Tag Archives: zucchini

Eating and Running “Chi”

Two meanings of “Chi” in this post – Chi as in “energy” and in Chi-town (aka Chicago).  There’s amazing energy in the windy city, but with a relaxed vibe than the East Coast.  I definitely appreciate the wind since we’ve been suffering from crazy heat back at home, so coming to Chicago was a breath of fresh air.   Last time I was in Chicago the weather was hot with patches of thunderstorms, but lady luck was on my side this time around and the weather was gorgeous.  I was itching for a run but first things first when I arrive – food!

Chicago main staple digs are its deep dish pizzas, Chicago dogs, and Italian sandwiches.  A few people stressed this and thought it might be difficult for me to find good vegan eats around the city but au contraire.  There’s always options especially in Chi-Town.  About every menu had vegan/vegetarian eats.

I was craving for a big leafy green salad and something quick because I had a busy day ahead of me.  I was at the Willis Tower (also known as Sears Tower), so there were tons of restaurants all around me.  I made my way to Market Creations since there was a huge salad bar. Got myself spinach, red onions, tomatoes, cranberries, cucumbers, Moroccan chickpeas, bowtie pasta with artichoke and olive salad.  I only had a few minutes, but found a table where I can baste myself in the sun.  I couldn’t do that back home, so I enjoyed the little time I had with my salad and the beautiful weather.

That night I met up with a few friends who happen to stop in Chi-Town from their cross country trip.  We went to concert at Millennium Park and headed to dinner at The Purple Pig.  The ambiance there was spectacular.  There’s a patio strip where you can have wine delivered to you as you wait for your table.  We got a table outside which made it perfect.  You’re probably wondering what I was able to eat.  There’s actually a variety.  To begin my friends treated me with some champagna.

I started with Tomato Bread with garlic, olive oil, and sea salt.  This was phenomenal and new to their menu.  I also had the charred green  onions with romesco sauce.  Romesco sauce is a nut and red pepper base sauce from Spain.  It went perfect with the charred green onions.  We ended the night with another toast to their travels.

The day after I went to a very hip restaurant for dinner – Revolution Brewery near Logan square.  They are known for their awesome hometown beers.  I had a cool refreshing Bottom Up Wit – Belgian-style wheat beer spiced with coriander and orange peel.  I heard the Anti-IPA is also a favorite.  That hit the spot after a long day.  I was thrilled to see so many vegetarian/vegan options on the menu.  I had the tempeh reuben with sauerkraut and vegan Russian dressing on dry rye bread – held off the cheese.   I love digs like this because they offer vegan, vegetarian, non-vegan plates, and great beer – a place to satisfy everyone.

I had to take advantage of the weather, so my last day I woke up early and went for a run.  Let me just say it was incredible.  Chicago is actually known for one of the best running places in the US.  I had so much energy running through the morning crowd/traffic and tall skylines around me.  It was bustling.

As I made it to Lakefront by the Navy Pier, it was calm and peaceful with little boats swaying against the wind.  You can see the beautiful Chicago buildings and architecture from a far.  I wish I had more time but there’s always next time.  What a experience!

Before I left for my flight, I walked over to this place called Raw in the French Market.  Raw was started by two women – Polly and Carole – who is raising their awareness around health and nutrition from raw and 100% plant-based foods.  They even have sessions to show you how to creatively prepare/cook raw dishes.  I actually met Carole and she was super nice.  She let me try all sorts of tasting samples.  I had a sample of their apple pie and I totally should have gotten that.  It was so delicious and RAW.  They also had their signature hummus and garlic sticks that were also very yummy.  I decided to grab the Kale salad since people raved about this.  They weren’t wrong.  This salad was amazing.  There was a ton of super foods in this, which I believe helped me with my long run the next day.  The salad consisted of fresh kale, cucumber, zucchini, onion, red pepper, lemon, EVOO, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, jalapeno, herbs, spices, gojiberry for sweetness, and avocados so creamy that it melts in your mouth. A delicious lunch before I headed home.

The visit to the windy city left on a good note.  A couple days of beautiful weather, great company, and a bit of Chi runs & eats.

Savory & Sweet Vegan Blinis

Some nights I just want to have breakfast for dinner (aka blinner).  I wanted some form of pancakes or crepes, but they can get quite heavy.  My aunt use to make us miniature pancakes for lunch when we were younger.  Come to find out later that they were her version of blinis.  Blinis are small and light Russian pancakes made from buckwheat flour and usually served with caviar and sour cream.   These delightful cakes are also perfect as an appetizer, and can be dressed as a savory or sweet dish.  Traditional blinis can take some time to make, plus I’m omitting eggs and milk, so I made my vegan version of blinis.  I included a savory dish for dinner and a sweet dish for desert.  I knew I wanted zucchini for the savory dish, and I had orange heirloom tomatoes so thought they would be perfect to bring out that subtle sweet taste.  For the sweet blini, I wanted mango and thought ginger would pair perfectly.  I didn’t want that strong punch from raw ginger so I decided to use crystallized ginger to give it that sugary blend with the mango.  As they say in Russia “Prijatnovo appetita!”

By Shelly Chiang, Makes about 30 small blinis

Blini Batter Ingredients

  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 ½ tbsp of baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tbsp of ground flaxseeds (great egg replacement for pancakes and contains Omega-3)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp and 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • ¼ cup water

Sweet Mango-Ginger Ingredients

  • ½ cup tofu sour cream
  • 2 tbsp agave syrup
  • 1 mango in small cubes
  • 2 large pieces of crystallized ginger sliced

Savory Zucchini-Tomato Ingredients

  • ½ of 0.75 oz package of chives
  • ½ cup tofu sour cream
  • 1 zucchini in small cubes
  • 1 orange tomato or 2 small orange tomatoes in cubes

Preparation

Tip: Blinis are best when they are fresh, so prepare the toppings first. If possible have another person help you plate as the blini cakes are done. I recommend serving them as they come out, because they can get soggy if you leave the blinis out too long.

Sweet Topping

1. Add agave to the tofu sour cream, mix, and then set aside.  I noted honey before as a mistake.  Please use agave if you are vegan

2. Chop mango in tiny cubes and set aside

3. Slice ginger in small strips and set aside

Savory Topping

1. Chop chives along the stems (I use cooking scissors) and add to tofu sour cream, mix, and then set aside

2. Chop zucchini in tiny cubes. For the tomatoes, take the seeds out so it doesn’t become watery and chop the tomatoes in tiny cubes

3. Sautee zucchini in medium heat until tender (approx 10 minutes) and then add tomatoes for approx 3 minutes.  Sprinkle a pinch of salt over zucchini and tomatoes.  Then set aside

Blini Batter

1. Combine and mix dry batter items in a bowl: all purpose flour, buckwheat flour, baking powder, sea salt

2. Then add wet batter items to the same bowl and mix: milk, maple syrup, canola oil

3. Add in ground flaxseeds and let it stand for 5 minutes to allow it to activate

4. Add ¼ cup of water so the batter is not too thick

5. Heat large skillet over medium heat and lightly oil the pan or spray with cooking spray. Pour about 2 tablespoons of batter or until blini is 2 ½ inches in size

6. Flip when batter starts bubbling. Cook until blinis are brown

Plating

1. For the savory dish, dab a small spoonful of your chive sour cream on the blini and top it with the sautéed zucchini and tomatoes

2. For the sweet dish, dab a small spoonful of your honey sour cream on the blini and top it with mangos with 3 strips of ginger

3. Continue plating as your blini cakes come out