Monday, September 19, 2011

Your New Favorite Day of the Week

Photo via official "Meatless Monday" campaign.

I spent my recent birthday week at Expanding Light, a yoga and meditation retreat in the foothills of Northern California.

And while I went with the goal of a glam detox, I came away with valuable information that'll help me enjoy a healthier and happier lifestyle.

In addition to daily yoga and meditation classes, I indulged in the most delicious vegetarian cuisine I had ever tasted. Yes, indulged. The chefs there demonstrated that you don't have to limit yourself to salads and a bunch of veggies to get a good, satisfying vegetarian meal. They incorporated whole grains, nuts, beans and tofu for a number of impressive dishes.

And, to be frank, I'm not trying to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle, but the program I endured had me researching the Meatless Monday campaign.

For at least once a week, diners are encouraged to cut out meat in order to improve their health as well as the environment. In particular, going "meatless" can reduce heart disease and carbon footprints as well as limit cancer risk and minimize water usage.

I don't know about you, but I will be visiting some unconventional restaurants to observe Meatless Monday from now on:

Bombay Spice: You have the option of ordering every dish on the menu in vegetarian fashion at this River North newcomer. I highly recommend getting as a starter the chickpea hummus drizzled with cardamom and saffron oil and served with Roti bread. You'll definitely want to follow that up with the make-your-own-entree option by pairing a starch (basmati rice, brown rice, quinoa or noodles), vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, chickpeas, eggplant, lentils, mushrooms and zucchini) and hot or mild sauce of curry, masala, korma, spinach or vindaloo.

Han 202: The under-the-radar Chinese spot is only a stone's throw away from Chinatown, in Bridgeport. And the best part about this spicy BYOB is the $25 prix fixe of five courses. You can get an entire vegetarian meal of rice and noodle dishes, and don't be surprised if you have leftovers to take home.

Native Foods Cafe: The Wicker Park location was the first Chicago outpost for this national chain. And we now understand why two additional locations are coming to Lakeview and the Loop. That's for Mama Mia Pizza served on wheat crust with Portobello mushrooms, grilled Native sausage seitan, salsa pomodoro, roasted garlic, caramelized onions, pesto and Native Parmesan; Chicago Dip Au Jus of thinly sliced Native peppered seitan piled high on a freshly baked baguette and smothered with homemade "giardiniera extraordinaire;" and Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger with Native original seitan, melted Cheddar, caramelized onions and crispy Native "bacon" topped with BBQ sauce and ranch dressing.

Tapas Las Ramblas: For these chilly fall nights, you'll want to dip into this Andersonville favorite for the vegetarian paella of bell peppers, onions and assorted fresh, seasonal vegetables.

Wow Bao: And with this new location of Wow Bao, there are four in total. More places to go now for the whole wheat edamame bao, green vegetable potstickers, and vegetable bowls filled with jasmine rice, noodles or multi-grain rice.

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