Chiorganicgirls Meatless Monday: Grillable Veggie Burgers

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July is National Grilling Month and it’s been a scorcher in Chicago.  With all the BBQs and back yard grilling bonanzas this month, adding some veggie burgers to the mix can happify those who don’t wanna have a cow.  Humans are naturally omnivores, meaning we’re down (and hard wired) for some vegging out.  Plus, eating more veggie based meals can help the environment, reduce cancer risks, minimimize exposure to meat based antibiotics, and improve the quality of life for animals.  But lettuce not forget taste!  There isn’t mushroom for a bad tastin’ veggie burger on the grill.

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Upton’s Naturals, an independently owned Chicago based company, dedicates themselves to providing delicious veggie based meat alternatives for the vegan and vegetarian community in Chicago and abroad.  They just celebrated their 10th birthday and certainly know how to turnip any grilling occasion.

Their veggie burgers are one of the newest additions cropping up on their rotation.  So you may wonder, how does Upton’s Naturals: The Classic Burger stack up?

Battle of the Burger:

Traditional Hamburger vs. Upton’s Classic Veggie Burger

Traditional Single Patty Hamburger

  • Ingredients:
    • Beef (moooo)..maybe some hormones.  We can’t guarantee anything.
  • Nutritional Profile (from the USDA website):
    • Calories Per Serving: 254
    • Total Fat: 10 g
    • Saturated Fat: 3.1 g
    • Trans Fat: .5 g
      Polyunsaturated Fat: .2 g
    • Sodium: 378 mg
    • Carbohydrate: 29g
    • Sugar: 5g
    • Dietary Fiber: 1 g
    • Protein: 13 g
    • Cholesterol: 28 mg

Upton’s Classic Burger

  • Ingredients:
    • Vital wheat gluten, eggplant, water, tofu (water, soybeans, calcium sulfate), sunflower, canola or safflower oil, soy sauce (water, wheat, soybeans, salt), wheat flour, nutritional yeast, evaporated cane juice, onion, sea salt, garlic, natural hickory smoke concentrate, whole wheat flour, oregano, black pepper, paprika, parsley, marjoram and apple cider vinegar.
  • Nutritional Profile:
    • Calories Per Serving: 168
    • Total Fat: 5 g
    • Trans Fat: 0 g
    • Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g
    • Sodium: 365 mg
    • Carbohydrate: 9 g
    • Sugar: 1 g
    • Dietary Fiber: 2 g
    • Protein: 22 g
    • Cholesterol: 0 g
Upton’s Taste and Texture: Upton’s Burger tastes a lot like their other seitan blends that we’ve had before.  There is a slight smoke flavor with a peppery finish in the patty.   It’s a hearty veggie burger, not one of those ones that falls apart, and it easily cooks on the grill in a short time.  Can’t beet a quick cooking meat free burger to get those planty vibes!
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So who won?  Is this your garden variety knock out?  Upton’s has less fat, calories, and cholesterol than than a traditional beef burger.  It also has more fiber.  Upton’s is kosher, lactose free and vegan so it digs away at different dietary needs.  Note: Upton’s burger is NOT gluten free so traditonal burger takes the medal for that category.
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Are you ready for your BBQ guests to cheer “Olive Veggie Burgers!”?  
Upton’s Naturals’ Classic Burger is planting itself at natural retailers throughout the Midwest for $3.99 for a 2 burger box. Click HERE for a store locator.  Swinging by the Chi?  Sample the classic burger or many other vegan delights (jackfruit tacos, vegan bacon mac and cheese and more) at Upton’s Breakroom in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood.  Visit www.uptonsnaturals.com and find @UptonsNaturals and @UptonsBreakroom on social media.
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A Nutritionist Dishes: How to Find the Perfect Healthy Snack

We have a confession to make….when we see a new “healthy” snack option, we just gotta try it.  But, with all the maca, acai, jackfruit, hemp milk, hair of the goat (ok we made the last on up) superfoods out … Continue reading

Oo La La: Fresh French Fare in Humboldt Park

You relax with an espresso in one hand and a flaky croissant at finger tips reach.  Sun beams on you as you slowly sip and watch the world go by.  If you got no money for Europe but want to take a lunch mini vacay, Cafe Marie Jeanne is a tiny escape for your hour.

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Only 6 months out of opening, Cafe Marie Jeanne is situated in a prime corner of Humboldt Park.  This Parisian inspired cafe is nestled in a quiet yet booming restaurant area so you still feel serene when visiting.

