My top 3 favorite things to do during the Christmas season in Chicago…so far

Hello friends! Happy holidays and Merry Christmas! I am (once again) sorry for the blogging hiatus. The beginning of December was busy for me with finals exams and getting everything in order for my graduate school transfer in January. Yet, in between the craziness my boyfriend and I took a break to decorate. We bought most of our decorations during a 50% off sale at Michaels during the first week of December! It’s not much, but we hope to accumulate more Christmas decorations throughout the years!

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(Our small tree and stockings)

So, now my news that I promised last blog post: I am not continuing my study of nutrition in the spring. While I did decent on my final exams and in my classes, I realized that the dietetics field is not for me. I want to pursue teaching and become a high school teacher. It would also be cool to coach cross country! Starting in January I will be working on a master’s of education degree. I could not be more excited! I will never, ever lose my passion for nutrition and healthy eating though. This will continue to be a blog about vegetarian food/recipes, running, and random musings from my life.

Well, now onto what this blog post is really about-Christmas! In between work shifts, workouts, and post finals relaxing I have had some time to enjoy Christmas time. Today I am going to share my three favorite Christmas activities  in Chicago…so far. I say so far because this is my first Christmas in the city, but certainly not my last! These are activities that a perfect for students or people who are on a budget!

1. The Christkindlmarket

It’s a tiny German market located on the Daly Plaza.  I have already been to it three times! The admission is free, but you could end of spending a lot of money if you are not careful.  😛 There are tons of booths and tents full of German toys, decorations, trinkets, and food. Some of the things are very pricey (they have $1,000 clocks and $100+ beer steins), but I managed to find an adorable Santa ornament for only $10! The food booths are full of a variety of things from the delicious smelling spiced pecans to bratwursts to Nutella filled crepes. They were giving out samples of some of the food items too. I also noticed that there were several vegetarian options, which surprised me.

I did not try any of the food, but I did try the hot spiced wine and it was amazing! For $7 you get wine and a mug, which you get to keep. You do not have to spend a lot of money to enjoy the market. I only spent $17 between my three trips for the ornament and spiced wine. The other two times I just looked around. I recommend visiting this market if you have not and are in town. It stays open through Christmas Eve! 🙂

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(The giant tree, spiced wine, nutcracker display, and my Santa ornament)

2. Zoo Lights at the Lincoln Park zoo

This is another event with free admission! If you want a souvenir, a snack, or something to drink you have to shell out a bit of cash, though. The spiced wine at Zoo Lights was only $6. I am not sure about the prices on snacks, beer, or hot cocoa.  Zoo Lights was cool and fun! I loved everything from the Christmas music and light show to the ice sculptures. My descriptions and my pictures cannot do Zoo Lights justice. You will just have to go and visit it for yourself! 🙂  If I’m not mistaken it even stays open past Christmas for a week or two.

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(Dragon display near the entrance)

zoo loigths ice sculpture

(Ice sculpture of Olaf from Frozen)

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(Life sized snow globe)

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(Star wars snow globe)

3. Macy’s on State Street

My boyfriend and I went to Macy’s to look around and do some last minute Christmas shopping. The Macy’s on State Street goes all out when it comes to Christmas decorations. Each of the floors are decorated for the season and there are display windows you can view outside. I unfortunately did take many pictures, but the store is better in person anyway. I went again a few days ago with one of my friends just to look around, show her the Walnut room tree (she had not seen it before!), and get a cup of coffee. The café and coffee shop area was surprisingly a nice place to catch up! Macy’s on State Street is another place that you can enjoy without spending a lot of money.

Christkindlmarket tree

(Walnut Room Christmas tree)

Now, I know that I have missed several Christmas events/activities in Chicago  such as the Winter Wonder Fest, the annual Christmas bar crawl in Wrigleyville/Lakeview, holiday themed races, and the CTA holiday train. Hopefully I can go to those in the future. I’d also love to learn about lesser known holiday events around the city!

Well, have a wonderful day everyone! Take some time to enjoy some holiday activities/events with your families and friends. 🙂

If you are live in/near Chicago or visit it, what is your favorite Christmas/holiday activity to do? If you are from somewhere else,what is your favorite holiday activity to do there?

A cold day calls for some warm minestrone soup

Hello guys! Happy November…well, I guess it’s almost December. I can’t believe it’s almost Thanksgiving and the end of the semester. I promise I have not forgotten this blog. Neglected, yes. Forgotten, no! I know it’s always the same story, but life really got in the way for the last 1.5 months and I am very sorry. 😦

My life has gone through some changes since I last blogged. Telling you guys about them will be a tale for another time. Promise! Once I get it all figured out, of course. I assure you guys, though, that the changes do not have to do with the blog, being vegetarian, or my boyfriend. I plan to continue to blog here as a space to share vegetarian recipes/insight, anything running related, and random ramblings about my life. I am still a vegetarian! Also, do not worry my boyfriend of 5.5 years and I are very much in love and going strong! 🙂

Anyway, I remembered in a previous post that I promised that I would share my favorite Minestrone recipe with you guys. Well, over a month and several batches of minestrone later, I finally remembered! Nothing warms me up or gives me strength on a chilly autumn or winter day like homemade minestrone. I’ve been craving soup after this unusually cold week (on Tuesday with the wind chill it felt like -4 degrees outside!)

