better than breakfast foods or pizza is breakfast food pizza. Vegan, of course, how dare you?
Course: Breakfast, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: pizza, tofu sramble, vegan pizza

Ingredients

Gravy

  • 2 tbs vegan butter
  • 2 tsp soy sauce or Bragg’s Amino Acids
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup plain,unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbs nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh sage or 1 tsp dried
  • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Tofu Scramble

  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 block extra firm tofu drained & pressed
  • 1 cup thinly sliced broccoli optional
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot optional
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbs water
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Biscuit Crust

  • 1 cup plain,unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups all purpose flour plus more for dusting the board
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbs baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 Tbs vegetable shortening

Instructions

Make the Gravy

  • In a large saucepan, melt vegan butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in soy sauce and flour, continue to whisk for 2 minutes – the mixture will form a paste. Add vegetable broth, milk, onion powder, garlic powder, nutritional yeast and sage and whisk for a few minutes to break up the lumps. Raise the heat to medium-high until bubbles form around the edges of the gravy, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until thickened (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in apple cider vinegar and salt and pepper. Set aside.

Make the Tofu Scramble

  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook minced garlic for about one minute, stirring often. Break the tofu into bite-sized pieces and add it to the pan along with the broccoli and carrot. Cook for about 10 minutes, using a metal spatula to turn the mixture over and to scrape the bottom of the pan now and again. The garlic and carrots will turn into brown crispy stuff – don’t worry, that stuff is good!
  • In a small bowl or mixing cup, stir together rosemary, onion powder, turmeric, salt and water. Add this mixture, and the nutritional yeast to the tofu and cook 5 more minutes. Set aside and prepare the crust.

Make the Biscuit Crust

  • Preheat your oven to 450°.  Add apple cider vinegar to milk and set aside to curdle.
  • Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, and use a pastry blender or two forks to cut shortening into the flour until it resembles coarse meal.
  • Add the curdled milk and mix just until combined. The mixture should be wet, so add a splash more soy milk if it appears dry.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured countertop and gently pat it out until it’s about 1/2” thick. (No rolling pins! Use your hands for a tender crumb.)
  • Fold the pressed dough into its center 4-5 times so you have a pile, and gently pat it out into a circle that’s about 1/2” thick.
  • Place the dough onto a baking sheet – if you want to make it more pizza-like, press the center down slightly more so the edges are raised like a crust.
  • Bake the biscuit crust for 5 minutes, then pull it out of the oven and top it with 1/2 the gravy and all of the tofu scramble.
  • Place the pizza back into the oven and cook until the biscuit is cooked through – about 6-8 more minutes.
  • Slice and serve with remaining warm gravy on top.

Notes

Omit the broccoli and carrots from the tofu scramble if you like yours straight up. 
For a quick(er) breakfast, prep the gravy and scramble the night before and add them to a freshly made biscuit crust in the morning. 

Friday Five: Butt Stuff

I really can’t wait to look at my Google analytics after this post is published. There will be so many bounces from people who were looking for a very specific type of content. For the rest of you, welcome to a blog post about taking care of your butt. Having a soft, smooth butt has been an obsession of mine since high school when my mom bought me my first butt product, which I will talk about on the list below. So, let’s get into it, my top 5 favorite things to care for my butt, in no particular order.

1. Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Lotion

If you aren’t familiar with BHA than you’ve probably never suffered from a condition referred to as “chicken skin,” and if that’s the case, lucky you. For the rest of us, we occasionally get hard, bumpy skin on our arms, legs, and yep… butt and the best thing for it is BHA. Also known as salicylic acid, BHA gently exfoliates built-up layers of dead skin which can cause those hard bumps. Even if you don’t get chicken skin, BHA is a nice gentle exfoliator for your whole body and and easy, nice-smelling way to apply it is this lotion. One bottle usually lasts me a few months and it’s my go-to for keeping my skin (yes, on my butt) soft and smooth.

Paula’s Choice Weightless Body Treatment 2% BHA 7oz, $28 (Also available in travel size for $7)

2. Lush Buffy Body Butter

I’ve been using this product for more than 20 years, dating back to my mom buying it for me because it was called Buffy the Backside Slayer at the time. This cocoa and shea butter bar is packed with ground rice, almonds and aduki beans… but you don’t eat it, you rub it on your butt. You use it in the shower on wet skin – rub it on, rinse it off, and the moisturizers stay behind on your behind.

Buffy 3.3oz, $12.95 from Lush

3. Pacifica Acne Warrior Body Scrub

By now I have possibly painted an unfair picture of my poor butt. From the sounds of it, it’s dry, bumpy, and filled with acne. This is not the case. In fact, my butt feels like a ripe peach, which I credit to all of these things I am always rubbing and scrubbing onto it. My latest addition to this routine is a scrubby acne body wash that comes in a cute little purple tub. I use it on my back and butt in the shower to help kill acne-causing bacteria.

Pacifica Acne Warrior Body Scrub 6oz, $16 . You can save 10% off your first purchase of $36 or more with this link, plus sign up for Rakuten to earn cash back when you buy from Pacifica.

4. Til You Collapse Leggings

Surprise! It’s not a lotion or scrub… it’s pants! I really dedicated myself in 2020 to trying to move my body every day and with that came a significant investment in leggings. I tried all the usual mall brands and never found a good combination of high waist, proper length (I’m v. short), soft fabric, and colors/prints that didn’t make me feel like a professional wrestler from the 80s (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Until I bought my first pair of Til You Collapse Effortless Vortex Classic Leggings. I know that’s a lot of words, but that’s because you can shop these leggings by style, fabric, and length.

I’m obsessed with these leggings for working out and wearing out. They’re totally opaque (no one can see my leopard print undies), super soft, have just the right amount of compression, and they’re totally squat proof. They don’t roll, slide, or bunch.

Til You Collapse Leggings – Prices Vary

5. Peace Out Acne Patches

On the rare occasion that all of my fail safes against butt pimples… fail, these patches solve that problem every single time. Honestly, I use these on my face way, way more often than any other part of my body but I do like them for body acne because they keep the area clean while they hydrate and treat breakouts. Pretty much exactly what you need when a spot pops up in a place that’s hard to reach. I buy them in a 40 pack now because Tony and Teno use them too.

Peace Out Acne Patches 20 ct, $29.95

Heads up that some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means if you click and make a purchase I will earn store credit or a laughably small amount of cash.

chicago's best vegan food

Buy A Shirt

Buy A Sticker

My Book

My Book

Shop My Faves

Sponsors