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Executive Chef Mike Simmons, part owner, is an import from nearby Rootstock wine bar and yummy Lula Cafe in nearby Logan Square.  The menu focuses on a la carte grab and go items mixed with more hearty lunch and dinner fare.  Vegan and veggie options are available and there is a smattering of seafood for pescatarian as well.  A small wine and cocktail menu make this an unharried bunch destination as well.  Don’t trust the menu online, however, as Cafe Marie Jeanne picks up local produce, thus switching up some of the offerings based on what is most fresh and seasonally tasty.

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We noshed on 3 different dishes to get a feel for their lunch service.

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

April, with snow and rain, and even the first day of May have not been too kind to us Chicagoan.  This steamy and creamy bowl of soup warms the soul with fragrant curry that tampers down the sometimes saccharine sweet potato.

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Raclette with Seasonal Roasted Vegetables

Our culinary pièce de résistance — Think of this as a fancy grilled cheese piled high with heart healthy veggies.  Roasted root vegetables give the sandwich a savory and filling profile.  The raclette, a semi-hard  cow’s milk cheese, is a magic melter, giving the crusty homemade bread a smattering of delicious fondue like goodness.

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White Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

Funny story about white asparagus – many people don’t know it exists.  It’s like a ghost veggie.  Dig this weird veggie fact: white Asparagus lacks pigment because it is kept buried and deprived of sun, almost like it’s in a veg bomb shelter.  The lack of chlorophyll gives it a pale complexion in addition to it being more tender and mild than it’s hulk counterpart.  We liked the easy crunch of the asparagus but couldn’t taste anything outstanding in the hollandaise sauce.  Side note: it’ll still make your pee smell funny.

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Quick tip: Looking to explore more than one spot in the neighborhood?  Restaurant hop and grab a homemade piece of hibiscus key lime pie across the street at Spinning J, break out your cash and do a night cap at California Clipper or sip on more wine at Rootstock — all within walking distance!

 

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Healthy Fast Food: Green Bean Chicago

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It’s not often that healthy and fast food share the same title but magic is possible.  Behold, we hath found a restaurant that aims to do both (oh and its yummy, princes and princesses).  We know there’s a few chain healthy alternatives in Chicago but none are 100% gluten free, GMO free and free of common allergins (no nuts, coconut or chickpeas) like the new Green Bean Chicago.

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It’s not often that you learn about the passion behind the restaurant you are eating in either.  Owners, Executive Chef Mike Watson, Aaron Bush and investor and dietary manager Srinivas Ravanam partnered on this daunting culinary adventure for many reasons. Mike thinks about the health of his children and how fast food often targets them.  Aaron works in the health and wellness industry across the state and sees how limited healthy food availability affect people throughout Illinois.  Both wanted an affordable fast healthy option for working families.  Both strive for a healthier tastier lifestyle for themselves.

We received free samples of their menu for review.

Menu Highlites:

Pick Your Protein: Chicken, Portabella Mushrooms (vegetarian) or Steak

Wrap it up: Choose a gluten free wrap, gluten free panini, or keep it simple with a salad

What’s Your Flavor? Choose Asian, Caesar, Caprese, Griller, Greek or Spanish style toppings

What we ate:

Gluten free Mushroom Griller Panini – pineapple, asparagus, mixed greens and spicy mango sauce

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Gluten free Chicken Caprese Panini – mozzarella, basil, tomatos, red onion with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

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Gluten Free Mushroom Caesar Wrap – croutons, parmesan, romaine and caesar dressing

Sides – Sweet Potato Fries, Tempura Green Beans, Black Bean Hummus

Dessert! – Gluten Free Caramel Cupcake with Italian Salted Caramel Gelato

Green Beans

Loving the light life:

All meals (entree, a side and a drink) are balanced to run around 500-600 calories. There is NO soda at Green Bean but instead homemade stone fruit waters are provided for the combos.  Price point runs about the same as a Panera, Chipotle or chain greasy fast food meal, around $8-$9 for a meal.

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Who needs gluten?

Kate is sensitive to gluten and has tried gluten free wraps and breads before. Some good (Udis), some not so good (some kinda yucky wrap).  Chef Mike’s personal gluten free bread and wrap recipes (a mix of tapioca and rice flour with extra love) don’t seem “gluten free”.  Both were hearty and satisfying.

Take us to flavor town!

