Guide to Chicago Restaurant Week…Plant-based Style!


Chicago Restaurant Week is back and in full swing! This year, it has been extended for two weeks, not just one. And there happens to be a few vegan/plant-based restaurants to highlight. I’m definitely excited about my options and was quick to reserve a table, as the restaurants book up extremely fast around this time.

chicagodinerChicago Diner – it is just that, diner vibe with really great, home-style vegan food. I like taking friends and family here because they do have vegetarian options as well. They serve eggs, cheese and the like. My favorite is the Country Fried Steak. Check out their Restaurant Week menu here.

greenzebraGreen Zebra – it is vegetarian/vegan fine dining at its best. I’ve been a few times and the Chef’s Tasting Menu is an amazing 5-courses of plant-based greatness. It changes frequently which makes it a fun choice. Always something new and unique to try. Check out their Restaurant Week menu here. The risotto and the white chocolate mousse sound amazing.

A New Year ~ A Fresh, New You: Juice with Cruice!

Fresh vegetable juices on wooden table, on green background
Juicing has some really amazing benefits and through my interests in juicing the right way, met Marcy Cruice. Marcy Cruice is a Vegan Health and Lifestyle Coach based in Chicago. When it comes to optimal health and nutrition, she has a wealth of knowledge and conversing with her is always enlightening and inspiring. Her programs are fantastic and can help you with any aspect of ‘health and wellness’. Plus, she has such an incredible energy and is so passionate about her mission to support clients through their discovery of optimal health. And for the New Year, she has a great ‘Juice Cleanse’ offer — Schedule your 14-day Juice Cleanse for 2014 by 1/31 and receive 25% off! . We recently met for an interview at Next Door Cafe, a great little community cafe with a really fun vibe (and I can’t forget to mention their great plant-based food and beverage options 😉 ). Check out our interview below!
How would you describe yourself and your work?

I am a Vegan Health and Lifestyle Coach and I support my clients to be healthier versions of themselves, most of which are either new, existing or hopeful vegetarians, vegans, or raw foodies. I also am a Food Revolution Ambassador, vegan mentor and Arbonne Consultant.  I like to think of myself as a positive, energetic, honest, motivating, and compassionate individual.  In my work, I strive to create a personalized, safe, and open space that is filled with education, exploration, insight, challenges and “ah hah!” moments.  Growing up as a “sick kid”, I never thought I could feel as good as I did once I committed to a plant-based diet and I want everyone to discover that. Most people don’t know how good they can feel with small lifestyle tweaks — so I am here to support my clients through a pretty amazing journey of discovering optimal health!

There seems to be a lot of buzz about juicing. So the simple question, why juice?

That is a fantastic question. I think it’s important to start with the difference between juice and smoothies. Green smoothies are absolutely fantastic, and are a great way to quickly increase your vegetable intake. My boyfriend is a great testament to this, as he recently lost 40 pounds by changing his eating habits and incorporating green smoothies into his daily routine. Watching his transformation has been both eye-opening and inspiring. My clients’ experience, as well as my own, with juice has been truly significant. Juicing is beneficial and imperative because it provides your body with an array of nutrients and the opportunity to rest.  The average American has 8-10 pounds of waste in his or her gut that he or she will never rid themselves of, if they don’t cleanse.  This waste slows us down and encourages additional build up. And, since 60% of our body’s energy is spent on digestion, we tend to see a pretty severe increase in energy when juice is incorporated. So, if you go a meal or if you go a week without requiring your digestive system to work on breaking food particles down, your body will have a lot of resources to boost your immune system, push out the toxins, and do critical work so that you can experience the benefits within a few days. And like I said, green smoothies are fantastic, but there still is a digestion component. So, drinking green smoothies is a great way to get a lot of vegetables into your diet, but drinking juice is powerful because it gives your body an abundance of nutrients and an opportunity to rest. Additionally, juice cleanses can detox each organ, restores taste buds and food cravings, improves sleep quality, libido, and energy, can clear up skin, reverse food allergies, and the list goes on and on.

How would you recommend someone to start juicing? And in the beginning, some find it to be a bit overwhelming. How long, how often should you juice?

It depends on who you are, and what your circumstances and goals are. It’s very different if you work 60 hours a week or if you work at home. And also, we must consider the juicer’s eating habits. I wouldn’t want anyone to go from a standard American diet to juicing every single meal. Of course, if you’ve seen “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”, you know that it can be helpful depending on your status with chronic disease. But for some people, it’s once or twice a week, it’s a dinner here or a snack there. Commonly, people will start with it as a morning routine or a 7-day juice cleanse twice a year.

