A few weeks ago, Carol’s cousin Jack from California contacted us about visiting Springfield to see the Lincoln sites. His friend Jill, (yes, Jack and Jill) would be joining him and is a vegetarian. Carol started asking around about food she should have in the house and suggestions on foods to prepare. The night we dined out, Chef Higgins at Maldaner’s prepared a very attractive and tasty plate of fresh offerings.
People become vegetarians for many reasons, including health, religious convictions, concerns about animal welfare or the use of antibiotics and hormones in livestock, often to follow a lifestyle that avoids excess use of environmental resources. Becoming a vegetarian has become more appealing and accessible thanks to the year-round availability of fresh produce, more vegetarian dining options, and the growing culinary influence of cultures with largely plant based diets. According to the New York Times, approximately 6 to 8 million adults in the U.S. are vegetarians, meaning they eat no meat, fish or poultry. Several million more have eliminated meat but still eat chicken or fish. About 2 million have become vegans, forgoing not only animal flesh but also animal base products such as milk, cheese, eggs and gelatin.
Lacto–ovo vegetarians do not eat meat, poultry or fish but do eat eggs and dairy products. Lacto vegetarians eat no meat, poultry, fish or eggs but do consume dairy products, while ovo vegetarians eat no meat, poultry, fish or dairy products but eat eggs.
I have a new category that I am calling Tesla-vegetarians. Tesla has solved the program for those that have a problem with leather in their car seats and even some steering wheels. Tesla has introduced synthetic leather in a shade Tesla calls Ultra White and is available for the new Model X sport utility vehicle. Tesla is not the only one that is attempting to be environmental friendly. Volvo now offers more natural components like soy foam in their seats.
Whatever the type of vegetarian, Food Fantasies is one of the places in Springfield that can meet their needs.
Lyndsay Grawey has been at Food Fantasies for four years, three of those as manager. Originally from the Springfield area, she came to Food Fantasies after managing Head West Sub Shops for six years.
Most of the employees have been there many years and know exactly what their regulars want. You will not see any corporate shirts or uniform attired staff – all part of the store’s relaxed culture. Locally owned since 1989, the owners have given thought to moving to a larger location but never want to be too large and risk losing their unique identity.
There are no additives in the beauty products and only limited preservatives. They even visit farms that supply them to ensure the products they sell have no insecticides. Veenstra’s vegetables (www.buyfreshbuylocalcentralillinois.org/veenstras-vegetables-#) is one of their major suppliers. I was impressed with their large selection of natural and organic health and beauty care products and supplements.
In a very compact space, they even have their own in-house bakery, including grab ‘n go sandwiches/wraps for lunchtime. All of their grab ‘n go is vegetarian friendly and a nice healthy quick lunch. Every sandwich and wrap comes with a free apple too. I recommend you order ahead of time and have a specific item set aside for you, because they go quickly! Everything in the bakery is made with 99 percent organic ingredients and from scratch. The bakery manager is Jonathan Reynolds and he has worked here for over 15 years. He has been in the bakery for three years.
Grawey says the movie “Forks Over Knives” (forksoverknives.com) changed her life. The movie examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. She lost 30 pounds through healthy eating and has been a vegetarian for 10 years.
When asked what we would find in her fridge at home, she listed lots of greens, including kale, chard, tomatoes, fresh fruits, tofu as well as almond and cashew milk. When she dines out, you will find her at Little Saigon across the street from the store; at Arlington’s, which has a vegetarian wrap; and surprisingly at the Burger Bar, which has a tasty non-meat burger.
The store has seen a rise in the number of millennial shoppers. They are buying kombucha and coconut oil. Kombucha is a variety of fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea drinks that are commonly intended as functional beverages for their supposed health benefits. Kombucha is produced by fermenting tea using a “symbiotic ‘colony’ of bacteria and yeast” (SCOBY). Kombucha claims to have numerous health benefits.
Coconut oil is used as an alternative to butter and vegetable oils. “Oil pulling” was new to me. It involves swishing approximately one tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth for about 20 minutes and then spitting it out. Grawey says the ”oil pulling” helps prevent gingivitis, plaque and microorganisms that cause bad breath. How? “When the bad cells come into contact with the oil, a fat, they naturally adhere to each other.” Coconut oil also serves as a natural whitener for your teeth.
The store is located at 1512 West Wabash and its web site is www.foodfantasies.com. I suggest you visit their website to take advantage of coupons and promotions. Every Wednesday, shoppers 55 and over receive a “wisdom discount” and students always receive one. Bring a child and there will be a complimentary piece of fresh fruit waiting for them.
Grawey is very personable and passionate about a healthy lifestyle. She has kindly provided us the following recipes. Watch for her to teach a vegan-related class as part of Lincoln Land Community College’s Culinary Institute short-term classes in the future.
Lyndsay’s Tofu, Quinoa, & Greens
Serves 2-4 people, depending on your appetite.
1 box quinoa (any brand will do, I like Ancient Harvest)
1 to 2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 package super firm tofu
1 bottle San J Thai Peanut Sauce
1 bunch kale
1 bunch chard
2 cups spinach (optional)
1 package of your favorite mushrooms
3-4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons minced dried onions
Salt and pepper to taste
Bragg, Liquid Aminos to taste (optional)
1/2 cup nutritional yeast (optional)
Marinate tofu the day before in the San J Peanut Sauce if you can; otherwise marinate it while the oven is pre-heating.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake tofu for 30 minutes. While the tofu bakes, chop up the chard, kale, spinach, garlic and mushrooms and set aside. About 15 minutes into the tofu cooking, get the quinoa in a pot with water and simmer (follow directions on box); it should take about 15 minutes. Once you have the quinoa going, heat coconut oil in a large pan until melted. Throw in your greens, mushrooms, garlic salt and pepper and cover with a lid on low-medium heat for about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until greens have wilted a bit. Once everything is done, put a few sprays of Bragg, Liquid Aminos on the quinoa and add nutritional yeast on top to give it a nutty/cheesy flavor.
Lisa’s Veggie Chili
Serves 2- 4 people with leftovers usually.
2 russet potatoes, sliced
3 bell peppers (any variety red, green, yellow), diced
2 cups cauliflower, diced
3 cans tomato sauce
1 can garbanzo beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can black beans
1 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped
Just for taste: add a little cumin, chili powder, & cayenne powder, use your own judgement
Throw everything in a large pot, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or so. Enjoy!