Minestrone is very easy to make and relatively inexpensive! This recipe is adapted from Mighty Minestrone on pages 128-129 of The Teen’s Vegetarian Cookbook by Judy Krizmanic.

Minestrone

Yield: 4-6 servings

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ingredients:

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or 2 cloves of garlic

2-3 stalks of washed and chopped celery

28 ounce can of diced and peeled tomatoes (fire roasted tomatoes work nicely too)

6 cups of water

1 teaspoon oregano

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons of basil

1 package of frozen vegetables  (16 ounces)

1 can of kidney or garbanzo beans, rinsed, and drained

0.5-1 package of whole wheat elbow or spiral pasta (16 ounces)

salt to taste

1. In a large pot mix together the canned tomatoes, 6 cups of water, 2-3 stalks of celery, and all the spices (including the garlic if you use cloves instead of garlic powder) . Bring to a boil uncovered.

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2. Once the mixture boils reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes.

3. After 30 minutes add the frozen veggies, kidney beans, and pasta to the large pot. Cook for 20-30 more minutes. Add salt if desired.

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4. Serve. For leftovers, put the uneaten Minestrone into shallow Tupperware containers and refrigerate promptly. Enjoy, a cold day calls for some warm minestrone soup! 🙂

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What is your favorite soup to make when the weather turns cold? Although, I admit I make soup in the summer sometimes and maybe I’m not the only one…Also, is there a soup you’ve always wanted to make, but have not yet?

Rice, veggie, and bean bowls & Monday motivation

Hello friends, I’m back! I hope you all had a lovely labor day, week, and weekend. Sorry for the 1.5 week hiatus- school, studying, and more hours than I anticipated at my part time job have been keeping me busy, but regardless that’s no excuse. I’ll TRY to update this blog at least once a week from now on! 🙂

Today, I wanted to share my  go-to quick week night dinner (or lunch) recipes. As many vegetarians already know, convenience food is OFTEN tailored to meat eaters. And yes, I know this is not completely true as there are veggie burgers, chickenless nuggets, faux hot dogs, and microwave vegetarian meals. Yet, just like their meat counterparts, vegetarian convenience food CAN high in sodium, calories, fat, and somewhat low in nutrients. Also, vegetarian microwave or convenience meals tend to be pricier than meat based convenience meals. So what’s a hungry vegetarian student who is trying to balance a part time job, attend class, be a part of school activities, and study all the bones in the human body to do? Okay, okay that last part about the human bones is specific to my nutrition course work, but you all get the picture. 😛

During the week busy and hungry vegetarian students need nutrient dense, healthy, quick, and budget friendly options for dinner so they do not turn to veggie convenience food all the time. Considering black beans are one of my favorite foods I hope it comes as no surprise that I used black beans in this recipe I am sharing with all of you. You could definitely use other types of beans you just may need to use different spices than I used then.

Now as a forewarning, the following recipe I am sharing is not super glamorous and may even be bland in some of your options. I personally love turmeric and garlic powder together, but feel free to substitute any spices you’d like. As a side note, toping with salsa and/or using cilantro are also both wonderful additions to this recipe! Benefits of this recipe: It is quick to prepare, easy to make for yourself or a few people, a complete protein, high in fiber, and the vitamin C in the peppers should help you absorb the plant based iron in the black beans more efficiently.

Rice, veggie, and bean bowls

ingredients:

1/3-1/2 can of black beans (or any canned beans you like)

1/2 cup-3/4 cup frozen sweet peppers or frozen mixed veggies

1/2 cup jasmine rice (or any kind of rice)

turmeric & garlic powder (or any herbs or spices you want)

optional: whole wheat wraps

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1. Rinse the jasmine rice using a mesh sieve. Then, cook the rice according the package directions.

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2.  While the rice is cooking, microwave the desired amount of peppers or mixed veggies with a tablespoon of water and covered with plastic wrap or using a covered microwave safe dish.

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3. Also while the rice is cooking, rinse the 1/3 can- 1.2 can of black beans and then cook in the microwave for approximately 3 minutes or on the stovetop, also covered. Store the remaining black beans in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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4. Once everything is thoroughly heated/cooked mix the rice, black beans, and veggies together in a bowl.

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5.  Add the turmeric and garlic or any spices you want. Sometimes I also eat this mixture in a whole wheat wrap topped with salsa for a bit of a heartier meal. Both the bowl and wrap are delicious and quick options so give them a try! 🙂

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P.S. Here’s some very late Monday motivation. Use it to motivate you for tomorrow morning’s run (or tonight for those of you who are evening/night runners). I went on a lovely run this morning and while it was extremely hard to get out of bed early after working Sunday night I was so glad I did! I’ve been trying to keep up with morning runs so I do not use work or studying as excuses to prevent me from running later in the day.

I  got up, ran, and finished all before 8 am and  had plenty of time to eat and shower before for my 45 minute commute to my 11 am class! I love how morning runs make me feel, what about you guys? Today’s motivation is one of those “reasons why I run posts” and this one seemed especially fitting.  🙂

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What is your go-to quick and easy vegetarian weekday meal (or meatless Monday meal for those non vegetarians out there)?