Honestly though, just have fun. There are a few things that you can’t juice. But get your favorite vegetables, don’t try to juice something that you don’t like. If you don’t like kale, don’t juice it. There are things that you can experiment with though. Kale, for instance, is quite bitter raw, but if you put it in a juice with cucumber, celery, carrot and beet, you can’t taste it, but you can reap the benefits it has to offer. So, be open-minded and explore what works for you.

What is the secret to incorporating juicing into your life for the long-haul?

Like anything, being deliberate about your intention and your goal is a sure-fire way to ensure success. This is one of the things we talk a lot about in the ‘Juice with Cruice Club’. What happens often, is people do it for a while, fall off and forget. They forget why they did it in the beginning and they forget what the consequences are when they are not juicing, or, even worse, they forget about how good they felt while juicing. At the beginning, it’s important to say, “This is why I am doing it. This is what I want to get out of it.” Being intentional and deliberate with the change is ‘number one’. And then ‘number two’, we’ve heard it before, but it takes 21 days to create a habit. So trying something for a week is not enough. If you’re going to try it once or twice a week or per day, you have to give it at least 3 weeks to really get into a rhythm. It will take a couple of weeks to see what works with your schedule and with your life. My recommendation is to dedicate at least 3 weeks after you’ve gotten into a good groove. So, in short, time, experimentation and intention.

What is the Juice with Cruice Club?

The Juice With Cruice Club is something that I started for people who are interested in drinking raw vegetable juice for their own health and well-being. It started with a few of clients that completed a juice cleanse together. One of my offered programs is a coaching through a cleanse. A lot of people will go to their local juice bar and will buy a cleanse, get the juice, but then what? On ‘Day 2′ they are wondering, “Why do I feel this way?.” I provide expectations, tips and tricks, education about what is happening to your body physiologically when you eliminate solid foods, an understanding of the potential benefits and support for all aspects of your life that a juice cleanse or lifestyle change can impact. The ‘Juice with Cruice Club’ is about sharing resources, sharing recipes, asking questions and supporting one another.  It’s a community of people that have a similar interests and addresses the importance of having a support system, even if just electronically. In February, we will get back to monthly meetings and outings, too!

I see that you have a few other programs available to those interested in living a more healthy lifestyle? (What are they and what do they provide?)

So my focus as a Vegan Health and Lifestyle Coach is specifically geared towards new, existing and hopefuls of a plant-based lifestyle. The programs support: those who are revisiting or are brand new to the lifestyle and want to get started properly and ensure a healthful and safe transition, as well as existing vegans that are interested in incorporating healthier lifestyle decisions. Unfortunately, there is a lot of stigma and stereotypes about vegans and vegetarians and I would love to change that by really giving people the opportunity to be healthy and vegan. (Many vegetarians and vegans, truth be told, are not healthy. They are doing a lot of good for the animals and the environment, but are loading their bodies, with highly-processed, high-sodium, high-sugar foods.) My programs are specific to the client, his or her goals and current lifestyle. I offer monthly and accelerated programs as well as a-la-carte services like grocery shopping and meal planning. So whether you are new, existing or just excited to get started, there is a program for you! I truly believe that when you combine dedication, motivation, passion, intention and add in a little education, direction and support, you are undoubtedly set up for success. And, it helps to have someone there to help you, motivate you, and remind you why you’re doing it. Someone that has been through it all.

If you had to pick: what are your top 5 favorite ingredients to juice and why?

Beets (Golden beets specifically) – I have a sweet tooth and beets are very earthy, hearty, substantial and sweet. Also, the amount of vitamins and healing properties they have are immense.

Parsnips – They are very earthy, but in a subtle way. They go very well with granny smith apples, celery, and other refreshing vegetables like cucumbers. Try “The Big Book of Juices” Apples and Neeps recipe: 3 parsnips, 3 green apples, 1/2 lime and 3 sprigs of fresh mint.

Mint, Parsley and Cilantro – the vast array of benefits are impressive, and you don’t need to add a lot to taste it in the juice. They add a strong refreshing flavor to any juice, though I wouldn’t use all 3 in one juice 😉

Any Greens – There are so many out there to choose from. Experiment with it! Kale, spinach, collard greens, beet greens, turnip greens. Any of them can be juiced and they all have very unique flavors of their own. Swiss chard is my favorite. It’s not bitter like kale and it’s not sweet, its a subtle, yet earthy flavor.

Sweet Potatoes – Great with oranges, carrots and ginger and adds a wonderful creaminess which is hard to find in a raw vegetable juice!

Living in Chicago, how do you survive ‘what is being healthy’ here (especially right now in the dead of winter)?

