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Vegan Eats in Decatur, IL!

 

Usually being ill prepared is a bad thing, but if I had actually had the smarts to eat lunch or bring something before Brian and I went to a (not vegan) cake and punch birthday party, I wouldn’t have discovered Donnie’s Homespun in Decatur, IL. Decatur is a medium-sized town in central Illinois that is mostly known for smelling funny because of the soybean factory.  They also have a  university, which is usually the reason one finds vegan/vegetarian friendly establishments in places you probably wouldn’t expect.

 

Brian and I pulled over in a parking lot and soaked up some free wifi to check Happy Cow, and Veg Illinois to see if there was anything for me besides Subway.  Nothing!  Luckily, we went to Yelp and we found one review for Donnie’s that mentioned vegan options.  I was a little nervous because, I have been burned so many times by people saying some place has vegan stuff, and then I get there and they’re like, “Oh, we never sold any of that so we stopped making it!”

So imagine my delightful surprise when I opened the menu and saw the word ‘vegan’ staring me in the face! Specifically, a vegan antipasto platter and a vegan sweet potato wrap.  I decided to get the wrap, Brian had a pizza that he was excited about because one of the topping options was black beans!  My wrap had chickpeas , sweet potato, spinach, tomato, and onions in a coconut curry sauce with a side of hummus, all on pita bread.  Not only was it interesting, but it was really delicious.

I emailed Donnie’s to ask if anything else was vegan, like if you get a cheeseless pizza, and this is what I got back:

“Katie, our pizza dough and tomato sauce are vegan.  Other vegan dishes include falafel, vegan antipasto, sweet potato wrap, and hummus dip.”

So there you go!

posted: September 29, 2011
under: food, pictures, vegan in illinois

Flat Top Grill and Strawberry Fields, you make me swoon.

Every time you don’t enter to win prizes and give money to Ride to Light, Josh Hooten cries.  Wait.  How about I will MAKE him cry if you give money?  That sounds like it will get more money.

At some point, I realized I have quite a few entries about vegan eats around central Illinois.  You know, that part that isn’t Chicago?  Down here, guys.  Anyway, I made a category just for these posts, so if you find yourself passing through the Land of Lincoln (or Carbondale, which is southern Illinois), and you want to know where you can stop, please check it out!

In July, my friend Felicia had an art show in Champaign-Urbana (Two towns that meet to form a college, and they often share street names so make sure to double-check which town the place you are going is in).  It’s only an hour away, but I haven’t been to Champaign in years, and i’ve only gone to attend a show and leave.  I knew that they had an awesome health food store, Strawberry Fields (fun fact, Katie from Sweetpea used to work here), so I wanted to make a day of it and see what else they had.  The good thing about college towns is that even if they’re not very big, they are usually way more veg*n friendly.

After snatching up Brian’s sister, we went to the show to get all full of culture.  The show was called ‘Of Dreams and Fables’, you can see the pictures I took (and all of my other pictures of her work) on Flickr.  Felicia is the one who did the art for my zines, and made me this bomb-ass Buffy purse that is still The Best Thing I Will Ever Own.  It has the name of every episode painted around the sides!

 

Okay, onto the food!

Once upon a time, when Brian might’ve been going to school in Champaign, I read about this place called Flat Top Grill that has vegan options. It’s a make-your-own stir-fry place, and I was really excited to finally try it out.  When I told Lauri where we were going she said, “Uh, you know there’ a Flat Top right across from my work, where you have visited me 20 times in the last year, right?”  Oops! And now I know that they are a Chicago based chain, with locations in Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, and one all the way down in Birminghan, Alabama!

  1. I will tell you straight-up, Flat Top can be scary and confusing the first time.  It is usually packed to the gills, but we were there on a Sunday before school had started back up, so it was almost empty and that made it easy for Lauri and the waitress to take my hand and explain everything to me.  They give you a big bowl (and a small bowl if you’re getting meat, meat is kept separate), you write your name on a stick so they know who it belongs to, and off you go to the buffet.  Afterwards, you can add different colored sticks so they know not to cook it with the meat, to have it made into soup or wraps, to add a small piece of flat bread, etc.
  2. I got so much more than I expected.  Not only did the have seitan, tofu, veet, vegetable pakora (and Quorn for egg eaters), not only are there the color coded sticks, but there is a HUGE chalkboard with every sauce on it, and a ‘V’ for vegan next to most of them.  Also, you can mix the sauces any which way you want to make your own flavor.
  3. This is the perfect place for vegans and non-adventurous omnivores to eat together, since they have so many options.  If your uncle wants to eat rice and chicken with bbq sauce and nothing else, he can!  You can skip the carbs and load down your bowl with spinach and other fresh veggies, add tofu, and use a fat-free ginger water if you’re trying to be uber-healthy (I don’t think you can stop them from sauteing your food in oil, though).  The best part is, the difference between one bowl and unlimited?  $1!  If you really load your bowl up you probably won’t want two, but I was determined to get two, so I did.  Also, loading up on things that cook down a lot, like spinach, means you end up with a lot less cooked food, so you can easily get two, especially if you go in really hungry.