Monica noted the sweet potato fries were delightfully crispy.  Chef Mike explained they are made fresh 4-5 times a day…no preservatives here peeps.   She also adored the salted caramel melty creamy gelato.  Kate was stuffed to the brim by her chicken caprese panini and, although she doesn’t normally get the feels for mushrooms, these ones were garlicky, juicy and free of that sometimes unpleasantly earthy flava flav.  No complaints at the taste office here.

Final Tasting Notes:

We highly recommend Green Bean.  It’s health conscious, allergy friendly, and you get your monies worth.  Fun Foodie Fact: You can get breakfast or lunch/dinner ANY time (for you brunch cravers).  It’s also awesome if you have a social group with dietary needs.  You can bring your diabetic dad, celiac sister-in-law, and nut allergic nephew all to the same place!  Green Bean is expanding to Schaumburg (yaya suburbanites!) and plans to franchise in future locations.  So lighten up and head to Green Bean when you’re in the mood for a healthy and quick meal!

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Meatless Monday Review: Marley Spoon Recipe Box

Looking for some Meatless Monday Inspiration but short on time, ideas, cooking skills?  Switch it up with a recipe/meal delivery service, Marley Spoon!  We received 2 free recipe boxes from Marley Spoon to review for all you organic peeps out there.  Marley Spoon actually has a wide delivery area including the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Australia and ‘Murica (that’s layman for America).

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We Galentine’s Day-ed it up a little early and decided to have a cooking date night to try two recipes: Quinoa Burgers and Broccoli Coconut Soup.

Here’s how the service works:

It is a subscription service but you can pause the service when you like.  Your order is delivered on either a Tuesday or Friday in a cooler box so it keeps cook ready.  A variety of 7 chef created recipes are available each week catering to different culinary preferences (meaty, veggie, global inspired, vegan, dino..ok no dino but we are checking how closely you are reading).

You have a choice of a 2 person box or a family box to feed a small crowd with pricing that ranges between $48 (2x meals a week) to $139 for 4 family meals per week.  We actually spend more on groceries ourselves sometimes so the pricing seems pretty reasonable for the time you save.

What Rises to the Occasion:

Delivery: Delivery was on point and our boxes were waiting when we arrived.  Everything is pre-packaged so no need to measure.

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Recipes: Recipes come with gorgeous color photos of each step and outline exactly what you need to have on hand on your own (small staples like salt and olive oil).  Portions are more than what we would expect for 2 people.  For example, our Quinoa Burger recipe yielded 5 burgers and we had plenty extra couscous and soup from the Broccoli Soup recipe.  Depending on your appetite, you may be able to get 2 full meals for 2 out of each recipe (hooray leftovers!).

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Appearance: Both recipes looked like what was on the recipes cards when completed.  We felt like fancy french chefs.

Taste: The kale chips were crunchy and addictive…possibly the easiest part of the recipe box.  Our veggie burgers were hearty and filling.  The soup had a bi-partisan reaction…more on that below.

 

What Should Be on the Chopping Block:

Souper Spicy?:  With cooking, there is always room to grow!  With both of us being a level up from amateur kitchen goers, we think a few things could be improved.  The broccoli soup recipe was extra spicy for some reason and didn’t have the creamy consistency that appears in the picture.  We would have liked more of a coconut flavor and would have modified that spice to flavor ratio for some more depth.  It was possibly the green curry with ginger that could have been baby spiced to improve the other flavors in the soup.

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Time: It took us 2 hours to make everything.  For a busy person, this might not serve.  One suggestion would be for Marley Spoon to provide pre-chopped or diced ingredients but we aren’t sure how this would affect the freshness of produce.

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Final Course Thoughts?:

Taste your dishes throughout the cooking process and modify them if you like!  We added paprika and chili powder to our kale chips and were pleased with the results.  Don’t be afraid to be a kitchen rebel if you know how to cook to season items to your liking.

Bonding: We had a super fab time cooking together.  We could see this as a intimate date night, girls night out or bachelorette type experience, or just a way to liven up the ho hum experience of weekly cooking.

Overall, we loved the experience of learning to cook new recipes and spending time in the kitchen together. Ingredients are local sourced and grass fed animules, making you feel a bit at ease for what you are consuming.  Food waste is cut own bu the pre-packaged format as well.  If you’re looking for a culinary adventure with less effort, we suggest giving Marley Spoon a try! Use the Promo Code CHIORGANIC for $35 off your first box.

 

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