What will always motivate me to continue, is how I feel. If I go a week, and i’ve fallen off the health wagon, I immediately feel it. I don’t sleep as well, I feel tired, I’m not in a great mood, and that list goes on and on. And I know now, that as soon as I get back on track, I feel great. My intense desire to consistently feel great and maintain my energy motivates me through not just the winter, but life. In Chicago, there is a growing community of health conscious people and restaurants who are interested in plant-based lifestyles, juicing and cleanses, and there are also some really great resources. I’ve been in Chicago for almost four years and there are resources, books, people and restaurants that I’ve still yet to explore which keeps it exciting. I am a vessel of inward and outward energy, and there is a lot that I would like to do in this lifetime. It has been the discovery of optimal health that allows me to live the life I want to live.

Check out her website for more information! (

78-year-old Vegan Bodybuilder!

78-year-old Vegan Bodybuilder!

Bodybuilder, 78, Strips Off To Promote Vegan Lifestyle

Such an inspiration. Jim Morris has been vegetarian/vegan for almost 30 years. He believes his veggie diet is strongly linked to his great physique and incredible health, “I know as a fact I would not be here and I would not be in this condition now had I continued eating the way I was.” That’s fantastic. He is now apart of PETA’s “Think Before You Eat” campaign. Cheers to that!

A New Year ~ A Fresh, New You: One Part Plant Programs

Happy New Year, everyone! 2014! Wow, 2013 flew by so fast. And of course, with the beginning of any New Year, always comes new resolutions and new possibilities. In January, I am dedicating my posts to just that…A New Year ~ A Fresh, New You.


And first up in this series, is the introduction of One Part Plant. One Part Plant is an amazing website geared towards providing inspiration for healthy eating and happy living. On their website, you can find new recipes, great advice and fun events hosted around the city. Also, they’ve been the sole force in partnering up with some of the best restaurants and hotels around the country, in efforts to incorporate more plant-based dishes on their menus (my specific restaurant favs ~ Sable, Lula Cafe and Trenchermen, here in Chicago). Also, a lot of you have asked about services geared toward healthy living and One Part Plant has some really fantastic programs centered around just that. A couple of weeks ago, I sat down with One Part Plant‘s Jessica Murnane to ask her a few questions. We met at Chicago’s LYFE Kitchen, where the food fit into our conversation perfectly, as they have some really unique and flavorful plant-based dishes…


Were you always interested in health and wellness? How did your health journey start?

No, I was not healthy at all. I was always very envious of people who were healthy, but I didn’t think that it was me, I didn’t know that I was capable of that sort of lifestyle because I really liked junk food. I didn’t see myself as a healthy person, but I always wanted to be one. And then, I was diagnosed with endometrieosis at 28 years old (that I was suffering with for a long time) and I went to a whole bunch of doctors and no one truly believed that I had so much pain. And so, there came a point when one of my cysts ruptured and one of my doctors officially diagnosed me correctly. And even after a couple of surgeries, nothing took the pain away until a friend of mine sent me a website that looked like something written in 1989 that outlined what is basically a plant-based diet (no meat and no dairy). At that point, I was heading in the direction of having a hysterectomy and I was willing to give it a shot and try it. And it was hard and I was evil for like two weeks because my body was going through withdrawal and I think I was just really mad because I didn’t know what to do or where to eat and none of my friends ate this way, but I tried it and kept with it. And after about a month or so, all of my pain was gone. It worked. So, actually from that point I stuck to a gluten, dairy, soy-free diet and occasionally would still eat meat and sugar. And then, what happens is when you eliminate certain things, you are able to tell what does and doesn’t make you feel good. I was able then that next year, to eliminate meat and sugar completely. I would say that the first year that I changed my diet, I would still, like maybe once a month, have pizza, and then I would feel like crap. Or I would have candy, and would feel like crap. It was a definite transition for me. I don’t think I was ready at the beginning to eliminate everything. It is hard. Not just because of ‘This is how you eat all the time’, but socially and how you identify yourself. I identified myself as a meat-eater. So, just to have to change your identity as a person also goes into it, which I don’t really think people think about.


You’ve partnered with some really amazing restaurants in Chicago. And this partnership has inspired the addition of more plant-based dishes on their menus, etc. How did all of that begin? What inspired this movement?

