This past weekend, I was in Chicago and I attended VeggieFest in Naperville, about an hour outside of the city. VeggieFest was held on the grounds of Science of Spirituality, a meditation center with several branches throughout the country and in various locations worldwide.
The event included food demos, speakers, meditation seminars, information on a vegetarian lifestyle, as well as a huge veggie-food court and booths with product vendors. It was a great place for me to collect cooking information and tips, as well as connect with like-minded people. It was also well focused on the Chicago area, showing residents how to get involved with the vegetarian community in Chicago.
Though there is entirely too much to cover, and I was only there for one of the two days, I will share with you the highlights of what I learned and saw this year at VeggieFest.
*Please note there were many more wonderful speakers, products, and booths, but these are just the ones that were new and informative to me.
The Food Court:
One of the real highlights of this event is an all veggie food court with foods suitable for vegans and vegetarians. My friend (who is not a vegetarian, but loved the food) and I tried to sample a good variety of food, and we sure did eat a lot. I was disappointed to find out that not all of these places were real restaurants in Chicago, yet were just created for the event. But there were a few, and here were some of my food court favorites:
Dosa from Masala Dosa
Chole Bhatura, an Indian Chickpea Dish
My favorite, of course, from Paradise Falafel
Fresh Fruit, “Rawr”
Kat Barry – Owner of Kat’s Hot Cakes, a vegan bakery and catering service in Michigan.
Ashley Gilday – Chef at Daiya Vegan Cheeses, who runs a wellness, and lifestyle website.
I had to check out this food demo as it was titled “Spicy Vegan.” Kat and Ashley hosted this food demo using Daiya vegan cheese. This was actually my first time trying Daiya cheese (I usually just don’t do cheese at all), and the cheese was quite good, and tasted like regular cheese (if I remember what regular cheese tastes like). They made a vegan arepa which is a South American flat bread made of corn maize, and it was topped with a corn salsa. I approve!
Tayla Lutzker – Owner of Tayla’s Kitchen and author of a book I purchased at the event, The Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen: Finding Harmony Through Food.
I was very interested in this food demo, as I have been reading up on Ayurveda, and am seriously considering participating in a ayurvedic nutrition program when I am in India.
If you are not familiar with Ayurveda, WebMD defines it as: “one of the world’s oldest holistic (whole-body) healing systems. It developed thousands of years ago in India. It is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. The primary focus of Ayurvedic medicine is to promote good health, rather than fight disease. But treatments may be recommended for specific health problems.”
So, Tayla made some “Dadus” which are a raw vegan dessert ball, a play on Indian “Ladus.”. These were made with dates, and featured chocolate, cloves, and a few other spices. They were very good, I ate 2, since there were some extras, and I will be making these at home.
Besides food, there were a variety of seminars and speakers. I went to a seminar on meditation which was just an intro to meditation, and the speaker shared her personal experience on meditation, and how it has helped her in her personal life.
If you signed up for the Vegetarian Challenge, and attended a 15 minute session on vegetarianism, you got a free bag with goodies inside. I went for the bag, and the goodies from Nature’s Path Organic
were a huge surprise. They gave out 3 full sized products, wow! The information session covered the benefits of vegetarianism for the mind, body, and environment, and discussed vegetarian nutrition. Not that I know it all, but I was quite familiar with this information, but I do think this session was a perfect overview for new vegetarians, or those curious about the diet.
The Keynote Speaker at the event was Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharai who spoke on the “Keys to a Healthy Lifestyle.” Maharai is the founder of Science of Spirituality and a world renowned spiritual leader. Sadly, his talk coincided with one of the food demos, and I cannot resist food, but I made it to the last bit of his talk.
He discussed the connection between the mind and body, and the importance of the third eye. He guided everyone through a short meditation, and it was quite calming to be in the presences of so many mediators. I wish I could have seen more of his talk, as he seemed like a great speaker with a lot of knowledge to bestow on the audience. At the end of the event, he walked around to all the booths, and said hello to those who wanted to say hi.
I tried some new products, which were all very tasty. Here were my two favorites:
Path of Life: Path of life is a frozen foods comany, which had some frozen fruits covered in chocolate, and a tasty quinoa dish. Both were exceptionally good, and I couldn’t believe they came from the freezer.
Cousin Mary Jane: I haven’t totally got into the hemp seed kick yet, and am still looking for ways to work them into my diet and recipe. Cousin Mary Jane took out the work for me, as the company sells hemp seed products, including toasted and salted hemp seeds, and hemp seed granola bar mixes. I really loved the “Galaxy” mix, so tasty, and healthy!
Here are all the amazing recipes from all of the chef’s at the food demos. I will be trying out most of these, they all look great!
And here is the VeggieFest website, I hope you can make it out in 2015, it was really a great event.