So here are my bowls.  Forgive me for the bad lighting, but we were in the back and it was kind of dark.

My first bowl was noodles, veet (I think, mock chicken), zuchini, sweet potato, garlic, spinach, and peanut sauce.

This bowl  was rice noodles, seitan (I think), pad thai veggie mix, peppers, tons of garlic, and a sweet basil sauce.

What they have at each location varies.  For instance, the one in Bloomington/Normal has tofu as an add-in (with the stick) option instead of ON the buffet.  Some places serve breakfast, but I don’t think any of it is vegan.

When we walked into Strawberry Fields (which is in Urbana) I said, “Maybe they have like, A vegan brownie at the cafe.”  Oh boy, was I in for a treat!  I ordered almost one of everything, but held back because there was so much more in the baked goods case than I could’ve hoped for.

That is Brian’s man-hand, to give you an idea of how big that sucker is!  The cupcake wasn’t my favorite, mostly because there was so much really sweet frosting, that I made to give half of it to Lauri.

Bars!  Apple crumb, peanut butter chocolate, strawberry shortcake, and a coconut chocolate almond thing of amazingness.  Brian and I cut them into 1/4ths and it took us three days to eat them.  Now I am really, really hungry!

So that’s that!  There is a place called The Red Herring that is vegan (I remember someone took over and tried to add cheese and eggs to the menu, but it looks like they’re back to normal now), but it’s a student run place, so they weren’t open in July.

 

posted: September 8, 2011
under: food, pictures, vegan in illinois

Making donuts, or why I can’t be trusted to make good decisions.

Obligatory reminder to please please please check out and enter the raffle if you haven’t, prizes and good karma await you!  Even if you just pass the link around, that would be a big help.  Onward!

Saturday was Brian’s 29th birthday, a day which usually really excites him, but the last few birthdays have been kind of…crapped on, but we managed to have fun anyway.  Two years ago, we rented a pinball machine place for two hours, ate pizza and cupcakes, good times were had.  Last year, I made him mint chocolate chip cookies AND a key lime pie AND peanut butter cucpakes, and our friend Nick gave him a present that is Not Safe For Blogs, but it involved music and assless chaps.  This year, Brian was not up to a party, so I decided I would make him donuts.  This is kind of selfish as I haven’t had a donut in five freaking years, and we live in the home of Mel-O-Cream donuts, a midwest chain.  But then I realized that he would probably be mad if I deep fried things without him, so I surprised him with a bowl of risen dough and a borrowed Fry Daddy.

To back up, we started our day by going to the Farmer’s Market.  No wait, we started our day by being woken up for the third day in a row of guys fixing the roof, which literally shakes our whole room, at 6:30 in the morning.  Also, I took a Zyrtec.  That was Bad Decision #1.  When we got home, I was already about to fall asleep, so for our post-market breakfast  I threw together some tofu/daiya/tofurkey breakfast sandwiches.

Then I brought my pillow downstairs, we turned on Arrested Development to drown out the banging, and I took a nap under a dog.  When I woke up, the roofers were gone (it was 100 degrees for all three of the days they were up there), I felt like crap, and Brian was about to leave to have lunch with his mom.  While he was gone, I made the dough, did some dishes, and cleaned out the fridge.  Then he came home and with jazz hands, I revealed the surprise.  Pro tip:  jazz hands make everything more impressive.

Since I know you’ll ask, I got the recipe from Kelly when I put the call out on google+ for vegan donut recipes.  It’s from her new book so I can’t post it, but I was given other suggestions so here’s one, and apparently there is a recipe in Vegan Celebrations as well.

While our results weren’t perfect, it was a learning experience.  We used a plastic cup to cut them, and I think the lack of a sharp cut led to them not puffing up as much as they should.  I made a coconut milk glaze (which I made a little too thin), and then I had planned to make this curd but with lime juice and zest.  Then I realized I had used all of my cornstarch to make the glaze (I had to make my own powdered sugar), so I tried using tapioca flour, which…well, it wasn’t curd.  I was able to thin it out with the lime juice and more coconut milk, but then when we tried to fill the donuts from the sides it leaked out.  So they were messy, but delicious.  Now I know that donut making isn’t THAT scary.  It is gross when you smell like oil from head to toe afterwards, though.

(Bigger photos are on flickr)

Here is where the bad decisions come into play.  Thanks to the lack of sleep over the past few days and the Zyrtec, and the fact that I ate a ton of donut holes (only one whole donut, though), I took another nap and had to peeeeeeeel myself off of the bed at 6:30 to feed the dog.  Fried foods and I are not friends, and the sugar rush and crash didn’t help.  We went out to dinner with friends and I gleefully said, “I’ll just have the garden salad.”  I felt much better after I ate a big bowl of vegetables.  Then I ate another donut.  Because I am STUPID.  I went home and slept for eleven glorious hours.

This morning, I opted to deal with the burning eyes and general crappy feelingness in exchange for staying awake.  I did NOT eat the last donut.

 

posted: September 5, 2011
under: elsewhere on the internet, food, pictures

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