Last January, I thought that I really, really wanted to change my career. Badly. I had been a graphic designer for 10 years and I have a paper line as well. So I was just thinking, “What do I actually care about, what am I passionate about?” I initially looked into joining the Peace Corp, but the thing that kept coming up is health and food. And as I was sitting with my husband one night and said, “What if I started doing something with food?” and he immediately agreed that it was my destined path. And the first thing I knew that I wanted to do was the restaurant program. And because I know restaurant industry people, I thought by them offering plant-based dishes — (A) – this gives the plant-based movement some legitimacy and it doesn’t seems like a fringe, weird, hippie thing. These chefs are embracing this, so it must be ok. I knew I could start a website and have people come to it and love it, but I’m only going to get the people that already like to eat that way to the website. I wanted people that didn’t eat that way to come to the website, so it was important for me to partner with them. Partner with them in a way where they are offering a least one to two dishes on the menu that are plant-based or at least committing to, if a plant-based person comes in, easily modifying something. So, I decided to get a certification in plant-based nutrition because I have worked with chefs, they are super into ‘their thing’, they are artists and they are very serious. I wanted to make sure that I had very knowledgeable information on this lifestyle.

When my stepmom was here a couple weeks ago, she loves to eat steak when she comes to town and so, she looked on my website and made a reservation at David Burke’s Primehouse because there was a plant-based option and it kind of made a bit teary-eyed because they’ve never had a plant-based option before. It’s kind of crazy because these restaurants are willing to make that change, if it is presented in a way that makes it seem not so militant and scary.


You have a few really great services geared toward assisting those interested in living a more healthy lifestyle? Could you explain those programs: Game Plant, Master Plant, and Mini Plant? In what ways can you assist folks with their lifestyle choices or with their business ventures?

The Mini Plant (A Kick-Start to Wellness) and Master Plant (A Buddy System for Greatness) are pretty much the same, in terms of the program. And I really spent a long time developing the program itself. It is 6 weeks where basically, every week you have homework that you get to do. Because, I think apart of this is just feeling accountable for doing things. Not crazy homework, but asking you to watch a movie, for example. And then, you also have a journal page every day that I’d like for you to record. And on every single journal page there is an inspiring quote. It’s interesting because as much as the 6 week program is about food, I would say 60% of it is actually about loving yourself a little more through the journey. Because I think that when you change your diet, the food part is hard, and I think I said this before, but the social part and the identity part is even harder. So, you have homework that has to do with that change. There are pages that discuss how to deal with people in your life that are not cool with this change in your life because you will find people that are like, “Why are you doing this, that is weird?” or “How are you getting enough protein?” So the programs are just really designed to assist you in a very loving and supportive way and not just giving you a list of a whole bunch of foods to avoid, or cannot eat. It’s funny because it’s a lot about food, but it’s so much more about being sensitive to your new life. Mini Plant – we work together, I give you the guide, we talk through the guide, I give you a cookbook and you follow the guide and do it on your own. And the Master Plant is for somebody that wants the guide, but then they still want to meet once a week for the 6 weeks. So ,it’s a little more one-on-one. And you get some videos that I’ve made as well. It’s more for the person that needs a bit more help. The Mini Plant is for someone that kind of wants to do it on their own. And the Game Plant (A Business & Life Decoder) I get a lot of emails about “how I started”. I do have a lot of business experience. I thought that it’s a great way to discuss those business related questions with me. I might not have time to answer all of the emails, but it is a way to schedule time with me and I’ll answer whatever you want. I don’t hide things.



What is one of your favorite recipes?

I love sweet things. I made these cookies, they are on my website. They are called “Boukie Butter Cookies”. They are named after my friend Lauren Boukas who has been the most supportive in my life since I’ve started this. And all it is: almond butter, maple syrup, and brown rice crisps. You roll it into little balls and drizzle dark chocolate syrup and then freeze them and it’s just like, literally, the easiest cookie to make, ever, and everyone flips over them. I try not to use crazy ingredients, I try to have like 10 staples that I keep on using.



What is one of your favorite places to grocery shop in Chicago?

I mean it’s so cliché but I love Whole Foods. I think with plant-based shopping, really, I kind of shop where I know I can get the best deals on quality items. There are a couple items that I buy at Trader Joe’s — their lemons and limes. I’ll buy my organic herbs at Jewel because they are a dollar less than they are anywhere else. But if it’s the summer, hands down, Green City Market. That’s my favorite, favorite, favorite.


What’s the one kitchen tool you couldn’t live without?

That’s hard. I love my juicer so much. I have the Omega 8006. It’s the best and it’s easy to clean. But in terms of actual baking, parchment paper is so great, right?! And I feel like a blender is awesome as well. But, I would say that my juicer is something that I use every single day.


Last meal that you prepared?

I recently had a slummer party with two of my friends and we decided on “comfort food” as the theme. I made mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy. The mushroom gravy had tons of mushrooms, vegetable broth, a lot of nutritional yeast, tamari and I added a little bit of brown rice flour to thicken. It was delicious.